Haunt (2019)

Haunt (2019)It is Halloween, but Harper isn’t really in the mood for a scary celebration as she is already struggling with a real fright in her life: an abusive boyfriend who keeps sending her angry text messages. However, her friends are determined to have a fun night out and enjoy themselves, so she covers her black eye with make-up and they all head over to a costume party. They meet up with two other guys, and the six of them ends up looking for a haunted house attraction in order to make their Halloween night complete. Very much on random, they encounter the sign for such an attraction on a lonely country road, and decide to check it out. Upon entering this Haunted House attraction, they’re forced to leave their cellphones and have to sign liability waivers (which probably sounds like big red flags right there for our naive protagonists, but in real life there are such attractions that actually requires you to sign liability waivers before entering. Like for example McKamey Manor, which requires a 40-page waiver before you’re allowed inside). They do as they’re told, and is shown some rather mainstream horror effects upon entering…until they suddenly witness a scene where a “witch” is branding a girl with a red-hot poker (which they of course think is just an act). From there on things start going more and more wrong, and the attraction goes from fun to deadly in no time.

 

“Haunt” is a “haunted house attraction” horror movie, a little bit in the same vein as “Hell Fest“. With the writers of “A Quiet Place” as directors and Eli Roth as producer, it certainly did sound like something that could be both suspenseful and gory. And you see quite early in the movie that there is a lot to appreciate here: the cinematography is quite eye-candy, and there is a lot of claustrophobic atmosphere once our protagonists enters the Haunt. There are some rather interesting characters who are inhabiting the place: people in several costumes, wearing masks and behaving in creepy ways which makes you wonder who, or what, they really are…

 

Now, while “Haunt” manages to pack in a good amount of suspense, it feels like there is a little bit of lost potential here where the actual killing scenes felt very toned down…especially with one of the kings of gore (Eli Roth) being the producer and all. The killing scenes come and go rather rapidly, some of them even proceeding to the next scene so fast that you’re barely able to get a glimpse of what really happened. The movie doesn’t dilly-dally with its audience though, or try to be “smart”…instead, it delivers a straight forward slasher where teens are killed because they make dumb decisions and freaks are murderous because…well, because they’re freaks, I guess.

 

However, despite not being the most memorable movie in the genre, “Haunt” was a fun ride all in all!

 

Haunt

 

Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain, Andrew Caldwell, Shazi Raja, Schuyler Helford, Phillip Johnson Richardson, Chaney Morrow, Justin Marxen, Terri Partyka, Justin Rose, Damian Maffei, Schuyler White, Samuel Hunt, Karra Rae Robinson
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6535880/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City of the Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead (1980)“City of the Living Dead” is the first part of the Lucio Fulci “Gates of Hell” trilogy, which followed up with “The Beyond” and “House By the Cemetery”. But apart from sharing the theme of the dead being brought to life, with some small doses of inspiration from H.P Lovecraft and with actress Catriona MacColl starring in all three, they work well as separate films.

 

The film starts at a cemetery in the small town of Dunwich where a priest hangs himself, and reappears as an evil deathstaring zombie. At the same time, Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) witnesses a New York apartment suicide during a vision under a seance, which scares her to death. Yes, literally to death. And why, you might ask? Well, because his act of sin causes all the dead in the cemetery of Dunwich to rise from the dead as zombies. And these are not the traditional carnivorous zombies…here, they have the ability to teleport themselves and use telekinesis to make people bleed tears and spew up their own inner organs. Miss Woodhouse’s death is seen as a mysterious case, which captures the curiosity of newspaper journalist Peter Bell (Christopher George). The day she is to be buried, he sneaks around the cemetery when she suddenly comes alive in the coffin and screams. Peter hacks up the coffin to save her, but unlike the ordinary dead who resurrects as zombies, Mary wakes up like from a normal night’s sleep and is straight back into her old self again. Well, good for her. After they learn that the gates of hell must be closed and this evil priest must be stopped, they take a roadtrip to Dunwich. And this must happen before All Saint’s Day. If not, the dead will take over the world.

 

Meanwhile, the evil priest has already started terrorizing Dunwich, while rubbing mud filled with worms in peoples faces as he teleports around the city. While strange and macabre things continue to happen in the city, a group of men sit in the local pub, suspecting Bob, the city’s outcast who has a taste for inflatable sex dolls, to be behind all of this. And this side plot with Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is completely useless which is nothing but filler scenes that could easily have been cut out. Even though “City of the Living Dead” doesn’t work all that well with its serious pacing issues, the film has some great ghoulish atmosphere with a fitting soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi, who’s scored several of Fulci’s films. There’s also several memorable gory scenes to enjoy, and some of the actors were dedicated enough to get isolated in a room to be attacked by ten kilos of maggots via two wind machines. Trivia: one of the crew members decided to pull a prank on Mr. Fulci by stuffing some of the maggots in his pipe tobacco. Everyone but Fulci found it funny and he blamed the incident on the heart surgery he had years later with health problems that escalated to ventricular aneurysm, contracted viral hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. No more maggots on set, I guess. And of course don’t forget the drinking game: take a shot every time there’s a close-up of the actors eyes, and you’ll surely die of alcohol poisoning before the first twenty minutes. In advance, rest in peace.

 

City of the Living Dead

 

Director: Lucio Fulci
Country & year: Italy, 1980
Actors: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, Fabrizio Jovine, Luca Venantini, Michele Soavi, Venantino Venantini, Enzo D’Ausilio, Adelaide Aste, Luciano Rossi, Robert Sampson, Janet Agren
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081318/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTIC – Supernatural Horror Short

Toby believes he can make things disappear into the darkness of his attic. Maybe even his stepfather.

 

“Attic” is a nice little horror short about a boy who is getting more and more tired of his aggressive and abusive stepfather. Upon exploring the attic, he discovers that the darkest part of it can make things disappear.

 

ATTIC - Supernatural Horror Short

 

Director: Andrew Montague
Country & year: USA, 2016
Actors: Mary Beth Albers, Michael Diamond, Joseph Anthony Sudol
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4378118/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mørke Sjeler (2010)

Mørke Sjeler (2008)During a morning jog through the woods, the teenager Johanna is attacked by a guy in an orange dress, who is wearing goggles and a mask. After a quick chase with some running and stumbling, he drills a hole in her head, and then places some black goo in her brain. Despite having been pronounced dead, the murder victim suddenly wakes up in the morgue and goes back home to her father: the music teacher Morten Ravn. But Johanna is not at all the same girl, but has been reduced to a disoriented, apathetic lifeless shell with a blank stare. In the meantime, more and more victims are being reported, all of whom come to life again with the same symptoms. Since the police are just a bunch of incompetent fools, Morten decides to investigate the mystery himself, uncovering an apocalyptic conspiracy that revolves around a large oil company.

 

“Mørke Sjeler” (Dark Souls) was the passion project of two French guys, César Ducasse and Mathieu Peteul, with the intention of creating a Norwegian satirical zombie-comedy. And the result was a stumbling, amateurish, hopeless little trainwreck that looks more like a cheap student film. The acting is goofy, bad and just absurd. Karl Sundby (rest in peace), who was a profiled, seasoned and professional actor in little Norway, is surprisingly giving us the most memorable scene in this movie as a homeless hobo.

 

The directors promoted this as a comedy, as mentioned. And yes, it’s a comedy for sure, and has some entertainment value, but not in the intentional way in the slightest. The weird tone is all over the place, which makes it impossible to separate the “satire” elements from the seriousness. Sloppy camera work, with lazy, uninspired killing scenes that happens mostly off-screen, which makes it look like there was not enough budget to hire a single competent makeup artist on set. In other words: this doesn’t impress much. The zombie growls sound like pigs squealing. I’m sorry, but that’s just pathetic. It took three years to shoot this film, but it feels far more like something done in a short week, all in one, quick take, Ed Wood-style.

 

“Mørke Sjeler” is distributed in the US by Lions Gate, and in Germany under the titles “Dark Souls” and “Zombie Driller Killer”. It also found its way to France and Japan.

 

Mørke Sjeler

 

Director: César Ducasse, Mathieu Peteul
Country & year: Norway | France, 2010
Actors: Johanna Gustavsson, Kristian Holter, Ida Elise Broch, Morten Rudå, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, Lise Froyland, David Hernandez, Christopher Angus Campbell, Bård Eirk Nilsson, Trine Dürbeck, Eirik Halvorsen, Kristine Braaten, Marianne Rødje, Jan Hårstad, Henrik Scheele
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1617145/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMAN FORM – Korean Body Horror Film

Feeling alone in a world where everyone looks exactly the same, a young girl decides to take extreme measures to change her appearance.

 

“Human Form” is a Korean body horror short, where a girl is living in a world where everyone is getting plastic surgery, and she feels more and more out of place. This short is a commentary on plastic surgery and humankind’s obsession over what is supposed to be “beauty”, where we often idolize appearances that are impossible to achieve naturally, and deeming natural appearances as not looking “good enough” (which makes everyone a potential “fixer-upper”, and giving the beauty industry more and more profits). And with this short coming from South Korea, it’s a perfect comment on all of this considering how several Asian countries have insane beauty standards. Just look up some “Asian makeup transformation” videos on YouTube, and you’ll see…

 

HUMAN FORM - Korean Body Horror Film

 

Director: Doyeon Noh
Country & year: South Korea, 2014
Actors: Si Yeon Kim, Ye Eun Lee, Jinseon Son, Sun Hee Kang, Ae-Jin Kim, Seung-il Hong, Jung Do Hur
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3662666/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man (2020)Cecilia manages to escape a controlling and abusive relationship, but struggles to overcome the negative impact the experience has had on her life. Still paranoid and afraid her ex will come after her, she suddenly receives the news that he has committed suicide…and that she has been written into his will. With a substantial amount of money to be gradually paid out to her, and knowing her abusive ex is gone from this world, she hopes to re-build her life. However, after experiencing certain horrifying events, she starts to believe that his death was a hoax and that he’s acquired the ability to become invisible, only to terrorize her even further.

 

“The Invisible Man”, directed by Leigh Whannell (director of “Insidious: Chapter 3”, and writer of the previous “Insidious” movies as well as the first three “Saw” movies) has revived one of the classic Universal monsters, but in a completely different setting than from the original which was based on the novel by H. G. Wells. Whereas the original “Invisible Man” wasn’t a bad guy from the get-go, he is here a narcissistic sociopath who is abusive and controlling towards his partner. Thus, the horror the movie portrays feels real, and the first sequence of the movie where Cecilia has drugged him in order to escape the fortress-like home he’s captured her in, is actually one of the most intense movie openings I’ve seen as of late.

 

While the movie starts quite intense, the feeling of foreboding is quite evident already in the next scenes, where we witness Cecilia trying to get a hold of her own life (barely daring to venture outside of the house she’s staying in). And upon the news of her ex’s so-called suicide, with a substantial amount of money to be paid to her over time (provided she does not commit any crime or is deemed mentally unstable, as per the will – and yeah, you know why this clause was added) she starts to relax a little bit and looks brightly upon her own future for once. Of course, that shifts rather quickly, and when she experiences things that only she is witnessing, she tries to convince those close to her that her ex is still alive, and has made himself invisible. Of course, no one believes her, and she keeps being abused…but since no one except herself is experiencing the abuse, she can’t make anyone believe her. Yes – the analogy here is clear as day.

 

From there on, the movie takes you on a suspenseful ride, and Elisabeth Moss (who is playing the role of Cecilia) is doing an excellent job on portraying all levels of the torments she’s going through, whether it is being scared out of her mind, desperately trying to fight back, or emotionally crushed by not being believed and the lack of an actual escape from her invisible tormentor. And while we don’t see that much of Adrian aka “The Invisible Man”, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, he actually did manage to show off a few tell-tale signs of the type of character he’s portraying.

 

“The Invisible Man” is a movie that might be a bit difficult to watch for people who have experienced abusive relationships, as it’s nailing narcissistic abuse in a way I haven’t seen any other film dare to exploit. It’s all there: making everyone believe their victim is the crazy one, making the victim doubting their own sanity, and especially gaslighting (a tactic used to make victims doubt themselves and their perception of events, by questioning the victim’s memory, accusing them of making things up, denying things that they did towards the victim, and mocking them for “misunderstanding” everything).

 

Since it does stray pretty far from the original “Invisible Man”, some people may be put off due to this. I can imagine that putting these two movies apart from each other without doing comparisons, would be beneficial to the viewing experience.

 

The Invisible Man

 

Director: Leigh Whannell
Country & year: Australia | USA | Canada | UK, 2020
Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman, Benedict Hardie, Renee Lim, Brian Meegan, Nick Kici, Vivienne Greer, Nicholas Hope, Cleave Williams, Cardwell Lynch, Sam Smith
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1051906/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE KNOW – Horror Short

After killing a young girl in a car accident, a guy is followed by mysterious men…

 

“We Know” is a creepy little Italian horror short from 2017. It has been shown in several festivals including Dracula Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards, Sin City Horror Fest, and more.

 

WE KNOW - Horror Short

 

Director: Nicolo Fumero
Country & year: Italy, 2017
Actors: Jacopo Menghini, Annachiara Ronco, Francesco Varano, Francesco Lucci, Christiana Frasson, Beatrice Ronco, Federico Belfiore, Simone Chiattone, Andre Tuninetti, Samuele Cipolla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begotten (1989)

Begotten (1989)Time for a fun movie for the whole family to enjoy on a Friday night with some pizza. Or maybe not.

 

Begotten starts inside a cabin where we see a disturbed, horrifying figure sitting in a chair, filmed in a high contrast of black and white. While the soundtrack consists of crickets, bird-chirping and distant heartbeats, we see that the figure starts to cut himself to death with a straight razor. A great product placement right there (haha). Feces stream down between his legs while he’s sitting bloody and dying in his chair, gurgling his death rattles. This is God we’re talking about, by the way. Out of his fresh dead body comes Mother Earth who uses God’s semen to impregnate herself, where we get served some hairy close-ups where she rubs his juice into her vagina. She wanders into an obscure forest landscape where she gives birth to Son of Earth. She then leaves him behind to some faceless nomads who drag the poor newborn (who already has the body of a grown man) like a rag doll, through a desolate landscape until he supposedly starts spewing out some of his organs. And this is just the beginning of a horrendous, surreal odyssey of pain, suffering, torture and death, that can be described as witnessing a painful fever nightmare from the subconscious mind of a strapped schizophrenic mental patient.

 

By reading the plot synopsis you learn that Begotten is an alternative retelling of The Book of Genesis, but without knowing this beforehand, one could easily assume watching an underground snuff film taken straight out from The Dark Web. The distinct, strong visuals is truly remarkable here, filmed in grainy black and white that sets the atmosphere from the very first frame. Shot on 16 mm on reverse-exposure, which is a picture effect you get on most digital cameras today, but back in the late 80’s when this film was made with analog stone-age equipment, this was a real artistic achievement. Director E. Elias Merhige experimented like a mad scientist to get the exact, withered, aged look by using sandpaper to scratch up the reel before shooting. That wasn’t good enough, however, and he used the rest of the budget of 33. 000 dollars to construct an optical printer during a long, tedious period of eight months. And each minute of footage generated by the printer took on average between eight and ten hours to complete. Phew, that’s some real dedication and patience right there.

 

Some describe this as simple as a nightmare captured on film, and an extended version of the cursed VHS cassette from The Ring, which I can pretty much agree with. Certainly not for everyone, and as far away from mainstream you could probably get. But it’s surely a uniquely deranged avant-garde filled horrific, nihilistic atmosphere with haunting images that will probably stick with your forever. This is also Marilyn Manson’s personal favorite film, which made him so impressed that he hired director E Elias Merhige to direct the music video for “Antichrist Superstar” and “Cryptorchid”. Another guy who liked the film was Nicolas Cage, who hired him to direct “Shadow of the Vampire” for his newly established Saturn Films. A great, underrated movie, by the way. After his second Hollywood studio film “Suspect Zero”, Merhige went back to the underground and made the short film “Din of Celestial Birds”, which is considered an unofficial sequel to “Begotten”. His recent creation is a short called “Polia and Blastema”, a surreal love story about two alien creatures. And from the few previews I’ve seen, it looks completely mind-blowing.

 

An official, yet very limited DVD was released back in 2001 by World Artist, which included a souvenir booklet, the original theatrical trailer, rare and never-before-seen movie stills, and production photos. It’s of course out of print, but can be found on eBay at different prices. It’s also available on YouTube.

 

 

Begotten

 

Director: E. Elias Merhige
Country & year: USA, 1989
Actors: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry, James Gandia, Daniel Harkins, Michael Phillips, Erik Slavin, Arthur Streeter, Adolfo Vargas, Garfield White
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101420/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKR – Horror Short Film

A fake exorcist visits the home of a man who thinks his wife is possessed by a Djinn, only to find out that things are not as they seem.

 

“Makr” is a creepy little horror film, where the title actually means “deception”. The fake exorcist surely got more than he bargained for…

 

MAKR - Horror Short Film

 

Director: Hana Kazim
Country & year: United Arab Emirates, 2019
Actors: Mohammed Ahmed, Mansoor Alfeeli, Madiya Humaid, Iman Tarik
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8942196/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Ouija: Origin of EvilLos Angeles, 1967. Alice is a still grieving widow who works at home as a spiritual medium, and is accompanied by her two daughters when tricking their customers into making them believe that spirits are present. The oldest daughter, Lina, one day suggests that they implement a Ouija Board into her mother’s readings. The youngest daughter, Doris, tries it out alone and invites an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

 

This is a prequel to “Ouija” from 2014, and this time with Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair. And that really shows. Compared to the first movie which was a very formulaic teenage horror flick, this prequel packs in a good bunch of tension and atmosphere. I also liked how the movie has a style that reflects the time period it’s supposed to be set in with a bit of a “retro” style to it, even starting off with the old Universal logo. The performances are good, and the visuals well done.

 

If you’ve seen the first movie, you more or less know how it will end, but strangely that still doesn’t take anything away from the viewer experience. You already know that the family will not experience a happy ending, but the point of this movie is not to reveal a twist at the end but to explain the journey that led to it. If there’s anything I’d like to nitpick on, it’s the “ghostly gape” scenes that, instead of building the tension and atmosphere further, manages to take us into cringe-land instead. Seriously: big, gaping mouths rarely look scary, and they’re such a tedious horror-trope to watch these days. Now, I personally don’t think these scenes ruins anything for this movie, but my personal opinion is that it would be much better without them.

 

Overall, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” is a very decent, yet quite unexpected prequel of a film that didn’t really warrant any sequels or prequels. While the movie doesn’t manage to become scary, it’s still quite atmospheric and a big step-up from the first. Also, here is a little fun fact: for those that have seen Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus” from 2013, you get a little Easter Egg where you can see the mirror in the basement.

 

 

Ouija: Origin of Evil

 

Director: Mike Flanagan
Country & year: USA, 2016
Actors: Annalise Basso, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas, Parker Mack, Halle Charlton, Alexis G. Zall, Doug Jones, Kate Siegel, Sam Anderson, Chelsea Gonzalez, Lincoln Melcher, Nicholas Keenan, Michael Weaver, Ele Keats
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4361050/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul