The Enfield Haunting (2015)

The Enfield Haunting (2016)Before The Conjuring 2, there was … The Enfield Haunting – a miniseries in three parts lasting for two hours, produced for the British telly.

 

Based on the book This House is Haunted by Guy Lyon Playfair, who documented the case between 1977 to 1979 together with Maurice Grosse. So there’s zero signs of The Crooked Man or a scary, demonic nun to be seen here. Nor the Warren-couple, who didn’t actually have that much to do with the case in comparison to Grosse and Playfair. This is a totally separate production with no connection to The Conjuring universe whatsoever, so this probably gives more than a few biscuit-crumbs of truth compared to a typical fictional fairytale written by some Hollywood screenwriter. Or maybe not. The Conjuring films are great for what they are, but when it comes to what’s based on reality and what’s pure hogwash, I just don’t bother to care anymore. Just entertain us at least, dammit!

 

It’s August 1977 where we find ourselves in the district of Enfield in north-London, where the stressed single mother Peggy Hodgson (Rosie Cavaliero) lives with her three children in a council apartment, with cramped living conditions and a crumbling economy. And weird things happen around the house, such as kitchen chairs that seem to have a tendency to move on their own. But when pencil scribbles are suddenly visible on the wall, the mother has finally had it and blames the kids, especially the youngest daughter Janet (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), who is supposedly an outgoing prankster with a vivid imagination. That same night (or “later that night“, if you take the reference), the mother and the kids are attacked by a drawer section that is suddenly whizzing towards them, something Janet obviously could not do, unless she had some Carrie powers. Since the police can’t put ghosts in handcuffs, the elderly gentleman and parapsychologist Maurice Grosse (Timothy Spall) is sent from the Society for Psychical Research to take a look at this house.

 

The Enfield Haunting

 

When the case begins to flare up in the media with the famous headline “House Of Strange Happenings“, Guy Lyon Playfair (Matthew Macfadyen) comes knocking on the door. He’s a colleague of Maurice and an author in parapsychology, who sees the brilliant opportunity to capitalize on the case by writing the script for his book, as mentioned. And he does so behind everyone’s back, something Maurice is not so happy about when he accidentally finds out. A quick trivia: Playfair also worked as a consultant on Ghostwatch back in 1992, which was also inspired by the Enfield case. Anyway, it’s not long before things get more aggressive, as Janet starts talking in a demonic-growling voice that is supposed to come from the house’s former tenant – an evil, old man named Joe Watson (also known as Bill Wilkins), a creepy drunk uncle-looking guy, who died in the house.

 

We get to spend a lot of time with Maurice Grosse, which at this time went through a severe life crisis after his daughter died in a motorcycle accident. He’s a broken, old man who slowly gets eaten up by grief, sorrow, guilt and traumatic nightmares, while he’s using his ghost hunting as both therapy and a hope to come in contact with his dead daughter to get some closure. And in all of this, his marriage with Betty is on the verge of collapsing at any minute. Guy Lyon Playfair, however, is the complete opposite of Maurice – a stiff, stone-cold skeptic, with a “you see what you want to see“-attitude, who is more eager to debunk it all as a hoax than anything. There’s also a mystery-plot that must be solved to get to the bottom of this Joe Watson, aka Bill Wilkins while Mr. Grosse tries to find a spiritual connection between Janet and his deceased daughter, who by a coincidence also was named Janet.

 

The Enfield Haunting was an overall pleasant surprise, and I hadn’t expected the two hours it lasted to fly away that quickly, especially when we’re talking about a TV Mini-Series. In this case it actually looks way more like a feature film that’s been cut into three episodes, which would have blended even better if the opening and credits where cut out from the DVD (just a minor nitpick). It has a great production value with a solid directing and a script that manages to mix drama and horror in a satisfying and well-balanced way that I find pretty rare. The acting is first-class, especially from Timothy Spall as Maurice Grosse and Eleanor Worthington-Cox as Janet Hodgson who’s more or less the heart and soul in this. The Enfield Haunting has its share of tension and scares, for sure, but it’s not the typical and modern roller-coaster-ride you maybe would expect – so, you would be more pleased if you prefer more grounded, old-fashioned ghost stories on the same level as The Woman in Black and The Changeling.

 

The Enfield Haunting

 

Directors: Kristoffer Nyholm
Country & year: UK, 2015
Actors: Timothy Spall, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Juliet Stevenson, Fern Deacon, Rosie Cavaliero, Elliot Kerley, Matthew Macfadyen, Struan Rodger, Charles Furness, Joey Price, Simon Chandler, Amanda Lawrence, Sean Francis
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4036886/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Rising (1998)

On the first trip of the world’s most luxurious cruise ship, the Argonautica, the ship’s navigation and communication systems are sabotaged, causing the ship to stop in the middle of the ocean somewhere. Meanwhile, Captain John Finnegan and his crew have been hired by a group of mercenaries with intentions unknown (other than it obviously being something bad) but as Finnegan has promised “no questions asked”, the Captain and his crew don’t realize what is about to happen until they reach the cruise ship. As the mercenaries take over and reveal that they’re planning to rob the ship, they soon realize that something is not right inside the Argonautica. The place is a mess, and people appear to have gone missing. It soon becomes clear that a deadly enemy from the depths of the ocean has wrecked havoc on the ship, and it’s still hungry!

 

Ah, the 90’s. When creators often made horror movies that was supposed to just be a bunch of fun. When CGI effects were in a (somewhat) young stage and was constantly improved over short periods of time (thus giving various results that would look impressive at the moment, but would age like sour milk in a couple of years). While this decade brought horror buffs everything from gold to crap, there were a fair amount of movies released during this time that, despite not exactly receiving a lot of love, still managed to get cult status later on and still manages to entertain people. Deep Rising is a prime example of one of those movies.

 

Directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, 1999) Deep Rising is an action-packed aquatic creature feature, and had an astounding budget of $45 million. Now, that’s not exactly a common thing with B-horror movies, and a rather bold step to take…and it only managed to take in $11 million at the box office. Ouch. Still, the movie earned a cult status later on, and is a lot of people’s “guilty pleasure” today. However, I personally don’t see any reason to feel guilty about enjoying this one, especially not if you enjoy B-horror in the first place.

 

Deep Rising

 

Now, I have to admit…I love horror movies with sea monsters. And most of all, I love these movies if they actually have a plot that is about the frickin’ monster in the first place. There are a lot of monster movies (of various kinds, not just sea monster movies) that focus heavily on other things than the actual monster, and to be honest, this can be a bit hit or miss for me. If I want to watch a creature feature, I mainly want three things: monster, action and body count. While I have enjoyed other monster movies that may not offer much of any of these, I more than often find myself disappointed. I mean…if you can take away every scene or reference to the monster in a movie, and still be left with pretty much the same movie afterwards – then yes, I will be disappointed. Okay, rant over. Deep Rising, despite some flaws, does have exactly what I desire from a sea monster movie, so even after 20 years, I still find myself pleased with watching this 90’s B-horror. So, yay!

 

One of the highlights in Deep Rising is the monster itself (which it should be, for any creature feature with an ounce of self-respect). While we only see its long tentacles from the start, we later learn that they belong to a larger creature which looks like every fisherman’s nightmare fuel. And the best part is that it doesn’t just eat you, it actually captures you inside the tentacles and “drink you” (slowly digesting you while you’re still alive). This is shown in a scene where one of the characters falls out from one of these tentacles, still alive but severely digested (which is, in my opinion, one of the film’s best scenes). This shows us that each victim to this monster won’t just be easily swallowed/eaten, but will meet a slow and extremely painful death, making the monster even more threatening. A scene featuring the monster’s “dumping ground” is also a highlight, and while this movie is mainly a typical popcorn feature, there’s a lot of gooey gore to appreciate here.

 

Deep Rising

 

Deep Rising, being a typical B-movie, still had pretty decent special effects for its time. Some of the effects are actually still good, albeit a little outdated in places. Considering that it’s over 20 years old, it’s actually holding up far better than many movies from the same time, and even better than what you can see in some movies today. There’s a solid cast, effects that haven’t aged that badly at all, some awesome gore, and it even has a nice recognizable theme music (when do you actually hear that in movies these days? Damn, nostalgia!) thanks to Jerry Goldsmith who was the composer.

 

Now, if you don’t enjoy Stephen Sommer’s films or typical silly fun movies, I guess you’d better give this one a miss. However: if you, like me, enjoy putting on a ridiculous and energetic B-horror movie that doesn’t have any other goal than simply entertain you (and also having a pretty cool sea monster), then check it out. Just remember to put your brain on hold first, and enjoy!

 

Deep Rising

 

Directors: Stephen Sommers
Country & year: USA | Canada, 1998
Actors: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor, Wes Studi, Derrick O’Connor, Jason Flemyng, Cliff Curtis, Clifton Powell, Trevor Goddard, Djimon Hounsou, Una Damon, Clint Curtis, Warren Takeuchi, Linden Banks
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118956/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Birdemic: Shock and Teror (2010)Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a a romantic thriller, according to writer, producer and director James Nguyen. Calling this an amateur film is a pretty big understatement. Just take a look at the movie poster. That really says it all. And this is not Sharknado-level of bad, which is a cinematic masterpiece, along with the rest from Asylum films, compared to this one. Because going into this movie without knowing anything about the circumstances around it, one could quickly get the assumption that this is made by some young amateurs for shits n’ giggles with a budget of a monthly salary from Walmart. Instead, we get to watch the result from a full-grown, batshit crazy dude in his mid-forties, which in all seriousness  believes he’s made “pure cinema” with “a Hollywood-style to it”. I’m not kidding, this is his own quotes from his own mouth. So, colleagues such as Tommy Wiseau, Neil Breen and Lewis Schoenbrun should just sit down, take some notes and learn from the great master himself.

 

In Birdemic: Shock and Terror we get the pleasure to meet Rod (Alan Bagh), which is a young, successful software salesman from Silicon Valley. He randomly meets his old classmate Nathalie (Whitney Moore) in a restaurant, and they start to date. And suddenly, out of nowhere, eagles and vultures start to attack and kill people. And how and why, you may ask? Because of global warming. And people needs to be punished and taught a lesson to live more climate-friendly. And as the tagline says: Who will survive?

 

James Nguyen is really careful to use precisely the first half of the movie to give Rod and Nathalie some solid character development before all hell breaks loose. We get a series of date scenes that really should convince us that these two are in love with each other, with a chemistry that is as electric as a public fart in an elevator. The level of cringe and awkwardness is quite astonishing, where the dialogues could as well have been written by an alien who just assumes how earthlings talk and interact. The acting skills by Alan Bagh is especially worth mentioning – which is so stiff (as a Rod), totally emotionless and so robotic that he comes more across as a classic psychopathic serial killer in sheep’s clothing, just graduated from the University of Ted Bundy. I digress. Whether he is a bad actor, or acts bad on purpose, as if he was fully aware of the kind of film he has messed himself into, is not easy to say. The only one here who barely manages to behave like a normal, functioning human being is Withney Moore, although there are several scenes where she seems to really struggle not to laugh. I can’t really blame her for that. I can’t really blame no one for their bad acting, or for acting badly on purpose for that matter, in a film like this. I would do it myself, if I got the chance, really.

 

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

 

But the most important aspect of Birdemic: Shock and Terror is of course the deep and important message behind it. Huh? Birdemic has a message? Here’s a drinking game: take a shot for every time James Nguyen says “global warning” in the DVD’s commentary track, and you’ll be dead by alcohol poisoning way before the end credits. There’s a scene with a hippie climate activist with some really crazy eyes, who gives a preach and shows our protagonists how climate-friendly he lives by building a small treehouse, which some ten-year-olds could have done better. And to emphasize that he has lived in the wild nature for many years, he has a ridiculous wig with a ponytail that doesn’t look fake at all. The conversation ends abruptly when he says “I hear a mountain lion! I gotta get back to my house and you better get to your car!” Okay, whatever. There’s also a scene that, according to Mr. Nguyen, pays a tribute to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Bed-Ins for Peace”, just to squeeze in a quick anti-war statement. And the scene is, as the rest of the movie, horribly shot with murky image quality, making it look more like something straight out of a home-made amateur porn.

 

Criticizing the technical aspects is as meaningless as judging something that could have been shown on America’s Funniest Home Videos in the 90s. There’s really no point, it’s just that bad. But, ok: The CGI effects look like some unused layers from a discarded Nintendo 64 game, and I guess it all was filmed on a cheap camcorder, edited in Windows Movie Maker, and audio mixed with a hair dryer. Since there is a lot of driving in Birdemic, I would assume that the entire budget on 10.000 dollars went to gasoline, and the rest to God knows what. Most of the film was shot without permit (guerrilla-style) in crowded areas, and Mr. Nguyen actually had the nerves to yell at some joggers during a scene to not get into the frame. He and the crew also ended up getting kicked out of some areas. Well, making “pure cinema” with a “Hollywood-style to it” isn’t easy, it seems.

 

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

 

Anyway, one thing I would give Mr. Nguyen credit for, is the way he promoted the film after getting rejected by Sundance. In haste and desperation he got the brilliant idea of driving around in a van, decorated by stuffed birds, fake blood, the sounds of screeching birds out of the speakers, and with a paper sign that read “BIDEMIC.COM”. Yes, in pure James Nguyen fashion he spelled his own movie title wrong. However, this excellent pr-stunt got people to notice it to such a degree that it blew up everywhere, even in the mainstream news globally. Vice also made a mini documenatry that covered some of the circus and insanity that followed. Mr. Nguyen spent two years touring the film around the states where the people couldn’t get enough of Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and it became a real cult hit. But what James Nguyen was not aware of at all, and probably never will be, is that probably 99 percent of the people who flocked to the theatres were from the same audience that laughed themselves to tears by The Room. A prime example of being celebrated on all of the wrong reasons. So the last laugh is on James Nguyen, even though it seemed the guy really had the time of his life and enjoyed the party as long it lasted.

 

A sequel came two years later, called Birdemic 2: Resurrection, which is more or less the first film all over again where several of the same actors amazingly repeated their roles. The film received a worse reception than the first, maybe because people expected something different than a remake that only refers to itself from the first film. A far clearer and polished image quality didn’t help much either, as it came and went. A third film was planned with the title Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle to end this as a trilogy, and in 2016 he started an indiegogo campaign in the hope of raising half a million dollars. No more than 596 came stumbling in before the campaign ended. Oof. Both Birdemic: Shock and Terror and Birdemic 2: The Ressurection are available on amazon.com, and it’s still a fun experience to watch back-to-back, with the right mind-set… and some booze.

 

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

 

Director: James Nguyen
Country & year: USA, 2010
Actors: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Tippi Hedren, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne, Adam Sessa, Catherine Batcha, Patsy van Ettinger, Damien Carter, Rick Camp, Stephen Gustavson, Danny Webber, Mona Lisa Moon, Joe Teixeira, John Grant
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1316037/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upír z Feratu (1982)

Upír z Feratu (1982)Upír z Feratu (also known as Ferat Vampire and Der Autovampir) is a black Ferat racing car that sucks blood from its driver’s feet through the pedal. Even if you wear shoes with thick soles. And you understand the hilarious pun, right? nosFERATu. Har-Har.

 

If you expect a crazy Maximum Overdrive-ish  thing here, or a miniature car with bat wings fluttering with strings in the light of the full moon, Ed Wood-style, you can just give this a pass right away. It is impossible not to expect something real special when you hear a title like DER AUTOVAMPIR while taking a look at its cover, and with Dracula himself appearing in the original poster. Be ready to be really underwhelmed, for this pretty obscure film from Czech Republic is obscure for a good reason.

 

The plot goes something like this: A foreign car manufacturer has created a whole new car design that is using human blood as fuel. Dr. Malek has realized from the start that there is something really fishy about this company, and is not at all happy when his colleague, Mima, has signed a contract with them to work as a rally driver. Dr. Malek comes in contact with another bizarre guy, a scientist, who looks more like a creepy uncle that you never would allow babysitting your kids. He also likes to sneak up on people while they shower. Fuck this guy. However, he is convinced that this Ferat lives on human blood. And in order to convince Dr. Malek what they’re dealing with, he puts on an old roll of Nosferatu to lecture him about vampires, as if he was a five year old. And nothing much really happens from here. We get a completely random sex scene where someone cuts himself on a broken bottle that happens to contain blood. There’s also a completely random scene where an old, disorientated grandma is run over by someone (off screen) during rush hour. Just because of shock value, I guess. Except it’s so poorly filmed that it isn’t shocking at all. The film builds up to a rather anticlimactic sequence with a rally racing which you probably couldn’t give a shit about unless you’re a big fan of cars and… well, rally racing.

 

I must also point out that this is not a comedy, or a parody, this is made in all seriousness with serious actors, dry as sandpaper and with really dull dialogue that doesn’t help much to keep the interest up. And to make it look more serious, Dr. Malek is played by a guy who looks like a clone of Bill Gates, and is as bland, wooden and uncharismatic as a potato. However, one has to be a complete mental imbecile to take any of this as seriously as the communist censorship board in the Czech Republic did by cutting away the only two scenes containing blood, and the only thing that reminded the viewer that this was actually a horror movie. Well, “horror” is a word that fits very loosely anyway. These scenes are now added back on the limited German DVD/Blu-ray release, but they’re too tame and downright weak and silly to add any form of shock value. And if you expect some great visuals here, there’s not much. Most of the scenes are filmed out in the broad daylight, mainly in the outskirts of Prague that comes off a bit cheap and lazy. I’m not sure what to make out of Der Autovampir, to be honest, or what the appeal is. There’s several eye-rolling and unintentionally funny moments here for sure, which is impossible for a film like this to avoid, but as a whole, you’re not missing out a damn thing unless you’re in for a few chuckles.

 

Der Autovampir

 

Director: Juraj Herz
Country & year: Czech Republic, 1982
Actors: Jirí Menzel, Dagmar Havlová, Jana Brezková, Petr Cepek, Jan Schmid, Zdenka Procházková, Blanka Waleská
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083264/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wither (2012)

Wither (2012)

When one would think that Evil Ed was the only splatter film Sweden had to offer, we came, by a coincidence, across this title called Wither – a  homage to The Evil Dead, spiced with its own Swedish folklore called Vittre (Wither) to add some of its own personality to it. It was promoted as the first Swedish zombie movie when it came out in 2012, and the film received a very polarized reception in its home country, everything from praise to pure panning. One of the biggest newspapers in Sweden was obviously so offended by the film that the reviewer spent a full five sentences commenting on the film while the rest was spent on personal attacks against directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund. Classy. But someone who clearly liked the movie must be producer Dallas Sonnier, who hired the duo to direct the twelfth Puppet Master movie a few years later. Cheers for that! Now, back to Wither:

 

A group of young party-ready people go to an abandoned house for a weekend far in the woods to get loose. They have no idea who owned it, except that the previous occupants left the house rotting like a sinking ship with all the belongings inside. At the same time, an elderly man with a rifle is lurking in the area, looking for his missing daughter. Maybe not the best place to spend the weekend. After a quick exploration in the immediate area, two of the kids find another abandoned house where one of them sneaks inside through the window where she comes across a cellar trapdoor. And what do we say then? Don’t go in the basement! Yeah, right. She returns to the gang that is well underway with the party. Traumatized by what she saw downstairs in the basement, she locks herself in the bathroom and suffers panic attacks. It goes from bad to worse when she starts pissing blood, her eyes have become bloodshot, and she collapses. Then she resurrects like a demonic zombie, hungry for human flesh. And there’s full blood-splattering carnage from here on.

 

One can also draw more comparisons to the 2012 remake of The Evil Dead (which is awesome, by the way) with its gritty, serious tone. There is no over-the-top gallows humor here, and while one may not care much about the characters and who’s what, the acting is pretty decent. Technically, the film looks good with some great effects, good make-up, and probably a usage of several gallons of fake blood that the actors had to slip through. A strong and crisp soundtrack also helps, but the film has its obvious weaknesses. The script halts in which several scenes become too tedious, and the last 30 minutes could honestly have been trimmed down a bit or two. A main protagonist to root for, an Ash if you will, is also missed here. However, I still enjoyed the film as a whole, and it probably helped with some low expectations. But one thing is certain: if you want blood, you got it!

 

Wither

 

Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Original title: Vittra
Country & year: Sweden, 2012
Actors: Patrik Berg-Almkvisth, Lisa Henni, Patrick Saxe, Johannes Brost, Amanda Renberg, Jessica Blomkvist, Max Wallmo, Anna Henriksson, Ingar Sigvardsdotter, Ralf Beck, Sanna Ekman, Julia Knutson, Jessica Darberg
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2140671/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Hell (1981)

We are in a catacomb somewhere, where a nun seems to have gotten lost. She ends up in a “mad scientist” style lab where another nun lies freshly dead, naked, ready for God knows what. One of the other nuns shows up to cut out a part of her uterus (I guess), like some kind of ritual punishment, while preaching how sinful she was. And we’re only 6 minutes into the movie where the acting is so hysterically bad with one retarded facial expression after another. And out of pure randomness, a cauldron starts to boil over as we see close-ups of two glowing, blinking red eyes that gives off some really cheap cyborg/Terminator vibes. (And yes, this is made by the same director and screenwriter who also made the cheap unofficial Italian Terminator II some years later.) The glowing eyes seem to possess one of the nuns to stab the other to death. In this local convent, run by Mother Vincenza, several nuns seems to die in mysterious ways, while priests are being burned alive… and so on.

 

So… just to have the non-existing plot going on, an investigator is put on the case to find out what kind of fishy things are happening inside of the convent’s walls. Well, good luck with that, for not even the movie’s Wikipedia page has a fucking clue on what to fill in the plot section, as we speak.

 

So… uhm… yeah, it’s hard to convey what’s really going on here. A lot of weird convoluted shit just happens… just because. With the directing (to use the word loosely) by Bruno “Italian Ed Wood” Mattei and a script by Claudio “Troll 2” Fragasso, there isn’t much movie magic to witness here. I didn’t really expect it to be either. This rather shabby duo has made over a dozen shitty schlocks together, and is perhaps best known for Hell of the Living Dead (1980) where a considerable amount of the screen time consists of stock footage.

 

The one and only quality to dig up here is the soundtrack by Goblin, which I have no idea they used legally or not, but it doesn’t help that much with putting some lustre on this pure stumbling incompetence or add any form of atmosphere. On the other hand, I can’t deny that I had a fun time watching The Other Hell. It’s completely unpredictable and has plenty of insane campiness to get entertained by. And of course, the absurdly bad acting itself makes it worth a watch alone.

 

The Other Hell

 

Director: Bruno Mattei
Original title: L’altro inferno
Country & year: Italy, 1981
Actors: Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno, Susan Forget, Franco Garofalo, Paola Montenero, Ornella Picozzi, Andrea Aureli
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080362/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lodge (2019)

The Lodge (2019)In the hopes of being able to bond with her soon-to-be stepchildren, Grace is staying with them in a remote winter cabin over the holidays. Their father was supposed to stay with them, but is unexpectedly called to work and he cannot refuse, which leaves her alone with the children. With the holidays just around the corner she hopes that they will be able to have a good time, but the isolation and a blizzard traps them inside the lodge. Then, mysterious and frightening things start happening, keeping Grace wondering if it’s just the isolation and the strained relationship to the children, or if it’s the demons from her past that have come back to haunt her.

 

“The Lodge” is a chilling psychological thriller, which builds slowly but rewards your patience. The mood is quite unnerving (very much caused by a certain scene very early in the film which really packs a punch), and somewhat similar to what could be felt in Ari Aster’s horror films “Hereditary” and “Midsommar“: a focus on loss and grief. Together with a splash of trauma, due to Grace’s past in a religious suicide cult where she was the only survivor…and another dosage of resentment, as the children is blaming Grace for their newfound (and not desired) family situation. As you can guess: not exactly the best recipe for a nice holiday vacation at an isolated cabin.

 

The chilling moments in “The Lodge” are intensified by the strong performances, both by the traumatized Grace (Riley Keough) and the two children Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh). The cinematography works wonders in depicting the lodge as dark and ominous, with the white snow-filled landscape surrounding it working as a perfect contrast.

 

Now, “The Lodge” is a horror movie that may not be for everyone, with a slow build and more focus on psychological tension. There’s a lot of tension in the air, but not necessarily a lot of action. However, its slow build and tense atmosphere is what makes it work for what it is, and results in a creepy and unsettling experience.

 

The Lodge

 

Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Country & year: UK | Canada | USA, 2019
Actors: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Danny Keough, ola Reid, Philippe Ménard, Jarred Atkin
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7347846/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Limits (2003)

The young journalist Vivian visits an ancient cemetery to meet its caretaker and gravedigger, Frederick, for an interview. The cemetery is supposed to be the oldest in the country, and after doing some research, Frederick will celebrate his ten year anniversary of his service. Vivian arrives just in time, he says, because tomorrow he will bury one of his most interesting “customers”, as he calls the newly deceased. Frederick takes her to one of the cemetery mausoleums, where he begins telling her the story of Robert Downing, a name you are sure to forget just after a few seconds.

 

As this story begins, we are in a sunny Californian area where a stressed man in a suit is carrying a mysterious suitcase. While calling his girlfriend and saying she must leave the hotel, she is soon assaulted by two other men who throw her out of the balcony with one of the worst uses of green screen of all time. After some meaningless flashback scenes, he is shot by two other men, who takes his suitcase. Then we jump right over to another scenario, in a mansion where a couple is getting ready for a dinner party. And in comes a man with the suitcase who presents himself as … (drumroll) … Robert Downing. Who? Whatever. But to be clear: who is who, who is what, who works for whom, is not the important thing here. As several guests starts to flock into the house like a bunch of stick figures that are only there to soon be tortured and killed in grisly ways, the gore is the only competent aspect to mention. Heads are blown by shotguns, heads cut off and so on. The acting is so bad it’s good, and one of the actresses even looks like she struggles not to laugh in some of the scenes.

 

The journalist, however, is clearly not laughing at the story she’s just been told, and says with a straight face that “this one was definitely Beyond the Limits™”.

 

Frederick moves on to his next and final story, which is set in the medieval times where we learn about James Flynn, a priest who has fled to the countryside where he has gathered a small flock of people in an abandoned church. He is hunted by David, a sadist who causes his men to slaughter the entire flock in front of the priest before he gets escorted away to a torture chamber. David also believes that Flynn has the sacred scripts to The Eternal Heart which grants immortality. Or something like that.  We get creative lines like “so, we finally meet again”, some fabulous overacting, a totally incompetent choreographed Deathstalker-style sword fighting scene and some goofy, cartoonish facial expressions. And to top the shitshow all up to eleven, it wraps it all up with a hilariously awful green screen segment that belongs in a David Hasselhoff music video. And if you’ve seen “The Burning Moon“, you know how this one ends. Not a big surprise there.

 

Beyond the Limits

 

Director: Olaf Ittenbach
Country & year: Germany, 2003
Actors: Darren Shahlavi, Russell Friedenberg, David Creedon, Natacza Boon, James Matthews-Pyecka, Simon Newby, Hank Stone, Christopher Kriesa, Daryl Jackson, Twin, Saskia Lange, Mehmet Yilmaz, Kimberly Liebe, Matthias Rimpler, Jeff Motherhead
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0297780/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turning (2020)

The Turning (2020)Kate is applying for a job as the new governess for Flora Fairchild, a wealthy young heiress whose parents are both dead. Flora’s older brother, Miles, soon arrives home from boarding school, and it appears he’s got an attitude that Kate finds troublesome. In fact, Kate starts experiencing things around the house that makes her believe something is going on, and it cannot all be blamed on tricks put in by little children. What is going on inside the house – and what happened to the previous governess who just ran away?

 

It isn’t often that we see a movie purely based on a curiosity of how much of a stinker it really is. Upon its release, The Turning received almost unanimously bad reviews, with very low scores. It was obvious that a lot of people didn’t just dislike the movie, in fact, many seemed to be quite pissed off by it. So what is all the fuss about? Well…

 

First of all, let me start off by saying that the movie is another take on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, which has been put on the screen several times before. This movie is quite loosely based, however, which may be off-putting for people who are fans of the novella. Still, the movie isn’t that much of a stinker as we thought it would be, to be honest. It does have a fair amount of atmosphere and creepy settings, great visuals and good acting by the cast. While it’s not the least bit scary, and even a bit slow, it could have fared well as a simple gothic ghost story…but there is a major flaw: the ending. It’s both sad and a little baffling that they chose an ending which leaves the viewer both confused and frustrated. It’s a perfect example of how an ending can literally destroy a movie, and if it wasn’t for the overall okay experience prior to the movie’s final moments, it wouldn’t be so disappointing. I mean…we’ve seen a ton of horror movies that are just lacking throughout, so a bafflingly bad ending doesn’t make much of a difference. Here, however, it just feels unfair, and you get the impression that this ending was added more like a rushed afterthought and not being the planned ending at all. I have heard there is an alternative ending included on the physical releases, and I can imagine it’s better (then again, pretty much anything would be better).

 

Now, I cannot say I feel that watching The Turning was a total waste of time just because of its final moments. With its strong visuals and good cast we did find it somewhat entertaining throughout, despite it being a bit slow and sluggish. I’m guessing that viewing it with its alternative ending may make it an overall better experience. Of course, since we watched this movie with very low expectations and were already aware of its supposedly horrible ending, I’d say we came prepared. We find that its fair to give the movie the “Creepy” badge, but mostly due to the atmospheric scenery and visuals.

 

The Turning

 

Directors: Floria Sigismondi
Country & year: UK | Ireland | Canada | USA | India, 2020
Actors: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince, Barbara Marten, Joely Richardson, Niall Greig Fulton, Denna Thomsen, Kim Adis, Darlene Garr
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7510346/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Trash (1987)

Street TRash (1987)

We are in Brooklyn’s decaying slums, and the year is 1987. The state of the streets is described in a nutshell by the title itself. Not a place that you’d go barefoot. An old dusty box containing the mysterious drink “Tenafly Viper” is found in the basement of Ed’s little liquor store. A green liquid from way back in the 1920s, that Fred sells to the local hobos for a buck. The one who gets the first bottle, is Fred: a runaway who lives with his brother in a small homeless community by a car wrecking yard, run by former Nam Vet Bronson. He’s a raging nutcase who’s lost his mind completely due to PTSD and severe paranoia, and have constructed the place as his own kingdom and safe space. Here he lives in his own grandiose, delusional bubble where he is the king and everyone fears him. He also shares the throne with his “Queen” Winette, a schizophrenic vegetable who constantly screams and begs him to have sex with her. Sound like a cheery place, doesn’t it. So maybe this mysterious drink will make the hellish daily life a bit easier for the poor hobos? Well, they could only wish, as the drink turns out to be a corrosive, toxic acid that melts the one who drinks the first drops, in seconds. As homeless people start dropping dead in every corner due to the liquid, a brute cop named Bill is trying to get the bottom of the source. And good luck with that.

 

On the surface, Street Trash may look like a more polished Troma film that could easily share the same universe with The Toxic Avenger. But instead of a guy running around and serving justice in a mutant costume, we get a bunch of mentally unstable hobos doing stupid, random shit. Things like necrophilia, penis severance, shoplifting and gang raping… those are some of the daily doings we get to witness. There isn’t much of a plot to be found here. It’s basically just a series of skits, more or less, that are randomly stitched together. Street Trash is based on the short film of the same name, a fun concept that worked better in a short dosage than a very stretched-out feature film where it is far between the major highlights. The film’s biggest, or fattest highlight if you will, is the guy who explodes like a big balloon. A pretty juicy and messy scene you’ve probably already seen on YouTube. The effects here are pretty inventive and deliciously gooey, to say the least, and arguably the film’s main strengths. Even though most of the effects give some exaggerated, over-the-top cartoony vibes, I have to give Street Trash an extra credit for having of the most memorable decapitations scenes I’ve probably ever seen.

 

Street Trash

 

Director: James M. Muro
Country & year: USA, 1987
Actors: Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Vic Noto, Mark Sferrazza, Jane Arakawa, Nicole Potter, Pat Ryan, Clarenze Jarmon, Bernard Perlman, Miriam Zucker, M. D’Jango Krunch, James Lorinz, Morty Storm, Sam Blasco, Bruce Torbet
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094057/

 

 

Tom Ghoul