The Wilson family owns a vacation house near the beach in Santa Cruz. Adelaide, the wife in the family, had an experience at that beach when she was a little girl and has no desire at all to revisit the place. Her husband convinces her to go there, however, together with the Tyler family to have a good time. Things don’t go as well as planned for, and back at the vacation house that night things turn even worse. Four mysterious people dressed in red appears outside the house, breaking in and terrorizing them. What’s even worse, is that all of these strangers look exactly like themselves…
“Us” is the second horror film directed by Jordan Peele, who made a name for himself with his debut horror movie “Get Out” in 2017. Not unexpectedly, the expectations regarding “Us” has been pretty high, but fortunately Peele shows us that he’s not just a one-time-hit director. “Us” manages to balance suspense, creepiness, social commentary and even a bit of comedy very well, just like he did in “Get Out”. “Us” is more of a straight-forward horror movie, with a higher level of suspense and creepy scenes. With Mike Gioulakis as the cinematographer (who was also the cinematographer for the very suspenseful horror movie “It Follows”), it should come as no surprise that this is a movie that will keep you at the edge of your seat for the most part.
“Us” is a movie that is best seen when knowing as little as possible about it, and I personally recommend avoiding any spoilers prior to watching it. It’s very hard, even impossible, to venture much further into the movie’s plot without spoiling things. There are a few plot holes that might leave you scratching your head in confusion, but fortunately not too much to ruin the experience.
Now let’s look forward to what Peele’s next entry into the horror world might be!
Director: Jordan Peele Country & year: USA, 2019 Actors: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Madison Curry IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6857112/
In a serial killer’s now abandoned home, investigators reveal a large amount of VHS tapes that contains his “work” in chronological order as he’s been filming the murders and abuse of his victims. This is the most disturbing collection of evidence the homicide detectives have ever seen, and reveals an in-depth documentation of a serial killer’s reign of terror.
Made in a “mockumentary” (faux documentary) style, this is a somewhat creepy and unsettling movie. It’s the first horror movie John Erick Dowdle’s directed, and later he became known for “Quarantine” (2008), “Devil” (2010) and “As above so below” (2014). The movie contains a very realistic tone throughout, with “interviews” and “footage” that are made to be believeable and helps putting the dark and grim atmosphere in place. In many ways it reflects “true crime shows” so well that you could probably have fooled someone who didn’t know it’s a faux documentary.
The murders and torture of the victims of the serial killer (who has been nicknamed “the water street butcher”) is somewhat toned down despite being quite chilling. There isn’t large amounts of blood and gore here, but the “footage” shows enough for you to know exactly what’s going on, along with detailed descriptions by the investigators. It’s not a movie that’s gory or straight-out scary, but it’s definitely creepy and unsettling.
Serial killers have always fascinated a lot of people. What can make a (seemingly) normal person commit such atrocious acts? How can they manage to keep from being caught over such a long time? And how many serial killers are still on the lose around the world? Those thoughts can be more frightening than occasional nightmarish thoughts about monsters and bogeymen…serial killers are real, and they’re out there. The FBI estimates that there are about 25-50 active serial killers operating through the U.S. at any given time (which is also referenced in this movie, actually). Many have asked if the movie is based upon a real serial killer, whereas the director has answered that it’s not, but inspired by several. In Poughkeepsie there was actually a real serial killer, Kendall Francois, who killed eight women in the period of 1997-98.
If you’re interested in a well-made serial killer mockumentary with a quite realistic tone, you should check this one out.
Director: John Erick Dowdle Country & year: USA, 2007 Actors: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson, Ivar Brogger, Lou George, Amy Lyndon, Michael Lawson, Ron Harper, Kim Kenny IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1010271/
Jong-Goo is a police officer that lives a quiet life in a little village with his wife and daughter. One day he is called to the scene of a gruesome multiple murder case, where a family member of the murdered people is covered in blood from the victims. His skin is covered in strange boils, and he appears to be in a state of stupor. Soon, more incidents similar to this occur all over the little village, and some of the villagers start to blame a newcomer to the area: a Japanese man (played by Jun Kunimura, known for his roles in “Ichi The Killer”, “Audition” and “Kill Bill”) who’s taken residence in the woods. Jong-Goo starts a battle against time to figure out what is happening, as his daughter also starts showing the symptoms.
“The Wailing” is a Korean horror movie that lasts for 2 hours and 36 minutes, but thanks to great cinematography and some really weird and strangely entertaining scenes, it manages to spend its time well without becoming a hassle to watch through. It’s quite beautiful to watch with its misty mountains and forest locations. The story’s pacing is good enough, we are being told things gradually while still pondering about the mystery behind the murders and “possessions”, and the Japanese newcomer (is he really the bad guy here, or is something else going on?).
There are some comedy elements in the movie (which was for the most part intended, I think), especially an exorcism scene that is so dragged-out and insane that it actually gets oddly hilarious. The protagonist’s facial and emotional reactions are almost cartoony sometimes, and the mix of being dark and vicious with being so colorful and sometimes comedic makes it a pretty weird watch. The story keeps you guessing throughout the entire movie, until the ending reveals the true villain in its full form.
Director: Hong-jin Na Country & year: South Korea | USA, 2016 Actors: Do-won Kwak, Jung-min Hwang, Jun Kunimura, Woo-hee Chun, Hwan-hee Kim, Jin Heo, So-yeon Jang, Do-yoon Kim, Kang-gook Son IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5215952/
Loch Ness Scotland, 1976: a group of resarchers are hunting for Nessie. They dive into the lake and find one of her eggs, and guess what happens next: a pissed off CGI Nessie suddenly shows up, goes on land in full rampage mode and devours them. Amongst them is the son of one of the resarchers, who witnesses his father getting eaten. He manages to get away, and fast-forward to present day he has grown up to hunt down Nessie and have his revenge. He wanders around with a cigar and dresses like someone cosplaying a lone-wolf-cowboy with a scar on his face. And whenever he enters a scene we hear a classic western tune, just to make sure to the audience knows that he’s the hero and not one to be fucked around with…which makes it cheesy as hell. No charisma, no screen presence. Someone call Danny Trejo, please. Anyway: during his hunt for the monster, he stops by Lake Superior somewhere in Canada where he believe Nessie’s hidden. Why Nessie decided to travel so far and take residence in a lake in Canada, you may ask? Well, because. We also get introduced to some teenagers you couldn’t care less about, who gets ready for a boat trip, only set up to be killed and eaten.
And they all deserve it.
If you’re familiar with the original SyFy films that’s given us “masterpieces” like Alien Apocalypse, Sharktopus and the Sharknado / Megashark franchise, just to mention a few titles from their big catalogue, you probably know what kind of territory this is. It’s cheap, dumb, laughable and a no brainer. But I must admit that Nessie’s design and CGI looks pretty decent for a relatively cheap movie like this from 2008. I’ve seen Hollywood blockbusters with worse CGI than this, so thumbs up for that. Nessie has a lot of screentime to entertain us with, including some fine gore and even (to my surprise) some brief animatronic moments that was the very last thing I expected to see.
Director: Paul Ziller Country & year: Canada, 2008 Actors: Brian Krause, Niall Matter, Don S. Davis, Donnelly Rhodes, Carrie Genzel, Amber Borycki, Neil Denis IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0930072/
When strange events occur in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a doctor specializing in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer decide to investigate further.
I first heard about this movie from “Shudder“, a streaming site dedicated to horror, which is unfortunately not available in our country (it’s currently only available in the US (and its territories), Canada, UK, and Ireland). Being quite curious due to all the praise it’s gotten from various horror sites and reviewers, I was really pleased when the movie finally got to Netflix and thus gave us the chance to check it out.
The movie starts with a woman that hears whispering voices from the kitchen, which soon escalates into a bloody outcome for her while a terrified husband can’t do anything else but watch. We soon learn that the supernatural occurences is rooted in the neighbouring houses as well, and a group of paranormal researchers are trying to investigate the strange happenings. A dead boy returning from his grave, a naked man hiding under the bed, and strange noises and disturbances are just some of the occurences in the neighborhood that is obviously plagued by something paranormal. When the investigators start their research (the investigators being a group consisting of aged “Ed & Lorraine”- alikes and a nervous cop close to retirement due to health issues) things quickly escalate.
“Terrified” aka “Aterrados” is a solid addition to the paranormal/supernatural genre, and is the kind of movie that focuses its scares on being creepy and suspenseful, with some pretty effective scenes that can easily give you the heebie jeebies. Granted, there isn’t really much of a plot in the movie, and when it ends there are more than just a few unanswered questions. It’s a movie that still stands well planted on its own feet due to atmosphere, suspense and effective scenes alone, and should be well worth a watch.
Director: Demián Rugna Country & year: Argentina, 2017 Actors: Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7549892/
As I had always thought that The Exorcist was William Friedkin’s one and only pure horror movie, I didn’t know what to expect from this slightly obscure little film called “The Guardian” when it finally came into my radar. So let’s check it out.
The movie opens with the text: «For thousands of years a religious order known as the druids worshipped trees, sometimes even sacrificing human beings to them.» After viewing this text introduction, we’re in the home of a high class family where a boy reads Hansel and Gretel to his little infant sister while his parents are getting ready to go on a business trip for some days. As soon as they drive away, the nanny they hired grabs the baby and take her to the woods. The parents returns to the home since the mother forgot her glasses, when they realize that the baby and nanny is missing. The nanny has already sacrificed the baby to a tree where its face is embossed in the tree bark. The nanny gets away, and three months later in sunny California we get introduced to a couple who has a baby on the way. And with their busy career, they of course need a nanny. They have some auditions, and amongst them is the nanny we saw in the beginning. Unaware of her dark intentions, they hire her. The neighbour falls madly in love with her, and one night he follows her when she goes into the woods. There, he witnesses her laying down nude on a tree branch and beginning to fuse with the tree bark, and he realizes that this woman has no business being around children.. or anyone else for that matter.
Sam Raimi was first hired to direct due to his recent success with “Evil Dead II”, but dropped off to make “Darkman” instead (which is awesome, by the way). In came William Friedkin who was going through a tough time and apparently took whatever got handed to him. He also had a scary experience with a nanny himself who put his son in danger, and thus could relate to the two parents and their feeling of hopelessness. So with the director on board who was known for the scariest movie of all time, “The Exorcist” , what could go wrong?
“The Guardian” had a shooting schedule set to two weeks, but ended up in twelve with a chaotic production. The british screenwriter Stephen Volk was hired to write the script, but was never satisfied with the story’s progress. He and Friedkin figured out that the film would be better without the fantasy elements, but the studio disapproved of that idea. The Guardian was heavily promoted as “From The Director of The Exorcist” and his big comeback to the horror genre in seventeen years. And since The Exorcist was a supernatural horror movie with a huge success, they thought Friedkin could just snap with his fingers and repeat the magic. Well, that didn’t work at all. Stephen Volk got a mental breakdown, left the production and made the mockumentary “Ghostwatch” for british TV two years later. Friedkin was left behind with an unfinished script that was rewritten every day while shooting.
Jenny Seagrove, who plays the Nanny, was also unhappy with the fantasy elements and wanted the movie to be a down-to-earth psycho thriller about a nanny who kidnaps babies. She called the movie awful and told the studio that it would be just wrong to have a nanny who’s a druid and becomes a tree. Well, who could blame her.. When “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” was released two years later by Warner Bros, which became a huge financial success, she rang a friend at Universal who simply said: “Don’t. Don’t even talk about it, you were right”. Ouch. The film was cut for theatrical release and for Cable TV. In the TV version the director was credited as Alan Smithee, the pseudonym directors use when they’re so unhappy or embarrassed of the final product that they don’t want to be associated with it. However, Friedkin has stated on a commentary track on one of the DVD’s that he didn’t even know about the TV version, and views The Guardian as his most personal film.
Seagrove has said in retrospect that the film is “good fun”, and that’s a great way to summarize it. It’s no masterpiece, but far from boring. It’s a rather bizarre movie with full of cheesiness, some great gore, nudity, a scary tree that gets mutilated with a chainsaw in Evil Dead-Ash-style while tons of fake blood is pouring out. Makes me wonder if Sam Raimi actually had some input on that aspect. And of course we have an authentic birth-giving scene.
Director: William Friedkin Country & year: USA, 1990 Actors: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, Miguel Ferrer, Natalija Nogulich, Pamela Brull, Gary Swanson IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099710/
Carol Anne has now moved to her uncle and aunt at the John Hancock Center in Chicago where she attends a special school for gifted children and visits a psychologist regularly. She would prefer to not talk about the past, but the shrink hypnotizes her to do so and can assure Carol Anne that talking about the past will make it go away. In this case it makes the dark forces enter her life again and a certain scary old man starts to manifest in mirrors and reflections. To quote Tangina: He’s back!
The idea of placing the story in a large skyscraper works for the most part. It creates its own claustrophobic setting. I especially like the idea with the mirrors. Gary Sherman, most known for low-budget exploitation films, does a decent job with the technical aspects concidering the production problems caused by Heather O’Rourke’s sudden death at the age of 12, four months before the last day of shooting. It almost stopped the production completely, and like «Poltergeist II», the entire ending sequence had to be rewritten. While it somehow barely worked in the previous film, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever here and it just leaves a big question mark over your head. The movie starts actually pretty good and strong, but develops with ridiculous plot holes, messy editing and scenes that don’t go well together. Heather’s death in mind gives a more sad than satisfying end to the Poltergeist saga.
Director: Gary Sherman Country & year: USA, 1988 Actors: Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Lara Flynn Boyle, Kipley Wentz, Richard Fire, Nathatn Davis IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095889/
After losing the house, Steven also lost his job and the family is now completely broke, thus they have moved into Diane’s mother’s house. It’s hard times, but they do all they can to live a normal life. One day a mysterious old man named Kane, a creepy looking reverend, shows up in their life. And he is especially interested in Carol Anne.
The same actors are back, except the one who played Dana, who became the first victim of the so-called “Poltergeist curse”, which I will not go into here. Jerry Goldsmith composes a lot more dark and sinister soundtrack that enhance the atmosphere. But the one who steals the show here is the eccentric actor Julian Beck as Reverend Henry Kane. He completely owns the few scenes he’s in and really gets under your skin. Despite his little screentime he became such a horror icon that the thrash metal band Anthrax depicted him on the cover of «Among The Living». Unfortunately, he died of stomach cancer before the film was finished shooting. Due to this, a final sequence had to be completely rewritten.
Not the best sequel, it feels pretty unnecessary to be honest, but is still a fun watch with some great practical effects, some scary moments, great atmosphere and brilliant soundtrack.
Director: Brian Gibson Country & year: USA, 1986 Actors: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson, Julian Beck, Geraldine Fitzgerald IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091778/
The Freeling family of five, Steven, Diane and their children Carol Anne, Robbie and Dana, plus the dog Buzz, live a quiet family life in the town of Cuesta Verde. Their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, wakes up one night and starts talking to the TV in the living room while it’s on static, and strange events in the house starts happening during the next days. Their parakeet dies, furniture moves by itself, and one stormy night the dead tree in the back yard suddenly wakes to life, almost “eating” little brother Robbie while Carol Anne is sucked into the closet by supernatural forces and disappears. The family later hears her screams for help from a static TV channel, and decides to seek help from a group of parapsychologists in order to get her daughter back.
The family learns, among other things, from the medium Tangina that there is a portal to another dimension in the house where the daughter is trapped, and figures out a plan to go in there and find her.
To be 35 years old, «Poltergeist» is still holding up, much thanks to Steven Spielberg’s great input and the amazing effects of Industrial Light & Magic. Tobe Hooper (who, sadly, recently passed away) directs, and the movie mixes the style of Hooper and Spielberg pretty well. The shock values and the family aspects are very well put together, and the film spends some time to develop the characters. Many great scenes stands out here; the scene with the tree, the clown, the face-ripping scene and the crazy climax is just bone-chilling. Also great soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. «Poltergeist» will always have a specieal place in my heart, and is at least on my top 5-list of haunted house/ghost movies.
Director: Tobe Hooper Country & year: USA, 1982 Actors: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Heather O’Rourke, Richard Lawson, Zelda Rubinstein IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084516/
Before The Conjuring, Annabelle and The Nun there was an obscure movie made for TV called “The Haunted”.
In the 1970’s, Jack and Janet Smurl moves to a big house in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, together with Jack’s parents who resides in one part of the house. Janet, being a housewife and spending most of the time alone in the house, starts experiencing strange things like unexplained noises and a dark shape showing up while she’s cleaning the house. As things escalate, they contact a pair of priests who, instead of helping them, advice them to seek family counseling. In desperation Janet seeks out the well-known paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and the war against the paranormal has started.
“The Haunted” can in many ways be seen as the first “Conjuring” movie, and is based on what the Smurl-family experienced in the period between 1979-89. However, this TV-movie is pretty obscure and doesn’t even have any official dvd release. Which is quite sad, as this is a pretty good haunted house horror movie.
My first meeting with this movie was in the early 1990’s when it was shown on “TV3” under the norwegian title “Hjemsøkt av djevelen” (which means “Haunted by the devil”). At that time (and age) it was the scariest movie I had seen and it caused a couple of sleepless nights afterwards. There are several scenes in the movie that are quite effective because they play the good game of “less is more”. There is, however, an incredibly cheesy scene where Jack Smurl is attacked and sexually assaulted by a demon in the living room, with pink lighting effects and a smoke machine. Aside from that, the movie does have a serious tone and is suspenseful and creepy, and it would be nice to see it released on dvd someday. Or, at the very least, on streaming (like Netflix, Prime, and so on). As of now, the only options you have are bootlegs or YouTube.
Director: Robert Mandel Country & year: USA, 1991 Actors: Sally Kirkland, Jeffrey DeMunn, Louise Latham, George Wallace, Joyce Van Patten, William O’Connell, Stephen Markle, Diane Baker IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102007/