The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

On an isolated farm in a rural town, an old man is lying in his deathbed. As he is slowly dying, his children (Louise and Michael) visit their homestead to mourn, despite their mother’s warning that they should not have come…a warning that she never really explain and thus it’s bound to go unheeded, of course. When the night comes, their mother starts behaving strangely, and after cutting off her fingers in the kitchen she hangs herself in the barn. Despite the shocking reveal for Louise and Michael the next day when they find her, they still decide to stay in the house in order to look after their dying father. However, when the home nurse confides in them that she overheard their mother whispering to what seemed to be some other presence in the room, they start to understand more about what really happened to their mother. After finding her diary, they read that their mother believed a supernatural entity was after their father’s soul, and soon they also experience the sinister ways of the wicked presence that tries to take over the family.

 

The Dark and The Wicked is a supernatural horror movie directed by Bryan Bertino, who previously directed The Strangers (2008) and The Monster (2016). Right from the get-go you realize that this is going to be a film that focuses on atmosphere, and there’s a trepidation of what to come. And yes, what comes is really dark and wicked indeed.

 

The Dark and The Wicked really does delve into nightmarish territory, and it’s a fun fact that Bertino actually shot the film in his own hometown in Texas, at his parents’ own farm. In order to enhance the feeling of isolation and creeping dread, the remote rural surroundings are perfect for this purpose. The family dynamic is strained, riddled with guilt and suppressed feelings, and it reminded me a bit of the same feeling of growing anticipation that I experienced during The Relic. It’s an emotionally driven story of a family that find themselves trapped in the net of something that slowly gets closer and closer to its goal. The siblings have been estranged from their parents for quite a while, rarely visiting them and thus feeling shame and guilt now that their father is lying in his deathbed. This also explains why they’re not heeding their mother’s warnings, and since they’ve had so little contact over the years they just believe she went insane. But, after one terrifying event after the other, the siblings eventually realize that their mother wasn’t just crazy, there really is a malevolent force coming, and it’s hungry for a soul.

 

The movie is doing an excellent job on being outright creepy, and there are more than a few scenes that are grotesque and stomach-churning, heightened with solid performances. In the end, though, there are a few questions unanswered, and the story feels a bit lacking at times where there’s more focus on the actual experiences the siblings have in their old family home, rather than any explanations for why it is happening or how it came to be like this. Also, the ending feels a bit…abrupt? However, with such a creepy and unsettling atmosphere with some very effective scenes, it’s bound to please those who want something…well, dark and wicked to watch.

 

The Dark and the Wicked

 

Directors: Bryan Bertino
Country & year: USA, 2020
Actors: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki, Michael Zagst, Xander Berkeley, Charles Jonathan Trott, Ella Ballentine, Mel Cowan, Mindy Raymond, Chris Doubek
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10229558/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONITOR – Horror Short Film

A sleep-deprived corner store clerk wonders if he’s seeing things when a man mysteriously appears on his security camera feed – but not in the store itself.

 

If you’ve ever watched some “scary video” montages on YouTube, you’ve probably seen a fair amount of Security Camera footage. Monitor is a creepy horror short about a store clerk who sees something strange on the security camera monitors…

 

MONITOR - Horror Short Film

 

Director: Matthew Black, Ryan Polly
Country & year: USA, 2018
Actors: Gunner Willis, Jacob Daniels, Tyler Burditt
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt9229720/

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONITOR (A Horror Short) from Maker Table on Vimeo.

 

Host (2020)

Six friends want to have some fun during the lockdown, and decide to hire a medium in order to hold a seance via Zoom. At first it’s all fun and giggles, where several of the participants struggle to keep a straight face. However, they soon realize they’ve unleashed something that might take their lives.

 

Host is a horror movie made during the pandemic, and decides to use this as an advantage in order to make a short but effective chiller. The usage of computer screen-based storytelling has been done before (like in Unfriended from 2014 and the mystery thriller Searching from 2018), and just like the aforementioned movies it works pretty well in order to portray a modern and realistic take on how the majority of people of today tend to communicate, especially now when social distancing has put restrictions on how and when we can interact with each other. Screen-based interactions with other people is just the way many people now communicate, and we see this put well into effect during Host. The concept behind this movie is even more relatable today, when physical meetings are difficult or even out of the question, which means that services where you can interact with each other online is used by pretty much anyone these days (including lawyers, who are not able to turn off their cat filter…)

 

With a runtime of only 57 minutes, it uses every minute effectively in order to build up the tension and keep the viewer in suspense. It also uses the real names of the actors, and I suppose this helped with keeping the performances more natural and authentic. In fact, I think that keeping it down to barely an hour is an excellent choice, instead of stretching it out unnecessarily just to fit into a more typical feature length. It really does all it can with its limitations, and the result is one of the most effective horror movies released in recent times. While having a somewhat minimalist approach, it manages to pull certain scenes off in a way that is actually pretty scary at times. The characters are reacting to what is happening to them in a believable way, and it becomes relatable, and therein lies the movie’s biggest strength I guess: how the timing, considered the pandemic and forced isolation, gives the entire premise an added feeling of something that hits close to home.

 

The DVD also included a “behind the scenes” short where they meet up (just like in the movie) to have a seance through Zoom. Nothing really scary happened here, of course, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.

 

Host

 

Directors: Rob Savage
Country & year: UK, 2020
Actors:Haley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova, Caroline Ward, Alan Emrys, Patrick Ward, Edward Linard, Jinny Lofthouse, Seylan Baxter, Jack Brydon, James Swanton
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt12749596/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FACE YOUR FEARS – Horror Short

A young woman terrified of the dark takes on a pet sitting job and discovers a supernatural game that will cure her fears, if she faces them first.

 

Face Your Fears is a creepy horror short by Neil Stevens, set in a nice old-fashioned home to complement the spooky atmosphere.

 

FACE YOUR FEARS - Horror Short

 

Director: Neil Stevens
Country & year: USA, 2020
Actors: Leah Briese, Robert Fleet, Rogie Nelson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10618948/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tetsuo (1989)

How to even start with this movie…Uhm, well…

 

It starts with a random, disturbed guy called “The Metal Fetishist” (played by the director himself) who’s wandering in some decayed urban area, barefoot. He enters a shack hoarded full of metal junk where he stabs himself in the foot, and injects himself with an iron pipe and goes through some kind of a metamorphosis. A glimpse of an everyday life of an extreme metal fetishist where it just went a little too far, I guess. He then screams and runs like a lunatic and gets hit by a car driven by a typical Japanese salaryman who then gets infected by a biomechanical virus. As the title screen rolls, he gives us the “Tetsuo Dance” before he wakes up in his apartment and gets ready for work. As he shaves, he notices a small metal point on his cheek, which pops out and starts shooting blood over his face as he touches it. Sounds weird, you say? You’ve seen nothing yet. I won’t spoil much more than this, other than our salaryman slowly transforms into a grotesque hybrid monster of flesh and metal with the desire to destroy the whole planet. And yeah, his penis also transforms into a big metal drill that no one would want to mess around with.

 

Tetsuo, aka The Iron man, is an explosive result of an inner frustration that the young director Shinya Tsukamoto had built up after an unstable relationship to his dad, growing up in heavily industrial surroundings, and the extreme pressure of the Japanese working culture. The environment is what makes a human, as they say, and Tetsuo is a prime example of that, and could be seen as a pretty alternative artistic view of the breaking point of the human mind, if you will – even though the film is open for countless interpretations. This is Tsukamoto’s fifth film, at the age of 29, after making some shorts and other projects he would never be satisfied with, and at the top of this his father kicked him out of the house right before the filming. Fortunately, due to the success and the cult-following of Tetsuo, he quickly became a prominent filmmaker in Japan with titles such as Bullet Ballet, A Snake in June, Nightmare Detective and also made two sequels to Tetsuo, called Tetsuo: Body Hammer and Tetsuo: Bullet Man, the last one with a soundtrack by Trent Reznor . He’s also known for his acting roles in Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer, Takashi Shimizu’s Marebito, and Martin Scorcese’s Silence. His dad should be proud by now.

 

Tetsuo is shot on 16 mm, in black and white, with a budget of his day job at that time. Mostly filmed in one of his co-workers cramped apartment over 18 months with hard and difficult conditions (which is not hard to imagine at all), where the cast and crew also lived during the production. The conditions came to a point where the actor who plays the salaryman got the urges to escape the set several times because of shooting days that never seemed to end, while crew-members just came and left. The whole production was such a nightmare, according to Tsukamoto, that he considered to burn all the negatives. And we should just be glad he didn’t, because Tetsuo is a truly insane, hyperactive, nightmarish cyber-punk/art-house/body-horror masterpiece that easily could be describes as Eraserhead on crack cocaine. Very aggressive, graphic, experimental and completely bizarre and truly one of a kind. It’s one of those “what the hell did I just watch-films“, and it’s clearly not for anyone, especially for those who’s epileptic. The technical aspects is from another planet (Planet Japan that is) with some really impressive stop-motion effects, camera work and costume designs. It has a great and sharp sound design and a really heavy, industrial soundtrack by Chu Ishikawa that fits the intense imagery perfectly.

 

So, what else is there to really say about this movie, other than: just watch it! Watch it on a big screen in a dark room with loud sound.

 

Tetsuo

 

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Country & year: Japan, 1989
Actors:Tomorô Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Nobu Kanaoka, Shinya Tsukamoto, Naomasa Musaka, Renji Ishibashi
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt0096251/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DREAMCATCHER – Short Horror Film

Nova gets a dreamcatcher as a present from her mom to protect her from bad dreams, but she will soon discover something sinister that hides within.

 

The Dreamcatcher, with its vibrant colors and crisp visuals, is a pretty fun horror short that ends with a creepy outcome!

 

THE DREAMCATCHER - Short Horror Film

 

Director: Cindy Stenberg
Country & year: Sweden, 2020
Actors: Villeman Alvarsson, Sixten Berg, Linda Lindberg Forsell, Ebba Ärlebo
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt13967470/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Isn’t Real (2019)

Luke is a young man who is struggling with childhood traumas, and when visiting his mentally sick mother he decides to resurrect his childhood imaginary friend, whom he once “trapped” inside a doll house when he was a boy. His imaginary friend’s name is Daniel, a self-confident and manipulative guy who appears to be the opposite of shy, timid Luke. At first, Luke is convinced that bringing Daniel back is a good choice as he appears to help him, but soon it starts to become obvious that Daniel’s intentions are no good.

 

Daniel Isn’t Real is a fun psychological horror film directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer, about a young man and his imaginary childhood friend “Daniel”. It is based on a book by Brian DeLeeuw, which is called In This Way I Was Saved. Imaginary friends are not a rare subject in movies, but while they’re usually a pretext for humorous scenes and charming situations in other movie genres, their purpose in horror movies are almost always sinister. In horror movies, imaginary friends are bad news. Very bad news.

 

Luke (played by Miles Robbins) does a solid job on portraying a confused and traumatized individual, struggling with overcoming his troubles. Daniel (played by Patrick Schwarzenegger – yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son) also skillfully portrays the typical alpha-type male which could come off as the hidden and extroverted side of Luke. It is interesting to watch their relationship unfold from Luke’s childhood where he meets Daniel outside after viewing something that ends up traumatizing him. This is a significant part of the story as it’s the reason why Daniel becomes a part of Luke’s life (although not necessarily in the way you might expect). Although shy and lonely Luke now finally has his own playmate, things quickly turn dark when Daniel suggests something that almost ends up killing Luke’s mother. As a punishment for this, Luke’s mother tells him to “banish” Daniel inside an old doll house. Years later, when Luke is still struggling, his psychologist suggests that he reconnects with his childhood friend, and thus he lets Daniel out of the doll house. What follows is a series of slightly strange events where Daniel appears to help Luke, making him more confident and even helping him during a school exam. In fact, both Luke and the viewer might almost get dulled into a sense that Daniel isn’t all that bad, but of course, good things aren’t meant to last and Daniel’s true intentions resurface more and more.

 

Daniel Isn’t Real manages to keep up the suspense and feeling of mystery, as we keep wondering if Daniel is some kind of supernatural entity or if he’s just the result of Luke’s disturbed mind. As the movie unfolds, so does the imaginative use of special effects which results in a highly visual ride of monsters manipulating their faces like it was a mold of clay, an exploration inside a gothic doll house, and other trippy and surreal events. With a mix of both practical and cgi effects, it sure is a visual and a little disorienting treat, but this is also the part of the movie where it strays from its more realistic and mysterious tone and right down the rabbit hole. Which, depending on your own taste, may make you either dislike it or love it more. Personally I belong to the latter bunch.

 

Overall, Daniel Isn’t Real is a nice and visually strong psychological indie horror that keeps you guessing.

 

Daniel Isn't Real

 

Directors: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors:Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Hannah Marks, Chukwudi Iwuji, Peter McRobbie, Andrew Bridges, Griffin Robert Faulkner, Nathan Chandler Reid, Daniel Marconi, Chase Sui Wonders, Rosanne Ma
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt8745960/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEAD HOUSE – Horror Short Film

Two men renovating a mysterious old house attempt to leave before the building enters lock down and seals them inside. Unfortunately the house has different plans for them.

 

Dead House is a creepy horror short with thick atmosphere, where two men are in for several surprises in an old abandoned building (which appears to not be all that empty after all…)

 

CORPORATE MONSTER - Sci-Fi horror Short

 

Director: Travis Laidlaw
Country & year: Canada, 2017
Actors: Virgil Howarth, Redd Ochoa, Travis Laidlaw, Tyler Laidlaw, Harrison Laidlaw, Chris Laidlaw, Bev Laidlaw, Karl Esganian, Margot Cote-Barch, Lisa Clarke, Bradley Chowace, Vincent Braia
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt7517376/

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEAD HOUSE from TRAVIS LAIDLAW on Vimeo.

 

Andra Sidan (2020)

Shirin moves to a new house together with her boyfriend Fredrik and his young son, Lucas. Their new home is a vertically divided semi-detached house, where the other side is uninhabited and in a slight state of disrepair. As Fredrik’s job requires a bit of travelling, Shirin must stay at their new home with her stepson, who misses his mother (who died of cancer). When the boy makes a new friend who he claims is living next doors in the uninhabited part of the building, Shirin starts to realize that this isn’t all child’s play.

 

Horror Ghouls have had their first theatrical screening this year, and it’s a movie from our neighbour country (Sweden), called Andra Sidan (which translates to “The Other Side”). It’s a ghost/haunted house horror flick, by the director duo Tord Danielsson and Oskar Mellander. It’s also their debut feature film.

 

Ghosts and haunted houses are among the most popular themes in horror, which also makes it one of the hardest genres to make anything that feels fresh and new to a viewer who has browsed through tons of movies like this. There’s bound to be some usage of cliché’s, and similar plot points and concepts. This doesn’t mean that new horror movies with said themes need to constantly reinvent the wheel, however, and sometimes you simply use what works despite that it’s been used before. What I’m trying to say, is that Andra Sidan is pretty much a bag filled with more of the same old tricks we’ve seen a lot of times before, but fortunately it belongs to the bunch that pulls it off pretty well. It’s quite obvious that the directors have been getting a lot of inspiration from other supernatural movies, and there’s imprints of James Wan all over the place.

 

There are some nice highlights here (including an attic that is creepy as hell). The house actually does look darn ominous, with its “other side” giving off bad vibes right from the start simply by how it looks. There’s good sound work, and nothing bad to point out about the acting, either, as the actors depict their roles and conflicting emotions in a believable and realistic way. Also, it was fun to see a small and partly obscured The Exorcist reference in the latter part of the movie. Regarding the claim that it’s “inspired by real events”, there is very little information to find about what the source of inspiration actually stems from, which could have been interesting to know. While “inspired by” very rarely means that a movie portrays something close to an actual event (as opposed to when movies say they’re “based on”), it would be nice to know what the source of said inspiration is.

 

The movie does leave a few questions unanswered, however, which leaves a certain hope for a possible prequel-sequel. Getting and in-depth version of what actually happened on that other side of the house, could be an interesting concept for a prequel story. In fact, we really hope they do make a prequel because there’s a strong foundation to make something really good here.

 

Overall, Andra Sidan is a dish we’ve tasted a lot of times before, but it’s still a strong addition to the haunted house/supernatural horror genre. Brooding, creepy atmosphere and well-aimed scares makes this a competent and satisfactory entry which I hope won’t be the last we see from the directors.

 

Andra Sidan

 

Directors: Tord Danielsson, Oskar Mellander
Country & year: Sweden, 2020
Actors: Jakob Fahlstedt, Janna Granström, Dilan Gwyn, Karin Holmberg, Troy James, Niklas Jarneheim, Henrik Norlén, Sovi Rydén, Linus Wahlgren
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt11320192/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CORPORATE MONSTER – Sci-Fi Horror Short

A dangerously unstable man starts to see monsters all around us.

 

Corporate Monster is a tense Sci-Fi horror short where an unstable man starts seeing certain people turn into monsters. Are they the result of the new medication he’s started taking… or is the new medication giving him the ability to see what those people really are?

 

CORPORATE MONSTER - Sci-Fi horror Short

 

Director: Ruairi Robinson
Country & year: Ireland, USA, 2019
Actors: Jenna Coleman, Birkett Turton, Gary Murphy, Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Kris Edlund, Megan Woods Kegan, Alphonso Cox, Jimmy Doom
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt10378788/