The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)Two young American ladies, Lindsey and Jenny, are visiting Germany. While driving through a forest they get a flat tire. And since they don’t know how to change a tire, they have to go on foot with their high heels through the forest while it’s raining to hopefully find some help. Luckily, they come across a house where the lights are on. They ring on the doorbell and out comes Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser) who invites them in for a glass of water while he’s calling the car service.

 

You have a really lovely home. Do you live here with your wife?, asks one of the girls. No… I don’t like human beings, he answers in the most unironically way with his creepy German accent.

 

Okay, then. Thanks for the water, but now it’s time to leave. Oops, too late. Because Dr. Heiter has laced their water with some strong sedatives, and soon they’ll wake up in his lab basement, strained to their hospital beds. Because, you see, this doctor has a very special passion, and that is to make the world’s first human centipede. And according to the poster, this is done with 100% medical accuracy. So this is perfectly safe to try at home, kids.

 

The Human Centipede was, at the time, the most  brutalshockingsickeninggruesomegrossrevoltingdisturbingdisgusting (and add all buzz words possible) piece of horror film that has ever been made on planet Earth – and probably the most hyped and viral thing that only Megan is Missing (2011) could come close to. The buzz for this film was so colossal and huge that it managed to crawl its way into the mainstream pop-culture and was even mentioned as a parody game of Pac-Man in an episode of The Simpsons. There is also a porn parody titled The Human Sexipede. Anyway – people who haven’t even seen the film call it the most disturbing thing ever. But for most of us who have actually seen it, we can confirm that this is a prime example of how a morbid concept like this sounds so much more horrific on paper with a pretty brilliant poster design that is cryptic enough to toy with your darkest imagination.

 

Because this is not exactly the body horror you’d expect to see from directors like David Cronenberg, Brian Yuzna or the horror mangas of Hideshi Hino and Junji Ito. It’s not even close to being as gruesome and graphic as the title and the poster would trick you to believe. Yes, it’s supposed to look more realistic and grounded with the less is more approach, but still… It’s quite underwhelming, and nothing but comical to see the actors squeezing their noses between their ass-cheeks to make us believe that they’re Frankensteined together, as they’re moaning like they’re in some scat porn video. The only legit disgusting moment here is the snot hanging from the nose of the Asian guy, who got lucky enough to be the first link to the centipede experiment. I can’t imagine the actors being proud to be in this and have ever shown it to their moms and dads and their friends – Hey, look at this horror film I’m in where I’m eating ass and breathing farts. 

 

There are many unique ways to be totally humiliated on screen as an actor, but this has to take the shit cake – only until the far more fucked-up sequel The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) came and said hold my anus. And there’s no wonder why actresses who showed up to the casting sessions walked out in disgust after discovering what they were about to sign on to.

 

The Human Centipede was mostly filmed in a residential home in the Netherlands with primarily four actors and a small budget. The film could have been so much worse, but our villain, Dr. Heiter, makes sure to keep us entertained. He looks like an elderly meth-addicted Robert Pattinson with stage four cancer. A solid-looking mad-scientist villain, in other words, with an electric performance by the eccentric German actor Dieter Laser (1942-2020) which makes this film worth a watch alone. And speaking of meth… Dieter approached his role with method acting, didn’t mingle with either cast or crew between the takes, and pretty much kept to himself. According to Dieter, the white jacket he wore was by a real Nazi doctor from WW2. He took the role so seriously to a point where he started to feel some Nazi guilt, and got into a fight when he accidentally kicked the Asian guy. Welcome to showbiz. Tom Six views the film as a reflection on fascism and his fear of doctors and hospitals.

 

But at the end of the day, The Human Centipede is an unintentionally twisted, silly little comedy that got hyped out of proportions just because of its title alone, and it’s not to be taken seriously for even half a second. Our old friend Roger Ebert, on the other hand, hated the film so much that he gave it zero stars – which should be enough to pique your curiosity, if you ask me.

 

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

 

Writer and director: Tom Six
Country & year: Netherlands, 2009
Actors: Dieter Laser, Winter Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold, Peter Blankenstein, Bernd Kostrau, Rene de Wit
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1467304/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Dead Snow (2009)

Dead SnowFirst off, here’s a drinking game: Take a great shot of karsk for each time Norway/Norwegian is mentioned in this review. Now – Just like Cold Prey, we have Dead Snow, which was also a big deal upon its release back in 2009. Because of this one, we now had our first Norwegian zombie movie to finally show off, with Nazis even. And a lot of red, blood-soaked snow while the Easter sun is shining bright. Another note for the Norwegian film history books. Dead Snow became a hit at the Sundance festival that kick-started the fruitful career of Tommy Wirkola, who’s since made several films in Hollywood – most notably the Christmas action/horror flick Violent Night (2022) with John Harbour in the main role.

 

Dead Snow opens appropriately enough with Edward Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, as someone is getting chased in the mountain forest and killed by a group of, yes you guessed it, zombies. Zombies in Norway, you say? Huh, that was new. Thought they only had trolls, gnomes and brunost. Yes, but these aren’t Norwegian zombies, you see, so get ready for an upcoming history lesson. After this short and quick adrenaline-filled opening, we meet our group of body-counts/friends of four medical students who are on their way to a mountain cabin in Øksfjord, far up in the northern countryside to celebrate Easter, get drunk on beer and moonshine, party hard and the luckiest ones gets to fuck in the shithouse.

 

The party mode gets put on hold for a minute when our group of friends gets an unexpected visit from a hiker. And this guy has seen some dark shit, for sure, his face can tell. He gives them a history lesson of the notorious Nazi colonel Herzog, who with his death squad team occupied the area during WW2. They did gruesome things to the locals over a span of three years, and as our hiker says in his beautiful northern dialect:

Det hær va nånn onde SATANS jævla! Wich is best translated as: They were some EVIL motherfuckers!

 

To cut his story short: Herzog and co. stole a dose of valuables when the war was over and tried to escape over the mountains where they seemed to disappear. Legend says that they froze to death and there’s an evil lurking over the place that must not be awakened. Yeah, whatever. They only scoff at him and don’t think much of it afterward, because who in the right mind would. So, who wants another beer? It isn’t until they find some hidden old valuables and gold in the cabin crawlspace that the plot starts to thicken. Because, guess who also wants to claim that gold, other than the Leprechaun.

 

Nazi zombies aren’t something new, nor was it with Dead Snow. We can actually rewind all the way back to the 1940s and dig up the corpses of King of the Zombies and Revenge of the Zombies and the terrible cult-schlock from 1981 that is Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, and more. But, of course, in a cold, winter-filled Norwegian setting, this was something we never thought we’d see on a big screen. Especially considering that a film like this would have been completely banned in a gnome country like this, or at least cut to pieces to the unrecognizable if it was made in the VHS era.

 

The effects are nice and juicy and the film goes full-out with the carnage and what they had in the gore-department. Eyes get poked out in Fulci-style, heads ripped in half, bodies ripped to shreds, people hanging from someone’s fresh ripped-out intestines from a cliff as they fight zombies, some general hack and slashing and its list of references. And of course, we have some glorious chainsaw action. Approx 400 liters of fake blood was used here. Not too shabby for being the first Norwegian zombie movie.

 

It’s all done with a dose of humor with a great group of actors in some very likable roles. My favorite is Bjørn Sundquist, one of the finest legacy actors we have in Norway. His screentime is short but none other than him would be able to tell the backstory of Herzog in such a serious deadpan manner like he did. However, some of the humor may not land as much on the non-Norwegian audience, especially the classic scene towards the end with the tunes and lyrics of Åge Alexandersen’s Min Dag.

 

It also shows that this is an early film of a newcomer. It’s of course a big step forward after Wirkola’s debut with Kill Buljo in technical terms. The pacing keeps a steady track, it’s overall fun and entertaining with a lot of energy and some great use of nature scenery. But still, there are some rough edges here. Some choppy and clunky editing choices prevent some of the death scenes to shine and breathe, and the ending gives the impression that the budget just said stop. If Tommy Wirkola already had the sequel in mind, I don’t know, but Dead Snow 2, which came five years later, surely makes this more of a warm-up, or a vorspiel, as we usually say in Norway before the big party. Så det e bare for dåkk kjære hæstkuka å håll sprit’n klar.

 

Dead Snow Dead Snow Dead Snow

 

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen
Original title: Død Snø
Country & year: Norway, 2009
Actors: Geir Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, Bjørn Sundquist, Ørjan Gamst
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1278340/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Summer of 84 (2018)

Summer of 84It’s the summer of 1984, where there are no mobile phones, no TikTok, and kids actually spend time together outside. What a time to be young! A fifteen year old, Davey Armstrong, works a paper route and spends time with his friends Dale, Curtis and Tommy. They live in Cape May, where a total of thirteen teenage boys have disappeared over the course of a decade. None of their disappearances have ever been connected, but after a local newspaper receives an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be their killer, or the Cape May Slayer, Davey starts suspecting his neighbor Wayne Mackey who is a popular police officer. His friends don’t put much value into his suspicions, though, as Davey is known for being easily drawn to all kinds of conspiracy theories and urban legends. Things change when a boy who Davey claims was inside Mackey’s house, ends up on a milk carton just a few days later. His friends agree to help him with the investigation of his suspicious neighbor, in the hopes of revealing him as the Cape May Slayer.

 

Summer of 84 is a horror film from 2018, directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissel. It was written by Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, to a fair amount of praise as many of the critics called it one of the best horror films of 2018. Since the main cast in the movie are teenagers and it’s set in the 80’s, some may think of the popular Netflix show Stranger Things, but they can’t really be compared. Summer of 84 is more like The Goonies turned into a mystery thriller, and while you’ll definitely get your fair share of the 80’s with the fitting soundtrack and certain elements from that era, this movie ventures into a much darker road.

 

As we follow Davey and his friends, we watch them do regular stuff like meeting in their tree house, watch dirty magazines, talk about who is the hottest girls in the neighborhood, and so on. Just normal teenage-boy stuff. When their attention is shifted onto a possible serial killer next door, we still have a bit of that whimsical Goonies-vibe. You’re not really sure what to expect, which makes it quite suspenseful. It also has quite a few little easter eggs: one of the missing boy posters displays one of John Wayne Gacy’s victims, and when the boys are in the clubhouse Tommy drinks from a bottle of MacReady’s Whiskey, which is a nod to The Thing (1982). While the first part of the movie builds up rather innocently when the kids are trying to figure out if Mackey really is a serial killer, offering both suspense and a few lighthearted chuckles here and there, it pretty much makes a 180 during the final act.

 

Summer of 84 is not your typical serial killer film, but offers something quite suspenseful and enjoyable. While some people really hated the ending of the movie, to the point where some said it literally ruined the entire movie for them, I personally found the choice for a dark and somewhat edgy ending to ground the movie into even more horror themed realism, and I’m glad they had the balls to do it this way.

 

Summer of 84

 

Directors: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writers: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Country & year: Canada, 2018
Actors: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer, Jason Gray-Stanford, Shauna Johannesen, William MacDonald, Harrison Houde
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5774450/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Triangle (2009)

TriangleJess is preparing to take her autistic son Tommy on a boat trip with her friend Greg, and while getting both her and her son ready the doorbell suddenly rings. No one is on the other side. Later, Jess drives to Florida and meets up with Greg at the harbor. She arrives without Tommy, and explains that he is at his special needs school. They board the boat, together with Greg’s friends Sally, Downey and Heather. Soon afterwards, a storm is approaching and Greg picks up a distress signal from a woman pleading for help. She says she’s in danger as someone is killing off the crew members on the boat she’s on, but before this woman can complete the conversation Greg’s boat capsizes. The survivors then boards a passing ocean liner, which appears to be deserted, but they saw the silhouette of someone apparently ignoring their pleas for help when wanting to board the ship. Jess gets an uncomfortable feeling of déja vu when exploring the ship, and after discovering her own keys near a display case for the ship, which is named Aeolus, a lot of strange things start happening. Jess finds that she is stuck in a time-loop that keeps repeating itself, and she must try to figure out a way to break it.

 

Triangle is a psychological horror film from 2009, written and directed by Christopher Smith whose directorial debut was Creep (2004). The film is partly based on the story of Sisyphus, a Greek mythological figure cursed to repeatedly push a boulder up a hill without ever reaching the top. He was also inspired by Dead of Night (1945) and Memento (2000). The movie was filmed on sets and location in Queensland, Australia. It received favorable reviews upon its release, both from critics and audience, but still grossed only $1.3-1.6 million worldwide on a budget of $12 million. Ouch. But it also didn’t have a theatrical release in the US.

 

While Groundhog-day horror movies where time-loops keep the protagonists struggling with figuring out how to break them is nothing new, and some of them take on a more lighthearted variant like for example Happy Death Day. This movie on the other hand keeps everything considerably more dark and mysterious. Triangle is like a puzzle of pieces which start fitting together one by one, and small details which previously might have seemed insignificant proves to tie things together. What makes the movie even more effective is how the protagonist, Jess, keeps trying literally everything in order to break the loop, and while both she and the viewers think “aha, now she’s on to something!” we suddenly see that she’s already tried that exact same thing dozens of times in earlier loops. There is very little predictability here, and keeps you guessing throughout, making it a very entertaining watch.

 

On the whole, Triangle is a fun and thrilling time-loop horror movie, and despite having a conclusion that some might find a bit inadequate, it still ends up as a satisfactory ride.

 

Triangle

 

Writer and director: Christopher Smith
Country & year: UK, Australia, 2009
Actors: Melissa George, Joshua McIvor, Jack Taylor, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon, Rachael Carpani, Emma Lung, Liam Hemsworth, Bryan Probets
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187064/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Case 39 (2009)

Case 39Emily Jenkins is a social worker who has been assigned to the case of 10-year-old Lillith Sullivan. It appears that some kind of emotional struggle has appeared between the little girl and her parents, and Emily suspects child abuse. She gets her suspicions well confirmed when Lillith’s parents actually try to kill her by putting her in the oven, Hansel & Gretel-style. The parents are, of course, placed in a mental institution while the most likely traumatized girl is sent to a children’s home. But she begs for Emily to look after her. And with her heart totally melted by this unfortunate, innocent little girl, Emily manages to get the board’s agreement of looking after her until a suitable foster family comes along. After Lillith moves in with Emily, strange things begin to happen. Maybe this little girl isn’t so innocent after all…

 

Case 39 is a supernatural horror thriller from 2009, directed by Christian Alvert. Upon its release, the reviews and overall reception was rather poor, and it barely managed to cover the budget of $26 million with a gross of $28.2 million. It was often being described as unoriginal and frightless, and thus, the expectations upon viewing it was rather low as I remember. Still, we found it to be a rather decent and suspenseful thriller, despite its unoriginality and lack of actual scares.

 

Like many “evil children” movies, the performances of the actual child actor is paramount for the viewing experience, and Jodelle Ferland (from Silent Hill and Tideland) does a very fine portrayal of the evil Lillith. While the movie totally lacks an actual mystery as it becomes quite apparent that the child is, in fact, evil incarnate, it still manages to be suspenseful enough to hold the entertainment value. The most creepy parts of the movie might be the very start, when Lillith is still with her parents and we get to wonder if there really is a case of domestic abuse here, or if it’s something else, only to be provided with a scene of the parents actually trying to bake their own child in the oven. Of course we know already at this stage that there’s something wrong with the child, but it’s still a pretty messed up scenario, especially considering that there have been cases of this actually happening in real life, like this rather grim case from 1984 where the parents claimed to have been “cooking Lucifer”. I wonder if this movie was a little inspired, perhaps.

 

As you can imagine, the movie centers around how Emily is gradually coming to realize what we, the viewers, already knew from the get-go: that Lillith is evil and also responsible for many of the horrible things happening around her, especially concerning another one of Emily’s cases with a young boy. Yeah, it’s often clichéd and not devoid of some tired jumpscares, but on the whole it works. So I’d say that Case 39, while suffering from predictability and very standard cinematography, redeems itself with a good construction of characters and gradual buildup of tension and suspense.

 

Case 39

 

Director: Christian Alvart
Writer: Ray Wright
Country & year: Canada, US, 2009
Actors: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Kerry O’Malley, Cynthia Stevenson, Alexander Conti, Philip Cabrita
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0795351/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Skeptic (2009)

Responding to a 911 call, a police officer enters a large house and finds a dead woman inside. She appears to have died of fright, clutching a set of rosary beads. This woman is Bryan Beckett’s aunt, who is a lawyer and confirmed skeptic, who considers everything paranormal to be nothing but pure hogwash. Upon visiting his deceased aunt’s home and subsequently moving in (mainly in order to take a break from his shattered marriage) people around him starts giving vague hints, trying to tell him that moving in might not be a good idea. After ignoring other people’s warnings that he shouldn’t do so because the place is haunted, he starts experiencing strange things which puts his skepticism to the test. There is also something about the place that bothers him, like a strange connection he can’t really figure out. When things go a bit out of hand he seeks medical help, but instead finds himself teamed up with a young psychic who wants to help him reveal the house’s trouble past – or that of the skeptic’s own mind.

 

The Skeptic is a supernatural horror thriller, directed by Tennyson Bardwell. I remember back when the movie was released, that it got a bit of flak for being “outdated” and for not being especially heavy on the fear factor. And, yeah…that’s pretty much true, and doesn’t come as a big surprise considering that the director/writer wrote the first draft of the script in the 1980s. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story that does not rely on CGI-apparitions or jump scares. The slow-burn ghost story got passé already during the 80s, where psychological horror movies became obsolete compared to the more physical and in-your-face kind of horror that shocked audiences anew. The plot also appears overly simple: a man doesn’t believe in ghosts, said man moves into a haunted house, and starts experiencing what can be perceived as supernatural occurrences. So, ironically, I was a little bit of a skeptic when first viewing it…but was pleasantly surprised over seeing how something that appears to be very cliché-filled actually ended up being both a little chilling and engaging. The atmosphere is sometimes thick as a brick, but the suspense isn’t always lingering as much as one could have hoped for. It’s slow, sometimes a bit too much for its own good, but makes up for it with polished production values and the ability to offer a few chills here and there.

 

In a movie like this, it’s often best to not give away too much of the plot, as the viewing experience is best when knowing as little as possible. Overall it was a pleasant surprise, but it’s most suitable for people who enjoy a classic haunted house story of the old-fashioned sort.

The Skeptic

 

Writer and director: Tennyson Bardwell
Also know as: The Haunting of Bryan Becket, The Haunting
Country & year: USA, 2009
Actors: Tim Daly, Tom Arnold, Zoe Saldana, Edward Herrmann, Andrea Roth, Robert Prosky, Bruce Altman, Lea Coco, Sara Weaver, L.J. Foley, Paul Tietjen, Steve, Fletcher, Christina Rouner,
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0493451/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul