Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Nazis at the Center of the EarthNazis at the Center of the Earth. How can you go wrong with a title like that which sounds more like a drive-in flick from the 1970s, or something that Robert Rodriguez, once upon a time, could have made under his Grindhouse banner? Well, first off – this is from the cheap film company The Asylum which is, in the most recent decade, most known for its own original Sharknado franchise. Besides that, we can mention a neverending list of shitty low-to-non budget mockbusters such as Titanic II, Transmorphers, Atlantic Rim, AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, Invasion of the Pod People, Independents’ Day (yes, really), Battle Star Wars … And the list goes on like a non-stop diarrhea of the most shameless clickbait titles to fool people with one brain cell to trick them into watching something familiar to a mainstream Hollywood film. Their Paranormal Activity Entity wasn’t the worst as far as I remember, although it’s ages since I saw it.

 

The one we’re talking about here is their own warped version of Iron Sky, only here the Nazis aren’t coming from the moon but from the depths. And mockbuster or not, the title is enough to get my attention as I eat fat turkeys like this for breakfast, and it turned out to be as fun and crazy as the title would suggest, with even more surprises. In other words; the best way to experience this loony ride is to go in blind as this review will contain some spoilers.

 

We are at the research center Niflheim in Antarctica where two scientists are out on the snowy fields, ready to sample the surface for their research. When they unfold something metallic under the snow with a swastika painted on it, they get captured by a group of Nazis wearing gas masks, and they take them to a bunker somewhere deep underground. The leader of the research team, Dr. Adrian Reinstad (Jake Busey, the son of madman Gary Busey) heads out with his crew to find them.

 

One of the crew members, named Silje, is supposed to be Norwegian, by the way. And she speaks the language just as clearly and fluently as Brad Pitt speaking Italian – or like these two guys from an episode of The X-Files.

 

Anyway – they descend into a huge, dark pit that takes them to something that at first looks like an alternative Narnia dimension. But with a further look, it’s a huge underground world with trees, plants, and a forest where a fortress can be seen in the distance. Here they meet the evil Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele (Christopher Karl Johnson), with the infamous badass nickname The Angel of Death, who performed torturous experiments on victims at the Auschwitz II concentration camp during WW2.

 

Nazis at the Center of the Earth

 

So, the big question is: why is he still alive, and what’s his agenda?

 

Wikipedia can tell us that Mengele died by drowning after he suffered a stroke while swimming in 1979. That’s of course BS and pure falsification of history as we here learn that he actually kept himself alive all these years by taking organs from victims and replacing his bones with mechanical skeletons. And with his army of Nazi zombies, he’s still experimenting, so he finally can reanimate none other than der Führer himself. The plan here is to rise up to the surface with a war spaceship, so they can finally take over the world and create the perfect Arian race. Of course.

 

The film has apparently one of the highest visual effects shot counts in an Asylum production with a budget of $200,000. And still, it looks like a Lada trying to be a Plymouth Fury flooded with empty bottles of Vodka, Smirnoff and Jägermeister. Not a single outdoor scene looks realistic with its cheap digital backgrounds. The snow vehicle we see at the beginning looks like something from PlayStation 2. We see people who are supposed to be in the distance in the fake-looking Antarctica when they’re clearly copied and pasted with lousy use of green screen. It’s also made in a serious way with actors who really try to act professionally, which just makes it more amusing. A great recipe for a funny-bad movie, for sure, and in my judgment, not made bad on purpose like the Sharknado films. There’s some decent gore here, which is the only legit quality to point out.

 

But what’s takes the cake here, or the big Golden Raspberry, if you will, is the true star of the film: Please kneel and give your salute to –  Robo-Hitler (James Maxwell Young), where Hitler’s head is attached to a cyborg machine. Yes, you heard that right. This actually took me off guard, I did nazi that coming, and my eyes teared up from laughing. Everything here is just perfect; the way he stomps with his cyborg body like a mecha boss from a Sonic the Hedgehog game, the amateur acting, the goofy faces, the whole naive, enthusiastic energy. What more is there really to say? Nazis at the Center of the Earth is an epic schlockfest and a true gem in its category which is available on Blu-ray at Amazon.com, and last time I checked, on Tubi.

 

Nazis at the Center of the Earth Nazis at the Center of the Earth Nazis at the Center of the Earth

 

Director: Joseph J. Lawson
Writer: Paul Bales
Country & year: USA, 2012
Actors: Dominique Swain, Jake Busey, Joshua Michael Allen, Christopher Karl Johnson, James Maxwell Young, Lilan Bowden, Marlene Okner, Adam Burch, Maria Pallas, Abderrahim Halaimia, Trevor Kuhn
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2130142/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absentia (2011)

AbsentiaTricia is a woman who lives alone in a house in Glendale, California. Her husband has been missing for seven years, and the time has finally come to declare him in “dead in absentia”. This is a tough decision for Tricia, and her younger sister Callie comes to stay with her during this time. Daniel’s death certificate is being worked on, and Callie helps Tricia look for a new apartment. However, when the date for declaring him dead approaches, Tricia starts having nightmares and experiences terrifying hallucinations of him, where he appears to be angry and frustrated. Her psychologist says this all stems from the guilt she feels, but declaring him dead after all these years is still the right thing to do so she can finally move on. Callie, who is a former drug addict, tries to keep her days busy by jogging around the neighborhood, and one day she runs into a creepy tunnel where she sees a man who appears to be shocked that she can see him. He begs her to contact his son, but she assumes this man is just a confused and possibly dangerous hobo and runs off. She later comes back and leaves some food for him, but he’s not there anymore. Later, when Callie has decided to finally sign Daniel’s death certificate and get it over with, she sees a bloody and barefoot person in front of her house. When she sees that it’s Daniel, she is first a little confused as she thinks it might be yet another of her creepy hallucinations of him…but then she realizes it really is him, in flesh and blood. At the hospital, he appears to be disoriented and severely malnourished, and can only explain that he’s been “underneath”…

 

Absentia from 2011 is written, edited and directed by Mike Flanagan and produced by FallBack Plan Productions. It was partly funded by over 300 donors through a Kickstarter campaign, where the goal was to raise $15.000 and they ended up with $25.000 which was a bit more than one third of their final budget. Mike Flanagan has been serving several titles into the horror genre over the years, including Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), Dr. Sleep (2019), the TV mini series The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and many more. While Absentia is one of his very earliest work, there is actually a little bit of an easter egg here where in the psychologist’s office we see the Oculus mirror on the wall, which had been previously used in Flanagan’s short Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan from 2006, and was later included in his feature film Oculus from 2013.

 

This movie is definitely a slow burner, where the mystery regarding Daniel’s disappearance and the tunnel nearby keeps you guessing and curious throughout the movie. The mood is dire and depressing, with a steady build of unease. There’s a fair amount of subtlety here, which doesn’t always work in the movie’s favour, but at other times perfectly boosts the underlying feeling of unease. Like, the small detail of seeing posters nearby the creepy tunnel of missing dogs, implying that it’s not only Daniel’s that’s gone missing in that neighborhood. The small nudge to the old children’s tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff, an old Norwegian folktale which was first published in 1844, is also a nice touch where using something from old folklore and twisting it into something else in modern time.

 

While Absentia is by no means any masterpiece or a must-see, it’s still a nice watch if you want something eerie and slow-paced where it’s all more about mood than substance.

 

Absentia

 

Writer and director: Mike Flanagan
Country & year: USA, 2011
Actors: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Justin Gordon, Morgan Peter Brown, Jamie Flanagan, Doug Jones, Scott Graham, Connie Ventress, Ian Gregory
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1610996/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) (2011)

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)The first film was My Little Pony, compared to what we were going to witness in The Human Centipede 2 (Eat Shit and Die), as writer and director Tom Six said with a great enthusiasm. And that couldn’t be more true. This is the film that should have all the buzz words the first one was bombarded with.

 

This one also takes another whole approach in terms of tone, style and plot, of little there is. This time shot in crisp black and white where we get the pleasure of meeting Martin (Laurence R. Harvey), a sad existence of a human. He’s a short, middle-aged, mentally challenged and morbidly obese outcast with some even bigger, hideous eyes. Picture a morbid live-action version of Humpty Dumpty mixed with the Tweedle Boys and some bloke who shouldn’t be near any children. Martin lives in a bleak and nihilistic world with his old mother in a cramped and depressing apartment complex in East London. His mother hates his fat guts and just wants to kill him. Luckily, Martin is suitable enough to have a job as he works as a tollbooth clerk in a parking garage where he mostly spends his time watching the DVD of The Human Centipede. Yes, this is the real world, you see, where the first film was just a movie. As Martin also has a centipede as a pet, the only friend he presumably ever had, he’s is obsessed with the film and is fantasizing about himself making his own human centipede – because, after all, the film told us that it was 100 % medically accurate.

 

Martin starts to collect the victims for his centipede experiment of twelve people to lure them into his own warehouse. One of the victims is also fully pregnant. Yup, this nasty sequel holds no punches. But his biggest wet dream is to get his hands on the actress Ashlynn Yennie, who also starred in the first film. And in order to get her from the US to an obscure warehouse somewhere in London, Martin has a genius plan: he’ll trick her to believe he’s a casting agent for Quentin Tarantino. Yes, she’s up for a surprise.

 

Tom Six wanted to have more blood and shit in the sequel, which lacked in the first film. And blood and shit you’ll get, in gallons. The film goes all the way, even the extra footsteps, with the brutality to put the poorest taste in the audiences mouth, and maybe pleasing a depressed Roger Ebert this time. But in the midst of the shooting of The Human Centipede 2, some drastic changes had to happen when Tom Six was told to change it to black & white to make it appear less gory. The black & white only adds more to the imagination and enhances the gritty and grimy atmosphere. And it’s still one of those films where you want to take a long shower after watching. So it works in that sense and serves its purpose. There’s a color version, to my knowledge, that was included in a Blu-ray set, which I haven’t seen.

 

I wouldn’t recommend a movie like this to anyone unless you have a bucket full of a sick & dark sense of humor and hate your neighbors. And having some self-destructing personality flaw, sadomasochistic behavior mixed with some strong misanthropic tendencies is a plus to fully enjoy this movie with some ghoulish schadenfreude glee. The ending goes completely off the rails and hilariously batSHIT, where the tagline 100% medically INaccurate couldn’t fit more. A real shitshow in the purest form where it’s OK to have a sadistic laugh or two. I hope that the real centipede they used in some scenes wasn’t harmed though.

 

Fun trivia: The director views it as an anti-bullying film and tweeted It should be mandatory to watch THC2 in school classes…It deals with a character that is bullied and what to do! And a high school teacher in Tennessee did just that by showing the film to her class. After she was suspended, Tom Six gave her an autographed copy of the film.

 

Tom Six followed up with the third film, The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence). It was, of course, like the others, banned due to highly explicit sexual violence, as well as an abundance of potential obscenity. This was Six’s attempt to make a pure comedy in some bizarre sitcom-style, where I’m inclined to believe that the film was banned because people died of the painfully cringe humor more than anything – and seeing Dieter Laser in a full non-stop psychotic meltdown-mode, while trying to commit suicide in almost every scene by getting his blood pressure as high as possible. The centipede aspects are shoehorned in at the last minute, which makes the trilogy anticlimactic like a quick, dry fart. Watch the first two.

 

I can also mention that Tom Six’s newest film is called The Onania Club – which is about a group of elite upper class women in Hollywood who get their pussy wet and horny by witnessing others’ life tragedies, all from the extreme pleasures of seeing images of holocaust victims to people dying of cancer. And judging from the trailer, it looks as cheap and amateurish as a YouTube skit. It was originally set to be released back in 2017, but has been further delayed because there isn’t a single distributor on the planet who wants to touch it. And if the film can’t match any standards even for a company like Wild Eye Releasing, then it has to be worse than herpes. The Human Centipede films, however, are mostly out-of-print but can be found on eBay.

 

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

 

 

Writer and director: Tom Six
Country & year: Netherlands, USA, 2011
Actors: Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas Harris, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude Gennis, Georgia Goodrick, Emma Lock
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1530509/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)

I Am Not a Serial KillerJohn Wayne Cleaver (yeah, not Gacy, this movie is not about that guy) is a teenager who’s struggling with homicidal impulses. He’s going to a therapist, a man named Grant, who has diagnosed John as a sociopath. John is also helping his mother with work at her funeral home, having a rather distanced and curious view on the bodies there. When there’s talk about a serial killer in John’s hometown, his interest is of course piqued. One day John witnesses his friendly elderly neighbour Crowley (Christopher Lloyd, from Back to the Future) asking a drifter to join him on an ice fishing trip, and he decides to follow them. The elderly man appears at first to be in danger, and the drifter is about to attack him when things take a sudden u-turn and Crowley ends up killing the man with only his hand. Surprised and full of awe, John witnesses the scene from behind a tree, seeing how old man Mr. Crowley is cutting out the drifter’s lungs. Well, now he knows who the serial killer in town is. Instead of heading straight for the police, however, the sociopathic boy creates a profile for the killer, noting how earlier victims also had organs removed. He starts spying on Crowley, and offers to help Crowley and his wife shoveling their walkway for snow in order to get a bit closer. What ensues is a kind of cat and mouse game, only this is more like a predator vs predator game.. and John has no clue what he’s started meddling with.

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer is a horror film from 2016, directed by Billy O’Brien and based on a novel from 2009 of the same name by Dan Wells. Funding for the film was provided by the Irish Film Board, The Fyzz Facility and Quickfire Films, and its budget was a meager $1.45 million.

 

The film is deliberately slow-paced with a combination of drama and thriller. Since we’re being shown exactly who the killer is on a very early stage there’s no real mystery about it, the boy spying on the killer doesn’t do it in investigative Summer of 84-style because he’s unsure, he knows. He literally witnessed his neighbour committing murder in broad daylight. He investigates him because he wants to know more, he’s simply fascinated! This makes you wonder what direction the movie will take, as we also got to know early on that the boy is more than just a little troubled. It often offers an interesting peek into the troubled teenager’s dark thoughts, and it works well as a variation of the youngster vs the serial killer neighbour. There is a kind of unusual vibe throughout, where certain things that happen are steeped in seriousness, while having a certain indistinct silliness over it. Max Records is also doing great in the performance of the sociopathic teenager trying to keep his urges in check, and seeing Christopher Lloyd as the seemingly charming yet very deadly elderly man certainly gives the movie a heightened efficacy.

 

There are also some fun easter eggs: Dan Wells, the author of the novel has a cameo near the end of the film, as a police officer. Crowley, played by Christopher Lloyd, is suspected of being a missing person whose name is Emmet (a nudge to Lloyd’s character in the Back to the Future films, as Dr. Emmet Brown). There’s also some gameplay footage where John’s friend is gaming, and this is from a game called The Order: 1886 by Ready At Dawn, which is a game that features a protagonist battling against a hidden evil, which is very much what is also happening in this film.

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer is a fun experience, and certainly one of those films where it’s best to walk in blind for the best experience.

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer

 

Director: Billy O’Brien
Writers: Billy O’Brien, Christopher Hyde
Country & year: Ireland, USA, United Kingdom, 2016
Actors: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Christina Baldwin, Karl Geary, Dee Noah, Lucy Lawton, Anna Sundberg, Raymond Brandstrom, Michael Paul Levin
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4303340/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Snow 2 (2014)

Dead Snow 2Dead Snow 2 (also known as Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead) starts where the previous film left off, at full speed, where the only survivor, Martin (Geir Vegar Hoel), with an arm less due to cutting it off with a chainsaw after he got bitten. Things doesn’t look too good and when he thought that he’d come to peace with the zombies by giving them their precious box of gold, he forgot to add a golden coin which he had in his pocket. And of course, it isn’t over until Herzog claims that gold and has killed the last body count.

 

Things get more messy when Herzog attacks Martin’s car, which escalates with a truck that rips off Herzog’s arm that falls into the car with Martin. After it all ends with a car crash, Martin gets brought to the hospital where things get even more fucked-up. Because when he wakes up, the doctors have stitched together Herzog’s arm into his freshly sawed-off limb. Doesn’t sound too bad at first, but it turns out that the arm is something straight from Evil Dead II. But along comes an upgrade with some superpowers, which he has to learn to control.

 

Things are still pretty normal so far, but it gets out of control when Martin accidentally kills one of the patients, who’s a young kid. Yes, children gets killed here. Not just one, but a few. Oh my. All from kids playing in a sandbox to toddlers in their strollers. So be sure to have the whambulance ready on speed dial.

 

Anyway, now that Martin is in the deepest shit, with not only Nazi zombies on his tail, he’s now the number-one suspect in the country for killing his friends in the mountains. Martin needs some assistants to get out of this mess, and quickly. The kid he accidentally killed some moments ago told him something about a trio of zombie hunters, called Zombie Squad, from the USA. This group is led by Daniel (played by the Freaks and Geeks actor Martin Starr). With him, he has the two most annoying Star Wars nerds that think every snowy mountain in Norway is the filming location of Hoth. Huh, well, someone has to tell them that Dead Snow 2 was actually filmed in Iceland, for whatever reason.

 

More blood, more guts, more violence, more action, more plot, more fun, more evil Nazi motherfuckers, more insanity and other surprises is what to expect from Dead Snow 2. And this time Herzog also has a tank which he don’t waste any time to use. BANG!!!

 

Dead Snow 2 is a sequel done right on every level which surpasses the original like a sledgehammer. The film is also rich on locations where the distinct mountain landscapes of Iceland makes a grim and majestic appearance in its one unique way, even though it’s all supposed to take place in Norway. Alongside with the Zombie Squad, we have some new characters to join the epic journey to the final battle of Herzog and his army. The humor is also amped up with more gallow with a tone far more absurd and wacky than the first one, where Troma meets the early works of Peter Jackson. And it all works great like a slippery dick in a pussy, or like kuk i fitte, as we say in Norwegian. We also have some really fun kills where all from old folks in wheelchairs to kids, gays, and priests aren’t safe, and some brutal home invasion scenes. And without spoiling, unlike the trailer, there’s also a nice and inventive homage to The Return of The King here that fits perfectly. Even though the snow itself seems to have melted, it’s as fun, epic and wild as it can be. Skål, cheers and Sieg Heil!

 

According to Tommy Wirkola, the script for Dead Snow 3 has already been written years ago where there’s a hint of bringing Hitler himself to the surface. The sad thing is that actor Geir Vegar Hoel, who also worked as co-writer for this one, died in 2020 of cancer at age 47. RIP. How his passing will affect the rest of the franchise remains to be seen and now that it has already gone ten years since the release of this film, it seems more unlikely a third installment will happen. We can hope.

 

Both films are available on DVD/Blu-ray on the international market and can be dug up from Cd Universe and Amazon. And guess what: they’re also on Tubi!

 

Dead Snow 2 Dead Snow 2 Dead Snow 2

 

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Geir Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen
Original title: Død Snø 2
Country & year: Iceland, Norway, 2014
Actors: Geir Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas, Stig Frode Henriksen, Hallvard Holmen, Kristoffer Joner, Amrita Acharia, Derek Mears, Bjarte Tjøstheim
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2832470/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuso (2017)

KusoI LOVED this earthquake! It was the best one I’ve ever seen. All my enemies are DEAD! HAHAHAAA…!

 

And the earthquake we’re talking about is the one that took place in Los Angeles in 1994. One of the survivors from that brutal event was the eleven-year old Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. 23 years later he would release his first feature film which took a lot of inspiration from the trauma of being an earthquake survivor as a child, and his overall fear of skin diseases and probably a laundry list of other phobias that followed. He also wanted to show how ugly people could be. Show their ugly asses, as he said. And ‘boy, he sure fucking did. This is the type of film that people like John Waters and Harmony Korine would gladly show on their first dates. Take that as a warning, if you will.

 

So, what’s Kuso really about? What’s the plot here? Uhm… yeah, good question. We’re in a trippy and surreal post-apocalyptic world where people have gone completely batshit insane while having their faces infested with big, nasty zits. The world of Mad Max is a walk in Disneyland in comparison. Here they don’t eat dog food straight from the cans but rather things such as a solid menu of stomach-turning “food” that includes worms and…bodily waste. Scat porn, several viewers say, and that’s not so far from it. This is juicy body horror to the extreme, disgusting and revolting, and if you have some certain boundaries when it comes to such, take also this as a warning. At the same time, it’s all done with a pitch-black sense of humor, so it’s not to be taken seriously. Still, there are moments here that even got a little too much for me, and my melted brain felt the after-effects while I slept through the following night.

 

But what is it really about? We follow a group of people who deal with their separate meaningless lives in their own post-apocalyptic environment. The film works more or less like an anthology with four vignettes which we bounce back and forth from: Royal, Mr. Quiggle, Smear and Sock. In between the segments we have some insane acid-trip scenes that even Terry Gilliam could be jealous of. It’s all dream logic and if you could livestream someone’s deepest cocaine-filled fever dream on a monitor screen, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the result. I don’t see much point in even trying to break down the segments. I would also lose the little I have left of my own sanity if I did. It’s just pure, perverted, unfiltered, experimental art-house madness where you can never, ever guess what’s about to happen next. Very graphic and visual, filled with details and even more unpredictable what-the-fucks you can imagine, and as far from mainstream audience-friendly as it can get. An overall unique experience for the senses that you would never watch with your mom and dad. And just to quote the director himself: This is definitely a movie for a certain kind of person.

 

Kuso was first distributed by Shudder and is also available on a DVD/Blu-ray combo on Amazon. The film is here reviewed from a very rare DVD edition from Sweden, just to point out.

 

Kuso Kuso Kuso

 

 

Director: Flying Lotus
Writers: David Firth, Flying Lotus
Country & year: US, 2017
Actors: Hannibal Buress, George Clinton, David Firth, Arden Banks, Byron Bowers, Shane Carpenter, Angel Deradoorian, Regan Farquhar, Pretty Ricki Fontaine, Zack Fox, Tim Heidecker, Bob Heslip, Anders Holm
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6131712/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Ground (2017)

Cold GroundThe year is 1976, and two young journalists named Melissa and David are in search of their very first big story which will lead to fame and notoriety. They decide to investigate a strange case of cattle mutilations which have happened on the French-Swiss border. With their newly acquired camera they decide to film the entire investigation, from start to finish, where they plan to do interviews with the local residents in the area. Both are excited like a fresh TikTok’er who believes their video will lead to an instant success, and they dive head-in and already start planning to present the full story to a television channel which will get the ball rolling into the inevitable road of success and fortune. No feet planted firmly on the ground here, that’s for sure. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and it already goes a bit sideways when they are supposed to meet a scientific team which has inexplicably just gone – poof – missing. They do not give up however, oh no, this is just a little bump on their golden road, so they enlist the help of an expert in first-aid, and American Forensic Investigator and a British Biologist which will escort them into the depth of the mountains in search of the missing scientists.

 

Cold Ground is a French found-footage horror movie from 2017, written and directed by Fabien Delage who also directed the 2016 mockumentary film Fury of the Demon. As far as found footage movies go, this one is certainly not breaking and new grounds as the story and setup threads very familiar roads: it’s your typical story of people lost in unknown territory, slowly finding out that something is wrong and then doing a lot of screaming and running with shaky cameras. Yup, seen all of that a number of times before. Still, it does provide some good stuff: set in the 70’s, they have nailed the 70’s aesthetics which they went for, and the monsters in the movie are actually decent enough, most likely because they are barely visible in any scenes. Their predatory nature is mostly shown in aftermath-scenes where mutilated animals and people are shown, and this actually works in order to heighten the suspense a bit. I’m not sure what the monsters are supposed to be, but I guess they’re some kind of Bigfoot/Yeti/Werewolf hybrid.

 

Overall, despite not being very memorable and having little new to offer in the genre, Cold Ground was certainly rather pleasant to watch where the nature scenery with snowy areas, mountains and caves makes for an interesting viewing experience. I also like the 70’s style, with added camera grain to make the look more authentic. The combination of filming in those snowy nature landscapes and convincing us that it’s indeed the late 70’s, is what makes this movie stand out at least a little bit.

 

Cold Ground

 

Director and writer: Fabien Delage
Country & year: France, 2017
Actors: Doug Rand, Philip Schurer, Gala Besson, Maura Tillay, Fabrice Pierre, Geoffrey Blandin, Cyril Lesage, Regis Testa
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4144350/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Awakening (2011)

The AwakeningIt’s 1921, and the author Florence Cathcart is working with the police in order to expose spiritualist fraud. During a “séance” she reveals all the medium’s tricks, but instead of being shown gratitude from the grieving mother who hoped to get in contact with her deceased child, she is instead met with a slap in the face. Some people would rather live in delusion, apparently. Upon arriving back home, she is visited by a guy called Robert Mallory, who wants her to investigate the sightings of a ghost boy who has been seen at the boy’s boarding school in Cumbria where he is a teacher. 20 years earlier, the school had been a private home. Upon arriving at the school, Florence meets the housekeeper, a woman named Maud Hill, who is a big fan of her book and says she keeps it right alongside her bible. Which is a bit ironic, considering Florence’s book is founded in skepticism…oh well. When Florence starts investigating, she first thinks the so-called supernatural events are nothing but children’s shenanigans, but soon she finds that the old house holds many secrets, and both recent events and those from the past slowly start unveiling themselves.

 

The Awakening is a British supernatural drama-horror film from 2011, directed by Nick Murphy and written by Stephen Volk (who also wrote Ghostwatch and The Guardian) and Murphy. It was shot on location in the United Kingdom, in Trinity Church Square London, Berwickshire, East Lothian, Lyme Park in Cheshire and Manderston House in Manderston. While the outside is Manderston House, the inside of the school was filmed in Marchmont House, both situated on the outskirts of Duns in the Scottish Borders.

 

The film is very much what you would expect, both from its description and first glimpses: a ghost story with a certain elegance, more drama than horror, but upheld with strong performances, a continuous build-up of mystery, and gorgeous cinematography. You could say that the movie is a little bit in the same category as The Others and The Orphanage. The main character is steeped with personal conflicts and grievances, with old secrets waiting to be revealed. It is told early in the film that Florence’s fiancé died during the war, and Robert has his fair share of issues after being traumatized by the war. With the story set in the early 1920’s, it’s a time where people had gotten used to an abundance of death both from the war and the influenza (Spanish Flu) that killed a lot of people during those times. And of course, some shady characters are thrown in as well: a sadistic school teacher, and a creepy groundskeeper who is very obviously up to no good.

 

Like in many a classic ghost story, the atmosphere is reliant on the surroundings, and here we get plenty of old buildings with all kinds of dark, creepy corners and ominous-looking paintings covering the walls. Much of what is happening is rather subtle, but there are some scenes with an old doll house which is quite effective. The Awakening is a classic, old-fashioned ghost story that won’t keep you awake at night, but it’s overall a nice addition to any collection of supernatural ghost horror movies.

 

The Awakening The Awakening

 

Director: Nick Murphy
Writers: Stephen Volk, Nick Murphy
Country & year: UK, 2014
Actors: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Shaun Dooley, Joseph Mawle, Diana Kent, Richard Durden, ohn Shrapnel, Cal MacAninch, Lucy Cohu, Anastasia Hille
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1687901/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Conjuring 2 The Conjuring 2 opens with the well-known Amityville case which took place in the late 1970s. The Warrens are gathered in the living room where a seance is about to begin. Lorraine goes into a trance which reminds me of The Further where she witnesses Ronald DeFeo murdering his own family of six with a shotgun. An intense segment that surpasses most of the countless Amityville films alone. Lorraine gets led down the cellar where she gets attacked by a creepy nun (yes, The Nun) that looks like the twin sister of Marilyn Manson and is about to see the most terrifying thing in her life. This is as close to Hell I ever wanna get, Lorraine says after waking up from the trance while sobbing in Ed’s arms. She’s had enough and wants to retire. Dream on, lady, cuz London is calling.

 

We then meet the struggling and freshly divorced mother Peggy Hodgson with her four kids who lives in a council house in the town of Enfield, north of London where the strong odor of black mold hits you like a brick. So does the old, brown leather chair that rots in the corner of the living room. The economy is in the toilet, times are bleak, and the only joy in life is to chew on biscuits while Margaret Thatcher is on TV bragging about her red dress. Things haven’t changed much.

 

Anyway, in order to avoid dying of total boredom under the already dire circumstances, the two daughters, Janet and Margaret, have made themselves a cute little spirit board to do exactly what it’s for. Janet starts to sleepwalk around the house and finds herself in the chair in the living room. She starts to behave like a Regan by growling and speaking in a raspy man’s voice and mumbling things like This is MY house! This, of course, scares her older sisters shitless, whom she shares the bedroom with and suggests that maybe it’s best to sleep with the lights on.

 

One of the sons in the house is also experiencing some creepy stuff at night, such as his toys starting to move by themselves and someone shouting BLAEEEEEERGHH from the tent in the hallway.

 

After Janet behaves more like she’s under the influence of some serious possession, the Hodgsons is being visited by a group of local paranormal investigators, lead by Maurice Grosse. The skeptic and psychologist Anita Gregory is also on the spot, who can’t wait to debunk the whole thing as a hoax. In real-life she described the Enfield case as “greatly exaggerated” and “pathetic”.

 

The Conjuring 2

 

We soon learn that the entity who has claimed the meat suit of Janet is a fellow named Bill Wilkins, and that he’s an old, grumpy man straight from the grave who only wants his house back. And while our experts scratch their heads and bollocks and don’t know what to do, the case goes to Ed and Lorraine Warren. Lorraine is very reluctant to do another case due to what she saw in the cellar in the Amityville house, while Ed is ready for action like a kid on Christmas Eve. And it also happens to be around Christmastime. How convenient.

 

And here’s a quick history class: Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the original paranormal investigators on The Enfield Poltergeist Case who worked alongside with Maurise Grosse, came forward prior to the movie’s release and said that the Warrens had showed up “uninvited” and only stayed for a day. Ed, on the other hand, claimed that he visited the place three times by himself while Lorraine was home presumably feeding her roosters. So who’s lying?

 

One of the few facts we can take from the film is Bill Wilkins, who lived in the house before the Hodgsons and had died of a brain hemorrhage while he sat in the chair we see in the film. This has been confirmed by his son, Terry. Other than this, there’s no info to find about this poor old bloke Billy, and no gravestones were vandalized this time.

 

The family’s mother, Peggy, kept living in the house until she died in 2003. Rumors say that she died in the same chair as Bill. That’s grim. So its appropriate to ask if it was the chair all along that was the cursed villain here and why Ed didn’t claim the chair to bring it home to his occult museum  so we could have the spin-off The Chair, from the producers of Killer Sofa.

 

Now, back to the movie:

Yeah, so what more is there to say other than “if you liked the first one you’d also like this?” This one has longer screen time which ticks over two hours, but thanks to James Wan being the master of suspense that he is, it flew away in a ghoulish heartbeat. While the story isn’t the strongest, this is still a rock-solid and highly entertaining sequel. A first-class ghost ride filled with atmosphere, great scares, and James Wan’s unique ability to manipulate us to get the sense of something evil lurking in every corner despite we don’t see it. All performances are solid all the way and they also really nailed the look of Maurice Grosse.

 

I also like how they re-created the house of the Hodgsons with the grim 1970s esthetics and the fugly posters on the girl’s bedroom walls. If the film itself was shot on film instead of digital, the film would look like it was straight from that decade alongside with The Exorcist and The Omen.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of the Nun character, even though she was a creepy enough presence in this film and overall has a great look. The shot of her standing in the narrow hallway in Warren’s home where their daughter Judy points at her in pure shock is a scary and eerie moment. Too bad that the two spinoffs of hers have completely desensitized her creep factor, at least for my part, so I’m not alone blaming the character. The scene where Lorraine gets attacked by her in Ed’s office room, in some very creative and suspenseful fashion that only James Wan could pull off, is the creepiest scene you’d ever get with The Nun.

 

Then we have The Crooked Man, where I every time have to remind myself that he isn’t CGI, but actually a guy in a costume. The actor’s name is Javier Botet and has worked a lot with Guillermo del Toro.

 

The Conjuring 2 was also a hUUUge success, but despite that, James Wan hasn’t directed much other than two DC films. He returned to horror with the awesome Malignant in 2021, which was very much panned and ridiculed because people expected a new Conjuring. As for now, he seems more comfortable as a producer. In 2021 we also got the third installment The Conjuring: The Alcohol Made Me Do It, most known for not being directed by Wan. The fourth one with the undertitle The Last Rites is under pre-production, which looks to be a crossover with The Nun. Can’t say that I’m too excited…

 

Also check out the miniseries The Enfield Haunting from 2015 if you want a considerably more faithful film adaptation of the case.

 

The Conjuring 2 The Conjuring 2 The Conjuring 2

 

Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, James Wan
Country & year: US, UK,  2016
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Robin Atkin Downes, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt3065204/

 

Related posts: The Conjuring (2013) | Annabelle Comes Home (2019) | The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conjuring (2013)

The ConjuringHas it gone ten years since the release of this modern haunted house classic already? Oh my. Ed and Lorraine Warren are more commonly known now than ever, but here’s a quick summary of this oddly fascinating and charming couple.

 

Ed Warren was a self taught demonologist and his wife Lorraine was a clairvoyant who could “read” the human aura. Both were hardcore Christians. After they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952, the oldest ghost hunting group in New England, they claimed to investigate over 10,000 cases of paranormal and demonic activity over the course of four decades. Most of them were debunked while some required assistance from the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms.

 

Lorraine was the more quiet one (for lack of a better term), whereas Ed never seemed to have a filter and would claim bizarre things such as:

I know sorcerers who have never worked a day in their life, yet they’re financially well-off. For them, everything falls into place. Life is easy; good things always come their way. They have no troubles at all. Money finds them. Why? Because they’ve made a metaphysical arrangement and work in league with the demonic.

This is a real quote from the book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. So it’s fair to say that our dear uncle Ed surely had some screws loose on his top floor. But I don’t doubt that he was harmless like a soft teddybear as he and Lorraine were deeply devoted to each other. Aww.

 

They’ve gotten several books written about them, such as The Amityville Horror, In a Dark Place (The Haunting in Connecticut), Satan’s Harvest (Maurice “Frenchie” Theriault) and The Haunted (The Smurl family). The latter was already adapted in 1991 as an obscure movie made for TV. Great books, by the way, but they work more as horror fiction than they do as “documentaries”, so keep that in mind if you’d like to read them. I was hoping one of the installments in the Conjuring franchise would be about Maurice Theriault, based on Satan’s Harvest, which we also see some glimpses of during Ed and Lorraine’s classes in the first movie. The mix of grim and tragic drama with horror would be perfect here, but since they already have already completely butchered Maurice’s character arc in the two Nun films, it’s not likely to happen. Bummer.

 

Ed and Lorraine WarrenEd died back in 2006 at the age of 79, while Lorraine kept fighting the good fight until she met her maker in 2019 at the age of 92. Their son-in-law Tony Spera kept their legacy alive for a while with their famous Warren Occult Museum (which is now permanently closed) and was alongside with Lorraine a consultant on the two first Conjuring films. He now runs the Official Ed and Lorraine Warren Channel where he has given some lectures on ghost hunting to show people like Zak Bagans how you really do it. He was also one of the producers of the Netflix reality series 28 Days Haunted, a complete fake amateurish nothingburger of a show yet still the most unintentionally batshit-funny thing I’ve ever seen in the ghost hunting genre.

 

One of their more known cases of the Warrens was with the Perron family, who lived in an ancient farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island from 1970 to 1980. The house was built in 1736 and surrounded by a big dark cloud of terrifying rumors that several suicides took place there throughout many years. The house was also haunted by an evil paranormal entity by the name Bathsheba Thayer Sherman who terrorized the family over the whole decade they lived there where Ed and Lorraine visited regularly to bless them. The mother of the family, Carilyn Perron, believed that Batsheba was jealous of her, which opened an iceberg of conspiracies, one of which that she once upon a time was an evil witch after allegedly a baby had died whom she was babysitting. The legend says that a sewing needle was found in the baby’s dead body. The only official documents we can dig up from this Bathsheba is that she lived a long life from 1812 to 1885 as a wife and mother.

 

The rest is based on urban legends, rumors, myths, dark morbid fairytales and totally fabricated boolshit. In other words: there’s no documents of her being an evil satanic witch that drank infant blood and threw babies in the fireplace before she cursed everyone who dared to take her land and hang herself on a tree branch outside her house three past midnight. But that’s at least what the movie and  the oldest daughter Andrea Perron want us to believe, who was a part of the promotion of the film and also has written a series of self-published books based on the whole alleged experience. And there were sure some airheads who actually believed it all. Sherman’s gravestone in Harrisville Cemetery was vandalized several times after the release of The Conjuring, and was broken to pieces in 2016. It has been fixed since. If Bathsheba had lived during the more recent decades, it’s not unlikely that some relatives would sue Warner Brothers for pure defamation.

 

Other “victims” of the release of the film were none other than the owners who have lived in the real conjuring house since 1987, seven years after the Perrons moved out. The big fat irony is that the couple who took over the house after the Perrons have never experienced any paranormal activity, but were instead haunted by curious trespassers on a daily basis after the release of the film. It’s not far from the same story with the owners of the Amityville house who had to remove the two distinct and iconic “eye windows” so no one would recognize the house. The no trespassers signs on the property didn’t help much either. It got to the point where they sued Warner Brothers, a case that didn’t go anywhere. After they eventually moved out, a young couple bought the house in 2019, and they knew exactly what they moved into. They launched the property into a lucrative business to allow investigations and day tours. A documentary called The Harrisville Haunting: The Real Conjuring House was made, and the place is now a landmark tourist attraction. G r o o v y.

 

Anyway … the movie:

After the opening with a quick introduction of Ed and Lorraine Warren and their case with the Annabelle doll, the film starts off like a classic episode of the TV-series A Haunting where the Perron family (Roger and Carolyn with their five daughters) is moving into their new house in the quiet and idyllic countryside in Harrisville, Rhode Island. It’s the summer of 1971 and everyone is so happy and excited about their new home, except for their dog Sadie, who refuses to enter the house. First red flag. After some exploring, they see that the door to the cellar is boarded. Second red flag. The cellar is creepy. Third red flag. They’re ready to spend the first night in the house and the dog still refuses to be inside. Fourth red flag. Next day, Carolyn wakes up with bruises on her leg. Fifth red flag. The toilet in the house doesn’t work. Sixth red flag. One of the kids’ bedrooms smells like someone had died there. Seventh red flag. All the clocks in the house stop ticking around three past midnight. Eighth red flag. The house is freezing. Ninth red flag. They find the dog dead outside the house. Tenth red fla…they’re fucked!

 

It doesn’t get more peaceful from here on and after the paranormal activities reach the breaking point when an angry, demonic, scary-looking witch (yeah, guess who) pops up from nowhere like a deranged ninja-monkey to attack the kids, it’s time to call you-know-who.

 

On the surface, there isn’t anything new and groundbreaking about The Conjuring, not even back in 2013, other than it’s based on Ed and Lorrie Warren, which at least gives it a unique take. As a ghost story, it’s very formulaic and James Wan with his two screenwriters doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but – most of us knew already then that Wan was a master of building up tension and creating some great, claustrophobic suspense that eventually reach the climax in full rollercoaster mode. And that’s even more than I expect from a film like this. A big plus is that he worked with the same crew from the first Insidious movie to create a haunting atmosphere only with the set-design. The whole house here looks cursed, all from the old, dusty organ in the cellar to a certain cabinet wardrobe and the walls themselves. I would love to move in by a heartbeat.

 

Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine is a perfect match and they take their roles pretty seriously. Their chemistry really sparks where I have no doubt that they love each other like two college teens. Joey King stands out among the six child actors and I still, ten years later, believe her when she says that “someone is behind the door”, yet I’m also still asking “what is…”. Music composer Joesph Bishara, who also played the lipstick-face demon in Insidious, is terrifying behind the Bathsheba make-up, and her introduction in the film has become a really classic moment by itself. I have some very fond memories by watching this in a packed movie theater twice as people were screaming their lungs off. Bishara’s distinct soundtrack with the mix of strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, electronic instruments and more also amps up the mood. Some clever jump-scare here as well. Clap-clap.

 

The Conjuring became a hUUUge financial success, both praised by the critics and audiences and sat the gold-standard for modern haunted house films. A formula that countless of directors have tried to copy but mostly failed time after time. The Neverending Amityville Franchise Inc. is always hiring directors though. Instead of rehashing sequels we got The Conjuring Universe with spin-offs like the pretty decent trilogy with the Annabelle doll and the pretty lousy Nun films which I hope we’ve seen the last of. Three years later James Wan followed-up with the sequel The Conjuring 2.

 

The Conjuring The Conjuring The Conjuring

 

Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Country & year: US, 2013
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Joseph Bishara
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1457767/

 

Related posts: The Conjuring 2 (2016) | Annabelle Comes Home (2019) | The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

 

 

Tom Ghoul