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/

 

 

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Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

Tigers Are Not AfraidIn a Mexican city devastated by the Mexican Drug War, Estrella is a young girl who gets her life turned upside down after hearing gunfire outside the school. There’s a panic, and Estrella’s teacher hands her three pieces of chalk, telling her that these will grant her three wishes. After the shooting incident, classes end up being cancelled indefinitely. On her way back home, Estrella sees a dead body in the street. Just a normal day in cartel-world, nothing new here…but the trail of blood from the body leads to her house, and here she discovers that her mother is missing. And it becomes apparent that she will not be returning anytime soon. Getting lonely and hungry, Estrella wishes for her mother to return, and then begins having spooky visions of her mother as a spirit. Soon, the desperate girl meets with other children, a group of orphan boys, who are trying to survive in a increasingly dangerous world.

 

Tigers Are Not Afraid (the Spanish title of the film is Vuelven, which translates into “They Return”), is a Mexican fantasy horror film from 2017, written and directed by Issa López. And while having some magical moments of wonder, it’s a dark and grim story about the horrors of the Mexican drug cartels, human trafficking and kidnappings. And even though the young girl is granted three wishes, the good old saying “be careful what you wish for” is ever so present here, like in many dark fairytales. Those who have seen Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and his lesser known The Devil’s Backbone, will immediately recognize the influences here, with children trying to cope with mixing fantasy and wonder into their terribly depressing and dangerous environment.

 

The children in the movie had zero acting experience prior to this film, yet their performances are quite impressive. In order to get as authentic reactions from the child actors as possible, the film was shot in chronological order and the children were never shown a script. When a movie features young children in very dark and dangerous situations, the acting is of major importance, and just like The Innocents (“De Uskyldige”) the child actors bring forth believable performances, and certainly deserve praise for their efforts.

 

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a touching movie with some realistic horror mixed with fantasy elements. While the film does have ghosts and corpses, the true horror elements lie in the savagery by the people surrounding these children. The ghosts are not the villains, and they’re mainly creepy because they resemble the injustice and brutality they’ve endured, and they want revenge. The supernatural events happening to Estrella also feels like a situation where the interpretation is left to the viewer. Just like in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, one can easily speculate whether the supernatural events really occur or if they’re just the child’s way of coping with what is happening around her. Tigers Are Not Afraid is worth checking out, especially if you like the typical Guillermo-style dark fairytale, where the most horrible things the audience will see is the part that most resemble the reality of the world we live in.

 

Tigers Are Not Afraid

 

Writer and director: Issa López
Original title: Vuelven
Country & year:
Mexico, 2017
Actors:
Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Nery Arredondo, Hanssel Casillas, Rodrigo Cortes, Ianis Guerrero, Tenoch Huerta
IMDb:
www.imdb.com/title/tt4823434/

 

 

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Pyewacket (2017)

PyewacketLeah is a teenage girl who becomes increasingly frustrated with her newly widowed mother, who decides to relocate them both to an isolated house in the woods somewhere. Leah now finds herself more or less trapped in a house with an erratic mother, far away from her friends and the life she used to know. The frustrated teen gets her hands on a black magic book, and out in the woods nearby she ends up crossing a line she can never retrace back from.

 

Pyewacket is a supernatural horror/mystery thriller, directed by Adam MacDonald (who also directed the third season of the horror series Slasher). The “Pyewacket” was actually one of the supposed familiar spirits of a witch from back in 1644, where Matthew Hopkins (witchfinder general) accused her of witchcraft and had her arrested. It has later been referenced in novels and other media, including William Friedkin’s The Guardian (where the nanny brings a toy she calls “Pyewacket”).

 

Now, a plot concerning a frustrated teen wanting to kill her own mom with black magic, sounds a little bit cheesy perhaps. But this movie plays out the story in a very serious tone, and it works. Both the daughter and mother are portrayed in both a positive and negative light – they’re both grieving, but in different ways and separate from each other, but it’s obvious that they’re not really in tune with the other’s feelings and needs, and thus they’re both coming off as quite self-centered. While Leah finds comfort by hanging around with friends and dabbling in the occult, the mother wants to rid herself of everything that reminds her of her dead husband, thus forcing through the relocation to the house in the woods. This is where Leah eventually loses all her patience, and only wants to get rid of her own mother by using a black magic ritual.

 

Much of the excitement comes from not knowing exactly what is happening. Is there really a murderous supernatural entity, or is Leah imagining everything? One could probably define this movie as a little bit of a slow-burn, but instead of fizzling out in nonsense or nothingness, it delivers a final act that keeps your attention throughout. Much of the build-up is to ensure that the viewer understands the tension between mother and daughter, and to give Leah’s actions a bit more credence through proper character-building. Once Leah has performed the occult rituals, however, she quickly regrets everything…but of course, what’s done cannot be undone. Which is often the case when people commit actions in a fit of rage without thinking anything properly through, which is not an uncommon thing to find in broken family dynamics.

 

Overall, Pyewacket is an entertaining horror thriller that keeps your attention and manages to pack in a few chills.

 

Pyewacket

 

Director: Adam MacDonald
Country & year: Canada, 2017
Actors: Laurie Holden, Nicole Muñoz, Chloe Rose, Eric Osborne, Romeo Carere, Bianca Melchior, James McGowan, Victoria Sanchez, Neil Whitely, Missy Peregrym
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt5119116/

 

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Wish Upon (2017)

Wish Upon (2017)Clare (Joey King) lives together with her father, who is collecting scrap metal and junk in order to make a living. In addition to feeling embarrassed whenever her father goes dumpster diving, she’s also plagued with nightmares and memories from a childhood trauma: her mother committed suicide by hanging herself in the attic, and Clare was the one who found her. Due to this, Clare is troubled with a lot of “what if’s” in addition to a general dissatisfaction over the life she’s currently living. One day she gets a Chinese music box as a result from her father’s recent scrap hunt, and this box is supposed to grant wishes. Trying it out merely for the fun of it, she soon realizes that the wishes actually comes true. What she doesn’t realize until it’s too late however, is that the wishes come at a price…

 

Being granted wishes is not a concept you’ll only find in “Aladdin”. There are many stories dealing with this concept, and much darker ones too. One prime example would be “The Monkey’s Paw”, a horror novel from 1902 by W.W. Jacobs, where each wish is meddling with the fate of the one making it…and in quite a horrible way. “Wish Upon” is some kind of modern version of this, where each wish is only fulfilled by either the death or ill fate of someone else (example: wishing for wealth – the rich uncle dies and they inherit his house and money). It does take some time before our protagonist realizes the price tag on each of her wishes, but it isn’t until most of the people close to her falls victim to her wishes in some kind of way, that she decides that she must stop making them. But of course, it’s not just that easy…

 

“Wish Upon” is directed by John R. Leonetti, who also directed the first “Annabelle” movie from the Conjuring-universe. That being said, “Wish Upon” is a much milder dish which doesn’t live on jump-scares or scary things hiding in the dark. Instead, it’s a typical easy-going PG-13 horror flick that is well served together with some popcorn and candy on a Saturday evening. For what it is, the movie plays out pretty well.

 

Wish Upon

 

Director: John R. Leonetti
Country & year: USA | Canada, 2017
Actors: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, Mitchell Slaggert, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Elisabeth Röhm, Josephine Langford, Alexander Nunez, Daniela Barbosa, Kevin Hanchard, Sherilyn Fenn, Raegan Revord, Alice Lee, Victor Sutton
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt5322012/

 

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Still/Born (2017)

Still/Born (2017)Mary, a new mother, gives birth to twins, but only one of them is alive. While taking care of her living child, Adam, she suspects that something, a supernatural entity, has chosen him and will stop at nothing to take him from her.

 

The horror genre has quite often touched the subjects of pregnancy and child birth, where what is supposed to be one of the greatest joys in some people’s lives suddenly turn into unimaginable horror, where the death of a newborn being the ultimate fear of any pregnant woman. After losing one of her children during birth she gets a severe depression, refusing to remove the second crib from the room, desperately holding on to what ‘could have been’. So when the first paranormal incident happen – when she hears a second baby’s cry from the room – we actually see a glimpse of hope in her eyes, not fear. As the viewer you feel that this might portray a mother’s ultimate loss in a way that makes us feel that she is, indeed, on the brink of insanity. Then again…they’ve just moved into a new house. And more things start to happen where it’s not so obvious that it’s all in her mind or a result of depression and anxiety due to her loss.

 

Still/Born does have a certain atmosphere in the first half, much thanks to “old hat” scare techniques where less is more, and where it plays more on the psychological level. When the demon/entity is introduced it turns into something that’s considerably less creepy, despite the idea of this baby-grabbing entity having potential. Unfortunately, the progress becomes somewhat monotonous, where her experiences with the demonic entity has the unfortunate effect of toning down the suspense rather than increasing it. It does have some creepy scenes, but it also feels like there is a bit of lost potential here, as it could have been so much more.

 

Still/Born is director Brandon Christensen’s first feature film, and despite some issues it is not at all a bad movie. Thus, I’m glad he’s already got something else in the works according to IMDb: a horror movie called “Z“, which is about a family that find themselves terrorized by their eight-year-old son’s imaginary friend.

 

Still/Born was co-written by Colin Minihan (one of the directors behind “Grave Encounters“). Colin Minihan is also the co-writer for Christensen’s upcoming horror movie “Z”.

 

Still/Born

 

Director: Brandon Christensen
Country & year: Canada, 2017
Actors: Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson, Jenn Griffin, Michael Ironside, Sheila McCarthy, Sean Rogerson, Grace Christensen, Dianne Snape
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt6087426/

 

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Terrified (2017)

Terrified (2017)When strange events occur in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a doctor specializing in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer decide to investigate further.

 

I first heard about this movie from “Shudder“, a streaming site dedicated to horror, which is unfortunately not available in our country (it’s currently only available in the US (and its territories), Canada, UK, and Ireland). Being quite curious due to all the praise it’s gotten from various horror sites and reviewers, I was really pleased when the movie finally got to Netflix and thus gave us the chance to check it out.

 

The movie starts with a woman that hears whispering voices from the kitchen, which soon escalates into a bloody outcome for her while a terrified husband can’t do anything else but watch. We soon learn that the supernatural occurences is rooted in the neighbouring houses as well, and a group of paranormal researchers are trying to investigate the strange happenings. A dead boy returning from his grave, a naked man hiding under the bed, and strange noises and disturbances are just some of the occurences in the neighborhood that is obviously plagued by something paranormal. When the investigators start their research (the investigators being a group consisting of aged “Ed & Lorraine”- alikes and a nervous cop close to retirement due to health issues) things quickly escalate.

 

“Terrified” aka “Aterrados” is a solid addition to the paranormal/supernatural genre, and is the kind of movie that focuses its scares on being creepy and suspenseful, with some pretty effective scenes that can easily give you the heebie jeebies. Granted, there isn’t really much of a plot in the movie, and when it ends there are more than just a few unanswered questions. It’s a movie that still stands well planted on its own feet due to atmosphere, suspense and effective scenes alone, and should be well worth a watch.

 

Terrified

 

Director: Demián Rugna
Country & year: Argentina, 2017
Actors: Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7549892/

 

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Happy Death Day (2017)

Happy Death Day (2017)Tree Gelbman, a young college student, wakes up in a guy’s room, hungover as hell and barely no memory from last night. On top of it all, it’s her birthday today, a day she is not too fond of for reasons later revealed in the movie. She leaves the guy’s room with a pissy attitude, and we see pretty quickly that this is a girl that tends to make bad choices in her life, and treat people around her like crap. At the end of the day, she gets chased by someone wearing a mask, and ends up being killed. And then she wakes up in the guy’s room again, repeating the day all over again. In a desperate fight to reveal the identity of the killer, and try to figure out how to avoid being killed by him/her, she relives the day of her birthday and murder over and over…

 

«Happy Death Day» goes into a concept that has been touched multiple times over in other movies and tv-series: that of reliving a specific day over and over («Groundhog Day»«Triangle» and «Timecrimes», just to mention some). So in that regard, this movie brings nothing new or groundbreaking to the horror genre. It’s a simple yet entertaining horror comedy that is best served without any expectations in mind.

 

 

Happy Death Day

 

Director: Christopher Landon
Country & year: USA, 2017
Actors: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Jason Bayle, Rob Mello, Rachel Matthews
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt5308322/

 

Vanja Ghoul