Barbarian (2022)

BarbarianTess Marshall is going to a job interview and has booked a house through Airbnb, in a rundown Detroit neighborhood. When arriving there in nearly complete darkness as no other house gives off any light in the nearby area, she finds out someone else is already residing inside the house she booked. The other resident is a young man named Keith, who booked through another site. Thus, that house ended up getting double-booked. Not being able to get in contact with the renter, while also being a little unnerved by this young stranger, Tess finds herself in a situation where she doesn’t quite know what to do. Eventually, she warms a little up to him, and after he insists, she stays the night in the bedroom while he takes the sofa. Things seem to be going well after all. The next morning, Tess goes to her job interview, where the woman who interviews her warns her about the place. Tess doesn’t think much about it, and goes back to the house, and finds that Keith is still out. She goes down to the basement, where she accidentally gets locked inside, and here, Tess stumbles upon a hidden door leading to…somewhere…

 

Barbarian is a horror film directed by Zach Cregger, and it’s also his directorial debut. It stars Bill Skarsgård (as Keith) and Georgina Campbell (as Tess). And the movie’s gotten quite a buzz, which caught our interest, and we noticed that the general consensus seemed to be that it more or less lived up to its hype. So, we Horror Ghouls were eager to check it out, and found it on streaming here in Norway at Disney Plus.

 

The film is starting off with something that seems to be an ordinary thriller, building up certain expectations already during the first few minutes. Then it effectively throws you off guard and presents something else entirely. And I think Barbarian’s major strength lies in just that: not giving you exactly what you expected, and it does that with a high degree of proficiency, engrossing us in the concept of the totally unknown. You don’t really know much about what is happening, you get thrown a couple red herrings here and there, and while expecting a few clichés at certain moments you end up getting the exact opposite of what you might have been anticipating. While none of the plot “twists” are that unique to catch you completely off guard, there’s something about the storytelling that makes it come more unexpected, as it leaves enough room for wonder throughout the story without revealing its cards too early. There’s enough tension and unsettling atmosphere to keep your mind occupied. Viewing it without any knowledge of plot or twists is the best viewing experience for a film like this, so I will not delve into it any further to avoid spoilers that might ruin the movie experience.

 

Barbarian had a budget of 4.5 million, and grossed $45 million worldwide. While the majority of the film takes place in Detroit, and several establishing shots were in fact made there (including all the exterior neighborhood shots which were filmed in Brightmoor) the main filming location was in Bulgaria. Zach Cregger got the idea for this film after reading Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear”, which encourages women to trust their intuition when confronted by men that are obviously dangerous. Zack wrote a short inspired by it, and liked it well enough to know he wanted to make a longer film. And, while not credited, Jordan Peele was “an invisible hand” in shaping the eventual story and was also shown an early cut of the film.

 

Overall, Barbarian is a tension-filled horror thriller (although you might find yourself a little underwhelmed if you’ve seen all the hype around it). It is not particularly scary, and some may be put off by the movie’s u-turn after the first act and how it (to be honest) strays a bit from making that much sense all the time, but it has enough creepy atmosphere and will likely keep you second-guessing what is happening if you’ve avoided any spoilers.

 

Barbarian

 

Writer and director: Zach Cregger
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård, Justin Long, Matthew Patrick Davis, Richard Brake, Kurt Braunohler, Jaymes Butler, Sophie Sörensen, Rachel Fowler, J.R. Esposito, Kate Nichols
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15791034/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terrifier 2 (2022)

Terrifier 2Terrifier 2, or A Nightmare on Terrifier Street 2: The Clown Master as a fitting alternative title, starts right off where the previous film ended. And if you haven’t already seen the first one, here comes the spoiler of the century: Art the Clown (still with an energetic and dedicated David Howard Thornton behind the costume) survived, even though he’s got a big hole at the back of his head after a gun shot, which means the supernatural aspects are already well established. To start off the film with the right tone, he slices the coroner’s throat, and finishes him off by crushing his face with a hammer. And if that wasn’t enough, he rips one of his eyes out and plays with it for a few seconds, and places it in his own eye socket. Art hasn’t changed one bit since we saw him back in 2016, that’s for damn sure. As his costume is drenched with blood, he pops into the nearest laundry center where he encounters a twisted, little girly version of himself, also known as The Little Pale Girl (portrayed by the child actress Amelie McLain.) They quickly bond together where it’s like creepy uncle Joker finally meets his creepy, little niece Harley Quinn, to put it that way. It’s a kinda cute little moment they’re having, actually. Kawaii.

 

But there is no time to waste, and Art heads to the next scenario, with his bag of torture tools which he is carrying over his shoulder, to continue his journey of spreading some cozy family-friendly Halloween spirit. Just kidding. Just like in the first film: get ready for more of the same, just on a much bigger platter packed with a full menu of pain, suffering, goreghasm, worms, wasps, insanity and utter chaos – nicely spiced with a deranged and pitch black sense of humor that requires a certain level of sick cynicism to fully enjoy. After the first ten minutes we already know that this is a grindhouse flick in the purest sense, made only for us sub-humans of horror ghouls and hardcore-fans in general. But the more average surface-horror-goers are welcome, of course. Art likes everyone, you see. Just play with him or at least give him some candy and you’ll have a slight chance to survive.

 

After the batshit opening sequence we meet the stressed widow mom Barbara (Sarah Voigt) with her two teens, Sienna (Lauren LaVera) and Jonathan (Elliott Fullam) , living in a middle-class suburb. Sienna has been working on her Valkyrie-like Halloween outfit for months, a passion project based on an illustration made by their deceased dad. And when the nerd-looking Jonathan isn’t busy with interviewing aging rockstars, he’s obsessed with serial killers. Especially with a certain clown that has hit the news after the massacre in Miles County, which took place in the previous film. There’s also a mysterious sketchbook that their dad left behind after committing suicide. It’s filled with drawings of monsters, but the most weird of all: Art the Clown and his earlier victims. What connection their dad could have to Art, who knows, but we can assume that this sketchbook is the equivalent of the Necronomicon/Book of the Dead from The Evil Dead that eventually brings them to our killer clown. Already filled with more questions than answers, it all begins when Sienna starts having bizarre lucid nightmares about Art. During her dream, her bedroom is also set on fire which burns the wings of her costume to ashes. Later Jonathan gets chased by hallucinations/visions of Art and his little pale girl, and this all happens before Hell is about to get real.

 

Terrifier 2

 

As minimal as the first one was with basically no story or character development, other than to show us the demented nature of Art, a showcase of competent gore effects, technical competence, this one pays for it. Watching them now back-to-back makes the first one more of a prologue, a warm-up, if you will. Without spoiling anything, we get a tiny nugget of the history about the pale girl we saw in the beginning, which I hope we see more of in the next sequel. Art however… well, we learn that his alias “Terrifier” is attached to a haunted house attraction. More questions than answers, as I earlier said, and don’t look for much logic. The acting is pretty solid and I was a little surprised to even see Felissa Rose (that girl from Sleepaway Camp) acting like an A-lister with the little screen time she had. Lauren LaVera is great as the “final girl” and knows how to kick some clown ass. I also like the “Phoenix Rising” symbolism behind her costume. The chemistry between her and her mother and brother is believable in the middle of all the madness, which shows that Damien Leone is able to depict more in the script other than how Art is going to dismember the next victim.

 

The first film had a budget of 35.000 dollars, while this had the price of a crowndfunded amount of 250,000. Money well spent, especially on the prosthetic gore effects which is also made by director Leone. The guy has clearly learned from the best. With a much larger budget we also get a more polished look, although Leone has kept enough of the rawness to make it look like the film is straight from the mid 80s to blend with the universe of the first one. The visual esthetics with its use of vibrant color and contrast screams Halloween all the way through. And the retro synthwave soundtrack just fits perfectly.

 

While the film has a cartoonish and sometimes surreal look to it, the effects make a stark contrast and look as real they can get. I think we have to rewind back at some of the titles from the New French Extremity wave from early 2000’s to find something in the same gritty, realistic nature. It’s also filled with references from probably every single slasher film from the 80s. The most notable is the scalping from Maniac which Art takes to a whole new level of extreme ghoulishness. The infamous “bedroom scene” is the wildest shit I’ve ever witnessed on the silver screen, which have earned the hype alone. The serial killer buffs will also take notice of the homeage to one of the crime-scenes of Jack the Ripper.

 

So overall, there’s no doubt in hell that writer and director Damien Leone is a die hard fan of the video nasty-era of VHS horror, and Terrifier 2 projects that to the fullest. But I’ve also got an other theory; that the guy is actually sent by a phone booth-shaped time machine from the 80s, sent by Rufus himself to save us from all the modern watered-down and glossy PG-horror that’s been dominating the mainstream for god knows how long. And not to mention the more recent attempts to adapt them to the “current times” of “checklist” movies, which have been nothing but failed flops thus far. Let’s only hope that Terrifier 2, with its global success, has opened the golden can of killer clowns that makes room for a new wave of more extremity like this to hit the mainstream silver screens. If not, well, at least Damien Leone has created his own universe here with a lot of  potential to evolve as a lucrative franchise that could be an (annual, if I dare say so) highlight for years to come.

 

And finally, here’s the million-dollar questions everyone are asking:

Is Terrifier 2 too violent, even for horror fans? Will the film make me puke or faint? Will it cause a heart attack, or even a miscarriage? Will it make my botox lips explode? Will it make my dick fall off?

Terrifier pin & Barf Bag Yes, to all of them. Joking aside, let’s be serious for just a few split seconds; being concerned if a slasher film is too violent is like expecting a porn film with less porn, even though this is mainly nothing but a cheap, yet effective, marketing strategy that’s been used since the birth of horror cinema and seems to work every time. And thanks to its enormous hype, which I haven’t seen for a slasher at the mainstream surface since way back in 1996 with Wes Craven’s Scream, it managed to sneak its way to the silver screens in our narrow penis shaped home country Norway of all places. My only concern was the unusual long runtime for a film like this, with its 2 hour and 18 minutes, but both I and Miss Ghoul had a blast. The movie theater was almost packed with only kids from Gen Z on a Friday night, where we kind of stood out a little as being old enough to be their parents. The audience reactions should be interesting. A group on the row in front of us giggled nervously here and there, but otherwise it was an awkward dead silence. The best way to describe it as a collective movie experience was to sit on a roller coaster through the Big Gory Mountain with a bunch of mute people. So if any negative physical reaction is to expect, it will slice your vocal cords. So, there’s the only warning, I guess. But just in case, we got handed a barf bag and a cool pin before the screening. Barf bags are a common gimmick, but I cant remember it having been provided in Norway on such an occasion. Not even with Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, which is objectively the goriest film screened on a regular movie theater in our home country, twelve years before Terrifier 2 broke that record. So, who’s next?

 

Terrifier 2 Terrifier 2 Terrifier 2

 

Writer and Director: Damien Leone
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Lauren LaVera, David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, Samantha Scaffidi, Kailey Hyman, Chris Jericho, Casey Hartnett, Katie Maguire, Amelie McLain, Elliott Fullam, Sarah Voigt, Felissa Rose, Jackie Adragna, Griffin Santopietro, Charlie McElveen
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10403420/

 

Related post: Terrifier (2016)

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angst (1983)

Angst
I just love it when women shiver in deadly fear because of me. It’s like an addiction, that will never stop.”

That’s a real quote said in front of the judge by the Austrian triple-murderer Werner Kniesek, which this film is based on.

 

In Angst we follow a young man on a crispy day in November as he gets released from a ten years-prison sentence after killing a 70-year old woman. We don’t know his actual name, so we just call him K (short for killer). And prior to this he’d already been behind bars for four years after a failed attempt to kill his mother with a knife. The film starts with his last minutes in prison before he gets released to the society. We hear a voice-over narration that speaks his thoughts while he walks through the streets of the local town. We learn about his dark past, how he started off killing animals as a kid, and that he’s the same killer he always was. And he’s eager as a kid on Christmas to find a new victim. That’s all that matters. To torture someone.

 

Not a single form of treatment seemed to have been given to this man. It’s as if Ed Gein was to be released the day after he got prosecuted, only with a quick slap on the wrist, hoping he would behave and finally clean up his house. Ha-ha! If this was a subtle message to the psychiatric healthcare in Austria, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if so.

 

Anyway: Mr. K is already scanning the surroundings for a new victim. There’s no time to waste other than visiting a coffee shop to eat a big sausage with a chunk of mustard (serial killers have to eat too), while giving two young ladies some creepy death stares. He then jumps into a taxi, and after a clumsy and failed attempt to strangle the female driver with a shoelace, he runs out and flees hysterically through some wooded area, like a headless chicken. As most of the serial killers come across as calculated and with a certain sense of control, and a manipulative charm to their great advantage, this guy is the straight opposite. He’s a frantic loose cannon with zero social skills, driven by a legion of inner raging demons, probably on crystal meth mixed with a toxic cocktail of explosive compulsive disorders and the intense urge to terrorize whoever he can – and make his victims feel what he chronically seems to feel: Angst.

 

But it seems to be his lucky day, after all, as he breaks into a house where his three new victims live. Needless to say, it gets really ugly from here on.

 

On paper, Angst seems as a pretty straight-forward home invasion thriller/slasher with few surprises. That being said, what makes this one stand out is much thanks to Erwin Leder as Mr. K. I haven’t seen a more perfect individual playing a role like this. He makes an electric performance and looks like a sickly and more ghoulish version of Bill Skarsgård, and his face alone with its intense, creepy eyes is an epitome of horror. An interesting trivia is that Erwin grew up in a mental institution where his parents worked. Throughout his childhood he would play and hang around with several patients, and there’s no doubt he must have taken some inspirations from these experiences. The most surprising thing is that he was able to keep his sanity. Or did he, really..? He has before and since this film been a dedicated working actor, most known on the mainstream surface with Das Boot as an mental unstable mechanic, and as a mad Lycan scientist in Underworld.

 

Another strong aspect is the visuals. Director Gerald Kargl and the cinematographer Zbigniew Rybczyński experiments a lot with the camera which is mostly handheld. In several scenes the camera is attached to the antagonist which gives us a view of him in all angles. A pretty unique technique that also gives us a sense of the chaotic, frantic nature of the killer. The soundtrack by Klaus Schulze (RIP) from Tangerine Dream enhances the bleak and isolated atmosphere with the use of ambience and electronic tunes.

 

Overall, Angst is a raw, nasty, morbid  and frantic experience with not a single moment of peace. It’s filled with an atmosphere of bleakness from the very start, which expands quickly into a downward spiral of dread, nihilism, misery and pure hell with uncontrolled mental illness on full display. It will, regardless of how prone you’re to the genre, trigger one or another angst-related emotion in you. For my own part, as the cynical misanthrope I am, I couldn’t avoid to feel mostly for the dog, the family’s little dachshund. He sporadically shows waddling around in the house while the killer is causing hell. He’s just a random, defenceless observer, trapped in the middle of the mayhem, and all you can do is hope for the best. That dog seemed to be a champ during filming, and also earned his own IMDb page, credited as Kuba. The rest of the few actors also does a great, convincing job, by the way, considering buckets of pig blood was used during the most brutal scenes.

 

Director Gerald Kargl stated that he did his very best to avoid any form of entertainment since his view is that such elements through stalk & slash would be cynical. Huh, okey… if this is entertainment or just pure anti-entertainment, is always up the the viewer to decide. Gaspar Noé, the master provocateur himself, is a huge fan, if that tells you something. But anyhow, if the sub-genre of home invasion is your thing, this will for certain entertain and thrill you for sure. If Henry: Portrail of a Serial killer (another great film in its own right) was more than enough for you to handle, you wouldn’t sit through this one, I can bet my angsty, sweaty balls on that.

 

The film has been an obscure rarity for decades, but is now available both on Blu-ray and DVD from Cult Epics, packed with extra stuff. Note: The booklet only arrives with the Blu-ray.

 

Angst

 

Director: Gerald Kargl
Writers: Zbigniew Rybczynski, Gerald Kargl
Country & year: Austria, 1983
Actors: Erwin Leder, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Silvia Ryder, Karin Springer, Edith Rosset, Josefine Lakatha, Rudolf Götz, Kuba, Renate Kastelik
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0165623/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Necro Files (1997)

The Necro FilesI stumbled upon one of the Horror Movie Icebergs one night while I was doing some night fishing, and a film called The Necro Files was mentioned. Just the title alone was more than enough to peek my morbid curiosity, and after watching the first batshit fifteen minutes on YouTube, I was thrilled to discover that the film had just been released on Blu-ray which already deserved a spot in the collection.

 

The Necro Files is a one dollar budget backyard-style horror trash, set in Seattle, which starts off perfectly with a young lady flashing her tits and pussy in a quick shower scene. An intruder with a mask that combines Michael Myers with Charles Manson with a swastika in his forehead, assaults the poor woman, stabs her like a deranged gorilla, spills her guts, cuts of a big chunk of one of her tits and eats it. And he really enjoys it. Yummy-yummy. No subtlety here, what so ever. The two police men Martin and Orwille have been on a personal hunt for this maniac since he raped and murdered one of the officer’s sister, one of two hundred victims. After they finally get the long-awaited message, they drive to the scene, and after a messy confrontation, Mr. Rapist gets shot. Justice served. Good riddance. God bless … for now.

 

Then we jump seven months later. We’re at a cemetery where a group of black cloaked satanists are about to sacrifice a new-born baby. It’s broad daylight, by the way, and no disturbed civilians to see in the background. And don’t worry, it’s a plastic doll. As the baby screams with some voice-over effects, they stab the toddler and buries it, urinates on the fresh soil and – surprise, surprise – the seven months old rotting corpse of Mr. Rapist suddenly pops out from the ground, resurrected as a zombie. He has a lot of unfinished business and starts his comeback by tearing the urinating dick off a victim before he kills several of the satanists, leaving two behind. He’s also more horny than ever and sets out for a raping/murder spree as his thirty inch rubber dick is dangling out of the zipper, ready to slam it in every walking glory holes he would stumble upon.

 

And yeah, there’s also this flying zombie baby floating around on a string. Pure demented z-movie schlock, just the way we like it and probably not in the slightest as you expected. It has it’s fair share of nudity and some kinkiness going on. Mr. Rapist attacks a couple during a S&M act, rapes a brunette with some fluffy butt cheeks before he beheads and mangles her body to a pile of gory mush. There’s a random scene with another hot brunette who’s getting ready for an evening with a sex doll, and her kinky ritual doesn’t go exactly as planned. The two police men dimwits, Martin and Orwille, are the funniest part. The chunky one is like watching a bizarre Dr. Phil impersonator who tries to be the rational one, despite the bonkers dialogues, while the other one is an unhinged, raging drug addict. Well, it’s Seattle, after all. And speaking of: this viral clip of a zombie woman in Seattle is already an oldie, but still, I just had to throw it in here.

 

The Necro Files is a fun little trashfest for those of us who have a weak spot for ultra-cheap homemade VHS horror that has no other intentions than to go completely relentless batshit, having a jolly time and not give a flying (zombie baby) fuck. The Blu-ray is available from Visual Vengeance, featuring extras such as the puppet animation Necro Files 3000, a mini poster and of course a condom, just to mention some.

 

The Necro Files The Necro Files The Necro Files

 

 

Director: Matt Jaissle
Writers: Todd Tjersland, Sammy Shapiro
Country & year: USA, 1997
Actors: Steve Sheppard, Gary Browning, Christian Curmudgeon, Jason McGee, Theresa Bestul, Jenn O. Cide, Dru Berrymore, Anne R. Key, Todd Tjersland, Jonas Arke, Jeff Nelson, Isaac Cooper

IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0203726/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

964 Pinocchio (1991)

964 Pinocchio

Ready for some fucked up Japanese cyberpunk acid-trip that will blow your mind to smithereens and probably put your endurance test to a whole new level? Then let me introduce 964 Pinocchio which starts off like every normal Disney film.

 

964 Pinocchio, or simply called 964, is on the outside a young boy with a cute little unicorn haircut, but on the inside he is a broken, demented, helpless cyborg, manufactured in some clinic to be used as a sex slave. Unfortunately 964 can’t get an erection, so some doctors brutally drills through his skull to wipe out his memory and turn him into a lobotomized vegetable before he gets thrown out of the clinic like a dog – and gets a rough welcome to the bleak and depressing society of urban Japan. At least he’s able to walk, and soon finds himself in the isolated environment of Tokyo where he meets the homeless girl Himiko. And the most normal thing in this movie is that he actually meets a girl that’s a fully functioning human being, even with some level of empathy. She invites him to come and live with her in some abandoned industrial shithole, where she does her best to learn him to speak, and cruises along shopping malls to snap food straight from the counter. All filmed in guerilla style, by the way, where all the civilians are unaware extras, and done in a hurry before someone finds out and calls the police.

 

Where we thought the film was seemingly normal, they fall in love, and the moment they exchange their tongues to each other, the image freezes before fading to black, and the the shit is about the get serious. Our unicorn-haired fuckdroid infects Himiko with something that makes her go noodle-shit crazy of some epic proportions, starts to abuse him, and … holy fuck almighty, how am I even going to describe what happens for the next hour and so. Get ready for a lot of close-ups of insane facial expressions, puking, frantic running, some brief low budget body-horror and just overall a relentless odyssey with screaming, shouting and moaning like

OOOOOUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAHH,HHNNGHHHUUAAAAAA, HUUNNDGGHOOOUOAAAAAAAAA, EEEEEEEEEEEH, EEEHHHHH, OOOOOOH, AAAAAAAAAHHUGHH, AAAUUUOOOAHHHHHHOOAAAA, GGHHHHHIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAGHH, GGGGHHHHHHHHHIIIIII, AAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHHFFHHH

 

… and here you basically have most of the script in a nutshell. And it’s of course natural to compare 964 Pinocchio to its big brother Tetsuo, where also director Shozin Fukui was one of the crew members on that film. Shozin Fukui probably thought to himself that “hah, I can make something more insane that this, even with a much longer runtime. Shiyou! ” When Tetsuo had its perfect runtime of 65 minutes and was able to hold on a certain narrative, flow, and knew where to stop, this mofo on the other hand, goes on for one hour and 37 minutes with scenes that drags on forever with little to no direction. There’s a scene lasting for ten minutes during the last thirty minutes, where 964 runs frantically through the streets of Tokyo while looking like a demented cyberpunk version of the Joker, and of course screaming his lungs off. And that scene feels more like three hours. Pure deranged misery. I will at least give the film credits for its energetic, handheld camerawork which gives off some early Peter Jackson vibes, and the intimate illusion of being present with 964 through his endless, tortuous, kinetic nightmare. The actors give it all with full dedication and Haji Suzuki as 964 is a diabolical force of nature. Others will also pick up a laundry list of metaphors, cryptic symbolism and social commentary between all the monotonous screaming, running and whatnot that only the inhabitants of planet Japan are able to perceive with a straight face. I can recommend 964 Pinocchio mostly as an endurance challenge and just congratulate in advance to those who manage to sit through it in one single setting without any pause. Good luck.

 

The one and only 2004-DVD release from Unearthed Films went out of print ages ago, but is to be found on eBay, very pricey, though.

 

964 Pinocchio 964 Pinocchio 964 Pinocchio

 

 

Director: Shozin Fukui
Writers: Shozin Fukui, Makoto Hamaguchi, Naoshi Gôda
Also known as: Screams of Blasphemy (UK)
Country & year: Japan, 1991
Actors:Haji Suzuki, Onn-chan, Kôji Ôtsubo, Kyoko Hara, Rakumaro San’yûtei, Kôta Mori, Tomio Watanabe, Anri Hayashi, Kyôko Irohani, Michiko Harada, Yûko Fujiwara, Yoshimitsu Takada, Naoshi Gôda
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0225009/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mad God (2021)

Mad GodA character wearing a gas mask, The Assasin, descends into a hellish world filled with devastation and mayhem. With him on his dark journey into a dystopian nightmarish world, he’s got a map and a suitcase, and while traveling deeper and deeper he encounters several monstrous creatures. Filth, death, war, despair and, well, hellish surroundings are all over the place.

 

Mad God is a stop motion horror film which was written, directed and produced by Phil Tippet. The film was in production over a period of thirty years. Tippet started filming it while working on Robocop 2, but when he became involved in Jurassic Park this set the film on hiatus. Originally, Jurassic Park was supposed to have stop motion dinosaurs, but after Spielberg saw some CGI work of a T.rex, he told Tippett: “You’re out of a job”. To which Tippett replied, “Don’t you mean extinct?”. This was even referenced in Jurassic Park, where Dr. Grant says “Looks like you’re out of a job” to Dr. Malcolm”, and he replies “Don’t you mean extinct?”. Anyhow, Tippett was still kept as supervisor for the CGI animation of the dinosaurs, so at least he wasn’t really out of a job… but due to the change during his involvement in this film he believed that stop motion was now a thing from the past, and because of this he shelved the Mad God project. Which is a sad thought, really, as many stop-motion effects from some older films can look really good, and often better than many of the early CGI effects used. Even now, I think there are some movies whose practical effects look greater than some of the modern CGI of today…

 

In spite of all that, Mad God got pulled out of hiatus-status twenty years later, when members of his studio encouraged him to start working on it again. And with a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a crew of volunteers to assist him, Mad God came into fruition at last.

 

And what kind of movie is Mad God, exactly? Well…I dare say you’ve never seen anything quite like it before. We start off with a scene depicting the destruction of The Tower of Babel, and then we see a citation from Leviticus 26, which reads as follows:

“If you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility. I, for My part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your cult places and cut down your incense stands, and I will heap your carcasses upon your lifeless idols. I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate and I will not savor your pleasing odors. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle it shall be appalled by it. And you I will scatter among the nations and I will unsheath the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin”.

Yeah…that’s the words of a Mad God indeed, one that is truly pissed off. Or just completely deranged. And we get to see a world that is actively punished by this mad god.

 

Aside from that, there isn’t much of a story to cling to here, although one can clearly see the statement about our world and its condition. There are several segments which are obvious metaphors for certain human behaviour, and you can probably dissect and analyze so many parts that are shown here. Mostly, though, it’s a film that is mainly enjoyed due to its visuals and dark content. There’s so many weird and absurd things happening on screen, everything from things that are disgusting and gross, to the weird and uncanny, to pure nightmare-fuel. There’s also a bit of blood and gore, and other stomach-churning stuff. There’s even a scene (although somewhat obscured) where Putin is taking Trump from behind while Hitler is watching. Jeez. Creatures are chopped into pieces, eaten, tortured, and everything is just filled with decay, debauchery and general ghastliness.

 

Mad God is definitely not a film for everyone’s tastes. Some will find it a nonsensical and gross mess, while others will enjoy the dark, surreal, nihilistic atmosphere and awesome special effects (Horror Ghouls belonging to the latter group of people).

 

Mad God is available on Shudder (for those who live in a country where this is accessible. We live in Norway, where Shudder is not available, though we were lucky enough to get one of the few copies of the film on DVD).

 

Mad God Mad God Mad God

 

 

Writer and director: Phil Tippett
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda, Harper Taylor, Brynn Taylor, Hans Brekke, Brett Foxwell, Jake Freytag, Harper Gibbons, Tom Gibbons, Tucker Gibbons, Arne Hain, David Lauer, Chris Morley
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15090124/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Innocents (2021)

The InnocentsIda is a 9-year old girl who moves to a seemingly normal and boring suburban neighborhood with her parents and her older sister, Anna, who has non-speaking autism. It’s also during the summer holiday, and with enough free time Ida starts exploring the surroundings in the nearby forests and playgrounds. She meets a young boy, Ben, who shows her one of his special tricks: he’s able to sling rocks with his mind. Ida is curious and delighted by seeing his Carrie-esque ability, and after meeting another girl with a special ability, Aisha, who is seeming to bond nicely with Anna on the playground, the foursome start playing together. However, their innocent intentions inevitably end up taking a dark turn.

 

De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a Norwegian supernatural thriller from 2021, written and directed by Eskil Vogt. The title of the film, as suggested, challenge the perceived notion that children are inherently innocent. Through their play, one gets to see the thin line between what is simple and childish fun, and how little it can take to tread over the barrier into something outright evil. While horror movies have its own sub-genre for “evil children”, this movie differs in its depiction of them. When most horror movies about evil kids are either about them being demonic/possessed, monsters, or total psychopaths, this movie displays a group of kids where some of them simply have supernatural abilities, while they are still very much normal children in a normal world…and not all of them grow up under good circumstances. For this reason, the movie makes an obvious effort to describe how childish innocence can be completely tainted by awful parenting and a toxic living environment. This is a movie seen from the children’s perspective, and the adults in the movie are merely bystanders. The children are living out their secret lives in the playground, in the forest, in the surrounding areas, just “playing”. Like most children do, without their parents ever really knowing exactly what they’ve been up to, and don’t really care either as long as they’re home in time for dinner or curfew.

 

The child actors are all doing a controlled and convincing display of their characters, which is important since the movie is heavily carried along due to the performances by the actors. There’s equal amount of childish glee in their faces when they have fun, as well as obvious fear and confusion when things go wrong. It’s never really any outright in-your-face horror (aside from a couple scenes that are quite uncomfortable to watch), but it’s creeping steadily under your skin, where you always have the anticipation of something going wrong. And of course, it really does.

 

De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a slow burning thriller which gradually turns up the heat, and the underlying tension builds up in a way that grips you from start to finish.

 

The Innocents The Innocents The Innocents

 

Writer and director: Eskil Vogt
Original Title: De Uskyldige
Country & year: Norway, 2021
Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4028464/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smile (2022)

SmileOne day at work, the psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter meets with a recently admitted patient called Laura Weaver. Laura is a PhD student, who appears to be having some kind of mental breakdown, caused by witnessing her professor committing suicide some days earlier. She claims that some kind of entity is trying to kill her, and it pretends to be other people smiling at her. As Rose tries to calm her down, Laura suddenly screams in panic and falls to the floor, convulsing. Rose calls for help, but after making the call she turns to see that Laura is standing on the floor, smiling widely at her. And then she cuts her own throat with the shard from a broken vase.

 

After this, Rose is understandably upset. And she starts seeing and experiencing things she can’t quite explain. At first, both she and everyone around her believes that it’s the stress and trauma of witnessing a patient committing suicide right in front of her, but as the supernatural occurrences continue she starts noticing the smiling entity Laura mentioned in their brief session. Things escalate quickly, causing misery to both her and everyone around her, including her sister Holly whom she’s already got a strained relationship with ever since the death of their abusive mother, who overdosed when Rose was a child. So, when Rose tries to explain what is happening to her, no one believes her and thinks it’s either the trauma from her childhood flaring up, or even that she’s starting to show traits of her own mother’s mental illness. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a stressful and frightening journey in the hopes of breaking the curse.

 

Smile is a horror film directed by Parker Finn, which is his directional debut. It is based on his 2020 short Laura Hasn’t Slept. At first, Paramount originally planned for this $17 million dollar budget movie to head straight for a streaming-only release on Paramount+. Thankfully they changed their mind! During the test screening the audience feedback scored much higher than they expected, which prompted them to give the movie a theatrical release. And the budget was already earned back during the opening weekend, where it grossed $22 million, to where Paramount’s distribution chief Chris Aronson said it exceeded their wildest expectations.

 

So, Smile has already made a place for itself in the horror genre, proving that using some well-known horror tropes and familiar ideas can still give us an effective experience and make for a good movie. In some ways it highly resembles It Follows (another horror movie that was highly effective and scared the bejeezus out of some people) as well as a little bit of ideas from other movies like for example The Ring. There were even some parts later in the movie which had a little bit of Resident Evil vibes. But most importantly, it also has a flair of its own stuff.

 

Smile is a horror movie that centers around trauma and its impact on not only the people who experience it, but how those who suffer from trauma may also affect their surroundings. The entity in Smile isn’t just something that wants to scare you and simply kill you, it feasts on emotional pain, which means it must make you suffer. While both the title and the entity displays a surface-level metaphor (how people suffering from trauma and depression are often forced to just “smile” and put on a mask in order to pretend to their surroundings that everything is okay), there are also a few other subjects which is delved a little into, like for example the lackluster healthcare services which often doesn’t give people with mental illnesses the treatment and care they need, how mental illness is something that is highly stigmatized, how people close to those with mental illness may be affected by it, and how those who suffer may get turned away with a “I can’t deal with this right now”, often leaving the sufferer alone and feeling helpless. Smile is a dark and grim horror movie, executed with an obvious understanding of tension building and how to make the jump-scares effective as a whole and with the full context. It’s a curse-themed horror movie that’s got teeth, and it bares them with a smile.

 

(Screenshots will be added later.)

 

Writer and director: Parker Finn
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, Gillian Zinser, Judy Reyes, Jack Sochet, Nick Arapoglou, Perry Strong, Matthew Lamb, Dora Kiss
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15474916/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gutterballs (2008)

In this little 80’s throwback slasher and rape/revenge-flick Gutterballs, we spend time in a bowling hall with two groups, getting ready for a bowling contest. But the plan for that night goes down the toilet when a fight escalates. The individual that stands out is the unhinged Steve, a sadistic bully with some serious anger issues. He screams desperately for attention in every scene, spews out a world record list of obscenities, one of them being over 600 fuck-bombs (yes, someone actually tried to count them). I wouldn’t recommend the drinking game for obvious reasons, but at least we have some other use of colorful words to play with such as cunt, bitch, motherfucker, whore, pussy, etc…

 

The plot and the boners thickens when Steve and his group of friends gang rapes Lisa, the girl whom left Steve for some other guy in the other group. The next night the two groups hook up again in the bowling hall to start over. Lisa is still there, that poor girl, but reserved behind some, big dark sunglasses. And when the bowling-match is about to settle, a mysterious, unseen player by the name BBK is shown on the score monitors. They soon learn that they’re being terrorized by a killer wearing a bowling bag over its head and using sharp bowling pins to penetrate the victim’s private parts.

 

THE MOST OFFENSIVE FILM EVER, many calls it. Well, at least it’s far from being boring. But yeah, it’s hard to not agree that the characters are a bunch of insufferable fucks performed by the bottom of the barrel actors from Troma, and you can’t wait to see them get brutally killed. And let me tell you, Gutterballs doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. Some dude gets his head crushed by two bowling balls, another’s head gets blown to smithereens by a shotgun, we get a nasty close-up castration, sodomizing, face melting and even more. The most memorable scene is the couple getting killed while having a steaming 69 in the bathroom. Sadistic and perverted fun for the whole family.

 

Writer and director Ryan Nicholson has since the mid 90s primarily worked as SFX artist on titles such as Ghost Rider, Stargate, Transformers, X-Files and the list goes on. Special effects is clearly his main focus, but despite the film’s limited budget, he also manages to lit up the bowling hall with the use of neon light to enhance some of the 80s atmosphere. He followed up with the sequel Gutterballs 2 for his cult-followers in the underground horror movie community, and also made films such as Dead Nude Girls. Sounds fun. Gutterballs seems to be his most approachable film for the masses, and if you like raw, trashy and silly 80s slashers like Intruder, Chopping Mall, Savage Streets and Troma in general, this one will surely please you.

 

Gutterballs Gutterballs Gutterballs

 

Writer and director: Ryan Nicholson
Country & year: Canada, 2008
Actors: Alastair Gamble, Mihola Terzic, Nathan Witte, Wade Gibb, Candice Lewald, Jeremy Beland, Trevor Gemma, Nathan Dashwood, Scott Alonzo, Jimmy Blais, Danielle Munro, Stephanie Schacter, Saraphina Bardeaux, Dan Ellis, Brandon Dix, Ryan Nicholson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1087853/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of the Dark (2003)

Ryan is a young boy who is afraid of the dark, and believes that there are sinister entities hell-bent on getting their claws on him once he finds himself outside the protection of light. And of course…no one believes him. One evening, Ryan’s parents are going out on a date, and his big brother Dale is going to babysit him. And what happens? There’s a power outage, of course! And Dale, who previously used to mock Ryan for his fear of the dark, soon experiences that this fear is not at all unfounded. The good old phrase “there’s nothing there in the dark that isn’t there in the light”, which Dale has told Ryan to tell himself over and over, now also lose its power over Dale as well when it becomes evident that there is indeed something there in the dark after all…

 

Fear of the Dark, with its cheesy ghoulish dvd cover and simple concept, pretty much gives you exactly what it promises: this is a “horror” film for a younger audience, and could pretty much be seen as a long Goosebumps episode, and perhaps as being a little reminiscent of Are you afraid of the Dark, which was also a horror series for a young audience which is considerably lesser known than the aforementioned one. With that in mind, and without any expectation of getting some real scares here, it can be a decent enough watch. The story is simple enough: when it gets dark, the boogeymen are coming after you. Something that is easily identifiable for many of us, as a fear of the dark is something a lot of children have experienced (and mostly, thankfully, grown out of). But not for this film’s protagonist, of course…here, the boogeyman is real, and there’s not just one, but several of them. They come off as some kind of mix-up with Freddy Krueger and the aliens from Dark City, wearing long coats and hats. Not scary in the slightest, but maybe a little for the kiddies, and the ghoulish appearance of the boogeymen kind of fits with the film’s otherwise slightly cheesy tone.

 

There’s not really all that much to say about a movie like this, and if you’re looking for a scare, then, well…this is definitely not the movie you should watch. If you’ve still got enough of your child in you to appreciate a movie aimed for a younger audience, then Fear of the Dark can be an okay experience if taken for what it is.

 

Fear of the Dark Fear of the Dark

 

Director: K.C. Bascombe
Writers: K.C. Bascombe, John Sullivan
Country & year: Canada, 2003
Actors: Kevin Zegers, Jesse James, Rachel Skarsten, Charles Edwin Powell, Linda Purl, Daniel Rindress-Kay, Derrick Damon Reeve, Charles-Etienne Burelle
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0308252/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul