Hobgoblins (1988)

HobgoblinsWriter, producer, editor and director Rick Sloane is a true independent auteur, no one can at least take that away from him. He’s made 16 movies over the course of the decades since the early 80’s, and we all should know about his Vice Academy films, a spoof of Police Academy which spawned five whole sequels. Yet he’s known for one movie and one movie only: Hobgoblins – one of the most, if not the most, sour fart-smelling and cringe-inducing cheese fests from the 1980s that got its place on the Worst Films Ever Made list and became a cult-classic of so-bad-it’s-good-movies.


The film starts in some old movie studio where the young nightguard, Dennis, have been strictly told by his older co-worker McCreedy to stay far away from the vault. Of course he won’t. And when he enters it, he’s suddenly on a stage in his own fantasy land where he’s a rock star. Shortly after he grabs the mike and does some silly movements, and ends up getting killed, off screen. A new young guy gets hired with the same warnings to stay away from the vault. Pffft, yeah right. One night when he opens it, a group of fluffy Mogwai/Critter hybrid creatures escape from the vault and drive away in a golf cart.


To quote the back of the Blu-ray; as bodycounts starts to rise, Kevin, with help of his friends, decide to track down the deadly creatures before they wreak havok on the city.


There’s only one (yes 1) bodycount in the entire film though, and that’s the guy we saw in the beginning, and the film is as tame as a newborn kitten. We learn that the creatures came from space in the 1950s in a small shuttle that crashlanded near the movie studio where McCreedy was a nightguard. He has since then kept them trapped in the vault, since anyone who encounters them will have their fantasy wishes come true, only until they get killed by the creatures. And guess what: they also get attracted to very bright lights. Rick Sloane claims that he wrote the script for Hobgoblins several years before Gremlins, by the way, so don’t you even dare to think otherwise.


There’s no more plot to break down from here ’cause there isn’t any. We have a string of nonsensical scenes where our group of protagonists keeps bullshitting around Kevin’s house. We have some rivalry between Mike and some Rambo wannabe who fights with rakes, because…just because. Later that night, they have a party where the creatures finally stop by to get the plot going forward. We eventually end up in some sleazy nightclub where it just gets more crazy and weird.




Hobgoblins is a real stink bomb in every aspect with the production value of an episode of ALF. The direction, the acting, the story (if there is any), the characters, the pacing, the effects, everything falls completely on its face. The attempt to be a comedy is like … I can’t even put a word on it. It’s something else. Holy moly macaroni. Even though the actors are a group of young and fresh graduates from the prestigious Troll 2 School of Acting, Troll 2 is Citizen Kane compared to this one, and you have to lower your bar to the lowest to sit through Hobgoblins.


There are no effects here. No blood, nothing. The only kill we get happens offscreen because its budget of $15,000 obviously couldn’t afford a single effect artist. What we have left is actors who do an impossible job to make us believe they are in danger while they wiggle around with lifeless puppets in the purest Ed Wood style. Picture Bela Lugosi with the octopus and there you have it. When we see the puppets moving around, they’re being operated by a woman who has just been released from a mental hospital. No shame in that. Sometimes crazy people need a job too.


The film is also sprinkled with goofs, but the one who caught my eye was the sequence with the car during where a hand visibly rocks the stationary car, and you can see it as clear as day. Then we have the grenades of the Rambo-wannabe-dude which he throws around the nightclub that does zero damage. A grenade gets thrown in one direction but explodes in a completely different direction. Like Ed Wood famously said: Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It’s about the big picture.


Some trivia: The film was shot without permits and in a single week. The film studio was in a parking lot that was deserted at night, next to a crackhouse. McCreedy’s gun was actually a cap pistol, purchased from a toy store for five dollars. Only the eyes for the hobgoblins were going to be seen in an earlier draft of the script. A pit bull’s growl was used for the voice of the hobgoblins. Rick Sloane initially planned on making a sequel in 1990 and had even written a screenplay for it, but it wasn’t made until 2009 as Hobgoblins 2.


Hobgoblins was also mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000, an episode which Rick Sloane got shocked by when he himself was mercilessly mocked over the film’s end credits. In an interview with Dead Central in 2009, he was asked about the movie’s position on the IMDb Bottom 100. He said he was “surprised it slipped down to #25 as it at sometime was the 2nd spot, right behind Gigli. As for now, it’s on #35. It’s also on a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Vinegar Syndrome.


Hobgoblins Hobgoblins Hobgoblins


Writer and director: Rick Sloane
Country & year: US, 1988
Actors: Tom Bartlett, Paige Sullivan, Steven Boggs, Kelley Palmer, Billy Frank, Tamara Clatterbuck, Duane Whitaker, James R. Sweeney, Kevin Kildow, Daran Norris, James Mayberry
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0089280/



Tom Ghoul













Lifeforce (1985)

Lifeforce A space crew is on a mission to explore the coma of Haley’s Comet, a comet that’s visible from Earth and to the naked eye every 75 years. Something else that’s naked are three humanoid creatures in suspended animation within coffin-shaped glass containers, which the captain Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) and his crew find as soon as they float onto the comet. Two of them being young males and a young brunette (credited as Space Girl in the 18 year old flesh of Mathilda May). They bring the containers back to the spaceship and head back to Earth. But something goes wrong as they enter the atmosphere. The crew gets burned alive and the only sign of life when the ship lands on Earth are the three humanoids, still sleeping in their coffins. An inventive little nod to the sailing ship Demeter, if you will.


We’re now in London where the containers with the space humanoids are transported to the European Space Research Centre, and the fun is about to begin. The naked Space Girl suddenly opens her eyes as she lies ready for her autopsy, stands up buck naked and sucks the life out of him (yes, from the mouth, sorry to say). She escapes as she just wanders out of the facility like a catwalk model while she flashes her tits and buttcheeks. We then learn from one of the doctors who also had an episode with the Space Girl that she’s able to seduce her victims with intense supernatural powers and french-kisses them completely empty of lifeforce, and … how can anyone say this with a straight and dry face: they then infect the victims with a virus that transforms them to rabid zombie vampires. It’s time to call Dr. Peter Cushing Van Helsing. Ha-ha, had it only been that easy…


A traumatized Dr. Carlsen, the only survivor of the space crew we saw earlier, heads over to London from Texas to join forces with the agent SAS agent Colin Caine (Peter Firth) to track down the space creature.


Lifeforce was supposed to be Tobe Hooper’s next big step after the mega success of the Steven Spielberg production Poltergeist (1982), which still asks the question who really directed that film. What the hell really happened to Tobe Hooper is also a good question. But what we know is that his destructive and downward spiral of drug use didn’t do any favors to the continuous fall of his career. He was fired from several film projects during the 1980s until he was picked up by Cannon Films which he signed a three-movie deal with: Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.


Even though Lifeforce was doomed from the beginning by starting the shooting with an unfinished script, the film has its many moments. The set-design of the comet is pretty inventive with an entrance that looks like a giant butthole. The effects are as 80’s as they can get which goes from being pretty spectacular to crispy cheese dinner. Then we have eye-rolling dialogues mixed with a hysteric over-the top performance by Steve Railsback. When he’s not overacting to the Razzie Award, he sits with a blank stare and just says his lines, while the rest tries to take this as seriously as they can. An enthusiastic Patrick Stewart has a short screentime where he got the great honor to mouth kiss Railsback in one of the more absurd scenes.


The rubber animatronics are comical, cartoonish and just delightfully cheesy that would fit far more in a film like The Return of the Living Dead. Dan O’Bannon co-wrote the script so that maybe explains a thing or two. There was no complete script of Lifeforce, as mentioned, and it shows, especially after the second half which slides further into a weird unfocused epic mess. Miniature buildings of London burn up in flames, there’s big explosions in the street and full pandemonium of rabid zombie vampires running around. Only thing missing is cats and dogs living together and we’d had double mass hysteria!


The studio also cut out 20 minutes for its theatrical release and the film was set up to be a blockbuster in the summer of 1985, but instead became the biggest flop of the year, barely earning half of its budget back. It was mocked and panned by most of the critics and Colin Wilson, the author of the novel The Space Vampires, which the film is based on, wasn’t much impressed either. Gene Siskel, on the other hand, gave it 3 out of 4 stars and called the film a guilty pleasure. And it’s not hard to agree on that. Lifeforce is available on a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack from Scream Factory.


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Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Don Jakoby
Also known as: Space Vampires
Country & year: UK, 1985
Actors: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard, Nicholas Ball, Aubrey Morris, Nancy Paul, John Hallam, John Keegan
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0089489/



Tom Ghoul













10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Castle FreakMichelle has had an argument with her fiancè Ben, and she’s packed a suitcase, left behind a diamond ring and ends up driving through rural Louisiana in the middle of the night. While Ben keeps calling her, begging for her to return, she’s getting news reports about several blackouts in major cities. Suddenly her car is struck by something, which causes it to flip off the road. For Michelle, everything then turns black. When she wakes up, she notices she’s gotten a leg injury, but that’s not the worst part…she is also chained to a wall in a concrete room. A man named Howard then unchains her and tells her that there’s been some kind of attack, maybe by the Russians or Martians, he’s not sure. He found her by the car wreck and saved her by bringing her to his shelter: an underground bunker. To top it all, he also tells her they cannot leave the place for at least a few years, because the air outside has become poisonous and everyone who goes outside now will end up dead. Is Howard just an insane madman who decided to kidnap her, or is there any truth to his stories?


10 Cloverfield Lane is a science fiction horror thriller from 2016, directed by Dan Trachtenberg in his directorial debut. It was also produced by J. J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber, and written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle. It belongs to the Cloverfield franchise, and it’s the second film. That was not the original plan for the movie’s script, however, as it was originally called “The Cellar” and had absolutely nothing to do with the franchise, but when Paramount Pictures bought the script and commenced further development under Bad Robot Productions, it ended up being a spiritual successor to the 2018 found-footage film Cloverfield.


Watching this movie while knowing it’s part of the Cloverfield franchise might make it a somewhat confusing experience, as it doesn’t appear to be tied to it in any way. Understandably, of course, since the original script wasn’t supposed to have any ties to the “Cloverfield Universe” at all. I still think that going into the experience of this film while knowing as little as possible, other than a certain relationship to the first film in some way, is the best way to watch this one. It will get you engaged by the series of strange events and the several red flags which may later prove to simply be red herrings, and sometimes even both. Arguably it is a movie that could have worked perfectly fine on its own, without the Cloverfield setting.


The cast here is pretty good, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead having a solid lead role, and John Goodman doing a perfect portrayal of the eccentric and slightly indecipherable Howard. So overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a thrilling and intriguing mystery horror film, which manages to be quite suspenseful throughout. There are twists and turns throughout, constantly keeping you guessing as to what the situation here really is.


10 Cloverfield Lane


Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Writers: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Country & year: US, 2016
Actors: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.,Douglas M. Griffin, Suzanne Cryer, Bradley Cooper,  Sumalee Montano, Frank Mottek
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1179933/



Vanja Ghoul













Lovely Molly (2011)

Lovely MollyMolly and Tim have gotten married, and they move into Molly’s childhood home. There, strange things start happening in the house, which becomes quite a bother for the newlyweds. Not to mention that Molly is a recovering heroin addict, which doesn’t exactly make anything easier. Soon, Tim has to leave town for a few days, leaving her in the house all alone. As you can imagine, upon Tim’s return he doesn’t exactly find her in the best of states. And things keep getting worse. Molly starts hearing the traditional folk song “Lovely Molly” sung by a man in the house, a man that she cannot see. Is Molly just experiencing the backlash of painful memories arising to the surface upon moving into her childhood home, or is it something other than memories haunting her?


Lovely Molly is a supernatural horror film from 2011, directed by Eduardo Sánchez, who was also one of the directors behind The Blair Witch Project (co-directed with Daniel Myrick). Unlike the aforementioned film, this one is mixing the found footage style with a traditional narrative, and starts off with a scene that gives us a little bit of an idea of what might actually happen to Molly. We see her filming herself, very clearly in a state of terror which we do not yet know the extent of. It starts the movie off with certain expectations.


The spooky happenings are nothing out of the ordinary, there are the usual alarms going off in the middle of the night, footsteps which can be heard without anyone else being present, songs sung by an unseen entity, and stuff like that. And of course, the husband has a job (in this case, he’s a truck driver) which causes him to be away from home for lengths of time, giving the little wifey enough time alone to go gradually bonkers due to what is happening around her. Yep, it’s a formula we’ve seen before, of course. Throw in a little bit of drug abuse and a scarred childhood filled with trauma, and there you have the perfect “is this really happening, or is it all in her head” scenario. The film still use this formula effectively by mixing the narrative with some found footage scenes, which consists of several POV style scenes but also some security footage which eventually leaves you wondering if there really is something there, outside of Molly’s own mind. The soundtrack also adds a bit of different flavour with the post-rock band Tortoise having recorded the score for the film.


Lovely Molly isn’t especially original but it’s a decent supernatural horror film with some creepy scenes and an eerie vibe, although it will leave the viewers a little befuddled as to what the hell was really going on.


Lovely Molly


Director: Eduardo Sánchez
Writers: Jamie Nash, Eduardo Sánchez
Also known as: The Possession
Country & year: US, 2011
Actors: Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden, Field Blauvelt, Ken Arnold, Tara Garwood, Camilla Zaidee Bennett, Kevin Murray, Doug Roberts, Dan Manning, Daniel Ross
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1707392/



Vanja Ghoul













Castle Freak (2020)

Castle FreakRebecca “Becca” Riley is a young woman who was blinded in a car accident. The accident happened due to her boyfriend driving under the influence, and naturally their relationship has become quite strained. One day, Becca is contacted by an estate agent in Albania, telling her that she’s inherited a castle from her biological mother Lavinia Whateley. Becca, of course, is very exited about having inherited a castle, and while her boyfriend wants her to quickly sell the castle, Becca wants to learn more about her biological mother once she’s visiting the place. Upon arriving there, she starts hearing strange sounds and has visions, and her relationship with her boyfriend becomes even more strained when he just decided to invite four of his friends to come along without asking her about it first. One of these “friends” being a woman he’s been flirting with, as if the a-hole alert wasn’t already strong enough with this character. Among the group is also The Professor, who has been studying the occult and is the only person to actually believe Becca when she tells him about her experiences. Since she has had no contact with her mother and knows nothing about her or the castle she’s just inherited, she is of course also oblivious to what happens to live there…


Castle Freak is a 2020 American horror film directed by Tate Steinsiek, and is some kind of remake/reboot of the 1995 Stuart Gordon film by the same name, which are both loose adaptions of the Lovecraft story The Outsider. With emphasis on the word “loose”. While the first movie barely has anything to do with the Lovecraft story, this movie has a lot of references to all kinds of Lovecraftian stuff. As for the similarities, both are pure B-shlock entertainment, but the first one focused more on atmosphere and had a certain modest 90’s horror romp charm, while this remake adds more gore, tits and Lovecraft references. We get to know that one of the elder gods, Yog-Sothoth, is supposed to be summoned, something that was never any part at all of the original movie.


This remake of Castle Freak is a very different freak than the first movie, in many ways. I wouldn’t really recommend it just because of the Lovecraft references, as they honestly feel somewhat forced…one of the elder gods is supposed to be summoned, there’s a character which has attended the Miskatonic Universtity, the Necronomicon suddenly pops into their hands, Becca’s mother was named Lavinia…yeesh, those Lovecraftian tentacles are all over the place. Those who liked the original from 1995 will find that this one is very different, and this will likely be off-putting for some. Still, the movie offers some decent cinematography, locations and production design. Gorehounds may also enjoy the additional gore added compared to the first. So overall, it can be considered a primitively entertaining B-horror flick, just don’t expect any masterpiece. It’s shlock and sleaze, pure and simple.


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Director: Tate Steinsiek
Writers: Kathy Charles, H.P. Lovecraft
Country & year: US, 2020
Actors: Clair Catherine, Jake Horowitz, Kika Magalhães, Chris Galust, Emily Sweet, Omar Shariff Brunson Jr., Elisha Pratt, Genti Kame, Klodian Hoxha, Klodjana Keco, Josif Sina, Enkel Gurakuqi, Genc Fuga
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10701458/



Vanja Ghoul













Beau Is Afraid (2023)

Beau Is AfraidBeau Wasserman is afraid. He’s afraid of a lot of things, but mostly he’s afraid of going back to his childhood home. He’s grown up without a father, and his mother told him he died in the instant Beau was conceived, due to a heart murmur caused by orgasm which is supposed to run in the family (or at least according to his mother). His mother, Mona, is a successful and wealthy businesswoman, while Beau has grown up to become an extremely anxious person living in the crime-ridden Skid Row. He’s prepared for a flight in order to visit his mother for the anniversary of his father’s death, but his apartment keys and luggage are stolen and all hell breaks lose, his home is invaded by a bunch of homeless people for the night, and of course he misses his flight. How does his mother take the news about that? Well, I guess you can imagine. Later, he tries to call his mother again, only to get a UPS driver on the line telling him that he found his mother decapitated after a chandelier fell on her head. Beau, not far from having a complete mental breakdown at this point, ends up taking a bath in order to prepare himself for a final travel to his mother’s place in time for the funeral, but ends up getting in a violent confrontation with an intruder, runs out in the street naked and tries to get help from a police officer. That goes as well as you can imagine. After trying to get away from the incompetent police officer threatening to shoot him, he gets hit by a food truck, and then his anxiety-ridden journey in order to reach his mother’s funeral has just begun.


Beau Is Afraid is a surrealistic comedy drama with some horror elements, written and directed by Ari Aster. Aster, most known for his directorial debut hit Hereditary and his other horror film Midsommar, actually intended to have Beau Is Afraid as his directorial debut, with a 2011 short entitled Beau serving as the basis for this movie.. Well…for his career’s sake, it was probably best he didn’t and went for making Hereditary first, because Beau Is Afraid was a major box office bomb, despite receiving rather positive reviews from critics. It had a budget of $35 million (making it A24’s most expensive film) while only grossing $11 million. The problem with this movie is that its three hours of arthouse tragicomedy surrealism is certainly not for everyone, and it’s a movie where you need to know what you’re in for, and most specifically you should not compare it to any of Aster’s earlier movies. Those who end up watching this expecting another Hereditary or Midsommar, will be disappointed and most likely confused as heck.


The movie is chock-full of metaphors about childhood trauma, manipulation, guilt-tripping, shame and anxiety, presented with some crazy visuals, weird characters and great performances. Art-wise you could say it often leans into the more abstract, where you aren’t told exactly how to interpret everything and this will often lead to some real wtf-moments. To be honest, the first part of the movie which takes place in Skid Row, despite how insane it actually is, is probably the most down-to-earth and believable part of the entire movie. Just like Beau has no other choice than to keep trudging through the weirdness he encounters, we who watch his journey have no other choice than to keep trudging through it with him, not always able to make sense of what is happening. One easy way to define the movie, is to call it “Beau has mommy issues”, with very clear depictions of his mother being manipulative and toxic. He’s filled with anxiety, guilt, shame, and everything that comes with such a crappy upbringing. While this is certainly the core of the movie’s topics, there’s so many other things here that could make you quite busy with metaphor-hunting. I personally saw some vague hints about possible sexual abuse, and possibly some Jocasta complex thrown into the mix. Many things in Beau’s life appears to be muddled with lies from his mother, and we, the viewers, are not entirely sure what is fact and what is not.


Joaquin Phoenix does a good job portraying the anxiety-ridden, guilt-tripped to the point of barely functioning, and constantly confused and scared Beau. The character’s confused and totally lost appearance fits in with how completely without hope we realize Beau actually is. Aster described this film as a “nightmare comedy”, and as “if you pumped a 10-year-old full of Zoloft, and had him get your groceries”. No matter how you may view this film and how you may interpret it, there’s no doubt Aster knows a little bit about trauma and anxiety, that’s for sure.


Beau Is Afraid is a weird, surrealistic Freudian nightmare, sometimes quite abstract and a bit demanding to keep up with, but if you want something on the weirder scale, this might be something for you.


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Writer and director: Ari Aster
Country & year:
USA, 2023
Joaquin Phoenix, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Kylie Rogers, Denis Ménochet, Parker Posey, Zoe Lister-Jones, Armen Nahapetian, Julia Antonelli, Stephen McKinley Henderson



Vanja Ghoul













Talk to Me (2022)

Talk to MeWe’re at a crowded house party where a young man, Cole, is trying to locate his brother Duckett. After asking several people about Duckett’s whereabouts, he eventually finds him locked inside a bedroom. Cole breaks down the door, and an injured and confused Duckett comes out, babbling about how he thinks Cole is someone or something else. After walking together into the living room, Duckett suddenly stabs Cole and shortly afterwards himself, right in the face. Total panic among the partygoers ensues, and we then shift over to the next scene where we meet 17 year old Mia who is struggling with the second anniversary of her mother’s death. She lives with her father, who she’s got a distant relationship with. One evening she sneaks out with her best friend Jade, with Jade’s younger brother Riley, to attend a houseparty where they have a certain spooky attraction: a severed, embalmed hand which is said to have belonged to a powerful medium. If you light a candle and touch this hand while uttering the phrase “talk to me”, you’ll see a spirit. If you continue with the phrase “I let you in”, you’ll be possessed by said spirit. All fun and games, as long as the candle and ritual is broken before ninety seconds have passed. But soon they will see what happens once the ninety second timelimit has passed, and the dire consequences of it…


Talk to Me is a 2022 Australian supernatural horror film, directed by the brothers Danny and Michael Philippou as their directorial debut. The duo is known for their YouTube channel RackaRacka, which they created in 2013, where they have had intense live action horror comedy videos. Talk to Me had its first screening in 2022 at the Adelaide Film Festival, and its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It’s been quite hyped and well received, and a sequel is already in development.


When it comes to Australian horror, we have so far reviewed the well-known The Babadook, the re-discovered Lake Mungo, and the lesser known movies Relic and The Tunnel, and the very obscure The Next of Kin. And here’s another solid entry for the list: Talk to Me, which has gotten a fair amount of praise and attention.


Many horror stories about people playing with the occult just for the shits n’ giggles ends up with a tragic outcome, so as you can expect the embalmed hand goes from being the life of the party to a life-shattering threat. We get the story fueled from the start by a dramatic and violent opening scene, which does of course have a significance as to what is happening with the mysterious hand. Then we have the classic grieving protagonist, looking for closure, comfort, or anything that can fill the void of grief inside them. Yes, it’s not all that original, but sometimes a little bit of clichés is what works well together with something new into the mix. Other than the tired Ouija-board session, we now have an embalmed hand which requires a handshake from you. The hand is letting you into the supernatural world with a small glimpse, but at the same time leaving the decision of how far it should go up to you. The people possessed are literally asking for it, not giving a hoot about consequences, and I guess this could serve as a metaphor for drug use. The visitation into the spirit world is enticing and hard to resist, and thus they keep doing it and doing it in the way they consider “safe”, until the safety rules are broken of course and things go too far.


The characters in Talk to Me serve mostly as bricks to fuel and explain the main character’s actions. Mia, the protagonist in the story, often comes off as quite self-centered and even a little unsympathetic at times. She’s grieving, but at the same time fails to see that others have their problems too, and she’s so absorbed with her own needs. And that’s exactly what eventually makes Riley’s session turn awfully bad. While the ghost/demonic possession in this movie doesn’t take it to the lengths we found in the splendid Evil Dead Rise earlier this year, it does portray it very effectively and manages to be creepy and dread-inducing without being over the top.


While Talk to Me isn’t ever really scary, it is certainly very suspenseful and creepy, and keeps the tension up throughout. I also liked the dark closing scene, it really gave the film a satisfying ending.


Talk to Me


Directors: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Writers: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
Country & year:
Australia, 2022
Sophie Wilde, Marcus Johnson, Joe Bird, Alexandra Jensen, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes



Vanja Ghoul













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
Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Nery Arredondo, Hanssel Casillas, Rodrigo Cortes, Ianis Guerrero, Tenoch Huerta



Vanja Ghoul













Come to Daddy (2019)

Come to DaddyNorval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) is a musician who lives with his mother in Beverly Hills. One day, he receives a letter from his estranged father, who asks him to come visit in a secluded cabin by the coast in Oregon. Norval decides to take the trip, despite not having seen his father since he was five years old. When he arrives, his father appears to be happy and welcoming, but things soon take a different turn. He becomes more and more taunting towards Norval, insulting him and being aggressive. And one afternoon, everything escalates into something that will send Norval into an experience he never could have imagined.


Come to Daddy is a black comedy thriller from 2019, directed by Ant Timpson as his directorial debut, and written by Toby Harvard. And it’s one of those films that certainly works best if you know as little as possible about the plot beforehand, as there’s a lot of twists and turns that keeps you interested and sometimes even surprised. The origin for this movie came after the director’s father passed away, and he was brought home after embalming. A week was then spent with a corpse in an open coffin, with people he didn’t know coming over to pay their respects, sharing stories about his father that seemed like they could have been about another person. This sparked the idea for this film. He also told he was influenced by films like Snowball Express (1972) for the cat & mouse twists, Sexy Beast (2000) for the comedy violence, The Servant (1963) for the mindgames, The Birthday Party (1968) for the pitch-black comedy, and Straw Dogs (1971) for the simmering violence awakened. He also said Roald Dahl’s Tales of The Unexpected influenced the screenplay. So yeah, there’s a lot of different inspiration sources there, and should give a little bit of a pointer as to what kind of movie this is.


Elijah Wood, which mainstream audiences probably mostly know for his role in The Lord of the Rings (but who has later given solid performances in several other movies, like for example as the serial killer in the 2012 Maniac remake) offers a good performance here as the innocent, abandoned son hoping to bond with his estranged father. The movie gives off a slightly surreal strangeness, with nutty characters and an even nuttier plot. It’s a black comedy about the insanities of family life and the disturbing revelations that can come forward. The pacing is good, starting off with the mystery about Norval’s father while giving the viewer the obvious feeling of something being wrong. I’d say it’s in the first part of the movie that the true horror elements are at most present. When things escalate, the tension is kept up by offering new reveals and a nice blend of comedy and action.


Come to Daddy is a roller coaster ride with twists and turns, violence and a good slice of black comedy. Maybe not very memorable and not a movie that can be recommended to all audiences, but overall a fun ride and worth watching, especially if you like your movies a little strange.


Come to Daddy


Director: Ant Timpson
Writers: Toby Harvard, Ant Timpson
Country & year:
Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, USA, 2019
Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley, Simon Chin, Ona Grauer, Ryan Beil, Raresh DiMofte, Alla Rouba, Noam Zylberman



Vanja Ghoul













The Shrine (2010)

The ShrineCarmen is a journalist, and together with her photographer boyfriend Marcus and a few other people they travel to a Polish village in order to investigate the disappearances of some tourists. Upon arriving in this village, they quickly notice that the villagers appear to be secretive and quite unwelcoming. They also find out that no one in the village is allowed to leave, and everything becomes even more mysterious as they notice a strange area in the forest where the fog appears to be concentrated without ever dissipating. The villagers tries to make them leave, but who ever listens to the strange village people warning you and threatening you of doom and gloom, eh? So naturally they enter the fog, one by one. While walking through the dense fog, Carmen comes across a demon statue with bleeding eyes, and she starts hearing strange whispers. Is this statue part of the village’s secrets, and what exactly happened to the tourists who were reported missing?


The Shrine is a supernatural horror film from 2010, directed by Jon Knautz. The plot in the movie is one you’ve probably seen or heard a few times already: people coming to some place abroad and ends up in unimaginable danger. Now, horror movies about people traveling to some foreign place and finding themselves either trapped, hunted or otherwise caught in some kind of horrific troubles, is something that seems to be a scary premise for many. As for a setting in Europe, the torture-porn flick Hostel is probably the most well known among these. Apparently Europe is a terribly scary and mysterious place, or at least according to some horror filmmakers.


Now, The Shrine is not a torture-porn flick, but a supernatural horror movie which anchors its focus on the mystery it presents to you. There are a few nasty kills, but nothing over the top. The movie’s main strength is the atmosphere and the suspense created from the plot’s mystery of the disappearances, the foggy forest and the creepy demon statue. The scenes with the fog in the forest and the statue were all great elements of heightened suspense and a feeling of mystery and wonder. While the movie is supposed to be set in Poland, the Polish village Alvainia is a fictional. And of course it was not filmed in Poland at all, but in Canada.


The Shrine has some good moments, and ends with a straightforward kind of “twist” at the end which explains things rather than muddle them (which is the case in some twist-oriented movies, unfortunately). The average horror fan will most likely find themselves feeling that they’ve seen much of what happens here before as it does throw in a fair amount of clichés, but it still manages to offer some unexpected twists and turns. It is one of those horror movies that may feel a little bit sluggish and a tad too derivative in its first moments, until it starts picking up the pace and makes you realize this wasn’t that bad after all. Thus, The Shrine comes off as an overall well-crafted supernatural thriller.


The Shrine


Director: Jon Knautz
Writers: Jon Knautz, Brendan Moore, Trevor Matthews
Country & year:
Canada, 2010
Aaron Ashmore, Cindy Sampson, Meghan Heffern, Trevor Matthews, Vieslav Krystyan, Laura de Carteret, Ben Lewis, Julia Debowska, Monica Hewes



Vanja Ghoul