Lucker (1986)

It’s the 1980’s and the place is Belgium, where the young upcoming filmmaker Johan Vandewoestijne had the rebellious desire to show the government and the strict censor board the middle finger with his slasher film Lucker. It’s the similar premise that the like-minded Jörg Buttgereit and Andreas Schnaas did in Germany some years later. And with that being said, you would already know by now what kind of territory this is. This is also the one and only horror film made in Belgium during the whole 1980s, and it’s a product that shouldn’t even exist after the film’s unnamed producer destroyed all the negatives. The only surviving material was a VHS copy that was bootlegged to shreds in the underground horror circle throughout the years – and the only source for director Vandewoestijne to make a Director’s Cut for the 2007-DVD release by Synapse Films.

 

In Lucker (also known as Lucker the Necrophagous), or a more fitting title which could’ve been Lucker The Corpse Fucker, we follow the morbid journey of the serial killer John Lucker (Nick Van Suyt) – a middle-aged, bulky guy with a double-chin, thin hairline and overall the perfect look for a deranged homicidal madman. After ending up unconscious in a clinic after a suicide attempt to escape from the police, one of the nurses asks (with a cheesy and stiff, cartoonish dub) while standing over his bed:

 

Hmm..? Who is this guy ANYway?
His name is John Lucker. A few years ago, he murdered eight girls. Raped them afterwards. And when I say afterwards, some of the corpses were decomposing.
A guy like that should be in a MENTAL institution.

 

Lucker

 

Huh, no shit, Sheri Holmes! Anyways … he wakes up, sneaks out of the clinic, body counts two people on the way, steals a car and heads out to the nearest town. He tails one of the first women that appears on his radar and kills her in some…weird way. The filming is too inept to really see what’s going on, but her entrails get spilled out of her stomach, or maybe a fetus if we use a little morbid imagination. He later hooks up with a young chick from a bar, ties her up in a bed in some apartment and … well, while she gets aggravated and deliver a line such as: Untie me … I hate creeps like you … Untie me  … Lucker sits on a rocking chair next to her, swinging back and forth like an old demented doofus, while he gives her the silent treatment, only to drag out the running time. After he finally kills her, we jump four weeks later where her body has been decomposed to a slimy maggot infested corpse and fuckable enough for lucky Lucker to finally give us Jörg Buttgereit’s favorite scene of all time.

 

So … where do we go from here? To get the run time going forward to at least the 45 minute mark, Lucker gets his eyes on one of his former victims, a walking trophy, that got away from him, and of course he can’t have any of that.

 

There’s two versions of Lucker, the VHS version and the Director’s Cut version, and both of them are available on the Special Edition DVD from Synapse Films. The VHS version, with its runtime on 74 minutes, is a tedious slog of a chore to sit through. There’s an endless scene with Lucker just walking on an empty road. After he hitchhikes to a town, there’s more walking. And … even more walking. Lucker The Walking Man. There’s zero pace and you’ve already dozed off when something interesting is about to happen.

 

Then we have the Director’s Cut version presented in 16:9 ratio and cut down to 68 minutes. It’s still trash, but better edited. And I have to  give director Vandewoestijne some credit for at least for trying his best to stitch together a barely watchable film from the VHS material. He’s also filmed a new opening title for the occasion. Even though there’s less mindless walking and more pacing, there’s still a lot of drawn-out scenes. There’s especially this shot where Lucker ties up a woman, then sits down and just stares at her while she screams like she’s faking an orgasm, which is copy-pasted to make the running time reach its milestone of 60 minutes.

 

And yeah, both versions contain the corpse fucking scene, so don’t you worry ’bout that.

 

Lucker Lucker Lucker

 

Director: Johan Vandewoestijne
Writers: Johan Vandewoestijne, John Kupferschmidt
Also known as: Lucker the Necrophagous
Country & year: Belgium, 1986
Actors: Nick Van Suyt, Helga Vandevelde, Let Jotts, Marie Claes, Martine Scherre, Carry Van Middel, John Edwards, Tony Castillo
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0091446/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Evil Eyes (1990)

Sometime in the late 80s, George A. Romero was invited to Italy to eat pasta and sip red wine with Dario Argento. The result of that meeting became Two Evil Eyes, an anthology of two films, one hour each, based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe. The original idea was an anthology of four segments in which also John Carpenter and Stephen King was considered to make the other two. However, Carpenter was busy with other stuff while Stephen King, still and forever traumatized by the experience with Maximum Overdrive, had no desire to call himself a “moron” a second time, and thus Four Evil Eyes got reduced to Two Evil Eyes.

 

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR – George A. Romero

The millionaire Ernest Valdemar is on his deathbed in his big mansion suffering from terminal illness, and his younger and gold-digging wife Jessica and Dr. Robert Hoffman have a plan: to hypnotize Valdemar into signing the will papers so they can get away with all his money. During the last hypnosis session, things go horribly wrong and the old man dies … well, sort of. They hide him in the freezer in the basement while Valdemar seems to be trapped in hypnosis and moans with a ghoulish voice that a bunch of demons will take over his body.

 

George A. Romero were on hiatus during most of the 90s where he made only two films; The Dark Half and this one. Instead of tons of gore, we get a slow build-up and an eerie atmosphere where Creepshow meets Tales From the Crypt. Even though the story itself is intriguing, Romero’s direction feels as stale as if it was meant to be made for TV, and the runtime could have been cut down to thirty minutes. The scenes with Jessica and Dr. Robert is as dry and boring as a soap opera, and with even stiffer acting than Valdemar in the freezer. As already mentioned though the atmosphere is great, and Tom Savini, who worked on both segments, provides with some top-notch prosthetic makeup and a memorable death-scene.

 

THE BLACK CAT – Dario Argento

We follow the crime-photographer Rod Usher (Harvey Keitel) who documents the most brutal crime-scenes in Pittsburgh, George Romeo’s hometown of all places. Rod is a cold psychopath with a distant relationship with his empathic girlfriend Annabelle. As she feels ignored, she gets some comfort in a stray black cat. The cat hates Rod and he hates the cat back and as the classic story goes, he kills the cat who then starts to haunt him until he descends into complete madness.

 

The Black Cat is one of Poe’s most famous works, and this film adaptation is made in modern times where a crime-scene photographer has been replaced with the author himself, Poe. Harvey Keitel is the money shot here, alongside with FX maker Tom Savini, and the only reason alone to give Two Evil Eyes a watch, to be honest. Argento’s segment is also far more stylish, better paced, better acted and of course more graphic.

 

So, there you have it. Two short horror tales from two directors with their own style of filmmaking and approach to storytelling. And some with more meat on the bone than the other.  For HD buffs, the film is available on 4K Ultra HD from Vingar Syndrome.

 

Two Evil Eyes

 

Directors: George A. Romero, Dario Argento
Writers: George A. Romero, Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Peter Koper
Original title: Due occhi diabolici
Country & year: Italy, USA, 1990
Actors: Adrienne Barbeau, Ramy Zada, Bingo O’Malley, Jeff Howell, E.G. Marshall, Harvey Keitel, Madeleine Potter, John Amos, Sally Kirkland, Kim Hunter, Holter Graham, Martin Balsam, Chuck Aber
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0100827/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Creature (2001)

We’re in Ireland, and the year is 1905. Two carnies, Angus Shaw and his infertile wife Lily, runs a fake mermaid show where Lily plays the role of a beautiful and enchanting mermaid. One evening, during one of their shows, a mysterious fellow named Mr. Woolrich appears and privately calls them out on their act, while at the same time appearing strangely relieved that Lily was, in fact, not a real mermaid. They offer him a ride home, where it’s revealed that he’s got a mermaid captured. A real one. Naturally, Angus wants to use this creature as part of the freak show, but Woolrich strongly warns against it. Not easily deterred, Angus later brings a few colleagues back with him to abduct the mermaid, and smuggles her aboard a ship in order to take her to America. Lily tries to object to this idea, but to no avail. And onboard the ship, the mermaid soon reveals her darker side…

 

She Creature is a 2001 made-for-TV horror film, directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (the title of this film was originally Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, but there was never any part 2). It’s the first in a Cinemax film series called “Creature Features”, which were all paying tribute to the films of American International Pictures, where the titles are reused without being actual remakes. In this case, the title is borrowed from the 1956 film The She-Creature.

 

She Creature was shot in 18 days, and is a typical B-budget movie . It’s filmed in a style that resembles the old monster movies, and with taking place in the Victorian era there’s also some really atmospheric cinematography reminiscent of the old Hammer films. With the renowned Stan Winston as producer it also should come as no surprise that the special effects are pretty decent. The mermaid is also portrayed in a rather convincing way, possibly much due to the fake mermaid we witness early on at the freak show. The mermaid Lily plays there is so obviously over-the-top fake, that when we get to witness the real mermaid in a tank of water the contrast makes it come off as believable. The real mermaid does not sing, she does not talk (except from making a few sounds), and appear more like an intelligent animal with human features rather than any “little mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen. This is no Ariel, that’s for sure…

 

Much of the atmosphere comes from the Victorian scenery and settings, fitting like hand in glove when constructing a horror tale with a blend of fantasy and gothic mystery. She Creature is by no means any masterpiece, but it’s a fun and slightly cheesy little throwback to the monster movie era with moody cinematography, good production design and some really cool CGI-free special effects. Overall, it makes for a pleasant little pearl of a gothic and aquatic creature feature film.

 

She Creature She Creature She Creature

 

Writer and director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Also known as: Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature
Country & year: USA, 2001
Actors: Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, Jim Piddock, Reno Wilson, Mark Aiken, Fintan McKeown, Aubrey Morris, Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, Hannah Sim, Jon Sklaroff
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0274659/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death Ship (1980)

A group of happy passengers on a cruise ship is having a jolly good time, until they suddenly gets hit by another ship. The outcome is, of course, fatal. The few survivors gets aboard a lifeboat, and gets picked up but a mysterious black ship that emerges from the fog. When they all get on board the mysterious and eerie ship, they quickly notice that there’s not a single person there except themselves, and they realize something is terribly wrong on this creepy ship. That feeling gets confirmed when they find out that this has actually been a Nazi-torture ship that’s been sailing the seas for years, controlled by the Nazi-ghosts who are tricking people aboard. And when one of the survivors from the cruise ship, the captain, gets possessed by the Nazi-captain that once ruled this death ship, they all seem to be doomed…

 

Death Ship is a low-budget movie directed by Alvin Rakoff, which starts rather promising. We have a gang who, due to unfortunate events, gets on board a mysterious ship where not a single person can be found, and creepy stuff starts happening. And it’s all because of the Nazi’s of course, who else. With a concept like this it’s evident you can get a little bit of cheesy 80’s fun…and with a Nazi-torture ship, there could have been so much potential for a gore-filled flick here with some really nasty scenes! But, alas, we get no such thing…

 

The positives is that the movie manages to keep a certain atmosphere, despite not being able to aptly build up the suspense. I guess part of the problem lies in how the Nazi-torture-ship thing is revealed far too early to the viewers, and then the movie spends a considerable amount of time making the characters find this out as well. And like already mentioned, there’s a disappointing lack of blood n’ gore, where the most memorable scene must be where a lady takes a shower and gets blood over her instead of water…but that scene is actually so long-winded it becomes slightly foolish…if anything, you get a few minutes of a screaming woman and some tits. Oh, and if you think she’s taking the screaming a little too far? Well, as you might guess the blood in the shower isn’t real, but the actress was told it was real, for effect…

 

While Death Ship isn’t that bad, the biggest disappointment is the lack of actual torture on a so-called torture ship. The death scenes are very downplayed, and it’s a little bit too slow for its own good at certain parts. Overall though, the plot is pretty interesting and there’s a solid atmosphere, plus steady camera work and a high production value despite the low budget. This makes it entertaining enough despite its flaws. You just can’t help thinking of all the lost opportunities here though, and I think this is a movie that could have done well with a remake going into full exploitation-mode.

 

Death Ship Death Ship Death Ship

 

Director: Alvin Rakoff
Writer: John Robins, Jack Hill, David P. Lewis
Country & year: UK, Canada, 1980
Actors: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso,Sally Ann Howes, Kate Reid, Victoria Burgoyne, Jennifer McKinney, Danny Higham, Saul Rubinek, Murray Cruchley, Doug Smith, Anthony Sherwood
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0080603/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitors (2003)

Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) is a stubborn and strong-willed young woman: she’s decided to travel around the world in her 44-foot sloop, all by herself (well, almost…she’s got her cat for company). Being used to spending time at sea, and also spending time alone, it goes pretty well at first. She’s used to enjoying her own company, and the cat provides just enough social comfort. Then, the solitude starts taking its toll…while starting with small and insignificant things like starting to talk to her cat…which isn’t uncommon…I mean, who doesn’t talk to their feline companion once in a while? Except, of course, the cat starts talking back to her. A big red flag for her mental well being there, all right. But when she also starts hearing strange noises, and a mysterious fog appears which brings with it a whole array of deceased family members who have suddenly decided to drop in for a visit, it’s time to take it seriously. Is this just a severe case of cabin fever, or is something else happening at sea?

 

Visitors is a psychological thriller directed by Richard Franklin (most known for directing Psycho 2) where nearly all of the playtime happens out at the big blue ocean. While it’s not a truly scary film, it does have a few chilling moments with creepy atmosphere and some interesting scenes. Georgia’s “ghosts” aren’t only appearing during nighttime, either, but in bright daylight as well, adding to the feeling of claustrophobia as there’s no escape. In a haunted house, you can always run outside…but what can you do if the haunting happens in a boat, far out at sea? Nothing of course, unless you want to jump aboard and drown yourself.

 

While Visitors is an okay thriller, it’s not faultless, and there are some rather questionable CGI effects which diminishes the creepy atmosphere a bit. There’s also some scenes that are chugging along a little bit too slowly. Still, overall the movie is an okay watch, mostly for its deep dive into human psychology and the effect of being alone over a long period of time, in surroundings where there’s no one and nothing for miles upon miles. It’s strange how the ocean can appear to be so open, but still so claustrophobic…no matter where you turn, there’s no rescue, nowhere to find refuge.

 

If you’re looking to get your toes wet with a movie that provides a good amount of action, I guess something like Deep Rising would be a safer bet. Visitors is a slow-burning thriller with some creepy scenes and atmosphere, and people that can relate to the idea of being all alone, while haunted by your inner demons, will probably appreciate this movie the most.

 

Visitors

 

Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Everett De Roche
Country & year: Australia, 2003
Actors: Radha Mitchell, Susannah York, Ray Barrett, Dominic Purcell, Tottie Goldsmith, Che Timmins, Christopher Kirby, Jan Friedl, Soula Alexander, Roberta Connelly, Michelle McClatchy,
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0301989/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Asphyx (1973)

We meet Sir Hugo Cunningham who is an amateur scientist, and the time period is the end of the 1800s. He’s taking photographs of the dead, and have an interest in supernatural phenomena. Through photographing the dead with his newly invented camera instrument, he discovers strange spots on the photographs, that he later thinks could be an Apshyx: a ghostly entity that supposedly shows itself right at the moment when a person is about to die. Through several more experiments while having his macabre photo shoots with the recently deceased, he also gets to witness and film an execution through hanging. Through this it is revealed to him that the Asphyx can be captured by the light rays that emits from his camera invention, and when a person’s Asphyx is captured, this person becomes literally immortal and unable to die. His first test is done on a guinea pig, and when he discovers that it works, the temptation of achieving eternal life becomes too great and he decides to capture both his own and his family’s Asphyxes. But will this really lead to the bliss of immortality, or will there be dire consequences?

 

The Asphyx is an old-fashioned horror movie that can be considered to be on par with many of the Hammer horror movies, with its gothic atmosphere and scenery which is making the film a visual treat. However, similarly to the classic Hammer films there’s an abundance of dialogue and a rather scarce amount of any action. The strength lies in the movie’s rather interesting and quirky concept, together with the gothic visuals and convincing Victorian cinematography (done by Freddie Young) so if you’re familiar with this type of movie setting and can appreciate it for its attractive production design and its Poe-style gothic tale of death, loss and grief, mixed with scientific curiosity which eventually leads to obsession, then you’re in for a treat. It’s yet another tale of an upper-class scientist coming upon a discovery that offers a chance for him to play God…and of course, the decision to do so comes with dire consequences.

 

The special effects of the Asphyx itself and how they try to trap it, really reminds me of something that could have belonged in a Ghostbusters movie, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s lightly spooky rather than creepy or frightening, and the movie even comes off as slightly silly at times. Also, the pacing might be a tad bit too slow for a modern audience…but if you like classic gothic horror films, this Hammer-esque film is definitely worth a watch.

 

The Asphyx

 

Director: Peter Newbrook
Writers: Christina Beers, Laurence Beers, Brian Comport
Country & year: UK, 1973
Actors:Robert Stephens, Robert Powell, Jane Lapotaire, Alex Scott, Ralph Arliss, Fiona Walker, Terry Scully, John Lawrence, David Grey, Tony Caunter, Paul Bacon
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0069738/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Phone (2022)

The year is 1978, and the streets of a seemingly sleepy Denver suburb is prowled by a serial killer nicknamed The Grabber, who mockingly leaves black balloons in the places of abduction. We follow the daily life of siblings Finney and Gwen, who lives with their abusive alcoholic father. School is tough on the timid boy Finney, where he is frequently bullied and harassed, only occasionally getting saved by his badass friend Bruce. However, one day Bruce is abducted by The Grabber, and Gwen starts having psychic dreams regarding his kidnapping. Only days later, Finney encounters what at first appears to be a clumsy magician who needs his help, but when the boy notices the black balloons inside the magician’s truck, it’s already too late and he becomes another abductee. When Finney wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a small soundproofed basement, with a disconnected black phone hanging on the wall. His abductor is the terrifying mask-wearing “Grabber”, who appears to be playing some kind of game which Finney knows will eventually lead to his death…just like with all the other kids that were kidnapped and murdered before him. Unexpectedly, help comes from the ominous, disconnected black phone which starts ringing and gives Finney phone calls from the world of the dead…

 

The Black Phone is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil), and is based on a short story by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son). After Deliver Us From Evil, which was released on 2014, Scott was absent from horror movie directing for a while as he was working on the Doctor Strange movie, so his comeback into this genre was long awaited. The story starts off a little slowly as we get to know the youths and prepare for the inevitable, and once Finney gets kidnapped a lot of the movie unfolds mainly in the bare-bones basement as he tries to escape and avoid playing the serial killer’s sadistic game, aided by the previous victims who contacts him through the black phone. There are some creepy scenes and the setting is atmospheric enough, although it never really breaks the surface of becoming truly scary. It is mostly the performances that really carries the movie, especially the child actors, and of course, the serial killer himself.

 

The Grabber’s creepy masks are made up of several parts, each exposing different portions of his face and giving a variation in expressions. The mask was designed by makeup artist Tom Savini. Ethan Hawke plays The Grabber in his first villain role (in stark contrast to the worried family man he plays in Sinister), and he does an admirably good job on portraying the crazy and unpredictable serial killer with his various facial expressions portrayed through the use of masks, body language and tone of voice. The Grabber is someone who obviously can’t be reasoned with, and while we do not really get to know all that much about him, that actually adds to the creep factor. And while the supernatural elements aren’t even remotely scary, they help powering up the direction of the story, working more as part of the suspense component rather than the horror. We root for the boy trapped in the creepy basement, and the ghosts who try to help him.

 

Overall, The Black Phone is a welcome horror comeback for Scott Derrickson. It’s not really a very unique or original movie, but it’s a solid and tense horror thriller that’s well worth a watch.

 

The Black Phone

 

Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Rebecca Clarke, J. Gaven Wilde, Spencer Fitzgerald
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7144666/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Demon’s Rook (2013)

James Sizemore is a man of many traits and with a childhood consisting of several near-death experiences such as drowning, electrocutions, and almost hit by a freight train. And if that wasn’t traumatic enough, his childhood home in Georgia also seemed to be haunted by poltergeist activity. As he was influenced by these experiences he began to draw goblins, demons and whatnot which in later age evolved into producing some really cute Lovecraftian sculpt figures which he sells through his own company Wonder Goblin. He also makes music, has written one comic book, made two horror shorts (Goat Witch and Budfoot) and probably more I’ve forgot to mention. But the most important achievement in this case, is that he’s written, directed and produced one feature-length film, The Demons Rook. A passion project in which he gathered friends and family to a shooting schedule planned for three quick weeks in his local home community in Georgia with a tiny budget of five thousand dollars. In the purest indie-horror fashion they soon found themselves trapped in what is known as the indie horror-purgatory and continued the shooting for over two, grueling long years during the weekends, while questioning their own sanity, preventing the one mental breakdown after another, and promised themselves to never make a movie again. In other words, the normal cycle of independent movie making.

 

We meet the young boy Roscoe, not far from similar to the director himself, who during the day plays with his friend Eva, and sits up at night and makes drawings of demons. He is constantly visited by the demon Dimwos, a two-horned creature that looks more like something from Lovecraft’s universe. It is unclear why this demon shows up, but we can guess that he has been conjured by the drawings. Dimwos gets hold of the kid and one night lures him into the woods and down a hole that leads to Hell, where he trains him with black magic through manhood. Many, many years later, an grown-up Roscoe (now portrayed by James Sizemore) returns to the world with a long beard, confused and scared because, for some reason, he has accidentally managed to free three evil demons from Hell to Earth. And these demons are nothing to joke about, and makes matters worse by resurrecting the dead into Night of the Living Dead zombies and possesses people into Evil Dead monsters, to create hell on earth. Roscoe seeks out his childhood friend Eva (Ashleigh Jo Sizemore) and uses his trained Jedi powers to prevent a full demon apocalypse.

 

One quickly realize that director, producer and co-writer James Sizemore has a deep love for the good old video nasty-era horror cinema of the 70s and 80s, and has taken a laundry list of references that really shine through from old horror genre obelisks such as Dario Argento, George A. Romero, Stuart Gordon, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto/Mario Bava, Tom Savini, early Peter Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft and probably more. With impressive gory effects, juicy body-counts, and creative old-school prosthetic make-up, the use of light, colors,  flexible camera work, and massive use of a smoke machine to set the thick, retro atmosphere, the film works perfectly as a visual throwback to the good old times. And a budget of approx 70.000 dollars well spent. That being said, The Demon’s Rook suffers from the same as most home-made horror movies, with underdeveloped scripts and pacing issues with scenes that drags on, and a mixed bag of acting from amateur to decent. The actor couple James and Ashleigh both make good efforts with some naive enthusiasm and energy, even though we do not care all that much about them in the end. They got married during the filming, by the way, and are still married today. How cute. A year later after The Demon’s Rook, she got the task to be breast-naked and sacrificed to Satan in her husband’s horror short Goat Witch.

 

The DVD-release from 2015 seems to be out-of-print, but can be found after a quick search on Amazon Prime (limited by region).

 

The Demon's Rook The Demon's Rook The Demon's Rook

 

Director: James Sizemore
Writers: James Sizemore, Akom Tidwell
Country & year: USA, 2013
Actors: Ashleigh Jo Sizemore, James Sizemore, John Chatham, Melanie Richardson, Josh Gould, Sade Smith, Dustin Dorough, Lincoln Archibald, William Baker, James Becker, Michael Bremer, Laura Clark
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2401215/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sinister (2012)

Ellison Oswalt is a true crime writer who moves into a new home with his wife and two children. What he has not told his family prior to moving into the house, however, is that an entire family was murdered there by hanging, and his intention is to write a book about this case. This is something he does in the hopes of regaining his lost fame, as his latest works weren’t very popular and he’s desperate for a new success. There was also a little girl who disappeared following the murders, and he hopes to learn more about her fate so he can include this mystery in his novel. Upon exploring the attic of the house, he finds a box with several reels of Super 8 footage, which are simply labeled as “home movies”. Using the projector which was also located in the attic, he discovers that the films are footage of several families being murdered, all of them filmed by an unseen camera operator. Upon investigation these cases he finds similarities that makes him suspect that both the murders in the house he now inhabits, and the ones from the Super 8 footage, are connected in a sinister way, and dates all the way back to the 1960’s…

 

Sinister is a 2012 horror movie directed by Scott Derrickson (who will have a new movie hitting the theaters soon, The Black Phone). Scott Derrickson had previously shown his competence in the horror field with Hellraiser: Inferno (his debut film) and later The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which was based on the story of Anneliese Michel).

 

Sinister is for the most part a highly effective and creepy film, with a steadily growing sense of unease without tossing a bunch of jumpscares at you. There are some genuinely hair-raising moments here, led by solid performances, and the opening scene alone sets the tone right away where we witness the Super 8 footage of the family being hanged. This scene was actually all played by stuntmen, and almost went terribly wrong: when the scene was first done, the stunt coordinator botched the preparations for the scene resulting in the actors being legitimately hanged and choked. Yikes! Fortunately they all survived, and naturally the coordinator got sacked. This wasn’t the only potentially harmful scene either: one of the other “footage” films included a family tied to chairs and pulled underwater, and the filmmakers had to be extremely careful so nobody was harmed while the filming of the scene took place. All of these scenes were also filmed on real Super 8 films camera.

 

Overall, Sinister is a solidly crafted horror film with loads of atmosphere and a really creepy feel, where some parts are actually outright scary. While it does not have any nudity, very little blood and no cursing because they were aiming for a PG-13 release, it still got an R rating just for the content alone. It is now 10 years since its release, and it’s still one of the most decently crafted horror films from this period.

 

Sinister

 

Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Country & year: USA, UK, Canada 2012
Actors: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, Rob Riley, Tavis Smiley, Janet Zappala, Victoria Leigh, Cameron Ocasio, Ethan Haberfield
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1922777/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ninth Gate (1999)

Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is a book dealer who specializes in rare items. He is hired by a wealthy collector named Boris Balkan, who has acquired “The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows“: a 17th century book that is rumored to be able to summon the Devil himself. It is said that the author of the book, Aristide Torchia, wrote the book in collaboration with the Devil, and that only three copies survived. Balkan suspects that only one of these books are authentic, and that’s the reason he’s hired Corso: so he can inspect the other books and determine which one is the real deal. Corso accepts the job, and begins his travels to check out the other books. Soon, he comes into contact with a mysterious woman who appears to be following him…and he’s getting more and more drawn into a supernatural conspiracy.

 

The Ninth Gate is a neo-noir horror thriller by Roman Polanski, which is loosely based on Arturo Péres-Reverte’s novel called The Club Dumas (El Club Dumas) from 1993. Polanski liked the script so much and “saw so many elements that seemed good for a movie. It was suspenseful, funny, and there were a great number of secondary characters that are tremendously cinematic“. Polanski was very clear about not believing in the occult at all…but he certainly liked the genre, that’s for sure. While The Ninth Gate is nowhere near as popular or praised as his first devil-worship movie, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), it’s still a solid and stylish Polanski thriller.

 

Polanski’s knack at storytelling easily keeps the viewer engaged enough throughout the movie, with minimal use of special effects. In fact, there is very little violence or blood, and it relies on atmosphere and mystery accompanied by absorbing European scenery and cinematography. The cast is good, with a good performance by Depp who is portraying the unscrupulous and cynical book dealer who finds himself entangled in occultism and devil worship. There’s a lot of occult and tarot-like symbolism in here, some which may even be easily overlooked, like for example the obvious difference between the journeys of Corso and Balkan, going in opposite directions. I guess it’s one of those movies where taking everything at face value might leave you bored and moderately confused by this little puzzle of a film…there’s so much symbolism and small things that may not be too apparent, but makes a huge difference when you notice it. Certainly that old phrase comes to good use here: the Devil is in the details!

 

The Ninth Gate is a movie that has, since its release, received very mixed reception where some have been put off by the heavy use of symbolism and the apparently non-conclusive ending. But overall, I think The Night Gate is an enjoyable atmospheric and symbolistic occult horror thriller that has Polanski’s quirky humour and slightly absurd tone all over it.

 

The Ninth Gate

 

Director: Roman Polanski
Country & year: France, Spain, 1999
Actors: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford, Jack Taylor, José López Rodero, Tony Amoni, James Russo, Willy Holt, Allen Garfield, Jacques Dacqmine, Joe Sheridan
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0142688/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul