Sister Death (2023)

Sister DeathIf there’s one creepy Nun film from this year that’s worth watching, it’s Sister Death. This is a standalone prequel about the blind chain-smoking old nun we saw lurking in a few scenes in Verónica (2017) – written and directed by Paco Plaza, the other half of the very talented Spanish duo behind the [REC] films.

 

The film starts with a cryptic opening in the year 1939, where a girl named Narcisa gets revered by some village people after it’s known that she has a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the outside, the whole thing looks more sinister and unsettling as it’s filmed in grainy black and white with something that looks similar to a super 8. And more sinister it gets ten years later, right upon the post-war era, as Narcisa (Aria Bedmar) grows up to be a nun teaching young girls at a convent.

 

She gets a warm welcome by Mother Superior, who’s very thrilled to meet the Holy Girl herself, who has become a big news story throughout the years. Not everyone in the convent seem to share the same enthusiasm, though. We get the sense of the environment right away with the quiet, bleak and monotonous life at the convent. The day-to-day rituals get disturbed after Narcisa finds a box hidden in her room which contains scissors and a picture of a deceased nun with a dark history.

 

As Narcisa tries her best to get through the days with her teaching, vows, praying and all that follows a life in a convent, she slips more and more into a rabbit hole by seeing creepy visions left and right, having nightmares of eating eyeballs hidden in freshly-made cookies and getting lead to dark places in the convent that she isn’t supposed to know of. And there’s a drawing of an incomplete hangman that appears on the wall in Narcisa’s room which seems to expand as paranormal things escalate. The girls start to experience spooky things as well and it’s only up to Narcisa to use her holy abilities to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the convent.

 

Sister Death is a slow burner and a paranormal thriller of the very old school type. Not as old as the convent here itself, but something that could have been from the 1970s. The special effects are minimal, where Paco Plaza concentrates more on a mystery filled with cryptic hints that has to be put together. Sister Death is a very quiet film where you really get the sense of the almost lifeless environment of the convent. The atmosphere is cold and eerie with an already underlying tension that slowly builds up like a damping locomotive to the shocking and eye-opening (pun intended) revelation. Señor Plaza knows how to squeeze out the best from his line of actors, and especially Aria Bedmar, who gives the best horror film performance of the year, horns down.

 

NetflixSister Death is only available on Netflix, which explains some of the muddy and low-quality in some of the screenshots. The darkest scenes in the film look so horrendous that I’m almost lost for words, and this has been an ongoing issue with Netflix. We have the standard account with 1080p, and it looks like something from a 480 pixel YouTube video from 2007. The quality also seems to depend on which browser you use. What a load of poop. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to streaming. There are several issues with Netflix and other streaming services for that matter, most notably how they have the habit of canceling every new show after one or two seasons. Business as usual, I guess. And it seems to only get worse. It’s also a sad, fucking shame that Guillermo del Toro, of all people, has slipped into the streaming sewer and signed with Netflix, so he can finally make his Frankenstein movie. At least that film will have a physical release, which seems to be unlikely for Sister Death, which would look stunning on a Blu-ray package. Happy new year.

 

Sister Death

 

Director: Paco Plaza
Writers: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Paco Plaza
Original title: Hermana muerte
Country & year: Spain, 2023
Actors: Aria Bedmar, Maru Valdivielso, Luisa Merelas, Chelo Vivares, Sara Roch, Olimpia Roch, Adriana Camarena, Martina Delgado, Claudia Fernández Arroyo, Almudena Amor, Sandra Escacena
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt19175696/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

No One Gets Out Alive (2021)

No One Gets Out AliveAmbar is a young woman who tries to move from Mexico and settle in Cleveland, Ohio, after her mother passes away. Unfortunately, she’s an undocumented immigrant, which makes it incredibly hard to find a job and a place to live. She works at an “under the table” job, with an asshole boss who treats her like shit because he knows she doesn’t have much of a choice. In a desperate search for some place to stay, she finds a dilapidated boarding house where the owner, Red, doesn’t care about asking any questions as long as one month’s rent is paid up front. Shortly after she moves in, she starts experiencing strange things and sees ghostly figures. Some of the rooms in the house is also filled with strange artifacts, as Red’s parents were archaeologists. And to top it all, Red’s got a mentally disturbed brother who acts in a threatening manner. And while she isn’t the only woman in the house as there’s also two other young women renting a room there, Ambar soon feel that the supernatural visions and the overall threatening atmosphere in the house is becoming a bit too much…

 

No One Gets Out Alive is a supernatural horror film from 2021, directed by Santiago Menghini and based on an Adam Nevill novel by the same name. It premiered on Netflix on 29 September 2021. Now, while I have read some of Adam Nevill’s books I haven’t read this one, so on that part I’m unable to make any comparisons. I think this movie is a little bit of a modern gothic horror, set in a gloomy mansion-like boarding house where ghostly apparitions fit well in with the interior, so to speak. It’s atmospheric and offers mysteries and tension, which are not all caused by the supernatural affairs. Ambar’s experience as a lost, lonely and desperate young woman in a place where she basically has no value, and constantly in a situation where others might take advantage of her without repercussions, adds to the feeling if despair and tension. Even when Ambar befriends one of her colleagues who promises to get her a fake ID, she just ends up getting robbed by this woman whom she thought would help her. If Ambar hadn’t been in a very despairing situation, I don’t think the underlying tension would have been quite as effective.

 

The movie also hints that it exists in the same universe as The Ritual, as a newscaster mentions the four lost hikers in the Swedish woods. The Ritual is another book by Nevill which had a movie adaption released in 2017, and is currently also available on Netflix. Just like in The Ritual, there’s a god-like monster here. It isn’t particularly well explained, but it is some kind of Aztec goodess named Itzpapaloyl, which actually means “clawed butterfly” or “obsidian butterfly”. In Aztec religion, Itzpapaloyl is a fearsome skeletal death goddess. And just like in The Ritual, the monster design and effects are neat and otherworldly to the max, even if their display time is minimal.

 

Overall, No One Gets Out Alive is gloomy and creepy, where the heroine’s problems are just as much related to financial and social problems than just the supernatural ones. While it certainly isn’t fast paced I didn’t ever find it boring, and consider it a pretty enjoyable watch.

 

No One Gets Out Alive No One Gets Out Alive

 

Director: Santiago Menghini
Writers: Jon Croker, Fernanda Coppel
Country & year: UK, 2021
Actors: Cristina Rodlo, Marc Menchaca, Vala Noren, Claudia Coulter, Teresa Banham, David Barrera, Alejandro Akara, David Figlioli, Cosmina Stratan
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt13056008/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Cam (2018)

CamAt a website called FreeGirlsLive, Alice is working as a camgirl and broadcasting sexual live shows from her little home studio, using the nickname “Lola”. Like most camgirls, Alice has people around her who knows what she’s doing, and people who are completely unaware. Her mother thinks she’s working on some kind of web development, while her younger brother is well aware of her cam girl actions but has promised to keep it a secret. It isn’t all just sexy fun though, and like any follow/like-obsessed SoMe dependant, Alice is totally desperate to rise on the website’s rankings, hoping to one day finally be the number 1 camgirl on the site. After simulating her suicide by slitting her throat using fake blood, her popularity finally increases, and on the next show she’s gotten as far as the top 50 camgirls on the site (whooo!). Things seem to be going rather well. That is, until next morning when Alice finds that she can’t log in to her account anymore, but that’s not all, not even the major part of her problem…because even though she cannot log in to her account anymore, “Lola” is still active and streaming. Logging in through another account, she watches the stream only to see what looks like an exact replicate of herself, even the studio she’s made in her own home looks exactly the same. Confused and completely weirded out (understandably, who wouldn’t be) she tries to contact customer service, at first thinking it must be some kind of replay of her old shows. They tell her that the show is indeed live streaming, and Alice is now finding herself falling through a digital rabbit hole…

 

Cam is a 2018 horror thriller directed by Daniel Goldhaber. At first glance, it may appear to be a simple cat/mouse thriller where the camgirl is the victim of a stalker, but when Alice’s doppelganger appears in the movie it shifts into a mystery thriller where you feel just as confused about the situation as the main character is. It’s a creative way of presenting a horror story about the desire for digital fame and identity theft, where many of us are already so linked to the digital world that much of our work and personalities have their home there. Seeing someone taking over your accounts is something that would be a nightmare for many people, not just those who are using it for their income. I mean, there have been stories about people calling 911 and the police because Facebook and Instagram were down. Jeez. Some people literally have their entire lives online, and the concept of someone or something stealing your identity digitally, not just hacking your account but literally stealing you, that’s an idea that ought to give most people the heebie jeebies.

 

The movie has some references to Alice in Wonderland, and not just the character’s own name. Her other online screen names include “MadHatter” and “MrTeapot”, for example. While Alice during her travels in Wonderland was fueled by innocent curiosity, the Alice in this story is driven by low self esteem and the desire to become popular. Not just popular, either, she wants to be number 1, top of the list. And in order to achieve this, she’s willing to do something that she originally promised herself to never do: fake something (her “suicide”). It’s an obvious metaphor for being a sell-out: she ended up doing something she had vowed to never do, just to achieve those extra views/followers/hits/likes/validation/fame.

 

Visually, the movie is appealing and does a solid job on portraying the Cam Girl culture without being condescending, and the story is fast paced enough to keep the viewer interested in how it all unfolds. The actor who plays Alice does a believable performance. In the end, the movie’s conclusion may feel a little too open and leaving some loose threads, not completely explaining what was really going on, but still giving enough hints throughout that makes you able to puzzle some of the pieces together. Cam is a digital nightmare, and with an increasingly more complex AI that’s all over the place these days, a theme like this becomes even more relevant.

 

Cam

 

Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Writers:
Isa Mazzei, Daniel Goldhaber, Isabelle Link-Levy
Country & year:
USA, 2018
Actors:
Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Quei Tann
IMDb:
www.imdb.com/title/tt8361028/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

The Pale Blue EyeThe year is 1830, and we’re in a cold October month. Augustus Landor, a widower who lives alone and is also a retired detective, is asked by the military to investigate the hanging of one of their cadets. After the cadet was hanged, his heart was removed from the body. Upon examining the corpse in the morgue, Landor finds clues suggesting that this is not a suicide case, but a murder case. He meets the weird Edgar Allan Poe, who is another cadet at the academy, and the two team up in order to solve the case. Ritualistic animal murders makes them think the murder could be linked to some occult black magic rituals, and when another cadet is also found hanged, with both his heart and genitals removed, Landor and Poe begin to suspect the family of Dr. Daniel Marquis whose daughter Poe has become quite enchanted by.

 

The Pale Blue Eye is an mystery thriller written and directed by Scott Cooper, and it’s an adaption from a 2003 novel by the same name, written by Louis Bayard. Scott Copper also directed Antlers, so it comes as no surprise that he is able to competently master stories that are dark and atmospheric. Despite the famous Poe himself being a major character here, the story itself is based entirely on fiction, although there are some small slivers of facts mixed in: Poe did indeed attend West Point Academy as a cadet from 1830-1831 (of which he later got himself purposefully kicked out from). There are also a few names and things in the movie that are references to some of Poe’s stories (Landor’s Cottage, for example). And not unexpectedly, you’ll see at least one Raven. Poe fans will probably have a fun time looking out for all the little tidbits referencing his work.

 

The movie plays out as a standard murder thriller where little bits and pieces are coming into place one at a time. Hidden notes, secrets revealed, red herrings, etc. The common components of a mystery thriller are all there. The pacing is a bit slow, but the focal points here are the gothic, spooky atmosphere, and the performances where both Christian Bale (as Landor) and Harry Melling (as Edgar Allan Poe) do a solid job portraying these characters and their chemistry. While Poe isn’t displayed with his identifiable mustache, you can definitely see the likeness here. And aside from the characters and performances, the murders are grotesque enough to keep you interested in knowing who could be behind such crimes (and why), and the cold wintry scenery puts an extra chill into it all. The fitting soundtrack was made by Howard Shore, who is most known for composing the soundtrack for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies, but is also behind the score of a lot of well-known (and some lesser known) movies in different genres, including horror.

 

Overall, The Pale Blue Eye is an entertaining whodunnit thriller with some dark twists and turns, blended with gothic atmosphere.

 

The Pale Blue Eye

 

Writer and director: Scott Cooper
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Fred Hechinger, Joey Brooks, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall, Gillian Anderson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt14138650/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Call (2020)

The CallSeo-yeon is a 28 year old woman who has traveled to visit her sick mother in the rural area where she grew up. Finding that she has lost her cellphone, she goes to her rundown childhood home where she finds an old cordless phone. Soon, she starts receiving calls from this phone, where a woman claims she is being tortured by her own mother. Thinking of it as someone who have just dialed the wrong number, Seo-yeon decides to investigate the matter when more calls from this mysterious woman comes through the old phone. She finds out that the woman making the calls, Young-sook, lived in the same house in 1999…which is also the year Young-sook claims to live in when making the calls. Seo-yeon lives in 2019, which means there’s a 20 year timegap between her and the caller. The two women make contact through the phone calls, and starts exchanging information about the time they live in and their own lives. Seo-yeon explains that when she was a child, her father died in a fire. Young-sook is then able to prevent Seo-yeon’s father from dying in that accident, and Seo-yeon’s life immediately changes: both of her parents are now suddenly there and healthy, and their house is no longer in the rundown state it used to be in. Happy about the turn of events, Seo-yeon starts searching for Young-sook in order to find out what kind of life she is living these days, in the present…only to find an old newspaper article about how Young-sook was killed by her mother during an exorcism. Seo-yeon tries to warn Young-sook about what is going to happen, and by doing so, unleashes an unexpected chain of events.

 

The Call is a South-Korean Netflix horror-thriller, directed by Chung-Hyun Lee, which is an exciting ride from start to finish. I hadn’t read much about it before watching it, so I didn’t know anything about how the movie’s plot would unfold (and that’s the best way to experience movies like this, in my opinion). At first it gives the appearance of being a rather sweet story about two girls meeting each other despite the difference of time being between them, but it all transpires into something much darker. The two main characters, Seo-yeon and Young-yook, are delivering strong performances, and I really liked the turn of events unfolding throughout the story.With a runtime of almost 2 hours, there wasn’t really a moment without suspense or some kind of excitement, but it isn’t until the first two thirds of the movie that the plot starts to delve into its more sinister part.

 

There is a mid-credits “twist” that apparently felt a bit off-putting to some people, but overall it just points out the numerous twists and turns that could be caused by so-called time traveling (a concept that could easily be considered a bit paradoxical by itself). I didn’t think this ending ruined anything per se, but it definitely gave assumptions of the possibility of a sequel.

 

All in all, The Call is an exciting and gripping Korean thriller, which was released on Netflix globally on November 27, 2020.

 

WARNING: watch the trailer at your own risk, it pretty much spoils the entire movie. Which seems to be a common mistake in many trailers these days…

 

The Call

 

Director: Chung-Hyun Lee
Original title: Kol
Country & year: South Korea, 2020
Actors: Park Shin-Hye, Jeon Jong-seo, Sung-ryung Kim, Lee El, Park Ho-San, Moon Chang-gil, Oh Jeong-Se, Kyeong-sook Jo, Grace Lynn Kung, Ryu Kyung-Soo, Dong-hwi Lee, Jonny Siew, Yo-sep Song, Chae-Young Um
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10530176/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Tall Grass (2019)

In the Tall Grass (2019)A sister (Becky) and brother (Cal) is driving close by a vast field area of tall grass in the middle of Kansas. She is pregnant, and they stop by a deserted church because she’s gotten a bit carsick. There, they hear a young boy’s cry for help from the tall grass, claiming he’s lost and cannot find his way out. They both go in there to save him, but ends up finding themselves lost as well. Something is not right about that vast field of tall grass…and something evil is lurking within.

 

In The Tall Grass is based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. A father & son collaboration, in other words. The director is Vincenzo Natali (director of Cube from 1997, Splice from 2009, and among many other things he’s also been directing some of the episodes in the Locke & Key TV Series). This movie is available on Netflix, and was released on October 4th. This makes it the third Stephen King original on Netflix (the other two includes 1922 and Gerald’s Game).

 

The film starts off pretty interesting. and for those familiar with more of Stephen King’s work, Children of The Corn is easily coming to mind. This story has nothing to do with that, however, and instead throws the characters into a never-ending green maze. There they meet the boy and his parents (the father played by Patrick Wilson), and they all find themselves stuck in a Groundhog Day-like time-loop, in an ever expanding maze of tall grass.

 

There’s no denying that the first part of the movie is the best, and there’s especially one scene in particular that comes to mind when the movie is building the atmosphere and tension: where Becky and Cal tries jumping in the tall grass to see each other’s arms reaching above it, in order to try locating each other. Upon their second jump, just a few seconds later, they see the distance between them has grown considerably…despite none of them having moved an inch. This tells us early on that there’s something totally wrong with the maze of tall grass, and that there’s no easy way out of there.

 

In The Tall Grass is pretty far from a flawless movie, where there’s very little of an actual plot which makes it feel a bit shallow. There isn’t much of an explanation either…there’s some hints as to what the area is, but nothing properly explained or delved into. The area around the church is filled with other cars, giving us a hint that a lot of people have gone missing there for quite a while…but not much of anything is really revealed. It’s prone to confuse you more than scare you…and it’s definitely not a movie for everyone. That being said, it is still entertaining, atmospheric and visually strong. Hopefully it won’t be the last Netflix original featuring Stephen King / Joe Hill based movies.

 

In the Tall Grass

 

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Country & year: Canada, 2019
Actors: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachel Wilson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4687108/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)“A house with a death in it can never again be bought or sold by the living, it can only be borrowed by the ghosts that stay behind.”

 

A young nurse has been hired to take care of an old woman. This old woman is Iris Blum, a prolific horror author that now lives all alone in her New England mansion and suffering from chronic dementia, and needs to be proper taken care of 24/7. When the young nurse, Lily, starts living there in order to take proper care of Iris, Lily starts experiencing certain things that makes her imagination run wild. With Lily being a bit of a scaredy-cat as well, she tries all she can to re-focus and pretend that nothing is happening…until she can’t pretend any more.

 

“I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” is a strange dish. While being a haunted house movie, it’s told from a somewhat different angle (from the actual haunting itself, so to speak). The movie starts with Lily herself being the narrator, stating “The pretty thing you are looking at is me. Of this I am sure. My name is Lily Saylor. I am a hospice nurse. Three days ago I turned 28 years old. I will never be 29 years old“. No spoilers to be had there, in other words…we know exactly what will happen to Lily, just not how. That being said, Lily is only part of the haunting: another spectre is already present. A young woman in a white victorian dress, who have a direct connection to Iris and her books…a mystery Lily eventually feels compelled to solve, and will lead to her unfortunate demise. With regards to this movie, I guess it’s fitting to say that sometimes, curiosity really does kill the cat…

 

I many ways, it’s a little hard to review this movie as a horror movie, because in many ways it’s more like a gothic poem, and certainly more beautiful than scary. It is very slow-paced, and it’s not one that is there to deliver all the answers…however, it does have a pretty good atmosphere and could be well worth a watch if you find yourself in the mood for a slow poetic ghost story.

 

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

 

Director: Oz Perkins
Country & year: Canada / USA, 2016
Actors: Ruth WilsonPaula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, Lucy Boynton, Brad Milne, Daniel Chichagov, Erin Boyes
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt5059406/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1922 (2017)

1922 (2017)Based on a novel from 2010 by famous horror-writer Stephen King, comes this Netflix original that was released on October 20th. It’s a story about Wilfred James, a proud farmer who conspires to murder his own wife when she wants them to move away from the farm and sell the land, which she owns because it was willed to her by her own father. Neither the father nor the son wants to move away from the quiet farmlife they’ve grown so attached to, and Wilfred convinces his son to participiate in the murder of his wife. After comitting the horrible act and dump the body of her into the well outside, Wilfred soon starts to experience that things do not go as smoothly from there on, even with his wife out of the way…

 

«1922» is for the most part a dark thriller, with some horror elements mixed it. There are no over-the-top weird stuff that some might be used to from certain popular works by the famous author (like «It», for example), it’s a down-to-earth thriller with some supernatural elements mixed in. Unexpectedly, when a desperate man like Wilfred decides to murder his wife due to his own desires, we all know that he won’t escape such an act unscathed…and neither will his son. “In the end, we all get caught”.

 

1922

 

Director: Zak Hilditch
Country & year: USA, 2017
Actors: Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid, Kaitlyn Bernard, Neal McDonough, Tanya Champoux, Brian d’Arcy James
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt6214928/

 

Vanja Ghoul