Cold Ground (2017)

Cold GroundThe year is 1976, and two young journalists named Melissa and David are in search of their very first big story which will lead to fame and notoriety. They decide to investigate a strange case of cattle mutilations which have happened on the French-Swiss border. With their newly acquired camera they decide to film the entire investigation, from start to finish, where they plan to do interviews with the local residents in the area. Both are excited like a fresh TikTok’er who believes their video will lead to an instant success, and they dive head-in and already start planning to present the full story to a television channel which will get the ball rolling into the inevitable road of success and fortune. No feet planted firmly on the ground here, that’s for sure. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and it already goes a bit sideways when they are supposed to meet a scientific team which has inexplicably just gone – poof – missing. They do not give up however, oh no, this is just a little bump on their golden road, so they enlist the help of an expert in first-aid, and American Forensic Investigator and a British Biologist which will escort them into the depth of the mountains in search of the missing scientists.

 

Cold Ground is a French found-footage horror movie from 2017, written and directed by Fabien Delage who also directed the 2016 mockumentary film Fury of the Demon. As far as found footage movies go, this one is certainly not breaking and new grounds as the story and setup threads very familiar roads: it’s your typical story of people lost in unknown territory, slowly finding out that something is wrong and then doing a lot of screaming and running with shaky cameras. Yup, seen all of that a number of times before. Still, it does provide some good stuff: set in the 70’s, they have nailed the 70’s aesthetics which they went for, and the monsters in the movie are actually decent enough, most likely because they are barely visible in any scenes. Their predatory nature is mostly shown in aftermath-scenes where mutilated animals and people are shown, and this actually works in order to heighten the suspense a bit. I’m not sure what the monsters are supposed to be, but I guess they’re some kind of Bigfoot/Yeti/Werewolf hybrid.

 

Overall, despite not being very memorable and having little new to offer in the genre, Cold Ground was certainly rather pleasant to watch where the nature scenery with snowy areas, mountains and caves makes for an interesting viewing experience. I also like the 70’s style, with added camera grain to make the look more authentic. The combination of filming in those snowy nature landscapes and convincing us that it’s indeed the late 70’s, is what makes this movie stand out at least a little bit.

 

Cold Ground

 

Director and writer: Fabien Delage
Country & year: France, 2017
Actors: Doug Rand, Philip Schurer, Gala Besson, Maura Tillay, Fabrice Pierre, Geoffrey Blandin, Cyril Lesage, Regis Testa
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4144350/

 

 

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 Lodge (2019)

The Lodge (2019)In the hopes of being able to bond with her soon-to-be stepchildren, Grace is staying with them in a remote winter cabin over the holidays. Their father was supposed to stay with them, but is unexpectedly called to work and he cannot refuse, which leaves her alone with the children. With the holidays just around the corner she hopes that they will be able to have a good time, but the isolation and a blizzard traps them inside the lodge. Then, mysterious and frightening things start happening, keeping Grace wondering if it’s just the isolation and the strained relationship to the children, or if it’s the demons from her past that have come back to haunt her.

 

The Lodge is a chilling psychological thriller, which builds slowly but rewards your patience. The mood is quite unnerving (very much caused by a certain scene very early in the film which really packs a punch), and somewhat similar to what could be felt in Ari Aster’s horror films “Hereditary” and Midsommar: a focus on loss and grief. Together with a splash of trauma, due to Grace’s past in a religious suicide cult where she was the only survivor…and another dosage of resentment, as the children is blaming Grace for their newfound (and not desired) family situation. As you can guess: not exactly the best recipe for a nice holiday vacation at an isolated cabin.

 

The chilling moments in The Lodge are intensified by the strong performances, both by the traumatized Grace (Riley Keough) and the two children Aiden (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh). The cinematography works wonders in depicting the lodge as dark and ominous, with the white snow-filled landscape surrounding it working as a perfect contrast.

 

Now, The Lodge is a horror movie that may not be for everyone, with a slow build and more focus on psychological tension. There’s a lot of tension in the air, but not necessarily a lot of action. However, its slow build and tense atmosphere is what makes it work for what it is, and results in a creepy and unsettling experience.

 

The Lodge

 

Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Country & year: UK | Canada | USA, 2019
Actors: Riley Keough, Jaeden Martell, Lia McHugh, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Danny Keough, ola Reid, Philippe Ménard, Jarred Atkin
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7347846/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous (1999)During the Mexican-American war in the mid 1800’s, Captain John Boyd is sent up in the mountains to Fort Spencer, a secluded camp where a small group of weirdos keeps it guarded. One evening a disturbed, frozen Scottish man named Colquhoun arrives. He tells a horrible story about his gang of people somewhere up in the mountains, who were forced to eat each other in order to survive. Some of the men join Colquhoun and head up to the mountains to look for survivors.

 

The movie’s tone is set already within its first seconds. You don’t exactly know what to expect, but will quickly realise that this film is one of a kind. The film is known for its black humour, but it is first and foremost a pure horror movie with blood n’ gore where the humour is kept on a more subtle level. The greatest thing about Ravenous is how unpredictable it is, how the tension builds up, and the use of great forest landscapes that adds to the grim, cold atmosphere. It’s always refreshing to see actors actually interact with the real nature instead of standing in front of green-screens in a studio, isn’t it…

 

It also have top notch actors, but Robert Carlyle as Colquhoun really steals the show here. He does a truly terrifying portrait of his character. Watching his grin with the blood dripping from his mouth as he stares with his crazy eyes…that’s something that just gets under your skin (pun intended).

 

Ravenous

 

Director: Antonia Bird
Country & year:  Czech Republic | UK | USA | Mexico, 1999
Actors: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0129332/

 

Tom Ghoul