Studio 666

Release: Friday, February 25, 2022

👀 Theater

Written by: Jeff Buhler; Rebecca Hughes

Directed by: B.J. McDonnell

Starring: Dave Grohl; Taylor Hawkins; Pat Smear; Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel; Rami Jaffee; Jeff Garlin; Will Forte; Whitney Cummings; Leslie Grossman; Jenna Ortega

 

 

**/*****

In Memory of Taylor Hawkins (1972 – 2022)

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl is a man possessed of more than musical talent in Studio 666, a gore-soaked, gleefully over-the-top horror comedy from director B.J. McDonnell, one in which the popular American rock band battles both creative droughts and supernatural forces during the recording of its tenth studio album.

With their obnoxious manager Jeremy (Jeff Garlin, one of the film’s few professional actors) breathing down their necks for the next hit, the Foos find themselves up against a wall as they brainstorm ideas for their landmark record. When they’re informed of a creepy old house in Encino, California, a sad-looking forties-era manor that has more than great acoustics going for it (and where the band put together its actual tenth album, 2021’s Medicine at Midnight), an optimistic Grohl jumps at the opportunity, enamored with the character of the place.

But as the band settles in the writer’s block hits hard and the typically ebullient musician starts to lose his cool, resorting to Youtube instructional videos and plagiarizing Lionel Richie all night long. Then he discovers a demo tape in the cellar, along with some other gubbins, and let’s just say things are never quite the same after that. As Grohl’s behavior deteriorates, a collective effort to complete a full-fledged record morphs into a nightmarish and one-sided obsession with finding an ending to a single song, a soul-sucking process that begins to tear the group apart figuratively and literally.

From electrocuted roadies and barbecued bandmates to decapitated delivery boys and mangled managers, this ridiculous horror-comedy makes sure you’ll remember the red syrupy stuff. Yet despite the former Nirvana drummer’s boundless supplies of energy and enthusiasm, Studio 666 fails to find a consistent rhythm with too many dead spots in the narrative where the camera just seems to roam the house, looking for something interesting to capture. Invariably the lightweight story meanders, leaving you with time to think about why John Carpenter’s score is more memorable than the music being produced by the actual musicians.

The writing doesn’t do the inexperienced actors many favors, either; drummer Taylor Hawkins, guitarists Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett, bassist Nate Mendel and keyboardist Rami Jaffee are predictably (dare I say acceptably) wooden in moments of high drama but surprisingly are also unconvincing during the quieter moments where they’re just hanging out, the band’s natural, time-tested camaraderie coming across more forced than it ought to. By contrast Grohl rocks pretty hard, his notorious perfectionism making him an ideal candidate for the role of Obsessive Compulsive Psycho, one that is part-trope, part-send-up of the trials and tribulations the band went through when putting together their official debut album, 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. 

Despite a nagging sense of unfulfilled potential, Studio 666 is a far cry from dire. Based on a story conceived by Grohl and written by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes, this is a novelty film where you have no problem believing those involved had a blast making it, and occasionally that enthusiasm possesses us as well.

Killer riffs but where’s the soul?

Moral of the Story: Though Studio 666 couldn’t be much gorier, it could in many instances be funnier and more impactful. Diehard fans of the band however are going to have an easier time overlooking the things the movie does not do so well. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 106 mins.

Quoted: “You’re my favorite band after Coldplay!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The House on Pine Street

The House on Pine Street movie poster

Release: Friday, February 27, 2015 (limited) 

[Vimeo]

Written by: Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling; Natalie Jones

Directed by: Aaron Keeling; Austin Keeling


This piece is my latest contribution to Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings. As always James, thanks for hooking this one up.


The House on Pine Street is a well-crafted haunted house indie that, while possessing many classic genre traits, overindulges in the familiar to create an experience that frustrates more than it unsettles. Borrowing the psychological fray of The Shining‘s Jack Torrance and instilling the heightened sense of dread brought on by a young woman coping with the stress of pregnancy á la Rosemary’s Baby, the film promises a few compelling directions and for a while it seems to be heading in at least one of them, until it doesn’t.

Jennifer (Emily Goss) and her husband Luke (Taylor Bottles) have just moved back to Jennifer’s Kansas hometown after she suffered an unexpected mental breakdown in Chicago. The film opens with the pair settling into a rental home, a cozy space that mysteriously has all the furniture of its previous inhabitants still in place. It doesn’t take long for Jennifer, who is seemingly under a great deal of stress facing up to the fact she’s soon to be a mother and having to deal with her overbearing mother Meredith (Cathy Barnett), to start picking up on a strange vibe her house is giving her.

The House on Pine Street dedicates much of its time to exploring the psychosis of a young woman struggling to come to terms with her life as it currently is, and not as she’d perhaps like it to be. Soon after experiencing strange bumps in the night Jennifer tries to convince Luke there’s something wrong with the house and that they should move out and head back to Chicago, a decision he does not agree with. He insists she tries to make the best of it here, reminding her of what they have just escaped from having left the big city behind.

As we plod forward, the temperature in the room starts becoming chillier and the tension amplifies with Jennifer unable to ignore (or explain) the increasingly frequent disturbances. One of the more impressive feats of the film is that we can never be sure if what’s going on is a product of her imagination — she spends a lot of time at home alone, sharing in Mia Farrow’s sense of entrapment and isolation —  or if these walls truly harbor a dark and dangerous otherworldly being.

Location scouting affords the film a sturdy foundation: the house is beautiful and creepy all at once, a character unto itself. It also helps that Goss sells the despair of living inside it well. You can’t help but empathize with her as she comes apart at the seams. If we’re not meant to take her side, Bottles makes a strong case for why we certainly shouldn’t root for Luke. His dispassionate response to her claims the house is haunted makes for a chilling character, one that further strands Jennifer from the shores of sanity. Add to that her mother’s grating presence and you are left with a truly no-win situation.

Unfortunately solid acting and an atmosphere dripping with paranoia only go so far in creating a worthwhile watch. Though this generic setup offers nothing we haven’t seen before, it is, more often than not, engrossing. And then the final few scenes happen. The House on Pine Street seems to not only pull out the nails from what has thus far been a piece of solid construction, it also seems content with frustrating viewers with a denouement that makes little sense, one that completely forsakes the reality in which the story is based.

There could have only been two possible outcomes to this little chiller. It’s a pity the least satisfying option was chosen, indicating that perhaps we were never meant to take seriously the film’s mythos to begin with.

Emily Goss, Taylor Bottles and Cathy Barnett in 'The House on Pine Street'

Recommendation: For those looking for a new fix in the haunted house subgenre of horror, The House on Pine Street should work well enough, though it’s nothing an aficionado hasn’t seen many times before. Will it win over skeptics of these types of films? That I’m not so sure. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 111 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.hellhorror.com; http://www.variety.com 

Housebound

Housebound movie poster

Release: Friday, October 17, 2014 (limited)

[Netflix]

Written by: Gerard Johnstone

Directed by: Gerard Johnstone

Housebound heralds the arrival of a creative new talent in Gerard Johnstone, and though not always the most confident, his feature film debut functions as a perfectly harmless distraction that adds a few amusing wrinkles in the fabric of haunted house horror.

It centers around a young, moody twentysomething — Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) — who gets caught in the act of trying to relieve an ATM of its contents. Because of her recidivistic tendencies she’s sentenced to eight months of house arrest, a light punishment all things considered. But this means she’ll have to put up with her irritating mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and step-father Graeme (Ross Harper) — gasp, the horror! The former seems to think the house is possessed by spirits, while the latter utters nary a word as he’s never been a talkative fellow.

Added to Kylie’s suffering is the fact she’s been fitted with an anklet that will alert authorities, the seemingly lone wolf Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), if she tries to leave the premises. What’s a girl to do if she can’t go out every night and burglarize the shit out of everything with her wayward friends? I guess just sit there and pout.

Credit Johnstone for casting an atypical lead in his first film, and O’Reilly for selling her character’s detachment from society. Unfortunately she’s too good at it; it’s a little hard to root for her when she begins experiencing some of the things that has recently sent her mother into hysterics. Completely insensitive to the needs of others, Kylie isn’t someone who seems ready to change their ways and would rather mope around for the next few months until the shackles have been lifted. Or am I just overlooking the fact that perhaps her cloudy disposition is part of the comedic appeal?

One thing that’s more frustrating than Kylie’s selfish behavior is the dynamic between her and Amos. As she slowly comes into an understanding that the house she finds herself in has a dark history — it once served as a halfway house and was the site of a grisly murder — she has trouble convincing anyone else of what’s going on. But . . . wasn’t her mother the one phoning in to a radio show to publicize her paranoias? And why isn’t Amos believing her? He oscillates between being overly protective of the young woman and skeptical to the point of accusing her of lying about everything she’s going through.

Alas, Housebound becomes one of “those” movies — the kind where everything we witness apparently comes at the expense of our protagonist’s credibility. Her frustration becomes our frustration. That is, until things take a turn for the worse when Kylie and Amos together turn their attention toward a suspicious neighbor, whom they believe could be responsible for things going bump in the night. As we’ve expected all along there’s more to this scene than what meets the eye.

Johnstone’s debut is fascinated with the concept of seclusion and secrecy, applying it to elements both physical and conceptual. As I’m obligated to keep spoilers out of my reviews to keep my readers from turning on me in a quick and hostile manner, suffice it to say his technique is what sustains the entertainment rather than the actual, tangible elements themselves. Even if Housebound gets a little too overexcited in its grander reveals — people living inside walls notwithstanding — perhaps it’s best to resist the urge to overanalyze. Like Kylie, maybe it’s in our best interests to sit back and just let this phase run its course.

things get a bit messy for Morgana O'Reilly and Rima Te Wiata in 'Housebound'

Recommendation: Housebound serves as another welcomed entry into the steadily growing marriage between comedy and horror. It does enough to satisfy casual horror fans who like their stuff more on the light-hearted side though it features a few grisly scenes and enough blood to satiate more serious horror watchers. Not a perfect film but it’s solid enough to make me want to come back for more. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 107 mins.

Quoted: “I am not the only one who thought there was a ghost in this house, Kylie. In fact, you used to be so terrified you could not sleep.” / “Yeah, I also used to think the Moon was made of cheese. It is called childhood.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Babadook

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Release: Friday, November 28, 2014 (limited) 

[Redbox]

Written by: Jennifer Kent

Directed by: Jennifer Kent

It’s official. I’m in love with horror once again.

It’s some kind of feat the hype surrounding Jennifer Kent’s much-acclaimed horror film has gotten to the point where it feels like watching the ‘scariest film in years’ this far into 2015 is, yeah, a little like you showing up to a birthday party a few hours late and profusely apologizing. The apologies are accepted, but the fact is you’re still late.

The Babadook isn’t a particularly original film. It’s a tale of possession dressed in the decay of William Friedkin’s slow-burning and dread-inducing 1973 masterpiece, only this time the beast is somehow of an even more inexplicable nature. It’s about a woman named Amelia (Essie Davis) doing her best to cope with life after the shocking death of her husband Oskar several years ago and having to deal with the increasingly erratic behavior of her six-year-old son Samuel (a young and brilliant Noah Wiseman) who is convinced something is haunting their house. When the two come across a children’s book named Mister Babadook one evening, Amelia isn’t convinced it is appropriate bedtime material but Noah insists she read it to him. Strange occurrences ensue with steadily increasing frequency.

Of its many borrowings from memorable horror of the past, Kent’s nail-biter features creepy shadows, fragile and/or susceptible characters, tense atmosphere and an intimate setting that traps feelings of isolation and paranoia with remarkable precision. And the description ‘haunted house feature’ wouldn’t be too far off-base, either. Goodness knows there is more than a heaping helping of those kinds of horrors out there, and while not all are even close to being legitimate wastes of your time the catch-all term almost seems to automatically dismiss the hype surrounding this Australian phenomenon as overzealous. Even prefabricated.

On a performance basis alone, The Babadook soars above its contemporaries. Wiseman embodies a child with severe behavioral issues so as to confuse the strategy of casting with happening upon an actual child with these kinds of problems on the very streets of Adelaide. His character may well work on your every last nerve but you can be sure he takes a much bigger toll on his mother. And Davis is sublime in the role of a bereaved woman now sleepwalking through life as a middle-aged widow working as an orderly at a retirement home. Because the tandem are so convincing Kent never allows us the luxury of relaxation in her world. There’s no solace in this drab environment, even with kind neighbors like Barbara West’s Mrs. Roach, who suffers from Parkinson’s, or an empathetic colleague in Daniel Henshall’s Robbie.

But Kent isn’t content with settling with a performance-based thriller. Even if this is shot on a relatively minimalist budget you’d never know it because the environment compels — much like the power of Father Merrin’s exorcist rites compels you — to keep watching. Transitions featuring a sprawling tree outside the house reinforce the threat of something sinister lurking in the house; they also distract effectively from the fact that the physical disturbances may not be the worst things Amelia and Samuel have to deal with. Kent’s most impressive feat is the ability to ratchet up the tension in terms of the things we can actually trust in Amelia and Samuel’s surroundings. What is real and what isn’t? What is in their heads and what is actually in the house?

That oft-underutilized technique — the power of suggestion — is employed with devastating yet completely enthralling effect in the the film’s harrowing final twenty or so minutes. It is in this sequence of low light and high anxiety we are exposed not to what that ever-elusive beast really is but rather the stuff that Jennifer Kent is made of. She is a master of horror in the making, teasing imagery from the likes of The Exorcist and The Shining in a way that both elevates her film’s seriousness of purpose and honors the work of the legends of a tenebrous past. Buckets of blood aren’t necessary for creating one of the most chilling finales in recent memory (yes I am encompassing all genres in that remark, and yes I am talking about the moment all the way up until credits roll).

In a time where the genre has begun dabbling in grotesque torture, in animals-as-predatory villains, in real world disasters-as-backdrops in order to entertain increasingly niched audiences it’s becoming harder to find films that like to keep things simple. Stories that speak to our concerns with specific aspects of mundane existence — in this case, the challenge(s) of single parenthood — and slowly modifying that reality until it becomes something truly twisted. That’s the formula for really good horror: making the threat seem real. The Babadook is an unqualified success in that regard. It’s an instant classic.

essie-davis-and-noah-wiseman-in-the-babadook

4-5Recommendation: Though I can understand that after awhile such lofty praise can become a bit intimidating or off-putting, and it sure seems that the above rave review won’t help quell the urge to disbelieve, I personally am in favor of it. I didn’t think I would be. With incredibly strong performances and a memorable, demented creature at the center of it all, The Babadook should prove to be at least an entertaining 90 minutes. However if you’re strictly anti-horror, there’s probably nothing it can do nor I can say to sway you. But as a former skeptic of horror myself, this has restored my faith in the genre for sure.

Rated: NR 

Running Time: 92 mins.

Quoted: “You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.mattmulcahey.wordpress.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: The Amityville Horror (2005)

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My concept for TBT has yet again proven itself to be worthwhile with today’s entry. This Thursday I watched a film I could have sworn was actually good years ago. I know, I know. This month was supposed to be inclusive of nothing but GOOD horror films — not bad, not even mediocre. Good ones. But I say again, going back in time and rewatching films I haven’t laid eyes on in years has proven to be beneficial. Some films take a second viewing to make their impact (even if those viewings were parceled out over the course of almost a decade). I suppose if I wanted to truly keep to this theme of purportedly “good” horror films, I would have just crafted a review based on my first watch, but seeing that I couldn’t remember anything at all that happened, I decided to give it a quick re-watch and see what came of it. Apparently, not a great deal of excitement. 

Today’s food for thought: The Amityville Horror (2005)

the-amityville-horror-2005-chloe-moretz2

Release: April 15, 2005

[Netflix]

Ryan Reynolds. . . .in a horror film? How is this possibly going to gel at all? When I was eight years younger, I calmly brushed such concerns aside, slipped the disc into the player and sat patiently, watching as the film opened in considerably grim fashion. A bloody opening scene explains the events that would set-up the story for Reynold’s character and his family later in the film. A man inexplicably slaughters his entire family one random night, and is later described by police as having severely disturbed psychological behavior, the source of his behavior being generally understood to be related to demonic possession. It’s not exactly subtle exposition and foreshadowing, but compared to the terrible way in which it ends, this part of the film should be allowed to slide by.

George and Kathy (Melissa George) are a young married couple facing the typical financial stresses. However, they become infatuated with an old, rustic estate on the water’s edge and, spurred on by a desire to move onward in the “next step in our life’s plan,” they buy the house impulsively and cannot wait to settle in, to start making improvements on the grounds. Soon, though, the house causes disturbances in this family — most notably in George and their youngest child, Chelsea (Chloe Grace Moretz), and soon they’ll be left with only one option: abandon their dream house. Hopefully everyone will still be alive by then.

Given the curious against-type casting of Mr. Van Wilder here, I was nearly convinced this film could offer up something refreshing, performance-wise at least. (I hold out very little hope for experiencing stylistic revelations in horror film remakes). His typical pretty-boy appearance now disguised in the requisite grayscales and dim lighting of horror film sets, Reynolds’ George Lutz actually seemed capable of being a serious character, one that loves, hurts and is able to handle the responsibilities of his life — in essence, virtually the opposite of every character we’ve been accustomed to seeing Reynolds portray. As shocking as it might sound now, back then I thought this would work out.

I should probably back up just a bit though, before I tear Reynolds apart from my frustration of having sat through another plodding, quote-unquote scary film.

The ultimate failure with most films of this genre boils down to either a lack of acting ability (which on the odd occasion can make a film inadvertently more entertaining) or a lack of good writing. It’s those two factors more than anything else that throw off any given horror film’s desired effect; we can all look away from bloodshed if we so choose to. The remake of The Amityville Horror contains a mix of both, but its nearly impossible to argue that the writing is the most uninspired element. Reynolds is saddled with dialogue that is both unconvincing and at times plain stupid.

Of course, his character is taken on a journey that will leave you both confused and moreover, bored. The first complaint previously stated is owed more to the poor writing; his execution of a rather mundane story, though. . .well that’s more on Reynolds. As he slowly becomes more and more affected by the demonic forces within his house, he slowly starts to reveal the cracks in his dramatic repertoire. Aside from looking far too stoned for the duration of the flick, he can’t convey much in his eyes. Reactions and facial expressions are critical to selling the experiences of the victims on screen. All Reynolds can do is simply alter the volume of his voice.

Ultimately, my experience years back with this film is made all the more dim by the passing of time. The fog that has gotten in the way between today and whenever the heck it was when I last sat through The Amityville Borer has grown thick enough to make me think this movie could have survived on Reynold’s presence alone. Fortunately, though, the movie does get some brownie points for the young introduction of Chloe Grace Moretz, who gets more than her fair share of screen time here as the ever-so impressionable Chelsea. Everyone else involved is dreadfully forgettable, however.

amityville-2

2-5Recommendation: Unlikely to be on anyone’s list of favorite remakes, this edition from 2005 is frustratingly mediocre. The acting is predictably crummy and the scares are sparse. This all said, there’s a decent bit of tension here and there that might make for a decent horror film night on the run-up to Halloween itself, but there’s really not much more value here than that. You might be better off renting the original.

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “Catch ’em and kill ’em. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.kickasstoo.com; http://www.fathersonholygore.com

TBT: The Others (2001)

new-tbt-logo

I won’t lie to you. Halloween and the days and weeks leading up to it, give me the heebie-jeebies. For a holiday that’s all about celebrating Satanic practices and dressing up in disguises with the specific intention of obscuring our true selves, I have to say, All Hallow’s Eve is my least favorite eve of ’em all. Not even the candy you get/got as a trick-or-treater is/was all that worth it — candy corn? Ugh. Gobstoppers. . .help. Who knows what that stuff is laced with. And then, of course, you get the wonderful folks who go around and. . .smash pumpkins and destroy other decorative items people invested time and money into putting on their houses. I also think it’s probably the quickest holiday to “age out” of. Going around trick-or-treating at my age is more likely to get you arrested than earn you a nice plump bag of candy. One tends to grow out of this phase prettttty quickly. Especially if you’re a male. I guess haunted corn mazes are still pretty fun. They made for some fun date nights. However, each year that goes by, to me Halloween just gets that much more evil and more kitschy. Finally, though, I’ve kind of got a reason to celebrate it as we head into October with TBT. Each post this month will be a good horror film that I’ve seen from back in the day. I hope you enjoy these entries, because honestly I’m going through a lot  of pain and bad memories reviewing these particular films. I’ll start off with what I consider the “least” scary of the upcoming entries, and will try to crank up the severity of the scares as we go on. Hey, what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, right. . .?

Today’s food for thought: The Others.

The Others

Release: August 10, 2001

[DVD]

Possibly the very first horror film I have ever seen, The Others is one of the few that succeeded in giving me chills. Remaining low-budget, having a strong script delivered through convincing performances and not to mention, being released in an era prior to this obsession with gratuitous gore and torture in horror films, this film sneaks up on you like a bad dream in the middle of the night and benefits from exemplifying the genre’s strengths.

Directed and scored by Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar, the British psychothriller serves as proof you don’t need high-tech special effects and complicated schemes to scare up an audience. The Others relies on a steady,  balanced diet of tension and — admittedly, yes, okay — jump scare moments to create an engaging story about a mother trying to protect her young against supernatural forces within her house.

Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a devout Roman Catholic mother of two children who both possess an extremely rare health condition: sensitivity to sunlight, and so she whisks herself and children away to an old mansion that’s isolated from civilization (as the settings for most of these kinds of movies typically are. . . can’t we for once have like the old haunted place next to Hardee’s or something?) and she has all the windows sealed off from the daily sun rays.

Grace believes she has Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) safely guarded; little does she know — and is about to find out about —  the servants whom work for Grace have a little secret of their own. It will take the length of the movie to understand the dynamic between the staff and the Stewart family, but it’s well worth the undertaking, in this coward’s opinion. . .

Also, as a non-Kidman fan, from what I do remember of her performance in this from over ten years ago, she managed to really sell her genuine dread and fear, and ultimately her despair and denial. The children were also magnificent, acting as two really young witnesses to some shocking and unexplainable events around the house. Grace first believes her children are seeing things and is initially angry at them for spooking her. But then when she starts to experience odd things herself, she starts becoming suspicious of virtually everything that moves within the house. The staff are her first priorities, and she relieves them of their duties after a couple of sequences confirms her worst fears. But The Others doesn’t stop there. The mystery keeps unwinding piece-wise, and it won’t be until the very end before all the significant pieces are put into their correct places.

Let me dust off the old memory and see what I can recall as my highlights of this creepy little flick:

  • the old woman looks creepy as. . . . smashed pumpkins, and especially at the time, when I was a much more impressionable teenager. . .
  • not big on the single-scene films, nor haunted-house-type movies much either but The Others has a great set piece. the house is really creepy and spacious.
  • the séance/paper-tearing as the big reveal
  • Nicole Kidman’s accent was not obnoxious
  • xeroderma pigmentosa (what the children suffered from)
  • creaky floorboards, doors ajar and someone’s underneath that sheet over the piano.. . .. right?!
  • Charles isn’t dead. Or is he?
  • the setting is rather neat (post-World War II, British Crown Dependency of Jersey. . . and, in the middle of the woods)

I also figured, now is as good a time as any to bring back the Caption Contest. Let’s go with these three stills from the film. Throw them creative little bits in the comments below! Have fun, and welcome to October.

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Caption A: __________________________

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Caption B: ______________________

The-Others-Main

Caption C: ____________________

That about does it for installment #1 for the.. . shudders horror segment on TBT, hope you lovely people stick around for the next!

4-0Recommendation: Nicole Kidman in a very good role makes this movie a haunting one to experience but it’s not gruesome, nor big on special effects, either. If you’re keen for watching a more low-budget horror in a similar vein to Jessica Biel’s The Tall Man, you should give this one a shot.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 105 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

The Conjuring

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Release: Thursday, July 18, 2013

[Theater]

James Wan applies his skillful story- and suspense-building techniques without missing a step in this intense supernatural thriller based on the first-hand accounts of world-renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) in Harrisville, Rhode Island.

Chances are, most people by now are at least aware of the infamous Saw franchise. Wan, along with Aussie Leigh Whannell, are responsible for inspiring the gore-obsessed into action — examples being the likes of The Collector/The Collection, Hostel, and Vile — by penning and directing it’s first installment in approximately two weeks. Tensely paced, poorly acted, and clearly low-budget, the original Saw was still a remarkably creative story despite it’s obvious pitfalls (aside from the bad acting, that film is incredibly gruesome).

Not long ago I had resigned Wan and company to be forever rooted in the torture-porn genre having spawned a series that ended up lasting seven (I think?) films; but The Conjuring is definite proof that Wan at least has a talent even when not spending lots of money on extra blood syrup and props that look like intestines and other body parts. His newest creation, steeped in factual accounts of real “demonologists” and real townsfolk, is maybe more disturbing than the sheer torture value of Saw. It is an incredibly realistic, believable story even for those who simply do not believe in the goings-on of the supernatural variety. The Conjuring is truly a frightening film, and I have not been this uncomfortable in my seat since watching The Exorcist.

What works to this particular horror film’s advantage is the structure of the story. This movie builds and builds and builds, creating enough tension to make even the quietest of door creaks seem like an impending disaster; when a light bulb flashes out, your stomach lurches. Then, of course, clap – clap.

The story details the events occurring on the property of an old farmhouse bought by the Perron family, wherein supposed demonic forces dwelled and had their way with virtually every resident who’s ever been unfortunate enough to live between these walls. Roger and his wife Carolyn are rather satisfied with their new slice of life in the quiet town of Harrisville, Rhode Island, but soon their five children begin seeing and feeling strange things all around the house. These incidences slowly step up from being strange bumps in the night to full-fledged attacks upon the walls — but no one can see anyone or anything in the rooms in which this is happening. Portraits and paintings come crashing off of walls, terrible looking bruises form on Roger’s wife’s skin, and one of their youngest daughters is the first to have a personal encounter with a powerful spirit.

Wan is also careful in his consideration of the inclusion of the Warrens, as he gradually weaves them into the narrative string as things go from bad to worse at the Perrons’ home. They are first shown presenting samples of their work to lecture halls, explaining that what they do is real work based on science, despite the fact that they are quite often dismissed as “kooks.” After attending one such lecture in the wake of a particularly bad night at home, Carolyn convinces the Warrens to come take a look at their property and see if there really is something to be worried about. Initially quick to dismiss their situation as simple “old house noises,” Lorraine is the first to experience first-hand the power of the supernatural presence around the yard and inside the home.

As a duo of investigators, Wilson and Farmiga are rather convincing. Often these roles in these kinds of movies are completely inept, cardboard cut-outs of real people who eventually become helpless bystanders as the spectacle of demons and evil forces unfolds. But in The Conjuring, they are real humans with real skills and real emotion. Though this movie is still not devoid of a few moments of wooden acting — it is set in the early ’70s and more than a few times the dialogue comes across clumsy and forced — everyone involved here are very good, and it’s easy to feel terrible for them as the drama and fear continue to mount. Ron Livingston as Roger Perron, while not encumbered with the heavy-lifting (that’s definitely down to Wilson and Farmiga), serves as a loving, devoted father who simply becomes speechless at the inexplicable activity in his home. Similarly, all the children are very good in their respective roles as well as they all become affected in their own ways.

The Conjuring makes a good case for the “less is more” mantra — one might not actually believe this is directed by one of the dudes who made Saw because this is a somewhat bloodless ordeal. Somewhat.

By not showing us exactly what is there (for a long time anyway); by applying technologies used by these expert paranormal investigators to pick up other aspects (audio, UV lighting, etc); by simply cutting the cameras away at the right moments 9 times out of 10, it is next-to-impossible for us to not fill our own imaginations with the worst possibilities of what is going to come next. The resulting emotions that I experienced were exhilarating, they were signs of a director really doing his job. For me, it is quite easy to overlook the typical jump-scares present in all horror films, and these are certainly littered throughout this film as well. The good news is that these are not the worst things to fear or that these are all you have to worry about. You experience some pretty messed-up things in this movie, and I really don’t want to explain it away A) for spoiler alerts and B) because I don’t like talking about it because it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

If 2004’s Saw was Wan getting his violence fetish out of his system (hey, The Purge did assert that we all have some kind of need or desire to commit or engage in violence, right?), here’s his tribute to the bizarre and unnatural. The Conjuring is a work of remarkable maturity for the young director, as well as finally being a (mainstream) horror film worth seeing. From a filmgoing standpoint, I believe this is a film that many of us have been waiting to see for a long, long time. It’s one of the shining examples of what makes horror an avenue worth pursuing if you’re involved in the entertainment industry as well.

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4-0Recommendation: This film recalled some of the chronology of William Friedkin’s masterpiece as it continued to build in suspense and drama to a point where fainting might be an acceptable audience response — but it diverged from many films in that it was bolstered by strong performances and beautiful cinematography. Those who appreciate all of the above are in for a treat here. Those who can’t get enough of horror, well, I needn’t say more. Either way, we’ve got another “Must-See” on our hands.

Rated: R

Running Time: 112 mins.

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