It stays with you…

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The hype machine can either make or break many a Horror film, but occasionally there are films that for certain reasons are immune to these effects. It Follows was hyped as “the Next Babadook”, immediately making we weary. The Babadook was such a uniquely special and strange film that the idea of capturing lightning in the same bottle twice seemed impossible. As it turns out, Director David Robert Mitchell captured lightning in an entirely different bottle…but at first I didn’t think so.

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The premise is simple enough, our Heroine, Jay, goes on a date only to have sex and then be drugged and tied to a chair. Sounds like a pretty good time so far? Keep reading, it gets weird. Upon waking, she is informed by her date that he had been cursed, and now he has passed the curse to her through sex. This curse means she will be followed by a creature visible only to those cursed. It will always look like something different, usually taking the form of whatever will help It get close to you. It will always be walking towards her in a straight line, and it will never stop. If It touches her, It will kill her that then It will follow whoever gave the curse to her. The only way to save herself is to pass the Curse to someone else by sleeping with them.

I’ll try to keep the rest of this as Spoiler-free as possible, because It Follows has a lot of layers that are worth unraveling for yourself. After my first viewing I remember thinking that I liked the film, but that it hadn’t come close to the hype…but there was something about it I couldn’t get out of my mind. I can’t explain it, but somehow I knew there was SOMETHING about the film that I had missed. Something that made me uneasy. I don’t recall feeling that anything in the film was scary…but it stayed with me. It Followed. I needed to watch it again, this time focusing on the background and not as much on the story, trying to find what had set me so on edge. I felt like the first time I watched Kubricks The Shining, trying to find the hidden clues and unravel the hidden secrets…

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The first clues I found in the first scene. We see a young woman running out of her house wearing heels, short shorts, and a tank top. From her attire and the lush green grass and trees around her, we think it’s Summerish, right? As she loops back around to her house, we see the lawns across the street are littered with the telltale signs of fall. Dead leaves, barren trees and even Pumpkins on the porch. Doesn’t quite add up… Later, we see our main character, Jay, swimming in an above ground pool, which we can see damn well is not heated, or at the very least is not heated well. then the same evening on her date, we can see that she, her suitor and everyone else in the theater are wearing heavy coats. Later, Jay and Kelly are wandering the neighborhood clearly dressed for chilly weather, but behind them we see the lush green grass again.

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If she needs to dress like Miss Pumpkin Spice Latte 2015, there is no fucking way she would also go swimming in that above ground pool! Then i started noticing that more than just the weather didn’t add up…the Time period this film exists in doesn’t seem to exist either. Nobody has cellhones, or even cordless phones…yet that one girl has the weird clamshell e-reader gimmick. We see brand new modern cars alongside brand new vintage cars, Home decor that looks like a strange hodge-podge of 50’s and 70’s, old clunker tv sets that only show black and white programs, yet we catch glimpses of modern appliances as well such as stainless steel fridges with ice-makers. It’s all very subtle but little details like this will make it almost impossible to get your bearings. It all seems normal enough, but you won’t be able to shake the feeling that something just isn’t right.

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This film has really surprised me by packing a surprising amount of depth into what is on the surface a clever way of saying “Hey kids, be careful who you fuck”. There are so many layers that to fully explore everything in this review would be such a tedious read, so I will cap this off for now, and revisit things again later once more people have had a chance to see it. Please do yourself a favour and watch this film several times.  Share it with others and feel free to email me with questions or comments. I look forward to seeing the legacy this film builds for itself.

 

 

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Finally

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Watch enough Horror films and you notice Trends. Trends eventually become tropes, which eventually become cliches. Cliches lead to parody which begets apathy. Once things went down this road, most fans and critics wrote off the slasher genre as outdated and passe. Then something interesting happened. Wes Craven brought self awareness to the game. The Scream films, and even his earlier New Nightmare, to some extent, allowed audiences to revisit old territory with new twists. Whether you are a fan of the Scream films or not (personally I am not), it cannot be denied that  their self awareness revitalized and preserved the sub-genre. Final Girl has much of that same spirit, though applied much differently.

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The concept of the Final Girl appears in almost every slasher film, depicting the one girl virtuous enough to avoid the obvious death traps of sex and drugs and overcome her vulnerabilities in an empowering battle of wills with the killer, whom she will ultimately triumph over (more or less). Director Tyler Shields tells us a visually entrancing story of an orphan girl who is trained to fight maniacs by a man who has lost his family to “Bad Men”. Veronica positions herself to be the perfect bait, then the swiftest of executioners by beating them at their own game. The film appears to be set in the 1950s, or at least is borrowing heavily from the look for the sake of visual appeal. Further adding to the appeal is a pseudo-surrealist set design with stark white lighting, improbable use of spotlights and framing reminiscent of a stage play. It’s not style over substance, but both style and substance make very bold statements in this film.

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The killers are a curious quartet of young men who get together and hunt pretty young girls in the woods. Led by Jameson, a charismatic boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth, it is implied he is used to getting his way in every scenario. To him, there are no limits. Whatever whim he has will be indulged, even those of a violent nature. Shane appears to be the Beta of the group, he is the only one with a long term girlfriend, but it is his insecurities with this relationship which feed his violent impulses. Nelson is the bland Momma’s Boy of the group. He has, what we are lead to believe is a complex, possibly dysfunctional relationship with his Mother and like many before and after, this fuels his violence towards women. Lastly we have Danny Boy. Danny is the frantic ball of unfocused energy that in later decades would be a poster-child for ADHD, but in the 50’s was just known as a Wild-Child. He is always on, can’t sit still or keep his mouth shut, and requires constant stimulation. The rush of the kill seems to be his drug of choice.

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Abigail Breslin makes it very easy to forget her days as a chubby yet adorable oddball in Little Miss Sunshine. She’s grown into a gorgeous young woman as well as a damn fine actress. Her portrayal of Veronica is subtle yet intense when the mood calls for it. She is as focused and calculating as she is dangerous, but can slip into a disguise of vulnerability at will. Her relationship with her mentor William is complex as well. Their Sensei/Pupil relationship complex, similar to a father/daughter kinda deal…but not without its share of sexual tension. They are both pretty fucked up, but its clear that they need each other. It’s a fun dynamic that I enjoyed watching and enjoyed thinking about even more. Final Girl doesn’t reinvent the wheel, because it doesn’t need to. What it does is shows us a different side of the wheel that allows us to appreciate it in ways we may never have before. This highly stylized, self aware Slasher receives my highest recommendations!

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The Cryptid Crypt: Exists

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Is it even possible to do a found footage film anymore without including the Supernatural, or Bigfoot? These two subject have pretty much dominated the medium in recent years, and aside from creative standouts like the VHS series, most filmmakers seem content with this route. I’ve reviewed a total of 3 FF style ‘Squatch-fests for this column, and for the most part, they tend to be the same. A small group goes looking for Bigfoot, stumbles across him, still acts skeptical, runs, cries and films in equal measure. All of these films seem to offer more questions about Sasquatch than answers, and heaven fucking forbid we get a good look at the beast! That is, until Eduardo Sanchez returned to the woods with his camera to remind us all how it is done.

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Sanchez, after co-directing and writing The Blair Witch Project, is Found-Footage Royalty. His work on BW, VHS2 segment “A ride in the park”, and now Exists, shows a skilled hand at work, maximizing the medium and adding believability and practicality to the shots. It makes perfect sense that our camera-man won’t stop filming, He set out to make a “kick-ass YouTube video”, so his handheld is constantly running, and Go-Pro cameras are strapped to nearly everything that you could think of.

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The best and worst of Sasquatch films often has the same problem, The creature looks like shit. Not only does Exists bring a realistic, believable looking Sasquatch to the screen, but they let us see juuuuuust enough to appreciate the design, and to keep a bit of the mystery. This is a beast that is fast, brutal, and intelligent. Fully capable of stalking us and killing us 1 by 1. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I strongly suggest making a point of doing so. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I’m confident you will too.

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Zombie-Muthafuckin-BEAVERS!!!

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How the fuck do I review a movie where the title tells you literally EVERYTHING about the film? 50,000 Beaver jokes later, I am thoroughly entertained…but no closer to the answer. I first saw the Poster, and thought I was being ribbed. No fucking way a film about Zombie Beavers was a real thing. Zombeavers is very much a thing, and you all need to watch it.

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After ripping off the opening of both Return of the Living Dead part 2 and Radioactive Redneck Zombies, we transition to the truly unique plot of College Kids venturing out to a Cabin in the Woods for a weekend of debauchery. Throw in the obligatory tit-shots, bad jokes, sex, a love triangle, and cheesy creature FX, and you have a film that should be a total flop on paper, yet somehow manages to entertain in a major way.

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Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Zombeavers is a stupid fucking movie in every way you can measure. It is redeemed by never taking itself seriously. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that the horror genre has been littered with silliness and stupidity over the years, be it accidental, tongue in cheek, or balls-out blatant. The film is well made, well cast, and overall looks and sounds top notch…except for the Zombeavers. You can’t count that as a negative though…the ZBs ARE stupid, so they should LOOK stupid. The filmmakers clearly weren’t concerned about elevating the art form, or adding a bold new chapter the the lexicon of fright films, they were concerned with having a good time, and making a fun movie that is sure to entertain.

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Oh, and in case you were wondering what happens when you get bit by a Zombeaver…

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YOU TURN INTO A WERZOMBEAVER-HUman-hybridy…thing…with the, uhhh…FUCK YOU! Let’s see you come up with a better name!

Silent Night, Fucked Up Night

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Dokken Roadies and Brain Domes. Jesus Harold Christ on fucking rubber crutch, I actually sat through this film!

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So, the film opens with Ricky somehow surviving the last film, only now he is played by Horror Heavyweight Bill Mosely…and is now sporting a transparent Braindome on his head, complete with sloshing fluid and flashing lights. This is all part of an experiment by an ambitious Doctor who wants to use a blind clairvoyant to telepathically connect with the comatose Ricky. I can’t remember if they explained exactly WHY he wants to do this, because I was to preoccupied with the sloosh-slooshing of that wonderful Braindome! Lookit that thing!

So the blind girl, Laura is traumatized after a particularly gnarly session of mind-dipping with Ricky. It really felt like they were trying to do a Nightmare on Elm Street rip off with the dream sequences, but it falls flat on its face just like their attempts at making a viable followup to Silent Night Deadly Night. So yeah, blind chick leaves for a trip up to Grammas house for Christmas along with her brother and his girlfriend…and I’ll get back to those clowns in a minute. And because the flimsy plot would be even more flimsy otherwise, Laura and Ricky now seem to have a psychic link.

After a drunken perverted Santa enters Ricky’s room and begins taunting him, Ricky conveniently wakes from his coma, kills the Santa, some twat who works at the front desk, then hitchhikes out to Grammas house for some yuletide slaughter.

The film is unremarkable in every way except for “so bad it’s good” fun, and this is exemplified perfectly by the brother, Chris and his girlfriend Jerri. Chris looks like a Dokken roadie with his long curly hair, jeans and denim jacket and impossibly hairy chest.

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Jerri is just a snotty bitch who delivers every line and action as if she was first told about it 15 seconds before cameras rolled.

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This is far from a good movie, in fact it goes a long way towards making part 2 a better movie. Had I not watched this with 2 close friends, I likely would have hated it. Shout out to Jen and Tom Pavlovic! As strange as it sounds, the sequels get weirder and weirder from here. Part 4 involves a lesbian brainwashing cult and body-horror elements, and part 5 has a psychosexual Pinocchio story that has Mickey Rooney donning the sinister Santa’s garb! This series is fucked…then again, so is my family…and that means I have to put up with it every Christmas and will likely use a LOT of alcohol to get through it.

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Ba-Ba-Dook-DOOK-DOOOOK!!!

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I had been aware of The Babadook for some time, and while I was eager to see it, it wasn’t until I heard the glowing endorsement of William Friedkin(Director of The Exorcist) proclaiming it to be the scariest movie he’d ever seen. Let that thought digest for a few minutes…for the director of what is considered to be one of the scariest films in history to be heaping such praise on this film is all the endorsement I needed. I had to see it ASAP. Fair warning, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The very first thing I noticed while watching the film is that I wanted to kill the child. Regular readers will know of my irrational hatred of children in horror films, and how they seem to only exist to piss me off and rarely die. This trend will not be ending anytime soon. We meet Amelia, a single mother who lost her husband in a car crash while on the way to the hospital to deliver their son, Samuel. Now she of course loves her son very much, but cannot help but resent him. The kid also seems to have a touch of Aspergers…actually that’s not fair. I have no idea what Aspergers is, and it’s unfair to throw that out there. The kid acts like an annoying little fuck, pitching fits, clinging to his mother, acting like a supremely annoying shit. Once you see this movie, I’m confident you will want to kill the kid within the first 15mins.
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One night, Sam asks his mother to read from a mysterious pop-up book he found on his shelf. The story, titled “Mister Babadook”, is about a supernatural creature that, once someone is made aware of its existence, torments that person indefinitely. Amelia is disturbed by the book’s contents, while a traumatized Sam becomes convinced that the Babadook is stalking them in their home. Amelia begins to notice strange phenomena in their home, and Sam’s behavior worsens. He is expelled from school for his behavior and pushes his cousin out of a treehouse for not believing in the Babadook and taunting him for not having a father. This causes Amelia’s sister Claire to admit she can’t stand to be around Sam and suspects Amelia feels the same.
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Here is where we find the most crucial part of the film. Is it really about a supernatural Bogeyman who torments a mother and son? Or is The Babadook an allegory for the madness that overtakes a resentful mother who is at her wits end. The more taxing her sons behavior gets, the stronger the Babadook gets.

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For a first time director to come completely out of left field and lay a film this creepy on us is truly something remarkable. On the surface, the idea of Mr. Babadook creeping into your home, hiding in the shadows, creeping around in his long black coat and stove pipe hat, scuttling about in a vaguely insectile fashion is pretty unnerving. Amelia is shown watching Silent Expressionist films which directly influences the look of Mr. Babadook, he comes across as something both familiar and alien, like something horrible playing at being human.
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Essie Davis practically carries the film as Amelia. At no point during the film did it become obvious that I was watching a thespian at her craft, her portrayal of this tragically distressed woman was incredibly believable and allowed me to really empathize with the plight of her character. Is she likeable at all times? Fuck no! But that is what makes the performance all the more powerful.The idea of a mother being pushed to the point where she unravels and becomes a danger to herself and her child is not a new concept, but the story is told as if we are watching a nightmare unfold and being unable to escape.
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For anyone who watches horror films all year long, a film like the Babadook comes along maybe once, or twice a year if we are lucky. Is it the scariest movie of all time? I think that might be a bit of a stretch, but it is certainly VERY scary. There is an awful lot of hype, maybe too much to ever live up to. This is going to end up being a very important film, and not just because it will surely be responsible for countless nightmares (I plan on showing this to as many children as I can). The Babadook will undoubtedly cast more attention on Australian horror cinema and woman filmmakers as well. The fact that a film like this was written and directed by a woman should come as no surprise. Only a woman could so accurately tell a tale with such an underlying message of postpartum depression and single motherhood. Kent does a fantastic job of allowing us a true to life glimpse into a truly frightening world that most of us will hopefully never know. As much as I joke about my hatred of small children in horror films, this film was no joke. I, like the mother, badly wanted to murder this small child. It’s unwise to try and deny the monster that lives within us. We each have it, it’s just a question of whether we let him do his work, or keep him chained up in the basement. If it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook…

…And I say, “Welcome To The Show!”

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I grew up the son of a Librarian, and as such have a great appreciation for the printed word. Growing up, I knew all about the work of Stephen King, as my Mother seemed to have a nearly endless supply of his works. It seemed only natural that as i was teaching myself to read with my Conan The Barbarian, and Wolverine comics, that I would gravitate towards the one lone comic book in my Mother’s collection:

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Fuck yeah! Easily one of the coolest comic books to ever corrupt a young mind! I poured over each page with fascination and wonder. This was nothing like the safe, sanitized monsters I had seen in cartoons. This was more like the stolen viewings I received of the Horror films my parents watched after sending me to bed. I would sneak out of my room, and do my best to watch the movie in secret, hiding behind the corner, one eye peeping out, trying to remain quiet. Here was the real thing within my grasp! I have a hard time remembering what some of my earliest influences towards Horror were, but this Comic will always stand out to me as a pivotal influence.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw the original film, infact I thought the film was based on the Comic. Upon watching it, I was amazed at what a faithful adaptation the comic was, and blown away at how expertly the film captures that atmosphere and feel of the 1950s comics. The score, and lighting cues are fantastically done, and each segment, while short, is an effective piece of chilling film making by George A Romero.

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With Romero at the helm, it should come as no surprise that there are two segments involving the dead rising. Something to Tide You Over is a perfectly acted piece showing a rare villainous performance from Leslie Nielson. The other is entitled “Fathers Day”, and has one of the coolest instances of a rotting corpse rising from the grave ever committed to film. Tom Savini is in fine form crafting some stellar gore and creature effects that even hold up by todays standards. As always, Stephen King just had to inject himself into this film, and turns in an utterly Derp-tastic performance in The Lonesome Tale Of Jordy Varell. Even as a kid, I thought this story was stupid. It didn’t scare me, or even creep me out, it just seemed like a situation that would suck to be in. King’s horrible acting doesn’t help the situation either. Another segment that always felt flat to me was They’re Creeping Up On You. If bugs creep you out, then this will make you shit, but aside from that, it always felt like filler, whether it be in the film or Comic.

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The real star of the show is The Crate. Holy Fucking shit, this story got to me as a kid! To this very day, I can’t see a wooden crate without imagining some kind of Carnivorous Primate from the Himalayans waiting inside to bite my fucking face off! Fortunately, there aren’t many wooden crates to be seen in my life anymore. Both the comic and the film are simply, Anthology Horror done right. It’s obvious the EC comics were a huge influence, but likely the 70’s Tales From The Crypt, and Vault Of Horror films as well. Curiously, this film would go on to be a huge influence on the Tales From The Crypt TV series, as well as Tales From The Darkside. Creepshow 2 is again based off of stories by Stephen King, this time only featuring 3 segments and a somewhat more detailed frame story, and unfortunately coming off as quite laughably dull. Creepshow III is a clusterfuck of a film that has no connection to the previous two aside from its name. Rather than take the same framing device for the stories, a Pulp Fiction-esque approach is taken.

All in all, I thought Creepshow was a fantastic project. Romero and King make a surprisingly good team, and adding Bernie Wrightson to illustrate the comic was a perfect touch. The film presents a tone and sensibility rarely found in Horror anymore. All too often I find that horror films either take themselves too seriously in trying to deliver frights, or they are too focused on being fun. Creepshow is a great example that genuine frights don’t have to come at the expense of fun. My only gripe is I wanted the Creep to take a more prominent role in the film, more like The Crypt Keeper he is modeled from. All in all, Creepshow is an awesome horror film, with a rich legacy and influence that is still being felt to this day.