Shocking Saturday: Alone With Her

This weeks Shocking Saturday is slightly different from the films which I have reviewed in the past, although it is not a horror exactly, it is still a shocking film. A suspense thriller, directed by Eric Nicholas, that highlights a villain which is slightly overlooked in the terror genre, the stalker.AloneWithHerMoviePosterThe film is a completely different take on the hand-held camera genre, instead of us watching through the eyes of the protagonist, the idea is turned on its head as we watch through the view of the antagonist. Our stalker, Doug, has found himself obsessed with a young woman named Amy, and after filming her from a camera inside his bag and from his car he wants to get closer to her. He believes that the only way of accomplishing this is by hiding cameras throughout her home, so that he can find out all of her interests and then use this information to become her friend…and maybe more. It all seems to be going well, until other men and Amy’s room-mate get in the way, and Doug takes it into his own hands to remove them. He does truly care for Amy, but how far will his obsession take him.

Alone With Her is a great deal like the 1960 classic ‘Peeping Tom’, in the sense that the villain behind the lens befriends their victims, making them trust him before fulfilling their original plan. One of the best aspects of this film is that it puts the audience into the role of the stalker, and it makes it seem as though you, yourself are the villain as you watch Amy live her daily life. The only thing which brings you back to being an audience member is when we hear Doug’s heavy breathing and creepy voice-over.

Although not truly a terrifying film, it is the idea/story line which is scarier than the actual film itself, due to it being so realistic. One of the reasons why it seems so real is because of the brilliant portrayal of the nervous yet easily agitated Doug by Colin Hanks. The character switches between being a caring and loving friend one minute, to the deranged obsessive stalker the next, and Hanks makes you believe it. Although, when he is on-screen with Amy (Ana Claudia Talancon), as the audience who know what he is really up to, there are certain things which is says that just make your skin shiver.

As the opening screen to the film explains, ‘recent technology has created a golden age for predators to track and terrorize’, meaning that becoming a professional stalker is a lot easier than you might think. This makes the film more terrifying because of the fact that is based on events that have or could occur, to yourself or anybody that you know.

Alone With Her brings the idea of the common day stalker into reality, and emphasises how anyone can become one legally and at a reasonable price.

Tag Line: Anytime. Anywhere. He’s Watching.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

The Walking Dead Season 4 Trailer

The incredible TV show adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Zombie comic book series is back. At the moment only in the form of a four-minute twenty-five second trailer, but that is enough to make fans spines tingle at the thought of what is coming.the-walking-dead-s4-poster

Although series 3 did not exactly finish with a huge climax like series 2 did, it still opened up the story to an all new angle – I am trying not to reveal the ending to series 3 here just in case anyone has not seen it. From the new trailer it appears that, while series 3 was about trying to survive, series 4 will consist of Rick and the gang pondering the question ‘why are we trying to survive?’ Will there really be any point in them actually attempting to survive the plague of the dead, and what will be left afterwards which will be worth living for?

The trailer seems to portray a storyline which is more in-keeping with the plot of the comic books, although the past three series’ did roughly stick to what happened throughout the first three graphic novels, a lot was changed – in some ways this was better as they added in more colourful characters than were in the comics. However, being a fan of the comic books myself, I found that there were many scenes in them which I would have loved to see on-screen, but never did. That’s not to say that what I did see was bad, because all three series’ were just as enjoyable as the comics. But it looks as though season 4 is going to use more references to them, that’s the way the trailer has made it look anyway.

One thing which I am really looking forward to seeing more of is Tyreese, he is a vital character in Kirkman’s comics, but has only just become a main character towards the end of season 3. It looks as if he is going to get his time to shine though in season 4, with the trailer showing him in one of the best parts of the comic books, when he is surrounded by the undead as he chops away at them with his machete.

The trailer looks as if our next helping of The Walking Dead will consist of a sorrow-filled journey for our band of heroes. After 3 series’ we have become so in touch with the characters – Glenn, Maggie, Rick, Hershel, Daryl – that it is going to be so hard to say goodbye to them, that is if season 4 is their last appearance. Whatever the future of the show holds, I’m sure that flesh will be bitten, hearts will be broken and brains will go flying.

Shocking Saturday: Atrocious

This Shocking Saturday is another hand-held camera horror film, because quite frankly, I just can’t get enough of them. Here we have a lovely European horror from Spain, which definitely could be known as the Spanish equivalent of The Blair Witch Project. In other words, the film uses the audience’s imagination and the threat of suspense to bring the fear, as oppose to using as much blood, guts and gore as possible.atrocious_xlgThe Story followers a brother and a sister – Cristian and July – who in their spare time, research and film various urban legends. Their family goes to a remote house for their Easter holiday, and the duo decide to look into the legend of ‘Melinda’. A girl who supposedly got lost – or fell down a well – in 1940, amongst the labyrinth of woods surrounding the house. The tale goes that if you get lost in the woods at night, Melinda will appear and show you the way out, doesn’t sound too bad does it? Well apparently there are various versions of the story and some are more sinister than others. As the pair of rookie film makers begin to film, strange occurrences start to happen, leading them to venture into the woods after dark. Is it the ghost of the long dead girl playing tricks with them, or something more frightening altogether.

What makes this film really stand out, is something that is not generally seen so much in horror films, and definitely not in hand-held horror films. I am talking about connecting with the characters. Although it might seem like a slow start – due to the majority of the horror taking place near the end of the film – the first half of the film gets you more in touch with the personalities of the characters. Also giving the actors a chance to show that they are talented and have not just been put into a horror film to be used as cannon fodder. Even though the first half of the movie was used for this reason, it did not shy away from gripping you to the story, as it showed the siblings search the surrounding maze of trees which in some ways gave you a little taster for what was coming next.

Once we were familiar with the mannerisms of the family, the film took a terrifying turn, portraying a night of terror for the family, and, although nail-biting the ending was only about 20 minutes long, those last minutes brought the entire film together. As we see the family frantically searching for one another and attempting to find out the assailant.

The amount of tension towards the end of the film is incredible, I never thought I could watch someone running around a maze in the dark with a hand-held camera for half of a film and enjoy it as much as I did. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock said; “There is no fear in the bang, only in the anticipation of it”. The lead actors, Cristian Valencia and Clara Moraleda, along with the creepy settings were really what made this film great, although not on par with Heather Donahue’s tearful speech in The Blair Witch Project, the two leads in Atrocious did a mighty fine job of portraying the frightened and hunted brother and sister.

With a running time of only 75 minutes, it would be easy to brush past this film. However I would put it up there with many other greats from this genre, perhaps being a shorter film was actually better because it did not drag out the story too much.

Fernando Barreda Luna did a good job of keeping the story line going all the way up to the nerve-racking ending, which finished the film off with a bang.

Tag Line: A Local Legend Becomes A Terrifying Reality.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

Kick-Ass 2

The epic sequel to 2010s Kick-Ass is finally here, and it punches everything up a notch.

Yes, all our favourite characters are back, in the story which has been taken straight from the pages of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s successful comic book series of the same name.movies-kick-ass-2-international-poster

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Chistopher Mintz-Plasse are back, and reprising their roles as Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and Chris D’Amico. Mindy Macready (Hit-Girl) is trying to deal with the death of her father, Big-Daddy, and finds that the only way to do this is by fighting crime and training Dave Lezewski (Kick-Ass) during school time. However once Marcus – the cop who is now taking care of her – finds out, he makes her promise to give up being a caped-crusader and live a normal life. With Hit-Girl out of the picture Kick-Ass must roam the streets on his own, until he finds what he has always been looking for, a super-hero team. The team – Justice Forever – consists of Doctor Gravity, Remembering Tommy, Night-Bitch, Insect-Man, Battle-Guy and Colonel Stars and Stripes, along with Kick-Ass they wander the streets fighting crime and helping the poor, and at one point have a group photo taken which is a direct reference to Watchmen.

However this is reality, and revenge is always around the corner, this time shaped into Chris D’Amico’s new super-villain alias ‘The Mother-F***er’. ‘The Mother…’ creates his own team of super-villains and begins to terrorize the city and destroy everything which Kick-Ass holds dear. Can the green wetsuit-wearing hero defeat his nemesis, restore order, and avenge the ones he loves, or will he end up a bloody mess like so many before him.

The lead roles are taken so well by Taylor-Johnson, Moretz and Mintz-Plasse once again, but we had already seen them like this in the first film. The real stand out role in Kick-Ass 2 is given by an unrecognisable Jim Carrey as the ex-mafia, born-again Christian hard man Colonel Stars and Strips, who leads Justice Forever. Although in the comic books they are actually two separate characters – Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes – putting them together to make one character worked really well. Carrey shows that he is not just a simple comedy actor here, as he portrays the ex-goon so flawlessly, and really brings the characteristics of the Colonel from the vibrantly coloured pages to life.

One major thing that Kick-Ass brought to the table in 2010 was the shock-factor, which is not used very widely in superhero films due to them being primarily aimed at families. As Kick-Ass is based in the real world though – in other words, people don’t have super powers – then what occurs must have some realism to it. Therefore people are going to get killed and profanity is going to be spewed left, right and centre. The first film achieved this shock-factor, with blood jumping across the screen and a 11-year-old girl saying c***. So attempting to have the same effect was a difficult challenge for Kick-Ass 2. However they made it work, the gore and effects are largely the same as they were in the first film, which is not a bad thing as they are in-keeping with the comic book theme – comedic violence and not Tarantino-esque. But what makes it slightly more controversial – certainly for the American audience – is the language used, it seems as if they have actually tried to slide a bit of the British crude, sexual comedy into it, with lines like; “I’ll kick you in your snatch” and referring to certain ladies as ‘axe-wounds’.

What is really great about the Kick-Ass films, is that they stick so closely to the source material, which is something that the fans of the comic books will love. Majority of the time, with graphic novels, comic books and with books in general, so much is changed that it is not the story you fell in love with when you first read it. When reading the Kick-Ass graphic novels there were so many scenes to it which were just spectacular on paper, and therefore in your mind would be great to see on the big screen. Although there are a few exceptions, most of the best parts were created in the films and were done so well, literally being shot-for-shot in the film as they were panel-to-panel in the comics.

As Matthew Vaughn did an amazing job with Kick-Ass, Jeff Wadlow has done just as good a job with Kick-Ass 2. Together they have captured the characteristics of the heroes exactly, and have created films which are not just for fans of the comic books to enjoy, but for everyone.

The Kick-Ass 2 graphic novel was much darker than the first, and the film-makers brought that to the big screen very well. Capturing the main sombre themes but still making it an enjoyable, hilarious thrill-ride. What more can comic book fans ask for than a gigantic super-hero fight – like in the incredible ‘Civil War’ novel – and right from the beginning we all knew that it would happen, but who knew it could look so good.

Icon of Horror

Leather-Face

I thought I would do something slightly different for this weeks Shocking Saturday, but still staying in the horror theme of course. I will, every now and then, look at the different icons of horror cinema and look into what it is that terrifies audiences. If in some cases the icons are part of a franchise, I will be mainly looking at the story portrayed in the original film.

The icon that I am looking at this week is one of the most famous antagonists in the horror genre, this chainsaw-wielding, Texan maniac has sent shivers down our spines since the release of the first film in the franchise in 1974. I am talking of course about Leather-Face/Bubba Sawyer (played by Gunnar Hansen) from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.texas_chainsaw_massacreDue to him suffering from a skin condition, Leather-Face grew up shunned, and, along with his family, became a cannibalistic psychopath. Slaughtering anyone he comes in to contact with, thanks to his rusty chainsaw, and in some cases removing the skin from his victims and wearing it over his own. What ever is left over is cooked and served at dinner time. Our sadistic killer lives in a rather large house, which has been lovingly decorated in various animal and human corpses – these elements largely mirror the actions of real life serial killer Ed Gein, who used to make furniture out of human remains and carry his dead mother around the house. Along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the characters Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) were based on Gein’s antics.

It is not just the fact that Leather Face is chasing you and trying to dismember you that is scary – quite frankly because he isn’t that fast – no, what should give you the chills is his lair where he drags his victims to hang them on meat hooks from the skin on their backs and then forces them to watch their friends be mutilated. His own little rec room if you will.

Leather-Face single-handedly started the slasher sub-genre, a genre which would go on to scare audiences world-wide, and include some of horror cinemas greatest achievements: Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play – to name a few. A lot of credit has to go to the special effects and make-up department, as they played a vital part in creating the horror of Leather-Face. Without his torn, bloody face, he wouldn’t have been half as scary – although the chainsaw does help to spread fear quite a lot as well.

Like with many horror icons, Leather-Face does not speak, these are the most chilling ones. With no voices being used, you can’t decipher whether or not the killer feels any remorse for their deeds, however he does let out a high-pitched shriek every now and then when he kills somebody. Whether this is in regret at what he has done, or in energetic rage and love for the murders he is committing is for the audience to figure out.leatherface-largeSo the next time you are driving down an old Texan highway, and see what appears to be an abandoned house, I would recommend carrying straight on. Unless you wish to feel the wrath of Bubba Sawyer.

A remake of the original film was released in 2003, although when compared to the original it doesn’t match up, it was still a frightfully, heart-racing flick which brought the story of Leather-Face to a new generation.

Original Film Tag Line: Who Will Survive? And What Will Be Left Of Them?

Film Franchise List:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 – 1986

Leather-Face: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 – 1990

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation – 1994

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 2003

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 2006

Texas chainsaw 3D – 2013

Curse of Chucky Trailer

The Character of Chucky has been a cult favourite in the slasher genre ever since the first Child’s Play film in 1988. Even the previous sequels (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky) have been very enjoyable, as we watched what violent, humorous antics the good guy doll – Charles Lee Ray – got up to as he attempted to return his soul into another human body. The sequels actually adding a little extra to the fear given off by Chucky as his face had been stitched together and stapled following him being chopped up in Child’s Play 3. Although the animation used to move the sadistic killer around was cheap, it actually made it more realistic because he is supposed to move and look like a doll rather than a human.chucky

However with every horror franchise, film makers always want to make more and generally by the last film all the excitement which the original film saw is gone. Now I’m only saying this from the trailer, but it seems as if the spark has been extinguished with this latest instalment.

The CGI of Chucky looks way too over the top, which is really not needed due to him being made of plastic, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why his face is back to normal unless this is a prequel. However Brad Dourif, the actor who has provided the vocals of Chucky throughout all of the previous films, is back and voicing him again, which is a great touch as I can’t see anyone else being able to pull off the character of Chucky besides him.

Those small stipulations aren’t necessarily going to make it a bad film though, I just don’t want the film to disgrace the others. Hopefully it won’t, as Don Mancini is back at the helm of writing the script – he has also directed it, Manchini has written every film in the Chucky franchise, so at least it is in good hands. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Shocking Saturday: A Serbian Film

This Shocking Saturday film truly is a shocking film, it was hard to even write a review on it because there are so many scenes in the movie which I do not want to think about again. I have seen some crazy films in my time, but never have I seen a more grotesque and f***ed up film.

A Serbian Film is a Serbian violent, exploitation film, which was directed by Srdjan Spasojevic. I would find it hard to believe if Spasojevic is actually allowed near a camera again after this movie.A-Serbian-Film-Movie-Poster-horror-movies-26582629-1200-1690

The plot follows Milos – played by a rather mirrored David Spade lookalike – a washed-up porn star, who according to many, was the greatest porn star ever, not only could he keep his you-know-what up for a while, but he also made it more than porn, he made it art. He has settled down with his wife and child, but due to money troubles is looking for work. It seems a miracle when a man named Vukmir asks him to star in his porn films for a large sum of money, but as he begins to get back into his old line of work, it seems that he has signed up for something completely different. A new type of porn which is worth a lot of money on the European market, but it goes entirely against his morals and he quits. Waking up covered in blood, not being able to remember the last 6 days and with his family missing he attempts to uncover the blank spots in his memory, only the truth reveals more than he wanted it to.

What makes this film so hard to watch is a number of things, I won’t go into details now, but just know that these things are what a lot of people go to jail for, some parts I would even class as scenes from a snuff film. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the majority of it had been left to our imaginations, actually come to think of it, it could have been worse. But it seemed too graphic, instead of hinting at what is happening in the scene, you actually see it happen, yes in many horror films this is a good thing as you get to see the attention to detail which the special effects department has gone to, but this time, the gore wasn’t the problem it was the entire idea of what was happening.

I am actually a fan of exploitation films, films like V/H/S and Cannibal Holocaust are great, and in my opinion, the more blood, the better. This however did turn my stomach at points, A Serbian Film could be seen as at the top of the line for exploitation films, it had a great storyline, but it showed too much on film, and that is what will make critics give it the negative vote. Hollywood films have given us a great deal of movies which show what a dark, cruel world we live in, but A Serbian Film just takes it one step further, it takes all the things which are wrong in this world and rolls them up together into one motion picture.

It had a great storyline and, although hard to watch, was gripping because I wanted to see how it concluded. However this is the only film that has ever made me say this, ‘it went too far’. Generally a film has not gone far enough in my eyes, but A Serbian Film is on a different level to all of those, a new level of terror which is perhaps too horrific for the big screen…and the small screen for that matter.

If you are new to exploitations movies and feel intrigued to watch this film, I strongly implore you to ease your way in with other pictures first, like The Human Centipede. At least then you might be partially ready. Do not just delve straight in at the deep end with A Serbian Film, because once you’ve seen it, there is no going back.

Tag Line: Not All Films Have A Happy Ending.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

The Wolverine

Hugh Jackman is back to his old ass-kicking ways in his sixth film appearance as the Wolverine. This time set in Japan, where the land of morals and honour prove a hard task for him to sink in to.the-wolverine-poster

Set after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, and taken from the 1982 comic book series ‘Wolverine’ by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. The Wolverine portrays a desperate Logan who only wishes for death, and has vowed never to hurt anyone again. The film attempts to capture the strain of immortality which is being put on him, and how he is dealing with it – something which the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine did not.

The X-Men have disbanded and a lonely, bearded Logan searches for some reason to keep on living, fortunately that reason comes after Yukio tracks him down and explains that her employer would like to give him an honourable death. Jumping to Japan, it appears that the employer is Master Yashida, an individual who was saved by Logan during the Nagasaki bombing in 1945. Yashida explains that he has the capabilities to make him mortal, in exchange for his immortality. Refusing, one of the films main antagonists, ‘Viper’ whose great performance is given by Svetlana Khodchenkova, implants something inside Logan which slows down his regenerative abilities. Thus making him more vulnerable to attacks, and puts him to the ultimate test as he tries to protect Yashida’s grand-daughter Mariko from numerous assailants. When the Wolverine is at his weakest, he needs to be his strongest.

As soon as the film began you were gripped into the story and the special effects, with it opening on a scene showing Logan and Yashida attempting to survive a nuclear blast in Nagasaki. Although in reality Yashida would have been vaporised, or if he had survived underground would have had to wait a hell of a long time to resurface. It still made for a spectacular opening to the film, which shows just how far special effects has come.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine did try to explain the past of Logan, and saw him evolve into a hero – although so did ‘X-Men’ (2000) – but this Wolverine is searching for a meaning to his existence. He doesn’t want to be the hero any more if it means having to hurt people, we learn this through his still-hung-up-on-Jean Grey dreams, in which all he wants is to join her in death. However one thing that I did notice is that, in his dreams, Jean says that she is “all alone here”, surely Cyclops – her long-term boyfriend – would also be there, due to his death in X-Men: The Last Stand. Another small criticism is that – assuming we are including all of the previous X-Men films in the time line – Logan should have no recollection whatsoever of saving Master Yashida, as he was shot in the head with an Admantium bullet in the 1980s which erased all of his memories, so therefore would have forgotten everything before that.

Those small aspects don’t take away the fact that this was an enjoyable film though, for Marvel fans and audiences new to the story of this clawed-crusader. It has really, like with X-Men: First Class, set the bar high for the next X-Men film to be released, although I hardly think that the 2014, X-Men: Days of Future Past will disappoint, with director Bryan Singer, scripter Matthew Vaughn, the story line and the actors behind it.

The Wolverine delivers the Logan that Marvel fans have been waiting for, ruthless in a fight, but passionate and willing to do anything for the ones he loves. The fight sequences have gone up a full notch for Wolverine since the X-Men films, adding detailed choreography whilst he is fighting gangs and ninja warriors, and the battle on the roof of the bullet train was a great new fight sequence which saw Logan have to use his wits to out match the gang members.

The film was directed by James Mangold, who has brought Knighgsome great films to the big screen in the past, including: Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma, Identity and Knight And Day.

The Wolverine provided us with our X-Men fix, until the next in the franchise is released in 2014. A film which has its main antagonist hinted at during the end credits sequence of The Wolverine.

Shocking Saturday: The Blair Witch Project

This Shocking Saturday is a film which I, and I assume many others, have viewed several times. However, although I watched it for the first time many years ago, I felt that it deserved to be spoken about again, primarily because of what it created in the horror genre.

The hand-held camera band wagon has been driven into the ground in recent years, thanks to films, like Paranormal Activity 4, which offer cheap thrills and no gripping story line. Although the love for this genre has rapidly declined, back in the 90s the films were still shocking audiences and had a sense of individualism about them. One of the first was The Blair Witch Project, which brought all manner of things to the table, including giving viewers the impression that the story was true.blair_witch_project_ver3

The film follows three student film-makers – Michael, Joshua and Heather – who are making a documentary about the myth of the Blair Witch in Maryland. The trio interviewed residents of the nearby town who seem certain that there is a being which lives amongst the woods, and according to legend the witch tormented a man called Rustin Parr in the 1940s, and would only leave him alone if he took children out into the woods and murdered them. The students then embark on a journey into the woods, despite all the warnings from the locals, to try to find more evidence and information about the Blair Witch. However tempers run high as the gang get lost and can’t find the road with the map, eventually making them turn on each other. Starving to death is not the only thing they should be afraid of though, as children’s cries and unexplained noises seem to get closer every night, the very myth they were investigating could be true, and hunting them down.

What made The Blair Witch Project stand out at the time, is the fact that it is one of the first of its kind, and that, mixed together with the superb acting of the three people, made it a film which was hard to look away from, even if at times you thought the pillow was needed. What it presented, which is not used enough in horror cinema today, was the use of the audience’s imagination. The film didn’t need to use buckets of blood and tons of jump scares, it made you decide what you were afraid of, and didn’t let you know that it was something else. It was the sense of fear in the actor’s voices and facial expressions which really hit hard, this was one of the reasons why people believed the video to be actual genuine footage, and it was hard not to believe it with Heather Donahue’s tearful and fearful monologue to the camera in the dead of night. In which she explains that she is too “scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them”, and adding the finishing touch on her believable speech is her knowing of what is to come “I’m gonna die out here.”

The film was directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who have both been involved in other horror flicks over the years such as Lovely Molly and The Objective. What they created ignited a spark which took over the horror genre, and hasn’t stopped since. Yes the believability of the films these days is nothing compared to the 90s, but we have still had some great editions to the hand-held genre such as REC, The Fourth Kind and (only the first) Paranormal Activity.

A truly, although some would disagree, remarkable film, which took your darkest fears and had you imagine three people being hunted by them. Whatever evil lurks inside your head, is the Blair Witch.

Tag Line: Scary As Hell

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: