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:

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:

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:

Shocking Saturday: REC 3: Genesis

The third instalment to the Spanish REC series sees the storyline take another interesting twist, and is portrayed in a different, although still great, way to the previous films.REC-3-Genesis-Poster

The tricky thing with horror sequels is trying to make them as good, if not better, than the first. Many horror trilogies wither and die by the time their third film comes around, with the storyline becoming repetitive after the original directors and writers have abandoned the franchise. Take for example the ‘Hostel’ franchise, it began so well with a plot that shocked and terrified audiences, mainly due to the incredible SFX, but after the – although still entertaining – ‘Hostel: Part 2’, the films had given out all they could do. Then arrives ‘Hostel: Part 3’ which went straight to DVD, due to the fizzled out plot, which never really changed between films.

The way to combat this is by keeping the audience on their toes, on the edge of their seats, and by introducing a new plot twist with each film, offering them something slightly different to watch every time. This is what you get with the hand-held camera REC series, now I’m not going to give away any spoilers when I talk about the previous films, because I know how infuriating that can be – but to sum up. In REC, a news reporter and her camera man are following a Fire Department as they embark on the night shift, however what was thought of as a run-of-the-mill emergency call, turns out to be something much worse. As the residents of an apartment building begin foaming at the mouth and attacking anyone they come into contact with, in most cases mutilating them. Things are made even worse when the building is put under quarantine (hence the name of the much tamer, and less thrilling American version ‘Quarantine’).

REC 2 is based at the same time as the first film and is located in the same place. This time following two groups, a SWAT team being sent in to the building with a scientist to clear it out, and a group of kids who break in to try to uncover what is happening. It really is hard to write about the second film and not give anything away, I implore you to watch it, especially if you have viewed the first one, it has the same jumps and scares, and changes the plot in a way you could never guess.

What is great about REC 3: Genesis is, directed by Paco Plaza, that it takes us away from the setting of the first two films – although based at the same time – and drops us into the wedding day of Clara and Koldo, and is filmed from two points of view – the wedding photographer and the groom’s nephew. As the post-wedding celebrations start, Koldo’s uncle, who complained about a bite on his hand earlier, begins to attack the party guests jugulars in a crazed frenzy. All hell then breaks loose, as people are attacked left, right and centre and being turned into ferocious killing machines. As Koldo and various others escape into the kitchen they plan to find a way out, but not before he has found his beloved Clara. The film then does an incredible thing and switches from the hand-held camera to a normal film camera, and continues the rest of the movie this way. This could have perhaps just been used to carry on the film if the camera men were killed, but it took me by surprise and put a different perspective on the film. Speaking of perspectives, the film follows two – Clara’s and Koldo’s. As they go about searching for each other amongst the chaos, not realising that their journeys are constantly intertwining.

REC 3: Genesis did not really offer an amazing plot twist like it’s predecessor did – it had more or less the same story, just based in a different location. However it gave fans of the first two films, a different way of seeing the violence unfold, instead of through a POV shot. We could see the full extent of the horror, especially the unforgettable chainsaw scene.

Being a Spanish horror, the gore and effects were top-notch, and the dialogue was rather enthralling as well. Mixed in with a slight bit of comedy and the jaw-dropping but incredible ending, makes this a truly great horror film, recommended for fans of the previous two and any fan of the horror genre.

Tag Line: You May Now Kiss The Bride.

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

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: The Bay

What first intrigued me to watch this film was the trailer, and although many people are now sick to death of hand-held camera films, with there being so many out now. I still thoroughly enjoy them, mainly due to the fact that it seems more realistic, and it is good to see what film makers can create on camera in one of these movies, ‘Cloverfield’ set the bar pretty high. However seeing one with a lower budget is sometimes more enjoyable.the bay

Whereas with other films like this such as ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ which was a hand-held camera, and ‘REC’ which was a TV news camera, they stuck to just telling the story through those surrounding that single visual device. The Bay takes this genre to a new level, set in Maryland, USA, the film follows the story of what first seems like an infection, however ends up being something much more horrifying. After the ‘Independence Day’ celebrations, something begins to spread amongst the inhabitants of the town, causing people to become covered in legions, and in some instances, lose their tongues. Not giving any spoilers away here, it turns out to be something in the water, but by the time they realise, it is already too late. What makes the film different is that it is not just shot through the view of one camera, it begins with a news reporter explaining what happened in the town and then she begins to show different footage: from her news camera, a young girls iPhone, a police squad car, a doctor’s surgery room in the hospital and the office of the CDC.

Seeing the film shot from all these different angles will give you the impression that you’re actually watching a documentary rather than a horror film, adding a more real-life feel to it. All that was missing was David Attenborough’s velvety-tone voice over. Making it this way also gave director, Barry Levinson, the chance to show the terror from many different perspectives around the town, and the fear from various people as the outbreak got worse.

One of the creepiest bits has to be a couple of hours after the outbreak has happened. The news reporter and her camera man are standing over looking the pier where the pandemic started, the place has become deserted with no other signs of life visible. As she is trying to report what has happened to this once peaceful town, she stops talking and urges the camera man to listen. All around them in the distance, faint moans can be heard from the towns people in pain. Still at this point, the reason for this catastrophe is unknown, so the characters still have no idea what is happening, for all they know these people could be turning in to zombies.

From the beginning to the end, The Bay will have you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out, in a good way, what has happened to this town. When what is actually happening comes to light, it will definitely give you the chills. It delivered a few jumps, however the primary aspect of this film was the storyline. Mixed in with some great make-up and special effects made this picture an enjoyable watch, and one which hold a good place on my favourite horror films list.

Tagline: Panic Feeds On Fear

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

Star Rating: