Shocking Saturday: The Cabin in the Woods

It has been a while since I’ve written a Shocking Saturday piece – mainly due to an internet problem, and I realise that it is actually Sunday now…but here it is.

For this Shocking Saturday I watched a film which I had been meaning to see ever since it’s release, I was attracted to the mixed reviews which I had heard from various critics and film fans alike. So I really had no idea what to expect going into it, especially after learning of an incredible twist. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t have an M. Night. Shyamalan feel to it (meaning his later films).

The only thing I can really say after watching it was that I thoroughly enjoyed this film, everything about is worked for me; the plot, the effects, the dialogue and the characters. I can’t put a bad word to any part of it, even the ending, which I was told by many would leave me saying “WTF!” I loved it, I thought it rounded it off perfectly.cabin

I will attempt to explain the plot without giving away any spoilers, to the few people who still have not seen this film. As with the usual story line, five friends decide to go on a trip to a cabin in the middle of a wooded area. Typical. They then begin to drink, do drugs and generally have a good time. Even more typical. After they read a passage in Latin out of a book they have found in the basement, they summon a long dead zombie family who begin to kill them off. Come on now this is getting ridiculous. However that is when everything is thrown onto its head, and we begin to delve into the real reason why these kids are here.

The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film fan’s dream, it just takes every aspect from a typical horror slasher/supernatural film and combines them into one. Mainly through the characters themselves, with using every typical stereotype which we have seen a thousand times before – the slutty blonde, the buff jock, the book-worm, the stoner and the innocent female protagonist. The film uses these to trick us into thinking that we are viewing just another run of the mill scary movie, but as the storyline develops you realise that there is much more to the story, something much more sinister at work.

It is such a smart and individualistic plot, which just makes the film even more enjoyable to watch. It is hard to guess where the movie is going to go next, and I just love that. I said that this film is a horror film fans dream, and I stand by that statement. Other than taking us on a journey which we never would have guessed, it also directly references many of the biggest films in horror, and the last 20 minutes will just have your jaw-dropping with excitement, as you attempt to comprehend what is happening on-screen.

Brought to the silver screen by two greats, Joss Whedon (Avengers Assemble/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Serenity) and Drew Goddard (Lost/Cloverfield/World War Z). Just when you thought Whedon had given us the best part of his masterpiece with The Avengers, he comes out with this. Bravo, I tip my hat to you and am on the edge of my seat to see what is next in your film list. One of the reasons why the film worked so well was the actors who portrayed the characters, the typical characters (played by Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connelly, Anna Hutchison, Frank Kranz and Jesse Williams) take us into their typical horror film, and characters played by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford – including a guest cameo – take us out of it.

The Cabin in the Woods uses what we think about horror films these days and plays a twist on us, many horrors today are so repetitive that a lot of audience members will be bored within the first 15 minutes, as they are able to guess what happens in the entire movie. But here we are getting two films in one, the typical horror flick, but at the same time a completely new story going on in the background. This, along with its whimsical quip every now and then, comes together to create a truly great film in the horror genre. I believe that the reason many people, and critics, disliked the film was because they did not understand the idea which it was trying to get across, most of these viewers clearly just wanted another generic slasher flick, something which The Cabin in the Woods is not.

Tag Line: You Think You Know The Story.

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

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: Welcome To The Jungle

This weeks Shocking Saturday is once again a hand-held camera horror film – I really just can’t get enough of them – which very largely mirrors the 1980 controversial Cannibal Holocaust, only with a lot less gore and more developed characters.jungleWe begin by being introduced to the two leading ladies, Mandi and Bijou who eventually meet up with Mandi’s boyfriend Colby and his friend Mikey. They have come up with the idea to go on a search for Michael Rockefeller, who disappeared in 1961 in Papua New Guinea. The legend is that he is either living with a cannibal tribe or was captured and eaten by them. Wanting to know the truth, the group go on an expedition into the jungle to find answers, and along the way uncover clues which show that Rockefeller had been in that area at some point. But nerves begin to run high and the group are split. Carrying on separately, they soon find out why nobody has gone searching in these hills before.

Although there is a cannibal story line, the film does not focus primarily on the gore and violence of the film – even though it is top-notch when present, no Welcome To The Jungle gets us more in touch with the characters in the film. Making us aware of their goals and what makes them tick.

This film is another which does not need to show too much to get the fear across, although it does show a lot more than say ‘The Blair Witch Project‘. It plays more on, as many do, the suspense and creepiness of the unknown in what they will uncover. Being sort of divided into two halves; the first half developing the characters and having the feeling of isolation set into them – fighting between each other, and the second having the cannibals and gore present as the gang realise what they have got themselves in for – fighting against the enemy.

As the jungle gets to our four weary protagonists, tempers begin to flair and split the group in half. Yes the cannibals are seen as the villains of the film, but the true antagonists of the story are the characters themselves, as the plan falls apart and they are responsible for their own grisly demise.

Tag Line: Don’t Get Eaten.

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

Star Rating:

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:

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: All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is a film which I have been wanting to see for many years now, mainly because, from the trailer, it looked as though it wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill slasher horror flick, and I am glad to say that it wasn’t. This film will make you think that you have worked out the premise pretty soon into the film, and then turn your idea on its head.all_the_boys_love_mandy_lane

Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is the most beautiful, untouched girl in school, and because of that, every guy, and girl, is trying to get with her, so that they will hold the award for ‘who cracked Mandy Lane’. After a graphic and fast-paced opening, which explains why Mandy is no longer hanging out with her best friend Emmet, the plot of the story becomes apparent. A high school boy, Red, has his parents ranch to himself for a few days, and decides to invite some of his friends over to blow off finishing the year. The gang get the idea to invite Mandy, and believe that in doing so by the time they come back, at least one of them will have gotten with her. Their plan takes a slight detour however, when people begin disappearing around the ranch as a hooded figure is seen walking the grounds. All the boys are after Mandy Lane, but it seems that one will do anything to be with her.

What first made me think that this is a film different from the others was, as I said before, the opening scene. I will not go into details because I would hate to give anything away, but seeing that kind of highly detailed violence so early on, and the dialogue between two of the characters gave me the impression that I was in for a real treat.

I wasn’t wrong, this film brought everything to the table, the story was gripping and at points had you guessing, after you thought had sussed out the plot of the film. The special effects were great as well, it wasn’t just the cheap scare gore as seen in such disasters as Prom Night, these are actual cringe-worthy effects, so realistic sometimes that you will be holding parts of yourself as a victim is mutilated. The violence was also straight up front and in your face, not blocking what is happening from your view, except for a few scenes, but director Jonathan Levine (50/50/Warm Bodies) still made those work really well. I think that horror films can have both these types of violent scenes and be a good film, they just need to be varied. As the audience needs to know that the violence is happening and see it with their eyes, because that is the reality of it, but what I call ‘muffled kills’ can also be used really well by letting the audience’s imaginations do most of the work. Film makers just need to remember that your imagination can sometimes be more terrifying than anything you will see, your imagination can be your worst enemy.

Amber Heard has starred in some big films throughout the past years (Pineapple Express/Never Back Down/Drive Angry), and this film was one of her first lead roles. She captures the essence of Mandy Lane so well, in showing that she knows how beautiful she is, but doesn’t flaunt it because she doesn’t want every guy chasing after her. A timid, yet strong lead role for Heard, which shows us the talent that she has to offer.

What was great about this movie was that you go into it thinking that it is going to be a ‘guess-the-killer type malarkey, but it turns into something completely different by the jaw-dropping ending. Jonathan Levine has created a film which keeps you tense all the way through, as you attempt to pin point who is slaughtering these kids, and after watching the ending will force you to think back a see the film from a different perspective.

Tag Line: She’s To Die For.

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

Star Rating: