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:

Icon of Horror

Michael Myers

Here we have another Icon of Horror, this time it is an individual which every horror fan should have heard of, due to his film, Halloween, being an amazing landmark in horror cinema. This week I am talking about Michael Myers (played by Tony Moran). The emotionless white-mask wearing, kitchen knife wielding bogeyman who has terrified audiences since 1978.halloween-film-posterMichael Myers was first introduced to us in the late 70s by the horror film directing mastermind John Carpenter. Through Halloween, Carpenter delivered a film which gave audiences something else to fear on Halloween night rather than just ghouls and goblins, and a superb soundtrack to go with it.

Although Myers was not based on a true killer, like Leather-Face, the story, acting and camera shots are what brought this killer to life. The film starts with one of the longest opening shots in horror, we (the camera) are taken around a house, before entering it and moving up the stairs to find a young woman brushing her hair. It then becomes apparent that we are looking through the eyes of 6 year-old Myers, right before he slaughters his older sister with a kitchen knife. After realising their son is a murderer, Myers’ parents stick him in a mental hospital – because where else can you get over your murderous thoughts than in a mad house. Fast forward 15 years and Myers is escaping from the loony bin and out on a murder bender with his little sister – Laurie Strode – in mind.

What follows is a magnificent tale of imaginative murder techniques, eerie long-shots and giving a reason why babysitters should not work in Haddonfield, Illinois. Although his killing methods are on top form, it is the sheer creepy vibe which Myers gives off which really makes him stand out from all others. He is constantly popping up around every corner as Laurie walks home from school, whether it’s hiding behind bushes or somehow in the car which rolls past, he is always present and watching her every move, killing the odd person on the side of course.

His main aspect which really sends the shivers down your spine though is the fact that he is so calm about everything, even whilst killing. In the process of chasing you in his blue boiler suit he just suavely walks behind and still manages to catch up with his victims. These things are not what make him a bogeyman however, as he still seems human. It’s the fact that he just won’t stay dead, no matter what you do to him, whether you shoot him, run him over or even stab him with his own knife. The latter making for the best scene in the film, after Laurie stabs him and he falls to the floor, she kneels in the doorway catching her breath. Unknowing to her – but not the audience – that in the background Myers sits up and turns his head towards her. A beautiful Scene!myers1

Halloween and Michael Myers kick-started the Hitchcock inspired slasher genre, and after 8 films and 2 remakes, they still have the same effect on our trembling hands as they did when we first saw them.

Original Film Tag Line: The Night HE Came Home.

Film Franchise List:

Halloween – 1978

Halloween 2 – 1981

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch – 1982

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – 1988

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers – 1989

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers – 1995

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later – 1998

Halloween: Resurrection – 2002

Halloween – 2007

Halloween 2 – 2009

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:

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

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: