Tag: slasher

He’s Out There

He’s Out There (2018)
★ / ★★★★

This cheap and disgusting movie does not deserve to be seen by anybody. I am appalled that it received the green light to be made. Not only is it a badly conceived and executed slasher flick, the content is bottom-of-the-barrel, brainless death march in which the end goal is to show as many people suffering as possible. I suppose if you’re into children-in-danger movies where little ones are threatened to get run over by a car, to get their eyeballs cut out of the sockets, to get their limbs chopped off by an ax, congratulations, this is for you. Consider reevaluating your taste in movies. Maybe even consider booking an appointment with a counselor.

As for the screenwriter, Mike Scannell, and director, Quinn Lasher, I would like to ask what in the world they were thinking by turning such a shameful idea into reality. Violence in horror films is not new. There have been hundreds of them since the late ‘70s. But there is a limit, lines not to be crossed. I cannot recall a film in which a masked killer is left to terrorize children for an extended amount of time once the parents have been mutilated and disposed of. We watch these kids thrashing and shrieking in the masked killer’s arms. He knocks them unconscious. He puts sharp weapons over their faces afterwards. It is supposed to pass as entertainment, but I just felt rotten having to sit through it. I wanted to yell at the filmmakers involved.

Its depravity aside, I would like to take a moment to comment on the stupidity of the material. It begins like any other generic horror picture: a family (Yvonne Strahovski, Justin Bruening, Anna Pniowsky, Abigail Pniowsky) goes on their annual trip to the lake house. At first, a masked psychopath (Ryan McDonald) observes from afar. Come sundown, he begins to terrorize his victims. Clichés pile up like clockwork: the landline stops working, cell phones go missing from the place they were last placed, children go investigating in the woods while mommy isn’t looking.

Even the children are not written smart. They seem to read a lot of books with life lessons in them. I guess they skipped those that warn of not eating food prepared by strangers. Their lack of common sense is astounding, but they are especially annoying: screaming during the most inappropriate times, especially when they are supposed to be hiding and quiet, and rebellious when their mother urges them to be brave so they can make an escape. And yet—we are supposed to root for these girls… How? The answer is because they are children. Nothing else. The film uses the fact that they are kids so that we care for them on an instinctual level, nothing about their specific personal characteristics. This lack of ambition, this general lack of effort, is offensive to me.

Also insulting is the picture’s lack of creativity, a lack for an artistic eye. Look at the picture and notice how cheap it looks. Observe the opening minutes and notice how oversaturated images look. A filter of some sort is used to make it look like a cloudy day or that the movie is moodier or more atmospheric than it actually is. As for its so-called scares, there is a lack of rhythm to them. Tension rises but it is often that moments of catharsis occur off-screen. Why? I want to know what kind of horror movies inspired the filmmakers, if any. Because they have seen the wrong ones.

“He’s Out There” deserves to be forgotten because it is junk, artistically and morally. Do not make the mistake of investing even one second of your precious life in this garbage.

The Windmill Massacre

The Windmill Massacre (2016)
★ / ★★★★

Nick Jongerius’ “The Windmill Massacre” is exactly the kind of horror movie that shouldn’t exist anymore—not after slasher pictures have ruled the screens in the ‘70s and ‘80s, fallen in the early ‘90s, and satirized in smart ways in the mid-‘90s to early-‘00s. And if it were to exist, at least make it good by crafting genuinely suspenseful moments, establishing characters we care about eventually, and building a mythology that is curious and worthy of our time.

Instead, what we sit through is yet another tired haunted house formula in which characters from different wakes of life end up coming together in a particular place, only to be picked off one by one by a scythe-wielding assailant wearing a bad makeup job. Although the setting is inspired since killing sprees do not usually take place in or around windmills, the writing is anemic in intrigue. It attempts to tell a mythology involving a man who made a deal with the devil more than century ago but it goes nowhere fast. The most unpredictable part of the film is perhaps the order in which characters get butchered. There is no joy to be had here.

Similar to other bad horror movies, the filmmakers make the common mistake of substituting sudden loud music for genuine, well-earned thrills. They are so lazy, so uninspired, they think that a figure appearing seemingly out of nowhere is the punchline, not what the antagonist does or what motivates him, her, or it. Notice, too, there is a lack of build-up, resulting in highly disjointed scenes where one scene shows violence and the scenes poorly placed in between involve characters arguing over what to do next in order to extract themselves out of an increasing dire situation. Such a disruption of the action does not help in elevating tension.

One gets the impression that the writers—Nick Jongerius, Chris W. Mitchell, and Suzy Quid—have not seen a single effective horror picture in their lives. That or they are so afraid of willing to take a risk that they’d rather step on the same footprints of horror films that came before. Horror films without inspiration and lacking the will to innovate are most unbearable to experience. Because if we are ahead of it the entire time, then what is the point of sitting down and watching the film? It is insulting to the intelligence and time of its audience.

Although the performances are average across the board, they are not to be blamed for the script’s lack of creativity. Clocking in at approximately eighty-five minutes, experiencing it feels significantly longer, like punishment, when conversations are repeated time and again, the only difference being the words expressed to say the same thing.


Malevolence (2004)
★★★ / ★★★★

Four people (R. Brandon Johnson, Heather Magee, Richard Glover, Keith Chambers) decided to rob a bank and were relatively successful except that one of them had been shot. They divided into two groups. A mother (Samantha Dark) and daughter (Courtney Bertolone), on their way home from a softball game, were taken hostage by one of the robbers because he was caught stealing their van. The man took his hostages to a remote house and waited for his three accomplices. Meanwhile, there was a serial killer next door patiently waiting for his next victim. Written and directed by Stevan Mena, “Malevolence” was quite effective in delivering violence and scares. There was nothing particularly original about it but it didn’t need to because I was consistently fascinated with what was happening on screen. It was obviously influenced by John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” When characters were on the foreground, the masked killer would sneakily appear on the background and just… observe. The creepiness was elevated by the film’s score. I liked the way the picture took place at night and, since the abandoned houses were in the middle of nowhere, electricity was rarely used. Darkness hid certain corners, perfectly designed for something to jump out from them and I always expected that something would. There were times when I was actually caught off guard. When fluorescent lights were used, they flickered. Surprisingly, I found it scarier when lights were on because every flicker could potentially reveal something that wasn’t there just a second before. As much as it was violent, I loved that the environment was very detailed: House A had no decoration other than thick dust that invaded the air when there was sudden movement, while House B had all sorts of strange things like blood in a tub, a month’s worth of unwashed dishes, and possible signs of satanic ritual. The scenes outdoors were quite impressive, too. When the daughter attempted to escape from one of the bank robbers, she had to run and scream across a field. There was something quite unsettling with the way it was shot. However, I wish we knew more about the killer prior and during his killing sprees. What made this film’s inspirations so effective was the fact that we knew something disturbing about Michael Myers and Leatherface, something scary beyond the stabbings and chopped up bodies. Furthermore, the acting could have been stronger. Some scenes needed to be reshot, especially toward the beginning, because the lines uttered did not complement the actors’ facial expressions. It was somewhat amusing to watch. However, once it got to the meat of the conflict, when acting became less important, the material held my attention like a vise-grip. Most importantly, the writer-director did not allow his project’s low budget to get in the way of his vision. Instead of succumbing to limitation, he saw inspiration.

Bloody Reunion

Bloody Reunion (2006)
★★ / ★★★★

A detective (Eung-soo Kim) and his partner found a basement full of bloody and mangled bodies. They were informed that there were two survivors: a young woman and an older woman confined to a wheelchair. The detective asked the young woman what had happened. It turned out that the other survivor, Miss Park (Mi-hee Oh), was a former teacher suffering from a terminal illness. Seven of her former students came to visit so they could say their goodbyes. But the reunion wasn’t sweet. The seven became bitter because their lives didn’t turn out to be as they hoped. Miss Park was to blame. Written by Se-yeol Park and directed by Dae-wung Lim, “Seuseung-ui eunhye” was an interesting hybrid of slasher film and who-dun-it mystery. The identity of the murder was in question. It could be Miss Park’s son with a deformed face, bullied by six of the seven students when he was a kid, or it could be one of the seven. I enjoyed that it wasn’t very clear until the last act. But the cinematography sometimes distracted me from the bloody happenings in the film. There were certain scenes when it asked as to focus our eyes on Miss Park so we could feel the sadness she felt toward her damaged children. Even though she was far from a perfect teacher, we were asked to understand that she was at least aware of her mistakes, that she was regretful of her actions, before her body succumbed to her illness. But the camera kept zooming in and out of her face. It should have been reshot so that the emotions her face conveyed, though complicated, had some sort of clarity. As for the way the story unfolded, I enjoyed that it asked us to put the pieces together ourselves. There was no narrator to explain to us that a piece, for instance, didn’t really exist or it only happened in the confines of one’s psyche. However, in some ways, it worked against itself. In its attempt to conceal some of its secrets, the picture relied too much on the mood between the students contrasted with the atmosphere between a student and Miss Park when it was just the two of them. The formula involving a student being alone with his or her teacher was used too often so we knew when he was about to reveal the reason why he was there. Some of the information didn’t always make sense because we were only given pieces. The movie took a considerable amount of time to lay out all of its pieces and by the time we were asked to put it all together, half the viewers would have given up trying to put the information into one coherent whole. “To Sir with Love” or “Bloody Reunion,” though inconsistent, held a certain fascination. When it didn’t work, it was frustratingly bad but when it did, I watched in wide-eyed horror.

The Cottage

The Cottage (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★

David (Andy Serkis) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith) kidnapped Tracey (Jennifer Ellison), a daughter of a successful businessman, and took her in a house out in the country. If Andrew (Steven O’Donnell), Tracey’s brother, delivered the money on time, it was promised that Tracey would be released without question. But when the four realized that the disfigured farmer who lived closest to the house they occupied had a penchant for killing and mutilating his victims’ bodies, the four had no choice but to team up if they wanted to keep their lives. “The Cottage,” written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, was a creative exercise in horror and comedy. David and Peter were probably two of the most incompetent kidnappers I’ve had the pleasure to watch on screen. There was a formula that led up to the funny moments. When David told Peter what not to do, Peter promised he would obey. But since Peter was inexperienced in committing crimes, somehow he managed to do exactly the opposite of what he wasn’t supposed to do. It got to the point where Tracey, a big-breasted blonde who could easily take down her captors, found out David’s name because Peter was so nervous around her. We even found out that Peter’s biggest fear was moths. But the film gradually changed in tone as it went on. The middle portion had a high creepiness factor, notably when Peter and Tracey investigated a seemingly abandoned house. There was a putrid smell coming from the closet, hands were nicely stacked in the freezer, and there were metallic noises underneath the trap door. I loved the fact that horror came in not only when the murderer appeared but when the characters, often as a pair, discovered something while occupying different rooms. One character faced a false alarm, while the other faced true horror. When a new pair entered the creepy house, the room which gave us a false alarm earlier was completely changed. There was a sense of continuation and it was easy to tell that the writer-director considered it important for his material to have cohesion, intelligence, and a spice of cheekiness. What I thought the film could have used less was the two Asian hit-men (Logan Wong, Jonathan Chan-Pensley). The way in which their accents were used for the sake of humor was borderline offensive to me. I was aware that offense was not Williams’ intention but it sometimes came across as exploitative. The duo could have easily have been played with Asians without “funny accents” and the final product would have been the same. “The Cottage” is a solid example of why I love independent movies. It wasn’t afraid to experiment with its tone. I was amused with the way it effortlessly switched from one type of humor to another while still dealing with the macabre. Since it was so confident with what it was doing, its out of left field ending actually carved a smile on my face.

My Little Eye

My Little Eye (2002)
★★ / ★★★★

Five strangers were picked to live in a creepy mansion in the middle of nowhere. If Matt (Sean Cw Johnson), Rex (Kris Lemche), Danny (Stephen O’Reilly), Emma (Laura Regan), and Charlie (Jennifer Sky) could stay together six months, they would receive a million dollars. It seemed like an easy task but living together became challenging when one of them ended up dead. If they stepped outside the premises or contacted the police, the game would be over. Directed by Marc Evans, “My Little Eye” was obviously inspired by reality shows like MTV’s “The Real World.” However, the film was more about the characters feeling isolated from society and the paranoia that resulted from cameras that surrounded the place instead of drinking, bar hopping, and engaging in all sorts of casual sex. The build-up from seemingly small pranks to a possible murder was executed nicely. Was there a killer among the five or was everything controlled by the company that chose them? The former was possible because there was no crew. Cameras were simply installed from a certain height and they moved according to someone’s motion. But the latter was also quite possible. Someone could just as easily sneak in the house as the five slept. They wouldn’t notice because the old mansion made all sorts of noises. Unfortunately, once the mystery was revealed, the picture lost the majority of its momentum. It became a routine running around the mansion until someone tripped or slipped. It wasn’t scary. Since it was so dark and the images from the cameras were blurry, I couldn’t help but adopt a passive stance. The editing was manic. Instead of lingering at one creepy shot, it would jump from one camera angle to another in attempt to show all the creepy shots. It’s better to have one very effective shot that goes for the jugular instead of having many less effective shots with questionable purpose. It wasn’t a good sign when I didn’t care who lived or died. We heard about Emma’s childhood story involving a friend who killed his family using a hammer but it didn’t reveal much about who she was. And as much as I appreciated the fact that the five strangers talked like regular people off the streets, I couldn’t help but snicker when a character would blurt out, “I’m scared!” or “I’m in it for the money!” Another unintentionally funny scene was when the remaining four decided to put the dead body outside, in the snow, right after one of them stated that they should leave the body where it was because it was a scene of the crime. For a bunch of mid- to late-twentysomethings, they lacked common sense. But then again, so are those who choose to appear on reality shows for the sake of fame that never lasts.


Opera (1987)
★★ / ★★★★

The main actress for an upcoming play for “Macbeth” was hit by a car. Betty (Cristina Marsillach), much to her surprise, was offered and almost immediately accepted the role despite her reluctance due to the popular curse that surrounded the production of the play. It wasn’t long until a sadistic killer emerged and started murdering members of the crew. Dario Argento, the writer and director, had a strange fixation for the bizarre. For instance, he would constantly move his camera to achieve an extreme close-up to revel every drop of emotion from his actors and animals, in this case, crows. I also noticed that he had a penchant for playing soothing music directly after a scene in which someone was killed in the most gruesome way. The way he used opera and heavy metal music reflected the contrasting elements between opera and horror. Without a doubt, the film was stylish but I’m afraid, when I look underneath its technical achievements, it was just another slasher flick. Finding out the identity of the killer was the main purpose. Was it the play’s director (Ian Charleson)? The detective (Urbano Barberini) in charge of solving the killing spree? Betty’s fiesty publicist (Daria Nicolodi)? Betty’s harmless romantic interest (William McNamara)? It was also mentioned that Betty had dreamed of the killer’s activities ever since she was a child. However, the identity of the killer, his or her motives, and the childhood nightmares did not come together in way that made sense, let alone in a meaningful and rewarding way. When the characters struggled for their lives, their common sense were out the window as they tried to weigh the pros and cons between, for instance, trying to get the telephone sitting in a dark corner and getting out of the apartment. The obvious answer would be to get out of the apartment and run like one was competing in a 100-meter dash in the Olympics. No one in their right mind, when pushed in a corner to be gutted, would waste time thinking about the “smarter” decision. It’s all about instincts. However, I did enjoy some moments of creativity. I thought it was creepy how the killer forced Betty to watch the murders by tying her up and taping needles under her eyes to “motivate” her not to blink (if she does, her eyelids would touch the needles) and the way the crew found out the killer’s identity. Still, I can’t quite recommend “Opera” because its lack of cohesion in terms of its story made it painfully average.