pooka review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

As /Film’s resident Christmas Horror nutcase, is it any surprise that Into The Dark’s December chapter would be my most anticipated? Enter Nacho Vigalondo’s Pooka!, a consumerism purgatory where struggling actor Wilson Clowes (Nyasha Hatendi) finds himself inexplicably connected to his latest gig’s oversized costume. No psycho Santa, no Krampus lashings, no murder-obsessed snowmen. Gerald Olson’s script is one of scorched innocence and the idea that children’s toys can be impossibly terrifying when seasonal corporate greed is the only thing driving motivation. An obvious holiday theme, yet one that barely scratches the surface on Pooka!.

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Creepy Christmas Horror Film Festival

Take a deep whiff of that crisp almost-December air. Are you as excited as I am? With good tidings and thoughts of Saint Nick comes my favorite cinematic obsession – CHRISTMAS HORROR MOVIES! All that “Joyeux Noël” spirit just with sharpened candy cane daggers, bomb-rigged presents, and even professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as a stark-raving-mad killer Santa. You can keep your white Christmases; I’ll take mine blood red.

This year, Glass Eye Pix and curator Beck Underwood have reanimated their “Creepy Christmas Film Festival” after a ten-year dormancy. The premise is simple. Underwood gathered a collective of ambitious genre filmmakers and asked them to create their own Christmas Horror themed short films. Every day until Christmas Day – we’re talking December 1st to 25th – a new Christmas horror short will premiere online as part of a digital advent calendar withholding cheery chaos (which you can find here). Bookmark it, check back during lunch or each morning or before bedtime, unwrap a new gift. Read More »

A Quiet Place Honest Trailer

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: don’t believe the hype – 2018 did not kill the horror genre. And why do we have to have this conversation every year?)

Blame a man’s foolhardy optimism, but part of me believed 2018 would close without an obscene end-of-year horror genre hot take shouted from left field. No such luck, friendo. What a difference mere days make. My eyes still ablaze after being scalded by the HOTTEST of takes: “2018 has not been a good year for horror.”

Winchester, The Nun, and Slender Man appear as damning examples. Suspiria isn’t “much of a horror film” (at least there’s no “It isn’t horror either” argument). A Quiet Place evokes “PG-13 thriller” vibes, no horror (I guess the author didn’t attend SXSW’s quiet-as-a-graveyard premiere). “There was Hereditary.” (Hereditary’s one-of-two glancing mentions in the not-to-be-named Vou – I mean, “rogue” hit piece). “We didn’t even get a decent shark movie this year.” Right. A tell-tale sign of horror erosion because every year’s catalog is defined by fierce finback filmmaking (Fine – Deep Blue Sea 2 stinks like rancid chum and The Meg is more fun than terrifying).

As horror’s 2018 obituary reads, “Here lies our beloved genre. Laid to rest because someone didn’t enjoy a few mainstream titles and they think The Haunting Of Hill House suffers from Netflix episode fatigue.”

*Smashes keyboard into a million little pieces* [Very Jules Winnfield voice.] Well, allow me to retort.

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flesh and blood review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas is a holiday that demands noteworthy horror treatment, but to this day, Thanksgiving boasts abysmal genre cred. Eli Roth’s “GIVE ME NOW” Grindhouse faux-trailer? Killer puppet schlocker ThanksKilling? Home Sweet Home (1981)? For this critic, Into The Dark’s most intriguing entry was always going to be Patrick Lussier’s Flesh & Blood based purely on Turkey Day implications. Does it deliver? The most significant “F” word here is “Family,” yet much like October’s The Body, browned-and-buttered holiday aesthetics simmer in a rather bland broth.

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(This is a refreshed version of the original ranking, which ran last year. Since then, Shudder has more than doubled the number of exclusive movies in their library.)

Any “horror fan” who isn’t planted A-Clockwork-Orange-theater-style in front of AMC’s shriektastic Shudder streaming service needs to change that malfunction immediately. I say this as an addicted subscriber myself. You’ll finally have the opportunity to watch all those “classic” genre films your pretentious cinephile friends wax so poetically about.

I know you’re here for my ranking of every Shudder original (we’re only ranking the movies, not their TV shows), but hold your undead horses. We’ll get to the clicky-baiting in a second. First, let me start with a preface.

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halloween review

“Adaptation.” In movies, humanity – whatever the medium – adaptation is integral to sustained longevity. Slasher films once ruled horror wavelengths from a gore-slathered throne, but have since become fossilized designs of the past. In today’s social climate, there exists less movie-watching appetites hungry for sleazy womanizing, death for death’s sake exploitation, T&A filmmaking (though not that all slice-’em-ups followed this formula). Slashers eventually died out when subgenre popularity shifted from the freewheeling ’80s into current “heightened” arthouse visions or Blumhouse/Wan-iverse strangleholds. The year is 2018 and horrors of our everyday life are darker than anything Hollywood can dream up (re: this year’s obsession with familial horror), but we’re due for a slasher renaissance and there’s one new release release primed to surge a new wave of slasher content.

David Gordon Green’s Halloween has the power to rebirth a fresh onslaught of retooled slasher films for the contemporary, conscious, bigger-thinking worldview climate of post-2010 realities. Here’s why.

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Into the Dark The Body Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Paul DavisThe Body kicks off Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark programming with an inaugural terror-tale of October’s Halloween fame. It’s no Trick ‘r Treat based on holiday immersion, yet manages to maintain a fun “evil in plain sight” vibe nonetheless. One dashingly charismatic hitman, Wilkes (Tom Bateman), has four hours to deliver his employer’s high-profile corpse if he wants to get paid. Hitches present themselves along the way – boozy parties, deflated tires, unexpected romance – but Wilkes’ stony sophistication makes everything into a game. One that innocent interveners stand no chance of winning.

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Girls With Balls Review

Olivier Afonso’s Girls With Balls doesn’t atone for the leery “females vs. males” horror normalization of exploitations past, but it is a slaughter-tastic midnight movie about volleyball vixens defending themselves from backwoods killers. Expect gallons of juicy redness, slack-jawed Deliverance imposters, and a campfire’s smokestack of slasher fun. Any fans of Dead & Breakfast out there? When the film’s spurs-janglin’ songster narration kicks in, you’ll be reminded of a very goofy and very familiar structure that holds novel throughout. It’s a slasher with teen spirit, a midnighter with malice, and the gory corpse counter that’s suggested – but a woman-driven riot act that reads genre representation the third degree? That aspect, oddly, lacks execution.

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may the devil take you review

Timo Tjahjanto’s May The Devil Take You has been – and will continue to be–- comparatively crowned Indonesia’s closest Evil Dead reimagining. Possessions, sub-level imprisonment, a house where pure malevolence resides and characters remain trapped. Tjahjanto wears his swankiest on-set suit and Sam Raimi mask, which at times can be quite convincing (a bit more Drag Me To Hell, even). Although, sequences can also remind of Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves – which hits the streaming service Shudder on October 4 – despite Tjahjanto’s banshee scream lacking tonal subtlety. Anwar is to James Wan as Tjahjanto is to Raimi. Anwar a little more accomplished in his mission, but that doesn’t mean Tjahjanto fails to push audiences into his bloody brand of spiritual hijacking.

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Bad Times at the El Royale Review

Drew Goddard’s Bad Times At The El Royale is Tarantino Lite, but not as an insult. Crooked paths collide in the heart of Lake Tahoe’s hospitality crossroads. Drifters clutch onto secrets – in addition to the hotel’s own chequered history – and that’s expected, but buildup material is often more exciting than any elongated payoff. For a twisty border-straddling government conspiracy thriller, Goddard plays it a wee bit safe. Maybe another character stereotype or two could have livened the party up? As is, unsavory room renters are mere vessels for Vietnam war rhetoric and an inevitable gyration by virtue of Chris Hemsworth’s always-unbuttoned Abercrombie model look.

Top priority for a seedy hotel noir chiller, it appears? Read More »