Titane  – ★★★★
🔥 Titane hypnotises and mystifies as it repels and shocks, delivering not only a story, but also “an experience”.
Titane is the second feature film of French director Julia Ducournau (Raw (2017)) and the Palme d’Or winner of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The film is not for the faint of heart. Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a girl who suffered a brain injury as a child and now works at striptease car shows. Her encounter with grieving father Vincent (Vincent Lindon), who works as a fire-fighter, unveils the full extent of both his and her mental disturbances. People say that there is no art in shock value and Ducournau is set to prove them wrong. In her horrifying picture, she demonstrates that films with violence, nudity, sex and drug abuse do not need to be “trashy” and can be as stylish as any high-end production. There is nothing “cheap” about intense Titane which shines with inventiveness and brims with its own special intellectual, emotional and physical rawness, finding its own appreciative viewers.
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Midsommar  – ★★★★★
☀️ In this immersive, subtle and unsettling horror master-work, Ari Aster takes his audience by the hand, and slowly and surely introduces the disturbing beneath the festive, relaxing and innocent.
Ari Aster takes horror to a completely new level in his latest film Midsommar. Inspired by The Wicker Man and horror folklore, this film tells of Dani (Florence Pugh) who reluctantly decided to accept an invitation and go with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a festival that celebrates a midsummer in Hårga, Sweden (originally, the Midsummer Festival was a pagan holiday to commemorate the arrival of summer). On location, the unsuspecting group of friends slowly become immersed in the odd ways of life of this rural village in Sweden, discovering its strange residents and their disturbing rituals. Welcoming and friendly villagers are only too happy to show their visitors around, as well as introduce them to their traditional midsummer celebration, but will our group of friends (as well as we, the audience), stomach what the villagers are preparing for them and presenting on their silver plate? In this gripping, “hallucinatory” film, the audience soon discovers that, for emotionally-vulnerable Dani, the stage has already been set for a showdown of her life. Continue reading ““Midsommar” Review”
The Babadook  – ★★★★1/2
📖 A well-made horror film with oppressive atmosphere that also explores deeper, thought-provoking themes of coming to terms with trauma and overcoming grief.
I am wishing all my followers and readers a very Happy Halloween, and am presenting a scary and psychologically-interesting Australian horror film The Babadook. This film by Jennifer Kent takes its concept from her own short film Monster (2005) about a spooky presence pestering a family of two. Similarly, in The Babadook, a widowed mother and her son, who has behavioural problems, are trying to cope with the death of their husband/father, while their house is slowly being invaded by a terrified being from a children’s story-book. This wonderfully thought-out, acted and designed film can be read deeper than it initially appears. In The Babadook, what may seem to be a straightforward horror story could actually be a thought-provoking cinematic allegory of people learning to deal with, and accept, the trauma in their lives.
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In Fabric  – ★★★
👗 A critique of consumerism and employment culture invades a ghost story, and with the 1970s aesthetics, and enough eccentricities and humour, culminates in a very unusual viewing experience.
Peter Strickland is known for such unusual and, in some way, “brave” films as Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014). In In Fabric, he takes his boldness and unconventionality to a whole new level and crafts a film which is an eerie ghost story involving a dress on the one hand, and a critique of consumerism with much humour, weirdness and some shock thrown into it, on the other. Can horror and comedy, and a consumerism critique and a ghost premise be fused together successfully? Strickland thinks they can, and, probably, only he can pull off such a mix of premises without a film becoming a disaster. The story here is that a woman, Sheila, stumbles upon a gorgeous, silky red dress, without realising that it is possessed by a ghost of a woman who modelled it before. Sheila goes on a blind date wearing the dress, but also develops a strange rash after wearing it. Then, the ghostly dress ends up in the hands of a mechanic and his girlfriend, while also having evil intentions. In the meantime, in the department store that sold the dress, strange, shocking rituals take place, with sales assistants, knowing the power of the dress only too well, now wanting it back. The plot may sound a bit ludicrous and not everything works out in this film, and what become memorable are the film’s aesthetics, music, colour, feel of the 1970s decade, recalling Italian giallo movies, as well as strange humour.
Continue reading “BFI London Film Festival 2018: Peter Strickland’s In Fabric”
It is that time of the year again when everyone is writing about exciting spooky stuff, and to accomplish two objectives with one action, I am contributing to the “October Birthdayz” blogathon hosted by Nuwan at No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen to celebrate the birthday of his sister. The theme is famous people who were born in October, and, to celebrate Catherine Deneuve’s 75th birthday, I am reviewing Polanski’s Repulsion with Deneuve in the lead role. Thanks for hosting and inviting me, Nuwan, and the readers can also check out other entries for this blogathon here, here and here.
Repulsion  – ★★★★★
🔪 An intense and unforgettable psychological horror-character study, boosted by Deneuve’s committed performance & made seem even more impressive by the limited budget.
Repulsion can be considered a classic in the psychological horror genre. The plot revolves around Carole (Deneuve), a young woman from Belgium who works in a beauty parlour in London and lives in an apartment with her older sister Hélène (Yvonne Furneaux). Sweet and shy, Carole often finds herself day-dreaming, trying to politely rebuff the advances of her obsessive suitor Colin (John Fraser). She also expresses hostility towards her sister’s married boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry). Things take a turn for the worse when Carole’s day-dreaming leads to her mind having the life of its own, and the triggers seem to be any sexual hints or attempts made at intimacy. When Hélène leaves for a vacation in Italy, Carole is unable to cope, and, feeling abandoned, slowly starts her descent into madness.
Continue reading “The “October Birthdayz” Blogathon: Repulsion (1965)”
Hereditary  – ★★★★
🏠 Ari Aster treats his horror like an epic masterpiece, paying close attention to story, setting, acting, pacing, look and small symbolic details, & the reward is, finally, a “quality” horror we’ve all been waiting for.
Ari Aster’s debut feature horror film has caused quite a stir so far. With such quality horror films that have come out in recent months/years as A Quiet Place (2018) and Get Out (2017), it may be safe to say that the calibre revival of the genre is in full swing. Hereditary is an impressive and scary film, but not in the way most would assume. Its tricks, twists and general “horror” content may have been “recycled” from previous movies, and its inner intelligence and coherence may no longer awe discerning horror fans that have followed recent movies. Nevertheless, where Hereditary really impresses is in the setting-construction, in the unhurried building of the creepy atmosphere, in its attention to detail and characterisation, and, of course, it impresses with its top-notch acting, the kind that we probably have not seen in a horror film, maybe even since The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
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The Birds  – ★★★★★
🐦 Fifty-five years on, atmospheric and original The Birds is still a “psychological horror” suspense at its finest.
The film takes inspiration from a story by Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca (1940)) of the same name, and it is about a strange behaviour of birds in Bodega Bay, California. The centre of the story is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite who romantically pursues a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), whom she has just met. While we watch all the romantic tensions and a love triangle unfolding, the birds in the area start to attack people, and what initially looks like a light and intriguing romance story takes a sinister turn and we are confronted with unimaginable horrors. Complex and technical to film, The Birds represents one of Hitchcock’s most admirable accomplishments. Here, an intriguing romance story with thought-provoking elements meets an original take on horror, and the result is a classic, “must-see” film.
Continue reading “The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: The Birds (1963)”
A Quiet Place  – ★★★★
🤫 Silence never felt as terrifying as in A Quiet Place, a film that is truly scary, without appearing over-done.
John Krasinski’s dystopia A Quiet Place is currently on everyone’s lips, a horror that tries to “reinvent” the horror genre (if such thing is possible after Get Out (2017) and The Witch (2015)). Preoccupied with silence, A Quiet Place is about a family of four: father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and their two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), who are forced to live in complete silence because any loud noise can provoke an attack of aliens populating Earth. This clever horror has the theme of alien invasion as its touchstone, but then goes off in its own direction to become something more innovative and absorbing, largely thanks to its effective use of sound…or lack thereof.
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Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the Horrorathon, celebrating horror movies in the light of the forthcoming Halloween, and I have decided to contribute with a review of one intelligent and highly influential film which some view to be one of the precursors to the modern psychological horror/thriller genre.
Les Diaboliques  – ★★★★1/2
🛀 A true classic in the suspenseful thriller/horror genre, with a twist “to die for”.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French-language film Les Diaboliques is the film which Alfred Hitchcock was dying to make, but never did. The film is not a strictly horror film, but, rather, a psychological thriller with suspense and horror elements combined. In this story, two women, Christina and Nicole, the wife and the mistress of the oppressing director of a boarding school respectively, decide to kill their man and then dispose of his body. Everything goes according to plan, but does it, really? After the murder, the two women realise that the corpse of their victim is nowhere to be found and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing day.
Continue reading “The Horrorathon: Les Diaboliques (1955)”
Mother!  – ★★★1/2
Aronofsky “recycles” others’ and, ironically, his own previous film ideas, resulting in Mother! appearing an unoriginal horror concoction & also an uncomfortable reminder of other, much better films.
<<<I took care not to reveal any specific spoilers, but some discretion when reading is still advised>>>
The story centres around Him (Javier Bardem) and Her (Jennifer Lawrence), a couple settling into their married life in a country mansion, until another couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive and become their pestering lodgers. Ironically, the main flaw of Aronofsky’s psychological horror film Mother! is that it is not his first film. If it were, it would have been a masterpiece of an achievement. Instead, Mother! is simply the “recycling” of all the elements and narrative tricks present in Aronofsky’s other filmography. How does this affect this film, one may ask? Well, Aronofsky’s “recycling” of his own ideas reduces the overall effect, impact and unpredictability of Mother! by as much as eighty percent. The Mother! formula is quite simple to understand. The film is structurally and archetypically Black Swan (2010), plus touches of some “over-the-top” home invasion (The Exterminating Angel (1962)) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968). This is all to it. And, where it is not all, it also incorporates, quite evidently, Aronofsky’s artful, orange bursting creativity, the philosophy we have all previously seen in The Fountain (2006), and biblical/allegorical references. The saddest thing here is that the film is quite entertaining and even ingenuous in its small parts, and the premise would have been unforgettable had Aronofsky been more original in his work.
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Get Out  – ★★★1/2
🦌 An atmospheric and strange combination of The Stepford Wives (1972) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), but with some “over-the-top” horror in the mix and, thus, hardly offering anything new or subtle by the end.
Get Out is one of the best-reviewed films of this year. It is a debut film of director Jordan Peele, and has a dedicated, up-and-coming cast to match the film’s ambition. In this film, which is part psychological horror and part societal critique, a couple, Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams), go to visit Rose’s parents upstate. It would be the first time that Chris meets Rose’s parents and he is visibly nervous. Soon upon arriving, Chris is overcome by the atmosphere of unease all around him, questioning whether he is really that welcomed in the neighbourhood. Despite elements of brilliance in setting up the atmosphere, unfortunately, the film also strays half-way through from its initially brilliantly-presented “social” horror setting and becomes a rather mediocre horror film in its second half, focusing on predictable “slashing” and, ultimately, having a rather unoriginal ending.
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Raw  – ★★★★
🥩 A staggering film debut with “unflinching” gore and disturbing atmosphere, reviving the best of what became known as the New French Extremity movement.
Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film Raw provoked extreme reactions from critics and audiences alike. However, despite its grim story and graphic imagery, the film still managed to gain its critical acclaim. Raw is a French-language film about an adolescent girl Justine (Garance Marillier) who enters her first year at a veterinary school in France. There, Justine joins her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), and soon realises that the life of first-year students at the school is not an easy ride, and her recently-acquired (and initially forced) passion for raw meat is the cause for major concern. Realistic in its presentation, the film is known for its graphic scenes of cannibalism, but, ironically, its most shocking element is not the immoral craving of another human’s flesh, but the film’s ghastly and disturbing setting.
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Psycho  – ★★★★★
🚿 A true classic which stood the test of time, revolutionising the presentation of horror on screen and showcasing Hitchcock’s unparalleled talent for creating suspense.
Adapted from a novel by Robert Bloch, this film is a classic of psychological horror genre, which practically revolutionised the way horror films were shot ever since its premiere. Innovative in how it presents its characters, story and the ending at that time, Hitchcock’s Psycho is as suspenseful, frightening and entertaining now as it undoubtedly was in 1960.
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The Neon Demon  – ★★
📷 Despite the visual beauty of certain scenes, Refn’s parade of random and confused ideas about LA show business and its qualities and appearances, produces a film which is the pretentious boredom, or the boring pretentiousness itself (as you like it).
“Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing”, says Roberto Sarno in this film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, who seems to have taken this statement close to heart, and crafted a film where visual beauty is, indeed, the only thing worth paying any attention to, seemingly forgetting that, in film-making, visual representation is never the only thing that counts. Refn (also director behind critically-acclaimed Drive (2011)) is now here also the writer, and his story is about Jesse (Elle Fanning), an underage aspiring model, who comes to LA to try her luck in show-business. After gaining initial success, Jesse realises that the climb to the top is thornier than she had previously imagined it to be, especially when a group of fellow models start to covet her natural attributes and instantaneous success. Despite its outstanding visual effects and a promising premise, The Neon Demon is preposterous and misguided, that kind of a film which one can easily stop watching half-way through, never really caring about the ending.
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Sleepy Hollow  – ★★★★1/2
🪓 Burton’s lavishly gothic period film is a top-notch mystery, combining intrigue, romance and horror, while also not forgetting to pay tribute to the original source material.
“A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere” (Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow).
Sleepy Hollow is Tim Burton’s seventh major film and it is based on a short story by Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The film is about Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp), a young police inspector who, equipped with his progressive scientific expertise, arrives to a small village of Sleepy Hollow, filled with superstition and paranoia. There, Ichabod encounters old wealthy family, Van Tassels, who, like the rest of the village, is in fear of the Headless Horseman, who terrifies and commits gruesome murders in the village. Upon arrival, Ichabod promises to restore peace to the village and discover the identity of the murderer. However, Ichabod is up for surprises, as in order to complete his task, he has to start questioning not only his scientific beliefs, but also matters of the heart, as he slowly falls for Van Tassel’s charming daughter, Katrina (Christina Ricci).
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Insidious  – ★★★★
👻 An imperfect, but “effective” and genuinely scary work from a talented director.
Insidious, directed by James Wan (Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007)), is one of those few psychological horror films that are genuinely scary without sliding into ridiculousness or dullness, and that also provides good entertainment in terms of fascinating subject matter, gripping plot and great sound effects. In Insidious, the plot centres on the Lambert family who recently moved into their new house. After Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins), a small boy, has his falling accident in the attic, and then mysteriously slips into a coma, strange things start to happen in the Lambert family’s new house. When Dalton’s mother Renai and father Josh (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) start to investigate the causes and nature of strange apparitions and noises, they soon discover that their child’s endless sleep has more to do with the house’s haunting state than they have ever dared to guess.
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Identity  – ★★★★1/2
👤 An intelligent and claustrophobic horror treat, with one mind-blowing final twist.
“As I was walking up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today; I wish, I wish he’d go away.”
Ten strangers: a family of three, a limo driver, a film star, a call girl, a police officer, a convict and a troubled newly-wed couple, get stranded at a remote motel in the Nevada desert on a stormy night. Each of them has a dark secret to hide. When gruesome murders begin to take place at the motel, and the newcomers are killed one by one in a sinister fashion, they soon realise that their encounter is less coincidental than they might have originally assumed. In the background to these events, there is also a post-conviction death penalty meeting taking place, the centre of which is a man called Malcolm Rivers, a mentally-disturbed serial killer. Although at first the movie may appear confusing, all the story events inevitably lead to a logical, well thought-out and fascinating finale.
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Antichrist  – ★★★★
✂ The film targets the “primal human needs” in the audience, the Freudian connection between sex and death, and the “death” drive.
Coming from Danish director Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003)), this controversial film promises to be anything, but an easy ride. Hailed in Denmark a masterpiece overnight, Antichrist became “a bloody conundrum” abroad. The film follows a guilt-driven/grief-ridden couple (He & She) as they retreat into a cabin in the woods, trying hard to combat both their grief in relation to their lost child and their inexplicable fears. As they face each other and their surrounding environment deep in the woods, they soon realise that their retreat is far from being therapeutic.
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