horror

American Horror Story Coven * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 3 2013)

The second season of “American Horror Story” was great, so I was curious what the third season would be like. The story this time is about a home for young witches. Jessica Lange has a part comparable to the previous season. Fitting with the ‘concept’ of the series, there are other actors from previous seasons that return, such as Evan Peters, Sarah Poulson and Frances Conroy.

Cordelia Foxx runs a school for young witches because she fears that witches will die out on current times so she wants to bring them together and train them. Her school is not big, just a few young ladies. Cordelia’s mother (Fiona, played by Lange) is “the supreme” and pretty much a despot. The whole series circle around “the next supreme”. Who will it be?
Then there are a few story lines. There is a competitive group of witches, a voodoo-group around Marie Laveau.
Laveau took revenge on Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a brutal Renaissance landlady whose character brings the topic of racism violently into the story. LaLaurie makes a wonderfully weird element to the story that allowed the creators of the series some grim humor.
The series contain brilliant and weird episodes not unlike “Asylum”, but also teeny-witchy epioses. Especially the final episode is awful.

Overall I think that this third season is fairly good, but it has too many weak episodes to be as good as season 2. It is weirder than season 1, but that season is more ‘consistent in level’. Season 3 has more highs and lows and the highs make this season more ‘watch-worthy’ than the opening season in my opinion.

The Theatre Bizarre * various directors (2011)

An odd cover and Udo Kier on the box made me decide to take this film home. Not a too good choice though….

“The Theatre Bizarre” is six films by six different directors, plus a “framing segment” knitting the other parts together. This “framing fragment” (by Jeremy Kasten) contains Udo Kier working in a theatre and announcing the different parts which are the other films. “The Theatre Bizarre” watches like a compilation of filmmakers with no wealth of experience and with tiny budgets. The acting in most segments is unconvincing and the results of most parts are the well-known gruely horror that you can see on smaller film festivals.

We have a part in which a man cannot accept his girlfriend leaving (“I Love You” by Buddy Giovinazzo) so he cuts her up. A similar story in which a guy is addicted to candy (“Sweets” by David Gregory). “The Mother Of Toads” (Richard Stanley) is a more typical horror in which a young man runs into a black magic woman. Tom Savini’s “Wet Dreams” tells the story of a man having disturbings dreams that may not be dreams. The best short of this compilation is “Vision Stains” by Karim Hussain which is about a mother and her daughter who witness a motorcycle accident, which makes the daughter think about death.

Like I said, most of the films somehow turn into a bloody mess which does not really ‘work’ any more since decades of splatter horror.

The Silence Of The Lambs * Jonathan Demme (1991)

I am no longer 100%, but I believe that I saw “Manhunter” (1986) before I saw “The Silence Of The Lambs”. I wonder why I never reviewed “Manhunter”, because it is not only the first of the ‘Hannibal the cannibal’ films, but also the best. A while ago I wanted to see the classic “The Silence Of The Lambs” again and found out that I only have it on VHS. That little thing is solved now, so 15 years after it came out, I rewatched the psychological serial killer thriller with which the genre had a flying start that has not ended today.

I am sure you all saw this film and know how the story goes. The then 29-year-old and a bit too youthfull looking Jody Foster plays the promising FBI-agent Clarice Starling as the FBI is hunting a serial killer. Clarice has the idea that the famous and convicted serial killer Hannibal Lector would be able to shed light on the investigation. She visits Lector in his extremely guarded cell trying to bargain information that can help the investigation. Lector does not just share his cooperation, navigating Starling into a difficult position. What is more, Lector manages to use the whole situation to his own benefit.

“The Silence Of The Lambs” has a very gloomy atmosphere that still ‘works’. There is not a whole lot of gruesomeness, but there is a continuing suggestion of it; an element that had not yet found its way into Hollywood filmmaking until then. The slow pace, lengthy dialogues and Lector’s psychological terror make this film a true classic that deserves to be watched still. The only thing is that the soundtrack could have been better in hindsight.

American Horror Story Asylum (series) * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 2 2012/3)

In 2013/4 I watched the first season of “American Horror Story”. However I enjoyed that season, I did not like it enough to continue with season 2. A while ago I ran into the season 2 box in Germany for a few euros and decided to take it and put it somewhere for when I would not have a series to watch. So it happened that in the last weeks I have been watching season 2 afterall. I must say: it is great!.

I wrote about the first season that it is not so much of a horror, but a drama with horror elements. This can still be said about “Asylum”, but whereas the first season was relatively light-footed and funny, this second season is weird, dark and troubling. The way I like my TV experience!

The asylum from the title is Briarcliff, an institution for the mentally unfortunate, hard-handedly run by Sister Jude. Not all inhabitents of Briarcliff really belong there. Sister Jude herself admits people who she think need treatment. Other people are sent to Briarcliff by the state or by a judge. The inhabitents make a motley crew of the insane, criminals and victims of the system. After a while under the ‘care’ of Sister Jude, everybody becomes a drooling nutcase.

Working in a wing of the institution is Dr. Arden, a cruel doctor using patients as test-subjects. His relation with Sister Jude is not one of mutual respect. This element makes an easy bridge for typical horror elements.

The series could be seen as a soap in a few ways. Several of the characters develop as the 13 episodes pass by. Sometimes the changes are sudden and extraordinary sharp. At other times the changes are more subtle. It is obvious that the story has again been well thought through and the season contains horror, fright, disgust, but also well placed drama and has lost almost all of the light-footedness and humour of the first season. I did not see a whole lot of ‘deeper meanings’ (except criticism on the system of mental health and on the Church), so I am not going to use David Lynch as a comparison, but maybe I can recommend this season to people who like David Cronenberg’s older films for example.

I certainly like “Asylum”, so the next season could well raise a few places on my wishlist.

The Exorcist * William Friedkin (1973)

This film is a few years older than myself and I already saw it a few times before; now I did so again. I do not know if there are readers of this website so young that they never heard of this horror classic, but just in case there are, I wrote this little review.

The film is about the young girl Sharon who is a little weird. When her bed starts flying through her bedroom, her mother sets out to find help. Sharon proves to be possessed by the devil himself. First Sharons mother tries the normal medical route where the doctors come up with all kinds of fancy explanations. When nothing helps, we go down to the reference in the title.

I was quite surprised how good the film still looks. Of course, the actors wear clothes we would no longer wear and the way they act is somewhat ‘old fashioned’, but the colours, the way the story is built up, “The Exorcist” still makes a good film. What I was less positively surprised about were “the scenes” in which we see the devil talking through Sharon. I remember those as more impressive. Sure, the make-up still has a young girl looking quite awfull and her swearing can still match many current cursing scenes, but the devil seems less scary than before.

Still, should you have never seen this film, and you like the supernatural thriller kind of the not-too-splatter kind of horror, “The Exorcist” remains one that you must have seen.

Devil * John Erick Dowdle (2010)

From the director of “As Above, So Below” and “Quarantine”. I did not like either film, so why did I pick “Devil”?

“Devil”, like “Quarantine” plays in the small confinement of a single building, this time an skyscraper office. The tension is slowly built up, which is not badly done. Basically this film is an old fashioned horror in a current setting.

The film is not horrible, but certainly not exceptionally good either.

Quarantine * John Erick Dowdle (2008)

Boy this film is corny. I even have the idea that I already saw it, but this was very long ago or I found it too bad to review.

Angela (Jennifer Carpenter, ‘Dexter’s sister’) and Scott form a tv-crew that are going to spend a night with the local fire department. It takes a long while before the first call, but the men are called for a medical call (which are most, the commander says) in the middle of the night. A woman in an appartment building went berzerk and soon several people are wounded. Assembling all inhabitents in the lobby below, it soon becomes clear that people outside do not want anyone to leave the building. Of course things go from bad to worse when the story takes a very predictable turn.

The Conjuring * James Wan (2013)

Do you know that movie about a haunted house? “Which one?” you ask? Exactly. Here we have one of those.

You can make a good shot about the story. A family moves onto a big, remote house and soon gets haunted by the inhuman inhabitants. There we have the first half of “The Conjuring”. The story is predictable, but the atmosphere is well enough. Halfway, the family calls in two ghost-busters whose story is intwined with the main story. The ghost-busters move in with the family as they try to get rid of the demonic spirit.

I am not sure how “The Conjuring” ended up on my to-see-list, but lest you should like the predictable kind of horror, it need not be on yours.

As Above, So Below * John Erick Dowdle (2014)

A not too convincing attempt to bring a Dan Brown-like story to a Blair Witch-like horror.

The gorgeous investigator Scarlett continues her father’s search for the philosopher’s stone. In a Da Vinci Code-like pursuit she concludes that the philosopher’s stone can be found below the gravestone of Nicholas Flamel (1340-1480) (in whose tomb they find a drawing of Eliphas Levi (1810-1875)). To get there she descends with a group of explorers into the catacombs below the city of Paris. Using shallow alchemical and hermetical symbolism (“above above, so below” means: ‘a door on the ceiling, means a door in the floor’) Scarlett and her group go through the haunted maze that lays below the city. The adventure is pretty predictable, the atmosphere not always as pressing as intended and the Blair Witch-like camera work is not used all the way through.

Just an occult horror with a semi-interesting story. Not boring, but nothing that needs to get up high on your wishlist either.

Resident Evil * Paul W.S. Anderson (2002)

This film starts as a high tension sci-fi thriller, but inspite of that tension, it is not that good. The too eleborate introduction to the film promises more story than is needed. Halfway the film drops into an unimaginable zombie slasher causing another drop in level.

In some future a big company has a big underground laboratory for secret experiments. Something does wrong, the AI defence system takes over and a small group of soldiers has to enter the city to shut down the main computer. Anderson apparently could not choose a genre and he goes from sci-fi thriller to gory horror to drama to action, coming to an unbalanced, not too well acted and story-wise uninteresting film.

I guess this film is for people who feel like some mindless action.