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American Horror Story Hotel (series) – Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 5 2015/6)

As the title suggests, season 5 plays in a hotel. This hotel is inhabited by living people, undead people and (inspite of the previous point) dead people. The undead people feed on the guests, allowing the creators to make bloody scenes with a lot of black humor. As we are used to, there are a lot of familiar actors, most of them in very different roles from previous seasons. There is a “countess” that looks like a perfect part for Jessica Lange, but this season is the first one in which Lange is not featured. I have no idea how that came to be, but the role is played by the lauded Lady Gaga. Gaga is indeed perfect for the part and she plays it exquisitely, but I wonder why she got a grammy for her part and other actors did not.

In any case, “the countess” rules a hotel omnipresent but from the background. She is a weird (looking) creature, but a very sexy one, exactly Lady Gaga. Two people man the front desc. An elderly lady and a drag queen. A policeman trying to find the “Ten Commandments Killer” finds his way to the hotel to no longer leave. “Hotel” is mostly a soap with drama and character development, but there is (of course) quite a bit of horror, also of the annoying ‘look what extreme ways of killing we can come up with’ kind.

Overall “Hotel” is a very descent series. The end is unexpectedly tame which actually adds to the previous.

Silent Hill * Christophe Gans (2006)

  • horror
  • 08 April 201715 October 2018

Hm, “Silent Hill” makes me ‘limping on two thoughts’. On one hand it is too much of a Hollywood horror, on the other there are elements to it that are interesting. Worked out better, “Silent Hill” could have been a lot better.

In a weak start, Rose chases after her sleepwalking daughter Sharon who sometimes mentions “Silent Hill” in her nightmares. Rose finds out that Silent Hill is a town and decides to take her daughter there in the hope that visiting the village will take away the nightmares.

“Silent Hill” proves to be a ghost-town where some disaster happened. The gloomy scenes of darkness entering the village are well done. The darkness is a bit corny, but there are some good scenes. Too bad that both the main character (Rose) and the actress playing that part (Radha Mitchell) are pretty annoying and the story has some very unlikely elements in which Rose seems to keep forgetting what she encountered earlier.

Better about the film is that it does not explain much and that the story does not ‘add up’ leaving it open to the speculations of the viewers. I do not know if the audience of a typical Hollywood horror is up for that though.

Concluding I must say that “Silent Hill” has some descent scenes and good elements, but the weak points overshadow the film.

American Horror Story Freak Show (series) * Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy (season 4 2015)

The fourth season of “American Horror Story” is of the same level as the first. Nice, but not really more than that. After the great season 2 and the good season 3, follows another ‘alright’ season. And there appear to be 9 seasons planned! I wonder if the makers keep going up and down. That would make quite an ordeal deciding if I want to see them all.

As the title suggests we follow a “freak show”, a circus of people with physical deformities. The story is mostly a drama (soap) with people making friends and arguing. Shorter and longer extra stories bring horror elements. It is indeed fun to see actors from other seasons in wholly different, or rather very comparative roles.
The main character is again played by Jessica Lange and her part is not unlike the previous series. Other actors have larger or smaller parts, but most actors return to “Freak Show” at some point. There are a few big parts played by actors that do not seem to return to the series though.

Perhaps, should you not have seen the series, it could be an idea to not just watch them in chronological order. The stories of each season has nothing to do with the other, so you could also just pick the good seasons. Not that the first and fourth season are bad or boring, but they are nothing compared the second. Season 4 does have great opening titles though.

We Are What We Are * Jim Mickle (2013)

So is this the remake of “Somos Le Que Hay” (2010)? The Spanish film has been on my wish-list for quite a while and I did not want to watch the remake, but perhaps I put the remake on my wish-list afterall because I cannot seem to find a way to see the original.

Both films have a ‘below 6’ on IMDb.com and I must say, for this remake this is very just. It starts as a descent, nicely built-up thriller with an unfolding story. Then the number of ‘yeah right moments’ increase and the film works towards a preposterously awful end. I guess this end is supposed to be shocking or surprising, but it is so corny that neither works.

In short the story. We follow a family that is much on its own. When the mother dies, the eldest daughter is supposed to take over certain responsibilities. The viewer gets a peek into the family’s dark secret.

With a better written ending this could have been a descent film, but now it is not.

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.