The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Fans of horror films know that some are genuine works of art like the Monalisa or Starry Night. They look past the things that shock others etc. to unearth a spectre of understanding of human greatness on the screen. This film is one of those for many horror fans. I truly hope more people, including non-horror fans, get a chance to see this lovely foreign film.

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The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Cast

Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

Directed by

Guillermo del Toro

Written by

Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rated R
1h 46min

What are ghosts? Why do we get scared as children when we hear ghost stories? These are primal questions we may never have a scientific answer to. In this film, ghosts are beings that are stuck. They keep doing the same thing and it is thought of as haunting. Carlos is a boy in an orphanage in the Spanish civil war. His father has died in battle but no one tells him. Instead, he is abandoned at a small orphanage. In front of the orphanage is a mammoth sized defused bomb. This is that backdrop and setting for this drama that contains elements of horror.

The ghost is referred to as Santi, or “the one who sighs.” He looks a little like a zombie but he can talk and probably use reason. He was once a boy just like Carlos. Santi seems to be somewhat of a protector of the orphanage. His mute eloquence speaks volumes about how war is hell and how men can be overwhelmingly evil.

This film is a beautiful painting. Guillermo del Toro calls it his “most personal work.” When the boys get into their mischief, I couldn’t help but imagine a young Gullermo there. The horror is scant but it serves it’s purpose in telling this entrancing story. The characters are so well written and played, I felt I was watching a live university theater production. There are tons of quotes shared by the narrator and after watching it I felt wiser. There are subtitles and the film is entirely spoken in Spanish. Still, the cinematography and deft writing kept my eyes glued to the screen. I do speak Spanish but I am not a native speaker. I gladly read the subtitles that capture some subtleties of the language. This is beautiful film to watch and to listen to despite the subtitles. There is so much else here. Any horror film lover must see it and even if you aren’t one, this is an incredible drama with ghosts, fantasy, and revenge.

The antagonist is a class A asshole. I’ll spare you the spoilers but you will enjoy a few things surrounding his story. Towards the end you start to wonder who is a ghost and who is not. All in all, this beautiful piece of cinema serves to display the hell of war. It also raises the question of what ghosts are. Can they exist outside of religion? When we fear them, perhaps we lose sight of their help. Guillermo has said in so many words that we should not fear the dead as ghosts but the living. When we examine war and what it does to people, even children, we should remember that suggestion of his.

Movie Review: ‘Crawl or Die’ – Horror in the Pipeline with a Girl

When you were a kid did you crawl through tunnels? I know I did. These tunnels are kind of like that except a monster is following you and they get smaller and smaller as you try to escape. This is horror in the pipeline with a kick-ass girl.

Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller never looked so good in a film. It’s been called “The Most Claustrophobic Film.” I would agree with that. For horror fans, those scares are met by the incredible performance of Nicole Alonso. The Director Oklahoma Ward has created a film that sends fear down your spine and makes it impossible to turn away. Several elements work well to make this a perfect indie horror film.

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Crawl or Die (2014)
Cast

Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball

Directed by

Oklahoma Ward

Written by

Oklahoma Ward

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
1hr 30min

Just like rock and roll bands try to play what rocks, so horror directors try to know what scares. As long as I can remember people have said claustrophobia is one of the most universal fears. People don’t like being in an enclosed space. Crawl or Die plays on that fear and believe me, it scares!

Furthermore, the fear of unknown creatures is another fear of many and Director Oklahoma Ward weaves a really scary creature into his film. These scary aspects combined with the extreme physicality of Nicole Alonso as “Tank” make Crawl or Die a horror, sci-fi, thrill ride of a film.

A high level security force is chosen to transport the “package,” the last woman on earth that can become pregnant. The earth as we know it is gone and the continuance of humankind rests in the safe passage of this woman.

While transferring this package, the team has to find its way through a labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a hungry creature that lives in the passages, coming to feed on them.

*The rest of the review may contain minor spoilers

The star of the movie is Tank (Nicole Alonso). She plays an angry, sexy, soldier role in the manner of Avatar‘s Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), Colombiana‘s Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), Alien‘s Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and the like. Alonso’s physical acting is extreme. You see her pulling her own weight to and fro inside the pipes with artistry and grace. She is fun to watch and definitely easy on the eyes. At the same time, there is a determination in her eyes that builds suspense and keeps you guessing about the horror that is right behind them all.

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The creature definitely adds to the terror. In the scenes where you expect the creature to appear, Oklahoma Ward (Director) has deftly added subsonic beats that are choreographed to stop. In some of the early scenes, it seems an eternity before the creature crumbles its spider-like leg through the dirt. This works perfectly to release the scares that are not always that scary. It’s more the waiting on bated breath that creates the horror. Having said that, there are plenty of scares that send chills down your spine. It’s refreshing and remarkable what Ward and Alonso did in this film with such a simple set and formula. This is definitely a movie-makers movie as well as a critic’s film. There is much to talk about. I know I’ll be looking for an interview with the makers soon.

To expand on the “simple conventions” idea: I noticed the team used flashlights in an interesting way. They hung them on their boots as well as held them in their left hand while holding a gun in their right. I suppose when you are in a tunnel that’s getting smaller, you hold your light just about any way you can. The gun is a good thing too although it appeared that even an AK-47 assault type rifle cannot take out this monster. I’ve read online that this is to be the first film in a “Crawl or Die” trilogy. I will be eager to see how Ward uses more simplified effects to produce scares and suspense. As an independent film trying to use minimal budget and conventions to scare, I give this film a perfect score. I am a fan now and am looking forward to next one!

You can follow what’s happening with the Crawl or Die trilogy here.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

“It’s just our family now. We can do whatever we want.”

10 Cloverfield is another point of view of the same situation. A woman is in a terrible car crash and wakes up in the bunker of a doomsday prepper. She thinks escape is what she wants but she has yet to find out what is actually going on outside. Minor plot spoilers ahead.

Cast
John Goodman

as Howard

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

as Michelle

John Gallagher Jr.

as Emmett

Directed by
Dan Trachtenberg
Written by
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Other Info

Thriller, Drama, Horror, Mystery
Rated PG-13
1h 43min

The imprisonment of someone against their will and without cause is a horrid crime. John Goodman plays Howard, the captor. Michelle is the captive and she does an amazing job acting in this film. We relate with her in her plight. Like the recent film “Room” we feel as if we are in the room with her. But I want to let you know that while a confinement theme seemed boring to me at first, there is much more going on in this thriller.

Emmett is another hapless inhabitant of Howard’s shelter. It’s underground and solid. Howard sought refuge with Howard when the disaster started happening. We aren’t told what that disaster is until later in the film. This is a mystery and half the fun is figuring out what the next part of the story is at every turn.

There’s a lot of talk on the internet about whether this is a sequel to “Cloverfield” (2008). I’ve come to my conclusions and I’ll leave it at that. I will say that I don’t think I would have enjoyed this movie as much if I knew the answer to that question so I recommend going in innocent. After you see it, you can look it up to your hearts content. Without giving you an answer, I’ll say these are two completely different movie in theme, style, and genre.

My favorite part of this movie is the character of Michelle. She makes the movie great. Second is John Goodman. If you can get over your menta block of seeing him as Dan Connor, you’ll see a serious, solid, scary, intuitive performance from him. He’s no happy-go-lucky. I enjoyed this thriller beginning to end, for all the reasons I’ve mention, it gets full 5 stars from me. I highly recommend it.

Candyman (1992)

Here we have a cult favorite with underpinnings of a low budget cheap thrill horror movie. Centered around an urban legend where if you say “Candyman” 5 times in the mirror, the characters are killed one by one. Not too cerebral but with a lot of jump scares.

Candyman

Candyman

“The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.” -IMDB

Cast

Virginia Madsen Helen Lyle
Xander Berkeley Trevor Lyle
Tony Todd The Candyman/Daniel Robitaille
Kasi Lemmons Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh

Directed by

Bernard Rose

Written by

Clive Barker, Bernard Rose

Other Info

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 16 Oct 1992 UTC
99min
IMDB Rating: 6.6

Kids freak out over urban legends. The idea that a chant in a mirror can summon a killer or a demon or even a product of ones imagination scares the crap out of them, Some people say we are all kids inside no matter our ages. Perhaps that is why this film has become such a cult classic.

Where I get off the bus is when Virginia Madsen’s character start researching this killer as a supernatural entity. Throughout the 90’s we had slasher films that centered on legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer comes to mind. Perhaps this film tried a bit to hard to weave a scientific basis into it. I think we’ve learned as viewers that the legend need not be explained. Of course, there is always the twist that works well.

Final Thought:
Candyman is a gore-filled jump fest that may appeal to pajama party teens. For those of us seeking to see the elements of horror, it grows tiresome wading through the cheap thrills to get to the real stuff that scares us. It’s all there though, I can’t deny that. Don’t expect a dark sense of foreboding but then again not much n the 1990’s produced that good stuff.

3/5
3 Stars

Intruders

“He WAS your friend, NOW he’s a doorstop.”

Fans of “Panic Room” may really like this one. A group of under thirtysomething males break into the protagonist’s home on a tip there is cash there. She surprises them and delivers some top-shelf girl kickass.

Intruders (2015)
Cast
Beth Riesgraf

as Anna Rook

Rory Culkin

as Dan Cooper

Jack Kesy

as J.P. Henson

Directed by
Adam Schindler

 

Written by
T.J. Cimfel
David White

 

Other Info

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

This is a girl kicks ass movie but there’s is another element. Madness keeps her in the house where she has remained ever “since daddy died” which we are given no exact time on. She nursed her cancer stricken adult brother in the house for years until he died and then even at his funeral she still will not leave the house. So, her madness is an extra element not always seen in “girl kickass” movies.

Beth Riesgraf plays Anna Rook, the heroine/protagonist. She is well known for her role on “Leverage” which I must admit, I now want to see more of. She’s very talent with a ton of potential. This is an excellent revenge type role but it wasn’t received well by the critics. I hope Beth Riesgraf gets roles that get her more exposure, she’s very talented. By the way, if you remember Rory Culkin from “Signs” as a child actor, he reappears in this film as the delivery guy. Buy, his look has changed.

I’d say this film is mostly a thriller and less horror that the posters promote it as. We do find out some horror elements exist like the frozen hand in the freezer and the makeshift dungeon in the basement. Still, this is a thriller with a fairly decent script that holds the viewer’s attention. It has a strong concluding scene that I fond very creative. Overall, I highly recommend it. As is my common theme lately in my reviews, you can’t always trust Rotten Tomatoes. This is a creative and fun thriller with an added mental illness factor. It spent a little too much time developing the relationship with her dying brother and I found that cumbersome. Still, I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Now I’m off to watch “leverage.”