Dead Man’s Shoes

Revenge films can really be cathartic. I think it gets to our mortal core the same way some Shakespearean plays do. A big thanks to Emma and her excellent review that got me curious.

“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Richard

Dead Man’s Shoes (2015)
Cast
Paddy Considine

as Richard

Gary Stretch

as Sonny

Toby Kebbell

as Anthony

Directed by
Shane Meadows
Written by
Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows, Paul Fraser
Other Info

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

Who hasn’t been wronged and dreamt of getting the perpetrator back? I think it’s essential human nature to enjoy a good revenge film. This is one of those. Richard is the elder brother of Anthony who is bullied and derided by a group of guys in the neighborhood. When Richard is away in the service, the jeering and mistreatment becomes more severe. This is revealed to the audience in flashbacks.

I like the rawness of this film. It was made on a shoestring budget and the actors are not well known in the US as far as I can tell. Paddy Constatine (Richard) has some work under his belt. It’s a film released in the UK so the cast may be more famous there. We find that Richard has developed skills akin to a mercenary fight while in the service. This is ample reason for the group who taunted and maimed to worry. Richard weaves his revenge slowly. I am reminded of the aphorism: “The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”

This is a film to see that will provide all sorts of discussion questions. After watching it, make sure you have time to get tea or coffee. It has a twist at the end that may not make sense at first and I certainly did not see it coming. It’s no Disney ending by any means. I think it’s well written and well made however, possibly more eloquent than Disney could ever make a revenge film.

I won’t watch this one twice, it’s a bit disturbing. Watching it once is a must for all movie fans but I think you’d have to be a bit twisted to watch this a second time. When you recover from a tidal wave do you hope for the next? There are many things here left open-ended about the perpetrators and even Richard himself. I think we are meant to play with the scenes in our head to put them into a sensible context. At the beginning we see Richard and Anthony together, in the middle we don’t and at the end there is a revelation altogether different about the time and what has happened since Richard left for the military.

There are some of the most heinous scenes in this. It wasn’t as bad as the “Snowtown Murders” but pretty close. Once threat scene is probably the most intense I’ve ever seen. Richard threatens Sonny, one of the perpetrators. The movie has some great scenes and that one is one of the best in my opinion. I pulled one star off because there could have been more character development and the time jumping around was a bit confusing for me. Other than that, this is among the best revenge films I’ve seen. I recommend it.

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

A whole different concept than the first film and it worked on many levels to be what I feel is one of the strongest horror films of 2016.

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Ouija: Origin of Evil
Cast

Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas

Directed by

Mike Flanagan

Written by

Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
PG-13
Fri 21 Oct 2016 UTC
99min
IMDB Rating: 6.1

Like most horror movie fans, I was not impressed with the first Ouija film. It was flat and lacking in almost every aspect. For that reason, I didn’t plan to spend my hard-earned money on a prequel (this film takes place before the original). The surprise part of my story is that my daughters dragged me to see it and I really liked it. It was a whole different concept than the first film and it worked on many levels to be what I feel is one of the strongest horror films of 2016.

As with many horror films, it does take a while to really get going. In fact, despite some good scares and creepy atmosphere in the middle, the best scares are in the last 1/3. A story must be told so I get why they have to tell it calmly in the beginning. There are two daughters: an 18 and 9-year-old. They live with their mother and their father has died. The mother runs a psychic medium business out of a parlor in her house. She gets customers in touch with their dead ones and she knows what she does is a scam. She has no guilt because, as she tells her daughters, she is helping these grieving people. Her daughters know it’s all BS. I must mention this was directed by Mike Flannigan (Oculus, Hush) who I have tremendous respect for. He really made a good horror film here and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Spoilers ahead.

There is a rather intricate plot here which reminds me of recent horror films like The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out. In a way, it was too busy for me but I appreciated the story, it sort of came together and worked in the end. Again, it was very complicated. Does anyone miss movies like Halloween where horror is simple?

After one daughter gets seemingly possessed by a demon spirit and helps her mother do readings, the older one meets a boy and reports strange letters her sister wrote in Polish to the headmaster priest at their school. And, that priest is “sort of” dating their mother but not really because he made a vow he won’t break. See what I mean by complicated? It gets more complicated. Suffice it to say Nazi German history weaves in and … well, the ending is sad beyond what you normally would see in a horror movie. Bring your kleenex.

All in all, despite the convoluted, overlong plot, I really liked the scares and creepy atmosphere in this film. I would recommend it as a 7/10 for horror fans.

The Lesson (2015)

Being a teacher, I thought I wouldn’t like this dark gruesome tale. There’s however a license to savor things no matter how “out there” when seen in the horror genre. Don’t tell anyone but I dug this movie 😉

“All of this could have been avoided.” -Mr. Gale

Let me start out by saying this is a horror film but not in the broad sense. It’s full of violence and only those who are fans of the violence/horror genre will likely enjoy this film. Just wanted to stress that up front. Considering that, I dug it!

The Lesson (2015)
Cast
Robert Hands

as Mr. Gale

Evan Bendall

as Fin

Michaela Prchalová

as Mia

Directed by
Ruth Platt
Written by
Ruth Platt
Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Unrated Contains scenes of extreme violence.
1h 37min

Minor spoilers ahead.

This is a great horror film from the UK. The story surrounds a group of juvenile delinquents an their teacher. He’s trying to teach them but they just won’t have it. There is a sie story going on but it really just detracts from the main story I have described. Fin, a 16 year old hooligan, lives with his big brother and the big brother’s girlfriend, Mia. His life at home is brutal and makes his existence as a hooligan make some sense. Still, everyone has challenges. What makes a 16 year old go over the edge and vandalize his teacher’s car with a knife? That’s what he does along with his hooligan buddies.

The editing and camera work is very well done, especially in bloody scenes. We get a feel for Fin’s neighborhood and school. Make no mistake, it isn’t cozy or warm by any stretch. The setting is Fin’s home and school. We get the idea very quickly he doesn’t want to be at either. I sympathized with Fin. He didn’t have a mom or dad to seek advice from and his brother is a class a d***. At any rate, he goes too far one day.

The rest of the movie is the concept of kidnapping and torture. In this case it’s by a teacher. Mr. Gale does a great job as the monster villain. He brings Fin and his counterpart to a secluded garage and commences “The Lesson.” It’s a bloody barrage of hammers, nails, even nail guns, intertwined with the lessons of government and human nature through recorded time. Teacher and students are at their best. Unfortunately for Fin, he’s not fast enough for the high school teacher. Mr Gale does a lot of stuff to him, I leave the rest for you to see for yourself.

There is something like a twist you may not see coming at the end. It’s well written. This film was especially cathartic for me being a teacher of course. While I’d never go this far, I’ve often wondered what it would take to get certain delinquent types to become more focused. We all know students like that think. Thankfully, I don’t know of any teachers like this.  Mr. Gale is completely snapped, he has no remorse for what he does. It’s horror … remember that 2 word sentence before analyzing it, “it’s horror.” It lost a star with me for the home side story, I didn’t think it was necessary and it made the movie drag on a bit. Considering that, I gave it 4/5 stars. I recommend it to fans of the genre.

The Gift (2015)

Joel Edgerton is a great actor but in this it’s hard to remember he’s acting. His character is so stone cold evil. It’s rare I’ve ever seen a character as bad as he.

The Gift (2015)

 

Cast

Jason Bateman as Simon
Rebecca Hall as Robyn
Joel Edgerton as Gordo

Directed by

Joel Edgerton

Written by

Joel Edgerton

Mystery, Thriller
Rated R for language
1h 48min

The gift isn’t much of a gift at all. The gift to me was when I discovered Joel Edgerton is not only Gordo, the creepy stalker in the film, but also the writer/director of the piece. Wow! He certainly does a great job. Most directors might gravitate toward a role in their film that is endearing to the audience, Gordo couldn’t be any further from that sort of character. Things that go bump in the night can usually be explained away. If you were in Simon and Robyn’s case, you might find out your explanations are incorrect months or years later. So what were those creepy bumps for Simon and Robyn? Edgerton’s script shows they are part of a larger, much darker, horrific beyond an R rated gift. You’ll be surprised at the twist.

Robyn and Simon have just moved in to a posh 60’s retro home and are settling in as a married couple. They receive numerous visits from Gordo who says he knew Simon in High School. We get the feeling their relationship was more ominous in nature than it appears to Robyn, who Gordo starts to form a platonic relationship with. Through a course of events, the film becomes a typical stalker thriller but eventually sets itself apart as a very clever, well written, and telling “human nature” account of who everybody “really” is (not just Gordo).

I really liked “The Gift” because I enjoy psychology. As the tale unravels we actually see perspectives we aren’t meant to see. The obvious hero is far from it and the villain, while never a hero, becomes someone we can empathize with, though never fully. I thought the cast was amazing and the story really stays with you because of their performances. Jason Bateman does a great job in this thriller whereas he usually plays comedy parts. He can do a variety of roles. It’s a perfect thriller but I thought it did take too long developing the story. I think it’s over 2/3 of the way through before the typical stalker thriller stuff ends and you get into the genius of the film. For that reason it lost a star with me. Watch this creepy fun movie, I recommend it.

The Conjuring 2

From scares like a creepy toy that plays “The Crooked Man” to a phantom nun with yellow eyes, the Conjuring 2 will please horror fans many times over. Furthermore, I hope a third sequel gets made soon!

From scares like a creepy toy that plays “The Crooked Man” to a phantom nun with yellow eyes, the Conjuring 2 will please horror fans many times over. Furthermore, I hope a third sequel gets made soon!

 

The Conjuring 2
Cast

Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe

Directed by

James Wan

Written by

Carey Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson

Other Info

Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated R
2h 14min

Like its predecessor, this movie features a story about the Warrens. In real-life, Ed Warren was a WWII Naval officer who, after the war, became a self-taught demonologist alongside his wife Lorraine who is a self-described clairvoyant among other titles. They are highly documented investigators of the paranormal. Ed is the only non-ordained demonologist, or one who performs exorcisms, recognized by the catholic church. They have published many of their famous investigations and claim to have done tens of thousands of them. In the film, Patrick Wilson plays Ed and Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine. The movie is based on their experience with The Enfield Poltergeist.

Director James Wan is well known for scaring moviegoers. His Saw and Insidious franchises have netted hefty sums from the wallets of people looking for that thing they’ve never seen before. He’s a master craftsman of the horror genre. There isn’t nearly as much blood and gore in The Conjuring 2 as you will find in Saw movies. Still, there are well crafted scares throughout. A spinning toy that sings “The Crooked Man” is part of one scare that has stayed with me.

Vera Farmiga does an excellent job as Lorraine Warren. You can see in her eyes and movement she has such a profound love and respect for her husband. When he picks up the guitar at one point to bring some peace and music to the haunted place, she is just as captivated with him as the daughters are. It’s interesting how Ed in many ways is the hero of The Conjuring 2. When I saw the first film, I didn’t know he was a real person. Knowing a little about Ed Warren’s history helped me appreciate him immensely in the second film. There is a lot of info on the internet and the Warrens even have their own website that is still up today. Ed has passed on but Lorraine is still with us. She speaks about her paranormal experiences at various events. This film concerns the possession of a young girl and how her family saves her with the help of the Warrens.

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There is no doubt there will be another sequel since there are other stories about the Warrens that remain to be told. I think the first two in the franchise are both very scary horror movies with interesting real-life foundations. Because I was shocked and thrilled, The Conjuring 2 loses no stars from me. I highly recommend it to horror fans.

Below is a real treat, an interview with the Hayes Brothers, the writers of the 2 Conjuring films.

Dead Silence (2007)

Just after James Wan directed “Saw” he created “Dead Silence,” a creepy tale of a ventriloquist’s puppet.

Dead Silence (2007)
R | 1h 29min | Horror, Thriller | 16 March 2007 (USA)

A young widower returns to his hometown to search for answers to his wife’s murder, which may be linked to the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist.
Director: James Wan
Writers: Leigh Whannell (screenplay), James Wan (story) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg

A happy-go-lucky fellow and his girlfriend have recently moved into their new home. They find it to be everything they want, but then this puppet is delivered to them.

James Wan is a phenomenal Horror director who has now become a producer as well. One thing I can say with certainty is that James Wan can craft a scary movie. Even though it feels a bit like something is missing here, Wan has left us with a very scary horror movie from credits to credits. All horror fans will find it worth watching I think.

Furthermore about James Wan: H seems to include a scary prop of some sort in his movies. You see it in the little doll and the mask of Jigsaw. Here, you see it in this ventriloquist puppet hell-bent on terror. It works quite well for scares. I don’t think you can ever get too jaded to not jump when a puppet like that moves all of a sudden. It’s creepy and probably has been in film and stories way back to the early days. Speaking of props, think about the bear trap in Saw along with the many gadgets and machines engineered to kill. Wan is definitely a prop director.

The acting is fine, there is nothing spectacular. It’s worth noting that Donnie Wahlberg was in so Saw sequels and he plays the detective here in this film. Much emphasis is put on the puppet and as a result, not much else is developed in the story. So, even though I really like the premise and the puppet, it loses some points with me for not being as well rounded a film as I would have liked.

7/10

Southbound

Short horror stories that come together on the road, the southbound road if you take my meaning of South.

A series of interconnected short films, “Southbound” is pure horror reminiscent of the 1970’s-1980’s minimalist styles.

Southbound (2015)
Cast
Chad Villella

as Mitch

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin

as Jack

Kristina Pesic

as Sutter

Directed by
Roxanne Benjamin
David Bruckner
Patrick Horvath
Radio Silence

 

Written by
Roxanne Benjamin
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
David Bruckner
Susan Burke
Dallas Richard Hallam
Patrick Horvath

 

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Not Rated
1h 29min

These small films fit into one another just like the Twilight Zone movies. If you’re looking for a common theme, you’re likely to be disappointed, There are these giant devilish skeleton bats that chase some of the characters, apparently for justice. Other than that, it’s just a fairly well made, and simply made, horror movie with a few clever twists.

There is one part where a man is distracted by his phone while driving and he hits a girl who had just escaped a satanic sacrifice ceremony. He calls 911 only to become more confused by what has happened and of course frustrated. Some of the stories are like that, unsatisfying.

Th giant bat effects ARE satisfying, along with the final scene where we are brought up to speed about what’s happening in the chase in the opening scene. The movie works like a circle, setting you on a path and then replacing you there after you’ve finished another story.

This film has a lot of killing and blood in it. There isn’t much explanation for any of it though. I suppose you could draw the conclusion that if you live an immoral life, you’ll have to reckon with the grim reaper or the devil or some being at the end of your life. Not a very original idea for a horror movie but there are enough clever twists to keep you guessing. It lost two stars with me for the lack of explanation about many elements in the stories.

I suppose it could be seen as the devil is coming for those who have killed or sinned terribly but they never say why. If you don’t mind open ended movies, you’ll probably not get my criticism. I like finding out why the mysterious things happen. It pleases me when everything fit, Southbound is a good movie but seems to leave so many thinking projects up to the viewer. For plain text horror with minimal production, I recommend it!

The Shallows (2016)

This is not Jaws but several times it spikes the same level of scares. From beginning to end it had my attention, I was never bored, and a few times I was shocked out of my seat by what I saw.

Blake Lively shows some incredible strength as an actor carrying 2/3 of the film on her own in the water trying to get to safety against a gargantuan shark. Along with excellent writing and acting/directing, the effects are effectively terrifying.

theshallowsposter

The Shallows
Cast

Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose

Directed by

Jaume Collet-Serra

Written by

Anthony Jaswinski

Other Info

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated PG-13
1h 26min

There are quite a few films out there that feature a blond girl surfing. Blue Crush, Soul Surfer, Aqua Dulce, and more. The posters are like this one, full of a beauty with a board. That is usually all it takes to bring a big crowd. In this case, while the image is the same, this is not just a girl surfer movie. Blake lively had a surf double, Isabella Nichols, who is the no. 1 junior champion surfer in the world. But with surfing scenes excluded, Blake did most of her own stunts. This is a very physical film and sometimes her physicality is crucial to telling the story. Plot is limited. Nancy (Blake Lively) is recovering from her mother’s tragic death by traveling to Mexico for some serious surfing. IN a very beautiful and secluded cove, she finds some near-perfect waves and starts enjoying them. There are two Mexican dudes there and they seem much more at ease with the beach than she is. They call to her but she never gets close to them. The guys leave and Nancy is face to face with a shark. What happens next is what makes it a thriller.

The following 2/3 of the film consists of basically one actor (Blake Lively), a big scary shark, incidentally the shark looks great, and an endearing seagull that Nancy talks to and is comforted by. shallows2You wouldn’t think that thrills and suspense could be generated with such minimal props but they can be and they are in the Shallows. There is an excellent use of 1/2 above 1/2 underwater camerawork. Instead of being clueless what’s going on under the surface, the director shows you and it’s even scarier. I have to take issue and challenge the movie calling itself horror. While there are unpleasant jumps here and there that shock the viewer, it’s a bit too “woman-against-nature” Survivor-like to be considered horror. If one of the surfers was a serial killer as a side story, I might accept the label as accurate. As it is, I see it as a thriller and a great one at that.

shallows3This is not Jaws but several times it spikes the same level of scares. From beginning to end it had my attention, I was never bored, and a few times I was shocked out of my seat by what I saw. Much care has been given to the CGI and props to make the shark attacks look real. The “final battle” between the shark and Lively is the stuff that award-winning thrillers are made of. I absolutely loved the way the director handled that. The Shallows is a top-notch thriller made with simplified tools. Blake Lively gives a strong physical and emotional performance. The film looses no stars with me, I give it a 5/5. Go enjoy it while it’s still in theaters.

Following (1998)

Long before Christopher Nolan directed the Dark Knight, he created a sleepy noir film called Following. He definitely has a lot of us following him now and it all started with this first visionary film of his. This is streaming now on Metflix.

Following (1998)
R | 1h 9min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 5 November 1999 (UK)

A young writer who follows strangers for material meets a thief who takes him under his wing.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Plot
This is a film with a very odd beginnng. A man is questioned as to why he follows people and he responds that it is a fixation. He isn’t out to hurt anyone, he just follows people. If that isn’t creepy enough, he does get into stealing and harming people when a criminal he is following decides to teach him his ways. What ensues after that is the meat of this movie.

My Thoughts
The actors are all excellent. I found it more interesting to learn about why he follows people than to see the details of breaking and entering. I think it’s a universal fear that someone would go through our private things when we’re out of the house. The dialog in this film is engaging and draws you in. The characters feel real and you can see how the director went on to be so successful. It is slow however and takes a long time in between “happenings.” For that reason I’d say you could miss it and be okay but fans of the noir genre and of Christopher Nolan will find it delightful as a sort of novelty. I recommend it for those types.

6/10

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.

crawlordie-poster

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.