Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Holden
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Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Holden »

Hi! I've seen many other forum goers write about listening to new albums, and I thought I'd do a little spin on that! I LOVE horror films. I thought it'd be fun for me to review them on here and talk with you all about horror movies!

No schedule here, just whenever I watch the films! I'll give a little score after all of my thoughts as well.

My rating system:
★☆☆☆☆ - Not Worth Your Time
★★☆☆☆ - Maybe Worth Your Time
★★★☆☆ - Worth Your Time
★★★★☆ - Definitely Worth Your Time
★★★★★ - Go Watch It Right Now!
Last edited by Holden on Sat Oct 24, 2020 2:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Review #1: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Directed By Wes Craven
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Alright, so tonight I watched the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street! I'd never seen it before, which I figured I should remedy if I wanted to consider myself a good horror fan. This is, after all, one of the essentials!

Anyway, on to the movie. This film, honestly, was not great in my opinion. Definitely not one of the BEST horror movies ever. Of course, though, its influence is undeniable. The imagery, the themes around sleep and darkness, and the idea of murderous ghosts have been copied so, so many times over.

****SPOILERS START HERE****

First, let's talk about what I liked! It had a lot of cool shots in it. The scene where Glen (Johnny Depp) is killed in a pool of blood is pretty awesome to look at. The iconic scene in the alleyway is pretty great as well, with his enourmous arms seeming to hint at sort of a full grasp on the dream world is pretty great symbolism as well as a neat little shot. When Tina (Amanda Wyss) is killed in the bedroom is also pretty well shot, and the effects in that scene are pretty amazing! It doesn't look fake, to me, and since that's about as far as the effects go in this movie, all of them hold up pretty well.

The film starts up pretty well. The introduction to the dream world immediately is a good way to start. The movie paying homage to Hitchcock's psycho is pretty interesting too, by introducing us to a false protagonist early on and then having Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) take up the mantle is a nice horror film touch that doesn't seem too forced or anything like that.

The themes of the movie, ultimately, are pretty sharp. One analysis I've seen is that this film is really an analogy to sexual assault, especially as an adolescent, and that is portrayed pretty well. The bathtub scene, the fact that Freddie Krueger (Robert Englund) kidnaps children, the killing of Tina immediately after her having sex with Rod (Nick Corri), and the disbelief of Nancy by her family are just a few of the images and idea that lend this interpretation. Honestly, I wish that the film had dove into these themes more! That would've made it a better film, and a more human one.

Overall, one the positive side, I did enjoy much of the cinematography of the film, as well as the beginning and the themes of it. Finally, for this section at least, I'd like to talk about Krueger himself. My philosophy is that, ultimately, one thing a movie of any genre should do is attempt to be timeless. Never have your effects be outdated. This can be achieved many ways, but I believe practical effects to be the best. And this film's effects are pretty timeless. The makeup work is great, and the limited practical effects work tremendously!

Now, on to the negatives. For one, the story barely feels continuous. While the scenes with Freddie work relatively well for the most part, the scenes between them feel almost thrown together haphazardly to create a story. On that front, the script itself feels relatively weak. It seems as though the screenplay did not have a lot of direction, instead having relied on visuals, which do work, but it's sort of a drag to get from one scary scene to the next.

The dialogue is not wonderful, in my opinion. Ultimately, I didn't expect it to be. A lot of films feel like they are made in a focus group with adults deciding what teenagers will like, and failing to succeed in sounding like teenagers. This film is NOT that. This film isn't detached from the way teenagers talk, it's detached from how everyone talks. The dialogue exists to push the story, which it does, but it just isn't fun to listen to. Additionally, the acting isn't the best, but I'm not going to fault the film too much for that. I think the actors all did a good job in a film that didn't lend itself to good performances.

****SPOILERS END HERE****

Ultimately, this film is definitely an essential for every horror fan. While I didn't love every second, it's hard to deny the prowess of the special effects and makeup work, and the tension-filled horror scenes feel iconic as you watch them, even with fresh eyes. What the film truly suffers from is a subpar script, in my opinion. But at only about 90 minutes, this film is definitely a worthy investment of an hour and a half.

Score: ★★★☆☆
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by jamieW »

Great review (and idea for a thread), Holden! As a big horror movie fan (and film fan in general), I look forward to reading these.

I will say I was 13 when "Nightmare" first hit the theaters and it seemed totally original (and quite scary) at the time. If you hadn't seen it before, I can understand why it wouldn't have the same effect, since the theme has been oft repeated and a lot of the material feels dated. On my 1-10 scale, I give this one an 8, but a lot of that is based upon the nostalgia factor. I'd probably rate it the same as you if I was watching it for the first time today.

Keep up the great work!
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Review #2: The Others, Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
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Tonight's film is The Others, a 2001 haunted house film. Interestingly, Alejandro Amenábar directed, wrote, and scored the film, so this is one of those films that exists as the realized vision of basically one person. What always comes to mind in films like that is Carpenter's Halloween, one of the best horror movies ever made and one that I will definitely review if I rewatch it sometime in the future. But I'm not here to praise Halloween, I'm here to review The Others. So I shall do that!

For those wishing to watch the film, I recommend going in blind. That goes for most horror movies, but this one is one of those that should be enjoyed blind. So please make sure to skip the spoilers section and go to the end with my summary thoughts if you plan on watching it!

For a premise, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children are living alone in a large house in the 1940s, sometime after World War II. Her husband has not yet returned from the war. She lives with two young children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley). One morning, three servants (Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes, and Elaine Cassidy) show up at her door and she hires them to help around the house.

Alright, so skip to my ending thoughts and my rating, and then go watch the film! No spoilers unless you've seen it! You'll definitely enjoy it more blind!

****SPOILERS START HERE****

So this movie certainly threw a LOT at the wall to see what would stick. There are a lot of pieces set up in the premise, which can work great! Some of my favorite horror films have wide open premises. The best climaxes in films occur when a lot of moving pieces come together. So let's break down the moving pieces that this film puts into place.

One, the children's condition. This seems immediately like a gimmick for the film, a great way to have the film take place in the darkness. However, this film doesn't force this to create its scary moments. This one detail instead serves as a way of sewing distrust between the characters, with almost every scene being well lit enough to not worry about being attacked from behind. However, there are also several moments that take advantage of the darkness.

For the next piece, let's talk about the husband at war. This, well, doesn't really add THAT much to the story. The payoff isn't really worth the setup here, but I also think that the film would've been worse without it added in. I just don't think it was utilized to its full potential. James Bentley (who I was not expecting to see here!) certainly was not used to his full potential.

Finally, the new servants. A relatively common horror trope, not to say that disqualifies it from existing in phenomenal movies. One thing here is that the film oversteps itself in several scenes where the new servants speak about their plans. This is something that I feel like is one of the big risks with films with twist endings, is that sometimes you can overplay it. Which I feel that this film did. I think if the scenes of them discussing had taken the dialogue out and focused on visual storytelling instead, it would've been more enjoyable to me.

Alright, so we've gone over my opinions of all of the moving pieces this film puts in place. What did I like about the actual craft?

Well the performances certainly are very well done. The child actors are great, something that is always worth pointing out! The secondary adult actors suffice, but the script didn't really allow them to shine, so they did the best with their roles. Nicole Kidman pulls a very good performance in this picture. I've seen some claim it to be Oscar-worthy, I'd have to disagree. Kidman is a phenomenal actress (The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Lion are two more recent examples of her prowess) and she does a really good job, but nothing career-defining.

The movie's score is simply a delight, complementing the film very well. The cinematography is wonderful as well, delightfully playing off of the premise of darkness and the gorgeous shooting environment. Additionally, the actors have a lot of chemistry and play off of each other well.

So what didn't I like? Well, this is a film that feels like less than the sum of its parts to me. The script is alright, the performances range from good to great, and the filmmaking itself is borderline immaculate. But it doesn't all mesh as well as I feel it could have. The twist left me feeling sort of empty. It's not as though it doesn't make sense, it just feels like it doesn't have the power it was designed to. Some films leave me literally putting my hand over my mouth with shocking reveals, and this one didn't.

However, while the twist itself didn't impress me as I would have hoped, the scene in which it is revealed is a wonderful little streak of cinematic mastery. From the moment Nicole Kidman runs away from her servents standing at the door to the end of the little peak into reality is great! In one moment a lot of what the film was trying to do came together. Tonally, the shift from fear to humor is incredibly well done. So while the premise of the climax was subpar, the execution was a great little piece of filmmaking.

****SPOILERS END HERE****

In conclusion, this film is one that I feel like is less than the sum of its parts. It doesn't really have the staying power that I'd hoped it would have. But honestly, it doesn't miss the mark by that far. The craftsmanship is great, this is a well shot, well scripted, well scored film. Within the film are several sequences that hint at a truly amazing film beneath the surface of the good film we got. If you like Nicole Kidman, I'd say that's enough to push one to watch it. If you like haunted house films, I'd say that's enough for me to recommend it to you. Ultimately, with a runtime under two hours, it isn't a huge commitment, and I'd say go for it if you think you'll like it!

Score: ★★★☆☆

Hello! I'd love for you all to recommend horror movies for me to watch and review, and let me know what you think of the movies I review! And I'm sorry if I don't praise your favorite to the degree you think it deserves, I promise it's not personal and I'm happy you can enjoy it more that I do!
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Nick »

Holden wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 4:17 am

Hello! I'd love for you all to recommend horror movies for me to watch and review
I'm not a big horror movie fan, which means when I find a horror movie I like it's always exciting. Here are some of my favorites:

Scream
The Thing
It Follows
The Shining
Psycho
The Birds
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Arsalan »

Well horror used to be my favorite genre but I haven't watched a horror movie since earlier this year. there are some horror movies I have downloaded and will watch them asap. My favorite horror movie of all time has to be "The Blair Witch Project".
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Arsalan wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 2:02 pm Well horror used to be my favorite genre but I haven't watched a horror movie since earlier this year. there are some horror movies I have downloaded and will watch them asap. My favorite horror movie of all time has to be "The Blair Witch Project".
Mine, too, Arsalan! That one got under my skin like no other. I found the effect is almost totally dependent on your imagination, though. The creative people I knew that had vivid imaginations thought it was the scariest movie they'd ever seen. The people I knew who needed to be "shown" monsters, witches, and axe murderers leaping out every 5 minutes found it "boring" and "stupid." (I personally think it was anything but "stupid.") I would never have the courage to recommend it, though, since it was so divisive and the claustrophobic effect is certainly diminished on the small screen.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Schüttelbirne »

A few suggestions with an added emphasis on the non-English ones worth looking at:

박쥐 [Thirst] (Chan-wook Park, South Korea 2009)
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari] (Robert Wiene, Germany 1920)
The Descent (Neil Marshall, UK 2005)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, USA 2014)
Ich seh, ich seh [Goodnight, Mommy] (Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz, Austria 2014)
Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In] (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden 2008)
mother! (Darren Aronofsky, USA 2017)
El orfanato [The Orphanage] (J.A. Bayona, Spain 2007)
Repulsion (Roman Polanski, UK 1965)
The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, UK 1973)
Les yeux sans visage [Eyes Without a Face] (Georges Franju, France 1960)
You're Next (Adam Wingard, USA 2011)

I also agree about Blair Witch Project being great. Heather Donahue's big scene is one of the best scenes from any horror film ever.
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Schüttelbirne wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 3:14 pm A few suggestions with an added emphasis on the non-English ones worth looking at:

박쥐 [Thirst] (Chan-wook Park, South Korea 2009)
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari] (Robert Wiene, Germany 1920)
The Descent (Neil Marshall, UK 2005)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, USA 2014)
Ich seh, ich seh [Goodnight, Mommy] (Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz, Austria 2014)
Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In] (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden 2008)
mother! (Darren Aronofsky, USA 2017)
El orfanato [The Orphanage] (J.A. Bayona, Spain 2007)
Repulsion (Roman Polanski, UK 1965)
The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, UK 1973)
Les yeux sans visage [Eyes Without a Face] (Georges Franju, France 1960)
You're Next (Adam Wingard, USA 2011)

I also agree about Blair Witch Project being great. Heather Donahue's big scene is one of the best scenes from any horror film ever.
So many great choices in here that I don't even know where to begin. (Includes a lot of my all-time favorites!) It's funny, in my family, I"m considered the person who likes horror films the least. (Perhaps because I'm a cinephile, and horror is not my favorite genre.) Through this project, I'm already discovering I like horror films a lot more than I even thought.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Nick »

I'll tell you two classic horror movies that were BIG letdowns: the original Halloween and The Exorcist.

Look, I get it, the times change. Movies evolve. Culture evolves. What was fresh and original to one generation is trite and cliche to another. What was scary to one generation may not be scary to another. But I've seen many great horror movies from decades past. I still love Psycho, The Birds, Alien, The Thing, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, despite the fact that they've been copied a near-infinite amount of times. These movies can still thrill me, still scare me, and still pack a punch. And even if they didn't, I can at least understand WHY they scared people back when they came out.

Neither Halloween nor The Exorcist scare me. Halloween I can at least kind of understand why it may have scared somebody, but it totally fails to do it to me. The acting is beyond terrible, and the conceit (psycho killer stalks our protagonist) has been done better many, many times over. Meanwhile, The Exorcist is a fine family drama, but nothing more. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone above the age of 10 considers it scary. Maybe demonic possession was something people took a bit more seriously back in 1973. But hey, the practical effects are pretty cool.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Nick wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 1:49 pm
Holden wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 4:17 am

Hello! I'd love for you all to recommend horror movies for me to watch and review
I'm not a big horror movie fan, which means when I find a horror movie I like it's always exciting. Here are some of my favorites:

Scream
The Thing
It Follows
The Shining
Psycho
The Birds
Not real big into horror either. I like all the ones you listed, except for The Birds (never seen).

Some other ones that I liked:
Doctor Sleep
Hereditary
Get Out
The Mist
Saw
28 Days Later
The Ring
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by FrankLotion »

I agree with all the excellent suggestions above but I'll also stump for The Exorcist if you haven't seen it, I don't think it's very scary but it's super entertaining and the practical effects they used are still impressive.

Some of these have already been mentioned but my favorite horror from the last decade are:
Hereditary
Get Out
The Babadook
The Cabin in the Woods (This one's not scary, it's more of a comedic satire on horror so if that's not you're thing you may want to skip).
What We Do in the Shadows (Also not scary but incredibly funny).
Us
It Follows
The Witch
The Conjuring
Gerald's Game
It (Part One)
Midsommar

For some more off the beaten path, these are either funny/entertaining but not scary or scary but not very good in general if you're looking for some mindless entertainment: Creep 1 & 2, Train to Busan, Housebound, Halloween (2018), The Conjuring 2, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Oculus, Cam, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Annabelle: Creation, Annabelle Comes Home, Happy Death Day, Honeymoon, The Nightmare, Unfriended, Hush, Veronica, I See You.
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Review #3: The Blair Witch Project, Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Image

Alright, so a couple of you recommended The Blair Witch Project, which I had never seen (though I do intend to rewatch some favorites and review them in the future!) and was also only $0.99 on Amazon Prime so I figured why not.

Now it's no question that this film has been influential, practically creating an entire subgenre of horror. Robert Dimery says that the newest genre of film is the mockumentary genre, and this film brought that into horror.

Personally, I'm not one for found footage. I don't consider myself to write it off or anything, it's just that I feel like it is incredibly difficult to do well. I struggle to think of a truly great found footage horror film off of the top of my head, but of course I have not seen every one, so bring them up if they exist!

Anyway, onto the film! We see three twenty-somethings enter the woods to create a student documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. General chaos ensues. Like always, this film is better entered blind, so skip past the spoiler markings for some general thoughts at the end!

****SPOILERS START HERE****

So at least in the reviews that I have seen, one key feature of this film is constantly praised. That is how 'real' it feels. So does it? The answer to that is a resounding yes! This film feels very real. It's hard to praise the actors enough, in all honesty. In the beginning of the film they accentuate themselves as people tend to do in front of a camera, and the facade of confidence fades as the cameras become a constant instead of a feature.

The characters, Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard all playing fictionalized versions of themselves, don't really have much to them, but it doesn't really hurt the film that much because that's not the point. We aren't supposed to care about the characters before they entered the woods. We are supposed to project ourselves onto them. That is where this film's fear comes from.

We see each one slowly break down in a gradient. There is no breaking point. One might say their fighting over directions as the breaking point, but that is merely the peak. They argue and bicker like real people would, people who aren't really mad at each other but more mad at themselves. At one point Mike makes a truly baffling decision, one that in another film might lead to me declaring it a plot contrivance, but is right at home in this movie. Because people are stupid. They do stupid things when they are agitated, and these characters certainly have a reason to be agitated.

The dialogue of The Blair Witch Project does not get mentioned often in the reviews I've read, but it is truly great. It was largely improvised, and it feels like it. Where other films are clearly scripted, this one feels like a real conversation between people at every moment. Great quotes come out of nowhere and hit you like a truck because all of the discussions are so natural! Some of my favorites include:
"We're still alive 'cause we're smoking.” -Mike
"It's not quite reality. It's like a totally filtered Reality. It's like you can pretend everything's not quite the way it is." -Josh
There's people out here messing with us, and I'm not going to play with that."
"How do you know it was people?"
"Well even if it isn't, I'm not going to play with that either!"
Finally in the praise section, let's talk about the climax of the film! In a truly great decision of filmmaking, the famous scene of Heather crying and talking to the camera is lead into by nothing. A sharp cut from Mike eating a leaf. This transition is perfect for the movie it's in. And then the final scene! So many callbacks to the documentary interviews at the beginning. I felt like a kid in a candy store watching it. And this film is too good of a film to mention them out loud. Other, lesser films would pat themselves on the back. "Mike, what do you think this writing means?" "Josh, why are you in the corner?" But this film remains steadfast, and I loved it.

Alright, so that's a lot of praise. What didn't I like?

Well, the found footage style is sort of a drag at times. This film has very little filler, but I can't help but think that no, Heather, we didn't need another shot of that rock pile. I understand it's a rock pile. That's weird, but I got it after the first fifteen seconds. We can move on. However, the found footage also lends itself to great moments. There are anomalies of greater abnormality than rock piles, and the style of filming allows us to appreciate it as though we were in the film. Some of my favorite moments come when we see nothing but a black screen and can hear the characters talking about the strange goings on and begin to feel the fear they feel. So while not executed without fault, the found footage style is necessity in this film.

Finally, my biggest fault: it just didn't scare me that much. I didn't find this horror movie all that scary. The final scene is certainly unsettling. No doubt about it. The teeth and blood is disgusting and definitely scary as well. But the film never truly brought me into its world. I was an observer. Maybe I just wasn't willing to see beyond the screen, but it really didn't scare me all that much. I consider myself someone who does think that horror films are playing a game of poker and revealing the horror, showing us what we're scared of, is like flashing a tell at a table. If your film's ghost, goblin, witch, or monster is really that terrifying or belongs on screen, (some examples include Attack the Block, Jurassic Park, and It) then show it off. Otherwise keep it in the shadows.

This film certainly keeps its monster in the shadows, but maybe it does so too much. Sticks and stones are scary, and if I was in those woods I would have been absolutely terrified, but on my couch it wasn't that scary. I would've loved to see this film come out in theaters, but sadly that isn't possible! I bet this film is a marvel on the big screen.

****SPOILERS END HERE****

The Blair Witch Project impressed me most with the aspects not talked about in reviews. The dialogue, performances, and attention to detail were very impressive, and modern found footage (and all) horror films should take notes. My biggest problem with it is that, personally, it didn't really scare me all that much. But if this type of film terrifies you, this is a great watch! And if you are better at entering onscreen worlds than I am, I have to recommend this horror classic!

Score: ★★★★☆

I swear I'm not actually going to do one of these every day, I've just had a lot of time on my hands lately!
Last edited by Holden on Mon Oct 26, 2020 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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I see a lot of people recommending Hereditary! Actually, this film was actually my favorite of the decade when we did the poll (and still is), and I will definitely rewatch and review it at some point! Great suggestions, everybody, good mix of new films and classics. Horror is one of the genres that still feels alive in that we may not have reached its peak quite yet.
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I would recommend Krampus (2015) directed by Michael Dougherty. I think this is my favorite horror movie.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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I love your review about The Blair Witch Project! The movie is actually critically acclaimed. About the part you said it didn't scare you, I understand it cause the movie is more like a thriller movie than horror (It could have scared you if you had turned the lights off!). I love this movie and as I mentioned before it is the best horror movie I have ever seen but it is not for everyone since the movie is different and special. It feels so real, you feel like you are in the woods with them and the story is perfect with a memorable ending that makes it a genre-defining classic. All I ever wanted from a horror movie is in this masterpiece.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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I recommend Saw III. I described it to someone once as like a foreign film director's idea of a slasher movie.
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Ready for a horror movie session tonight with my two favorite companions!

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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Perfect time to be watching! *pumpkin emoji*
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Cute dogs, what kind are they?
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Nick wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:55 am Cute dogs, what kind are they?
The brown one, Hazel, is a Shih Tzu-Yorker
The whiteish one, Dot, is a Bichon Frise-Shih Tzu
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

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Holden wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:58 am
Nick wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:55 am Cute dogs, what kind are they?
The brown one, Hazel, is a Shih Tzu-Yorker
The whiteish one, Dot, is a Bichon Frise-Shih Tzu
Cool!
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Review #4: It Follows, Directed by David Robert Mitchell
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Many of you (like at least two) recommended the 2014 film It Follows. It was on sale on Amazon Prime, so I figured why not? But I do have a confession, I have already seen this film. Not in a while, though, and I enjoyed it the first time, so I rewatched it.

This film got a lot of critical acclaim back when it came out (Rotten Tomatoes highest ranked horror film of 2014). It actually got #38 on our own 2010s film poll, the fourth highest ranked horror film after Get Out, Black Swan, and Hereditary, all great movies as well.

However, compared to those other three films, this one lacks something in comparison. Not quality-wise at all, but more in the sense of acclaim. Both Get Out and Black Swan were nominated for Oscars (Best Picture included!), and Hereditary had a major outcry when it wasn't. To be fair, this film isn't really an Oscar film. But it is notable that AMF's other favorite horror films of the decade all received higher points of public notarity than this one that was very close on the EOD list.

Well that's enough about the critics. I'm here to say what I think, dammit! So the premise of the film is that a nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with Hugh (Jake Weary). After this, he reveals that something is amiss: he has passed on to her a curse, that an entity will follow her for the rest of her life. Always walking at the same pace. Always following. And if it catches her, well, I assume you know what happens...

****LIGHT SPOILERS START HERE****

This film is so good. This is a film that exemplifies mastery of the horror genre. I love it! But let's get into why.

Firstly, the cinematography. This film's camera work is what I like to call 'unapologetic.' Often in films, the camera is meant to seem as though it doesn't exist. As though we are there, experiencing the events. Found-footage films are based on this premise. But films like this have the camera being a tool of story telling. So often, the genius of cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (who also worked on Jordan Peele's Us) is displayed through simple panning shots, showing us the environment like we are in an art film, and forcing us to decide what is important. This film trusts its audience, something only the best films do.

There are a lot of references to other horror films in this one, all of them very subtle. One is possessing similar, urine-filled imagery to The Excorsist. The most glaring is that to John Carpenter's original Halloween. Throughout the film we are forced to search the screen for 'it.' Much like how we were forced to look for Michael Myers in the Carpenter classic. One thing that I always wish more films/television shows would do is pack the run-time with terror that not everyone might see. If you've ever seen The Haunting of Hill House, you know what I'm talking about. This film packs every minute with awe-inspiring horrors, some that could be easily missed by those who aren't observant.

If I were to come up with a list of my favorite horror scenes of the last decade, it'd be hard to exclude this film from three or four of the top spots. This film has one of the best jump-scares I've ever seen, and if you've seen the film you know which one I'm talking about. This film also has some of the most effectively disturbing imagery I've ever seen in a horror film. One scene sticks out, and it involves Jay, Greg (Daniel Zovatto) and Greg's mother (Leisa Pulido). I'm not going to go into any further detail, but this image invokes some of the most horrible aspects of human existence, and doesn't leave you after the film is over. It still sticks out in my mind, years after my first watch.

One scene that I was a bit lukewarm to during my first watch, however, was the climax of the film. However, I have changed my tune after seeing it again. The climax of this film is epic and fun to watch, and most importantly, stressful. It Follows absolutely exudes stress at all the right moments.

A small note on the actors. All of the actors do wonderful jobs! None of them stand out, but there isn't a weak one in the bunch. Maika Monroe is great as a lead, and everyone who play the entity does a magnificent job.

****HEAVY SPOILERS START HERE****

Finally, I'm going to analyze the film a little bit. What is it about? At a very basic level, we see the film to be about sexually transmitted diseases. Probably HIV/AIDS specifically. Throughout the film we see Jay experience a lot of fear that she won't be believed or taken seriously in the face of real danger, which seems to echo the lackluster response to HIV/AIDS during its respective epidemic. On the more general side of things, we see Greg seem to have the attitude of 'it can't happen to me' that can cause so many infections, and does, catching up to Greg and his lack of caution.

On a deeper level, I think that this film can point to the sexism that is imprinted in so many people. For example, the idea that men having sex is an achievement whereas women should remain 'pure' (which I've never understood at all, think about it for a moment and you realize that it's a paradox). I also see a small commentary about sexual assault against men, in Greg writing off everything happening and then falling victim to a horrifying scene that evokes the imagery of rape, but that's about where that part of my analysis ends.

Back to the sexism in sexual standards. Throughout the film, you see very little actual consequences for the men in the film (aside from Greg, who as I've stated before can almost seen to be representative of other issues). Jay is constantly abused by the entity, and the first person we see fall victim is also a young woman, where Hugh gets off with no physical consequences. In an one point of duality that stuck out, we see Jay shoot at the creature while Greg cowers in the background, but doesn't cause him any harm. In a later, similar moment, we see Paul shoot at the entity while Yara (Olivia Luccardi) hides in the line of fire, but she is injured. As this moment serves no other purpose in the narrative, I feel like this moment might exist as an extension of this symbolism, but maybe I'm symbol hunting. There are other moments in the film (such as all of the entity's use of female bodies being nude while all but one of the men are clothed, and the climax using Jay's father as the entity's disguise, possibly pointing to the stereotype of father-figures being overly possessive of their daughters' virginity) that point to similar conclusions as well. Let me know what you think!

****SPOILERS END HERE****

Alright, so, simply put, this film is fucking great! I love it! Not a dull moment, not a wasted oppurtunity. This film has great writing, great directing, awesome acting, and stylish cinematography. This is a modern classic by every definition of the word! So much of the imagery stuck with me from my first watch years ago. The premise is great, and the film is even better. Watch it!

Score: ★★★★★
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Nick
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Nick »

Holden wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:15 am Let me know what you think!
It Follows is one of my favorite horror movies, and in my top ten movies of the 2010s, so I was excited to read this review. Good stuff in there, and I agree with a lot of what you wrote.

Not to hijack your movie review thread, but I wrote this review shortly after seeing the movie in 2015 (the writing might be a little rough as it's 5 years old, but hey, I'm trying...):

Sexuality pervades It Follows. In the movie, sex isn’t just what causes the monster to stalk the main characters, sex is also a form of salvation (successful in the form of main character Jay and her best friend Paul, and unsuccessful in the form of Jay and her neighbor Greg), and sex is also seen as an end to innocence (as the episode with the porno magazines when the main characters were children). Sexuality is even found within the monster itself- there’s a reason so many of the forms the monster takes are shown to be either naked or partially naked. And as sex ultimately helps save both Jay and Paul at the movie’s end, It Follows manages to accomplish something that very few horror movies manage to accomplish; it gives us a story where the monster is a sex demon without demonizing sex itself. But the movie’s treatment of sex is just one of many ways that the movie differs from your standard horror movie fare. For one, for a horror movie, It Follows is incredibly nonviolent. There are exactly two deaths throughout the movie, one of which not only happens in the first several minutes of the movie, but also happens off-screen. The second of which is violent, but not gratuitously so, and the amount of time that the camera actually lingers on the death itself only lasts for a couple of seconds.

The treatment of the monster is another move by It Follows that shows just how far the movie rises above its peers. Many other horror movies would devote a solid block of time to explaining some sort of mythology behind the monster, possibly including some sort of hackneyed library montage or a meeting with a wise old woman as they try to unlock the mysteries behind their stalker. Not so with It Follows. The information that the characters receive about the monster is minimal, and worse (for the characters, but better for the audience), the information that they do receive is from another character, one who seems almost as in the dark about the whole situation as the main characters themselves. Because of this, the audience is left with no authoritative explanation of the monster (who’s to say that everything Hugh, the young man who explains the monster, is correct?), which only heightens the mystery surrounding it. It Follows is aware that the unknown is always more terrifying than the known, and it uses this fact to its advantage, giving us a monster that we know only a fraction more about upon leaving the theater than we did upon entering. The mysterious nature of the monster has also given rise to numerous theories as to what the monster could possibly be a metaphor for. It’s unclear what the monster is supposed to represent, or if it’s supposed to represent anything, but it’s easy to see how the monster could be seen as a metaphor for an STD, an unwanted pregnancy, sexual assault, fears of intimacy, death, the end of childhood/innocence, or some ambiguous traumatic experience. The movie isn’t clear, and it deliberately avoids sticking to any particular metaphor lest it come off as too much of a clichéd cautionary tale about the dangers of sex. But even with this in mind it’s easy to see how such comparisons could be made, and ultimately these comparisons only add another level of depth and interpretation to the movie.

But possibly the greatest aspect of the monster is how well the monster sticks to its own rules, and what the implication of those rules are for the audience. Nothing is more frustrating than having a well-developed character (or monster) that suddenly violates the very rules of their existence. The monster in It Follows has only a few simple rules that it never once breaks. The slow nature of the monster also provides an excellent opportunity for audience participation. Throughout the movie you’re constantly on the lookout for the monster to appear in the distance. When the main characters are sitting on Hugh’s lawn and you can see a girl with some soccer gear in the distance, your immediate reaction is panic. There’s no ominous music, the characters are blissfully unaware of the girl, and still the reaction you have is to stand up and yell at the characters to turn around. When Hugh asks the other characters if they can see the girl (which, if they could, would confirm that it is not the monster) and the other characters nonchalantly claim they can, there’s a moment of both relief and humor. When the girl in white on the beach slowly walking towards the main character does turn out to be the monster, or the woman in the hospital gown walking across campus, there is a much different reaction. That creeping sense of dread you get while watching the monster walk across campus is emblematic of the movie’s approach to horror. Instead of giving us cheap jump scares, the movie is much more concerned with giving us prolonged scenes filled with tension. Sometimes the monster isn’t even obvious, there’s a scene set on the school grounds with a student slowly walking towards the main character, but all the characters leave the scene before it can be revealed if it’s the monster or not. The same goes for the beautiful ending scene, with Paul and Jay walking together hand in hand, with a man following them only about a hundred feet back. That sense of the unknown drives the movie, and gives the audience a nerve-wracking game of “spot the monster”.

The final aspect that elevates the movie above its genre is the aforementioned beautiful ending scene, an ending which affirms the redeeming bonds of friendship and love. Throughout the movie we see the monster as an entity that comes into being through the most impersonal of relations. Hugh caught the monster through a one night stand that he met at a bar. Hugh then passed the monster to Jay, a girl he barely knew and had only been dating for a short amount of time. Hugh subsequently abandoned Jay. Jay then passed the monster to Greg, a man who was obviously interested in girls other than Jay. When asked by Paul why Jay chose Greg to pass the monster to, Jay’s response was that since they had already had sex in high school it “wasn’t a big deal”. Jay cared too much about Paul to expose him to the monster, and they only had sex after their relationship was strengthened after the course of the movie (particularly the pool incident). The final scene of the movie shows Jay and Paul walking down the sidewalk holding hands, finally able to find a way to cope with the monster as opposed to running away in terror. The ending is somewhat ambiguous; did Paul sleep with the prostitutes? Is the man following Jay and Paul really the monster? But since the monster will ultimately never fully be out of their lives (as they exist within the “chain” of people it has come in contact with, and as such can always end up becoming targeted by the monster), the main character’s need to cope is made no less urgent by this ambiguity. It Follows turns what could have been a standard horror movie into a loving ode to friendship. What better compliment could be given than that?
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by FrankLotion »

Holden wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:15 am The most glaring is that to John Carpenter's original Halloween. Throughout the film we are forced to search the screen for 'it.' Much like how we were forced to look for Michael Myers in the Carpenter classic.
Also the music done by Disasterpiece is very close to the music John Carpenter made in his films!

The soundtrack is on Spotify but I never listen to it because it gives me the willies.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Holden »

FrankLotion wrote: Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:21 am
Holden wrote: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:15 am The most glaring is that to John Carpenter's original Halloween. Throughout the film we are forced to search the screen for 'it.' Much like how we were forced to look for Michael Myers in the Carpenter classic.
Also the music done by Disasterpiece is very close to the music John Carpenter made in his films!

The soundtrack is on Spotify but I never listen to it because it gives me the willies.
Dang, I forgot to mention the score! It really is a great one, also reminded me of Trent Reznor's scores.
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Holden »

Review #5: Lake Mungo, Directed by Joel Anderson
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What horror films define decades? I feel like a lot of people and critics have reached agreement on the following (feel free to argue by the way, I'd love to find new films!)
1950s: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1960s: Psycho
1970s: The Exorcist
1980s: A Nightmare on Elm Street
1990s: The Silence of the Lambs
2000s: Let the Right One In
2010s: Get Out

Today's review is not any of those films, but is one that I could argue as a definitional work of the 2000s, though putting it up against Let the Right One In may be a tall order, as it is also a film I truly love.

Lake Mungo is an example of the influence of found-footage. The way I see it, found-footage in horror has had two Renaissances, one in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project, and one in 2007 with Paranormal Activity. These two films changed the genre and gave it new life. One could maybe add in Unfriended from 2014, but I'd say that this film's influence is yet to be unproven.

However, in 2008, the Australian indie mockumentary film Lake Mungo came out, riding the high of mockumentary films and television shows like The Office. I'd argue that this film is much more in line with the first wave of found-footage, a relic of what I would argue to be the better way, where it was more built around creating scary and real situations than about replicating the profits of Paranormal Activity.

Alright, that's some brief horror history, and quite a bit of hype for the film I'm about to talk about. A seminal work in horror film history? For a film that I'm sure not a whole lot of you may have heard of? Well, silence your doubts, reader. For this film is truly phenomenal.

So what is the premise of this film? Well, I'll tell you! Framed as a documentary, we see Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) suffer a sad fate, drowning while swimming with her family in a dam. The family then begins to experience strange occurances around their home.

And that's where I'm going to stop! I say this every time, but DO NOT go into this film spoiled if you can help it. You will not regret it! So go watch the film. Right now! It's Halloween, and if you live in the United States but not Arizona, you get an extra hour tonight! Use it on Lake Mungo!

****LIGHT SPOILERS****

Now I've spoken about my general dislike about the found-footage genre. But this film is found-footage at its highest point. The documentary framing is so well done that this film is borderline indistinguishable from actual documentaries I have seen. It tells a story that feels so real it terrifies me to my very core.

I've had never been more scared by a film than by this one. I sleep in a basement, and for weeks after watching it for the first time I was too afraid to walk across with the lights off. That's because this film knows what is truly scary. What is truly scary is death. What is truly scary is the idea that you are not alone in your own home. That you might lose your family members, or, perhaps worse, that you might not know who they are.

Lake Mungo tells a story, one that has twists and turns throughout its sub-ninety minute runtime. Actions in this film have consequences for the characters, though sometimes, actions are taken almost without reason. But that is not a weakness, it is one of the films greatest strengths. Humans are reasonless. They do things for strange or no reason, especially when they are under stress. You don't turn on a mockumentary horror film expecting great revelations about grief, sexuality, death, and even the ethics of psychics. But that's what you get with Joel Anderson's 2008 masterpiece. Questions like one that has stayed with me for years: Would you kill someone else's child to save your own? Do you endure the suffering yourself, or are you thrust it on to someone else to help yourself?

A lot of the film is shot in grainy footage that would be found on late 2000s cell phone cameras. This portion of the film is where the real terror begins. Pixles blur together to form ambiguous images, which the film thrusts itself onto to show how uncomfortable it can make its audience. And, by god, it is effective.

But the documentary footage? An amazing framing device. The actors do a great job of showing off different ways that people feel grief. Everything comes together to tell a truly interesting story that keeps you watching.

****SPOILERS END HERE****

I could write twenty more pages about how great this film is. Please, please watch it. This is one of the best and most terrifying horror film that I have ever seen, and definitely has not gotten the commercial or critical love that it deserves!

Score: ★★★★★
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Re: Holden Reviews Horror Movies

Post by Holden »

Review #6: Splice, Directed by Vincenzo Natali
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I watched this film on a reccomendation from a coworker followed by a realization that it was on Netflix right now.

This is truly an interesting film. That cannot be denied. It follows two scientists, who, after being refused the opportunity to splice human DNA with that of another hybrid creature, give their company a middle finger and do it anyway in secret. Absolute bat-shit craziness ensues.

However, an important note: this film contains not one but two depictions of sexual assault. There isn't explicit imagery or a lot of nudity, but it does depict sexual assault so if you don't like or struggle to watch films containing sexual assault, don't watch this film!

****LIGHT SPOILERS START HERE****

So I suppose I'll start by praising something about the film: the acting is undeniably adequate. All of the actors do their jobs, even the ones who exist behind CGI, and Clive Nicoli's performance in particular deserves praise. Additionally, the development of the main characters is done well in a film that isn't really about the characters. We see subtle hints of development here and there, and eventually it creates a full image that is rewarding to see by the end of the film. Additionally, one problem I have with horror movies is often how stupid the characters are some times. It burns me to no end. Splice balances character intelligence and character motivation incredibly well, giving us smart characters who are also very flawed.

So what is the film about, if not the characters? This is a film of ideas. Splice never claims to be as profound as a Kubrick film, and that is a good thing, because if it did it would fail miserably. But the ideas stick, nonetheless, though one major criticism I would have is that it doesn't quite explore them as in depth as it should. The idea of genetically modifying humans is the most obvious one, and ultimately the film gives you a pretty definitive answer on that one. However, it's not this idea that you should focus on to get a full sense of what this film can offer.

Instead, focus on the relationship between money and science. It becomes clear throughout the film that they are tragically linked, because in our society money drives anything and everything. This becomes painfully clear in the final image of the film.

On my favorite show of all time, The Leftovers, we receive one simple question in the final season. Would you kill a baby to cure cancer? Splice takes this question to the extreme, giving us an answer and leaving more than just a dead baby in its wake.

One thing that I have to fault the film on is the creature design. For me, it's hard to watch this creature on screen. I just hate how it looks, but if you don't, then I suppose feel free to enjoy the film without this criticism, and I'm not going to fault it too much for this, but I truly hated whenever the creature was on screen.

This film also is very good at moving. There is never a boring moment, it keeps you watching and keeps you following along quickly, and no scene feels wasted.

Now, for my favorite aspect of the film: foreshadowing! It's strange to outright praise a film for the quality of the foreshadowing, but Splice does an amazing job in every regard. You find yourself recalling previous events when new events occur, and every action has a consequence, which is wonderful to witness as the film goes along.

****SPOILERS END HERE****

Ultimately, Splice is a profoundly strange film that is not for everyone. The ideas central to it do not really become fully fleshed out to the point that I would have liked to see, but it is undeniably profound to some degree. It's hard to watch at times, but the filmmaking itself is near faultless, and the pace and story are difficult to fault. Your opinion of Splice is going to be your own and no one elses, as it is just that kind of experience. Thanks for reading, have a great rest of your day!

Score: ★★★☆☆
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