Hooked On Horror Mini-Reviews
So as we continue in lockdown, I've found myself with a lot more time on my hands. And since discovering Shudder, I've watched even more horror. So I thought I'd give you guys a few mini-reviews for everything I've seen during this quarantine so far and where you can watch them. Be warned though, there's spoilers ahead. Enjoy!
Available on Shudder.
"Four thugs who make money putting their violent antics online are hired to steal a VHS tape from a spooky old house. However, things take a turn for the worse when they find a dead pensioner and dozens more tapes."
Been a few years since I saw this, and I genuinely forgot how great a film it is. V/H/S is presented as an anthology of short horror films built into an overall frame narrative that essentially pieces them all together whilst acting as its own short horror. For me, this is up there with the best of the 'found footage' sub-genre. Each segment offers a new and well made short story that not only entertains but leave you well and truly creeped out. Whilst every segment of the film is enjoyable, Amateur Night and 10/31/98 for me are the best in the film. Some of the segments, I will admit, do fray a little and are ultimately poor in comparison to some of the other stories. But the film as a whole is a fantastic and welcomed addition to the sub-genre. You can easily find more bad than good found footage films; they all try (in some way) to replicate the success of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. With each segment also written and directed by a different individual or team it offers the viewer a nice range of storytelling to enjoy with each film maker putting their spin and own stamp on the film. If you're a fan of found footage horror, this is one definitely worth checking out. And if you're not, this could potentially be the film that turns you into one!
My Amityville Horror
Available on Amazon Prime.
"After 35 years, one of the children (Daniel Lutz) involved in the famous 'Amityville Horror' haunted house case tells his side of the story, revealing the psychological scars he carries to this day through a personal testimony."
This documentary takes a closer look at George and Kathy Lutz's son Daniel as he recounts his side of the story of what happened during the now infamous Amityville Horror case. This case has always fascinated me so when I cam across this on Amazon Prime I got pretty excited. Whilst the documentary explored the paranormal side of the Amityville Horror case pretty well it gave us a much closer look at the factual and psychological side of things as well. From the troubled and abusive relationship Daniel had with his step-father George through to the perception of the entire case in the media, the documentary finds a nice balance between the paranormal and psychological as Daniel gives his recollection of the events and everything else that followed. It's nicely broken up with the introduction of other parties as well including some of New England's most revered and famous paranormal investigators, psychologists, a new reporter who initially covered 'The Amityville Horror' case and even one of the most famous paranormal investigators in the world- Lorraine Warren.
It does leave a lot of questions unanswered and makes you question both Daniel's mental state and plausibility, but it's an enjoyable, well made and rather interesting documentary that's definitely worth checking out.
Available on Shudder.
"Hired to debunk a supposed haunting, paranormal investigators come face-to-face with an angry spirit more terrifying than they have ever imagined."
When a team of paranormal investigators are hired by a broken family to come and investigate supposedly paranormal activity, chaos of course follows. Another addition to the found footage sub-genre, this is one that ultimately falls short. Whilst the fly-on-the-wall type storytelling was very well done, the story is pretty minimalist. The narrative plays on the horror cliches and relies on jump scares far too much for me to enjoy. I can't really say I hated the film or found it incredibly boring, it just plays out as a very predictable knock of Paranormal Activity that lacked the same tension and edge Oren Peli's 2007 film had. It felt like it was trying ride the coat-tails of Activity's success, we all know there was a surge of found footage horrors following Oren Peli's 2007 film. If you're a fan of paranormal films or found footage, this may be worth checking out. Me personally, I wouldn't rush back to watch it again anytime soon.
Eli Roth's History of Horror (Season 1)
Available on Shudder.
"Masters of horror -- icons and stars who define the genre -- join writer/producer/director Eli Roth to explore horror's biggest themes and reveal the inspirations and struggles behind its past and present. Hourlong episodes feature A-list storytellers like Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, Jason Blum, Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Rob Zombie, Jack Black, John Landis and Jamie Lee Curtis, who discuss how horror has evolved through the years and impacted society, as well as how the genre maintains its fan base and why audiences are addicted to fear."
The documentary series examines the horror genre across seven episodes. Each episode looks at a different sub-genre as filmmakers, actors, experts, writers, make-up artists and more discuss and examine the great horror movies that have made their benchmark on the timeline of horror and ultimately gone on to change and shape the genre into what it is today. The episodes are-
Episode 1 - Zombies
Episode 2 - Slashers, Part 1
Episode 3 - Slashers, Part 2
Episode 4 - The Demons Inside
Episode 5 - Killer Creatures
Episode 6 - Vampires
Episode 7 - Ghost Stories
Now guys I honestly cannot recommend this series enough. It has something in there for every horror fan with an incredibly wide range of films and guests. My biggest complaint here is there wasn't more episodes. Eli Roth has done a fantastic job with this series bringing in so many prominent and well known people in horror to look at some of the best horror has had to offer over the years. With each episode examining a different sub genre, Roth not only demonstrates a fantastic knowledge of horror but gives others a platform to share their thoughts, feelings and expertise on the subject. Most of which fans will be very eager to see. I can guarantee this series will put a smile on your face and leave you wanting more, and of course if you're anything like me you'll end up trying to make your way through every horror they've discussed. Luckily the series has been renewed, hopefully we won't have to wait long for season 2!
Available on Shudder.
"When strange events occur in a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, a doctor specialising in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer decide to investigate further."
There's not many film's that scare me and truly stick with me after I've finished watching them, but this one stuck with me. Terrified is an Argentinian horror that consists of various paranormal events seemingly happening in one particular neighbourhood. After things take a turn for the worse, an ex police officer, a doctor and her colleague decide to investigate. The simplicity of the film is completely outdone by the scares and events you see on screen. I don't want to go in to too much detail here, but it's fantastically done. Going back to the roots of horror and giving the fans things that will truly chill them to the bone. I will admit, the second half of the film veers off in an odd direction that doesn't seem to fit with the first. But, despite its flaws, Demián Rugna has done a fantastic job of delivering a great horror film that delivers a solid horror film with fantastic genre tricks, truly frightening moments and a strong cast. A paranormal film that feels scarily grounded in reality. This is one more recent horror worth watching, there's a few moments in there you might struggle to forget afterwards though. Definitely make time to sit down and properly watch Terrified folks!
It Stains The Sands Red
Available on Shudder.
"A woman is stranded at the side of a desert and finds herself tailed by a lone zombie, which stalks her every move."
I got to be honest I very nearly turned this one off after about 15 minutes...and I'm incredibly glad I didn't! This one is a bit of a slow starter but believe me, stick with it and you'll enjoy it. At times it does seem like they're dragging it out a tad, but just as you're losing interest something else happens. The humour used throughout is great as this clueless Molly tries to outsmart one zombie, not as easy as it sounds during this film. There are two scenes I really disliked but overall it's not a bad film. The big selling point for me on this film was Brittany Allen as Molly. She starts the film as a nobody that enjoys her drink and drugs far too much, living a life of partying everyday in Las Vegas. To see her transform into the caring bad-ass mother fighting to find her daughter by the end of the film is fantastic. Her performance throughout was great! The underlying storyline with her daughter being taken out of her custody isn't discovered until later on in the film when she has a change of heart; Allen really sold it and it added an entirely new depth to her character which showed her in a completely different light. All in all a film that's worth giving your time to. Despite its flaws and the pacing moving forward a tad too slowly at times, it offers a somewhat fresh and different take on the 'zombie film'.
Available on Shudder.
"After an inmate who was bullied by Callum and his friends commits suicide, the bunch of juvenile delinquents are sent to a small, remote island (formerly an army training area) for an exercise in teamwork. Soon a strange assailant begins picking them off one by one and they are forced to fight for survival."
Now this wasn't a "Oh My God it's amazing!" type of British horror but I still throughly enjoyed this flick. It's not a fantastic modern horror film but it's a pretty straight forward and effective thriller/horror. Basically in a nut shell this is purely a revenge story as the inmate's father wants to punish those responsible for his son's suicide. The story never pushes to be more than it is, which I liked, but there was a pretty big lack of depth and character development with some of the characters seen on screen. It's pretty easy to not to root for them and easier to hate them. That's really my only complaint. Stephen Wight really stood out for me in this, I found myself praying he got killed before the film finished. He was a fantastic love to hate character that just got progressively worse and worse as the film goes on, which I will admit left me slightly disappointed at how he met his end. The tension in the film never ceases, if anything it continues to build and make things more difficult to watch. You think you know where the story is going but there is a few curve balls thrown in to keep the viewer interested. It also manages to maintain that gritty and realistic vibe some British horrors fail to keep throughout the movie. The biggest thing I love about this though is it does not shy away from the violence, gore and general nastiness. Got to be honest some of the moments I struggled to watch!
Available on Amazon Prime.
"A group of friends who venture into the remote Texas woods for a party weekend find themselves stalked by the infamous beast, Bigfoot."
Another found footage horror here from Eduardo Sanchez, the director behind The Blair Witch Project, that delivers. I've seen my fair share of Bigfoot/Sasquatch type horrors in my time and for me this is up there with the best of them. I'll be honest I was kind of expecting this to be another disappointment, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The story and formula is pretty straight forward and similar to most found footage horrors, this doesn't really bring anything new to the mix, but it didn't stop this film from being and hour and a half of entertainment. The make-up, design and look of the creature itself was brilliant in this film, I'd say one of the film's main selling points if you're trying to convince someone to watch it. Whilst the acting isn't great, the monster kind of makes up for it as he goes on a rampage killing these teens off one by one as effectively and brutally as he can. The real reason why is revealed towards the end of the film, and whilst it's nothing Oscar worthy it wraps things up nicely and actually gives the motive for Bigfoot's revenge. Exists isn't the greatest of horrors but its overall a creepy hour and half of pure entertainment with some interesting and incredibly tense moments with a kick-ass creature executing some pretty cool kills.
Available on Shudder.
"Composer John Russell (George C. Scott) is vacationing with his family when a car accident kills his wife and daughter. Distraught with grief, Russell leaves his home in New York City for a giant, secluded house near Seattle. Soon Russell starts to feel the presence of a ghost, a boy who drowned in the bathtub there. Russell seeks the assistance of Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere), who led him to the house initially, in uncovering the secrets of the boy's death."
There's not really much I can say about this film...it's a classic horror. If you haven't seen The Changeling yet you need to actually question if you're a real horror fan or not. This is a chilling film from start to finish with a lot of great, well thought out and executed scares that really stick with you once the film has finished. Its influences on later horror films can easily be seen throughout, prime example of course is the infamous seance scene which goes on to birth to a similar scene in The Insidious films. The story is a slow burn but I feel that's why the film is as chilling and effective as it is. All that tension continues to build uncomfortably throughout ultimately putting the viewer on edge until that final sequence and reveal that makes for an incredible pay off. The film's subtle imagery, story pacing and fantastic cinematography are perfect example of how atmospheric, eerie, frightening and effective a horror can be without cheap scares or blood, guts and gore. I mean that ball scene...that bloody ball scene; Jesus Christ it still gives me chills to this day. This is undoubtedly a benchmark in the timeline of horror that is a must see for any horror fan.And if that's not enough to sell you, this has not only been cited as a huge influence on film makers such as Martin Scorsese but is one of the few films to truly scare Stephen King.
The Purge (Season 2)
Available on Amazon Prime.
"From Blumhouse Television and executive produced by franchise creator James DeMonaco, Season 2 of the USA Network series The Purge explores how a single Purge night affects the lives of four interconnected characters, over the course of the ensuing year, as it leads up to the next Purge."
Despite what some said about the first season, I really enjoyed it. Granted it was nowhere near as good as the films, but it offered us a different point of view on the annual Purge Night. This season, however has upped the game for me. This was twice as good as the first season and again offered a brand new look at The Purge and its effects, whilst furthering the entire mythology and stories within the franchise. This season begins as the annual Purge draws to a close, focusing on a few different characters who's stories become interlinked later in the series as their paths cross. The show spent a lot of time focusing on the time in between The Purge and character development. It added so much more to the series and made it so much more than the first! Not to mention a familiar face makes an appearance in the show. If you enjoy previous entries into the franchise, chances are you'll enjoy this. Not to mention it's better written and thought out than the first.
The TellTale Heart (Short Film)
To be released later this year.
"Adapted from Edgar Allen Poe's original text, this Original psychological thriller Story has been re-imagined in this mind-bending, pulse-pounding, bloody-disgusting short film."
I've got to be honest this film surprised me, I really enjoyed it. Considering this story has been done again and again, I found myself looking at it through a fresh pair of eyes as the film makers re-told the classic psychological thriller.
I've written a full review for The TellTale Heart previously, you can read it here.
The Haunted Mansion
Available on Disney+
"Based on the iconic Disney Ride, the story revolves around a realtor (Jim), his wife and their chidren who are summoned to a mansion under the impression the owner is selling. They soon discover the mansion is haunted, and while they attempt to escape, Jim (Eddie Murphy) learns an important lesson about the family he has neglected."
I've found this film to be like marmite whenever I've spoken to someone about it, most people either love it or hate it. Me personally, I Ioved this film! What's not to love. Great cast, the special effects make-up and effects done by the iconic Rick Baker and a very nice homage to one of the best rides to ever grace the Disney theme parks. Most of the storyline is in fact borrowed from Disneyland Paris' version - Phantom Manor and of course the film is filled with nods to the infamous ride. I won't list them off here for those of you who haven't seen it but it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It's a good little family flick thats pays a rather fitting tribute to one of Disney's oldest and most beloved rides.
Available on Shudder.
'When a family is brutally slain near an isolated rural village, a suspicious local man is soon arrested and brought in for questioning. During the interrogation process it becomes clear that the suspect is not quite what he seems as he begins to transform into a rampaging werewolf set on destroying anything in his path. As the bloodbath ensues, the authorities must do whatever they can to survive the surrounding terror and prevent the chaos from spreading."
This one sort of took me by surprise, it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. For me it turned out to be somewhat of a gem and put this film up there with the werewolf greats like An American Werewolf in London and The Wolf Man. I did begin thinking the found footage style of shooting may have ruined the film but it didn't at all. The storyline used it to its advantage and worked with it well. There's some fantastic and well shot creepy moments in there that do really scare you, the occasional jump scare was thrown in there for good measure and what makes this most frightening is it feels firmly grounded in reality. This ultimately starts off as a murder investigation, with tension slowly building it explodes and the film reveals itself to be a mix of Dog Soldiers and The Wolf Man for me. The sheer scares, violence and brutality throughout echo that of Dog Soldiers, where as the storyline (especially towards the end) somewhat mirrors the Universal Monsters classic The Wolf Man. This is one werewolf film I highly recommend watching folks, how this remained off my radar for as long as it did is a mystery to me. Easily one of the best werewolf films I've seen in a long time.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Complete Seasons 1 - 7 available on Amazon Prime.
"Buffy Summers tries to live a normal life in high school while embracing her responsibilities and destiny as a hunter of vampires and demons - A Slayer."
Slaying her way onto the small screen in 1998, Buffy has gone on to gain legions of fans both young and old. I came across it accidentally on Amazon Prime and thought I'd give it a rewatch as I hadn't in several years. I honestly forgot how much I loved this show! No wonder so many people still love it. Its great at the moment being able to re-watch this and take a trip down memory lane and get all nostalgic. Not to mention the fact I'm noticing a lot more now than I did years ago. All seven series are available on Prime, and honestly it's worth revisiting if you're looking for something to watch. Whether it be for the cast, the creatures and monsters or that great opening theme...Buffy warrants a rewatch.
Cursed Films (Season 1)
Available on Shudder.
"The facts, myths and mysterious surrounding iconic horror films and franchises whose casts and crews have been struck by misfortune and tragedy."
This series is an absolute gem! As this is current and not long released I don't want to go into too much detail here, but it is a fantastic series. Shudder have done a great job of examining these films so called curses that plagued each production. Honestly wasn't expecting it to be this good. Not only do Shudder try to look at each film in depth and give a great amount of behind the scenes/making of knowledge, but they do so with the utmost respect and dignity that every one affected by the 'curses' deserved. As with Eli Roth's History of Horror this has given people directly involved the opportunity to share their knowledge or story with the many horror fans who have probably wondered about such things since seeing the film. If you haven't watched this yet, honestly make time to go and see it. My biggest complaint is that there wasn't more episodes. I could've quite happily watched more and more. Admittedly The Exorcist episode did veer off slightly but I think this was Shudder trying to show viewers the other side of 'possession'. A friend of mine will be talking about this more in depth for an article on here soon, so I don't want to say too much!
Season 1 consist of five episodes, each examining a different film. The episodes were-
Episode 1 - The Exorcist
Episode 2 - Poltergeist
Episode 3 - The Omen
Episode 4 - The Crow
Episode 5 - Twilight Zone: The Movie
Bits are slightly hard to watch but it's an incredibly interesting and well made documentary for any horror fan. Hopefully we will get a second season from Shudder sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed!
I hope you enjoyed reading my mini-reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them! Hopefully it's given you some ideas for films/series to watch. Stay tuned of course for more great horror content and our daily Quarantine Quiz. I'll most likely have another one of these for you all next week then amount I'm watching at the moment!