Color Out of Space (2019): Horror, Sci-Fi

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A meteorite of peculiar color, carrying a hostile living organism, strikes a secluded family farm and turns their lives into a sadistic nightmare.

What an opening scene!!! But I’m not convinced that the rest of it is how H.P. Lovecraft envisaged it. But first things first. It’s great to see the talented – yet hurt from the Industry – writer/director Richard Stanley coming back. After The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) fiasco, Stanley strikes again and, directing-wise, the film lacks nothing. Chasing it for years, the film’s Odyssey finally came to an end when he finally found the money to finance it in early 2019. The acting is also solid. Very convincing performances add to the film’s pros and Nicolas Cage, once more, proves that no matter how many memes, trailer compilations, or other creative visual and audio fun they make out of him that he will not give two s#$%^ and will keep on being… Nicolas Cage! Every, God knows how many unknown films/flops he’s been in every year, there’ll always be this one film that will stand out and perpetuate Cage’s ongoing on and off glory.

The major con is the production’s decision to make it look like the paranoid, cult film Mandy (2018) – same production company behind it. Lovecraft’s world, the way I grew up with visualising anyway, has nothing much to do with this adaptation. The bold, exaggerated colors create a visually incoherent landscape that overshadows the narrative. But don’t take my word for it, what do I know anyway? John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1993) is, arguably, the best Lovecraft adaptation out there. If you haven’t watched it, and you are a ‘Lovecraftian’ horror fan, you will fall in love with the film’s paranoia (Do you read Sutter Cane?).

Regardless, Color Out Of Space is a low budget must-watch that definitely deserves your attention. It is not commercial enough but that means nothing. Once you turn your screen off, parts of the film will keep looping in your head. What makes me happy is that, even posthumously, Lovecraft’s legacy is still alive and very rich. Which is exactly the opposite of how he died…

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In The Blink of An Eye (2019)

Being an Anthology of the Further Legends of Ellicott City’s Blink Man

Edited by K. Patrick Glover

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In January 2019, I watched and reviewed Erik Kristopher Meyers’ Butterfly Kisses (2018) – https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/30/butterfly-kisses-2018-documentary-horror/. Myers’ documentary/horror became a fresh approach to the kind of horror that has faced a lot of ups and downs over the decades. His fresh approach proved that the genre is not dead yet and that, in the right hands, it has still a lot of scares to offer.

The mystery of Peeping Tom/Blink Man and the Ilchester Tunnel has become an urban legend. From Hagerstown to Ellicott City, his story has ‘travelled’ through hearsay, horrifically realistic imagination and utterly nonsensical descriptions. Regardless, when K. Patrick Glover met one day Myers, the two of them gathered some incredibly descriptive authors and put these stories together. Will you manage to tell which story is based on (un)substantial evidence and which one isn’t? No. Will you recognise the truth when you read it? No, you will not. The real question is, does it matter? No, it does not. Because you will allow yourself to live the suffering, the horror, and the agony that these (non)fictional people endured. ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ is the blurry line between two worlds. One of them is real, and one isn’t. Turn off the lights while reading, and your inevitable human curiosity in finding out which one’s which will inadvertently become a descent to folkloric paranoia.

Highly recommended for the horror fans and not only as it generates a lot more questions than it aims to answer. ‘Blink Man’, the legend under the microscope, turns the tables and the observer becomes the observee. Humans turn into a case study themselves as he brings out the murky and obscure ways the human mind creates realities. Man’s unprecedented archetypal fears take over reason and interpret what we sense – or we truly believe we sense – through an unbeknownst to us chaotic, ghastly prism.

Doctor Sleep (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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Dan Torrance, years after the horrific events of The Shining, a disheveled adult now, must overcome his fears and protect a young girl with a similar ‘shine’ from a cult that feeds on gifted children.

Imagine you are a young and successful director granted permission to write and direct the sequel to a film adaptation famously hated by the author of the book on which it was based, and that that same author will be your producer. Let’s make it more intricate by saying that the previously adapted film became a horror landmark, but the author – who hated it – made his own mini-series version that was… unremarkable. More interestingly, both the author and the director were Grandmasters in their departments respectively; the author is called Stephen King and the director Stanley Kubrick. Which adaptation is your sequel based on?

As a lifetime fan of both Kubrick and King, and a recent fan of the young and successful writer/director Mike Flanagan, this review hurts more than anything I have typed so far. Flanagan did a lot of things right: He recreated the sets of the Overlook hotel with surgical precision, the ’80s characters as he supposed to, cast the right actors for the right roles, and a sequence that truly pays homage to The Shining (1980): The moment between Danny entering the Overlook Hotel and Rose arriving.

Unfortunately, these positive aspects are overshadowed by the script. A script that was written in such a way as to satisfy both King and the true Shining fans. A recipe for failure. The risks start accumulating automatically the moment you decide to pick up from where Kubrick left off. Steven Spielberg, one of the best directors of our time, sat at the director’s seat and finished off A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) after Kubrick sadly passed, and even he faced backlash for doing so. The script here faces a lot of issues in terms of both character and story development. Indicatively (no spoilers), just to get an idea, the characters have an undetermined level of shines both in terms of quantity and quality. Incidentally, that causes serious issues with the strategies followed by both heroes and villains before, during, and after the standoff.

The Shining is a psychological horror that turns into a paranormal horror in an invisible and inexplicable to the viewer way. Stanley Kubrick directed it with mastery, Jack Nicholson delivered a breathtaking performance (Shelley Duvall paid a heavy price), and we, the audience, jumped from one kind of horror to the other with our jaws on the floor. Doctor Sleep is an amalgamation sequel of two incompatible versions that are heavily undecided as to whether to be psychological or paranormal, ending up being neither.

Despite the tempting references to other King films as well, I would suggest that you didn’t consider it a direct sequel. Instead, you should watch the series Castle Rock (2018 – Present) which has finally managed to do what other productions have failed to do in the past (no spoilers) and does so with great success.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019): Action / Comedy / Horror

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Ten years have passed since the zombocalypse and Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock must now face dumb, smart, stealthy, and rough zombies, deal with domestic issues and ally with lookalikes, hippies, and a bimbo.

Double Tap, is the sequel I was reasonably afraid it will have nothing more to offer when it comes out. Having seen numerous sequels over the years flopping due to franchise fatigue or been outshadowed by their predecessors, can you blame me? Well, ten years later, Double Tap did come out, proved me wrong, and it was more than I was hoping for. Director Ruben Fleischer, intentionally influenced/inspired by George A. Romero and Edgar Wright, manages to find new creative ways to either put a smile on our face or make us laugh out loud. The script is solidly inundated with comedic additions and alliances, and horrifically funny villains, offering the well-known by now group of four an arsenal of punchlines, perfectly fit for every occasion. Out of the A-list star cast, which does a brilliant job in front of the lens, Woody Harrelson and Zoey Deutch unequivocally stand out for being surrealistically funny.

I’ll seize this opportunity to say this as I’ve been holding it for some time now… Abigail Breslin seems like she doesn’t want to act anymore. Is it the burden carrying from her mesmerising performances in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and My Sister’s Keeper (2009)? Is it the ‘curse’ of the child actor/actress? Is it personal or professional obstacles that we are not aware of? I still believe that given the right role she can ‘shine’ again and I really look forward to that day.

Definitely worth the just over hour and a half in front of the telly as it will make you forget your problems and send you to bed. And next day is always a new day… with a new film!

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Wounds (2019): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A world of obscurity and darkness gradually surrounds a bartender after finding a phone left at his bar.

At first, everyone’s merry. People ‘necking’ life in shot glasses seems like the way to go in a world full of worries. Then, different people who don’t belong to that world leave behind this phone which carries… wounds that people from neither world can possibly comprehend. And then, no one’s merry anymore. And then everyone discovers their dark side…

Friends of mine were calling me over the last few months asking me if I have watched Wounds. My response was ‘no, should I watch it?’ and their reply was something along the lines of ‘no, coz it sucks balls!’. What can I say? I’m a bad listener. Or am I? So, I watched it. And so should you. Wounds is based on Nathan Ballingrud’s novella ‘The Visible Filth’ which I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t read so I can’t comment on the adaptation, compare, or contrast it. As a film in itself though, Wounds will get your undivided attention. Do not try to rationalise it. Do not try to give meaning to every word spoken or the staccato editing choices rapidly presented to you. Just watch it looking towards every corner of your screen as the mise-en-scène meticulously frames what you need to know. When, out of the blue, the end credits appear, give it a minute or two to move past the ‘WTF just happened’ feeling, try not to go apeshit as well, and only then start putting things into perspective. And even then, good luck!

Armie Hammer, Dakota Johnson, and Zazie Beetz do a brilliant job in front of the camera. Behind it, Babak Anvari, director of the eerie, paranormal Iranian horror Under the Shadow (2016), shakes hands with Netflix, defies canon and Hollywood’s jumpscares and goes for long tracking shots and slow editing to haunt New Orleans and unify two worlds that should have never been brought together.

 

End of Days (1999): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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It is the end of the millennium, Satan has taken a human form while looking for the woman who will bear his child, and it is up to a suicidal ex-cop to prevent the end of days.

Arguably, one of the best, darkest… and underrated films Schwarzenegger has ever been in. Brilliant fast-paced and edited realistic action with a just over fifties, sentimental Arnie been purely tough as nails. Great shooting scenes, great fight scenes, and great chase scenes that make two hours fly by. But the awesomeness doesn’t stop here. The slow-paced sequences testing the heroes’ and antiheroes’ ‘faith’, and the drama of a young girl standing in the midst of chaos, who never chose to be special, make the End of Days an unforgettable choice to put a close to this year and decade. The film’s highlight: Arnold fighting the Satanists and the Devil in the alley.

Arnold, having undergone a heart surgery two years prior to the film, comes back performing extreme action sequences and nailing the self-destructive, rock bottom, action antihero, taking as much as he can give back. Gabriel Byrne is evil as hell – pun intended – and brutally tortures everyone crossing his path with utter style. As for Robin Tunney, she’s magnificent and I can still see why I fell for her in my early twenties. My last ‘congratulations’ goes to the director and director of photography Peter Hyams who pulled this off and brought Andrew W. Marlowe’s solid, very dark yet optimistic script to life.

Again, arguably, Schwarzenegger’s last prominent film.

Enjoy, and have a healthy, happy, productive and creative new year. Be well!!

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Event Horizon (1997): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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Having gone missing for seven years, spaceship ‘Event Horizon’ reappears having come back from a darkness beyond human understanding.

One of the best psychological, sci-fi horrors you have ever watched: Alien (1979) meets Hellraiser (1987)! The ‘tragedy’ with Event Horizon is, as usual, the studio. When uncreative people in high places interfere with art, art always suffers the consequences. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 130′ original, ‘graphically violent’ cut forced Paramount to cut 30′ and water it down. Both the studio and Anderson regretted doing it! Twenty years later (2017), Anderson stated that the year after the film’s release he and a producer started looking for footage that due to bad archiving had gone missing. Most of it was destroyed, some of it was of poor quality and some of it was found as far as a Transylvanian salt mine!

From cruciform shapes to spinning tunnels and rotating interlocking circles, Event Horizon marries the antithesis between religion and science, showcasing the man-playing-God hubris, and offering us the results in an entertainingly, bloody way. The film has become a cult for both sci-fi and horror fans alike. The Making of ‘Event Horizon’ (2006) is a documentary that whoever liked the film MUST watch. The production details give away the great lengths Anderson went to, to bring this film to life.  Philip Eisner’s script is solid,  Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill are brilliant, and the Production Design is Oskar-worthy. Unfortunately, the studio forced the editing to damage the film’s unimaginable potential. It is wishful thinking that the series in development will live up to the film’s expectations and include the ‘Old Testament Speech’ and the ‘Dimension of Pure Chaos’ analysis.

The detailed, infamous captain’s log ‘orgy of death’, the ship’s return, and the extended black hole’s Bosh-influenced ‘visions from hell’ have made all our imagination run wild over the years, hoping that, one day, the film’s re-release will re-surface missing footage, and will re-appear to us to reveal what it has seen…

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Death Ship (1980): Adventure / Horror / Mystery

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A Nazi ghost ship rams a cruise ship, sinks it, and then comes back only to get the survivors on board and make them descent into madness.

Act I: Chessy ’70s editing, accompanied by cheesy ’70s music. Get to know who everyone is and what everyone is like. You see them having fun and then you see them sink.

Act II: Get to know the ship… and what it can do to its passengers. Or, even better, what it can make the passengers do to each other.

Act III: Standard, hiding no major surprises.

Death Ship could as well be the B-movie version of The Shining (1980), on the sea. After all, they came out the same year. Also, the same year, the same producers brought you the Terror Train (1980) – I assume you can see the connection. Anyhow, Death Ship may not be well known but I would call it the father, the instigator of every other ghost ship movie out there. So, if the three acts are as described above, do I recommend it? I do indeed. But before I say why please pay attention: You must watch it with untrained, ’80s eyes! Where a good B-movie was as entertaining. Forget the New Hollywood, the 21st century, and how the digital era advanced the filmmaking techniques (or did it?). Keep the Italian Giallo horror films in mind. Not knowing too much about films in the mid-nineties, I first watched it with my brother and we crapped our pants! Is it now outdated? It sure is, but let it trip you down the memory lane. Through an era that you were either too young or not even born. In a time where ‘Intermission’ appeared halfway through the film… Damn, I’m getting nostalgic!

Anyway, if it doesn’t scare you, let it amuse you. Cinematically, the ‘omniscient’ handheld shots are the film’s biggest asset. Crenna and Kennedy are brilliant and so is the cinematography. Last but not least, the first act’s cheesy editing becomes the second act’s conveyor of paranoia…

That one’s for you bro. Remember the scare we got that night (dog manically barking outside / grandma appearing out of nowhere)???

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Don’t Let Go (2019): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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After his family gets murdered, a disheveled cop receives a phone call from his… dead niece as if nothing has happened.

Jason Blum regained his senses after The Gallows (2015) and The Gallows Act II (2019) and does a comeback with a not so unusual plot but with great execution. Directed by Jacob Estes, Don’t Let Go resembles the plot of Frequency (2000) and The Lake House (2006), adding some fast-paced action. Great acting by all cast but the spotlight belongs to the wonderful Storm Reid.

Come to think about it, the script will never make any sense whatsoever so, don’t think about it, just watch it, and enjoy it. Well-directed, edited and acted, Don’t Let Go will keep you entertained on a night in, therefore get the company you prefer (including your own), sit back, relax and… let go!

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Clown (2014): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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A father tries to please his kid on his birthday by dressing up as a clown only to get stuck in the suit, start losing his mind, and transform into… something else.

This is not another clown film! Clown cuts straight to the point, gets you to feel the hero’s pain, introduces you to the origins of what once was and what it came to be, and all hell brakes loose.

Released three and a half years after the date’s wrap, the film managed to get a limited release. Producer Eli Roth once more proves he owns the throne of twisted horror as his investment definitely satisfies secret, depraved pleasures and needs. Jon Watts, believe it or not, the director of Spider-man: Homecoming (2017), co-writes and directs the distorted, kid-eating-blood-and-gore version of what most kids love and some fear the most, making everyone who watches the film not want to see or hear about a clown ever again.

The psychological horror is, unfortunately, replaced by some kind of humour and cliches, ruining the film’s ending and, ultimately, its full potential. Regardless, should you decide to watch it, make sure you know what you sign up for. If you are a horror fan like myself, you’ll enjoy the thrill of an underrated, sadistic hero’s journey.

Dean… thanks for the recommendation. This one’s for you mate.

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