Poor Agnes (2017)

Poor Agnes (2017)

poor agnes

Director: Navin Ramaswaran

Cast: Lora Burkes, Robert Notman, Will Conlon

A serial killer and her next victim form an unexpected relationship. – IMDB

First Official Trailer

Slow-burn, psychological and wildly violent, Poor Agnes captures its audience by allowing us into the world of a psychopath and serial killer Agnes who lures her victims into her carefully laid plans until she invites a private investigator, Mike posing as a journalist who is looking into her ex-boyfriend’s mysterious disappearance years ago and ends up capturing him. There is so much to love about Poor Agnes in some of the most unsettling ways. This has a lot to do with its small cast particularly Lora Burkes, who plays this mysterious woman, Agnes who is the focal point of the entire movie.

Perhaps playing the role of Agnes for Lora Burke may have more guideline, however for the audience, the appeal of Agnes was wondering why she did all this. Was it something in her past that caused her to become like this? However, the audience soon learns that it isn’t important why she does this but rather the concern is in how she treats Mike in both a manipulating and ruthless way while oddly creating a bond with him. As the movie goes along, its disturbing to realize that she has these narcissistic and godly beliefs about herself and her mission in life. In fact some scenes and dialogue might remind you of a female version of American Psycho. However, Mike seems to be caught however as the audience, we also see both sides and how her plans also seem to be changing as she grasps to keep it in line with what she wants to achieve but also be influenced by this bond. Ironically, Agnes isn’t “poor” at all. She isn’t looking for sympathy or pity and probably doesn’t deserve it. This movie is a slice of her life and a snippet of who she is. Why and how she became this way and what influenced her to believe in what she believes is the right thing and justifies her action doesn’t really matter that much at the end. Probably if you watch this enough times and analyze her monologues throughout, which are also quite profound, there might be a tie somewhere. Poor Agnes will make you think and its because of the complex characters that we don’t know everything about that makes it a great psychological thriller.

Poor Agnes is an unsettling little indie film and achieves a lot. It is a character study of Agnes who is a character that is concerned about looking good, staying healthy and keeping true to her psychopathic nature. She’s a complex character and what she believes about her role in the world is crazy but the outstanding performance from Lora Burke will make you believe Agnes. While this movie is a slow-burn experience, it is also one that will quietly make you hold onto your seats as you watch her unlikely relationship and bond with Mike also unfold. Its unpredictable just like Agnes’ personality. This is one that I highly recommend: this is a truly thrilling psychological thriller.

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Short Films: Latched (2017) & Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

Today, we’re venturing into a look at two 2017 horror short films, Latched and Goodnight, Gracie.

Latched (2017)

Latched 2017

Director: Justin Harding

Cast: Alana Elmer, Bowen Harding, Peter Higginson, Jarrett Siddall

An obsessive choreographer on a creative retreat with her toddler awakens a fairy corpse with disturbing intentions – IMDB

Latched is an interesting concept. Running at around 17 minutes, it is definitely one if the longer short films I have encountered. Its a little more predictable as to where the film wants to go however if anything, it is a disturbing thought when we learn the true intentions. Playing on concepts of mandrakes and fairies in the wood and a mother’s instinct to protect her child, Latched takes us on a rather thrilling ride with some genuinely creepy moments. While the plot itself falls into familiar themes, the standout of this piece is in fact the beautiful and haunting score accompanying it and the isolated location.

In all its beauty, Latched is a little predictable but also quite odd. However, there is a charm to this one perhaps in its attempt to let us understand our characters slightly while letting the horror aspects play out in a few jump scares after building the atmosphere. Its a creepy idea and one that is fairly well executed.

Goodnight, Gracie (2017)

goodnight gracie

Director (and writer): Stellan Kendrick

Cast: Caige Coulter, Courtney Gains, Zoe Simpson Dean, Brad Goodman

After mom gets hacked to pieces by her latest lover, a devout child fights to escape the same fate. – IMDB

 Goodnight Gracie makes a very good statement in how a very well executed film can have its moment just by well timed cues despite its length. Running at 4 minutes, Goodnight Gracie is truly feels like a scene of a film that has a deeper meaning of faith and perhaps the naivety of children. In the face of danger and witnessing something horrifying, Gracie chooses to lock herself in her room, go under the covers and read texts of the bible in seek of comfort or a miracle. There is terrifying moments best brought out with films that work on child endangerment themes from the close-ups of the killer to the quick mumbles of words as Gracie hides under the covers. It brings out the familiar of hiding away from the world and its problems to seek refuge. Its a great premise and the director writes a great script that is executed well with shots that shy away from revealing too much while still building tension and making us for that brief few minutes care for Gracie. And when the film ended, I wanted more.

Luckily, after some research, it seems they are looking to expand this idea into a feature film, which I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for it.

Horror Marathon: Pulse/Kairo (2001)

And we’re here! The final review of the horror marathon! This year’s definitely been a much better success than last year even if we hit a little bumpy patch the last few days! I’ll do a recap on the changes and such for tomorrow. I have a little new thing lately and this opened up a whole new trove of horror movies to check out which means I’m not really taking a horror movie break after the marathon ends as you’ll still see them scattered about. For the last movie was the original of a remake movie that I like quite a bit (even if others don’t), Pulse. I’ve never seen the original Japanese version of Pulse before so I’m pretty excited to check it out especially when I have quite the treat for you  in about a week related to the director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It just seems like everything is aligning to work out perfectly.

Let’s check it out!

Pulse (original title: Kairo) (2001)

Pulse 2001

Director & writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo

Two groups of people discover evidence that suggests spirits may be trying to invade the human world through the Internet. – IMDB

I guess its important to mention that we are big fans of the remake of Pulse. Perhaps it has its issues but we like it because it does have a nice creep factor and there are some scenes that truly do get us. However, Pulse was also one of those first horror films that I watched eons ago and haven’t revisited so maybe after being exposed more to other horror films, I’m like it less now. I’ll have to review it one day for here. However, from what I remember of the remake and this one, it does take the same story and uses a different approach. There are some scenes that seem to reflect each other however, it still sends off a different vibe. For those who like slower, psychological and a building suspense and creepy atmosphere, the original Pulse does it so well. I didn’t even know I was scared until after the movie ended and I was scared to go into dark rooms (I’m already afraid of the dark so it doesn’t help) and then looking deep into dark corners and the whole thing. I’m writing this piece up at night so the images of the movies are scaring the heck out of me, by the way. Excuse me if there are no images. I just can’t… I guess that is a testament on how I feel about the movie, which is that it is done pretty great.

With that said, I do think the idea of reading subtitles (which usually doesn’t bother me) did hinder the experience because the translation was a little odd. I also thought that some of the story was pretty slow and a little predictable. So slow movies and subtitle reading can sometimes have its issues. Pulse does keep you engaged as you try to figure out what is going on. You might know the story a little or not but from our memories of the remake, this does shed a different angle to that story. If anything, this one has a more mysterious vibe to it. It gives you less of a back story but more like some scientific stuff and spiritual talk and images to piece what the whole deal that these people dragged into the mix make their own conclusions. I like movies that don’t shove everything in your face and let you decipher the story.

Perhaps what I like the most about Pulse is the atmosphere and just how it portrayed the spirits. Everything feels so uneasy. It keeps teasing you to expect something to show up or happen and it may or may not. It plays around with your anticipations and expectations and I love that so much. Talking about the spirits (just a little), the introduction of the first one is feels a little weird but I’m telling you, perhaps its the weirdness that has it stuck on my mind right now and whenever I think about it, it just downright creeps me out and makes me incredibly uneasy.

With that said, quick review for Pulse, see it if you haven’t. If you hated the remake and have no interest in the original, I’d say to give it a go anyways. Its pretty neat and takes on a different angle from the remake. It is a tad slow and there’s some scientific talk and its rather dated, but there are some effective creepy moments and the whole tone of the film and atmosphere works really well.

Horror Marathon Wrap-up & Overview!

And we are at the end!!! Happy Halloween!

If you missed any of the posts, the Halloween Horror marathon page is updated with this year’s movie reviews and TV binges. You can find it HERE.

Its been quite a month. Hooray to slight organization! I won’t lie that I started the Saw franchise in mid or late September because I was anticipating the work craze in the last week and still, it wasn’t quite enough to not skip two days. However, I am pretty happy with it. We discovered some great movies and TV series. The Autopsy of Jane Doe being the indie that scared me a lot even if it wasn’t perfect and one that I honestly love a lot. Unfortunately, books and recipes didn’t quite get their appearance because I took on a huge task however I did work hard so I am near the end so those reviews will go up and I will proceed to try and complete my Goodreads challenge which is incredibly behind because of IT. As for IT, I plan on working on some compare and contrast piece of the adaptations/remake/source material.

The overall feeling of I have of Saw is pretty underwhelming. Yet again I remind you that gore and blood doesn’t impress me. Making me sick and making me scared or anxious are two very different things. I loved the direction of the first one a lot and the last two did alright but everything in the middle was really meh. I’d have to say, after so many years of these marathons, I like even the most nonsensical slasher films in Halloween or Friday the 13th over any of the Saw films in the middle. Plus, Saw has to really been considered as an entire story since we spend each movie catching up with Jigsaw and his grand plan. It does show his genius and in a certain way if you look at it, it does make sense since the 7 movies aren’t really that far apart from each other on a timeline. It would be interesting to see how it would measure up if put on a timeline and see if it all makes sense. That was the original plan but work took over and here we are, struggling to get this final wrap-up before the clock strikes midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone.

With that said, I’ll keep this short and sweet since I’ve wasted enough time trying to record a video and having that fall apart.

My top 3 faves of this year in terms of movies would be (in no particular order): The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Pulse & IT (2017) & Saw is somewhere there but I can’t decide which. As for fave TV series, Stranger Things takes that one for sure. Actually the TV Binge for Stranger Things Season 2 should be coming up also. 🙂

That’s it for this Horror Marathon!
Any suggestions for next year’s horror feature?
Are you a Saw franchise fan?
What movies are your horror marathon picks?

TV Binge: Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark (2014)

**I’m currently in a work deadline rush due on Halloween. The horror of it all! Sorry for skipping on the posts. The intention was there to write. I just couldn’t find a moment. So here is yesterday’s post and if by any luck things go well today at work *fingers crossed* I will have two posts for tomorrow, one review and one special Halloween post that I always do every year for wrap-up. **

With all that out of the way, I am yet again changing directions on the horror marathon and chose quite the rare appearance in Taiwanesw series which is set with a horror background with something of a And Then There Were None vibe called Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark.

Lets check it out!

Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark

close your eyes before it's dark

Cast: Man-shu Jian, Bryan Shu-Hao Chang, Allen Chen, Blue Lan, Yen Tsao, Chun-Haw Hsu, Ke-Fang Sun, Sheng-Ping Chu, Tammy Darshana Lai, Shang-Ho Huang, Di-Yang Huang

While vacationing at a mountain cabin, a group of longtime friends uncover an old scandal that could have deadly consequences.-IMDB

Where to even start with this one? Lets just get this fact out of the way in case anyone here is a Taiwan movie/TV series connoisseurs: I don’t know watch as many of Taiwanese productions as I’d like and if you have any of these Taiwanese horror/thriller genre movies or TV series, please go ahead and recommend them to me. With that said, Close Your Eyes (as I will call the series from now on) is pretty refreshing to see. Just like TW series won’t work for everyone, the same applies here. There are some odd choices they make here and to me are missteps however, they have a whole different that they overall nail and for the most part, it actually feels more like a thriller with horror elements which isn’t a bad thing because that is one of my favorite movie genres/subgenres (not sure which its considered). Thrillers are hard to get down good especially with trying to instill ineasiness in its audience and lets just say, not everyone can be Pretty Little Liars. I draw this comparison because when the show started it, these young actresses were quite fresh faces just as the cast in Close Your Eyes are. The story does take the stance of backflashing to the last time they were camping at this cabin before the group had a fallout. Part of it is looking at what broke them apart and also what keeps them together as friends in both the past and present and gives it something of a parallel.

Whats works here:

  • The atmosphere: Close Your Eyes is set in the rather cliche stranded in a country cabin and the storm had blocked the road and knocked out the only cell/telephone line so no communication outside and can’t go out either as they are also located on a mountain. However, the proper use of this and its sounds and knowing when to just let silence and subtlety take its place is done well enough here to get its audience a little tense. The lighting and such are also done pretty well here to give it some creepy vibes here and there. Its a little cliche at times but it still works alright. However, for hardcore horror fans, this one might still be lackluster.
  • Opening & Ending Theme: It sounds really stupid to talk about the themes but the way they play with the sounds actually makes the subtle soundtrack as the ending theme so effectively creepy! The opening does a really cool creepy sequence which shows the tone of the show and where its headed.
  • Suspense: I have to be on record to be a little hesitant on using this as it works for the most part.  A lot of the reveals and twists work relatively well however, there are some parts where it hints a little too much to lose its suspense. However, it does well to keep the audience suspicious.

Close Your Eyes

What  doesn’t work so much:

  • Acting: There really is only one thing that took me out from the show a lot of times and that was the acting. Some of the actors here and the expressions they made were really hilarious and overexaggerated. It felt like they were trying to portray something but the plot never gave their character the plot that justified it. I’ve explained before that unlike American television, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Chinese/Korean/Japanese series are all done in self-contained series so when a season is done then the story is wrapped up. If there were to be a sequel, then they’ll take another story arc. However, this one, there are a lot of characters and some of the characters don’t seem to get the depth they deserve, making them mean less and in a show like this, you need to be able to cheer on the characters and want them to survive. However, some of these ones here are a little lacklusters. One of the characters that show up later on are actually the worst. I actually laughed at some of his expressions really hard and that really took me out of the immersion as that was nearing the ending episode where the whole thing would reveal itself. I have to make the exception that the older actress here who plays Fang, the mountain cabin owner is a more seasoned actress and does pretty good.
  • Voice-overs: The worst part of the show and some of the most head-scratching moments as to why they chose to do this is give voice-overs to the corpses. The corpses would have conversations and sometimes it would be little hints and clues however, it was these brief moments that made the show feel nonsensical. I didn’t see the purpose of it and would have rather that they didn’t. Think of The Autopsy of Jane Doe (although I won’t or I’ll get nightmares) but non-talking corpses wins the creepy factor any day.

Close Your Eyes is not too bad. It had its good and bad elements. Like I said before, its more of a thriller more than anything. It tries to get in a few twists and for the most part, succeeds even in its cliched moments. You can see the effort was made to get the atmosphere and the tone down while trying to highlight the significant relationships here. However, it does need a little work to piece the clues a little better although it did surprise me a few times, so I’m pretty pleased with that also and gave me a few creeps. If you like a quick Taiwanese series and explore what could hopefully be a first step into some more horror Taiwanese series, this is pretty decent. I was expecting it to be much worse. The surprise has to do with why I think its alright and probably worth a watch if you are into some suspense and mystery along with some light creepy setting.

Horror Marathon: Monster House (2006)

We’re in the final week of the horror marathon! Maybe its a little late to slow down the gears and change our pace to something less serious and thats why I decided that it was time to finish Monster House. In that sense, I had to rewatch it completely because I had started it ages ago and then somehow the DVD got lost somewhere at my mom’s before my move so I never ended up finish it. Now that its landed on Netflix, I decided it was a good time to give it a go, plus all those intense films from brutal gory traps to creepy clowns was getting to me.

Let’s check it out!

Monster House (2006)

monster house

Director: Gil Kenan

Voice cast: Mitchel Musso, Spencer Locke, Sam Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Jon Heder, Kathleen Turner

Three teens discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. – IMDB

Maybe for kids this movie would be a scary selection, however for myself, it was a fun movie which some cool moments but never truly scared. Monster House is an entertaining animated film set on Halloween and includes a haunted house and a creepy house that is alive along with a cranky neighbor. These kids are suspicious about it all and are the only ones who believe that the house is evil and are determined to prevent any kids from getting caught in the trap. Best friends DJ and Chowder along with a girls scout Jenny end up taking up the mission in their own hands. While them and the house are the main characters of the story, we also saw the goth babysitter and her boyfriend.

Monster House

Just looking at the voice cast list up above, there are some names that definitely pop out and having them on the team here really does add to it even if some of these roles are quite short. The kids are also done quite well. There’s a level of believability to it. Monster House follows all the moves of the making of decent animated Halloween story however, it lacks that element that makes it truly soar. However, Monster House will get a few chuckles in there with some lighthearted fun.

Monster House

Where Monster House does really well is in its visuals. The house coming to life always makes for a fun time. At the same time, the best moments are when they are inside the house as we don’t know much about why this house is alive. I do wish that they had spent a lot more time with shenanigans and other traps and flesh out the backstory for the house and perhaps it would be more catchy. It would be a cool possessed home story with lots of danger. It felt that they didn’t quite manage to hit that potential . Some of the best moments are after they manage to get into the house.

Overall, I’m a pretty neutral with Monster House. I remember liking it more the first time I had seen it (or the little bit I did see) however watching it again now, I feel like it doesn’t quite expand on where it should. There are some fun laughs here and there and the voice cast is fantastic. The story could have been a little better to give it a bit more excitement. But then, it is a story for kids so I guess it works in that term.

Horror Marathon: IT (2017)

If you missed yesterday’s review of the 1990 miniseries IT, you can read it HERE.

IT is easily one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. The images and the atmosphere and seeing the Bill Skarsgard transformation was all really captivating. It may be the horror genre of films I’ve chosen lately but I’ve been struggling to be truly frightened by a film and seeing as I have a deep-rooted fear of clowns, this seemed like one that would do the trick.

IT (2017)

IT 2017

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicolas Hamilton, Owen Teague, Stephen Bogaert

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children. – IMDB

IT is everything that you can imagine it to be. It does atmosphere and the horror really well. IT himself portrayed by Bill Skarsgard and his eye tricks are downright creepy. This movie is the IT that I had expected from the 1990 miniseries. However, with that said, I have to say that IT also suffered from a great PR team. Maybe not so great and also why I usually try to stay away from horror movie trailers because a lot of the effective scares were shown off in the trailers making all the scares rather expected with a few exceptions. Still, the experience of watching IT was a tense thriller with horror elements. And that hits my soft spot because I love movies that gives me a lot of thrill and has me anxious and tense.

IT 2017

For this remake, I can’t do this write-up without first talking about Pennywise. The 2017 Pennywise finds a balance between the friendly clown and striking all those horror elements perfectly. Bill Skarsgard has had some supporting roles here and there, even for myself, as I looked through his filmography, those roles didn’t quite leave any impressions because it wasn’t significant enough. The only one I know him from is as one of the main characters in Netflix Original Hemlock Grove and that show is plenty odd. I have a love hate relationship with it on various elements and thats why I haven’t finished the final season yet. However, my impressions of Bill Skarsgard stems from there. I think he is a fine looking guy so its hard to imagine him as Pennywise and actually pulling off this role so remarkably that we can forget the man is behind all this makeup and that is the most impressive. Ten out of ten for Pennywise!

IT

When the film finished, we had a huge discussion about this and 1990 miniseries. It was a long one so maybe I’ll finally do the adaptation, remake and source material idea that I never followed through with (yet). One of the main talks was about how the kids were played. Both has a commendable cast and very convincing portrayals of their respective roles. In short, my husband enjoyed the 1990 version of the kids and I thought these kids did a great job. In fact, The Losers had a lot more individuality in this one. You can really tell them apart as they accentuated how these characters are supposed to be. Perhaps having just seen Stranger Things helped and didn’t for Finn Wolfhard as it got confusing with the bike scene however he did a great job at being Richie Tozier especially with his speedtalking and the accentuating his fears. The Eddie character stood out especially with all his concerns and fears which had some comic relief in various parts. In general, there was a decent balance of action, thrills and a little humor. However, whenever Pennywise showed up in whatever form was always creepy and tense. The star of the Losers is Sophia Lillis playing Beverly Marsh. She was so convincing and fantastic. It was a lot of fun to watch her.

IT 2017

IT 2017 has some parts that stayed more true to the source material (and I’ve read the majority of what happens here) and does the parts the miniseries couldn’t. At the same time, they did make some changes that still made it effective. Changing up what the original or source material had never bothers me as long as it adds to it and still makes sense. In here, it does make sense. IT is made up by a lot of moments however, there is still a strong feeling of the bond they have created in The Losers. There are some nice effects and the atmosphere works really well. Pennywise is creepy and fantastic. Its a mostly tense movie. If you have avoided the trailers up till now, continue to do so, so that this movie becomes much more effective with each of the build up to the tense moments feeling fresh. Other than that, sit back and be thrilled by IT. It may have gotten a little overhyped by its PR and the trailers revealed too much but the film itself hit all the right notes for me. There were some parts that slowed down a little but it picked right up in the next scene so it never quite feels like it lingers.

Overall, IT packs the perfect horror thriller experience. Yet again, Stephen King has created some great characters and in this, we get a much more deeper look at the hints of how Pennywise came to be. We get to see his lair, which is captivatingly much different in a good way. The Losers are great because they feel like they are their own individuals and bring a certain something of their own skills to the table. My favorite is Sophia Lillis who plays Beverly. Now, I’m just sitting around wondering who will be cast for Part 2 and their adult roles. Its one I’m looking forward to a lot!

Have you seen the remake of IT?