Double Feature: The Lodgers (2017) & Luz (2018)

Welcome to the next double feature as we continue with the alphabet and head into our L selections! The first is an Irish gothic horror called The Lodgers and the second is a German (and Spanish) supernatural horror film. Let’s check it out!

The Lodgers (2017)

the lodgers

Director: Brian O’Malley

Cast: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley, Deirdre O’Kane, Moe Dunford, Roisin Murphy

1920, rural Ireland. Anglo Irish twins Rachel and Edward share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Each night, the property becomes the domain of a sinister presence (The Lodgers) which enforces three rules upon the twins: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. When troubled war veteran Sean returns to the nearby village, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules set out by The Lodgers. – IMDB

The Lodgers is a gloomy sort of film. Its filmed with a dark atmosphere and lingers in a mysterious air as the story of The Lodgers, their rules and these twins’ stories are gradually revealed of why they are bond to the house and what is expected of them. The story does take a nice pace in revealing it and maintains a rather creepy vibe especially in the first half when its laying out the story and the mysterious vibe with the crumbling estate and what the predicament of the twins and the lodgers. Its in the second half when things start unfolding that it starts feeling like it loses a little of its steam since the twist is revealed in a fairly obvious way by that point and its easy to understand where the twist is. To be fair, its actually one of the scenes of the female lead seeing the figures of her parents in the lake that seem to repeat itself one time too many.

The Lodgers falls under one of the issues where the “monster” aka The Lodgers reveal is where it renders the horror element lesser than when it was a mystery.  While that is the case, the whole underwater scene is shot so nicely of where the lodgers reside and who they are. There’s something very fantastically creepy about the deep underwater darkness and its captured so well.

Other than that, there are essentially three main characters here. The female lead Rachel (Charlotte Vega), her twin brother Edward (Bill Milner) and Rachel’s suitor Sean (Eugene Simon). There are a few other supporting cast that help further set up the story and the mystery surrounding the twins and their estate. The three main leads do create a nice dynamic especially watching the interaction between the twins as well as between Rachel and Sean.

The Lodgers do have a few tropes and such but somehow it does have this very chilling and ominous feeling throughout. Its twist is revealed gradually but is rather easy to find the hints to what its trying to build towards by probably the middle of the movie. There are some unique elements to the story that definitely deserve a watch especially with its estate setting being used from inside the house to the grounds as well as having a great cinematography.

Luz (2018)

luz

Director (and writer): Tilman Singer

Cast: Luana Velis, Johannes Benecke, Jan Bluthardt, Lilli Lorenz, Julia Riedler, Nadja Stubiger

Luz, a young cabdriver, drags herself into the brightly lit entrance of a run-down police station. A demonic entity follows her, determined to finally be close to the woman it loves. – IMDB

The best way to describe Luz is probably “odd” and “bizarre”. The whole setup of the movie has this old film filter over its scenes. At the same time, its incredibly psychological. Visually, it uses a lot of close-up shots as well as still shots to capture the moments and emphasize an uneasiness in the scene. It fluctuates between what is reality and hypnotic dimension especially for the character of Luz. There are so many little details set up to bring in a lot of intrigue (and maybe get lost a little in this whole possession) of what is actually happening in the room and what is happening in Luz’s mind. Its all done in such a unique style that adds so much to the story itself.

I do have to say that what works for Luz for some viewers might be what doesn’t work at the same time. Its a strange experience watch and one that challenges piecing together the different parts of the story line especially at the beginning as the events seem to blend together and connecting the characters. As it works towards the finales, the characters and the possession element and the hypnosis world and reality all easily can become this confusing to follow story. For some this confusion might be quite the fun ride. For myself, that ride was unique and as things started to slot back into place, the execution is key to where it all stands out at its best from the cinematography to its use of sounds.

Luz is a hard film to talk about it. Its quite the horror experience on a psychological level and takes a unique approach to the whole possession premise right from start to beginning.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these films? Thoughts?

Blog Tour: The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel

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From June 29th to July 5th, you can purchase her book for ONLY $0.99 on Amazon! You can also try to win a digital copy of The Memories We Bury by entering the giveaway below!

The Memories We Bury
By: H.A. Leuschel

The Memories We Bury

Publication Date: April 17, 2020
Genre: Contemporary/Psychological Suspense

SYNOPSIS

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

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REVIEW

The Memories We Bury is a psychological sort of novel that alternates between the first person narrative of its two main characters: Lizzie, a new mother and her elderly neighbor, Morag who has a strong desire to be needed and control and views this opportunity to be a chance to nurture another child. The first person narration style gives these two characters a slowly building development and very much suited as in many ways, this story is something of a character study, especially in terms of Morag who gradually reveals the reason why her children have left her and the other secrets that others have hinted at but never mentioned as it builds up to the big finale where she truly oversteps. On the other hand, Lizzie’s side of the story is much more about motherhood and the suspense behind her suspicions of Morag and her intentions. As their friendship develops over the course of the story, the dynamic changes and it moves between control and manipulation. In that regard, both of the characters are very well-written.

The flow of the story is probably one of the elements that is much  more of a slow-burn. Just like the chapters move through a timeline to give an idea of the progression of time, which didn’t really impact my own reading experience too much. The story unravels very slowly. It could definitely have been paced a little better. As mentioned before, the characters did need the time and events to develop however, it did also feel like it dragged on a little in the middle bits between the beginning build-up which was intriguing to introduce and set-up the two characters and the big climax that was quite scary and shocking overall.

Overall, The Memories We Bury keeps in line with the strong psychological elements of H.A. Heurschel stories. Much like some of the previous works that I’ve read, this one also delivers with another completely different sort of relationship as it jumps into the topic of motherhood as well as friendship. The characters are intriguing to watch and even manages to add a little uncertainty at the end. Its an impressive way to end the story which leaves a little space to contemplate.

Score: 3.5/5

Where to buy: Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo - Helene edited

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

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TADFF 2019: International Shorts After Dark

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Compiled as 8 short films from various international locations, a few of them from the USA and screened as the International Shorts After Dark, here are 6 of the 8 shorts reviewed. One of them called Bar Fight was paired with a feature during Fantasia Festival in July so the review is linked at the bottom.

Maggie May (2018)

Maggie May

Director (and writer): Mia Kate Russell

Cast: Lulu McClatchy, Katrina Mathers, Sophia Davey, Ditch Davey, Don Bridges

Maggie May is about a sister who stays back to help out after their mother dies to end up in an accident which leaves her dying but her sister Maggie May simply ignores it. Sometimes, the scariest thing is not what someone does but in some situations, what someone doesn’t do. That is what powers the horror and unsettling feeling in Maggie May.

While the short itself is done fairly well, there’s this over exaggeration (perhaps deliberate) of the character of Maggie May and that makes it too over the top to make it feel as horrifying and more just a loathing in general to watch. What does work for the concept itself is the whole idea of passivity being more dangerous than the other way around in some cases. However, what does balance it out is the whole process of dying with the sister and the both the psychological and physical changes that she goes through hoping for help but also noticing the pieces around her fading away.  There’s a decent amount of blood and gore that somehow balance with the psychological elements of the whole story and pulls through a fairly effectively little short.

Puzzle (2019)

Director: Vincenzo Aiello

Cast: Marie Wyler

In a fairly concise story, Puzzle is a rather creepy one as it is based on the premise of a woman finding puzzle pieces around her home. As she pieces them together, it reveals something frightening. This one is very well-executed. It keeps its setting confined in a room mostly while using the puzzle pieces to each lead to the next one and it having the final unveil of what and possible who is responsible and yet, it still manages to keep some mysteries, mostly because its less than 5 minutes and the ability to craft something rather unnerving is already very impressive.

Eject (2019)

Eject

Director (and writer): David Yorke

Cast: Elena Saurel

Eject is about a woman that finds her arm has a USB port and proceeds to plug it in and ends up in another place where she can sort through files of her life. There are some fairly horror elements here and yet, characters finding too good to be true situations and using it to their advantage is not a new concept although this one for being a short did leave a fairly precious deeper message (in my mind but I might be overthinking) about the impossibilities of casting everything bad out of life as that isn’t reality. Its the mechanics of how this dimension works that becomes the mystery and the horror all wrapped up together. Its not a long short, less than 10 minutes and yet, long dark tunnels and empty room with a cabinet and a mysterious door leading to who knows is the unknown factors that add to this short film.

La Noria (2019)

La Noria

Director (and writer): Carlos Baena

La Noria is a Spanish animated short with no dialogue about a grieving boy who sees creatures in his attic who ends up showing him compassion.

La Noria is possibly the best short so far in all of the shorts shown at the festival. The animation is absolutely brilliant. On a visual level, the color palette is beautiful. The creature designs are also incredibly creative. There’s something of a Christmas holidays setting but somehow its the tint of light that works here. What starts off as failing to put together a ferris wheel and remembering his father turns into an intense walk through  his home festering with all kinds of creatures, all different in their appearance and having their own characteristics but all takes a surprising turn of events to something very touching. This one shows off the concept of being able to deliver an effective story with the power of visuals and sound effects and score to give it all it needs. Even the ending credits are done fantastically.

The Haunted Swordsman (2019)

The Haunted Swordsman

Director: Kevin McTurk

Cast: Jason Scott Lee, James Hong, Franka Potente, Christopher Lloyd

In terms of uniqueness, The Haunted Swordsman is a short that definitely fills that criteria. Its a ghost story puppet film that takes a horror adventure following a samurai in a world of witches and creatures. Made with 36 inch tall bunraku puppets and in live action, The Haunted Swordsman is a lot of fun filled with sufficient amount of horror, fantasy and adventure.

The story itself is a lot of fun as it starts with a samurai on a quest with a severed head, The Navigator as his companion guide, whichever it is in search of the The Black Monk, voiced by Christopher Lloyd. The samurai being voiced by Jason Scott Lee and The Navigator voiced by James Hong. The score itself blends well with the samurai tale elements and for a puppet film, the action is incredibly on point. A lot of compliments go to the attention to detail given to the puppets and how great it all looks as well as the puppeteers who make it all come to life convincingly. Its definitely a realm well worth looking at. While this is a short animated film at about 15 minutes or so, the samurai is sent on a quest, giving this concept and story a lot of potential to explore further and hopefully, director Kevin McTurk will do just that in the future.

Place (2019)

Place

Director: Jason Gudasz

Cast: Emily Green, Nick Hurley, Stella Edwards, Emmanuelle Roumain, Willy Roberts

Place is a short about a couple the goes into their new home to find the electrician dead in a freak accident to find that something seems to also be inhabiting it.

Place is about a family adjusting to all the ghosts in the place. While the ghosts never quite reveal itself, it does take over the family one by one. It gives them a rather edgy character and each of them change in their own way as they each take on a different oddness to them, whether its their change in how they talk. A lot of it is rather deliberate and possibly in a fairly dark comedy sort of way. Each of them interact with it in a different form as well. The character changes are a bit abrupt for a short, it needs to be paced fairly quickly. However, the daughter in here does bring in those little details of giving out clues of what legends are in the equation, inhabiting their place. Place is quite odd but then its meant to be that way with those little details which adds to the story plus it does have a rather good twist at the end.

Other shorts in this showcase not reviewed here:

Bar Fight (Fantasia Review)
Your Last Day on Earth

TADFF 2019 Shorts #1: We Three Queens/Eyes Open/Make Me A Sandwich

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Much to our surprise, we are going to be covering Toronto After Dark Film Festival remotely for its short films selections. The festival itself runs from October 17 to 25th this year at the Scotiabank Theatre. If you happen to be in Toronto, do head over to check out this festival with its great line-up of feature films. You can find all the info HERE.

Over the next few days throughout the duration of TADFF, I will be looking at these in various categories and pre-feature shorts will be batched in 3 (or 4) films. Most of these will be paired with their screening times. These three to kick-off the first batch of pre-feature shorts are paired with screenings from October 17th and 18th.

We Three Queens (2018)

We Three Queens

Director: Chris Agoston

Cast: Erin Margurite Carter, Soma Chhaya, Emma Hunter, Rachel Wilson

*Screens with Extra Ordinary at TADFF 2019*

Beard (Erin Margurite Carter), Charlotte (Soma Chhaya) and Janet (Emma Hunter) are an all-star carolling group called We Three Queens. As they go to pick up their vests from their seamstress, they end up waking up kidnapped in her basement. With Christmas just around the corner, they need to find a way to convince Shelly (Rachel Wilson) to release them before midnight so that they can finish their carolling.

Christmas horror is always a welcome idea. Carolling has probably (at least to my knowledge) never been used in the context of a horror film. In a premise like this one, carolling definitely seems like quite the competitive world although who doesn’t want to be a part of something important or get noticed by the people that they enjoy watching, right? Running at almost 9 minutes, We Three Queens is a fun little Christmas horror short that adds a little comedy to the situation. Its not hard to see where the story goes as there is some foreshadowing but the actresses here are also quite entertaining to watch especially with their dialogue. Something about having a lot of red on screen not only makes it have the feeling of holiday but also have this more troubling situation at hand that we never know how Shelly would react to their responses to her requests.

Straight-forward and fairly unique in its premise of carollers being the central focus, We Three Queens is a fun Christmas horror short to check out.

Eyes Open (2019)

Eyes Open

Director (and writer): Jawed J.S.

Cast: Angela Bell

*Screens with Witches in the Woods*

Eyes Open is a 2019 horror short about a girl who goes for a walk in the woods to soon find out that she is haunted by an unseen presence both physically and psychologically.

Horror set in the woods has become increasingly used. Its a great choice for a setting because of its emptiness and isolation. With Eyes Open, its (almost) 6 minutes is a huge difference from where it starts to where it ends. The horror actually builds in its moments. While there were some oddities to this one, it still works overall especially as the unseen presence that haunts the single character in Eyes Open shows what it is doing: attacking when she closes her eyes. There are some odd low-budget effects but still, for its progression of horror, it does a pretty decent job at making it intriguing.

Make Me A Sandwich (2019)

Make Me A Sandwich

Director: Denman Hatch

Cast: Anne Shepherd, Peter Hodgins

*Screens with James vs. His Future Self*

Make Me  A Sandwich is a 2019 horror short (and its very short) about a wife who is constantly being asked by her husband to make him a sandwich.

Nothing is quite defining of a short film than one that runs for 3 minutes and keeps things as simple as a wife constantly being asked to make her husband a sandwich. And yet, those 3 minutes say a lot with just the wife’s reaction to each aggressive demand. Anne Shepherd as the wife does a great job at using those little facial expressions to show her lack of patience each time and how she retaliates. At the same time, what seems simple and straight forward as this story has a very startling twist at the end. Deranged might be the way to say that twist ending and actually makes you think a little more about the whole situation here and what we just watched. Its rather unsettling to watch and yet its hard to not laugh at a little of the dark humor here (perhaps its dark humor..I’m not sure anymore). If satisfying unsettling is a term that works, then this might apply to Make Me  A Sandwich.

 

Blog Tour: Hope by Terry Tyler (Review/Giveaway)

Hope

HOPE
BY: TERRY TYLER

Hope

Publication Date: May 24, 2019
Genre: Dystopian/Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian near future – the UK, Year 2028.

Blogger Lita Stone and journalist Nick Freer live and work online, seeing life through soundbites, news TV and social media. Keeping the outside world at bay in their cozy flat, they observe the ruthless activities of the new PM and his celebrity fitness guru wife, Mona (hashtag MoMo), with the mild outrage that can be quelled simply by writing another blog post.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, multinational conglomerate Nutricorp is busy buying up supermarket chains, controlling the media, and financing the new compounds for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Lita and Nick suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, until the outside world catches up with them – and Lita is forced to discover a strength she never knew she possessed.

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REVIEW

Hitting quite close to home as the main character Lita is a blogger who talks about fairly touchy subjects in a future dystopian UK that results in rather dire circumstances, Hope is a gripping psychological thriller. Its dystopian setting is one that has similar goals to those familiar with movies like The Purge, where the government schemes in their own way to thin out the non-working class which is seen as being a burden to the society and disposed of in whatever way possible. “Out of sight, out of mind” kind of deal. This dystopian future is always a nice topic to look at as it also refers to different events that has happened in our current day and age and how it has affected the future of the UK (such as Brexit). This setting opens up through the eyes of Lita about the levels of governmental control, its manipulation of technology, the lies and secrets as well as its schemes to push the non-working class or the poor/less fortunate to these camps called Hope Village in the middle of nowhere and working to live there for credits while having a lot of underlying issues that the three soon discover for themselves.

Separated into a few parts in the book quite cleverly, the situation of Lita and her two friends, Nick and Kendall end up in different locations as they move from one place to the next trying to maintain their bond and stay together as they view each other as family. Each location creates a new section of the story which gives it structure. In each phase, it moves from the struggle to stay afloat as things go sideways for each of them one by one and how it leads them to live in a Hope Village which makes them desperate for change and their actions to this puts them in a much worse situation.

Its these situations that also give Lita the hard times that give her character a lot of development. It shifts from each location from the honest blogger to a much more toned down version that treats situations a little smarter through her many losses throughout the story and shifts her character trajectory. While a few of these situations, from the reader’s view is quite easily predictable and doesn’t quite do any out of the left field. Its really the combination of all these events that make Hope quite an intriguing read.

The finesse of crafting  each of the characters and the hardships they encounter each lead to their own outcome. The setting of this dystopian future UK also is one that has lots of discover. It manages to touch on a lot of the different angles from the government motives to the characters reactions and how to face this situation and find their ways to uncover the secrets trying to be hidden. There’s also a little to think about this dystopian future as the society going backwards as these Hope Villages feel very similar to restrictive camps in history. As thrilling as this might be, where it falls short just a little is that it was fairly predictable and I like thrillers to be slightly more shocking. While I say that, there is no doubt a lot of really great writing and story execution done here. 

Goodreads: 4/5 

Where to Buy:

Amazon UK
Amazon
Universal Link

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of nineteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Hope’, a dystopian, psychological drama set in the UK, a decade into the future. She is currently at work on ‘Blackthorn’, a post-apocalyptic stand-alone story set in her fictional city of the same name. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

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Halloween Double Feature: Get Out (2017) & Hereditary (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (72)

This next double feature should probably be called the high hype indie pairing where both of these films are indie horror films that got a lot of hype and love upon its first release and both of them have been on my radar since all those great reviews scattered across the blogosphere. So here we are, getting it both done at the same time!

Let’s check it out! *crossing my fingers that they live up to the hype*

Get Out (2017)

Get Out

Director (and writer): Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, LaKeith Stanfield

A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point. – IMDB

Two types of movies that are hard to write about: movies that are fantastic and movies that are so indifferent, its just a waste of time to write about. Get Out is definitely the first one where its just so thrilling and creepy and weird and yet, it lands well for probably 90% of the times. Usually, comedy inserts in these films don’t bother me but for this film, there were some issues of putting comedy where it probably wasn’t time for even if thinking back, I probably wouldn’t have taken out the character’s bits, probably just shifted it around, maybe. With that said, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is amazing with twists that work and subtly creepy/unsettling bits and a good balance and execution of the ideas and unveiling the plot one step at a time, never rushing it forward.

The long awaited film that is finally watched on my list! Its rare that films actually live up to the hype and Get Out does. Whether its in the terms of psychological horror or the pacing or the characters, everything here is done with a great balance and great eye for things that come into play. None of the awkwardness in the beginning is left unminded to by the end and that does give this a lovely completeness, a rarity nowadays when movies always want to end with a possibility of a sequel. Kudos to Get Out for finding their way to create this unique piece of cinema that is mysterious, thrilling and subtly horrifying. I’m not going to talk to much about it in fear of ruining anything for those who haven’t seen it but its definitely worth a watch.

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Director (and writer): Ari Aster

Cast: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd, Mallory Bechtel, Jake Brown

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. – IMDB

Hereditary is an odd film. The characters are rather odd, the family is weird, their history is mysterious and the people they encounter is also a bit out there also. Its like an onion which you peels away the pieces with each event and it leads to the end game. With that said, the best part of Hereditary is its execution, the atmosphere and Toni Collette.

The execution is on point mostly because is this mix between playing with the scenes using the miniature pieces that Toni Collette’s character makes which also ends up melling the reality into a morbid permanent display. The movie is pretty slow-burn and with that, the atmosphere and horror is presented subtly and becomes rather unsettling as the characters themselves are mostly repressing their feelings and quiet until it reaches a breaking point.

With that said, Toni Collette’s performance as the mom is great. She is dealt the worst cards as we start the movie knowing she is coping with llthe loss of her mother and dealing with the effects it had on her family especially her teenage daughter and then what happens with her daughter afterwards. Her character is the anchor of the film as it goes through a one person show almost of discovering the secrets of her family with possession and about her mother. Of course, the odd character here goes to Milly Shapiro as daughter Charlie who is rather odd both in her actions and has one of the most shocking scenes here, a scene that marks the turning point of this story. Its an outstanding performance from a young actress.

Hereditary does do a lot right in direction, execution and the horror of the whole situation. The ending is a bit mind boggling which warranted some rethinking to piece together (kind of). Overall, Hereditary is a pretty good movie. The process of watching it was great even if the ending felt a little in the left field (but that might just be my whole comprehending issues).

That’s it for Halloween Double Feature #4!
Two very highly renowned movies paired together! Have you seen them? Thoughts?

Halloween Double Feature: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) & The Babadook (2014)

DOUBLEFEATURE (69)

Welcome to the 2019 Halloween Horror Marathon! I’m keeping with this year’s change to double features even for the marathon! Hopefully you will enjoy it as well! The goal is to get about 3 double features up a week. It might not all work out since that does requiring watching a lot of movies. Regardless, there will be other things going on from more thriller/horror books and TV as well so we’ll see how it all goes. Main focus is on movies from  Netflix Canada and Shudder.

First pairing probably should have been more research but it still works out as a Netflix pairing with horror comedy musical Anna and the Apocalypse followed by 2014’s indie horror hit The Babadook.

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse

Director: John McPhail

Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins

A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other. – IMDB

I only realized this is a Christmas zombie movie after I started it up but I’m sticking with it for a light start to the Halloween horror marathon, plus Netflix listed it as a Halloween Netflix and Chills category so why not. It does have zombies after all. To call this would be a stretch since its not really categorized as horror. However, as a start and a little mix genre type of movie to kick off the Halloween marathon, I’m pretty happy with it. Zombies and musicals are quite a nice little mash-up and Anna and the Apocalypse delivers some really fun tunes. I’d say, perhaps one song didn’t land well for me but overall, it was all catchy.

In terms of characters, Ella Hunt playing Anna does a great job. Probably one of the wittier characters which I really did like was Steph played by Sarah Swire. Its a fun little movie. There’s some little story between everyone but its really just a group of friends that rely on each other to go back to find their loved ones and survive through this zombie apocalypse. Its deliberately over the top and sarcastic humor throughout and its the type of humor that I love. Musicals are all about breaking out in random singing and dancing numbers and while the songs weren’t directly about the zombie apocalypse, it was immersed in it so the background was sometimes as fun to watch as watching the singing going on. Some of the bits reminded me of various other musicals. All the friends had a different kind of personality and brought something to the group which is always fun as it creates balance.

There are zombies and bloody and guts but Anna and the Apocalypse is a fun Christmas movie that still fits into Halloween because of the apocalypse elements. A light-hearted start to the marathon but more intense movies to come, I’m pretty sure. Now, if more people would do movies like this, I’d be down for a sequel or some other horror comedy musical.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear

A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. – IMDB

The Babadook is a fairly slow-burn psychological horror film. Usually, slow films aren’t normally an issue and with something so highly regarded as The Babadook, its nice to see where it all takes it. In many ways, when The Babadook finally makes its “appearance”, it starts becoming an anxious sort of deal, mostly because of how the characters act. The beginning of The Babadook is honestly just a lot of set-up where we see where the main characters are from how they became the situation of only the mom and son and the oddities of the character that make them fairly unwelcome or unaccepted.

A lot contributes to The Babadook’s atmosphere as well. The quietness of the film in general as well the setting itself being in a gloomy blue and black painted home which gives it a naturally darker tone that especially helps blend both the creature as well as giving the red Mister Babadook book to standout especially as both these things give off the related sort of feeling whether its depression or fear. With that said, the characters themselves being in their own rather odd ways do also give the movie an unsettling feeling. Does a child screaming or throwing a fit always instil  fear? Not really. Some of the bits of the kid was annoying and some did also land well in being slightly creepy. Essie Davis as the mom probably did a lot more of the effective acting as her character went into the change and fell into this different character that was pretty frightening to watching unfold.

Honestly, The Babadook is not too scary. The idea of itself is a lot scarier about the creepy story that comes alive. The Mister Babadook story has a dark twist to it that was scary to watch. The execution of The Babadook was also done well because it was mostly in the shadows and has the same effect of giving the viewers a way to imagine it  whether than letting it all show up. As well as a stellar performance by Essie Davis as the mother and just setting up the gloomy atmosphere really well. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the ending but it works.

The first Halloween double feature in 2019 is done!
Have you seen Anna and the Apocalypse and/or The Babadook? Thoughts?

Since September by Noelle MacLeod

SINCE SEPTEMBER
by: Noelle MacLeod

Since September

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

For Sheridan St. John, things just haven’t been the same since September.

It’s early autumn when wall-flower Sheridan and her best friend, Cyndi, move to the city to begin their lives as young adults. On their own for the first time – and away from the harsh criticisms of Sheridan’s mom – the girls are enjoying their new independence. But after a wild night of partying, Sheridan’s grip on reality starts to weaken. When a gruesome tragedy then strikes her family, she’s convinced it’s all an epic nightmare… one from which she must somehow awaken if she is to survive. – Goodreads

Since September is a thrilling little psychological ride. Whether it lands in the horror zone is still on a fairly light degree although the imagery of some parts are done pretty well to give a good idea of the gruesome bits and the more creepy psychological bits. Structured as a novella, the story paces itself really well to never actually have any mundane down moments and it wraps together the false sense of security for its character Sheridan while also giving it some gripping moments which gives a lot of credit in the writing itself. Although the endgame is fairly obvious, Sheridan doesn’t know and having more knowledge in this case gives her character the space to develop a bit on why she is the way she is.

Essentially, the story is split into two parts: before and after the turning point event that changes the location pretty much. The second part is similar to the likes of movie Girl Interrupted, which is somewhat of a spoiler but is a compliment because of all those supporting characters in this space. Its important to have those supporting characters as they elevate the story a little more, giving it a bit of humor or the life it needs or the encouragement to move forward for Sheridan’s character. These supporting characters are all fairly shallow and that has to do with the novella territory which is a short length story so lacks the depth for growth.

This is a novella so to avoid any more spoilers, I’m going to wrap up. Overall, Since September is a fun read. Its a pageturner for sure. The story is character-driven and Sheridan is a good character to navigate. There still leaves some mystery to her at the end but the pieces presented in this story works together well enough. My only thing here is whether the readers figuring out the twist before the character revelation was deliberate or the fault of dropping a few too many clues beforehand. There is a very fine line in navigating the realm of psychological stories and while some scenes felt a bit repetitive in structure, decreasing its psychological horror elements, however there’s still a nice sense of thrills and the set-up at the beginning is done pretty well also.

Goodreads score: 4/5

Double Feature: Split (2016) & Aquaman (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (10)

The next double feature has come around and this time we’re going a lot more mainstream than the last one. They really have nothing in common (at least I don’t think so) but happens to be films I recently watched. The first is Split which we saw over the Fan Expo weekend and paired with that is Aquaman, continuing my not in order viewings of the DC films, but it was a cheap rental so here we are.

Let’s check it out!

Split (2016)

Split 2016

Director (and writer): M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Izzie Coffey, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus

Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th. – IMDB

Having not seen Unbreakable before, this movie is a second movie in a trilogy which ends with this year’s Glass (which I haven’t seen either). However, it does feel like a standalone film so that is okay. Split is a film that predominantly felt like it had some positive ratings so being something that looked more of a psychological thriller, it was on my to-watch list. With that said, Split was a pretty good film overall but in the spectrum of things, James McAvoy is really the star of the show that takes it away. Its more a show of how flexible his acting can be rather than the actual context of the story being an intriguing one. That’s not saying that there weren’t thrills and maybe even some cheap jumpscares.

The story of Split can be viewed in two ways. The first is the pressing matter of this man who comes in with various personalities that these girls discover and soon through the psychiatrist scenes and such, there’s a knowledge growing on who is the boss among these personalities and their nature while at the same time, there’s this second matter of seeing Casey, who is obviously the tough one of the three girls, played by Ana Taylor-Joy who does a decent job and her flashbacks to her childhood related to hunting with her father and uncle which goes on some tangent that I didn’t quite appreciate.

Split is an okay movie. The story itself shone because of James McAvoy’s character and the multiple personalities that went through the scenes and it was fascinating to see those moments but as the film drew to a close, it felt like it went off track and didn’t quite end as strong as it started.

Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

Director: James Wan

Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Randall Park, Graham McTavish

Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, goes on a quest to prevent a war between the worlds of ocean and land. – IMDB

I’ve only watched 2 DC films to date: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (review) and Wonder Woman (review) which was a pretty low point and a fairly high point respectively. With that in mind, Aquaman was bound to hit somewhere in the middle and it did. It wasn’t exactly out of my expectations which were pretty low to begin with. Having not done a ton of research either, it was surprising to see the cast that it had including Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren and of course, Amber Heard (which I honestly think the last film I saw her in was All The Boys Love Mandy Lane).

If I were to talk about what is wrong with Aquaman, boy, we would be here for a while. The simple version is that its actually quite meh. The dialogue is a not too good. A lot of it feels really stupid. The effects aren’t too great especially the whole underwater conference and riding these different sea creatures. The characters themselves are also quite shallow where it never seems that we connect with them enough to care. At the same time, the whole deal with the revenge situation and such feels a little disjointed. Now, if we were to talk about some good things. Jason Momoa probably would be one of them as he fits into the Aquaman role quite good and I’m not even too huge on a man sporting a man-bun. But, there are some fun moments that he brings out as Aquaman.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Bone Tomahawk (2015) & Dredd (2012)

Bone Tomahawk

We are finally digging into our own movie collection and watching films that have remained unwatched for too long. We are slowly going to start tackling this pile in between Netflix and the random cheap rentals. Its been a little while since I saw these two movies and the pairing is kind of an odd double feature but still, I’ve heard great things for both films.

Let’s check it out!

BONE TOMAHAWK (2015)

Bone Tomahawk

Director (and writer): S. Craig Zahler

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette

In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers. – IMDB

Part Western, part psychological thriller, part horror; Bone Tomahawk is a mix genre that uses a setting to propel its story forward. Its slow-paced and intriguing, keeping it mysterious and suspenseful as well. At the same time, there is an underlying feeling of danger in the vastness of the desert that it takes place in the majority of the time as the sheriff and his crew traverse to encounter an unknown group of enemies. While the enemies in question are different, its hard to not compare a bit of the story to the likes of The Burrowers (review), which is also a Western set film except faced with mysterious creatures than cannibalistic cave dwellers. It had a lot of the similar elements from the prejudice towards the Indians and the whole trek to do find something and the missing persons sort of deal but Bone Tomahawk is executed much better. To be honest, who these cave dwellers are is the main suspense so maybe the description itself has already broken a bit of the intrigue the film wants to deliver. Maybe…I don’t know…Its always the issue of how much is too much is said when we look specifically at psychological horror films.

One of the best elements of the film, especially when looking at psychological thrillers are the characters involved. In their own quiet way, each of them add a little something to balance out the dynamic and competency of the group. If you just look at the cast, you can see that it is a really strong cast. The main group on this rescue comprised of Kurt Russell’s Sheriff Hunt, his elderly deputy played by Richard Jenkins, injured rancher Arthur whose wife was taken played by Patrick Wilson and a gunslinger played by Matthew Fox. Its because of the focus on each of these characters in their own extent and having their own place that make them each stand out in their own manner and feel like they belong to where they were especially in a journey that approaches danger. Talking about danger, the cave dwellers are done fantastically. They are brutal and intense.

Bone Tomahawk is one of those films that is executed really well because of the atmosphere and the setting and that meshes well with the story told here. The characters and all those elements boost it high but it does have the Western slow-paced which might make it a bit harder to get into at first as it builds up its story, mystery and characters.

DREDD (2012)

Dredd

Director: Pete Travis

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Tamer Burjaq, Warrick Grier, Wood Harris, Rakie Ayola, Jason Cope, Domhnall Gleeson

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO. – IMDB

I’ve never seen the original Judge Dredd or anything along those lines so this is a completely new experience of the world and the character itself. I’m not a huge fan of people doing the whole Christian Bale’s Batman low-tone voice. I don’t find that more empowering to the character or  make them stronger, so suffice to say that took a little getting used to for me. However, setting all that aside, Dredd is a really fun time. Seeing as it was released after The Raid: Redemption, it easy to compare the similar concept of fighting up a tower to the ultimate boss. There are thugs and obstacles in the way. Within the heights of one building, it managed to create a lot of layers. These layers dive into learning more about the world created here and living standards, the life-altering drug SLO-MO and its effects, the big boss ruling the society of this building, as well as our main cop characters, Dredd and his trainee Anderson.

Suffice to say that Dredd and Anderson do bring a lot of the action and cleverness to the film. Their characters bond over the course of the film even in their differences and through learning from each other. Anderson is different because of her psychic abilities that allow her to mind control a little. It adds to their journey but also at times has its hindrances. As great as it is to learn about these two, Lena Headey appears in Dredd as the big bad villain, Ma-Ma, a fierce woman boss of this building who is brutal and unforgiving. She keeps her anger hidden under a calm appearance..most of the time and there is this deadly and unsettling vibe to her throughout because she retains a lot of the mystery as how she became who she is now. Lena Headey always seems to be found in these movies here and there, really bringing in some intriguing characters to say the least. Perhaps someone to visit and revisit her roles, especially after her success as Game of Thrones, Cersei Lancaster.

Dredd is a pleasant surprise and exceeded my expectations. Its set in an intriguing, if not more dangerous and gloomy futuristic world. At the same time, it was also great to see another beginning role of Domhnall Gleeson as the Clan Techie here which has a small role but a fairly entertaining one to watch.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Bone Tomahawk and/or Dredd? What are your thoughts?