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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Black Scorpion (1957) Horror Monster

The Black Scorpion (1957) - The film starts with some great footage of a newly created volcano in Mexico, and some horrible paternal voice over about the Mexican and there only response to the devastation caused by it. The character open is on Hank Scott (Richard Denning) and Artur Ramos (Carlos Ramos), Hank is an American geologist out to study the volcano with his Mexican peer. They have been driving a long time and still find themselves too far from the volcano. Coming across some carnage that does not seem to be created by the natural phenomenon makes a puzzle for them to solve. After visiting a village San Lorenzo they head to the crater where they meet the third main character Theresa Alverez (Mara Corday). She was riding up there but was thrown from her horse so they give her a ride back to town. It's a fifties movie so naturally Hank is attracted to the strong independent Theresa. Once these three are together we start to really get into the plot. Like many of the films from this era this relies on some scientist explaining what is going on is a flurry of exposition. In this case giant scorpions have been trapped in obsidian underground for thousands of years and the earthquake accompanying the formation of the new volcano has broken them free. We first hear of some creature in the village as the residents are shown as superstitious  simple folk who fear a demon is killing their friends and neighbors. This representation is one of many that we need to discuss.
  It sees them as a simplistic people who are more likely to pray for God to save them than to understand the phenomenon. The volcanic activity is important too it is the cause of the monster movie to come. Basing this film in Mexico as opposed to the classical early monster movies where the atomic bomb creates the monster is something to note. It also creates some really uncomfortable to watch scenes with its stereotypes and attitudes towards the people of Mexico. Remembering that this film was released in 1957 well before we ever used the word "problematic"  to point out in a nicer way that racism, sexism and paternalism in the media we consume. Besides the opening voice over we also get to here conversations all in English between the cops and our protagonist where the cops are Mexican but the hilarious voice that was more like a game show announcer than Mexican. We see simple villagers mildly chastise or maybe convince to help the White American hacienda owner on her ranch even after their safety was shown not to exist. Worst is the small mischievous Mexican boy who is constantly saying cute lines in his broken English and also continually get into places where the American protagonist has to save him. I think the one that struck me the most is when Hank and Carlos come across a farm that was attacked by the creature. They find a baby all by itself and hank takes it in his arms and jokes about the baby's quiet behavior  saying:
  "Look at this kid, not a peep out of him. If ever I have any of my own, I think I will feed him beans and tortillas too, and I'll be able to get some sleep nights. Later on a character mentions needing a Tequila and old hank blurts out "In your country I believe you call it a coffee break." All in all this film is not the best representation of how american film makers should depict another country and culture.
  The plot continues almost into classic Godzilla mode with the scorpions attacking people and a train, scenes of people running and screaming from them. Until our trio with the help of scientists from Mexico City and the Mexican army come up with a plan to end the scourge.  First the two geologists have to go down into a hole created by volcanic activity to investigate where all these scorpions are coming from. With a stow away hidden on there cart they are lowered into a nest of at least 50 scorpions. There are some really great creature feature stuff while they are down there and naturally have to save the little Mexican boy who hid to join them down there. Somewhere in the making of this movie they realized that they did not have a method to kill all the scorpions that they started with in the film. So first they blow up the nest but then still have to deal with the pack that is already on the surface. Early on a bunch roamed the country side destroying and killing. It was effective for the terror and the effects were really cool but the plot had a poison as the solution and a weak spot in the scorpion throat was the only way to administer it. So something had to be done to reduce the number of scorpions. The writing of a couple lines that the main characters hear is hilarious in its effectiveness to reach this end. Something to the effect of the reporter saying the big black scorpion has killed all the others and is now heading towards Mexico city. Problem solved.
  Mixed in with the monster movie is the ridiculous love story between Theresa and Hank, in that movie time period the movies had character go from meeting to spending their lives together in ninety minutes or less and in this film we get just that. The character of Theresa is a strong woman and she is almost equal in her pursuit of Hank as he is for her. Still that wonderfully entertaining banter leads over the course of the story to a life long commitment. Luckily there are at least a couple weeks between when the story starts and concludes unlike some of these relationships which go from "Nice to meet you" to "I love you" in a day.  So when Hank is at risk at the end of the film , and has to take the big shot to kill the black scorpions he is trying to get back to his love. Strangely the film does not end with the lovers back together kissing but instead just ends when the creature is dead. All that prepping us for a romantic ending for nothing.
  Leaving it depictions of Mexico out of this film I have to say I really enjoyed the scorpion attack part of it. I grew up on Creature Double Feature in Boston and always have a soft spot for these fifties monster movies. This one was fun for the most part but not great by any means.  Again if you can separate the story from the horrible stereotyping you can probably enjoy the monster part of this. I find it really flawed with some real logic gaps necessary to make the plot work so I won't recommend it. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Midnight Son (2011) Horror vampire

Midnight Son (2011) - The vampire has been replayed over and over in the movies and with each new incarnation writers try to build on the myth adding rules what they can and can't do. Trans-configuration, lack of reflection, super strength, quick healing,  hypnotism, fear of the Christian cross, sparkling in sunlight each new vampire builds something into the mythos. Midnight son on the other hand purposely strips away the special powers of the vampire and instead creates what could be read as a metaphor for addiction. I doubt that this was the actual message behind the film but it certainly could be read that way. Built more in a reality closer to ours it is a story about a young man, Jacob (Zak Kilberg) who has photo-sensitivity to such an extent that his skin burns in sunlight. This vampire trait means he lives at night. He is a security guard at a building on the night shift. He blocks the light from his basement apartment and sleeps all day. When we meet him he is about to under go a change that impacts his lonely isolating life.
 Scott Leberecht in an interview on the special feature talks about Carl Jung and his idea of a shadow self, a part of each one of us that has been repressed, maturing we wrestle that demon and acknowledging and coming to terms with that "bad" part of ourselves. In the film we see this journey in what may or may not be the most successful wrestling match. Jacob is and his sudden infatuation with blood as a struggle of self control. He needs to acknowledge this shadow and find  way to live with it. Or as the janitor (the great Tracey Walter) in his building says, in a bit of on the nose philosophy. It's like a butterfly bursting from its cocoon transforming into a mature creature.
  There is not a lot of background given about how he got to his twenties and managed to survive and if not flourish at least build a life for himself. He is a lonely guy making his way in the world. We join him at the start of the change, suddenly his appetites are changing and instead of the meat and potato diet he has always had he suddenly wants the taste of blood. Writer / Director
  At the same time of his new dietary needs Jacob meets Mary (Maya Parish) and feels the desire to be connected to another human. It is an interesting contrast between the animal desire he is feeling for blood that is dangerous and consuming, and the sex impulse, physical attraction that is interconnecting and sharing but equally consuming. The relationship comes haltingly because Jacob's blood impulse holds sway and the trust that comes with emotional attachment is not yet in place. His need to hide the desire makes it harder to connect. I appreciated the complex and nuance writing and acting in the character of Mary. She like in life is a complicated women with her own baggage that also slows the roll of the relationship. Parish is subtle in her portrayal with small facial reflections that heighten the character.
  The other main character is a hospital worker Marcus (Jo D. Jonz) who sees Jacob's desire for blood as a money making opportunity. He has access to blood that will be disposed of and can supply as much as needed. Again I appreciated that the character is developed and not just 'that guy with the blood'. Marcus also does not make things easy and plays a growing role as the movie progresses. He has his own motivations and compulsions that make for a more complex relationship with Jacob. Hints of a predatory nature makes his character a bit threatening, besides the fact that he is actually threatening to Jacob. The same can't be said for the Police in this film. they are investigating a murder or two but the entire subplot of their involvement and interaction with the main character is under written. Jacob's  connection to the murder is too weak in my opinion and the suspicion of the cop too strong. Even with that criticism overall the characters are well defined even if the relationships can seemed strained at points.
  As the desire for blood grows stronger the addiction aspect and comparison can be seen. Jacob making worse and worse choices because of the desire for more blood is inevitably going to create the crisis of the story. In that build up to the climax there are a couple of real nice reveals that build a mythos for this world and this kind of vampire. Where the story is so character-centric we never really get any origin story for the Why? question of Jacob's transformation but we do get a complete story arc and a conclusion which many times horror films fail to deliver.
  I can't say I loved this film but it was okay. Even though the pacing of the scenes was good the musical score accompanying them made it feel more of a slow burn than it should have. I know the director liked the music but as the plot got more tense I don't think the music properly kept up with it. As noted earlier the character relationships were in fits and starts and that, although desired over canned characters, made the film feel a bit uneven at times. It starts and stays a small movie which felt appropriate and I mildly recommend it to those who want a slightly different take on the sub-genre. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Train (2008) Horror Tourist Trap

Train (2008) - Eli Roth in 2005 came out with the first Hostel film and followed it in 2007 with Hostel part II, in those films Roth capitalizes on the unknown corners of a newly liberated eastern Europe to stoke our fears about travel to those lands. In the films young tourists staying in a hostels are enticed to find a party but are instead captured by sadistic locals and sold into a torture murder ring who wealthy clients get off on harming other humans. Roth although a bit mean spirited in his approach touched on the hidden fear we have of 'the other'. His use graphic torture scenes to and nihilistic attitude did strike a chord in the horror community and those films were well received. I bring this up to connect to the subject of today's subject Train. Coming out after Roth's trend setter it works really hard to imitate his work. It takes the eastern Europe setting and visceral graphic violence contains it on a train instead of an abandon industrial factory. Unlike Hostel or the sequel it stereotypes the American wrestlers as a group of ignorant foreigners who may not need the viewers empathy. The bad guys are far worse though, horrible villains and lowly scum whose characters definition is simplistic and cartoon. Plot points are exposed way too early in the film taking much of the mystery out of the film. Some of the lines are so cliche that they make the film stale. Other than that it was great.
  Thora Birch) she at least has the slightest of story arc, and learns a new wrestling move. I think in the end the horrific experience she has teachers her to reach for that little extra you need to survive a torture train as well as in the wrestling circle. She is joined by teammates Sheldon (Kavan Reese), Todd (Derek Magyar), and Claire (Gloria Votsis), as well as assistant coach Willy (Gideon Emery) and Coach Harris (Todd Jensen).
The opening credits give away the theme right away as we see a big guy cutting up a body in a less than sanitary environment. where we see that parts are saved we know either this is a human butchery or that someone else is in need of a human liver. We quickly move past that to defining our victims, uh I mean characters. It's an American wrestling team on an international tour in eastern Europe. There is nothing really defining here we get introduced to personalities and the main character Alex (
  When the wrestlers and Willy sneak out to go to a local party they miss the train to the next leg of the tour. Coach is angrily waiting for them at the hotel the next morning. There is this moment where as they are searching the dark streets for this party where they pass a steam engine sitting in the dark and Alex pauses to look at it. This foreshadowing by Writer / Director Gideon Raff was just a bit too on the nose. His writing gets better though but not in this film, he wrote extensively in the room for the great series Homeland so this early work was a step towards better things.
  Stranded and frustrated with the lack of anyone in a foreign country being able to speak his language the Coach plays the ugly American shouting what he wants at the train station attendant. He is "rescued" by Dr. Velislava (Koyna Ruseva) who tells him that you purchase your tickets on the train not in the station. She suspiciously directs them to her train that happens to be heading to their destination. I say suspiciously because it was like she was directed to act that way. As the creepy as shit helper load them into the train you see they are also told to treat the Americans as mush as objects as possible. Be slimy and creepy and then take their passports. Ugh. Unless this is a very clever satire that I just did not get, it is a poorly executed series of cliches that fail to create any kind of suspense or originality. the added insult where we see the passports thrown into a fire  was so on the nose it stings.
  What follows is a long series of kills and close calls as we unravel the non mystery of this train and why foreign tourists are abducted and killed. The particularly annoying one is Todd who when playing Truth or Dare, takes the dare and has to run the length of the train in his underwear. He reaches the dark dirty part of the train that we the audience have already seen and know this is the cutting room where the parts are harvested in the least sanitary conditions possible. I know that is stupid but really not what we need to talk about. Todd gets there and is creeped out and just says the absolute most cliche things anyone could say.  He hears a sound and says "Guys, this isn't funny." then "Look I don't want any trouble" then "Is anyone out there?" These three lines encapsulate everything wrong with the film. It is like it is trying not to be original.
  After several of the Americans are taken comes the unraveling of the mystery for the rest of the characters. As they search for the others they are thwarted by the not so nice Conductor Vasyl (Valentin Ganev) Played like a game of cat and mouse except these American mice are slowly finding that the entire train is full of cats, and it is too late for them. Once it is revealed that the train crew is taking the passengers organs, again in a way that is so dirty visceral and unsanitary that it is unbelievable and really takes the viewer right out of the movie. Logic dictates that this is not how organ transplants are done so you just have to call bullshit. I know they are going for what was so successful by Eli Roth but boy they really did not nail it. The cruelty that is shown does not make sense and you can't outRoth Roth. They do try though with some rather mean pieces. Like cutting Sheldon's balls off and the nasty bit where they give injured Claire to a group of soldiers who stopped the train. They try to make it poignant by having Alex watch her friend carried away screaming by the five soldiers knowing she is going to be raped and killed. Really it was the writer wanting to be as mean to the character as possible again though there are others that do this better.
  Eventually with the mystery unraveled the film turns into a survival film and when the train reaches a destination the film goes on even longer and it should really end. Alex is our final girl and tries to help any of the still surviving companions she runs into but really all she does is get them killed. I don't know what else to say, the ending with the big Russian cutter guy is inevitable and her using that cool move her boyfriend taught her in the beginning of the film was totally appropriate, set up and paid off. Overall the acting is not bad but some of the lines they have to say and how they chose to act was off putting.  I know I seem to be too critical but I still watch these films with an open mind. Still this film leaves you wishing it was just better.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Going to the Movies so far 2018.

  I have a hard time with the movie going experience and wonder if this is the same for others. It is not that I don't like to watch films on the big screen, it is a great way to see them. It is everything else about the experience.  Start with the cost, a  theater experience in my area is about $13-$15 depending on the theater. That ticket price I am sure is driven by the distribution model in place. Theaters have to take the larger giant budget blockbuster type films and run them even after interest for them has waned. Filling 4-8 screens all day, and long after the film has made bank. Still i can afford the ticket price. Now the fifteen dollar price for a bottle of water and a medium popcorn is ridiculous and I often bring my own snacks in my pockets to avoid that leaching. Certainly complaining about price is a small piece of squabbling. I spend more on beer in a month drinking expensive micro-brews that I do on Movie going in a year.
  The second area to look at is kiddie time. Getting older I want to get into a film and have everyone keep there mouths shut during it. This seems particularly difficult to tweens and teens who come in the theater in packs and proceed to either not be able to handle the material in the film and squeal and yap at every tense moment or get bored and whisper throughout the film because they did not take their ADD medication. It my not be every time but a good number of viewing have been spoiled by these groups. Recently though I had a couple really good experiences where I thought for sure the kids coming in were going to be loud but they were not. So give credit when do, they don't always spoil the experience.
  When it is a good experience movie going is really worth the price of admission. When the sound is not too high, I get a nicely centered seat and everyone is settled in and into the film it is amazing. The group experience can enhance the film and hearing reactions and post film chatter can be a rounding of the film. I always hope for that and recently have had a few experiences just like that.  I have seen some really great films with solid movie going experiences and right now am feeling pretty good about the process, so complaint get laid aside and lets talk about what I have seen. I have not been more than five times this year choosing to watch quite a bit of really good streaming content, but here is a look at what got me in the theater.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - Having read all the various comics that covered this story  I was seriously anticipating this film. I decided an afternoon show during the week would minimize the chance of children. When I walked into the theater I immediate saw my favorite position in the theater was taken, but it was a buddy of mine in the seat. He had the exact same idea as I and we got a great film and a decent crowd. That movie was everything I wanted, sure you could complain that there were so many characters that you don't get a enough of any. But I don't think that is really true. This was a story about Thanos and his arc was full and compelling. The action was great and the expected shocking ending was what I was looking forward to.

Black Panther (2018) -  This was one of the best Marvel films to date. A well rounded story with solid characters and story. My wife and I never seem to be able to agree on a film when we go to the theater. One of us ends up settling or even both of us at times. This was a film we agreed on and both enjoyed.It was a fine origin story that was uplifting and with defined rounded characters great actions sequences and what felt like real consequences. (which is often missing in comic movies) It was the story we needed before the Infinity War,  glad I saw it beforehand.

Annihilation (2018) - Such an interesting film, solid science fiction is hard to come by but that is what this is. Asking big questions about what it is to be human both in the characters drives to take part in the mission and in the affects of being on that mission this film was a real winner. It was also one of those times where a crowd member was a bit talkative. One of two guys just was not getting the plot and so the other kept whispering explanations to him. Ugh!

A Quiet Place (2018) - I have seen this film twice, the first in a theater as one of five audience members. I was blown away by how well constructed the film was. Sure any film can be picked apart because really getting the logic of a post apocalyptic monster movie correct is a hard thing to do. That said you can not come out of that film without appreciating the relationships of the family members in the film. You feel there pain and cheer for their triumphs. The monsters are great and the tension in the silence that is the film are really well done. The second time I saw this film was just this weekend, with my sister Lee. She will claim that she doesn't love horror movies so when I recommend something it better be good. She was also blown away by this film. We where is a full theater of recliner seating and there was not a sound in the place for most of the film.  I hope Hereditary is this good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Terror Train (1980) Horror Slasher

Terror Train (1980) - Jamie Lee Curtis was quickly making a name for herself in the horror genre, 1978's Halloween really put her on the path. Coming into this film just two years later she had already appeared in The Fog (1980)  released in February and Prom Night (1980) release in July. She was everywhere and stardom was already in the cards for her. This third film in a year may be the lesser of the three, a classic revenge slasher where we know who the killer is all the way through even if we can't identify him at times.
 Derek McKinnon) three years earlier. Setting him up with the idea he was going to have sex with Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis) they lead the young man up to a frat house bedroom, except the switch is on and Jamie Lee is hiding whispering to Kenny to come kiss her. While Kenny moves to the cadaver prop up in the bed in the darkened room. When he kisses her and flips out while the six schemers bust in laughing, and Jamie feels guilt for her role in it. Kenny becomes unstable leaving school and spending time in a mental institute. So now out he has a plan to get back at this group of mean people.
A group of seniors plan there last college party before the leave pre-med and head off to medical school. It is a costume theme party. Naturally the costumes will work well in hiding the killer and the theme, a steam train excursion puts the group in an isolated location far from outside help. But why is there a killer you ask? Well this particular group of seniors played a very nasty trick on Kenny (
  This film is not so great as far a pacing or creativity in kills, It trudges along with the characters trading places in the train cars enough to hide where the killer is and what costume he is wearing. Early in the film he kills Ed (Howard Busgang) with a sword, but where Ed is a jokester everyone thinks he is kidding. So the killer starts by wearing Ed's Groucho Marx outfit and mask. once on the train it is a bit of a slog. We have a bunch of scenes with David Copperfield being pissy about having to do the performance. His assistant trying to please him is around through the film. When Kenny, now the Groucho killer hooks up with Mitchy (Sandee Currie) we get teased into thinking she is next but No Jackson comes by and suddenly the killer has a higher priority.. The killing starts but it also sputters. The film is ways back and forth when it comes to getting down to killing. Eventually though the six are hunted down one at a time. Jackson (Anthony Sherwood) killed in a bathroom face through a mirror. Mitchy seduces who she thinks is Jackson and is choked out in a sleeping birth. Mo (Timothy Webber) is poisoned and dies next to the prankster Doc (Hart Bochner). He in turn dies thinking the hand on his shoulder is Mitchy trying to console him but instead is beheaded by the killer.
  While the kills are slow and mostly shot off screen, the drama is not and it is all about  Alana and the train Conductor Carne (Ben Johnson) trying to keep everyone left on the train safe. At one point we learn from a yearbook that Kenny was really into magic. The idea that the magician is the killer gets in there heads and they work the crowd trying to isolate him in a locked session of the train. Several attempts are made against Alana as this drama unfolds and she narrowly like the final girl she is just gets away a bit bloodied but alive. When finally cornered and having to confront the killer, we get a twist that I won't reveal here. It is pretty good though and the final battle between Kenny and Alana although short is final.  The acting was fine for the most part, Ben Johnson was great as the conductor. I think the execution of the train and the on the nose writing were the bigger problems.
  My closing thoughts on this film is that it is sort of a not so well executed slasher. I don't hate it but I doubt I will revisit it anytime soon. I just found it too clunky with the on the nose revenge plot and a twist that was not that big, it all just fell flat for me. You can't like everything so I guess this is one of those. Certainly you could be driven as a complete-ist to want to see every slasher ever make and this is probably not the worst of them so have at it if that is you. No recommendation from me.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Lure (2015) - Musical Horror Myth

The Lure (2015) - Loosely based on the Hans Christain Andersen story "The Little Mermaid" but with wonderful horror moments and songs! That story is where the mermaid falls in love with a human and wants to become a real girl. She trades her beautiful singing voice to get legs to be with her prince. When the prince then is betrothed to another for political reasons the little mermaid is lost, can not return to the sea and can not be with the man she loves. The mermaid's sister trades her hair for a knife that she must use to kill the prince before dawn on his wedding day, breaking the spell and allowing the little mermaid to return to the ocean. In that story like this the plan does not come out as expected. This film is a tale of two mermaid sisters, Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) who join a trio of musicians and try to make a go of it in the human world. Silver falls in love with Mietek (Jakub Gierszal) a curly haired blonde bass player she hears singing on a beach. She and her sister sing in return to get Mietek and Perkusista (Andrzej Konopka), the bands drummer to call them from the ocean. This allows the women to transform into somewhat human form and join the band. The film follows the girls and band as Silver attempts to get Mietek to return her love. This includes Silver attempting to become more human for him and ultimately having to make a decision about the relationship that breaks the heart. Golden has her own path in the world of humans, she is not like her sister and sees humans not as love objects and more as food. Her navigating of the world has its own weirdness and twists that make her story the more interesting of the two.
  One great thing about this film is the world building. In this world the mermaids are just something that exists. So when the girls join the band the club manager ( Zygmunt Malanowicz) is shown the girls transformed so their long fish tails can be seen. He just accepts this and allows them to sing in his club. There is no disbelief, mermaids are there and the magic is mundane in this world. Already the world is one where clubs are for older people where they go to see bands do disco era covers and dance and drink. It is a fantasy and as such anything is possible. That magic includes siren like voices, and apparent pheromones that are toxic when humans withdraw from them. At least that is what I take from the scene where the band members get sick after the mermaids leave for a while.
  Another really winning point is the contrast between the mermaid sisters. Silver is the lighter haired sweet girl looking for love. Not that she gets what she wants, she works hard to try to seduce Meitek. He is pretty clear that he sees her as an animal and can't love her. There is a magic that the girls have that holds influence over the humans around them but it is not quite enough to give Silver the success she wants. That in turn drives her to more drastic measures to become human for Meitek. Golden sees Silver in her obsession and is not thrilled. At first it seems like jealousy, but as the story progresses it seems she sees the tragedy coming for her sister. Golden is in the film to contrast Silver in she recognizes that the mermaids are not meant for the human world. They are predators and although they can play the part for a while in the end their natural impulses must win out. She is experimenting with the human world but she is not part of it. Golden needs to feed and that in turn leads to a very strange interaction with a female cop who suspect her of eating a guy in a car, but then uses the information to have sex with golden in mermaid form. She is the dark half of the mermaid nature and all her warning can not save her sister from heading down the road to ruin. The message must be that being ad remembering what you are is the safe path while trying to become something you are not is dangerous.
  The musical aspect of this film was so strange that it ended up being completely magical. From the opening tune in the club with the groups lead singer Wokalistka Krysia (Kinga Preis) singing "I Feel Love" a Donna Summer song from 1977 to the more traditional singing their feelings and plot this element works. On a personal note I really dislike musicals, I mean I remember being exposed through film as a child to them. Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, I sang in choir doing Jesus Christ Superstar in middle school, and have seen plays as a young adult A Chorus Line and Rent. I don't really enjoy them too much with the possible exception of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but I can tell if the musical elements are working or not. In this film I don't think the music is a classic representation but I think it works within the world of the film. I don't imagine I would ever seek out a soundtrack for The Lure but it was okay in watching it.
  Enchanted by this film as a fantastical piece of art, I recognize it may just be not for everyone so use caution going into this that it does not fit into categories well. There are some really nice horror elements to the film that I wish were longer. The mermaids at feeding could have been more frightening but what is shown works. The exploration of sexuality (bestiality?) was interesting also but again it was limited to a couple scenes and could have been more. Still I come away from this film liking what it did and recommend a viewing to all of you. It is a strange journey but I think one that is rewarding.

Monday, April 30, 2018

My World Dies Screaming (1958) Psychological Horror

My World Dies Screaming (1958) - aka "Terror in the Haunted House".  This is a pulp horror film that used the gimmick of Psychorama to pull in audiences. This subliminal image flashing was thought up in the advertising world and this is the first time it was used in a film.  It is pretty silly single framed cartoon images of a devil, or a googly eyed man etc. that is suppose to subliminally create an emotion in the viewer.
The film is told through the point of view of Sheila Wayne (Cathy O'Donnell) a young woman who after some childhood trauma has lived in Switzerland into what is now her twenties, well there was that two year stint in an insane asylum but after that Europe is where she called home. Having met an American Philip Wayne (Gerald Mohr) and quickly fell in love and married. It opens in a voice over as Sheila tells us about a house in her dreams that terrifies her. She describes it in detail and how she enters and makes her way to the attic, then we see the character for the first time coming out of her telling screaming that this is where she knows she will die. She is in a psychiatrist office and he psycho babbles her about what the dream represents. We learn that her husband Philip is going to take her back to America and that this may be making her dream come back.
Written by Robert C. Dennis and Director Harold Daniels who both worked mostly television do a nice job of create doubt about  Philip Wayne. They make him a suspicious character, about 10 years older than Sheila and a bit domineering. You are led to believe that maybe there is some secret he is hiding. Sheila catches onto inconsistencies in his behavior but he always has some excuse to explain his behavior away. Later we learn just that.
   When they return to the States, Philip takes Sheila to a house in Florida to rest, but unfortunately it is exactly the house in her dreams. She does not want to stay but she is a character with little agency and Philip sort of brow beats her into entering. Then makes the excuse that the car won't start making her stay the night. They are not welcomed by the old caretaker of the house. A simpleton named Jonah (John Qualen)who tries in vain to chase them off. Scary times for Sheila who begins remembering more about the house in her dreams.
  When the house owner hears of the couple staying in his place he arrives to confront them. Philip remarkably knows the owner, Mark Snell (William Ching) and there are major revelation of who Snell, Philip and Sheila really are and what their relationship is. It is a convoluted story of madness, love and murder as well as a bit of inheritance swiping. When all is said and done Sheila's memory comes back to remember one horrible night where the lives of all the main characters were changed.
  This is not a great movie, it rolls from suspenseful mystery to weird family drama on a dime, leaving the viewer to wonder why the quick turn. The need of the characters to explain the plot instead of showing us reflects the low budget nature of this production. Still the acting by Cathy O'Donnell is solid even if the characterization of her as a fragile oppress woman does not hold up in these more feminist times. Mohr plays his part with the proper suspicious overacting so we can't miss the cues to the fact he is hiding something. Ching is stiff and not quite up to par with the other two. Even with all this said I have to say I sort of liked this film, it is a short little story that comes around in the second half to be more than it started out as. Available free on YouTube this may be a waste a bit of time on.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Veronica (2017) Horror Possession Ouija

Veronica (2017) - Director Paco Plaza made a big splash in 2007 with the film [Rec] it really hit big. Its tight quarters and excellent use of the found footage technique made it a favorite in the horror community. He followed it with some would contest an even better sequel [Rec] 2 (2009) which really established him as a creator to watch for. Even though the third in the series [Rec] 3 : Genesis (2012) was accepted with less enthusiasm Plaza was on the radar of many a horror fan. Veronica is the first feature since and I have to say when my daughter sent me a link to the trailer I was excited to see it. Now with the film streaming on Netflix I am more than happy to watch it and write down a few thoughts. It is impossible for me not to spoil movies in some way. In this case Plaza is a really good director and so I want to write about the shot choices he makes. Sometimes this adds way too much story context to the review so be warned SPOILERS may abound.
 Ouija: Origins of Evil (2016) what will the market be for another film based around that game just a year later? Chances are that work on Veronica started well before "Ouija" was released but as is often the case similar subjects in film often pop up around the same time. This sometimes make for unfair comparisons which is something I will avoid here, but can hurt the popularity of the later film. Or if the first film bombs that fact turning viewers off from seeing that subject mater again so soon. There is a flip side that someone wants more also but it's hard not to make comparisons. I promise to speak no more of that other film.
There is a risk this film may be finding an audience that appreciates its subtlety. With the success of
  This is a film with starts with a mystery, a call to the police where the person on the phone is frantic about someone being in her house. We see the police heading to the apartment building while listening to the frightened person on the phone. They arrive and find there way inside, dark halls greet them as they make there way into the apartment flashlights and guns in hand. A cross on the floor is rehung by the detective. They enter a room and all we get is some strange squishy sounds a shot of the horrified faces of the police. It's a decent start that shows us nothing of whats to come but indicates that it won't be nice. I better see what the cops see by the end of the movie or I will be disappointed.
  We cut to three days earlier we see Veronica (Sandra Escacena) getting up to start the morning routine. She is maybe 14. She wakes her three young siblings, Lucia (Bruna González), Irene (Claudia Placer) and Antonito (Iván Chavero) and gets them ready for school. She makes a point to keep them quiet while her mother who works late hours sleeps. Before leaving the house she picks up and resets the crucifix that has come off the wall, letting us all know that this is the apartment the police entered in the opening. Off to school a caring older sister with too much responsibility. Veronica is a 14 year old thrown into a caregiver role after her Father's death. Her Mother now runs the family pub by herself and is stretched to thin to take care of her children besides earning the money needed by the family. It is also a driving force for the plot that brings the scares. She misses her Dad and it motivates her to bring in a Ouija board and to study how to talk to the dead with it. This simple need the girl has escalates into the crisis that is the plot of the film.
  At School the subject matter is the coming eclipse and how the ancient peoples of the world believed they were evil and would often do human sacrifice when one occurred to appease their Gods. A significant setup for Veronica who has her Ouija board so she and her friends, Diana (Carla Campra) and Rosa (Ánglela Fabián) can play at it while everyone in the school is on the roof looking at the eclipse. The three girls head to the basement to talk to her father through it. We cut between the two scenes, the school on the roof watching the eclipse and the girls using the board in the basement. It is just wonderfully creepy when the other two girls need to take their hands off the glass because it grew too hot, while Veronica does not feel the heat of it at all. She is the chosen and it happened at the evil time of the solar eclipse. The girls get scared and supernaturally things happen that let us know spirits are about. It goes sort of wrong with Veronica the focus so much so the other girls are scared. The editing between the roof and the girls is great and with the earlier classroom talk make a really firm connection between the eclipse and the girl's experience. The foreshadowing with the blind nun is well done also, Plaza sets things up by showing us without having to tell us and as viewers we should appreciate that.
  Veronica now has to deal with what she encountered. There is quite a bit of Christian religious symbolism here with crucifixes , nuns and the such that add the the eerie feel of the setup. Plaza has some nice shots from over head or from low looking up at the schools blind nun who one of the kids calls "Sister Death" (who is good for some exposition later on) and we know from the previous scenes that something supernatural did happen to Veronica, so we are ready for the slow revealing of the consequences of what the three girls did. Is this a possession? Strange things start happening and Veronica knows they are. The Ouija board moving from it's hiding place, her incident with the television, the marks on her shoulder all point towards something coming for her. It is when her little brother gets burned by bath water that we see that she is not the only one at risk.
The script does a really good job reminding us that she is a kid herself. Her older friends Diana and Rosa are ostracizing her having been freaked out by the  Ouija session. Still Veronica even though she is younger confronts this. She can make it up by going to a party Diana is throwing. She can get back into this click. Unfortunately the realty that she cares for her siblings is never far from sight.  From dealing with complaints from the lady downstairs to getting the kids clothed and fed each day she is the adult. Instead of support from a peer group she is left to try to figure out her situation on her own. When the things she try don't work she realizes that the threat is really not just for her but for the whole family. An incident leads to a chance to get help from her Mother but that help is not there for her either. She is isolated and will have to deal with this herself.
  It's an interesting thing that all the decisions she makes as the adult in the family seem so right. She loves her siblings and shows it to them throughout the film. It is the decision she made as her 14 year old girl self that has the real negative consequences. Then when she believes that the spirit, the consequence of her actions is real her Mother is incredulous believing she is acting like a child, and expresses she needs her to be the reliable adult. Netflix is selling this film as one of the scariest of all time and that certainly is not fair. Good horror is not necessarily the scariest. In fact the best horror allows the viewer to care about the characters making real for the viewer the horror the characters are experiencing. This film does that we are voyeur of the family and we care about the kids and Veronica as people. So when Veronica has her really disturbing dreams they are not just frightening to her but we are frightened for her.  They second dream coming after the talk with her mother and being the on the cusp of her first period plays well into the real family drama that we are experiencing through her. ( A side note the camera shot of her laying in bed and the getting up is really well done.) She realizes that the children she cares for are at risk and instead of relying on adults she seeks the answers she needs to end the haunting. Again the blind nun is used for exposition and it leads Veronica to the place where she has to fix her mistake in the Ouija ritual, fixing a child's mistake to solve the problem of the spirit following her and allow her to continue to be the adult.
  Can she do it alone and without her school friends who are over the incident and do not want to revisit it. A telling information is shared by Rosa about what Veronica whispered when she was under the influence of the Ouija board. She is spiraling as we head to the climax, with no help from friends or family and the dread that comes with knowing what she whispered, torn by her mother's inability to notice her stress enough to intercede. She ends up alone with her siblings trying to fix her mistake but with her little sisters and brother in the know. The climax has important little details so pay attention.
  Knowing the opening scene we have a general idea how things go. The climax has a mix of setup, the kids and Veronica setting up another session with the Ouija board. Kids don't make good stand ins and this as we say in the horror world is where go horribly wrong. The climax is wonderfully seeded and it is so dread filled for those poor little kids, Veronica included. Some great shots by Plaza as he builds the anticipation of the shit hitting the fan. This one strikes particularly close to home for me because as a child I was in a few terrifying situations and understand the mania a group of children can have at a time of crisis. As the final scenes unfold we are reminded about the connection between the coming of adolescence and mental instability. Like in the film The Witch (2015) we see a young woman hitting puberty and the effects of the events on her life in the most horrifying way. Still The structure is set in the beginning where we know this is seen by the police, but in the moment it is about a spirit not leaving Veronica and we were promised a final shot.  The lead up  to the final scene the one promised in the beginning is some really fine work by the director and cinematographer using mirror projections very effectively.
  I really loved this film. The family characters, the dynamic of the teen and the supernatural were so well meshed that it hit all the rights spots as far as depth of character within a story. You cared for Veronica and her siblings and even though the outcome was not the happiest. Set in 1991 I appreciate the music when Veronica was listening to her head phones, Heroes del silencio, I think. Camera work was exceptional with interesting shots that added to the mood of the film. I am not sure we needed the true story aspect of the film with the police bookends but it was not too intrusive. I hope there is no backlash over being called the "scariest film of the year". What it is is a wonderfully executed horror drama where you can care about the characters. Plaza and cinematographer Pablo Rosso for the great look and movement of this film. It is very good and should be seen by as many people as possible.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Temple (2017) Horror Demon

Temple (2017) - On the heels of The Ritual (2017) let me dig into Temple these two with my entry last year, The Shrine (2010) should make a nice trio of films on the subject of gods and monsters. I was excited to see that this film was written by Simon Barrett, The Guest (2014), Blair Witch (2016), You're Next (2011). A great writer but something about the story having credits from three producers made me worry. Not that producers don't also come up with great story ideas but how did this writing job come about for Barrett? Seems a strange thing but whatever, if a producer thinks they have a good story idea, Barrett would not be a bad guy to have write the screenplay. Unfortunately I think the film suffered from a bit too much convoluted storytelling.
 Opening is Japanese cops searching for someone and then making a gruesome discovery. Credit include newspapers saying that six children went missing and showing the Temple we will later see. The monk of the temple was suspected and ominous rumor spread.
  There is a storytelling structure where we see a scene in a hospital, a man in a wheelchair sort of covered like a bubble, an detective asks the patient questions. This is going to be one of the characters we follow but his identity is hidden.  They show him a video, it starts with Kate (Natalia Warner) and her camera. Her boyfriend James (Brandon Sklenar) is flying in from San Francisco to join her and her childhood friend Chris (Logan Huffman). Chris is  a damaged friend coming on the trip because he speaks Japanese but he still struggling with his brothers death. Kate is studying how religion influences myth and vice versa and wants to photograph Japanese shrines. You think that since the cops questioning the injured person is a repeated setting it is key to the story, but really it is just a framing device for telling the tale. You eventually learn who the character is but there is a weird not very satisfying ending to this device. It leaves the watcher not knowing what was real and what was imagined as the movie plays out. On one hand it definitely does imply the survivor killed the other two, but circumstances at the site leaves the viewer thinking that it would be impossible.
  The stage is set with scenes of the three out on the town and Chris envious that James gets the girl?
Chris is not at all what the boyfriend imagined. He seems fine but his voice and face is betraying him. He can't believe Chris is not attracted to Kate. She sort of likes he may be a bit jealous of this long time friend. Awkward travel conversation on the train creating a dynamic between the two men. Maybe the point here is to paint Chris as an unstable person and a relationship triangle to keep tension between the characters and to reduce trust. Chris and he telling her he feels like a third wheel but also obviously digs Kate. (Talk about over doing the triangle dynamic and how in the end it is not serving the story) Finding a folktale book in a second hand store they see an old temple in it in a myth about a shape-shifter. The woman running the store does not want to sell it.
  Later at the club reinforce the Chris dynamic as he watches the couple dance. He is having no luck with the locals so leaves the bar and goes back to the shop, sees the book and buys it off the little kid that is watching the shop. He finally gets to look at it in more detail at a quiet roadside bar the bartender knows where the temple is. Chris gets a warning from the the other customer in the bar that the temple will make you sick, crazy some of this is lost in translation. Now Chris know where the place is and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the first place they go. Chris is spooked in an alley [suddenly film's the music and visuals are darkening] but he makes it back to the house and leaves the book for Kate. Director Michael Barrett includes flashes of scary scenes to let us know that the horror is coming.
It seems that the relationship triangle is building as a trigger when things go horribly wrong. It really did not turnout that way though. Seems that all the build up of rivalry between the men is for not. Sure Kate has shared a secret with Chris that she did not share with her boyfriend but it really didn't really matter because as soon as the audience learns this, Kate tells James so there is no consequence to the James / Chris relationship. These men competing though is so odd going as far as when they are all bunked in one room, Chris watches with camera as Kate and James get it on. Why would James and girl be screwing around when they are all sharing the room? Fucking alfa dog shit right there.
They head off to find the temple the next day. They are dropped at the village below the temple. We see the kid from the bookstore, in flashes we see a long clawed hand. So maybe the women who refused to sell the book acted to protect them from the creature. The shape-shifter, who may be the kid that sold the book, was the creature seen in its true form in the flash and then he reappears at the village and says "When I was a kid I played in the temple. I can show it to you."  The kid did not talk when the old woman poked in her head, pretty sure just Chris is the only one seeing him. They find the statue from the book, the Shape-shifter statue. Musical queue when the little boy looks at it so we know something will be up with that later, or the director felt like raising a bit of audience anticipation. When they reach the temple Chris says goodbye to the kid, he warns them with a another musical queue to get back before dark. James does not want to stay long there is a bit of tension between the couple. Photos as they look about by Kate and Chris but they both get spooked separately. Kate is so spooked she wants to leave immediately thinking there is someone watching them.
  In the temple a hand pulls Chris through the floorboards. He is unconscious for a second. He is hurt enough that they have to spend the night split up his leg and starts a fire. James and Kate are a bit at odds because of the secret and James does not even know about that yet. Kate never told James about the fact that she aborted James baby. James come back and thinks the thing she has not told him is that she is going to break up or something. Tension fills the air at this point. Kate told Chris but not James about the pregnancy. So James and Kate wander off together to have it out. I guess she told him because his ass is out of there. When she comes back and James has stormed off, she is doing the I'm upset but rebounding on the guy that is there, of course Chris is like quietly accepting her attention. She lays with him after caressing his hair and wants to be held. Animal like breathing and growling outside.
 Now is about the time where the editors went into overdrive, cutting from one character to another. I am not sure it really works so instead I will try to explain what happens to each character without cutting back and forth. So the scary climax comes on in the night which is dark and full of terrors. We cut to James trying to hike out in the dark. He finds himself confronting a shape-shifter statue in the dark. He sees it come to life.
  Kate hears the Screams and heads out to find him. "He needs me" James running being pursued by the statue come to life falls in the dark. Kate follows the sounds towards James. James in the meantime is caught by the creature? Kate follows some whimpering sounds into the mines, this may not turn out well for her.  Kate really far into the mines, she so is never going to find her way out. Kate finds James but he looks all mangled, could be the creature? She runs blindly now. Animal growling and shrieking as she runs shouting for help. She finds a dead end, and breaks down crying. Deep in the mines as we see Kate whispering as the creature finds might have found her.
   Chris is left at the temple with he hurt leg, tries to follow Kate but falls because of his leg. He sees a visage of the monk sitting by a fire, struggles to get back in the temple before the being reaches him.  He pulls himself in and I guess feels more secure with the wall between he and the monk visage.
From the hole he was pulled through Chris sees the boy and other children crawl from the hole in the temple floor. Then all the children and they have sharp teeth and attack Chris.Chris being finished off. Question whether Chris imagined the children and mangled himself? Is he imagining everything? He can't be the responsible for the other's deaths since he is injured. Then the hospital interview seems to shit on that? A bit confusing.
  I was not pleased with how this film was worked out. If as the cops say Chris was an unstable dude who killed his friends why add the supernatural elements. Sure it make his story and that of the monk accused years earlier parallel but then why the imaginary friend and the scary creature sounds? All three did not seem to be having hallucinations. Why also the scenes that establish the shape-shifter coming from the book? If it was supernatural why have the last stabbing scene? This film just did not come together for me. Maybe I missed something but it just did not make a lot of sense to me. Then there was the general classic gray blue tinge and that most of the film was dark. It did not particularly look good. I would probably pass if I knew all these things ahead of time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Ritual (2017) Horror Myth

The Ritual (2017) - THIS IS QUITE SPOILERY SO DON"T BOTHER UNTIL YOU SEE THIS FINE FILM! This film had a fair amount of Twitter hype, people I follow at least, seem to rate it highly so I must be following the right people. Director David Bruckner has done some notable things in the horror genre, The Signal (2007), V/H/S/ (2012) and Southbound (2015) as well as being the writer of Siren (2016). The films easy availability on Netflix made it was a no-brainer that it would be my first film of the year, in what has been this very neglected blog.
 At its heart it is a very male story about masculinity and the struggle with fear in dangerous situations. It's about how men have to confront those fears and the costs to our ego and relationship when we do or don't. Centered in the relationships of four men we get a good dose of how men interact when there is an incident that changes their lives. On a smaller scale we journey with Luke (Rafe Spall) as he confronts the guilt of not being brave when he possibly needed to be.
  The setup is quick but a real powerhouse scene, the writer (Joe Barton) get's it right out there in the first few pages. That is how you get a script read have an early banging scene. Five friends are talking about a hiking trip to Sweden for their annual men's trip. Before that can happen one of the mates Robert (Paul Reid) dies in a tragic way leaving the other four to carry through with the hike in memorial. It is the kind of setup to give just enough character information to get us into the lives of these men. Also very clever making the scene Luke's dream which allows the viewer to join the hike in progress with enough development to get into the main story.
  None of the men are experienced hikers and so when something goes wrong the decision making goes a bit skewed towards poor. Being someone who has hiked for over thirty years and has lead dozens of groups of backpackers I can tell you I totally anticipated the bad decision making. I was resolved to the fact it was going to happen to drive the plot along. Bad Hiking Decision #1: Dom (Sam Troughton) twists a knee, okay, if he can not walk on it you give food and water to last the number of days it will takes to get help. Then two hike out on the known route, leaving one guy behind to keep the hurt companion company. If the guy can walk some he can continue forward with his companion while the other two travel the established route at a faster pace to get help.What you don't do is go off trail into a forest thinking you are going to save time and get help sooner. What do you think happens in this film? Sure enough they whip out a compass and attempt to more all four people through the forest. That is really the setup then as in all horror films, things go horribly wrong.
 The music changes we get shots of the forest dark and deep and the hikers wishing the trip was over as they make there way through the woods. A bear strung up and gutted in the forest is the first sign that these guys are not alone and that there are things more dangerous afoot. Bad Hiking Decision #2: As the light fades they trudge on making another horrible mistake traveling through the night. Not that you can't navigate in the dark with a compass and map but beginners should really tent up for the night. Finding a cabin in the woods all boarded up and they break in. In exploring the house Hutch (Robert James-Collier) find what looks like an effigy of a straw man with antler hands and hooves. That is ominous to say the least. Luke hears sounds in the forest or is this just his guilt talking to him? Now he could be psychologically damaged from the incident that lead to Roberts death, when he hid behind store shelves instead of taking some kind of action. Director Bruckner does a nice job with the repeated dream sequences where Luke ends up back in the store. They happen through out the film and the way the current forest blends in to the store more and more as the plot progresses was nicely done. They discuss the possible origins of the figure and what other strange beliefs the Swedes might have. Bad Hiking Decision 3: The hiking decision that put them in this situation is questioned, leaving the trail that is. It still possible for the group to start backtracking to the original path but this idea discarded for heading on a course that can not be predicted. The people pushing this ill fated course of action rationalize now how it was the best choice. It is so necessary for the plot but so damn frustrating for me.
  A night in a creepy cabin means that we have another dream for Luke. When he wakes to a light outside the cabin, its blinding but no one else wakes, he opens the door to be back in the liqueur store. As we see he has not worked through those feelings we know at least it is a dream. He wakes to find himself in daylight outside the cabin with cuts on his chest in a circular pattern. Did something run away as he woke. Hutch is screaming with a nightmare inside the cabin. He pissed himself it was so scary. Dom also having a nightmare and Luke wakes him.  Upstairs Phil (Arsher Ali) is by the effigy asleep and praying to it, really out of sorts. This is tight tense and really brings the dread of the story to a whole new level. All four men are really shaken, and when they step outside ready to leave, they see runes carved in the trees around the house and the smart choice at this point would be top go back the way they came and get on the original trail. Bad Hiking Decision 4: This is squashed by the frustrated Dom who sees the path that leads to the cabin and insists they follow it since it must come from somewhere where there are people. Let's just follow some random path that does not even go in the correct direction? Really? Already they should have arrived the village they saw from the original path but because of weather they can blame it for not reaching it yet.
  They begin rationalizes the experience in the cabin as they walked, but you know Hutch really doesn't want to talk about since he pissed himself. Dom says his knee hurts too bad and then sort of quits on them. They are traveling the wrong direction for hours because of his rage decision and now he has had enough. Luke heads up the ridge hoping to see something but is frustrated by the density of the forest. He hears something up there and maybe we see a real like version of the effigy and of course when he gets back to his mates they did not hear or see anything. So some are skeptical of his story. He shows them his circular pattern cuts on his chest and then Don cuts him down as not trustworthy while still railing against their situation. Some of the feelings about his past cowardliness now comes out between them. Rob would be dead if he had stood up, thrown a bottle or something. These feeling pent up and  now the group is falling apart. Hutch can't really back up Luke he prefers they don't confront it. The script here could have given us a bit more earlier on to define the Hutch and Phil characters a bit more distinctly. Maybe it is just that Phil is not particularly well drawn?
  We get some possible dubious history about hiking through these woods. They find a tent with belongings from a family, the credit card in the wallet is from from 1984 as seen on the. Rationalization for Bad Hiking Decision 4: We registered with the lodge. They are going to see that we did not turn up and a rescue party will be sent. Well all well and good but you left not only thee original path but change direction part way from your shortcut and now are wandering a path from the cabin and finding the remains of families that disappeared her decades before.This is the half way point in the film. Hutch, spooked enough decides to give Luke the compass in the morning and send him southwest (the original shortcut route) The night is dark and filled with terrors. Luke awake in his tent hears sounds of heavy breathing and snapping branches and then unzipping and looking out he see the liqueur stop seen that breaks into the creature in the woods. The shift really happens here where it goes from maybe Luke is imagining to being a full blown crisis. Luke wakes from his dream and finds Phil screaming about shadows, Hutch's tent is ripped open and the small amount of blood is all that is left of their friend. All had dreams again and not the three remaining men hear Hutch yell from the midnight dark forest. Bad Hiking Decision 5: They hear the sounds of the creature but go after him anyway. They are worried about getting lost in the dark but it is a crisis and often that leads to impulsive decision making. When morning breaks they have not found the tents or Hutch. Don't wander off into the woods at night.
 They find Hutch in a tree like the bear with his guts ripped open. Luke keeps himself in together enough to get the compass and knife from the body. But these guys are screwed no gear and no shelter. Phil is loosing his mind a bit and they are now all accepting that they are in deep shit. Footprints in the sand by a stream and now there are people to contend with. They choose to go a different way up the hill which is much harder for Don. There is this great visual of the creature moving in the background without them seeing it. Really nicely done. Phil can't get the thought of the thing from his head. It is dire straights and the worse is yet to come. When the creature takes Phil and then there were two. The story is written so much from Luke's point of view you know he will be the last man standing. Dom though got some decent development so you have hope he will also make it.
  Dom and Luke are left and as they flee the creature they come to light from a village. Pursued they rush to a cabin and are met with villagers that knock them unconscious. Dom is sacrificed to the god and since Luke is the on with the circular cut marks on his chest he is not. Luke is left the sole survivor still a captive of the village folk. When one comes to feed him, the one who speaks English explains that they worship it. It is a God born from Loki and wishes all to bow to it. It keeps them in the forest but there is no more pain and no more death, eternal life in return for sacrifices. Your Ritual begins tonight you will kneel before the god she says. So he will be the one to join the group? He is left with this and he attempts his escape, to be brave, overcome his fear. The upstairs room is a roomful of old dried corpses, that are animated enough to make the raspy screaming sounds he has been hearing. He burns the room and goes for the guns he saw then all hell breaks loose.
The villagers kneel to the god but Luke has upset the order of things. Shit gets real as he makes his way out, sees the God and gets scared and runs. He pisses it off by shooting it and flees to the woods. One last delusion of the liqueur store. It knocks him over. He is grabbed by it and then it drops him into a bowed position. When he tries to rise it pushes him back down. He tries again defying the God and slashing it with an ax. He makes another run for it. Into a field outside the woods. It stops at the boundary and he screams at it roaring like it roared at him.The sun comes up as he walks back up a field seeing a road off in the distance.
  I really enjoyed this film even with the absolutely horrible backpacking decisions these characters made. (Have to drive plot I suppose.) Some of the characterization could have been deeper but they all served a purpose. I thought Hutch and Phil sort of were a bit underdeveloped could have been interchangable, while Dom was one toned. In the end it all works since it is Luke's story. I am not sure Luke ever really got brave but I think he made some progress. Now of course there are no more friends left to look down on him for being a coward. I suppose he will think he got past it but three more finds losses to deal with. I don't know if he will make it. His back was truly against the wall in the village. Let's pretend for a second that all four friends are in the village. If Luke got a chance to cut and run do you think he would?  I lean maybe. The film was honest though about how men treat loss and feeling they may have about it towards others. On the Monster movie side I think Bruckner pull it off really well. I enjoyed the early teasing of the monster and I think the design really worked when it was finally shown in full. It is not easy to do this and I think it was done well here. Check this one out on Netflix right now.