Carnival of Souls – Review by Jade Lindley

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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkTz0EvfEiY[/youtube]

 

From the mid 1950’s to early 60’s, horror was at a very interesting time. You had Hitchcock leading the way for his unique storytelling and direction and you had Ed Wood Jr. just trying to find his B grade audience who would appreciate what he was trying to do. But in 1962 Herk Harvey directed a film which stood between sheer greatness and just plain bad; that film was ‘Carnival of Souls’. I actually had not seen this film before, I had always steered clear of it because I was afraid of being bored all the way through it all the while imagining a better movie in my head – That’s normal right? Either way I was pleasantly surprised but not so surprised I would put it in my top 100 favourite horror films of all time.

968full-carnival-of-souls-screenshotThe story line is pretty easy to follow and if it was made today I believe it would make one creepy film(if put in the right hands of course). The films revolves around a woman called Mary Henry who was in a car with two of her gal pals and doing what any normal young girls would do; accept a drag race from some young and cute juvenile delinquents – Alright maybe I might be stereotyping the guys just a little…Anyways as they are racing they come to a bridge and of course it’s all fun and games until one of the cars plunges into the river, yep those poor girls die…or do they? One of them so happens to escape and from that moment on weird stuff starts to happen to this girl. Within less than a week of the accident she drives to Utah to become a church organist(that isn’t what is weird, her miraculous recovery is though). As she tries to start her life again after the accident she starts to see a silent yet creepy man who just won’t seem to leave her alone. As the film progresses and her paranoia is going into overdrive she starts to maybe think is this creepy man is trying to lure her somewhere that has a purpose in her life? But is he? Or is he just trying to mess with her because hey isn’t that what most creepy people do?

unnamedThere were several things I did like about the film one of them was the music, it was just creepy, but didn’t put me on edge like the ‘Halloween’ themes does. It was still really well constructed music for it’s time. I did love the leading lady played by Candace Hilligoss because I really could believe and see her slipping into some weird world of insanity, and to say the film isn’t very long just shows she definitely had the acting chops to pull of such an intense role and make you believe her with such time constraints. As for the ‘creepy’ man who was actually played by the film’s director, I just couldn’t get scared by him. But hey this film was made in 1962. I am sure if I saw it back then at the drive-in with my varsity football player carnsoul17boyfriend I would more than likely hide my face with my hands and demand to be taken home…Okay probably not. This film does have a horror vibe about it with maybe a hint of the supernatural and a touch of thriller. I think that is one of the main problems with the film, it doesn’t actually know what it is because it just seems a little messy. The tone of the film is creepy but there isn’t much more depth than that outer layer. The script and overall film seem to be as well structured as it could be with the resources they had and you can see where the film could have possibly gone if it was given more money and perhaps more support. You can definitely see where Herk Harvey took his influences from and how he tried to recreate them with his own personal stamp but it just fell a bit short for me. 

If you are into classic horror, you should check it out but don’t go thinking it is going to be up there with classics like ‘The Innocents’ and ‘Rebecca’ because it isn’t. Take it for what it is, and you might be able to see how this film has influenced other horror films that came after it. It is by no means so bad that is comes across as comical it is just very average. If I could rate this out of 5 I would give it a 2.5. 

 

 

 

Pieces – Review by Jade Lindley

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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1cnjEAZOjk[/youtube]

Alright Halloween is coming up and it would be pointless for me not to review a horror film…but what should I pick? Should I pick something left of field that no one would expect or maybe even heard of? Do I pick something to appeal to the generic masses of horror fans or do I pick something which possesses everything I personally love about horror? You know what I’m going to choose…’Halloween’…alright I’m not. I mean I could write a review on that amazing film which scared me straight as a kid and kept me a virgin for a long time in fear that Myers was going to kill me for such sordid acts…but lets face it, I am not predictable, and generic and also everyone is probably writing a review on that film. I have decided to discuss a personal favourite of mine from the Giallo genre from 1982 entitled, ‘Pieces’. For my readers who are not entirely sure what Giallo is, here is a little explanation. Giallo is a sub genre of horror which conveys very graphic and violent killings accompanied by a wonderfully orchestrated musical score and a lot of soft focus camera work. The Giallo genre definitely has more of a murder/suspense vibe about it opposed to the typical slasher movies, and the story lines are definitely more unique and better thought out with some great character development. The films are a lot of the time recorded in the Italian language and then dubbed over. This sub genre is definitely one of the most creative but alas forgotten or unheard of to the masses, but now this genre is  scoring new fans as well as rekindling the old flame between former lovers of the genre. 

 

Pieces

Okay so how many horror films have been made which focus on people getting murdered on a college campus? Plenty! And let’s face it, not many of them are any good, most if not are just a lame excuse to get some drunken chicks tits out and watch the moronic bitch die. Whereas sure this very simple plot but what is different from trash like that and ‘Pieces’ is that not every girl dies the same way, the circumstances are all very different…each victim loses a certain part of her body, whether it’s her arm, torso or even her pretty head. Is this just senseless violence? Or is there some actual motive behind what the killer is doing? Of course there is motive! But I am not going to divulge that information because while it wouldn’t be a huge spoiler since it’s shown at the beginning of the film  it would just be nice for you first time viewers of this film to have the same reaction as I did. But what I can tell you is that this killer stalks his prey something wicked and while the film does have occasionally campy moments, I couldn’t help but tense up every time there was a lead up to seeing these poor victims just get hacked into it. It definitely does have an easy narrative to follow, and I found it easy to pick who the killer is, so there really wasn’t any twist, but either way I was satisfied with how it ended.


What I think is awesome about ‘Pieces’ is the fact that it definitely has ‘sleaze’ written all over it. And with that added sleaze-factor it does make you feel a little dirty at times, but that isn’t a bad thing. That means it had really awesome exploitation elements thrown in. Joe D’Amato helped write the screenplay, and you can just see his stamp written all over this film. D’Amato is known for his writing and directing of films in the horror genre as well as erotic films and some soft core porn. So with credentials like that it’s not hard to imagine why this film has the sleaze-factor and it’s fucking great! I think about how many people are against films from the Giallo genre as well as the horror genre from the 70’s and 80’s, it’s insane  how many people opposed the perversion, and exploiting the nature of women in these films. Now this may sound very ‘serial killer’ of me, but I will say it, women look so much more better when murdered on screen than a man. They can portray real horror, they can portray the vulnerability and when you see them fighting for their life, you believe they are fighting for it. But when you see horror films today where a girl is in a white t-shirt, running through sprinklers and tripping over an invisible log and they get hacked up, no one says shit. I think because when you see horror films now, the killing is just so unbelievable and I guess it isn’t as ‘real’.  This film isn’t the most violent horror I have seen, but I think having that suspense element in the film really adds to the brutality of the killings. I do believe that ‘Pieces’ is an underrated gem, but the many people I know who have seen this film absolutely LOVE it. It is an ambitious film, no question but it know’s what it is. I mean it will never be as higher valued as something like ‘Suspiria’, but ‘Pieces’ still puts it’s own stamp on the Giallo genre, and makes everything work for it. I only saw this film last year, and I was so surprised that this film had passed me by for so long. I will not lie though the acting, isn’t the best shall we say, it at times is very over the top or so subtle you are just wishing they would emote just a little. But trust me there are far worst horror films out there with a tonne more worse acting.

pieces-6

‘Pieces’ will always be a favourite of mine because it really does stand on it’s own two feet, and doesn’t try to be like every other Giallo film. While it definitely does have some artistic merit, this film doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t, it works with the resources that it has, and puts it all to good use. That is why I love Giallo so much, while there is definitely a hierarchy on the genre, each of those films have something to offer. And ‘Pieces’ definitely has the suspense element wrapped up nicely as well as the Exploitation genre influence and the overall creativity of the killings. If you want a fun film, that is violent, suspenseful, at times sleazy with a hint of shit acting for good measure, then check this film out. If I could rate this out of 5 I would give it a 5. Sure there are things wrong with it, but I believe with some films things go wrong for the right reasons. 

 

The Guest : Review by Daniel Burden

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I often get free passes to films, usually I have some awareness of what the film is or who is starring in it. Last night I went to see The Guest with zero knowledge of the plot, cast or director, hadn’t seen a trailer or any press for it beyond a few poster on the side of red double deckers.

Just before the film started, someone came out to introduce it, as so often happens with previews, and described the film as “Drive crossed with Terminator, and some Halloween thrown in”. Now, crazy as it sounds, that is exactly what The Guest felt like even though it shares very little plot wise with any of those films. But in terms of tone, it hits all three, a bizarre hybrid of different genres. If I had to pick, it’s a violent thriller, but so much more than that.

This is going to be a tricky review, as to reveal too much about the plot would utterly ruin your enjoyment of the film itself, it is implied at several points that the film will go in one direction and you know which characters you should be rooting for, only to have your head spun in completely the other direction more than once, and the whole film is flipped around so fast it gives the audience whiplash.

The Guest

The titular ‘Guest’ is played by Dan Stevens, who, I’m told was once on a little show called Downton Abbey, which I have not seen. He plays a soldier, David, who rocks up at the home of another soldier he served with, that died. He seems charming, perhaps a little quiet and overly, unsettlingly polite, but nice enough as he becomes part of these people’s lives. He claims to be there simply to fulfil the dying wish of his friend, just to check on the family.
However it is obvious fairly early on that something is very wrong. Once David has started beating up bullies, using all of his army skills, smashing heads off walls, you do get the impression this film has a lot in common with Drive. A stoic anti-hero type who ends up helping others, usually with a lot of violence. There’s also a Drive-esque soundtrack and a similarity in cinematography in places.

THE GUEST

This manages to be an action film, a thriller and a definitely a horror film before the credits roll. It is also wickedly funny in places. I’m not sure I have ever seen anything quite like it, and that might be what I enjoyed the most, the film does go a little of the proverbial rails towards the end with a few plot points that didn’t really need to be revealed and could have been left as mystery. But there’s one crucial point where everything changes for David and the other characters, which drew gasps from the audience, because you just don’t think it will play out the way it does.
It is excellently directed by Adam Wingard, who keeps the whole film incredibly tense, on a knife edge, and I will absolutely go back and have a look at his earlier work after this. For me, the standout was Dan Stevens, with a difficult character to play, someone who is largely emotionless but we can clearly see the damage beneath, able to be charming and deeply scary at the same time. I suspect he might end up having a pretty decent Hollywood career ahead of him if this is anything to go by.

The Guest probably isn’t for everyone, the tone and genre does, deliberately, jump around but it keeps things interesting all the way through. If you want something a little different, this is well worth checking out.

8/10

The Guest opens in the UK on September 5th, and September 17th in the US.

 

Maniac Review by Jade Lindley

By Jade Lindley  

Oh how I loathe remakes, they never get it right. It’s just total rehashes of the original films just without the charm, the individuality, TOTAL GARBAGE…oh wait what’s this there’s a remake which is just as good as the original…wait it’s a horror film? Yep that’s right you heard correctly, FINALLY there is a decent remake in the horror genre, and it goes by the name of ‘Maniac’.  I had been losing my shit over this film since I heard  about this going into production. Unfortunately this didn’t hit the cinemas here in Perth, surprise surprise. But last week I was lucky enough to buy a Blu-ray copy and I went home that night, poured a big glass of whiskey and got ready for the violence that I was going to indulge myself in.

It’s not every day that a killer has a strange fetish and love for women’s scalps, but Frank Zito does. On his journey of recreating beautiful women with bloody scalps he meets the beautiful photographer Anna who has a fascination for mannequins and want’s to use them for an art exhibit. As she is preparing for this exhibit, their friendship blossoms and Frank is struggling with his own demons and wondering if this woman could be his ideal match, the woman that stops him fulfilling his sick desires. I don’t want to give too much away with the plot, because it’s an amazing piece of modern-day horror mixed with exploitation elements which you need to see unfold for yourself. I do love the original version of ‘Maniac’ but I cannot help but feel this remake is just as enjoyable if not more so than the first one. The pacing with the remake doesn’t feel as slow, it feels a lot more intense and with the musical score in the background it only adds to severity of the brutality that we witness on the screen.

ManiacRemakePoster

Now I just have to say I have never been a huge fan of Elijah Wood and I am probably one of the only people out there that can’t stand the ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchise, however this film proves Wood is capable of so many talents. His role of Frank Zito could have totally fallen flat on his face if he played this in more an aggressive manner in terms of his personality. Instead he played Frank as if that he had  a childlike mentality who truly believed what he was doing was right. And even though what he was doing to these women was just straight up horrifying, I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for him. He had severe mummy issues and seeing what she was doing while he was a child, definitely changed his course on life and how he should act towards women. And it’s a real shame that this sort of thing isn’t just seen in the movies. I really enjoyed the character of Anna played by Nora Arnezeder because while at times she seemed very vulnerable to Frank’s insecure charms, she was still badass and she is by no means a weak character, it was good to see a strong 
female lead.

You cannot talk about this film without mentioning the amazing POV shots in the film. The reason why I love that it was filmed this way, is because it makes you feel like you are Frank. It makes you feel like you are doing the killing, and it’s a very effective way to get into your own psyche and actually ask yourself if you sympathise with the victim or with him. Also when a film like ‘Maniac’ is shot in POV it’s actually quite chilling because you somewhat feel that you are in control of this situation but at the same time there is nothing you can do about it because it’s a film.  It’s an extremely personal way of shooting a film and if given the right setting, and story then it’s something that can be pulled off with a lot of artistic merit, instead of looking like an amateur porno film. I also loved the musical score, it just had a very 1980’s feel to it which at times was reminiscent to the film ‘Drive’. At times I was actually wondering if Ryan Gosling was going to appear out of the shadows, but alas nothing.  The death count wasn’t extremely high, but I am glad it wasn’t because instead of killing a tonne of stupid hookers this really focused on Frank and why he chose the women he did. Between each killing there was time for you to gather yourself and see Frank’s madness unfold, and parts of his life is slowly revealed and as the film goes on you are trying to piece together this jigsaw puzzle. 

‘Maniac’ is an incredible piece of film, a remake which is loyal but has it’s own take on it but pays homage to the original. Everything is very clear, concise to the point, and it doesn’t try to confuse with too much convoluted and pointless sub plots. This film is honest, and simple and that simplicity really goes a hell of a long way. Sure a lot of people have branded this film ‘depraved’ and ‘sick’ and I have heard that people have walked out of the cinema when watching this film, which I think is just funny. Sure the killings are graphic and are blatant, but it isn’t a gore-fest. It isn’t about how much fake blood could have been used during the production, it’s just that Frank like’s to scalp women and it’s not something we see in every single horror film, so of course people will be shocked. If you haven’t seen this based upon the fact that it is a remake, just please throw that thought out of your head because it is one of the best remakes that has been produced in the last 10 years. And I definitely think that this film could be in a few people’s top 10 films of 2013…I know it’s definitely going to be in mine. If you are a horror buff and have not seen this you should definitely check it out and see all the different elements taken from sub genres such as ‘splatter’, ‘Giallo’ and ‘Exploitation’. ‘Maniac’ has so many creative influences but it is so damn unique, so I order you to grab yourself a whiskey, settle in for the night and watch ‘Maniac’…just do it now. 

 

 

Oculus : Review by Daniel Burden

Review by Daniel Burden  

Ever heard of the concept of Chekov’s Gun? It’s a dramataic idea, “Remove everything that has

no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in

the second or third chapter, it absolutely must go off”

I’m not just starting off this review with a literary trope just to sound clever. I never sound clever.

But in Oculus, very near to the beginning of the story, there is a massive smoking Chekov’s

Gun, and the principal holds steady. The object in question is not the haunted mirror which

plagues the film but a large weighted hammer/axe mounted on the ceiling designed to destroy

the evil mirror if anything goes wrong.

Can you guess what might happen?

I think you can. And this is a sign of the major issues with a film I desperately wanted to like.

Oculus is an original horror film. Not a remake or sequel or reboot. And it should absolutely be

applauded for that, because we don’t get all that many these days, and even when we do, they

inevitably end up being part of a franchise which in of itself, kills any and all originality by the

end.

And it’s about an evil mirror. No, really. Now mirrors are a pretty good horror film ingredient

at the best of times, always showing and frightening the viewer with something the central

character can’t see, but this time, it is actively involved, the mirror is our monster. That’s

different. I’m surprised Stephen King hasn’t done it already.

The film begins with young siblings Kaylie and Tim, as this ‘frankly creepy and why oh why

would you ever bring that into your house’ mirror begins to exort some form of supernatural

control over both their mother and father in different ways. This story is told in parallel with the

modern day versions of Tim, who has just been released from a psychiatric facility for shooting

his father, and Kaylie who seems to have her life pretty much perfect.

Except that she doesn’t. Tim appears to be the sane one, as Kaylie has found the evil mirror

that drove her parents insane, and intends to conduct experiments on it, find out what makes it

tick and then hopefully find a way to destroy it.

Yeah…

Oculus takes an interesting concept and some genuinely disturbing moments and then boils

them down to you the viewer shaking your head and yelling at the characters on screen for

being so bloody stupid. Because you know from the aforementioned Chekov’s Gun of the

weighted death hammer, that this isn’t going to go well.

There is some measure of explanation for the ghostly goings on, which is personified in the

creepy woman called Marisol, whose eyes are mirrors, which is far creepier to see on screen

than I can describe. And boy, one scene involving a lightbulb and apple, that will stay with you

long after the rest of the film. There are many tense moments, and a terrific central performance

from former Doctor Who star Karen Gillan as Kaylie, but from the first few minutes, you know

exactly what is going to happen. The originality quickly bleeds dry and it feels poorly executed

towards the end, as if they had the ending, and just wrote a very average way of getting us to

it. If you’re a horror fan (or indeed a Karen Gillan fan) there is still plenty to enjoy. But it all feels

like a great missed opportunity to me.

6/10

Oculus is in cinemas now.