A gritty, violent & ruthless story of a shy, mute young woman who's driven insane after being attacked & assaulted twice within a single day and goes on a roaring rampage of retribution against every man she comes across afterwards, Ms .45 takes the usual template of a rape-n-revenge exploitation thriller and turns its basic premise into something extremely terrifying.
Directed by Abel Ferrara, the plot setup is almost instant but it still gives our protagonist her space following her traumatic ordeal and stays by her side even when she starts turning the table against all kinds of men. It has that low-budget, grainy & grindhouse flavour & flourish but Ferrara's focused direction makes sure the ride remains tense & gripping from beginning to end.
The biggest contribution comes from Zoe Lund who articulates everything that her character goes through over the course of the story with emotional precision and despite never uttering a word, makes us relate to all she's feeling in the given moment. Her facial expression & body language is spot-on, and the rest of the cast does well to support her progressively deranged performance.
Overall, Ms .45 is a lean-n-mean example of its genre that's finely manoeuvred by Ferrara's deft direction and is further bolstered by an outstanding showcase from its leading lady. It's disturbing from the get-go but watching her gun down the creeps does have a cathartic feel to it. In short, this tragic & vengeful journey of a woman gone crazy with murder on her mind & .45 caliber pistol in her hand is worth viewing.
One among the select few horror films that take place on a festive day & follow a homicidal maniac on a killing spree, My Bloody Valentine is a surprisingly impressive & effective entry that puts its genre elements to good use and makes for a thrilling, gruesome & entertaining delight which truly deserves a spot alongside the most famous examples of 1980s slashers.
Directed by George Mihalka, the film employs the existing template of its subgenre and sets things up accordingly with its own interesting folklore, antagonist, atmosphere & characters before switching to next gear once the setting moves to the mines. Its dramatic portions are barely functional & bland characters don't help the cause either but none of it matters once the dead bodies start piling up.
What works in the film's favour is the steady build-up that slowly envelops the small-town backdrop with a silently approaching threat as the cursed day nears. The killings are brutal, practical effects are top-notch, and the intelligent camerawork definitely stands out with its pov shots & smart manoeuvring in the dark alleys & narrow spaces of the mine shaft. As for the performances, it's serviceable at best from all.
Overall, My Bloody Valentine may not have a riveting storyline or characters fleshed enough for us to root for but what the film lacks in plot & characterisation, it makes up in foreboding mood, sharp cinematography, gleeful violence, palpable sense of danger, old-school effects, visceral strength & the polished execution of it all. Add to that, there is a touch of restraint in Mihalka's direction that lifts it a notch above your typical slasher fare.
A Cat-n-Mouse Thriller Set In The Australian Outback
A thoroughly engaging cat-n-mouse thriller that unfolds on a desolate Australian highway and is steered by Stacy Keach's busy act as a truck driver with an overactive imagination, Roadgames relies on pretensions & speculations to move its plot forward and makes for a tense, riveting & escalating ride that borrows plenty from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.
Directed by Richard Franklin, the film takes its time to acquaint us with our protagonist, an outsider in a country he's not much familiar with which also causes him all kinds of trouble. With the entire plot set on a moving vehicle traversing through the vast & empty Australian outback, Franklin creates this feeling of isolation for our protagonist who's trying to solve a murder mystery by himself.
Keach does his best to make his character likeable and his observations & theories do fuel the narrative but things get interesting once Jamie Lee Curtis enters the scene, for there is mystery about her that we aren't sure of. Both the actors establish good rapport with each other and play their roles brilliantly. It's not all nail-biting serious stuff though, for the film manages to be often amusing.
Overall, Roadgames is an intelligently crafted example of its genre that skilfully employs its twists & turns to keep us intrigued & invested throughout its runtime and is expertly driven by fab performances from its primary cast. The film's strength lies in its ability to compel the viewers to play detective while simultaneously questioning the purpose of it all & if any of it even amounts to anything in the end.
Erodes The Perception Of Safety We Feel In Our Own Home
Suffocating the audience with an atmosphere that reeks of fear & foreboding and absolutely relentless in its assault once the night terror begins, The Strangers manages to be downright chilling & effective in its setup & execution and is one of the finer examples of home-invasion horror that gets a lot of mileage out of its minimal plot & simple premise.
Written & directed by Bryan Bertino in his directorial debut, the film doesn't pack a compelling drama and is more dependent on the mood & tension it derives from the terrifying situation to deliver the thrills. The characters barely have any flesh on them and yet the predicament they find themselves in is utterly relatable as it effortlessly taps on our primal fears.
Adding to the film's disquieting aura are the dimly lit set pieces, skilful low-light photography & relaxed pace that allows the environment to fill up with dread. But there is too little content for an 85 mins story coz of which it does feel drawn out at times. Liv Tyler plays her role with finesse and really sells the part while the decision to not reveal her tormentors' identity turns out to be a plus.
Overall, The Strangers features no plot, no arcs & no motives and yet it makes for a gripping ride by deftly exploring a scenario that's every person's worst nightmare. What Bertino does so well here is showing us the threat lurking in the shadows that our characters are unaware of and ruthlessly eroding the perception of safety we feel in our own home. It is dark, cruel & twisted, and it takes no prisoners.
For a film that was a product of rushed production, it's actually amazing just how polished & captivating Scanners is from the get-go and how smoothly its story flows from start to finish. Far ahead of its time, expertly merging its futuristic ideas with espionage thriller conventions, and all the more elevated by its then state-of-the-art special effects, this sci-fi horror delight has aged like wine.
Written & directed by David Cronenberg (Videodrome & The Fly), the story teases its central concept with an opening scene that piques the curiosity right away with its touch of mystery. The plot is uncomplicated & straightforward after that and exhibits no trouble whatsoever in keeping the viewers interested in the proceedings even if they aren't as invested in the set of characters inhabiting this story.
Cronenberg's proclivity for body horror surfaces early in the narrative and then again during the climactic duel which allows the film's special effects crew to demonstrate their first-rate work and Howard Shore to heighten the finale with an intense score. Michael Ironside is just brilliant throughout, Stephen Lack lacks the qualities of a leading man & is almost a miscast but the rest do well with their given roles.
Overall, Scanners is a vein-popping & head-exploding example of its genre(s) that's skilfully scripted & intelligently directed and while it's not as refined on character & thematic fronts, it nonetheless delivers on a structural level and remains a mostly gripping & entertaining fare. One of the first films to introduce the mainstream viewers to Cronenberg & his body horror flourishes, this Canadian cult classic still retains its telepathic potency.
The Hills Have Eyes may not exhibit sophistication in the production value and is also rough around the edges but this exploitation horror achieves everything it set out to do and does it in a way that adds to its raw & gritty appeal. Ranked amongst the most influential examples of its kind, the film still packs a shocking punch after all these years.
Written, directed & edited by Wes Craven (The Nightmare on Elm Street & Scream), the film features a simple premise and employs a quick setup. Craven doesn't try to overcomplicate anything & plays it straightforward. But it is the chaotic camerawork that brings a nerviness to the deserted surrounding before the horrifying stuff takes over and ratchets it some more.
Among the characters, it's actually the dog that turns out to be the smartest of them all. But these caricature roles does allow the actors to add whatever they deem fit for the parts they play, resulting in performances that range from measured to over-the-top. It is briskly paced, even manages to find humour in the horror, and skilfully taps into the audience's primal fears.
Overall, The Hills Have Eyes gets maximum mileage out of its minimal plot and also delivers on shocks, thrills & terror that's expected from a low-budget B-movie presentation. Despite the dated visuals, weary props, cardboard characters, exaggerated acting & grisly violence, there is a lot in the finished product that keeps the atmosphere tense & the ride entertaining. Worth a shot.
Every Palme d'Or winner brings its own set of high expectations into play and earning this year's top prize at Cannes is a body horror that has already garnered notoriety and made headlines for making several viewers faint with its gruesome imagery & disturbing content. Bold, beautiful & bewildering, Titane is the latest offering from a singularly audacious new filmmaker and it is delightfully deranged.
Written & directed by Julia Ducournau, her sophomore feature makes her directorial debut look tame in regards to its uncompromising vision & provocative power. Led by a smashing performance from debutante Agathe Rousselle, the plot concerns two characters who find their missing pieces in each other's voids and though visceral & uncomfortable at all times, the film never discards its heart or humanity.
Adding to its alluring quality & bizarre nature is the aggressive camerawork, charged visual flourishes, sensory sound & hypnotic soundtrack. Throughout its 108 mins runtime, the film sheds old skin to embrace new contours and even though its structure & presentation is all over the place, it does find & retains emotional coherency in the characters' unfolding arcs, deftly rendered by both Rousselle & Vincent Lindon.
Overall, Titane is an original, ambitious & refreshing delight that fascinates & frustrates in equal measure and more than lives up to the designated tag of "the most shocking film of 2021". A mashup of several genres that aptly juggles intimacy with violence, brutality with kindness, shock with awe & flesh with metal while making for a wickedly gripping study of gender fluidity, Ducournau's latest establishes her as a creative powerhouse.
The scariest film of the year so far and one of the creepiest entries in the world of horror in recent years, The Medium begins as a documentary about a shaman possessed by a local deity in North-east Thailand but soon develops into a dreadful & diabolical nightmare that you can't escape from. Powerful, petrifying & perturbing in equal measure, this Thai-South Korean supernatural horror reeks of death & devilry.
Co-written by Na Hong-jin (The Wailing) & directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter), the film employs the faux-documentary format to narrate its tale of faith, inheritance, malaise & malison and gradually brings the viewers into its world of beliefs, curses & superstitions with its informative approach & natural acting from the cast. It takes its time, is never in a hurry & starts to ratchet things up only after the audience is fully on board.
While suffused with a feeling of something sinister & unholy brewing under the surface from the beginning, the film's horror elements lunges to the forefront only after the board is set & all the characters are properly introduced. And the execution is genuinely effective & nerve-wracking. There are scenes in here that are downright shocking & disturbing but what lends those moments their uncanny weight & power are the thoroughly convincing performances.
Overall, The Medium is one of those unnerving horror offerings that feels cursed, brims with an ill-omened quality and is smeared with a blood-curdling atmosphere that only intensifies as plot progresses. Intelligently directed, deftly scripted, finely detailed & strongly bolstered by Narilya Gulmongkolpech's bone-chilling act, the film does run longer than it needs to but the terror it invokes from its eerie setting & skin-crawling imagery is as unrelenting as it is unsettling. Don't miss it.
Completely clueless about what it wants to be or where its priorities lie, Halloween Kills is an absolute trainwreck of a sequel from start to finish. A dull, pointless & thoroughly frustrating entry that fails to capitalise on the blank canvas after the 2018 film wiped the slate clean by retconning the franchise, this latest instalment is an utter mess that's all over the place and unsure of its own identity.
Co-written & directed by David Gordon Green, the story shift the focus on other survivors of Michael Myers' 1978 killing spree by sidelining our protagonist yet does it so awfully that we are never for once invested in the new characters. Green does the bare minimum to improve the ride, has no idea what tone to settle with, and branches the story out in directions that's neither warranted nor called for.
It attempts to give us a peek of the trauma that Myers inflicted on not just Laurie Strode but the entire Haddonfield community and skims on mob mentality in dumb, facepalm-inducing ways. The film is devoid of tension, build-up & atmosphere, Myers' looming presence is also gone, and the narrative flow & editing is a nightmare. The only aspects working in its favour are the grisly kills & Carpenter's score.
Overall, Halloween Kills features a healthy dose of gnarly kills & slasher brutality but the rest is not only underwhelming, it's almost cringeworthy. The callbacks are mere distractions, the subplots lead nowhere, performances are forgettable, and it really made me root for Michael Myers as he creatively slaughters a lot of stupid, annoying folks in this. A wasted potential at best, this newest chapter adds nothing to the saga.
The feature-length version of the infamous short segment that appeared in the Asian horror omnibus package, Three... Extremes, Dumplings takes the nauseating premise and expands upon it by adding new subplots & extensions to the narrative. Being familiar with the story & context beforehand doesn't make the journey any easier. Instead, it has the opposite effect.
Directed by Fruit Chan, the story concerns a former actress who wishes to reclaim her youth and seeks out the help of a local chef whose titular dish has regenerative properties. It is an interesting concept that tries to explore the extremes one may go to regain their prime years and while repulsive & stomach-turning at times, Chan does make sure the meaning isn't lost.
Unlike the short, the story in the feature spreads out the subplot concerning both Aunt Mei & Mr. Li and also deviates in a few plot points. The most notable difference is the ending which is sickening no doubt but also less shocking than it was in the shorter version. The notorious imagery isn't present in excess but whatever bits do exist can still be upsetting & distressing.
Overall, Dumplings is a fiendishly flavoured & wickedly appetising meal that packs a potent punch and is cooked all the way through but the film is not going to satisfy every palate out there nor is it supposed to. While I prefer the more tightly edited & better focused short film, this 91 mins ride is unsettling all the way through and is not without its merits. Definitely not for the squeamish.
Led by a central performance so powerful, intimidating & domineering that the character's overbearing presence & oppressive aura looms over the story even when he isn't around in those moments, Kisapmata is disconcerting from the first scene, gets more unnerving as it progresses and brims with a claustrophobic atmosphere that's absolutely smothering in its intensity.
Co-written & directed by Mike de Leon, the story is inspired from a real-life event and brings its narrative to life in a very raw, lifelike manner. The drama is riveting all the way through, is infused with a feeling of uneasiness that never for once leaves the room, and the characters are deftly scripted as well. And there is an incestuous undercurrent at play here that adds to its uncomfortable tone.
Each n every conversation only moves the plot closer to the inevitable finale and even when it's apparent where the story is headed and how things may play out, it is still difficult to not be affected by it. Vic Silayan renders his role with nothing held back, playing the controlling, dictatorial patriarch with such dominance that his input overshadows everyone else. It's not an easy act but the actor is natural at it.
Overall, Kisapmata ranks amongst the most disturbing & disquieting examples of its genre(s) and features a premise that cuts far too close to a real-life scenario. An emotionally gripping & palpably tense nightmare that gives the viewers no breathing space and keeps things taut & terrifying solely through character actions & conversations, this obscure Filipino gem is as authentic in its storytelling as it is suffocating in its setting.
V/H/S franchise started during the found-footage phenomenon and has been noteworthy for offering new, up-n-coming horror filmmakers an avenue to demonstrate their creative talent. This anthology series has always been a mixed bag as a whole but there's no denying that it has a cult following. Having spawned a few sequels since its inception, V/H/S/94 is the latest entry in the saga.
The film features four short segments connected by a frame narrative that follows a police raid being conducted at an abandoned warehouse which contains remnants of a ritualistic cult mass suicide. It has a grittier, gorier & more unholy feel than its predecessors and also features shorts that are collectively in closer proximity in their tone n mood, which makes it better than its predecessors.
The first short is Storm Drain, written & directed by newcomer Chloe Okuno, and follows a news reporter & her cameraman as they investigate an urban legend. It has a grainy, dirty aesthetic that adds to its uneasy vibe, plus the film just takes its absurd premise and runs with it. The old-school creature effects are done well and it definitely evokes the early 90s feel while offering some splendid scares.
The second short The Empty Wake is written & directed by franchise returnee Simon Barrett and unfolds at a funeral home where a young woman is assigned to host a wake as a severe thunderstorm rages outside. It's a simple & straightforward segment with predictable scares that are routine and has got nothing new or refreshing to offer. But the interest doesn't fizzle out at least and that's the only good thing about it.
The third segment is hands down my favourite and single-handedly makes this sequel worth the price of admission. Written & directed by Timo Tjahjanto (The Night Comes For Us & May the Devil Take You), The Subject is a crazy blend of body horror, sci-fi & action that splatters the screen with blood, guts & metal and is crafted with glee & passion. Tjahjanto lets his love for excess take over and brings his short to life with brain & brutality.
The final short is Terror, written & directed by Ryan Prows, and concerns a white supremacist group plotting to blow up a government building and take back America. It aptly captures the brainwashed vision of such losers but is also unsettling when demonstrating their devotion to the cause. But once it escalates into a mayhem, it's just fun, hilarious & entertaining to watch and culminates on a bloody good note even if the scares are by the numbers.
Overall, V/H/S/94 makes for a better evolved & more fulfilling entry in the infamous franchise and features a better collection of short segments that keeps the entire ride tense & thrilling for the most part. The acting is all over the place but the 90s video culture vibe & aesthetics are carried out with finesse. It's the frame narrative actually that turns out to be the weakest of all but it doesn't derail the good portions. Worth viewing for madman Tjahjanto's segment alone.
A fascinating premise that begins on a promising note but gets bogged down by its tedious pace, uneven editing & inadequate character depth before delivering a jolt in its finale, The Eye gets a decent mileage out of its intriguing concept and also packs few effective scares but the narrative flow is inconsistent and it is also missing the necessary immersive quality.
Co-written & directed by Pang brothers, what benefits the story most is the protagonist who is likeable & sympathetic. And though the mystery of the whole setup does keep the interest alive, the drama isn't as compelling as it should be coz it runs into slow patches every now n then and has no momentum whatsoever, which in turn makes it feel longer than it actually is.
The horror bits are better executed in the first half than in the second but there aren't whole lot of frights in store here. Also not helping the cause is the visual effects that look bit dated now. Performances are satisfactory at best with no standouts. The downbeat appearance & incessant forewarnings work in the film's favour while the climax delivers a brutal gut-punch.
Overall, The Eye features an interesting scenario and sets things up nicely as well but then it also fails to capitalise on what was up for grabs by refusing to go all-in. It feels overlong and is a slog to sit through at times, is also devoid of sufficient flesh on its plot & characters, and sure would've benefitted from tighter editing & brisker pace. In short, The Eye is a product of its time that hasn't aged well.
Steeped in dread, suffused with an unnerving aura and sustaining its creepy vibe throughout its runtime, One Missed Call may borrow elements from a superior J-horror entry but the film has its own assortment of thrills, scares & twists that work for the most part if not all the way. And what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in brooding tone & spine-tingling sound design.
Directed by Takashi Miike (Audition & 13 Assassins), the ominous atmosphere the film is able to conjure within the opening minutes with simple skilful camera tricks is no doubt impressive and that sense of foreboding & feeling of hopelessness never leaves the room once the story is in motion. Miike's proclivity for excess is missing here and his direction is mostly restrained.
The first half of the story is definitely better and often unsettling at times. But once the clock starts ticking for our protagonist, that's when it starts losing its grip and ends up overstaying its welcome in the end. The performances are fine, jump scares are downright effective, and that final twist also fits. Lastly, the technical craftsmanship is more impressive than the story.
Overall, One Missed Call makes for an uncomfortable ride with its eerie setting & despairing quality but with Miike at helm, there was room for more terror & nightmares. The film can be uneasy & suffocating if one is invested in the proceedings from the get-go but it also fails to ratchet things up to unbearable levels and suffers from silly character actions in the second half. Worth a shot anyway.
Disappoints As A Sequel, Underwhelms As Its Own Thing
The direct sequel to Bernard Rose's 1992 cult classic of the same name attempts to carve its own identity in addition to serving as a follow-up chapter yet only manages to end up halfway on both fronts. As a sequel, it doesn't improve upon the original in any way, shape or form. And as its own thing, it's got many thoughts ongoing at once and needed to simmer down & spread them evenly to deliver the goods.
Co-written & directed by Nia DaCosta, her intent, approach, tone & treatment is different from the first film, plus she also reworks the mythology to suit her own story. And though it isn't a complaint, the script is where the issue lies coz it doesn't have its priorities sorted out. It is crammed with too many ideas & themes and tries to cover them all in the limited runtime, thus resulting in an overstuffed & undercooked narrative.
On the plus side, DaCosta's visual flair makes an instant impression, the camera manoeuvres through the polished set pieces with fluidity, and it sure doesn't hold back on its violent urges whenever the eponymous spirit is summoned. The actors do well with what they are given but would've done better if they had more material to work with. The film looks & sounds real fine but it is missing the immersive, alluring quality that its predecessor had in spades.
Overall, Candyman does have a few interesting moments working in its favour but the film as a whole doesn't truly live up to its hype and is certainly no match to the original classic. It's a messy, convoluted take that lacks clarity & direction, comes off as preachy on few occasions, features subplots that go nowhere, and even ends abruptly. 90 mins isn't enough to cover all DaCosta wanted to cover here and so an extended runtime would've only benefitted her film.
The latest madcap offering from the filmmaker who has made a career out of coming up with truly insane & ambitious ideas over the years (whether he is able to make them work or not in execution being a whole another debate), Old finds the (in)famous writer-director once again experimenting with a crazy concept but the end result is a mixed bag as the film fails to make the most of what was up for grabs.
Written & directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Village & The Visit), the story follows a group of tourists who find themselves ageing rapidly on a mysterious & secluded beach. With a lifetime passing in the matter of a single day for all the involved characters, the possibilities worth exploring are endless. However, Shyamalan's erratic direction & bland characterisation prevent the key events to blossom to their full capacity.
There are nonetheless hints of brilliance scattered throughout the picture. It just never unifies into a satisfying whole. The rapid ageing & its debilitating effects is rather unsettling to watch but then the dialogues & performances are so idiotic & over-the-top that we aren't really sure what tone Shyamalan was going for. The film is silly yet serious, fun yet terrifying, thrilling yet amusing, ludicrous yet genius, and is often a cinematic ride of sharp contrasts.
Overall, Old features a premise that not only exhibits promise & potential on paper but is also instantly appealing & downright ambitious. Still, Shyamalan is unable to explore his zany idea to its fullest by failing to weave a compelling narrative around it, thus resulting in a frustrating & confusing experience. He tries to do too much yet only ends up doing too little. All in all, Old has its merits & moments but the ride as a whole feels more or less underwhelming in the end.
A Gradually Escalating & Silently Unnerving Chiller
With a dreadful, disquieting atmosphere pervading its frames and a dark, disturbing mystery simmering beneath the surface, The Night House makes for a gripping, haunting & gradually escalating psychological horror with a plot that only gets more uneasy & uncomfortable as it progresses, and is powerfully anchored by Rebecca Hall's emotionally engrossing showcase.
Directed by David Bruckner (The Ritual), the story explores loss, grief, depression, loneliness, death & longing through vehicles of horror and is able to keep us invested in the proceedings throughout its runtime with surprising ease. Bruckner fills the space with an unnerving chill & sense of dread and unravels the mystery one step at a time but the ending isn't as satisfying as expected.
The isolated setting, silent camerawork, steady pace & smart editing help ratchet the tension when required while the poignant score keeps reminding us of the crushing weight of the void that's opened up in our protagonist's life in the wake of her husband's demise. And rendering her loss & depression with unfailing precision is Rebecca Hall in what's undoubtedly amongst her career-best performances.
Overall, The Night House is an intelligently crafted, skilfully told, effectively shot & brilliantly acted genre offering that quietly immerses the viewers into its unsettling premise and has a firm grip on our emotions before we even know it. Exhibiting first-rate work on all fronts and further bolstered by Hall's committed act, this atmospheric horror does falter in the last act but everything before it is intense & riveting. Don't miss it.
Yet Another Disposable & Forgettable Offering From Netflix
The latest entry in the long list of disposable films in Netflix canon, There's Someone Inside Your House is a run-of-the-mill slasher featuring characters one never grows to care about, motivations & purpose that have no footing, and killings that are delightfully grisly & gleeful. The film starts on a promising note but the interest in the premise fizzles out just as quick.
Directed by Patrick Brice (Creep & Creep 2), the script suffers from a myriad of issues, for its characters are poorly sketched, the drama involving them is bland throughout and dialogues are terrible. The narrative borrows elements from other classics of the genre(s) yet fails to do anything productive with that. The story just doesn't have the required emotional weight to it.
Not only is it apparent that Brice didn't write the film but it is also unlikely that he bothered to employ his cinematic skillset on this straightforward teen slasher offering. It hardly reeks of a foreboding atmosphere, the tension & suspense leaves the room just as soon as the build-up, the teen drama is never for once compelling, and the performances from its cast is also meh.
Overall, There's Someone Inside Your House not only fails to bring anything new or refreshing to the genre but is also lacking the goods to deliver a fun, thrilling & entertaining delight. All it has got going for it are a few graphic kills but that's simply not enough to steer the story past the finish line when there is no one to root for and the shortcomings are so glaring. All in all, a forgettable fare.
The third & final chapter in the Fear Street trilogy takes us to the origins of the Sarah Fier's curse to provide all the answers to the omen that has plagued Shadyside for centuries and brings the saga to a satisfying conclusion. Its first half is a period piece that's curated with deft eye while the second half unfolds in same timeline as the first film and aptly ties up all the loose ends.
Co-written & directed by Leigh Janiak, the period setting provides a different look & feel to the picture and Janiak truly renders the 17th century community life on screen with finesse. The actors from the first two films make up the characters in this one and responsibly play their roles. The next half of the story returns to 1994 to bring it all together but the first half remains stronger of the two.
There is also an elemental quality to the period details that really makes the first half stand out with ease, and the earthy colour tones, low-light photography, era-appropriate score & remote location only add to the allure. Once the mystery is unfurled & revelations are made known, it becomes easy to tie up the puzzle pieces and figure out how the remaining plot is going to play out but it's still fun to watch.
Overall, Fear Street: 1666 sticks the landing by unlocking all the mysteries and answering all the questions that the first & second instalments posed and serves as a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. The story returns to the neon-bathed & gleefully violent ambience of 1994 for the final lap and wraps up the saga with confidence while also making sure there are no threads left unchecked before turning the lights off on its way out.
The second chapter in the Fear Street trilogy picks up right where the previous entry signed off, and takes the setting back to its titular year to tell the story of the only survivor of the Camp Nightwing massacre. Filled to the brim with gnarly kills and further expanding the mythology, 1978 borrows elements from obvious sources for its own narrative but it is also missing the freshness of the first film.
Co-written & directed by Leigh Janiak, it takes a while for the film to get moving but once the killings start, the body counts start piling up real quick, and it definitely features more violent killings than its predecessor. With the last film spoiling some of this story's key plot elements, its surprise factor is rendered weak for the most part here but the gleeful brutality on display nonetheless makes it an enjoyable sit.
Once again, it is the mythological aspect and how it entwines with the events of the previous film that keeps us invested in the journey, for the characters this one has in store are bland & uninteresting, with only exception being Sadie Sink's character but that's got more to do with Sink's performance than the role itself. Janiak still does a fabulous job at keeping the tension alive and skilfully juggles the various subplots.
Overall, Fear Street: 1978 is a competently crafted & neatly executed slasher that comes with its own set of thrills & kills that mostly work. And what it lacks in character chemistry, it makes up in bloody carnage, for the night of terror that unfolds at the summer camp only smears the screen in crimson red. Despite all the familiar beats & conventions present in this sequel, 1978 manages to deliver the desired goods and is unsparing in its approach.
A neon-flavoured, delightfully breezy & gleefully violent teen slasher with a 90s throwback & welcome homages, 1994 is the first in the Fear Street trilogy and concerns a circle of friends who inadvertently encounter an ancient evil that has plagued their town for centuries. Laced with nostalgia & splattered with nasty kills, the film is well aware of its strengths & limitations and offers a ride that's consistently fun & thrilling.
Co-written & directed by Leigh Janiak, the story doesn't bring anything new to the genre as it treads a well-worn path but the mythology at the centre of it is a fascinating one and garners our interest with ease. Characters aren't intriguing right out of the box but the group dynamic still works to an extent. Still, it's the predicament they find themselves in and the mystery of it all that adds to the curiosity and keeps us on-board.
Referencing the slashers of the past, Scream being the most obvious one, the grisly murders are a delight to watch and will appease the genre's bloodthirsty fans. The drama often loses its momentum whenever it half-heartedly tries to dig into the characters' individual struggles instead of their shared plight. Performances are good and the chemistry & camaraderie they share functions nicely despite it being hurried & underdeveloped.
Overall, Fear Street: 1994 starts the trilogy on a promising note and serves as an enjoyable & entertaining slasher entry in its own right. The film has all the trappings of the genre, both the good & bad, and works well within those conventions to deliver the desired goods. Amusing & light in tone yet enveloped with a foreboding ambience, 1994 has no shortage of retro appeal & old-school gore but it is the flair & energy in its storytelling that bestows a freshness to it.
James Wan's Blood-Soaked Love Letter To Giallo Horror
From the director of Saw, Insidious & The Conjuring comes a stylishly crafted, consistently thrilling & gleefully violent nightmare that's stained with blood, soaked in terror & smeared with body counts. Gripping from the get-go, keeping its viewers guessing for the most part and going absolutely bonkers in the end, Malignant feels fresh despite treading familiar grounds and is one of the goriest entries in mainstream horror.
Directed by James Wan, his latest feature marks his return to his horror roots and serves as his love letter to giallo films, with elements of slasher, splatter & camp also coursing through its veins. The film sets the tone with its vicious opening prologue, after which Wan paves the groundwork quickly for the main plot to kick into action and directs with glee, passion & confidence while exploiting the R-rated freedom to its max.
The characters aren't fleshed enough for the viewers to give a damn about any of them but Wan narrates the story with such grip, energy & vibrance that the interest is never lost. And the last 30 mins are crazy as Wan removes the shackles and allows the film to go full camp. Also notable is the aesthetic brilliance, for the flamboyant camerawork, breezy pace, smart editing & jarring score infuse their own flavours and enrich every set piece.
Overall, Malignant presents James Wan in control of his craft as he tackles a slice of horror he hadn't explored before, and delivers a fun & fiendish supernatural slasher that's riveting, unpredictable & delightfully deranged. Embracing not only the strengths of gialli but also its shortcomings, Malignant isn't going to satisfy every palate but the cinematic craftsmanship on display & Wan's head-on approach makes it worthy of appreciation & admiration. Go for it.
More brutal & barbaric than its predecessor, The Collection piles up way more body counts than the first entry within minutes into the story and then takes the audience to the sadistic killer's lair where rest of the grisly kills & gruesome violence unfold. It lacks the suspense of the original but still delivers the expected thrills in violent & vicious doses.
Co-written & directed by Marcus Dunstan, this sequel attempts to go bigger & badder than the first one but the setup is rather absurd & comical. Still, none of that really matters once our expendable squad enters the killer's turf and the main plot kicks into action. Dunstan is able to maintain the intensity for the most part, and rigs the maze-like setting with creative traps & gleeful kills.
The film tries to dig into the sick, demented mind of the killer but it's done so badly that he only ends up being a caricature. Still, there is a menace to his physicality and it is captured quite well. The thin plot & weak characterisation continues from the first film. Josh Stewart chips in with a better act this time around but the new additions exhibit no personality and serve as mere death fodders.
Overall, The Collection is almost as thrilling & grotesque as the original if not more and brims with a sense of fun & enjoyment with its deadly traps & horror set pieces. There is absolutely no shortage of savagery in this one so people who prefer their horror a bit extreme are going to have a blast. Add to that, given that it works as a continuation and also does its own thing, it is a worthy sequel in its own right.
Clearly inspired by the Saw franchise yet making for a fascinating entry in the torture porn subgenre, The Collector revels in violence & gore with nothing held back but features a serviceable plot too that reeks of terror and comes suffused with a foreboding atmosphere, not to mention that its titular character has what it takes to become a new horror icon.
Co-written & directed by Marcus Dunstan, the story is simple & setup is swift and the main plot kicks into motion relatively quick. Characters are far from fleshed out and aren't worth investing into but once the whole cat-n-mouse game starts unfolding and the deadly traps make their presence known, things do become interesting despite the predictability of it all.
The camera is manoeuvred with dexterity, utilising clever angles to heighten the suspense. But editing is choppy at times and allow the tension to diffuse several times. It's ruthless & remorseless in its depiction of body horror, and those booby traps surely deliver the goods. Performances are satisfactory at best and the eponymous sadist has a menacing presence that benefits the film.
Overall, The Collector is a competently crafted home-invasion horror that's able to get good enough mileage out of its barebone premise, and packs enough pervasive sadistic extremity to satisfy the cravings of the subgenre's bloodthirsty fans. While there are several aspects it could've improved upon with little to no effort during the scripting stage, especially the dialogues, the ride it offers is nonetheless thrilling.
James Wan's Insidious started on such a strong, promising & genuinely frightening note that its downhill tumbling in the second half wasn't only frustrating but also infuriating. Chapter 2 presented Wan taking all that was bad about the original and making it even worse. Chapter 3 began Leigh Whannell's directorial career on a truly awful note. And now Chapter 4 comes along and brings this series to its all-time low.
Directed by Adam Robitel, this 4th entry in the Insidious saga once again keeps the spotlight on Elise Rainer and explores her history with the Further. But Rainer never was an interesting character to begin with, plus her sidekicks remain as annoying as they've always been. Also, the story is further marred by its bland writing, dull characters, lack of atmosphere, and over-reliance on jump scares, most of which are predictable from afar.
The film never for once manages to create any sort of intrigue at any given time and Robitel designs & operates moments of horror as per the genre manual. The drama remains lifeless from start to finish, performances are unsurprisingly forgettable, its attempts at humour fall flat, the cheap thrills are present in abundance, the background score is employed in lazy & clichéd fashion, and the way its climax plays out is as absurd as it is laughable.
Overall, Insidious: The Last Key is another insipid entry in the franchise that ran its course a long time ago and is arguably the weakest of the bunch. A tedious, uninspired & flavourless sequel that's mediocre in every imaginable manner, and doesn't offer anything that viewers haven't seen countless times before. Fans of Lin Shaye may enjoy this despite the atrocious storytelling on display but other than that, Chapter 4 is not even worth checking out. Skip it.