This was a movie that I've heard about on a few different podcasts. The title intrigued me and giallo is a sub-genre I've been getting into more of as of late. It was on my list of films to see and thanks to Duncan and the TPUTS Collective show of Where to Begin with Giallo, I finally checked it out. The synopsis here is a teacher who is having an affair with one of his students takes her out on a boat. They see a knife killing on shore. Other gruesome murders tart occurring shortly thereafter and the teacher suspects that he may be the cause of them.
We actually begin with getting the titles over a sequence of teen girls riding their bikes. It has a red filter over it. It then shifts us over to what the synopsis states. Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) is a in a boat with Elizabeth Seccles (Cristina Galbó). We don't learn it here, but he's her teacher at a nearby Catholic school for girls. He is also married. He wants to make love to her, but she refuses here. She sees a flash of something. Enrico tries to get her to ignore it. She freaks out though and he takes them back to shore. He does lose a pen in the grass.
At home, Enrico tells his wife of Herta (Karin Baal) who is also a teacher at the same school to change the radio station. They are in a loveless marriage and that is why he's pursuing Liz. Before the station is changed, he hears a bit about a murder where he was the previous day. He lies to his wife and then goes to place where it happened before going to work. When he arrives there, it appears they've been waiting for him. There's an Inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) that is talking to all of the teachers and starting to look into things.
Enrico doesn't do himself any favors here. He was caught in a photograph that made the papers at the crime scene. Plus his pen was found at the crime scene. He becomes the prime suspect, especially because he won't reveal the reason why he was there. He has to try to solve this crime. The deeper he looks into it; he becomes a target of whoever is doing the killing. The killer starts to pick off other girls and it is through this, we learn that Liz, Brenda Pilchard (Claudia Butenuth) and others from the school had a secret society. Many of them are still virgins, but they were having wild parties with boys and there might even have been some lesbianism.
What this all leads to though is the name of Solange (Camille Keaton). Who is she and what does have to do with all of these murders that are happening?
To break this movie down, we have some interesting concepts we're playing with here. The first thing is that we're getting more of the traditional giallo set up that I'm used to. Enrico is the prime suspect as I said for the initial murder that happened and mostly that is just due to carelessness. He then goes into investigating the crime to clear his name. Him being the prime suspect does go away fairly quickly. What is interesting here though is that the police aren't bumbling. They don't have all of the information which is why they can't connect some of these dots. Enrico isn't the most forthcoming until he needs to be or has exhausted a lead as well.
There is also the idea of this group of young ladies. It is set up in the beginning, but we learn more about them as we go. What is interesting is that as they are killed, we at first think they're innocent. The more this gets looked into, they aren't as 'pure' as we originally believed. That isn't to say they shouldn't be allowed to do the things they are. If they want to do drugs, party and have fun with boys, which is fine. What I do have an issue with though is what happens to Solange. I'm not going to spoil it here, but it is sad.
Going along with these young ladies, I think it is interesting that we have the backdrop of the Catholic school. Enrico is cheating on his wife. These girls are being pretty wild and not really following the religion that they're practicing. I can't fault them there as it does partially feel like it is pushed on them. We do learn that many of them are still virgins, so maybe they buy in at least enough. The prime suspect though is a priest. Father Webber (Marco Mariani) and others don't believe it could be, as the priest in question doesn't fit the description of those working there.
I think I'll move over to the acting now. Testi plays a great character and has a good look about him. I hate him though. He no longer loves his wife and is cheating on her. They have this weird reconciliation. How he plays the role is fine, I'm just not a fan of how this is written. Baal is good as the brooding wife, but again, not a fan that she decides to take him back over a little bit of information. Fuchsberger is good as the inspector. What is interesting here is that he's not bumbling. I thought that Galbó, Butenuth and the rest of the girls are attractive. This movie is a bit sleazy so we get to see them all nude. We also have an interesting cameo here by Keaton. I think the performance she gives works along with the rest of the cast.
Moving this over to the effects of the movie, I think they're pretty solid. We actually don't get a lot of them to be honest though. There are a couple of times we see the murder happening, but it isn't overly graphic. What we really get is the aftermath. This is done practical and the way the murders are happening correlates back into why the killer is targeting these individuals. Aside from that, the filter over the opening sequence works and I think the cinematography is well done. The framing is good to progress the story and build mystery.
Then I would say the last thing to go over is the soundtrack. I was stoked to see Ennio Morricone's name during the credits. I really like what did with the score here as it fits for what he needed it to do. It helped to build tension and also get my anxiety going. I'm not saying it is the best soundtrack he's put together, but he was really a master of his craft for sure.
So now with that said, I'm really glad that I finally gave this a viewing. This is an interesting giallo film that follows many of the normal plotlines you would expect. I think that the mystery we get here works and it does feel like they've cheated. The acting of this movie is really good across the board, but I will say that I personally just have some issues with how certain characters are written. It is subdued on the effects, but I don't think that hurts the movie. We also have good cinematography and soundtrack to help this movie for me. I would rate this as good movie that with more watches could definitely go up in my opinion.
Interesting Early Murder Mystery with Slight Flaws
This was another movie that I had never heard of until it popped up on a list of horror movies from 1931. I decided that for my Odyssey Through the Ones, I would give this a viewing. I did read the synopsis here, but aside from that, I came in pretty blind with this one. The synopsis is an elderly woman installs a horn in her crypt in case she's buried alive.
Now that is part of the premise to the movie, but that really isn't a major part to be honest. We start in a cemetery where the caretaker is informing a family that they're closing up and have to go. They inquire why Julia Endicott (Blanche Friderici), her son Philip (Irving Pichel) and her sister of Miss Roberts (Martha Mattox) are allowed to enter. They have special permission due to Julia's late husband owning the land before it was sold.
The reason for their visit is to pay respects to Julia's late husband and Philip's father. Miss Roberts points out the real reason is to check to make sure the horn connected to her tomb is working like the synopsis states. She has a fear of being buried alive. I should also point out here, Julia is hard on her son and he is a bit mentally slow as well. Miss Roberts is quite protective over him though.
They return home and where we also get to meet their new maid, Jane (Sally O'Neil), as well as beat cop that walks around the neighborhood of Officer Cassidy (Regis Toomey). These two provide some levity to things. Jane also informs Julia that her nephew of Herbert (Walter McGrail) is coming over. Julia isn't thrilled to hear about this, especially if his wife is coming with him. She knows that Laura (Lilyan Tashman) is only with him for her money.
Before he arrives, we see an odd scene with Philip. He wants to kill. When Julia inquires more, Philip doesn't want to be a soldier, but a murderer. She realizes she cannot leave the fortune to him. She calls for her attorney to make a change to the will, making Philip the sole beneficiary.
We also get to know his wife a bit more. She is having an affair with Thomas Hollander (Lester Vail). He's a local sculptor who has also been giving her money as Herbert doesn't make enough for the lifestyle she wants to live. Herbert informs his wife of the change to the will and she subtle convinces him to kill his aunt. She won't admit to it, but men fall victim to her looks.
With the deed done, Philip becomes the prime suspect. He has one of the best motives for killing her, but Lt. Valcour (William 'Stage' Boyd) believes that Herbert has a better one. This causes him to be paranoid. Laura seems to be in control and is planning steps down the line. Lt. Valcour though doesn't trust her and is out to prove it.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap and where I want to start would be that this movie has an interesting premise, especially for 1931. This is still pretty early in the murder mysteries, but what I like here is that we're getting a slightly different take on it. This also seems to be leaning into the film noir category since Laura is a femme fatale and really the mastermind of everything here. There is even a bit of flirting between our detective of Lt. Valcour and her as well.
This is something I want to delve a bit more into as well. Laura really uses her sexuality as a weapon to convince Herbert, Tom and even to an extent Philip. The latter I feel bad as he is mentally slow and really buys into what people say about him. She uses all of these men at different times to get what she wants and try to get away with it as well. Lt. Valcour should fall into this a bit as she does try to work her charm on him, but no matter what she does, he is sticking to his guns.
Philip is also an interesting character in all of this. We see that in the beginning, he's scared to go to the cemetery. Julia is mean to him about this while really the only one who truly cares about him is Miss Roberts. Philip is a psychopath though. He isn't all there mentally and he probably needs to be in a hospital to better help him. I believe this upbringing doesn't help in this case either. Julia is hard on him and it has negative effects. There is something interesting from a demonstration that he did that I didn't initially pick up on that plays back into the explanation in the end that I found interesting.
Then really the last thing I want to point out is from the synopsis. This horn in the tomb is interesting. I've heard of this idea with a bell back when science wasn't great. The movie really points out how important the horn is, but to be honest, it really isn't as impactful to the story as I thought. I guess it really is a bit of swerve in this respects, but I was thinking back to it constantly and it doesn't seem as important as they make it out to be.
Moving away from the story, I'll take this to the acting. No one really blew me away, but I think the acting is solid enough to make this story work. Boyd is good as this detective. I like this is a bit early to film noir, so he's not blinded by the femme fatale. He wants the truth and I like how determined he is. Tashman is attractive enough to fit her role. I also like her portrayal. When you hear her, you'd think that she is innocent, but we see how evil minded she is. Pichel is good as playing this character that is slow, but strong. He fit there. McGrail is fine along with Vail as men who get sucked into her lies. I thought Friderici plays this mean older woman to a tee. Toomey and O'Neil bring a bit of comedy while Mattox as well as the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
Then really the last thing to point out here is that we don't get a lot in the way of effects. It is early cinema and also not really that type of movie so it doesn't need them. The cinematography is much of the same. It doesn't stand out, but shot well. The copy I was watching wasn't great so there is that as well. Then finally the soundtrack was fine, but I did want to comment on the design. The horn that is used was effective. It doesn't really amount to much in my opinion. It is effective when you hear it and know exactly what it is.
In conclusion here, I think this is an interesting early murder mystery. I'm surprised to see this is listed as horror, but I think the possibility of being buried alive and what the movie makes us believe that Philip is capable of makes sense. There is a greed and murder as well. I think that the concept of this movie is really interesting, especially for 1931. The acting helps bring these characters to life. The sound design of the horn is effective and I'd say the cinematography, effects and soundtrack fit for what was needed. I would say this is an above average movie and one that I think should be seen more.
This was a movie that I actually have to thank Kate Pollack for turning me on to. We were chatting on a post about sub-genres we enjoy and she asked if I planned to see this. I don't watch trailers, but I did look into this and it peaked my interest. Jaime decided to see it with me as well when we went to a local theater. The synopsis here is a hearing-impaired girl is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold.
We start this movie off back in 1845. We are seeing a point of view of a woman being executed for being a witch. The mask of Satan is nailed to her face, she is hung from a tree and set on fire. What I found interesting here is that we never move away from this and it is quite horrific what happens to her. The last thing is that the man in charge holds up a doll that is wrapped in a chain to prevent her from coming back.
The movie then takes us to Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). His editor wants him to investigate a lead about a cow in New England that has a mark on it. Gerry is reluctant, but we see he is on hard times. What we will learn later was that he was one of the top journalists in the world, but he was fabricating stories and was caught. The lead he follows turns out to be nothing. Something catches his eye by an odd, old tree and it is a doll. The farmer states it is a corn baby for luck. Gerry notices it has the impossible date of February 31st, 1845 on it. To help beef up his story, he breaks the head of the doll and takes pictures of it.
That night as Gerry heads home, he almost hits a woman in the road. This causes him to crash and he gets out seeing what happened. The young woman is Alice (Cricket Brown). He follows her through the woods to the tree from earlier. He hears her whispering to it and touches her shoulder. She is taken to the local doctor of Natalie Gates (Katie Aselton). She is irate with Gerry and warns him if anything happens to the young woman, she will see he's put in jail.
Gerry stays the night and the next day goes to church. Alice is an orphan and stays there as Father Hagan (William Sadler) is her uncle. Alice is also a deaf/mute, but Gerry thinks he heard her talk. Something amazing happens. Alice is hearing something and it causes her to stand up in the middle of Father Hagan's sermon. She goes outside to the tree and all of a sudden, she starts talking. She says that the Virgin Mary has spoken with her. That she has healed her and that they should all pledge their faith to her. Alice the next day also feels a little boy with muscular dystrophy.
As word gets around, Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes) and Monsignor Delgarde (Diogo Morgado) are called in to prove the validity of the miracle. Gerry also befriends Alice and obtains exclusive rights to report on this. This seems to be a shot at redemption for his career. The problem though, is the entity speaking and helping Alice really the Virgin Mary? Or is it something much more sinister?
Where I want to start with my analysis here is that I should lead off stating this is one of my favorite sub-genres of film. It is interesting as I'm not religious, but religion does fascinate me and even more so with the conventions that this movie is using with it.
Since this movie is starting off with the execution of the witch, I will start there. We get quite a bit of films on either side here where they are actually killing a witch or doing it in error of a more barbaric time. This could be considered a spoiler, but Mary Elnor (Marian Mazepa) is actually a witch. She did have a pact with the devil. I do like that there are records in this movie to help fill in this back-story. Going along with this, I do have a minor gripe that the mask of Satan wasn't removed, as it is something that is supposed to limit them. It does make for cool images so I get why keeping it until a reveal later. There are also hand drawn images of popular things that will pop up regularly in movies like this.
Where I want to shift to next would be Gerry. He was on top of the world in his profession, but we learn as it goes on, he did some corrupt things to stay there. I like that he is capitalizing on what is in front of him. He is greedy and prideful. He is also the reason that everything happens in this movie as well. I do believe he would do these things and Morgan's cocky attitude he brings to the role helps a lot. This also becomes a redemption tale for him that I liked.
Next I think I will take on the elephant in the room for this movie, religion, and the corruption there. Father Hagan is a good guy. He is raising Alice, who since her parents died has grown up in the church. She is innocent and this entity is capitalizing on it. It also heals her hearing and ability to talk. The seduction there makes sense. Father Hagan is worried as the word of what happened here gets out, ruining Alice's life like it has for others that discovered things like this. They used real events which makes it even more impactful. Father Hagan wants to protect her. This is all good aspects to it though; I do need to say that. Monsignor Delgarde is also good in my opinion. He is there to try to disprove it, but I think we should question our beliefs. Despite him coming off as hard, he just wants to make sure the validity and does seem to want to protect Alice as much as he can.
This movie does explore the horrors of Catholicism and religion in general. Bishop Gyles really just wants to further the church whether it is through publicity or monetary. He seems nice at first, but is a scoundrel. We also have all of the followers who come and believe in Alice. I really think that this movie is pointing out the fact that many followers of religion do it blindly. I can see getting sucked in. Alice can talk and hear when she has never been able to. Toby Walsh (Danny Corbo) couldn't walk and now he is. Father Hagan had emphysema and she cures it, which at this time isn't possible. There are things there that can blind followers. This movie has a commentary on not blindly following and to question at all times. There is also a miracle that happens in the movie I wasn't a big fan of. I get why it is there though. It just goes against a personal preference for me.
I really think that is everything I wanted to go into for the story. Next I want to talk about the acting. Morgan fits his role perfectly. He brings a bit of sarcasm and just charisma to the role. I feel like he would be this photographer. Elwes is actually solid here as well. I like that at first he seems like he could be good, but there is something there you don't trust. It makes sense as the movie goes on with reveals. Sadler is solid as Father Hagan. I'm not sure I've ever seen him in a bad role. Brown does great as Alice. She has an innocence about her that is needed. Aselton, Morgado and the rest of the cast fit for what was needed as well. The last person I would give props as well to Mazepa who is the witch of Mary
Some thing else that I needed to go into would be the effects. This movie does relay on jump-scares. I'll admit, there was a couple that got me which doesn't happen often. I will say that seeing this Jaime might have been part of the reason, but I'll still give credit. I do think that when they go with practical effects, those looked good to me. Seeing the dark entity I thought was creepy. Also getting to see what Alice is seeing with Mary bathed in light was good. There is some CGI fire that doesn't look good though. I did notice some other parts here as well with the CGI that don't work for me. Aside from that I would say that the cinematography was good as well.
Then really the last thing to go into would be the sound design and soundtrack. For the former, I think they use it strategically. I like they quickly establish that Alice is deaf with having no sound. It has a subtle shift that she can now hear and I liked that. There are some musical cues for jump-scares. I'm not always the biggest fan there. I would say that on the whole though, the music works for what was needed.
In conclusion here, I really liked this movie. Seeing the score on the Internet Movie Database and hearing that this was paint by numbers for a movie like this, I can see that. I'll probably be higher than most due to the social commentary and what I can take from it. I think the concept here is interesting. The acting was good in my opinion. The effects I'm positive on for the most part and I would say about the same for the soundtrack/design as well. To close this out here, I don't think everyone really enjoy this as much as I did. I'd say for me this is a good movie and would recommend if this sub-genre works for you. This is another movie that I do want to revisit before the end of the year as well to see where I said with a second viewing.
This was a movie that I know I first heard about from Marknado over on social media. It was one of the better ones he watched in January so I put it on a list to check out. I needed to find something to pair up as part of my Odyssey Through the Ones segment on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. I don't necessarily think paired up great, but I wanted to see it so here we are. The synopsis is a man with a mysterious past flees the country to escape his own personal hell - only to arrive somewhere much, much worse.
We start this movie off with a child by the name of Alia fleeing into the night. They aren't speaking English and we learn later that this is happening in Finland. Those that are after her are stating they are family and she can't get away. She tries to jump into the river in order to make her escape.
It then takes us to a bank. In line is Rex (Ben O'Toole). He's trying to make it where he will be waited on Maddy (Ashlee Lollback). Things take a dark turn though when this bank in Boise, Idaho gets robbed. Rex notices another customer has a gun, but when he tries to motion for her to use it, she refuses. This gun ends up in his hands. The movie has an interesting way to telling us, but Rex ends up taking down the robbers. A decision he makes though lands him in court and 8 years in prison.
When he gets out, Rex is a celebrity, but not in a good way. He cannot live a normal life so he goes to his buddy from work, Pete (Joshua Brennan), to collect his things. What he is looking for is his passport. It is here he reveals his plan, to move to Finland and start over. This was decided by shooting a spitball at the map and it landing on this country.
It is at the airport that he is seen by Caroline Craig and her husband of Matthew Sunderland. They state that they're going to get him and that he'd be perfect for their son. A man does relay what is said, but Rex laughs it off. I should also point out here that Rex talks to himself. We see this through his conscious as being another version of Rex. There is a lot of interior monologue, but sometimes he verbalizes this out loud.
When Rex arrives in Finland, a taxi cuts in line to pick him up. The driver is Jack Finsterer and we see he's working with the couple in the United States. Gas is leaked into the back of the taxi and despite what Rex does, he's knocked out. He then wakes up, arms tied above his head and that's not it. This seems to be a family that is behind taking him and Alia (Meg Fraser) is one of the members. There are also her twin brothers of Gael and Gideon (Travis Jeffrey) as well as Olli (David Hill). While talking to his conscious, Rex has to find a way out of here before it is too late. He slowly pieces toether what his true purpose is here and how it involves another member of this family, Pati (Caleb Enoka).
That is where I want to leave my recap of this movie. I think that gets you the basic idea without spoiling anything. Where I want to start is that I wasn't sure what type of movie we were getting here. I knew the title, I knew briefly what I saw on social media about people liking it and that really was about it. I did know this movie went a bit wild, so I was intrigued to see what I was in for.
Where I want to start is how well this movie is written. We get so many reveals that are done without force feeding them. For an example here, I was confused as to why Rex would be trial. He helped thwart a bank robbery. It is when he gets out that we learn something happened that made it excessive force and Rex also has military training. The movie alludes to what happened, but makes you wait for the reveal and it worked for me. Something that happens to him when he's taken makes sense as well to level the playing field.
Shifting this over to this family that takes him should be next. What I love here is that they're actually really normal aside from them kidnapping people. They don't have special training. They're not super strong or anything like that. The family is able to lure people in and take them unsuspecting. They are creepy though, I do have to say that. When I first saw the masks that Gael and Gideon wear made me feel uncomfortable. The only one that seems normal is Alia as doesn't want to be like them. She is interesting on top of that due to a story she is reading to Olli and the implications from it.
Something that I think I should point out here is that this is part comedy. Some of it comes from Rex talking to his conscious. I'll admit there were a few times that this had me laughing out loud and I was by myself. That isn't to say that all of the jokes land for me. There are a few things that they do that does take me out of the movie. Regardless though, this is more of my speed with the comedy and thought that it doesn't detract from the other elements we are getting in this film.
Since I've touched on the comedy, I think next I'll go to the acting. I liked our lead here of O'Toole. We establish that he's a pretty badass character. There is something done here that levels the playing field to prevent him from going 'John Wick' on them and that worked for me. He also brings some level of comedy I could appreciate as it is based in sarcasm. Fraser is solid as this sheltered woman. You feel bad for her and I liked what they did with her character. She's also quite attractive as well. I think that Craig, Sunderland, Jeffrey in both his roles and Finsterer are all good as well. They bring such creepiness to their roles that it is effective. The last person I want to call out would be Lollback. She is in a smaller supporting role, but it helps with the overall story forsure.
Then really the last thing I want to go into would be effects. Surprisingly, this movie doesn't have a lot of them, but it also doesn't need them. That isn't to say we don't get any effects either. The movie is strategic in showing what they can, doing it practical from what I could see and if they can't do something, they hide it. I didn't recall any CGI so if there was, it was hidden and that is well done in my book. I will also give credit here to the cinematography as well to hide it.
In conclusion here, I had a lot of fun with this movie. I heard people enjoying this and I'm glad that I took their lead to see this. This is an interesting take on the slasher genre. We are getting to see a character we establish as being strong and having him be taken against his will. The acting is good in building these characters which helps to move the story as well as bring some comedy to it. Not enough to hurt the tension though either. The effects we get look good and I have no issues there or with the cinematography. The other thing to say is that the soundtrack fit for what was needed as well. I would say this is a good movie in my opinion and one I'm looking forward to seeing again before the year ends to see what I might have missed here.
Interesting Blaxploitation Take on Jekyll and Hyde Story
This was a movie that I feel like I first heard about on Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. It was one that I'm sure I threw on my list of films to check out at some point. I'm giving it a viewing as part of the Movie Club Challenge over on The Podcast Under the Stairs. It is fitting as I've been watching a lot of variations on the 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' story as well. The synopsis here is when a scientist develops a formula to regenerate dying liver cells; it accidentally turns him into an albino vampire with a taste for prostitutes.
We start this movie off with Dr. Henry Pride (Bernie Casey). We learn that he's a world-renowned doctor who has won awards. He is giving a tour to some other scientists and during this we get to meet his assistant of Dr. Billie Worth (Rosalind Cash). Together they're working on research to regenerate or at least slow down the degeneration of liver cells in hopes to eliminate cirrhosis.
Along with working on his research Dr. Pride also works in a free clinic that is also part of a thrift store. The movie never comes out and states it, but this is supposed to be Los Angeles where this clinic is in the vicinity of Watts' neighborhood. It is there we see Dr. Pride interacting with a prostitute of Linda Monte (Marie O'Henry). She has a thing for Dr. Pride, as I assume most women from this area would. He is a black man who is a doctor and giving back to the community. She had a bout with hepatitis to which Dr. Pride helped eliminate. She comes in for vitamin shots and she will only let the doctor administer. It is interesting that here she is completely nude when he comes in.
That night Dr. Pride goes back to his laboratory and Dr. Worth asks him if he would like to get dinner. It appears they're having some kind of relationship and he lets her know that he he's going to stay late. During this stint, he administers an injection into a black rat which turns it white. On top of the changes to its color, it attacks the others in its cage. Dr. Pride ends up falling asleep and is woken up by Dr. Worth the following morning. They go into the lab to find all the rats were killed by this now albino one. He's upset for falling asleep and she tells him that he's been working too hard.
There is then a patient that is brought into the hospital by the name of Emily Harris (Cora Lee Day). Dr. Pride wants to use the serum on her, but Dr. Worth states he can't. It isn't ready for human trials. He does it anyway and there is an interesting side effect. Before she dies, she goes white and attacks a nurse. Dr. Worth realizes what he's done and is quite upset. It could ruin all their work. Also on this day, Dr. Pride gets into an argument with Linda. She claims that he would never give a woman like her a chance due to assimilation. The way she words it is that he drives a white car, probably now attracted to white women and that all his schooling as well as his profession has taken out the person he was growing up. It is interesting that later we learn he did grow up in similar conditions to the people he's helping.
Since he couldn't get really any information from Emily, Dr. Pride decides to inject himself with the formula. It turns him into a white man with incredible strength. That night he goes to the area where his clinic is looking for the lounge where Linda works. It is here that we learn she used to work for Silky (Stu Gilliam), a local pimp, but now works for herself. There's an altercation that goes in the lounge where she works. Dr. Pride is seduced with what happens with the injection and continues to do it. He also wants Linda to partake in the experiment as well, but when she sees what it does to him, it terrifies her.
That's where I'm going to my leave my recap of the movie and I do have to say, this is an interesting take on the Robert Louis Stevenson story here. Of course, being that this is a blaxploitation film, we have black people in the prominent roles and that works for me. Dr. Pride is an award-winning doctor. Dr. Worth is his assistant doing her own research which is ahead of its time for a black woman. There is also Lt. Jackson (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) who is a detective looking into the murders. I'm not surprised by a good portion of this with William Crain helming the picture. He's the same guy that did Blacula and its sequel so that makes a lot of sense there. We do also get Linda who is a prostitute, Silky the pimp who are also black but in less savory positions. I do think it does well with Linda being a strong independent woman. For Silky, he's answering to Preston (Marc Alaimo) which I feel is there stating that it is the white man behind all of the problems here.
Now Duncan did state that this is a funny movie for some reason and I was really wondering where that was going to go. From what I gather, I'm assuming he means that this movie is pretty problematic. Dr. Pride when he becomes Hyde is the actor Casey in white face. It was interesting to see that Stan Winston did the look here. I can also see why Duncan said this movie probably couldn't be made today. There have been some people getting 'canceled' today for being white and appearing in black face. This is the same exact thing, just of course reversed. It also makes Hyde super strong. I'm thinking that Crain is pushing a social commentary that we have a white man, coming to the lower income area of this ghetto and wreaking havoc. I can really see and to be honest, there might not have been as much a fuss and it is sad to say that.
Before getting away from this completely, I just want to draw some parallels from the actual story to what we get here in the movie. We obviously have the doctor who injects himself and becomes a monster. Dr. Pride is also working in a clinic to help the less fortunate, which is from the original source material. He gets caught up in wanting to continue to become Hyde, leading to his downfall. These are done with a twist to include race and I think that does add a dimension to what we're getting here.
I feel that next should be the acting of the movie. Casey I think does a really good here in being this benevolent doctor we see in the beginning. I think the interaction with Linda really makes him question things as well that and getting the taste of something different causes changes to this good man for the negative. He still is a tragic character after we learn about his back-story to still feel for him. Cash is solid as the counterpart to Dr. Pride who is not seduced by the experiment. I think that O'Henry is good. She is a character who is born into circumstance and doing what she can to survive. Cumbuka and Milt Kogan are solid as the detectives. Gilliam and the rest of the people at the lounge work for me as well to round this out for what was needed.
To the effects of the movie, I was shocked to see Winston's name in the credits. I like what he did with Casey to make him into Hyde. It isn't great, don't get me wrong. It was done practical though so I will give credit for that. It did remind me of The Omega Man, which oddly enough has Cash in it as well. It makes Casey and Day look albino. It was quite creepy. Aside from that, we don't get a lot effects. There is a transformation scene with rat that was time lapsed. The cinematography was well done.
The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. There were a lot from this era that I'm a fan of and this feels like that. There's almost an electronic feel to it and it did stick out to me a few parts of the movie. It isn't great. It isn't one that I'll listen to regularly. For the era this movie is made, it really did feel that like which I can appreciate.
So now with that said this movie isn't great. It isn't the best take on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story or the blaxploitation sub-genre. What I do think is that it does explore some interesting concepts. It is a bit problematic though as it does come off as racist with some of the things that are being done. What does make it interesting though is the era that it came out, Crain being the director and some of the things it is exploring. I do think that the acting is good though. The effects are solid enough and the soundtrack is about the same there. I would rate this overall as an above average movie. Not great, but does do some really good things in my opinion.
This was a movie that I never heard of until I got into listening to podcasts. I believe that it was Duncan from over on The Podcast Under the Stairs that first brought it to my attention. If memory serves, he covered this on the Summer Challenge series for the 1970's and then did an episode just on this one. It was one that I really wanted to check out as I feel he went into spoilers and this was a movie to experience. I finally did as part of his show Where to Begin with Giallo over on the TPUTS Collective. The synopsis for this movie is an American journalist temporarily stationed in Central Europe searches for his new girlfriend, who has suddenly disappeared.
We start this movie with a man who is sweeping up the courtyard outside of some buildings. He is shooing away a bird that leads us to a man. The attendant checks on him to discover he is dead. Another man who does not have legs then rolls up and the caretaker asks him to stay there while he calls the authorities. It then gives us a tour of the city as this man's body is in the ambulance.
The man in the park is Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel). We learn this through his passport as a doctor and nurse go through his effects. It appears he is dead, but we can hear his thoughts. He tries to show he is alive, but all signs aside from him not being cold that he is no longer living. Gregory is then taken to the morgue.
It is there that he's put into a cooler and starts to think about the events that led him to where he is now. Gregory was a reporter and he works with Jessica (Ingrid Thulin) and Jacques Versain (Mario Adorf). He leaves early that day to pick up his girlfriend from her train, Mira Svoboda (Barbara Bach). She brings him a gift of butterflies in a case. The two of them go to party with his co-workers are in attendance, amongst others.
That night Gregory gets a call from Jack and he goes to follow up the lead. It turns out to be nothing and when he returns home, Mira is gone. All of her clothes are still there, her passport, money and personal effects, but she is nowhere to be found. He calls the police and they send over Kommissar Kierkoff. Gregory offers to help them in the investigation and they sternly rebuff the offer. This doesn't stop him from trying to find out what happened to her. This leads him to a dark plot where other missing women have similar stories and follow a similar pattern. Where could she have gone and why is Gregory in this odd state of suspended animation? Can he show signs of life before it is too late?
That's where I want to leave my recap as it gets you up to speed with what we're getting here. What I find interesting though is that we really don't jump into the beginning of the events until like 15 minutes into the movie. The premise with Gregory just stuck there while the doctors, nurses and the morgue attendants are looking him over gets really tense early into all of this. It is an interesting way to present this movie and it also reminded me of a short story that I read from Stephen King. His had to deal with a snake biting someone. It does make me wonder if he happened to see this movie at some point before writing that as well.
Now this movie really does have that classic giallo feel with a bit of a twist. I liked that our main character of Gregory is a reporter. It makes sense that he delves into the investigation like he did, especially for his girlfriend. The mystery that he jumps into is pretty wild as the police's explanation makes sense. He must not have realized that she had more clothes. There is no sign of forced entry or a struggle. She either left with someone or on her own accord. What makes it tenser is we know where Gregory ends up. He needs to solve this mystery in his head, before it is too late.
There is a lot of information I'm also leaving out here as I don't want to go into spoilers for this. All I will say is that the more Gregory looks into all of this, the darker it becomes for sure. He has the police who already have him as a suspect. The more he looks into the things, the more upset that they become. Jessica wants him to give it up as she doesn't feel that Mira is worth his time and effort. It is even eerier that when he asks questions to the family or those close to the other missing girls, they don't want to respond. With the reveal it makes a lot of sense.
I think that next I will shift this over to the acting. Sorel is really good in this movie as the lead. What is interesting is that we first get introduced to him as he's 'dead'. Listening to his thoughts about his plight and how he might be killed got my anxiety going. To take it even farther though, he starts to question if he is dead as well. Hearing him consider giving up makes it heartbreaking. Thulin is solid in her role. She is bias as she loves him and wants him to choose her. I like the role that Adorf is playing. Bach is quite attractive in the minor role that she actually has here. The rest of the cast I'd say rounded this out for what was needed.
What are pretty interesting here would be the effects. There aren't really a whole of them to be honest. What we do get is practical and I'd say that is mostly the medical science of the doctors trying to figure out if Gregory is really dead. One of them is Ivan (Relja Basic) and since they were friends, he is trying all of these treatments to help him. Aside from that, there's some interesting cinematography that is done to equate some psychological things that are happening. We also get montages right before we jump into more events of the past.
Something that really intrigued me and I had to bring up was the fact that Ennio Morricone did the score here. For me, this isn't his best work and it doesn't necessarily stand out to me. I will admit I do hold him to a high standard though since he was one of the best composers. The score did fit for what was needed and it never took me out of it. It did have a creepy vibe as well that help the mood of the film.
Now with that said, I really liked the idea this giallo film does something a bit different. We get the troupe of someone defying the police to get to the bottom of what is going on here. There is an added layer to this though that gets to see where our main character ends up and that he's in a type of suspended animation. How deep things go and where it ends up was quite interesting to me. The acting is good. There aren't a lot in the way of effects, but it doesn't need them. The last thing would be the fact that Morricone did the music. Not his best work, but definitely solid and fit for what was needed. I'd rate this movie as really good.
What is interesting here, this sequel I've seen more than any other film in the series. My sister and I had seen the original and the second one before this, but we bought this one on VHS. Warwick Davis was also an actor I knew before seeing any of these movies thanks to Willow, a childhood favorite of ours. I decided since this was the next film in line to watch critically from the series, it would be a Featured Review for St. Patrick's Day. The synopsis here is an evil leprechaun finds himself in Las Vegas, where he proceeds to cause mischief by killing people, granting twisted wishes and infecting a young man with his green blood.
We start this movie with a man coming into a pawn shop in Las Vegas. I don't recall giving this guy a name, but I'm going out on a limb and assuming it is Lucky (Richard Reicheg). He has a hook for a hand and is missing a leg. Gupta (Marcelo Tubert) who runs the place helps him to see what he's selling. Inside is a leprechaun statue that looks to be made of wood. There is a medallion around his neck. Gupta goes to take it off and the man warns him against it. Gupta pays $20 for the statue and immediately takes off the necklace. Little does he know that it makes the leprechaun come to life, the monster played by Davis. Gupta is then attacked, using the medallion to ward off the creature and sending it into his warehouse in the back of the store.
The movie then shifts over to Scott (John Gatins). He's on his way to Los Angeles where he's going to school. He was given a check for $23,000 that is supposed to cover rent and tuition until he gets on his feet. On his way, he has decided to detour to Vegas. Being so engrossed in the lights and all of the sights, he almost hits Tammy (Lee Armstrong), who is broken down the side of the road. Scott gets out and tries to help this snarky young woman, but her car won't start. Scott gives her a ride to the casino she works at as a magician's assistant. She has dreams of being the headliner though.
Once they arrive, Scott asks her to sneak him in so he can see what it is like in there. She agrees, only when he promises not to gamble. This doesn't work out though. Her boss Mitch (Michael Callan) questions if he is 21 until he sees the size of the check he has. Scott gets chips and is sent to a roulette table ran by Loretta (Caroline Williams). She's a woman who is a bit older and her body isn't what it used to be. We see that her game is rigged and she cleans Scott out. He's a sucker and she convinces him to go to the pawn shop, use his watch in order to try to win his money back.
By the time he arrives at the Pawn Shop, Gupta is dead. Scott finds a gold shilling from the leprechaun's pot of gold and uses it to wish he was on a winning streak back at the casino. Each piece of gold allows the holder one wish. Mitch is upset with Loretta and wants her to get the money back. Together with the not so Great Fazio (John DeMita), they do what they can. All the while, the leprechaun is free in Vegas and trying to get what is his back. This creates an interesting situation when he bites Scott and he stabs the creature, causing blood to get into his wound.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap for this movie and where I want to start would be that I have a lot of fun with this movie. Like I said with the previous one, I don't believe we're seeing the same leprechaun from the previous films. They have the same actor, but there always seems to be somewhat different lore with each one. For this leprechaun, there is this medallion that wards him off. There is also a different way to defeat the creature here. I've been completely fine ever since hearing JP Shot from the 22 Shots of Moodz and Horror bring up this idea. So far into this series, none of these movies have continuity with the one prior to that so I can enjoy this movie as a stand-alone film despite it being the third. It is interesting as it doesn't hamstring itself with needing to bring up characters or events in my opinion.
To move away from this idea, I love the setting here. Having a greedy creature like a leprechaun and setting it in Las Vegas is great to me. From what I saw in the trivia, this is also Davis' favorite in the series as they let him open it up with the humor. This is also a direct correlation to things like A Nightmare on Elm Street where they wanted the killer to have a bit more personality. There was always humor built into this series, I mean from the creature alone, but I think this movie does it the best. I like that some of the kills incorporate something from the person as that is just clever to me.
What I will say though is that not all of the comedy works for me. I think there are a few jokes that run a bit too far with. Examples here are when Scott is in the hospital. The doctor and the nurse are going through his things. That gag doesn't work for me, unless the movie is really trying to point out how evil Vegas can make people. I think all of the poems and little rhymes that the leprechaun uses are great though. I'll be honest, I might not fully understand all of them, but they get creative.
Speaking of which, I want to go to the acting. Davis is just perfect for this role. He brings enough acting ability to be menacing while also being great at delivering the lines. I would put him up there with Robert Englund when it comes to the killer being witty. Gatins is solid as this young guy who is green when it comes to life experiences and being almost swallowed up by the dangerous of gambling in Vegas, which is ironic the changes that come over him here. I love that he loses all of his money so quickly. It made me anxious to be honest. Armstrong is quite attractive. I love the outfit they have her in for most of the movie. She also does well at being the jaded performer despite how young she is. I'm not a fan though of her over the top performance when he's under mind control from a wish. DeMita, Callan, Tubert, Tom Dugan and the like are fine in their minor roles. Shout out to having Williams in this movie. She is a solid actress and I like the role she has in this movie. Her along with the rest are solid enough for me.
Then really the last things I want to go into would be the special effects, the cinematography and the soundtrack. I really like the practical effects we get here. I don't really see a lot of CGI and what we do holds up. There are a couple things here and there you could see were fake, but I love that they attempted them. There was a scene where I saw the boom mic though. The cinematography is fine, I had no issues there. I also like them incorporating the music you hear in Vegas that is flashy along with the traditional Irish music to blend the elements.
In conclusion here, this is still my favorite in the series. That isn't saying a lot though as I feel the original is solid and the sequel is a bit of a step back. This one really does feel like they're opening it up and letting the leprechaun creature be more of itself. The acting is good enough. The effects are surprisingly well done and I like what they did with the soundtrack to fit the movie. Don't come in expecting anything great. I think that the comedy works well enough to help carry this movie with the horror elements, but it does go a bit far at the times. Not necessarily in a bad way, it just didn't work as well for me. I'd say this is an above average movie for me.
Interesting Lore and Premise, but Falls a bit Flat
This was a movie that intrigued me when I saw that it was coming out. I like period piece horror movies and this one is set during World War II. There is also this interesting aspect of it being a potential creature feature with lore that was used about gremlins and how they would destroy machinery during this era. Plus I'm also a fan of Chloë Grace Moretz as well. This was originally going to be my first horror movie of 2021, but it had a stiff price tag to rent. Now that it has come down, I finally gave it a viewing. The synopsis here is a female WWII pilot traveling with top secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress encounters an evil presence on board the flight.
Now the synopsis shies away from there being a creature, but the movie itself doesn't. We get a cartoon, which turns out to be a real one for the era that explains a bit about the lore. It was believed that there were gremlins that would destroy machinery and the cartoon is explaining that in reality, it was the laziness or the lack of care when doing their work. It is really trying to explain to keep your area clean, take pride in your work and there won't be any mishaps.
We then learn that we're on Auckland Air Force Base back in 1943. Maude Garrett (Mortez) has her arm in a sling and is carrying a top secret document. She gets on board of a plane by the name of The Fool's Errand, which is interesting for how this movie plays out. Her getting on board makes the crew very uncomfortable. I think part of this is her being a woman and the other part is that they were not notified. They do accept it as an important, high ranking officer seemed to have signed off on it. There isn't a place for her so the top secret package she is carrying is kept in the cockpit with Walter Quaid (Taylor John Smith) and goes down in the Sperry turret underneath the plane.
They take off and Maude can hear all of the chatter from the crew on the communication system. It is through this that she learns who each one is as they talk dirty about her. Stu Beckell (Nick Robinson) is the tail gunner. Anton Williams (Beulah Koale) is the co-pilot, John Reeves (Callan Mulvey) is the pilot, Terrence Taggart (Byron Coll) is the communications officer, Bradley Finch (Joe Witkowski) is the navigator and Tommy Dorn (Benedict Wall) is the worst with his mouth. She shuts them up when she responds to what they're saying.
Things get worse for her when she thinks she sees a creature on the underside of the wing. She tries to warn them, but no one believes her. Another of the crew sees an enemy plane, which she also sees. It turns out that she is right and she is quite skilled with the turret. Not everything about her though is true. She gets trapped in the Sperry and attacked by the creature. The men don't trust her and push for the truth. It is hard to believe her when she has lied about some things. When their plane starts to fall apart, is the creature we keep seeing real or lack of proper maintenance catching up with the plane?
That is where I want to leave my recap for this movie as I don't want to spoil it as this movie is still fairly new. To start breaking it down, I'll get into what I like for. I'm not surprised to see that a woman directed this. There is a bit of empowering here since we do have Maude who is part of the air force. I wasn't sure if they were allowed into this branch of the military, but then seeing that they were in New Zealand, I was bit more forgiving since I don't know all of the history there. From the footage at the end of the movie though, it does seem like they were allowed into the air force in some capacity. This movie really does have a social commentary on misogyny, which makes sense. I do think the movie goes a bit over the top with it, but to be honest, it probably isn't. It is hard for me to judge as a male since I do not experience it. This movie was set in a different time and let's be honest, we really haven't come that far or at least as far as we should. What I will say as a negative here, there is a reveal here that I think sets the character back and I think they could have come up with something better personally.
What I also really like about this movie is the idea of the creature. One of my earliest memories of gremlins is from the classic Gremlins and its sequel. What is interesting is in that movie, Mr. Fudderman brings the lore that this movie has. They are creatures that get in your machines and destroy. In that classic he blames the Japanese for putting them in there, of course. It is also interesting is that I heard a review on Exploding Heads Horror Movie Podcast where they paired this up with the different version of The Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. I can see why they did the pairing as this does seem to borrow at least some from that source. This is something that I wish they would have focused on a bit more.
The last part of the story I want to delve into is Maude geting stuck. She's told to leave the Sperry, but when she pulls on the handles, they break-off. She does get a bit panicky, which I can't blame here there. This also seems to be a bit of a plot device. She is trapped down here while the creature is attacking the ship. It does make the focus more on her. The men are only voices that we are hearing. I don't mind this to an extent actually. I also think it limits what they can do as well.
Where I think I'll go next would be the acting. As I've already been alluding to, this movie is really on the back of Moretz is acting. I think she's solid here. As I've said already, I'm a fan of her in general. She does well here as this strong woman who is attractive enough and deals with all of these men acting like children. Robinson is fine as Beckell. I'd say the rest of the guys are mostly just voices. They do well with making distinct characters which is all I can ask for.
Then really the last thing I want to go into here would be the effects. There were quite a few times that I could tell they were using green screen. It is what it is as it would be tough to do this practical so I'm forgiving there. The creature for the most part is fine. Another thing that doesn't look great, but I like its design. My biggest issue is there is something that happens here where Maude is moving around underneath the plane while it is moving. I don't believe it could happen as it does here. It is going a bit slower as it is losing altitude. I'm not up on the physics or if it is possible, but I don't buy it at this time and it took me out of the movie.
In conclusion here, this movie has a really good premise and I like the set that we get here. Moretz is solid enough actress to carry this movie with the misogynistic men there holding her back. I even like the reveal of the creature and what becomes a major part of the tension. My problem is that what they focus on for this movie hurts it. It also seems to be setting back women with some of these reveals later in the movie. The effects though are solid enough, but I don't know if I buy the climax personally. The soundtrack is fine where the sound design I would say is actually really good as well. Overall I would say this is just over average for me due to the things I have issues with. A few different things though and they could have had something really good here in my opinion.
Solid Performance from Barrymore in this Lesser Talked about Classic
This was a movie that I'll be honest is I'm not sure when I first heard about it. It was one that I didn't see until now, I do know that. The name sounds familiar, but that could be getting it mixed up with Svengoolie, which I'm assuming was a play on this title. Regardless though, I didn't know much about this movie aside from reading a brief synopsis and seeing this from 1931 thanks to Letterboxd when I was looking for movies for my Odyssey through the Ones. The synopsis here is through hypnotism and telepathic mind control, a sinister music maestro controls the singing voice, but not the heart of the woman he loves. We start this movie with a sign where we learn that Svengali (John Barrymore) is a famous pianist. Madame Honori (Carmel Myers) shows up where she is stopped by his assistant Gecko (Luis Alberni). Svengali is listening from around the corner of a room as Gecko informs her that his maestro is composing and cannot be bothered. Svengali does come out to speak with her. She is there for her music lessons as she is a singer. Madame Honori does reveal that she left her husband for Svengali. He is intrigued by this, but clearly bothered that she did not take a settlement. Svengali has her leave. Things get dark here is that we learn she killed herself soon after. Svengali then goes to visit his friends who are from Scotland from what I gather. There is Monsieur Taffy (Lumsden Hare) and The Laird (Donald Crisp) who live together. When they learn that Svengali arrives, they try to hide their money as it is hard not to give it to him as he plays the piano so well. This duo is also quite comical. They decide to mess with Svengali by forcing him into the bathtub as he rarely bathes. While he is in the tub, the two leave and go over to their friend down the hall of Billie (Bramwell Fletcher). He's a painter from what we learn. They went to gather him to go get a bunch of kids to show them Svengali in the bathtub as a prank, including taking his clothes. What they don't bank on is Svengali drying off and taking of the Scots' finest suites. Things all change as well when Trilby O'Farrell (Marian Marsh) comes to the apartment as well. She is a model for an artist upstairs and they sent her down to this apartment. Svengali falls in love with her immediately. He notices how her mouth is set up. She could have a great singing voice. To complicate matters though, Svengali isn't the only one who falls for her. Billie does as well and she feels the same for him. Svengali comes to visit and sees the young lovers. Trilby is experiencing a headache and he offers to alleviate her pain. What she doesn't realize is that he hypnotizes her, making her forget everyone aside from him. He then hatches a plan to make her star while he plays the piano, solving his money troubles. The problem really becomes though, he can control her with his mind, but cannot make her love him. This ability also takes it toll on his body. That is where I want to leave my recap for this movie. If you've read any of my other reviews for movies from this era, they do tend to be lacking a bit in the story department. I just really want to preface here as my recap of the movie goes to around the halfway point. The story isn't really the more important here, but much more of a character study of this character Svengali. Now that is where I want to start in my breakdown. Svengali is a refugee from Poland. This is an interesting country to have this character from as it has been volatile and really been in a state of flux. It tended to get conquered quite a bit from places like Germany, Mongolia, becoming a commonwealth with Lithuanian and of course, their issues with Russia. I love the influence of this on Svengali. He's a scavenger and also a bit of a scoundrel in how he treats Madame Honori and Trilby. What is shocking is he's a talented pianist, so he has a way to make money. I'm wondering if his displaced lineage is part of the reason here. There is then this other part of Svengali in that he's trained in the ability to hypnotize people. We don't get much of it with Madame Honori and I'm really glad that the movie doesn't give us that yet. It isn't until he does it to Trilby that we realize what he's capable of. Svengali is feeding lines to Madame Honori, who is paying him for lessons. When she messes this up by leaving her husband without a settlement, she has outlasted her usefulness. I do like the lines he gives to Trilby to help alleviate her headache. Since I was talking about his abilities, I want to go to the effects. We don't get a lot of them, but this is again early cinema. What I have to give credit to here is what they do with Svengali's eyes. I do have some trivia to share that this is one of the first movie to use contacts. They are quite creepy to be honest as they were hard plastic, which probably didn't feel good. Going from here, the cinematography is interesting here. There is this great sequence where the camera pans to see Svengali with his contacts and then pulls back. It is impressive regardless of time period, but even more for this movie being from 1931. I think that the acting should be where I go next. Since this is a character study of Svengali, a good performance is needed. Barrymore does a great job as this character. I know I've seen him in a silent film, so I'm glad to see him in one where he is a talking picture. The look of him is creepy and how he plays the role is spot on. Marsh is cute and I really enjoyed her character as well. It is interesting how things play out with her and the effect she has on Svengali. Fletcher is solid as this young love interest that really becomes a thorn in the side of Svengali. Crisp and Hare also bring some comedy which works well. I'd say that overall the acting is solid across the board. Then the last thing I want to go over would be the soundtrack. I'll be honest; it didn't really stand out to me for the most part. I do think that Madame Honori in the short scene that she sings and Trilby in her performance was good. The piano music that Svengali also works and really fits what was needed. I'd also question if Barrymore is really playing. If he did, I give the movie even more credit. In conclusion here, I think that this is an interesting movie. It feels similar to Phantom of the Opera, but with this creepy looking Svengali using a different method to convince the young and beautiful Trilby to join him. I think Barrymore's performance is great with Marsh and Fletcher bringing an interesting dynamic alongside. The effects used on Svengali's eyes for his ability was solid and there is some interesting cinematography for early cinema. The soundtrack also worked for what was needed in my opinion. If I do have any issues, the movie is lacking a bit for the story, but again this is an early film in the grand scheme of history. I would say this is an above average movie in my opinion. This would be one that I would actually consider seeing again.
This is a movie that I didn't know existed until I went through the list of horror films released in 1921. This was me setting up my Centennial Club information and when I found that someone had uploaded this to YouTube, I was pretty excited. On top of that, this is a movie from Czechoslovakia, so it is a culture I'm not overly familiar with. This movie is about the elixir of life and the secret of the Black Tower, a part of a large estate that has been largely unexplored for decades.
We start this movie off with a man by the name of Richard Bor (Vladimír Majer) showing up at the house of Bohdan Drazický (Theodor Pistek) with a rare old book. This bothers Drazický's wife as she doesn't like the book and finds it to be evil. Her name is Dagmar (Anny Ondra). It appears that Richard has been in love with her since they first met and he wants her to run away with him. Drazický gets sucked into the book, but discovers the plan and Dagmar refuses to go anyway. Richard isn't done yet though. It also appears his family was once the wealthy landowners before Drazický's family took over.
Drazický continues to research the book and comes across a page that is stating the Black Tower of his estate is hiding a secret workshop. He goes down and searches for it, finding a secret entrance. He goes in and accidentally steps on a stone that locks him in. Richard also sees this happen and decides to take advantage. Drazický is gone for sometime, upsetting his wife and staff.
While down there, he discovers the body of a man. We will come to find out this man is Jesek Drazický (Karel Lamac). Bohdan finds a way to revive him and feels this is his only way out. In doing so, he learns that what is needed to wake up this man is the elixir of life. Things aren't as they seem though, making the decision that much more difficult for Bohdan if he wants to survive.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap for this movie as to be honest; it only runs about an hour. This movie has some really interesting aspects to it for sure. I found the movie to be odd that it kicks off with Richard trying to be sneaky by getting in the good graces of Bohdan only to steal his wife. Dagmar isn't even interested though. I did like that Bohdan is interested in history so this book that is given to him really draws his attention. It can also be his downfall.
Where I want to go next then would be what we learn as his ancestor Jesek. I really did like the story that he tells to lead him to be 'dead' in the workshop and the reason why he was there. I don't know much about the history of this country. The movie alerts us that it was during the reign of Rudolf II. We never really get what era this film's present is set either so I'm not going to harp on it too much there. What is interesting is that Jesek was in love with a woman named Alena (also Ondra). She died of the plague though and it sends him into a depression. He also befriended an alchemist of Balthasar Borro (also Majer) who has discovered this elixir through his studies in the Far East. These are just cool elements for me with how things play out in the end.
I do have some gripes despite all of what I liked. Now I get this movie is set in the past where women don't necessarily have a lot of rights. Dagmar though is married to Bohdan who she loves. She does get annoyed that he gets entranced with what he's reading, but I don't like that other men in her life just think because they love her, that they can have her. There is an element here that Bohdan is a wealthy landowner. He doesn't seem like a horrible guy either. From what I can see, he doesn't deserve anything bad from what we get about him. Living in the world I do today though, the rich can be problematic. This movie also has a reveal that seemed to be popular for the era that I don't like. It is early cinema so I can't hold it against the movie too much, especially when I don't hold against other movies from the era for doing this.
To move away from the story, I want to go to the acting next. Being this is a silent film, there isn't a lot that can I go on. Everyone here seems to be stage actors so we do get a bit of overacting, but I think that is necessary for the era. If you can't convey things with your voice, it has to be done with the body. Pistek is fine as our lead here. Ondra does well with taking on the two roles she has. Can't give her too much credit, they are both very similar. Lamac is solid along with Majer. Everyone else seemed to fit for what was needed as well.
As for the effects and cinematography, there isn't much in the way of the former. This is early cinema so there is that. We do get an interesting time lapsed scene with Jesek as he is waking up that I liked. There is also a ghostly effect used that worked as well. The cinematography is also quite stationary. It was hard to see some things though. The print didn't seem to be in the best shape, but it is impressive we can still see it after 100 years.
Then really the last thing is something that is hard to talk about. I have a feeling from some of the choices; the soundtrack that was synced up with the copy I saw wasn't what was originally intended. What I will say though is that I really dug what they did here. Not all of the selections fit, but for the most part it really helped to enhance what they did. There were a few times that it made me uncomfortable for sure and I really enjoyed it on the whole.
In conclusion, this movie is one that is rare in that it was created for the film instead of taking it from literature. I like some of the elements that we get with the story. I do feel what they focused on didn't necessarily work for me. The acting is solid for the era. The effects we get are much of the same and the cinematography is also quite stationary. I can't hold it against it. The soundtrack I feel isn't what was originally envisioned, but I dig most it. Overall here I'd say this is movie that is just over average for me, just lacking to go higher.
This was a movie that I heard a lot of buzz about. Some people got to see it in 2020 as part of the festival circuit and others were pretty high on it now that it got his wide release here in 2021. I knew this was one that I needed to check out from everything that I was hearing. The synopsis here is after unearthing a gem that controls an evil monster looking to destroy the Universe, a young girl and her brother use it to make him do their bidding.
We start this movie off getting a bit of text. There was a planet of Gigax where a ruthless and powerful being was killing everyone and thing that stood in his way. He was defeated and then imprisoned with this gem that gave him his power.
The movie then switches us over to Earth. We have two kids that are playing an odd game called Crazy Ball. The girl is Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother is Luke (Owen Myre). Looking at the size, he is older, but she has a much bigger personality than him to the point where she is a bully. She is also really good at this game they've created. She wins and he has to dig a hole because of it. In doing so, they find a stone with a gem on it. Mimi hits buttons on it in a random configuration and the gem lights up. She then takes it.
The two kids live with their parents of Greg (Adam Brooks) and Susan (Alexis Kara Hancey). This is interesting, because the children are mimics of them to an extent. Susan is controlling, but she has more responsibilities around the house. Greg is lazy and gets upset when he's asked to do even the slightest things.
By taking the jewel, they've awoken what was being held by it. This entity doesn't seem to have a name, but we see there is a council of aliens that are led by Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch and voiced by Anna Tierney). She is of the race known as Templars. She is the one that defeated the great evil and from this group and her race is the most powerful. They know that the evil is once again awake which causes concern. Pandora disguises herself in a human she kills, Roxine Latoya Plummer, and heads to Earth to once again imprison this entity.
On Earth we see this evil she is coming to stop, the body is Matthew Ninaber and voiced by Steven Vlahos. He goes to an old shoe factory where he kills all those that stand in his way. This is done in a violent fashion and he also has power that we haven't seen on Earth before. This creature though needs the jewel back. When he returns to the house of Mimi and Luke, we realize something interesting. Mimi has the gem and he cannot kill her. He also has to do what she says. They tried to hide this entity, naming it Psycho Goreman in the process, and causing some funny things to happen which only could when you have a couple of kids in control of one of the most powerful creatures in the universe.
Mimi has a lot of fun with her new friend, while Luke and their parents enjoy it some of the time. There becomes an interesting change here as PG gets to know her and her family as well as vise versa. This isn't long lived though as PG calls his minions to help free him from Mimi and he also has to worry about Pandora as she tries to lock him back into his eternal prison.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap of this movie as it gets you up to speed with what this movie is about and the jist of the story. What I did leave out here is that this movie is part comedy. This is derived from a few different things that I picked up on. That isn't to say we are getting those sci-fi and horror elements going along with it though.
I think I'll start with the back-story of Psycho Goreman. I love the care that was placed into him along with the council of aliens and his enemies. What makes this even better for me though is depth they put in here. Psycho Goreman is a creature I would put into the same vein of Voldemort. He is the greatest evil that this universe has ever seen. What I find interesting though is that the more we learn about PG, the more he is a creature of circumstance. He was born on the slave planet of Gigax that used to be great warriors. I'm getting the vibe that the Templars conquered them and forced them into their fate. PG finds this gem that gives him great power. Due to this, he becomes powerful enough to break his chains and get his revenge. I'm taking this in the idea that he got too power too quickly so the conscious to do good isn't there. He's been beaten down for so long he just wants to see the universe burn.
I do find it interesting as well that Pandora and her race are Templars. This seems like something that was done on purpose. The Knights Templar being a group of knights that were supposed to be religious based, but would do some pretty horrific things. I'm taking it that these space Templars were the same. I like that PG has a change in him and what we learn makes him an anti-hero. I would then say the inverse would make Pandora an anti-villain. Both sides are corrupted and have layers to them.
Next I want to bring this to Earth while looking at the character of Mimi. Before seeing this movie, I heard some people discussing her. She is probably like 12 or 13. There is a big personality there and like I said earlier, I think that she's younger than Luke. It is a good thing that she is raised with Susan and somewhat Greg, because she is leaning toward being a sociopath or even a psychopath. She isn't that much different from PG. Without the right influences, she could end up down a dark path for sure. This is even something that PG uses when trying to turn Luke against her.
What I think I should address next would be the comedy of the movie. I've seen a few people who love it. I'll be honest, some of it works for me, but some of it doesn't. This is really one that I wish I could see in the theater with a group as I think it would play better. Heck, this would be a good one to watch with a group at someone's house who are into movies like this. Watching it alone on my couch, the comedy didn't work on me for the most part. I don't hate it, but it does take a more whimsical look that I wasn't the biggest fan of.
What I did like was the practical effects. This movie made up PG to look quite creepy. Heck, I'll even say that I love the effects on all of the aliens for the most part. There is something that happened to a child on Earth of Alastair (Scout Flint), that it didn't work for me. This is something that is played for laughs that missed the mark for me. The blood and gore we get is good here. Most of the CGI works as well. I just had some slight issues there. I was impressed though with what they did to make this movie gory without going too far over the top.
The last thing I go over would be the acting. The person that impressed me the most was Hanna here. Her portrayal as Mimi with being how young she is was great. The only thing that concerns me is that she could just really be this spoiled brat of a person and that is scary. Myre was solid as her more timid brother. I think that Ninaber and MacCulloch have a good look size wise for their characters. Vlahos does a good job as the voice of PG and the same for Tierney as the voice of Pandora. The other people I want to give credit to are the parents of Brooks and Hancey. They're minor characters in the grand scheme, but there are times they steal the show. Those performances with the rest of the cast do round this movie out for what was needed.
In conclusion here, I thought this movie was a lot of fun. As someone who gets sucked into the story, I love the time and care that was put into the back-story of these aliens along with the human characters as well. There are some really good effects here to bring all of this to life, especially with brutal this movie gets. I also would say that the acting is good across the board, giving credit to Hanna taking on this character of Mimi. If I do have issues, the comedy didn't work on me as much as I would have liked and there were some issues with the effects. Aside from that, they do some fun stuff with the soundtrack. For me this is a good movie and another one I want to see before the year ends to see where I fall with it.
This film is one I never heard of until my mother recommended it. I remember seeing it right after college, but hadn't seen it since then. I decided to give it a rewatch since it is from 1961 as part of my Odyssey Through the Ones. The synopsis here is greedy sailors capture a giant lizard off the coast of Ireland and sell it to a London circus. Then its mother shows up.
Much like the synopsis states, we begin on a ship just off the coast of Ireland. The sailor in charge here is Sam Slade (William Sylvester). Him and his crew are concerned with a member of their crew, Joe Ryan (Bill Travers), who is scuba diving. It appears they're looking for something. In the distance, they're looking at something that is causing the water to ripple. They then feel an earthquake and then a volcano erupts. Their ship is damaged so they go to a nearby island to make repairs.
On their way they see dead fish that they've never seen before. They look almost prehistoric. They do not receive a warm welcome when they arrive in the village and are treated kind of poorly by the harbor master, a Dr. McCartin (Christopher Rhodes). He is an archeologist and has a room of priceless artifacts. He tells the duo they need to leave without having a permit, even though they need time to repair their vessel. They also befriend a boy who helps McCartin, Sean (Vincent Winter), a native of the island.
The day they go back to their ship, something happens in the water. One of the divers is missing and he is found by Joe and Sam. They find he has some gold coins in his hand. This causes them to believe treasure is why they're asked to leave, but when they go under the water, they make a discovery. There is a giant lizard that scared the diver to death.
The two men tell McCartin that they will take care of the monster for him if he gives them some of the treasure that he found at the bottom of the sea. He doesn't like it, but there isn't much that he can do. Sean tries to convince them to not do what they're planning. Joe really wants to catch it and can see the potential money they can make from it.
That is what they do. They realize that fire can drive it back and end up catching it using a submarine they have as well as net. A couple of professors from Dublin think they've convinced the two to sell them the creature, but Joe has something else in mind. He sells it to Dorkin (Martin Benson) and his circus. Much like the synopsis states, this isn't the only creature. A couple of professors in London reveal this is actually a baby and its parent could be quite a bit larger.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap of this movie. It is funny that when I was looking at my thoughts from the first time I saw that, there are some things that still stuck with me. This movie seems to be a British take on the kaiju film. This really does feel like a knock off Godzilla. I don't mean that as a bad thing though, as I think this movie does some good things well.
This aspect is where I want to start. The movie has a social commentary on greed that I picked up on. The synopsis states that it is both Joe and Sam, I don't agree with that. Joe is really the one that is driving this to capture and sell. Sam goes along with it. He is also the one that when things start to fall apart, he's the one that wants to make it right well before his counterpart. I'd even say that this movie is borrowing from King Kong in this respect as well, since they're selling it as an attraction.
I also really like this idea of nature vs. humanity. They of course catch this creature that they dubbed Gorgo. They really can't do much to control it aside from using what seems to be a steal net and tranquilizers. I really like when the much larger parent shows up, no matter what they do to stop it, it really is the unstoppable force. There are some of the destruction sequences in London that really reminded me of Godzilla. What I like here as well that Gorgo destroys things like London Bridge, Big Ben and even the giant Ferris wheel there. It helps give this movie more of a feel with these iconic places being trampled with ease.
Since I've been going over the creature as much as I have been, I'll breakdown the effects. Being from 61, they really didn't have CGI or computers so things were practical. I'm assuming it is a person in a suit. Despite it not looking great or all that real, there is charm there so I will give credit to that. They also looked to use miniatures for the destruction of London and I can respect that as well. It looks better than bad CGI. What I did have an issue with though would be the green screen they used. I don't want to say that it was all bad, but there was quite a bit that I could tell and didn't look great. Aside from that the cinematography is fine.
Then the last thing to go over would be the acting. I don't think anyone here is great, but they do well with being these characters. Travers is solid as this greedy sailor who can convince those around him it is the best course of action for them to make money. Sylvester works for me as his counterpart who is a bit weaker to peer pressure. I also like his breakdown when London is being destroyed and wanting to release the baby Gorgo. Winter is solid as the boy and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed in my opinion.
In conclusion here, I think that this is a solid rip-off of Godzilla. This really does feel like taking parts of King Kong as well while making this movie really feel British. The acting gives us interesting enough characters around the giant monsters that we get. There is some relevant social commentary. The effects I have some slight issues, but nothing that really ruins it for me. The soundtrack is also fine for what was needed and sound design, especially from the creature works. Overall I would say this is an above average movie. It is fun, especially if you like kaiju films, but don't expect too much.
This was a movie that I'll be honest, I never heard of until I was looking through Letterboxd for horror movies that were released in 1921 for my Centennial Club episodes on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. What is interesting here is that I recognized the name of the director: F.W. Muranu from Nosferatu and the writer was Carl Mayer, another one that I feel I've seen movies from him. The synopsis here is in the castle Vogeloed, a few aristocrats are awaiting Baroness Safferstätt (Olga Tschechowa). But first, Count Oetsch (Lothar Mehnert) invites himself. He is believed to have murdered his brother and the baroness' husband, but he is there to prove he isn't the murderer.
For this movie, it is pretty much solely taking place in the castle Vogeloed. Schlossherr von Veogelschrey (Arnold Korff) along with his wife of Centa (Lulu Kyser-Korff) are having people over for a hunt. The problem though becomes the weather is not allowing them to go. The people are all staying inside, hoping it will clear. Things get awkward though when Graf Johann Oetsch arrives. This creates a buzz as his former sister-in-law; Baronin Safferstätt is coming soon with her new husband of Baron Safferstätt (Paul Bildt). The scandal here is that the gossip claims Count Oetsch murdered his brother. Von Vogelschrey informs him who is coming and the count declines to leave, determined to prove he isn't the killer.
When the Baronin and her husband arrive, she is quite upset to learn that Count Oetsch is there. The only solace she finds is that his other brother and her former brother-in-law of Der Pater Faramund (Victor Bluetner) is coming up from Rome. He is a priest there and none of them have seen him in some time.
The following day the weather clears briefly, allowing all of the men besides the count to go for a hunt. It is cut short when it rains again and this is when Count Oetsch leaves. In his absence, Pater arrives. He seeks out his former sister-in-law to talk to her about what happened to her former husband, Graf Peter Paul (Paul Hartmann) The house gets quite nervous though when he locks himself in his room and doesn't answer when they call on him. It is even more shocking to what they find when they open the room. With his disappearance and the return of Count Oetsch, can they get to the bottom of what is happening here and to Pater Oetsch?
That is where I'm going to leave my recap and shift over to actually breaking this down. The first thing I noticed before watching this was some people questioning if this movie was really horror or not. Regardless, I was still going to watch this movie and what I will say, it is interesting that this is considered horror. It does have fewer elements than some movies that are questionable today. What I think really drives this is that it takes place in this large castle that is spooky. Der Faramund disappears and then there is also this murder mystery that we're trying to get to the bottom of, even though the murder happened some time ago. It is from really a different time as well.
Where I want to go next would be the character of Count Oetsch. This movie really does a good job at establishing that no one likes him. When it is revealed that he is going to be there, the gossip starts. This works for us to be filled in what they think about him and back-story. We know that his former sister-in-law believes him to be the murderer. He is portrayed to be a jerk in the beginning. No one wants him there, yet he is going to make their lives hell by staying. In his defense though, his name has been drug through the mud without really any evidence aside from he was accused and has the best motive. With how things play out, this is really in the vein of what would become known to be Hitchockian. It is based off a serial novel which also makes sense there as well.
Next I think I want to go to next is the setting. As I was alluding to as to why to put this movie in the horror genre, it would be mostly for the atmosphere. We get that gothic vibe in this castle. It is interesting this movie is from Germany, but it isn't leaning into the German Expressionism that was really popular at this time. It is much more grounded in reality. When Faramund disappears, it makes it creepy. There could be some logical explanations to what happened here, but that doesn't change the fact. There is also a subplot that Count Oetsch has studied the way of the prophecy from India and he predicts that there will be a shot fired for the hunt. He then gets cryptic that more could be more than one as well. This along with the story is what did hold my interest.
I do hate to say this though; I did find the movie to be a bit boring. A big part of this I'm assuming is that we are in early cinema. This being one of the earlier murder mysteries, they don't have to be as different or build the stories in other ways. There is an interesting twist to this that I'll be honest, I didn't see coming. It worked for me and does help me get excited for that final act. I did lose interest for a stretch before that.
What I did think worked though was the acting. Something else interesting here is that we aren't getting as over the top performances as you would expect here. Arnold Korff felt like this host that wants everyone to have a good time and is stressed with the guests that weren't invited showing up. Kyser-Korff, who I'm assuming was Arnold's wife in real life, was solid especially with trying to calm down the Baronin. Mehnert is good as this guest who is constantly trying to defend himself. I would be as mean as he is if I had to I'm sure, which he does well in conveying. Bildt is fine as this quiet guy that I didn't trust from the start. He really seems to be there for his wife. Tschechowa was good as the one who is upset with Count Oetsch being there. It hurts her for him being there for what she believes to be the truth. I also like Bluethner and the rest of the cast to round this out for what was needed.
Then that will take me to the cinematography since being early cinema, we don't get much in the way of effects. We have a lot of static shots, which is fine for the technology. I do like that we get some close-ups of characters that really help to frame them in different ways. The iris effect is used here as well. I think this works for what they needed in order to build who the characters it is used on and focus on their emotions. I did want to comment on this great long shot that is showing multiple levels of the castle by framing the staircase. This works especially since Faramund's room is on the lower level with the baronin's room on the upper level.
The last thing then would be the soundtrack. It is hard for these as I don't necessarily know if what we're hearing matches up to what was originally conceived. The version I saw had this great piano soundtrack done by Neil Brandt. Jaime was in the room reading for a bit and she said the music was good, but it made her anxious. I have to agree there. This is actually one of the stronger parts of this version was how well it fit for me.
In conclusion here, I did like some elements to this silent film. I think that the story is really interesting and that the acting helps bring it to life. The setting of the movie is good and the atmosphere is built from it along with the soundtrack that is synced up to it. I did find it slightly boring and I think that is probably due to early cinema along with being one of the first murder mysteries. Still worth a viewing to see some of the works from the great Murnau in my opinion, but being a silent film that is 100 years old, there are some flaws still. I'd consider this to be an above average movie.
Haunting, Gothic Tale of Voodoo and Family Turmoil
This was a movie that I'll be honest, I had never heard of until I watched the documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Now I do remember when discussing this movie that it might not fully be considered horror. It isn't even listed as that on the Internet Movie Database or Letterboxd. I still decided to give it a watch as it fit for honoring Black people and women cinema for February. The synopsis here is what did little Eve (Jurnee Smollett) see - and how it will haunt her? Husband, father and womanizer Louis Batiste (Samuel L. Jackson) is the head of an affluent family, but it's the women who rule this gothic world of secrets, lies and mystic forces.
Now we start this movie in the past. I don't believe it ever fully tells us when, but I'm assuming that it is the 1940's or the 1950's at the latest looking at the fashion and how people are acting. We are getting voice-over narration from Tamara Tunie filling us in on location of this movie. It is named Eve's Bayou after a freed slave by the name of Eve who saved a rich white man of the area by the name of Batiste. The two were married and many of the residents now are her descendants. We also learn this it the summer where Eve, named after the famous slave, killed her father when she was 10 years old.
We are then at a party. It is here that we get to meet many of the major players. The patriarch of the family is Louis. He's a local doctor and descended from Eve. He is married to Roz (Lynn Whitfield). They have 3 children with the oldest being Cisely (Meagan Good), Eve and Poe (Jake Smollett). There is some dancing and boozing going on, but everyone seems to be having a good time.
It all takes a turn when Eve gets upset that her father pays more attention to Cisely. She flees to the carriage house where she falls asleep. She gets awoken by her father out there with Matty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson). She sees them having sex and this upsets her. The problem then becomes though that when she relays what she saw to Cisely, she tells her what she saw and makes Eve question her memories.
Being in Louisiana, this movie is dealing a lot in voodoo, fortune telling and more pagan beliefs. Louis' sister is Mozelle Batiste Delacroix (Debbi Morgan) and we learn that she's cursed. She is barren, has no children of her own and is a widower to 3 husbands. Things also take a turn when Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a local voodoo priestess who also tells fortunes, relays an impending tragedy to Roz and Mozelle. Things are also complicated when Louis is staying out long hours seeing 'patients'. It all ends with some mismatched memories, dark magic and death.
That is where I want to leave my recap of the movie. The first thing that I should delve into here is why I'm including this into my horror movie research. This movie is a drama for sure. I would consider this movie though to also be adjunct to horror due to the fact that we're getting things like voodoo, a feeling of dread that grows and how everything ends up is dark. I will say though, this doesn't have the feel of the horror movie that many look for. It is really a family drama and I will acknowledge that.
From there though, we are getting some relative things here despite this movie being set in the past and being made almost 25 years ago. We are following a prominent black family. I'm assuming there is a bit of family money here, but Louis is a doctor. He is a good man and has a lovely family. He is a bit full of himself though. His mother of Gran Mere (Ethel Ayler) acknowledges this in the opening sequence at the party. Louis does have problems with drinking and he's a womanizer. It was something more widely acceptable for the era the movie takes place. I don't like it, but I get it.
Going along with this family idea, I want to delve into what the synopsis states about the women having power here. Roz runs this household. She can't tell Louis what to do, but that's not to say she is weak either. Mozelle is a strong woman who despite losing 3 husbands is able to take care of herself. Gran Mere is strong willed. There is also Elzora who might have great power in what she does with forces that many will ignore in a more modern world. Cisely is also interesting here. When Eve relays what she sees, she tells her that isn't what she saw. Memories are something that aren't the most reliable and this idea comes into play for the ending as well.
The last aspect of the story to explore would be this of the voodoo. It is interesting that Louis doesn't believe which makes sense as he's a doctor and a man of science. Mozelle doesn't practice voodoo herself, but she will dabble a bit. We see a patient of Louis who tells him that his treatments are working. We know that she actually visited Mozelle who gave her something else. Personally, I don't believe in religion or pagan beliefs like this. What I do believe though is that if you believe hard enough, it can have psychosomatic responses so I do enjoy this idea being explored here.
This movie doesn't have the deepest story to it, but what it does have are deep characters. Smollett does an excellent job as this young girl. She is messing around in an adult world and takes on blame for things that in the end she shouldn't. It would depend on the belief system. Being that she is young, she lacks a bit of respect at times that I liked for the character. Good is also a complicated character and her performance works. Whitfield and Morgan are tragic in different ways for the trauma they have to endure. I even like Jackson here. He brings a natural arrogance to the role. He isn't a bad guy, but he's doing some horrible things in my opinion. I did like cameos by Jake Smollett, Ayler, Carroll, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Roger Guenveur Smith and Carson. Along with the rest of the cast, they rounded this out for what was needed.
Really the last couple things would be the cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, this movie is shot really well. We don't get anything in the way of effects for the most part, but it also isn't that type of movie. What I did like were the playing with dreams. Eve is gifted with the ability of sight like her namesake or her aunt. We get the colors flipped to be darker than it should so we can see images, but it doesn't give them away either. The soundtrack also fit for what this movie needed in my opinion.
In conclusion here, I think this is a beautiful movie with a story that has darker elements. It is interesting that we're hearing about events of the past from the point of view of a child that is harboring guilt. Like I've said though, the story isn't the most complex but we are getting some deep characters that are interacting. I really like the look at the modern world with some having more pagan beliefs as well. I don't think this movie is for everyone. It isn't really horror, but it is adjunct for me thanks to some of these darker elements. I would say that this is a good movie and one that I will revisit again now that I know how things play out to pick up anything I may have missed with this first viewing.
This is a movie that I heard about pretty early on into listening to podcasts. It was one that I didn't necessarily know completely what the story of the movie was, but I knew that it was pretty popular in the blaxploitation sub-genre. I'm pretty sure it also appeared on the Horror Noire documentary as well. I decided it would be a good time to watch for my Black Appreciation on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is when her boyfriend is murdered by gangsters, Sugar Hill (Marki Bey) decides to not get mad, but BAD! She enlists the aid of the voodoo Lord of the Dead to get her gruesome revenge.
Where we start this movie is seeing a ritual. It soon is revealed that this is at a club owned by Langston (Larry Don Johnson). He goes to the bar where his girlfriend of Diana 'Sugar' Hill is sitting. They get interrupted by Fabulous (Charles Robinson). He's a local gangster that works for a much bigger person named Morgan (Robert Quarry). They want him to sell the club, but he's not interested. When he declines and gets loud with them, he's attacked in the parking lot when he goes to leave and left for dead.
This upsets Sugar. He was the love of her life and she doesn't care about hers anymore. She wants revenge. She seeks out the aid of Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) who lives out of town around the estate that Sugar grew up. She is a powerful voodoo priestess. When Sugar relays what she wants to do, she questions her and agrees to perform the ritual, calling the Lord of the Dead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley). He agrees to help her by raising the undead. She offers him her soul, but he tells her what he wants.
The two of them go about picking off one by one the crew that was behind the death of Langston. Morgan at first doesn't realize what is happening, but the more and more his guys disappear, the higher the stakes become. He believes that Sugar will sell him the club, but he soon realizes she has something else on her mind. Things do get interesting when a former lover of hers, Valentine (Richard Lawson), who is a police detective is assigned to the case. He still has feelings for her and she seems to still care about him. He will have to suspend his disbelief of the normal world in order to solve what is going on here.
Now that is where I'm going to leave my recap of this movie. What I will state here is that this movie doesn't have the deepest story to it and that is something that does become problematic as it goes on. That isn't where I necessarily want to start as I think the positives to this movie are where I should begin.
The first thing would be I love this idea of the movie. As a zombie fan, we aren't getting the traditional re-animated corpses that everyone knows about, but we're going back to the roots of the idea with voodoo. I think the movie does something interesting here leading off with the opening sequence being that we're seeing a ritual. It sets the tone, while also throwing off new viewers thinking that we've missed something. It then gives us our main character and our villains that we will be seeing throughout as well which is well done.
I want to flesh out more on the voodoo aspect of the movie, which I'm a fan of for a couple of different reasons. The earlier one is that from the Child's Play series, the name Dambella comes up in the ritual that Chucky does to get in and out of the toy. Mama Maitresse says that name and I never realized it is the name of a voodoo god. The other aspect is the name Baron Samedi. I first learned this name from playing the video game of Goldeneye. I would go on to realize that James Bond had to deal with him as a villain. I've also seen this character pop up throughout different movies as one of the more powerful deities in voodoo as well. I do really enjoy how whimsical and playful Colley takes on this role.
Then really the last part of the story that I would go into here is I love the idea of this movie. Sugar seems to have grown up around voodoo as something she knows, but doesn't practice. She has a good life. She is a successful photographer, loves Langston and they aren't really held back by enjoying their life as black people. That isn't to say there are some things we don't see in their world and I mean listening to some of the characters talk with how racist they are it could be worse for them. I just love when this tragedy strikes, she doesn't care about how it will affect her in the end, she seeks out this voodoo deity and using these zombies he raises as hit-men. It is a different take on the revenge film that works for me.
To get back to what I was saying earlier, I do think that the story could have added some depth to it. I'm good with how things play out to start and her making the decision that she does to kill these criminals. My problem is that after that, there doesn't seem to be any stakes. Sugar never really runs into problems. She does have Valentine looking into what she does, but I think that is dealt with too easily. Morgan and his guys never really seem to have a chance to prevent Sugar from getting her revenge. We also don't really have anything at the end where I'm worried about for her. I just feel some tension is lost by not adding an element where Sugar might not get exactly what she wants for me. I know it is front loaded for tragedy for her, but as bad as it is to say, it's not enough for me.
I think next I'll go to the acting. I think Bey is not only beautiful, but I love her character. The only issue is more with the writing; we don't get to see her baseline before the tragedy. What does work though for me is that I don't think it has ruined her. Her interactions with Valentine are probably her before the events of the movie. I do love the outfit they have her in which is a white body suit that really shows off her great body. She also brings some good sass to the character. Quarry is really good as this villainous gangster. It really fits what they're going for when it comes to these blaxploitation films. I've already said that I really like how Colley plays his role. Cully is good along with Lawson. I would also say the rest of Morgan's group, which includes Betty Anne Rees, Robinson and the like also round this out for what was needed.
Next would be the effects for this movie. The major thing I need to say here is that I love the look of the voodoo zombies. They have paint on them which I'm assuming would be like for voodoo rituals. They have fake cobwebs that worked for me, despite them not looking great. What I really like is their eyes. They have these silver orbs there which make them look alien-like and it makes it creepier. I also like the aspects of the story where lab results make Valentine question things that cause him to do research into voodoo. The cinematography is also well done, but I do have a gripe here. This is rated PG so pretty much all of the deaths are done off screen. I'm okay with a few done that way, especially for rating purposes, but I need to see something for this fully work and it doesn't unfortunately.
Then really the last thing to go over briefly here would be soundtrack. For the most part it doesn't really stand out, but it did fit the scenes for what was needed. It does help to build that feel they're going for. What I really wanted to comment on would be more of the sound design. I like hearing the drums or sounds you'd get with the rituals. I also think it is effective to hear the rattling of chains that these zombies are wearing. Many were dead slaves still wearing them so I like incorporating that into the story and the movie as well.
In conclusion here, I don't think this is a great film, but I think that it does a lot of good things. It is a different take on the revenge film that involves a woman without needing her to be sexually assaulted. I love the lore this movie is using and the creature effects do look good there. The acting is pretty solid across the board along with the use of sounds and the soundtrack for the movie. I do think the story could have used a bit more to strengthen it as well as to have some of the deaths to be on screen to bring this up for me. I still found this enjoyable and would say this is an above average movie. If they would have added more of what my problems were with missing things, it would have raised the score for sure.
This was a movie that I actually didn't even know it got made until I checked out the original film from Bill Gunn of Ganja & Hess. I saw trivia that Spike Lee made this movie as a remake of it. I was intrigued as I've seen the original a couple of times and it is an odd movie so I wondered what Lee would do with this update to it. The synopsis here an anthropologist awakes with a thirst for blood after an assistant stabs him with a cursed dagger.
For this movie we're following mostly Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams). He's the anthropologist from the synopsis and he's studying the Ashanti tribe. This brings him to a museum in Brooklyn. It is there they have a rare artifact that is a dagger. Hess takes on Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco) to aid him in his research.
What we learn is that this tribe developed a taste for blood when one of their queens came down with a disease. She spread this to her people which sounds like was their downfall. There's an interesting line between these two men where Hess states that Art is God's ally where science is his foe. This is interesting as art usually pays homage where on the other side, science attempts to disprove religion. Through their interactions from here, we see that Lafayette is unstable. He tries to kill himself and Hess brings up that if he does, he will ruin Hess' life as the only black person on the block. It will bring unwanted attention. Hess does talk him down, but in the end, Lafayette kills Hess with the dagger and then commits suicide.
Hess doesn't stay dead though. He wakes up with a thirst for blood. It also makes him quite sick. Hess steals blood from a local clinic and tries to deal with his new curse. Things become complicated when Hess receives a phone call from Lafayette's ex-wife of Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams). She is a forward woman that Hess is intrigued by. He invites her to stay with him where he has to finally break the truth of what happened to her husband.
As Hess tries to deal with his thirst for blood, he falls in love quickly with Ganja. The two of them are married and he shares his curse with her. She deals with similar issues to him as she acclimates to her new life, but also to her addiction.
There is where I'm going to leave my recap as that gets you up to speed for this movie. I feel that I should re-iterate here, this is a hard movie to remake in my opinion. The original is quite arthouse and really does a lot with allegories. I do think that Lee is an interesting director to attempt this, especially with how well he does with social commentaries in his movies that I've seen. As a black filmmaker, he really knows the plight of his race and I could feel that here in this movie.
That social commentary is where I want to start in this movie. We are really getting a look at the stigma and stereotypes for black people. Dr. Hess is afraid if Lafayette kills himself that will lead to an investigation into him being that he's a minority living in a neighborhood of white people. When Ganja arrives at the house, she assumes that Hess is the servant to a white man and is shocked to learn her husband worked for him. Hess picks up a couple of women who are prostitutes. One of them I'm not even sure if she does this for a living or does it anymore, but can see he has money so she takes him up to her place. There are also the concerns of AIDS after one of Hess' victims. How ingrained religion is in the culture despite Hess being a man of science is another aspect. The last one is Tangier Chancellor (Naté Bova). She is interesting to me as she is part black and part Irish. Her skin is very light and she has blue eyes. Ganja recognizes this and compliments on her on it. Tangier makes an interesting statement that no one usually comments, because they cannot get past looking at her body, where Ganja did.
Now none of that is really a social commentary, but establishing the baseline of the world this movie is taking place in. The social commentary that pulls from the original into this would be that Dr. Hess seems to have been assimilated into culture that he wasn't born into. Ganja doesn't expect him to own the place that he lives as one part of it. She is straighter forward than he is and we learn she had to be from her upbringing. That story was an interesting one to hear. Hess isn't as forward though and this does cause some issues between them. Ganja is interesting here as well in that she is rude to the butler of Seneschal Higginbottom (Rami Malek). I'm not sure if he's supposed to be white or a light skinned minority, but I do think the movie loses a bit with not establishing that. Ganja being rude to him is more impactful if he is minority in my opinion.
There is also the commentary here on addiction. Being that Hess and eventually Ganja are a take on vampires is showing us the realities of addiction. In this case, instead of being smoking, alcohol or drugs, it is blood. It is well known that addiction runs deep in lower income places, which I think that this is an interesting idea to explore. Even more so to show that despite how wealthy Hess is, he cannot escape addiction. It doesn't look at someone's standing with money or status. Ganja is a bit wilder, but it is tragic that her husband led her into the blackness that she is now in. I think we're also seeing how addiction can ruin families as well.
Moving away from the story here, I don't think this movie is effective as the original. It looks better and I will give credit to Lee. He did take a movie that is more exploitation and grindhouse with how it looked and they did an excellent job of polishing it up. It makes it that more much intriguing though when Hess and Ganja have fallen into addiction by seeing it this way. What I mean here, the movie looks beautiful. There are some really interesting shots and the cinematography is well done. This is an arthouse film in a different way than its predecessor for sure.
Next I think I should move into the acting, which is where I think this one falters. Williams is fine as Hess. He looks the part and I believe him as this anthropologist. He has a modern vibe to him that makes sense and it is even interesting his sexuality gets questioned. The problem that I have is that it seems Lee kept in some of the dialogue from the original and Williams is a bit too stiff on the delivery. It doesn't feel natural. This happens a bit when he's interacting with Abrahams as well. I do feel that her performance is well done though. She brings enough attitude to the role of Ganja that is needed. I like Malek in this secondary role here where he takes unjust punishment from Ganja and we can see it wearing on him. Aside from that, the rest of the cast rounds this out for what was needed. I should also comment here that we see Abrahams, Jeni Perillo and Bova nude. They're all beautiful and have great bodies in their own way.
I believe I'll move to the effects next. This movie is subtle with the vampire aspects. We don't get enlarged fangs or anything like that, which does work in its favor to present the idea of addiction. There is some speeding up of the camera that I didn't really care for. There is also a scene where Hess proves to Ganja of their change with stabbing her repeatedly with the Ashanti dagger. I could have done without that to leave this a bit more ambiguous personally. Aside from that, the blood we get looks really good.
The last thing that I wanted to delve into would be the soundtrack. Lee went with a selection of rap, gospel and what I'm assuming are all artists from New York. I don't hate what they're doing here. What was selected seems to fit the feel of the scenes, but I would have enjoyed it more if they would have went with songs without words at times. I also thought the original was more effective with using more tribal music when it comes to some things as well. This isn't bad, but it just doesn't work as well in my opinion.
In conclusion, this is an interesting update to allegorical film. Much like the original, I'm not entirely sure if I completely understand everything that we're getting. I think this movie does a good job at showing the life and fears of black people, but doing so in an interesting way where we are not seeing them as poor people. Dr. Hess is affluent and his wife seems to enjoy certain means. That doesn't mean they can escape from the curses that encounter here. The movie looks great and I enjoy most of the effects. I do have some issues with the soundtrack along with some of the delivery of dialogue. I don't think this is as good as Ganja & Hess. I do think this version would be easier to watch for a modern audience. Not a great film in my opinion, but I would say this is still as an above average movie.
Interesting Take on High School with a Creature Feature Twist
This film is one that I actually saw it in theater when I was in college. I'll admit, the major reason was my crush on Megan Fox. I did enjoy this movie and even picked it up on DVD some time later. This is one that I periodically come back and seen, with the most recent viewing as part of the Summer Challenge Series over on the Podcast Under the Stairs as one of the last movies to finally finish that list. The synopsis here is a newly possessed high school cheerleader turns into a succubus who specializes in killing her male classmates. Can her best friend put an end to the horror?
We actually start this with our title character Jennifer (Megan Fox) lying in bed. We see a woman look through the window, Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Jennifer looks over and she is gone. We then shift to a mental institution where Needy is now confined. We learn that she didn't always act like this. She was meeker while now being violent and aggressive. She then takes us back to what caused her to be where she is.
Needy and Jennifer are best friends. Needy is a nerd while as the synopsis alludes to, Jennifer is the head cheerleader. Needy is dating Chip (Johnny Simmons) who is in a band. Jennifer being who she is a form of bully and she wants Needy to come to the only bar in town to see a band that is playing there called Low Shoulder. Despite her hanging out with Chip, Needy gives in and decides to go.
Once there we do really see that everyone is in love with Jennifer and that she knows it. They go to meet with the band, which is fronted by Nikolai (Adam Brody). Needy overhears the band and think they want to sleep with her best freind. We hear that they are looking for a virgin and Needy confirms that she is. She tactic though is sway them from wanting to mess with her. When Needy tells her, Jennifer finds it funny and confirms that is not the case.
The band plays and then a fire breaks out in the bar. There is a mad dash to get out and many do not. Once outside, Jennifer is in shock and Nikolai steps in. He gives her a drink. She is in shock and Nikolai convinces her to get in his van and come with them, which she does. This is all much to the dismay of Needy.
Needy goes home and calls her boyfriend. She tells him what happens and then her doorbell rings. She goes down to check it, but there is no one there. We see a shadow move behind her. She gets off the phone and then goes to check in the kitchen. It turns out that it is Jennifer. She is bloody and opens the refrigerator. She takes out a chicken and devours it. Something isn't right with her as she throws up a thick black liquid on the floor. Whatever came out of her is moving and freaks out Needy. Jennfier also growls in a weird voice and leaves.
The next morning, Needy looks tired and we learn that she does due to being up all night to clean up the mess. Jennifer on the other hand comes in and looks amazing. The whole town is shook up after what happened. Strange things also start to happen and it is all Jennifer's fault. She is murdering the guys around town in order to stay beautiful. This causes a rift between her and Needy. The question then becomes, can she do what she has to in order to stop Jennifer?
I have to say that I was personally impressed with this film. This last viewing was with Jaime and part of the selling point is that she enjoys the movie Juno. I bring this up as the writer of this movie is Diablo Cody who wrote that movie as well. What I found interesting is that the director here being Karyn Kusama as I really like her movie of The Invitation.
To delve into this movie, what impresses me here is the take on high school that we're getting. Fox looks a bit old to be in high school, but I can overlook that as I love slasher films. Cody and Kusama do a great job at embodying that high school is rough. I like that they're breaking the mold by having Needy and Jennifer being best friends. The problem though is that their friendship is toxic for Needy. Jennifer bosses her around and she's able to. Heck, her nickname being Needy makes a lot of sense. Chip is there to build up Needy, but Jennifer really does rule this place.
I think this movie has an interesting look to what happens to Jennifer as well. She's sleeping with a local police officer named Roman Duda (Chris Pratt). I'm assuming this started when he was till in high school and never left. Jennifer is gorgeous, let me establish that. She is also small town though. There is no one there to rival her. Nikolai is digging what she is doing, but we see what happens when she goes off with him. There is definitely a commentary here on rape without actually going through with the act. That is unless you consider the symbolism of her being sacrificed with a knife, which is phallic shaped. Plus she completely loses what innocence she has when she comes back from the ritual.
Speaking of this ritual, I like the premise of how Jennifer becomes the succubus that she does. Low Shoulder is struggling as an indy band. Their plan is to sacrifice a virgin, make a pact with the devil to become famous and that is what they do. The problem is that Jennifer isn't a virgin. This causes her to become a succubus. I think this is genius as she is already hot. Succubi are described this way and I think this works. She can lure in men as victims including Colin Gray (Kyle Gallner), Jonas Kozelle (Josh Emerson) and even Chip to an extent. It is done though in a natural and subtle way.
That's all I want to delve into with the story so I'll shift over to the acting. I think that Fox and Seyfried are great as our leads. Fox just has the look that is needed for the role and was really born to play it. Her acting isn't great, but I think part of my gripe though is with the writing. Cody tends to write characters that are as believable in their dialogue as it is too quirky. They do well with making Seyfried look mousey despite how attractive she is. Her portrayal as Needy is probably the best performance in the movie. Simmons is solid in support along with Brody, Pratt, Gallner and even J.K. Simmons and Amy Sedaris in their cameos. There isn't a bad performance though and the acting works overall.
Next would be effects. I think for the most part there good. The blood has good color. We don't really get to see the attack scenes, which is fine. The aftermath we get to see works well enough for me. There is some CGI that we get in this movie. It isn't great, but it really isn't enough to ruin the movie. I do want to give credit to the cinematography though. I can tell now we have a woman director. It is tastefully done to show attractive Jennifer is without necessarily needing to show too much skin. There are some strategic things done with the angles and shots for sure.
Then the last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. I actually dig the song by Low Shoulder. It has a sound that really fit the era this movie was made. Aside from that, we get music like Fall Out Boy and other groups that also fit the time. It isn't great, but I think the soundtrack really does fit for what was needed.
In conclusion here, I think this is a solid movie. I'm not going to say it is great by any stretch though. There is an interesting premise here with this band wanting to make it big and messing up Jennifer's life, causing her to become a demon for what they do. It showcases how high school can be tough and how a beautiful woman can get her way. The acting is solid and most of the effects as well as the soundtrack work. Some of the dialogue doesn't necessarily work for me as it doesn't feel natural, which is an issue for sure. Overall I'd say this is above average movie in my opinion. It can be rough if you weren't in high school or college when it came out, but I think the creature idea still makes it work.
Interesting Film Based in the Horror of Adult Realities
This was a movie I'll be honest, I had never heard of. It popped up for me when I was looking through the Letterboxd top 100 films with a woman director. This one is interesting though as we have a woman co-director. It still counts and I'm making this a Featured Review as part of Women's History month in February. The synopsis here is young housewife Helena (Helena Albergaria) is on the verge of fulfilling a dream as she prepares to open her own business: a neighborhood grocery store. Things don't go as planned and as pressure mounts, Helena has to find a way of making things work.
We start this off with Helena being shown around a building. It doesn't look great and it really a fixer-upper. She is considering it though. When she goes home though, she gets the bad news that her husband of Otávio (Marat Descartes) has lost his job. She tells him that she can put this dream on hold. He instead wants to look over the paperwork.
She ends up renting the space. The two of them clean it up where they find there was a cockroach infestation. There is also an unsightly brick wall that is going to be covered up. To add another big change, they hire Paula (Naloana Lima) to be the nanny to their daughter of Vanessa (Marina Flores).
As the synopsis states though, things don't go as planned. Otávio is going to interviews, but hasn't had any luck in finding a job. Helena hires a staff, but she is distrustful of them. This employee has the name of Ricardo (Thiago Carreira) and he told a customer on their opening day they do not have skim milk. When Helena looks at the invoice of receiving in items, there should be some there. She confronts him about it and he states he will look again. There are other items that the inventory isn't matching up so it makes her think Ricardo is stealing. This causes her to do some other measures to confirm it.
The tension isn't just at work. Paula does some things around the house that bother Helena as well. With Otávio not being able to find work and being too proud to ask for help, the couple is struggling. It also doesn't help that the wall that was put up to hide the brick wall at the store has an unsightly stain on it that keeps getting worse and worse. Running a business is hard work, but Helena is pushed to the limits and there is something not quite right about the building she is renting either.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap for the movie and the where I want to start is that as this ended, I was questioning if this is horror or not. I'll get into what I think makes it that, but this is really a character study of this married couple with the stresses that they are dealing with here.
Where I want to start is with Helena. From what I gather, she comes from money. She has this dream to open up her own grocery store. She has a picture of the place that she is looking at with the former proprietor. His place seemed to be successful back in the day and I'm assuming she thinks that she could make it work by putting in her own grocery store here. What I like is that we really get a true look what it is to run a business. At every turn, Helena is having issues. She believes that Ricardo is stealing from her as the inventory isn't matching up. She can't prove any of this though. She is also having issues with like a pipe backing up and leaking. There is the wall that is rotting. She rubs her employees the wrong way with things like wanting to be open on a holiday. We see that it doesn't work out as well as she hoped and her employees are turning against her in a way.
To continue with this character, there are problems at home as well. She butts heads with her husband regularly. There is a bit of him being emasculated by her bringing in the primary income. I'll get into that, but she gets annoyed with him is what I'll say here. She also convinces Paula to work for her, despite it being under the table and no benefits. When Paula does some important life events with Vanessa, it rubs Helena the wrong way. I feel this is showing how time consuming running a business can be and the strain it is putting on her home life because of it.
As I was alluding to, I want to take this over to Otávio. He loses his job to a younger man. There are multiple times in the movie that it brings up with his age that finding a job is difficult. We see him go to interviews against younger men and even learn later in the movie that jobs are hard to find. For every opening, there are 100 applicants. He does find a commission only job and gets to work from home, but we see his heart isn't in it. He is lost in what he should be doing and a bit prideful when it comes to asking for help.
The last things that I want to delve into here will start with Paula doesn't necessarily need this job. She wants something that is more official, but she sees the need for Helena. She gets treated horrible by Helena's mother from the moment they meet. Helena isn't that nice to her either. It is really only Vanessa and Otávio from this family. The other is the horror aspects. I'll be honest though, these are quite light. There is this dog that keeps barking at the store from outside. This makes Helena uncomfortable. We also see there something that was chained up in the back of the store that left deep and scary scratches on the wall. There is something some thing behind the brick wall that is monstrous. We really don't get enough of this or much an explanation unfortunately.
Since I've really broken down the characters, I'll take it to the acting next. Albergaria does an excellent job. This movie really does fit for being woman appreciation since she is the star here. She is strong, but we see how hard of work this place is wearing on her. I think her performance is really good. Descartes is also really good as her husband. He just looks defeated and we see his plight wear on him as well. Lima does a solid job in her role with how things roll down hill onto her from the stresses in their lives. The rest of the cast does round this out for what was needed as well.
Now really the last things about the movie would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. We don't get a lot of the former, but it isn't that type of movie. Everything is done practically and I think that makes it much creepier. They don't emphasize too much a claw or tooth that is found. Then there is the backroom and what is behind the wall. It made me feel like it could be real. The cinematography is really well done in how the movie was shot. I like getting the monitors of the grocery store to see if I could see anything. It also knows how to focus to make things uncomfortable. The last thing here would be that the soundtrack fit for what was needed as well.
In conclusion, I think that this is a good movie, but I could also see people thinking that nothing really happens. We are getting a look at this marriage between two people who are flipping gender roles and the stresses of their choices. There is also the underlying story of their maid who they don't treat the best. The story is simple, but it is really how the characters handle it. There aren't a lot in the way of effects, but we don't need them. It is shot well and the soundtrack fits. I would rate this as a good movie. If they would have leaned more into explaining the horror elements or giving us more there, I think they would have had a masterpiece. Since they don't, it does lack for me to really go higher.
An Interesting Movie of Descending into Madness to Complete Polanski's Apartment Trilogy
This was a movie that I got to turned on to thanks to podcasts. I knew the name of Roman Polanski and by this time, I had already seen Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Ninth Gate. The first two actually complete his apartment trilogy with this movie. It has been on a list of movies to see and I finally pulled the trigger as its number on a randomizer for my New Year, New Me segment on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is a bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.
For this movie, the credits are given to us as we're seeing the outside of an apartment building. When we look into the windows, we are seeing people. Reflecting back on this, it is setting the stage as while looking in one window, the camera tilts down before coming back up and the person is different. We also get to see some of the other inhabitants from their apartment windows as well.
It then takes us to our star here of Trelkovsky (Polanski). He meets with the concierge, Shelley Winters, about seeing an apartment there. She is skeptical and also doesn't want to seem bothered. She inquires as to how he heard about the room. Trelkovsky is polite in his responses and she takes him up to the room. It appears that the woman who lives there tried to kill herself and the concierge finds it funny. This doesn't seem to faze him as much as you would think and he inquires about the terms. She cannot negotiate them and takes him to the landlord, Monsieur Zy (Melvyn Douglas). They have some back and forth that results in Zy liking Trelkovsky. He cannot rent the room to him at this time as the tenant of Simone is still alive in the hospital.
Trelkovsky is curious about her and goes to the hospital to pay her a visit. It appears that she is out of her coma, but is not supposed to talk. At her bedside is her friend of Stella (Isabelle Adjani). The two of them talk and this allows Trelkovsky to learn more about Simone. The two of them spend the rest of the day together despite the unnerving hospital visit.
He continues to check on her status until he learns that she has passed away. He then moves into her apartment. As he gets himself acclimated, he decides to have some friends from work over as a housewarming party. They're having a good time and maybe a bit too much. His upstairs neighbor comes down to complain about the noise. He has everyone leave and the next day he is scolded by Zy as well. This starts him having to deal with most everyone from the building complaining about him for different reasons.
Trelkovsky also goes to the nearby cafe where the owner, Jacques Monod, treats him like the previous tenant of his apartment. He makes him a chocolate to drink and gives him the same brand of cigarettes, even though it isn't the brand he smokes. Along with those from his building, Trelkovsky descends into a bit of madness as he looks into what happened to Simone. Are his neighbors being as mean to him as he thinks or is some of this in his head?
I think that gets you up to speed for a recap of this movie. Where I want to start my analysis is that, this trilogy from Polanski is interesting. Repulsion is dealing with a disturbed young woman that descends into madness in her apartment and Rosemary's Baby is a classic that is dealing with a potential coven of Satanists. I wasn't sure what we would be getting here, but having now seen this, it fits.
The first thing is that I'm intrigued that this was directed/co-written/starring Polanski. I'm shocked at his performance as well. I know about his legal troubles that happened not too long after this movie and of course what happened with Sharon Tate. I wonder how much of the latter plays into his portrayal of Trelkovsky. It also makes me consider how much is just him as this character. Trelkovsky is timid for starters. I love that we get to see this as his friends that come over are bullying him to stand up to his neighbors, but he doesn't want to rock the boat. Despite what he does, it annoys them and this causes him to descend into the madness and drives him to what happens in the end.
This movie really plays with us not knowing what is real and what's not. Zy is stern with him in the beginning, but we see that he has a fondness for how direct Trelkovsky is along with the answers to things he is asked. This poor young man though has an upstairs neighbor who is mean to him over being too loud, Madame Dioz (Jo Van Fleet) doesn't like an answer she gets when asking him a question and even Trelkvosky's friends mock him. Trelkovsky is quiet by nature and really just wants to keep to himself. There is some social commentary here as he's not from Paris. The character is from Poland, much like Polanski is, which comes into play when he wants to report a robbery in his apartment. He is swayed away as there's distrust of him being an outsider. This isolates him and there is despair of not being able to be helped that his movie gives us.
Going along with isolating and feeling alone, there's another social issue here with repression and sexuality. Trelkovsky is taking over the apartment of Simone, who is a woman. When he starts to meet those that knew her, they are pushing him to order the same drink and cigarettes as her. Trelkovsky finds her dress in the wardrobe. The longer this goes on, the more that he starts to become like her. He tries to prevent this from happening, but I think even from the beginning, he might completely know his own sexual preference. There is also this interesting scene when he goes out with Stella as they get pretty hot and heavy in the theater which seems to complicate matters.
I think that is about all I want to delve into for the story here so I'm going to shift this over to the acting. I've already said that I'm really impressed with Polanski. I think he did an amazing job here with conveying what we need for this character. It is really a character study of him so everyone else is just in support. I like that Adjani is attracted him, but I'm not always sure if it is sexually or as a friend. She also helps to piece things together for him with Simone. Douglas is good as the landlord. Van Fleet helps to drive the character of Trelkovsky into despair with how she can make his life more difficult. The rest of the characters are also good in support for me including Winters.
This really isn't a movie that needs effects, so we don't get a lot of them. What we do get though is practical. Something that I do need to bring up is the cinematography. There is this amazing optical effect when Trelkovsky is asleep and reaches out for water on a chair he's using an end table. It looks two dimensional and I was impressed. We get another odd focus like this later that also worked for me. The rest of the cinematography to go along with this is good as well.
If I do have a gripe with this movie, it would be that it runs too long. The movie runs over 2 hours. I think that we could trim it to just less than 2 hours and it could run tighter. There are some things here that I don't think add much and really just pad the time out to be a bit too much. Not enough to ruin it, but I did lose interest as some things get to be repetitive for me.
In conclusion, I had high expectations coming in knowing that Polanski has done some amazing movies and the other two in this trilogy are good as well. This really has an great performance from him in the lead and I think that there's an interesting elements of social commentary that are still relevant today. The cinematography is pretty amazing on top of that if I'm going to be honest. It does run a bit long and the soundtrack just worked for what was needed. After this first viewing, this is my least favorite at the moment of this trio, but that's not to say I don't like it. I find this overall to still be a good movie. It will be one that I will revisit again now that I know how it plays out.
This was a movie that I got turned on to thanks to Marknado. It was on his list of horror releases for 2021 and on top of that, he included it in the movies he really liked from January. I wanted a movie that had something to do with being haunted and when I glanced through the synopsis, I thought this fit with my pairing on Centennial Club. The synopsis here is an Iranian couple living in the US becomes trapped inside a hotel when insidious events force them to face the secrets that have come between them, in a night that never ends.
We start this movie off with a quote about multi-verses and that there is one true one. It then shifts us over to a group playing a game. We at first are given close-ups of each of them as a way to get to know them from what I gathered. Our main couple is Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife of Neda (Niousha Noor). They are at the house of Farhad (Armin Amiri) and being joined by his wife and their friends. Farhad wants Babak to take a shot with him and this draws the annoyance of Neda. He does regardless and then I believe the two go to a room to smoke marijuana. It is getting late so Babak, Neda and their baby of Shabnam (Leah Oganyan) decide to head home.
Babak insists on driving despite having been drinking. It appears that Neda has a suspended license for driving without her insurance card. Their GPS starts messing up, drawing the attention of Babak and not necessarily where he is going. Something goes into the road where Neda tells her husband to watch out. When he gets out, he doesn't see anything. It is decided that instead of continuing on, they are going to stay at a hotel. The closest one is an independent and older looking building.
As they go to head in, Neda gets spooked by a displaced man, Elester Latham. They are let into the hotel by the receptionist, George Maguire. He relays they only have one room available and it is a suite. Babak doesn't care and agrees to take it. This couple's night continues to get worse. Shabnam is having trouble going to sleep and in turn, so do her parents. They keep hearing knocks at the door and ones from the ceiling. Neda does see a young boy, Amir Ali Hosseini, but he disappears. Other times, there is no one there.
The couple tries to get to sleep, but no matter what they do, things continue to happen. These events also turn the couple against each other as they try to survive the night. Neda does encounter the displaced man again who tells her "they hear the truth, morning comes" in Farsi, their native language. What does this mean and can this couple figure it out before it is too late?
That's where I'm going to leave my recap of this movie. What really intrigued me to check this out is that I don't believe I've seen a movie from Iran, let alone a horror movie. I enjoy seeing movies from cultures that I'm not as familiar with, especially when it comes to horror films. Seeing what scares people or lore from their countries is interesting to me.
For this movie, we really are following this couple of Babak and Neda. They are hiding secrets from each other during their time apart, which is an element that I enjoy. They were separated for a stretch and it has had an effect on them. Having been in relationships and engaged to be married, you are constantly learning new things about your partner, both good and bad. I like that from the opening party, we can see there are some issues between with this couple. They know each other and they can get under each other's skin pretty easy. We also get to know them as they lead up to their time in the hotel.
Babak left Neda in Iran. There were some questions to if he was going to return there or she was going to join him here in the United States. Something happened with this young woman that we are seeing. This does become an issue for me, as there are some questions I have as to who she is by the end of the movie. He does seem to have problems with drinking and smoking as well. There is also an inheritant cultural aspect where he commands his wife around, especially when it comes to the baby. I can be forgiving of that though. Neda also has a secret of her own. Something happened while he was away and she is living with it. This hotel is making them face their issues in order to survive. I do think she is a better person with how things play out in the end.
There is some social commentary here as well. There is a way to look at what is going on here that could be not supernatural. Nothing really happens until they get to the hotel room aside from Babak being under the influence and tired almost hitting something in the road while driving. Going from this, they could be sleep deprived. This would explain seeing things and going a bit crazy because of that. Their baby is doing what a baby does, not necessarily sleeping all that night through. I do feel that there is something supernatural going on here, but this is an alternative explanation.
For as much as I enjoy the story and trying to figure things out, I do have some problems here. This story feels like something we've seen before. I've even seen a movie from earlier this year that follows a similar premise. What would have worked better for me would be to lean a bit more into this entity that we see. There's this hooded figure that looks like it is in the form of a woman. I'm not sure if this is something from Iranian or Middle Eastern lore or not, so I'm not sure if natives of the area recognize it without needing the back-story. There also seems to be some aspects to the back-story of the characters that I think we needed a bit more of. I never really got bored, but with how long the movie runs there is a bit too much unexplained for me. I don't need everything, just more than what I got.
The next thing I'll move next to would be the acting. I think that this couple of Hosseini and Noor play well off each other. They seem like they have a history together where small things get under each other's skin. I can appreciate that as it brings a sense of realism. Hosseini seems like a character with some issues with drinking and the more we learn he comes off as irritable. We also get this interesting aspect to his character where he doesn't want to face his issues. Then on the other side, Noor is given to us in more of a positive light. She wants the best for her family, but she does have a guilty conscience about something from her past. Maguire adds a level of creepiness as this receptionist at the hotel, as does Latham and Michael Graham who is a police officer in this film. They are all solid. The rest of the cast rounds this out for what was needed in my opinion as well.
Then the last thing I want to go over would be the effects and soundtrack of the movie. Of the first one, we really don't get a lot of them. It also doesn't need it. What they like to do here would be using filters and the focus. There is also this really cool effect near the end of the movie that I know isn't too difficult to do, but it still gives me an uncomfortable vibe it gives me. That is something else I need to give credit for, this movie does well in building atmosphere. The soundtrack really helps there. It isn't one that stands out to me, but does what it needs to do. I also think that the sound design with a baby crying, a child calling out from different rooms or banging that works.
In conclusion, I enjoyed most of what this movie is doing. There is a good atmosphere here with the possible haunted hotel where these characters are faced with secrets from their past. The acting is really good and I think that is one of the strongest parts. I like the potential commentary on these newer parents and what the lack of sleep can do. The effects, soundtrack and design there do help with building what is needed. I do feel there are some things that aren't explored here that hurt the final product for me. I would say this is an above average movie for me, just lacking some of the things I've said here to go higher.
This film was one that I never heard of until I started working my way through the Fangoria Top 300 horror movies issue. That first viewing I thought it was okay and came up on it after that second viewing. This movie though was really lost on me until I got into watching giallo films, realizing what it is paying homage to. I have now given it a third viewing as part of the Podcast Under the Stairs' Summer Challenge for the 2000s. The synopsis is as a young girl Ana (Cassandra Forêt). She was also tormented by images of death and shadowy, ominous figure in black. Now as an adult, she is once again tormented by shadowy, other-worldly forms.
We start here as the synopsis states with our character of Ana. She lives with her mother, Bianca Maria D'Amato, and father, Jean-Michel Vovk. There is another woman living there as well by the name of Graziella (Delphine Brual). This woman was helping Ana's grandfather until he passed away. Her mother doesn't like this woman as she believes her to be a witch. They continue to find dead birds in the house that Graziella is using.
Ana seems to be tormented by Graziella. She has a tendency to look into keyholes and spy on those around her. This does draw err from her mother. Ana also decides to take a pocket watch from her deceased grandfather, Bernard Marbaix. This becomes a traumatic event though as she has to hide under the bed when her mother and father come in, while also breaking the dead man's finger to get it out. She is also haunted by images of him, Graziella and other things in her nightmares.
The film then shifts to Ana as a teenager, now being played by Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud. She wears a short dress and sucks on her hair. Together with her mother, the two of them walk along the road to a nearby store. Ana is a bit willful and this once again draws the anger of her mother. We see that there is innocence there with her, but her body is developed and drawing the attention of adult males in the area.
This all culminates with Ana as an adult, played by Marie Bos. She is returning to the house that she grew up in, which has fallen into disrepair. After arriving in the area by train, she is driven to the house by a taxi driver, portrayed by Harry Clevan. As she is cleaning up some things that were left behind in the house, she hears some things. The water is off, but she has an encounter in the bathtub with someone that we only see in a silhouette, François Cognard. She also believes that the taxi driver returns to the house with a scarf she left in his car. The question then becomes, is there anyone else there with her or just in her mind?
I think that gets you up to speed with what this movie is doing. As I was saying in my introduction to this movie, this is one that I really didn't fully grasp what it is trying to do until I got into watching giallo films. This is really paying homage to this subgenre from France and Belgium. It does well in some categories for what it does, but it also falls short in others in my opinion.
To start with the positives, I love the look of this movie. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani are the co-writers/co-directors and I think they nailed the aesthetic. Their use of different color lights really does remind of things that Mario Bava and Dario Argento did in the past. We really get to see this with the young and adult versions of Ana for sure. This movie looks beautiful. There is also a creepy and haunting atmosphere which is partly aided by the house this mostly takes place in. Initially I thought that it was the house from Deep Red, but the more I saw it, the more I realized that it wasn't. There are some similar aspects though.
Going along with the atmosphere of the movie, I think next I should cover the soundtrack. The selections are definitely giallo-esque and when I was watching the credits, I can see why. They were taken from legit giallo films like The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, What Have They Done to Your Daughters and Killer Cop. Ennio Morricone also seems to have done a song specific for this movie as well. I've not seen these movies, but I've heard some of these selections before. I'm a big fan of this type of music and it fits the vibe the movie is going for.
Another thing this movie nails is that we get a black gloved killer during the adult stage of this movie. They also are carrying a straight razor as well. The taxi driver also has a switchblade here as well. This unfortunately is where the comparisons end to the paying homage to giallo films.
Taking this to a negative, the movie is really lacking a story for me. It is a character study of Ana, which I will delve into, but we aren't getting any type of investigation here like we would with the giallo film. This is taking the look and feel, but lacking the story to really become a neo-giallo film. For me, this does hurt the film if I'm going to be honest.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy where this movie was taking us. It is still interesting in what we get for this character study. We are establishing that when Ana is a girl, she has some vivid fantasies. This isn't uncommon, but what she does to her grandfather's hand is traumatic. Having Graziella chase her around is as well. Ana is to fault here a bit for what she does though. That's not to say though that everything we are seeing is real. Ana is also a voyeur with her peeking through the keyholes. This does backfire when she comes in and sees her parents making love.
When Ana is a teen, I think what the movie is doing here is showing us that despite how developed her body is, she is still a child. The voyeurism is taken from her a bit here as we see men looking at her throughout this. There is the boy who has the soccer ball who is aroused by her. There is the shop owner who treats her like a child and tries to give her candy. It is really the bikers that are watching her as she strolls by. The wind is blowing at her dress, which she doesn't really stop as much as she should. She doesn't necessarily realize the implications here either.
To end my thoughts on the story with Ana as an adult, I think we're seeing a culmination of what we got in the other two periods of her life. The movie does well in making her experience on the train seem sexual. She then has to deal with the taxi driver trying to look up her dress. The isolation of the house and her traumas culminate in what happens in the end here.
Since I've delved into this character, I should comment next on the acting. Forêt does well as the child version. She does a solid job in showing fear and establishing that this character has some issues. Guibeaud is probably my least favorite of the trio taking on Ana. I don't think she does anything bad, but she really just plays everything stoic. I think that Bos does a solid job though incorporating elements of the child version with the look of the teenager. She also has some interesting reactions to things. Aside from that, I think that D'Amato, Cleven, Cognard and the rest of the cast push this character to where she needs to end up.
Then the last thing I want to go over would be the effects. We really don't get a lot of them and it really isn't that type of movie. I think the make-up to make the grandfather look dead was good. He really looked creepy. The best effects come with the adult story. We get a brutal looking attack with the straight razor. My only gripe is that there wasn't enough blood with it for realism. With my take on the attack though, I can be forgiving there.
In conclusion, I think this movie looks great. It does well in paying homage to gialli films with that. It is lacking a story though to bring this together. I think that the character study of Ana is solid. All three actresses work well in establishing her and to where she ends up. The rest of the cast do well in pushing her there. The effects we get work along with the soundtrack to the movie. This is a bit boring though if I'm going to be honest and it is lacking the mystery this subgenre really needs. With that said, I find this still to be an above average movie for what I do like. If you love the aesthetic of gialli, I think you can appreciate this movie. I can't recommend this though if you are looking for a strong story though.
To finish out this trilogy, I watched this back-to-back with the second movie. I initial thought was that this was going to be a step down. I was wondering if we were going to get more of the same or if this one was going to do the something a bit different. The synopsis here is the Abaddon Hotel will once again be open to the public. Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) has taken his audience-interactive show, Insomnia, into the abandoned hotel that is rumored to be haunted.
Getting everything up to speed, we're 9 years after the events of the first movie and the Abaddon Hotel is set to be destroyed. It is too much of a liability and the town just wants to move on. That is until media mogul Russell steps in and purchases the hotel. There's a bit of talk that he's going to follow the same steps that the other group of the company Hell House LLC did and reopen this hotel for his theater troupe of Insomnia. They're also going to be quite cheeky and put on the play Faust there also, since it is a tale of good against the Devil.
Taking over for the show Morning Mysteries is Vanessa Shepherd (Elizabeth Vermilyea). From the sounds, the previous host went missing and Vanessa really doesn't want to do this piece on the Abaddon Hotel. She is convinced though by her producers and comes to the hotel. There she does her opening bit and meets with Jeff Stone (Sam Kazzi). I didn't realize this until much later on, but he's the CFO of Wynn's company. The two go inside and the ground rules are laid.
Vanessa is given full access to film everything. This makes sense as this is partially what made Russell the success that he is for the concepts he's come up with for his shows. We get to meet the actors. Gregory Sandvick (Leo DeFriend) is the lead in the play and the other actors aren't the nicest to him. There's also Max (Jordan Kaplan), who is playing the Devil. The other one that is important here is Jane Maloney (Bridgid Abrams). They are all given cameras to document things around them and this leads to some interesting footage as we go on as they prank each other.
Things seem to be going just fine in the hotel, but the longer they stay there, the weirder it becomes. There are rules set up that no one is to walk around inside after they wrap for the day and if they must, they need to do the buddy system. We see that Jane goes into the basement and is spooked by the clowns left down there from the original Hell House LLC group. There are some other things that are caught on video throughout and not everyone seems to notice.
As the opening of the show approaches, Vanessa is looking into everything here. The more that she discovers, the more she thinks it is a bad idea for this show to go on. She tries to convince Russell and Jeff, but to no avail. She even seeks out a local priest of Father Paulis (Dan Dobransky). All the while, we keep seeing things that aren't always seen by characters. If you've seen the previous film, you know what the plan of Andrew Tully (Brian David Tracy) is and then it becomes, does Russell know or is his plans just another victim of the Abaddon Hotel?
That's where I want to leave my recap of the movie. Where I want to start is that I find this interesting that we have the same writer and director for all three of these movies. I did see trivia that this was originally conceived as being a trilogy. I think what works here is that the first movie was really good, which helps to get this the previous one made. What I also like is that it sounds like for the most part, the idea of where to start and end this were planned from the beginning and not just tacking the movies on like some franchises do as the money comes in.
Going along this idea, Russell isn't really shown from what I remember in the previous movie, but his name was brought up in the beginning. He is the head of the Wynn Group that has been getting the footage. I'm assuming they are the ones that have put out both movies as well being behind the text we are getting at the beginning. This is interesting as that makes Russell an expert on this place. We get to see a bit more of that as this goes on which I like. Much like the previous movie, they're continuing to build on the mythology. I don't think this one does as well in this department. This movie is wrapping up the story; I'm just not the biggest fan where it goes if I'm going to be honest.
I do like that this movie is set mostly back in the Abaddon Hotel. That was part of my problem with the previous movie as that was the strongest part here. We get a bit of the scares like we do in the other two movies, but I'll be honest, this one wasn't nearly as effective with it. What I think hurts this movie is that it tries so hard to make sure you know certain things that you are seeing either correlate back to the other two movies or they want to edit in footage to show something that happened in that specific one. I think this does bog the movie down a bit as it isn't original. It makes it feel partially like a clip show by doing that. I don't want you to think this one doesn't have a story though, that isn't what I'm getting at. It just tries too hard to make sure you're up to speed. This could also be that I watched the previous movie and this one within a day of each other as well.
Since I've briefly went over how it was edited, I'll move over to the effects. Once again, this movie does well with its practical effects. I like the subtle things that we get with props that are supposed to not be alive moving around, especially statues and the clowns. They do a bit with making ghosts look creepy with contacts. The blood that we get looks good and most of this works. What doesn't is the digital messing up of the camera to show previous footage or that an entity is near. They do this much more than the previous and I'm not a fan there. There is also some really bad CGI in the end of the movie that took me out of what they were trying to do. To end this section on a positive, I think the found footage adds an element here even though it doesn't work as well for this movie as the previous two.
The last thing that I want to go over would be the acting. I think that everyone we get here is believable for a movie like this. Something I normally say for found footage is that if they can act natural, then it works. Chytry seems like this rich guy who is used to getting his way, but he's not a jerk about it. I like Vermilyea taking over as the host as she's stronger in her performance than the previous actress. Kazzi is good as well. I think the rest of the actors in the play are good and bringing back a bunch of characters from the first and second movie works for me to wrap up this trilogy as well.
In conclusion, this movie is unfortunately the weakest of the three. I think that it has a better set up and for what they were going for from the previous one, but this one is a bit too concerned with making sure you understand everything that they're wrapping up. I still like some of the story elements they have going here. The climax works and the acting is solid in bringing these characters to life. The practical effects are also good while the CGI just really hurt the movie for me. I also think that the soundtrack and design there work well with building tension when needed. Overall though, I'd say this movie is above average for me though. It does enough to keep me engaged, but falls short of what they're going for story-wise.
Now I'll be honest, I was late to the game for the original Hell House LLC and I believe this sequel was already made by the time I saw the original with 3rd film in the series coming out soon after, but I don't completely remember. This movie popped up when I did a randomizer for a number that correlated to a movie for something that I do for Featured Reviews in January over on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is eight years since the opening night tragedy of Hell House, LLC and still there are many unanswered questions remaining. Thanks to an anonymous tip, investigative journalist Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts) is convinced that key evidence is hidden inside the abandoned Abaddon Hotel, evidence that will shed light on the hotel's mysteries.
This starts us off stating that a film production company has been receiving footage over the last 2 years. It is compiled into this film we're about to see, but what we are does not reflect their beliefs. I did enjoy this as a cover-up and helping with the realism as I see disclaimers like this regularly on movies I own when it comes to commentaries or even television shows.
We then get a few different stories of people that have gone into the Abaddon Hotel and have never been seen again. We get an eerie one of Jackson Mallet (Tom Sibley) through his mother telling us things. Her name is Wendy (Laura Frenzer). What I like here is we see a home movie of Jackson as a boy, playing a tune on a keyboard and the name of the hotel pops up. This is establishing that how strong the entities are within this hotel along with showing how far back this goes.
The movie then shifts over to one of our major parts. There is a television show called Morning Mysteries that is hosted by Suzy McCombs (Amanda K. Morales). She is hosting a panel talking about the Abaddon Hotel and what happened with Hell House, LLC. On here is Mitchell Cavanaugh (Vasile Flutur) who is the only surviving member. With him on the show as a member of the city council is Arnold Tasselman (Brian David Tracy). He's there to convince the audience and those involved there's nothing going on inside of this hotel. He is hoping this will get everyone to leave the place alone. There is also a TV psychic of Brock Davies (Kyle Ingleman) who is looking to build on his fame and use the Abaddon Hotel as part of it. There is a lot of name calling and bickering back and forth. This also helps to establish more of the back-story with the other major part.
Then the other main part is that we have a blog called The Inside. They do investigative journalism and actually exposed some politicians who are now behind bars. Jessica runs this along with Molly Reynolds (Joy Shatz) and David Morris (Dustin Austen). They seek out Mitchell's help where, despite what he claims, he does go back into the Abaddon Hotel with them. They believe there are tapes in the basement that will unlock the truth of what is happening there. They're joined by Brock and his camera man for a nightmare they weren't expecting.
To shift over to the analysis, I do like what this movie is doing here in theory. The original was supposedly happening in 2010 from what I gather where this movie is taking place more in present times. What happened in the Abaddon Hotel has drawn a lot of interest so we have people who shouldn't be going in and there are documentary shows as well which all feels pretty real. I will say though the execution isn't always there for me unfortunately.
I'll start though with what I did like. Everything for the most part in the Abaddon Hotel worked for me. I like bringing back Mitchell as he was there previously so he can navigate and relays things. It gets explained why he was allowed to leave. We also get a few things that happen here that correlate back to the original movie. This all works for me. We see a character like Melissa (Lauren A. Kennedy) hitchhiking and there's a bit here explaining how people who were missing were interviewed as well.
Sticking with the hotel, I really like that we're getting that there's something supernatural going on there so that is why people can't leave at times. Using the found-footage angle does make this creepier. I'll be honest, I watched this alone, at night and in the dark. When it ended, there were a few things that stuck with me that made me uncomfortable navigating to my bedroom. That is where I'm going to give credit to the effects. They use contacts to make people look creepy and the practical stuff with things that we assume are fake move worked as well. I'm also glad that they toned down things with the camera messing up digitally. I understand why it is used in movies, but it is overdone and annoys me now since it has been used so much. There was a bit of CGI here that didn't really bother me. Really the only thing that did annoy me here was the television show using green screen which wasn't that big of an issue.
To get into what doesn't work is that television show we see. I understand why it is there and I like that it fills in things. What does work is syncing it up where we get information there, shift to the hotel and see how it correlates. What the real issue there was the acting. I wasn't a big fan of Morales. The interactions on the show between Flutur, Tracy and Ingleman were all awkward, but not a way that feels natural for 3 people who don't like each other. It just doesn't come off as feeling real there and felt staged. Aside from that, everyone in the hotel I thought showed good fear so I will give credit there.
In conclusion, I think that this movie does do some things really well and others not so much in my opinion. I really like everything that we're getting inside of the Abaddon Hotel. That was creepy and made me uncomfortable. The acting got my on nerves for the fake documentary show they're doing, but everything when it comes to fear was good. This movie made me uncomfortable which was good. I do think the editing and pacing was well done. There is a bit of soundtrack here, but the footage is edited so I'm fine with that. I think this movie does well in building on to the mythology, which works for me. If you like found footage, I think this is a solid enough sequel and I come in with this as an above average movie overall.
This was a movie that I never heard of until I got into listening to podcast. I believe this originally popped up due to the fact that it was found footage so I think that someone had this on a found footage challenge. I'm not completely sure there though. I also feel like this was covered on a few different podcasts I listen to as well. Aside from that, I came in blind. I did see that this was based on the Dyatlov Pass Incident which popped up to me recently as an unexplained mystery. The synopsis here is a group of students go to the location of the infamous Dyatlov pass incident to make a documentary, but things take a turn for the worse as the secret of what happened there is revealed.
We start this off getting a bit of back-story. Back in February of 1959, 9 Russian hikers went into the mountains and died. The place where it happened is now known as the Dyatlov Pass. There is also an interesting glimpse at a couple in night vision and the woman is crying. This felt a bit like The Blair Witch Project, which I believe heavily influenced this movie.
For this movie, we're following Holly King (Holly Goss) who is really interested in the events of this mystery at the Dyatlov Pass. Working with her is a film student of Jensen Day (Matt Stokoe). They explore a few possibilities here earlier as to what could have happened. The most commonly accepted one is that they had madness induced by hypothermia. Jensen believes it was a yeti, but this is a bit out there along with the idea that it could be aliens. It does seem that after initially writing it, a mini-avalanche could actually be what happened. Regardless, they plan an expedition to go to this pass and make a documentary to see if they can get to the bottom of what happened.
Coming with them is a sound woman of Denise Evers (Gemma Atkinson). They also hire two experienced climbers of John Patrick Hauser Jr. (Luke Albright). He goes by JP. The other is Andy Thatcher (Ryan Hawley). Their journey takes them to modern day Ukraine.
We do know that they end up going missing. The footage we're seeing is taken from a website. There's a Wikileaks like group that hacked and released the footage. It appears the Ukrainian government was trying to cover it up. We also get an interview where a member of the Mansi tribe, which these people are indigenous to the area, has an explanation for what is happening.
Regardless, our group goes to Ukraine. They go to the bar where the Dyatlov group went the night before they embarked. We get some weird stuff happening immediately. There's a hiker that was supposed to go and he's being kept in a mental hospital. When they go to interview him, they're told he died. They see an old man in the window who is holding up a sign, warning them of something. A man by the name of Sergei (Nikolay Butenin) takes them to Vizhay, which is the closest village. He also gets them an interview with his aunt, Alya (Nelly Nielsen), who happened upon the Dyatlov group. She mentions there were two other hikers that weren't revealed in the research.
The group then goes into the mountains and strange things start to happen. They find weird footprints in the snow that are much bigger than human. Could it be a yeti? They also just take a few steps and disappear. This group ends up making it to the pass much faster than expected and find things that are quite odd when they get there.
That's where I want to leave my recap for this movie as that gets you up to speed. Now I know I established it in my introduction, but what I want to move into first would be that this is found footage. I feel that we're getting the believability here that we would. This is a documentary film crew and they're out there investigating what happened so I believe that they would film as much as they did. Of course, there are some convenient things that happen and are caught on film, but I expect that. Jensen loves his camera so I know he would film everything that he does. Holly reminds me a lot of Heather from The Blair Witch Project in that this was her idea. She takes blame as things go on, but much like Heather, she pushes things until everything falls apart.
What I found interesting was to see Renny Harlin as the director. I know him from mostly action films, but he also did Prison and Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. You don't normally see a bigger name director like Harlin dipping into the found footage genre. I can see why they went to get him though with where things end up. What I also think I should include here is that the movie does an amazing job at introducing things earlier in the movie and then go back to them later. Things like aliens, the orange light in the sky, yeti and why there is radiation here all make sense to the final explanation of this story. I won't spoil that here, but it all ties in. I'm going to do a spoiler section at the end to explain this as well.
Before moving away to something else, I love how the tension builds here. We know that they're going to a place that is pretty desolate. They're in a snow mountain pass. Once they arrive in the pass, their GPS, compass and a watch that should work via satellite. This really isn't that much different from stranding them in a cabin in the woods. This is scarier though as the elements are a factor. They only have so much fresh water and food. I will say there is an avalanche happens that cripples their chances of getting out alive as well. It makes things quite interesting from there as well.
What I think I should go to next would be the effects. I've already said this is found footage and I like the found footage angle. I think that the cinematography works well to make me feel cold from the environment. What I do have issues with though is the effects. This movie constantly uses the cameras messing it. It does make sense as there is a something here with radiation, but it got annoying as you can tell it is a digital effect. I'm not a fan of this. There is also something else later that was just not great CGI. I understand what they're doing with it, but it took me out of the movie as the graphics weren't great.
To get back on to the positive though, I did like the acting. This is another one where no one is going to win awards, but they were believable. I could buy that Goss was a young student that is trying to make a name for herself by the research she is doing. Stokoe seemed like a film student that is awkward while also having a bit of arrogance about him. Albright and Hawley really do feel like these experienced climbers who are confident in their abilities. Atkinson is also solid as their sound woman. The rest all play the roles they needed and I didn't have any problems with the acting.
That's where I'm going to leave this recap of the movie. I think that the concept of this movie is really good taking this unexplained real event. I'm a fan of the writing to introduce a bunch of throw away concepts and lines that if you pay attention, actually play into the explanation in the end. The acting was good enough to make me believe everyone in the movie. I can also buy the found footage angle, but I did have issues with the effects that were used in the movie. Not enough to ruin it though. The soundtrack fit for what was needed in my opinion as well. There wasn't any music to my knowledge so it was all ambient noise to fit the realism. I would rate this as a good movie. Not for everyone being found footage, but I'm a sucker for a lot of the concepts that were introduced.
For this movie we have that there's a military bunker in the Dyatlov Pass. Holly and Jensen discover it, but the door is frozen solid. They don't want to tell the rest as Holly was already accused of faking the footprints around their camp. The common thought is that since the government knew they were there, the military set off charges that caused the avalanche that traps them. They seek refuge in the bunker. It is there they make some horrible discoveries.
This movie then ties us into the Philadelphia Experiment. This is supposedly something that made the U.S.S. Eldridge teleport from Norfolk. The crew was fused to the ship is what is said to have happened and it went back slightly in time. This bunker was made over top of what the Mansi natives knew about. There is a wormhole type portal. The government is keeping it a secret hence why they're trying to kill them and killed the members of the Dyatlov group.
Alya stated there were 2 other hikers that were found. When this group in the present goes into the bunker, they're attacked by two monstrous human like creatures that can teleport. They cannot teleport through the metal of the doors or the walls, so it keeps them in. They're bigger than humans and the footprints they saw in the snow are theirs. Holly and Jensen get locked in the cave with the portal.
This is where it blew my mind. They went back into time so the creatures attacking them are them! Alyva saw the two extra hikers were Holly and Jensen from the future and mutated due to the radiation of going through the wormhole. The orange lights weren't aliens, but flares that both groups shot up when things went south. The last thing is that the natives knew of this portal, maybe not what it did, but they know of its existence.
This was a movie that I actually never heard of until I was working through all of the movies from 1940 for Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast and my segment of Journey Through the Aughts. It took me a bit to find a way to watch this, I had to do so through YouTube, which I was thrown off that there are two different titles for this movie. The synopsis here is murder is found to be connected to an heir and a mystery locked tomb.
We start this off on the death bed of Lord Charles Francis Selford (Aubry Mallalieu). He has some of his family around him, as he knows his time is short. He reveals that he is going to lock away the family jewels with him and it will be locked by 7 keys that will be kept by Edward Havelock (David Horne) until the wedding night of his son. Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks) is attending to him and there is also Luis Silva (J.H. Roberts), amongst others in attendance. Lord Charles relays some information to his son before he dies.
The movie then shifts to what was the present. Luis writes a letter for a young woman and we see it delivered by some boys. This is to June Landsdowne (Lilli Palmer). She is speaking with her roommate and friend, Glenda Baker (Gina Malo), who is in the bathtub. Glenda is a bit loose with how she talks and really is a progressive woman for the era. Despite what she is told, June goes to see Luis in the nursing home. He also sent a key to her, telling her to keep it safe.
Before she arrives, we see a couple of men talking in the hallway. June is taken to Luis' room where he gives her an address to the Selford estate and that she needs to go there. The movie shows us a painting where the eyes move and then a secret door opens where someone shoots Luis. June goes for help and a nun tells her this is not possible. The place is to be closed down and there are no patients. June is in flabbergasted and takes her into the room to find that Luis is gone. She flees the hospital to find the police.
At Scotland Yard, Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge) resigns from the force and is talking with his friend, Det. Inspector Cornelius 'Andy' Sneed (Richard Bird). The two of them go back and forth with ribbing each other until June arrives. She tells her story and Dick offers his help, despite no longer being a cop. He decides to help though as a 'friend'. He goes home with June where they discover a burglar. Dick and this person get in a tussle until the man from the nursing home shows up and intervenes. The burglar gets away, but doesn't find what they're looking for.
This all then culminates at the Selford estate. Dick, June and Glenda all first go to see Havelock and discover the keys to the Selford tomb are missing. This causes the four to go to the estate itself where Andy joins as well. We do see that the man who was helped the burglar escape is a handyman there, Tom Cawler (Philip Ray). There is also the butler, Craig (Robert Montgomery), and Dr. Manetta.
It becomes the goal of Dick, June, Glenda and Andy to get to the truth of what really happened to Lord Charles as well as the keys to his tomb. There seems to be a conspiracy and group of corrupt individuals that are involved, but who can be trusted?
That's where I want to leave my recap for this movie, as to avoid spoilers. I will say though, this film is pretty entertaining. It is a bit problematic though to be honest. The idea of keeping the family jewels in the crypt with Lord Charles is a bit odd, but I mean it was the 1940s, so I mean I can let that slide. What doesn't make a lot of sense to me is the idea of the 7 keys. They're all given over to Havelock's office until he realizes that they're missing. I know this is based off of a novel, which I would be intrigued to read now to see if there's more information on this. It would make more sense to have something that could be divided between 7 people and the way of preventing someone from stealing it is to need all the keys and everyone to agree to get to it in my opinion. It really seems a plot device to divide the keys between the groups.
This movie is supposed to have a mystery to it, but I feel it plays its hand a little bit too early. We know most of the people that are involved with it from the first time we meet them. The core group of our heroes doesn't necessarily know so it is a bit suspenseful to see them not knowing and us seeing them interaction with individuals. There are a few reveals that happened from there, but it wasn't that big of a deal to me if I'm being honest.
That's not to say that I hated this movie though. I really didn't actually. I thought that it was pretty fun of a movie with an interesting premise, despite my issues. It is aided by the fact that I found Palmer to be quite attractive. I know it is weird to say for her age, but she is stunning and I thought her performance was solid. Lunge is pretty good as well. His role though is odd that he quits the police officer and then immediately ends up helping this girl. This is obviously playing up the romance angle, which I didn't necessarily need. Banks is interesting for his back-story. He is supposed to be an ancestor of the Grand Inquisitor from Spain. He has a museum-like building of torture devices that you know come into play which was kind of cool to see. There's a take on the iron maiden, that I'm not for sure was real used here as well. The Dr. Manetta character isn't great, but he is fine along with the rest of the cast.
Aside from that, there's not really a whole lot more to talk about. This movie is really based more around a mystery that is lacking a bit for me. It doesn't hold my attention as much as it should, but there are interesting aspects to the movie for sure. I really like Palmer's performance and look of June, with Lunge being a good counterpart along with the rest of the cast rounding this out. There's not much in the way of effects, but it also isn't that type of movie. The soundtrack didn't necessarily stand out to me. It also doesn't hurt the product either. I think this has some good aspects, but for me, it is just lacking a bit to really hold my interest all the way through if I'm going to be honest. Not a bad movie, also not a great movie. I've say just over average for me.