Malachi Rowswell is SpiritLive’s resident movie buff. He’ll be reviewing all kinds of films — from current flicks to old-time favourites — for our readers’ pleasure. Think of this as a “Movie Lover’s Guide To The Industry.”
Indie Horror Flicks
I love horror movies, and I know there’s a lot of people out there who feel the same way. But the genre as we know it? It’s kinda bad — at least if you don’t know where to look. The studio-backed films that get wide releases (i.e. recycled remakes and tired retreads) aren’t the place to start if you’re looking for some good contemporary horror.
The indie horror film scene however is ripe with selections that deliver in both the fear and art department.
Here are five indie horror movies that I’ve checked out, and I’m going to review them right now — just for you:
Goodnight Mommy is an Austrian film. Released in the fall of 2015, it centres around two brothers who witness their mother’s increasingly strange behaviour post extensive facial surgery. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand subtitles, then…y’know, I wouldn’t recommend it. But you’d be missing out, because this movie is pretty great. The strong performances reinforce the general sense of dread created by other integral horror elements including cinematography and sound design. While the film isn’t the scariest, the mystery and gradual build of suspense throughout paces its scares. It employs some of the best acting and technical execution I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. The only real problem is the ending. Sadly, I can’t really go into detail as it would totally spoil it, but I will say this: M. Night Shyamalan would be proud — and that’s NOT a good thing.
My dad has always told me that in music, if the beginning and the end of a piece aren’t good, the rest won’t matter. This also applies to film — if you’re going to spend two hours watching something, it’s got to hook you in right from the start, and leave a lasting impression long after the credits have rolled. It Follows does just that. It begins with a showcase of solid acting, cinematography, editing and sound design that create a magnetic tension, establishing the perfect tone for the rest of the movie. Its final moments feature peaceful, yet eerie shots that subtly reiterate the horror that’s just unfolded before your eyes. Having said that, I’ll let you in on the gist of the plot. It’s about teens who bang, then realize they’re being chased by spooky, scary ghosts — if you’re a parent, pro tip: show your kids this movie. Using a mixture of suspenseful, atmospheric and emotional elements, It Follows becomes a different kind of film — horror in a way that’s strangely intimate, and uncomfortable at the same time.
This flick was kind of cool. It’s about a brother and sister who survived being killed by a haunted mirror as children — I promise it’s a lot cooler than that last sentence suggests. The film has two central story lines: the two siblings surviving the haunted mirror as kids, and the siblings attempting to destroy said haunted mirror as adults. While it’s not a new technique to use flashbacks in this particular genre, Oculus‘ transitions are both elegant and jarring, thus adding to the film’s overall scare factor. It’s pretty well-made and engrossing, but there are two things about Oculus that bothered me. I didn’t like the development in which the two siblings’ parents eventually go bonkers. Had the movie included a few more scenes to make viewers become emotionally invested in the parents, we’d all care more. Also, the film just sort of…ends — one moment I’m fully immersed in this interesting movie, and suddenly it feels as though the climax unfolds in a span of 2 minutes.
Two trends that have grown in popularity recently in horror include “found footage” and anthology. V/H/S blends both of these sub-genres with various degrees of success. Since this is an anthology, I’m gonna switch things up and do a bunch of mini-reviews:
Tape 56 — The first segment is also revisited after each short included in the film. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bad. The premise is interesting enough: 4 criminals raid a dead man’s house and come across a rare videotape. In addition, they end up finding a bunch of videotapes, all featuring crazy, morbid happenings. It’s great to have a segment that connects all of the shorts, but it doesn’t really connect the film as a whole story-wise. There’s no explanation as to why these tapes are in this house, or why horrific events unfold in said tapes. Worse still, the horror-element (I’d be spoiling if I explained) doesn’t really make sense. The whole segment just seemed unnecessary. 4/10
Amateur Night — This short’s excellent pacing and natural acting make it the best part of the film, and a strong stand-alone piece that’s worth a few re-watches in order to take in all of its beautifully frightening details. 9.5/10
Second Honeymoon — It’s not particularly original, but it has an impactful twist that makes it worth watching. 6.5/10
Tuesday The 17th — Also standard fare. However, an interesting performance from Norma C. Quinones, who plays Wendy, brings a heaping plate of creepiness. Wendy’s a heroine, but not the right kind; this plot choice should have been brought out a little more. 7/10
The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger — Great use of aliens and creepy boyfriends. 8/10
10/31/98 — Like some of the other shorts, this one includes a popular gimmick that is thwarted by a thoroughly sub par film. If you’ve already seen an exorcism on screen, skip it. 4/10
Parts of V/H/S are certainly lacking in the story department, but each segment is technical sound, which gives the “found footage” sub-genre some credibility. I’d say the film was ‘aight.
Holy cow! This movie will mess you up — in the best way imaginable. One of the things I look for in a scary movie is a mixture of supernatural, and human horror. The Exorcist was the last horror film I saw where I genuinely felt for the characters as humans, and was genuinely terrified for them. The Babadook surpassed the iconic 70s movie in this particular area for me. The film is about a single mother who is forced to look after her only child after her husband dies. The mother and son come across a mysterious pop-up book that contains a spirit known as “The Babadook;” it escapes and haunts the mother and son over the course of the film. The result is so terrifying, that I couldn’t finish the movie when I first started watching it — I had to go back two weeks later. It’s not the “jump out of your seat” scares that make it so intensely frightening; it’s the deeply horrifying study of the human condition. Strip away the supernatural elements of the film, and at its core, you have a study of grief and what it drives people to do. Essie Davis’ chilling performance as the mother will leave you in tears — even I cried because I was so terrified! If you have any respect for the human need to be scared, you need to watch this film.
By: Malachi Rowswell
This movie blog will focus on reviews, actor profiles, etc. with the hopes of transforming content into a YouTube series. Please let me know what you think about this review! You can contact me on Twitter (@malachirowswell) or on Facebook. I would appreciate any general feedback, as well as any additional suggestions for future posts.