Initially promising, Chernobyl Diaries’ descent into running down labyrinthine underground bunkers and dark jump-scares wears thin quite quickly. The film’s opening act sets up what should have been a compelling journey into one of the eeriest, most malignant places on planet Earth, only to find the story quickly becomes yet another cliched, hokey, tiresome mess with an hour to go before the end credits. Throw in a number of “stupid decisions” by the character roster, and you have the hallmarks of a forgettable, frustratingly inept thriller.
Don’t watch this alone in the dark. An interesting initial premise goes off the rails a little towards the end; however, Sinister remains an effectvely chilling – and occasionally terrifying – semi-found-footage film that brings the hairs on the back of your neck right up straight.
Considered by many as a classic of the horror genre, Rosemary’s Baby hasn’t fared well in the years since its release. As much as it’s a template for many Hollywood films of its type, and Polanski’s direction is faultless, the critical thing to modern eyes is just how…. clunky it all seems. Mia Farrow’s stammering, helpless mother character is probably more a product of the time, a product largely seen as helpless by a society struggling to unshackle itself from rampant misogyny. At times spooky, at times frustratingly tepid, Rosemary’s Baby is certainly worth a look, but passage of time appears to have worn the edges off its once potent mix of unbridled paranoia and demonic illusion.
Insipid, uninspiring sequel to The Last Exorcism sees Ashely Bell deliver a performance far better than the film she’s starring in. With a story that goes nowhere, a constant, uninterrupted stream of pseudo-chills, nearly-scares and altogether manipulative film-making, this erroneously named Last Exorcism entry is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Devoid of heart, lacking even base emotional weight, Part II is a mess.
While a film about murder, rape and insanity aren’t perhaps the most easy-to-approach subjects for a film-maker, Stoker – scripted by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, no less – has an exciting, layered and filled-t0-the-brim-with-sly-nods sense of style and (perhaps more astonishingly) purpose to everything that transpires. Not a pixel is out of place, not a hair or limb in the wrong position, not a feature of the frame is in any way deleterious to the overall aesthetic of Park Chan-wook’s first English language film. It’s a film which is so obviously constructed, yet feels almost birthed into being by a film-maker so attuned to his camera, so articulate with a lens, or lighting, or subtle visual effects; Stoker is a film that will divide casual viewers, but excite those who know what they’re in for.
Gory, visceral horror film lacks genuine heart, but does a lot of things right in its attempt to scare the bejeebus out of you. The thrills comes thick and fast once the infamous Book of The Dead is pulled out, with demonic possession, bodily dismemberment, torture, harrowing pseudo-religious iconography and a bunch of in-jokes the order of the day. It’s not a clever film, as much as these kinds of movies want to be, but it is thrillingly entertaining in a perverse, bloodthirsty, gratuitously overlong, Cabin In The Woods-kinda way.
This film is a train-wreck of ineptitude and sub-par acting. The ghostly goings-on rate way down the list of things this film does wrong; Mischa Barton’s character is terribly written, her acting is atrocious, and the film’s plot seems founded on the cliches of a hundred other films. The opening five minutes alone are enough to make one’s eyes roll with frustration.
Relatively creepy Chainsaw entry seeks to reboot the franchise, with a result that isn’t too far from being successful. While the central antagonist – Leatherface – lacks potency, it’s the supporting cast who elevate this film above its schlock roots. As a horror film, it’s certainly stylish in an icky-grimy-don’t-touch-the-walls kinda way, and if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat, you’ll get a kick out of this one.
At-times scary, more often stupid beyond all reason, The Last Exorcism goes the found-footage route and fails. Hard. Stealing from Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch and – unfortunately – The Exorcist, The Last Exorcism is an exercise in dull, repetitive film-making. Modern thrill-seeking cinema is an iffy proposition these days for the most part, and Exorcism cannot stand on its own as a success in this area. The found footage tedium has well and truly set in, and The Last Exorcism should, frankly, be exorcised for the damage it does to the genre.
Moody, atmospheric religious thriller is supposedly based on true events, although whether the end product is in any way remotely connected or legitimate is only known to scripter Juliet Snowden. The cast perform adequately – Calis is good as the creepy possessed girl – and Bornedal’s direction is smooth without being obsequious, and the end result is an altogether puzzling mix of frights, poppycock genre cliche and Shyamalan-esque creepiness that oozes from almost every frame. Echoes of The Exorcist abound as the film progresses, which probably hinders proceedings more than it ever helps.
Cleverly filmed “found footage” flick, with a limited cast but a hightened sense of terror, Apollo 18 is a somewhat schizofrenic affair laden with dubious effects and a brazen jump-cut fright mentality. The characters are fairly generic, the use of tehnical lingo and jargon is deadening to the pacing, and the overall feel of the film is “Cloverfield In Space”; having said that, there are moments of genius in this, even if that genius goes unrewarded by a more compelling narrative.
Uninspired direction and incoherent plot twists unravel any sense of tension The Uninvited might have enjoyed. Browning is solid in a thankless role, Banks delivers a frightening Hand-That-Rocks-The-Cradle callback performance, and Arielle Kabbel offers enough sass to maintain some interest – but the inert narrative and trudgery to get to the point not only do the cast a disservice, but the viewer as well. Hardly a debacle, but certainly a misfire.
Occasionally spooky, often terribly generic, Texas Chainsaw makes an effort to return the Chainsaw franchise to its roots by picking up almost immediately where the Tobe Hooper-directed original left off. It’s a little unfortunate that the effort has gone to waste, turning Leatherface into some kind of repugnant man-child we should empathize with, rather than fear, and this story device leaves the film nowhere to go but down. Not that it began that high to start with, but there’s an effort at least behind the scenes to try and recreate the hoe-down nastiness of the original film. Props for trying, but this film isn’t even close to being as atmospheric, or as spine-chilling, as its progenitor.
Mind-numbingly dreadful “reboot” of the Nightmare franchise delivers plenty of superficial scares, although not through any legitimate storytelling or tension building elements. A film primarily designed as a carnival ride of jump-bang shocks and occasional gore, Nightmare On Elm Street never quite feels as nightmarish (if you’ll excuse the pun) as it wants to be. The cast scream well, the production design is typically evocative, yet the refusal to generate any sense of dread through the story – instead of crash-bang editing techniques and voluminous sound cues – means the film’s as tiresome as it is stupid.