Category Archives: Horror

The Boy

Right to Bear Brahms

It’s Winter. Heavy snow barricades script-writer Stacey Menear inside her house. She pours a glass of red wine then embraces the warmth of an open fire as she struggles to find the hook of a new horror film.

Her story follows Greta (Lauran Cohen); an American who moves to a remote English village and takes a job as a nanny to a local family.

Menear knows that devil children are popular horror icons but then again… the only thing scarier than porcelain dolls are people with too much plastic surgery. Suddenly, it comes to her: “Let’s have a crazy child replaced by a spooky doll! Best of both worlds!”

To Greta’s surprise she will be caring for a doll named Brahms which strikes a resemblance to a real child of the same name who died many years ago.

OK, so I made up the bit about snow and wine but the choice to use both hooks is an inspired choice because Brahms is a freaky little fucker!

I don’t think the doll ever really changes yet Brahms appears to smile when something mischievous happens and sulks like a toddler when it is ignored or mistreated. The subtlety in anthropomorphism only adds to Brahms’ creepy persona.

It helps that Greta isn’t alone in her experiences because it adds an extra dynamic layer into the mix. Malcolm (Rupert Evans) is the local greengrocer and whilst a lot of his actions seem benevolent you can’t help but wonder how much he antagonises Brahms or if he is part of the problem.

The whole film is utterly creepy and un-nerving. It constantly plays with the viewer, suggesting that Brahms is haunted or alive or the boy is trapped inside the doll or maybe this is all in Greta’s head.

Although it is consistently ominous there are few genuinely scary moments. I can’t believe I’m saying this but a handful of extra jump scares would have served the film well and make it feel more balanced horror as a result.

What I found most weird though is when Greta finds out that doll isn’t quite what it seems she embraces the thing and treats it like her own child. I mean if you went to a posh restaurant and ordered an expensive steak only to find out it’s some sort of laxative inducing, BSE laden side of horse’s kneecap you wouldn’t just turn around and say “Oh that’s novel. Down the hatch!”. Instead Greta slips into Stockholm Syndrome faster than you can say Valhalla.

As with all horror films there has to be a reveal and The Boy’s was pleasantly surprising. Perhaps that’s the wrong word. It’s not quite what I was expecting but equally as harrowing as whatever my imagination dreamt up.

However, the reveal is also in parallel to events in Greta’s personal life coming to a head which either needed to be cut entirely or introduced earlier because this felt like a hollow addition in an attempt to add depth of character.

The Boy seems more carefully planned than most of the crap that infests the horror genre so deeply. It avoids many common and generic traits choosing instead to weigh on your psyche. This is at the detriment of scares but to the benefit of an unsettling story.

 

 

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Brahms
+ The reveal
+ Constantly you on edge


– Not as scary as you would hope
– Greta’s back story
– Stockholm Syndrome

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10 Cloverfield Lane

All Clover Again

In 2008 Matt Reeves directed a relatively low budget monster movie called Cloverfield. It was like Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project had a baby which sounds weird but it quickly became a cult classic thanks to this unique blend of genres. I suppose it helped that 2008 was before found footage was as played out as auto-tuning pop songs for audio ‘style’.

Cloverfield was a well packaged film, giving you only rare glimpses of the monster only to reveal it’s true nature at the end of the film. This is how the best horror films tends to work. The thing is though; we have seen the monster now so the mystery is gone. How then do you make a sequel without making it Pacific Clover Rim-field?

Well that’s simple. You get different people to write the film, you change the director, remove that shaky camera nonsense, you don’t set it in a city, keep exactly none of the original actors, get rid of the original monster and having the new title as the only reference to the original.

10 Cloverfield Lane is not in fact a sequel; it’s a spiritual successor. It’s important to set expectations here because it is very different to the original Cloverfield. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a psychological thriller more than a horror, monster or disaster film but it’s also important to go in knowing as little as possible so this will be 100% spoiler free.

The set up is simple. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is running from her problems and in the process is involved in a car accident. She wakes to find she has been apparently kidnapped by Howard (John Goodman) but it’s not that simple because something has apparently happened to the outside world. Russian invasion? An atomic bomb? Chemical weapons? Aliens? Who knows, perhaps the apes have finally risen or One Direction fans are running riot. Terrifying.

So Michelle is holed up in a bunker along with Howard and, to her surprise, a local called Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). The film follows Michelle trying to make sense of the situation.

The majority of the film is set in the confines of the bunker so it is reliant on the script to take most of the strain. Writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken have done a fantastic job in this respect. They have managed to find a delicate balance between developing the characters and to keep you guessing what the hell is going on.

Of course any good script is also dependent on its delivery and all three of the actors excel in this regards but it’s Goodman who stands above all. This is easily one o the best performances of his career. He effortlessly flirts between a begrudging host, a strict ex-military serviceman, an under-appreciated good samaritan, threatening patriarch and oddball, end of the world conspiracy theorist.

I think the film should have ended with  the words “Oh come on!” and that’s about the only complaint I can go into without spoiling what is otherwise a finely crafted thriller.

Whilst the film holds very little in common with the first Cloverfield it does capture a similar feeling of mystery and intrigue. It’s definitely worth a watch but try not to read too much into it before you see it.

 

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ John Goodman’s performance
+ Keeps you guessing


– Ending is too drawn out
– Err… Other stuff

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The Forest

Leave Well Alone

I know the feeling – I had to watch it!

It’s been a while since I ventured to the cinema to watch a horror film but here I am lured in by the fact that I had nothing else to do. It was either watch The Forest or try shaving my beard with a lit candle to stave off boredom.

In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t choose the candle but am gutted that I didn’t just use a flame-thrower because The Forest adds to the stinking pile of donkey shit that consists of most horror films.

For a start it frequently contradicts itself. We are told again and again to never stray off the path. No, seriously; NEVER STRAY OFF THE PATH!! Literally 5 steps into the forest and the park ranger (of all people) happily drags them off the path, a path which was never seen again. It would be like taking your first ever driving lesson and the teacher telling you to start drifting round corners.

A smaller example of this is when a Japanese teacher translates for her student who doesn’t speak English but when the teacher doesn’t provide a literal translation the girl fervently corrects her. This implies that the girl is a lying little shit because that requires a highly competent and nuanced English speaker.

Funnily enough through, the film actually had potential. Early on we are told that whatever happens, it is all in your head. A creepy forest is a great place to subvert the audiences expectations, build tension and play on that part of your brain that says an un-dead killer zombie bear with rabies is definitely outside my tent.

Sadly, the psychological aspect isn’t really explored choosing instead to fumble its way through a story that revolves around the rescue and recovery of a twin sister whilst desperately grasping at those all too familiar horror tropes that I hate.

Jump scares are the name of the day complete with eerie wilderness scenes that could be from any other horror film, Japanese people – presumably because they make original horror and therefore this film by proxy?! – creepy children who look at the floor then face the camera and scream.

“It’s the microwave meal of creative horror.”

Feel free to use that as a DVD box quote.

Whilst the above sounds all very tedious it gets even worse thanks to some awful acting courtesy of Natalie Dormer. Does she seem genuinely concerned about her twin sister? No. Does she seem genuinely scared in the forest? For the most part no.

Thankfully Yukiyoshi Ozawa and Taylor Kinney are a lot better as the supporting cast but this doesn’t detract from the harrowing experience of paying money to see this visual fungus.

The occasional shots of wildlife and mountain scenery ironically make the forest look like a lovely place to visit and are the rare pieces of oak veneer that covers this endemic dry rot.

The Forest should have been a psychological thriller but plays bullshit bingo with generic horror conventions instead. In fact, at the time of writing, it’s currently tracking at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes so if you do go to see The Forest I’d advise bringing some sort of strong tranquillisers.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Nice scenery?!

– Another generic horror
– Inconsistent
– Bad acting

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