Thursday, July 28, 2016

Horror Movie Master-Post!

I’m currently in a long-distance relationship with Renee, and whenever we get to spend time together (usually summers and Christmas breaks when we’re not working), we love watching horror movies together. That being said, instead of doing my typical one-movie-per-post write-up, I’m going to lay out this horror movie master-post to give a quick rundown of the movies we’ve viewed throughout this vacation.

The Conjuring (2013)
Director: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Famiga, Ron Livingston

I had heard so many good things about this movie that I had to watch it. The Conjuring follows two paranormal investigators, a husband-and-wife team (Wilson and Farmiga), to an old swamp house where mysterious things start happening—specifically involving the mother of the family who resides there. This was a pretty decent movie: the pacing was really good, the effects were interesting, and the acting didn’t put me off like so many horror movies do. What I get really interested in, however, is sound—nothing makes a horror movie for me more than sound. From the creaking sound of a noose swinging on a rafter to off-key piano notes, the sound in this movie made it scary. Overall, the plot seems a bit run of the mill, but it’s a solid movie.

The Hallow (2015)
Director: Corin Hardy
Stars: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic

This title cropped up on Netflix, and the movie poster drew me in. A young couple (Mawle and Novakovic) and their infant son move to a secluded house on the edge of an Irish forest, but things begin to go bump in the night. As I watched this with my girlfriend, we immediately made the connection of Ireland and changelings, monsters that steal babies, and we were both surprised—I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d heard of a horror movie based around Irish folklore. This plot was quite original, and we both enjoyed that part of it, but where The Hallow really shines is in the make-up and creature design. The monsters from the forest all take on an earthy tone: most of the monsters seem vaguely humanoid, but they’re made from sticks, leaves, and mud. For what seems like a low-budget movie, having (I think) three characters with speaking roles, the movie is worth the watch.

They Look Like People (2015)
Director: Perry Blackshear
Stars: MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, Margaret Ying Drake

This is another Netflix pick that came up out of the wild blue yonder, and again, it surprised me and Renee with how good it was. Christian (Dumouchel), an up-and-coming employee at a design firm, runs into an old, mysterious friend, Wyatt (Andrews). Wyatt is convinced that a war between good and evil is coming, and the story follows his prep-work and armament—but is the war real or only in his head? While this movie smacks of a student film, it felt very tense the whole way through the story because of Wyatt’s paranoia: the whole idea here is that the evil creatures are taking over people’s bodies—they look like people—and he can’t tell who is good and who is evil. That tension builds even more as Wyatt gets eerie phone calls in the middle of the night; and we watch Wyatt prepare weapons for the (maybe fake, maybe real) coming apocalypse. On top of being a very tense movie, the film also explores the meaning of masculinity, which definitely piqued the interest of me and Renee, since we’ve both done research in gender and masculinity studies. This movie is definitely worth a watch because it's just so simple.

We Are What We Are (2013)
Director: Jim Mickle
Stars: Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner

Another Netflix pick, We Are What We Are explores the relationships between Frank Parker (Sage) and his two daughters, Iris (Childers) and Rose (Garner), who must carry on the family tradition after their mother’s death—a tradition that involves eating people. This movie was based off of a Mexican horror movie of the same name—Somos lo que hay—and it seems like a more original story than most horror movies tell because it adds the family dynamic to the cannibalism. That being said, there wasn’t enough tension to really hold our interest during this movie; we didn’t care about most of the characters, and personally, I didn’t feel like I was rooting for anyone to survive. The movie pokes at the theme of “traditions” and questions why we do the things we do, as a culture, but it didn’t really work for me. You aren't going to miss much with this movie, and it was one of the least favorite ones out of this list because the characters didn't really mean much to me, and it dragged on so long. 

Would You Rather? (2012)
Director: David Guy Levy
Stars: Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs

Iris (Snow) needs a significant amount of money to pay off her brother’s medical bills until Shepard Lambrick (Combs) invites her to a very special dinner party where she and the other contests play a game—to the death. I added this movie to my Netflix queue months ago, but I never got around to watching it: whenever I scrolled over it, it piqued my interest enough to not remove it from my list, but it wasn’t interesting enough to watch. Now that I’ve watched it, I feel like my actions were justified. It was okay, but it wasn’t really anything groundbreaking. Renee described it adequately as “torture porn,” which is a trap that many horror movies fall into: the story doesn’t need to be good, but the visuals have to be gory enough to keep audiences on edge. If this review were based entirely on the “torture porn” aspect of this movie, I’d be writing a great review, but horror movies shouldn’t be based entirely on how gory they are and how queasy they can make audiences. Again, this is another one you could skip, and it's another of my least favorites in this list: there was just too much imbalance in the character development, story, and torture porn. 

Come Back to Me (2014)
Director: Paul Leyden
Stars: Matt Passmore, Nathan Keyes, Katie Walder

The thing that drew me in about this movie was the poster, and that’s sometimes how Renee gets drawn into movies, too. Come Back to Me delves into the sudden night-terrors of Sarah (Walder) after a creepy neighbor named Dale (Keyes) moves in across the street; Josh (Passmore), Sarah’s husband, tries to support her through her horrifying dreams, but he works night shifts in a casino—meaning that Sarah is alone and afraid throughout most of the movie. Let me get this out right away: the acting in this movie is terrible. The only one who I found believable was Dale, because he’s supposed to be a socially-awkward weirdo neighbor. The rest of the cast was very meh—Josh’s character felt wooden most of the time, and Sarah’s character seemed to overdramatize everything. The movie fell short in a lot of areas, but the ending caught me be surprise. I'm not going to say that this is a "must see," by any stretch, but it's a poorly-acted movie that has a fun idea, and that's kind of worth the watch.

Starry Eyes (2014)
Director: Kevin Kolsh, Dennis Widmyer
Stars: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan

It wasn't so much the poster for this movie, but the Netflix thumbnail of this movie with a woman with pentagrams drawn over her eyes. I really like movies about demonic possession, and I thought that this would be up that alley--I was a little off, but it wasn't bad. Sarah (Essoe), an actress in Hollywood looking for her break-out role, finds an opportunity at a highly-regarded yet mysterious production company...but she doesn't understand what she has to trade to reach fame. Essoe does very well in her role, and she's very believable throughout the movie; on top of that, the makeup used on Essoe's character is pretty good (though some of the blood in the movie looks like red-tinted chocolate syrup). I did like this movie, because it tapped into my feminist side: Starry Eyes highlights the distinct differences between men and women in the film industry by suggesting what a woman must do to get a break...a break that isn't necessary for a man in the same position. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the storyline: it's an interesting storyline, but it quickly turns into a Faustian bargain where Sarah more or less trades her humanity for beauty and fame. The plot, especially where she fulfills that Faustian bargain, made me raise an eyebrow, and I'm not sure where the writers were going with some of the unnecessary torture porn that ensues. Despite the oddness in the plot, I'd still recommend this movie.

Sinister (2012)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone

This is our second go-around with Sinister, because I honestly didn't remember a whole lot from it the last time we viewed it about two years ago. Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) needs to write a new best-seller crime novel to keep his family from drowning in debt; a quadruple homicide case in Pennsylvania might be the answer to his family's problems--or it might cause more. Sinister has incredible work in sound design that definitely makes things more tense, such as the whirring of a video projector after Ellison finds a box full of Super-8 reels...that show various murders. As we watched this movie, we realized that we liked the first two-thirds of the movie; after that, the filmmakers decided that the story was too complex, so they felt the need to "dumb it down," like the audience wasn't quite following things well enough. Renee even said toward the end of the movie, "They could've ended this movie five minutes earlier and it would've been way scarier." I completely agree that the ending dragged on way too long and explained things that didn't need explaining, and there was one sequence where Ellison scours the house after a mysterious noise only to be followed by spoopy ghosts--but in horror movies, less is more. What we can come up with in our own heads is often more scary than what's shown to us on the screen. This one is a cool movie, one that you should definitely watch, but don't let the ending turn you off from it. 

Any horror movies that we should tackle? Have a different opinion on one of the movies I’ve listed here? Write a comment below!


  1. The second Conjuring would be nice. Also, have you ever heard of They? I recall liking it but maybe I was just a teenager drawn to the idea of night terrors. I know this film is from quite a few years back, but I'd love to read your take on The Mothman Prophecies

  2. Also, I'll be adding the Netflix films to my queue. Good reviews and thanks for the recommendations. As a fan of Vera Farmiga, especially as Mrs. Bates in Bates Motel, I intend to check out both Conjuring films.