A platoon of American soldiers during World War II encounter unspeakable horrors a German base in Overlord. On the eve of D-Day, a platoon of American paratroopers, including Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) and Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), parachute into Nazi-occupied France with the mission to destroy a radio jamming tower at a nearby German outpost, headed by Officer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk). With the help of local woman Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), the platoon break into the outpost and find a secret lab, where the Nazis have been developing a serum to reanimate dead bodies.
From director Julius Avery and producers J.J. Abrams comes a World War II film with a horror twist. This small platoon of paratroopers only have a few hours to pull off their mission, failure of which would jeopardize D-Day. However, these soldiers get much more than they bargained for when they find out that the Nazis have been experimenting with a serum that reanimates the dead. However, the serum is quite unstable and results in monstrous side effects on those injected.
A relatively simplistic description of Overlord is that the film is probably what you would get if you took the video game Wolfenstein and mashed it up with Resident Evil. In other words, Overlord is probably a film that would make a fun video game. However, the question has to be asked if Overlord really needed to have literal horror elements, since war if can be horrific enough. Ultimately, I would say that Overlord is pretty much what you would expect from a J.J. Abrams produced horror film, which is a loud and glossy picture with a lot of violence and gore.
A man desperately calls his horror-loving friend when a serial killer runs loose at a summer camp in You Might Be the Killer. Covered in blood after the deaths of an uncountable number of camp counselors, Sam (Fran Kranz) desperately calls his friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan) for help on the situation. The two break down the events of what happened at the summer camp and as more information comes to light, Chuck begins to ask Sam if he’s sure that he’s not himself the killer.
You Might Be the Killer is a meta slasher film from writer/director Brett Simmons, reported inspired by a Twitter conversation that happened in 2017. The film stars Joss Whedon alumni Fran Kanz (The Cabin in the Woods) and Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who try to get to the bottom of a serial killer terrorizing this summer camp. Featuring a Memento-like non-chronological narrative, You Might Be the Killer is a film that allows us to discover new information about the events of this night, at the same time Sam and Chuck do.
I don’t want talk too specifically about the plot of You Might Be the Killer, since even the title can probably be considered a bit of a spoiler. However, I will say that this is a highly entertaining horror-comedy that plays around with the familiar slasher film tropes that Chuck is an expert of. A fun addition to the film is the use of a Dead Counselor Counter, to help the audience keep track of where in the narrative each scene is taking place. Filled with running gags and some incredibly gory kills, You Might Be the Killer is a horror-comedy that is sure to become a classic.
Friday, October 19, 9:45 PM – Scotiabank Theatre (SOLD OUT)
A group of strangers descend upon a rundown hotel in Bad Times at the El Royale. El Royale is a hotel near Lake Tahoe, that is placed on the border between California and Nevada. One night, a group of strangers descend upon the hotel, including Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and her sister Rosie (Cailee Spaeny), salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (John Hamm), and hippie cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth). Each of these people have come to the hotel for their own reasons and it isn’t long before things start to go to Hell.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a Tarantino-esque thriller written and directed by Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods). The story of the film is told in multiple chapters, which reveals the backstory of each of the individuals staying at hotel. It turns out that there is a dark secret at the El Royale and the nervous bellboy Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) is desperate to confess his sins before it is too late. As the nights wares on, secrets are revealed and the stakes are raised and chances are not everyone will make it to the morning.
If you count the years it was on the shelf, it has almost been a decade since Joss Whedon collaborator Drew Goddard directed his meta-horror debut feature The Cabin in the Woods. For this sophomore effort Bad Times at the El Royale, Goddard presents a period thriller with a cast of characters, all of whom are not who they initially seem. Because of this, Bad Times at the El Royale is a film that is best seen knowing as little about the plot as possible.
While it might be a bit of a stereotype to say this, I have to admit that Bad Times at the El Royale is a Quentin Tarantino rip-off that is perhaps arriving two decades too late. While there is nothing all that wrong with the plot of Bad Times at the El Royale, it is the type of film that has been seen too many times before. Even the plot device of switching the point of view to the different characters has been done to death.
I will not go as far and say that Bad Times at the El Royale is a sophomore slump for Drew Goddard, but after the clever breakdown of horror tropes done in The Cabin in the Wood, you would almost expect him to treat a mainstream thriller in a similar fashion. As it stands, Bad Times at the El Royale is merely OK.
Five Masters of Horror present cinematic nightmares for unsuspecting movie patrons in Nightmare Cinema. As various people pass by an isolated movie theatre, they find their names on the marquee and enter to watch their worst nightmares, curated by the mysterious Projectionist (Mickey Rourke): In The Thing in the Woods, Samantha (Sarah Elizabeth Withers) is terrorized by a killer in a welding mask, though something is not quite right; In Mirari, Anna (Zarah Mahler) is convinced by her fiance David (Mark Grossman) to get her scarred face repaired by plastic surgeon Dr. Mirari (Richard Chamberlain); In Mashit, Father Benedict (Maurice Benard) has to deal with a demonic disturbance at his Catholic school; In This Way To Egress, Helen (Elizabeth Reaser) visits a doctor for help about the changing state of the world around her; Finally in Dead, Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) has a near-death experience after being shot and begins seeing dead people in the hospital.
From the creators of the anthology TV series Masters of Horror comes the anthology film Nightmare Cinema. Producer and co-director Mick Garris (Critters 2, The Stand) is joined by Joe Dante (Gremlins), Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), Ryûhei Kitamura (VS, Downrange), and David Slade (Thirty Days of Night) to present five horror short films that are grouped together by a wraparound segment, directed by Garris, featuring The Projectionist, curator of a hundred years of nightmares.
Nightmare Cinema is a film that can easily be described as Creepshow for a new generation. Like many anthology films, there are ups and downs, with the opening segment The Thing in the Woods arguably being the strongest of the bunch. Also, the wraparound segments with Mickey Rourke left a bit to be desired. However, ultimately Nightmare Cinema is a quite entertaining anthology.
The documentary Transformer, winner of the Audience Award from the 2018 Hot Docs Film Festival, opens this week at the Imagine Cinemas Carlton in Toronto. To coincide with the release of the film, I am posting the interview I did at Hot Docs with Transformer‘s director Michael Del Monte and subject Janae Marie Kroczaleski. Enjoy.
00:20 – Opening Comments 00:48 – Interview with Michael Del Monte and Janae Marie Kroc on Transformer 10:32 – Closing Comments
Michael Myers once again returns home after forty years in Halloween. After terrorizing the town of Haddonfield on Halloween Night 1978, Michael Myers was apprehended and has spent the last forty years at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, under the care of Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), the pupil of Myers’ former caregiver Dr. Loomis. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been unable to put her traumatic experience behind her, which has all but estranged her from her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). However, as Michael Myers is being transferred to a new facility, he escapes and descends upon Haddonfield once again!
Forty years after the release of John Carpenter’s original, director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley move away from the comedic films they are best known and they return to Haddonfield for a new Halloween that picks up four decades after the original left off, retconning all the sequels that have come before. Laurie Strode has become a shut-in and has spent the last four decades preparing for the return of Michael Myers. When these fears come true, Laurie sets it upon herself to protect her family at all costs, with the assistance of deputy sheriff Frank Hawkins (Will Patton).
It has been nine years since Michael Myers last graced the big screen with the second film of the Rob Zombie directed reboots. It seemed like we were at a point where we would never again be terrorized by The Shape. That’s why it’s a bit of a surprise that Blumhouse Productions not only set out to resurrect the Halloween franchise, but make this film a direct sequel to the original. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role of Laurie Strode for the first time since Halloween: Resurrection in 2002, with her new take of the character being someone who is unable to let go of a past trauma, which has all but taken over her life.
Despite being a direct follow-up to the 1978 original, Halloween can also be viewed somewhat as a soft reboot, as the film plays homage to many moments to the original, such as the pumpkin in the opening credits or the recreation of various iconic shots. In addition, while Halloween ignores the previous sequels, there are still some sly references, such as addressing incorrect rumors that Michael Myers is Laurie Strode’s brother and a group of kids wearing the Silver Shamrock masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
While Halloween does work as a homage to series as a whole, it is not a perfect film. Many of the kills in the film happen randomly and seem somewhat uninspired, though there is one Michael Myers stalking scene in the second act that is full of tongue-in-cheek humor. However, any shortcomings in Halloween are eclipsed by the film’s incredibly suspenseful third act. I also have to praise the fact that John Carpenter has returned to do the score for this film, along with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies.
Altogether, I will sum things up by saying that Halloween is a film that is all about pushing nostalgia for the 1978 original, which is just fine by me.
This review was originally published as part of my coverage of Fantasia 2018
A taxi driver is pursued by a demon in Luz. One night, Luz Carrara (Luana Velis) stumbles into a police station, in fear of a demon that is pursuing her. Elsewhere, the mysterious Nora (Julia Riedler) seduces Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) and talks about her history with Luz. Later, Dr. Rossini comes to the police station to help commissioner Bertillon (Nadja Stübiger) break down Luz’s story. However, it soon becomes apparent that the demon has come looking for its prey.
From German director Tilman Singer comes this new and somewhat unique take on the demonic possession narrative. Shot on grainy 16mm, giving the film a real 1970s aesthetic, Luz is a relatively isolated story, taking place primarily at a run-down police station. Through Nora’s story to Dr. Rossini, we learn of Luz’ past at a Chilean school for girls, where she performed a dark ritual on her roommate Margarita (Lilli Lorenz). Things come to head during a reenactment at the police station, where the demon surfaces to take the woman it loves.
I have to argue that Luz somewhat peaked for me during the films opening moments, which shows Luz slowly walking into the police station, accompanied by a haunting synthesizer score. The rest of the film just sort of plays out for me, with very little in terms of actual scares, though the film isn’t afraid to have possessed characters repeatedly recite a blasphemous version of the Lord’s Prayer. While I do think Luz takes a somewhat unique approach with its storytelling, it ultimately did not leave too much of an impression on me.
Three sisters committing a robbery discovery a demonic secret in The Inhabitant. In desperate need for money, sisters Camila (Vanesa Restrepo), Maria (María Evoli), and Anita (Carla Adell) break into the house of rich senator José Sánchez-Lermontov (Flavio Medina) and his wife Angélica (Gabriela de la Garza), hoping to steal the money they were told was stashed there. While searching the basement of the house, Camila finds Jose and Angélica’s young daughter Tamara (Natasha Cubria) tied to a table. Believing her to be a victim of abuse, Camila unties Tamara and brings her upstairs. However, the three sisters soon realize that a darker and more demonic force is at play.
The Inhabitant is a Mexican exorcism film written and directed by Eli Roth collaborator Guillermo Amoedo (The Green Inferno). The three sister protagonists get more than they bargained for when they find Tamara in the basement, who is quite possibly possessed by the devil. The possessed Tamara plays mind games with the sisters, bringing up painful memories of their abusive father. Eventually, Cardenal Pedro Natale (Fernando Becerril) is called in to attempt to exorcise the demonic force inhabiting Tamara.
It is quite obvious that Guillermo Amoedo has made The Inhabitant, with the aim of the film being the Mexican answer to The Exorcist. I have to admit that the film doesn’t really add that much new to the table, though it does end up being quite critical of the “hypocrisy” of the Catholic Church. On a more technical note, I found some of the plot hard to follow, because of poorly synced English subtitles. While not a fault of the film itself, I can’t deny that it affected by viewing experience somewhat. That said, I would probably still view The Inhabitant as little more than so-so exorcism film.
This review was originally published as part of my coverage of Fantasia 2018
A group of teenage punks find themselves stalked by a psychotic park ranger in The Ranger. After her boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a police officer during a drug raid at a punk rock club, Chelsea (Chloe Levine) and her friends Abe (Bubba Weiler), Jerk (Jeremy Pope), and Amber (Amanda Grace Benitez) are forced to go on the run, deciding to take shelter at Chelsea’s uncle’s cabin in the mountains. However, the group encounters the local Park Ranger (Jeremy Holm), who holds a secret about Chelsea’s past and doesn’t take kindly to these punk kids disturbing nature.
The Ranger is the feature film debut from director Jenn Wexler. The film focuses on a group of punk rock kids, who are stocked by a psychotic park rangers, who often recites the rules of the National Park to justify his violent acts. However, the Ranger also holds a secret about Chelsea and her relationship with her Uncle Pete (Larry Fessenden), which she has tried to lock away in her mind.
Probably the most simple description of The Ranger is that it is a slasher film set in a National Park, with an additional punk rock twist. I do admit that none of the teenage punks, save for Chelsea, are all that likable, though I would suppose that it is by design, so you wouldn’t feel too bad when they begin to be picked off in some very gory ways. In fact, the real star of this film is Jeremy Holm as the titular Ranger, who is completely psychotic, yet still a compelling and strangely relatable person, who is maybe a little too obsessed with nature. Altogether, The Ranger is a solid slasher.
This review was originally published as part of my coverage of Fantasia 2018
An undead teenage girl befriends blind boy in The Dark. Mina (Nadia Alexander) is a cannibalistic undead teenager, who haunts an isolated forested area known as the “Devil’s Den.” After dispatching of a fugitive criminal that enters the area, Mina meets the criminal’s blinded hostage Alex (Toby Nichols). Mina decides to help Alex get back to safety and in doing so begins to regain some of her humanity.
The Dark is twisted fairytale from writer/director Justin P. Lange that focuses on the connection formed by two lost souls. When Mina in introduced, she is a near-feral monster, who kills and consumes anyone who invades the Devil’s Den. However, Mina begins to lose her animalistic instincts when she encounters Alex and flashbacks illustrate her tragic history of being abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Regaining her humanity, Mina is determined to help Alex get to safety.
While The Dark features its share of horror violence and gore, the film is ultimately a character study of two lost souls. This is particular true when it come’s to Mina’s story, who begins as a monster and becomes a quite tragic figure. Overall, I would say that The Dark is a film that I would recommend to anyone who like fairytales with a layer of darkness.