How strange is it to be excited for a Halloween movie in the year of our lord 2018? And yet, the upcoming reboot/sequel from Universal is one of the most anticipated movies of the year — a year that, it has to be said, has already been pretty great for horror. And now we have a poster to drool over while we wait impatiently for it to arrive.
The upcoming Universal flick, a co-production between Bumhouse, Trancas and Miramax, is due for release this October. Word dropped late last year that Jamie Lee Curtis was set to reprise her role as Laurie Stroder, putting many fans’ minds at rest that what’s coming is going to be proper Halloween.
And the accompanying pic of her in costume (which you can see above) gave even the most cynical fan chills.
The plot is being kept pretty much under wraps for the moment, but here’s what we know thus far:
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
If that description doesn’t sound Halloween-y enough for you, just keep in mind that maestro John Carpenter is exec-producing and serving as creative consultant on the movie. He, along with wunderkind producer Jason Blum (who’s given us Split and Get Out, among others), clearly knows what he’s doing.
Inspired by the 1978 horror classic, Halloween 2018 is courtesy of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride (who starred in last year’s Alien: Covenant and was easily the most interesting element), who co-wrote the script, with Green helming the project. Their intention is to both pay homage to what’s come before and carve a new path of terror.
The poster is pretty spot-on, too, though the mask has elements of Rob Zombie’s destroyed Michael Myers mask, from his two Halloween reboots — or is it just me? Check it out for yourself below.
Halloween is set to hit theaters on October 19, 2018.
Stay tuned to Wicked Horror for all the must-know news on the flick in the meantime.
A special treat was released in March for those fond of Jeffrey Bloom’s 1987 adaptation of Flowers in the Attic. At least, for fans living in the United Kingdom. Arrow Films has distributed a new Blu-ray edition of this film based upon V.C. Andrews’ seminal novel. This release contains new interviews and audio commentaries. Furthermore, two versions of the script are downloadable from the disc. One is the infamous version penned by Wes Craven.
One thrilling special feature of note includes the original studio-vetoed ending. Recently, Bloom shared a copy of his screenplay with me. A treasured artifact in my collection of movie memorabilia, the text offered insight into this polarizing film. In an earlier article, I detailed the experience of reading this script. I concluded that in today’s world of Blu-ray there would be an automatic inclusion of this alternate ending. The actual hope of this occurring seemed improbable. At last, the admirers of this film version will be satiated with the worthwhile special features. Even those critical of the movie will have their interest piqued.
The cover artwork is newly commissioned by Arrow Films. Haunt Love’s modern print blasts away the generic DVD covers designed for this flick in the past. A ballerina emerges from the different shades of red. She rises above the ominous mansion featured in the film. The cover is reversible, and the other side displays the original theatrical poster. Inside the case is a booklet presenting additional artwork and detailed behind-the-scenes information. Bloom gives an interview for the essay and engages on a multitude of topics. These range from the switched ending to the Lifetime remake.
Loaded with special features, Arrow Films clearly did their research. Highlighted portions include interviews with Jeb Stuart Adams and composer, Christopher Young. Mr. Adams portrayed eldest son, Christopher, in the film. He reveals tidbits surrounding the cut scenes of incest and the relationships with his fellow actors. This is one of the only interviews from Adams since the release, and his anecdotes are amusing. Young reveals how he became involved late in production. The relationships behind-the-scenes were becoming hostile and Young’s hauntingly beautiful score temporarily mended a few bridges.
Other interviews discuss the construction of the attic and how various sequences were shot. The commentaries are incredibly interesting for fans of the original film. Kat Ellinger is the editor-in-chief of Diabolique magazine. She contributes a wealth of information and discusses how the film has a deserved place in the horror genre. Additionally, Tony Kayden includes a commentary on the ending. Negative test screenings led to New World deciding to film a new ending. Kayden was chosen as Bloom’s replacement and lists the reasons why particular choices were made. He also follows up on his relationships to the cast and crew.
The major reason to own this Blu-ray is the studio-vetoed ending. The ending was transferred from a poor-quality Betamax tape. Despite the tracking issues, the content is fascinating. While die-hard fans of the novel will instantly poke out all the problematic elements, the original choice left the door open for a sequel. This finale was designed to satiate the fans of the late 1980’s slasher genre. There are a series of disturbing images. The entire climax is far more intense than the “eat the cookie” theatrical ending. The kids barely escape the menacing caretaker. The confrontation with Victoria Tennant (Mother) plays out differently. A special effect involving Louise Fletcher (Grandmother) is cheesy and, yet, surprisingly scary. The audience response in 1987 may not have been improved; however, this ending would have left an indisputable impact.
Arrow Films has no intention of releasing this Blu-ray in the United States. Audiences with a Region A player will have to wait until this selection is available. I had to endure my own odyssey in obtaining a copy. And it was worth it. Since the age of twelve, I have been a fan of the novel and the original film. When I found out there was an alternate ending, I immediately began researching a way to watch this different take on the finale. After twenty years, I was not going to be stopped. As a fan of the slasher genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this alternate interpretation. A different set of problems arise had they gone in this direction. Yet, the rest of the film’s setup makes more sense.
The 1987 adaptation is a guilty pleasure of mine. There are problematic elements, especially for die-hard fans of the novel. However, Bloom succeeds in capturing the gothic, fairytale atmosphere from the novel. Performances by Louise Fletcher and Kristy Swanson are exceptional. This is the definitive release of Flowers in the Attic. One criticism with this Blu-ray is the lack of input from any of the leading ladies. Jeb Stuart Adams delivers a welcome contribution to the special features. Nevertheless, the heart and soul of the film belongs to Swanson, Fletcher, and Victoria Tennant as Mother. As proven by this U.K. release, anything is still possible.
WICKED RATING: 9/10 (Blu-ray)
Director(s): Jeffrey Bloom
Writer(s): Jeffrey Bloom, V.C Andrews (novel)
Stars: Kristy Swanson, Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Jeb Stuart Adams
Release: March 12, 2018 (Home Video)
Studio/ Production Co: Fries Entertainment, Arrow Films (Blu-ray)
Budget: $5 Million
Length: 1 Hour 33 minutes
Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller
While watching Corbin Nash, I couldn’t help but think about this one article Roger Ebert wrote about how painful it is to review bad movies for a living. At the time, I thought it was a larf. I mean, even if you ARE watching terrible movies, you’re still getting paid money to sit through them, and certainly, there are FAR worse ways to generate an income.
But now, in an age where my free time is at a premium, I totally understand what Rog was talking about. If I’m lucky, I might have a good ten hours a week of time just to myself, and I assure you, those hours are precious. So when you spend several of them watching a crappy movie and then writing about said crappy movie — you can kinda’ understand the spiritual plight of the film critic.
I could have done anything with my free time besides watch Corbin Nash, this newfangled Blade wannabe starring Smalljon Umber from Game of Thrones as a very poor man’s Wesley Snipes, and pretty much anything would’ve been time better spent.
He’s here to kick ass and woefully overact … and he’s all out of ass to kick.
This is one of those movies that’s pretty much told entirely through flashback, so everything jumps around about every ten or fifteen minutes. There’s this New York cop named Corbin Nash and he’s your stereotypical “loose cannon on the edge, I don’t play by the rules and hardly ever wear a shirt” policeman. Well, one day Rutger Hauer waltzes on in to his favorite bar and starts telling Nash he comes from a long line of demon hunters or something. So they talk for about 10 minutes and then the old dude gives him … a World Series Championship ring.
Fast forward a year and this stripper in an orange wig is treating Corbin Nash, who apparently went to L.A. and got royally messed up having karate matches with vampires. Now we’re rewinding the tape to six months ago. There’s this goth, crossdressing psycho killer right out of The Silence of the Lambs (played by, of all people, Corey Feldman) stalking a hooker and yeah, they do the deed right then and there on the hood of Feldman’s car. Only thing is, instead of paying the prostitute for her services, Corey takes a chomp out of her neck instead.
Then we cut back to Corbin Nash getting his wounds licked (not literally, because that would be kind of gross) and the stripper takes her wig off and reveals herself to be … uh, some random woman who saved a Corbin Nash at a bar once. Then he goes out and beats up a dude’s car with a baseball bat and punches the driver a couple of times.
Then Corbin Nash goes to talk to Malcolm McDowell, who is some blind sage dude who knows that Los Angeles is secretly overrun with devil worshipers and blood suckers (and no, not the regular kinds you find in Hollywood, either.) Then the goth transvestite vampire throws Corbin Nash into a jail cell. Then they put a bag over his head and force him down a dark hallway. Then he has a kickboxing contest with some guy for no real reason whatsoever. Then Feldman slow dances with some guy with a giant scar on his forehead, then there’s ANOTHER pro ‘rasslin match, this time inside a barbed wire ring, and it ends with one demon getting its jugular torn open like a half-priced enchilada.
Malcolm McDowell, seen here REALLY wishing he would’ve saved up more money for retirement.
And then there’s a lot of plot getting in the way of the story, and then it’s time for the grand finale where Nash shaves a baseball bat into a spike, puts on some brass knux and spends the last 15 minutes of the flick turning the living dead into the just plain dead.
Let’s hit the highlights, why don’t we? We’ve got 21 dead bodies. Ten breasts. Multiple neck bitings. One strip club battle royale. Multiple barbed wire ‘rasslin matches. Stomach carving. Throat stabbing. Gratuitous boxing training montage. Gratuitous lap dancing. Body bag fu. Baseball bat fu. Brass knuckles fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place — WAY too much exposition fu.
Starring Dean S. Jagger as the titular character, whose catchphrases include “Who am I? That’s a good question” and “You ever hear of the occult?”; Malcolm McDowell as a character listed in the final credits as “Blind Prophet” (spoiler: the character is a prophet, who is blind); Rutger Hauer as “Stranger” (yeah, coming up with character names really isn’t the screenwriters’ strong suit, it appears); and Corey Feldman as the gender-bending vampire leader Queeny, who is pretty much the only good thing about the whole damned movie.
Directed by Ben (The Paddy Lincoln Gang) Jagger, who also co-wrote he movie alongside sibling/star Dean S. Jagger and Christopher P. Taylor.
Corbin Nash will be in select theaters, on VOD, and DigitalHD starting April 20th.
WICKED RATING: 3/10
Diretor(s): Ben Jagger
Write(s): Ben Jagger, Dean S. Jagger, Christopher P. Taylor
Stars: Dean S. Jagger, Corey Feldman, Malcolm McDowell, Rutger Hauer
Release date: April 20, 2018
Studio/Production Co: Gravitas Ventures
Length: 100 minutes
Subgenre: Vampire, Supernatural, Action, Superhero
Ghost Stories follows Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman), an atheist who has dedicated his life to debunking paranormal phenomenon. His hero, Dr. Charles Cameron, had done similar work before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Cameron reaches out from close to the grave to give Phillip a message about life: Goodman should spend more time with his family. Also, ghosts are real and he has three cases that Goodman won’t be able to solve.
The first section is by far the scariest. Goodman meets Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), a night watchmen, in a bar. Having the principal character as a guard is excellent because it satisfies the question of why that idiot is investigating the strange noises. Tony had to because it was his job. As he creeps through the abandoned asylum, directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman pepper the audience with jump scares to great effect and strange sets. It’s knuckle bitingly scary.
The main criticism of modern horror is that it’s only jump scares. Typically, that’s untrue. Even in big studio productions like The Conjuring, which has a ton, there are innovations and inversions. It plays games with viewers, teasing jump scares where there aren’t any and having jump scares without builds. The Conjuring uses them as a tool to elicit a shocked reaction from an audience and put them on edge for the mythology. And there is a mythology—if not a full explanation, a suggestion for why this is happening to these people at this time.
In Ghost Stories it’s only the jump scares. There’s no attempt to draw out a logic to any of the three stories other than what the viewers already believe. And what’s worse is that after the first section, it feels like the scares are being repeated. Fool me once, and I’m inoculated the second time.
The film is steeped in classic ghost story reference. It alludes to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic scary story, “Young Goodman Brown” with the Professor’s name. The film’s structure, which sees Goodman try to debunk three separate ghost stories, is a play on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
It’s inverted, so rather than three different ghosts coming to visit Goodman, he visits three people who have encountered the supernatural. A Christmas Carol has each of the ghosts try to convince Scrooge to pay his employees a living wage. In Ghost Stories, every person he talks to, starting with Cameron, finds a way to comment on how Goodman is alone in the world. They keep saying, without elaborating as to why, that Goodman should give up this whole paranormal debunking business (his life’s work) and start a family. The movie opens with a home video recording that shows how Goodman became mostly estranged from his family. The whole thing is very preachy.
Worse though is the other character’s insistence that career and family are at odds. It’s strange, not in the unsettling way that horror movies are supposed to be, but in the way a passenger on a crowded bus offering you life advice is strange. Dickens can be preachy because he’s addressing issues of life and death and he’s a master prose stylist. Dyson and Nyman are addressing issues that baby boomers complain about when they’re talking about how millennials are ruining everything and they’re not master filmmakers.
It’s in line with the movie’s family values message that women are only represented as crying mothers begging psychics for contact with their dead children, handicapped past the point of speaking, or dead themselves. There are so few living women in the film that viewers may wonder if it’s set in an alternate dimension where there are nearly no women in England. If it is, Ghost Stories doesn’t address the fact that only one living woman has a speaking role.
It ends with a nonsensical twist as the frame story implodes on itself. It turns everything the viewer has seen up until that point on its head. In this case it’s most certainly not a good thing. A twist needs to be set up. Without the tracks laid, it’s just a lie. Ghost Stories starts strong before coming apart at the seams.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Writer(s): Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Stars: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman
Release date: April 20, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Warp Films, Lionsgate
Length: 98 minutes
The first three episodes from the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale continue the story of June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss). Opening the first episode is a harrowing sequence that represents the breathtaking suspense dispensed regularly from this acclaimed series. Every moment leaves the main characters, along with the viewer, on unsure footing. Important social commentary is being delivered to the audience, however the relentless uncertainty allows the audience to remain captivated. The story is not sacrificed by any seemingly preachy distractions. Instead, the crucial message becomes centered on the necessity to stay alert.
After the opening sequence, the first few episodes from the sophomore season begin to open up the geographical landscape of Gilead. One gets a nasty view of the deplorable conditions from the Colonies. Participants from Mayday and the lives of Econofamilies are partially explored. Each introduction is filled with tension. The strain is caused by the division created among the “lower-class.” This becomes another way for those in power to remain in control. In this new world, reaching out to another person for help can mean life or death.
Past memories are expanded alongside the bleakness of present time. The transition into Gilead is littered with difficult experiences. June’s experience with the shifting tone is illustrated in a hospital visit. Hannah (Jordana Blake) comes down with a fever at school. The seemingly concerned intentions of a nurse (Ericka Kreutz) soon turn into an accusatory tone. June is made to feel both guilt and shame as a working mother. In the same time period, Emily (Alexis Bledel) finds her job in jeopardy simply for having a picture of her wife and child. Not long after, her love life extends from potential unemployment to risk of her life.
Different timelines are interwoven to create poignant moments for surviving characters. Returning as June, also known as Offred, is Elisabeth Moss. Moss deftly portrays June as an ordinary woman placed in extraordinary circumstances. The importance of normalcy to June is understood by insight given into her childhood. Her desire to conform to a general concept of womanhood is a catalyst to the situation she now finds herself in. This is highlighted by the performance of Cherry Jones as Holly Osborne. Jones is a proud and powerful feminist that comes alive with any chance to fight for her independence. She is also June’s mother. The weight of Holly’s words was neglected by her daughter in the past. In the present, June realizes her mother was right.
Moss’ characterization of June shows the warrior within beginning to emerge. The anger from underneath is boiling over. This rage erupts out of frustration with her current situation. After years of snuffing out every emotion, June is now displaying audacious behavior. However, in Gilead, this newfound boldness can lead to endangerment if she does not exercise caution. Moss brilliantly uncovers each layer of June to expose a woman capable of anything. Hopefully, her strong determination has not come too late.
Alexis Bledel continues to breathe life into the handmaid formerly known as Ofglen and Ofsteven. She develops as the supporting character to watch. Bledel’s measured performance as Emily reveals a woman with the resolve to survive. Her refusal to play the game has cost her everything and still she goes on. Armed with knowledge, Emily may have a surprise or two up her sleeve. Samira Wiley’s embodiment of a woman coping with a traumatic experience is heartbreaking. She struggles to become the spirited Moira of her past. However, Ruby still lingers in her mind. In addition, Aunt Lydia’s sadistic nature comes with a calculated logic. There is a method behind her madness. Ann Dowd is striking as a woman in charge of behavior modification. She genuinely wants her “girls” to survive this new world. And she will make sure this happens at any maniacal price.
Gilead remains a sadistic society founded on religious oppression. By definition, faith is something a person should turn to freely and not out of force. In this atmosphere, fear is a powerful tool used with religion to rob a person of his or her freedom. In the pre-Gilead world, American citizens were aware that something bad was coming. When society collapsed, those in power used religion as a device to divide and force others into submission. Instead of utilizing religion to manifest a comforting community, those in control took advantage of the powerless. As a result, they manipulated and edited biblical text in order to best suit the needs of those at the top of society.
Episodes 1-3 from the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale catch the viewer up on the immediate events from last year’s finale. There is no place completely safe in Gilead. The treatment of women transcends beyond this fictional world into contemporary society. There is a warning. The hope for change diminishes through the division of women. People are vulnerable when divided, and there is always somebody else ready to take control.
Season Two of The Handmaid’s Tale premieres April 25th on Hulu.
WICKED RATING: 10/10 (episodes 1-3)
Director(s): Mike Barker
Writer(s): Bruce Miller, Margaret Atwood (novel)
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Max Minghella
Release: April 25, 2018 (Hulu)
Studio/ Production Co: MGM Television, Gilead Productions
Length: Episode 1 (56:22), Episode 2 (55:25), Episode 3 (58:18)
Genre: Drama, Psychological Thriller
New on Netflix is a weekly feature here at Wicked Horror where we take a look at the latest additions to everyone’s favorite streaming service. It can be tough sifting through all those horror titles, not really knowing what’s worth watching and what isn’t. Sometimes, you know exactly what you’re looking for, but when you go to watch it the title has already been taken down. Here, we do our best to let you know what’s been added and re-added from week to week.
As always, the beginning of the month hit us with a lot of strong material, with some current favorites and old classics alike. Admittedly, things have been lacking of late, but some old favorites have returned to the streaming service after a lengthy absence.
The selection is beefing back up, though, slowly but surely. Hopefully that will keep up as we move further into the year.
So kick back, relax, and make some popcorn while we bring you what’s new on Netflix for the week of April 13th, 2018.
And, of course, Happy Friday the 13th!
Deep Blue Sea
The deepest, bluest shark movie since Jaws is back on Netflix, and there’s no better time for it to return. Deep Blue Sea 2 will see its premiere on the SyFy Channel next week, leading a lot of fans to want to return to the original. Plus, that trailer for The Meg just hit and looks to be the biggest, silliest shark movie of the summer. Deep Blue Sea is currently the reigning champion in that area, so it’s leaving a lot of people to wonder if this cult classic from the tail end of the ’90s will hold its crown or be dethroned.
The Blumhouse model is genius. There’s no arguing with close to $200 million worldwide off an $11,000 budget (Paranormal Activity). And when it works, as with last year’s Happy Death Day, it really works. When it doesn’t, however, we get The Visit, The Darkness, or, well, every other Paranormal Activity movie that followed the first one. Truth Or Dare neither reaches the heights of Happy Death Day nor plumbs the depths of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
It’s a perfectly serviceable Blumhouse offering which, for many movie-goers, will be just fine.
Our heroine is Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale, sporting a distractingly mumsy haircut that makes her look a bit like a secretary on Mad Men. She’s Olivia, a shy, bookish type looking to build homes for the poor in Africa when her much wilder best friend Markie, whose name will grate every time it’s uttered, (played by fellow TV actress Violett Beane, of The Flash) convinces her to go to Mexico. Their group of too-old-to-be-in-college-and-wait-how-do-they-all-afford-to-live-in-that-massive-house-together friends insist.
After being left out at by her buddies at a bar, Olivia meets a young man who whisks the group off, in a stupidly easy way, to an old, abandoned church (where all the good parties happen). Once there, he proposes a rousing game of Truth Or Dare. The friends are easily swayed after some basic-level protestations and soon things get mean. The asshole character, played by Nolan Gerard Funk as though he would rather be anywhere else, soon calls Olivia out for being in love with Markie’s boyfriend. And, when the mysterious stranger reveals life and death is actually at stake, things start to get really weird.
Truth Or Dare has an interesting, if unoriginal gimmick. It’s part Saw, part Final Destination, with allusions to being a teen-classic slasher like Scream only without any of the wit or scare factor. A character named Ronnie, who seems to exist only to make inappropriate comments, is so out of place it’s as though he’s teleported from another movie. He shows up only so he can die in what is easily the film’s most shocking and elaborate death sequence. Otherwise, we’re very much in “point gun at own head” territory here (and no, there’s no money shot).
None of the characters are likeable or fleshed out enough for us to feel as though there’s anything really at stake. Although Olivia and Markie keep talking about how they’ve been friends forever, they turn on each other remarkably quickly, and to say that this script was clearly written by a man (actually, three!) would be a massive understatement. Although there’s, thankfully, no skin on show, each of the female leads is a shrieking, emotional harpy — in fact, one is a straight up alcoholic.
As this is a teen movie aimed at the Friday night market, social media features prominently. So much so that, for one, horrifying moment, I worried that there was a crossover happening with the ghastly Friend Request. It makes sense that twenty-somethings such as this lot would turn to ye olde Internet in times of crisis, but the amount of screen-time wasted on them huddling around an (Apple, of course) laptop is truly baffling. Especially when it adds absolutely nothing to the near nonexistent tension.
That’s the other glaring problem with Truth Or Dare: it isn’t scary. Not even a little bit. It’s tense at times, and the jump scares aren’t quite as predictable as we’ve come to expect from this kind of mainstream, join-the-dots fare, but even picking off who’s going to be killed next becomes tiresome when no real effort has been made to establish the danger these people are in. For much of its run-time, this movie just really wants to be a teen drama for some reason. Only, with boring 20-year-olds sometimes trying not to get killed.
There’s been a lot of talk this past week about A Quiet Place and how it allegedly isn’t a real horror movie due to its PG-13 rating. Krasinski does a lot of really clever things to make that movie scary without showing too much, but Truth Or Dare reveals how limiting it can be to aim for the teen market when the filmmakers haven’t got a solid product, a good eye, or a decent grasp of what makes something scary. There’s virtually no blood or gore and, save for one, hammer-related incident, nothing pushing the boundaries either. We don’t need to see everything to be scared, but we do need to see/hear/feel something.
The performances are fine across the board; the standard, unremarkable, Dawson’s Creek-lite stuff that befits this kind of material. There’s nothing approaching Jessica Rothe’s fearless performance in Happy Death Day, although Hale does her best in her first big, leading role, and she at least comes off better than Beane’s perma-scowling Markie (ugh, that name). The men are interchangeable, including Hayden Szeto, who was so charming in The Edge of Seventeen but here is saddled with “gay kid” and no further defining qualities.
The personalities of the central group actually describe Truth Or Dare itself quite accurately; bland, inoffensive, by-the-numbers, and mostly forgettable. They’re okay for the 100 minutes the film is on, but one wouldn’t want to spend any longer than that in their company. More to the point, it’s difficult to care whether any of them survive, even when a last-minute sacrifice (that makes absolutely no sense, of course) comes into play.
Nerve did much the same thing but with a much nastier, more cynical edge. It wasn’t afraid to put its characters in real danger — even if it was just a wobbly ladder between buildings — and then force us, the audience both at home and onscreen, to get pleasure out of watching them suffer, or to throw Machine Gun Kelly at us and make us root for him. Truth Or Dare is too safe to really commit to the darkness and instead leaves one wondering why it really needs to exist in the first place.
Maybe it’s just for the Friday night crowd and hardcore horror fanatics should steer clear and just go watch A Quiet Place instead. But even in comparison to the likes of lowest common denominator stuff Jigsaw, which was so proudly cheesy and silly, and actually quite good fun as a result, this is seriously tame, boring stuff. Only Blumhouse completists need apply. The rest can wait for The First Purge.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Jeff Wadlow
Writer(s): Jeff Wadlow, Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach
Stars: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Hayden Szeto, Violett Beane
Release date: April 13, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Blumhouse
Length: 100 minutes
The first thing to note about Marrowbone, the spooky, atmospheric first feature from The Orphanage writer Sergio G. Sánchez, is its cast. This thing boasts a dream cast, a who’s who of quirky, indie actors that, if you don’t already know and love them, you soon will. Most are talented Brits using their own accents for once and one (Anya Taylor-Joy) who, weirdly, isn’t.
The Marrowbone of the title refers to the surname a British family on the run adopts after fleeing to America from the violent husband and father at its head. Starting off as a sort of postcard, seaside prestige picture — the kind where you’d expect Saoirse Ronan to turn up as a love interest, staring forlornly into the horizon — the film quickly mutates into something darker and more sinister.
The first clue, naturally, is that cast of weirdos. Taylor-Joy, first off, is the love interest here. Her paramour is George Mackay, in his second oddball family outing following Captain Fantastic. There’s a creaky old house, a broken mirror, much talk of ghosts, and the question hanging heavily over the proceedings is whether this is olden times or a Village-like scenario? Can this family be trusted?
Marrowbone is dark and brooding, moodily shot in greys and dark blue hues. The pallette is sun-parched, as though all hope has been drained from it. Although Mackay’s Jack is an optimistic sort, there’s a sense he’s struggling against the current trying to take care of his three younger siblings (two of whom are played by Stranger Things‘ Charlie Heaton and A Cure For Wellness‘ Mia Goth).
Is the Marrowbone household actually haunted? The ghosts of the past definitely loom large, though Sánchez wisely leaves it unclear for the most part. The scares are very subtle throughout, teased until the very last second. When they do come, though, they’re shocking, bone-chilling, stomach-turning.
The mystery elements are strong, too, and it’s possible to drift along with the film until its denouement (which is neither too neat nor entirely predictable) without being entirely sure of its destination, a luxury in this kind of paranormal thriller.
There is much to like and admire here, from the well-established locations (the film was shot in Spain) to the escalating family drama and the spooky feeling, employed so well and with the required amount of control. Marrowbone is an old-school chiller, a slow burn that luxuriates in its 100 minute run-time. It never overplays its hand.
The biggest selling point of the movie, though, is its performances. Mackay, Heaton, Goth, and Taylor-Joy are all on top form here, their weirdo energies bouncing off each other to brilliant effect. The trailer sells the flick on psychological scares and the familiar faces indie fans will have grown to love. The movie more than delivers on both.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Sergio G. Sánchez
Writer(s): Sergio G. Sánchez
Stars: George Mackay, Mia Goth, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton
Release date: April 13, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Lionsgate International
Length: 110 minutes
The theme of female maturation is growing more and more popular with the increasing number of women working behind and in front of the camera in horror. It has a fine tradition already, of course, from Ginger Snaps all the way up to Raw.
What’s less widely seen is Chucky himself, Brad Dourif, in a role besides that of the infamous killer doll. Both are present in Wildling, a dark fairytale/coming-of-age body horror movie starring Dourif as the kindly father to a young girl he’s keeping locked up at home for unspecified reasons. As the film opens, Dourif regales his young charge with tales of the so-called “wildling” lurking outside her barred-shut windows.
The telling of this story kicks things off in the manner of an actual, Grimm-style fairytale, from the big, wooden bed in which young Anna sleeps, to the encroaching woodland surrounding the house, and, of course, those bars on the windows. Anna is a princess in captivity, and captivity stories are big money for horror (as with the recent, brilliant Unsane).
The tension, at least in the beginning, comes from whether or not Dourif’s father is lying to his daughter. Considering he’s played by Chucky, horror fans know to be wary. When it seems his young charge is reaching maturity, he’s quick to medicate her to within an inch of her life.
Now a teenager, and played by Brit actress Bel Powley, she breaks free and the film quickly switches gears as it’s revealed to be set in the present day. A hospital stint lets Anna know her father’s been pumping her full of drugs to halt her maturity.
Taken in by the kindly local sheriff (played, rather well it must be said, by Liv Tyler), Anna is given the opportunity to finally experience a slice of real life, from crushing on boys to attending wild parties. But something is lurking beneath the surface, threatening to be exposed at any moment.
Wildling, the debut feature from German director Fritz Böhm, is a gorgeously-captured movie. Earthy tones — blues, greens, and browns — populate the frame and make everything seem wider and more expansive. There’s a fantasy feel to it even outside of the typical monster movie elements.
Echoes of Ginger Snaps abound, naturally, as well as allusions to Twilight — if Bella were the monster, instead of Edward. The body horror is great, the makeup work strong, and the gore effective but not too prevalent as to tip over into gross-out territory.
Powley, so wonderful in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, stretches a whole different kind of acting muscle here. Tasked with communicating both wisdom beyond her years and a wide-eyed, childlike innocence, she nails the balancing act between the two.
She’s inherently watchable but also completely untrustworthy. When Anna tells a boy “you smell like a hamburger,” it’s hard to tell whether she’s hungry or horny. That’s the point, of course, that she’s neither a victim nor a perpetrator, but rather a slave to her own changing body.
Alongside Tyler, the film is proudly female-fronted, the horror of female maturation putting it alongside the likes of Thelma, Raw, The Witch, Veronica, and even comedy movie Blockers, which discussed the fear of women’s sexuality and the double standard with men losing their virginity being something to celebrate.
Wildling doesn’t quite reach the heights of a Raw, but it’s not trying to. The forest, where most of the film’s most explosive scenes take place, does look pretty enchanted, suggesting Böhm intended for it to be taken as a dark fantasy story, rather than a true-to-life warning.
Still, it’s a strong, assured debut with a cracking cast and plenty of weird, dark storybook elements to surprise even the most diehard body horror fans.
Catch Wildling in theaters, on VOD and Digital HD from April 13, 2018
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Fritz Böhm
Writer(s): Fritz Böhm, Florian Eder
Stars: Brad Dourif, Bel Powley, Liv Tyler,
Release date: April 13, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Maven Pictures
Length: 92 minutes
One of the best things about being an avid fan of film is that there is always more to discover. It’s fascinating to hear directors talk about the movies that influenced them. To go back and watch those films they have talked about, though, is highly recommended. It’s amazing to look at the opening shot of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil and see the influence it had on the opening shot of Halloween.
Film is a constant circle. Everyone is influenced and everyone—if they’re any good—will influence someone else. Some of these influences, once you hear them, are obvious. Others are more unexpected. Both can be equally interesting and both have their place, to be sure.
This list, comprised of both classic horror films and the movies that influenced them, will take a look at how some of the biggest titles were shaped by what came before and hopefully draw others to make comparisons of their own.
Rio Bravo was the major influence for Assault on Precinct 13
John Carpenter’s sophomore effort, his first real feature film in some respects, was heavily influenced by Howard Hawkes—as was most of the director’s work. This film in particular wears those influences on its sleeve. Assault is basically a modern remake of Rio Bravo, taking a few cues from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as well.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the visual influence for Suspiria
Dario Argento’s Suspiria is an amazing horror film with a unique visual palette. It is bursting with colors in virtually every scene. Argento was very specific about this look and knew exactly what he wanted. He told cinematographer Luciano Tovoli to stick as closely to the colors and lighting of Disney’s Snow White as possible. This makes even more sense when you consider that, originally, the characters in Suspiria were supposed to be children, which would only have made the film more frightening, considering that it was always meant to be as gory as it ended up being.
The Last Man on Earth was an influence on Night of the Living Dead
Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and its first film adaptation, The Last Man on Earth, were huge influences on George Romero when he made Night of the Living Dead. The late director frequently said such in interviews over the course of the years. Giving himself less credit than he deserves, he said that all he really did was substitute out the vampires. While Night has more than earned its place as an influential classic, the seeds of Last Man on Earth are still very clear.
Planet of the Vampires was a major influence on Alien
Alien has gotten some flack from fans in recent years for not being half as original as it appears to be, which is pretty stupid. The backlash seems to be from people who are just now discovering that every film has major influences and that all filmmakers are inspired by the films they see and love. Alien borrows much of its plot from Planet of the Vampires as well as It! The Terror from Beyond Space but it has a tone, style and visual sensibility that are all its own.
The Haunting was a major influence for The Shining
While everyone has their own eccentric guesses as to what really influenced Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, it can’t fight off the primary influence of the novel, which was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and its film adaptation. King has frequently admitted such and quotes Jackson several times over the course of the book. Kubrick’s version can’t fight off being a ghost story and those influences make it into the movie, even if they’re not so much intentional.
The Virgin Spring was the basis for The Last House on the Left
The Last House on the Left was not really influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring as much as it was based on it. Wes Craven has always called his film a loose remake, never trying to deny his inspirations. Last House takes the central concept and updates it for the 1970’s, resulting in one of the most harrowing cinematic experiences of its time. It’s a brutal film, but also a contemplative one, which it doesn’t get as much credit for. The philosophical morality play at the center of Last House on the Left is equal parts Craven and Bergman.