The whole world is about to get canceled, and 2020 seems to be the year we hoarded ourself to the rooftop with toilet paper. Strange times ahead, indeed..

However, before the cinemas were forced to shut their doors, we did at least get three good horror movies on the big screen to enjoy. And “Sonic The Hedgehog”, which succeeded at the box office just in time. So maybe we can look forward to a sequel in 2021. “1917” was also a great one. So while we wait for next year, I guess we just have to resort to streaming, DVD/Blu-ray, video games, comic books and cat videos on YouTube. Because there’s no time to die, as James Bond says..

All good things comes in threes, and the horror movie year ended at least while it was on top. Here are the three titles HorrorGhouls watched, in chronological order:

 

Hamburg, Germany in the early 70’s. It’s a regular day at the tiny, cramped pub Der Goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove). A playlist with depressing German schlager songs are being played in the background as we get introduced to a group of outlived and wrinkled prostitutes, and hardcore alcoholics. One of them likes to suck on used tampons, by the way. Yuck. But the worst of them is probably Fritz Honka, a hideous, disgusting, crooked aberration of a man, who brings hookers to his filthy horror chamber of an attic apartment that has not been cleaned since the last century, and stinks worse than you probably can imagine.

Fritz is a deranged, greasy homicidal maniac who develops a bad habit of killing the women he brings home with him in the most brutal ways, in pure volcanic rage like an orangutan on speed, if they don’t meet his sexual standards. He then cuts the bodies in pieces with a saw while listening to German percussion music, wraps them in newspapers, and hides them in a crawl space attic that only he has access to through his apartment. Although Fritz is trying to hold back the corpse stench by hanging tree-shaped air fresheners (wunderbaums) around his attic apartment, the neighbor who lives underneath him is constantly complaining that it stinks. And it’s only a matter of time before there are so many decomposing body parts dumped in there that maggots starts to find their way between the cracks and says hello to the neighbors.

This film is based on the true story about serial killer Fritz Honka, who killed up to four prostitutes from 1970 to 1975 in the red light district of Hamburg. The one we see in the brutal opening scene was 42-year-old Gertraud Bräuer. A hairdresser and part-time prostitute who refused to have sex with him, and ended up as his first known victim. She was sawed into small pieces, and dumped in the bushes in the local area. The remains were found by the police, but Honka escaped. For this time. It would take four years before Honka killed again. The infamous bar, Der Goldene Handschuh, is still open with the new banner “Honka Stub”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a cheap statue of the guy inside as well. A stage play of Fritz Honka has also been performed in Hamburg. It’s also worth mentioning that writer and Director Faith Atkin grew up in the same area in Hamburg during the same time period Fritz Honka was finally captured by the police.

The most remarkable thing here is how raw and downright authentic everything looks. The technical aspects, all from set-design, sound, photography, editing, is top notch. The costumes are right on spot, and they really did an impressive job to reconstruct Fritz Honka’s horror attic. The 1970s-look is flawless, and the grim, thick atmosphere of pure despair and hopelessness  in The Golden Glove pub reeks all over the place, and feels like it was shot in a real pub with real hookers, alcoholics and whatnot. All the actors here are hundred percent dedicated, no matter how far the scenes go and what endless humiliations the actors have to put themselves through. It all seemed like a pure nightmare to shoot, especially for the poor ladies. If they all got away with their mind in check and no need for any therapy sessions after this grueling experience, then just be impressed and give them a big applause.

Films such as “Maniac” and “Henry: Portrait of a A Serial Killer” comes to mind, but our friend Fritz Honka takes it on a whole new level. It’s brutal, yet absurdly hilarious at the same time. I haven’t seen anything like it, really. It’s a pretty unique and distinctive look at a madman’s everyday life, living in a hellish, chaotic, stinky downward spiral of an environment where you almost expect the stench of piss, shit, sweat, booze and other extreme body odors dissipating from the screen to attack your nostrils at any moment. Thanks to Honka, that bastard, I can’t enjoy the smell of wunderbaums the same way again, that’s for sure. And speaking of the star himself, Jonas Dassler, he’s just absolut fantastisch as Fritz Honka.  An eleven of ten-star performance. Cheers for that, or as they say in Deutschland: Tost!

So, make yourself welcome to The Golden Rabbit Hole. Just be glad you’re only witnessing this from a screen, and is free to take a shower when you’re starting to feel too itchy.

 

 

On a remote New England Island in the 1890s, two lighthouse keepers have to stay there for four weeks. Thomas Wake, the oldest between the two, has been watching over the lighthouse for a long time and is used to the unfavorable conditions. His new assistant, Ephraim Winslow, does not settle in with ease however. Ephraim is getting more and more frustrated by the older man’s fussing and complaints, where he is being bossed around constantly. When the four weeks are over, and the boat still doesn’t come to pick up Ephraim due to very bad weather, they both realize they might be stuck on the island for far longer than anticipated. Plagued by bad dreams and hallucinations (or are they hallucinations?) Ephraim tries to keep his sanity on the forsaken rock – but this proves to be difficult as deeply sunken secrets are about to break the surface.

“The Lighthouse” by Robert Eggers (who earlier gave us the very haunting and creepy film “The Witch“) is a very atmospheric black & white film, and is actually loosely based on a real-life tragedy that happened in 1801. Two Welsh Lighthouse keepers, who were in fact both named Thomas, became trapped due to a storm. That incident is referred to as “The Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy”. The movie was also shot on 35mm black and white Double-X 5222 film, and due to this, they needed a lot more light, so they put up flickering 500-800 watt halogen bulbs in period-correct kerosene lamps. These lamps were just a few feet away from the actor’s faces, so the result is a lot of imagery that simply looks stunning, especially with the facial expressions and grimaces being heavily toned due to the contrasts. Plain and simple, it is beautiful to watch.

There is a good amount of claustrophobic dread to appreciate from “The Lighthouse”. And with Ephraim’s dreams and visions (or are they all just dreams and visions?) with mermaids and giant tentacles, we get a dose of some of the old and classical myths and legends from sea folk. Thomas tells supernatural tales of sea gulls and bad omens, but while Ephraim tries to ignore the old man’s ramblings, it’s evident that there are certain things laying under the surface that causes him to become vulnerable to the tales. It doesn’t take long before Ephraim is slowly descending into madness…whether it be from the isolation, Thomas and his bossy demeanor and tales, the past…or maybe a mix of it all, who knows. When the men realize they are stranded, possibly for a long time to come, they both start drinking their senses away, somewhat easing up the tension for a little while as the drunken men starts dancing and singing sea shanties – but it doesn’t take long until the songs turn into insults and aggressive behavior, and a battle for dominance as the cabin fever starts to creep in.

“Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus”, is the line Robert Eggers have used to describe this film. And he has done a very good job of portraying just this concept!

 

 

Cecilia manages to escape a controlling and abusive relationship, but struggles to overcome the negative impact the experience has had on her life. Still paranoid and afraid her ex will come after her, she suddenly receives the news that he has committed suicide…and that she has been written into his will. With a substantial amount of money to be gradually paid out to her, and knowing her abusive ex is gone from this world, she hopes to re-build her life. However, after experiencing certain horrifying events, she starts to believe that his death was a hoax and that he’s acquired the ability to become invisible, only to terrorize her even further.

“The Invisible Man”, directed by Leigh Whannell (director of “Insidious: Chapter 3”, and writer of the previous “Insidious” movies as well as the first three “Saw” movies) has revived one of the classic Universal monsters, but in a completely different setting than from the original which was based on the novel by H. G. Wells. Whereas the original “Invisible Man” wasn’t a bad guy from the get-go, he is here a narcissistic sociopath who is abusive and controlling towards his partner. Thus, the horror the movie portrays feels real, and the first sequence of the movie where Cecilia has drugged him in order to escape the fortress-like home he’s captured her in, is actually one of the most intense movie openings I’ve seen as of late.

While the movie starts quite intense, the feeling of foreboding is quite evident already in the next scenes, where we witness Cecilia trying to get a hold of her own life (barely daring to venture outside of the house she’s staying in). And upon the news of her ex’s so-called suicide, with a substantial amount of money to be paid to her over time (provided she does not commit any crime or is deemed mentally unstable, as per the will – and yeah, you know why this clause was added) she starts to relax a little bit and looks brightly upon her own future for once. Of course, that shifts rather quickly, and when she experiences things that only she is witnessing, she tries to convince those close to her that her ex is still alive, and has made himself invisible. Of course, no one believes her, and she keeps being abused…but since no one except herself is experiencing the abuse, she can’t make anyone believe her. Yes – the analogy here is clear as day.

From there on, the movie takes you on a suspenseful ride, and Elisabeth Moss (who is playing the role of Cecilia) is doing an excellent job on portraying all levels of the torments she’s going through, whether it is being scared out of her mind, desperately trying to fight back, or emotionally crushed by not being believed and the lack of an actual escape from her invisible tormentor. And while we don’t see that much of Adrian aka “The Invisible Man”, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, he actually did manage to show off a few tell-tale signs of the type of character he’s portraying.

“The Invisible Man” is a movie that might be a bit difficult to watch for people who have experienced abusive relationships, as it’s nailing narcissistic abuse in a way I haven’t seen any other film dare to exploit. It’s all there: making everyone believe their victim is the crazy one, making the victim doubting their own sanity, and especially gaslighting (a tactic used to make victims doubt themselves and their perception of events, by questioning the victim’s memory, accusing them of making things up, denying things that they did towards the victim, and mocking them for “misunderstanding” everything).

Since it does stray pretty far from the original “Invisible Man”, some people may be put off due to this. I can imagine that putting these two movies apart from each other without doing comparisons, would be beneficial to the viewing experience.

99 percent of the movies Vanja and I watch in the cinema are horror movies (wow, what a shocker), and 2019 has definitely been a really strong year for the genre. In fact, I can’t remember another year where there have been so many horror movies in the cinema, and I’m speaking of my home country Norway. Most of the horror movies we’ve seen at the big screen this year has already been reviewed on our new site horrorghouls.com we launched in March. And to our excitement it looks like 2020 will be a strong year for horror as well.

But, yeah, we do see other types of films too, on the rare occasion when there pops up titles that are worth our attention. For example, Rambo V: Last Blood. We also saw the Joker movie on its premiere day, which I also will share some thoughts on later. But first, let’s take a look at what our old friend John Rambo has been up to lately:

 

Rambo: Last Blood

Since Rambo slaughtered a gang of local infantry units in Burma’s war zone eleven years ago, he has settled down on a farm in the quiet country side in Arizona with his old friend Maria and her granddaughter Gabrielle. Even though Rambo is still struggling with trauma, a misanthropic worldview and keeps chewing pills, he finally seems to have gotten some inner piece while he train horses and builds underground tunnels by the farm. Well, the little peace he has achieved is going to be shattered soon, when Gabrielle wants to go to Mexico to track down her biological father who abandoned her and her mother years ago. A very bad idea, but after John and her grandmother strongly advice her to stay as far away from the place as if it was the plague, she goes anyway, under their radar.

And what could possible go wrong..?

Mexico looks like a big, broken, rusty toilet filled with criminals and corrupt police officers lurking in every corner, and it doesn’t take long before she gets drugged in a nightclub and sold off to a Mexican cartel. They throw her like worthless trash in a basement filled with other young women, who have been forced into prostitution for the all sleazy men to enjoy like they were wild animals, including the police. Welcome to Mexico. Rambo drives straight to the border to rescue her, which ends up in a spectacular tirade of merciless body counts that would even put Jason Vorhees to shame. I’m actually a little baffled that this got only a PG-rating when it feels way more like an R-rating. But okay, I eat movies like this for breakfast anyway.

There is nothing new to learn about Rambo here, we know what we need to know, where he comes from and the zero tolerance he has for garbage people who dare to make his life miserable, or if they hurt the few people he cares about. At the age of 73, Stallone is in great shape and more intense than ever, and is practically evolving into a walking killing machine in full psychotic rage where he has nothing more to lose, and getting his revenge is the only thing that matters. Even though his mind is pretty broken and gone, his physics tells a whole other story. Heads are cut off, limbs dismembered, and I couldn’t avoid giggling when one of the cartel members got his collarbone ripped out with Rambo’s bare hands. Pure gold!

Rambo 4 from 2008 had a perfect ending and closure, so I’m lying if I say this movie doesn’t seem a little unnecessary. Last Blood feels more like one big encore, and is made for fans and the fans only, who still wants more with a straight-forward revenge premise for those who think Death Wish seems outdated and The Expendables too tame. It’s a simple and no-brainer popcorn flick at its best, and it is not trying to be more than what it is. It’s steadily directed by Adrian Grunberg who also made “Get the Gringo” with Mel Gibson in 2012. The same raw vibe from Rambo 4 is also still here, but it seems somewhat underdeveloped in some places. What ever happened to his sidekick, Carmen, who just comes and goes? Well, whatever. Still, it’s an entertaining ride of an epilogue to the Rambo saga with a pretty insane, bloody climax where it goes in full-blown slasher film territory. Fun!