Happy Death Day

Tree Gelbman, a young college student, wakes up in a guy’s room, hungover as hell and barely no memory from last night. On top of it all, it’s her birthday today, a day she is not too fond of for reasons later revealed in the movie. She leaves the guy’s room with a pissy attitude, and we see pretty quickly that this is a girl that tends to make bad choices in her life, and treat people around her like crap. At the end of the day, she gets chased by someone wearing a mask, and ends up being killed. And then she wakes up in the guy’s room again, repeating the day all over again. In a desperate fight to reveal the identity of the killer, and try to figure out how to avoid being killed by him/her, she relives the day of her birthday and murder over and over…

«Happy Death Day» goes into a concept that has been touched multiple times over in other movies and tv-series: that of reliving a specific day over and over («Groundhog Day», «Triangle» and «Timecrimes», just to mention some). So in that regard, this movie brings nothing new or groundbreaking to the horror genre. It’s a simple yet entertaining horror comedy that is best served without any expectations in mind.

This is Eli Roth’s tribute to the cannibal genre, the horror subgenre that the italians started in the 70’s. Do I need to say more than classics like «Cannibal Holocaust» and «Cannibal Ferox» ? If this sounds completely unfamiliar to you, I guess it’s better for you to just take your hat and go. This is probably nothing for you and never will be.

«The Green Inferno» centers around a bunch of young activists who travels to Peru in order to protest against the wood industry that destroys the rainforest. On their way back, their plane crashes in the Amazon jungle where they meet a cannibal tribe, and we all know how it goes from there. Not good.

Where the Italian cannibal movies are so ugly, grotesque and filthy that you just want to jump right in the shower after seeing one of them, it’s mainly the gore effects that stands out here. And they’re pretty…meaty, to say the least. Nevertheless, it is a plus that the cannibals were played by real natives in a real jungle in isolated surroundings and not in front of a bluescreen. It’s always refreshing to see some real wilderness that adds to the realism. Otherwise, these young activists are nothing more than stick figures that no one could really care about. Still an okay tribute to the genre, if you take it for what it is.

Poltergeist (1982) 

The Freeling family of five, Steven, Diane and their children Carol Anne, Robbie and Dana, plus the dog Buzz, live a quiet family life in the town of Cuesta Verde. Their youngest daughter, Carol Anne, wakes up one night and starts talking to the TV in the living room while it’s on static, and strange events in the house starts happening during the next days. Their parakeet dies, furniture moves by itself, and one stormy night the dead tree in the back yard suddenly wakes to life, almost “eating” little brother Robbie while Carol Anne is sucked into the closet by supernatural forces and disappears. The family later hears her screams for help from a static TV channel, and decides to seek help from a group of parapsychologists in order to get her daughter back.

The family learns, among other things, from the medium Tangina that there is a portal to another dimension in the house where the daughter is trapped, and figures out a plan to go in there and find her.

To be 35 years old, «Poltergeist» is still holding up, much thanks to Steven Spielberg’s great input and the amazing effects of Industrial Light & Magic. Tobe Hooper (who, sadly, recently passed away) directs, and the movie mixes the style of Hooper and Spielberg pretty well. The shock values and the family aspects are very well put together, and the film spends some time to develop the characters. Many great scenes stands out here; the scene with the tree, the clown, the face-ripping scene and the crazy climax is just bone-chilling. Also great soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. «Poltergeist» will always have a specieal place in my heart, and is at least on my top 5-list of haunted house/ghost movies.

 

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

After losing the house, Steven also lost his job and the family is now completely broke, thus they have moved into Diane’s mother’s house. It’s hard times, but they do all they can to live a normal life. One day a mysterious old man named Kane, a creepy looking reverend, shows up in their life. And he is especially interested in Carol Anne.

The same actors are back, except the one who played Dana, who became the first victim of the so-called “Poltergeist curse”, which I will not go into here. Jerry Goldsmith composes a lot more dark and sinister soundtrack that enhance the atmosphere. But the one who steals the show here is the eccentric actor Julian Beck as Reverend Henry Kane. He completely owns the few scenes he’s in and really gets under your skin. Despite his little screentime he became such a horror icon that the thrash metal band Anthrax depicted him on the cover of «Among The Living». Unfortunately, he died of stomach cancer before the film was finished shooting. Due to this, a final sequence had to be completely rewritten.

Not the best sequel, it feels pretty unnecessary to be honest, but is still a fun watch with some great practical effects, some scary moments, great atmosphere and brilliant soundtrack.

 

Poltergeist III (1988)

Carol Anne has now moved to her uncle and aunt at the John Hancock Center in Chicago where she attends a special school for gifted children and visits a psychologist regularly. She would prefer to not talk about the past, but the shrink hypnotizes her to do so and can assure Carol Anne that talking about the past will make it go away. In this case it makes the dark forces enter her life again and a certain scary old man starts to manifest in mirrors and reflections. To quote Tangina: He’s back!

The idea of ​​placing the story in a large skyscraper works for the most part. It creates its own claustrophobic setting. I especially like the idea with the mirrors. Gary Sherman, most known for low-budget exploitation films, does a decent job with the technical aspects concidering the production problems caused by Heather O’Rourke’s sudden death at the age of 12, four months before the last day of shooting.  It almost stopped the production completely, and like «Poltergeist II», the entire ending sequence had to be rewritten. While it somehow barely worked in the previous film, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever here and it just leaves a big question mark over your head. The movie starts actually pretty good and strong, but develops with ridiculous plot holes, messy editing and scenes that don’t go well together. Heather’s death in mind gives a more sad than satisfying end to the Poltergeist saga.

The Devil's Candy

«The Devil’s Candy» is an indie horror movie written and directed by Sean Byrne. I found out about this movie while watching some horror trailers on Youtube, and thought “an indie horror film that actually seem to have a high visual standard, and doesn’t look like it’s made out of 90% close-up shots? Let’s see what this is about”.

The movie starts with a scene at night, in a countryside house. We meet Raymond Smilie who sits in his room playing his red Flying V loudly to keep out the voices from “Him” in his head. When his mother unplugs his guitar, it gets fatal consequences. We then see that sometime afterwards, this countryside house is sold to Jesse Hellman, a struggling painter. He moves there together with his wife, Astrid, and daughter, Zooey. Soon, Jesse starts hearing voices inside the house as well. Inspired by them, he starts painting as never before, but he soon finds out that this muse is not a positive one.

The movie is well made technically, and I think it’s got a strong first half, but even though the atmosphere was there I kind of felt that it never built up to its potential, and in the end I think there were a few things that felt unresolved. Maybe I expected something different than what it was (I guess I expected more on the supernatural front). Still one of the better indie horror films that have come out lately.

And the movie also have a heavy metal soundtrack that serves well as ear candy!

Edward Tor Swenson (Johan Rudebeck) is editing dull swedish drama-films that nobody wants to see. When the former editor in the building’s “Splatter and Gore Department” became mad and stuffed a grenade in his mouth, Ed is set up to replace him, a task he would quickly regret. Ed gets his own, dark  house in the woods where he sits through the newest film in a horror movie series called  «The Loose Limbs», which serves as a parody of all of the trashy horror sequels we got in the 1980’s. Ed becomes increasingly influenced by all the cruel violence he must sit through and it drives him crazy, or drives him “Evil Ed”, if you will. Now the world shall pay for making these influential garbage films, and he goes on a wild rampage.

«Evil Ed»  is first and foremost a satire and spoof against the Cinemabureau of the State in Sweden that edited out explicit and gory scenes in horror movies to such an extent that it was only dry meat left. The scenes where the gory things happened would jump-cut right into the end of the scene. Not only did we miss the gory stuff, but also the whole context of the scenes. It looked choppy and messy and was irritating as hell. Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s, are aware of how horror movies on VHS were brutally treated by cencorship, especially in Norway (where I am from). They really showed no mercy to those poor celluloids, and even a scene in “Ghostbusters” were cut from the VHS in the norwegian release back in the day. Fortunately, things are different now.

With the cencorship history in the back of your mind, you will probably get more out of «Evil Ed», but this is still a fun little low-budget slasher made with lots of energy, enthusiasm, and a ton of horror references and cheesy dubbing. And music by E-Type, of course.

«The Witch» , or «The VVitch: A New England Folktale» takes place in the 17th century in New England, where the poor family man William is banned from a Puritan plantation together with his wife and four kids. They settle in a small worn farm in an isolated nobody’s land, in hopes of making their lives go on. Then creepy things start to happen. It turns out that a witch lives nearby, a witch who likes to kidnap young children.

«The Witch» was a big talk back when it was shown on Sundance, and it achieved cult status pretty much overnight. This is not the kind of movie for those who are looking for jump scares, fast editing, fast-paced horror-action and stuff like that. «The Witch» is a slow burner, where the horror elements is shown on a very subtile level. The psychological aspects and build-up of tension is what defines this movie.

The directing by Robert Eggers, who also wrote it, is amazing. It reminds me of Stanley Kubrick’s works, with its long takes and the wide shots. The grim atmosphere is all over the place, the forest landscapes are pretty grim and the feeling of plain dread and despair is everywhere. Thanks to great acting you also feel for the family and what they’re going through.

All in all, a suspenseful little film with the most refreshing endings I’ve seen in these types of horror movies in years.

Obscure amateur horror films seem to be bred like fruit flies these days, and let’s be honest and admit that very often they are pickings from the bottom of the barrel. However, when it comes to this one, which I came across on Amazon.com as recommended to me, it immediately sparked my curiosity. Michael Berryman on the cover, and not a 3.2 on imdB? Let’s check it out.

Dennis is a young mentally retarded man living with his big brother John. He has no friends, and is isolated at home where he is struggling with trippy nightmares. Because of Dennis, John has had to put the love of his life, Lydia, on hold. Lydia would like for them to get a life together, but him being tied up with his mentally retarded brother makes this difficult. One day, John comes home with an antique mirror that he places in Dennis’s room…a mirror Dennis had previously dreamt about before it even came into the house. Soon, Dennis begins to talk to his own reflection…and it talks back. Inside the mirror there is a demon that manipulates Dennis into believing that he can become smart and get rid of the resilience by killing people.

«The Evil Within» is a psychological horror movie that explores the grotesque nature of the human mind, and after just a few minutes you’ll understand that this is not a conventional movie. We get thrown right into one of Dennis’s trippy and bizzare nightmares, where we get a glimpse of the demon entity which later manifests himself in the mirror. We spend a lot of time with Dennis, who is slipping more and more into madness, and thanks to the brilliant acting by Frederick Koehler, it never gets boring. He really plays his role believeable with his facial ticks, overall body form and the way he delivers his lines, makes him really disturbing.

It’s overall a pretty dark movie with a moody, depressive tone, and with the right state of mind the film works like a interesting character study.

And some trivia: It took director and writer Andrew Getty six years to shoot the film and another seven years to get it into post-production. Sadly, he died in 2015 due to a history of drug addiction, which made this his first and last movie. He didn’t even get to see the final product, one of his producers finished the film.