The Turning: A Mockery Of The Ghost Story Horror Genre, Featuring A Prime Example Of Stunt Casting.

The Turning is a horror film directed by Floria Sigismondi. The plot sees young governess Kate (Mackenzie Davis), arrive at an old country house to begin teaching a young girl, however as she stays on things quickly become far more sinister.

So, this film clearly is trying to mimic the style of classic ghost story/ haunted house horror films of past generations, or more recently something like Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, which is a gothic romance. Where those films usually go for an understated approach, this film hit you in the face, with all the subtly of an explosion.

It fails at what it tries to do in an almost spectacular fashion, it does not have an atmosphere or creepiness, rather it has jump scares that it crams in every ten minutes, so you don’t get bored, which just feel cheap and jarring tonally.

This film feels that by being oppressive and unpleasant to watch that that makes it scary, or unsettling, it doesn’t. The film uses violence in a very vulgar way, often going to a tasteless extreme which makes Eli’s Roth’s torture porn look in good taste. We see the kid from Stranger Things stomp a fish to death, so the film can prove how edgy and dark it is and it just feels very needless. Likewise it uses rape, or the threat of it, as a plot device especially towards the later stages of the film where Davis’s character seem on the verge of being assaulted near constantly, again why? Using the threat of rape to build tension feels, icky, it feels cheap and you really get that sense as you watch it.

Finally, whoever is Finn Wolfhard’s agent should be fired as he was entirely wrong for this film. He did not play the unhinged twisted character well, instead he came off more a brooding spoiled little kid who is having a tantrum, he was in no way threatening throughout the film and every time the film went that way I rolled my eyes. Stunt casting if ever I saw it, tapping into to that sweet sweet Stranger Things crowd.

Overall, vulgar and needless if it wasn’t for Davis I would give this film a 0

Pros.

Davis is trying, she is too good for this film.

Cons.

Using rape as a plot device

Showing needless violence to prove how edgy and dark the film is

A badly miscast Finn Wolfhard

Some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard

0.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Blackcoats Daughter: The Best Episode Of Sabrina Ever

The Blackcoats Daughter is a psychological horror film directed by Osgood Perkins. The plot is split into three separate narratives, one for each character, that culminate together in the final act. It tells the story of two girls who are left behind at their Catholic boarding school over break. Things quickly become sinister when it becomes clear that one of the girls is in league with a demon; a bloodbath ensues.

When I first saw this film the other night, I didn’t know what I thought of it, a few days later as I am writing this review I still don’t. This seems to be a recurring theme of Perkins work; it is incredibly polarising.

On the one hand it is incredibly drawn out, to the point of feeling indulgent or as though it is trying to kill time, at points and the split narrative can be confusing even after you have seen it; as there are a lot of little details that are easy to miss, I recommend if you are going to watch this film to watch it twice.

However, when you do start to pick up on the little details and things it becomes far more engaging and far creepier to. In fact I thought this film was genuinely quite scary and it made me jump, more than I have done in a long time, at one point in the film. I think the horror in this film comes as a result of figuring out what is really going on and how everything fits together.

Another to praise in this film is the performance of Kiernan Shipka as Katherine, the main girl and the one who is in league with the forces of evil. Up until watching this I was convinced she couldn’t act, her performance in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is painfully bad, though now I think that this might have been bad writing, because here she was fantastic. Shipka plays evil and creepy so well, she is really quite menacing in this film and puts the performances of everyone else to shame; this film will serve as a testament to her acting forever more.

Overall, certainly not a film for everyone, but if you like slow burning horror then you will find something to like here.

Pros.

A great twist.

Shipka.

Creepy and unsettling.

Well done.

Cons.

Slow and confusing at points has to be watched twice to fully appreciate.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Crimson Peak: Mystery, Murder And Misunderstanding

Crimson Peak is a gothic romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The plot follows Edith (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who moves with her new husband Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), into his ancestral home know to some as Crimson Peak, due to the red ore turning the snow red in the winter. However, since she was a girl Edith has been told to beware Crimson Peak, mainly from the ghost of her dead mother, unsurprisingly once she moves into the house things to start to take a turn towards the ghostly and the demonic.

Whoever was in charge of the marketing campaign for this film should have been fired; if not, fire them now, clearly, they can’t do their job. This film was marketed in its trailers and supporting material as a horror film, it is not. Despite having ghosts appear and a few other horror elements, this film has nothing else in common with the horror genre and to say otherwise in an insult to both and to del Toro himself.

This film is beautiful to look at, every scene is chocked full of vibrant colour and gothic charm, this much like the rest of del Toro’s filmography is very pleasing on the eye. The people in charge of set design and costumes deserve a huge round of applause.

This film is very much unlike any other as it defies genre. It is a romance, but not in a traditional sense; hell this film makes the romance in del Toro’s The Shape Of Water look almost conventional. It truly is a gothic film however; you will see what I mean if you watch it.

The story is top notch, full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the end. The creatures/ ghost design is also on top form; if there is one thing you can expect to see in a del Toro film it is Doug Jones as any number of monsters, each one looking better than the last and all looking marvellous. The performances are strong especially from the women. Wasikowska is great in the lead role, it would be nice to see her in more films, and Jessica Chastain is superb as Lucile Thomas’s sister. I won’t go into specifics about their performances as it might spoil some of the reveals.

Overall, I think this is one of del Toro’s strongest films that was woefully mis-marketed and sold as something it was not. Hopefully after you have read this review and understand what it really is you will check it out and really love it, as I did.

Pros.

The look of the film.

The gothic beauty of the story.

The performances.

The creature design and Doug Jones.

Cons.

It is slightly too long, and the beginning feels a little indulgent.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

From Hell: Jack The Ripper Unmasked!

From Hell is a slasher film directed by the Hughes Brothers, based off the Alan Moore graphic novel of the same name. The plot of the film is an alternative take on the Jack The Ripper murders of the 1880’s, we see detective Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), desperately trying to solve the killings while also falling in love with a young prostitute Mary Kelly (Heather Graham). The case takes Frederick from the gutter slums where London’s poorest dwell, all the way to the palace.

I think that this film is very polarising, you will either love its alternative take on London’s most famous murders, or you won’t. You will either think it is interest that they place the title of ‘Ripper’ on the Royal physician, or you will think it is a scandalous mistruth. Personally, for me, I like this film’s alternative take on Jack The Ripper, I admire it for revealing the killer to us, rather than just leaving in ambiguous, as it could have easily done. I even like the ending when it is revealed that the Freemasons and The Royal Family were behind it all.

I think this film and another Johnny Depp film from around the same time Sleepy Hollow are so good as they perfectly capture this gothic sensibility that I don’t think any other films I’ve ever seen really has. This film plays out more like a mystery thriller or a horror movie, than a traditional serial killer crime film. What’s more I love the version of 1880’s London this film presents us with, it is so teaming with life and even the littlest detail feels cared for, you feel like you’re there.

Johnny Depp is fantastic in this film, he is not wacky and over the top, a trait that would come to define his later work, but quiet, brooding and troubled. We buy him as the hero by the end of the film and we want to see him catch the Ripper, this film proves why Johnny Depp is such a unique star.

Overall, I applaud this film, I applaud it for revealing that the killings were never as simple as we thought they were, they weren’t just the work of one deranged man, but rather a vast conspiracy. I applaud it for it’s depiction of 1880’s London and I applaud it for being bold enough to label someone as Jack The Ripper.

Pros.

The alternative take.

Johnny Depp.

The World.

Showing us a Jack The Ripper.

Cons.

By the end the story is a bit convoluted.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Inside Number 9: A Black Mirror Killer

Inside No.9 is a British black comedy anthology series created by Reese Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Each episode usually stars both men, plus a wide array of British celebrities and has a different premise, some of them are horror themed and some of them more standard drama, it is very much similar to Black Mirror in that regard.

I have recently started watching this show after I watched a Youtube video about it, and I have to say it may be one of the best shows I have watched recently. Each episode usually has a twist that completely changes how you view the it, making it a must re-watch kind of show.  The tone of the show is usually pitch black, occasionally there is some black comedy, but normally it plays it straight.

The writing on the show is very smart and it does things I haven’t seen on screen before, it is certainly not afraid to take risks. The first episode Sardines, shows a family getting together to play the hide and seek esque game sardines, while more and more people join the cupboard where the majority of the family is hiding a dark secret is revealed; this leads directly into the twist and then the end of the episode.

The reason why this is so excellent is because it adds to the already built tension, all the way through the episode we know that there is something not quite right going on, but every time we think we understand what is going on the show takes it in another way and you are left saying wait what.

So far, there has been 5 seasons of the show, with the 5th currently airing in the UK now, and I have to say each season is as strong as the others, there are standout episodes in each; such as the Krampus episode, the demon episode at the end of the first season and so on. As you can see, I really enjoy the horror themed episodes. I think the only reason this show isn’t as big as something like Black Mirror, despite being better than it in a lot of ways, is because it doesn’t have the power of someone like Netflix behind it which stops it from reaching a wider international audience.

Definitely something to check out if you haven’t seen it already!

Pros.

The twists.

The experimentation.

The re-watchability.

The great casts.

It does Black Mirror but better.

Cons.

None really.

5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Locke & Key (Season 1): Do Doors Need To Be Opened?

Locke & Key (Season 1)  is a supernatural horror drama TV show developed by Carlton Cuse, Meredith Averill and Aron Eli Coleite. The show is based off the Joe Hill comic series of the same name. The premise is that a family move back to their ancestral home after their father is murdered, once they arrive they begin to find a series of keys that grant magical and dangerous abilities, however, all is not well as a demon is also trapped on the property and it too is looking for the keys to open the Black Door.

As someone who is quite a big Joe Hill fan, when I heard this series was announced I was very excited for it and for the most part it met my expectations. I have not read the comic series so I can’t say how well this works as an adaptation of those books, or how accurate it is.

I think at it’s core this show has some good horror bones, there are quite a few menacing and scary moments scattered throughout, although something to note is that this isn’t the same kind of horror you would find in something like The Conjuring, this is more child friendly horror; think a cross between the previously mentioned film and the Jack Black Goosebumps film. It is because of this that I personally didn’t think this show is scary.

Moreover, this TV show is defiantly aiming at a younger/teenage audience: because as well as the more family friendly scares, you also have a lot and I mean a lot of teenage angst and high school politics thrown in for good measure. For the most part these sections are used sparingly and spread amongst the horror elements well, however, sometimes we get one really long bit of relationship drama and it made me groan every time. I think it is this focus on teen angst that stops this show from being great.

My big complaint with the show is that you can’t have you cake and eat it, by that I mean it can’t be a good horror show if every 5 seconds we need to cut away to a will they won’t they relationship and by the same token we can’t have a good teen drama if it plays too much into horror, this show needs to pick a side and stick to it, it needs to decide what it wants to be.

Overall, it has potential to be great, but it needs to commit to the horror and get better writers.

Pros.

Solid concept.

Some interesting mythology.

It has potential.

Cons.

Paper thin characters.

Too much teen drama.

3/5

Reviewed by Luke

Malevolent: Menacingly Average

Malevolent is a British horror film directed by Olaf de Fleur Johannesson. It follows brother and sister duo Angela (Florence Pugh), and Jackson (Ben Lloyd Hughes), who pretend to be paranormal investigators to make money. However, when they arrive at their latest case both siblings learn that not only is the paranormal real, but it wants to see them dead.

When I was going through Netflix and I saw a horror film staring beloved up and comer Florence Pugh I expected big things and boy was I disappointed! This film is as run of the mill and as generic as a horror film can get, all of the ideas this film has have been done before and so much better. It reminded me in a lot of ways of The Boy from a few years ago, expect that felt novel and fresh and this just feels like a retread.

This film greatest crime is how average it is and how it seems to be okay with it, everything from the performances to the scares had me at an eh. The horror genre is in a near-constant effort to reinvent itself: because there are only so many times you can jump at a jump scare before it becomes obvious and crucially not scary. This is what I think befell this film, had it come out 5 years ago it could have done well, but it came out now and that my dear reader is what killed it.

Another baffling thing this film does is have Florence Pugh a British actress speak with an American accent. This is a British film that takes place in Britain, so it would make sense if Pugh spoke with her normal accent, I wouldn’t mind but her and her brother being American’s doesn’t really fit into the plot at all and it just seems a bit odd.

The ending the of the film, when it is going full kilter into all the lip-sowing action, is when it is at it’s best and I will give it that. The ending is genuinely a bit creepy and left me thinking about it after the credits rolled, if the rest of the film could have been like that it would be a much better film.

Overall, this film felt incredibly bland, it had all been done before, and other than a creepy ending and a somewhat decent performance from Pugh, it is on the bad side of forgettable.

Pros.

Creepy last 10 minutes.

Florence Pugh gives an okay performance.

Cons.

It’s boring.

It has been done before, better.

The accent thing bugged me.

It is very much a 2014 sort of film.

1.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

Colour Out Of Space: Nicolas Cage And H.P Lovecraft, Terror And Mania

Colour Out Of Space is a horror film directed by Richard Stanley. It is an adaption of the H.P Lovecraft story of the same name and marks the start of a Lovecraft trilogy that Stanley wants to direct. The plot follows a family of farmers whose life starts to take a sinister turn when a meteor crashes in their front garden; said meteor and the things that come out of it interfere with time and space and create monstrosities.

This film is everything you would expect from a Lovecraft horror film, monsters from a hellish other plane, grotesque mutated humans that make your skin crawl and a deep and unrelenting sense of existential dread and terror. Straight from the beginning when we are introduced to Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), we see the mystical elements that make up this story and the wider Lovecraft universe.

Adding to this sense of madness Nicholas Cage plays Nathan, Lavinia’s father, he is just a humble farmer and family man. As the film progress we see Nathan become more and more insane as his life slowly falls apart and he is forced to kill his Alpacas and his Wife and Son. Cage as we all know is fantastic when it comes to playing manic characters, he has great energy and is able to flip out on a dime. Cage’s performance in this film is just as insane as we would expect; his casting was a touch of genius.

The ending of this film is also great as it ends with this sense of calm, but also heavily implied ideas of post-apocalypse. It has a looming sense of hopelessness that I find perfectly embodies the Lovecraftian spirit.

My only issue with the film is that they could have spent more time showing us the other plane that would have been really cool, the little taster we get is great, but I would like more. Furthermore, the wider Gardner family outside of the two I have already mentioned are all fairly one note and feel paper thin; I would have liked them to have more to do.

Overall, this is a perfect Lovecraftian horror film, it has everything you would want it and boasts a fantastic Nicolas cage performance, it is slightly let down by some of the less developed characters, but it is a hell of a start to a trilogy. Overall, if you like Lovecraft, Nicolas Cage or just horror in general then this is a must see!

Pros.

A near perfect Lovecraft adaption.

A great ending.

Nicolas Cage.

The unrelenting horror.

Cons.

Slightly underdeveloped in parts.

4.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Woman In Black, Angel of Death: The Fight For A Random Orphan

‘The Woman In Black: Angel of Death’ is a supernatural horror film and is a sequel to 2012 ‘Woman In Black’ film. The plot this time around follows Eve Parkin (Phoebe Fox), a school teacher who accompanies some of her pupils out of the city during the London Blitz, the house they arrive at is, of course, Eel Marsh House; home to the infamous Woman In Black.

If you read my review of the first film, you know that I love the ‘Woman In Black’ it is a classic British ghost story and one of the best horror films in modern years. However, at no point did I or, anyone else think that it needed a sequel.

Angel of Death falls to the same pitfalls as ‘Sinister 2’, by that I mean they lose the mystique of their predecessor by over-exposing their villains. The reason why this film worked was that the titular woman herself was very rarely shown, a lot of the time her presences would be implied, but crucially she wasn’t shown. As a result, she remains quite a mysterious figure, and that is frightening, the issue will overly showing a villain like this is that by doing it, they become less scary.

That is something that is very true of this film: it just isn’t as scary. It tries to recapture the same creepy atmosphere as the same film and, the same sense of tension, but it can’t. Because we didn’t need this film all of the scares and, everything the Woman In Black does has been done before and better.

I never realised until I watched this film how much we needed Daniel Radcliffe, though he didn’t do anything fantastic, he is heads and shoulders better than the protagonist this time around. Eve is simply a blank slate, she is boring and generic, she has a subplot about how she had her kid taken away from her which draws a parallel with the titular Woman herself, but this is never explored enough to be impactful.

The fight over Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), a young orphan boy, between Eve and, The Woman In Black has no power at all as you don’t care about the protagonist. Whatmore, the end twist being that The Woman In Black is still around and coming for Edward is lazy, and feels like a blatant attempt to set up a sequel, very much like how ‘Sinister 2’ ended.

Overall this is a cash grab sequel if there ever was one, there is nothing new here, it is a far cry from the first film in all the worst ways and proves Daniel Radcliffe’s ability as a leading man.

Cons.
It Pales In Comparison.
The Protagonist is Bland.
It Does Nothing New With The Woman In Black.
It Demystifies The Woman In Black.
You Just Don’t Care.

Pros.
It’s Watchable.
It Has A Few Good Moments.

1.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Woman In Black: A Good Ghost Story Is Never Beat

‘Woman In Black’ is a 2012 supernatural horror film: the plot focuses on a young Lawyer called Arthur (Daniel Radcliffe), who goes to Eel March House to settle some business. While he is there, he is terrorised by the menacing Woman In Black. The woman herself is a vengeful spirit, as she took her own life after her son died in an accident; she vowed to “never forget and never forgive” and now she forces local children to take their own lives so that their parents can feel the same pain she felt. Arthur tries to lay her spirit to rest and stop the child suicides.

I remember when this film came out, it was talked about as though it was the scariest thing ever, and as a young teen when I first saw this, I would agree with this consensus. Even now, when I am far older, and I’ve delved further into the murky waters of the horror genre, I would still say this is one of the scariest films I have ever seen.

This is the quintessential British ghost story, there is something so unsettling about this film it is there in the harsh oppressive world of the moors and in the fact that in the shadows is a Woman who will never stop, never be at peace, until you know her pain. The horror works so well in this film because of the fact that the actual Woman In Black herself is very sparingly used, the mere mention of her, or threat of her presence is enough to creep you out.

I can’t think of anything more chilling that the opening scene of this film, wherein 3 young girls all walk out of a window together as The Woman In Black stands by ominously watching; still to this day, that scene will give me goosebumps. The more we learn about The Woman, the more we understand her motivations and see that she is a force of nature rather than something that can be reasoned with.

Daniel Radcliffe does a good job here, in one of his first post Potter projects, he proves here as he does in later films in his filmography that he has a wonderful range and is, in fact, quite a talented actor. We see his character as a beacon of hope fighting back against the seemingly unbeatable forces of darkness and despair.

Overall, this film is a triumph, it is a masterpiece a testament to British horror and to Hammer Horror as well. It is a must-see for all horror fans and anyone else looking for a fright.

Pros.
The Atmosphere.
The Sparing Use Of The Monster.
Daniel Radcliffe.
British Horror.
The Chilling Nature.

Cons.
It Can Be A Bit Slow.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke