Paranormal Activity Next Of Kin: Break On Through To The Otherside

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young woman, played by Emily Bader, tries to find out more about her biological mother as such she travels to the Amish community she grew up in, bringing a film crew along for the ride because why not? However, once there things start to turn sinister.

Okay so this film won’t win any prizes for originality, but that is not to say that this film is bad quite the contrary.  I will admit I soured on the Paranormal Activity franchise after the ending of Ghost Dimension all that build up and for what? Then the initial trailers for this didn’t look great, and I was worried that this film was going to taint the series reputation even further, but if anything it resurrects it.

This film isn’t quite sure whether it wants to be a sequel to the other films or a straight up reboot of the series, as such it goes in both directions there is no direct reference to the previous films either in terms of events or characters, however there is enough free space narratively that they could connect it up if they wanted to.

What I think is the best thing about this film is that it does the opposite of Ghost Dimension and actually delivers on the pay off of the film. The film ends with, spoilers here, a demon coming up to earth to begin a reign of terror, with seemingly no one able to stop it as it can jump from body to body. Not only did I think this was a terrific ending in terms of everything the film had been building to, but I also thought this was magnificent in what it sets up for the series, what’s next? The possibilities seem endless and that has me excited.

Overall, I would say this film is easily up there as one of the best of the franchise and you should check it out if you like all things spooky.

Pros.

The pay off

The set up for the future

A few good scares

Not being too lore heavy
Cons.

The characters are all fairly meh

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Jeepers Creepers: If You See A Body Being Thrown Down A Pipe Don’t Investigate It

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A brother, played by Justin Long, and sister, played by Gina Phillips, are terrorised by an otherworldly entity as they are driving home from university.

Before I get into this film I just want to address the director. Yes, I know that the director of this film is highly problematic for a number of reasons, if you don’t know them look them up, but I tried to push that out of my mind whilst watching this film and just enjoy it for what it was.

This film and its sequel have always had a special place in my heart, as I grew up watching them. Whether it was as a child or now these films have always managed to creep me out, there is just something about them. From the unnerving car chase to the misadventure down the drainage pipe and everything that comes after this film does a really good job in building tension and creating a terrifying atmosphere. It is nice to see a horror film that isn’t solely reliant on jump scares.

Moreover, as I have previously said in other posts the creature effects on the antagonist are incredibly good. The monster looks both demonic and alien as well as simply nightmare fuel. I also appreciated how this film never really went out of its way to explain the creature or what it is doing adding to the mystery and the tension.

My main gripe with the film really comes in the form of the dumb decisions the characters make. Yes, like in many other horror films the sibling duo here make all kinds of stupid mistakes over the course of the film, worse still the film even draws attention to them and makes fun of them for doing them saying things like how it would be a terrible decision if they were in a horror film. As I have said before calling out bad writing that is reliant on cliches doesn’t suddenly make it good, it just makes it fee lazy as you are admitting that you couldn’t be bothered to fix it.

Overall, this is an underrated horror gem.

Pros.

The creature

The tension

The atmosphere

The ending

Cons.

Dumb decision making   

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The Uninvited: Stop Hating The Perceived Homewrecker, She’s Not Done Anything

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a young woman, played by Emily Browning, who has recently come out of a mental institution returning home again. However, after she arrives she becomes more and more concerned about her father’s new girlfriend, played by Elizabeth Banks, who she begins to believe is plotting against her.

I will admit the twist with this one got me; I was not expecting it. I enjoyed that the film took the cliched trope of the evil home invader and flipped it on its head. Furthermore, I thought that Banks, rather than Browning was in fact the star of the show, as she gave off a real sense of menace and stole every scene she was in.

I thought Browning was okay, but her performance did nothing to elevate the character or the role, and she just became a very generic protagonist.

Something that I thought was odd about the film was the way in which the supernatural elements early on clashed with the thriller aspects of the rest of the film. It seemed this film could not decide what it wanted to be so tried to go for both, which hurt it as the initial supernatural stuff jars against what comes later, though I suppose could actually be read as an early clue.

Overall, an interesting thriller film with a solid twist that is let down by its choice of leading lady.

Pros.

Banks

The twist

Good tension

Cons.

Browning

The supernatural elements

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Oculus: Smashing Mirrors With The Power Of Boredom

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A pair of siblings, played by Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites, reunite after years apart to finally kill the evil mirror that destroyed their family when they were children.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hill House however, everything else that Mike Flanagan has failed to impress me. He has consistent pacing issues across his works that make them hard to watch, if I was asked to describe this film in a word it would be slow. There are so many needless flashbacks and asides throughout the film that it becomes distracting and more so irritating.

The horror here is okay there are one or two good scares but there is also an over reliance on jump scares that takes away from the film as a whole. Likewise, the mirror itself is left fairly open ended, it might not even be evil and it might just be the children’s way of coping with their dad killing their mum, this isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. However, it becomes a bad thing when the supposed power range of this mirror becomes all over the place, at one point in the film it can only slightly interfere with electrics and other it can fully manifest itself and attack those around it.  

I thought the sole positive about this film was Karen Gillian, Gillian is clearly trying hard to make this work and whilst she does leave an impact it is not enough to save the film.

Overall, a slow and often boring horror that makes you want to switch off.

Pros.

Karen Gillian

One or two good scares

Cons.

It is slow

There are far too many flashbacks and asides

Crippling pacing issues

Not specifying how powerful the mirror is.

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Insidious 3: The Least Scary Villain In A Horror Film Ever

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After the death of her mother Quinn, played by Stefanie Scott, reaches out to the spirit world to try and contact her, and obviously because this is a horror movie, something other than her mum reaches back.

In my mind this is the worst of the Insidious films. This is mainly due to the demon antagonist of this one. Whoever designed it should be let go as there is nothing creepy about an old man with an oxygen tank, nor should there be. Furthermore, in terms of how easy it is to defeat this villain, simply by removing his oxygen mask, there is no threat at all there. In the first film The Man With Fire On His Face would be a lot worse of a villain if you could just turn off his music and that’s it he’s done.

The film tries to do something with ideas around mobility, Quinn is confined to a wheelchair for most of the film and so centres a lot of its scares around that. This isn’t a total failure as it does lead to a few good scares however, more needed to be done with it for it to be explored in any satisfactory way.

Another failure of the film comes with its characters who are instantly forgettable. We get the usual stock characters of the misunderstood teen, the boy she has a crush on, her parent, and then of course the paranormal investigators. None of the characters in this film are served by it, even veteran of the genre Lyn Shaye can’t save it, and they give her a much bigger role so she gets the chance to try.

Overall, a sad state of affairs but one that provides us with the crucial lesson of not all horror films need to be franchises.

Pros.

A few good scares

Cons.

The characters are awful

The villain is weak

They don’t develop their ideas enough

They waste the talent of Lyn Shaye  

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Seance: A Boarding School For Mature Students

2.5/5

I have been very impressed by the prior work of Simon Barrett, he was involved in the creation of two of my favourite films of all time The Guest and You’re Next; however, in both cases he also had Adam Wingard as backup. Here Barrett is on his own, with this being his directional debut and it becomes clear very early on just how much Barrett needs his fellow mumblecore pioneers like Wingard, as this film begins to fall apart.

So before getting into all the reasons the film doesn’t work I want to give it praise for what it does well. The twist, that I won’t spoil here, that comes in towards the end of the film is actually surprising and I didn’t see it coming, it flips the film on its head which makes it infinitely more interesting.

The issues with this film mainly come from how cliché a lot of it is, all the teen angst/ mean girls stuff is incredibly played out from the beginning; and it is more than a little weird that all these ‘teen girls’ at this boarding school are actually late twenty/ early thirty year olds in real life- it makes the film somewhat unbelievable.

Furthermore, I did not find this film scary. The supernatural element feels again familiar and poses nothing new for genre fans or even those who watch more than one horror film a year: I found the scare set ups to be incredibly obvious as well.

Overall, very generic and mediocre.

Pros.

The twist

It is relatively well paced

Cons.

The supernatural element

The scares

The mean girls story cliches

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The Banishing: Wait What?

The Banishing

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

When I saw the trailer for this film I was intrigued. I viewed it in a similar vein as The Woman In Black, a damn fine British horror film, with the added bonus of Sean Harris, one of the best actors you have never heard of. So I went into this with fairly high expectations, and they were not met.

The issue with this film is very simple, it is too ambitious. This film tries to pull off a lot over its short runtime and it collapses in on itself as it goes along; reaching a point where the film becomes so convoluted that you have no real idea what is going on.

Sean Harris is a delight and sell his manic scenes well. Seeing Harris perform so well, almost makes you wish he was cast as the lead rather than as a supporting character, as he out performs everyone on screen.

The horror is mixed, the atmospheric haunted house scares unsettle you more than frighten, and then when the film tries to make you jump it often fails as it is very predictable in these moments.

Overall, this film is crushed under its own weight.

Pros.

The concept

Harris

Cons.

The leads have zero impact

The horror doesn’t always land

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The 100 Candles Game: Blowing Out The Light

The 100 Candles Game is a New Zealand horror anthology film. The plot sees a group of people play the 100 candles game which basically involves sitting in a circle and telling each other spooky stories and then going to look in a mirror after blowing out your candle and seeing if you can commune with the spirits.

I have mixed feelings about horror anthology films, as very often they end up not being very good: indeed often one bad sequence can ruin the whole film, especially in terms of tone. So, I went into this with cautiously low expectations and I am please to say that this film far exceeded my expectations.

All of the segments in this anthology work, and work well at that. They are all scary and smarty written it is nice to see the consistency maintained over the whole film rather than just have one or two good stories surrounded by bad. A lot of the segments really did scare me, and I don’t scare easily at this point, I think personally for me the black-eyed children segment was the best as it was the most tense, but that is subjective.

My one criticism of the film would be that the ending is a bit cheap and comes out of nowhere, deeply unimpressive.

Overall, ignoring the final moments this is an incredibly strong horror anthology.

Pros.

Consistency

Genuinely scary

Smartly written

Good twists

Cons.

The ending is bad

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Widows Point: The Type Of Film You Can Make At Home

Widows Point is a supernatural, mystery film directed by Gregory Lamberson. The plot sees an author (Craig Sheffer), become locked overnight in a haunted lighthouse as a promotional stunt for his new book. However, the longer he trapped inside the more he realises something isn’t right and soon he becomes the prey of supernatural forces.

This is a bizarre film. I am not simply referring to the end that literally comes out of nowhere, but rather the film as a whole. Midway through the film there were that many flashbacks and timelines going on I quickly became lost, there is something to be said for keeping you central narrative simplistic.
Moreover, the film as a whole looked very cheap. I don’t know quite what it was about it, yes it would have had a smaller budget but other films with small budgets don’t look like this, in many ways it looked incredibly amateurish; like the sort of thing you might see presented as a student film.

The acting is similarly as bad, and not for a single moment throughout are you convinced off what is supposedly happening on screen, acting or otherwise.

Overall, a very poor film that needed to be drastically reformed to be anything close to good.

Pros.

The wacky randomness of the monster just showing up at the end

Cons.

It makes no sense

The narrative is far too complicated and also doesn’t work

The acting is god awful

It looks cheap

1/5

Reviewed by Luke  

Shadow In The Cloud: The Next Ripley?

Shadow In The Clouds is a war time horror film directed by Roseanne Liang. The plot sees a stowaway female pilot (Chloe Grace-Mortez), board a plane with a mysterious object. During the flight paranormal forces seek to work against her and to steal what is inside the mysterious box.

Though coming out in the final days of 2020 this may be a strong contender for best horror of 2021, unless something truly exceptional comes out to dethrone it. The sheer level of creativity and originality that this film boasts is a sight to behold, I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a film quite like this.

The scares are well earned as well, whether it is coming in the form of distressing gore, such as when she has to mend her broken finger), or supernatural threat. Both of which help to add to the tension of the film as a whole and make it hard to look away from.

Moreover, I have complained about the female empowerment message in a lot of recent films for not feeling earned or for feeling forced in, but here it is spot on. Grace-Mortez’s Maude is a kickass unstoppable action hero very much in the vein of Ripley or Sarah Conner. Also much like those examples, the film does not feel overt in its messages or politics rather it all feels natural and well done. Honestly the final fight scene is a cheer worthy moment.

Overall, one of the best films I have seen in a long time, a must see!

Pros.

It is empowering

Chloe Grace-Mortez is terrific

There is nothing else quite like it out there

The supernatural WW2 mix

The ending

Cons.

None

5/5

Reviewed by Luke