Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Junesploitation Day 27: New Horror!

You don't have to die to go to hell!


  1. WE ARE STILL HERE (2015, 83 min.) on Netflix Instant for the first time.


    A middle-aged married couple, Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig), move into an old home in a small Upstate, New York town to try and start over after the death of their son Bobby in a car crash. As they learn from the weird neighbor Dave (Monte Markham) and local folks' cold shoulder treatment, the Sacchettis bargain house was built in 1859 and used by the Dagmar clan to sell the bodies brought to them for mortuary services. The town repaid the Dagmars' indiscretions with a dose of 19th century mob justice. Is it an old town legend, or an explanation why the basement is considerably hotter than the rest of the snow-covered home? As she welcomes a couple of old hippie friends, the Lewis' (Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie) and their son Harry (Michael Patrick Nicholson) to give the old new home a spiritual reading and for some company, Anne is convinced she hears the voice of Bobby throughout the house... including that giant hole in the basement wall.

    Patrick sold me on seeing "We Are Still Here" with his praise of Barbara Crampton's lead performance and guarantee that the movie's final act would deliver. He was right on both counts (because ERIKA's-HUBBY-KNOWS-WHAT-HE's-DOING-SPLOITATION! :-P), but I wasn't prepared for how gloriously off-its-rocker awesome the movie's multiple threads come to a head... explosion. The supporting cast (with a couple of tolerable exceptions) is every bit up to Crampton's level. Genre homages (the phony-but-recognizable 'B&J' bottle, flashlight beam, 'black guy dies first' trope subversion, etc.) are kept where they belong: in the background to character build-up and story arcs properly arching. I was genuinely fearful that Sensenig's Paul character would die violently because (a) his chemistry with Crampton is good and (b) I didn't want Anne to suffer any more than she already had. I actually like "We Are Still Here" more than Lucio Fulci's "House by the Cemetery" and it's the most enjoyable fucked-up time I've had with a movie in the twilight days of our rapidly-concluding Junesploitation! 2017.

    Highly recommended, one of the few horror bright spots in Netflix's dwindling selection of genre titles worth getting excited about.

    1. I watched this a couple of days ago and loved it. I loved Crampton and her stillness, but that third act wow!!!

  2. XX (2017, dir. Jovanka Vukovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama & Sofia Carrillo)

    You all know what this is. If you don't, read Patrick's review. The first and last segments are the strongest for me, especially Karyn Kusama's riff on that one classic movie. Don't Fall is effective but says nothing, and I wasn't a fan of ̶T̶h̶e̶ ̶T̶r̶o̶u̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶H̶a̶r̶r̶y̶ The Birthday Party, though the on-screen text at the end was kinda funny. Overall, a fun anthology.

    1. I laughed out loud at that subtitle bit at the end of The Birthday Party.

  3. The Final Girls (2015)

    Yes, I'm coming to this one a bit late. It's almost a stretch to call this one horror or even a satire of horror. The premise of the characters getting stuck in a horror movie is used for some laughs but the filmmakers don't really seem to have anything to actually say about slashers. Those who have seen the film of course know that it's much more about dealing with loss and I feel that really they could have used any number of genres like 80's comedies or action movies and the only thing that would really need to have changed would be the jokes.

    That said, I absolutely loved this movie and ordered the blu-ray right after having rented it digitally. Such is the surprising power of Malin Akerman that this movie can even overcome having Adam Devine in it (even the damn outtakes at the end are 80% Adam Devine trying desperately to be funny and failing). Maybe I've just been watching the wrong Akerman movies and a clip of her with Kate Micucci in Easy (thank you Joe Swanberg), but I had no idea she could be that great or that anybody could build a moment around "Bette Davis Eyes".

    The Blackcoat's Daughter (Anywhere from 2015-2017 depending on how you want to count it)

    Yes, I acknowledge that this movie is atmospheric, well-structured, has a couple good performances, and yes overall I liked it... any time Kiernan Shipka wasn't on the screen. I'm sure she's a wonderful person and I feel bad about singling her out. It's just that after years of watching Mad Men and finding her acting to be just as wooden and awkward there, it's hard for me to believe that the performance she was giving in Blackcoat's Daughter was some sort of deliberate choice. Kat could very well just be Sally Draper a couple years down the road.

  4. CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

    I mean, it's fucking Crimson Peak.

  5. We Are What We Are (2013)

    The American remake of the 2010 Mexican film. Cannibal family! But also a rumination on teenagers growing up and questioning the long held traditions and values of their elders. This is a dour but poetic movie that plays more like a family drama in between all the gory bits... and hoo boy, gory bits are gory.

  6. Ouija Experiment 2: The Ouija Resurrection (2015)

    I picked this because of the title. The alternate title is apparently Ouija Experiment 2: Theater of Death. I folded 2 loads of laundry while watching. You can quote that on the DVD cover.

  7. The Bad Batch (2016) Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour

    I am one of the few who was not a fan of "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night" and barely considered it a Horror film. Still, it was really well made so I was interested in seeing Amirpour's latest, even though in the interviews I've read with her (including a great one from Heather Wixson) she comes off as pretentious and full of herself, which is exactly what "The Bad Batch" is. At 2 hours it's 90 minutes too long with nothing but meandering around in a post apocalyptic wasteland with a few people getting eaten along the way. I had no connection to any of the characters nor the story, or lack thereof. Nothing about the movie did anything for me except maybe when Keanu shows up if not for anything to finally get a change of scenery.

    1. Wow, that's really interesting. I went to a screening of A Girl.. in Paris where she did a Q&A, and although I thought the movie was ok, I found her personality to be absolutely despicable. She was the kind of director who acts all smartass with the public (making fun of naive questions, stuff like that) but in the end doesn't say a single interesting or thoughtful thing. In fact, it rather looked like she was using this attitude to avoid having to properly answer anything (when asked about the political situation in Iran, for instance). Seeing someone who had that little to say or think about anything made me as unexcited as can be to see her next effort.

    2. I really try but it's hard to be objective to a film going in knowing how someone comes across in interviews, etc. I felt the same way after Kevin Smith started opening his mouth at those Q and A "an evening with..." things which gave me next to nothing about his films or process and instead, gave me douchebag stories and pretty much made me think he's an idiot. Though, I really, really liked "Red State" so maybe Amirpour's next film will be a masterpiece. She certainly knows how to shoot a movie.

  8. The Conjuring 2 (2016)

    I liked it. I like Wan as a director
    He's flasy but in a good way. I know I will go back.

    Just the setting where I watched it kinda ruined it a little. On my tablet, in a bookstore that currently looks like a messy createpaper version of Hogwarts, and me stressing about inventory systems. Not the best way to watch a ghost story.

    1. I love the conjuring series, it finally brought me around on Patrick Wilson. I never liked him but then watching these movies the likability in his good guy boy-scout demeanor clicked for me. Between Conjuring 2 and Fargo season 2 he's my new man-crush. I really enjoyed Adam's write-up about the movie closer to it's release as well.

    2. I am becoming a Patrick Wilson fan. The boyscout is a good description You're right he's amazing in Fargo. And I loved him in Bone Tomahawk.

  9. It Comes at Night (2017, dir. Trey Edward Shults)
    A24 need to be careful. This did not deserve to get a wide release, and is only going to strengthen the post-The Witch backlash against them from the Annabelle set. It won't be long before they're the distributor equivalent of what Shyamalan was, and their logo on a horror trailer elicits groans and laughter. The A Ghost Story trailer already looks almost like an SNL spoof of the type of product they usually release. Well, aside from all that, It Comes at Night can eat shit. Between this and the next thing I watched, it seems like a big problem for modern horror films is unjustified self-importance, and insisting that they have a social or political message to impart.

    The Monster (2016, dir. Bryan Bertino)
    A pattern gets established pretty quickly in this pile: character holds other character in a shared panic, whispers "it's okay, it's okay" over and over, monster attacks, characters scream and cry, repeat. It's kind of like the T-Rex attack from Jurassic Park extended to feature length, and with all the fun removed. Pepper in flashbacks about the mother's substance abuse and pretend there's an interesting metaphor being developed. The monster is basically one of those Hellboy dreadlock monsters minus the dreadlocks. The little girl in this gives an awesome performance, but the movie doesn't deserve it.

    The Devil’s Candy (2015, dir. Sean Byrne)
    Near-perfection. More action and memorable images are in the first two minutes of this movie than in the entirety of The Monster. Especially surprised at how much I loved it because I am not a fan of The Loved Ones. This one has a totally distinct visual style from that one. The entire cast is fully on point. Ethan Embry wasn't even recognizable, and Pruitt Taylor Vince's character is a new icon in my book. Some girl who supposedly isn't Joey King is really good. Awesome sound and score. This is the movie I'd wanted Deathgasm to be: overblown, but not jokey about it.

    The Devil’s Dolls (2016, dir. Padraig Reynolds)
    Syfy channel level dreck. Ugly, boring, dumb voodoo/serial killer/spooky little girl crud, but at least it goes all in on the blood splatter during its kill scenes. These are the types of movies that hurt Scream Factory's reputation, which isn't even fair because it's really IFC's fault.

    The Bad Batch (2016, dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)
    I wasn't a AGWHAaN fan either; in fact, I hated it. This one is a full on scam. It's the American Honey treatment of Turbo Kid. Die Antwoord plays while dudes pump iron in slow motion. Harmony Korine-level pretentious with out the tacky confidence to follow through on its bland bad taste. The good version of this movie comes out something like Sonny Boy, but this version is closer to Wristcutters. Keanu did look like Tony Clifton, though, which is a plus.

    1. Yikes - I can understand hating the ending of It Comes at Night because it feels like it hates you (for a different reaction see my take below) but, like The Witch, I'm surprised at anyone who isn't seeing this as just top-of-the-line, super-effective and well-made horror.

    2. I agree with Sol. That's an unusually hostile stance to take. I like the movie a lot, and I understand why people dislike the ending, but it's super well made, and original.

    3. I'm an unusually hostile guy. :) I don't give a shit about the ending. I don't give a shit about the movie overall, and that's what my reaction to it is. There's no movie to be reacting to. It's an uninteresting experience, visually, narratively, and contextually. Everything I read about the movie points to the director not knowing what he wanted to do. The title was picked because it was 'intriguing', not because it has a connection to anything else. It's designed to look and sound like everything you're seeing and hearing is significant, but nothing's been thought out, and Shults doesn't even know what he wants to express. It's a movie that got made because A24 asked him for a Krisha follow-up, and this was the script that he had. I don't think he actually likes or watches horror movies, because his stated influences are excruciatingly obvious: either genre-defining classics like Night of the Living Dead, or recent blockbusters like Get Out, The Witch, and The Babadook; and even then, I think he's responding to the things in those movies that I don't like about them. I don't see much of a difference between this movie and something like Into the Forest, or How to Save Us, and those weren't anything special either. A better recent, comparable movie to me is something like The Alchemist's Cookbook. I think that It Comes at Night is barely even a movie, just a fragment of emotion injected into a blob of marketing momentum.

    4. Maybe you were just looking at the poster? I definitely saw a movie.

  10. XX (2017)

    Now that's what I'm talkin' about. I have a soft spot for anthologies to begin with, but I really dug this one, a collection of four stories written and directed by women. All four entries were solid, my favorite being the darkly comic The Birthday Party, written by Roxanne Benjamin and Annie Clark and directed by Clark (better known by her stage name, St. Vincent). I also particularly enjoyed the creature in Don't Fall (the segment directed by Benjamin) which had a jerky stop-motion feel that reminded me of the monster movies I grew up loving.

    It's a bit uneven (as all anthologies tend to be) but there wasn't a single bad story in the bunch, and I really appreciated the lack of a wraparound story as those tend to feel somewhat forced. Instead of a wraparound there are gorgeously creepy animated interstitials courtesy of Sofia Carrillo, it's almost worth seeing the movie just for those. It was also nice to see that the movie was dedicated to Antonia Bird who was originally slated to direct a segment when the project was conceived before her death in 2013. I really wish we could have seen what she would have come up with.

    1. Love it! Still hanging around in my top ten of the year so far.

    Really liked this one! Nice and gloomy, with some great performances. You could argue that there are few too many surprise plot twists (you could argue that one is too many), but by the time all that happened, I was totally on board with the movie and this world it created.

    THE BYE BYE MAN (2017)
    College students run afoul of some sort of ghost. Mediocre and sloppily written, nearly every scene had something that made think “This is so dumb.” How does this movie get a nationwide theatrical release, while the beautifully filmed and acted Blackcoat’s Daughter get banished to streaming?

    VAMPYRES (2017)
    Zero-budget remake of the 1974 Euro-horror favorite, about sexy lady vamps who lure men to their deaths. I never thought the original was all that great, but it has a lot more atmosphere and sexiness than this wannabe imitator.

  12. White Coffin (Ataúd Blanco: El Juego Diabólico) (2016, dir. Daniel de la Vega)

    A woman's young daughter is kidnapped, then the woman dies, is brought back to life and told she has a limited time to accomplish certain tasks to save her daughter. Or something.

    It's not a good movie. The plot is all over the place and feels like a thriller script with all the supernatural stuff added in as an afterthought. It pretends that the lead character is playing a "game" with rules, but then the movie flaunts those rules because it doesn't know how else to get to the next setpiece. And the ending pretends to say something deep, but to me just felt like shocking for the sake of being shocking.

    Don't bother.

  13. Beyond the Gates (2016)

    I admit I have a weakness for this sub-genre in horror. One could refer to it as the "Scare Therapy" movie, wherein someone is able to heal from a trauma and/or process some family issue by going through the horror (i.e. Laurie Strode in Halloween H20 - too bad they had to fuck that up with the next movie). It can get cheesy, as this film does towards the end, but I like the basic idea of it. Ms. Crampton is of course effective, and the practical effects are superb.

  14. The Loved Ones (2009) (First Time Viewing):

    Now THIS is a horror movie. I know there has been much discussion on this site and podcast about different types of horror movies, and the flexibility of the genre. This movie falls under the category of “Movies that are trying to truly horrify the viewer.” The themes are horrifying, the characters and story is horrifying, the images are horrifying. Having said all that, I found this movie very enjoyable because it was so well made. It still had moments of humor though saving it from being a punishing experience. It was also super-stylish but not in a show-offy way. I felt like I was in the hands of a director at the top of his game. Instant classic.

  15. Murder Party (2007)

    This is very far from being a bad movie, but seeing it for the first time I am struck by how much the Saulnier/Blair movies have improved since this one. MP exists in a world that just doesn't feel close enough to reality to give it extra impact. A few great moments kept me engaged if not fully invested.

  16. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

    This took a lot of time to not really go much of anywhere. I mostly decided to watch this due to it being the combination of two of my previous Junesploitation picks: Director Oz Perkins also made The Blackcoat's Daughter which I watched earlier today, and Paula Prentiss is in it and I had previously watched her first movie Where the Boys Are for Teenager day. Prentiss is a bit wasted here though as doesn't get much screen time or a whole lot to do.

    The vast majority of the screen time is devoted to Ruth Wilson as Lily, who has been hired on as a caretaker for horror writer Iris Blum played by Prentiss. As Lily spends more time in the Blum's home she learns that the plot of Blum's most popular novel about the ghost of a woman who had been murdered in the house Blum lives in, may not in fact be fictional. Unfortunately since Lily has limited interaction with other people most of the story is told by voice-overs from Lily and it started getting tedious pretty early on in the film with the opening voice-over going on for the first 6 minutes of the movie.

    It's well-shot and there's nothing wrong with Ruth Wilson's performance but for most of the runtime very little happens.

  17. The Butcher Possessions a.k.a Beckoning the Butcher (2014) Dir. Dale Trott

    Hahaha! I'm losing my mind and my hell will be seeing the world in shaky-cam night vision with jump scares abound. Will it ever end?! Have these filmmakers not done their due diligence and watched every cliched, generic FF movie of the last 20 years? Do they intentionally make the same movie over and over and over? Are people that dumb that they WANT to see the same movie over and over?

    1. Do you really want to know the answers to those questions...

  18. Midnighters (2017, dir. Julius Ramsey)

    I wanted this to be good. I also wanted it to be horror. It's basically neither. Alex Essoe (who is great and the reason I wanted to see this) and her husband are bickering assholes who accidentally hit a person with their car on New Year's Eve. Things escalate from there. The Bride's daughter B.B. plays a major role, all grown up. Things happen and characters do things that make no sense, and where it ends versus where it began is crazy. I think the filmmakers thought they were making A Simple Plan? They did not. Of all the things I want to see Alex Essoe do in movies, repeatedly get punched in the face is not one of them. Another scene finds a man telling a woman what a great fuck she is while strangling her to death. DOUBLE YUCK. Competent, but tired.

  19. It Comes at Night (2017)

    I don't even know what to say. It's going along and I'm thinking this is almost the next The Witch for me - I'm a guy with a wife and a kid, what I'm reading in this is just how dangerous the love for family can be (a child in particular) and I'm totally getting it. Great performances, tense atmosphere and mysterious (without really calling much attention to the mysteriousness) setting. And then the ending...and after a few moments of silence the audience I'm with including myself is like fucking TITTERING at what the fuck are we supposed to do with this?! I laughed out loud like a maniac the whole drive home. It felt like we all got punked or something. It's like I was a fish that got totally hooked, reeled in and then the fisherman slapped me on the ass and laughed at me and threw me back in the water. Fuck it, I'm calling it brilliant - I can't imagine why I'd ever watch it again but I think I loved it. I certainly don't want many movies to be this but I'm glad this one was.

  20. I've participated in exactly one day of Junesploitation so far, which, to be fair, is more days than I ever have before (I'm pretty new to F This Movie). Anyway, I really wanted to participate today, but I ran out of time, so I just watched some shorts on Shudder. It turned out to be a fun way to do it!

    The Grey Matter (2014)

    Super fun with a weird sense of humor that I really liked, but I almost felt like I had to catch up to the jokes because the sense of humor so dry. Which is not a bad thing. At all. Also, I was really tired, so might be on me rather than the short. Whatever. I really liked it!

    The Stylist (2016)

    I was less nuts about this, only because (spoilers) I've seen May and, while this isn't exactly that, it did feel similar enough to feel familiar. I did like it, thought - it's well written and well directed and it has one excruciating shot and a great lead performance.

    Jack Attack (2013)

    I really loved this. I'm sure part of it is that I live in NYC and the park slope nanny thing felt SO familiar - I definitely know a version of the lead character. And where it winds up going is really fucked up and cringe-y and fun and crazy. Yeah, I kinda, sorta saw it coming (the photo Shudder picked to represent the short isn't ideal), but that didn't really hinder my enjoyment.

  21. The Invitation (2015)
    Creepy little movie about a guy who attends a weird party at his ex-wife's house. Takes some weird plot leaps, but it goes to some interesting places, and is pretty solid overall. It's a performance driven movie with really great actors and characters. On Netflix, and worth a view.

  22. Seeing most of the recent American horrors I know about already covered here, I decided to go with a Korean film.

    THE WAILING (2016) - directed by Hong-jin Na

    In a mountain village in South Korea, there is a rash of bizarre killings. One of the local policeman, who is definitely not a model of police acumen or efficiency, takes it upon himself to investigate some strange stories about a Japanese man living in woods that might have some bearing on the recent events. What follows is a twisting story of a bumbling and sometimes brutal investigation, unusual medical conditions, shamanic rituals, parental anguish, and possible spirit possession.

    There is much to like about The Wailing. The way the mystery unfolds is intriguing and kept me interested in what was coming next. The film is also shot well and succeeds in placing the viewer in the rustic village environment.

    The cons, unfortunately, are not insignificant. The protagonist is frequently unlikable and irritating. The film, which runs 2.5 hours, could have been considerably shortened without harming plot coherency. Moreover, that is long period of subtitle reading. The biggest issue for me was all the questions left by the conclusion. Leaving some story elements unresolved is not necessarily detrimental to enjoying a film,
    but it can be frustrating when the overall question of why things happen is left unclear.

    I believe the merits of The Wailing at least earn a lukewarm recommendation. It is currently streaming on Netflix.

    The next stop on the Korean horror train will be TRAIN TO BUSAN. I have heard and read a lot of good comments about it. But that is for another day.

    A Casual Listener

  23. HUSH was an amazingly effective thriller from start to finish. I loved that the main character consistently makes the best possible choices in an increasingly shitty situation.

  24. Wild Tales, aka Relatos salvajes (2014, writer-director Damián Szifron)

    Hey, Argentinian non-horror revenge-based socially aware anthology movie in six parts, what's the deal with not having a single dud in the bunch? That's not how this is supposed to work. At least a couple of your segments should be garbage. You fail on this score.

    This film is fantastic. The third segment, El más fuerte (The Strongest), is my favourite on this my first viewing, but I think La Propuesta (The Proposal) is probably the best. Bombita (I dunno, Google Translate has let me down. Little bomb?), part the fourth, reminds one quite a bit of Falling Down and has some dark things to say about the efficacy of terrorism. This segment would undoubtedly be omitted in any English language remake.

    I have got to check out some more Argentinian cinema.

  25. Ughhh, that picture of HARVEST LAKE there gave me the willys just thinking about that sequence. One of the grossest things I've seen. It got me.