Ginger Nuts of Horror
Pay the Ghost is an intriguing combination of one part thriller with grief stricken parents searching for a missing child and one part mysterious ghost story. Uli Edel directs this screenplay written by Dan Kay and based on a novella by Tim Lebbon, an exceptional author.
The movie begins with a short scene in a historical setting where three children are hiding in an old cellar beneath slatted floorboards. They can hear a woman screaming above and hear the sounds of men crashing about. One of the children calls out “Mother!” and the last thing we see is the floor being smashed in and the children screaming. This scene will become important later as the mystery ghost story unfolds.
The plotline for Momentum is fairly straight forward but the action is quite good and some of the acting and dialogue are definitely notable. Olga Kurylenko plays Alexis, our femme fatale main character with a shadowy covert ops past who orchestrates a spectacular bank heist in Capetown South Africa at the beginning of the movie that sets everything in motion. They empty out a lock box belonging to a US Senator played by Morgan Freeman. It contains numerous diamonds but more importantly it contains a thumb drive that has information on it that would convict him of Treason. Once the heist is complete it quickly becomes apparent that some CIA cleaners are moving in to retrieve the items and eliminate everyone involved. Alexis is meeting with her partner Kevin in a hotel room when they show up, kill him and all hell breaks loose and the chase begins. The man in charge of the cleanup process is referred to as Mr. Washington and is played by James Purefoy.
Liam Cunningham wanders into an isolated Scottish village populated by just about every horror cliched stock character that you could think off. The gruff Scottish police Sargent who has a lot of dark secrets and love of the bottle, the fiesty upstart of a new police recruit, a crazy doctor looking for souls, two other cops with some more dirty secrets, and let us not forget the school teacher who likes to interfere with little kids.
Up until Cunningham appears everything is pretty rosy for everyone no one knows anything about each other, but that will soon change, for he has the power to see into their souls and their deepest darkest secrets. It's just a pity that he couldn't see if anyone on the production team had a single original idea.
A Christmas Horror Story is a thoroughly good time. It contains four separate stories that all occur on Christmas Eve within the same town. The stories do not truly interconnect, although some characters from multiple stories do know each other, but the multiple directors and writers chose to jump back and forth between them instead of trying to run each story concurrently and I thought it worked out great that way. The whole movie comes off as a cohesive unit rather than multiple short stories shown one after the other. It pulled me along and kept me wondering what would happen next right up to the end when they resolve each one in turn. As an added bonus to provide holiday cheer and ample amounts of humor, amidst the four stories are broadcasts and Christmas music delivered by the town’s radio station DJ, played by William Shatner.
Backwater is a twisted piece of unique horror fiction. As I watched this movie I recalled the trailer and the glowing words of praise from some review screeners flashed across the screen. “It’ll surprise you all the way to the end.” “A script that dares to elevate beyond the usual platitudes.” “4 out of 5 stars. A treat for horror fans.” And for the first 45 minutes all I could think was “What the hell were these people thinking?”
I mean, it was ok, nothing really bad, but nothing stand out. Decent main characters, good cinematography, good dialogue, but all undermined for me by my #1 pet peeve in horror films - stupid decisions when faced with potential danger and the complete unpreparedness of so many victims that have no means of defending themselves and / or no willingness to do so in the face of danger. I watched and cringed and thought about all the different decisions that could have been made that would be better and even threw my hands up and said “Why the F%$# would you do that???” a couple of times I think.
I didn’t feel surprised at all. I asked myself how does this script elevate anything in horror “beyond usual platitudes”? And I sure as hell didn’t feel like I had been given any particular kind of special treat. I even thought, “What the hell kind of movie did Jim send me?”
But then, without warning, EVERYTHING suddenly changed. Not just a hard left at an intersection but a freakin’ truck jump over the ditch and into a field of corn, blindly careening God only knew where. And even when I figured that part out there was yet another hairpin turn out of nowhere. In fact, in the end it took some thought to make sure I had interpreted what I saw right.
So, here’s the basic story. Cass, the beautiful blonde girlfriend played by Liana Werner-Gray, and her boyfriend Mark, played by Justin Tully, have gone camping for the weekend in a fairly remote area that her uncle used to take her and her family when she was a kid. The audience is given an ominous warning as Cass and Mark are driving into the area. We get a shot of a bloody badge on the side of the road, partially covered with dirt. But of course this detail escapes their attention. They arrive, make camp, cook and eat and everything is fine, but while they are swimming in the water by their campsite they both hear what sounds like someone screaming, possibly for help. They wait and listen but hear nothing else. Mark wants to check it out. Cass doesn’t. But Mark talks her into them both going to see if anyone needs their help.
After some time Cass turns back while Mark continues on looking and finds a burgundy SUV unattended in a small clearing. Shortly a man named Glen comes limping out of the woods with a fishing pole and tells Mark, when asked, that the scream came from him. He twisted his ankle on some rocks down by the water while fishing and cried out. After some uncomfortable dialogue Mark heads back for camp. Meanwhile Cass gets a little lost and ends up on a small dirt road. A pickup comes along and someone who has a badge and uniform gets out and questions Cass about her purpose of being in the area and warns her about bears and snakes and possible young people who come out there occasionally to cause trouble. Afterwards he lets her go and she heads back to camp. That night they hear someone outside of their tent and area suddenly attacked, flushing them out of their tent and into the woods fleeing on foot. Many crappy decisions occur from here until the point that the whole paradigm of what we think is happening changes.
Despite being rather frustrated at several places in the first half of the movie I think the unforeseeable twists and turns make this movie worthwhile. Check it out. It WILL surprise you until the very end.
Review by Mike Duke
GINGER NUTS OF HORROR,THE HEART AND SOUL OF HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS
Again, this review will contain SPOILERS for episode 3 of Midwinter of the Spirit and likely the previous two episodes too. So if you haven’t seen them yet, get thee to an ITVPlayer and remedy the issue pronto, okay?
That was a bit good, wasn’t it?
I guess the first thing to say is that it clearly, in retrospect, wasn’t a cliffhanger at the end of the last episode, or at least not in the classic sense. No, what this show had in mind for us was something altogether more complex, and for my money more interesting, than that would have been. What we’ve got here, I think, is a good a piece of Rorschach style supernatural/psychological thriller as I can remember seeing on TV in a long, long time. In fact, off the top of my head, I can't think of a finer example.
In retrospect, the clues were there in earlier episodes. I’d highlighted when talking about part 2 how the scene with Merrily’s daughter Jane and ‘medium’ Angela Purefoy could either be a genuine contact with the spirit realm or an expert piece of cold-reading manipulation with some hypnotic suggestion thrown in. I hadn’t realised just how powerfully or cleverly those themes would be developed in this final episode.
The continued manipulation of Jane by Angela and her ‘friends’ was one such strand, with the conspiracy between her supposed boyfriend James and the terrifyingly unpleasant Rowenna creating some brilliant scream-at-the-telly moments. If the revelation that Rowenna was really Denzil Joy’s daughter was predictable, the scene where she went to reclaim her father’s ashes from her estranged mother still packed a powerful emotional and dramatic punch, in a tightly written and brilliantly performed sequence.
Elsewhere, the double act of Anna Maxwell Martin as Merrily and David Threfell as Huw continues to deliver fireworks, with both actors firing on all cylinders throughout this climatic episode. One particular scene that sticks in the mind is the two of them discussing the missing bones of the saints from the cathedral, and what it means in terms of the satanists plot. It’s an incredibly dense scene, serving as exposition, plot, and powerful character drama all at once, as a combination of Huw’s stubbornness and concern over Merrily’s mental and spiritual health collide headlong with her own fear, anxiety, and paranoia. It’s a deliciously rich and powerful piece of drama, underpinned by writing of exceptional intelligence, both emotional and intellectual. The moment when, in response to Merrily wondering if the satanists really can summon a demon, Huw replies with frustrated urgency “Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter! THEY believe it!” was a breathtaking moment of television, at once conveying the urgency and desperation of the situation, and expressing directly the answer to the question, is this a supernatural horror story or psychological thriller? Answer: yes. The audacity of that moment has played on my mind since seeing it, and I’m just lost in admiration for all concerned in bringing that moment to screen. Brilliant stuff.
The climactic scenes in the cathedral were similarly audacious, with the fading of the congregation, leaving only Merrily, Roweena and Jane a superb touch, heightening the drama and tension of the moment to almost unbearable levels. And I enjoyed the denouement too - the unmasking of one conspirator, but the clear implication that there are many more out there; that this is not so much the end as an opening skirmish in a wider, deeper war.
To that end, I will be bitterly disappointed if we do not get more shows in this series. What ITV have delivered here is something far deeper and more interesting than just a well made supernatural thriller, as the opening episode suggested. What we got by the end was a story set in the grey area of psychology and spirituality, showing respect for both traditions, alongside a pulse pounding drama which concluded with the reveal of the contours of a far bigger, deeper story still to be told.
I desperately hope we get a chance to see it. I haven’t been this excited about the prospect of a new TV show in a long time.
Just when it seems that the batteries have finally run out on the found footage genre, along comes a film that reinvigorates this much maligned genre. Shopping Tour, from the famous Russian film critic Mikhail Brashinsky, takes a wry look at the slow influx of Western commercialisation of the Russian way of thinking, while taking a sideways pop at the so called perfect way of life offered to the people of Finland.
The Hive is a mindbender sci-fi / horror film that takes you on a twisted journey of an infected amnesiac who slowly figures out just how screwed he and his friends are as his memories progressively return but are accompanied by memories that do not belong to him. These memories from strangers give him and the viewer insight into what is presently happening...
Horror, when you get right down to it, is less about the tales and more about who is telling them. After all, horror stories- warnings of what waits out in the dark- are the oldest and most powerful stories, and with such immovable foundations in place, a good horror movie can live or die by its telling.
The Babadook is a wonderful example of this.....
Nothing is scarier than your first love
John Paul Young was famously sang that "Love was in the air", but if love is anything like the love shown in this rom-phantom-com I'd be stocking up on air fresheners. Director Michael Steves’ Clinger is a blood soaked, love gone totally wrong horror comedy that shows that it isn't love that survives beyond the grave but a deep and deadly obsession.
When high school track star Fern Peterson, falls for the charms of high school student Robert Klingher ( see what they did there) it looks as though her life is complete. She is a rising star in the track, and with a hopeful running scholarship to MIT and a boyfriend who dotes on her at every opportunity things should be perfect, shouldn't they?
Sadly Klingher's obsession with her soon begins to grate on her, the montage of her growing irritation is one of the highlights of the film, to the point that she decides to dump him. What she doesn't know is that Robert in his typical over the top creepy way has created a stage to proclaim his love for her, complete with heavy swing sign. So when she decides to dump him just as he pulls the lever his shock and awe at being dumped results in him getting caught up in the mechanics of the stage and is rather quickly decapitated.
But as we all know love is eternal. and love will find a way. Initially everything seems OK their love is rekindled, may be their love will be eternal, but thanks to Klingher's constant interference in her life she decides to end it once again, telling him "It's not that you are dead, it's that I'm alive" at which point Klingher comes to the conclusion that the answer to his love problems is just that. So he proposes to make their love eternal by killing her. Faced with a horror from beyond the grave Fern must turn to her friends and a former ghost hunter, who just happens to be (well you will have to watch it to find out) to fight back against the cold clammy hands of ghost love.