31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #21 – Sinister (2012)

sinisteranner

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writer(s): C. Robert Cargill & Scott Derrickson

Studio/Distributor: Summit Entertainment/Momentum Pictures

Budget: $3m

Box Office: $77.7m

Release Date: 5 October, 2012

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Ethan Hawke – Ellison Oswalt

Juliet Rylance – Tracy

Fred Dalton Thompson – Sheriff

James Ransone – Deputy

Michael Hall D’Addario – Trevor

Nicholas King – Bughuul

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Washed up true crime writer Ellison Oswalt finds a box of super 8 home movies that suggest the murder he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose work dates back to the 1960s.

Inertia’s Insight

When the idea for your screenplay is based on your own nightmare, you’re already half way towards a decent horror film. The concept of creating a dreamlike horror led to Sinister, another low budget Blumhouse production that drew A-list talent in Ethan Hawke, in turn drawing audiences to the box office.

From the first frame this film establishes its tone. The long, agonising and horrific opening sequence, shot with super 8 film, is difficult to watch – and these are only the opening moments. The hideous music – if you can call it that – with the scratchy 8mm and soundless, agonising slow death of four people tied to a tree is uneasy to watch. Brutal, mysterious and intriguing from the off.

7609585_orig.png

True crime writer with the name to match his job, Ellison Oswalt relocates his family to investigate the murder of a family that he thinks will give him his next big story. The local police aren’t happy to have him here and his kids don’t want to be either, but Ellison continues to pursue the truth despite the grim reality he unearths with every new super 8 film he finds.

These super 8 films are what sets this film apart from your standard haunted house/demon after your kids story. They are so genuinely unsettling. The combination of handheld voyeuristic POV perspective, grainy 8mm film and jarring music allow these miniature snuff films to have such a unique effect. With each one they get worse, building to the lawnmower film in which Ethan Hawke’s genuine reaction says everything that we feel about these snuff films.

9127129_orig.png

But there are also some scary moments outside of these little films. Their son who suffers with night terrors seems to do a pretty good impression of Regan’s spider walk when he emerges from a box, and the scene with the slo-mo ghost kids is brilliant. It provides a fresh new angle on how ghosts move about a house, how they haunt and cause the floorboards to creak. Like a fucked up version of Marco Polo, it sees Ellison driven deeper into the madness that Bughuul brings to the families of his latest victim.

Derrickson perfectly balances the horror with the tension of a damn good thriller. The investigation into the murders builds steadily, with twists and turns unearthing the mystery behind the killings. It works just like a procedural, with the pursuit of the truth driving Ellison further from his family and fracturing their reality. Ethan Hawke is the standout here, not reducing his talents for the genre but rather utilising them to maximum effect.

5854276_orig.png

The twist is quite fucked up, following the dour tone that the film established from the outset (and revealed via the super 8 films). The ending is so downbeat. Derrickson shoots it with minimal light and long scenes with hardly any cuts. There’s no big reveal or great emphasis on the scene, making the events even harder to watch. Derrickson also plays down the focus on Bughuul (or Mr. Boogie as he’s referred to), instead focussing on him mainly in the super 8 films and drawings on the wall. It’s the right move, allowing the mere reference of him to instill more fear than any sighting of him could. Which is also probably a good job because he looks a bit like Seven from Slipknot…

A truly effective and indeed sinister horror film.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • Writer C. Robert Cargill got the idea for the script from a nightmare he had after watching The Ring
  • There is very little blood, almost no cursing and no sex, but the film still gained an R-rating
  • The super 8 films were actually filmed using super 8 cameras
  • Ethan Hawke had never seen the super 8 films prior to filming. His initial reactions made it in to the final film

Quotes

ASHLEY: Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ll make you famous again.


Tomorrow: Night #22 – Fright Night (1985)

Advertisements

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #20 – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

autopsy-poster-art

Director: André Øvredal

Writer(s): Ian Goldberg & Richard Naing

Studio/Distributor: IFC Midnight

Budget: $1 – 2m

Box Office: $1,984,503

Release Date: 21 December, 2016

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Brian Cox – Tommy

Emile Hirsch – Austin

Ophelia Lovibond – Emma

Michael McElhatton – Sheriff Burke

Olwen Catherine Kelly – Jane Doe

Jane Perry – Lieutenant Wade

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harbouring dark secrets.

Inertia’s Insight

IFC Midnight, the highbrow equivalent of Blumhouse, has produced some incredible horror films over the last few years. The IFC mark on a film impresses like the name of a fine wine or jewelers – you know for a fact in you’re in for a treat. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is exactly that – a treat, a feast for the eyes and a throwback to more traditional horror. And stepping in to the world of horror for the first time, André Øvredal slots himself nicely in a list of leading horror directors.

Father and son coroner duo Tommy and Austin are about to receive a body into their morgue that will change their current in-depth understanding of death forever. Opening on an idyllic suburban home shot from the outside as if nothing is wrong, like the perfect white paint couldn’t possibly betray any hint of corruption, the images suddenly juxtapose to give us a violent crime scene, the aftermath of a horrific night. In the basement they find a young woman, naked, almost perfectly preserved, half-buried in the Earth. She’s transported to the coroners, where a night of unspeakable terror will ensue…

autopsy_of_jane_doe_review_header

There’s another juxtaposition when we’re introduced to Tommy and Austin. With a hideously disfigured corpse lying on their table, they both jam to a catchy rock tune as they go through their process. They have a familiarity with death and are comfortable with it, a trait that not all of us possess.

When the body of Jane Doe arrives, Austin decides to ditch his girlfriend in favour of helping his Dad, recently widowed and a main focal point for Austin. Their relationship is solid, and Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch make a great pairing.

With the title self-explanatory, we dive in to the autopsy. Øvredal pays close attention to this medical process; the autopsy is slow and detailed, the characters throwing out medical jargon, explanations and multiple mysteries, expecting us to catch up. For all the intrusion of her body, what makes it most uncomfortable is her nudity and the condition her body is in – apart from her cold, glass eyes that stare out in pain for most of the autopsy, she doesn’t look dead. It’s voyeuristic, and is testament to Øvredal’s insistence that Jane Doe is played by a real person. Credit too has to go to Olwen Catherine Kelly, who has the hardest job in this film, somehow making a corpse one of the best bits of acting I’ve seen in a long time.

download.jpg

We see her face a lot from the birds eye perspective and you keep waiting for something to happen – a twitch or a blink, a lip quiver or shudder. Yet nothing does happen, her menace lying in her unchanging face. As the autopsy continues and the mysteries deepen, we’re drawn in to the intriguing and mysterious world of Jane Doe. Is she the victim of a ritualistic cult slaying? Or is she the perpetrator, isolated inside this preserved body?

As well as creating a sense of claustrophobia in the windowless room, Øvredal uses music and sound to maximum effect. The juxtaposition of the rock music is one thing, but when the supernatural begins to happen the chorus builds to an uncomfortable level, the gospel-sounding music emphasising the ritualistic nature of her death. There’s also an impeccable use of sound with the ankle bell. Introduced as an old fashioned method of Tommy’s to ensure the corpse is definitely just that, the mere sound of it later becomes a gut wrenching and goosebump-inducing scene that conjures horrific images that you’ve created yourself.

Øvredal shows himself as a master of the genre with the way in which he plays his cards close to his chest. Tight shots, close-ups and distorted images through cracks in the door keep from revealing everything to us. There’s just enough given for us to make the rest ourselves, always leaving us wanting more. He also knows when enough is enough, giving us the shotgun face guy in all his glory but only for a few flickering seconds, sending shivers up your spine.

autopsy-bell-fb

The mystery surrounding Jane Doe and the hell she brings is never quite explained. The biggest reveal (no spoilers) is actually quite hard to take, and you really feel for. But this mystery surrounding her is what makes the film so clever. There are answers, but not enough to round the film out, but that’s okay; what we do learn of her is shocking, but to fully comprehend it would perhaps be too much. The ending of the film is downbeat and plays out like the opening scene, with the idyllic picture outside making way for a hellish nightmare inside.

Though there’s the potential for a sequel, it feels like it ended the way it should. Let’s just hope that Øvredal has more horror up his sleeve.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • Norwegian director André Øvredal was inspired to do a horror movie after attending a screening of The Conjuring
  • Stephen King said the film rivaled Alien and early Cronenberg
  • Martin Sheen was originally cast as Tommy, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts

Quotes

TOMMY: This amount of lung damage, though, I’d expect the body to be covered in third degree burns. It’s like finding a bullet in a brain, but with no gunshot wound.


Tomorrow: Night #21 – Sinister (2012)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #19 – Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

paranormal-activity-2-poster-image-620x440

Director: Tod Williams

Writer(s): Christopher B. Landon, Tom Pabst & Michael R. Perry

Studio/Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Budget: $3m

Box Office: $177.5m

Release Date: 22 October, 2010

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Brian Boland – Daniel Rey

Molly Ephraim – Ali Rey

Katie Featherston – Katie

Seth Ginsberg – Brad

Sprague Grayden – Kristi Rey

Micah Sloat – Micah

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

After experiencing what they think are a series of ‘break-ins’, a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realise that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem.

Inertia’s Insight

The prequel/sequel to 2007’s license to print money aka Paranormal Activity was greenlit almost instantly, the dollar signs rolling in the eyes of Paramount executives eager to cash in on the success of such a simple yet effective premise: the haunted house from the first-person perspective.

The end of Paranormal Activity (varying slightly depending on which version you saw) found Katie having finally succumbed to the demon’s advances. Micah’s fate is pretty much sealed, and Katie’s next moves unknown. So where do you take the story from here? Back in time of course.

The camera is switched on and the ‘reason for filming’, a necessity with found footage horror films, is quickly established. There’s a new baby in the house, so Dad attempts to document the child’s life. We’re introduced to the family and it’s a surprise to see Katie looking well and without the air of possession, the text quickly establishing that the events are taking place before the first film.

We recognise the signs of a haunting straight away, but it takes the family some time to come to terms with it. Thinking its a burglary, the Rey family install CCTV cameras in their house, gifting us several new angles to watch, more angles that get us questioning every movement in the frame, our eyes darting across the screen. It’s a clever move, keeping the perspective fresh whilst maintaining it as POV. It’s also quite voyeuristic, this intensive look into the family’s life. The burglary begins to hint at a more deeper meaning to their haunting, as only a possession belonging to Kristi and Katie’s grandmother has been stolen.

paranormal-activity-2.jpg

The film then fast forwards a year or so, as baby Hunter is now mobile and life seems pretty normal for the Rey family. Enter stage left the demon to fuck things up. Paranormal Activity 2 gives us a bigger household and thus a broader perspective on the events in the house; the first film gave us Katie and Micah’s polarising views, but here we range from the skeptic to the firm believer, with Kristi sitting firmly on the fence. Despite the maid’s Spanish incantations and wafts of incense, Kristi fails to heed the signs until it’s too late.

The sensitivity of Hunter and the family dog open us up to more on-screen happenings. The camera in Hunter’s room is particularly well used, as we find ourselves scanning the frame for any mere hint of a shadow or some form.

There are also nice nods to the first film, such as the picture of Katie as a child appearing intact and not at all the charred picture it became when discovered in her loft. You never knew the potential for a sequel was there in Paranormal Activity, but there are moments here that seem to provide answers to questions we never knew we had.

paranormalactivity2-04

With a bigger budget and the very fact that a sequel must surpass its predecessor, there are more stand out moments in this film. The first person perspective in a horror film provides the best opportunity for scares – with no cuts, the camera becomes our eyes and we’re embedded in the scene, unable to look away. There’s also more of an emphasis on the shadow that the demon casts, and standout moments like Ali asleep on the sofa or Kristi being pulled from Hunters bedroom

Towards the end, the prequel brings itself closer to the start of the events in Paranormal Activity. Indeed, the opening scene from the first film is embedded into the final act to show how the two match up, explaining the burnt photo of Katie and the reason for her haunting. It’s a pretty messed up and desperate move by the Rey family, one that comes to bite them on the ass as the two films come full circle in a tense and genuinely creepy finale.

The financial success of both films, coupled with the filmmakers’ ability to turn an indie idea into a global franchise paved the way for a slew of other sequels that eventually ended six films later, doing the unthinkable: showing the demon. It’s where Ghost Dimension falls foul of its audience, but thankfully with Paranormal Activity 2, we’re gifted a film that, though it feels a bit the same, still provides scares through mere hint and suggestion.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★

Trivia

  • Upon release, the film broke the record for the biggest midnight gross of an R-rated movie with $6.3m, as well as the biggest opening for a horror movie of all time
  • The trailer for Paranormal Activity 2 featured a lot of footage that wasn’t in the final film, which the filmmakers stated was required in order to protect the storyline
  • The trailer for the film was banned in some cinemas as it was scaring people during PG-13 films

Quotes

ALI: I don’t know if the house is haunted, but I hope it is.


Tomorrow: Night #20 – The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #18 – Switchblade Romance (2003)

main

Director: Alexandre Aja

Writer(s): Alexandre Aja & Gregory Levasseur

Studio/Distributor: EuropaCorp

Budget: $2.5m

Box Office: $6.8m

Release Date: 18 June, 2003

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Cecile De France – Marie

Maiwenn – Alexia

Philippe Nahon – Le tueur

Franck Khalfoun – Jimmy

Andrei Finti – Pere Alex

Oana Pellea – Mere Alex

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Best friends Marie and Alexia decide to spend a quiet weekend at Alexia’s parents’ secluded farmhouse. But on the night of their arrival, the girls’ idyllic getaway turns into an endless night of horror.

Inertia’s Insight

New French Extremity, the phrase coined to describe the early noughties wave of body horror films that would even make Cronenberg wince, was originally intended to be a derogatory term to denounce the films in the same light as torture porn. Despite its intention, instead the phrase has taken on a meaning more like La Nouvelle Vague, used to reference notable filmmakers that have gone on to make an indelible mark on the genre in France and the US.

One of those filmmakers is Alexandre Aja. Then just 25 years old, Aja and lifelong friend Gregory Levasseur brought us Haute Tension (High Tension or Switchblade Romance as it is known in the UK), a psychological-horror-thriller-love-story that exemplified the nature of New French Extremity with extreme gore and violence, whilst maintaining a heart that runs through the core of the film, fueling its events.

ishot-298

Marie and her friend Alexia decide to spend a weekend in the country at Alexia’s parents farmhouse. Unbeknownst to them, a fucked up delivery driver with a sadistic eye for killing has decided to pay the farm a little visit…

One of the most intense attributes this film has is its twist ending. Unlike other films that try to place red herrings to throw the scent off or make their clues blindingly obvious, the first time you watch Switchblade Romance you genuinely don’t realise you’ve been fooled until it’s too late. Watching for a second time, you start to pick up on the subtle clues that are there from the start. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Sixth Sense here; the secret is safe, but it has to be acknowledged for its brilliance.

The introduction to the girls hints at a deeper connection, and it soon becomes clear that Marie is in love with Alexia – the way they talk about relationships, the voyeuristic way she watches Marie in the shower, the way she masturbates to ‘Just Another Girl’. It’s not known whether the love is requited, but what is obvious is that Alexia is blissfully unaware. It creates a tension but also gives Marie a reason to survive, and to save Alexia.

The introduction to the driver, meanwhile, is classic New French Extremity – visual, brutal, graphic, depraved. It establishes the tone that will see us wince and squint for the rest of the film. There’s no ‘less is more’ here; it achieves an odd balance of tension, heart and gore. After the initial introductions and after the driver sends their world brutally spiraling out of control, a good chunk of the film is just pure suspense. The farmhouse scene, the gas station, the pursuit along the road – Aja carefully balances the physical horror with the mental, ensuring that when we do see it, it’s brutal, but when we’re away from it the film remains just as tense.

MCDHITE EC004

The pace builds nicely to a gripping finale with a twist that you don’t see coming, gifting a huge payoff to a well crafted film. A known nostalgic throwback to the grindhouse and exploitation films of the 70’s, there’s an homage to Maniac and a nice nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the end, but Switchblade Romance easily establishes itself in the annals of horror history with a gritty, gory film with a big heart – that just happens to get ripped out.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • According to director Alexandre Aja, four different locations were used for Alexia’s house, but the set dressing and editing make it appear as one location
  • The scene where Marie hides from the killer in the gas station restroom is an homage to a similar scene in Maniac
  • The film had some issues with plagiarism over similarities with the novel Intensity by Dean Koontz

Quotes

MARIE: I won’t let anyone else come between us anymore.


Tomorrow: Night #19 – Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #17 – The Conjuring 2 (2016)

conjuring-2-poster

Director: James Wan

Writer(s): Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, James Wan & David Leslie Johnson

Studio/Distributor: Warner Bros.

Budget: $40m

Box Office: $320.3m

Release Date: 10 June, 2016

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Patrick Wilson – Ed Warren

Vera Farmiga – Lorraine Warren

Madison Wolfe – Janet Hodgson

Frances O’Connor – Peggy Hodgson

Lauren Esposito – Margaret Hodgson

Benjamin Haigh – Billy Hodgson

Patrick McAuley – Johnny Hodgson

Bonnie Aarons – Demon Nun

Javier Botet – Crooked Man

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to North London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

Inertia’s Insight

Fresh from a multi-billion pound grossing movie and with the world of film at his feet, James Wan could have directed anything. Not forgetting his roots, he chose to direct the sequel to his successful 2013 hit horror The Conjuring, crafting a superior sequel that delivers scares, thrills, emotions and so much more.

Opening in a similar fashion to the first film in which a famous case is shown which forms a loose connection to the main case the film is centred around, Ed and Lorraine Warren are investigating the Amityville haunting. It is a genius introduction to the house: the camera pans from the outside in, showing us an idyllic suburban street then through the window and into the main room. Though we’re seeing it from inside, the house is instantly recognisable. The shape of the windows tells you everything, and there are instant chills once you clock where you are.

Investigating the Amityville case, for the first time we see Lorraine in one of her trances. Before we’ve only heard about them, but here we see it. It has echoes of The Further in Insidious, but Wan quickly avoids any repetition by giving us our first glimpse of The Nun, the poster girl for this film and the antagonist that sets Lorraine her biggest challenge yet.

The-Conjuring-2-Nun-06-12-16

The Amityville opening is a nice nod to an old horror icon, particularly the reference to the boy in the photograph. The Conjuring opened with an introduction to Annabelle which has since spawned two spin-offs; it makes you wonder whether Amityville is being set up for a comeback.

The opening scrolling titles maintain that distinctive 70’s feeling, and just as soon as the goosebumps rise, we’re straight in to the 70’s London. It’s a superb introduction to the location. London Calling blasts out as images of 70’s London quickly intersperse. The music, the imagery, the culture of punk rock and Thatcher – it takes time to introduce us to the setting, not only the location but the culture of that time. It’s a catchy intro.

And testament to the crew for recreating the 70’s council house street. They could’ve just as easily shot the facade of the house but instead they lovingly recreate the standard suburban streets of London, complete with cracks in the pointing and the battered 70’s cars.

The Hodgson family, the unwitting victims the latest Warren case, are steadily introduced to us by way of their quirks. Mrs Hodgson is fighting to raise four children alone, all of whom have their own troubles and with age gaps that separate them. The house is unkempt and particularly run down, but in its own strange way it has a cosy and homely feel to it. You can just imagine Mrs Hodgson’s roast dinner and apple crumble staving off the smell of damp on a Sunday afternoon.

The haunting is gradual and is seen through the children’s eyes. There are some genuinely frightening moments, and you have to applaud Wan for finding fresh scares in what is technically his fourth haunted house film. And scares he does provide in abundance, from creaking floorboards and moving furniture, to a particularly frightening scene in which the long dead Bill Wilkins starts to speak through Janet.

Conjuring-2-review.jpg

It takes a while for the Warrens to arrive in London, themselves battling their own demons, sometimes in front of a TV camera. Vera Farmiga nails her performance once again, showing the humanity behind the hauntings, her exhaustion weighing heavy on their professional life. Deciding to take a step back and haunted by the Nun, her Mothering instinct can’t help but take over when the Hodgson family come calling for help.

The Enfield Haunting is a well documented case, and some of the well-known photos are lovingly recreated with the pitch-perfect cast. There’s a genuine attempt at providing a scientific explanation, with plenty of people on hand to debunk any belief in the paranormal. Ed and Lorraine spend time with the family, and as the haunting grows stronger, the connection with the Nun is well established…

There are a number of stand out moments in this film. There are some genuine frights, such as Janet in the room with the inverted crosses or when she is home alone from school. There’s also the incredibly inventive way in which Wan frames Ed’s interrogation of the possessed Janet. In one shot and out of focus, we see Janet physically transform in to something other than herself, the framing and composition of the shot forcing us to strain and decipher what it is we might be seeing. Coupled with the menacing voice of Bill Wilkins, it’s a unique and genius piece of filming.

theconjuring2-1.jpg

But what stands out the most in this perfect horror film is the heart. The time committed to introducing the Hodgson family makes us genuinely care for them, but it’s the scene where Ed sings to them that really stands out. It’s obvious why Lorraine is madly in love with him, and to see the children smile despite all they have been through, it’s a heartwarming scene that adds some much needed humanity amongst their macabre experience.

There are a couple of little niggles though, albeit extremely minor. The Crooked Man is too obviously CGI, and it surprises me that a spin-off focusing on him has got the green light. Transforming a safe children’s character in to the stuff of nightmares is a clever move, but the physical execution is lacking. There’s also the ending, which seems to happen so abruptly just by the mere mention of a name. But these are small pitfalls in an otherwise perfect film.

crooked-man-film-700x350

James Wan has successfully created an entire world (franchise, if you must) around the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, of which there are hundreds. What could have become a film-a-year knock-em-out franchise that might feel like a Monster of the Week episode of The X Files is instead only two films, spaced apart three years, that devote time and energy to their main characters whilst delivering some of the best horror film scenes in the 21st century. You can only hope that whoever steps in to these very large shoes to steer The Conjuring 3 can muster the excitement and compassion that Wan does each time.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★★

Trivia

  • James Wan was offered a ‘life changing’ amount of money to direct The Fate of the Furious after the success of Furious 7, but he turned it down to direct this film
  • It had the biggest opening weekend gross for a horror film in three years – the film before that was The Conjuring
  • The ghost boy that Lorraine sees when astral projecting is based on the infamous Amityville photo supposedly taken by Gene Campbell, a photographer who worked with Ed and Lorraine Warren

Quotes

JANET: It said it wants to hurt you.
LORRAINE: When did it say that?
JANET: Right now.


Tomorrow: Night #18 – Switchblade Romance (2003)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #16 – Psycho II (1983)

5372_l

Director: Richard Franklin

Writer(s): Tom Holland

Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures

Budget: $5m

Box Office: $34.7m

Release Date: 3 June, 1983

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 59%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Anthony Perkins – Norman Bates

Vera Miles – Lily Loomis

Robert Loggia – Dr. Bill Raymond

Meg Tilly – Mary Samuels

Dennis Franz – Warren Toomey

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

After twenty two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes – and his Mother – continue to haunt him.

Inertia’s Insight

23 years after donning his Mother’s wears and wielding a kitchen knife at anyone who came knocking at the Bates Motel, Norman Bates is released from a psychiatric hospital, declared fit to re-enter society, despite protests from family members of his victims. He returns home, to a new and unrecognisable world, attempting to fit back in and resist the calls of his dead Mother that seem to whisper to him at every turn…

23 years is a long time for a sequel – one that no-one ever really asked for. Psycho is a perfect film. Film historians, critics, teachers and fans have poured over the genius of Hitchcock’s ‘original slasher’ masterpiece, and it is still referenced, parodied and lauded to this day. So why a sequel?

Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to his 1959 novel which sought to deride the Hollywood machine and its production of splatter films. In retaliation, Universal Pictures produced their own sequel scripted by Tom Holland, who later bring us much more worthy films such as Fright Night and Child’s Play. Here, we get a sequel that no-one needed.

The film opens with Hitchcock’s footage, the original shower scene from Psycho, almost like we somehow need reminding of past events. It’s nice to see Hitchcock’s mastery again, which is sadly not replicated for the rest of the film.

The first time we see Norman it’s a bit of a surprise; confirmation if you needed it that Psycho happened 20+ years ago. Gone are the boyish good looks, replaced with an older man who still retains his charm but none of the original menace behind the doughy good looks.

4541203_orig

Norman returns home despite protests from his Doctor and the families of his victims. The first time he pulls in to the car park of Bates Motel, it is strikingly odd to see the motel and the house on the hill in stark colour. The house loses its edge in technicolour, the looming menace of the house lost to the detail of the paintwork.

When he first meets Mary at the diner, it’s clear to see that Norman (and Perkins) has still got it. Even after 22 years in hospital, the charm is there – the only worry is where the charm leads. It’s odd to enjoy Norman returning back to normal, but credit where it’s due, the filmmakers really take the time to embed Norman back into society, and despite the cracks starting to show, we’re actually willing him to be well and enjoy life.

But life has moved on without him. The decline of his motel as a drug haven and a brothel is testament to this. Though he quickly dispatches with the manager (who himself seems to be dispatched by ‘Mother’ later on) and attempts to restore the motel to its former glory, the world around him is completely different now; a world he tries to catch up with, only furthering the cracks in his sanity.

His relationship with Mary is sweet, and despite our concerns seeing her have sandwiches and milk with him (never ends well) and then a shower, it does develop into a sweet Father/Daughter relationship. It’s when she takes a shower that things go down hill…

6912548_orig

I have three massive problems with Psycho II. The first is the titillation. When we see her taking a shower it has echoes of Marion Crane. The way in which that scene was shot is perfection (and don’t forget, we are reminded of this at the start of this film). No nudity, no gore, just a shrieking score and pitch perfect editing conjure everything you need to feel about that scene. Here, though she doesn’t meet her demise in the shower, we have nudity. Immediately this throws out the window any suspense that could be created in homage to that original scene. It’s unnecessary, and only goes to prove problem number two.

The gore. Hitchcock knew that less is more, as evidenced by the infamous shower scene as well as pretty much the entire movie. Here, just as soon as we’ve been flashed tits and ass, the first on-screen death occurs and we see everything. Psycho is often considered the original slasher film, and in the intervening years since its release, that sub-genre exploded with gore galore. Psycho II is obviously trying to play catch up, whilst forgetting the brilliance of its predecessor.

4695675_orig

Thirdly, after the first hour it just becomes so BORING. We’re anticipating Norman’s transition back to cross-dressing killer, and though there’s a plot twist, more kills and a shocking ending, it just fails to entertain.

The ending paves way for more sequels. Whether they are warranted or not is another blog entirely. Perkins is the standout here, bringing heart and humour to a chapter in Bates’ life that we just didn’t need.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★

Trivia

  • When Mary and Norman first go in to Norman’s mother’s room, before they turn the lights on, a silhouette of Hitchcock can be seen on the wall
  • Producer Hilton A. Green originally suggested Jaime Lee Curtis to play Mary Loomis due to her being the daughter of Janet Leigh and her success with Halloween
  • The reflection of young Norman Bates in the doorknob when he flashes back to his Mother’s poisoning is played by Anthony Perkins’ son Oz.

Quotes

NORMAN BATES: Hello, Mother.


Tomorrow: Night #17 – The Conjuring 2 (2016)

31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #15 – ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

ABCs-of-death-2

Director: Various

Writer(s): Various

Studio/Distributor: Magnet Releasing

Budget: $200,000

Box Office: $7,016

Release Date: 2 October, 2014

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Various – too many to mention!

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Another 2 chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.

Inertia’s Insight

The horrific lesson in horror that is ABC’s of Death returns for another 26 mad, macabre and mental entries. 26 directors, 26 ways to die. Filmmakers from the broad world of horror are assigned a letter and given creative control over their entry. Fans of the first were apt to fear a second coming, particularly if any filmmakers thought of replicating F for Fart.

Fortunately, ABC’s of Death 2 steps up, with some incredible stand-out entries. The beauty of the anthology is that to appreciate the best bits, you’ve gotta watch the shit bits. It’s a mish-mash of raw talent and disturbed minds, but it’s a lot more pleasing than the first film.

The standout entry is Z is for Zygote. I would never normally encourage people to watch something on YouTube when they have the capability of buying it and thus supporting the industry, but if you’re not willing to sit through the first 25 entries to see if my recommendation rings true, then search it out.

A is for Amateur

An assassin is hired to kill a drug dealer. Entering the hotel in slick fashion and with ease, he successfully assasinates his target. At least, that’s how we first see it… What really plays out is something entirely different.

It’s a brilliant entry. The juxtaposition is both painful and funny to watch, with a genius ending. A good start to the film.

B is for Badger

A famous wildlife reporter tries to bring attention to the issues a power plant is causing to the local badger population.

The first British entry featuring the genius that is Julian Barratt, Badger is a great bit of fun where the unseen leaves a lot to the imagination.

C is for Capital Punishment

The second British entry in which old-school justice is dished out in a rural village with serious tones of The League of Gentlemen.

It’s fast-paced, with the race against time to save an innocent man taking more lives than it tries to save. It’s graphic too, which adds to its effect.

D is for Deloused

A man is strapped to a table and killed by three men. A louse replicates a copy of the man and sets about taking his revenge.

This is a fucking weird short. Animated and with no dialogue, it’s a visual feast that doesn’t make much sense but certainly makes you wince.

d_is_for_deloused.jpg

E is for Equilibrium

A woman becomes adrift on a desert island inhabited by two cave-dwelling-looking men. Soon, they start to vie for her affection.

A nice nod to Wilson from Castaway in the opening moments, this short is played out in one take. It’s a nice comment on what an uncivilised relationship would be like on a desert island, with a comical ending.

F is for Falling

An Israeli paratrooper is stuck in a tree, with a young and timid Arab boy attempting to hold his resolve and treat her as an enemy, with disastrous results for both.

It’s evidently a political commentary, and though it’s beautifully shot – it’s a bit shit.

G is for Grandad

A cocky and pompous young man lives with his Grandad, and their relationship is a little fractured to say the least.

Another British entry and the most fucked up yet, these two characters are hideous in appearance and personality. The mattress scene is one of the most messed up things I’ve ever seen, all leading to a twisted ending. Superb.

H is for Head Games

A man and woman kiss until their features become weaponised against each other.

There’s some interesting imagery but – it’s forgettable, and a bit shit.

I is for Invincible

A Filipino family has the head of the family tied to a chair. Despite their best efforts to kill her and claim their inheritance, she just keeps coming back.

Brilliantly fucked up. It’s just mad – inventive, unique, down right weird.

J is for Jesus

A young man is kidnapped at the instruction of his Father and an exorcism is attempted to rid him of his homosexuality.

It’s an interesting commentary on homosexuality and how it is still perceived, particularly in the annals of religion. The exorcism is graphic and the kidnapped man’s perception of the exorcists is creepy.

K is for Knell

There’s no real description you can give for this entry. A woman is in her apartment, looks out her window and notices a slew of violence ensuing in all of the rooms in the adjacent building as a swirling black ball hovers over it.

Then – they’re all looking over at her, as something approaches her front door and then she dies…

The imagery of the adjacent apartment building is arresting, but it’s a bit WTF?

L is for Legacy

A demon slaughters a village after a man fails to sacrifice his Prince at the request of the Queen.

Proper shit.

M is for Masticate

In slow motion, a rabid possessed-looking man runs down the street in his underwear, tearing chunks out of people before being shot dead by the Police.

The competition entry winner, this enjoyable short revels in the madness of bath salts. It’s sharp imagery and slow motion build the anticipation of the madness more than any frenetic camerawork could.

image-w1280

N is for Nexus

A man hurries to meet his girlfriend for a Halloween party, but is run down by a reckless taxi driver.

Bit shit.

O is for Ochloracy

Zombies, given lucidity thanks to a groundbreaking drug, put on trial the humans that killed them during the outbreak.

It’s an original concept, with a nice little nod to Bob from Day of the Dead.

P is for P-P-P- Scary!

Three scared prisoners face a mysterious man in the dark.

P is for Proper Shit more like. Hate it.

Q is for Questionnaire

A man takes an intelligence street on a random street, with images interspersed of his brain being transplated into a gorilla’s head.

Brilliant. Quite grotesque imagery juxtaposed with the banality of his questionnaire.

R is for Roulette

Three people, two men and one woman, dressed in gown and black tie play russian roulette in a dank basement.

A tense watch, it’s pretty clear they’re not doing this for fun. Though we don’t get to see what triggers them to gamble their last bullet, the way the game unfolds tells you everything you need to know about their unknown assailants.

S is for Split

A husband calls his wife who is home alone. As they talk on the phone, an intruder breaks into the house.

A standout effort, with maximum use of the screen in place of screen time. It’s well acted and tense, with a shocking ending.

T is for Torture Porn

A young woman is intimated and abused by a group of filmmakers during her audition, enacting her revenge at just the right time…

Classic Soska Sisters – subversive, uncomfortable to watch from start to end and just ludicrously brilliant.

U is for Utopia

An overweight and poorly dressed man walks through a shopping mall of perfect people. Realising him to be imperfect, he is incinerated by a utopian robot as the rest of them clap.

Reflecting on society’s obsession with perfection, this dystopian looks at a future that is strikingly close to becoming a reality.

V is for Vacation

On a video chat to his girlfriend from Thailand, Dylan and his friend Curt soon learn the price for crossing an old, drug-fuelled crazy prostitute.

This short is nuts. It’s a clever bit of found footage and the nudity seems to add an extra level to the barbarity of the film’s events. That, and the screams of a helpless, unseen girlfriend who watches it all happen.

W is for Wish

Two boys make a wish to be transported into the world of their favourite game, but are quickly captured by the evil that their hapless hero is supposed to defeat.

Proper shit.

X is for Xylophone

A grandmother watches over her granddaughter who plays with her xylophone. Seeming to go mad from the sound, she silences her granddaughter once and for all.

This short is proper messed up. The manic look on the grandmother’s face as the parents return home, coupled with the graphic display on the carpet, sends a shiver through your spine.

Y is for Youth

A young girl vents her frustation at her parents, which manifest and attack her parents in style.

Though a massive WTF, the visuals in this are stunning. It is seamless the way in which the range of objects bend, form and attack her parents, with a poignant meaning behind all of them.

Z for Zygote

A heavily pregnant woman is left alone by her husband, who provides her with ‘Midwife Root’ to stop the baby from being born. 13 years later and still inside her, the child is ready to be born.

Wow. Just wow. One of the most stunning short films I’ve seen in a long time. If David F. Sandberg managed to get a feature length film from his short, then Chris Nash should be turning Blumhouse red.

Not only does the film require you to suspend your disbelief without even a shred of horror, when it comes to the child being born, it becomes Cronenberg turned up to 11. It’s a shame you have to wait until the end of the film for this entry, but it’s well worth the wait.

And just when you think it can’t get anymore messed up – Papa comes home…

abcs_z_zygote

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★

Trivia

  • The post-credit scene starring Laurence R. Harvey is part of Jen & Sylvia Soska’s segment, T is for Torture Porn
  • M is for Masticate was a competition entry winner
  • The ABC’s of Death 2.5 was released a year later, showcasing the best entries from the ‘M is for…’ competition

Quotes

MAN: Fuck yeah – I’ll do some bath salts! (M is for Masticate)


Tomorrow: Night #16 – Psycho II (1983)