SFF Review: The Invitation, a dinner party for the mad

“The Invitation”, Karyn Kusama’s intense thriller, will be available in select theaters and VOD this Friday. We have heard nothing but good things about this flick since it premiered at the Stanley Film Festival. Check out this spoiler-free review from Ryan at The Missing Reel right here!

The long wait to see Karyn Kusama back behind the camera of a feature film is finally over, following up Jennifer’s Body with her cutthroat, paranoid thriller The Invitation. Calculated, tense and unflinching in its brutality, it’s a terrific simmering style of storytelling that boils into one insanity-fueled finish. In it, while attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.

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Variety Review: ‘The Invitation’ (2015) Will Freeze Your Blood

“Everything does go to hell in the end, of course, as it must in any genre movie worth its salt, and “The Invitation” delivers the necessary jolts in satisfyingly visceral fashion without descending into Grand Guignol excess. Still, it’s in the slow-and-steady buildup — as opposed to the attenuated action climax or the slightly eye-rolling denouement — where the film excels, as Kusama (working with editor Plummy Tucker) keeps the tension simmering away beneath the sounds of clinking silverware and polite, nervous laughter. D.p. Bobby Shore’s elegantly skulking camera familiarizes us with virtually every inch of the house to which the action is confined, bathing the interiors in a seductively moody, almost amber glow. Phillip Blackford’s sound design adds to the eerie vibe, ensuring that we register every slammed door, shattered glass and cut-off scream with perfect clarity.”

-From the Variety (at SXSW) review by Justin Chang for “The Invitation”

Variety’s Rave Review For Kiwi Horror-Comedy ‘Housebound’: “Near Flawless” and “Marvelously Entertaining”

 

In a hilarious opening sequence, the dislodged head of a sledgehammer spectacularly curtails an ATM smash-and-grab robbery attempt by petty criminal Kylie Bucknell (O’Reilly) and an anonymous male accomplice. A snarling ball of venom with a lengthy rap sheet, twentysomething Kylie is spared prison by a lenient judge who says home detention and regular sessions with a psychologist, Dennis (Cameron Rhodes), will provide the stable environment she needs to turn her wayward life around.

With those words still lingering, audiences will chuckle when Kylie arrives at the creepy-looking house of her childhood to begin an eight-month stretch. The dwelling is home to her stepfather, Graeme (Ross Harper), an oddball who’s seen but rarely heard, and her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), an endearing chatterbox who believes the house is haunted. Kylie’s petulant behavior and eye-rolling mockery of Miriam’s claim establishes a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that will eventually outgrow its comical roots and bring real heart to the story. The slow change starts when Kylie begins seeing things that make her believe “something” is indeed lurking in the basement and within the walls. Several spine-tingling incidents later, Kylie seeks help from Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the security company guy hired to monitor her electronic ankle bracelet. Cleverly introduced as a fairly bland and functional character, Amos leaps wonderfully to life at the first mention of supernatural activity. Armed with old-school equipment, including a Polaroid camera and a microcassette recorder, this sweet-natured nerd with a passion for all things paranormal forms a splendidly eccentric detective partnership with the tough but mellowing Kylie.

-from the Variety review by Richard Kuipers

So apparently, Housebound (whose official site can be found here) played at SXSW this year and went over so well with the crowd (and critics) that it was not only picking up a buzz as ‘a comeback for New Zealand horror-comedy’, but the world sales rights were also acquired within weeks by Paris-based Films Distribution.  Right now Housebound–the feature debut of Gerard Johnstone– is still making the genre circuit, but don’t worry about having to wait years to see it; XLrator Media has acquired U.S. sales rights and plans a theatrical and day-and-date VOD release [Source: Variety.com].  That ‘day-and-date’ will be October 17th, when the film will be released on VOD, iTunes, and select theaters. Here’s the trailer:

Check out the complete review below (to read the entire Variety review, click on “View original” in the lower left. This one is definitely going on our must-watch list!

 

Read Variety’s ‘Penny Dreadful’ Review – ‘Solidly Entertaining’, ‘Pulpy’, and ‘Oozing With Atmosphere’

Set in 1891, just a few years after the Ripper’s spree, the project capitalizes on the lingering fear created by those events, while playing with the audience’s understanding and expectations surrounding its better-known characters.

Created by John Logan and counting his “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes among the producers, “Penny Dreadful” (a not-quite-dreadful title, derived from the serialized publications of the day) doesn’t hurry the action, and some scenes linger surprisingly long, as the narrative flits around seeking to establish a dense mythology that includes Egyptian hieroglyphics and apocalyptic warnings.

-from the Variety review by Brian Lowry

 

We’ve seen the pilot, and that description in the title is very accurate. Don’t miss it when Penny Dreadful airs the pilot episode tonight, May 11, on Showtime at 10 p.m.!  Did we mention it’s deliciously creepy and really gory?

‘Salem’ Trailer Premiere: This Show Looks Darker Than We Thought — Check it out on EW.com (VIDEO)

Yeah, think we’re going to give this a look. Chances are it’s not any worse than the last several episodes of AHS Coven. The chick at the end looks like she belongs in Martyrs (minus the blood).

I know, right?

I know, right?

Check the trailer out below, and remember, the series Salem will premiere this Sunday, AKA Easter, on WGN America. Haven’t seen any reviews yet, but we’ll get them to you! Hit ‘View original’ in the lower left to get to the EW.com piece with the l trailer for Salem.

Ten Online Items About “Oculous” That Are Driving Us Wild To See It This Friday!

People (and some borderline trolls) discussing Oculus (just from seeing a TV spot or a trailer) are bitching that haunted/cursed mirror movies have been “done to death” already. Well, the last one I remember seeing in the theater was the (fairly) mainstream, gruesome and terrifying Mirrors (grown men in the theater yelled in fear, and I was letting out some serious screams myself; there was even a walkout close to the end of the very gory bathtub jaw-rip scene… I wonder how they’d react to the unrated version) and that was back in early 2008. Since then I’ve seen Mirrors 2 (2010) on VOD and it wasn’t a strict sequel (I was positive it was based on a J-horror or K-horror flick, due to the formula, even before I finished watching; I later read and confirmed the fact), plus a pretty creepy–and fun– little Philippino horror flick called Feng Shui (about the only feature-length film in Tagalog I’ve really enjoyed, and recommended– as a bonus, it’s got a neat kind of Final Destination theme woven in, where people are marked for death in a certain way). That’s about it as far of the list of haunted mirror movies, so I call bullshit on that.

Also, if you’ve seen Mike Flanagan’s début film, Absentia, you know how creative he can get. The movie wasn’t perfect, but the fright it generated caught me off guard… and I’m not even talking about “jump” scares. Now, we get to see what he can do with a larger budget; from the moment reviews from the notorious Midnight Madness showing of Oculus at TIFF last fall started trickling in, there was overwhelming praise for the movie, plus props given for creating an atmosphere of creeping dread and fear without relying on blood and gore, or any fake-out jump scares. Two reviews and it was on our Horror Boom MUST SEE NOW! list.  But wait, the praise for the movie’s nightmarish originality doesn’t stop there.

I’ve been reading and seeing great things online for the past six weeks or so. Here are ten of them that all contribute towards me dragging Mr. Horror Boom to see it Friday night (when it opens theatrically):

1. The fact that the MPAA says the R-rating is due to the following: Terror, Violence, some disturbing images, and brief language.

2. From the review on Movies.com (read it all here):

Mike Flanagan’s film is brilliant and inspired and scary and more creative than any other horror movie you’re bound to see this year… What makes Flanagan’s film works so well is its unflinching commitment to establishing and then unraveling a scenario where all the tension comes from the idea that a mirror could somehow turn normal people into raving maniacs.

 

3. From Indiewire.com (entire review here) : Director Mike Flanagan also helped edit the film, and the movie is ridiculously tight. Even with the two timelines, two sets of actors playing the same character, fantasy elements that intermingle with what is actually happening, and a scary ghoul with glowing eyes, there isn’t an ounce of fat on “Oculus.” It’s easily the scariest movie since “The Conjuring,” and in some ways is a deeper and more satisfying film. It’s stylish but not showy, more concerned with the thematic undercurrents coursing just beneath the surface. In “Oculus,” the lead characters are deeply disturbed adults who are trying desperately to move on with their lives. Almost everyone is haunted by some aspect of their past. What “Oculus” suggests is that you have to move on… or you’ll pay the ultimate price.

4. This part of the soundonsight.org review (entire review linked here):

With fantastic editing, the film achieves not only creates plenty of gory, pop out scares, but also raises notions of other more terrify ideas. Horror can lie in obsession, and there is no greater personal horror than a loss of one’s perception. True to the mirror’s abilities, audiences will start to doubt what direction the film goes in. Constantly shifting, Oculus is a smart, scary horror film that will keep audiences guessing to the point of madness.

5. This quick flash in the more recent trailers…

I wonder what's going to happen next... eek.

I wonder what’s going to happen next… eek.

6.  From the review on wegotthiscovered.com (link here):

Relying on supernatural chills, Oculus contains enough genuinely disturbing moments to raise the hairs on my arms with ease, especially considering Katee Sackhoff’s disturbing transformation. Turning into a feral creature of sorts, Sackhoff abandons all human elements and embraces an animalistic performance that’s pure, jolting genre creepiness incarnate. I couldn’t help it – even when Sackhoff was obviously lurking around the corner, I squealed like an overly macho man who momentarily got caught off guard (or that’s what I’ll tell myself) …Flanagan ends with a edge-of-your seat scareatorium that’s relentlessly terrifying.

7. Here’s a snippet from a review that REALLY got us psyched (on Wordfilm.about.com) even though we had to redact a spoiler-ish word or two:

Flanagan cuts between them expertly, letting the past and present bleed together. Gillan, Sackhoff, and Cochrane give sharp performances (Thwaites is a bit of a lightweight) as the darkness unfolds in both timelines. It’s almost like getting two effective, creepy stories in one…  What [the cursed mirror] does is mess with your mind. It’ll make you want to do something you wouldn’t normally do, or make think you’re doing one thing when you’re actually doing something else. For example, maybe you think you’re pulling a Band-Aid off your finger, but you’re really [spoiler-y detail redacted}. Or maybe you think you’re giving the kids a bath, but you’re actually — well, you get the idea.

8.  This poster definitely didn’t hurt.

OOOOOOH SHIIII--

OOOOOOH SHIIII–

 

9. From Nick Schager’s Village Voice review:

Replete with superb performances led by a paranoid Sackhoff and unhinged Cochrane, it’s the rare horror film to know how to tease malevolent mysteries and deliver satisfyingly unexpected, unsettling payoffs.

10. Finally, from Chris Alexander at Fangoria.com, who definitely knows a great horror movie when he sees it:

The very device of jamming between decades goes from somewhat clumsy to ingenious and really, I’m not even sure of the exact point when that happens. It just does. Without spoiling anything, the last half hour of OCULUS is one of the most stressful, disorienting and hypnotizing divebombs into child’s-eye horror I’ve ever sat through. In fact, last night I had a nightmare about it and I honestly cannot recall that happening in a decade or more… Mike Flanagan has jettisoned to top of my list as a filmmaker—not just a horror filmmaker, but an artist full stop—to watch carefully.

Oh, and we hear that it’s definitely in your best interest to stay and watch a scene after the credits.

Oculus opens this Friday, April 11th in theaters. We’re definitely in. How about you?

 

 

 

‘True Detective’ Finale Review: Truth, Justice, and the Satisfying Surprise of a Happy Ending

Errol Childress: Come and die with me, little priest.

 

Oh, SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen True Detective and plan to. Here’s an excellent review by Jess Jenson for EW.com on the True Detective finale, “Form and Void”, that aired Sunday night and crashed HBO GO due to the amount of people trying to watch. I was really expecting one of the characters I cared about (or worse yet, all of them) to die horribly. Instead, though the finale was dark as hell and didn’t disappoint. Aside from all the obvious, memorable nightmarish imagery–and there was plenty; Errol’s…wife? (half-sister? Sister? Like Marty, we don’t want to know the DNA results) scared the hell out of us, especially her responses to Marty’s questions when he first tries to communicate with her, as follows:

Marty (Getting nervous): Uh– hey, where is he?
Woman: All around us… before you were born… and after you die.

 

The line delivery by the actress was so goddamned creepy that I shivered; her intermittent screaming at what looked to be their vicious German Shepherd dog purchased specifically to scare the shit out of/attack any trespassers, then going back to her normal calm yet clearly disturbed self, creeped me the hell out too.*.

Side note: I’m not 100%–OK, to be honest, 50% clear–who the fly blown, almost naked older man was in the guest house) or whatever building housed him) tied to a bed frame. He looked like (EEK) his lips were sewn shut, and when they only showed, say, a vague shot of his feet in that first scene he appeared in where Errol talks about ‘hosin’ him down’, I figured it was A. some poor girl or woman who had been their victim for a long time that Childress did horrible, horrible things to on a regular basis or B. what would be revealed later as a horribly rotten, long-dead corpse or C. a combination of the two. Still not 100%, but I’m pretty sure he was breathing. Please chime in below in ‘Comments” if you have an answer, by the way, because now it’s bugging me.

Anyway, here was as much of an ‘upbeat’ ending as this season of True Detective can have**. Anyway, Mr. Jenson says it much better than I could (you may have noticed that I’ve been a little frazzled the last month or so–complicated workload– but I’m improving), and if you were a fan of this first season, the review/analysis is well worth checking out.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 5.50.39 AM

*If I’d been in Marty’s shoes at the time, I don’t care how macho/alpha-male his character is (also considering the fact they’d mentioned their cell phones couldn’t pick up a signal; we horror fans know what happens when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and someone says they can’t get a signal, so hey, must be outside of the service area) I would have just said, “Welp, think I got about all the information I need, ma’am! I won’t be bothering you no more, I’m leaving now!” as I was hastily backing away, then found Rusty (though I wouldn’t go poking around too much, given the toxic, evil and just plain WRONG vibes that swamp property and the fucked-up owners gave out) and said, “OK, I’m out. Either we come back here with a dozen cops for back-up, or just bring in the next guy who can deal with this, I’m done. You getting in the car, Rust? No? Tell you what, I’ll just wait in the car for a few minutes with the motor running and the doors locked, then after five minutes, you’re on your own.”

**Raise your hand if, upon your first watching, you were POSITIVE Rusty was going to get killed off by the end of the episode. I thought when Marty asked about him, the detectives would look glum and tell Marty they were very sorry to tell him that Rust hadn’t made it through surgery alive.

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TV Review: ‘Those Who Kill,’ ‘Bates Motel’ on A&E (Variety.com)

OK, so we’ll be skipping “Those Who Kill,” and watching Season Two of “Bates Motel” to see Vera Farmiga’s performance, which was the most entertaining thing about Season One. Seeing Kenny Johnson (who, as longtime super-fans of Shawn Ryan’s “The Shield, we’ll always remember as Curtis “Lemonhead” Lemansky, we’ll watch in anything*) as a new addition to the cast won’t hurt either, and there’s no possible way this can be as painful to sit through as the few episodes of the final season of Dexter that he played a federal agent in.  We still worry about Bates Motel fucking up the mythology of Norman and Norma Bates, though.  It wouldn’t have killed them to make it a period piece; so far nothing crucial to the plot or characters that required the show being set in the present.  Norma still encounters plenty of sexist bullshit while trying to run a hotel while being female, so it wouldn’t be THAT big of a difference.

Screen shot 2014-03-04 at 3.29.43 AM

*Okay, my husband will watch Kenny Johnson in anything good, I’m the one who’ll watch him in anything because I’ve had a crush on him since 2006. Uh, have you seen that smile and those ARMS? Also, the last season and the last few episodes of Dexter were so bad that if I could go back and do it again, I’d just sit the whole thing out. It wasn’t worth the waste of my time no matter how sexy any guest star was. Make that the last two seasons. Sheesh.

Hellions Horror Video Contest!

Couldn’t let this post from Ryan at Rhino’s Horror for a new contest pass without spreading the word! Can a horror short two minutes or less be scary as hell? Well, the short film “Mama” clocks in at two minutes, forty-five seconds (minus the end credits) and still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’ve watched it dozens of times (hey, it’s a work of art) and still find it actively frightening. Horror Boom has posted plenty of Drew Daywalt’s “Fear Factory” shorts such as “Bedfellows” and “Mockingbird” that are LESS than two minutes. So yeah, I have faith that this contest will result in plenty untapped talent applying themselves, and ending up with contest entries that are the stuff of nightmares. Check out the piece for the rules and the deadline (click on “View Original” link at the bottom). What’s extra great is that the piece will actually be included (not just an extra on DVD) in the upcoming horror film Hellions (from Bruce McDonald, director of Pontypool). How cool is that?

Hellions

As all of you guys know, Bruce McDonald—director of Pontypool—is currently hard at work on his latest horror feature Hellions, which is currently in the editing stage. In their way of giving back to the indie community, the cool cats behind Hellions are hosting an awesome short film contest to help spread the work of indie filmmakers. How cool is that? All you have to do is create the scariest short film up to 2 minutes long, and if they pick you as a winner you’ll have your work not only seen by horror fans from all over, but it will actually be seen in the film itself! Below are all the details!

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Why 1950s America was *Not* Magical!!

How does this relate to American Horror Story Season Four, you ask? Well, a few days ago Ryan Murphy announced this “period piece” that Jessica Lange was “already working on her German accent for”, would definitely be set in 1950. He’s currently refusing to, well, spoil the fun and give any more than that other than some very vague hints about the “theme” for season 4 of AHS… so we’re speculating until then. On the basis of a sort of out-of-context line in the January 15th episode which Ryan Murphy said contained an “Easter Egg” as a clue, our money is on McCarthyism as a theme (wheeee! We hope we’re wrong) with a title like American Horror Story – Red Scare. This excellent piece by Indiana Jen will give you some more food for thought…