Thursday, 23 November 2017

Film Round-Up #23

I've been watching films for many years now - since my early teens in fact (as far as I remember at least) - and I'm confident in saying there's at least one example from every genre that I like. Usually far more than one of course, but there are a few genres I'm not particularly keen on. One of them is horror. I can appreciate that they hold a certain appeal for many but I just don't find most of them very interesting. I did recently, however, watch a handful of supposedly-good examples to see if my mind could be changed. For one reason or another, here are the ones I went for:

The Mist (2007)

It was an interest in watching this particular film that prompted this post to begin with. I didn't know too much about it except that it's a Stephen King adaptation. Well, and that it presumably featured mist too, and it does indeed, with the murky stuff wafting over a small American town the morning after a large thunderstorm. While getting supplies from a local store with his son, David (Thomas Jane) encounters a panicked and injured man running into the store warning of 'something' in the mist that now surrounds the store and extends an unknown distance beyond. So, stay indoors then, and that's what the rest of them do - barricade themselves in the store while scary creatures try to get them. Scary they are too, Lovecraftian in style and ranging from bird-sized flying bugs to huge monsters, but the emphasis is just as much on the people in the store and how they deal with the crisis - and each other. Conflicts unsurprisingly arise as their situation looks increasingly bleak, mainly thanks to a super annoying religious fanatic, and we get perhaps one of the most shocking endings of any film (a change from the novel by director, Frank Darabont). Occasionally gruesome, occasionally boring, but mostly gripping... 8/10

Kill List (2011)

I can't remember where I got the idea to watch this one but I had definitely read beforehand that it was a horror film. I was therefore a bit surprised to find what, in my opinion, is not a horror film at all, but more of a crime thriller. It's set in Yorkshire, UK, with Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley as Jay and Gal, two ex-army guys now working as hitmen. Upon meeting their strange client for details of their latest job, they're presented with a list containing three names - their targets. As they set to work, however, things start heading into strangetown, with their targets apparently knowing more about them than vice versa, before heading into a truly bizarre and completely unexpected final sequence. Only this last part of the film could really be considered horror so it's a bit of a stretch to call it a horror film but it's still far from fun for all the family. It's pretty much impossible to relate to anything in the film or feel affinity for any of the characters but it's well-paced, builds up to its climax well, and intriguing enough to keep you watching until then (just about). It's not the kind of film I was expecting at all but it's worth watching for that ending... 6/10

As Above, So Below (2014)

A friend at work recommended this one as something a little different, and after briefly checking out the synopsis (and seeing the spooky cover art) I was looking forward to seeing it. It stars Perdita Weeks as Scarlett, a young alchemy scholar who has been searching for the legendary philosopher's stone, and she now believes she's narrowed its location down. If correct, it lies 370 feet underneath the streets of Paris which places it deep within the city's much-fabled catacombs. Naturally, she plans to descend into the spooky darkness as soon as possible and, after persuading her friend and cameraman to join her in addition to a few locals who apparently know their way around down there, she sets off. The kind of stuff they find isn't hugely surprising or even original but the atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic throughout which got to me more than any gore in other horror films. This is partly down to the 'found footage' style in which the film is presented. I don't usually like these much but it works well here. It's topped off by some decent performances too. Nothing special but entertaining enough, although I saw the end reveal coming... 7/10

The Babadook (2014)

I'd been hearing about this one for quite a while, supposedly among the finest horror films of recent years, so I figured I had to give it a go really. It's an Australian film, director Jennifer Kent's debut, and is a psychological horror - a kind I prefer over the gore/torture type greatly. Amelia Vanek stars as Essie Davis, a stressed out single mother struggling to cope with her job as well as her young son who has been behaving increasingly erratically - something made significantly worse by the appearance of a pop-up storybook called Mister Babadook which describes the titular monster, the Babadook, a tall pale-faced humanoid in a top hat with pointed fingers who torments its victims after they become aware of its existence. Sadly, much of what I remember about the first half is the most annoying screeching kid in the universe, but the second half is better and features a great performance from Vanek as she too succumbs to the foul creature's tomfoolery. It's a fantastic effort considering the tiny cast and meagre budget too. I can't say I actually enjoyed it as much as most apparently did - it's very bleak throughout, even for a horror - but it features a pretty cool monster and is definitely worth watching... 7/10

It Follows (2014)

This was actually the first of the films featured here that I saw - on a long haul flight no less - but I've rewatched it on a proper screen prior to this post and rather enjoyed it both times too. It stars Maika Monroe as Jay, a college student who after shagging her new boyfriend is told by him that he has very kindly passed 'it' on to her - an entity that appears only to its current target and appears as anyone, constantly moving slowly towards them. If it reaches its target it kills it violently. The only way to pass it on is to have sex with someone else. What a top guy her (now mysteriously absent) boyfriend is! Despite the initially-cringey use of sex as a plot-device, though, it actually works pretty well - do you pass it on to someone else, knowing what you'll be putting them through, or do you keep running for the rest of your (probably short) life? Either way, the persistent creature is very creepy whatever form it's in and brings a great deal of suspense to a stylish film. The 80's B-movie vibe is welcome and Monroe is good too. It even finds time to be thought-provoking. The rare kind of horror that's right up my street... 8/10


  1. Hear hear! I dislike horror and am rather disappointed to see in recent years about 50% of all films released are horror with 50% of those being zombie movies (Please Hollywood, no more!). I particularly dislike the "torture porn" subgenre. I can't imagine who would find realistic torture of humans entertaining. In my opinion these films should be banned. Horror is also a lazy genre often relying on clichés like darkness, music and jump scares.

    1. It seems we feel the same way regarding horror. I usually find myself rolling my eyes when I keep seeing people talking about new films only to find it's yet another horror and/or zombie film. I've still only really liked one zombie film which is Zombieland (I reviewed it too!) but most I'm just not interested in. I have even less interest in the torture porn films. As you say, I can't imagine many things less appealing to watch. They don't scare me or make me wince or anything, I just don't want to spend my time watching that kind of thing, it's not what I watch films for. I'm not sure I agree they should be banned but I have no interest in them. Some of the horrors I watched for this feature were decent but not so much so that I'll suddenly be watching the genre often now...