Category Archives: Horror

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TADFF 2014: Review: Zombeavers (2014)

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Zombeavers (2014)

TADFF 2014: Review: Housebound (2014)

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TAD’14 is coming to a close and as usual, I am behind on coverage. For those of you who don’t know, I obtained a press all-access pass this year to cover the festivities. I will be posting all content related to the festival: reviews, interviews, etc…over at Gone With the Movies, a site I have been contributing to for a while. If you feel so inclined, please head on over (click the link below) and give my coverage a look. The first film I reviewed is “Housebound,” a delightfully original take on the haunted house premise.

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Oculus (2014)

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Look, let’s make one thing crystal clear, we’re not reinventing the wheel here. A lot of Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus” you’ve more than likely experienced before, in one way or another. And If I’m to be honest, the only reason I watched “Oculus” is because I’m an admirer of director Mike Flanagan’s ultra-low-budget horror flick “Absentia.” A film that caught a bad break when it’s marketing team really misrepresented the film with simple, stereotypical horror posters and publicity. All misdirection aside however, if you haven’t seen “Absentia,” I highly suggest you give it a whirl. It’s a brilliant, atmospheric slow-burn that delivers some seriously unsettling content and chilling scares…but I digress. So, given that “Oculus” appeared to be nothing more than a retread through its awareness campaign and that the film didn’t really provoke much interest from me, except for Flanagan being attached, I didn’t expect much from it going in…

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Well, this is the part where I’m supposed to completely shift focus and tell you how exceptional “Oculus” turned out to be and that I loved it! Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t in good conscious lead you on like that. That being said, I can inform you that I was pleasantly surprised with what “Oculus” presented and that it is arguably the second best horror flick I’ve seen so far this year, the chillingly claustrophobic and chaotic “In Fear” still holds the distinction of being number one on my list. Now, taking into account that we’re barely four months into the new year, saying that “Oculus” is one of the year’s best doesn’t exactly hold much weight. With the likes of “Devil’s Due” and the fifth feature in the “Paranormal Activity” series barely making pre-teens have nightmares, even the competition hasn’t been top notch. I really hope this year in horror turns around…but enough about that, back to “Oculus.”

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PLOT:

A young woman, Kaylie, tries to exonerate her brother, Tim, who was convicted of murdering their father eleven years ago by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural force that dwells inside an old mirror.

The film plays out through a series of flashbacks that are recollected by our two protagonists eleven years into the present, who are simultaneously setting in motion a plan to prove the existence of an evil presence living inside the aforementioned mirror, with the intent of destroying it once they’ve obtained their evidence. Additionally, as If that isn’t complicated enough, the possessed mirror continuously distorts reality, making it nearly impossible to predict or conclude what is real and what is fabricated. So right away I became mesmerized by the complexity and hypnotic nature of the story and its many gambits. “Oculus” is a lot smarter than its surface insinuates. However, it does occasionally drift and as flabbergastingly impressive as the film’s editing is, the tale could’ve used sounder structuring. It simply feels a tad too out of control and it is, at some spots, difficult to decipher and follow.

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Our evil, devilish antagonist declares, “I’ve met my demons, and they are many. I’ve seen the devil, and I am him.” A chilling, memorable line that won’t soon be forgotten by horror fanboys. Sadly though, it is one of the few things I do recall from “Oculus.” I’m not saying the film isn’t scary, I myself got spooked from time to time, more so during the film’s later half, and I’m not that easily frightened. The most terrifying aspect of the film has got to be these mysterious apparitions, which turn out to be the haunted mirror’s previous victims. They have reflective, glowing eyes that dot the blackness with a sinister demeanour and appear unannounced throughout the film. They really illuminate this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that radiates from “Oculus.” Nonetheless, overall the film isn’t exactly one you’ll lose sleep over. Yet, the deliciously nauseating apple scene will definitely make your stomach turn.

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The only name I recognized attached to “Oculus,” with the exception of director Mike Flanagan, was actress Karen Gillian. Portraying present Kaylie, Gillian gives an inspired performance and really does her best to hold everything together. She’s got the talent and it shows, it is just too apparent that the script let her down. Brenton Thwaites, who tackles the complex role of adult Tim, unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, I found it rather perplexing that Garrett Ryan and Annalise Basso, who portray the younger versions of Kaylie and Tim respectively, without question stole the show. I just didn’t expect such investment, terror, and dedication to burst forth from such young actors. Rory Cochrane, whom I immediately recognized having seen his face, does capture the isolated, distant, deteriorating aura of someone possessed, but doesn’t exactly shine blindingly. As for Katie Sackhoff, much like the rest of the cast, is slightly above mediocre.

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Providing consistent scares, passable performances, and a script that’s probably too smart for its own good, makes “Oculus” worth the look for die-hard horror fans. However, it’s blatantly open-ended finale which leaves tons of room for countless sequels seems a bit too eager and will undoubtedly turn its fair share of viewers away.

Oculus: 7 out of 10.

In Fear (2014)

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For cinephiles, much like myself, I find that horror is trickier to dissect in the same manner one would a film in other genres. Reason being that no matter how impressive and substantial, horror films never seem to carry as much reverence in the art of film as a whole. For example, come award season, horror flicks aren’t exactly looked upon with much value and very rarely garner a nomination, let alone a victory. Why?

I never like to toss myself in the minority, but I can’t help it this time. Personally, horror is one of, if not the genre of choice, and I’m not alone. I’ve seen the very best of what the genre has to offer from the ultra disturbing, to the unbearably gory and so on. Yet, people still can’t shake this notion that somehow horror is a notch below cinema’s elite. It’s as if we’ve been brainwashed to believe that what the horror genre has to offer isn’t worthy of our time and acclaim. How many times have you heard the lie that the horror genre is dying? This mindset needs to change amongst us cinephiles. Horror creates fear, one of the most crucial and unique emotions that affects the human body mentally and physically, unlike any other feeling. The point of cinema is to provoke reaction, isn’t it? So how can you deny yourself that experience? Begin your cinematic progression, your film evolution here, with “In Fear.”

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Director Jeremy Lovering has set the record straight. His latest film’s title is derived from the story and the premise on which it was based, as if after watching this cinematic thesis unfold left any confusion. This dive into horror isn’t exactly conventional. You know, a series of events that progress to a distressing crest, climax, and conclude. No, there is something theoretic, scientific, albeit madly, about this picture. Something that Lovering put best when he summarized that his latest flick wasn’t a typical outing into terror, rather, “an experiment in fear.” And although “In Fear” is quite terrifying, it isn’t solely driven by the fear it is able to provoke. It is a film that explores the experience of fear itself and what effect it has on the human body, both mentally and physically. And more importantly, to what extent is the damage irreversible…

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“There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.” A famous quote used by many I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere before. Maybe a tad cliche, especially when discussing the horror genre, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This notion is excavated and examined exhaustively throughout “In Fear,” almost scholar-like.

This theory is fairly simple to understand. Essentially, what’s truly frightening about fear is what the emotion allow’s ourselves to create. When terrified, it’s as if we access a part of our brain we don’t normally tend to, where we keep all the things we irrevocably dread. It’s this miraculously unnerving ability to turn common things like shadows, rain, tree branches into monstrosities not of this world with sinister motivations. It’s the darkest side of our imagination, a wonder of life who’s existence we despise to the marrow.

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Of course however, no matter how talented we may be at transforming bland simplicity into complex apparitions of terror, we are never really in danger, it’s all just a concoction in our brain, a phantom that never actually existed. Kind of anti-climactic, isn’t it? That being said however, with “In Fear” Lovering presents and depicts a rather intriguing idea, an uncomfortable thought. He states that the only thing we have to fear is those without any. Someone who is removed from fear and danger, someone who’s life isn’t of value to them self. This then allows this being without fear to become an external force, like gravity. When you distinguish and rid yourself of fear, you gain control over every other life form. Simply, you have fear and it doesn’t, you have everything to lose and it doesn’t. Creepy, isn’t it?

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Lovering captures the immensity of “In Fear’s” theory flawlessly, which is all the more remarkable considering that the entirety of the film takes place within a car. Yet, as impressive as this philosophical intelligence is, what’s even more astounding is the fact that “In Fear” was captured literally void of a script. All the cast and crew had to go on was a premise, nothing more. Looking back on the scale of what they created with how little they begun with is worth the watch alone. Now, aside from the theoretical premise, the genuine ambiguity of the dialogue and script, keep an eye out for “In Fear’s” use of atmosphere to create the foundation of terror. Hauntingly beautiful visuals of baron fields, harsh weather, and dreary overgrowth form this Earthy, elemental fright that’s inescapable. Combined with a light, ominous score, the fright is almost unbearable.

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Without scripted structure and dialogue, Lovering was hoping to achieve an authentic portrayal of fear, something the cast, comprised of Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech, would have to convey naturally. Englert and Caestecker portray the victims of Leech’s torment, a young couple on their first getaway. Leech is the highlight of the film, performance wise. His sadistic, unmotivated, sociopathic take on a serial murderer is bone-chilling. One of the better performances I’ve seen in a horror film in a good, long while. As for Englert and Caestecker, what can one say? The level of genuine fear they reach in their portrayals is bewildering. Their performances really drive the film forward. Honestly, for parts of this flick, you’ll feel as if you’re watching a snuff film, that’s how realistic the performances are.

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Although undoubtedly not for everyone, “In Fear” is a terrific showcase of horror done right.

In Fear: 8.5 out of 10

TADFF 2013: We Are What We Are (2013)

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To be completely honest, “We Are What We Are” raised some very intriguing arguments and I’d like to discuss that first.

In the recent past, here in the modern day, or our near future, It’s hard to imagine cannibalism providing anything but disgust and confusion to us. It may tweak our interest and pull at the strings of our curiosity from time to time, but nothing more has or will ever come of it. And you can bet that those, if any, who partake in the consumption of the human body came forth nowadays, they’d be met with the strongest punishment we, as a race with morals and compassion feel comfortable deploying, at the very least they’d be segregated.

The reason for this hatred has grown so quickly and vast, and with good reason. Apart from the fact that to accomplish this act, one must end another. The need for sustenance hasn’t been that significantly dire in the western world for as long as one can remember. So the need for such deplorable behaviour is really irrelevant nowadays and murdering someone for such unnecessary purposes is extremely frowned upon. This achievement, if you will, is directly correlated with our evolution as a species. Whether it be socially, politically, industrially, etc…

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All this distancing and disgust being said, the question of our basic, elemental, natural survivalist instinct will always remain prominent. And as confident as we are that no matter how pressing the need to digest some form of physical intake is, we’d never resort to cannibalism…we simply cannot conclude this effectively. The truth is, none of us have been in a situation that calls for such drastic action, so how can any of us say that we’d never digest common flesh. While the film weaves its way through this subject briefly, what’s even more interesting is the more immediate topic “We Are What We Are” deals with, which is… What if cannibalism is all you’ve ever known? How would you feel participating in an act that is as normal to you as breathing? Director Jim Mickle’s take on these seemingly insane notions is the starting point for this terrific slow-burner. While it certainly isn’t the first, nor will it be the last to concoct a story around such a vile, yet nourishing act. It definitely captures the immensity, humanity, and seriousness of the subject.

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A remake of Jorge Michel Grau’s film of the same title. This tense, impeccably acted  hybrid composed of horror, drama, and thriller is as heartfelt and astonishing as it is unsettling and menacing. It’d be very easy to lose one’s way in the gory, abhorrent, violent nature of cannibalism, especially when conjuring up a film that needs to satisfy those aspects. While “We Are What We Are” definitely meets these disturbing requirements, it’s quite remarkable how tasteful carnage and destruction can actually be. Yes, there are moments that’ll make you cringe and leave you a bit queasy. Nonetheless, when stacked up alongside the emotions, conflicts, and beautiful imagery, it’s nothing more than another cinematic tactic. This is due in large part to the experience and talent of the aforementioned Jim Mickle who directed this flick and screenplay scribe Nick Damichi. The duo do a sublime job separating their film from the filth and trivialness of other horror abortions.

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Perhaps the most stunning feature of the film is the dark, ambient, gloomy atmosphere hovering over this strange, tragic little town. In between each blunt object to the head and soupy human stew, one feels completely at ease which makes the hard-to-stomach surprises all the more effective. A lot of this needs to be credited to Damichi’s progressive, humanized script and Mickle’s impressive camerawork…but even more so to the film’s trio of composers. The soundtrack is smooth and entrancing, never leaving you clawing at your eardrums. An abundance of horror flicks these days go for the ascending screech or ominous semitones, but not here. This is music you could listen to while gazing towards a skyline or a breathtaking night sky, hell, even when you’re trying to doze off…and in no way is this a bad thing.

As impressive and hypnotic as all the technical and behind-the-scenes mumbo-jumbo is, it’d be nothing without the right cast. “We Are What We Are” has a strong, invested, talented ensemble across the board featuring Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Michael Parks, and Kelly McGillis. Without question, Bill Sage steals the show here. He’s intimidating, ruthless, and his emotional spectrum ranges from stoic to uncontrollable grief. One of the best performances in a horror flick I’ve ever seen, he’s just an absolute beast. Ambyr Childers gives the performance of her young career, something to be truly proud of as a calling card. Apart from Sage, Childers is the striking scene stealer. Julia Garner does a superlative job in her supporting role. The young actress, who’s starred in a couple of indie-hits and looks to have some mainstream success in the near future, easily gives the most vulnerable, emotional compromised performance.

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Amazingly performed, atmospheric, and deliciously satisfying, “We Are What We Are” is a visual feast (no pun intended).

We Are What We Are: 8.5 out of 10.

TIFF 2013: The Green Inferno (2013)

This review is intended for audiences 18 and over. Reader discretion is advised.

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Listen, at one time or another, we’ve all thought about what we, humans, taste like. No, I’m not talking about licking skin, touching lips, or other…mouth-oriented things that provide a bitter, salty surface flavour. I mean really tearing into another’s flesh, you know, slowly cooking and devouring the blood-soaked innards. Now, the first thing that just popped into your head was “like a Zombie.” One who does partake in the consumption and digestion of the human body, but not really by choice. What I’m referring to is willful cannibalism, more specifically, the cold-hearted, Hannibal Lecter-esque cannibal. The one who does it for the pleasure, mere desire, you know, the mentally unstable notion that it’s a healthier, more fulfilling alternative. Of course we’d never actually dive into a severed limb with a knife and fork, but the idea is intriguing to say the least.

Now you’re all thinking, what’s the point of this disturbing introduction? Well, it’s simply meant as a transitional tool, I’d even go as far as to call it a comforting agent. As we all are terrified by this disgusting thought no doubt, it does exist, and it does come to mind every now and then. I’m here to tell you that, you are not alone. Everyone ponders this repulsive act, especially those with a twisted, demented mind like Eli Roth. Who, with his latest outing “The Green Inferno,” takes our darkest ideal and conjures it up into a entertaining manifestation. While the film won’t satisfy our salivating need to swish around a mouth-full of the reddest, metal-tasting bubbly. It will temporarily quench our relentless curiosity or at the very least tide us over until its appropriate to initiate such repugnant behaviour, say…the apocalypse? Now, What do you say we move on past our deepest, abhorrent desire and onto the actual film?

PLOT:

A group of student activists from New York City travel to the Amazon rainforest in order to protest a tribe from being killed by deforestation. On the return journey, their plane crashes into the forest near the tribe’s grounds. Upon searching out the people and seeking help, the group is soon captured and subjected to malicious torture.

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As previously mentioned, “The Green Inferno,” which had its world premiere at TIFF this year as part of the Midnight Madness program, is directed and written by horror veteran Eli Roth, who with the film made his long-awaited return to the directors chair. It’s been 6 long years since Roth officially helmed a full-length feature and I think it’s safe to say that his presence in the genre was sorely missed. That being said, by no means does his absence suggest that I am going to give him a pass to make a sub-par film. If anything, this stretch has made me appreciate his skill-set and craft even more, allowing me to become even more critical and expecting of his flicks. I’ve evolved as a critic since Roth’s last film and I expected nothing less than his usual, gory, fun-filled fright-fests. And for the most part, his lasting outing lives up to his reputation. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, is your opinion.

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“The Green Inferno” is a hearty homage to cannibal films of the 1980s such as “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Cannibal Ferox.” Roth even went as far as to include a lengthy list of the films that inspired his tribute in the closing credits, just in case you didn’t get your fill of stomach-bursting cannibalism. The film itself takes a little while getting into the gritty, cringe-worthy violence and bone chewing, due in large part to Roth’s growth as a filmmaker. He claimed during the Q and A that working with high-profile directors such as Quentin Tarantino helped him learn to expand and add depth to his characters, allowing for a more meaningful connection with the audience. The first half-hour is a respectable attempt at humanizing his characters, but it can become quite frustrating when you’re waiting for the chaos and carnage to begin.

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Although Roth has matured as a filmmaker, he certainly hasn’t lost his touch. As soon as we cross into the Amazon from the streets of New York, we’re treated to an unbearably tense situation involving chains, guns, and construction equipment…in my opinion one of the best sequences in the film. Not long after that, Roth unleashes his full arsenal: violence, gore, and pitch-black comedy. Granted, the story’s structure isn’t anything overly original and to be honest, it’s rather predictable. But in all honesty, you don’t watch this type of film for its intelligence or inventiveness. With “The Green Inferno” you’re simply along for the journey, nothing more. It’s not an Oscar contender or a film worth constantly revisiting, and it’s not something you watch as a film buff or cinephile…you just enjoy it. It’s the perfect film for Halloween or when you’re lounging around, drunk, in the middle of the night.

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The cast of “The Green Inferno,” compiled of Eli Roth’s co-stars in the mildly entertaining natural disaster flick “Aftershock,” are quite effective. It really is a group effort and the ensemble really do feed off one another, literally and figuratively. The supporting cast, although not memorable, do a reasonable job in the back ground. However, Lorenza Izzo and Ariel Levy are undoubtedly the film’s two leads. They do their best to pull off a serious tone, but it’s relatively transparent. Izzo is terrific however as a new-age scream queen. She’s got the looks and the pipes to consistently and effectively appear in numerous horror flicks to come. Levy, although not very strong dramatically, is down-right hilarious. It’s impossible to dismiss his charm, and there is one scene specifically that’ll leave you gasping for air…because it’s too funny.

It might not be as perverse or deplorable as I had hoped, especially when compared to the films that inspired it. Yet, “The Green Inferno” is a funny, disgusting, violent thrill-ride that’ll leave horror enthusiasts fully satisfied.

The Green Inferno: 7 out of 10.

TIFF 2013: The Sacrament (2013)

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For the most part, Ti West’s latest outing “The Sacrament” avoids falling back on the tired, stereotypical ploys that have given the genre a bad reputation as of late. It’s an attempt at something different, an experiment that at the very least is respectable for simply daring to try something new. It’s a breath of fresh air for those of us who’ve been drowning amidst the congested, diluted, uninspired, synthetic blood-filled cesspool that modern horror has become. That being said, I expected nothing less from West who has slowly worked his way to becoming one of the brightest, most inventive, well-versed saviours of the genre. Granted, “The Sacrament” may fit better under the “thriller” label, even if it is only to satisfy the occasional horror die-hard. Nonetheless, this slow-burning walk through hell provides the tension, turbulence, and terror you’d expect from the creator of “The Innkeepers” and “The House of the Devil.”

PLOT:

Jake (Swanberg), Sam (Bowen), and Patrick (Audley) are correspondents for a news affiliate known as Vice. One day, when Patrick receives a strange letter from his sister Caroline (Seimetz), who lives in a sober community as part of her rehab. The three decide to investigate the story surrounding the settlement from which the letter originated. Upon arriving, the group is stunned to see the beauty, serenity, and wholesomeness radiating from the community. However, upon realizing that the settlement has an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic leader whom the people call “Father.” The investigators soon come to understand that everything is not as it appears and that their lives might be in terrible danger.

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Today, where a majority of the genre falters, Ti West and his films, such as “The Sacrament,” impress. It seems nowadays that horror flicks and their creators try their best to separate themselves from any connection to past or present filmmakers and films. They conjure up their own unique premise or murder weapon and simply try to one-up their peers. What this leads to is an intriguing, entertaining first-half to a film that will eventually wind up resorting to cliches and a hackneyed finale. Yet, so far in his career, West seemingly has no problem with being the one to tidy up the genre. His flicks evoke a wonderful sense of nostalgia and lovingly embrace the homage label bestowed upon them. He willingly trades in the buckets of gore, which are currently a standard-issue to all horror filmmakers, for genuine fright, tense situations, and eerie sounds or objects. This is precisely the type of old-school terror you can expect with West’s latest outing. Except, much like his other full-length features, it brandishes a satisfying twist.

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Now, there might not be anything overly original about the style and story West has chosen to utilize in “The Sacrament.” For example. It’s premise orbits around a few journalists who travel a long way to investigate a secluded, cult-like community… essentially nothing we haven’t heard or seen before. Even the found-footage format used to unveil the film’s events is something that’s been eccentrically used and dulled over time. However, while the techniques and tactics employed by West aren’t unheard of or by any means revolutionary. The way in which West manages and manipulates them is anything but conventional. Through the hand-held camera, West better encapsulates the spontaneity, authenticity, and disheartening horror of this faux-documentary. And the moments when you feel as if the scenarios are unfolding right in front of you just further attest to West’s ingenuity and prowess when it comes to handling these common facets.

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The film itself bares a striking resemblance to the 1978 massacre at the settlement of Jonestown, in which 918 people died of cyanide poisoning. The events that took place are widely recognized, however, whether or not the massacre was a mass murder or mass suicide is still very much up for debate. While “The Sacrament” does share similarities with this terribly unfortunate tragedy, West seems to have merely used it as a motivational tool, inspiration if you will. Although some of you may consider this information to be somewhat of a spoiler, I beg to differ. Where the film and its apparent counterpart line up is nothing compared to where the two differentiate. I am simply stating the commonalities between fact and fiction. If you happened to read up on the film at all, the shared traits are fairly obvious…but I digress. If this topic has peeked your interest, I suggest reading into the Jonestown Massacre in preparation for the film.

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Guiding the viewer through this self-proclaimed utopia are some familiar faces. The cast of “The Sacrament” features Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen, and Gene Jones. And everyone, with the exception of Gene Jones has worked with Ti West on another film in some way. So the chemistry between the cast and director is plentiful and undeniable. Bowen and Swanberg lead the way and maintain the viewers gazes like a magnet, as if they are holding our hand, waking us through and protecting us from harm. The duo is remarkably fascinating to watch as they stroll warily amongst the calm uneasiness, radiating this feeling of impending chaos. Gene Jones, without any doubt gives the best performance. His portrayal of the mentally unstable, abusive, persuasive community leader is hypnotic. You’ll slowly begin to feel yourself gravitate towards his inviting, albeit insane notions, it’s supremely effective. Seimetz is equally as seductive. Her demeanour and beliefs are contagious. Overall, the ensemble really sells the premise and fully deliver unnerving obliviousness.

Despite trailing off into a few familiar, bloody tendencies towards the end. Ti West’s “The Sacrament” is chilling, horrifying, and down-right entertaining.

The Sacrament: 8 out of 10.

Kill List (2011)

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An emotional, violent, and moody thriller that purposely grinds forward no quicker than a slow crawl. “Kill List” is much like holding one’s hand over an open flame. As you wait in gruelling anticipation for the moment that the heat will become no longer bearable. It sneaks up and leaves a stinging scorch on your palm. And much like this fresh burn, “Kill List’s” reveal will linger long after and send unpleasant, reminding shocks into your brain. This sophomore effort from up-and-comeing director Ben Wheatley is one of the most potent and disturbing films you’ll witness at an art-house…definitely not for the squeamish or easily scarred. Relying just as much on the excruciating tension and defined characters as it does on bloodshed and brutality. “Kill List” is a taut, well crafted horror that goes beyond the usual tendencies of the genre to create a truly unique, terrifying experience.

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Jay and Gal are former soldiers who have become hit-men since living the military. Jay suffers both mentally and physically from a mission in Kiev gone wrong. Soon, Jay and his family begin to run out of money due to his lack of employment. With the encouragement of Gal and his wife, Jay final gets back to business. Upon being hired by a shadowy character, Jay and Gal are ordered to kill three different men. After learning of the men’s criminal activity, Jay loses control and mercilessly tortures them. When a series of weird events start taking place, Jay and Gal are left fighting for their lives and everyone they care about.

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Although “Kill List” delivers its violence and gore with uncanny detail and precision…enough to satisfy any and all genre enthusiasts. What separates this intentionally slow-burning crime-thriller from other low-budget horror flicks is its visceral characters, their motivations, and the way each is played out. Driven by a staggering blend of family drama and PTSD, “Kill List” is a surprisingly veritable gaze into human psychology. While it might not be the type of fear that keeps you up at night or causes you to check in the closet and under your bed before heading to sleep. The sheer terror, disbelief, and haunting imagery will resonate steadily and stronger than any cheap scare or monstrosity you or any film can concoct. Aside from the occasional break brought on by really dark humour, which  is progressively becoming a Ben Wheatley trademark. “Kill List” is persistent and utterly unrelenting in its shocks, disheartening realizations, and vivid savagery.

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Featuring brilliant, exhausting, nightmarish performances from Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, and the supporting cast. Along with impeccable work behind the camera from the aforementioned Ben Wheatley. “Kill List” is as courageous, frightening, and disembowelling structurally and characteristically as it is visually and intellectually. Smiley, in a supporting role, does a superb job forming a skeletally sound base for Maskell’s enraged evolution and has a startling indifference about him that shrouds and petrifies the viewer. As for Maskell, who completely immerses himself in self-destruction and complex moral conundrums truly spawns a protagonist ripe with villainy. All in all, “Kill List’s” remarkable cast matches Wheatley’s harsh visuals and dramatic, astounding tale stride for stride.

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Disheartening, violent, and utterly mind-bending. Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” is a modern horror masterpiece.

Kill List: 8 out of 10.

You’re Next (2013)

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What do you get when you “blend” gallons of gore, a clever story, and pitch-black humour? A rip-roaring, brain-scrambling, lung-aching comedic blood-fest that’ll give your entire body a run for its money. If this happens to sound like your diabolical, twisted, hemorrhaging cup of tea. Watch “Your Next” at a local theatre and drink in the laughs, carnage, and fear until you get your fix. Which shouldn’t take too long considering this abhorrent, funny, and down-right disgusting nightmare is oozing with all the necessary, horrifying accoutrement. This soon-to-be cult favourite puts its own unique stamp on home invasion flicks. And although there isn’t much presented that’ll revolutionize, when the hunters become the hunted, redefining the genre is the last thing on any given horror enthusiasts mind. With a classic, almost giallo feel and an absolutely awesome soundtrack. “You’re Next” is a strong contender for horror flick of the year.

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A wealthy family heads up to their remote vacation house to celebrate the parents anniversary. Each sibling has brought their loved one with them and the first evening is spent getting to know one another. At dinner, things begin to unravel when sibling rivalries and jealousy works its way into the meal. When things get heated, one of the guests is murdered by an unknown assailant. Little does the family realize that they are being hunted and their night of terror has just begun.

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It’s rather difficult to summarize the tension, violence, and gory substance of “You’re Next” into perspective. Every aspect sort of congeals together to such an extreme satisfaction that these facets now, somehow transcend all definition and memory to become something you’ve never experienced before. The genuine effectiveness of the onslaught, ferocity, and expelling of human innards is nearly unprecedented. It seems as if every five minutes your looking away or cringing, not out of terror, but gleeful disgust. The viewer is so willing to abandon all morality just to urge on the brutal assault and keep the ending of human lives progressing. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when mayhem, bloodshed, and disconcertion was so tasteful. Never has watching continuous murder and being subjected to physical torture been so much fun. “You’re Next” perfectly encapsulates what horror is and should always be.

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During the first five minutes, my bud, who normal despises watching horror films, turns to me and says “I guess they’re just gonna get right to it,” which made me chuckle…but the laughs didn’t stop there. The hilarity is paced and constant throughout “You’re Next,” but make no mistake, it is the darkest of humour and is definitely not for everyone. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone considering that writer Simon Barrett knows his target audience fairly well and tends to stick to what he does best. That being said, “You’re Next” is without question his best outing to date. Barrett’s bizarre, witty, and savage script is devilishly captivating. And although the story isn’t overly original, it is definitely unique. Littered with quips, brute force, and what seems like an endless stream of unrivalled kills and household murder weapons. Barrett’s melodramatic family never stood a chance, much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

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As much as the violence, story, and laughs are left up to the scribe, the tension and overall effectiveness of the screenplay is placed in the hands of the director. “You’re Next” is fortunate to have such an imaginative and ruthless writer like Simon Barrett and a firm, visonary director of Adam Wingard’s caliber. The two play off each other extremely well, which is why the film is so abundantly successful. Throughout “You’re Next,” I lost count of how many times Wingard’s excellent camerawork spawned an unbearable amount of strain and nervousness. He doesn’t just capture the imagery amongst the carnage and destruction. Wingard absorbs it through the lens and expels it with meaning purpose. A truly magnificent job done by the pair, both on and off screen. I also want to mention “You’re Next’s” outstanding soundtrack. It has this old-school, slasher feel to it which melds perfectly with Barrett and Wingard’s visuals.

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Rarely does a film rely so heavily on the collective performances of its ensemble instead of individual bright spots. “You’re Next” is a terrific example of how a casts ability to invest, collaborate, and perform as a singular unit benefits the general efficiency and power of the films material. In all honesty, apart from Sharni Vinson and Joe Swanberg, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the strength in performances of the supporting cast. Seeing as they’re all so equally outstanding and potent. The group doesn’t force the humour, terror, or violence either, every aspect of their portrayals is smooth and authentic. That being said, without question Sharni Vinson is the shining star here. Her performance supersedes all others and should be enough to launch her into the mainstream. As for Joe Swanberg, he is so incredibly and consistently frustrating and hilarious, it’s insanely hard not to give him kudos.

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Bloody, violent, and decidedly funny, “You’re Next” is further proof that the genre isn’t dying.

You’re Next: 8.5 out of 10.