Saturday, January 30, 2016

Intruders (2016) There's No Place Like Home. Especially When You Can't Leave....

Movies about home invasions always seem to catch my eye, so when I saw the trailer for "Intruders", my interest was piqued.  For some ungodly reason this film's title changed from the enigmatic "Shut In" to the hackneyed, stale current name. And the movie's tagline "They should have left her alone." pretty much gives everything you hadn't already guessed away.   Regardless, Intruders is a relatively good addition to the sub-genre, at least until the final act.

Anna (Beth Riesgraf) suffers from agoraphobia so intense even stepping onto her porch sends her into waves of anxiety.  She lives in a big ol' house with her only companion, her brother Conrad.  Unfortunately, he has his own medical condition to deal with...pancreatic cancer.  We're shown these tidbits right away, so that when Conrad inevitably dies, we know that Anna will have a lot of things to deal with in addition to grief.  

Without her brother as her link to the outside world, all she has is her family's lawyer who is trying to tie up final wishes, and the semi-charming Dan (Rory Culkin) who brings her food everyday from a meals-on-wheels type of program.  Anna and Dan form a friendship of sorts, so that when he sees her dealing with her sorrow, he's able to lend an ear and a bit of comfort.  He tries to convince her that now that the situation is changed, maybe she'd finally want to leave the house, try to make a new life for herself.  While Anna is utterly against the mere thought, she does feel a type of sympathy at Danny's dead-end job and offers him some of her family's money that she's been hiding away for years.  He politely refuses. But this will not be the end of that thought.

Because we were privy to a few short conversations at the beginning of the film, we know that Conrad wanted Anna to forgive their father, who apparently did something ghastly and reprehensible. Anna wasn't hearing any of it, so it's hard to imagine why she wouldn't want to leave the house in which these unmentionable things occurred, but Anna must have her reasons, right?

The day of Conrad's funeral, Anna prepares herself to venture outside, knowing that she needs to attend.  She lays out her clothes and even goes as far as to actually get dressed...but in the end she is just unable to get herself out the door - her anxiety is so palpable and SO distressing that it gives those of us with no fear of the outside world a little taste of the profound dread people with this condition must deal with. 
Anna instead wallows in self-pity by making some tea when she hears someone pulling into the driveway.  Peeking outside she realizes there are three men intent on breaking into her house, obviously thinking she would be at the funeral.  She hides, and they do gain entry by breaking the glass in a door, and just when you think she may be able to hide until they are gone, the tea kettle whistles.  Alerting the intruders that they are not alone, they quickly surmise that Anna must be in the house somewhere.  They seem to know who she is and that there is a sizable amount of cash somewhere that they want to get their hands on.  Even when Anna tries to make a run for it, she is crippled with fear and unable to save herself.  The trio of men find her and after a quick assessment realize she's not going anywhere.  But what they don't know is that neither are they.

Intruders has a great opening act, setting up the rest of the film by shedding light on Anna's emotional handicap that makes her unable to deal with not only her affliction, but reality.  She's been closed up in her house for ten years, since her father died, and those two facts intertwine for what may be a predictable yet still engaging story-line with more than a few surprises in store. 

 The trio of money-hungry trespassers (Jack Kesy, Joshua Mikel, and Martin Starr) are somewhat stereotypical criminals, with one being the "leader", one being the brute of the gang, and one is sympathetic to the victim and unsure of how far he wants to go.  That being said, they do a respectable job in their roles and the film loses nothing from their casting.

Admittedly, I think the last third of the movie loses some momentum and it's possible the writer(s) weren't quite sure how to give us the shock and awe ending we deserve, but Intruders is not overly long and the pace is kept going at a very acceptable rate.  The whole of the film is carried by Riesgraf, who in my opinion did a stellar job of projecting her fear onto the audience and was able to garner some serious sympathy for her condition.  All the more satisfying when the tables turn and our criminals realize Anna may be meek and damaged, but she's not afraid in her own home. And she's not leaving unless it's on HER terms. 

All in all, you could do a lot worse than checking out this newest addition to the home invasion sub-genre.  It's not breaking down barriers or throwing us any serious original content, but it is a 90 minute thriller that has solid acting including a very believable lead, some decent moments of gore and a house that has some tricks up its sleeve.  

But they still should have left the title alone - Shut In is so much better!

Monday, January 18, 2016

See ya later 2015! It's been fun.

2015 was a pretty decent year for horror, truth be told. A lot of really good films, a few that could even be considered great.  Some crap, as usual, made its way to our screens - but for what I saw, I was pleasantly surprised with what was offered. 

This is not your average "best-of 2015" list.  Because everyone does that, I tend to do something a little different.  This post mirrors my end-of-the-year posts of the past.... so here goes.

 JAWS on the big screen. Last year's wrap up included a statement that the only film that could top my viewings of THE SHINING (2013) and PSYCHO (2014) on the big screen would be seeing JAWS. honor of the 40th anniversary of the blockbuster, it was playing all over the US on theater screens, giving those who'd never seen the film (are there actually people out there who haven't seen it?) or anyone who was up for a re-visit a chance to watch Bruce wreak havoc on Amity Island.  This was my dream come true.  I was only 7 when it came out in 1975, so obviously I didn't see it then.  I've watched it countless times on Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS, plain ol' TV....but to see it in the way it was originally intended made my year.  (Only thing better this year for me was American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown in June. Actually, that was seriously the best day of my 47 years so far, bar none!)

It Follows
FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE (Besides seeing JAWS, obviously):  IT FOLLOWS.  I saw this in a theater completely alone.  No one else in the theater with me.  It was creepy as hell and if I hadn't been in the very back row, I'd have been looking behind me the entire time.  It was like a private screening. Unnerving and deliciously fun!

What We Do In The Shadows
MY FAVORITE FIFTEEN HORROR FILMS OF 2015: (in no particular order except my top five)

1) WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS - At the top of most of the "top-ten" lists that are already out there, this film is a charmingly hilarious 85 minute homage to vampire films.  I've watched it countless times already this year and every single time I have LOVED it.
2) CRIMSON PEAK - When I hear people complain about it not being "horror" enough, I want to pretty much punch them. This is gothic romantic horror.  Still a sub-genre.  And it had some really good horror elements. No film looked as beautiful as this one did this year.
3) IT FOLLOWS - Why are people divisive about this movie?  I'm not sure what people expected.  It is a classic creep-fest with a great score (the best of the year by far), boatloads of atmosphere and a strong female lead who is going places, mark my words. Horror fans are known to be violent critics, and I suppose when a movie is as hyped as this one was, there are some that will be bound to be disappointed.  Just don't count me in that group.  I loved it.
4) SPRING- This has been called, several times I might add, a "Linklater by way of Lovecraft" film. And I think that is a fair comparison.  I had no idea what to expect going in, which is the perfect way to experience this beautiful yet extremely unique horror film. One of my absolute faves of any year.
5) WE ARE STILL HERE - Fulci lives!  Well, he's at least stirring in his grave after this little beauty.  Subtle.
6) JURASSIC WORLD- Please don't try to tell me that dinosaurs eating people is not horror.  In what world is that NOT horror? Not Jurassic World, that's for sure.  The most fun I had all summer.
7) THE FINAL GIRLS - This self-aware throwback to the 80's camp-slasher flick has a lot of heart.  And a really good cast. It's not a perfect film by any stretch of the word, but it has some genuine humor and is a fun time.
8) VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH - An indie flick with the titular "In Search Of" monster front and center. Writer/director John Portanova brings us the tense atmosphere of the deeply wooded Pacific Northwest and throws in a good measure of family drama to keep things interesting.
9) GOODNIGHT MOMMY - While I may not have liked this one quite as much as others, there is no denying it is quite possibly the most unnerving movie from 2015.  It's a slow burn - but that ending! It more than makes up for any amount of waiting for something to happen. 
10) THE VISIT- Some may disagree that this film even belongs on a best-of list from last year, and I'm not saying this is a return to his "Sixth Sense" form, but The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan's best offering in at least a decade. Witty and unsettling (sometimes simultaneously), I really did find it one of the better contributions of 2015.
11) CREEP - Found footage films are something I usually veer away from, but one day I just happened upon this indie weird-fest and found myself oddly unable to stop watching it.  The entire running time is marked with abject just know something is going to happen....but when?  Take my word for it - it will happen.
12) DARK WAS THE NIGHT- Playing like an extended episode of The X-Files, this monster-of-the-week flick brings us a wendigo-type creature that we are lucky enough not to see for nearly the entire movie, allowing eerie atmosphere and mounting dread to give us chills. I didn't hear much about this one this year, but I couldn't leave it off my list.
13) BACKCOUNTRY - While no bear attack could possibly top the one in the DiCaprio vehicle, The Revenant, the one in this adventure-horror film had me outright cringing.  Animal attacks are always going to be scarier to me because THAT SHIT CAN HAPPEN! (Hence why JAWS is my favorite film.) A couple on a camping trip gets avoidably lost.  Simple concept. Maximum effect.
14) BONE TOMAHAWK - Boasting a fantastic cast headed up by Kurt Russell, this horror western, while probably overly-long, is a delightful example of how to merge genres. It also gives us one of the most gruesome deaths in a film this year- it's just cringe-worthy!
15)  ANGUISH - I recently caught this subtle indie and was blown away by Ryan Sympkins, just one of the strong female leads here. A teenager (Sympkins) already suffering with anxiety and multiple emotional issues starts to experience an increase in hallucinations and other instabilities - does she need to increase her already hefty medication regimen or is something a little more....supernatural going on?
16) EXTINCTION - Hard to believe Matthew Fox is on this list twice, but I've got to be honest when I say I liked this different take on the zombie apocalypse - partially because of Fox and his pre-teen co-star (Quinn McColgan) who brought enough family drama to the table here that it made more than tolerable something that would have otherwise been The Walking Dead meets The Descent meets 30 Days of Night.  I'm aware I could be alone in liking this one, but that's what makes the world go round...

Let Us Prey
1) LAST SHIFT - This one I actually did like as it had a boatload of atmosphere, taking place in a closed police station.  But it went so off the rails at the end!  It was like two separate movies.  I was really into it until about the last third.  At that point there was just too much thrown in visually that I expected the kitchen sink to show up. Why!?!
2) TALES OF HALLOWEEN - While I did enjoy this one also, it failed to capture my attention like Trick R Treat did back in 2007.  Perhaps there were just too many stories and not enough cohesion. This is a real negative point for me, I love anthologies but things like those ABC's of Death movies and ones like it - too much going on.  Not enough continuity.  The segments have got to be related and mold together somehow - otherwise we're just watching a bunch of unrelated shorts on YouTube on a random Tuesday afternoon.  I also have to admit the "funny" segments left me totally cold. Ugh. Someone in charge could benefit from seeing 1945's Dead of Night.)
3) LET US PREY  - Like Last Shift, we have another film that takes place in a creepy police station. This one benefits from having both Pollyanna McIntosh and Liam Cunningham in the lead roles, which is never a bad thing.  It did drag a little, and some of the Scottish accents were a little thick for we uneducated Americans...and I just felt a little bored by the end.

The Green Inferno
1) THE GREEN INFERNO (After all that hype, all that waiting, it was really just Meh...  In all honesty, Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is vastly superior. If you can stomach the animal cruelty in that one, just see that one.) Yes, people eat other people.  But these days, that's just not enough.
2) THE BOY (I love a slow burn just like the next guy, maybe more...but nothing happened in this film. For minutes and minutes and minutes and.....days.... The ending was unnerving but not unexpected.  In my opinion, it was all a bit too nap-inducing.)
3) DARK SUMMER (Gotta be honest, this felt like a Chiller PG-13 flick for tweens.  Blah. So boring. Nothing...and I mean NOTHING...scary happens.  In other words:  move along...nothing to see here.)
4) A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT - Yes, I realize it is an art-house type film with loads of monotone atmosphere...but I just couldn't get into it! Maybe it's because I went into it thinking I HAD to like it because it had such great critical reviews.  I tried to watch it twice.  I guess it's just not for me. 

1) Poltergeist - No need for this remake in the least.
2) The Gallows - Seemed good in the trailer, failed miserably at the box office and with critics.
3) The Vatican Tapes - Apparently nothing sets this apart from any other religious dreck.
4) The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence - Let's hope Final means FINAL.
5) Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Plea to Paramount/Blumhouse: Please stop making these films.)
6) I Spit on Your Grave III:  Vengeance is Mine.  (seriously...? Just put on Ms. 45 and don't suffer through what I'm sure is pure dreck.)

1) Krampus
2) The Editor
3) The Hallow
4) Cooties
5) Sinister 2
6) He Never Died
7) When Animals Dream
8) Deathgasm
9) Maggie
10) Hidden
11) Stung
12) Victor Frankenstein

The Lazarus Effect
1) THE PYRAMID:  If you have seen As Above So Below, you needn't even bother with this one.  And AASB was one of my favorites last year.  This one seemed like a total rip-off of that one, with a horrible - and I mean HORRIBLE version of Anubis.  Just comedic, really.
2) THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH.  I am usually not one for sequels, but was hoping for the best with this one.  The original 1989 version of THE WOMAN IN BLACK is in my top five, all time faves. The remake wasn't too bad - saved by the actors if I'm being honest. So I should have known this one would be crap.  And it was. 
3) THE LAZARUS EFFECT.  The concept was unoriginal.  The acting was only marginally good (though Evan Peters is a joy to watch in anything). And the scares?  Not even remotely there.
4) INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3.  I think they can stop making these films any day now.  Please, go no farther with the further!


1) THE WITCH - My most anticipated film of the new year.  Don't let me down!
2) THE FOREST - This may not do well and is most likely crap, but I am terribly intrigued by the whole concept - the Aokigahara Forest in Japan just reeks dread. 
3) THE CONJURING: THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST - Because I am a sucker for both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  And ghosts.
4) 31 - I'm also a sucker for genre super-fan Rob Zombie, because no matter what - he's got passion.
5) THE BOY - A different BOY than the one I already mentioned, this one involves Lauren Cohen (TWD) and a life-sized doll.  Bound to be terrifying, as I just can't stand dolls of any kind.
6) A MONSTER CALLS - Because well....Liam Neeson. And.....Sigourney Weaver.

Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz)
MY FAVORITE HORROR TV EXPERIENCES OF 2015: Another banner year in horror television brought so many great things my way - there was a lot to love. If I'm being honest though, American Horror Story Hotel left me completely cold.  I stopped watching after 4 episodes and haven't looked back.  But Bates Motel had a banner season in which the end of the season had Norman wearing his mother's housecoat, making pancakes for breakfast and talking in her voice.  Oh, and peeping on motel tenants and committing murder.  Can't wait for the new season of that one!  The Walking Dead had me on pins and needles waiting to see if Glenn was dead or not. That was just rude. Andl Penny Dreadful, in all its gothic goodness, brought us some more characters from classic literature to life and amped up the violence in season 2. 
But for sure, the best horror TV experience of 2015 is Ash Vs. Evil Dead!!  To bring back the iconic character of Ash Williams in his quest to rid the world of deadites just made any horror fan's entire decade.  To see it renewed for a second season? Icing on the cake.  It's outrageous and campy and fun and perfect as hell! Thanks Starz! Year made!

MY FAVORITE BOOKS I READ IN 2015:  Fiction: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King.  If I need to explain that, then you don't read enough. 
Non-fiction:  The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer's Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead - by Adam Rockoff.  Guess that title is as self-explanatory as the fiction title above.

FAVORITE GENRE MAGAZINE: Rue Morgue gets my number one spot again this year.  I don't think I need to reiterate that it is simply the classiest horror magazine out there with the most well-rounded content. I still love that they review books and music, which all mags don't do.

FAVORITE MOVIE SCORE IT FOLLOWS.  Electronic goodness at its best.  Evoking fear and atmosphere in every note. Composer Disasterpeace really nailed it!
Kudos also to John Carpenter's return to composing with Lost Themes.  Feels like it could be the score of any recent horror film.  More please.
I also really liked the score to Crimson Peak by Fernando Velázquez. Feels as old-school gothic as the film.

The Revenant
FAVORITE NON-HORROR FILM I SAW IN 2015:  It came out in the last week of the year (in order for Oscar contention I'm sure) and went wide the first week of January 2016.  THE REVENANT is a perfect film in nearly every way.  There are some nasty elements that border on horror, but it's an adventure/revenge film at its core.  Leonardo DiCaprio really needs to win the Oscar, dammit.

Random Year-End Awards:

*THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE I SAT THROUGH THE WHOLE MOVIE" AWARD:  As previously mentioned, The Pyramid

*THE "WHEN THE HELL IS THIS TITLE GOING TO GET CRITERION RELEASE?" AWARD:  Dead of Night (1945).  I'm still waiting.....................................

Bone Tomahawk
*BEST DEATH SCENE:  Hands down, Bone Tomahawk.  (Spoiler Alert!) Dude is scalped, has the bloody scalp jammed down his throat, and is then cut apart from the groin with a tomahawk while upside down.  Then they ate him.  Wow. Just wow.

*BLOODIEST MOVIE I SAW IN 2015:  Well, I guess it may have been The Green Inferno but my mind is a little fuzzy on that one.  Crimson Peak would have been the obvious choice but there wasn't as much blood as expected....well, at least not spilled.

The Gift
1) Unfriended
2) Kristy
3) Ex Machina
4) The Gift

Ryan Simpkins in Anguish
1) Ryan Simpkins in Anguish
2) Nadia Hilker in Spring
3) Maika Monroe in It Follows
4) Eva Green in Penny Dreadful
5) Barbara Crampton in We Are Still Here
6) Pollyanna McIntosh in Let Us Prey

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring
1) Lou Taylor Pucci in Spring
2) Mark Duplass in Creep
3) Tom Hiddleston in Crimson Peak
4) Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead
5) Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel
6) Rory Kinnear in Penny Dreadful

*MOST CURIOUS TITLE OF HORROR FILM IN 2015 Sharknado 3: Oh HELL no! Now that's funny, I don't care who you are.

*THE "THEY'RE SPEAKING ENGLISH!" AWARDLet Us Prey.  God Bless the Scots but I can't understand them sometimes.


*THE "I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL" AWARD:  First things first - I haven't heard that there is a sequel coming, but I'd be first in line for:  "What We Do In The Shadows 2:  Werewolves, Not Swearwolves!"

The Witch (February 2016)
*THE MOVIE I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016The Witch.  Hope I'm not disappointed!!

With so many to choose from I'm going to draw out of a hat.  The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence gets my vote this year.  I think it's fairly obvious why.

Another obvious choice here:  Poltergeist.   Not sure who green-lighted this one but they need to be taken out back and shot.

Well that wraps up yet another year.  Goodbye 2015.  You've been good to us!  Here's hoping 2016 is even better!
Thanks for reading and sticking with us here at Fascination with Fear!!