Friday, September 25, 2015

Cooties (2015)

Genre: Horror Comedy, Zombies, Evil Kids
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

I know it makes me a terrible person or something, because kids are precious (and a gift! and the future! and innocent! and pure!) but oh. my. god. children are on my last nerve right now. I work in retail so I lay witness daily to their predictable, repetitive nature of manipulation, greed, destruction, and ability to go batshit crazy on a dime. Also, I'm officially the cranky old lady that lives next door to your idyllic family. All of that youthful playing outside with the laughing and the yelling and the screaming and the chasing and the crying... let's just say I'm missing the gene that finds all of this charming. Much like my feline friends I like things quiet and peaceful. I will most certainly be telling them to GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN in about thirty more years. Or tomorrow. Whichever. This is all to say that wow, was I in the mood for Cooties!

Being an avid reader of the horror magazine Rue Morgue I catch wind of certain movies sometimes years before they finally make it to a wide release. Those damn Canadians and their amazing horror film festivals. So I'd been looking forward to this one for some time. Especially with this awesome movie poster taunting me...

Well, I loved it. It was funny, disgusting, smartly written, and has a great cast. It was more of a comedy than I had anticipated but I'd read an article that said, "the great thing about comedy: it allows you to do so many outrageous things. As long as you can get a laugh, you can get away with them. It raises the bar of censorship." And when you have kids eating teachers and babies and then getting gruesomely killed, I suppose dressing it up in humor helps the medicine go down.

Elijah Wood is once again giving back to the genre that nourished his love of film at a young age - horror. Cooties marks the sixth movie that his film company SpectreVision has produced, and it is the fourth horror movie that he has starred in. Way to go Mr. Frodo!

Circle, circle, dot, dot now you have a cootie shot!

5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Best Horror Movies of 2014

Over the last five years or so the horror genre has been working hard to reinstate its relevance to audiences. With a more accessible movie-making process independent filmmakers are experiencing a creative freedom resulting in some truly remarkable low-budget gems. The quality of actors and script (and scare) rarely suffer because of this, which just seems to prove that Hollywood is not the exclusive owner of talent.

The best horror movies of 2014 was a long list for me this year for those very reasons. It was difficult to whittle it down to a top 10 so I compromised and picked my top 15. Below are brief thoughts on each pick.

#15. The Den

Genre: Slasher
Director: Zachary Donohue
Availability: Netflix Streaming

The Den made this list primarily because the premise is a bit of a fear of mine. The idea that my webcam could be active without my knowledge. That someone could be watching me - all the time. Or that when I'm video chatting with someone, I'll witness something terrifying and be a helpless observer. Or vice versa. And in that sense, The Den was pretty intense. It had a strange twist ending that was a little out of nowhere but overall it made a lasting impression, which is rare.

#14 Starry Eyes

Genre: Creature Feature, Body Horror
Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

Starry Eyes starts as a bit of a slow burn but it adds just enough of the bizarre to keep you engaged. Actress Alex Essoe transitions effortlessly from the bubbly girl next door to a darker, more destructive version of herself. It's a compelling watch with some uncomfortable body horror moments and a crescentic, bloody final act. 

#13 Dead Within

Genre: Zombie, Physiological Horror
Director:  Ben Wagner
Availability: Netflix Streaming

My mind often flits back to Dead Within and its chilling, quiet moments of unrest and madness. This is not your traditional zombie movie. In fact, it's barely a zombie movie at all. That's where your expectation should be. The zombies are just a vehicle for the main themes of the movie which are confinement, ritual, distrust, and insanity. They did so much with so little here and the results are powerful.

#12 All Cheerleaders Die

Genre: Witchcraft, Teen Scream, Horror Comedy
Director: Lucky McKee
Availability: Netflix Streaming

All Cheerleaders Die is not going to be for everyone. You have to appreciate a little tongue-in-cheek humor (a-la Jennifer's Body) in order to truly enjoy the experience of watching a bunch of back from the dead cheerleaders with gem stones in their chest exacting revenge on the football players who killed them. Yeah, it's that ridiculous. And it's pretty awesome for it.  

#11 The Taking of Deborah Logan

Genre: Supernatural
Director: Adam Robitel
Availability: Netflix Streaming

There's something terrifying about kids and old people. They're often coupled because both stages of life are fragile and have questionable mental acuity. And because of that fragility, that vulnerability, they make excellent horror movie villains. And while the scary kid aspect has been done - and continues to be done - to death, not as many horror movies center around an elderly character. Actress Jill Larson was exceptional as Deborah Logan, a woman who is struggling with periods of lucidity and dementia. Though her increasing strange behavior throws her diagnosis into question and soon we suspect that there is something else entirely wrong with Deborah Logan. Watch this one with the lights out.

#10  As Above, So Below

Genre: Psychological
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

This is the movie that happens when a creator wants to make a horror movie but is tired of the same old shit. Sure, there's scares and bloody kills, but there's also this terrific, complex historical puzzle to unravel and decode. Weird clues lead them deeper into an impossible psychological battlefield that most of them will not survive. If you're looking for something a little different you can't go wrong with this one.

#9 Almost Human

Genre: Aliens
Director: Joe Begos
Availability: Netflix Streaming

It's no secret that I absolutely love low-budget horror movies. They have a certain kind of creative freedom and immense heart that you only find in movies that don't have much to lose but have everything to prove. Almost Human fits that bill but in a most brutal, no guts no glory kind of way. Like, literal guts. So many guts. If you miss the creature features of the '80s then this one is for you.

#8 Willow Creek

Genre: Creature Feature
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

Willow Creek was pretty good until the tent scene, and then it got excellent. Never have I been so terrified watching people be terrified. It was a pretty spot-on representation of what it's like to be in a tent in the middle of nowhere and wake up to some strange nature noises that you can't immediately identify. Don't watch this one before a camping trip (like I did).

#7 The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Genre: Serial Killer
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Availability: Netflix Streaming

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a meta-sequel of a 1976 movie called The Town That Dreaded Sundown which was a horror movie based on actual events (no, seriously). Confused yet? It's actually a pretty clever idea and the execution was outstanding, peppering the 2014 movie with quick cut scenes of the 1976 movie, fading out or zooming into a scene using a lens-like view. The whole movie was just brilliantly creative. And the killer is armed with a gun. A gun! How many horror movies do that? Want to root for the girl to get away from the man slowly stalking her? Don't bother, he's got a gun, she's not getting far. Brutal stuff.

#6 Stage Fright

Genre: Slasher, Musical
Director:  Jerome Sable
Availability: Netflix Streaming

A musical horror movie. With Meatloaf. It's as awesome as it sounds. No, really. I can guarantee you've never seen anything like it and you'll start asking yourself why they're aren't more musical horror movies. It's funny, it's scary, it's bloody, it's brilliant.

#5 The Quiet Ones

Genre: Supernatural
Director: John Pogue
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

Atmospheric and creepy with a talented cast and an interesting story - I'm not entirely sure why The Quiet Ones failed so miserably at the box office while the crap-fest that was Oculus gained praise. If you enjoy slow burns with occult twists, then, um, watch it.

#4 Deliver Us From Evil

Genre: Occult, Serial Killer
Director: Scott Derrickson
Availability: Amazon Instant Video 

Granted, I watched this alone and in my basement (it's a long story) so I may have a skewed perspective of how scary this movie actually is but, holy crap, it freaked me out. But considering this is a Scott Derrickson movie, the writer/director who gave us The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, two fantastically creepy horror movies, it's probably safe to say if you like those movies you can't go wrong with this one. It reminded me of a more horroresque Silence of the Lambs or Seven - that gritty cop versus killer puzzle that slowly unravels in a horrific showdown. So good.

#3 See No Evil 2

Genre: Slasher 
Director:  Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

Yes, See No Evil (the first one) was a terrible movie. Well, maybe not terrible, but not good by any means. So I was very confused when it was announced that not only was a sequel being made, but by the Soska sisters (American Mary creators) no less. And starring Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle. What the hell? Did they all lose a bet? But lo and behold, couple a bunch of talented horror creators with a terrible idea and -- Alakazam! -- they pull a pretty awesome horror movie out of their hat. There's no special twists or plot lines or anything fancy, just some good old fashioned murder death kills.

#2 The Purge 2: Anarchy

Genre: Killers
Director: James DeMonaco
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

One of the main reasons why I felt The Purge (the first one) wasn't as good as it could have been was because it played out like your standard home invasion movie when it has so much more potential. Its saving grace was Ethan Hawke and its ending, but otherwise it was kinda a bust for me. This one though... all bets are off. They're on the street, they can't trust anyone, there's no where to hide, there's no one to call for help and they're being hunted. The Purge 2 is continuous action. It hits the ground running and it doesn't let up until the credits. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and that right there is a damn fine theater experience.  I even clapped when it was over.

#1 Dead Snow 2: Red VS. Dead

Genre: Zombies, Comedy
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Availability: Amazon Instant Video

I'm just as surprised as you are that my #1 pick is a ZomCom. But holy hell this was a good movie. Dead Snow (the first one) was excellent - bloody and funny and ... bloody. But its sequel takes everything right from the first one and makes it better. It's funnier, bloodier, ballsier, more layered and more interesting. And then there's Sidekick Zombie. Best horror movie of the year. Hands down.