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In spite of a generic, somewhat cheap aesthetic and an awkward beginning, Case 39 resolves into a fairly well conceived film with multiple levels of horror. With relatively little graphic onscreen violence, the film conveys the horror of greusome death, of helplessness, of possible insanity, of the idea of evil incarnate, and, most frightening of all, of the desire to harm a child.
Best remembered for the makeup and costume design of its iconic monster, Pinhead, Hellraiser is both a vehicle for elaborate makeup effects and a conceptually interesting piece of interdimensional horror. While its slime, gore, and monsters are visually rich, however, its soft focus and star filter heavy cinematography is cheesy and overdone, and its plot, dialogue, and characters fail to fully capitalize on the its intriguing premise. Although these flaws make the film's grisly torture and gratuitous gore less stomach churning than they would be in a less campy film, the lack of a well defined, relateable protagonist makes the plot less compelling that it should be and the film less memorable.
The second adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel, Pet Sematary employs thematic and stylistic changes to differentiate it from the 1989 film. Instead of being about how we do (or do not) deal with death, trauma, and loss, the 2019 film focuses on the difficulty of achieving an ideal family situation in the face of modern life. Also prominently featured is the evil wendigo, which lives in the woods - an aspect of King's novel that is barely hinted at in the earlier film. Fans may or may not appreciate several nods and fakeouts that reference the other movie, as well as changes to the story, which allow for some disturbing new scenes and sinister surprises in what might be an otherwise familiar story. Less forgiveable are the accompanying plot holes, creepy gimmicks, and the movie's heavy handed, dark aesthetic, which is fraught with jump scares, artificial thumps and swooshes, and generic, overbearing music.
In contrast to the previous film, this second installment of the series inspired by the survival horror video game series, Resident Evil, feels intended for a built-in audience of the franchise's existing fans. Characters from the games not present in the previous film appear with little introduction, exposition is delivered through a series of choppily edited recaps and distracting subtitles identifying people and locations, and many elements of the production feel like cheap cop-outs, including its laughable swooshy sound effects, its combination-horror-strings-and-indusrial-synth score, and its nonsensical ending. Although the action-horror sequences are fun, especially for fans, the most interesting aspect of Resident Evil: Apocalypse is probably its international casting, which not only reflects its status as a multi-national production but also emphasizes the pervasive influence of the flagrantly immoral Umbrella Corporation.
This movie had everything: gratuitous violence, gratuitous female nudity, raping and murdering fish men played by actors in monster suits, and a host of other schlock horror genre tropes. A borderline pastiche of more iconic films, including Jaws, Alien, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, Humanoids from the Deep recovers quickly from an awkward start and resolves into a cheap but entertaining exploitation movie that does not take itself too seriously.
A horror movie clearly made by horror fans, We Are Still Here suffers some from its lack of budget but ultimately delivers a strong payoff on its sinister premise. In the early, quiet portions of the story, awkward dialogue, actors and props selected primarily for their association with the horror genre, and inconsitent camera techniques, which waffle between tranquil tripod shots and jarring handheld movements, lend a cheapness to the film. However, well crafted monsters, high quality horror effects, improved dialogue, and disturbing exposition surface with increasing frequency as the movie nears its strong but grisly climax.
Hereditary is a gruesome, dark "indie" family drama, which gradually transitions from real life to supernaural horrors. Aiming for a slow build, its style is characterized by long silences, subtly altered colors, a gliding camera, and a muted soundscape overrun by heavily ominous, atmospheric music. However, after some early brutal shocks and eerie scares, the film's creepy vibe cannot maintain sufficient tension to support its multiple troubled protagonists and excruciating pace.
Hallucinatory and surreal, The Church is borderline experimental, strongly favoring aesthetic over plot. Much of the ensuing brutal and chaotic horrorscape is inventive and intriguing, but over the top effects, unexplained plot twists, and poorly defined motivations more often than not result in unintentional camp. The Church is lurid and bizarre, creatively horrific, and ridiculous.
Based on the stories of R. Chetwynd-Hayes, The Monster Club is an unusual mix of gothic horror, intentional camp, and early 1980s new wave rock. While its humor and its featured songs are hit and miss, the film nevertheless sports an interestng structure, with its stylized, modern gothic anthology segments generally outshining its silly frame story and glitzy rock performances. Overall, the film is a well lit, tongue in cheek entertainment piece with unique monsters, well conceived irony, and a satisfying ending.
A noirish thriller with crisp black and white cinematography, Scream of Fear (aka Taste of Fear) is creepy, atmospheric, and well made. Its well thought out soundscape includes intentional silence, soft nature sounds, and frightening, unexplained thumps and crashes, which draw the vulnerable protagonist toward scenes of horror - only then does the dramatic music strike, as well as the title scream. Almost completely free of blood and gore, Scream of Fear relies largely on technical artistry to create a chilling mood around a convoluted, twisting, giallo-like plot, which meanders toward an abrupt but fairly satisfying ending.
As its title hints, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death utilizes the same aesthetic, sets, and basic premise of the previous film to a slightly different end. Instead of an unappeasable force of murderous chaos, the title character becomes an instrument of godlike judgment, punishment, and, potentially, redemption. For the most part, this surprisingly solid sequel consistently maintains its predecessor's gloomy mood, but, perhaps in part because of its new thematic emphasis, it lacks the tightness, tension, and terror of the original.
Produced by a resurrected Hammer Film Productions, The Woman in Black is a frightening ghost story in the gothic tradition of that studio's mid-century horror films. Although it trades the lurid colors of those earlier features for a bleak, subdued, desaturated palette, it mirrors their relatively high production values with solid art direction and lavish, detailed period sets and costumes. Effectively creepy, The Woman in Black relies heavily on sound to draw the protagonist into dangerous situations and shock the audience with loud noise scares. In spite of this last generic and occasionally confusing tactic (it is sometimes unclear which of these latter sounds the characters can hear and which are part of the non-diegetic musical score) the entire soundscape does enhance the film's ominous atmosphere and allow for the substitution of images obscured by dark or fog for less mysterious or more costly visual effects.