Archive for children

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Longer-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

For those Horror directors and writers who’ve had a shade bit more experience, or who need longer than fifteen minutes to tell their stories of terror and woe, we have a series of Horror shorts to shock and terrify. From the familiar twisted into something new, to ancient powers of the macabre, sit still for these longer shorts and let yourself be carried off into a whole new darkness!

‘Creatures of Whitechapel’

Country: UK

Director: Jonathan Martin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers will cut you down!

It’s the dark cold heart of London, and a killer stalks the alleyways of Whitechapel, hunting down the Ladies of the Night. But it turns out, that killer is actually a her-self too, and she has a Master she’s working for. What could “Jacqueline the Ripper” possibly need with those body parts she stole? Dr. Frankenstein needs a heart for his latest creation, poor thing; the eternal quest of man to make a thing with his own two hands, simply so he can boink it. He needs other parts too, and that’s why he sent the Lady Igor out in an opera cape and top hat with a scalpel blade, never imagining that she would find some kind of redemption in the arms of Mary Kelly. Nevertheless, Master needs a heart (and still doesn’t see the irony in that statement), so he can bring his lady love to life and hopefully responsive movement. Even Dr. Praetoris, Frankie’s fellow scientist, rival and skeptic, doesn’t quite seem to understand that women monsters stick together, through death and beyond!

When done well, Horror mashups are a terrific thing to behold, and Creatures of Whitechapel has certainly done that! The storyline rather reminds me of the awesomeness that was Penny Dreadful, well remembered and always missed, with scenes and sets inspired by From Hell and Victor Frankenstein, original musical scores that won awards and put me in the mind of Sweeney Todd, this particular short makes my little black heart so happy. We women really should get more gender-bent roles in the Horror world, that opens up all kinds of amazing intertwining possibilities!

‘The Madame in Black’

Country: Sweden

Director: Jarno Lee Vinsencius

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Drawn from a Swedish legend in which a Countess was burned for witchery that purportedly killed her husband and children, which was of course turned into a mirror game for generations to come, very like the American legend of Bloody Mary, The Madame in Black also appears to be a parlor game for young adults who really should be more leery. Our siblings in the short played the game when they were very young and apparently the Madame makes no distinctions about what age she continues to haunt a person. Emma convinces Alex, while they’re hanging out drinking with their significant others, to say the words before the mirror again, and next thing you know, a scary Lady draped in all black is terrorizing everyone!

The story of course puts me in the mind of the movie The Woman In Black, and the atmosphere surrounding the short is very reminiscent of The Conjuring. The “gotcha!” scares are fairly good, and the makeup job for the Madame (when she is fully shown) is pretty darned terrifying, if a little predictable. While I agree it’s important to have background story to whatever game you want to play inside your Horror movie, a little too much time is spent on the brother-sister and their friends dynamic, which could be easily achieved with some flash scenes, and leave more time for the admittedly-good jump scares and hauntings of the Madame in Black.

‘Elegy’

Country: USA

Director: CJ Gardella

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

All around is the cycle of life and death, and nature reflects that in its simplicity and savagery. A brick house out near a swamp teeming with animal life that devours each-other endlessly holds many secrets, where the lines between being alive and being dead, or even undead, blur and become indistinct. A man and a woman walk the lonely halls of the house, attempting to not antagonize each-other, but rather understand the mysteries of the dead and the dying, and even returning back to a kind of existence. A strange kind of harmony exists, with the insects and those who feed off of death, and that which withers finds a kind of quiet beauty in its preservation.

The entire short, especially the animal scenes of hunting, killing, and decaying, really reminded me of the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, and that was an incredibly odd one. The animals and insects caught on film mid-snap are certainly wonderful to look at, and the truly great thing about this short is the creepy between-life-and-death atmosphere the filmmakers manage to convey. In a short fraught with unique imagery, where none of the characters actually speak, one can only expect some confusion about what the short is attempting to convey in the depths of Horror. I’m still not entirely sure, but I wager it was some kind of descent into madness to study the whole process of death, and perhaps, how love never actually dies.

‘Others Like You’

Country: Italy

Director: Eugenio Villani

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When does an obsession go too far, and land one in the depths of sheer Horror? Ester wants a child so badly, she’s been binging a series of one-night-stands to get herself pregnant, but somehow never manages to carry a baby to full term and birth. Especially after seeing the female Doctor for a pregnancy test, and showing off that what I assume is a hysterectomy scar all across her abdomen. Doc Greta herself is a scarred survivor and no longer able to have children either, yet she still manages to “mother” a group of hidden monsters, creatures of the old world and old ways, where the sacrificial math of one life for one life is perfectly valid. Ester’s looking for her missing kitten, and though it’s rather unfair of Greta to say Ester can’t even look after a kitten much less a baby, luring Ester to a place of dark birth magic doesn’t seem like the kindest lesson.

Another short that happens to be well-shot but whose storyline is near-inexplicable, Others Like You peels back the layers of women’s Horror, that deep desperate pain and emptiness of childlessness. Very much like the movie Grace with its eternal question of, ‘How far would you go for your children?’, the short adds its own dark European magickal twist that may send even the strongest advocates of The Handmaids Tale running away in disgust!

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‘Clown’: This ain’t no kiddie show

Posted in horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Jon Watts

Studio: Cross Creek Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

A harried father, wanting to make his sons birthday not clown-less, dons an old clown costume he found in a house he’s renting and soon discovers to his horror, he can’t take the cursed thing off!

One would think, from that oversimplified version of the plot I just spouted, that the movie is just going to be a gore-fest of body-Horror-turned-hack-n-slash, which is fairly standard for Eli Roth’s MO. However, Roth had little to do with the film in the beginning and was half seduced and half strongarm-convinced to lend his name and reputation to Clown. While yes, there is plenty of body Horror, as poor hapless Kent discovers himself literally turning into a demon, and lots of hack n slash as Kent makes his way towards the sacrifice the demon demands, the story behind the clown skin is quite cool and very different, a welcome unexpected treat.

So Kent McCoy (Andy Powers) is your standard real estate contractor type, he sells houses and has a wife and son he loves; your average schmo who’s done not a thing to deserve this nonsense. It just so happens that Kent wants his kid Jack (Christian Distefano) to have the happiest birthday possible, and if that means donning a borrowed clown costume he found in the trunk of some house he’s renting and going out to be the entertainment his damn self, he’ll do it. Good for you, Kent. The trouble is, now, he can’t take the damned clown suit, or that idiotic nose and the rainbow hair, off. Kent’s early attempts to get the cursed suit offa him, or at least cover it up, are some of the bright spots of a very dark movie.

Kent’s wife Meg (Laura Allen), well of course she’s mighty concerned, and it doesn’t help that the bit of clown-nose she managed to get off Kent only to have it eaten by the dog, is now causing the dog to act funny too. Tracking down the costumes previous owner, Dr. Martin Karlsson, proves difficult, but his brother Herbert (Peter Stormhare) has some answers that Kent really doesn’t like. And here is where Clown takes an abrupt turn down a very different Krampus-like path – Herbert informs Kent of the legend of Cløyne, an ancient demon of Northern Europe that requires a sacrifice of five children, one for each month of winter where it comes from, to eat before it is satisfied. That clown suit that is now taking over Kent is no suit, it’s the actual skin and hair from a Cløyne demon, and that is precisely what Kent is becoming.

From there, we have a mix of hilariously dark moments where Dadclown is still trying not to turn into Cløyne by killing himself and it so doesn’t work, or Dadclown deciding to get some revenge for his kids bullying while getting his demon parasite fed at the same time, interspersed with some truly odd moments with Herbert showing back abruptly to try and finish Cløyne off himself. Things come to a showdown in a Chuck E. Cheese’s, of all places, and we are forcibly reminded that there are few things scarier in this world, even moreso than an actual demon, than a mother afraid for her children.

The makeup affects for the body horror and transformation in the film are astounding, and they had better be, considering there’s practically nothing in the way of CGI. The feeling of plausibility that comes across, this could happen to you too in the right (wrong) circumstances, is also well done and gives the movie that extra creepy kick. While the slaughter-y scenes certainly do have Roth’s signature on them, one would be hard-pressed to tell that from the rest of the film. Director of the film Jon Watts, who also did Cop Car (and directed and freaking co-wrote the upcoming Spiderman Homecoming movie), gives us a stylized Horror flick that he clearly felt passionately about. For all Watts’ love of the movie and the Cløyne legend of the demonic clown, we are treated, almost tricked, into a Horror flick that has a bit of everything, and that is what the dark carnival is all about.

Visit the legend of Cløyne in Clown on Netflix!

Movie Review: ‘Child 44’

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, Historical, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Summit Entertainment

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Review rating: 7.5

In Stalin-era Soviet Russia, a disgraced member of the military police is determined to solve a series of child murders.

So this is Soviet Russia, where everything is bleak and the colors are all washed out, and all the citizens live in fear of the total power of the military police and their abrupt raids. Corruption is everywhere, especially in the government and the military, and any time anyone not dripping in medals decides to raise an objection, that’s usually the last thing he (or sometimes she) does. Women and children are not exempt from this tyranny, and when the young son of a military friend of our heroes is murdered, Leo Demidov determines to find the killer – no matter the cost.

So Leo (Tom Hardy) himself is no stranger to tragedy and suffering. The movie begins with a somewhat trite explanatory blurb about the orphaning and starvation of many Lithuanian children, and it seems our Leo was one of them, who got conscripted into the military police whether he liked it or not. Years later he finds himself embroiled in all kinds of shady doings, including thinking his wife is a traitorous spy, shielding his friends from the military raids, and yes, carrying out orders that would make normal men weep. Leo doesn’t seem to care for unnecessary bloodshed, and indeed when out on patrol to bring in a suspected spy and squad underling Vasili (Joel Kinnaman) decides to go all Executioner style on the ones who sheltered their quarry, Leo has to be restrained from some retaliation of his own. Then his fellow soldiers young son is murdered and Leo simply cannot let that go after hearing about other similar child murders. At the same time, Leo has to decide whether to renounce his suspected wife, or be branded a traitor along with her and demoted to some ass-end corner of the train depot towns. After some very wrenching scenes with his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace), Leo choses the truth and the train lines, which actually turns out to be a good thing, because his next boss is General Nesterov (Gary Oldman) and he happens to be interested in these child murders too. Leo and Riasa are closing in on Mr. Murder, Vasili and the corrupt police force are closing in on Leo, and the dead child count is at a devastating, you guessed it, 44.

The movie is a Ridley Scott produced opus, and his slick fingerprints are all over it. Despite the incredibly bleak landscape, and multiple violent and tragic storylines, the movie manages to remain compelling and interesting. Based on the first book of a trilogy series by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 is a fine bit of storytelling to watch come to life – no superpowers, no huge explosions, no world-ending apocalypse. Just one man (with perhaps some help) against the corrupted government that allows for ‘no murder in paradise’, to speak for the children who cannot.

Movie Moxie’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day 30 – Stephen King’s IT

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, horror, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Lorimar Television

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Review Rating: 7.5

The Losers Club of Derry, Maine, after being terrorized as children by a sinister force in their hometown, return as adults to do battle with Pennywise the Clown!

Like a great many of King’s opuses, this is actually a miniseries that’s generally given another run every Halloween. The timeline is interspliced together, with memory flashes of the Losers Club as kids and their struggle against the demon trying to ruin their town and them in particular, wrapped together with scenes of them all as adults, being called back to Derry by the oath they swore, to face Pennywise one last time. Based on the simple power of a childs belief, the demon takes the form of Pennywise the Clown (Tim Curry, damn he is awesome) and proceeds to terrorize the crap out of the children. I would’ve thought he’d be more interested in preserving his food source, but never try to argue logic with a King villain. The kids being, well, children and all, use their own logic when it comes to fighting a psycho killer clown demon – silver bullets, a crackshot lady slingshot hero, and the power of their own belief against him. Which works fairly well while they’re children, but hey, returning to Derry as adults to fight Pennywise, that makes the power of belief a lot harder to dredge up.

You may recognize some of the child actors – Jonathon Brandis as young Bill in particular, but also Seth Green, Brandon Crane, and Emily Perkins. The adult versions of the characters were also popular round the time the miniseries was made (which happens to be 1990) – Harry Anderson as Richie, Dennis Christopher as Eddie, Richard Masur as poor Stan, Annette O’Toole as Beverly, Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon, John Ritter as Ben, and Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough. While the special effects are dated and so are the characters, Tim Curry and the odd if not thorough story from Stephen King gives us a strange reason to seriously hate clowns!

Sinister

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass 

Studio: Alliance Films

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Scott Derrickson

Review Rating: 7

A true-crime writer who moved his family into a house that was the scene of a previous murder, finds a cache of 8mm films featuring other murders and finds himself and his family the victim of vicious supernatural visitations.

I can’t put my finger on what it is about this movie that actually makes it quite watchable. Ethan Hawke as writer and father Ellison Oswalt runs around in this awful sweater most of the time, drinks too much, and in general isn’t willing to give up his dream of finally breaking it big with his next true-crime book for the sake of his families safety or even sanity. He yells at his wife, snarls at his children, is flippant with the small town Sheriff who tries to tell him to leave, and even accepts the help of the celebrity-smitten Deputy So and So for researching his latest opus. The wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is your standard generic worried wife character in any given horror flick, and the more she tries to knock some sense into Ellison, the more he buries himself in his work and locks the door. The kids, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley) start acting out as soon as they move in to the new house – Trevor has godawful night terrors, and Ashley sees the ghosts of the kids already following her father, even painting them on her wall. But that’s just the laundry list of the not-so-good things. On to the nifty stuff.

Perhaps a day or two after Ellison begins setting up his workroom, he goes into the attic and finds an old 8mm film projector and a box of reels from previous years. And as the curious investigator he is, just has to set them up in the workroom and watch them, only to be surprised and disgusted when the reels reveal the rather horrid deaths of five families, apparently at the hands of this ghoulish figure generally referred to as Mr. Boogey. Ellison still hasn’t told his wife or either of his children that they moved into a house where a murder of an entire family less one missing child was committed right in the backyard. He converts the 8mm films to computer vid files as though that would help him study things closer, finding more and more visions of Mr. Boogey and various symbols on the blood-strewn walls that lead him to seek aid from a college professor over his computer. He didn’t get credit for it, but Professor Jonas that Ellison speaks to is actually Vincent D’Onofrio, master of such roles as the Carl Stargher in The Cell. The Prof explains that the symbols are indicative of an ancient pagan deity known as Bughuul, who eats children more or less, and that there’s no real way to avoid him once you’ve seen his symbols or worse, his image. All these families who were murdered in the most horrific ways had one young child go missing, never to be seen again even after the murders have take place. But then hey, it finally begins occurring to Ellison (and the audience, if it hasn’t occurred already, it’s now cluex4 time) those terrible reels he’s been watching: if Bughuul is actually in the video, who’s doing the shooting? Realizing he’s made a terrible mistake far too late, Ellison frantically wakes his wife and children in the dead of night to run away to their old home with a sigh of relief; it’s over. Or is it? Deputy So and So keeps calling Ellison, even after Ellison swore up down and sideways there isn’t going to be a new book anymore, and hey that’s terrific, but. The star-struck Deputy does thorough research and discovered the other link between the murders, how they followed a chain of eachother after getting out of that house, and guess what Ellison just did with his family. Noone ever pays close enough attention to the children in these Horror films, even when the story is supposedly about them, and it just hasn’t occurred to Ellison to be suspicious at all when his daughter makes him a late drink as her way of saying goodnight – forever.

Somehow the difference in camera styles doesn’t get annoying or nauseating. The tone is constantly set with a fine score, you just can’t have a good Horror flick without a great score. Perhaps it’s the truly creepy ending, with all those children in dead paleface, and Bughuul himself, who never speaks but lurks about in the most terribly evil manner. Huzzah for villains who don’t talk at all! I could’ve skipped the “gotcha!” at the very very end though, just sayin.

Grace

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by aliciamovie

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Written by Alicia Glass

Studio: ArieScope Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paul Solet

Review Rating: 8

After losing her husband in a devastating car crash, a pregnant woman decides to deliver her dead child, and finds that the miracle of the childs’ new life comes with a heavy price.

This is an incredibly sick and original movie, and certainly not for everyone. That said, I enjoyed the heck out of it – there are far too many standard horror movies these days, and Grace is so far removed from standard it may as well be in another universe. Yes, the pace of the movie is a bit fit-&-start-stop, but I thought that gave clearer evidence to the impending madness of the mother, Kate.

I think the true terror comes from the reality of the movie itself, how easily one could find themselves in the exact same situation and doing, well, the exact same thing Kate did. Imagine, how much Kate wanted a child. Then, to lose her husband and come very close to losing that same child in a horrible car crash. (Which, the movie seemed to imply, was no accident.) Then, amidst the unraveling mother-in-law who wants to take your child for herself, what I’m betting was severe post-partum depression and well, finding out that your child has to have blood in order to live; would drive anyone mad. But think, how far would you go to see your only child live? Wherein divides the line between love and death? Remember folks, there is little on this earth more terrifying than a parent afraid for their child, and a mother doubly so. If your child needed something you had – a kidney, your heart, bone marrow – that would likely kill you to give it to them, most people would do it. And Grace takes that kind of awful love to a truly wonderful and terrifying degree.

Jordan Ladd stars as Kate Matheson, and boy does she own that role – the desperation, the madness, and fierce determination of Kate comes across in a way we can all empathize with. Samantha Ferris stars as Patricia Lang, lovely midwife and I would swear former lesbian lover of Kate (they sure implied that). And noone can forget Gabrielle Rose, who takes on the challenging role of Vivian Matheson, meddling grandmother who seems to just totally lose it when her son dies!

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Take one totally plausible plot, give it a horrific twist, and glue me to that screen!