Tag Archives: Cary Elwes

Saturday is Horror Day #49 – The Unholy (2021), V/H/S 94

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Unholy (2021)

Gerry Feen (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a journalist who’s lucky to receive any assignments at all, considering the colossal blunder which basically destroyed his career. He’s in no position to argue when he’s sent to cover a story about a cow in rural Massachusetts. The story proves to be bogus, to Feen’s dismay. But he’s determined to write something, so when he discovers a strange doll buried in the hollow at the base of a tree, he smashes it and then photographs it in an attempt to make something out of nothing. Little does he realize what he has done.

While standing near the tree, Fenn encounters a strange young woman who appears to be in a trance. She 

kneels before the tree, as if mesmerized by it, and speaks strange words he doesn’t understand. When he tries to help her, she faints and he carries her to the church, to seek the aid of the priest, Father Hagan (William Sadler). It turns out the girl is his niece Alice (Cricket Brown). But Hagan tells Fenn he couldn’t have heard her speak, as she is deaf and mute. But something strange happens when she comes to – she can hear and speak! And she says it’s because she saw the Virgin Mary!

 

Realizing this is a much better story, Fenn persuades his editor that he needs to stay on it as he grows close to the young woman. Strange things begin to happen, including Alice curing a young boy who couldn’t walk previously. People are drawn to the church, seeking out the young miracle worker, and a media frenzy ensues. But she trusts Fenn, who gains sole access to her. Of course the church steps in in the form of Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes) as well as Monsignor Delgarde (Diogo Morgado), who is playing devil’s advocate before the church will declare Banfield, Massachusetts to be a shrine.

 

But all is not as it appears to be, as Fenn delves into the story more deeply, and he begins to realize that appearances can be deceiving. But can he save the people who are so willing to believe that they can’t recognize evil when it’s staring them in the face?

This isn’t necessarily a new trope, a demonic entity posing as a holy one. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan in everything he does and he does well here as the disgraced journalist who sees what needs to be done and is willing to do what is right, no matter the cost. Cricket Brown is sufficiently naive and compelling as Alice, who means well but doesn’t realize she is being used. This is a Sam Raimi film, so of course production values are high. But even so, I’ve seen this played out better. I wouldn’t say don’t watch it, Morgan is worth the price of admission alone. Just don’t look for The Exorcist. I’ll give this film 3 Stars.

V/H/S 94

A SWAT team searches a warehouse in what they think is a drug bust, but nothing makes sense… from the various corpses with gouged-out eyes to the static-filled television sets.

A news reporter and her cameraman are sent on location to cover a story concerning a local cryptid 

known as the Rat Man, who supposedly lives in the storm drains. Holly, the reporter, interviews a local man just outside the storm drain, just before her boss tells her to take the story into the drain. Holly is reluctant before she agrees in order to stay out of the creepy man’s line of sight. She and Jeff, the cameraman, make their way inside as they begin to discover strange things, including a man who must be the Rat Man they’re looking for. But then they discover more than they bargained for.

A funeral home is requested to video record the wake of a loved one throughout the night. A young woman named Hailey is assigned the task of keeping vigil while the wake takes place. She chooses to read in order to pass the time. However, she begins to hear strange noises and calls her boss to suggest maybe the deceased isn’t quite deceased, but her boss assures her that is not the case, and the condition of the body precludes any chance of his being alive. A storm rages outside, with occasional power outages, which unnerve Hailey. A man shows up for the wake, stands before the casket and speaks in Hungarian before making his departure. During the next power outage, Hailey is dismayed to find the coffin not only has been knocked down, but it is now open and empty.

 

A mad scientist is performing experiments on test subjects – willing or unwilling – intent on fusing flesh and metal. The SWAT team arrives and mayhem ensues as they shoot what they perceive as monsters. One soldier recognizes a young woman as a girl reported missing who is being sought and he urges leniency. But his commanding officer is adamant that she not live either. 

 

An extremist military group with sedition on its mind have a compound somewhere in Detroit, Michigan. They intend to purge evil from America. But these men are not the simple garden variety of crazy. They are holding a vampire prisoner, and they keep siphoning his blood  which becomes explosive when exposed to sunlight. Oh the plans that they make!

Once again we have a collection of found VHS footage, seemingly separate stories, but are they? The tale which binds these together is that of the SWAT team, but watch carefully as the others have their ties.

These stories are definitely original and very creative, and most decidedly gory. This series is not for the faint at heart. I think my favorite two stories were Storm Drain, about the lady reporter and the Rat Man, which has an unexpected twist and ending, and The Subject, with the crazy mad scientist who loves his metal prosthetics. I have enjoyed this whole series, and this latest entry is no exception. I hope they continue to make these, but I couldn’t find any information either way. Well worth the watch, I give this one 4 Stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #4 – Black Christmas (2019), Stoker (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

Black Christmas (2019) – Hawthorne College is going on Christmas break, and all the students are 

preparing to leave for the holidays, including the Mu Epsilon sorority. The ladies of the sorority take their sisterhood very seriously, and are especially protective of one of their number, Riley (Imogen Poots). Three years before, Riley was drugged and attacked by a member of a campus fraternity. Despite naming her attacker, nothing was done to him, and Riley’s veracity was questioned, leading her to doubt herself and never put herself forward. Three years have passed since then. The sorority sisters plan a little revenge in the form of a musical number they perform for some of the college students, which accuses the frat of condoning what happened. Needless to say, the boys aren’t happy.

Hawthorne College is not particularly forward in its thinking, and evidence of this can be found in the form of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes), who teaches the Classics. Just listen to him speak for a few minutes, and you can see that he is the type of chauvinist women have been fighting against for years, with his men first attitude. There is a petition being circulated to have him fired, which the boys are not happy about, and neither is the Prof.

The sorority sisters begin to receive strange text messages, allegedly from the account of the university’s founder, Calvin Hawthorne. Disturbing and strange messages. Then the sisters begin to disappear.

This film is a loose remake (at least I assume it’s intended that way ) of the 1974 Black Christmas, as both take place on a college campus and involve a sorority whose members are being killed. I reviewed the first version earlier, and while it was no great shakes in the horror department, it possessed a certain charm which this version lacks. The first film had some quirky, a bit off-the-wall characters, including the Laughing Policeman, and the weird House Mother. In the new version, there is no House Mother, and the police have much less presence. Although the newer Black Christmas looks better, that is deceptive. The plot is actually worse than the first one *****POSSIBLE SPOILERS***** In the first one, a killer hides in the attic and comes down to kill the girls. In this one, there is a, for lack of a better word, cult among the fraternity brothers, based around the statue of the founding father (please, don’t confuse him with the Founding Fathers), and some sort of magic involving black gunk (still don’t know what that was). Hooded figures with bow and arrows and creepy masks.

At the heart of this story is a basic man vs woman theme, in which the sorority sisters must show they are woman, hear them roar, and defeat the evil gender. If this sounds like a hokey premise for a film, trust me, it is. The only name in the cast is that of Cary Elwes (are you so hard up for money?). As soon as I realized he was in the cast, I assumed he would end up as the bad guy, especially after all the chauvinist nonsense he was spouting. The film isn’t really what I would call scary, it’s largely about Riley redeeming herself for her previous inability to have power over her attacker. It’s about getting even, and women refusing to be less than men. But as a horror film, it leaves something to be desired. I’m going to give this one two stars. My honest advice is to look for something better to watch.

Stoker

Tragedy strikes on India Stoker’s 18th birthday when her beloved father Richard is killed in a freak accident, leaving India (Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) behind. During the funeral, India spies a strange man, watching from a distance. Later, at the house, he introduces himself to her as her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode of A Conspiracy of Witches), come home. An uncle she was not aware she even had.

India is a solitary teen, preferring her own company to that of others. She never seems to fit in, which makes it especially  hard now that she has lost the person she felt closest to. The boys at school tend to tease her, making crude sexual innuendos and nicknaming her Stroker. One boy, Whip, is better than the others, and helps her out of a difficult situation.

There is something about India’s handsome uncle that draws her to him, and he is obviously obsessed with her. He follows her constantly, looks out for her, and steps in when she needs his help. They are birds of a feather, and they are drawn together, like magnets. And yet India dislikes him at the same time, no matter how attractive he is. But when she sees her mother flirting with him, India becomes jealous. The question is is she upset that her mother can show interested in someone who isn’t her father, or is she jealous because Charlie is hitting on India’s mother?

What are the boundaries of family love?

Stoker 1Stoker is an interesting psychological study which explores the various relationships among the main characters. India and Charlie, India and her mother, Charlie and her mother, in particular.  ****SPOILERS AHEAD*** It isn’t until the end of the film that we learn where Charlie has been, after the discovery of the letters he wrote to India for years (having never met his niece), which were hidden from her. Letters speaking of his love for her and his plans for their future together. These letters were written from the mental institution where Charlie resided for some twenty years after killing his little brother when he was a child.

 

The attraction between India and Charlie is definitely sexual in nature, and there is a palpable sexual tension there. When India ends up killing Whip, who tried to assault her, Charlie helps her bury the evidence, which is when India learns this is not his first rodeo. Afterward, as India showers, she masturbates to images of Charlie killing Whip.

stoker8

 

The film is well made, and was directed by Chan-wook Park, known for his films The Handmaiden, Thirst and Oldboy. I’ve seen The Handmaiden and Oldboy, and highly recommend them. I will be watching Thirst soon. Stoker was written by Wentworth Miller, whom you might remember as an actor from Prison Break.

Altogether a lovely and dark film about a seriously dysfunctional family. I think I’ll give it 4 stars.