Tag Archives: Saturday is Horror Day

Saturday is Horror Day #6 – Absentia, The House of the Devil (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

Absentia (2011)

Seven years have passed since Tricia’s husband Daniel went missing. Seven long years of wondering what the hell happened, where did he go, and why. Finally, Tricia decides it’s time to move on and have Daniel declared dead in absentia, since it’s clear he isn’t coming back, for whatever reason. Tricia’s sister Callie joins her in order to help her move on. Callie is something of a wanderer, flitting about from place to place, setting down no permanent roots. And she was a junkie, but she’s clean now and she’s found religion. Also, Tricia is pregnant, but she is reticent about revealing the name of her baby daddy.

Strange things begin to happen. Tricia thinks she sees her missing husband and he terrifies her. Her

therapist assures her it’s just the stress of finally declaring him dead that has triggered these sightings. While on a run, Callie encounters a strange man in a nearby tunnel. His first question to her is, “You can see me?” He creeps her out and she goes on her way, but returns later, with food for the man, as her Christian duty. But he isn’t there.

And then the unexplainable occurs… Daniel returns. 

Tricia’s world seems to be falling apart. Daniel doesn’t seem to be the same man, and she is torn between her husband and the father of her baby. Something very odd is going on, to say the least, but what is she supposed to do?

 

Absentia is a very quiet kind of psychological horror film which revolves around the resolution of grief, never an easy task.  There are some creepy moments, but nothing overtly horrifying. And yet at the same time, the premise is horrifying as we try to suss out what happened to Daniel, and can it happen again? To him… or anyone? The mind sometimes finds certain facts or suppositions difficult to accept. But the easy answer is not always the right one.

This was a good film, worth watching. Decide for yourself what happened. And think twice about entering creepy tunnels. I give this film 3.5 stars.

House of the Devil (2009)

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a college sophomore who longs to move out of the dorm she shares with her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) and into her own place, one where she won’t have to worry about not getting into her own room because her roommate is entertaining. She finds a great apartment with a very understanding landlady (Dee Wallace) who only asks for $300 first month rent, no down payment. The trouble is Samantha needs the money by Monday and today is Wednesday. She has to do something fast!

An answer to her prayers arrives in the form of an advertisement on campus for a babysitter. One night only for $100. Seems too good to be true… and it is. When Megan drops Samantha off at the house in the middle of nowhere, she tries to persuade Samantha it’s not a good idea, but Samantha is stubborn. They both go into the house and meet the man who placed the ad, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan, who played Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon). But here’s the catch. Turns out there is no child, just an elderly woman. When Samantha balks, Mr. Ulman increases his offer. Finally, Samantha demands and receives $400. What the heck, it’s just for a few hours. She’ll watch TV and come home with the money she needs.

If only life were that simple….

This is one of those films where you wonder how anyone can ignore so many red flags. Seriously?

Granted, this takes place in the 1980s, so no cell phones, no Internet, only rotary phones and Walkman. Even so, Samantha ignores the signs that even her roommate catches on to, such as the way the guy stood her up initially. His willingness to pay so much for a few hours work (in the 80s, mind you).  If it seems too good to be true, then you can bet it is too good to be true and you should look that gift horse in the mouth.

By the way, look for Mary Woronov of Eating Raoul in the role of Mrs. Ulman, and also the aforementioned cameo by Dee Wallace (ET). I think I spent more time waiting for the other shoe to drop than anything else. Lots of suspense, that’s for sure. The night this all occurs also just happens to be the night of a major lunar eclipse, which is the big thing on everyone’s mind. So, of course, one’s mind runs to what sorts of things occur during supernatural events. 

Certainly not the worst film ever, though hardly the best. Decent production values, and some good music, including The Fixx playing One Thing Leads to Another. I’ll give it 3 stars. And I’ll just add pay attention to the ending.

Saturday is Horror Day #5 – Unearthed, Thirst, Hereditary (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

There’s nothing quite like a good horror film, am I right? Sadly, the first film on this list is not a good horror film. I didn’t even finish watching it. I’m only including it on this list as a warning to those who might be interested in watching it to watch at your own risk.

Unearthed (2007) – This movie takes place in the desert, where something is attacking cattle. Let me think, what else? The lady sheriff likes her liquor.. And something strange is going on. I can’t really tell you much beyond that because it bored me so much, I turned it off within half an hour. Bad acting, bad writing, and nothing to hold my interest. The only name I recognized in the cast list is M.C. Gainey, who played Bo Crowder in Justified. Nuff said here.

 

 

 

Thirst (2009)

Father Sang-hyum (Kang-ho Song of Parasite) volunteers to be part of a medical experiment, in order to

help people, despite the fact that most of the volunteers before him have died. Although he lives, he requires a blood transfusion which transforms him into a vampire. Returning home, he is looked upon as something of a miracle, and people look to him to help them, unaware of his true nature. They only know he suffered for them.

Going to the hospital to perform his priestly duties, he encounters a childhood friend, Kang-wood (Shin Ha-kyun) and the friend’s mother, as well as the adopted girl who grew up to marry the friend, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin). On leaving the hospital, the priest becomes a part of their lives once again, finding himself drawn to the girl he knew so long ago. Tae-ju is less than happy with her dumb husband and his controlling mother, and it isn’t long before these two begin an affair. Once Sang-hyun reveals to Tae-ju what he really is, she is shocked at first, and more than a little disturbed, but it isn’t long before she embraces her lover’s vampiric nature and revels in the potential power they can wield. 

Too bad she has such a dumb husband and a controlling mother-in-law.

Thirst was directed by Park Chan-wook, the same director who brought us The Handmaiden, The Vengeance Trilogy, and Stoker. It is a very well-made and erotic film, an unusual take on vampires, and is not without its humorous moments.

 Although they are both vampires, the priest and the wife are different in temperament. Sang-hyun 

attempts to keep his appetites under control, only taking from those who have already expressed a desire for death in the confessional. One person he feeds from is a kindly man in a coma, whom he says would gladly agree to feeding the priest if he were able to do so. Tae-ju, though, is the opposite. Her new conditions seems to have brought out the cruelty in her nature, and she is more than happy to do away with her husband. Although, ironically, he becomes like a third wheel in their relationship, even after death

This film was well done and very interesting. I enjoyed it and would give it a solid 4 stars.

 

Hereditary (2018)

Annie (Toni Collette) is an artist who designs and builds miniature rooms, taken directly for her life. She is currently in the middle of working on pieces for her next showing when her mother dies. The death of Annie’s mother is a tragic event for her entire family, especially for Annie’s daughter Charlie, who was close to her grandmother. Charlie is a bit different, not given to being very communicative. Like her mother, she is an artist, both mother and daughter being compulsive in that regard.

 

 

The family attempt to pull together and move on with their lives, but tragedy seems to follow them. Annie tries to secretly deal with her grief by going to a survivor’s group meeting, but she isn’t sure that is helping. And her son, Peter, feels the weight of what has happened.

 

But the worst is yet to come.

 

This film was definitely more than I expected, to be honest. Not your run of the mill horror movie by any means. Gabriel Byrne plays Annie’s husband Steve, trying to hold his family together in the midst of so much tragedy. Annie herself is conflicted about her role as a wife and mother. At the beginning we get a glimpse of the controlling nature of her mother, who practically considered Annie’s daughter Charlie as her own.

Annie’s actions seem rather psychotic at times, and one has to wonder if she’s got mental issues going on, or if there is something seriously strange happening to this family. When Annie is approached by a member of the group, Joan, she latches onto her as though she is a lifeline for the drowning mother.  Joan has known grief too, having lost her husband and son.

Peter is suffering his own guilt and torment over what has happened to Charlie, and his mother’s actions

are not happening, as the tension grows among them, until he begins to see and experience odd things as well.

I will admit to having some wtf moments where my jaw dropped. Director Ari Aster did a great job with this film, the cast was wonderful, and the story is far from average. I won’t give any spoilers, but pay attention, particularly to the opening.

I think by the end of the film, you’ll be ready to scream too. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. Well worth the watch.

 

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.

Saturday is Horror Day #3 – The Hamiltons, Bad Match, and Dog Soldiers (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Hamiltons is a 2006 horror film written and directed by the Butcher Brothers, aka Mitchell Altieri and


Phil Flores. Following the unexpected death of their parents, four siblings are left to fend for themselves the best way they can. As a result, they constantly move from place to place, never staying too long in any one location. That’s for the best, for they can’t afford to let anyone discover their family secret.

David is the oldest. He works outside the home. After him are the twins, Wendell and Darlene, who give new meaning to the idea of twinship. Francis is the youngest, a teenager still in school. He hates the constant moving, and he hates what they are. He doesn’t want to be like them, not for anything.

 

Wendell meets two young women who are traveling across the country for fun. Which, of course, makes them perfect targets as no one will realize they’re missing for a long time. Wendell brings them home for a little taste of Hamilton hospitality. A terrified Dani can’t help but wonder what is hidden behind that locked door. The sounds that come from there are horrific…


The Hamiltons is a slightly different twist on a familiar theme. The sensitive Francis videos every chance he gets. One wonders what he intends to do with all this footage, if anything.  I didn’t guess the Hamiltons’ secret until close to the end. It’s not what I would call a great film, but I’ve seen worse. The acting is half-way decent, if not exactly stellar. The writing holds its own. All in all it’s an interesting hour and a half. I might give it 2 1/2 or 3 stars, somewhere in there. I have to admit I did focus on the scenes with the twins, which were a little intense.

The Hamiltons gives family dining a whole new meaning…

Just found out there’s a sequel, The Thompsons. Will Review that once I get it and watch it.

Bad Match (2017)

Harris (Jack Cutmore-Scott) is a real love-em-and-leave-em kind of guy. As he explains his philosophy


to his friend Chuck, the more he swipes right on the dating app (which I assume is meant to be Tinder), the greater likelihood he’ll end up with a date. Good ol’ Harris stands for one and done. Beyond a lot of sex, he has no use for his conquests, and invariably sneaks out in the middle of the night. What he really enjoys is playing online games and making fun of the teenager he plays with.

Enter Riley. Riley is one of Harris’ conquests. The difference is she wants more than he is willing to give. And she doesn’t seem to understand that he is rejecting her. It’s not that he deliberately tries to hurt the women he sleeps with, but Harris just doesn’t care enough to get involved.

 

When Riley won’t leave him alone, he doesn’t know what to do to get her out of his life, so resorts to cruelty. But when she mentions suicide, he reluctantly steps in. And finally she gets the picture.


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

And now bad things are happening to Harris. This isn’t funny any more. How the hell is he going to get out of this mess?

This is basically a one-note film about a guy who is a player and the girl he hurt who wants him to feel her pain. Yeah, we get it. Harris is a bad boy and he shouldn’t use women like that. But how far should someone who’s been hurt be willing to go to make her point? The film is just under an hour and a half and builds up to an unexpected twist. Even so, the reveal isn’t enough to save this film from being less than stellar. I’ll give it 2.5 stars and call it a day.

My final review for today is for a 2002 film called Dog Soldiers

Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd, Rome) is a soldier trying to get on with an elite group of soldiers led


by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham, Davos of Game of Thrones). But when he refuses to shoot a dog on command, he finds himself assigned to Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwood, Alfred Pennyworth of Gotham) instead. Wells and his men are assigned to participate in war games in a remote wooded area, far from anywhere. The soldiers swap stories, such as the one about the couple who were killed in this area, and the condition in which they were found. 

The men begin to hear unnerving noises in the middle of the night, something that sounds inhuman or otherworldly. When they come across the slaughtered remains of another troop, they realize something is not right here. In the midst of the dead, they find Captain Ryan, who is injured and not quite right

 

Something is in the woods, and it’s preying on the soldiers. Momentarily rescued by a young woman, they hole up in a nearby farmhouse. If they can stay alive until dawn, they might have a chance of coming out of this alive.


I’d heard about this film a long time ago, just didn’t get around to watching it until now. I liked it, even if I was spoiled for it long ago. The story is different, and well-written, the acting good. I especially like the main characters, Pertwee, McKidd, and Cunningham. Be aware that there is a lot of blood and gore, so this might not be for the faint-hearted. It’s a unique take on an old monster story, and it’s not without its twists and turns. (Of course, if you study the posters for this film, you can get an idea of what you’re in for).

I would give this a solid four stars. It’s well worth the watch.

Saturday is Horror Day #2 – Before I Wake (cross-posted at Full Moon Dreaming by Julie Lynn Hayes)

Yesterday I watched Before I Wake, a 2016 film by Mike Flanagan, who was a writer or director for such films/series as The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Gerald’s Game, Ouija:Origin of Evil and more.

 

Cody (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy who has had a rough start in life. He lost his mother at an early age and has been moved from foster home to foster home. There’s always something, isn’t there? 

Jessie and Mark (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane) lost their only son, Sean, in an accident, and are 


 working to deal with the grief of his death, each in their own way.  Together they decide to foster a child, a with the help of a social worker named Natalie (Annabeth Gish). Enter Cody into their lives. Cody is very sweet and shy and well-mannered. He has a sharp, inquisitive mind and wants to fit in with them.

 

They quickly realize there is something special about Cody when butterflies materialize out of nowhere… the same day he was learning about them.

One photo of Jessie and Mark and Sean remains on the wall, and naturally Cody wants to know who the kid is. And now not just butterflies are appearing. There is Sean, seemingly in the flesh. But like the butterflies, he disappears as soon as Cody wakes. Jessie is beginning to understand what is going on. In order to test her theory, she has Cody watch a video of Sean, so he can hear his voice. And now when Sean appears to them, he actually speaks…

 


Trouble begins to brew at Cody’s school in the form of a mean boy who has the misfortune to accost Cody after he’s fallen asleep and can’t control the creature he refers to as the Canker Man. When the boy disappears, Cody is questioned. Now he’s afraid to fall asleep, and devises various methods to stay awake. Alarmed, Jessie gets a prescription for children’s Ambien and doses his snack. So now, when the horrors appear, they can’t wake Cody up…

 

I would give this movie a solid 3 stars out of 5. It’s more psychological horror than anything, although the Canker Man is rather freaky and scary. We never do learn exactly how and why Cody is what he is, how he can manifest dreams into reality (as long as he’s sleeping). This movie is about loss and survival, and becoming a family. It’s a worthwhile watch, and I would recommend it.