Posts Tagged ‘Poltergeist’

Dukin’ It Out With The Babadook

Posted 17 Mar 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

The Babadook, Australia / Canada, 2014

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent.“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

― Emilie Buchwald

When marketing an independent film, producers want a trailer that will reel in any number of demographics. Their targeted audience may be those who love a good thriller, but the product is cross-marketed as a horror film or a psychological drama. Such is the case with the Australian outing The Babadook, released in the U.S. last November. While this film owes a bit to the horror genre, it works most effectively as an emotional thriller. Not only does it fit best within the thriller genre, it is most chilling when the ambiguities are cemented in the notion that this is not a supernatural haunting akin to The Amityville Horror; this is not some spin on the Necronomicon— the cursed book of flesh from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The Babadook is not a modern take on The Bad Seed, nor does this film involve cursed ground filled with angry spirits a la Poltergeist. The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent. The mother desperately loves her child, but she is overwhelmed, inept, and unable to combat the depression, fear, and anxiety she suffers after losing her husband and having to raise her boy alone.  Read More

Monkey Shines

Posted 17 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Monkey Shines, USA, 1988

Written and Directed by George A. Romero

Based on the Novel Monkey Shines by Michael Stewart

Monkey Shines is quality entertainment from director George A. Romero. Much like famous rappers, great horror directors often do their best (or at least most well-received) work right out of the gate, only to spend decades laboring over increasingly diminished returns. Often this critical and/or commercial appraisal is unfair, but it is arguably true that, for example, Nas never again put out an album as good as his debut, Illmatic, or that John Carpenter has never equaled or exceeded his early work of the 1970s and ’80s, though his late-period Masters of Horror film, Cigarette Burns (2005), showed the kind of genius not seen in his films for about a decade up to that point. Tobe Hooper is another filmmaker who never quite lived up to the promise of his brilliant breakthrough feature, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), despite doing some pretty quality follow-up work such as Salem’s Lot (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), though of course producer Steven Spielberg is commonly recognized as the real creative force behind the latter.

George A. Romero is generally considered to be one of these unlucky filmmakers as well, and while it is true that he never topped his chilling debut feature, Night of the Living Dead (1968), there is a worthwhile body of work to examine in later decades, and his 1988 film Monkey Shines is among his best work, along with films like Martin (1976), Creepshow (1982) and, of course, the original Dead trilogy (I haven’t seen his latest, 2009’s Survival of the Dead, but based on the previous two – 2005’s Land of the Dead and 2007’s Diary of the Dead – I feel relatively comfortable relegating the new Dead trilogy to the same scorn-pile as the new Star Wars trilogy). Read More


Posted 13 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott MartinInsidious Film Poster

Insidious, USA, 2010

Directed by James Wan

There’s a sense of familiarity in a movie like Insidious. Horror movies these days are a dime a dozen, but Insidious‘s familiarity comes from a deeper place; it comes from true classics like Poltergeist (1982) or even Paranormal Activity (2007), whose producers helped get this film done. Those films work because they have a handle on their atmosphere, something every good horror film has. If you can’t control the tone of your film, how can you hope to control the tone of your audience? The answer to that seems easy – that’s why films like John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) get remade, and films like Boogeyman (2005) are conceived every day. Tell some audiences to be afraid, and naturally they will be. An example of making your audience afraid, rather than simply suggesting their fear, is a Japanese film called Ju-on (2002), later remade in 2004 as The Grudge to, arguably, the same effect. An even better example is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

Screenwriter Leigh Whannell is similar to a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat; the effect comes from left field and the audience was probably told not to expect a rabbit in the first place. I remember watching the first Saw film (2004) and being blind-sided by the ending. After rewatching the film, I remember being blind-sided by the conditions under which the ending works. Twist endings, by nature, aren’t organic, but they can feel that way even if they are dependent on the rest of the film and a bit of smoke and mirrors. There is a twist here that some might see coming. The trickiest part to pulling off a twist ending is to get the audience too wrapped up in what’s going on to even remember that there’s an end. Good horror films with big finishes can do that; most of those get ruined with a sequel or a remake. Read More