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Thursday, 24 September 2015


Hi all!

Despite my recent absence from my blog, rest assured my passion for horror has not subsided! Quite the contrary actually; I've been focusing on my speculative fiction. All things strange - from my head, to my new site Beyond the Threshold: Horror and Sci Fi Flash Fiction. All in 1000 words or less.

Although I don't have many movie reviews for you these days, I hope you'll let your curiosity carry you over to my (very) short fiction. I intend to post new stories regularly and even accept submissions from other aspiring writers. So please don't hesitate to follow!

Thanks for reading! Stay Strange.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

DADDY'S GIRL... As if That Term isn't Creepy Enough Already...

The only thing scarier than little girls, is little girls with closed files...

3.5 Stars

90s horror - you gotta love it. Daddy's Girl was released in 1996, and my guess is with all the excitement over the Scream series and it's rejuvenating the "who dun it" mystery, this one may have gotten lost in the shuffle. I hadn't heard of it until recently, but when I did, I couldn't pass it up.

The plot follows a young girl named Jody who has been recently adopted. While she has taken a particular shine to the father, Don, the mother has failed to make a connection with her. Probably the weirdest thing going on here - even before the bodies pile up - is her inclination to call her adoptive father "daddy" in this very insistent manner. Eventually we find out this is at least her second family in the last few years, so her love for daddy quickly turns into something that mirrors obsession far more closely. 

Of course, she's troubled, so when she finds out her principal, a nice elderly lady, is going to suggest her parents send her to a boarding school (someplace that will better handle her sensitive situation and delinquency), Jody is very displeased. After all, the woman is trying to take her precious daddy from her. There's only solution. Kill the old lady, and anyone else she might perceive as a potential threat to her relationship with daddy........ 
WTF?! This kid's nuts.

This is an entertaining watch, best if you're bored in on a rainy Saturday afternoon (which was exactly my scenario). The gore is pretty minimal, her killing method is often to set someone up for a terrible accident. The deaths do seem more gruesome though, simply because they are so ruthlessly committed by such a small girl. They also become increasingly violent. 

But I don't know how she would be fooling anyone - the kid looks like pure evil delivered to your doorstep with adoption papers and a creepy smile.

And yes, the adoption set-up is a little played out but I'd say this is forgivable. I almost want to compare  Daddy's Girl to The Good Son which was released just 3 years earlier. If you have any form of child-phobia (and I do - THANK YOU Stephen King) this one should give you some shutters. Ultimately though, it's a fine ride meant to shock more than frighten.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014): Reclaiming Cliches

4.5 Stars

It's no secret that, at times, horror films tend to get distracted by their desire to do too much, or too little. On the rare occasion though, you get a near perfect marriage of story, and fright. In Deliver Us From Evil, a story of demonic possession spreading across the Bronx, what you're presented with is an expertly-crafted narrative which delivers on both accounts.

Starting off as what could appear to be the opening of a powerful inner-city police drama, the film draws viewers in by slowly developing the horror until it becomes so intrinsically linked to what is depicted as the dangerous underbelly of NY that one can hardly tell when the genre-switch happened, or if there really was one. This technique is a strong one, as evidenced in this film, and it is eventually amped up by a number of jump-scares. While these typically fail to land with hardcore horror fans (who seem to pride themselves on not reacting), I have to admit - I don't know exactly how or why, but these jump-scares manage to feel more authentic than cliched. Although they did not make me "jump" per-se, the film as a whole often had me feeling utterly unsettled, and this must be a testament to its ability to create a certain atmosphere, which is clearly in some part strengthened by an inexplicably appropriate (over)use of the jump-scare.


As far as cliches go, there are a lot of them and yet the filmmaker finds a way to allow these moments (ie creepy jack-in-the-box playing itself) to feel organic to the moment rather than thrown in to make "horror" quotas.

I personally believe the scares work because not only is there a good balance between expected cliches and unexpected ones (ie the lion attack), but there is also a nice balance between plot and character development. Where many horror movies fail to deliver is on character; we don't care about them, so it's easier to watch them die. But in this 2 hr flick, time is given to allow us to get to know some of them just enough to remain intrigued by the story itself.

Our main character, officer Sarchie (supposedly, the story is based on this man's actual story, but I try not to pay much attention to such disclaimers as they are usually exaggerated for effect and marketing) is a troubled cop. Like many a NY cop character before him, he's tired and angered and distressed by the state of his beloved city. But there is something special about Sarchie - what makes him a great cop, is exactly what leaves him vulnerable to evil...

Our secondary character is Mendoza, a (rocker-esque) priest who is lousy with human flaws. A recovered heroine-addict, Mendoza remains self-aware, and passionate about his decision to forgive himself and connect with God. More importantly, he is passionate about saving lives. This makes him a wonderful partner for Sarchie who is a former-Catholic who can no longer see God in his surroundings.

As a final thought, I'd like to point out that this is perhaps the best use of music in a horror film I have witnessed in quite sometime. The poison of choice? The Doors. You may not imagine that would work, but trust me - it does.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

CANDYMAN (1992) and the Missed Opportunity to Engage in Critical Analysis

3.5 Stars

So, to be honest, I had been avoiding this one for a while. I really wasn’t sure how I'd feel about creating a monster out of such a disturbing sympathetic tale. If for some reason you haven't heard it - here goes: 

1890 the son of a former slave turned respectable entrepreneur is lucky enough to be brought up in a life of privilege. Mostly unaware of his own subjection to racism and discrimination, he lives a happy life and becomes well-known for his artistic talents. One day he is commissioned by a rich white man to paint his lovely daughter, but when the two fall in love and she is found to be pregnant, the father will have none of it. The town turns on him and he is chased, tormented, and killed. Legend has it his right hand was cut off and his body was covered with honey to attract the many bees who covered him from head to toe, eventually stinging him to death.

True or not, the story (which has been around since the turn of the century) speaks to anxieties about racial tensions and blacks and whites having to live and work side by side for the first time. For that reason alone, the story is a touchy subject which making it a little difficult to properly represent on-screen without extensively examining issues of race and class overtime.

The 1992 film adaptation, now considered one of the scariest films of all times, is based on Clive Barker's novel of the same name. Needless to say, it does little to consider the contextual and historical factors the legend is tapping into. Worse, the potential to engage in the much needed critical analysis was present within the plot itself, as it followed a graduate student researching the Candyman Legend for her thesis. Instead, she focuses her effort on understanding why all the residents of Cabrini Green, a dangerous ghetto in Chicago, are convinced they are being picked off by the legend himself. Barring the stereotypical depiction of a black "hood", the film seriously undermines Candyman's story by turning him into a Dracula-type romantic killer. 

I had a very difficult time understanding this connection between the legend and his Dracula-esque qualities. It felt like an elementary attempt to center his revenge on his tragically lost love. Mad with passion (presumably she resembles his lost love), Candyman seeks to destroy all of Helen’s life until all she can do is submit to him. Cute.

All in all, I do not regret watching this one, and even find the first half to be a compelling start with a lot of potential. Helen even made for an intriguing female lead, she was strong-minded and willing to push the envelope. 

Sadly I found it all fell apart in act II... SO close, but no cigar (sigh).

Saturday, 31 May 2014

One Star Wonders Part III: 3D Edition

Sadako 3D and Apartment 1303 3D

What do you say about a movie so bad it actually leaves you speechless? Not much. You just kindly warn others... Presenting the third instalment of One Star Wonders.

* * * * * 

Up first, Sadako. It manages it's one star for plot - although the story itself was terrible, the way it played out did make for an interesting display of gender role reversal. It is literally the ONLY interesting thing in this one.

Ok. Where do I start? I suppose my biggest mistake was going into this one with high hopes. I am not only a fan of J-Horror, but I really enjoyed the Ringu and Ring movies. So this 3rd sequel about the deadly video going viral seemed like the best way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. Even the 3D didn't worry me too much since in my experience with other recent Japanese horrors, 3D had been surprisingly good (The Shock Labyrinth and Tortured - but I guess that's just because Takashi Shimizu is an amazing visual director and storyteller). 

Here, we have a viral suicide video of some tortured artist which is actually an attempt to bring Sadako and her curse back to life; a school teacher who has a superpower that allows her screams to shatter anything around her, and a boyfriend who is dumb enough to watch the video. When Akane goes after Sadako for the return of her boyfriend, she apparently forgets she has this power, and allows herself to be chased and cornered for a stupid amount of time before using it too late. But hey, I laughed a lot...

If you happen to be interested in how this film plays with the concept of gender, see my full review Here, at

* * * * *

Next up, Apartment 1303, which manages one star for story, since (despite the weak presentation) it is a scenario that would be legitimately scary.

LOL. This remake of Ataru Oikawa's 2007 film is only impressive in its display of how terrible an actress Mischa Barton is. Again, 3D nowadays is a really big tell, but in all fairness I put it on without realizing it had been unwittingly created for 3D suckers. With a rating of 2.7/10 on IMDB, you know you're in for a good time. 

The film does try, which might make it more pathetic. It tries to create full characters and big scares but unfortunately it can't quite make the mark. The film follows Lara who moves into her little sister's apartment directly following her suicide, which Lara finds very suspicious. And with good reason, her sister had not only expressed her hesitation about sleeping there alone but we actually get to see the ghostly attack. The first part of the film, which shows the hauntings and attacks, is not bad but once Mischa takes over it all falls downhill. Especially when they keep pushing the strained relationship with her mother which is so poorly presented it actually looks like a soap opera. 

Again, good for a laugh, and if you bother to imagine the circumstances taking place in your bedroom, you'll see it had potential, somewhere, at some point.

* * * * *

For more One-Star Reviews, Check out Part I and II