Michael Hartford

writer, photographer, programmer, dad

Tag: movies (page 1 of 2)

Holiday Horror Movies: Into the Dark: Pooka!

Into the Dark: Pooka!

An actor gets a gig as a live version of this year’s viral Christmas toy, a stuffed critter named “Pooka” that will repeat back what you’ve said to it, in a “naughty” or “nice” voice. He gets a bit too caught up in the role, though, and when the toys are recalled because they’re creepily malfunctioning, things go a bit off the rails …

This was an enjoyable enough story, with some nice tense moments and a bit of gore, but it in the end it’s revealed to be a take on “12 Days of Christine,” the “Inside No. 9” episode, and isn’t quite as effective: it can’t be as poignant, and doesn’t even manage to be as scary (the Halloween scene in “12 Days” put me on edge …), but it’s still pretty solid as a sort of “Black Mirror” take on fame, ambition, and fads.

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: The Strangers

The Strangers

The Strangers

Things don’t go as planned for James when he pops the question to Kristen at their friends’ wedding, but things go far beyond just awkward at James’ dad’s isolated cabin when a trio of psychopaths intrude upon the discomfort.

I found myself marveling at the theory of self displayed by the intruders: sometimes it seemed as if they were fully aware of the perception of their victims, and sometimes it seemed as if they were surprisingly unaware of what their victims might see. Almost as if their awareness might be impacted by plot points or jump scares …

All in all, I found this a mostly enjoyable home invasion horror; and I’m counting as a holiday horror only because I think my own in-law holidays would be greatly improved by some home invasion terror … The nihilism behind the assault — the trio assaulted the victims because “you were home” — makes it that much more terrifying.

Really, the only thing scarier than the invasion itself is behind discovered by a pair of teen-age evangelists; please let my corpse disicate for a few weeks before the Witnesses or Mormons call it in …

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: Better Watch Out

Better Watch Out

Better Watch Out

Luke has a crush on his babysitter, Ashley, and when their home is invaded by a masked man with a gun while Luke’s parents are at a Christmas party, things get progressively bad …

This is a home invasion horror with a twist. The enjoyment really depends on that twist, and I certainly don’t want to spoil it for people who are coming to this without having run into buzz about the twist, so I won’t say much more than that. I came in without having heard any buzz about it, and I was fully expecting a typical babysitter-saves-the-kids story that would get a “meh” rating; it’s a heck of a lot better than I expected.

Watch it, but don’t tell anyone about it!

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: Black Christmas

Black Christmas

Black Christmas

Sorority sisters are stalked and killed in their house while preparing for Christmas. The cops–some bumbling, some resourceful, some dead–don’t seem to help a great deal. And the call is definitely coming from upstairs …

This early slasher is a pretty great ride–suspenseful and funny in equal parts, with likeable characters and good pacing. The creepy boyfriend as red herring gives this movie a giallo feel (as does the perfectly-captured ’70s vibe of the clothes and decor). It’s not particularly bloody, especially by giallo standards, but it has its moments of gore.

Also, it has Margot Kidder. Who is fabulously foul-mouthed and mean.

It’s also Bob Clark’s other Christmas movie; and I kind of like this one better.

Daily (Holiday?) Horror Movie: Dead End

Dead End

Dead End

A family on their way to Christmas Eve dinner take a short cut through the woods; things go terribly wrong.

This was a fun one; it has lots of great family bickering and screaming and swearing, but with a backdrop of mayhem and mutilation unlike the all-too-normal drama–ideal for Thanksgiving, I think. The characters start off as annoying and unlikable, so the first couple killings aren’t terribly upsetting, but as the endless road to Marcott stretches on you start to like the dwindling survivors until the horrific end. And while the denouement is a bit of a cop out, there’s enough ambiguity to provide just a bit of a shudder to close it out.

Not a masterpiece by any means, but a nice bit of gory holiday fun.

Daily Horror Movie: Synopsis and assessment

I watched 39 horror movies between September 21, when I watched “The Witch,” and October 31, when I watched “Halloween.” Some days I watched a couple of movies, some days I watched none, but it averaged out to just under one a day–that’s a lot of spooky stuff.

Here’s the list sorted by my rankings as I watched them: A Horror Movie a Day at Letterboxd.

It looks like my top five were “The Witch” (great period piece about the peculiar fears of the Puritans), “The Conjuring” (theme park ride of terror jumps), “Raw” (unrepentant French cannibalism), “A Dark Song” (brooding and nihilistic), and “Halloween” (classic). I would wholeheartedly recommend these movies to any horror fan, though maybe “The Witch,” “Raw,” and “A Dark Song” are not for beginners.

At the bottom of the list, I would definitely steer people away from “Death Bed” (dreadful without being fun), “Bleed” (poorly conceived mishmash), and “Malevolent” (good concept poorly executed). Other lower ranking movies weren’t necessarily bad (especially “Death Bed” or “Bleed” bad), they just weren’t notably good.

I came away with an appreciation for Asian horror (“Ringu,” “Train to Busan,” and “The Red Shoes” were awesome), as well as for some interesting high-concept movies like “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “The Endless.” And it was fun to see some classics again, like “Night of the Living Dead” and “Halloween.” All in all, more good movies than bad.

My watch list is chock full of horror right now, but I should probably do a palate cleanser of a comedy or two before getting back to the dark stuff …

Daily Horror Movie: Train to Busan

Train to Busan

Train to Busan

A father and daughter board a train from Seoul to Busan just as a fast-spreading disease that turns people into ravenous zombies breaks out. The train is both a death trap and a life line as car after car is overrun, and unlikely alliances against the zombies are formed.

This movie feels much shorter than two hours: it’s fast-paced, intense, and terrifying, with just enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat and rooting for the scrappy band of zombie fighters. There’s very little dialogue, and most of the characters are nameless, at least in the subtitles, but they are interesting and likeable. Like every zombie movie, this one is in some ways an answer to Night of the Living Dead: the people fighting the zombies bicker about strategies, seeing your friends and loved ones become zombies is horrifying, and the authorities are as much a danger as the zombies in the battle to restore order. That the mayhem plays out in an orderly and hierarchical culture adds another layer of terror, and the claustrophobic setting in zombie-filled train cars is a different kind of terror than the shambling hordes that overrun the Pennsylvania farmhouse in “Night of the Living Dead.”

Daily Horror Movie: Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark

Hold the Dark

A naturalist goes to Alaska to search for a wolf pack that took a boy. But he discovers that wolves are not the most dangerous thing in the village of Keelut.

This is a laconic movie full of snow and guns and men in plaid. There are wolves and native witches and masks, and one of the most violent shootouts I’ve seen since the second season of “True Detective.” (Actually, I just rewatched the “True Detective” shootout, and the one in “Hold the Dark” is much more intense in its tightly-contained area and focus.) It’s gory and dark and senseless and brutal and I loved it. There’s a lot of subtext going on here, making us question things like love and vengeance and what makes us human. It’s just this side of “American Werewolf in Alaska” without sliding over the line to straight-up supernatural horror.

(Also, Letterboxd and IMDB don’t list its genre as “horror”; dude, this is totally a horror movie …)

Daily Horror Movie: The Endless

The Endless

The Endless

Two brothers who left a UFO cult ten years ago are having trouble adjusting to the outside world. The younger brother decides to make a visit to the cult compound to find closure, and the older brother reluctantly joins him. They find that leaving again is much harder than they ever anticipated.

This is a relatively slow and subtle movie, with a lot of quiet revelation and no real scares. But it has a lot of horror, of the existential dread variety. Though there are little hints of something Lovecraftian going on (Lovecraft gets a name drop on the brothers’ first day at camp, there’s some talk of impossible and imperceptible colors, and there are hints of some unfeeling and inhuman power lurking just beyond perception), “The Endless” is much quieter than explicitly Lovecraftian movies like “Re-Animator” or “Alien.” This is the philosophical, nihilistic side of Lovecraft; deeply unsettling, skillfully shot, and with characters who are both believable and bizarre.

Daily Horror Movie: Green Room

Green Room

Green Room

A punk band touring dives in the Pacific Northwest get booked at a skinhead club. After their set (opened with a cover of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”), they witness a murder backstage. And then things get progressively bad …

I really enjoyed this movie. It had the kind of propulsive energy you’d expect from a film about a punk band, and also a lot of very unsettling violence as the besieged band members square off against the neo-Nazis, and also a lot of wonderfully dark humor. The characters are well-rounded and likeable (at least the non-Nazi ones are likeable), which makes the gruesome violence that much more affecting.

Older posts

© 2019 Michael Hartford

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑