Michael Hartford

writer, photographer, programmer, dad

Tag: movies (page 1 of 5)

The Untamed

A woman befriends a male nurse in a small Mexican town, and introduces him and his sister to a tentacled creature in a remote cabin that offers both unspeakable pleasure and pain.

If H.P. Lovecraft wrote tele-novellas, this would have been the result: a blend of cosmic horror, family drama, and dangerous desire, with a fair bit of gore and skin. It’s interesting and disturbing, which is a good combination.

What Metal Girls Are Into

Three women staying in a remote rental unit in the desert for a heavy metal festival make a gruesome discovery in the freezer, and find that the landlord and his friends have decidedly uncool intentions.

Fast, funny, and furious, with a good soundtrack and some crunchy kills. It delivers exactly what it promises on the box, in about 15 minutes, with wit and moxie.

The Battery

Mickey and Ben, a pitcher and catcher roaming through a post-apocalyptic New England landscape populated by slow-moving zombies, catch a hint of a possible haven over some purloined walkie-talkies. The mysterious voices they hear, though, don’t lead to salvation.

This 100 minute movie was about 80 minutes too long; I imagine that the world after a zombie apocalypse would indeed be incredibly dull, and that the survivors would tend to get on each others’ nerves, but one doesn’t watch a zombie apocalypse movie expecting the experience to be quite so tedious. I thought that the movie would finally pick up after an hour, when three additional living characters are introduced, but after a few minutes of real drama we get locked into an even more claustrophobic space with Mickey and Ben. I was rooting for the zombies toward the end, and even then was disappointed by a lackluster conclusion with a zombie hoard that can’t even catch a man who has been shot in the leg.

Us

A family’s beach vacation is interrupted by their violent doppelgangers.

There are twists and jumps and scares and blood spatter galore in this epic Jordan Peele horror/fantasy/sci-fi masterpiece. I saw echoes of and nods to classic terrors like “The Shining,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Strangers,” and even “Susperia” (in a beautifully choreographed and bloody dance battle). It goes off the rails, especially at the end, but in a good way, and manages to be both terrifying and hilarious. I think I need to watch it a few more times to fully digest everything going on in this movie.

If Toni Collette deserved an Oscar for “Hereditary” (and she did), then Lupita Nyong’o deserves them all for her dual roles in “Us.”

The Descent

Following a horrible accident, a group of women who have enjoyed thrill-seeking adventures together in the past embark on a spelunking trek. A cave-in and poor planning are not the least of the horrors they encounter underground.

The first half of this movie, with the tensions within the group, the one-upmanship played out in deadly circumstances, and the challenges of battling each other and the caves, was scary enough; I’m a big fan of NPS and Appalachian Mountain Club accident reports, and this was a set up for the worst possible trip assessment in the history of trip assessments. Indeed, I found the troglodytes to be a little over the top and wholly unnecessary, though they did provide some pretty serious scares despite being unevenly powered, sometimes fearsome and other times easily knocked around. Darkness and tight spaces and idiot friends are scary enough.

Without Name

Eric goes into a remote forest to survey the land for a secretive developer with his assistant Olivia, with whom he is having an affair. They encounter a rootless young man who shares his anarchist philosophy and his psychedelic mushrooms, along with some local fairy lore. Olivia leaves after a fight, and Eric makes a mushroom tea from instructions in a book left in the cottage where they’re staying. This proves to be a mistake.

I was originally drawn to this movie because about a quarter of the traditional Irish tunes are called “Gan Anam,” “Without Name”; and that proves to be the “name” that the isolated woodland is called by the predictably hostile locals Eric meets at the pub. This is an enjoyable little movie–it does a good job of portraying the disorientation of being lost in the woods, and Eric’s growing paranoia is nicely unsettling. It would pair nicely with Across the River or The Alchemist Cookbook if you’re looking for disturbed-in-the-woods fair.

Baskin

Five Turkish police officers answer a call for backup, and find themselves inside an abandoned police station that is a portal to a strange and terrifying hell.

This is a visually striking film, bathed in red light, buckets of gore, and terrifying images glimpsed at the edge of the screen and lurking in the shadows. The Grand Guignol horrors on display are more than a little over the top, with manglings and mutilations and torture galore, and the story quickly becomes weirdly allegorical while also insanely bloody. It’s definitely nightmare fodder, but stunningly executed all the same.

The Void

A police officer finds a blood-covered man crawling along the side of the road, and rushes him to the hospital. Soon after he arrives, something starts to transform the patients and staff into monstrous and blood-thirsty creatures. When the survivors venture into the hospital’s mysterious sub-basement, they find that much is amiss.

This movie has some great body horror effects going on, and some impressive gore. It teeters between horror and science fiction, with some Satanic cult action tossed in, and that gets to be a bit much, but it delivers some good scares and cringes.

Cold Skin

On the eve of the First World War, a young man travels to an isolated Antarctic lighthouse to serve as a meteorologist. He discovers that the previous meteorologist died under mysterious circumstances, and that the lighthouse keeper with whom he will share the island is keeping a strange amphibious humanoid as a kind of pet/sex slave. Every night, hordes of the humanoids rise from the waves and attack the lighthouse, and the keeper and meteorologist must fight for their lives.

I expected something a little more like “Shadow Over Innsmouth,” but this feels a little more like “Avatar” (albeit quite a bit darker and gorier). There are some gorgeous scenes of the stark Antarctic island, and the underwater scenes are impressive, but the large-scale battles feel clunkily animated.

The Canal

An archivist becomes obsessed with a 100-year-old film that documents a crime that occurred at his home. Meanwhile, his wife has gone missing, and it comes to light that she was having an affair. He begins to lose his grip on sanity, believing that there is something in the house that can only be seen through an old movie camera that is responsible for both the long-ago crime and his wife’s disappearance.

This is a good atmospheric movie, with a few scary moments (particularly when the archivist’s young son is threatened by the ghosts) and some good plunging-into-madness hysteria from the lead actor. And the ending is nightmarish and unsettling, a final dive into insanity. Overall a nice little ghost story.

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