FlixChatter Review: ANTLERS (2021)

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Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper

Antlers follows middle school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) as her concern for student Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) leads her to discover that the child’s home life isn’t just troubled, but dangerous. Along with her sheriff brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), Julia discovers that an ancestral legendary creature has a grip on Lucas through his father (Scott Haze) and younger brother (Sawyer Jones).

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I wanted to like this movie so badly. It’s produced by modern horror royalty Guillermo del Toro, stars actors I’ve enjoyed in other projects, and is centered around a monster from Native American mythology, which is a really cool concept for a big-budget film. Overall, though, I was disappointed. First, let’s start with the elephant in the room: despite the movie being based around a Native American legend, there is only one named Indigenous character in the film (Warren Stokes, played by Graham Greene), and his main role seems to be to dump a couple minutes of sloppy exposition on the protagonists. This could have been a great chance for a blockbuster movie to highlight Native American culture, and a few lazy and throw-away lines make it seem like they wanted to at least pretend they were doing that, but for the most part, it was a disappointing missed opportunity.

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The cultural problem isn’t the only writing issue in this movie. It’s badly paced; at barely over an hour and a half, it isn’t a long movie, and it could have used even an extra 15-20 minutes to flesh out the story and made it feel a little more balanced, but as it is, the beginning is a slog, and the development of the monster part of the story feels rushed. Additionally, several of the characters (specifically Amy Madigan’s Principal Ellen Booth and Rory Cochrane’s Daniel Lecroy) make decisions so stupid that it’s impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. 

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That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy in this film. The cinematography is beautiful, and setting a horror movie in bleak, foggy small town Oregon works well. Russell and Plemons both give solid performances despite the less than impressive material they have to work with. And the young actors, Jeremy T. Thomas and Sawyer Jones, do incredible work, especially considering they go for long stretches without any dialogue, and I hope that we see them in more projects going forward.

While this isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen, it’s by no means good, and I have no interest in revisiting it. A friend told me the short story it’s based on is good, though, so that might be worth checking out.

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Have you seen ANTLERS? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter Review: The Manor (2021)

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Written and Directed by: Axelle Carolyn

Hey, FlixChatter readers! We’re well into October, so it’s the perfect time to find new spooky content to watch. While plenty of streaming platforms have lots of classic Halloween and horror movies available this month, I’m always excited to check out new movies, so I was cautiously optimistic about this years batch of Welcome to the Blumhouse films on Amazon Prime. The 4-part horror movie anthology premiered in 2020, with 4 new movies dropping earlier this month. I watched one of the most recent, The Manor, and while I don’t think it’s a new genre classic, there’s enough promise for me to want to give the other movies in the series a shot.

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In The Manor, 70-year-old Judith (Barbara Hershey) moves into a nursing home following a minor stroke. She quickly begins to suspect that a supernatural entity might be preying on the home’s residents; however, she struggles to convince those around her that her suspicions aren’t just a symptom of her medical condition.

My main take-away from The Manor is that Blumhouse would be really good at creating a TV show anthology series; if this story had been a third of the length, it would have felt a lot tighter and the suspense would have held up more. As it is, the ending becomes fairly predictable about halfway in. The concept isn’t bad, and setting a horror story in a nursing home is a solid idea, but the writing doesn’t really hold up for a 90-minute movie. 

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Despite the slightly underwhelming writing, this movie at least looks good. The set design is lovely, especially the nursing home grounds, and the costuming, hair, and makeup all look fantastic; I can only hope to look as stylish as Judith when I’m her age. The design for the supernatural entity is a little silly and not particularly scary, but I appreciate that it mostly seemed to be a practically-made costume with minimal CGI. 

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The cast is the best thing about this movie. Barbara Hershey gives a believable, likable, and engaging performance in the lead role, and I love the chemistry between her and Nicholas Alexander as her grandson Josh. The trio of residents that befriend Judith at the beginning of the film—Bruce Davidson as Roland, Fran Bennett as Ruth, and Jill Larson as Trish- are a lot of fun to watch as well, and I would have loved to see them in a couple more scenes, especially given the bigger role they end up playing at the end of the movie.

Overall, The Manor is a perfectly fine made for streaming horror movie. I still think it would have made a better TV episode, but it was still a decently-made, unique horror story. I’m not sure if I’ll check out the other movies in the Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology, but it’s nice to know that there is new horror content available if I decide I want to watch something different to celebrate my favorite spooky month. 

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Have you seen THE MANOR? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter: MALIGNANT (2021)

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Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Akela Cooper (screenplay)
Story by: James Wan, Ingrid Bisu

It’s officially spooky season! Okay, maybe it’s a little early to start carving pumpkins or hanging up fake cobwebs, but for me, as soon as September hits and the weather dips below 75 degrees, I go into full Halloween mode. To kick that off, I decided to check out the new James Wan horror film, Malignant, and while it was very different than what I was expecting, it was still a great way to start my favorite time of year.

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In Malignant, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins having visions of violent murders following a traumatic event of her own. She quickly realizes the visions are not just in her head but actually happening in real life- and could be connected to a terrifying repressed secret from her childhood. 

Based on the few commercials I saw before seeing this movie, I never would have expected Malignant to be campy, but that’s the word that kept popping into my head the whole time I was watching it: the acting is melodramatic, there are lots of borderline-cheesy zoom-ins on characters’ faces and overblown musical stings, and the big reveal toward the end of the movie feels like something straight out of a 1950’s horror/sci-fi B-movie. It’s a unique combination with the modern setting, the dark glossy style we’re used to seeing in a lot of today’s supernatural horror, and the industrial score, but I liked the mash-up of styles. There are a couple moments where the camp feels unintentionally funny, but for the most part, it’s effective in keeping the tension high and bringing a new tone to a modern horror movie.

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Despite the camp, there’s plenty for lovers of modern horror to appreciate. The movie doesn’t shy away from blood and gore, and there are some very creative and shocking kills throughout the film- unsurprising, considering Wan is the writer/director who brought us Saw. Despite there being some especially violent scenes, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. There’s some CGI that feels a little dated in a big fight scene toward the end, and there’s a bit at the movie’s big reveal that looks a little silly, but overall the special effects look great.

Lastly, the cast is stellar. Annabelle as Madison and Maddie Hasson as her sister Sydney have excellent chemistry, as do George Young and Michole Briana White as cop partners Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss. Ingrid Bisu as CST Winnie is funny, likable, and memorable despite having such a small role. And Marina Mazepa, the physical performer for Gabriel, must be made of rubber, because the way she contorts her body in this movie is impressive and horrifying. 

I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy the unusual tone in Malignant, and while I can understand that, I personally loved the blend of styles. It’s not like any other horror movie I’ve seen, and in the wrong hands, it could have felt like a bad straight-to-streaming movie, but with excellent writing, directing, and acting, as well as plenty of creative body horror, this might be one of my favorite new original horror films, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again. 

4/5 stars

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Have you seen MALIGNANT? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter: The Night House (2021)

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Directed by: David Bruckner
Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski

In The Night House, Beth (Rebecca Hall) begins to experience unusual things in her secluded lake home following the tragic death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). As she digs for answers, she begins to discover his dark secrets.

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This isn’t a traditional haunted house movie, which I love. While it does lean toward the more supernatural side, it has its own unique lore and way of conveying it. I’m a sucker for a classic ghost story, but I appreciate that this movie is a supernatural horror movie that doesn’t feel like any other I’ve seen (while still managing to scare me several times). This is mostly achieved through creative camera work and lighting; there might have been some CGI, but if there was, it was so subtle that I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a special effect or a cleverly composed shot. 

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The cast feels just as sparse as the special effects, but it’s still strong, especially its lead. Rebecca Hall is often the only one on screen throughout the movie, but she’s so engaging, and she does some truly impressive physical acting. The other stand-out performance comes from Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mel, Beth’s kindly old neighbor; he comes across as genuinely warm and likable while still showing hints of something potentially dark just below the surface.

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My only gripe with The Night House is about the ending. Firstly, it feels a little heavy-handed. The evil entity throughout the movie is clearly a metaphor for Beth’s depression, and while this is handled well throughout most of the movie, the last five-ish minutes hit the audience over the head with it a little too hard, which is extra noticeable when it was fairly subtle up until the end. Secondly, the ending is very abrupt. I generally don’t have a problem with open-ended movies, but after how tense most of this one was, the ending felt, for lack of a better word, deflated.

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Overall though, I would absolutely recommend The Night House, especially if you want to watch something scary that’s not bloody or gory. The cinematography is beautiful, the performances are excellent, and the suspense is high throughout the whole movie. It’s a shame there hasn’t been a ton of advertising for this one, because it’s definitely worth checking out.

4/5 stars

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Have you seen THE NIGHT HOUSE? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter Review: The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

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After watching movies at home for about a year and a half, it was so nice to make my return to the movie theater to see the latest in what is probably my favorite modern horror franchise (with the exception of a couple of the spinoffs). I love The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, and while the third installment’s subtitle is a little silly, it’s probably my favorite one of the series. 

In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) find themselves entangled in a satanic curse conspiracy as they attempt to prove that a young man accused of murder, Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’ Connor), was under demonic possession at the time of the crime. The more they dig, the more they realize this isn’t an isolated incident; this particular entity has claimed other victims, and the Warrens may be next. 

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The reason I like paranormal/supernatural horror movies more than other sub-genres is because the danger isn’t something physical; you can’t just double tap a ghost or demon or run and hide from them, and this movie does an especially good job making it feel like there is no escape from the evil terrorizing the protagonists; nowhere feels safe, and nearly every scene is filled with tension. It immediately starts with the violent exorcism of 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), and that intense, frenetic scene sets the tone for the rest of the film; my heart rate was instantly up and stayed there for the next two hours. While there are obviously several jump scares, they mostly all feel earned; the build up to some of the particularly scary moments is exquisite. 

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Like the previous films, one of this movie’s biggest strengths is its stellar cast. As usual, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have excellent chemistry. Other standouts include John Noble as Father Kastner, who gives a wonderfully eerie performance, and Eugenie Bondurant as the mysterious occultist, who, despite not having a lot of screen time, is memorably spooky in her role. 

I only have a couple complaints about this movie, directed Michael Chaves. The first is that there’s a good amount of sappy, saccharine dialogue that made me roll my eyes more than once and made several of my fellow audience members groan. The other is that there are a couple moments where characters who are otherwise intelligent and level-headed make absurdly stupid decisions that put them in danger, which feels like such lazy writing choice; the same outcome could have easily been reached through other actions. It might seem nit-picky, but it’s a big pet peeve of mine in horror movies.

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Overall, though, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is an excellent addition to the series, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again, along with the first two, as a triple feature once it’s available for streaming.

4/5 stars

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Have you seen the latest from THE CONJURING franchise? Well, what did you think?

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TCFF 2020 Review: ‘The Horror Crowd’

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One of the things I love most about the horror genre is how tight-knit the community seems to be. From familiar actors appearing in a variety of horror films to seeing them interact with each other on Twitter, it feels like the people involved in horror movies are all part of one big family. The documentary The Horror Crowd makes it feel like that even more.

In The Horror Crowd, Ruben Pla interviews a variety of horror actors and filmmakers, from indie to iconic, on their experience in the horror industry- from their childhood introductions to the genre, to their humble beginnings in filmmaking, to how their personal lives are connected to the horror community. The documentary shows how many of them share common experiences, such as feeling like they didn’t fit in growing up, interest in classic horror literature and film at a young age, and an enthusiasm for Halloween costumes.

My biggest critique is that it feels a little disorganized; there seems to be an attempt to break the documentary into different sections for different topics, but it’s doesn’t always stick to them. I would love this a lot more as a TV series focusing on different aspects of the horror community members’ lives and careers rather than trying to hastily fit it all into an hour and a half documentary.

Overall, though, The Horror Crowd is a fun, geeky, heartwarming documentary that you don’t have to be a horror fan to appreciate.


Horrors & Thrillers For Halloween!

Check out all the movies that’s perfect for your Halloween weekend – just go to TCFF Website and pick a movie. You can still watch ’em tonight AND tomorrow, see below for the special deal to the streaming pass. Enjoy your Halloween weekend!


SPECIAL DEAL
50% off – STREAMING PASS

Enjoy the final 3 day of TCFF for half price! 70+ Online Films Available Until October 31st.

Narratives, Documentaries, Short Films, Minnesota Connected Films
CODE: 2020TCFFpass50
To learn more about how to attend these screenings, please visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

FlixChatter Review – THE WRETCHED (2020)

Written and Directed by: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

In The Wretched, 17-year-old Ben (John-Paul Howard) goes to stay with his father (Jamison Jones) in the small summer vacation town where he works. He notices their neighbor, Abbie (Zara Mahler), acting strangely, and soon discovers that she has been inhabited by a witch who preys on children. Along with his new friend Mallory (Piper Curda), Ben fights to defeat this ancient evil being.

Like many teen horror movies, The Wretched is pretty underwhelming. There’s nothing particularly inspired about the cinematography or direction, the characters feel like cliches, and melodramatic music nearly always plays right before the unimpressive jump scares (although there was one really good jump scare involving a baby toy that actually got me). The dialogue feels like most teen horror movie dialogue written between 1999 and now, although the actors mostly make it work.

That said, it’s not a bad movie. The special effects are pretty good, mostly practical and not over-reliant on CGI, and I really liked the creepy, saggy skin makeup for the witch. It was refreshing watching a movie with a unique antagonist (not that there aren’t other horror movies with witches, obviously, but this movie has its own interesting interpretation). As I mentioned before, the acting is pretty good, and there are some surprisingly talented kid actors in the cast. And the twist near the end genuinely surprised me without feeling like it was unearned; there’s some decent foreshadowing leading up to it.

While The Wretched isn’t an amazing horror film, it’s still entertaining enough, and at a little over an hour and a half run time, it’s a relatively quick, easy watch. If you like horror, are easily scared, and this happens to be on a streaming service you have, you might enjoy this movie.

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Now playing at select Drive-In Theaters and Digital Platforms everywhere


Have you seen THE WRETCHED? Let us know what you think!