Category Archives: Horror

Night Shift (2018) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Night Shift Review

Director: Stephen Hall
Writer: Stephen Hall
Stars: Ashleigh Dorrell, Matthew O’Brien, Angel Hannigan

Directed and written by Stephen Hall, this horror centers around Amy, a young woman terrified of the dark, strapped for cash who takes a third shift receptionist job at recently renovated hotel once home to a series of brutal murders.  Starting off very slow, you definitely find yourself eager for fear to kick in and when it finally does you actually don’t wanna budge as the story itself picks up some much needed pace.

Amy finds herself having to save some of the staying guests from a murderer roaming the halls though all isn’t what it seems as time itself begins to warp within the walls. Only armed with a flashlight and a walkie talkie link to her partner, her shift takes many turns for the worst.
Nightshift does well to pull the viewer in giving you a decent sense of shared fear, especially in the darkness.  A lot of films have a difficult time presenting absolute dark but even with a low budget this film does very well to make you feel as if you’re trapped within only the beam of your flashlight.

Thankfully, void of jump scares, the overall fear factor is about a 7/10. The acting is believable and the story isnt too full of itself to push the viewer away.
Nightshift is a solid viewing with a pretty good twist well worth a bowl or two of popcorn, enjoy

B+

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Cold Moon (2016) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Cold Moon Review, When a young woman is murdered, her family sets out to bring the criminal to justice.

Director: Griff Furst
Writers: Griff Furst, Michael McDowell (novel), Jack Snyder
Stars: Josh Stewart, Christopher Lloyd, Chester Rushing, Candy Clark, Robbie Kay, Stephanie Honoré

When a young woman is murdered, her family sets out to bring the criminal to justice.  Straight to the point, extremely predictable and at times a bit frustrating.
As said before, this falls in the supernatural revenge category so it’s not giving anything away by saying there are ghosts and they are pissed to say the least.

The visuals are acceptable, the ghosts have some believability to them. The acting is at times blah and doesn’t seem to WANT to push the story along as I found myself leaving the room for brief periods to return and really not have missed much of anything at all.

Cold Moon is nothing more than just something to check out once and move on.  Formulaic horror for anyone that just enjoys any and all horror for what it is.

C+

Us (2019) Movie Review By Justin Aylward

Us Review,

Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

Jordan Peele’s new film Us is one of the years most highly anticipated cinema releases of the year. After his debut film Get Out frightened audiences as much as it made them think, Peele has been touted as the next big thing in American cinema. Some cinemagoers on social media have even suggested that – wait for it – Peele scales at the heights only reached by the likes of Stanley Kubrick.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide, a wife and mother to two young children. Adelaide goes on a family vacation with her husband, Gabe, played by Winston Duke, and the children, Zora and Jason. The destination is Santa Cruz, which sounds nice, but not for Adelaide. It was in Santa Cruz as a child when she wandered off at a seaside fairground that she experienced a traumatic event. In a dark hall of mirrors, Adelaide was confronted by her doppelganger, and can’t forget the deadened face that stared right through her. Now after man years she returns to the scene.

Everyone just wants to have fun but Adelaide can’t shake her nerves. She is wary of the beach, won’t take her eyes off her children, and is standoffish towards Gabe. It appears there is something sinister lurking among the driveways and palm trees.

After some scares at the beach with their part-time, wealthy friends, Kitty and Josh, played by Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, the family tries to settle in for a quiet evening at home. But then they appear, another family just like Adelaide’s, standing silently in the dark driveway. As they move closer, we can see the figures are doppelgangers. They are bedecked in red jumpsuits and stolid, wide-eyed stares and wielding gold scissors.

As things transpire, it is apparent that the doppelgangers – or the tethered – have risen from the sewers to wreak havoc among the surface dwellers. Terror and dancing ensue in equal measure.There is nothing like hype to ignite cynicism and whether or not this new film can be regarded as anything worthy of classic status remains to be seen. For me, the film is admirable in its scope but fails to chime on any of the high notes it tries to hit. The scares just don’t work. When you are employing from your actors creepy stares and spooky voices you know there’s a creative struggle for solid material. This is kid’s stuff. The jokes are cheap and do nothing more than undercut the scant amount of tension Peele manages to conjure up. The film does nothing noteworthy in any of the familiar set-pieces. The home invasion sequences are quite tiresome in that the story seems to get stuck in its own porridge of ideas, none of which Peele can seem to settle on. Do we really need long passages of exposition from the main antagonist in a horror film? I can just imagine the ever-silent Michael Myers shaking his head.

There is one outstanding moment of invention when Adelaide faces off against Red, her doppelganger; needless to say I have never seen ballet movements used in such a combative way. It is a scene that sizzles and sparkles as the duel is intercut with flashbacks of Adelaide on stage, under lights. I also admire the soundtrack that helps to enliven the film in moments when it threatens to flatline. Peele also shows his potent visualistic skills. He certainly knows how to direct a scene and use the camera to great effect.

Alas, the problems exist in the script. Peele has a lot to say but doesn’t know how to disentangle his ideas in a coherent manner. There are a few unforgivable horror tropes such as the creepy child paintings and the night-time home invasion, which has been done better in more modest film such as The Strangers and The Invitation. There are themes of class struggle, privilege, anti-capitalism, and poverty among others. There are also loosely attached Jungian themes of the dark shadow and the underworld when Adelaide plumbs the depths to face her biggest fear.I also get the feeling that some of these ideas are dropped into the film as a dead-end with no route to a solution. In the future I can imagine film fans puzzling through this film in the way horror fans have done with Kubrick’s The Shining. And I think that is just how Jordan Peele would like it. The film threatens to come to life in the final act but falters again with more needless exposition. 

The twist ending – which feels attached as an obligation after Get Out – does not illuminate everything that precedes it, as the best twists do, but instead it just creates more contradictions in the story. In end the film adds up to nothing more than a hollow exercise; an underwhelming story with few genuine thrills and a complicated palette of ideas that submit the viewer into antipathy.

The Vault (2017) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

The Vault Review, Two estranged sisters are forced to rob a bank in order to save their brother. But this is no ordinary bank.

Director: Dan Bush
Writers: Dan Bush, Conal Byrne
Starring Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, Scott Haze, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Clifton Collins Jr, Keith Loneker, James Franco.

Aside from its setting, this heist/horror hybrid doesn’t really break any new ground, but for most of its running time, The Vault is pretty entertaining, even creepy at times. If only it knew when to quit.

Bickering sisters Leah (Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s kid) and Vee (Taryn Manning) lead a heavily-armed crew attempting to rob a downtown bank, which turns into a hostage situation after the police are tipped-off by a mysterious caller. Worse yet, their take isn’t nearly as much as they need to pay off brother Michael’s (Scott Haze) mob debts. However, the bank’s assistant manager (James Franco) informs them of an old vault in the basement, which holds $6 million.

But the bank has a dark past. There was a similar situation in 1982 where a masked robber executed all of his hostages. Their disembodied spirits have been lurking around ever since. As they try and crack-open the vault, the crew starts meeting violent ends at the hands of the undead. None of this comes as a surprise to the assistant manager, who seems to have known this would happen all along.

After an inauspicious start, The Vault gets more interesting as the story unfolds, revealing nifty narrative surprises along the way. The film is never particularly scary, but does manage to build some tension and dread, particularly in the long, dark corridors leading to the vault itself. The performances are merely perfunctory, but regarding the three siblings, at-least there’s some attempt at character development so we have a small stake in who lives and dies.

And had the film ended just one scene earlier, it could have been something special.

Granted, a single scene doesn’t necessarily wreck an entire film, but in a genre where the tone is often more important than the plot itself, one wonky moment can seriously undermine things. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party, nearly the end of the film, there’s a plot-twist that’s creative, clever and makes complete sense within the context of the story. The scene immediately cuts to black, and had the credits rolled right there, the movie would have ended on a haunting, ominous note. Instead, we get a ridiculous coda that feels tacked-on for the sole purpose of providing a gratuitous jump-scare.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say The Vault is ruined by this scene. However, in addition to being completely unnecessary, it doesn’t really jibe with the story’s basic premise. Until then, the film is interesting enough to make it worth checking out. Just shut it off right before that final scene (you’ll know the moment when it comes).

Us (2019) Movie Review By Gianni Damai

Us Review,

Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

Jordan Peele has cemented his legacy as a horror icon. With one stroke, Get Out proved to be not only a blockbuster phenomenon, but a rare cure for the Academy’s allergy to genre films (joining the ranks of Mad Max, and paving the way for Black Panther). Hardly two years removed from Get Out, Peele’s follow up has been one of the most anticipated films of 2019. Us is a film drenched in allegory and prophetic filmmaking with an exceptional dose of horror/comedy to boot. But has it lived up to the hype?

For those of you unfamiliar, Us is an entirely original story involving the Wilson family as they’re antagonised by entities that bare an unspeakable likeness to themselves. As the film bares on, the stakes evolve and the Wilson’s are forced to endure a relentless amount of chaos and terror. By Peele’s own admission, the main theme at work here is that we, perhaps, are the danger to ourselves rather than external forces out of our control. But Us is filled with layer after layer of symbolism and allegory for larger pictures at work. Peele’s mind feels as though it’s stuffing the screen with metaphors that ultimately detract from the superb filmmaking at work.

To break it down more precisely, let me first discuss the exceptional things about Us. In certain regards, this feels like a direct response to criticism that Peele’s penmanship outshines his directorial vision. Us is a visually stunning film, not only in the flawless lighting techniques and camera placement, but also the editing style that brings the picture together. Silhouettes feel effortlessly ominous in the hands of a clever filmmaker, but what Peele seems to perfectly understand is how effective the unseen can be. Simple moments like a character being stalked around a car are elevated by the camera’s point of view lingering on the hunted and never the hunter. Even early moments of the antagonists eerily positioned in front of the Wilson residence strike a cord of discomfort that viewers don’t often experience. And each sudden movement feels like an immediate threat regardless of direct violence. Credit should also be given to Mike Gioulakis who continues to prove himself as one of the greatest working cinematographers today (even just this year, Glass is masterfully shot, if nothing else). Peele’s editor on Us, Nicholas Monsour, also deserves a fair amount of credit. A standout moment in the film’s final act (one I’m very critical of for narrative reasons – more on that later) allows Monsour to flex his talents by juxtaposing an eloquent fight sequence with a significant event from the film’s past. Where Peele falls back on his comedic roots to subdue tension, Monsour wisely keeps the pace consistent enough to keep the audience at a level of unease. Danger is always lurking once the film ignites, and no matter how many times you may laugh, you will never forget it.

Performances are also a major highlight of Us, with chief credit being given to Lupita Nyong’o for establishing convincing anxiety while also presenting what I imagine will be hailed as one of the most iconic villains of the 2010’s. The duality of Us inherently allows Nyong’o to shine, but the creation of the character certainly feels like a risk that pays off. Rather than bottling her rich emotional life in favour of a stoic, intimidating villain, Nyong’o gives both characters complete freedom to feel the height of their emotions while letting the script speak for itself. As a result, Red, the main antagonist of the film, is easily the most compelling character. Even with a spare number of scenes, Red is chilling and emotionally rich to the point of both relatability and unrest. Revelations of Red may convolute the narrative, but the pristine strides in her physical movements and the bone chilling dryness of her voice are enough to hook the audience from the moment she appears. The rest of the cast carries the film well, each nailing the relatable anxiety and comedy within the eccentric circumstances whilst relishing the creepy characteristics of their doppelgängers. But shadow characters are generally resigned to caricatures, whereas Red has a lot more to work with. Which brings me to the major pitfalls of Us.

I should warn readers in advance, Us is a difficult film to discuss critically without devolving into spoiler territory. I will do my very best to explain my issues without diving deep into specifics, but my recommendation is to revisit this section of the review after viewing so you can better understand my points.

With that, I can admit that a large majority of my complaints with Us are in the narrative itself. The first act is a gradual build of tension, whereas the second act is a tense action thriller with a slew of entertaining moments that raise a tremendous amount of questions. The third act is the most problematic because it completely disregards those questions and adds puzzling additions to them. The film’s final twist is so inefficiently expanded on that it actually acts more as a detriment than anything. You’ll find yourself revisiting elements of the film and scratching your head rather than feeling the paramount reveal in the way that it is intended. And what’s worse is Peele’s dedication to allegory within it. Us is a film so swamped in perceived metaphors that it actually ends up drowning in them. The shadow world, if taken at face value, is completely unspecific. Under any scrutiny, the world building suffers from crumbling under the sheer amount of questions it forces the audience to ask. But if taken metaphorically, the various specifics of Peele’s underworld are so vast and nondescript that they completely distract from the narrative. And even worse, if Peele intends for the allegories to be the purpose of his film, then he loses all tension and suspense as a consequence. If I was never meant to care for the character’s of Us, then they’re entirely inconsequential. This leads me to believe that the answer lies somewhere in between symbolism and sincerity. A hodgepodge of ideas struggling to breakthrough the befuddling world building. The problem is not that Us forces the audience to ask questions. The problem is that it forces those questions too soon and ends up distracting the audience from experiencing the film first. And the final twist seems to spit in the face of everything that came before it, only leaving bigger holes in the world building than before.

The only other glaring problem I have with Us is a pet peeve I have in all horror. Sort of in line with the aforementioned issues, several characters narrowly escape death through sheer fortune of writing. Now, I don’t mean that in the sense of, “the car came *this close* to hitting them,” or something. I mean villains specifically give the heroes far too many opportunities to survive and save each other than is altogether necessary. Some of these scenarios are explained through logical conclusions and an understanding of the plan at work. But these entirely deflate tension with the understanding being that certain characters are not permitted to kill others, therefore there is no real threat. Other scenarios are never explained, and leave me frustrated at the convenient fortune of the heroes in spite of logic.

Us is the type of movie I hate to grade. In certain regards, it’s a technical masterpiece that demonstrates exactly why Jordan Peele is hailed as a modern cinematic genius. In other regards, it showcases one of the most frustrating narratives of the year thus far. Regardless, it makes me feel guilty as a critic to prod a filmmaker that consistently makes audiences applaud mid-viewing. Peele’s films are so infectious and exhilarating that it feels almost wrong to judge. But at the same time, those praises of his ability to captivate are exactly why he must be held to a high standard. I have no doubt that Peele is a filmmaker to watch as he continues this journey in his career. And even if Us is not my most critically adored film, I still recommend experiencing it with an audience solely so you can feel the same mesmerising quality that Peele makes look so effortless. 

7.5/10