Tag Archives: André Øvredal

Scary Stories to tell in The Dark (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Review

Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Dan Hageman (screenplay by), Kevin Hageman (screenplay by)
Stars: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush

“You don’t read the book.
The book reads you.”

A few years ago there was already the movie “Goosebumps“, based on the stories of R.L. Stine, with the not so funny Jack Black. The only thing I can remember about this film is that an immense amount of figures from that book series were used to make life miserable for the protagonists. Fortunately the film “Scary stories to tell in the dark” doesn’t make the same mistake. This film is based on an iconic series of stories of the same name written by Alvin Schwartz. A series of three bundles, full of scary horror short stories about dark revenge and supernatural events. Books that caused a stir among concerned parents who felt that these stories (and especially the lurid illustrations) weren’t suitable for young children. Well, that’s something that arouses my curiosity.

I myself was a big fan of television horror series such as “The Hitchhiker“, “Tales from the crypt” and “The Twilight Zone” in the 80s. Short stories with a sinister undertone and a scary story. In short, horror for beginners. The same kind of stories are being used in this film. The movie won’t scare a hardcore horror-fan though. It’s all too soft. It’s clear that they aimed at a slightly younger teenage audience. A perfect movie for adolescent boys to watch with their first girlfriend. Hoping that the lovely girl will be so scared to death that she’ll snuggle close to him seeking protection in his arms.

A big name in the film world, Guillermo Del Toro, is a fan of the original “Scary Stories” stories as well and has therefore contributed to this film by working on the script. That means that my expectations were high. The result is a well-cared-for ghost story with a hugely successful 60s setting. Subtle horror with fragments of intense moments. You could clearly feel the influence of the grandmaster himself. Of course, it’s once again situated during the Halloween festivities. The cause of all the misery may not be called earth-shatteringly original. And the way in which the problem is solved is perhaps dull. That means that “Scary stories to tell in the dark” nestles itself in the range of horror films that don’t exceed the average. But that doesn’t mean that you should avoid this film. There are too many positive things to discover for that.

First the acting of the youthful cast. They didn’t do so bad. The gang of teenagers to which Stella (Zoe Margaret Coletti) belongs is as usual a collection of personalities with their own distinctive traits. First of all, you have Stella’s best friends. The phlegmatic Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and scatterbrain Chuck (Austin Zajur). Then you have Tommy (Austin “Paper Towns” Abrams) the chief bully of the village. A good-for-nothing guy who joins the army to fight in Vietnam and who’s actually the cause of the teenagers ending up in the haunted house where Sarah Bellows lived. The only people who accompany them as well are Ramon Morales (Michael Garza), a Mexican boy who tries to avoid something, and Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). These persons are the ones who, after Stella has discovered a lurid book full of horror stories, become victims of their own fears. Personally, I thought the acting performance of Zoe Margaret Coletti and Tommy Miller were the most successful.

Like I said before, the horror moments aren’t terrifying. But “Harold” the scarecrow, “The Big Toe” and “Jangly Man” were the most amusing moments from the series of creeps that showed up. Really such figures that would fit perfectly in a Stephen King’s collection of short stories. And the way the stories manifest themselves in the book was also a nice touch. And finally, I thought the overall atmosphere this film bathed in, was wonderful to see. Oh well, maybe the fact that Stella is portrayed as a misfit and her personal torments about a mother who left the family, was a bit too corny. And in terms of shock effects, it also fell short. However, if you like an entertaining and well-told ghost story, then this “Scary Stories to tell in the dark” is perfect for you.

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The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe Review

Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing
Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond

Plot:  A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

Running Time: 86 Minutes

IMDB Score: 6.8

Why I Watched It: Strong genre buzz, the trailer looked good and of course Brian Cox.

Random Thoughts: This was one of those word of mouth genre films that gained buzz on the festival circuit then just kind of got dumped on VOD.  The great thing about the trailer is you’re not really sure what the film is about but you know it looks like a creepy horror.

What I Liked: This is a great example of a horror film starting slow and just keep building suspense and tension as the film goes along, the film as a nightmare logic feel to it and the great thing is except for one they don’t rely on jump scares but they rely on building tension as the plot gets moved forward.  The film has a great atmosphere and it’s creepy as all get out, I’ve watched way too many horror films to get really scared but every once in awhile a film will get under your skin, so I wasn’t scared but it creeped me out I got a very real sense of dread.

There’s a lot to like here but I’m going to point out direction cause this film is very well done, it doesn’t go for camp and it doesn’t rush it’s story, the pacing, the score the way the film is shot all works together everything builds.  The story is smart, I love a movie where you see people or a person who are good at their job, Brian Cox plays a guy who’s done this for a long time and has seen just about everything so this body not only is strange but it’s a puzzle he’s trying to solve.  Also the cool thing about this film is even half way through you’re not sure what horror sub-genre it is, I was guessing along with the characters and they were smart not to throw the supernatural right at the beginning the film earns it, it makes sense when we find out what is going on.

The acting is very good, no it comes down to Cox and Hirsch, they play off each other well but the father and son relationship is written very well, it’s not the standard bickering or fighting, and here’s something in a horror film they never stop and accuse each other of fight at all, so refreshing in a horror film where the main characters try to work together to survive. They even manage to work in a backstory, it helps flesh out the characters and gives the performances depth, it’s a very well written horror film.  This is not lazy writing or horror cliches 101.

What I Didn’t Like:  There’s not much here I will pick at but the ending, I mean the very ending felt tacked on and this film is better than this for that kind of cheap final shot.

The only other thing is the puzzle that is the body, while clever is fairly complicated and a lesser film it might not have worked but they saved it for being a bit silly, they could have sharpened some of the reasoning.  We get a lot of info thrown at us at the end and a couple of twists.

Final Thoughts: A creepy and very effective horror film, not perfect but it’s very good and if you’re a horror fan and have sat through a bunch of dumb stories with cliched characters well sit down for a very refreshing change of pace.  A smart and well directed and written horror film.

Rating: 8/10

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

The Autopsy Of Jane Doe Review

Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Ian B. Goldberg (as Ian Goldberg),  Richard Naing
Stars: Brian Cox,  Emile Hirsch,  Ophelia Lovibond

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a film of two halves and two very different ones at that. Brisk in pace and relatively simple in the story department, Scandinavian director, André Øvredal (Troll Hunter) brings a suspenseful, low budget horror film, largely revolving around the corpse of a young lady and the secrets her body holds within.

It begins somewhere in Virginia (it never does say where), opening with a cool, little camera spin that focuses on the lawn of a peaceful residential setting. It’s anything but internally however, as moving inside, the elderly occupants appear to have been brutally murdered in highly suspicious circumstances. There’s a sense of real bewilderment from the investigating police officers at the bloody remains and scene, manner of death and doors that appeared to have been locked from within. This is further compounded when they make the bizarre discovery of the partially buried corpse of a young woman in the basement below. Headed up by Sheriff Burke (Michael McElhatton), they’re looking for answers and quick.

Step forward Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch), the father and son duo that work as coroners at the local, family run mortuary. The buildings facade looks rickety and ancient, but the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ was tailor made for this precise situation. Tommy is an experienced veteran at his craft and when the Jane Doe (she was discovered with no trace of ID and was given the titular name as a result) is wheeled in, he’s only too happy to oblige the puzzled, confounded Burke and he eagerly sets about trying to discover both her origin and the cause of death.

As I mentioned earlier, this film is a tale of two halves and the first half is infinitely more enjoyable as a spectacle than what comes afterwards. This is mainly because the whole feel of the first half is less of a supernatural horror. Instead, Øvredal opts to focus firmly on the mystery element and the steadily growing, seemingly coincidental, weird happenings taking place in the morgue as investigate the woman’s body. As Tommy and Austin cut open the human pandora’s box lying before them, they gradually discover a plethora of different clues within her corpse that at times leave them with more questions than answers. From severely broken wrists and ankles; bizarre scarring and occult markings on her internal organs; a strange rag message within her bowels to badly blackened lungs, all hidden below an angelic looking body externally that belies the internal trauma.

It’s really after the pair begin delving further into the hidden secrets the woman possesses that the film makes its tonal/genre shift away from the more realistic, mystery heavy setting in the first half to the more supernatural horror style in the second half. Don’t get me wrong, Øvredal’s direction was still decent after this point and the unsettling, eerie, claustrophobic, atmosphere was very well utilised, especially when the walking, bell wearing, corpses were scurrying around. Ultimately though, I just felt the payoff for the long buildup of tension wasn’t anywhere near rewarding enough for the viewer and the whole anti-misogynistic, reverse curse, Salem witch trial explanation came across just a little bit convoluted to me. I’ve seen other people mention that it was clever, perhaps I’m missing something? With all that said, I did like the little twist towards the end involving Austin and his ‘rescuers’.

There wasn’t exactly a massive cast in this film, with the overwhelming majority of the film involving three characters and one of them was a stiff. Brian Cox was excellent as Tommy, and for me, put in the the best performance in the film. His character almost narrated the film in some ways, as he systematically went through the autopsy, breaking down each stage and examining everything with a fine tooth comb. His performance in particular brought a level of believability to the films events, even as they took a more traditional horror turn. Emile Hirsch was also pretty good as Austin, the heir apparent and son of Tommy. He had very good chemistry with Cox and their on-screen relationship was one of the highlights for me. Massive respect to Olwen Catherine Kelly too for what must have been a mundane experience as the unmoving corpse. It couldn’t have been easy lying naked, doing nothing for the duration of the shoot and she made a very believable and unnerving corpse. Unfortunately, Mr. Radcliffe’s portrayal of a dead person is still the best I’ve seen however.

Roman Osin’s cinematography has to be given some recognition too. He nailed the almost clinical, distant filming style of the early morgue scenes, allowing the viewer to feel detached from the experience, whilst watching the autopsy take place before them. This had the effect (for me at least) of lessening the distaste at some of the fairly explicit gore of these scenes. I also liked the unsettlingly frequent pans to the face of the woman, which built the tension excellently just before the shit hit the metaphorical fan. The CG was pretty poor, but I’ll give them a pass for that as it was a low budget film.

I liked this film in parts and whilst I understand it had to have some sort explanation for the corpses undamaged appearance and connection with the murders seen earlier in the film. I just felt it could have been executed a little better and I found the abrupt change in tone in the middle a little jarring. I’m not easily scared, so the jump scares did nothing for me, but I’ll admit to feeling damn anxious as the corpse made its way to towards Tommy and Austin as they waited for the elevator to make it’s way down. The death that came immediately after left me a little perplexed, but again there was a fairly neat piece of symmetry involved there that I did appreciate.

Would I recommend it though? It’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen, but I’ve seen much better too. I’d probably give it a miss if being honest.