Friday 4 August 2023

Horror Film Review: The Inhabitant (2022) ★★★★★

On August 4th, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found dead in their home, brutally slaughtered with an axe. The main suspect was Lizzie Borden, Andrew's own daughter. One hundred and thirty one years later, I decided to watch The Inhabitant on exactly the same day.

They say that violence runs through the Borden family bloodline and that descendants of the Borden family continue to live in Fall River, Massachusetts, unaware of their dark lineage. Tara (Odessa A'zion, Hellraiser) is one such descendant. The teen field hockey player begins to experience disturbing nightmares and visions, convincing her that she is going to kill her family.

When people start disappearing in Fall River, including both Tara's main field hockey rival and a woman Tara babysits for, local police begin to zone in on one suspect.

Can Tara escape the Borden family curse?

With themes of mental illness, family legacy, and inescapable fate, The Inhabitant is the story of Tara's journey to the edge of darkness.

Directed by Jerren Lauder (Stay Out of the F**king Attic and written by Kevin Bacher (Jaws: The Inside Story), The Inhabitant is an unexpected teen scream triumph.

Odessa A'zion is mesmerising in her role as Tara. She commands her every scene and I liked that the viewer only gets to know as much as Tara knows. Dermot Mulroney and Leslie Bibb star as Tara's parents Ben and Emily and Lizze Broadway is Tara's best friend Suzy. Together they lead us down the garden path, deceiving the viewer as each in turn gaslights, manipulates and lies to the others.

It's not often that a horror film manages to mislead me to such an extent but The Inhabitant absolutely did and I was thrilled to get to the end and realise I'd been completely and effectively conned.

The Inhabitant is visually lush with great production design by Meg Cabell, cinematography by Brian Sowell and custome design by Summer Moore. There is a great use of light and shadow, giving the impression that scenes occur both in 1892 and present day simultaneously.

There is no time, only darkness, evil and mental decline

There is a feeling of disquiet as the film progresses and the viewer struggles to pinpoint what type of horror this is. Supernatural, psychological, slasher? This serves to make the film genuinely scary as you're never sure what to expect.

I give The Inhabitant an excellent five out of five stars. Highly recommended if you like unpredictable, and misleading independent horror. I enjoyed Jerren Lauder's direction / misdirection and very much enjoyed the ending.

The Inhabitant is coming to digital download from 14th August and can be pre-ordered on Apple Store here.

The Inhabitant (2022), dir. Jerren Lauder


Thursday 13 July 2023

Horror Film Review: Quicksand (2023) ★★☆☆☆–A Shudder Original

After 125 years of horror films, you'd think people would know the basics: never, ever ignore local knowledge of dangerous places and never follow someone else into certain death, no matter how much you love them. Andres Beltran's Quicksand had me shaking my head from the very beginning, first because of the arrogance of our unlikeable protagonists and then because it defied logic.

Poster for Andres Beltran's Quicksand showing Carolina Gaitán surrounded by a boa constrictor

Sofia (Carolina Gaitán, Encanto) and Josh (Allan Hawco, The Breach) travel to Colombia to attend a conference. They are in the throes of a divorce yet decide to take a hike together to find the La Chorrera waterfall. When a storm moves in and they try to return to their car, they have a violent encounter with an armed man. On the run and desperate, they escape into Las Arenas, the very part of the forest that locals are too afraid to go into.

They might have escaped their pursuer but the couple land up in quicksand and need to use every survival skill they have to save themselves.

Fear will drag you deeper

I'm always conscious that there are human beings behind every project and horror, especially, needs our indulgence and willing suspension of disbelief, but Quicksand was not my cup of tea. I’m also conscious that there is a subset of horror fans who watch films because they get bad reviews and also horror fans who read reviews because they want to vent about a film.With that said..

Spoiler alert: I need to talk about this film and I'm going to dive straight into some key plot points and outcomes below. Turn away now if you haven't watched Quicksand.

If you've ever sat at a table while a couple bickered and aired their dirty laundry in public, then you'll be familiar with the primary dynamic of Quicksand. Sofia and Josh argue in every scene but the audience is never given insight into who they are as people or what caused the breakdown of their relationship. I enjoyed Allan Hawco in The Breach but neither Hawco nor Gaitán had much to work with here.

Sofia (Carolina Gaitán) and Josh (Allan Hawco) crouch on the forest floor in Andres Beltran's Quicksand

This was partly due to the bare bones of a plot. In short: married couple are getting a divorce, they inexplicably go for a hike in the woods. They encounter a violent attacker, escape into the one place they've been warned against, and the wife lands in quicksand. The husband decides to jump in after her and then they are both doomed. They very conveniently find a dead man in the hole and are able to raid his entire MacGyver kit. Pity he didn't think of that.

They are initially unable to move their arms above the very heavy mud but luckily, Josh is able to reach into his pants and retrieve a bottle of vodka when Sofia gets attacked by fire ants.

She is likewise very fortunate to be able to conduct neck surgery on Josh to remove a blood clot after he is bitten by a snake. Thank goodness for that MacGyver knife.

In a feat of astonishing agility against the very heavy mud, Sofia is then able to use her upper body strength to lob a lasso (made of a 15kg dead boa constrictor and other bits and pieces) over a rock and pull herself out of the pit. For some reason, none of the very heavy mud is actually on her and she just looks wet.

Miraculously, Josh also survives because he had 6 hours to live after the snake bite and he only had to wait 5 hours and 59 minutes for the antidote.

I wish that I could say more about the cinematography and camera work, but I found it to be quite dull and uninspired despite the forest setting. A lot of the angles and shots were weird and disorienting too, although I could see what they were trying to achieve.

Carolina Gaitán struggles against a boa constrictor while submerged in quicksand
Overall, I'd recommend Andres Beltran's Quicksand be viewed on a night in when you're looking for a good drinking game. Have a shot every time something improbable or impossible happens on screen. It says a lot for a horror fan to choose to believe the paranormal and supernatural over a simple forest survival plot but there you have it. I give it a disappointing two out of five stars; as stupid as they were, the parts where Sofia fell in the quicksand and Josh went jumping in after her were actually quite thrilling. .

A Shudder Original, Quicksand premieres on Friday 14 July 2023. Streaming Exclusively on Shudder and AMC+

Quicksand (2022) Trailer. Directed by Andres Beltran

Monday 3 July 2023

Horror Film Review: The Breach (2022) ★★★★☆

I was hooked from the very first scene of the trailer for Rodrigo Gudiño's Rue Morgue horror, The Breach. A body has been discovered in the tiny Ontario town of Lone Crow and when Chief of Police John Hawkins (Allan Hawco, Republic of Doyle) asks whether it is a local, Deputy Connie Parks replies uneasily, 'I don't know how you would tell'.

Something horrible has happened on the banks of the Porcupine River and, with one week left in town before he moves to the big city, Hawkins needs to get to the bottom of it quickly. He enlists the help of coroner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French) and local tour guide Meg Fullbright (Emily Alatalo) and together they travel up-river to the last known address of their possible victim, Dr Porter.

The Breach (2022) Landscape Poster

What they find is a house derelict beyond belief; Meg assures the men that it was not in this condition when she first dropped the doctor off mere months earlier.

To compound their issues, it is clear from the outset that John, Meg and Jake have some serious baggage between them and it isn't always certain that they'll be able to sidestep that history and act like professionals. The casting was fantastic in this respect, with all three actors delivering an onscreen friction worthy of a soap opera.

Derelict-looking house, a victim with impossible wounds, drama between the main characters? What could possibly go wrong?

As it happens - a lot, maybe too much. But we'll get to that later.

Filmed on location in Parry Sound, Ontario, The Breach features some stunning cinematography from Eric Oh (Sorry About the Demon). Most of the film takes place in the derelict home of Dr Porter, with some truly artistic composition. I'm always wary of excessively dark scenes in horror films but there was a great use of shadow, silhouette and flashlight to guide the viewer through the scenes.

I should probably admit here that I clearly don't know how to watch trailers properly anymore because I thought this was going to be a dark mystery-thriller, more along the lines of a police procedural than a horror film. I was wrong. The Breach is a stomach-churning body horror that had me gagging in disgust in some scenes, peeking from between my fingers in others, and desperately wishing I could un-see that fingernail scene.

Undead Ghoul in the Breach (2022)

The music in The Breach was fantastic. One of the reasons I watched this film was due to the involvement of Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist, Slash. He was executive producer and wrote and performed the foreboding opening theme in collaboration with Aybars Altay. It is James Zirco Fisher’s excellent score that sets the disquieting tone for the rest of the film, featuring tracks from his 2004 album Nightmare Picture Theatre, and the film ends off with She Past Away’s dark-wave anthem “Soluk”.

I’m on the fence as to whether the plot delivers. The Breach is based on Nick Cutter’s Audible original of the same name, featuring much of Cutter’s penchant for gore and cosmic horror. The problem is that it was a primordial soup of plotlines – was it in the sci-fi, zombie or body snatcher genre? Who knows? One of these threads seems to prevail in the end but sadly it's the most vague and underdeveloped part of the plot. It's frustrating because if that’s the outcome, I would have wanted to know more about it.

Emily Alatalo is Meg Fullbright in the Breach (2022)
I give The Breach a solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to four out of five stars thanks to the excellent music and the conflict between the main trio. Recommended for fans of The Void, The Fly and The Mist. Rodrigo Gudiño delivers a different type of horror to that which I normally enjoy but I'm intrigued enough to check out more of his work.

The Breach is distributed by Lightbulb Film Distribution and will be available on Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin Media, AppleTV and Google Play on 10 July 2023. 

The Breach (2022) Trailer. Directed by Rodrigo Gudiño

Thursday 22 June 2023

Horror Film Review: Unwelcome (2022) ★★★★☆ - A Shudder Exclusive

Redcaps are perhaps the most horrible of the unseelie creatures, so-called because they like to soak their caps in the blood of their many unfortunate victims. Of all the dark fae, they are my favourite: petty to the hilt and single-minded in their pursuit of mayhem, chaos and destruction. I've always wondered why so few filmmakers focus on the dark fae and was thrilled to see redcaps given the feature treatment in Jon Wright's folk horror Unwelcome.

Steeped in violence from the very first scene, Unwelcome opens with a brutal attack on Jamie (Douglas Booth) and his pregnant wife Maya (Hannah John-Kamen, Killjoys) in their London flat. Escaping the gangs and their urban trauma, the couple move to rural Ireland when Jamie inherits a house from his aunt Maeve. Maeve’s only request? That they leave a blood offering every evening, before sunset, for the fear dearg (or redcaps) living at the bottom of the garden. The consequences, if forgotten, would be disastrous for the couple and their unborn baby.

Desperate to be rid of their kindly neighbour Niamh (Niamh Cusack) and explore their new home together, Jamie and Maya mask their scepticism and agree to the bizarre request.

The first law of folk horror: don't make promises you have no intention of keeping

Knowing that they’ve inherited a fixer-upper, the couple dive right into a home improvement project with the help of Colm Whelan (Colm Meaney, Gangs of London) and his very strange offspring. Things get off to a bad start and rapidly go downhill from there.

The second law of folk horror: don’t piss off the locals

What is there left for a slightly naïve inner-city couple to do? Probably best for one to keep secrets, the other to gaslight them, and one to make a rather ill-advised deal with the fear dearg.

The third law of folk horror: never, ever make a bargain with the fae

With themes of trauma, delusions and promises that can’t be kept, Unwelcome explores taking back control in the face of adversity versus diving into the darkness and embracing the chaos. Sometimes hysterical laughter is the only reasonable option after all.

Unwelcome is a visual feast. From the old house to Maya’s yellow dress to the woods at the bottom of the garden, each scene is beautifully composed and brimming with colour. The redcaps were so well done. Director Jon Wright confirmed that they used actors Paul Warren, Rick Warden and stunt performers to play the redcaps and then filmed on double-sized sets to complete their appearance as little people. I genuinely would not want to run into one of them in a darkened forest.

The film features some legends of Irish film, including Colm Meaney and Niamh Cusack, but the whole cast is really good. Hannah John-Kamen shone as Maya and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell was utterly convincing as the brutish Aisling Whelan. I began to despise Jamie more with every passing scene, so kudos to Douglas Booth too for delivering an entirely flawed character.

Beware of the locals. All of them

There is a lot going on in Unwelcome. I liked that I could never quite tell who the real villains were and I also appreciated the parallel telling of the paranormal and human threats. I enjoyed the film a lot, right up until the very strange ending, and for the most part it was a thrilling ride.

I’m a little torn on how to rate Unwelcome. I would have liked to see far more on the mythology of the redcaps but ultimately appreciated that there wasn't a massive amount of exposition to weigh down a fast-paced film. I’m definitely on the fence about that weird ending though, even though I knew it was coming, but recommend to fans of folk horror and lovers of European folklore. I'm definitely interested enough to check out the work of director Jon Wright and screenwriter Mark Stay.

A Shudder Exclusive, Unwelcome premieres on Friday 23 June 2023. Streaming Exclusively on Shudder and AMC+

Unwelcome (2022) Trailer. Directed by Jon Wright


Monday 22 May 2023

Horror Film Review: Influencer (2022) ★★★★★ - A Shudder Original

I love films that surprise me, where the journey is completely unexpected and not entirely spoiled by the trailer. You might think you know what Kurtis David Harder's Shudder Original Influencer is about but it's so much more fun than you expect.

Influencer (2022) poster | Shudder Original | Horror Film Review

Californian influencer Madison (Emily Tennant) is on a solo trip to Thailand. It wasn't meant to be a solo trip but her boyfriend Ryan (Rory J. Saper) dropped out the last minute. It doesn't take long for local expats and hotel guests to notice that Madison is alone, and she soon finds herself the target of unwanted attention. Enter CW (Cassandra Naud, Snowpiercer): enigmatic and care-free, CW shows Madison how to really let go of her insecurities and enjoy the beautiful country around her.

When Madison's room is broken into and her passport stolen, Madison realises she will need to spend weeks more time in the country before her passport can be reissued. CW offers Madison a place to stay with her and Madison begrudgingly accepts, not wanting to be a burden. What can possibly go wrong?

Be careful who you follow

In the tense and chilling scenes that follow, we learn that you can't always trust what you see online and that there will always be people who want a piece of the influencer bubble.

Besides, when you have millions of followers, people will definitely notice when you're gone, right?

Influencer is a very clever film and offers multiple twists and turns, with new characters popping up and muddying the waters for our cunning antagonist. There is an appearance from mega-influencer Jessica (Sara Canning), who surely isn't as naive as Madison, and a surprise arrival that threatens to derail the entire plan.

Cassandra Naud as CW in Kurtis David Harder’s INFLUENCER

I love a well-written baddie and Influencer definitely delivers. CW is creepy and cunning, with a long game that is as terrifying as she is evil. As a frequent traveller myself, Influencer was the epitome of horror: unwanted attention, over-friendly travellers, imposing people, my room being broken into. That's all nothing compared to what CW dreams up for her victims.

Of course, my wanderlust was definitely piqued by Influencer which features some exquisite locations and luxury villas. Surprisingly, for a film set in Thailand, you see criminally little of Thailand itself and that shows the shallow lens of the influencer, how little they actual enjoy of the world around them.

I enjoyed every minute of Influencer and enjoyed falling victim to the twists. Cassandra Naud was superb as CW and she's definitely on my list of young actors to watch. Emily Tennant, Rory J. Saper and Sara Canning also deliver excellent performances and you'll be wondering to the end who the real star of this film is.

Sara Canning as Jessica and Cassandra Naud as CW in Kurtis David Harder’s INFLUENCER
I give Influencer an excellent five out of five stars and recommend to horror and Shudder fans, especially of the rising influencer genre. After his success with Shudder original Spiral and now this, I'm definitely keen on seeing what Kurtis David Harder does next.

A Shudder Original, Influencer premieres on Friday 26 May. Streaming Exclusively on Shudder and AMC+

Influencer (2022) Trailer, dir Kurtis David Harder


Saturday 21 January 2023

Horror Film Review: Sorry About the Demon (2022) ★★★★★

Unscrupulous landlords are nothing new. I mean, how difficult is it to admit that the water in a house has two settings - arctic and third-ring-of-hell? Or to say, you know, Sorry About the Demon that you've made an unholy deal with?

Sorry About the Demon | Horror Film Review

Will (Jon Michael Simpson, Scare Package) is having a bad time. He's a talented baker, awesome at his job as a customer service agent for a toothpaste brand, but not so good at turning up for his girlfriend when she receives a major promotion at work. Frustrated with his tendency to be a feckless shut-in with many ambitions and few successes, Amy (Paige Evans, (Paranormal Nightshift) dumps Will and kicks him out of their shared apartment.

Lucky for Will, he manages to snag a massive house for an extremely low rent where he can bake and answer customer calls to his heart's delight. Unlucky for Will, the slightly creepy family that leased him the house forgot to tell him about the super aggressive house demon that happens to be looking for a new host.

Can our feckless man-child save his relationship with Amy and save the world from a dangerous demon? Well, maybe. He should really just leave the house but he technically has nowhere to go. Armed with toothpaste, cakes and a sceptical best friend, Will decides that he can definitely try.

Sorry About the Demon | Horror Film Review | Jon Michael Simpson is Will

Written and directed by Emily Hagins, Sorry About the Demon is laugh-out-loud funny which is why it was surprising that it is also scream-out-loud scary. Featuring the most middle-class seance ever seen on screen and an unholy puddle of blood and goo, this film is fun from the very first minute and I liked it a lot. There are also loads of very creepy moments in the film and the makeup / effects on the possessed humans was done really well.

Visually, Sorry About the Demon is a feast for the eyes with a really great setting in a kooky, quirky house. Many scenes were oozing colour, practically eye candy, with a focus on interior design and increasingly garish cakes.

Sorry About the Demon | Horror Film Review | Jeff McQuitty, Olivia Ducayen and Jon Michael Simpson

What made this film most enjoyable is that it has great performances all round. Simpson and Evans are great as Will and Amy, a couple on the edge of relational collapse. Jeff McQuitty is brilliant as Will's increasingly-sceptical-yet-surprisingly-supportive best friend Patrick and Olivia Ducayen is very good as the eccentric-yet-somehow-completely-serious Aimee. Special mention has to go young Presley Allard in her role as Grace Sellers, the demon's intended victim. I haven't seen that scary of a performance of a possessed child since The Exorcist.

Sorry About the Demon | Horror Film Review | Presley Allard is Grace Sellers
I give Sorry About the Demon an excellent five out of five stars. Comedy horror is not always my favourite type of horror but I had a lot of fun with this one and will be tracking down other works by Emily Hagins.

A Shudder Exclusive, Sorry About the Demon, premiers Thursday, January 19, 2023

Trailer: Sorry About the Demon, dir. Emily Hagins


Sunday 8 January 2023

Horror Film Review: Bring Out the Fear (2021) ★★★★☆

It's early January and I'm sitting on a train, travelling through County Wicklow to Dublin. The rain is beating against the windows, the landscape outside is frigid and grey. Now is the perfect time to watch independent horror Bring Out the Fear, written and directed by Richard Waters and filmed in this very part of Ireland.

Bring Out the Fear (2021) | Directed by Richard Waters | Horror Film Review

Bring Out the Fear should be a tale of cosy, winter bliss. Rosie (Ciara Bailey) and Dan (Tad Morari) take a long, outdoor walk to reconnect with nature and with each other. The only problem? Things are far from ideal between them and in a bad case of missing-all-cues-to-the-contrary and the worst-timing-ever, Dan decides to propose to Rosie on a romantic lookout point.

It does not go as planned.

Desperate to escape their increasingly awkward situation, Dan and Rosie rush to leave the forest and soon find themselves walking in circles. Could it be that someone is watching them? Does the forest not want them to leave?

Before long, the ghosts of their relationship begin to haunt them: the idea that things might not be as idyllic as Dan likes to believe, the spectre of Rosie's infidelity, Dan's inability to outrun the embarrassment of his failed proposal.

The question is: who will survive this impossible ordeal?

Bring Out the Fear was filmed almost entirely in a seemingly infinite forest in Wicklow, Ireland. The endlessly verdant background feels ever more claustrophobic and ominous and director Waters uses this setting to maximum effect. As Dan begins to blend more and more into the foliage, Rosie is a beacon of colour in her yellow raincoat.

The film is tense from the beginning and the horrors to come are heavily foreshadowed in both the opening scenes and title. That means little though, because the viewer is still piecing together the real source of evil here long after the credits have rolled.

An allegory for the humiliation and pain of a crumbling relationship, Bring Out the Fear is well-acted throughout with both Bailey and Morari enticing the viewer to share in every cringeworthy interaction between their characters Rosie and Dan. And just when viewers think they’ve got it all worked out following that rollercoaster of a climax, the final scene causes them to reconsider everything they thought they knew.

Tad Morari is Dan and Ciara Bailey is Rosie | Bring Out the Fear 2021 | Horror Film Review
I give Bring Out the Fear an excellent four out of five stars and recommend to fans of claustrophobic folk horror. I'll be interested to see what Richard Waters brings to the Irish horror scene next.

Bring Out the Fear is out now on Apple TV and iTunes. Visit the Bring Out the Fear official page for more viewing options.

Trailer: Bring Out the Fear (2021), Dir. Richard Waters

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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