2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)

In the depths of obscure cinema lay the some of the cheesiest, the cheapest, and in an objective sense, the worst among the B movie crowd. In fact, there are many examples of truly terrible knock-off films, and in that respect, this film is one of the worst examples. One of many Italian-made post-apocalyptic knock-offs that came out during the 1980’s, Sergio Martino’s genre flick is a bizarre attempt to somehow rip off Escape from New YorkMad Max and Planet of the Apes at the same time. Naturally, it failed at all of that, and scuppered whatever little potential it had.

The plot of this film is simple enough. It’s the year 2019, and human civilisation has been reduced to rubble in the aftermath of a nuclear war, and society is now ruled by the Euraks, a hybrid race that rules through fear and regularly tortures and conducts experiments on people. Meanwhile in Nevada, a mercenary named Parsifal (who I prefer to call Solid Snek) is asked by the Pan-American Confederacy to go into the ruins of Manhattan with two other men to rescue the only fertile woman left on Earth in order to repopulate mankind.

As simple and unpretentious as it is, it’s muddled and poorly written, and half the cast is pretty much vestigial in terms of the film’s lacklustre plot. Nearly every cliché you could think of is thrown into the film like badly thrown darts. Right off the bat the film opens with an obviously cheap diorama of New York, then lots of meaningless plot turns are jammed between the opening and ending. To the producers’ credit, the film at least started out in “so bad it’s comical” territory, before descending into blatant ridiculousness to the point of having completely broken all sense of immersion.

The characters aren’t great either, and in fact, the acting is quite simply atrocious. It’s worse than you can expect from most 80’s anime dubs, and it’s almost as if the actors were being paid minimum wage. Sometimes you get the occasional moment of humorously hammy acting, but the script had all the life sucked right out of it, and evidently so did the actors’ enthusiasm. I wouldn’t blame them, after all this was a project I’m sure nobody had any enthusiasm for back in the day.

Usually this is when the presentation compensates for a film’s other deficiencies, but not this time. The costumes are extremely ridiculous and seem utterly out of place, as do a lot of characters in this ill-conceived budget flick. The set pieces and special effects look so cheap that the film would have looked brand new in the 1960’s. The choreography is so noticeably awkward that it’s as though they didn’t even try, and not even the music score is exciting. In fact, sometimes the same sound effect is used throughout an entire scene, and it breaks all sense of immersion.

In short, the film was a total bust, but believe it or not, this film still has its fans. Honestly, I find it hard to say anything good about it. There’s films that are cheesy and that’s the whole point, and then there’s films that are simply badly made, and this was one of them. Probably the only cool thing about the film was the poster, and let that be a lesson. Never watch films just because the poster looked nice.

  • Score: 38%
  • Grade: E

Demons (1985)

Demons have been a fairly frequent subject in horror films, and they’re always depicted in roughly the same way, as interchangeable horror monsters but with notably more intelligence than zombies. This film isn’t too different in that regard. In fact, at times it tends to resemble a zombie film. That being said, however, it is better than the vast amount of demon-related horror films out there, and I should give it credit for being the first demon-related horror film I’ve seen that’s actually passable as a horror movie for once, and is much better than that in terms of its execution.

Set in Berlin, the film sees a university student named Cheryl, along with her friend and several other people being handed tickets from a mysterious masked man to the screening of a new film at a recently refurbished cinema. One of the attendants wears a mysterious mask that leaves her with a cut on her face after she takes it off. They watch a film that features a mask like the one they saw in the foyer, and depicts events eerily similar to what would eventually happen in the film. Sure enough, the scratched woman eventually turns into an undead, bloodthirsty demon that can infect the living into one of them. The rest are trapped and killed off and infected one by one, and the survivors are left in the unfortunate position of surviving long enough to find their way out.

The story isn’t bad. In fact, it benefits from a suspense heavy approach. My main problem with the story is the lack of explanations given. The masked man never talks in the whole film, and thus there’s no way of ascertaining why he went through the trouble of trapping a bunch of random people in a movie theatre, so you’re left to use your imagination. Also, there are a few scenes featuring four other characters that don’t become part of the main plot until later, and these scenes are put between the rest of the story, which sort of disrupts the flow.

The characters aren’t the most important thing about the film, though the acting isn’t exactly the best, at least with regards to the English dub. Don’t get me wrong, the acting could be better, but it’s not the terrible kind of cheesy. The thing that really annoys me is that the characters tend to be completely stupid, sometimes ignoring common sense. This seems to be a running trope in horror films, and sadly this film is no different.

But that’s alright. After all, the film is certainly well presented, with an atmospheric music score that sets the right tone throughout the film in the style of its time (along with a range of selected songs from various recording artists). Also, the film sports commendably visceral special effects, and it’s great that the producers opted for practical effects instead of computer generated effects. Most obviously, the film is one of those gore horror films, so if you’re not a fan of incredibly violent horror films, this probably isn’t for you. I’m usually not jolted by most horror films, but evidently most of the other horror films weren’t that good at horror.

All in all, it’s not the greatest of all horror films, but I would put it into the category of the more well-done horror films, and you simply don’t get this kind horror film anymore. Most of today’s modern shock horror films are completely fake, and we all know it. The old Italian horror films, meanwhile, are in a totally different league.

  • Score: 74%
  • Grade: C

Society (1989)

I came across a rather interesting horror flick about a year ago, one in which the premise was that the wealthy overclass literally feasted on the people below them, and I was fascinated by that idea. What other movie took the idea of class conflict and transmogrified it into a surreal, SFX-laden horror film? Alas, though the film’s ideas were solid, it’s not as spellbinding as I had hoped it would be, but it certainly wasn’t boring.

The film’s plot revolves around Bill Whitney, a high school student who’s practically got it made. He has a wealthy family in Beverly Hills, California, a girlfriend in the cheerleading squad, a Jeep Wrangler, and is likely to become class president. And yet, despite this enormous position of privilege, he is unhappy and feels out of place. His sister and parents mingle with upper class socialites, and even his girlfriend is more interested in going to parties than in his pressing concerns.

His worst fears are confirmed when his sister’s ex-boyfriend David Blanchard gives him a tape which seems to reveal his family participating in an incestuous orgy, but when tries to show the tape to his therapist, it appears to have been altered, and Blanchard turns up dead. Each second he keeps digging puts his life at risk, until eventually all is revealed to him at a formal party, and it’s not a pretty sight.

The story itself is a twisted jab at the outward soullessness of the upper class, old money types that still haunt the real world, though it’s worth noting that the film doesn’t necessarily take itself seriously, or at least not constantly. In fact, more times than not it’s a comedy of sorts. The real horror builds up until the end of the film, where the rich socialites turn out to be creatures that melt into alien creatures and suck the nutrients out of them. I might have liked for the film to go in a darker direction, but on the other hand, it’s a decent enough deconstruction of the then-popular 80’s teen flicks that were about as prevalent as Aqua Net. If you want to see a by-the-numbers teen flick being twisted, dismembered and then hung out to dry, this is probably the film for you.

My main problem is with the pacing. For a horror film, there’s an awful lot of time in which barely anything happens, though I think this is probably supposed to add to the sense of paranoia that the film relies on in. It’s a good idea, though the acting is pretty bad, and cheesy to the point of it being comical. This isn’t a rare phenomenon in horror films, particularly ones that rely on visceral SFX-driven thrills, but here I can’t help but think that it ran the risk of somehow undermining the whole message of the film by rendering the characters as stock caricatures.

The film certainly has the spirit of the opulent 80’s, complete with the synth score, but for me, the real highlight of the film is the special effects provided by Screaming Mad George, which greatly added to the bizarre nature of the film. I also like how the writers took advantage of the seemingly elastic effects to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

On the whole, it’s not as great as it perhaps could have been, but it’s not without its merits. It may have been a B-movie, but it had a kind of satirical commentary hidden beneath the layers of cheese. It’s not really for everyone, and if you’re the kind of viewer who isn’t into surrealistic gore or sadistic horror (though there isn’t much of it here), you probably won’t like it. But for the hardier cult film viewer, Society is a film for you.

  • Score: 66%
  • Grade: C

The Fly (1986)

fly_posterI did hear about this film many years ago, but I had never seen it until very recently. Needless to say it’s quite unlike any sci-fi horror film I had seen so far, with its unique premise (I say this and the very story had been filmed before in 1958) and its refreshingly visceral horror thrills.

The premise of the film revolves around Seth Brundle, an eccentric scientist working on a set of “telepods”, instant transportation devices which he claims will change the world forever. Documenting this is Veronica Quaife, a science reporter who eventually gets attached to her subject at her peril. Brundle eventually thinks that he’s perfected his experiment, but begins to display signs that he has transformed into a completely different person, and finds out that his last experiment went disastrously wrong.

I honestly thought that it was going to be the horror film that almost immediately started with Jeff Goldblum’s character becoming the fly, but that would have been much too predictable. Instead, the film seems to have taken the path of slowly establishing mood and depth of character, before eventually taking a creepy turn as the eccentric scientist slowly morphs into a savage, grotesque creature. I think this was a well-written film, with its slow, suspenseful pacing building up to a viscerally climactic end.

I think Jeff Goldblum was a good fit for the lead role, even though at times he sounded a bit robotic. His performance was a fine mix of sorts, not too much like the cackling mad scientist, not too much like a bumbling “nutty professor” type. In a way, he’s his own breed of character here. Geena Davis also made for a good supporting character, though it sometimes seems as if she ought to be the main protagonist (taking on the role more heavily towards the end).

Much like any other film made by David Cronenberg, The Fly is very much a visual film, and thus much of its success depended on how it presented itself. On the surface it looks like it would have fitted just as well on television as it did on the silver screen (by which I mean it’d look good on both). However, the real cherry on the sundae would have to be the film’s wildly liberal use of its creative special and make-up effects. Given the film’s gore horror approach (though I must say the film is rather conservative on the gore), the film is replete with such special effects, and it seems to work in the film’s favour. Of course, who could forget how well the make-up was implemented in creating the fly creature? If you’ve seen the film, I don’t think you will.

All in all, The Fly was a very good example of sci-fi horror done right. I’ll admit that it’s not without its flaws, and that there are certainly better films in the same genre, but because of its inventiveness, originality, and good writing, I think there’s a special place for this sadly underrated film.

  • Score: 84%
  • Grade: B

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

original_rocky_horror_picture_show_posterIn a way, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a good example of a cult film that garnered mainstream appeal. Largely dismissed when it was first released (because let’s face it, mainstream film critics were always morons), it quickly became a huge enough hit that people would dress up as the characters (ladies and gentlemen, the birth of cosplay as we know it), and now every year the film is shown close to Halloween, which I guess is why I’ve picked this film. I saw a more recent performance of the play this film was based on (specifically the 40th Anniversary broadcast on Sky Arts), and at that point I didn’t see the film yet, and then wanted to see it more than ever, and when I finally did see it, I liked it, even though I wasn’t entirely surprised by how unapologetically campy it is.

The film’s plot is essentially a silver screen re-enactment of the musical, narrated by a criminologist. The story sees a couple – Brad Majors and Janet Weiss – who find themselves lost in the woods one rainy evening, and stumble on a nearby manor, wherein they assume they can find a phone they can use to call for help. Discovering a cavalcade of strange people with bizarre costumes, they are greeted by Dr. Frank N. Furter, a crazy scientist who, by his own admission, is an alien transvestite from a faraway planet, and apparently he is creating a superhuman beef cake that he wants to have sex with, while simultaneously seducing both Brad and Janet, who find themselves caught in a series of bizarre, goofy horrors set to upbeat music.

The story is in equal parts a B-movie parody and a glam rock opera, and it moves at a rather frenetic, yet enjoyably upbeat pace. It’s mainly the musical numbers that move the plot forward (this literally being an on-screen translation of the original musical), and it’s a pretty effective way to bring attention to the plot, and advantage that Rocky Horror has over the plethora of cheesy sci-fi and horror movies the filmmakers lovingly satirise.

The acting is one area where your mileage may vary, mainly because the acting is very campy. If you hate musicals you might not like it, but it seems to me that the actors perform better when they’re singing rather than simply speaking. I’m probably not the only one who’ll say that Tim Curry is the best performer in the film. I prefer his character to all the others, mainly because of his outlandish and deliciously devious performance. I’m also of the opinion that Tim Curry was the best possible choice for the role of Dr. Frank N. Furter. I’ve seen the trailer for the TV reboot (which looks pretty bad), and I’m sure Laverne Cox isn’t a bad choice, but let’s face it, there’s no beating Tim Curry.

Stylistically, the film has all the ingredients of a film that serves as both a parody and a loving tribute to the Hammer Horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, a number of props and set pieces, including the Oakley Estate (which was used as the setting for The Frankenstein Place), a frequent filming location in older Hammer films. Many of the costumes instantly remind me of the often equally outlandish glam rock scene of the time, but some of the other elements, including dyed hair and ripped fishnets, remind me of the punk movement (where they found a home after the film was released). Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the actual songs, and the songs are actually quite good, though a select few are truly memorable (nobody who’s seen the film can actually forget “The Time Warp”, “Dammit Janet”, or “Sweet Transvestite”).

It’s probably not for everyone, but if you want a wild, unapologetically fun film, then The Rocky Horror Picture Show is certainly for you. It looks, feels and sounds very much like a film of its time, but amazingly enough, its bold, unabashed appeal still holds up today.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B

The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

whitewormKen Russell’s “The Lair of the White Worm” is indeed an interesting breed of film. Made in 1988, this film seems to be calling back to the horror traditions of B-movies from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Of course, this direction does come across as a bit cheesy, and it seems more like a tame vampire film without a vampire, but it’s the kind of B-movie that, though it’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, is nonetheless a playfully entertaining film, even if the actual horror is in short supply here.

The plot of the film is somewhat interesting. Near a bed and breakfast owned by two sisters, an archaeology student named Angus Flint discovers an oddly shaped skull at the ruins of a convent, and he believes the skull is connected to the legend of the Lambton Worm. The site is shortly visited by Lady Sylvia Marsh, and while various people start disappearing, the skull is stolen. With the help of neighbouring nobleman Lord James, Angus manages to find a link between the skull and an ancient cult that worshipped giant worm that lives below the Earth, and finds himself racing to save the Trent sisters from the clutches of Lady Marsh, who turns out to be a snake-like demon with plans to sacrifice them.

The film certainly matches the pace of an old-fashioned gothic horror film, beginning with a slow start and creeping toward a rather surreal and spooky finish. There’s no denying the originality on display, but just because a film has original ideas doesn’t mean that its totally effective in the execution of its ideas. The problem, as I see it, is that the film seems to revel in its kitsch a bit too much, almost as if this was being written as a comedy-horror film, but with few traces of either, and plenty of bizarre psychedelic dream scenes.

The acting isn’t too bad, and I’ve noticed that some of the films’ better performances come from a younger Peter Capaldi. I should also single out Amanda Donohoe as the film’s villain. In a way she sort of reminds me of Catherine Deneuve’s character from The Hunger, but I think she makes for a much better antagonist here, what with her subtle, serpentine demeanour. The other characters perform fairly well too, but they don’t make that much of an impact.

The special effects are quite ridiculous, and the nightmare scenes are perhaps the worst example, as they are littered with cheesy-looking special effects. I’m sure that’s basically just for the sake of abstraction, but it doesn’t work in any way, and just comes across as an accidental joke. While the nightmare scenes are a psychedelic mess, they show up infrequently, and the rest of the film looks alright, with decent production values all the way. It’s just a shame that the film sort of underperformed in terms of actual horror or humour, because I think this film could have been quite a good one. To be fair, it is actually pretty entertaining, but in many ways it fell short of what it could have been.

  • Score: 64%
  • Grade: C

Mr. Vampire (1985)

MrVampirePosterAs far as vampire-related films go, this film is definitely a rare species. Though not as compelling as others, this one is definitely more bizarre than many others, and is certainly a hilarious alternative. Apparently popular enough to spawn a line of sequels and spin-offs, and though its not the first of its kind, the film’s popularity effectively kickstarted a trend of Chinese comedy-horror films. Though it essentially plays out like a genre film, it takes its chosen genre in a creative and interesting way.

The film’s story is themed around the jiangshi – the hopping corpses in Chinese folklore that are sometimes described as vampires. In the film, a Taoist priest named Master Kau is given the task of removing the father of a wealthy businessman and rebury it. However, the exhumed body reawakens as a savage hopping corpse, threatening the safety of the other villagers, so it’s up to Master Kau and his two inept disciples to stop the bloodthirsty corpse.

When I first saw the hopping corpses I thought they were part of the comedy, until I read up about the folklore and this began to make sense. Of course, the way the hopping corpses are depicted is hilarious. The story is pretty much written much like a typical horror film, but in a very irreverent way. I saw a review where this film is compared to one of my more recent picks, A Chinese Ghost Story, where the reviewer say that Mr. Vampire is more demented by comparison, and that would certainly be accurate. The story is a bit muddled, but it’s mainly action-driven, with a blend of slapstick humour and martial arts, and its packaged neatly into a fast-paced film.

Right off the bat, the characters come across as goofy, but then, I think I ought to blame the badly translated subtitles, some of which were hilarious anyway. The acting is already, and the performances are suitably camp, which kind of works for this film for some reason. From what I can tell, the actors weren’t necessarily trying to be serious, and that’s the point. It’s not necessarily a serious horror film, in fact it’s irreverent tone is what makes this film so enjoyable in the first place.

The only thing I criticise would be the special effects, which look pretty cheap, or maybe it aged badly, or maybe its quality I’ve seen the film at (note to self, I should stop using low-quality videos online for too long). In a way, the special effects sort of add to the comedy, but if you’re a fan of the frenetic craziness of Hong Kong action films, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film’s ably choreographed action scenes, which are very typical of this kind of film. All in all, I’m not as much of a fanatic about this film as others are, I did enjoy the film, if mainly because of its silly take on vampire horror, and the charmingly irreverent way in which this unique approach was executed.

  • Score: 69%
  • Grade: C

The Witches (1966)

witchesThe thing about older horror movies, especially those from as far back as fifty years ago, is that they rarely if ever hold up, and are mostly relegated to the realm of the camp, accidentally comical B-movies. If nothing else, this film is a textbook example of a typical Hammer horror film from after the studio’s prime, and it’s about as bland as it can get in a cheesy horror film with little actual horror.

The film’s story revolves around a British school teacher who at the start of the film is working in Africa as a missionary. During a rebellion led by witch doctors, she suffers a nervous breakdown after being exposed to witchcraft. After recovering back home in England, she takes a teaching job in a small country town, only to find out that the town is home to a coven of witches who plan to sacrifice a local girl for their ritual.

I’m not exactly a fan of occult horror films, mainly because the point of those films is to make anything to do with the occult seem scary, when you know it’s not. If anything, these films tend to be tedious, boring, cheesy, or a combination of all three. From my experience, they typically have a slow pace, and this film is definitely no exception. In this film, these clichés make it practically boring, coupled with its slow pace and meandering plot.

The premise itself isn’t entirely bad, but its boring, and the characters don’t exactly help. They seem a lot like stock characters, or at least characters that are very typical of the kind of film we’re looking at. The performances were certainly lackluster, bereft of much of the qualities that make for a convincing performance. I found it rather difficult to comment on the script, as I often do, but it certainly seems as if they didn’t try very hard on this one, especially given the hackneyed, unentertaining witchcraft scenes.

The production values are certainly very typical of a mid-60’s Hammer Horror film, and as one might expect, it comes across as rather dated, but not in the endearing way. In fact, it’s the kind of film that looks like it wasn’t much when it was new, perhaps valued by the producers only as a star vehicle and then quickly forgotten by all except die-hard Hammer junkies and fans of Joan Fontaine.

The special effects aren’t that great, resembling basically the kind of standard fare that now looks comical. At least one can safely say they got a few laughs out of it, because there are certainly no scares to be found. That’s the very odd thing about these kinds of horror films, they age very quickly and are quickly forgotten about, probably because the vast majority of them weren’t great to begin with. The same is true with this rather mediocre film, which marinated in its clichés and did nothing to innovate in a genre that clearly needed it, and that perhaps is the film’s most egregious failure.

  • Score: 56%
  • Grade: D

Mo (1983)

600full-the-boxer's-omen-posterI don’t quite know what to make of this film, which I must say is more than meets the eye. It’s more like an action movie than a straight-up horror film, and its certainly an interesting and abstract specimen. Apparently the film has a reputation for being one of the more bizarre films to be produced by the Shaw brothers, and in many ways it lives up to that reputation. However, I felt kind of flustered by the film’s direction and inconsistent pacing, and ultimately the film was a bit too scattershot for it to be a truly effective horror film.

The film revolves around the quest of a boxer seeking to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of a corrupt boxer, and then gets caught up in an intricate web of religion and magic. I’ve heard that this is a follow-up to another Shaw brothers film called Bewitched, but I haven’t really found much corroborating information. It also appears to be the kind of film that’s so bizarre that reading into it its abstraction is a task on its own.

The film opens much like a revenge film, but then it turns into a horror film, and turns from that into a supernatural adventure film. The first problem right away is the film’s inconsistency. The plot was actually quite decent, but it suffered from sloppy pacing, and inconsistent writing. There’s a certain level of craziness I’m willing to tolerate before I start to think “dude, this is making absolutely no sense”.

What strikes me is the fact that the producers apparently couldn’t decide whether they were making a horror film or an action/adventure film, and so they ultimately tried for a film that was both, but without integrating the two seemingly disparate genres in an effective or even cohesive fashion. Added to that is the characters. Thankfully the film came with subtitles that, from the looks of it, were decently translated (not that I’m any authority on translating from foreign languages), but the characters weren’t exactly gripping, and the acting, well, let’s just say that’s one of the reasons why the film tends to be more of an accidental comedy. The other reason would be the number of insane plot twists and supernatural special effects.

The film is loaded with amusing special effects that are put to good use in depicting some of the magical creatures in the film. Sadly, the fact that they often resemble figures from a Ray Harryhausen film is a source of accidental humour, and seems to reinforce the impression of an abstract film with no real direction. The sad part is that it could have worked, and I can’t help but think that they should have pitched this as a comedy film, or at least a less than serious horror film. It certainly wasn’t very convincing as a horror film, and not much more convincing as an action film. Don’t get me wrong, it is entertaining, but for the wrong reasons.

  • Score: 63%
  • Grade: C

The Witch (2015)

The_Witch_posterNowadays, the vast majority of horror films are so mind-numbingly repetitive that you need only look at the trailer in order to make an educated guess on what you can expect – bad writing, worse acting, and cheap gore thrills, sometimes rationalised with the phony “found footage” premise. While there are only a few exceptions to the rule, thankfully this film sets a very good example, with its eerie reminiscence of old folklore, and its skillful utilising of familiar concepts of witchcraft. The result is a very engaging, atmospheric, and certainly a very intelligent horror film that is leagues above its immediate peers, none of which can hope to match the level of mystery conveyed here.

Subtitled “A New-England Folktale” and set in the year 1630, the film’s story follows a family of devout Puritan Christians in New England, who are banished from their plantation and live in exile in a remote plot of land near a vast and ominous forest. Whilst they are living there, a series of disturbing events begin to befall the family, including the livestock becoming aggressive and the deaths of some of the children. Throughout the film, the family’s teenage daughter Thomasin is accused of witchcraft, a charge she adamantly denies, but one thing is absolutely certain. Amidst the disturbing series of events, the family is torn about by paranoia, as they find their faith, love and loyalty tested.

What stands out right away is incredible amount of realism. The film is essentially based on real life accounts of witchcraft at the time, along with varying folktales. Indeed, it’s as if the producers actually did the research, and made wrote the film in a manner so as to suit the context of the film’s setting. Rather than depicting the family as brainless zealots, the film shows them in a more nuanced light. On the one hand, the characters as depicted as honest Christians responding to what they would have thought was witchcraft in the only way they knew how (back in the 17th century, the way people treated witches would have been considered rational), but on the other hand, the film depicts the way in which this concern inevitably manifests, and in that regard, the film paints a realistic, objective picture of its subject matter, and the tale it tells is very engaging.

The characters certainly echo this realistic direction, with the dialogue closely matching the kind of scripture-quoting puritans that would have have reacted in the way that they do in this film. The acting in general is very much worthy of a standing ovation, with Ralph Ineson’s performance as the well-meaning but easily irritated head of the household. The characters were very convincing throughout, and I feel that the actors genuinely did a good job of conveying the horror that witchcraft might have represented to the characters living in the time the film was set.

The film also conveys the mood of gloomy, hopeless paranoia through its visuals. Drab, dreary colours dominate the film, and this is as much to do with realism as it is to do with creating a visually compelling display that befitted the film’s atmosphere of silent terror. The forest itself (a location near Kiosk, Ontario) makes for a stunning backdrop for the film, perfectly embodying the unknown, and the dangers that lurk within. I’m half-tempted to call this a gothic film, but that would be jumping the gun a little. The film’s brand of horror does not rely on cheap, immediate visual scares, but rather on a subtle, slowly building atmosphere of madness that eventually reaches its chilling climax.

Overall, if you’re getting tired of the glut of virtually identical horror films swamping the market, you might want to consider this film, which has real substance and character compared to its immediate peers. Considering this is the debut for Robert Eggers, I have high hopes that he will continue making films, especially considering that he wants to write and direct a remake of Nosferatu. Given how well this film did, I would certainly look forward to that planned Nosferatu remake.

  • Score: 81%
  • Grade: B