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John’s Horror Corner: The Lodge (2019), atmospheric psychological horror with a heavy dose of emotionally challenging family therapy.

June 1, 2020

MY CALL: Cold, harrowing and smartly written. Strongly recommended for those who have the stomach for emotionally challenging horror. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Lodge: Looking for more horrifying family therapy sessions, try Frailty (2001), Goodnight Mommy (2014), The Visit (2015), Get Out (2017), Us (2019), Hereditary (2918) or Midsommar (2019).

From the most casual introduction, soon-to-be stepmother Grace’s relationship with Mia and Aidan is strained and awkward, even if not in an unkind way. The kids are conflicted in seeing their mother being replaced and see Grace as the reason for this. So Grace (Riley Keough; It Comes at Night, The House Jack Built, Hold the Dark) treads lightly and does her best to get involved, and their father plays a guiding hand in their integration. Even when Grace is alone with the kids, she feels alone, alienated, dejected. But when an act of kindness finally shines through, it’s warm and welcomed and even feels like a relief from all the tension. That won’t last long…

The winter scenes are gorgeous and crisply shot, but also as bleak at the atmosphere in the house. Alone with Richard’s (Richard Armitage; Castlevania, Hannibal) kids, they lose power and find themselves stranded at the family cabin amid a snowy winter. As you’d expect, tension mounts.

Though not to such emotionally brutal degree as Hereditary (2918) or Midsommar (2019), this film presents its survivors with a challenging loss in the family (Alicia Silverstone; The Crush). Wow, that suicide scene was shocking!

Austrian co-writers and directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (The Field Guide to Evil, Goodnight Mommy) approach their third horrific endeavor together. And much as in their past films, they sow distrust and weaponize domestic dread.

This whole thing goes places I did not expect. I’m not sure how much I like its direction, but the character writing along the way makes it all worthwhile. Self-abuse, grief, paranoia and guilt are the operative themes toying with the audience as we weigh supernatural, religious or psychological explanations for what transpires.

Really, you’ll feel your heart and soul sink to the depths of your bowels as the final act unfolds. It’s a fearsome gut punch, and it is harrowing. You feel… hopeless. It’s just… sick. Not gory, not physically brutal, but sick. Yet, in reflecting on some of the harsh hands life deals out to those unprepared to cope with them, you almost understand the dreadful web that’s spun and its horrific result, even if only by understanding our own desperate frailty.

Strongly recommended for those who have the stomach for emotionally challenging horror. For a second (and also positive) appraisal, please check out Mark’s review as well.

The MFF Podcast #277: From Toy Story to Onward – Ranking All the Pixar Movies

June 1, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re ranking all the Pixar movies. We asked over thirty movie critics/lovers to rank the 22 films released since 1995, and we’re pretty sure the results are perfect. In this episode, we discuss the excellence of Wall-E, the unfairly maligned Cars franchise, and the greatness of Laika movies (it’s off-topic, but they’re great). Enjoy! Let us know your favorite Pixar movies in the comments.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: The Last Winter (2006), a dark mystical arctic horror practicing style over substance.

May 31, 2020

MY CALL: This film relies on mystique far above revelations, and operates at a rather slow but intriguing pace. If you are one to often complain about pacing and/or lack of explanations in horror movies, this is probably not for you. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Last Winter: Looking for more slowburn, creepy, Lovecraft-adjacent horror? Then go for Black Mountain Side (2014). If you want more arctic horror, check out The Thing (1982), Blood Glacier (2013), Devil’s Pass (2013), Frozen (2010) and maybe even The Grey (2011).

Arriving to join his corporate drilling team at a National Wildlife Refuge during an oddly warm Alaskan winter, Ed (Ron Perlman; Skin Trade, Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Cronos) joins Abby (Connie Britton; A Nightmare on Elm Street), Motor (Kevin Corrigan; Winter’s Tale, Hit and Run), Maxwell (Zach Gilford; The Purge: Anarchy, Devil’s Due), Elliot (Jamie Harrold), and environmentalist watchdog James Hoffman (James Le Gros; Phantasm II, Near Dark).

The rookie team member is especially curious about “the box” marking an old drilling site from a previous operation. What’s under it? It’s not long until a team member begins to mentally crack, raving about “a force” resisting them like nature might fight a disease, and soon someone is found dead… naked and frozen in the tundra… near the box. Of course, the situation continues to worsen.

People go crazy (like really crazy) and their numbers dwindle. Friends are lost and enemies become friends when survival is at stake. One hypothesis of the erratic psychological degeneration is the possible exposure to natural gases (unearthed during drilling) inducing psychoses and hallucinations.

This film was very well-made and generally well-written and acted. The design and shots of the work compound smacks of The Thing (1982). An intriguing mystery along with gorgeous photography of the Alaskan arctiscape and excellent sweeping camera work kept my attention away from the slower pacing.

With this isolated arctic horror, director Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) illustrates the perils of the remote icy wilderness with a bit of commentary on global warming. For much of the movie, we wonder if this is a Wendigo movie, a psychological thriller, or something else entirely. Only in the very end does it reveal its nature, and with very little explanation.

The general paucity of exposition will turn off many viewers. Not that everything need be explained, but here practically nothing is. This is one of those movies where not much happens (i.e., on-screen), but I like it anyway. For this reason, it pairs well with Black Mountain Side (2014) and is told in similar style.

This film relies on mystique far above revelations, and operates at a rather slow but intriguing pace. If you are one to often complain about pacing and/or lack of explanations in horror movies, this is probably not for you.

John’s Horror Corner: Patchwork (2015), a highly quirky Frankensteinian horror comedy.

May 29, 2020

MY CALL: This just wasn’t for me—not enough “effective” gore, not funny enough, not slapstick enough, not smart enough… just not enough of anything really. But it’s tone and style are easily something to be desired by many who enjoy highly quirky horror comedy. MORE MOVIES LIKE Patchwork: Looking for more movies about mad scientists surgically grafting patients together without their consent, consider The Human Centipede (2009), Frankenhooker (1990) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972). For a newer movie capturing the same desired tone, I’d suggest Bad Blood (2016).

Upon awakening after their abduction and surgery, Jennifer (Tory Stolper), Ellie (Tracey Fairaway) and Madeleine (Maria Blasucci) discover all three of their minds (and only some of their individual body parts) have been combined into a single stitchwork horror of a body; a Frankensteinian monster. And with each mind controlling her respective limbs, some cooperation must be mustered as she (or they) stumbles down corridors like a freshly animated Pinocchio; only more macabre, twitchy and zombie-like. These early locomotory scenes liken much to the stumblings of Frankenhooker (1990).

In trying to solve their shared problem (i.e., how to be reassembled and made normal and whole again), the three women’s minds have conversations “in person” like a group theatrical aside. Although it adds little to the greater story, we get to see how each of the three women spent their evening the night of their abduction. Over the course of the movie, each girl takes revenge on some of those who wronged them on their abduction night, but not against the actual abductors. As they take their revenge, it seems like this is supposed to feel brutal or intense or at the very least wildly slapstick… but if so, I’d say it failed in this measure. But I’ll give it this, this movie has a feisty personality. That impish style (and its execution) just wasn’t enough for me on its own to make this movie worthwhile for me.

The fraternity massacre was meant to be stylish, but for me it just didn’t amuse at all—I need more/better gore. But speaking of feisty, the romantic flirty scene and subsequent sex scene were probably the highlight of the movie. I feel this part best embraced the tone this movie was hoping to achieve. On the other hand, the eating scenes were disappointingly just too childishly executed for me to care.

Still other aspects brought appreciated favor to my attention. Sounds of sticky, air-coagulated blood and visuals of crudely sutured patches of skin are always a pleasure when done well. There was a charming little Muppet of an “owl-cat.” And the idiosyncratic mad scientists and green glowing liquids in laboratory glassware remind me of Re-Animator (1985), and even Bad Blood (2016).

Director Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls) tries to do a lot with this quirky little movie, but little of it really worked for me—at least, not enough for me to recommend it. The violence was too soft (with little to nothing actually transpiring directly on screen), the character writing was decent but uncompelling, the comedy never really did it for me beyond a few choice moments, and overall I think this struggled to grasp its own desired tone successfully. But, to be fair, a much more favorable review can be enjoyed in the Movies, Films & Flix podcast #267: Patchwork, Cult Classics and Unhelpful Owls. So to make a completely informed decision as to whether or not this is for you (with some spoilers), you should check out the podcast.

The MFF Podcast #276: Doctor Sleep, Magic Hats, and Mike Flanagan

May 28, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere).

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re joined by Zanandi Botes (Read her work at Cracked and Bunny Ears – It’s excellent) to discuss the excellent 2019 film Doctor Sleep. Directed by Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game, Hush, Oculus), and starring Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, this adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 sequel to The Shining, was critically adored, but it annoyingly underperformed at the box office (not cool, it’s so good). In this episode, we’re giving it the love it deserves, and discussing magic hats, eating fear, and consuming souls. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: Piranha (1978), Joe Dante’s feisty and gory little creature feature is a blast from the 70s!

May 26, 2020

MY CALL: Pretty gory and fast-paced for the 70s! This movie goes to great effort to provide a lot of effects scenes. A strong recommendation to fans of creature features and perhaps shark movies. MORE MOVIES LIKE Piranha: Looking for more piranha creature features? Then don’t miss Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), Piranha 3D (2010) or Piranha 3DD (2012). Additional fun diminutive-turned-mutant creature features include Ticks (1993) and Mosquito (1994).

The opening scenes and shots reveal a lot to the audience. Firstly, the atmospheric, misty, full moon hike sets the kind of mood that earned director Joe Dante (Burying the Ex) the right to helm The Howling (1981). Secondly, when our hikers decide to take a midnight swim in a reservoir, the revelation of the danger in the water takes quite a feisty yet still deadly menacing tone, perhaps dawning Dante’s more playful style that would be mastered for Gremlins (1984). These traits convince me I’m in for something good…

Woodsy local Paul (Bradford Dillman; Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Swarm) reluctantly teams up with missing persons investigator Maggie (Heather Menzies-Urich; Sssssss, Endangered Species) to find our recently disappeared fish-food victims from the opening scene.

Early in their investigation, the laboratory scene offers some great set design—I love a good laboratory set (e.g., The Vineyard, Bad Blood, Victor Frankenstein). Watch out for a completely unexplained, awesome Claymation fishman-homunculus skulking about behind the specimen jars of fish and mutant fish, illustrative of a history of strange genetic experiments in that fish hatchery reservoir. Maggie’s snooping reveals the control lever to drain the reservoir. Arriving and immediately in a panic, Dr. Hoak (Kevin McCarthy; Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ghoulies go to College, Dark Tower) tries to stop them, but it’s too late. They drained it all into the nearby river… along with his piranhas!

The first signs of gore include the flesh-stripped feet (with some chunky fleshy remains) of someone who dipped his feet in the river off his dock. Most gore is presented post-attack, with the attacks themselves being chaotic and too difficult to tell exactly what’s happening beyond the bloody wake of their thrashing. But the visuals of the attacks remain appealing as we see rapid cuts of fish flailing and darting at their fleshy targets squirming in the water and, in one case, swarming a sinking victim as she is eaten alive. That was a particularly cool shot given the effects limitations of the 70s.

Now with this aquatic menace released in the river, they make their way to the nearby summer resort’s lake (ran by Dick Miller; Gremlins, The Terminator, Chopping Mall) brimming with kids at summer camp and vacationers. We get a large-scale attack on the resort, but it’s nothing particularly gory at first (although, maybe gory for the 70s). If you want a full-tilt gorefest, then you want the remake/reimagining Piranha 3D (2010) or Piranha 3DD (2012). Here we have a lot of chummy water, heavily nibbled-up cadavers, and lots of screaming vacationers coming ashore (and some of them) with covered in wounds and blood.

The movie ends with some commentary on our world’s cover-up nature, distrust of the military, and hints that the ocean is the next step for our voracious piranhas.

No surprise here, but director Joe Dante’s 1978 classic remains solidly entertaining for me even today. This stands strong in its 70s gore along with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). This movie is faster paced than most 70s horror and goes to great effort to provide a lot of effects scenes. A strong recommendation to fans of creature features and perhaps shark movies.

Final Fights – Episode 10 – Mickey O’Neil vs. Horace Anderson in Snatch

May 26, 2020

Listen to the MFF Final Fights podcast on SpreakerSpotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean or Google Podcasts (or wherever you listen to podcasts)!

Please make sure to rate, review and subscribe!

The boxing match between Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt) and Horace Anderson (Scott Welch – A real professional boxer) during the finale of Snatch is a marvel of inspired editing, excellent song selection and stylish shots that make the fight seem hyper-kinetic. Director Guy Ritchie did an excellent job creating an atmosphere that feels alive and violent, and he intelligently built towards a fight with massive stakes that turn the tension to 11. It’s a badass brawl, that looks excellent, and features iconic moments (Brad Pitt in the air after an uppercut). that will linger in your memory. Enjoy!

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