Archive for December, 2014

Hayley’s Top 10 Genre Films of 2014.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals, Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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It’s that time of year again to reflect on which films struck a chord and made a lasting impression. For me the genre has continued to impress throughout 2014 offering up a variety of different contenders to select from. There’s been psychological scares and strange shocks making 2014 a real interesting year for horror. The films this year have dared to be more experimental taking our beloved genre in whole new directions and there have been some impressive performances all round. You may notice that there’s been a bit of a Australian and Canadian invasion this year as both countries have taken the genre by storm. The choices on this list will evidently be subjective so please comment if you agree or disagree with my picks. Without further ado, here is my highly recommended horror of 2014:

 10. The ABC’s of Death 2 (2014)

Directed By Various

Country: USA, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Japan.

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The ABC’s of Death 2 surprisingly defied expectations, greatly improving on the 2013 original anthology. With a clearer direction this time around, the chosen 26 directors each created compelling and strong segments that went from being creative to grotesque to darkly humoured. The ABC’s of Death 2 is guaranteed to have something to please horror fans. Stand out segments include Julian Barratt’s comical B is for Badger, Larry Fesenden’s Halloween-esque N is for Nexus, Juan Martinez draw-dropping S is for Split and Jerome Stable’s brutal V is for Vacation. The ABC’s of Death 2 is one of the strongest anthology films of recent years.

Read my full review here. 

9. Stage Fright (2014)

Directed By Jerome Stable.

Country: Canada

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Stage Fright cleverly combines the slasher film with the musical movie in this twisted homage that screams Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Friday the 13th. After the brutal death of her Broadway star mother ten years ago, Camilla Swanson auditions for the role she made famous in the revival of the summer camp production of The Haunting of the Opera. Whether the curtain will rise on opening night is another matter as a masked maniac takes to the blade bumping off the cheerfully camp cast and crew one by one. Stage Fright has the makings of a cult musical with its genre hybridity and its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Allie MacDonald gives a star performance alongside Meat Loaf and Minnie Driver. There’s some catchy and well crafted musical numbers from a range of genres as well as an Iron Maiden-esque killer! Stage Fright is a lot of fun while incorporating a dark tone and supplying plenty of gore!

Read my full review here.

8. Perfect Sisters (2014)

Directed By Stanley M. Brooks

Country: Canada

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Abigail Breslin gives the performance of the year in Stanley M. Brooks’s true crime thriller surrounding teenage sisters who callously murdered their alcoholic, deadbeat mother in the bathtub in 2003. Based on the case known as ‘The murder of Linda Anderesen’Perfect Sisters draws the audience into a dark and depressing place that carefully depicts how two young girls are driven to murder and their downward spiral in the aftermath. Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley are two actresses to keep an eye out for as they deliver powerhouse performances and depict a convincing sisterly bond when playing the notorious Andersen sisters. Perfect Sisters provides an insight into the early days of the internet and the dark side of being able to find anything online. Exceedingly grim in tone and utterly compelling, Perfect Sisters will leave you captivated until the devastating end.

Read my full review here.

7. Pieces of Talent (2014)

Directed By Joe Shauffer

Country: USA

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Pieces of Talent came as one of the most exceptional genre indie flicks of the year. In concept it’s something us hardened horror fans have seen all before but it needs to be commended for how it takes a traditional psycho killer storyline and does something completely experimental with it which works especially well. Pieces of Talent doesn’t hold back on the brutality as it tells the tale of an aspiring actress named Charlotte played by Kristi Ray who’s down on her luck. Stuck in a dead end job with far greater dreams, things appear to turn around for her when she develops a wonderful friendship with amateur filmmaker David (played by Writer David Long). David is one deranged director who offers Charlotte an opportunity to star in his latest independent film. David expects his actors to take method acting to a whole other level leaving Charlotte with more than she ever bargained for. Horrific and arty Pieces of Talent is one unusual meta film that deserves to be seen by everyone who likes their horror brutal and bloody made by filmmakers who are willing to take risks, offering up something much more diverse.

You can now see the movie for free on the official website: http://piecesoftalent.com/amissingpiece/

Read my full review from Love Horror.

6. Tusk (2014)

Directed By Kevin Smith

Country: USA. 

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Tusk is a movie that’s difficult to forget once viewed. It creates an unexplainable strange feeling that leaves a lasting impression. A podcast host named Wallace (played by Justin Long) visits Canada to interview the latest internet sensation the Kill Bill Kid. Upon his arrival he finds himself at the funeral of his interview opportunity, but little does he know something far more sinister and extraordinary awaits him. Answering an ambiguous letter he spots at a convenience store, Wallace embarks on a journey that leads him to an isolated mansion inhabited by the elderly Howard Howe (Michael Parks). After being drugged, the maniacal Howe plans to perform some amateur surgery on Wallace in order to transform him into a Walrus! Tusk is probably one of the more bizarre films seen this year particularly from a big name director mostly known for his successful comedies. Tusk combines dark humour with twisted set pieces and a surprising emotional impact creating a disturbing cinematic experience where you won’t know whether to laugh or be horrified.

Read my full review here.

5. The Canal

Directed By Ivan Kavanagh 

Country: Ireland

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Forget mainstream haunting films such as Insidious or The Conjuring; look no further than this Irish independent chiller. The Canal delivers a classic old school ghost story that creeps under the skin. Thought-provoking and incredibly terrifying The Canal depicts the harrowing ordeal of a single father following the mysterious murder of his adulterous wife. Traumatized film archivist David played powerfully by Rupert Evans, keeps the audience with him for the entire time as he comes to terms with all consuming grief while suspecting that he’s being haunted by the former sinister inhabitants in his house. There’s a fantastic supporting role from Steve Oram as the suspicious police detective and Callum Heath who plays David’s young son Billy is the most adorable child actor in any horror film. The relationship between father and son and naturalistic chemistry guarantees we become invested as the film plays out. The Canal keeps up intrigue making the plot twists even more gut-wrenching as they unfold. Ivan Kavanagh achieves a great deal on a low budget that it’s hard to believe the film wasn’t made with a lot more money than it was. The Canal is an unforgettable atmospheric piece.

Read my full review here.

4. Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla (2013)

Directed By Stuart Simpson

Country: Australia

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There’s something about ice cream and horror that fits together nicely from the Cornetto trilogy to 2011’s Some Guy Who Kills People, and this Australian offering is no exception. Stuart Simpson’s compelling, unconventional feature is a strong character study of an introverted ice cream van driver who develops an intense and unhealthy obsession with a cheesy Australian soap actress. Warren Thompson, played by the phenomenal Glenn Maynard is a man on the edge. He faces daily abuse from the local thug and struggles to come to terms with the accidental death of his pet cat.  His only solace comes in the form of soap opera Round the Block which he watches religiously but how long will it take before poor Warren snaps?! Maynard whole heartedly carries the film in a heartbreaking and unforgettable performance. Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla provides an insight into the real horror of humanity and blurs the lines between reality and fantasy coming in as one of the year’s most captivating films.

Read my full review here.

3. The Babadook

Directed By Jennifer Kent

Country: Australia

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The Babadook is arguably the most hyped up film of 2014 and it absolutely deserves the praise it receives. It isn’t quite what it seems which is completely why everybody can’t stop talking about it. Its title of ‘Scariest Movie of the Year’ is absolutely justified as while initially it may not have a significant impact, its after viewing when you sit and think about it, it crawls under the skin and infiltrates the darkest corner of your mind. It’s an effective psychological horror film that keeps up a sense of dread as it focuses on a widowed single mother unable to cope with the premature death of her husband and struggling to raise her increasingly difficult young son born on the night of the fateful accident that claimed her husband’s life. One evening Amelia (played by the outstanding Essie Davis) reads an ambiguous bedtime story to son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) called Mister Babadook. The book’s origins are unknown but what follows is a series of nightmare fuel as a dark fantasy turns into reality…or does it? Cleverly The Babadook allows for interpretation as it acts as a metaphor for mental illness and bereavement. Essie Davis delivers one of the best performances witnessed all year while young Noah Wiseman proves to be a dynamic young actor as troubled Samuel. Beyond disturbing, The Babadook is a must-see for 2014. Jennifer Kent’s feature debut is no doubt a future classic and really breaks the barriers in horror cinema for female filmmakers to come.

Keep telling yourself: There’s no such thing as The Babadook…dook…dook!

Read my full review here.

2. The Editor

Directed By Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy

Country: Canada

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The Editor was one of the most popular films that toured the festival circuit this year. The latest film from Canadian film-collective Astron-6, makers of crazy, 80’s action throwback Manborg is an affectionate homage to the Italian giallo sub-genre. The Editor doesn’t require its audience to have an extensive knowledge of giallo in order to get something out of it as it maintains to be downright entertaining throughout. Its hands down this year’s most visually stylish film with its deep, intense lighting and perfectly framed shots of classic giallo iconography. The Editor tells the tale of famed editor Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) who becomes embroiled in a number of violent murders. What follows is a series of crazy events that’ll blow your mind! Its an appreciation of an era of horror that reigned from the 1960’s-1980’s and goes all out to capture the tone of those types of films particularly with its Goblin inspired soundtrack. Along the way we meet an aray of colourful characters performed outstandingly by the likes of Paz de la Huerta, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Laurence R. Harvey, Udo Kier and Tristan Risk. The Editor isn’t afraid to push the boundaries and has fun with what it does, it’s rip-roaringly funny with its intentional dubbing and hilarious one liners. Astron-6 share a unique sense of humour and there is no one out there quite like them. The Editor is one film I could most certainly watch over and over again, preferably joined by a glass of Italian red to fully get into the spirit!

1. Spring (2014)

Directed By Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson

Country: USA

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Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s second feature, Spring proves how impressive this directorial duo have become. Following the success of 2012’s Resolution, Moorhead and Benson continue to explore in-depth human relationships in this romantic monster movie that incorporates its own mythology. When Evan tragically loses his mother to cancer he makes a life altering decision and travels to Italy for some much needed soul searching. However he gets more than he bargained for when he is captivated by a beautiful and enigmatic woman named Louise. The two embark on a passionate relationship that at the same time enthrals and frightens them both. Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker have an undeniable on-screen chemistry as their characters experience the mysterious early stages of a new relationship. What’s wonderful about Spring is that it takes its time to develop its two leading characters allowing us to get invested in them. It’s never clear cut which direction the film will take which keeps us mesmerized and unable to take our eyes off the screen, a credit to Benson’s screenplay. Moorhead’s cinematography is breath-taking and really makes use of the spectacular locations. These two are some of the most interesting filmmakers of recent years as they don’t play by the rules and create something totally unique, placing their individual mark on the genre. They do something different and do it exceptionally well. Spring is my top pick of 2014 as it’s the most well written, thought-provoking and beautiful film that’s emerged from the genre this year.

Read my full review here.

Honourable Mentions: Housebound (2014), New Zealand, What We Do In The Shadows (2014), New Zealand, The Sacrament (2013), USA and The Guest (2014), USA. 

Head over here for podcasts and articles from my collaborative project Ghostface Girls and check out our joint top 5 genre films of the year video:

Thank you for reading. I’d like to wish my fangtastic readers a spooktacular Christmas and New Year. Let’s hope 2015 has such sights to show us after a phenomenal 2014!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

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Perfect Sisters (2014) Review.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS**

Based on a True Story.

Perfect Sisters is a harrowing depiction of an infamous Canadian crime where two teenage sisters plotted and succeeded to murder their alcoholic mother in the bathtub in 2003. Adapted from Bob Mitchell’s book Class Project: How to Kill a Mother, director Stanely M. Brooks captures a grim outlook on one of the most notorious young murder crimes of the past decade.

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Sandra and Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Andersen have always stuck together. For teenage girls they have a succession of problems to deal with outside of the superficial world of high school. Their mother Linda is an alcoholic and fails to hold down every job she has. On top of that they have seen a number of abusive boyfriends come and go and have to continually shield their younger brother from the psychological and physical damage that erupts within their family. When Linda begins a relationship with another unsavoury partner who sexually assaults younger daughter Beth and violently hits their little brother as well as a mountain of financial problems, the girls decide enough is enough and convince themselves their lives would be better without their mother in it.

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Two phenomenal young actresses play the broken sisters who resort to drastic measures in order to improve their lives. Abigail Breslin shone through almost ten years ago with her breakout role in indie family comedy/drama Little Miss Sunshine (2006); now aged eighteen she continues to develop into a strong actress delivering a powerhouse performance as the tortured teenager forced to grow up way before her time. She plays Sandra with complexity, she’s the child who takes responsibility for her incompetent mother, having to keep her head together for the sake of her siblings while at the same time striving for popularity amongst her peers and resorting to telling extraordinary stories for attention. She plays Sandra’s downward spiral devastatingly in one of the best performances of the year. British actress Georgie Henley compliments Breslin perfectly as younger sister Beth. Known for her role in fantasy franchise The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-2010), her character in this film is a complete contrast from anything she’s previously done. Henley depicts Beth as malicious and conniving but underneath the dyed black hair and gothic clothing she is a vulnerable little girl trying to survive through life.

Breslin and Henley’s layered performances drive the film and convince us of their sisterly bond. They share a believable chemistry that keeps us compelled throughout, this is a credit to writers Fab Filippo and Adam Till. Within their screenplay they have created well developed characters that leads us to garner both empathy and disdain for them. What we have are two distant young girls who display sociopathic tendencies following a rough upbringing.

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Justice has certainly been done in adapting the case into a film context as best as it possibly can; the names used in the film and in the actual documentation of the case have been changed as the girls identities were protected as they were both minors at the time of their trial. We can’t know for sure how things would have happened but everything that plays out in the film feels very real bringing in a striking and emotional impact. It doesn’t feel exploitative my any means, what Perfect Sisters does is provide an insight into why this awful crime took place without glamorizing it.

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Mira Sorvino plays the mother Linda, powerfully. She is a useless and out of control figure that doesn’t place her children’t best interests first and makes continuous empty promises. She relies on men to provide for her financially despite the damage it causes to all three of her offspring. Her character is incredibly pathetic, constantly feeling sorry for herself and expecting others to clean up her messes. She runs away from her problems rather than face them which is one of the first things we learn about her. Fantasy sequences are incorporated to show the ideal mother figure bringing in a melancholy tone when the reality of the situation hits. The dynamic at play is depressing and a picture of frustration is built up well leading to an understanding of why these young girls felt compelled to commit such a callous crime.

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The Andersen sisters also involved two friends in their plot. What started as a playful, hypothetical situation of ‘How to kill Mom’ transforms into something much darker as their peers get far more than they bargained for. Its very twisted as we see the development from the grim situation that the girls live in, the plot and murder and the aftermath and trial. The rise of the internet plays a heavy part especially depicting the days before the social media explosion but still reminds us that you can find out how to do anything online and how scary that has rapidly developed in the years since. As a youth drama film its mostly reminiscent of Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen (2003) with the out of control teenagers aspect and general feel.

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Perfect Sisters is one of this years most disturbing thrillers. Its tastefully shot however incorporates a grotty look and tone. Layered, utterly heartbreaking and chilling, Perfect Sisters is a truly engaging crime drama and coming-of-age film.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Stage Fright (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

A camping slasher that’s also a musical happens to be right up my street. This enjoyable genre hybrid that played at FrightFest 2014 is what happens when you combine Sleepaway Camp with Glee adding a splash of The Phantom of the Opera into the mix. Much like how Astron-6’s The Editor delivers an affectionate parody and homage to the giallo sub-genre, Stage Fright sends up the musical movie and parallel’s it with the slasher, creating something different in its own way. Seeing more intelligent horror parodies this year is a breath of fresh air, made by people who appreciate the genre; a far cry from the toilet humoured Scary Movie type spoofs that have emerged from the Hollywood Machine during the last decade or so.

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Stage Fright goes straight for the jugular with a surprising opening sequence that gives horror fans exactly what they want, echoing Scream. The plot centres on Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald), a tortured young woman haunted by the brutal murder of her Broadway star mother. Now working in a kitchen at a stage school summer camp, Camilla breaks the rules and auditions for the revival of the musical production that shot her mother to fame ten years prior. The head of the camp is played by Meat Loaf, a former Broadway producer named Roger who ruthlessly uses Camilla as an avenue for his own showbiz gain. Since the death of the talented Kylie Swanson, cut down in her prime, Camilla and brother Buddy (Douglas Smith) have been under Roger’s care.

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History begins to repeat itself when cast members of the fantastically titled kabuki version of The Haunting of the Opera are slaughtered one by one. Its a wonder they even manage to raise the curtain on opening night! Its a tale of mystery, murder and musicals as Camilla proves she has what it takes to become centre stage!

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Judging by several reviews of Stage Fright, it appears critics haven’t been too kind toward the film as understandably it is an acquired taste. Its not the The Rocky Horror Picture Show that gravitates its appeal toward cult/horror audiences with its strangeness but also it struggles to attract a more commercial audience because of its graphic violence. It has several upbeat numbers, an Andrew Lloyd Webber style score and some 80’s heavy metal sounding songs making it a somewhat experimental piece. There are a few teething problems with its pacing, leaving the majority of the kills nearer the end. The extended sub-plot of Camilla feeling pressured into degrading herself for the slimy amateur director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz) also takes up too much of the run-time. The callous Artie, plays Camilla and her rival, spoilt brat Liz Silver (Melanie Leishman) against each other for the opportunity of bagging the leading role that shows Uranowitz completely relishing his villainous part.

Stage Fright does gradually build up but doesn’t quite manage to balance both its genres equally. The majority of the first act focuses on the musical aspect diverting away from the jaw dropping slasher moment that’s offered at the beginning. That said, when the conventional masked killer slays his victims they are some of the most inspired and creative kills in a film of this kind. The gore compliments the retro 80’s slasher aesthetic. It unashamedly homages classic horror films from Carrie to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre providing nice little nods to some of horror’s most iconic films.

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Allie MacDonald is sensational, elegant and stunning as Camilla. She most definitely has the makings of a future starlet. Camilla sings a selection of beautiful numbers including ‘Alfonso’, this production’s ‘All I Ask of You’ in concept and ‘The Audition’.  Contrasting is the killer’s hard rock medley of Iron Maiden sounding tracks that perfectly suit the masked maniac, who’s construction is of a classic slasher villain with a simple eerie mask, reminiscent of the KISS look and a black cloak.

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The big cast number ‘We’re Here’ is side-splittingly funny as it pokes fun at wannabe stage school kids and pulls up every stereotype imaginable, making a comment on bullying and sexuality. Thomas Alderson’s openly gay stage manager David Martin is wonderful in a comical supporting role along with Ephraim Ellis’s ‘gay but not in that way’ character Sam Brownstein. There’s an interesting dynamic at play through the conflict their characters share. Stage Fright also exposes the darker side of amateur theatre, the ruthlessness and entitlement these possible rising stars will strive for in order to climb to the top which makes it the ideal subject for the horror metaphor treatment. Its meta-narrative of a play within a film is cleverly orchestrated with having the plays events spill into the film’s world.

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Over the course of the film, Stage Fright supplies the recognizable tropes and red herrings a slasher movie can offer, making it a joy to watch. There’s also plenty of twists and turns in store. While it might be overly ambitious in taking on two usually separate genres and moulding them into one, something about it just works well. Incredibly clever, emotional, tongue-in-cheek and full of fun, Stage Fright stands out on its own amongst the horror of 2014. Director Jerome Stable (‘V’ is for VacationThe ABC’s of Death 2) pays compliment to his influences and makes Stage Fright something totally offbeat. I most certainly love it for that.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

The Babadook (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Helmed as the scariest film of 2014, The Babadook was certainly worth a look to see if its hype is to be believed. Director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin has made no secret of his praise for Jennifer Kent’s feature debut claiming that it will ‘scare the hell out of you’, which is certainly no understatement. Australian Horror Cinema is currently in a really strong place with a range of eclectic films that celebrate different angles of the genre, this year Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and The Babadook have proven to be genre defying films of a high standard.

With a female director at the reigns The Babadook has received a great deal of attention, demonstrating how women can make frightening films just as well as men. There’s Friedkin, Kubrick, Carpenter and now Kent. The film has come as a breakthrough point in terms of a female horror filmmaker gaining deserved recognition for creating a genuinely scary horror film. Its completely refreshing that The Babadook has achieved a wider cinematic release, its a very brave film in many ways and while it may lead you to believe its a simplistic haunting film its far more than just that. On the surface seeing The Babadook in the cinema might mislead audiences into thinking their getting another Insidious or Annabelle. But The Babadook defies expectation in a hard-hitting way, it takes it time to develop the characters, keeps the audience invested throughout and takes an intelligent approach to the ‘supernatural’ sub-genre. Even its title is unique, setting it apart from everything else within the genre.

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Centering on a widowed single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) struggling to bring up her agitated six year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), The Babadook essentially is a two hander depicting a family dealing with the turmoil of grief. In an outstanding performance Essie Davis portrays Amelia as a woman who’s had her whole life ripped apart following her husband’s death in a horrific accident which took place on the night Samuel was born. She’s distant from those around her and fails to discipline a mischievous Samuel who on the outset appears to be quite a disturbed child, playing with dangerous weapons as well as an unhealthy obsession with death. The relationship between mother and son is grimly realistic viewing and highly compelling. While reading a bed time story one night Amelia allows Samuel to choose a book and so they begin to read an obscurely drawn and cryptic story named ‘Mister Babadook’.  As Amelia reads to Samuel the book becomes gradually more sinister as the pages turn. Both mother and son are certainly unsettled, cleverly emphasizing that parents can be afraid of things just as much as children. As the film unfolds and Amelia and Samuel’s obsession deepens, it leaves us to wonder who is this mysterious Babadook? and what does he want? and where did this horrible, horrible book come from?

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Jennifer Kent’s characters are written authentically. Amelia is portrayed as a broken woman, there’s nothing glamorous about her in hows she’s constructed. She’s clearly vulnerable, beaten down by life and just feels very real. Noah Wiseman for a young actor plays Samuel powerfully, the notion of him being this troubled young boy comes across believably. A strong dynamic is created between the two leads.

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The purpose of this review is not to reveal too much as its a film that needs to be viewed completely blind in order to experience its full impact. There are several spoilers online as fans and film reviewers alike are developing their own theories regarding the film’s true meaning and interpretations of the ending. It unexpectedly gets under the skin and is incredibly powerful in terms of its story, portrayals and direction. For me, its not the idea of The Babadook itself that gets under my skin and has kept me awake late at night thinking about it, its actually the gut-wrenching emotional impact the film delivers and its bleakness in terms of its tone. Dealing with hard-hitting subjects such as mental illness and grief is magnificently depicted and is the true horror of the piece. There’s also some beautiful homages to the imagery from the silent film era that compliments its creepy mood. Packed with high octane creepy moments and a disturbing concept at play, The Babadook wholeheartedly deserves every ounce of adoration its received and will continue to receive. It will frighten you in a unique and different way.

Sincerely tremendous, believe the hype, The Babadook is a must-see film of 2014!

Available in selected theatres and On Demandthebabadook.com

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

The Guest (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following the less than favourable review of You’re Next earlier this year, it may come as surprising that I gave Adam Wingard another chance. The main motivation for checking out this year’s Film4’s FrightFest’s opening film was due to the soundtrack being played at the 2014 Celluloid Screams Horror Festival prior to the screenings which piqued my interest. A couple of tracks including ‘Because I Love You (The Postman Song)’ by Stevie B and ‘Anthonio (Berlin Breakdown Version)’ by Annie were featured as part of our Ghostface Girls coverage. After discovering the songs were from the film’s soundtrack it was finally nice to have some context provided and also the wonderment of what kind of film would these songs be included in. One thing for certain was that if The Guest didn’t meet the high expectations that the horror community had suggested then at least the music would be an enjoyable factor. The synth powered soundtrack cements The Guest’s Drive (2011) comparisons that borders on homage and parody.

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Its all too good to be true when a young soldier from the US army turns up uninvited at the door of the Peterson family. Mourning the loss of their own son Caleb in the war, David Collins fills the void he left behind and gets his feet firmly under the table claiming to be a friend of their deceased son. With the vulnerable and grieving Peterson family welcoming him in, David begins to show there’s more to him than meets the eye. The Guest ramps up its suspense through the majority of the film, leaving us question who is David or more appropriately, what is he? As the Peterson’s young daughter’s Anna’s suspicions grow will the family realize how dangerous their charming new guest really is?

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The Guest is Wingard’s love letter to 80’s action movies and thrillers such as The Terminator. Its a hybrid of genres that somehow work well together creating a mind-blowing movie experience whether you love it or hate it. Before it starts to sound like I’m wholeheartedly praising the film it must be said that it isn’t without its flaws. Some of the editing is shoddy with abrupt cuts used to end scenes without fully developing them. The opening scene was slightly problematic  as it begins with the mysterious David descending on the Peterson household without establishing them as a family unit. It places us straight into the action without allowing much introduction which would have created a stronger bond and empathy between audience and characters.

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The film’s strength lies in its high octane tension and superb performances from the cast. British actor Dan Stevens (Downton Abby) portrays David with charm, enigma and a sense of danger bringing in a highly entertaining performance. Maika Monroe is equally as phenomenal as Anna, the only family member not completely fooled by David and suspects there’s something much darker at play with him. Monroe keeps us gripped throughout, she portrays Anna as a smart and sophisticated young woman who will do whatever it takes to protect her family. The dynamic between David and the Peterson’s youngest son Luke (Brendan Meyer) creates some intense and powerful moments as Luke becomes embroiled in David’s unorthodox methods of dealing with high school bullies. Meyer delivers a strong performance as the brooding teenager. Sheila Kelley is the vulnerable and naive mother Laura. Consumed by grief for the loss of her eldest son, there’s a sense of longing about her making her one of the more susceptible characters to David’s charming tactics. Leland Orser plays the father Spencer, a broken man who loses his authoritative grip on his household. In an interesting shift of dynamics Spencer is not the typical patriarchal type, he is apathetic and accepting of David from the beginning. Leland Orser is certainly an actor to keep an eye out for. His performance is naturalistic and believable, however his range as an actor can be seen in Faults (2014) a deeply psychological thriller that also toured the festival circuit this year.

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Simon Barrett’s (Wingard’s collaborative parter) script is unapologetic. Together with Wingard they have created the movie they wanted to make, a throwback to the genres they love. While it may not be to everyone’s tastes, particularly with the shift in tone from traditional, compelling thriller to all out action packed violence and the ambiguity that surrounds David’s experience in the US army, The Guest remains a hell of a thrill ride that keeps us on the edge of our seats. However, toward the end there are moments that disappoint and seem unnecessary to the story but as previously stated its affected by the shift in tone and the unapologetic nature of Wingard’s direction of where he intended the film to go. While both The Guest and You’re Next deal with broken family dynamics and mindless violence, The Guest ranks high above Barrett and Wingard’s take on the slasher sub-genre with more stylish cinematography, stronger performances and humanized characters. Between the two films there is a clear trend of a slow, intense build up that results in all out carnage. The Guest is a film that’s unique in its own way. Theoretically it has something for everyone with its twist on a number of genres. The movie’s last line (which I won’t reveal here) perfectly sums up the craziness that unfolds throughout.

Welcome David as your Guest this New Year with a UK DVD and Blu-Ray release released December 29th!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.