Archive for Adam Wingard

It Follows…(2014)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

Without a doubt, if you have sex in a horror film its guaranteed that deadly consequences will await. Director/Writer David Robert Mitchell takes this concept to a whole new, terrifying level in his first genre feature It Follows. Arguably a supernatural metaphor for the fear of sexually transmitted diseases through unprotected sex; It Follows is a nightmarish ordeal that sees nineteen year old Jay (Maika Monroe) stalked by a mysterious entity following a meaningless sexual encounter with her date. Her only option is to pass the curse on to the next unsuspecting victim in order to free herself of the strange presence that follows…

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It Follows is an intense throwback to John Carpenter’s style of horror of the 70’s/80’s; its an atmospheric experience with suspenseful set pieces that effortlessly embeds a constant sense of dread into the viewer. While the majority of modern horror relies on gore effects and jump scares to garner a reaction, It Follows is subtly scary, sticking to the approach introduced by Halloween (1978) where less is more. Its the cinematography that provokes the consistent creepy tone. The camera pans around giving the feeling that there is always something there, while the lingering long shots down the suburban streets create unease. From its emotionally charged opening moments until the credits roll there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

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The visuals in the film speak volumes as the script is minimal. There’s very little dialogue and a quiet ambience, making it all the more eerie. There’s no real deep character development but the performances manage to convey a sense of real fear and despair. Maika Monroe, the breakout star of Adam Wingard’s  The Guest, is expressive as Jay (allegedly a reference to Jamie Lee Curtis); she appears pained and frightened suggesting that she knows whatever it is will catch up with her sooner or later.

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It Follows is a visual piece, combining an art-house style with traditional horror conventions. The focus is on a group of teenagers making irresponsible decisions with no one to turn to. The lack of authority or parental roles are notably absent, allowing the teenagers to cope by themselves which is a scary concept in itself. It Follows doesn’t make the era its set in obvious however with no technology in sight, it appears to be echoing back to around the late 70’s-early 80’s. As far as teen horror’s go this one is incredibly clever in what it does.

Surreal, effective, chilling paranoid horror that will linger in the mind long after viewing with its striking, disturbing imagery. It Follows is available to own on DVD and Blu-Ray, watch it alone in the dark if you dare! A modern classic in the making.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Women in Horror Month 666: Top 6 Fierce Females of Recent Horror.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

February means one thing for the female horror fan and no it’s not Valentine’s Day! Although if you’d like to get me a fresh, warm, bloody beating heart or a bouquet of red roses, I’m not complaining! (Just Kidding!). It’s the sixth annual Women in Horror Recognition Month. The cause began as a way to reflect and promote female talent within the genre and give support to various groups in horror who are under-represented mainly relating to race and gender and on the whole both together. Horror has been a male-dominated genre for decades and for a long time the traditional horror heroine came in the shape of the all-American white girl. While we’re not completely there yet, things have started to change; we have a range of female directors showcasing their bloodthirsty visions on screen as well as more dynamic roles being created for women in modern horror.

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You can’t really discuss Women in Horror Month without mentioning the twisted twins Jen and Sylvia Soska who have inspired a new generation of female filmmakers and fans alike. Most recently they teamed up with WWE Studios to create the sequel to See No Evil, and just completed their second collaboration with WWE with the action film Vendetta, proving they can take on any genre! 2014 saw Australian director Jennifer Kent gain well-deserved success on her terrifying and unique addition to the genre, The Babadook. All-rounder Jessica Cameron debuted her first directorial effort, inspired by Dead Hooker in a Trunk, titled Truth or Dare which I’m told is incredibly twisted and violent! On the short film circuit, Jill Sixx Gevargizian has recently garnered attention for Call Girl, a menacing little piece that’s interestingly shot, starring Tristan Risk and Laurence R Harvey, and in 2013 Isabel Peppard created an innovative and beautiful stop-motion animation titled Butterflies which was most recently screened at Australia’s Monster Fest. A groundbreaking all female anthology is also on its way, the eagerly anticipated XX that’ll feature segments from Jennifer Chambers Lynch and Mary Harron to name a few.

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For more information on Women in Horror Month 2015, visit Hannah Neurotica’s wonderful website: http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/ which includes AxWound, a blog dedicated to gender and horror. Its a great way to look out for talented women working in the genre today, including an interview with award-winning actress, director and artist Gigi Saul Guerrero. Take a look at the Massive Blood Drive PSA where several of the above names have created short segments to encourage blood donation. This year has proven to be an awesome collection of twisted gender-bending and goreific effects:

As a female horror fan there have been plenty of strong women characters in place over the years to identify with, problematically they have all been created by men and if you agree with Carol Clover’s theory their purpose is to provide an outlet for a male audience which links to iconic characters such as Laurie Strode or Ripley. There are so many ways in which horror needs to move forward and this is just the beginning, we need to see horror movies with a diverse range of strong female heroines of all ethnicities and backgrounds. Genre women are beginning to find their voice and despite the obstacles and challenges we must continue to support this movement so these voices continue to be heard.

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As a dedicated horror fan and reviewer my contribution to raising awareness for women in horror is a countdown of some of the most intriguing and dynamic characters from films all over the world to have emerged from the genre over this past year. This is a look at the well-written and developed characters that made the top titles of 2014 the most talked about horror films. Will they become future genre icons? There’s a strong possibility and here’s why…

WARNING: There will be some spoilers. 

  1. Amelia, The Babadook, Portrayed By Essie Davis.

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While she may not be the most glamorous of characters, single mother Amelia is an unforgettable force that drives the terror in the critically-acclaimed, The Babadook. Suffering from terrible nightmares re-living the tragic night of her husband’s death and the birth of son Samuel, Amelia struggles to hold down her job, care for her boy as well as deal with snide comments from fellow mothers. Amelia is a fragile character, which is interesting in terms of this expectation where lead females in horror have to be strong and kick ass. There’s most definitely a human quality about her as she’s written with honesty and realism which then corresponds wonderfully in how she copes with the threat of the ‘monster under the bed’ trope. For those of you who have seen the film, you’ll know that with Amelia there is more than meets the eye. For a seemingly ordinary character there is much more to her than first imagined.

 

  1. Kylie Bucknell, Housebound, Portrayed By Morgana O’Reilly

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Twenty-something tearaway Kylie Bucknell is an unlikely heroine in Richard Johnstone’s highly entertaining horror/comedy Housebound. Moody, cynical and antagonistic, Kylie is the opposite of the traditional lead female protagonist in terms of likability. She isn’t best pleased to be put under house arrest after she is caught robbing an ATM machine. What makes matters worse is she is forced back under the same roof as her overbearing, yet well-intentioned mother who has her suspicions that their house must be haunted. Johnstone claimed he wanted to create a leading lady that ‘wouldn’t scare easily’ which works perfectly as along with Kylie the audience is able to remain as sceptical as she is until further developments are revealed over the course of the film. There is certainly something different about her, she’s frustrating yet endearing to a degree. Her characterisation comes full circle as she shows she isn’t afraid to take risks and proves to be resourceful when it comes to saving the day.

 

  1. Anna Peterson, The Guest, Portrayed By Maika Monroe

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Anna is the only daughter of the grief-stricken Peterson family, the subjects of Adam Wingard’s fantastical love letter to 80’s action flicks, The Guest. Smart and sophisticated, Anna is one step ahead of her family in figuring out there is something darker at play when it comes to their mysterious new house guest, David who claims to have fought alongside their deceased son in war. Incredibly stylish with an awesome taste in music, Anna is no fool and will do what it takes to survive and protect her family even if it means taking on an unstoppable force in the shape of experiment-gone-horribly wrong David. Anna carefully researches who she’s up against, aligning her facts before facing confrontation. On the whole she is just an average girl in an extraordinary situation however manages to outlive a number of armed military men! Anna is The Guest’s standout female character and a surprising survivor.

 

  1. Louise, Spring, Portrayed By Nadia Hilker

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Beautiful, mystical and enchanting, Louise is the core female character in the most romantic genre film of the year. She captures the heart of protagonist Evan in the idyllic Italian setting. Louise harbours a dark secret that threatens their entire romance but also enhances the vulnerability behind the confident exterior she projects. Louise is charismatic, charming and fun but also enigmatic and fearful. She has a naturalistic quality to her under the monster movie metaphor as she represents the fears and anxieties of beginning a new relationship and having that jeopardised if the other person was to discover something ‘different’ about the person they’re with. At times she comes across as a lonely creature that holds herself back but at the same she has a lot to offer. Louise is a captivating yet complex character and unique within her own mythology (you’ll have to watch the film to find out more!).

 

  1. Amy, See No Evil 2, Portrayed by Danielle Harris

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If you read my review of the Soska’s most recent feature See No Evil 2, you’ll be aware I wasn’t 100% sold on the film. Its redeeming feature for me was Scream Queen Danielle Harris’s portrayal of morgue attendant Amy. Amy is forced to cancel her birthday plans when a number of blood-soaked bodies slaughtered by serial killer Jacob Goodnight arrive at the hospital causing her to become stuck on the graveyard shift. Her loyal friends subsequently bring the party to her, unknowingly offering up fresh victims to the not-so-dead killer. In typical post-modern slasher style, Amy has been written with depth, allowing the audience to empathize and root for her as we should for a traditional final girl. What makes Amy all the more heartbreaking is her view on life and reasons for working in the morgue instead of chasing her ambitions as well as the unexpected twist on the character making her part in the film all the more meaningful. Amy is See No Evil 2’s saving grace, strong, intelligent and endearing, there’s a reason Danielle Harris is the ‘final girl’ because she plays roles like this incredibly well.

 

  1. Eva Sanchez, The Purge: Anarchy, Portrayed By Carmen Ejogo

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A character unaware of her full potential until her whole world is thrown into chaos. Eva Sanchez is a hard worker, trying to get by and earn whatever little money she can to provide for her ill father and teenage daughter. After her father offers himself up for purging to the wealthy in order to pull his family out of debt, Eva locks down her apartment and hopes that she and her daughter make it through the night. However when a scorned enemy breaks in and attempts to murder them, Eva and Cali are thrust out onto the streets. Luckily they join forces with a mysterious protector named Frank who has a hidden agenda, followed by a young couple also caught up in the anarchy when their car is jacked. Eva proves headstrong and somewhat of a leader as she works along with Frank to ensure the groups safety. Eva is compassionate and fierce; she comes to realize her true strength when faced with a harrowing ordeal.

Do you agree with my choices, are there any other kick ass females of recent movies that should have made the list? Feel free to comment below or tweet me on @hayleyr1989.

As a special extra, here’s something a little Nasty from the Ghostface Girls:

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.

“It’s No Scream!” A DVD Review : You’re Next (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

You’re Next (2011) is one of the most disappointing, hyped-up films to emerge in recent years. For those of you who follow my Facebook page you will already be aware how much this film particularly aggravated me. Prior to viewing I had heard a mixed-bag of reactions from various sources however as I do with most films went in indifferent. You’re Next has gained a great deal of attention since its premiere at Fright Fest back in August 2013 however I was only able to finally sit down and watch it today following its UK DVD and Blu-Ray release. I suppose all in all it’s a marmite film, some of you will get a kick out of it while others (like myself) will be reeling for something more.

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Before we begin, I must establish that I’m a huge fan of slasher films, particularly from the 70’s, 80’s and late 90’s. Slashers were the sub-genre that primarily made me the horror geek I am today. It all started with a slick, game-changer of a film, directed by one of the masters of Horror Wes Craven, Scream (1996). I originally caught the film in a late night slot on channel 4 during my pre-teens. What began as a personal endurance test turned into a life-long obsession with cinema’s darkest genre. Scream was self-referential, critiquing the horror movies that came before it. Soon, I had familiarized myself with Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees and the rest is history. Scream did something that the horror films since have struggled to achieve so when Adam Wingard’s You’re Next splattered itself onto festival screens with strong comparisons made it seemed more than promising. Could it be the sophisticated, modern slasher film we’ve all been craving since Craven?!

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Interestingly, You’re Next technically came out in 2011. It circulated a few small festivals but did not obtain a wider and more commercial release until 2013. To be fair, home invasion movies are pretty trendy at this moment in Horror, and it came out just in time to rival The Purge within the space of a couple of months.

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You’re Next is the story of the Davidson family who come under attack during a family dinner by a mysterious gang disguised with animal masks. Prior to the family’s introduction, there’s a weak opening sequence which sees two severely underdeveloped characters murdered just to lead the way for the words “You’re Next” to be painted in blood on the wall. Need I remind everyone how this doesn’t compare to Scream in the slightest! In one of cinema’s most iconic and terrifying opening scenes, a character played by Drew Barrymoore is brutally murdered following a very clever and intense build-up. When your movie opens with a famous actress being killed off that sets the standard that anything is possible and was shocking for its time. You’re Next’s opening didn’t even compare. If this really wanted to be marketed as a “game-changer” then at least do something to surprise the audience instead of the derivative, seen-it-all before, meaningless cliche.

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This is then followed by some filler scenes which are a poor attempt at establishing the Davidson’s. The Mum and Dad characters, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Rob Moran) look far too young to be the parents of their four thirty-something children but I imagine we are supposed to suspend our disbelief in this case. Their obnoxious offspring are accompanied by their dull partners and the scene is set for carnage to take place. The main focus is on Erin (Sharni Vinson), son Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) girlfriend, predictably set up as the intended final girl. It’s an attempt at placing a strong, empowered, resourceful yet flawless woman in the lead in order to tick their post-modern feminism box but that’s the problem, she is too good to be true, more caricature less character. That said, Sharni Vinson is easily the strongest actress in this blood-soaked mess and does well with the material she’s given, despite her characters backstory being incredibly far fetched. Prior to the brutal attack on the family during what could be described as a tense meal time, there’s tedious talk about Ti West’s character Tariq being a documentary filmmaker who gets his films screened at “intelligent” underground festivals which comes across as either pretentious or being self-aware about pretentious mentalities in filmmaking. The brothers then begin arguing amongst themselves in a shouty, uninteresting manner before a crossbow smashes through the window taking the family down one by one.

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That is pretty much the film. There’s too much shouting that quickly becomes irritating, there’s shaky cam particularly at the dinner scene which feels unnecessary and possibly done pretentiously. Erin’s “strong woman” act is over exaggerated, there’s only so many times you can watch someone being bludgeoned before it becomes boring. I found myself yelling at the screen, “That’s enough now!” and “Oh was that meant to be funny” at its poor attempts at humor. The acting was terrible as a whole, no empathy was created with anyone and as for the twist, I doubt it will leave you thought-provoked or astonished!

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Not for a long time has a film completely irritated me to this extent. It’s Scream comparisons as you may have gathered has a lot to do with it. Hype like this for a mediocre slasher doesn’t bode well for the future of these kinds of films. Unfortunately You’re Next has no redeeming qualities, it comes across as lazy, predictable, badly constructed, poorly written and just one huge disappointment. It could have possibly been forgiven if it had not marketed itself in that way and been hyped up so much. The masks may be gimmicky and hold some appeal but as a film it doesn’t hold up as one of the slasher greats.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews