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70 Underappreciated and Lesser Known Horror Films (70 items)
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Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising                                  (2016)

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6/10

Neighbors

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Movie Maniac posted a review of Silent House

“A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) returns to her childhood home only to find herself stuck in the house with a violent intruder, among other things. Suspense escalates as the mystery of the events transpiring begin to unravel. Suffice it to say that the less said the better as the film is best experie” read more

5 days, 14 hours ago
Silent House
 Silent House 7/10
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Suspiria
 Suspiria  9/10
2 weeks, 2 days ago
Movie Maniac posted a review of Raw (2016)

“"Raw" (aka Grave) is a starkly visceral, disturbing, and downright Cronenbergian coming of age metaphor artistically wrapped in a wonderfully nightmarish fugue of imagery and music. It is also easily one of the the better films in the genre that both manages to indulge in the elements that often mar” read more

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Raw (2016)
 Raw (2016) 9/10
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 Baywatch 6/10
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Movie Maniac posted a review of The Witch

“A zealous man and his family are cast out of Puritan society after a difference of opinion about scripture and left to fend for themselves in the wilderness. The facade of piety soon gives way to the destructive nature of their personal demons which a coven in the woods exploits to their ends. But ” read more

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 The Witch 10/10
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Silent House review

Posted : 5 days, 14 hours ago on 18 October 2018 02:59 (A review of Silent House)

A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) returns to her childhood home only to find herself stuck in the house with a violent intruder, among other things. Suspense escalates as the mystery of the events transpiring begin to unravel. Suffice it to say that the less said the better as the film is best experienced with zero background other than the basics. As if often the case with horror, "Silent House" is more than it presents itself to be. While not glaringly original (and somewhat predictable on account of some heavy handed use of tropes and hints), "SIlent House" does manage to excel in a few spots that make it stand out from it's peers.

First off, directors Lau and Kentis' approach to the filming immediately sets it apart as the audience is treated to a simulation of a continuous single take. The seams of the edit are cleverly hidden by the almost guerrilla-like approach to filming which, in turn, gives the entire affair a real-time urgency. In a sense, the film manages to walk the line between a found footage film and art school horror. Though that might sound pretentious, it really does wonders for the tension and curiosity that the movie manages to stir up as it progresses as it limits what you know to the direct vicinity of our main character.

Therein lies the biggest issue I had with the movie. It's relatively easy to figure out what the resolution is going to be based on what information is fed to us relatively early on. And though this didn't rob it of the tense moments and nice buildup, I did find myself wanting a surprise that I knew was not going to come. Sure enough, the "reveal" was as I suspected and that was a bit of a letdown. Not because it's a particularly bad one but because by then it had become an obvious one.

That critique aside, the film does manage to build up to a nice steady boil. Olsen is absolutely key to selling what is going on and she pulls it off with no trouble. In short, her reactions credible and her confusion and fear palpable. She's excellent. So much so, in fact, that at one point the predictability of the outcome made the movie less about that and more about how she was going to sell it. Did she deliver? Absolutely.

The movie is as misleading as it's approach. While it might seem to be a haunted house flick at first, it quickly takes on the guise of a home invasion movie for the bulk of the picture. Needless to say, that is also a ruse and attentive viewers will see the psychological horror miles ahead. That being said, there is a lot to enjoy in the experience. It has moments of nail-biting suspense, a deadly atmosphere, some technical prowess, and, of course, the wonderful Elizabeth Olsen doing her damndest to pull it all together...and succeeding.

"Silent House" is definitely worth a watch if more for the promising buildup and stellar acting than the ultimate outcome which feels like it could of done more. Nevertheless, it is a solid flick. 7/10.


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Raw (2016) review

Posted : 2 weeks, 4 days ago on 6 October 2018 02:50 (A review of Raw (2016))

"Raw" (aka Grave) is a starkly visceral, disturbing, and downright Cronenbergian coming of age metaphor artistically wrapped in a wonderfully nightmarish fugue of imagery and music. It is also easily one of the the better films in the genre that both manages to indulge in the elements that often marginalize it while redeeming them with a loftier artistic goal in mind. By the film's culmination you'll not only have been thoroughly disturbed but also properly illuminated about the dangerous line we walk to fight our inherent natures.

The story follows a virginal innocent (a veritable lamb, the imagery would suggest) called Justine who is going to college alongside her older, more experienced (and somewhat rebellious) sister. Justine has been brought up by strict parents, among whose personal tenets is an almost zealous adherence to vegetarianism. It is not long after Justine gets to college, and introduced to the rigorous hazing of her peers, that the convictions she's been raised with are challenged. This begins with the ritualistic consumption of an animal's kidney which, cowed by the pressure, she eats. Having opened the flood gates, the experience raises a ravenous craving for flesh in Justine that soon proves uncontrollable and consumes her personal world and those around her...literally, at times.

And therein lies the brilliance of the film. Brilliant score, beautiful cinematography and direction aside, the film is a nasty but effective metaphor for the quick downward spiral that we fall into in our formative years when we give up our convictions under the guise of exploration and lose our "innocence" by pursuing our true, dark nature. That the film manages to be subtle and artistic with this parallel while it simultaneously washes you in gruesome body horror is an admirable feat all of its own.

"Raw" is a post-modern cautionary tale of the highest order. The story and visual language speak of the talent of writer/director Julia Ducournau and shine a light of hope on what she may have to offer the genre in the future. Whatever the case, "Raw" does a lot of legitimize horror as a genuine art. Excellent. 9/10



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The Witch review

Posted : 1 month ago on 22 September 2018 02:33 (A review of The Witch)

A zealous man and his family are cast out of Puritan society after a difference of opinion about scripture and left to fend for themselves in the wilderness. The facade of piety soon gives way to the destructive nature of their personal demons which a coven in the woods exploits to their ends. But what will bring this family to its knees, dark and Satanic evil or their own natures?

To say "The VVitch" is brilliant is, quite frankly, an understatement. To be fair, it is not a film for everyone. Attention spans the size of a gnat will most likely not enjoy this meticulously paced affair. Gorehounds and those that obsess with slashers might as well hit stop before they play. This is not a slight on a viewer's intelligence but rather a fair warning to those expecting something else. For those of us that love a thick atmosphere, excellent character work, and a slow boil that builds up to an ear-piercing scream (not to mention beautiful cinematography, an excellent score, and an amazing cast)...well, this one is for us.

The VVitch is not just a film about the supernatural condemnation laid upon a family left to survive in the wilderness. Mind you, it would of been a great movie with that simple structure given how well it depicts this side of the whole affair, but it's a far better movie for what it aspires to say (and achieves) as a condemnation of the negative effects of oppressive piety and the corrupting nature of personal sin/guilt.

In many ways, the more horrifying aspects of this film are seeing how raging zealotry is used as a crushing hammer, how paranoia and resentment will foster enmity among those that love each other, and how an innocent scapegoat can be bent and twisted by the overbearing nature of other people's sin. Not to insinuate that the ethereal world doesn't dig its cold claws into you. On the contrary, the film balances this personal horror with the disturbing with expert ease that draws a stunning parallel between both which, ultimately, leads to a stunning conclusion for the annals of horror history.

This one is a classic, through and through.


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The Mummy review

Posted : 1 month, 2 weeks ago on 8 September 2018 02:58 (A review of The Mummy)

"The Mummy" was Universal's second attempt at starting a horror cinematic universe (the first was the underappreciated Dracula Untold). Plenty of critics talked about how cumbersome the elements of an arching universe were to the plot and much was made of the ballyhoo surrounding that studio presumptuousness. As a result, the bandwagon response was to despise this movie based on that concept alone.

Indeed, it was rather presumptuous of Universal to assume a positive reception and widespread acceptance of this concept but was that really the issue with the film? I believe it was not. In fact, the elements linking it to a larger universe were relatively well integrated despite being a bit on the nose at times, but I think we can all agree that a movie about a mummy is not beholden to subtlety. The real issue with the movie is that it fails to capture the audience with relatable or credible characters (or character growth) and lacks a consistent tone. It is this that derails the movie long before anything else has a chance to. 

The movie works best when it's a straightforward action piece with horror elements that leaves you little time to think about the details. Alas, after building up considerable steam for the first portion it drops into a neutral hum as it tries desperately to convince you that there is a remote spark of chemistry between Tom Cruise's Nick Morton and Annabelle Wallis' Jenny. Spoiler: There exists not an iota. This proves an insurmountable problem as the emotional thrust of the movie depends on their characters.  Characters, by the way, that exist in some weird limbo between nondescript and unlikable but fail to even evoke a vivid response in either camp. Most perplexing, are the abrupt attempts at humor that fall remarkably flat every, single time and serve only to take you out of the tone established by scenes previous. The movie seems to indecisive about what it wants to be.

Someone like Harrison Ford, at the height of his powers, could have pulled off the lines written for Cruise's character (which comes of as some onerous Han Solo imitation) but Cruise sells the roguish charisma as well as a desert produces water. Oddly, he's not the worst, that dubious honor goes to his aforementioned female co-star who manages to sound woodenly learned at the same time as having the emotional logic of a three year old. Jake Johnson also needs a nod as what has to be the world's most annoying attempt at blockbuster style "sidekick humor" I've seen in a while. I was glad when his character died only to be reminded that in a movie about life after death he was most likely going to come back. He did and it was woefully tiresome (and his appearances as consistent as the movie's dedication to a singular tone).

However, not all goes to waste. As alluded to earlier, the movie is a blast when it plays as a serious (though vapid) horror blockbuster. It is, at times, a visual feast with some nice action set pieces. However, the filmmakers seemed determined to bring the ill-fitting (and badly written) humor at the most inopportune moments and leave you scratching your head and wondering why. Worse, they seek to remind us that we are supposed to believe that the leads are remotely interested in each other despite every one of their interactions being as remarkable as cardboard.  All this bogs down the mindless fun every time it ramps up and engages. Another positive mark is Sofia Boutella as the titular villain who you could easily see having been much more memorable had she been given more screen time in exchange for the ludicrous amounts of time that our witless leads get.

There is room for big budget popcorn flicks and, had this film excluded the worse of its qualities, this would of been a good example but it aspires to more and doesn't have the slightest clue how to get there. Morton's character growth from selfish to selfless feels stunted because of the nonsense that is the relationship with his lead and the menace of the mummy is cheapened by having to be wedged into the midst of it. Leaps in logic abound and much is asked of the audience when it comes to suspension of disbelief...even for a mummy movie. 

While not horrendous, "The Mummy" is seemingly determine to bring whatever steam it builds up to a screeching halt throughout its running time. The sad part is you could see how easily this ship could of been righted if they just gave the audience a romp rather than fail miserably at trying to give non-characters substance.  Glimmers of what could of been shine through and the action, visuals, and villain are noteworthy but, ultimately, this was fated to bring an end to the idea of a cinematic universe...and it did. 



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Fist Fight review

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 1 September 2018 09:03 (A review of Fist Fight)

"Fist Fight" is interesting in the sense that it lingers in some form of limbo between a decent comedy and a complete mess. You might think this is a form of saving grace but this really just means that it is a fairly generic and pedestrian affair that it is almost nondescript if you were forced to remember it vividly.

The plot is simple, a somewhat neurotic teacher (Charlie Day) gets in the crosshairs of an extremely aggressive co-worker (Ice Cube) and spends the rest of the time stumbling in and out of hairbrain plots to avoid the titular fist fight he's been challenged to by him. Along the way, as is typical of this type of fare, his character learns something and all is zipped into a comfortable package by the time the credits roll.

The scenario alone could lead to a variety of hilarious and farcical situations but instead the movie putters along on neutral and puts in the bare minimum to keep you mildly alert through the proceedings. There were a couple of moments where I thought that the plot would make a 180 and hit it in to high gear but, alas, it was all for naught. "Fist Fight" settles for "just enough" to make you not entirely regret watching it.

The humor leans more toward the crude and juvenile which I find acceptable if presented in the right way but the filmmakers and, woefully, the actors seem to do little to nothing at all to make it stand out. It is neither offensively charming or offensively bad. instead it's a brief reminder of other similar scenes in a myriad of other movies of its ilk.

Therein lies the movie's biggest issue. It's incredibly predictable and familiar. If you like this type of movie it will cruise along in the slow lane and stop only long enough to hit the required and expected cues. We've seen all this done before and in WAY BETTER fashion.

Charlie Day is a beloved comedy icon thanks to his role in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia but he is an incredibly hard personality to take in large doses. Ice Cube is cartoonishly angry as his character but nobody really matches the outrageous nature of him (despite trying) and as a result he just feels out of place. Jillian Bell as a perverted teacher is just an embarrassingly transparent attempt at risque topical humor.

Ultimately, "Fist Fight" is forgettable and uninspired. It also doesn't really know what it wants to be so it ends up being nothing at all. If you happen to watch it you probably won't feel cheated but you certainly won't laud it. Best to just avoid it and shoot for something better. And, no, the fight wasn't even worth it.



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31 review

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 27 August 2018 07:21 (A review of 31)

"31" is an incredibly flawed movie. It asks much of a seasoned horror fan and much more of a general audience. In short, most people probably won't like this movie and they have every right to feel that way. Characters are as razor thin as the plot and what little we get of them is nowhere near endearing, the dialogue is preposterously bad, and the violence is sadistic, especially when coupled with dark and repellent humor.

Even as a horror fan that partakes of all sub-genres I found myself hindered by all of the above for the stated reasons and the violence because it felt unjustified given the weaknesses of the film. However, there is something about "31" that beckons to the horror fan in me and I'm sure will ensure this movie becomes somewhat of a cult favorite as time passes in some circles.

Is it a good movie? No. it's actually pretty bad. Arguably Rob Zombie's worst which, depending on what you think of him, might be very bad news indeed. But those familiar with Zombie will find some charm in the mire of grue and crassness. At it's core, the appeal of "31" is supposed to be its simplicity. It is essentially a survival horror movie with the most basic of structures to keep it's gimmick afloat and that simple goal is achieved to some extent, though hobbled by the aforementioned issues. One of the rickety legs holding up the framework is the final girl formula so familiar to horror fans, wherein a female that starts in distress is hardened and sharpened by her experiences with the villain(s) and becomes a survivor. Another is the interesting but barely touched on idea that the events of the movie are all part of some sick game the elite play with commoners as their pawns.

What ultimately made me purchase a copy of this movie is that I am a fan of Zombie's gonzo approach to horror, 70's aesthetic, subculture tendencies, and obsession with bizarro Americana, all of which are on full display in this film. He also continues to find jarring and visually stunning ways to get his brand of exploitative art across and I can appreciate that effort even when it falls quite short of its goal as it did with "31". The cinematography is beautiful at times, the costume and makeup work top notch, and you can, at times, see how this might have all worked if it had been approached a bit differently.

Alas, what we get is what we get and it'd be unfair to say that I'd recommend this movie. It is riddled with problems and its positives are outweighed by its negatives. If you're a fan of exploitation, ultraviolence, and that Rob Zombie approach then you'll find something to like in the mess but not much. One big standout is Richard Brake as Doom Head, one of the hunters pursuing the eventual victims, who makes the best of what is given to him and chimes in a performance that makes you wish there was much more substance to the meager offerings. Also noteworthy: some great cinematography and a score that punches up the whole affair at times.


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Victor Frankenstein (2015) review

Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 25 August 2018 04:50 (A review of Victor Frankenstein (2015))

You know what? This was actually pretty good. Is it a masterpiece? By no means. It merely is a fun diversion but there's nothing wrong with popcorn fodder.

I welcomed the deviations and the new approach to some of the major themes of the source material. Being such a huge Frankenstein fan I dug the odes to some of the previous adaptations. Can't say i was a big fan of the more upbeat ending but you can't have it all.

Shifting the weight of moral/spiritual quandaries to the new cop character rather than the characters usually burdened with them was interesting. It made something different and ultimately sympathetic of Victor while still asking one of the great questions of the novel: Why does it feel like God abandoned us, how does that reflect in our personal lives, and what will it drive us to do?

Plus who knew that Igor, a character that became synonymous with the name Frankenstein even though he's nowhere to be found in the novel or original adaptation, could be so interesting and likable? Kudos to Daniel Radcliffe on selling what could of a been a disastrous role. The whole cast is incredibly likable and takes the wild and wacky nature of it all in good nature.

Very fun indeed, if not exactly memorable.


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The Green Inferno (2013) review

Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 25 August 2018 04:46 (A review of The Green Inferno (2013))

I cannot believe how utterly stupid, incompetent, badly written/directed, and shamelessly lame this piece of crap was. Utter disappointment. Cannibal Holocaust remains the untouched masterpiece of cannibal cinema. This movie on the other hand is complete inane garbage with its incredulous characters, ridiculous dialogue, and a complete lack of commitment to the sub-genre that just results watered down imitation of the greats. Also, one of the WORST endings to a horror movie EVER.



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The Possession (2012) review

Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 25 August 2018 04:33 (A review of The Possession (2012))

The only "scary" thing in this movie was how, besides the five core characters, there hardly ever seemed to be anyone around. I know extras cost money but, man, this was one barren flick. In a post Exorcist world you can't have an exorcism movie with cheap scares and no atmosphere. A year later Conjuring came out and showed them how to do it right. Had high hopes for a Jewish exorcism but even that was meh. Ah well, at least Matisyahu had a gig.


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Room review

Posted : 1 month, 4 weeks ago on 25 August 2018 05:57 (A review of Room)

"Room" is the story of a captive woman doing her best to maintain her child's innocence and give him a sense of normalcy in spite of the dire circumstances they are in. The titular room and other items and things are subject to personification because of the child's mother's attempts to create an illusory world in a hopeless situation. As a result simple things to the casual viewer take on an added weight and meaning as the film progresses. This alone would make for a riveting subject matter but this film is far more ambitious in it's undertaking.

Indeed, an hour into the proceedings the film resolves the superficial side of this dilemma, after a heartbreaking peak into the lives of the two leads (an excellent Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay), only to show us the true psychological fallout that a situation like this would leave in its wake. This is not a true crime drama but an incisive view into the experience of the victims, during and after a crisis. Relief is but an illusion even as their figurative shackles are broken and the weight of a reality that the child had been spared bears down on him while simultaneously hobbling his mother who now feels out of place in a world that moved on without her.

The long reach and strong hold of a life-changing experience is gut-wrenchingly portrayed and not a single character's reactions are sugar-coated. Frustration and empathy often cross paths in the viewer's mind as you make this journey with them but the real stroke of genius is that the filmmaker chose to show all this through the eyes of the child. We are made privy to only the things he sees and hears and left to field the responses and reactions as he does. The results are heartrending at times and downright frightening at others as you experience the aftereffects of the way he was raised and see the only anchor he's known, his mother, succumb to them as well.

Characters drive this moving story and the formidable cast does an amazing job of communicating the desperation, the love, the disgust, and all other emotions that crop up along the way as they seek to move on from a terrible situation into something akin to the status quo.

"Room" is riveting and it never flinches. It can break your heart or mend it; bring you to your knees or inspire from one moment to the next. It is an emotional roller coaster, for sure, but one wholly worth your time. It achieves in a clear cut depiction of real world horror what no fantastical flight of fancy could ever aspire to do. "Room" is an important film but, more than that, it is a brilliant one. Highly recommended.


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