House Haunting: House of Torment

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The Halloween season is upon us. You can feel it in the air like a dark, heavy mist, carrying the creatures of your nightmares into reality for one entire month. What a shame that it only lasts one month.

Now is the time when every shadow holds a secret, every bed hides a monster, and every house is haunted. With that, we bring you House Haunting, a new feature where we review haunted houses for your benefit, that you may get the most fear for your buck.

All houses will be rated on our SCREAM Scale:







Fantasic Fest Review: ‘American Mary’

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American Mary Fantastic Fest 2012Mary Mason is a surgical student with financial problems. In order to solve these problems, she answers a advertisement looking for a “dancer”. Arriving at a grungy strip club, Mary meets Billy Barker, the manager of this fine establishment. As Billy is checking out Mary’s “wares”, a problem develops in the basement of his club. He returns and immediately and offers Mary a quick $5,000 in cash for some help. The job ? Patching up a thug with razor cuts extending the length of his body. Job completed, Mary returns home where she is immediately contacted by an affiliate of Billy’s. The job this time is body modification and the price tag is $10,000. Mary is no longer a starving student but a entrepreneur with a successful side business.

Soon after, Mary’s instructors take interest in her and invite her to a party being thrown by a bunch of doctors. It does not take long to realize that Mary is out of her element, and soon after she is the victim of rape at the hands of  her surgery instructor. From this point forward Mary is a changed person. She decides to drop out of school and enter the world of body modification full time.

SXSW Review: ‘Sinister’ is the Stuff Bad Dreams Are Made Of

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True crime novelist Ellison (Ethan Hawke) moves into a new home with his wife and two children. After achieving great success with his novel Kentucky Blood ten years prior, Ellison has struggled to recapture both the critical acclaim and financial returns of his nonfiction opus. Desperate for inspiration, and unbeknownst to his family, he purposefully moves into the home wherein an entire family, save one missing daughter, was murdered. While unpacking, he discovers a box of Super 8 films in the attic; the contents of which, once viewed, can never be unseen. That’s all I’m going to say in terms of plot, and I’ll only say that much so that you can make an informed decision about seeing this film, and not be swayed by the promises/portents of what it is not.

The Devil Inside Review

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The Devil Inside, directed by Stay Alive‘s William Brent Bell, is the story of a young woman whose mother was committed to an asylum after she murdered three people during an exorcism; her own exorcism. The young daughter is now traveling to a hospital in Rome, where her mother was transferred, to examine the validity of her possession. She brings along a film crew to document the experience. As you have probably guessed from that last sentence, The Devil Inside is a found footage movie. More to the point it may be the end-all-be-all argument against found footage movies forever more. It is certainly among the worst I have yet seen.

In in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit I am a fan of this still young subgenre. I feel there is something to be said for the dismantling of the fourth wall and the safety net it provides us as jaded horror fans. That being said, I refuse to accept that any horror film told through the lens of a character-mounted camera is worth celebrating. But for much of its runtime, The Devil Inside‘s most heinous crime is that it courts convention with boyish adoration. It brings in plenty of manufactured experts to interview, it points out the multiple cameras in a given space, and employs some of the best looking fake news footage to date. Basically, it goes full faux. Within those moments, there are some exceedingly conventional tropes that will startle but not scare, eliciting a reaction that won’t linger in your consciousness beyond dying of the last murmur in the theater. And then there are some moments of stillness and some wicked contortion artistry that work fairly well and seem to promise a wholly passable found footage romp.

Fantastic Fest Review: Revenge: A Love Story

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Directed By: Ching-Po Wong (2010)
Written By: Lai-yin Leung, Ching-Po Wong, Juno Mak (Original Story)
Run Time: 91 min.

Revenge: A Love Story is a Hong Kong thriller from director Ching-Po Wong who helped co-write the screenplay along with Lai-yin Leung. Juno Mak, who wrote the original story, stars as Kit, a grocery store clerk who observes a young girl, mentally challenged Wing. Wing (Sola Aoi) comes to buy sticky buns from the grocery before school and Kit quickly falls in love with her. Their lives together are destroyed when Wing’s caretaker dies and she is put into an institution. Wing is freed, but falls into the hands of a lunatic cop (Lau Wing) taking this story on an unseen path to revenge.

Fantastic Fest Review: Two Eyes Staring

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Directed By: Elbert van Strien
Written By: Elbert van Strien, Paulo van Vliet
Run Time: 112 minutes

Any fan of the horror genre will get a kick out of the Dutch film Two Eyes Staring (2010). Set principally in Belgium and secondarily in the Netherlands, Two Eyes Staring is the story of a family with a secretive dark past. Two Eyes Staring is directed and co-written by Elbert van Strien and staring Hadewych Minis, Barry Atsma, and Isabelle Stokkel who are traumatized both literally and figuratively by the embodiment of Christine’s (Minis) childhood in Belgium.

WALLED IN Review [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2009
Written by Rodolphe Tissot, Olivier Volpi, Sylvain White, Gilles Paquet-Brenner

When I’m feeling lazy, I like hang out on the couch, drink beer, and watch movies. At those times I have no desire to do anything to advance the quality of my life in any way, and my creative juices are certainly not flowing. The difference between me and director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is that when I’m feeling worthless and indolent I don’t decide to make a movie. At least that is the impression I’ve come away from WALLED IN with, because not one frame of the film suggests anybody involved in its making gave a damn.

Mischa Barton “stars” as a recent college graduate who is the youngest in a family of demolition experts. Her first solo assignment for the family company is to plan the demolition of an old apartment complex in the middle of nowhere, due to be destroyed because the “government” has “ordered it.” The building was designed by an eccentric architect, who made it a habit of burying people alive in the foundations of his creations in order to increase structural rigidity. Something about an ancient Egyptian myth, I think.

WALLED IN also features Cameron Bright (Nicole Kidman’s tiny love interest in BIRTH, who, by the way, isn’t getting any less creepy), and Debra Kara Unger (who isn’t getting any less plastically-looking). Although both of them outshine Barton by quite a bit, this is like saying Brett Ratner is a better director than Donald Petrie.

AMERICAN ZOMBIE Review. [Netflix Watch Instantly]

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Directed by Grace Lee, 2007
Written by Grace Lee, Rebecca Sonnenshine

Mockumentaries as anything other than comedy are damn near impossible to get right. A self-serious mockumentary, as with a horror movie without scares, is a recipe for disaster. Alas, AMERICAN ZOMBIE avoids failure on an epic level (something another recent zombiementary, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES cannot claim), but it is too worried about appearing realistic and legitimate to actually entertain. One of most appealing aspects of documentaries is experiencing that which would be unbelievable if it wasn’t true. If a “documentary” is inherently fictional and it doesn’t appeal on a visceral level, the question is begged: What is the point?

I think the “point” is that it’s easier to make a mockumentary than a traditional narrative film. Or at least it’s easier to make it professional-looking. And that is certainly one of AMERICAN ZOMBIE’S strong suits – it looks and sounds like a real documentary. The acting is solid, the cinematography is very documentary-like, and the zombie-infected world it creates is relatively believable. As a genuine documentary it may have been informative and enlightening. As a mockumentary it’s completely and utterly boring.

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