The Loved Ones’ premise isn’t anything special: a girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy) captures a boy, Brent (Xavier Samuel) after he refuses to take her to the prom. Together with her loving father, they go about torturing Brent as he desperately tries to find a way to escape. It’s a pretty standard affair, but the great thing about the film is what director Sean Byrne does with the material.
The entire film is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Robin McLeavy’s performance as the psycho princess Lola is as captivating as it is unsettling to watch. No part of the film makes it feel strained or out of place, which can be the downfall of so many horror films. A good script, tight editing and great acting really sell the story, while the Australian outback serves as a stunning backdrop for the mayhem that gradually unfolds. This is a film that you should see; even if it’s outline is slightly lackluster.
Highlights: The sub plot about Brent’s friend actually attending the ball is an interesting addition to the movie. Plus it mercifully eases some of the tension.
South Korean film The Host follows an aquatic, man-made monster as it terrorizes people along the banks of Seoul’s Han River. When it captures a young girl, Hyun-Seo, her family resolves to find her, no matter what the cost.
Unlike Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake, The Host doesn’t suffer from its long running time. In two hours the film creates a rich story filled with believable characters, intriguing sub-plots and some very impressive CGI. The narrative progresses at an even pace as it slowly builds to a tense, unforeseeable ending. From start to finish, this is an attention-grabbing monster movie.
Perhaps The Host’s strongest element comes from its unique strain of dark humour. The initially laughable mistakes made by lead character Park Gang-Doo can often turn into genuine tragedy seconds later. This cements the notion that this is an average man, propelled into an extraordinary situation. His personality almost lampoons the typical traits main characters often possess in various blockbuster films.
This is one of the best-made monster movies in the last twenty years. It’s tense, character driven and unpredictable. Expect to find a beautiful and haunting addition to the horror genre.
Highlights: Hyun-Seo’s desperate attempts to escape the monster’s lair.
The Revenant is essentially a vigilante-vampire-buddy movie. Sounds cool right? It is. In the first five minutes Bart, an American soldier, is shot, killed and dragged off by an unknown group. When his body is flown back to America, he returns to the land of the living, albeit with a few… changes. After convincing his best friend Joey to help him, they start exploring his powers, especially Bart’s newfound taste for human blood…
It’s surprising that The Revenant didn’t do better when it was released. It’s one of the best comedic horror films I’ve seen since Shaun of the Dead. The dialogue is clever, the usual clichés are nicely avoided and the effects are truly gruesome. If you’re sick of ho-hum Halloween flicks, give this one a try: you won’t be disappointed.
Highlights: There are plenty of great moments that come to mind. The only problem is it’s hard to pick something and not ruin it… Let’s just say a scientologist, a hearse and a dildo all feature.
I can’t say I had high hopes when I sat down to watch Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Even the title was somewhat off-putting. I assumed it was another tiring flick from a strange Hollywood trend that’s already given us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I expected to see an unimaginative, re-imagining of a classic fairy tale. Instead I got an enjoyably goofy movie.
The plot follows a grown up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as they travel from town to town hunting witches. Their childhood experiences have made them experts in their line of work and the opening credits presents us with a short montage depicting their rise to fame. The story starts as they take on a routine job: to find a witch that’s been terrorizing a town. Of course, things soon take a turn for the worse and they realize that there’s something bigger going on in Augsburg.
The simple premise may seem lackluster, but after the first ten minutes you’ll find yourself thoroughly invested. The main reason is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Director Tommy Wirkola avoided creating a too-cool-for-school film by adding in some much needed wacky elements. This leads to some hilariously over the top fight sequences and one-liners that really make the movie stand out.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters did well at the box office, and judging by its worldwide gross of over 200 million there’s a good chance many of you have seen it. But if you read the generally poor reviews and assumed it wasn’t worth a watch (like I did), think again. It won’t have stellar performances or an Oscar winning story, but if you want to watch a downright entertaining movie, look no further: this is the film for you.
Highlights: The fight sequences, hands down. Head butting? Skull crushing? Nose breaking? It’s all here, and it’s all gloriously silly.
As the title suggests, Christopher Denham’s directorial debut is a horror flick set firmly in the found footage sub-genre. Now before you start rolling your eyes and sighing exasperated sighs, hear me out. Yes, this type of film rarely brings anything new to the table, but Home Movie is an exception.
The film follows the Poe family as they adapt to a new life in the country. Parents David and Clare happily record the day-to-day activities via a hand held recorder while their children, Jack and Emily, remain silent. Trouble begins when their kids start exhibiting unsettling behavior, which includes killing their pets in a number of brutal ways. As their situation gets worse, David and Clare frantically search for an explanation to their children’s actions while wrestling with their own personal demons.
For a low budget film, Home Movie has plenty of potent horror elements within its modest running time. The reason it works is simple: the makers kept the writing sharp. As a result, the characters are three dimensional instead of just being lifeless cardboard cutouts. Every horrific element they encounter is heightened because we as an audience care about what happens to them. It might seem basic, but this is where a lot of recent, big budget offerings fall down.
Home Movie won’t revolutionize the horror genre. It has its fair share of flaws. The usual ‘why’re they filming everything?’ question inevitably crops up and some of the character’s decisions are remarkably stupid, but it’s a prime example of how much a difference can be made just through the writing.