One Can’t Just Pray Away EVIL in “The Banishing” reviewed! (Shudder – Vertigo Releasing / Digital Screener)

Set in a backdrop of Great Britain on the very brink of world war against Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, a small English community has nearly lost it’s entire faith in the Catholic church after the last priest suddenly and mysteriously died.  When a young vicar is offered a generous stipend, the village parish, and a large estate by the region bishop to restore a congregational foothold, he brings with him his new wife and stepchild to make the house their home, but the house has a dark history that might have played a role in the previous vicar’s death and a lone, eccentric occultist urges the family to vacate the premises immediately before the house swallows them into grave danger at the haunted hands of sadistic monks, ghastly visions, and a tormented soul roaming the corridors. 

If the prim-and-proper social class structure of Julian Fellows’ “Downton Abbey” collided with the volatile and tormented spirits of James Wan’s “The Conjuring,” then Christopher Smith’s pre-wartime staged haunted house feature, “The Banishing,” would be the outcome.  The period piece horror marks the latest installment into the genre from the Bristol, English-born Smith who made a name for himself with 2004 dark subway corridor heartstopper, “Creep,” and went on to make cult favorites amongst genre fans with the workplace violence satire, “Severance,” and the medieval bubonic plague film, “Black Death” starring Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne.  “The Banishing,” a term used as the practice within the supernatural ambit of dark magic to ward off negative spirits, is a UK feature co-written between David Beton, Ray Bogdanovich, and Dean Lines.  Maya Amsellem and Sharon Harel-Cohen serve as producers under the London-based WestEnd Films production banner with “The Banishing” marking their fifth completed feature film product and with the nearly worldwide distribution rights landing with AMC Network’s popular horror streaming service, Shudder, in partnership with Vertigo Releasing in the UK.

“The Banishing” revolves mainly around Marianne, the newly-wed vicar’s wife with a young girl along for the ride, played by Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey,” “Victor Frankenstein”). Findlay endows Marianne with vitality as a woman who must meet the vicar’s standards of Godliness, but still be a strong mother to her child despite disreputable social standing. The priest Linus (Essex-born John Heffernan) lacks experience in the field of his cleric position, lending to question why the region bishop would appoint him to a muster a flock of faithful Christian followers during turbulent times. The husband and wife dynamic between Linus and Marianne is marred by dissonance backgrounds of a priest who doesn’t know to be with a woman and a woman who can’t escape her socially unflattering past. Heffernan and Findlay ignite as repellants of the same magnetic currents when the harder they try to extend their relationship, they push each other way, with Findlay giving a fervent performance. Speaking of performances, Sean Harris bares the most intriguing and rollicking local occultist. The “Mission Impossible: Fallout” actor parades around as Harry Price, a likable, straight-shooting outcast and a believer in the supernatural with extensive, and ghastly, historical knowledge on Linus and Marianne’s new home. As Price aims to extract the hapless from danger, he butts heads with a headstrong region bishop, a stern and solemn role secreted with distrust from John Lynch who has worked on a Christopher Smith film previously in “Black Death.” “The Terror” actor juxtaposes starkly against Harris as a character who dons a likeness to the clown prince of crime in costume than a dull agent man of the cloth…with secrets to uphold. “The Banishing” rounds out with a supporting cast in Adam Hugill, Jason Thorpe, Jean St. Clair, James Swanton, and Anya McKenna-Bruce as Marianne’s daughter, Adelaide.

Set convincingly in a quaint, 1930s English town, Christopher Smith transports the audience back in time to the predated anxious moments before World War II that would upheave turmoil across all across Europe, but though that fretted lingering of war is set as the backdrop for “The Banishing,” and is coiled around every man who served in the first Great War that brought up more than once, the root of the narrative ultimately becomes the house Linus and Marianne have come to call their home.  Haunted house films surmise the house as a built-in principal character because of either the way the architecture affects the mental or physical wellbeing of it’s flesh and bone counterparts or if the abode is actually possessed and set to harm the inhabitants in a personification of pure evil, as such with various films of this caliber (“House,” “The Haunting,” etc,). Yet, Linus and Marianne’s estate failed to become a part of the narrative limelight despite the immense grounds that compromised of a large greenhouse and a robust library complete with fireplace and the disconcerting labyrinth of a dungeon-esque basement full of barred enclosures and close quartered corridors.  Nearly every interior shot felt like a new section of the house hat kept extending upon, what would be assumed, a grand mansion that had a longer rap sheet by reputation in being a former religious torture chamber run by sadistic monks hellbent on whipping the sin out of the mentally tormented. Smith always had an eye for the unsettling visuals and sustains that feng shui by allowing time and space to be the inner horrors of a funhouse, but doesn’t evoke clean, unadulterated terror that continues to profusely bleed into the film’s climatic cause-and-effect unraveling. There is a lack of a transformative realization and a small hurtle of sedated possession to figure out that the main presence in the house, amongst the other more malevolent presences, wants something and the characters are spoon fed each and every morsel to get them up to speed. The final scene of the bishop meeting with the Nazi regime intended to leave the story open for supernatural possibilities, but felt like a more poignant and compelling crux leading into Nazi occultism, hinted by the eccentric resident occultist Sean Harris.

Morosely dramatic and haunting, “The Banishing” is an aggressive salvo of facing shame head-on, creeping into UK cinemas and digital platforms on March 26th courtesy of Shudder and Vertigo Releasing. Director of photography Sarah Cunningham has an remarkable ability to engulf the actors in the space of the shot, making them seem diminutive to the rooms that feel like a giant hand looming overhead, and with the bare, hard lighting, the cinematography is really where “The Banishing” shines as gothic cladding without a stodgy spot to speak visible. Cunningham adds all the hallmarks of a horror film with titled angles, brilliant reds, and tight shots on tense faces to garner a more anxiety that never actually pans out by the end. The organic electro duo TOYDRUM score the 97 minute film with a single note droning hums at various pitch levels that can really get inside your head. The “Prevenge” composers set up scenes with a ill-founded fears when nothing presently visible is intended to fright. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits, but one scene to note is Sean Harris waltzing with an uncredited woman during the opening credits that seems out of place but speaks to the aberrated decorum of his character. “The Banishing” works tirelessly to discredit shame by confronting truth and while we’re being beat over the head by the message, the overlay of horror is lost despite some brilliant and engrossing performances from Findlay and Harris who usher us through to the imperfect conclusion.

Evil Hate Trumps Good Love! “The Hatred” review!


In 1968, former Nazi occult officer, Samuel Sears, runs a strict farm in rural America, restricting his only daughter Alice from the corruption of the outside world with an infinite workload, and Alice violently rebels against her tyrannical father, Samuel kills her with rage. Hidden deep in the dark basement of his plantation home, a powerful Nazi-occupied amulet, charged by fear and hate, feed on his rage and fear and curses him to do the unspeakable. In the present day, four college girlfriends retreat to a friend of the family’s recently purchased foreclosure farm house, the abandoned and forgotten Sears farm, for a relaxing weekend getaway, but after night of drinks and games, the amulet reignites an ominous and dark cloud, reviving long forgotten, evil spirits who search for an endless quantity of fear and hate and will stop at nothing to swallow the souls of each and everyone inside the Sears’ estate home.

“The Hatred” is the 2017 haunting thriller from writer-director and Brooklyn native Michael Kehoe and produced by long time “Halloween” franchise producer Malek Akkad. Kehoe tells the story in two parts with the first delving in the Sears family, getting a first hand look at the hardworking German mennonite character that is Samuel Sears whose a former war time Nazi that’s settled down and raised a family in America’s backcountry. From what can be gathered about Samuel Sears, the farmer protects his past identity and isn’t ashamed of yet, but rather proud of his accomplishments alongside the Führer. All of the attributes of a proud countryman come suddenly alive when he receives a mysterious package containing the amulet, a photo of him in full Nazi dress standing with Adolf Hitler, and a signed letter personally acknowledged by the Nazi leader himself offering him the amulet as a gift for his fine work during the War and that ultimately becomes his downfall, pitting him against his family. The second part of the film tells a more uncharismatic story of four young girls staying at the Sears farm in present day. One of the girls, Regan, just finished college and is about to start a new job and what’s her ideal getaway with her girlfriends? An old (haunted) farmhouse.

“Wishmaster” himself, Andrew Divoff, gives “The Hatred” much more life despite his joyless character Samuel by somehow giving the former Nazi, now American farmer personality traits that are haunting in an unforgettable performance during the first act. The same can not be said about the four girls – Regan (Sarah Davenport), Layan (Gabrielle Bourne), Samantha (Bayley Corman), and Betaine (Alisha Wainwright). There’s no comparison as Samuel is a superiorly written and finely performed character than those he stalks beyond the afterlife. The gaggle of women offer no substance in the face of adversity or just plain ole progression of their character. Numerous times does Regan’s sick grandmother have scenes and Regan passively forgets about her poor grandmother’s health or Samantha’s uncanny interesting in history that really goes no further than the random facts that she spews. Regan and Betaine seem to have this close knit relationship, yet it founders and is suddenly cut short when all hell breaks loose. There are no personal connections established, offering little-to-no worth to their lives when Samuel comes calling for their souls, and leaves “The Hatred” in the take-it or leave-it column in the second and third act. Darby Walker, Nina Siemaszko, and Shae Smolik complete the cast.

Kehoe does display intense, nail-biting visuals with the materialized embodiment of fear and hate as well as sly editing with a scene involving Shae Smolik’s Irene, a little girl whose friends with Regan, who asks Regan to check under her bed, for supposed shadowy figure. When Regan pulls back the skirt to look, she sees another Irene putting a finger to her mouth, hushing Regan, and saying, “that’s not me,” as she points upward toward Regan’s impending doom. The heart-stopping moment will tear eyes away from the screen in anticipation of what Regan will see atop of Irene’s bed. However, that’s the sad truth in the extent of Kehoe’s story; a story riddled with plot holes and underdeveloped subtexts in which one in particular pertains to the aforementioned subplot of Regan’s ill stricken grandmother that goes undercooked when attempted to connect with the supernatural portal that of the Sears farm home. Characters disappear to never be seen again, character motivations go unexplained, and backstories are like a hazy dream and the entire ensemble is a mismatched, muddled mess in a premise that should have continued with the motif of the Nazi infiltration into America and less about scaring the wit out of witless girls with the creepiness of an alternate dimension seeping out of an unholy amulet.

The Lionsgate Films’ “The Hatred” is presented by Anchor Bay Entertainment on Blu-ray and UltraViolet home video in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio from an encoded AVC 1080p transfer that’s sleek and well lit, especially capture Samuel’s earthly and grim nature. The overall atmosphere doesn’t particular hone in a horror palette design, but offers realistic ventures into brightly lit areas of dark scenes. Details are fine in more of the natural aspects of the film whereas the CGI goes soft at times, but still very well detailed. The English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 keeps Kehoe’s film buoyant with a leveled mix through and through with clear fidelity and good, if not great, surround sound output. Instilled with conventional horror schemes, burdened with design flaws, and unfocused in it’s inability to pin down an narrative identity, Malek Akkad and Michael Kehoe’s spook house feature “The Hatred” requires much tender loving care to uplift this unkempt cliche horror into a coherent thriller.

“The Hatred” on Blu-ray+UltraViolet!

Feeding Off on the Evil Energy! “The House on Pine Street” review!

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Married couple Jennifer and Luke move to Jennifer’s small hometown in Kansas suburbia after an incident with Jennifer’s pregnancy at their city home in Chicago causes concern for the baby from both Luke and Jennifer’s mother Meredith. Feeling not at home and isolated, Jennifer quickly detaches herself from everyone around her, but when spooky occurrences start to slowly reveal in their new home, Jennifer desperately needs her family and friends to eagerly believe that the house is haunted. When everything firmly believes that Jennifer might be suffering from another pregnancy episode like in Chicago, the young woman experiences a psychological horror that drives her into a blurred line of what’s she seeing is either frighteningly real or a nightmarish psychosis.
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“The House on Pine Street” is a chilling, effective thriller helmed by twin brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling, who both also co-wrote the film with newcomer Natalie Jones. The Keeling twins, along with numerous short film cinematographer Juan Sebastian Baron, were able to capture alluring framing and uncomfortable camera angles, consisting of the use of medium and close up shots, that suit the film’s unsettling and haunting nature. The poetic beauty of the vibrant exterior contrasted with the bleak and rundown features inside the Luke and Jennifer’s home tell the harrowing story of where the dread begins and lingers to languish and the brothers were really able to set the entire pace of the film, prolonging out the story’s suspense, and able to create an engaging tale within about a two month time spatial difference and have it laid out logically.
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Aside from the obviously talented crew, the phenomenal cast ranks this lesser known 2015 ghost film near the top. Emily Goss embodies Jennifer’s loneliness and fear through the subjection of constant ghastly occurrences. Whereas Jennifer’s husband Luke played by Taylor Bottles, even with the slick and enduring hipster hairdo, feeds off Goss’s non compos mentis situation, making the character Jennifer drown in darkness without any compassion. Personally, Jim Korinke captured my favorite performance as the neighborly quasi medium. With no acting credit to his name, Korinke’s ability to keep up and maintain with a younger, more experienced acting talent is beyond remarkable on screen and fun to watch.
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Much like the film’s generic title, the story is simplistic; however, the story is without a mind blowing twist which most of Hollywood gets off on. “The House on Pine Street” speaks in underlining messages. The motif of energy keeps reoccurring throughout much of the plot, sparking the conversation that negative or positive energy will be the inevitable karma influence. If a person emits negative energy, bad juju will be the result and visa versa. While the story hovers around Jennifer’s locus, her negative, pessimistic attitude contributes to the tribulations toward other characters. The Keelings were able to subtly convey the energy message without being blatant and expositive.
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“The House on Pine Street” works and works well regardless of the overused and lackluster title that has become more repetitive and an unfortunate eyesore to those scouring the retail racks, looking for an engaging thriller, but the Keeling duo are a pair of cinema prodigy twins, who with the right cast and crew can take a smaller project, like this, and polish it into gold. Second Sight distribution is set to release this spin-chilling “The House on Pine Street” thriller onto DVD home video in the UK on February 1st. Just in case you’re not completely sold, take it from me that goosebumps will occupy every inch if your chilled flesh when watching in the dark and the light.

More Horror! Alone in the Dark and Haunted House announcments

Didn’t get enough when Resident evil Revelations 2 was announced? Well then your in luck! Atari has announced two new horror titles during PAX Prime. Alone in the Dark: Illumination and Haunted House: Cryptic Graves both two new horror titles announced by Atari.

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Alone in the Dark: Illumination will be yet another reboot of the Alone in the Dark series, why reboot it again is beyond me. The game play in Illumination will be different than its older titles and by different, I mean totally ruined. The game will feature a 4 player co-op story, which is ironic since the game is called Alone in the Dark, key word ”Alone”. So that is the first red flag of this game. It seems Atari is taking the Capcom path in making their horror series into an action game. Alone in the Dark: Illumination is only scheduled to be released on PC in 2015.

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Haunted House: Cryptic Graves is of course another reboot in the Haunted House series and besides Alone in the Dark: Illumination, it seems more like a horror than a action adventure game. It will focus on mystery/puzzle solving inside of a haunted manor and will be in first person perspective. Haunted House: Cryptic Graves is scheduled to release on PC this fall.

 

E/V/I/L! V/H/S review!

VHSMain

The Video Home System, aka the VHS, became a leap forward for home entertainment in the mid to late 1970s growing widely popular by the 1980s and into the better half of the 90s. Two decades later, most of the youthful generation can’t even tell you what a VHS tape looks like or spell out the abbreviation. Today the DVD is the standard norm and DVD has made a fatal blow that killed the VHS tape forever in the industry retail market, but believe me or not, the VHS tape still lives and breathes among us and those who collect the out of print format believe that VHS is the ultimate haven for movie lovers. Today, not everything is on DVD. VHS had thirty years to collect films from all over the world and DVD nor Blu-ray have captured them. They are timeless vintage that doesn’t have a expiration date (until the sun gets a hold of them).

Now, the VHS tape has been used in horror movies before – The Ring, Vacancy, etc – and has become sort of a icon for the genre. Nothing about a DVD disc is scary, but bring out a VHS tape with the grain and the tracking blemishes and that can even make the happiest of times seem creepy as shit. This leads me into V/H/S a horror anthology of short films surrounded by main film where adult juvenile delinquents decide to pursue a lead in gaining a cash prize if they pinch a VHS tape from an old man’s house as if sharking (scoping out women targets and exposing their breasts on camera unwillingly) and breaking windows in an abandoned complexes wasn’t exciting enough. After they break into the house and discover the owner apparently dead in a room full of televisions, they decide to split up and search for the tape. One by one they view a different tape and get more then they bargain for as each tape contains a horror story which once watched will never leave them the same again.

The Second Honeymoon

The Second Honeymoon

V/H/S is damn scary. Plain and simple. Black and white. Up and down. Five short horror stories with an horror story – a resemblance, if not a respectable nod, to Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt era, but the writers and directors made these stories their own constructing each one carefully to where the content just doesn’t scare you stupid but will also leave your jaw dropped and your mind racing. Being a recently married man myself, one episode entitled ‘The Second Honeymoon’ had my mind racing and paranoid – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the anthology. V/H/S encompasses different genres such as creature feature, thriller, haunted house, satan, slasher, and even aliens. A little something for everyone to enjoy. You might even recognize some of the directors and writers names such as Ti West (House of the Devil), Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), David Bruckner (The Signal), and Glenn McQuad (I Sell the Dead).

There is definitely a feeling of no holds barred when an series of short come out like this. I feel that the nudity and gore taboo go right out the window and anything can go. A big F.U. is given to the MPAA and, for this review, that I’m on board with that as I my philosophy in life is the more brutality, more nudity, more visceral the better and though each director accomplished their part in each of their respective story, I couldn’t help that something was missing. The characters and some of the dialogue just weren’t doing it for me. I must be jaded as I write myself and I find some of the dialogue to be at a third grade level along with most of the character’s mental states. Again, ‘The Second Honeymoon’ separates itself from the pack with sympathetic characters and an adult, non-frat party attitude dialogue. ‘Friday the 17th’ episode could just be a spoof on the 80’s slasher now that I think about it and that makes me a feel a little better about the writing.

Tuesday the 17th

Tuesday the 17th

Go grab your DVD or Blu-ray copy of V/H/S from Magnet Releasing and keep your eye out for V/H/S/2 – I’m sure it’ll bite even harder than the first.