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Freddy Krueger: Your worst nightmare

“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…” We all know that spine-tingling jingle that subtly defines one of horror’s most intimidatingly successful franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984). Craven’s legacy bears rich classics that have excelled beyond anyone’s expectations, with his filmography boasting titles such as The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and everybody’s cliche-twisting slasher, Scream (1996).

The great success Craven has received is admirable, yet there is an overt lack of discussion regarding symbolism and dissection when it comes to the titular character across every Nightmare on Elm Street film, the boogeyman himself, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). The franchise holds a total of nine films, with the first procuring the densest socio-political issues, alongside the most candid portrayal of Krueger. As the series has developed, so has the rambunctious behaviour from his character, with his later appearances emphasizing the more chucklesome and gabby side to his persona. To fully decipher what he represents we need to take a step back to the early 1980s and unravel the twisted world of Freddy Krueger. 

The 1960s and 1970s brought about great change, where the revolution of attempted freedom was at large, particularly in the USA. What brought about this dire need of a system change was a generalised anger over the lack of equality, civil rights, and the state of affairs across the world. These worrisome concerns were protested by the youth of America, leading to many filmmakers who were heavily involved in these stands becoming influenced by a furied ethical climate. The consequences of this were not always directly pronounced, with a favouring of symbolism and metaphorical values. One of the most primary examples of course being A Nightmare on Elm Street. The themes are manifested almost solely through Krueger, as he embodies denial, vulnerability, dissonance, and unjust dominance

The adaptive dream notion behind A Nightmare on Elm Street is well known. Craven had been inspired by the sudden death syndrome seen in a group of Hmong refugees, with Krueger’s stalking nature being influenced by a creeper that Craven had witnessed during his childhood. Withdrawing away from Krueger briefly is the setup that forces his legendary status; from the start, the setting is not reflected in archetypal horror locations. Instead of the haunted house or cemetery, we are presented with white picket fences in a white suburban neighbourhood. Straight away Craven is mocking the societal frame that cradled America’s elite, who would infamously belittle those who wanted to change the country’s structure for a fairer place. And what enforces the mimicry is the juxtaposition of what Krueger represents against the apparent bed of roses. 

Krueger withholds his victims through their dreams. He is not only controlling people at their most vulnerable state, but when they also have no chance of escape, people psychically need sleep to survive. In the first film the lead protagonist Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), has to battle against Krueger in her dreams to prevent her imminent death. Throughout the film, their contact is initiated through Nancy’s dreams, with her actually suffering in real life with any injuries she may obtain in these dream battles. Krueger presents himself with no invite and eventually becomes such a harrowing force in her life that the lines between dreams and reality become blurred. Without going on a tangent, the dream state is riddled with our subconscious thoughts, and what we aim to repress. Krueger is a symbol of the aftereffect that is born through neglect and generational cruelty that society attempts to abandon. 

Krueger’s charred skin, deep with lacerations and a hollowed complexion is not just purposeful to amp up the gore factor, it serves as a plot reaction. The brief history surrounding his origins is identified from the first film, where we find out that Nancy’s mother Marge (Ronee Blakley), and the other parents on their street burned Freddy Krueger to his death in a collective vigilante mission, due to Krueger being a child killer

What is intentionally ironic is the reason behind his motivation and the consequences of the parent’s actions. Needless to say, Krueger is riddled with vengeance, and he wants to destroy these adolescents to fuel his sick desires and to punish their families. The adults of Springwood are villainous, not only in their own deeds but additionally through their individual downfalls, including selfishness and avoidance of admittance. 

Their own matters of justice create a dark past that must not be uttered, forming an air of uncertainty and moral evilness over the town’s authority figures. Through the older generations’ actions, a cycle of repercussions has been conjured. Their children are suffering as a result of their misdeeds. Nancy and her friends are targeted by Krueger and are forced to fight it out alone, in a vicious system of repressed guilt. This fixes Krueger’s innate motive to disrupt the false civil harmony created, as underneath the façade lies a seedy underbelly

What furthers Krueger as a direct symbol of rebellion is his position as a fully fleshed-out villain, rather than an antagonist with an anonymous aura haloing over them. Throughout all of the films, Kruger is an all-performing show character, whose infectious personality has forced audiences over time to warm to him more than his victims. Krueger represents the evil in society, but just as humans do, we cannot help but be tempted by such wickedness. He talks, runs, jokes, laughs, and most importantly toys with his victims, showing genuine enjoyment in killing his prey.

He evokes a personality, not just a wallowing killer behind a mask. There is nothing at fault with the great silent killers, such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, but Krueger’s sensibility has a mysterious sense of threat that only he can achieve. He does not feed off of people’s fears as a source of power, instead, he uses that menacing allure to break down his victim’s shield. The thought of a speechless killer is terrifying, but the thought of one who plays a game of cat and mouse (just because he can) creates a daunting and disturbed atmosphere. 

Throughout the rest of the franchise Krueger’s comedic tone heightens, almost falling down the rabbit hole of 1980s fruitfully humorous horror, however, his true looming nature has remained the same. In comparison to other big franchises of the genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street has fewer titles, which is mostly due to the 2010 reboot completely failing at expanding the universe. But, despite such setbacks in progression, the most pivotal element across every film is the tonal roots that the Nightmare films stay true to, with Freddy Krueger being one of horror’s most definable and complex characters

Love to read more about iconic horror villains? Check out our article on Jason Voorhees here.

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Review: A Quiet Place Part II

As I entered the cinema to watch the highly anticipated A Quiet Place Part II I was unfortunately met with loud chatty audience members attached to their brightly lit phone screens, needless to say, my annoyance was strong.

However, the conversations halted and popcorn crunching was paused within five minutes of the attention-demanding film’s commencement. And that’s when I knew that I was in for a good time. Taming the teen audience is a challenge, but there’s only one film for the job… 

A Quiet Place Part II begins with Lee Abbot (John Krasinski), walking across an eerily quiet town, are we pre or post-apocalyptic? Our questions are soon answered as we enter into the same pharmacy that featured in the first film’s opening scene and see Lee talk to the friendly shopkeeper whilst stomping around in loud boots. Soon after, the buzzing sound of kids shouting and baseball’s batting begins as he turns the corner, entering into a loud family baseball game where we see the loving Abbot family cheering on their son.

However, it’s not long until the real action begins as a beaming flame crashes through the sky and unleashes a hellish parade of sound sensitive beasts. The strong opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, which boasts constant “Dun..Dun..Dunnn…” moments. This relaying of intense scares and unpredictable character fates is truly unique to The Quiet Place films. 

A Quiet Place (2018) focused on the Abbot family, consisting of wife and husband, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski), and their two children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Marcus (Noah Jupe) as they attempt to survive in this dangerous world, all the whilst having to prepare for the arrival of Evelyn’s baby who is due any day now. Due to Regan being deaf the family is able to efficiently communicate via American Sign Language (ASL).

Similarly, Part II follows the family as they reach their next hurdle. After their home and supplies have burnt down they need to make it on barefoot, with a low oxygen tank and a new-born baby. Fortunately, it’s not long until they run into Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a recluse who is still grieving the loss of his family. The story soon evolves into a triple threat as Regan goes on a voyage in search of finding a survival community, with Emmett trying to bring her back to the family, whilst Evelyn, Marcus, and the baby hideout in a risky bunker. Throughout the entire film, these interwoven segments never become muddled and always manage to successfully reunite separate themes together. 

Simmonds is a pure powerhouse, with her emotionally strong and courageous performance of a determined young woman taking on Lee’s role of the brave patriarch of the family, making her one of recent horror’s most interesting characters. But, Regan shows a distinct strength of selflessness and bravery that is entirely her own, not just a shadow of Lee’s commitment. Her actions resolved my initial worries about this sequel.

When a film is so outstanding it can be difficult to meet the same level of effectiveness, let alone top it, and I believe that most of that previous impact blossomed from Evelyn and Lee’s portrayal of a tender couple trying to raise their family amongst the carnage. And with Lee now permanently absent, I was slightly apprehensive over the lack of sentiment that Part II would obviously have. Alternatively, Part II brings about an abundance of maternal care, with Evelyn giving it her all to save her children, and Regan and Emmett being one another’s grief support partner. 

It would be impossible to review Part II without acknowledging the primary characteristic that swaddles the entire film, the creatures. Their exposure is much more generous in Part II, as they make a plethora of appearances throughout the entire film. Now, one creature element that I really did appreciate is the correlation between threat levels and creature exhibition.

Typically, as most recently seen in It: Chapter Two, when we constantly see the villain on screen we lose the mystery appeal, and most significantly we tire of the exaggerated emergence of the antagonist. Krasinski carefully tiptoes across this thread by placing the beasts only at the climax of the scene, where we are already on edge. 

Preserving my intrigue was the lack of prototypical survivor algorithms. The banality of the norm is almost completely eradicated, the death of Lee wholly surprised me, and I was not let down by the similar risks taken in this sequel. The phrase ‘no one is safe’ truly comes to mind in reflection, not even the new-born infant is safe!

These bold screams are of course not entirely unheard of, but they are rare. However, as much as I’ve sold this as an adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster, I actually found that one of the most pivotal instances is the inclusion of Emmett, who wallows in dread and devastating loss. Emmett transitions through his character arc with ease, possibly cementing a continued role in the upcoming third film…


Although I am unable to favour one film more than the other, due to their innately alternative routes, I can promise that A Quiet Place Part II is a brave, captivating, and adrenaline pumping thrill into tragedy in the midst of chaos.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

James Wan changed modern horror in 2013 with the release of The Conjuring. No one was truly expecting how much of a success this out-of-nowhere film was going to gain, nor did anyone expect the lasting legacy that The Conjuring would have on the genre. Eight years down the line the Conjuring Universe is now eight films richer, with four primary branches being explored (Conjuring, Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona).

The reason for the depth of films primarily relies upon The Warren’s having explored a senseless amount of paranormal cases, reportedly in the thousands. Out of these occurrences, the most opportunistic and intriguing one has to be the murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, which saw a young man who stabbed his landlord more than twenty times plead not guilty because “the devil made me do it…

Directing is Michael Chaves who is no stranger to the Conjuring Universe after the box office failure of The Curse of La Llorona, and in true Hollywood fashion, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It drifts entirely from the actual case. Not once did Ed and Lorraine Warren successfully bring a demon to court with them, instead, the judge immediately dismissed the claim of ‘default by possession’, but movie magic has to perform its spell to deliver.

So, in this fictional ‘true story’ we have at the roots a film that primarily follows Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson starring as Mr. and Mrs. Warren as they sieve through a plethora of ghastly ghouls whilst acting as actual detectives on multiple police cases. Matching this is a selective amount of dimensional characters, a heart warming love story, and a well-rounded look that thematically blossoms throughout. 

It is undeniable that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has its appealing features, with one of the top notes belonging to the Warren’s themselves. Most of the runtime is devoted to them as they scour to find clues as well as reminisce about how they met; in fact we are delivered quite a warming love story

And for me, this is what has allowed not just this entry, but the previous Conjuring films to draw fans in, we can’t help but adore a continuation, something steady to follow no matter how cliché the story gets. 

However, this is not a romance film at the basis, but instead a ‘supposed’ terrifying story of possession. But this is where the positive aspects begin to wallow. Joining the Warrens are our other leads, the harmless perpetrator Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) and his partner Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook). As aforementioned, we see Arne become possessed and brutally murder his landlord whilst in the presence of Debbie, but she stands by his claims and is at his beck and call.

They spiritually embody a younger version of Ed and Lorraine whose bond is unbreakable, and I do have to admit that I was immersed in their theatrics and their overarching outcomes did matter to me. Chaves certainly relies on fleshing out fruitful characters to deepen backstories and strengthen the spine of the narrative. 

Clearly, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has plenty of heart, but does it have any brains? Now comes the rapid downfall that sinks in just when we should be gripping to the edge of our seats. Unfortunately, Chaves’ bad luck from The Curse of La Llorona has followed him as the scares are certainly stretched thin. I watch a hefty amount of horror films every week so eventually, I do adapt to pre-packaged plot devices, particularly the dreaded jumpscare.

The sudden appearance of a daunting image accompanied by a swell in orchestral strings has plagued the genre for a dreadful amount of time. That is not to say that jumpscares are impossible to effectively use, with some of horror’s greatest scenes deriving from the tactic, including that terrifying scene in The Descent where the hideous humanoid appears behind a woman’s shoulder, or when the bright red demon appears out of nowhere in the infamous Insidious scene. Chaves on the other hand used them extensively to the point of being formulaic, where anyone could have seen them coming a mile off. 

Similarly, the entire film’s structure could be described as exposition, silence, jumpscare, exposition, silence, jumpscare; and so forth. What happens with this predictability is the essence of familiarity, and ultimately boredom. Sitting through a film that is 1hr and 52 minutes where you can see every single climax before it even happens is challenging, but what added to this was the constant tangent that the film drifted off to.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Johnson’s possession claim was immediately dismissed as legally there was no way to prove innocence, instead, the lawyers went down a self-defense route. Obviously, if the film would have followed reality then everything would have been solved in under an hour, but to uphold feature film requirements there needed to be plenty of filler

The gauzes to pad the film were dull, with unnecessary deep dives into other possession murder cases being explored by the Warrens. The overexertion dragged the film out until my attention had nearly completely broken down. 


My overall thoughts remain unbalanced, with neither a love nor hate opinion residing. Alternatively, I enjoyed the refreshing involvement of character arcs but was entirely let down by the extraneous shelling out in an attempt to deliver a ‘wide’ film. At times films with grand budgets get lost in the freedom of finance, with a favouring in exploring dozens of locations and expensive exterior shots; whereas indie films have to be good internally as there is no opportunity to fill in the gaps with pricy stills.

A keen focus to honing in is what The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It desperately needed, and more importantly the entire franchise needs to form its dedication to the genre better and take a note out of The Conjuring’s (2013) book of expertise.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- Army of the Dead

Does the idea of rabid zombies tucked away in a desolate Las Vegas thrill you? No… Well how about a merciless motley crew of mercenaries battling a zombie tiger? My thoughts exactly! 

Zack Snyder’s return to flesh eating horror is a bountiful resurrection as his new Netflix flick, Army of the Dead brings in a whole horde of viewers ready to tuck in to the zombie action in its first week.

Spoilers ahead…

Snyder stormed through in 2004 with a brave remake of Dawn of the Dead. Which was a regenerated retake on the original 1978 classic directed by the ‘Zombie Godfather’, George A. Romero. It is certainly one of Snyder’s more refined films, with its success fastening a weighty reputation. Snyder’s return to zombie mayhem has done wonders as Netflix is already creating an entire franchise based off of this single film. Yes, you heard that right. Already there is a scheduled prequel, an animated series, a sequel, making-of documentary and finally a behind the scenes book. So let’s discuss why Army of the Dead is here to stay.

 

The film begins with a military convoy transporting a restrained zombie, but when they collide with another vehicle all hell breaks loose as this monstrous creature tears through tendons and leaves the ground stained with blood. A slew of exposition explains that the majority of Las Vegas became infected and now only a small community survives in a quarantine camp.

This setup leads us to the real action, *cue Scott Ward* (played by Dave Bautista), an ex-mercenary who has to gather a crew of military misfits to recover millions of dollars from a casino vault as part of one of the world’s most riskiest heists. However, there are two big obstacles in their way, one being that Sin City is littered with the immortal, and secondly, the government is launching a tactical nuclear bomb to wipe out the undead only hours after they plan to leave. 

An area that I do have to applaud is the film’s energy. Throughout the extensive (and I mean EXTENSIVE) runtime of 148 minutes we do not really get a chance to breathe. The explosions do not stop, the guns are never not blaring and the velocity is amped up by the second. Going full throttle is definitely what Snyder does best. The theatrics certainly live up to his reputation, alongside the exciting setting, eccentric visuals and most importantly its tongue-in-cheek humour.

It’s sharp vibrancy is immediately placed down within the first 20 minutes. We are presented with the above mentioned crash scene which catalyses the zombie attack, but then we get to see what is my favourite scene of the entire film, the opening credits/montage sequence. Half-nude zombie casino girls flail around, shredding anyone they can get their claws on, accompanying this is a cover of Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas” and a heavy dose of slow-motion shots, playing over the absolute carnage on screen. The glossiness of Vegas is certainly not lost amidst the zombies as I really believe that Army of the Dead would not have the same vibe if it was not set amongst ricocheted casinos, beaming sunsets, and decaying state landmarks. 

Army of the Dead thrives in this over the top attitude. The excess is mostly found within the copious amounts of gore and pure bloodshed, which is entirely understandable in a zombie movie. Paired with the onslaught is plenty of gun-fights and innovative subplots. Although the heist aspect was done better in last year’s Train to Busan: Peninsula, it is definitely a forgiving point, as for me I saw the heist scenario just a means to an end, not an encompassing important narrative device. However, this praise is not without caution…

This is not a perfect film at all, in fact I found it slightly dim in certain areas. Particularly, the lack of character care. To connect and actually care about the fates of the lead characters is quite an important factor. Without compassion, the legacy of the film will fade rapidly. There is a clear level of tackling done to avoid any shallowness, such as making Ward a father with a brief backstory. But that’s where the development stops. 

That is not the film’s only downfall, with the extended action taking sole presence over quality. As I’ve stated above, the 148 minute runtime is noticeable. The exact same film could have been told within a 90-100 minute time frame, but it seems that horde attacks and cool fight scenes were more important than keeping the audience’s attention. I’m not saying that the film is bad in any shape or form, but a sense of ruthless editing is certainly needed. 

Overall, I’d describe Army of the Dead as a mix of World War Z’s fast paced ferociousness, with a fair portion of Zombieland’s humour and quick wit. The combined gorefest is a visual festival of vibrant colour and beaming lights, but just be prepared for a lack of deeper narrative

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- Psycho Goreman

Psycho Goreman certainly lives up to its name, awash with vivacious color and bouncy characters ready to show you just how iconic a true to heart monster mashup is!

Director Steven Kostanski is known for his horror filmography, with awesome films racking up his eccentric genre authorship, including The Void, Leprechaun Returns and a segment in ABC’s of Death 2. Psycho Goreman truly encapsulates what Kostanski does best, showing normalized chaos in a fantastical world where the story shines just as much as the visuals. 

PG: Psycho Goreman' Acquired By RLJE Films & Shudder For 2020 Release –  Deadline

The film follows brother sister duo Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre), as they unearth a mysterious glowing gem. At first nothing is too out of the ordinary, but later that night an extraterrestrial overlord is resurrected, who Mimi gleefully nicknames PG for short. Psycho Goreman reads just like a rad 1980s video game, equipped with shameless absurdity, an epic screenplay and a whopping great big creature to tie things up.

Without oversimplifying, the film at the heart is straightforward allowing for the amazing performances to shine with both Hanna and Myre’s sibling antics coming across as both hilarious and warming at the roots. This is what made the film stand out to me; too many love letters to obscure cinema of the 1980s eventually become muddled and confused in an attempt to create an entire cinematic universe in a 90 minute time frame. Psycho Goreman on the other hand is fully aware of its adventurous path and it fully explores that dark fantasy element that continuously appeals to viewers, without becoming too lengthy. 

Psycho Goreman Review - HeyUGuys

Accompanying this soon to be cult classic is Kostanski’s treatment of what is notoriously difficult to master in filmmaking, using kids as your main character in a horror film. The rule of ‘never work with children or animals’ seems to ring true for most, with child actors in horror being hard to perfect’, but the juxtaposition of a bestial creature aiming to take over the world whilst being controlled by menacing youths make for a delightfully ambitious watch.

The character of Mimi is unbelievably well written and embodies the role of a cheeky 12 year old with immense genuinity. Hanna is certainly set for an exciting career ahead. At one point we even see PG join Mimi and Luke in a rocking garage band session. And that’s my exact point, the entire film is fun, sporadic and completely ridiculous (but in a genius way). The thrashing dismissal to conform only furthers the charm, with Kostanski not falling into the typicality’s of these genre films. We usually see a towering destructive creature gradually evolve into their surroundings and lose their murderous urges; in short, do not expect the ordinary when it comes to Psycho Goreman. 

Review] 'Psycho Goreman' Puts Emphasis on Goofy Gory Fun - Bloody Disgusting

The film reminded me of classic B-movies, prominently The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Xtro, with a good dose of Rawhead Rex thrown into the mix. It’s action packed, booming with nostalgia and most importantly, the effects are dynamic and striking. PG’s appearance resembles almost anyone’s worst nightmare as he dons a molten coat, hiding effervescent cracks of glaring crimson. The creature design is impeccable, and most importantly they look like they came straight out of a wild game of Dungeons and Dragons; the whole regime of monster hierarchy mimics similarities to Hellraiser’s Cenobites (another favorite of mine!).

10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Psycho Goreman Right Now

The disavowment of high-brow entertainment basks in its ludicrousness, with Kostanski crafting a well formed comedic timing. Not only is this one of the most outlandish films I’ve seen this year, it’s also one of the most impressive, marking itself as an official hidden gem that I completely recommend.

Psycho Goreman is available now exclusively on Shudder.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- Spiral: From the Book of Saw

“He could be anywhere, he could be anyone. We’re gonna tear this city apart”

Just like that Saw is revived. The Saw franchise has sorely embedded itself within modern horror instantaneously when James Wan and Leigh Whannell released the first segment in 2004. The series had reached a lull and drifted from its pioneering ways, with later instalments simply existing to test audiences’ gag reflexes, but could Darren Lynn Bousman’s Spiral sway the franchise back to its esteemed position? 

Bousman is no stranger to the world of Saw, with three previous installments under his belt. Joining him is Chris Rock who helms writing credits, as well as taking the lead as Detective Zeke Banks who reluctantly partners with rookie officer William Schenk (Max Winghella), as they race against the clock to solve a string of murders against the police force by a Jigsaw copycat.

Greeting Banks with more trouble is his tumultuous reputation within the force as his reputation has been plagued since he uncovered a dirty cop. Only tying the situation tighter is his estranged relationship with his police veteran father, Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). 

Persisting with the judicial rendition is a tempered story that loosely tackles a serious topic, police immorality. Such topics deserve a full backbone to thrive, but I believe that making a statement was not the goal, nevertheless the political basis could have profited off of a more rounded payoff if the bouncing clichés were not as blatant. Banks is divorced, rogue, and ridiculed, with a zealous newbie as a partner, which reads as a typical crime horror layout.

Nothing new here. Although we do not necessarily need a buzzing sub-plot of corruption for Spiral to have scored, possibly focusing less on factuating a sense of moral motive (similar to how Jigsaw targeted the ungrateful) and instead work on turning the attention towards the thrill would have helped avoidance of the negative criticism regarding a cluttered narrative. 

On a positive note, I fully appreciate that Bousman aims to reimagine the tale rather than just tell the same story in an alternative light. Let’s view this in lieu of franchise semantics, Spiral is not Saw IX, the actual subtitle is ‘From the Book of Saw’. Instead, Spiral simply takes a note out of Saw’s book, an ode, a dedication. Viewing Spiral as a spin-off resolves many issues that fans have raised. Take for example the bloody and brutal traps that Saw is known for, in Spiral they do not make a keen appearance.

No longer do we witness victims suffer from what seems like an endless prolonged death. That’s not to say that the new copycat is not as harsh, as although the traps are not suffocatingly graphic, they are all nearly impossible. Each trap is slightly tuned down when compared to the film’s previous reputation, yet the lack of exposed explicatives is not to be underestimated as I still winced at the sight of tongues being ripped off, melting faces, skinning, and a body being obliterated by a train. 

Conjoining the tension is an air of unease that Bousman brings to the table. With all types of cinema there is a certain sense of familiarity, a comfortable position where we know that despite hardships all will be resolved and the lead will get a happy ending. Spiral fortunately does not drift into the certain. Instead we are threatened with the fact that no one is off limits, seriously NO ONE. And its this infiltration of precariousness disavows us to tire entirely, no matter the viewer’s opinion. 

Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson’s performances are one of the most applauding features of Spiral. Their witty and dishevelled relationship is reminiscent of the buddy-cop genre, with a few back and forths forcing us to warm to their characters, despite obvious flaws. Not only did I actually care about their fates, I would have happily watched an entire cop drama with them two pairing as leads.

The on-screen partnering, combined with Spiral’s general thematics reminded me of 1990s crime thrillers, with Se7en (1995) immediately coming to mind. The mimicry to exhilarating police thrillers can be seen as a far bargain when we throw in the additional elements such as the above mentioned traps and the history of the Jigsaw killer that is frequently mentioned. However, Spiral is not entirely a plea to wake up an unkempt franchise, alternatively the film offers a bridge into horror for a new generation

Spiral has an instinctive drive for worming its way back to what made the early film’s so great, but with a contrasting guise. No longer will Saw continue as a hyper stylized, grungy gorefest with twists and turns pounding down as soon as the disequilibrium hits. Instead, the fresh take on a demented serial killer (arguable term) will breach out into a world of theatrical dramatics, heavily immersed with inner trauma and current topics. 

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- Relic

Relic both devastates and captivates us all whilst establishing a rich environment made to heighten fear and immerse our intrigue. The 2020 Australian horror left its blemish across the virtual festival scene last year, with reviews storming in boasting its brilliance. Quite impressively this is Natalie Ericka James’ directorial debut, despite this, the film received almost immediate interest upon its pitching, with Jake Gyllenhaal serving as a producer. Relic’s buzz was imminent due to its pressing and at times daunting portrayal of decay, both physical and mental, paired with a haunting atmosphere that goes straight for the jugular. 

When Kay (Emily Mortimer) receives a call from police alerting her of her mother Edna’s (Robyn Nevin) disappearance, she packs her bags along with her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) to search their family home. They soon find the house withering away alongside multiple reminder notes scattered, hinting that Edna’s dementia has gotten worse. However, when she mysteriously returns as if nothing happened they soon get the feeling that something much more sinister is at play. 

Unfortunately, memory loss seen within elder people, particularly family, is a dreadful circumstance that many people find themselves dealing with. James understands that our reaction to horror is deeply personal, our own experiences and fears develop our reaction. The echoes of loss are as above mentioned dispersed across not just the characters but also the self.

We are presented with a haunted house story but are met with much more than doors closing on their own, strange whispers and ghostly figures. There is a rather surreal tonal element that James masters. In recent years horror cinema has matured. Although plenty of entertaining slashers and gory films remain popular, a good handful of films drift towards an art-house structure, using eerie environments and character-driven stories, with thanks being owed to Robert Eggers and Ari Aster with the likes of The Witch and Hereditary favouring dramatics over bloodshed. 

An element that I personally admired throughout Relic revolves around the looming sense of dread that both Mortimer and Heathcote portrayed so robustly. They perform with a cathartic drive that aims to accurately embody what our reactions would be in such a situation. I mentioned that Relic is an immersive experience, mainly due to the reality illustrated. We wouldn’t be able to feel compassion for their situation without genuity. We follow three generations, that’s multiple generations of baggage and experience, they all naturally have alternative responses to the situations, yet the roots remain the same. Relic has a reeling heart and soul, reminiscent of the gothic tales from Edgar Allen Poe and Heathcoat, Mortimer and Nevin soulfully handle an impassioned story with effective ease. 

Furthering the terror is the complicated setting. Similar to Kubrick’s The Shining, I noticed that the internals of the house are convoluted and seemingly never-ending. At least twelve different rooms are shown, and although the exterior boasts a lengthy space (thanks to cinematographer Charlie Sarroff’s work) the camera still endlessly weaves through this maze of a house, only exaggerating the inescapability of this haunted house.

It is disorientating and threatening to be alone in a big empty house in an already isolated environment, facilitating this even more is the immediacy of terror presented to us regarding the “coldness of the house”. Sam notes the copious amount of locks that Edna has installed as she remarks that someone has been breaking in and moving furniture, yet there is not a single trace left. The camera lingers on the still idleness across the empty rooms and hallways. However, the frames remain thriving with a presence of lingering life, visible or not; this awareness of spiritual manifestation blossoms through transcending visuals. 


Relic relishes in a simplistic disguise. There is no bountiful torture or dark humour (granted it is still entertaining). I applaud the mossy baroqueness that drifts throughout this slowburner. On the point of slowburner, although I sing its praises Relic certainly will not please every audience member, or at least at first.

Do not expect rapid twists and turns or countless jump scares; it’s a slow burner true to the bone. Relic aims to make a witness out of you, and to invite one to simply watch as the unease unravels. And for this very reason, I’m marking Relic as a must-see for anyone willing to bear a small ounce of patience in return for a big payoff.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Review- Fried Barry

Warning: a few spoilers ahead…

Bashful, absurd, and full on chaotic is the aptest way to describe Ryan Krueger’s rising hit, Fried Barry. Describing trippy horror film’s as a sensory overload is nothing new, however I cannot stress enough that Krueger’s vision of an alien possession gone awry is anything but ordinary; in fact, good luck keeping a steady focus with forceful cinematics hitting you from every angle.

Fried Barry is a South African film streaming on Shudder and is based on Kreuger’s three-minute short from 2017, and is heavily improvised, with a traditional script being abandoned in favour of on the spot dialogue. 

We follow Barry (Gary Green), a grubby drug addict who after a string of highs is abducted by aliens. The extraterrestrial forces at play have free reign over Barry as they go on a wild night out in Cape Town. Plenty of sex, drugs, violence and mayhem takes centre stage in one of 2020’s most surprising films.

The neon drenched scenes take over the audience’s perception of conformity, whilst Cape Town transforms from a popular known destination to some sort of new dimension imitating a strange acid laden environment.

This foreign territory comes across as more alien than wherever these jovian creatures originated from. Barry is significantly outstanding in his role as a ridiculous caricature-esque being who at the stem is careless (even in serious circumstances), but I found his character to be so at home and warmed in this kaleidoscopic setting. Green is actually not a trained actor by profession, but instead a stuntman, making his performance extremely impressive in consideration. 

All of this praise over visuals is certainly not a case of ‘style over substance’. Personally speaking, although motive serves purpose in most films, it is not always necessary. Barry’s possession is a deep exploration into humankind, with all things weird and wacky embraced. It’s through his lack of control that we end up warming to his disillusion, he is not aware of his cruel behaviours and you understand the glimpses of his past self.

Through this a series of pinnacles become risen via creative filmmaking. We are witness to constant narrative contortions where we genuinely have no clue what’s going to happen next. This sporadic nature thrives throughout, with one rather memorable scene exhibiting Barry impregnating a prostitute, to which she immediately gives birth in a grotesquely excruciating scene. 

Kreuger’s direction is invasive, resulting in a strikingly seedy tale of innocent pandemonium. What Fried Barry accomplishes so well is the inherent nature of bringing Grand Guignol adventures back to the mainstream. The film fits right in with 1980s schlock, with a clear ode to oddball characters and rather testing sights.

We thrive with the obscene, which quite simply drips throughout the entire film. Alongside this is the lack of situational care, we see plenty of aggressive pimps, sign-wearing preachers, deluded asylum patients, nagging housewives and then we have Barry himself, a stereotypical substance abuser – There really is something to offend everyone.

I could easily compare Fried Barry to similarly eccentric films such as The Greasy Strangler (2016) and Bad Boy Bubby (1993), but in reality Kreuger has created an immensely unique and convoluted film that really is worth a watch.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Retrospective – Silent Hill (2006)


A retrospective deep dive into Silent Hill on its 15th anniversary

Video games, particularly of the horror/survival genre have a rooted integrity that has a massive potential to complement cinematic adaptations. But, typically when game adaptations appear on the ‘big screen’ an overall lacklustre effect looms over any positives, with House of the Dead (2003) being a prime example. Silent Hill manages to swerve any major perpetration and has successfully conjured an almost cult status 15 years later.

A keen passion for the game, truth to pivotal details, and a brave narrative are what allowed Silent Hill to keep its beloved status. With this being said, in no way is the film entirely welcomed, with a mixed reception clouding its reputation. However, as I’ll soon decipher, the craft behind Silent Hill is undeniably worthy of cult class. 

Surrealist imagery, an atmospheric score and a labyrinth setting all melt together to create a purposefully incoherent jungle of horror. The rumor of Konami’s 1999 game being developed began circulating in the early 2000s, with director Christophe Gans constantly bartering for the rights to remake the rapidly growing game into a feature film. In fact, Gans was so personally drawn and passionate about this adaptation that during pre-production he would bring a large gaming setup with him so that whilst he was playing cast and crew would see exactly what angles and stages they should focus on re-creating. This is where a primary issue with its critical consensus lies.

Personally speaking, I do not have a great knowledge of video games at all, let alone Silent Hill. Yet, after watching plenty of playthroughs and description pieces I can fully understand how well Gans translated the hellish world of Silent Hill onto the screen. And with this basic knowledge comes a completely new perspective on the film. To lay it bare, the essence of Silent Hill relies neither on a visual frenzy nor a discerning setting, instead it’s unique perspective depends on every single detail above, even the small features that go unnoticed make a drastic difference to the audience’s experience. 

This amalgamation is tremendously challenging to effectively orchestrate. The story itself continuously takes 180 turns whenever it pleases, seeming almost nonsensical at times; but, let’s not forget that Gans is recreating a video game that has an almost unlimited amount of moves and scenarios to work your way through. Hence the film running for a staggering 125 minutes. Where I found myself truly drawn in straight away is through the narrative.

We follow Rose (Radha Mitchell), as she takes her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) to the mysterious town of Silent Hill to uncover the truth behind Sharon’s innate devotion to this town. However, after they get into a car accident en route, Sharon is nowhere to be found. As a basis, I found that the extensively daunting and dark landscape encapsulates the disturbing nature of the story. When we dig down to its roots Silent Hill tells the tale of parallel dimensions and the consequences regarding veneration of power and the idolisation of higher beings. 

In avoidance of abundant spoilers, Silent Hill imitates a curse, where its unlucky visitors become stuck in limbo. The fog-casted town is a purgatory whose history has led Sharon to practically become cursed. However, an effective backstory does not immediately grant the film a gold star, instead, the boundless story can leave audiences bewildered with many questions unanswered. And this is where one of the main criticisms lies. Personally, as a viewer who had no previous experience with the game, I was at first confused with the immeasurable amount of information that I had to comprehend to understand the ending.

Seemingly I was not alone as many reviews voiced hassle over the excessive exposition drops. But for me, this is where my intrigue to know more about this film grew. Colloquially when we first watch a film we do not always become immediate fans, we need time to process and revisit to appreciate its intentions. I’ve watched Silent Hill a handful of times now and I can truthfully say that the constantly expanding universe entwined with the town is entirely enthralling. 

Silent Hill would have not been as effective without the immaculate creature designs. The film’s unnerving atmosphere is impressive, but for audiences to sit through 125 minutes of sole environment-based scares is a lot to ask. Gans re-envisioning of Pyramid Head, Dark Nurses, Grey Children, and Lying Figures all graphically personify what made them so scary in the game.

Perhaps the most interesting and overall perplexing discovery that was made evident by the film is that these monsters primarily disturb as they are all forms of humanoids, rather than completely alien antagonists with zero resemblance to an actual person. Sharon’s connection to Silent Hill is due to a tragedy that was struck by people; everything regarding the horror of the town is rooted in human consequence

This furthers my next point, the symbolism behind Silent Hill. It takes only a brief read of a synopsis to compare Rose’s journey into the abandoned town to Dante’s Inferno. The tale of Dante’s Inferno is such an iconic method used in the horror genre to attain a deeper meaning to a film, which of course leads to rushed endings and a plethora of stereotypes. Yet, in this case it’s hard to think of a more viable explanation. Grief, revenge, fear, anarchy, trauma, and guilt all come to life within each setting of Silent Hill. Of course, I’m not going to explain the copious layers moulded within Inferno, but when we compare the torturing of souls without rest, alongside the grossly immoral evils of lust that led to the corruption and downfall of Silent Hill we can rest assured make sense of this ambiguously misleading universe. 


The legacy of Silent Hill has been rather unconventional. Unlike many horror adaptations, Silent Hill was not made into an ever-expanding film franchise, with only one sequel to bare its name to. However, the game did soar as multiple editions and continuations followed. What we can take away from this retrospective look at Silent Hill is that the actual visual appeal that Gans has produced, combined with the game’s true essence of immorality and personal dread has certainly left its mark on video game adaptations within horror.

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.

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Original vs. Remake: It (1990) & It (2017)

Remakes, reboots, and revivals have taken possession over a hefty section of horror productions, with a plethora of classics being reenvisioned to either accommodate younger and newer audience members or to bring new light to beloved genre favourites. Although we have seen our fair share of remakes gone wrong, there remains a select bunch of films whose newer additions have proven to be just as good or even better than the original.

For this ‘Original vs Remake’ edition, we will be comparing It (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1990) and It (Andy Muschietti, 2017). 

Storming onto the screens in 1990 is It, a terrifying portrayal of a demonic entity who takes on the shape of a clown to terrorise its victims every 27 years. However, its latest string of targets (the self-acclaimed “Losers Club”) may just be brave enough to banish Pennywise for good. Unlike a generic (yet anything but mundane) humanoid creature Pennywise the Clown does not play the typical game of lurching out from dark corners and hiding under the bed, instead, it preys upon individuals own specific fears to weaken and destroy them in what is their worst nightmare.

Of course one of the only writers capable of conjuring such an unsettling story is Stephen King. King penned It in 1986, and although the film drifts slightly from the novel the true essences are kept clear. 

To determine the winner of the old and new “It’s” is an impossible battle as each film encapsulates alternative identities, but to firstly differentiate between the two we need to discuss the classic character of Pennywise. The 1990 It casts Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as the dreaded clown, with simple makeup and costume (at least for a clown). As Curry is the titular character there is an immense amount of pressure to create a multidimensional performance that can both lure his child victims in and then frighten the living daylights out of them.

Curry does not fail once, in fact, I might even go as far as stating that his portrayal is one of the best that horror has ever seen. The sheer embodiment of shapeshifting terror is brutally brazen, which is only furthered by Curry’s witty balance of stark humour and horrifying antics

It was made as a tv miniseries, with two episodes and a total original length of 192 minutes, with the physical release merging the episodes to become a feature length movie. It is a unique factor within itself for a ‘made-for-tv’ movie to become an outstanding success, let alone make its mark as one of the most iconic horror’s. Due to the broadcasting, certain restrictions were put in place that is typically abolished within mainstream horror including a limit to bloodshed and gore, as well as censorship to graphic content.

After horror audiences were subjected to grisly violence from exaggerated 1980s horror, It certainly was a breath of fresh air. Audiences’ tactics shifted from gratuitous shock to psychological character studies. We are not met with generous carnage, with the piece actually having an almost black comedy mechanism. However, the comic motifs are not a replacement of fear, with the flicking of Curry’s performance from inviting to menacing being nothing less than startling. 

On this note, It relies upon subtext and internalised concepts to create a bounding journey. During the first act, we see the losers club as children dealing with their own individual issues, which are rather harrowing yet realistic considering their age including traumatic milestones such as grief, and abuse. Although the ‘losers are all dealing with scarring experiences Lee Wallace does not show them in extreme jeopardy, with the camera simply cutting to their expressions when Pennywise strikes. Despite some scenes feeling slightly dated, It is an undeniable classic that still holds up to this day. 

News of a remake began to emerge from as early as 2009, but it was not until 2015 when the production began to pick up speed with Muschietti being announced as the director. The trailer almost immediately amassed a cult following of its own, with the view count entering the millions. The brand new shiny Pennywise enthralled audiences (myself included!). Curry’s vivid and rambunctious appearance was wiped away in favour of a brandished shadowed look complete with dusty clothing and a more styled-out ginger barnet.

Bill Skarsgård took the brave step of becoming the nerve-wracking Pennywise. Such an iconic role is accompanied by severe pressures, however truthfully his small appearance in the trailer and posters was enough to create a swift fan appeal. It was about to enter onto the horror scene with a killer force, conjuring a vigorous reputation as being one of the highest-grossing horror films of all time

It is not better than the original, but it is on par. There are a plethora of reasons as to why this is my belief, but one of my main factors is that the loser’s club has refined and well-developed personas that transcend into a coming-of-age movie. Quite favourably I admire any film that decides to use age appropriate characters rather than twenty-somethings playing tweens. Although It (1990) enacts the same character backstories, the relationships between the losers have such an authentic bond that plays out as non-scripted; just as if the camera was kept rolling whilst they would playfully make jabs at one another.

Simply due to more modern filmmaking and techniques, Muschietti transforms the fictional town of Derry, Maine into a hellish landscape with treacherous corners lurking in the ordinary. Pennywise does not even have to be in shot for our senses to start heightening. The atmosphere alone is daunting, with the town hoarding a dark omen; Derry exceeds being just a town, instead it becomes a character. This is certainly an aspect that It (2017) focuses on, alongside one of the other primary differences, the graphicness.

It does not shun its psychodrama roots, yet we are welcomed to indulge in grisly carnage. Although visual gore is not the focus, there is plenty of horrific imagery whose sole purpose serves to disconcert our awareness. The infamous opening scene shows a little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) chase his paper boat that falls down a storm drain where he fatally meets Pennywise. At first, Pennywise dons the joyous clown persona to fool Georgie, before he mutates into a disgustingly ferocious beast with razor-sharp fangs ripping into this small boy’s arm. His metamorphosis into a barbaric behemoth both entices and panics the audiences. 

Muschietti and Lee Wallace’s take on King’s beyond incredible tale of a demonic clown truly emulates and escalates some of the most vital and engrossing moments of the book. It is not necessary to compare and battle these two films as they are each substantially iconic in their own individual ways. I view them as equal contenders who compliment each other, and both deserve their own hallmark within the horror film history. 

This weeks article comes via Grace from Film Overload, you can check out more of her work here.