Movie Review: Happy Death Day (2017)

Hey there, friends, and welcome back to more Month of Spooks content. So what do we have on our plate today? A slasher of sorts? Neat.

Hey there, friends, and welcome back to more Month of Spoo- wait… deja vu… Um, Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Happy Death Day”.

College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) has managed to find herself in a bit of a predicament. Not only has she woken up hung over in a strange dorm room, but later that same night she also finds herself murdered… only to wake back up in the strange dorm room. She must now figure out what the hell is going on and she can end it. TIME LOOP! Of course, time loop stories have existed in film many times before time. But “Happy Death Day” is a little different in that it takes the time loop idea and mixes it with a slasher, while also being “Groundhog Day” inspired comedy. And the mix of the three styles works surprisingly well, leading to a narrative that is fun, fast paced, and fucking hilarious, all without sacrificing the suspense of the mystery and horror. It’s a highly enjoyable narrative that had me glued from start to end.

The characters in this are all colorful, unique, fun, flawed, and entertaining. Let’s talk about our protagonist Teresa “Tree” Gelbman. What I like about her as a character is that she has quite a substantial and enjoyable arc. Because when we meet her she’s kind of a manipulative, selfish, bratty mean girl. But as we see her get taken out and go through the loop, she develops quite a bit, making for one hell of an enjoyable arc. And Jessica Rothe is absolutely fantastic in the role, as she sells the drama, the horror, and the comedy masterfully. We also get supporting work from people like Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews, and more, all doing really well in their respective roles.

Hey there, friends, and welcome back to more Mont- Damn it, AGAIN!? Anyhow, the score for this movie was composed by Bear McCreary, and I think he did a great job with it. Heavy brass hits, fun strings, some electronics, it’s McCreary playing around to create a highly energetic score that just fits movie really well. There’s also a few licensed songs used throughout, and they fit really well with their respective scenes.

“Happy Death Day” was directed by Christopher Landon, and he really killed it here. His direction has so much energy and snappiness to it, leading to a frenetic and fun vibe that keeps everything engaging. He also plays around a lot with the camera, especially during montages and chases, which made those stick out even more, making them insanely entertaining. Yeah, this shit’s well crafted.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 58/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.6/10.

“Happy Death Day” is a hella entertaining horror-comedy that I could see myself watching over and over (Sorry, Tree). It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, great direction, and very funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Happy Death Day” is a 9.78. Which means that it does get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Happy Death Day” is now completed.

Hey there, friends, and welcome back to more Month of Spook- SON OF A BITCH, GET ME OUT OF THIS LOOOOOOOOP.

Movie Review: Blood Red Sky (2021)

Welcome back. Time for more Month of Spooks content. So let’s just get into it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Blood Red Sky”.

When a group of terrorists hijack a transatlantic flight, Nadja (Peri Baumester) does everything she can to make sure she and her son make it through the night, even if it means embracing a dark secret she’s been harboring for years. So it’s basically “Die Hard”, on a plane, but with a supernatural twist. And for a lot of the runtime they play around with that in a fun way, finding interesting ways of constantly escalating the predicaments of the characters. But I will say that I didn’t fully love it, and one of the reasons for that is pacing. This movie, despite having a fair few set pieces, feels really slow, really dragging its ass at times. And while a slow pace, if done well, can lead to a creeping tension, that’s not what happens here. When shit’s going down, it’s fun, but otherwise this is a bit of a slog.

The characters in this are fine. I enjoyed some of them, and others were just… meh. They try to give a little depth to a few of them, and those characters are probably the most enjoyable.  At least the cast is consistently solid, featuring people like Peri Baumeister, Carl Anton Koch, Graham McTavish, Kais Setti, Alexander Scheer, Dominic Purcell, Roland Møller, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Dascha Dauenhauer, and I thought it was good. Some sad strings, some heavy horror hits, the usual fair for a lot of spooky movies like this. I don’t know what else to say, it’s a perfectly passable score that works for the movie, even if it doesn’t stand out in any real way.

“Blood Red Sky” was directed and co-written by Peter Thorwarth for Netflix, and I think he did a solid job with it. The man has a good eye for composition, and his action scenes are well put together. I even think that when things are properly going down, he has a great sense of energy and momentum. If only the script or final edit was tighter, then we’d have a cracking thrill ride on our hands. But as it stands, this is still solidly put together, with some really good action. There’s even a bunch of really solid practical gore and makeup effects, so that’s nice.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 43/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While it does feel a bit too long and slow at times, “Blood Red Sky” is a perfectly enjoyable little horror flick. It has an alright story, okay characters, really good performances, okay music, and really solid directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Blood Red Sky” is a 6.78/10. So while flawed, I’d still say it’s worth a watch.

My review of “Blood Red Sky” is now completed.

Ich bin ein flugzeug

Guest Post: Frankenstein (1931)

Hey there, friends, hope you’re doing well on this spooky October day. So today we’re doing something a little different. For once, you’re not putting up with my terrible opinion(s). No, instead this piece is written by my dear friend Mary, who is the first proper guest writer we’ve had on the blog, so that’s exciting. Anyhow, I won’t dawdle any longer.
Let’s just sit back and enjoy as Mary takes us through the 1931 classic “Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is one of the most culturally impactful monster movies released by Universal Studios. The appearance of the Monster and the notion of a “creator” has influenced everything from TV comedies (such as The Munsters); to fantasy cinema (such as Edward Scissorhands); to sci-fi horror (such as Ex Machina). It’s not just about the flat top head and the neck bolts, it’s about our desire to understand life and, most crucially, what makes us human.
The Monster made his first outing in 1931, in a movie directed by James Whale, who went on to direct The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein as part of Universal’s original horror canon. The very image of the Monster that we see to date is influenced specifically by this movie, and not the Mary Shelley novel on which it is – very loosely – based.

The film opens with a bow-tied Master of Ceremonies warning the viewers that what they are about to see is both disturbing and horrifying. The feels like an unusual move for a horror movie but, perhaps, back in 1931 it was deemed necessary before introducing the Monster to movie-goers who had never seen such a character before. The cast list roles up, with every player’s name listed apart from the actor playing the Monster. It’s a neat little marketing hook.

Centring around Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his lab assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Whale’s adaptation of the gothic horror novel really homes in on the titular character’s God complex and his quest to create new life without the aid of a higher being. A mix up at the university sees Fritz steal an “abnormal, criminal” brain – as opposed to a “normal, good” one – and thus the Monster is born. Boris Karloff – who had been a farm hand and a truck driver as well as a bit part player – brings the Monster to life in his first outing in the role.

The use of light and shadow throughout is straight out of German expressionist films. The creeping shadows up the spiral staircases are straight out of Nosferatu. It feels dreamy in its grandiose at times – the sheer scale of the windmill laboratory or the wedding celebrations – and often tapers this with close ups so tight you can see the stage make up. The only thing that prevents all of this from truly drawing you in is often the furniture and backdrops. At times, it looks like most pieces could be knocked over with a strong cough and you can see the paint brush marks on the “clouds” or “village” in the background. It feels cheap in contrast to the spiraling violins and ominous organ music accompanying it.

However, it’s not all corny. Colin Clive is excellent as Henry Frankenstein, his desperate cries of “Now I know what it feels like to BE God!” neatly summing up everything you need to know about his character. He believes himself to be a man of science; a discoverer; a creator. Yet he’s also bound by social expectations of marriage and children. Clive does well at conveying this conflict. In such a short run time, he is probably one of the most nuanced characters and, as such, you’re able to flit between empathising with and condoning his actions.

But it’s Boris Karloff you’re really here to see. The “big reveal” is teased, slowly, and he doesn’t actually appear until just around the halfway mark. His Monster is misunderstood – trying to make sense of his place in the world, acting on impulse and frightened by human behaviour. This all-but non-verbal performance is incredible to watch. The child like joy he expresses upon seeing flowers float is so sad. The close ups of his tear-filled eyes and curious expression are stunning. His appearance was achieved through practical hair and make-up effects, as well as having Karloff remove his dental bridgework to create a sunken in face.

Dwight Frye is good in his short amount of screen time as Fritz – a lab assistant who has no doubt faced his share of cruelty (owing to his own appearance) and, yet, it is he who treats the Monster the worst. Frederick Kerr, as Baron Frankenstein, is supposed to bring some comic relief but is just rather annoying. Mae Clarke, as Elizabeth, doesn’t really have much to do other than scream or look doe-eyed but, hey, it was the 1930s. That’s what blondes did in pictures, right?

What’s so interesting watching the movie now is the themes and imagery it throws up. Just years after the movie’s release, all across Europe, many were being rounded up and driven out as people became afraid of “the other”. Windows were smashed and fires were set then, too. What right to we have to say who lives and who dies? And, of course, it asks the question “What makes us human?”. Are the braying mob, bullish and jeering, any better than the Monster? Where is their humanity?

Frankenstein feels more like a melodrama-come-morality tale, as opposed to a horror (even if it does introduce us to the Monster for the first of many outings). The surprisingly nuanced performance from Boris Karloff is what makes this movie really worth watching. And, despite the ropey sets and even ropier acting, it is a classic and absolutely worth checking out this spooky season … just don’t expect to be too spooked, despite the pre-film “warning”.

Written by Mary Palmer

Movie Review: I Sell the Dead (2009)

Greetings, friends. It is time for more Month of Spooks content. Ain’t that exciting? Let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “I Sell the Dead”.

Grave robber Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) has been captured  by authorities, awaiting his end. And in his final hours he tells a priest (Ron Perlman) about the various crimes committed by him and his friend (Larry Fessenden). I like the story of “I Sell the Dead”, it’s a fun and breezy batch of stories that explore an oft neglected theme within horror (grave robbing). And while it gives us that gothic horror angle and an interesting exploration of it, it also gives us a lot of goofy humor, and it all somehow comes together beautifully and makes for one of the most fun and enjoyable narratives I’ve experienced in a while.

The characters in this are all weird, colorful, charming, and really interesting. I don’t know what to say about them without getting too much into spoilers, so I’ll just stick to surface level stuff. First I want to mention Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as our two lead grave robbers. The two on their own are a lot of fun, but together they’re an absolute riot, with the actors sharing some fucking incredible chemistry. Ron Perlman’s a lot of fun as the priest taking Monaghan’s confessions. And throughout the movie we see supporting work from people like Angus Scrimm, Brenda Cooney, John Speredakos, Daniel Manche, Joel Marsh Garland, and more, all giving really good performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeff Grace (hell yeah), and I think he did a really good job with it. He uses a lot of strings and some woodwind to capture a really eerie vibe that adds to the gothic feel of the movie. But he also creates a fair bit of whimsical tracks for the more comedic scenes in the movie, and those tracks work really well too. Grace is a composer whose work I’ve enjoyed a good amount of times through the years, and this is honestly one of my favorite scores of his, it’s so good.

“I Sell the Dead” was written, directed, and edited by Glenn McQuaid, who I think did a really good job with it. McQuaid has this really fun and snappy style that I think really fits with the tone of the movie, complementing both the horror and comedy beautifully. This especially shines in his editing, which is incredibly fun. And yes, there are some hokey green screen/background effects at times, but I don’t mind, I think they add to the wacky charm of the movie. It’s good stuff.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 72% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 62/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

I kind of loved “I Sell the Dead”, it’s an insanely funny horror-comedy that I had fun with from start to end. It has a good story, great characters, great performances, great music, great directing/editing, and hilarious humor. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “I Sell the Dead” is a 9.87/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “I Sell the Dead” is now completed.

Hellboy as a priest… huh.

Movie Review: Triangle (2009)

Hellooooooooo! The spooktacular festivities continue! So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries, don’t be square, because this is… “Triangle”.

After a storm strands them during their boating trip, a group of people soon find find a bit of hope when they manage to board a passing yacht. But as they explore the big boat, they find themselves in a situation even worse than they could’ve ever imagined. Talking about the story of “Triangle” without revealing too much is tricky. But I’ll try my best. I find the story of it to be quite interesting, as it takes some of the hallmarks of supernatural/slasher films and twisting it into something that feels fresh and quite unique. It’s tense and unpredictable and quite fun. I’m sorry for the vagueness, but I’d rather someone who’s never heard of it going in as blind about the narrative as possible, as I feel that it’d make for a much better experience. But yeah, it’s really enjoyable.

The characters in this are alright. Development among them is not necessarily equally distributed, but I can at least say that I didn’t hate any of them… okay, one of them was a bit of a bitch, but there were none I just wanted to throw to sharks ASAP. Cast’s really solid too, featuring people like Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Henry Nixon, Liam Hemsworth, Rachael Carpani, and Emma Lung, all delivering really good performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Christian Henson, and I really liked it. It’s a nice mix of strings, synths, piano, and even some vocals, making for a really eerie and emotionally charged score that really helped in elevating the various scenes it was used in.

“Triangle” was written and directed by one Christoper Smith, and I must say that I think he did a really good job with it. Smith has a really energetic style that gave the movie a decently snappy and tense feel, which kept it from ever getting stale. It was constantly crackling with energy, which really added to the intensity when something needed to happen. I also really like the editing here. Admittedly a few cuts feel a little quick, but most of them work really well in building intensity and a sense of unease. It’s just a solidly crafted film, yo.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

Yeah, “Triangle” is a really enjoyable little horror movie that puts some nice spins on familiar ideas. It has a really good story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Triangle” is an 8.87/10. So I’d definitely say it’s worth buying,

My review of “Triangle” is now completed.

I should make a sequel to this and call it “Rhombus”, just for the hell of it.

Series Review: Midnight Mass (2021)

It’s finally here, friends… THE MONTH OF SPOOKS! That’s right, Oc-fucking-tober, a month of spooktacular content! Yeah, I’m excited. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Midnight Mass”.

“Midnight Mass” follows the residents of Crockett Island, a remote little mound somewhere in America, as strange things start happening around their home following the arrival of a new, charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). This show is at its core a character-driven drama, delving deep into themes of grief, guilt, faith, and past traumas, and I find all of it compelling. The way that this stuff is handled throughout the seven episode run is some of the most nuanced and beautiful storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in any show. This even gives extra weight to the sections which lean more on classic horror, both in terms of thematic depth and  in terms of how much suspense and terror it is able to generate. So yeah, the story here is emotionally resonant, nuanced, unpredictable, scary, and overall just fucking spectacular.

The characters in this show are all very flawed, layered, colorful, and insanely interesting to follow. All of them have some past (or present) trauma going on, and it makes for some incredibly engaging character work. What helps this further is the frankly insane cast, featuring people like Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater (who is the standout for me), Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Annarah Cymone, and many more, all giving top tier performances.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, who absolutely knocked it out of the park with the music here. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past, but I feel like they really outdid themselves here. Of course you do have some traditional horror stings, but there are also a lot of quieter, more emotional pieces throughout the show as well, along with some frankly haunting bits as well. It manages to hit every kind of emotion possible, making for a very engaging soundscape that adds a lot to the show.

“Midnight Mass” was created for Netflix by Mike Flanagan, who also directed and co-wrote all the episodes. And I gotta say, the dude knocked it out of the fucking park with his directing here. Not that Flanagan’s direction has ever been bad, but you can tell that this was a real passion project for him just by how all out he goes with the way his shots flow, how tightly edited it is, and how just how ambitious it can be at times. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Michael Fimognari, which is beautiful and really adds to the storytelling. The special effects in this are all great as well. It’s just an insanely well crafted show that you can tell everyone involved put 250% into. I know that is mathematically illogical (and possibly impossible), but I don’t care, it’s how I feel.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Midnight Mass” is an absolutely phenomenal horror show that had me glued to the screen from start to end. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midnight Mass” is a 9.94/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midnight Mass” is now completed.

Month of Spooks is off to one hell of a start!