Movie Review: Tremors (1990)

Friends, we’ve reached the end. The final Month of Spooks review of the year. So if you’re tired of me rambling about horror, then you’re about to get a well earned break. And if you wish you could get only horror content from me all year, then tough luck… go watch Dead Meat or Ryan Hollinger on youtube, they provide excellent spooky content all year round. Anyhow, with further ado… let’s finish this.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tremors”.

Welcome to Perfection, a small backwater town in the middle of god damn nowhere. They’re in for the experience of a lifetime when a group of giant, underground worms start killing people and animals around the area. So it’s up to a group of locals, led by best friends Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), to find a way of surviving this nightmare situation. The story of “Tremors”, on paper, would be absolutely fucking terrifying. Giant worms that kill everything they come into contact with? That can collapse buildings? Horrifying. The movie plays it a little more light however. While the Graboids (as they’re known nowadays) are given the intimidating power and reverence they deserve, the movie isn’t afraid of also being a bit goofy. The town of Perfection is filled with colorful, eccentric people, and they’re used to great effect in creating scenarios that are equal parts intense and funny. Had the movie played it all completely straight, then I doubt the story would’ve been as enjoyable. It is that generally lighthearted and campy tone, along with some really creative set pieces, that makes it so much fun to watch. Not necessarily THE most fun ever, but I can’t deny that I had a fun time with it.

As alluded to in the story paragraph (storagraph?), the characters in are a so insanely colorful and a million flavors of fun. From a pair of slightly dim good ol’ boys, to mildly crazed survivalists, to smart grad students, we’ve got all sorts in this here dust bowl of a town. And holy cow, the cast is just wonderful. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, and more, all delivering delightful performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ernest Troost, with a few tracks being done by an uncredited Robert Folk, and I think their music here is a lot of fun. While it’s sad that some of Troost’s music got replaced (without him knowing, mind you), I do think that Folk’s additions still work within the context of the movie. How to tell them apart? If it’s fun and a little country-ish, Troost. If it’s more typical serious orchestral movie score, Folk. Either way, the music in this movie is solid. There’s even a really fun song during the end credits sung by Reba McEntire, which is nice.

“Tremors” was directed by Ron Underwood, and I think he did a really good job. The man has a good way of making the action and Graboid attacks feel big and intense, while also creating this intimate tension with the unknown surrounding when and where the Graboids will pop out next. Speaking of which, the creatures themselves were created by Amalgamated Dynamics, the VFX company of living legends Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and the creatures look awesome. The designs are super fun, and the overall effects work is so good, really making them feel alive. It’s just a really well made movie.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 65/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.1/100.

Yeah, “Tremors” is a good time. A fun monster flick. It has a good story, really good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tremors” is an 8.77/10. So yeah, I’d definitely say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Tremors” is now completed.

Aaaaand that’s it for the Month of Spooks this year, good night, everybody!

Movie Review: X (2022)

X gon’ give it to ya… wait, that doesn’t work. Umm… X marks the spot? Nonono… Xpertly I crafted a dumb intro before moving onto the review. Nailed it!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “X”.

1979. A group of young, aspiring filmmakers travel to a farm in rural Texas with the intention of using the rustic setting as a backdrop for a porno they plan on making. But as soon as they arrive and begin working (bow chicka bow wow), sinister things start brewing around them. “X” has a distinctly old school feel, hearkening back to a lot of 70s horror, opting for that sort of grungy slow burn tension, with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” being one of the clearest influences on this. And I think that works pretty well for “X”, it gives its story a vibe that’s been all but lost in today’s movie environment. As for the story in general, I thought it was alright. Nothing bad about it, and I do really appreciate the dark, slightly off-kilter sense of humor that shows up throughout, but in terms of general enjoyment it didn’t do much more than passable enjoyment for me. Like I said, the tone is fun, the slower pace is pretty engaging, and some of the events and reveals I did enjoy. But on the whole I just didn’t love it as much as some others have. It’s a passably enjoyable story for me.

The characters in this are pretty good. Again, not really amongst my favorites ever, but the movie still does a decent enough job of establishing who they all are and finding way to make them fairly likable and decently interesting. The cast is also pretty stacked, containing people like Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Kid Cudi, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, and a few more, all delivering damn good performances. Mia Goth especially is an absolute standout here, she’s terrific.

The score for the movie was composed by Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe, and I think they did a damn good job with it. Low key spooky strings, some synths, piano, occasional choir voices, some droning noises. It has a weirdly old school feel that works really well for the movie and helps build a bit of an unsettling atmosphere. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they work well in their respective scenes. There’s one track in particular, which I won’t spoil, but it’s a song I adore, and the way a particular section of it comes crashing in during a certain event is just fucking spectacular, and an absolute standout moment. But yeah, this movie has good music.

“X” was written and directed by Ti West, which sees him making his return to movies since 2016. And I think he did a damn good job with his directing. West has an excellent way of utilizing space to build a bit of tension or add impact to an action, and it’s just done marvelously here. And when combined with Eliot Rockett’s old school, grimy, beautifully blocked/framed cinematography, you get a movie that just oozes charm, grit, and a confidence that is quite fun.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.6/10.

While I don’t really love it like many others seem to, I still enjoyed “X”. It has an okay story, pretty good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “X” is a 7.43/10. So while flawed, I’d certainly say that it’s worth renting.

My review of “X” is now completed.

What letter’s the best for cutting down trees? The X.

Movie Review: The Night House (2021)

Spooky goings-on are happening on this here blog. I mean, it has through this entire month, but it’s happening once again. So let’s see what kind of spooks we’re dealing with this time.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Night House”.

Following the recent death of her husband, a grieving Beth (Rebecca Hall) slowly starts finding out that he may have been keeping some dark secrets from her, all while strange things start happening in her house. “The Night House” is a slow burn of a movie, a psychological horror that over the course of its runtime mess with the viewer. Sure, there are more in-your-face scare-scares too, and those are used to great effect, but the biggest strength is how it uses themes of trauma and grief to create an otherworldly atmosphere that made me question everything I was watching. And this uneasiness kept me on edge right from the word go, deeply unsettling me while also handling its themes in heartbreaking and deeply resonant ways. It’s a scary and beautifully told story that I absolutely adored following.

What I like about the characters in this is how real they feel, while still allowing for a fair bit of the theatricality that can be found in movies. Even as weird shit happens, there’s something that makes these people feel grounded in some sort of reality, which makes them really compelling to watch. And that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of characterization, as revealing any more could/may take any impact away. Anyhow, holy fuck, Rebecca Hall is amazing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite a while now, but I will never cease to be astonished by how well she plays these sorts of characters. There’s so much going through her character’s mind at any given moment, and Hall just nails it masterfully. The supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and more, all giving stellar performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ben Lovett, and I thought it was pretty great. Sure, some of it does devolve into the typical crescendo-ing horror droning, but then there are also some really interesting tracks utilizing strings amongst other things to create a brooding and quite spooky atmosphere, that also has this underlying sadness to it. It creates a sonically interesting and emotionally rich soundscape that I found quite compelling to listen to. There’s also some licensed music used throughout, and it works pretty well too. This movie has good music.

“The Night House” was directed by David Bruckner, and I think did a stellar job here. His directing style is fairly slick, without being overly flashy, creatively using space, blocking, and light/darkness to create visually striking shots that also work well to tell the story or just scare me. Combine this with Elisha Christian’s stunning cinematography, and you get one of the most visually intriguing horror movies I’ve seen in recent years. There’s also some clever and interesting visual effects here that work really well for this movie, they’re not super in-your-face, but when they’re there, they are just so cool.

This movie has been mixed to positively received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

“The Night House” unsettled me in a way no movie has before. Sure, others have deeply scared and unsettled me, but this movie does it in a unique way I can’t fully explain. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Deep inhale*. My final score for “The Night House” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Night House” is now completed.

Can we get Rebecca Hall a nice movie? Between this and “Christine” and probably something else, she plays a lot of characters who get put through the wringer, and it’d be nice to see her just have a nice day for once.

Movie Review: Underwater (2020)

Amongst other things, we’ve dealt with the horrors of vampires, possession, and small town Oregon, so now it’s time to switch it up a bit, going for the ultimate horror… liquid.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Underwater”.

In a research base located in the Mariana Trench, a group of scientists must fight for their survival when a mysterious earthquake suddenly erupts, destroying part of the facility. So now the team have to find a way to get out and maybe also find out what the hell is going on. In some ways, this story is “Alien”, in some ways it is “The Abyss”, and in a lot of ways it is just okay. I like some of the reveals that happen, and I wouldn’t say I was ever bored with what was going on, but I wasn’t super invested either. It was just sort of a passable sci-fi/horror story that quickly went by. And I guess that might be a bit of an issue. Not just that there’s little of a dramatic hook, but also the borderline breakneck pace. On occasion that can work, and I get that they want to have some perpetual intensity going thanks to that, but I think they could’ve benefitted from slowing down, building some dread, let us get to know the place and people a bit more. It’s still mildly entertaining, but it sadly never fully hooked me.

The characters in this are… eh? Again, they feel vastly underdeveloped. They try to throw in quick things every now and then to add some characterization, but it’s never enough to truly make me care… but I also didn’t outright dislike them, they sort of exist in this weird bubble of being watchable and occasionally likable, but never compelling, it’s weird. What I can say however is that I generally like the cast in this, most of the performances in this are really good. Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Mamoudou Athie, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr (always nice to see him), Gunner Wright, they’re all good. There is also the heavy presence of a certain horrible person that shall not be named. But taking his horrible shit aside for two seconds, he just doesn’t work in this movie. They try to make him the comic relief, and none of his jokes land, along with the performance being not great. So that’s a big, annoying stain on the otherwise really good cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts, and finally there’s something I can just outright praise. This score is great, mixing traditional orchestration with electronics and synths to create a mesmerizing and fun soundscape that fully captures the strange, almost alien sensation of being stuck so deep beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s just great stuff that actually manages to elevate certain moments of the movie. So that’s nice.

“Underwater” was directed by William Eubank, and I think he did a really good job here. His direction is slick, stylish, and scool… okay, that didn’t work, but you get the point. His direction just helps the otherwise underdeveloped script come to life more, as he really does bring the deep sea station and ocean floor sections to life. Combine his direction with Bojan Bazelli’s frankly gorgeous cinematography, and you get a really cool looking movie. Furthermore, the effects in this are stellar and there’s some great sets as well. On the whole it’s just really well crafted.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 48% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 48/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.8/10.

While it is very underdeveloped in the script department, I can’t say that I disliked “Underwater”. It’s an okay survival thriller. It has an okay-ish story, meh characters, really good performances, great music, and really good directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Blub blub*. My final score for “Underwater” is a 6.21/10. So while very flawed, I’d say that it can still be worth renting.

My review of “Underwater” is now completed.

I love water, but there’s no fucking way you’ll see me in an underwater base. I value my sanity and not-being-at-constant-risk-of-drowning status too much.

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

My friends, I once again deliver a Month of Spooks review for y’all. So let’s quit this dawdling and get into it.

Ladies, gents, non-binaries… “Deliver Us from Evil”.

As a series of strange, violent crimes start plaguing New York City, police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) finds himself having to team up with a very unique priest (Edgar Ramírez) in order to try and solve these disturbing goings-on. “Deliver Us from Evil” is a tale of two conflicting elements. At first glance it’s an atmospheric cop thriller, showing a man trying to do his job, all while dealing with an inner turmoil. And that bit I genuinely really like, there’s a lot of interesting and surprisingly compelling drama going on for it with Sarchie, the case, his family, and a few more things. But it also presents this fun, pulpy detective thriller that I enjoyed following, even if the movie drags towards the middle. But then we have the second part of the movie, which is the more overt supernatural horror shenanigans. Some of it is kinda fun, such as some of the stuff in the last act. But a lot of the horror stuff in the first two just doesn’t work for me. There’s a great sense of atmosphere with the movie, but when the scares hit, they kind of deflate it and take me out of the movie. So the horror of the HORROR movie is a bit of an issue. So the story here is very much a mixed bag.

The characters in this are pretty solid, all being given compelling arcs and personalities. Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, a tough-as-nails and sarcastic, yet good-natured policeman with a bit of baggage in the trunk. It’s interesting to see how the events of the story affect him and how his past further informs the development he goes through. And Eric Bana does a damn good job in the role. Next is Edgar Ramírez as Mendoza, a slightly peculiar jesuit priest that Sarchie meets. He’s an interesting fella with an interesting story, and I like the rapport he has with Sarchie. And Ramírez is great in the role. The rest of the cast is pretty great too, containing people like Olivia Munn, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and many other talented actors.

The score for the movie was composed by Christopher Young, and it was alright. Fairly unremarkable eerie horror score. Nothing too noteworthy in either direction, just fairly standard stuff. Now, with that out of the way, I can mention that the movie also uses some licensed music, namely a few tracks by The Doors. I find this interesting, because the band has always had indirect (or direct, who knows) ties to spirituality, which adds something thematically intriguing to proceedings. It doesn’t necessarily make the movie scarier or more suspenseful, but it makes it a bit more interesting. So yeah, the music in this is mixed.

“Deliver Us from Evil” was based on a book that was co-written by… Ralph Sarchie? Yeah, he was a real person, and he wrote a book about investigating actual exorcism in actual New York. I will however take those musings with a pocketful of salt, so feel free to call me Scully. Anyhow, Sarchie’s book served as loose inspiration for this movie that was directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. And I think he did a good job directing this, the man is excellent at building a creepy atmosphere and utilizing space for his set pieces, and he brings that to this movie in spectacular fashion. While the scares in this felt tepid or annoying, everything inbetween (and even during some more overtly horror-y scenes) is wonderfully directed. This is further amplified by Scott Kevan’s dark and grimy cinematography that adds so much to the chilling vibes they build up. There’s also a fair bit of really cool gore and makeup and VFX work. It looks really rad and works well to add weight to the world.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 29% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

So while its let down by sub-par horror and some pacing issues, I still enjoyed “Deliver Us from Evil”. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, interesting music, and damn good direction and cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “Deliver Us from Evil” is a 7.23/10. So while it is quite flawed, it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Deliver Us from Evil” is now completed.

What’s your favorite Doors song? Mine is probably “Break on Through”.

Movie Review: The Fly (1986)

We’ve been keeping it fairly modern with the last few Month of Spooks reviews, so how about we jump back a couple years this time? Back… to the futu- 1980s.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Fly”.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric scientist, quietly working on creating a working teleporter. And one day he decides to pull a risky experiment by placing himself in the teleporter. What he doesn’t notice however is that a small housefly joins him inside of the machine, which will change his life in strange, horrifying ways. “The Fly” is part mad scientist story, part body horror, and part tragic love story, and it somehow balances it all in a really entertaining, eerie, and surprisingly poignant way. The story isn’t necessarily a slow burn, but it still take its time to set up Brundle and his journey from regular scientist to something more, mixing in a whirlwind romance with a journalist (Geena Davis) that I feel works really well not only on its own, but also in really grounding the drama and making any horrific turns have more weight. And while the mad scientist story is pretty fun on its own, what really sells it and makes the narrative as strong as it ends up being is the surprisingly human drama that is in there. It turns what would’ve been an otherwise standard sci-fi story into a beautiful tragedy… while still also giving us some grim, goopy body horror to marvel at.

The characters in this are all colorful, interesting, and go through fairly interesting arcs. First up is Seth Brundle, a pretty odd man of science. He’s a generally good-natured oddball who goes through a fascinating transformation, both physically and mentally, that I found quite intriguing and made for some really compelling drama and horror. And Jeff Goldblum gives a damn good performance. Next is Veronica, a tough yet kind journalist that Brundle enters into a relationship with. She’s a fairly interesting character, and Geena Davis is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like John Getz, Joy Boushel, and more, all delivering pretty solid work.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and it’s great. It mainly consists of a classical orchestra, with brass, woodwind, strings, and percussion filling that space. But what I really like about the score is the sonic storytelling going on. Early on it’s way more light and playful, capturing the excitement surrounding Brundle’s attempt at nailing teleportation. But a he starts changing and things slowly get more horror-y, the score takes on a more sinister tone, with an underlying sadness lurking beneath. It’s interesting to listen to it and makes for a really compelling score that really helps elevate the drama.

Based on a short story by George Langelaan, “The Fly” was directed and co-written by David Cronenberg, who did a damn good job. Cronenberg is really good at creating this sweeping dread, having this uncomfortable suspense lurk in the background for all scenes, even as nothing particularly bad is meant to be going on. It gives the movie this strange vibe that makes it stick out and keep my interest throughout the entire runtime. Now, let’s talk about the effects here, because those are arguably what the movie’s known for at this point. Yeah, they are absolutely stellar, Chris Walas made sure these effects were as detailed, goopy, gory, and disgusting as they could, which really makes them a horrifying sight that works well for the story. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve seen  movie that’s made me gag. I can handle blood and gore, but there’s some shit in this that actually managed to upset my body… so kudos to the crew for that, you succeeded with what I can only assume was your goal.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“The Fly” is a wonderfully crafted horror tragedy that compelled me from start to end. It has a great story, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/effects. Time for my final score. *Buzz*. My final score for “The Fly” is a 9.67/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Fly” is now completed.

Ian Malcolm would have a field day with Seth Brundle. And I would happily watch Goldblum ripping into Goldblum.

Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

More spooky reviews comin’ your way! And before we begin, I just want to point out the silliness that is me reviewing the movie I used as basis for last year’s Month of Spooks poster a full year later. There’s some weird form of irony to it. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents,  non-binaries… “Malignant”.

While trying her best to simply get by, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) starts getting grisly visions of a shadowy figure brutally killing people. And we follow her as she tries to make sense of these visions and hopefully find a way to stop them. I found the story here to be okay. It’s a fun enough mystery with a few enjoyable turns. That said, the story parts of the story aren’t necessarily what makes proceedings as enjoyable as they are. Because in all honestly, the main narrative feels more like it’s there to serve as an excuse for wild and creative set pieces. This is a bloody, campy-as-fuck sendup to old school supernatural slashers, but with the polish and tech of today to amp it up to 11. And the campy shenanigans are generally what I enjoyed about the story, as those bits are when the movie comes alive. And a fair bit of those sequences are stacked in the second half of the movie, with the first one, while not completely devoid of fun shenanigans, delivering a fair bit of setup, which does drag a bit. But when it’s going, the story here is a fun, bonkers, camptastic time.

The characters in this are fine. They aren’t given that much depth, which usually can be an issue, but weirdly works here since it weirdly adds to the fun and general vibe of the movie. They’re sort of shallow tropes that are there to serve the trope. The one with the most depth is arguably the lead character, as her and her past is explored in the movie. And she’s a decently compelling protagonist, with Annabelle Wallis giving a really solid performance. The supporting cast is pretty solid too, featuring people like Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Ray Chase, Marina Mazepa, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Bishara, and it is tons of fun. Panicky strings, blaring brass, exciting and fast-paced electronics, thrilling percussion, Bishara leaves very little off the table and this creates this insanely fun and never dull soundscape. It’s an absolute blast to listen to and adds so much to the movie. There’s also a little bit of licensed music throughout, and I think that works really well too. I just really dig the soundtrack here, it’s fun, easy to listen to, and really works well for the movie.

“Malignant” was directed and co-written by James Wan, and hooooooweeee, you can feel him really flexing and letting loose here. As mentioned previously, this movie isn’t afraid of going camp, and Wan’s direction further elevates that fact, which makes me very happy. Dutch tilts, camera snapping into position, fun pans, sweeps across big spaces, fun reveals, kinetic action and editing. It’s all so insane and makes for one hell of a fun viewing experience, especially in the various set pieces, where things get crazy, hectic, and GORY AS FUCK. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an absolute riot to follow, giving us some really creative and delightfully ludicrous sequences. It just put a big, dumb smile on my face so many times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it does drag in its first half, I still had a lot of fun with “Malignant”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, good performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *OOGA BOOGA!*. My final score for “Malignant” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “Malignant” is now completed.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing if a horror movie doesn’t scare me. But this one was just so much fun that I don’t care.

Guest Post: The Invisible Man (1933)

Hi there, friends! Editor and showrunner Markus here, just wanting to make a quick introduction before we move on. As you probably understood from the title and header image, today’s words come courtesy of a special guest instead of being the usual ramblings of yours truly. And said guest is my dear friend Mary, who you actually saw some words from last year as well. So if you enjoyed her pieces last year, then you are in for a treat. So without further ado, let’s see what she has to say about “The Invisible Man”.

The 1930s were a time of great fear across the Western world. There was so much poverty, brought on by the Great Depression (and the mass exodus from the American “dust bowl” or hyperinflation in Europe). Fascism was on the rise across many US towns and, most notable of course, in Germany and Italy. There was no joy; no escapism. Every day was a fight to survive.
So it makes sense that cinema capitalised on this experience by directing this fear and trauma at the “other”. Monster movies – be it The Mummy or Dracula – gave cinema goers the chance to be on the side of good. To place themselves in the “mob” with their pitchforks and questions, cinema goers (those who could afford the admission price) had the chance at catharsis. There was somewhere to direct all of their worries and prejudices – whether that was a man who had suddenly become too powerful and murderous or a man who simply didn’t look like everyone else. And that is the backdrop for James Whale’s 1933 movie, The Invisible Man. Whale directed three films after bringing Frankenstein to the big screen in 1931 before returning to the “monster movie”. Indeed, Boris Karloff and Colin Clive were both considered for the titular role, here, before the purring, snarling Claude Rains was cast. There are plenty of crossover elements between Whale’s two films, as even casual viewers would no doubt pick up on.

The film, loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel of the same name, centres around Jack Griffin (Rains), a scientist who has been conducting invisibility experiments on himself. His latest concoction of tinctures has worked – he is now fully invisible to the naked eye. Wrapped in bandages and heavy clothing, he approaches a small inn in order to finish his experiments. What he doesn’t realise is the very potion that is keeping him invisible is also turning him murderously insane.

The film opens with bombastic brass screaming over the title credits, whilst the whistling sound of heavy wind and snow permeates the entire film. Griffin is the quintessential outsider or “other”. He dresses strangely and he repeats his desire to be left alone upon securing a room at The Lion’s Head inn. There is immediate speculation from the regular patrons as to who he is, where he has come from and why he is covered in bandages. “Bumped his head on the prison wall on the way over,” one astute Cockney remarks.

A viewer warning should be presented with this film. Una O’Connor, the howling banshee who appeared in The Bride of Frankenstein, has a far more prominent role, here. If you can suffer through the first twenty minutes of her shrieking and screaming (seriously, adjust your volume here because it is awful), you’ll be rewarded with far more entertaining performances. The cast includes the likes of Henry Travers (Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life) as Dr. Cranley and Gloria Stuart (the elderly Rose in Titanic) as his daughter, Flora. B-movie regular, William Harrigan, stars as Dr. Arthur Kemp, whom Griffin is intent on murdering. The acting often veers into melodrama territory, but Rains and Harrigan keep things grounded and suspenseful. Because whilst this film might not carry all of the thrills and spills of the Leigh Whannel remake, there is plenty of tension and well executed special effects. Griffin is often shot from below, giving him this huge frame that fills the screen. Claude Rains vocal performance is so powerful and commanding. He purrs and slithers his way through maniacal speech after speech, at one point raising his fist and yelling, “The whole world is frightened to death!” Kemp’s paranoia at his former colleague’s nefarious plans is palpable. He is a man who spends the entire film, quite literally, looking over his shoulder.

The “floating” effects really must have frightened cinema goers back in 1933. On the most part, they still stand up to this day. Watching no one strike a match and light a cigarette, mid-air, is rather fun and impressive. There are opening doors, floating beer glasses and creaking windows, too, which must have seemed so delightful and beyond technical comprehension at the time. However, these effects quickly descend into vicious chaos as men are strangled or pushed down flights of stairs by “no one”. The scene featuring the derailing of the passenger train is extremely shocking and a clear indicator of Griffin’s murderous intentions. It really grounds the viewer in terror – much more so than a few invisible slaps.

The two “big reveals” of the film are also really well done. First, we see Griffin unravel his bandages only to realise that we can see right through him. This is built up beautifully – a few cuts between each roll of the bandage coming off – until the moment of shock itself. In contrast to this, within the last twenty seconds, we also get to see Claude Rains, fully, for the first time. It’s a strangely humanising moment for a character who has been anything but.

And that’s where The Invisible Man really stands in contrast to Whale’s previous monster movie. In Frankenstein’s monster we had a creature who longed to be loved; to be part of a community. Griffin’s invisible alter ego earns no such empathy from viewers. He is cold and maniacal, with no hint of who he was before he started messing around with science. His character is power hungry and violent, with no care for who he uses or hurts. Despite Flora and Dr. Cranley’s pleas about Jack being a good man, we just get no sense of this. We get a straightforward villain who is easy to dislike. When the police and villagers are rounding up their (metaphorical) pitchforks to look for him, here, you will them on in their quest. Whale and Rains present and out and out “baddie”, a pantomime-esque villain who exists simply to be loathed and feared.

The Invisible Man is such an icon of horror and an enjoyable addition to the Universal Monsters family. Whilst it’s lacking in bloodshed in comparison to its contemporary renderings, Claude Rains vocal performance (and the fun special effects) make it well worth the watch this spooky season.

Written by Mary Muñoz

Movie Review: Antlers (2021)

Greetings, my spooky friends, hope you’re doing hel- I mean well. So anyhow, shall we get into talking about a spooky movie? Yeah? Cool

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Antlers”.

Somewhere in Oregon, a teacher (Keri Russell) starts picking up on the increasingly strange behavior of one of her students (Jeremy T. Thomas). And as she attempts to get more involved in the boy’s life to find out what’s going on, she slowly starts to uncover, dark, sinister, supernatural things going on. The story of “Antlers” is frustrating, because it has a lot of interesting things going on, using ancient evils to try and discuss things like abuse and trauma… keyword being “try”. Using horror to create discussions on heavy subjects isn’t anything new, and it can be done to great effect. But I feel like “Antlers” doesn’t stick the landing on that. It feels very undercooked, almost feeling like a last minute addition with how little it ultimately informs or plays into the narrative. And so what remains is the horror mystery aspect, which I actually enjoyed. Again, with little dramatic heft it doesn’t hit as much as it could, but I still enjoy the parts that feel lean more on just being an atmospheric creature romp, as those bits succeed pretty well in entertaining and creeping me out. So on the whole I found the story to be a mixed bag. The drama goes nowhere, but the horror elements are pretty fun.

I found the characters in this to be okay. On paper I think they are incredibly compelling, you get shades of nuance and depth in moments, but much like the story before them, they really feel underdeveloped. They introduce interesting ideas for each of them, but we never get enough time spent with any of those ideas for the characters to become as compelling as they could be. But while the characters weren’t as great as they could be, the cast far from disappointed. Every single actor in the movie is absolutely terrific. Keri Russell, Jeremy T. Thomas, Jesse Plemons, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, and everyone else just delivers damn good work.

The score for the movie was composed by Javier Navarrete and I thought it was great. It’s this brooding, oft overwhelming score bringing a tragic menace to every scene it’s in, whether it’s a slower, more drama-focused bit or if it’s one of the more overtly horror-y scenes. Navarrete’s music just brings this unsettling atmosphere that I absolutely loved listening to.

Based on “The Quiet Boy” by Nick Antosca, “Antlers” was directed and co-written by Scott Cooper, and I think he did a damn good job here. His directing has this slow, eerie quality to it that keeps every scene engaging even if the narrative doesn’t quite hit those highs. But what further elevates the direction is Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography, which further helps build this dark and dingy atmosphere that helps keep scenes engaging. It’s also absolutely gorgeous to look at, there’s so much fantastic lighting and framing going on that I couldn’t help but be in awe at times. The movie also has its share of visual effects, mainly sticking to practical with some CG enhancements, and they look absolutely astonishing. Be it gore makeup or creature effects, all of it is a marvel to look at and it really helps further add to the atmosphere of the movie.

This movie’s not been the most well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 60% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 57/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.9/10.

While its writing feels very underdeveloped, I still enjoyed “Antlers”. It has an okay story, okay-ish characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography/effects. Time for my final score. *AAAAAH*. My final score for “Antlers” is a 6.65/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Antlers” is now completed.

Maybe it would’ve been better if it was about Antler from “Fallout: New Vegas”. We will never know…

Movie Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Hi there, ready for more Month of Spooks content? Because I sure as hell am! So let’s quit dawdling and get into the review!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Train to Busan”!

On what starts as a day like any other, businessman Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) gets on the train from Seoul to Busan with his daughter (Su-an Kim). But their trip soon takes a turn for the worse when a zombie outbreak starts and finds itself spreading across the country, and inside of the train. So it’s up to Seok-Woo, his daughter, and the other passengers on the train to try and survive. In a world of “The Walking Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “Resident Evil”, and countless other adaptations, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’d be difficult to find a way to make a zombie story interesting again. Well, I’m more than happy to say that “Train to Busan” more than succeeds, taking the classic setup of a group of survivors against hordes of zombies, and cramming it into the confined space of a train. But it’s not just the claustrophobic setting that helps sell the story, as the crew here come up with all sorts of interesting, unique, entertaining, and intense set pieces, all while putting their own little spin on how zombies work. The story also does a good job of escalating the narrative and the threat in dramatically interesting ways, starting in its first few minutes as a regular drama, adding on layers of interesting social commentary, and soon mixing in the intense zombie carnage, making sure that the suspense never lets up until the credits. It’s just fantastic storytelling that masterfully covers so much ground in very focused and enjoyable ways.

I thought the characters in this were great. I mean, not all of them are great people, but they all have clear, distinguished personalities and compelling motivations and arcs that help ground the drama and horror, making us care more for what is happening, leading me to actually fear for them and really feel something when they do. And the cast is just fantastic, containing people like Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Maa Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, and many more, with none being a weak link. Everyone delivers top tier work.

The score for the movie was composed by Jang Young-gyu, and it’s just great. High intensity brass, foreboding strings, emotional piano, it covers all the typical beats you expect to find in a movie like this and does it incredibly well. It may not necessarily be the most memorable score out there, but it works perfectly well for elevating the emotions in the moment.

“Train to Busan” was directed by Yeon Sang-ho, and I think he did a fantastic job with it. The man knows how to utilize space within set pieces, somehow using the same level of claustrophobia for both pure suspense and fun action. Just the way he frames the groups of zombies within the train creates this overwhelming sense of dread, but then in a later scene finds some fun, creative way of having the characters deal with them. He balances the scares with the sense of fun incredibly well, making for a really well balanced viewing. But there’s also a good amount of aerial shots to give a sense of how far this apocalypse has already gone in just a short amount of time, and I think that further adds a lot of intensity to proceedings. The effects are great as well, the editing is solid, and the cinematography by Lee Hyung-deok is beautiful. ’tis just really well crafted.

This movie’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“Train to Busan” is absolutely fantastic, blending human drama with action and horror marvelously. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Braaaains*. My final score for “Train to Busan” is a 9.89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Train to Busan” is now completed.

Ma Dong-seok is just the coolest.