Spooktober Day 7: The House of the Devil

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It’s Day 7 of Spooktober, and it seemed like just the right time for a little devil worshipping.

Written and directed by Ti West, The House of the Devil was quite a surprise for me when it came out. It feels and looks like the 80s films it aspires to, truly transporting you to that time. I honestly had to verify that I put on the right movie because it looked and sounded, with even the stylish opening credits, like it was made decades prior.

Do things ever work out well for babysitters in horror movies?

College student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) is in need of work, so when she spots a flyer on campus for a babysitting gig, even when reason after reason not to is glaringly waved in her face, she takes it. Even her best friend, played with a wry charm here by Greta Gerwig, get strange vibes from Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), and tries to talk her out of it. Especially, when he explains that there isn’t a child, but his elderly mother upstairs. This also just happens to be the night of a full lunar eclipse, turning the creepy knob to the max.

source: MPI Media Group

The House of the Devil is the way horror should be done. It banks on the less is more (until its bloody final act) not needing flashy effects, or overbearing subplots The result is atmospheric, slow building in tension in all of the right ways. We know what’s coming – to a degree- but the deliberately paced narrative ensures that the fear remains.

Donahue is perfect as the nuanced lead, innocent and yet not fragile. As someone who holds many scenes entirely on her own, she has to be magnetic or it won’t work. We watch her walk around the house, order pizza, dance with her cassette player, growing to care for Samantha, and never letting go of the sensation that… things are going to go badly.

The ending does feel a bit rushed, but I don’t mind it, I prefer the slow simmer to a boil that West cooks up (complete with copious amounts of corn syrup). It feels nostalgic and captures the essence of that decade and the horror classics of that time, with a rocking soundtrack and grainy cinematography, it fits like a well-worn pair of stone-washed jeans.

source: MPI Media Group

Clocking in at a lean but compelling, 93 minutes, West really shows off his talent for filmmaking here, giving us a retro vibe that seamlessly blends the chills with the eventual, gory, thrills.

I dig it: The House of the Devil is a real horror gem. It pays homage fondly, but still slips in its own distinct and eerie ambiance.

Spooktober Day 6: Jaws

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I would be filled with unimaginable regret if I did not touch upon one of the best blockbuster horrors ever made, even if we are officially out of Summer (and this oozes that Summer feel). A film that takes the question of “can you make a nearly perfect film?” And answers it, with a resounding yes, through pointy white teeth.

Like so many others I have highlighted and will continue to do this month, Jaws was an early entry for me. In my household, this is a movie that was seen young, often, and prolonged through quoting and impressions throughout the years. It’s a film that I resonated with, that made me appreciate this spectacle of movie-making, as I first heard the slow build up of John William’s score, and saw the fin racing through the water. It is for this reason that I had to talk a bit about the classic that is Jaws. How do I love thee, let me count the ways:

“Lifeless eyes, Black Eyes, like a Doll’s Eyes.”

Jaws really did scare people out of the water, and provided one of the most iconic killers in film that decades later is still making a splash.

source: Universal Pictures

When a great white shark terrorizes the small island town of Amity, sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider), fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw), and Marine Biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) make up the unexpected trio tasked with hunting it down.

Steven Spielberg has made a lot of terrific films; he’s a sincere, meticulous master of the craft. Over the years, I have found myself returning to this one as a comfort watch. The effects, and the camera magic that went into making this seem real, were exceptional.

The pacing of the film never wavers, each scene is filmed and cut to perfection, with a script that ensures the tension never fades as the stakes continue to rise. Even in the moments where it lets its guard down, the characters keep it level. The three main characters bonding and humorful banter, as well as Brody’s relationship with wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) provide a feeling of family and camaraderie to the picture.

source: Universal Pictures

Jaws also serves as a cautionary tale/wake up/allegory for handling a crisis and public safety, when the local mayor’s own greed is blinded by the risks of keeping the beaches open. Despite the terrifying conceit, and the humor that keeps the boat afloat, there’s an intelligence displayed throughout that makes it more than your normal blockbuster.

It’s immortalized for good reason. Between the thematic score, that is instantly recognizable, its perfect cast, and gut-punch of a thrill, Jaws is still very much alive.

Come for the shark, stay for the characters.

Spooktober Day 5: Eden Lake

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Sometimes, because this genre can be so shocking, there’ll be a film that comes along that finds a new way to unsettle you. This one, does just that- even as I rewatch it now. Even when I know where it is going.

Eden Lake is one of the movies that terrifies, disgusts, and also… infuriates. It has a meanness ingrained within the core, and once our main characters get introduced to it, it overtakes everything else. This is not everybody’s film. Even for the horror-lovers.

The group of local youngsters feel resistant to the yuppy tourists that come their way, and once lines are drawn, things grow even dire.

source: Optimum Releasing

Paige (Finn Atkins) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are headed to the countryside and lake for a weekend getaway. The couple seem happy, glowing even, and when they make it to the beach it looks like its going to be a lovely time.

When they run into some local, antagonistic kids who seem to relish provoking them, there’s a beckoning dread that sits in your stomach. When an accident happens, things spiral into a dangerous, vengeful place. Once the youth are in “it”, they feel they have to finish what they have started, becoming a cat and mouse of hunting the couple in the forest.

How the situation is handled, on many fronts, is poor, and it ensures the dominoes just keep clanging over, bringing about destruction and pain.

Eden Lake toils with the idea of pride and revenge, and dangles elements of social commentary throughout. It feels a bit like Straw Dogs, in the way that it’s developed to be a survival, realistic (to an extent) horror. For most horrors, even the ones based on true events or enveloped in realism, there are going to be a element of things that you have to suspend, in order to enjoy. Or, in this film’s case, survive.

Our tenacious duo do a lot to fight back, and what they endure is guaranteed to check your gag reflex more than once.

Something that always works throughout the film is the tension and fear, even when some of the character’s decisions don’t seem particularly wise (or for other moments where you wonder- wait, why didn’t they do this? Like most horrors). Despite the antagonists of the film being younger, there’s still a level of belief in their intent. It often reminded me of Mean Creek or Bully or even Alpha Dog in that way, because despite the age there is still a feeling of trepidation, especially once you see what they are capable of.

Jack O’Connell as their leader, reacts often with extreme anger and ill intent, with a performance that is shocking at times. As we meet some other townfolk in the film, its clear that he’s been influenced by his surroundings.

source: Optimum Releasing

Writer/director James Watkins writes some interesting looks at social interactions and skillfully uses his talented cast, as well as an excellently moody score by David Julyan to keep the fear alive. Filled with some near escapes, and lots of surprises, Eden Lake keeps you on your toes.

The movie occasionally teeters on ridiculous, but it is always enthralling. For good or for worse, for shock or recoil, you’re there, dissecting what’s happening with a keen curiosity. It’s haunting and lurid, but the performances make this British-horror quite effective. Despite how I feel about aspects of the movie, or how it makes me- in response- feel, there’s a boldness to it that I can’t ignore.

A survival thriller with no shortage of cringe inducing moments, Eden Lake hurts – no really- to watch at times. In many ways, this film will frustrate most to nauseam.

The way that Watkins creates such sustaining tension, is impressive. I think even when the film begins to rub you the wrong way, you’re still being pulled along on a string, wanting to see what’s waiting on the other side. And it isn’t pretty.

Spooktober Day 4: Misery

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

So much of Misery’s “charm” lies in the subtleties, in the obscure corners. While you might be thinking “Wait, what? Annie Wilkes is about as subtle or charming as a… [enter potential expletive here] it’s really quite true. Let’s consider this: Misery is primarily in one central location (nearly just one room) with a focal point of two main characters who try to psychologically outdo the other, and yet, it never feels forced. For this kind of a setup to work, a lot has to come together, and in many ways, the smaller- less obvious parts, are what makes it so great.

Stephen King knows how write an epic story. And, Rob Reiner knows how to make a King adaptation work (see, Stand By Me). Misery proves this as he delivers a suspenseful, unsettling, film. It isn’t always a guarantee when adapting the imaginative work of King, but when it clicks, it clicks.

source: Columbia Pictures

Famed writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) has just finished his newest piece, enjoying the high that comes from completion, heading back to NYC from within the snow covered mountains. When his car goes off the road during a storm he’s rescued by his number one fan (how lucky!) Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a nurse who wants to make sure he’s back in tip top shape. Mhmm.

Misery Love Company

I first saw Misery as a young teenager, and I was pleased to say that I was adequately disturbed. It had this admirable blend of tones that had me feeling as confined and confounded as Paul. I was also impressed because the performances were just so stellar. I had known Caan from my love of The Godfather, and Kathy Bates from Fried Green Tomatoes, and this was nothing like either. I was sold on these portrayals, and I’m not surprised, but quite pleased, that Bates won an Oscar for it.

Despite the fact that Misery is most certainly a horror, it’s also never skimps on the humor. In a discomforting way, it makes the terror even more potent. Every time I laugh watching it, the film reminds me moments later why the laughter will eventually die out.

This dual-sided title (another one of King’s wonderful wordplays) is not only shown, but felt. There’s a tension that festers early, and only builds as we discover Wilke’s real intentions, and the scope of her capabilities. Soon, we notice her mood swings, her intense anger, and the extent of her delusions. As an audience, the sinking realization arrives just as it does for Paul.

This is not good.

source: Columbia Pictures

Her duality is deftly delivered as Annie can offer warmth and the idea of sanctuary in one hand, while the other wields a sledgehammer. Annie’s idolization of Paul is disorienting. She wants the book she feels fans deserve, not what he has written. This makes her hostile, violent, and ultimately- tragic. Both of our main actors are transformed in these roles, with a nearly hypnotic push and pull between the two. It makes it difficult to not be wrapped up in this suspense filled examination of fandom gone, very, very, wrong.

A smile and a hobbling, what’s more horrifying than that?

There’s such a perceptible anxiety that feeds the psychological cat and mouse. There’s something scary about a person that can turn on a dime as fast as Bates does (and there are certainly some sinister scenes). As a viewer you are on the edge of your seat, wondering what she’s going to do next. She becomes obsessively dependent on what Paul writes, and what happens to the title character, Misery. The demand of her brand of “art” straight from the artist, eludes to King’s own expectations that have been put on him by fans. While there’s a lot of dark comedy and Bate’s unique choice of expressions “The Cock-A-Doodie Car”, expect a growing unease to form in your stomach, and in one particular scene… jump up into your throat.

Ouch.

I have to give kudos to the cute bickerings between the sheriff Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen, as his wife, providing brief intermissions of comic relief. The script by William Goldman ensures that this King’s adaptation is done its justice, giving this character study its bones, with the memorable performances as the lifeblood.

Utilizing close up shots of Bate’s masterful spin on the female villainy (sometimes too much), Misery works because it hits the gas, let’s go of the wheel, and sees what happens. It’s engaging, taut, and miserable…in all the right ways.

Spooktober Day 3: A Nightmare on Elm Street

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

What makes Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher so iconic?

I was introduced to horror at a young age. When I got the “bug” we’ll say, I was hooked. I was laughing when it was funny, cringing when there was cause, and always, wanting more. In a lot of ways my young noggin really benefited from the exposure to the genre I hold so dear, because it allowed an already intriguing introduction to take hold, and to firmly take root. I love all kinds of film, and I’d be hardpressed to say one particular genre or film that is above the rest. But, I love horror because of its endless applications- its the chameleon of movies because it can be so many things, make you feel so much, while being one of the areas that can truly be creative. Are there limitations? No, there certainly, amazingly, are not.

Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) are the main teenagers in the throes of potential death and blade-fingered induced injuries. It seems everyone is having the same dream with a man covered in burns, with a either badass wardrobe or a lazy one, depending on your reception, with blades for fingers. The worst part? What happens in your dreams, happens in real life. And he is not the kind of guy you want to dream about. Robert Englund embodies Freddy with equal parts fun and horror, delivering an over the top, thrill.

source: New Line Cinema

When I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street I was quite dazzled. I know, probably not the word choice that most would choose, but it’s true. I was really intrigued by the idea of a killer who attacks while you are sleeping. Despite how upending nightmares can truly be, there’s always the exhale of relief when you wake, knowing that in your waking hours, you’re okay.

Like the best of horrors do, it imaginatively ruminates on our vulnerabilities, and, now, 37 years later, it’s still doing it. It’s a unique concept, that is universally terrifying, brought to fruition in a campy delivery, and plenty of one -occasionally eek- liners.

Blurring Dreams & Reality

For its time, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s originality was a sought after ideal. Since it’s origin it has spawned multiple sequels (most that are meehhh) as well as a reboot that even Rooney Mara couldn’t save. Freddy, as a slasher icon, is still renowned, still personified, and a recurring Halloween-costume. Why? Because he sticks the landing.

I think there’s something to be said about anything that stands the test of time. I’d like to think if I was a six year old now I’d be equally fascinated.

Although I couldn’t imagine a different Nancy, I never felt the performance was a stand out. In a lot of ways, even the portrayal by Depp feels a little off, and the dialogue can be a bit…silly. The reason that none of this bothers me? Because this film is so undoubtedly 80s. It breathes and thrives in this decade, between the costumes, the dialogue, and soft-focus, glamour shot feel.

source: New Line Cinema

It really enables the dream landscape created by Craven. When you watch A Nightmare on Elm Street you are persuaded into a terror- fantasy realm that even in its less effective moments, insists on immersion.

As I said, campy…fun.

I have no doubt that A Nightmare on Elm Street will continue to hold its coveted place in horror history. With a mix of originality and camp, coming from a genuine fear, it’s a film that can’t be replicated.

Spooktober Day 1: 28 Days Later

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I don’t think there’s a single film in my life that hasn’t left an imprint. My love of film is a pattern, sown into my experiences and my appreciation for this wonderful art form. It’s become a rich tapestry that is continuously growing and expanding, and… will, until my last breath.

source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

When I was a teenager (yep, dating myself) I saw 28 Days Later in theaters. It was a last minute decision, and it is one that I am still grateful for. This film unexpectedly reinvigorated my love for the genre during a time that felt thirsty for innovation. When I got home (later than I was supposed to) I woke my parents up and exclaimed my joy for this film. While they weren’t impressed with my exuberance at that hour, they could sense the love coming out of me.

What can go wrong when a group of activists attempt to break out chimps from cages? Oh right… absolute havoc and world-ending consequences.

Is that all?

In a world of zombies (yes, technically, they are infected but, basically, inherently, zombies) movies, be: unexpected, daring, and be intelligent. Allegories in horror are obviously incredibly common, but they are not all effective. 28 Days later is impressively written, directed, and acted, with a score that makes this tension-filled discovery that much more intense. Add to it some thought-provoking takes that spiderweb into the whole bloody mess? Golden.

source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and with the powerful cast of Jim (Cillian Murphy) Selena (Naomie Harris) and Frank (Brendan Gleeson), this film highlights the best and worst of humanity when under the pressure of apocalyptic themes.

Sound familiar?

When Jim wakes up in the hospital, alone and confused (much like Rick in The Walking Dead) he’s exposed to a terrifying and seemingly-empty reality, in the stark new world of London- post the worst circumstances one can imagine. He’s soon thrust into acknowledging the dire existence at play, as he discovers that most beings… want to devour him.

The infected aren’t the slow, plodding type of the past, they are fast and intense, making split decisions pulse with the power of eternity, made in the expectation of a moment.

“That was longer than a heart beat”

Underlining the obvious fear that permeates every moment of 28 Days Later, there’s a sense of finding connection and even, love, amid challenging circumstances. Just because so much of the population has lost their humanity, acting on their “it” instinct, doesn’t mean one should forget what drives us as a species, and what makes us…us. The bonds that we make, even in the most difficult, dire of times, and the decisions we are forced to, should never ruin us, but rather give opportunity for growth and continual improvement.

source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Of course, as any film that touches on the worst of humankind, it shows the poor choices we can make. So, when our leads seek protection and hope from a military base, things should go well, right?

Major Henry West (Christoper Eccleston), as the head of the battalion, ends up exuding a real menace. Primarily, because he seems to trick even the audience at first, with his grand intentions, and our yearning for comfort in the familiar, protective government entities. But, as any of the most ill-conceived of us have been, it is misguided. It shows us how sometimes the real evil has been in us all along, waiting for an opportunity to just spring into action, and show our true colors.

This was where my real appreciation for Cillian Murphy began. In 28 Days, he humanizes the already sympathetic Jim, because his reactions and strength – in a lot of ways- is what we’d hope for ourselves in such an impossible situation. He isn’t the quintessential hero, and isn’t by any means “special” which makes him even more so. Yes, Alex Garland, you knew what you were doing. See Ex Machina next.

When you throw in the familial vibes with the survivors that he meets, emphasizing the common idea in films of connection, there’s a tether that is instinctually rootable. The character relationships and drama that supersedes even the more horrifying of conceits, is reason enough to appreciate Boyle’s take. There are also some lovely moments of awe woven throughout, of love, hope, and the beauty of the little things, that teeters on poetic.

The editing and cinematography really gets to the grit and terror of the story. It’s grainy, shaky, frenetic at times, ensuring you feel the panic and dread that’s overpowering throughout. Nobody is ever really safe, and nothing can be taken for granted. It’s a lesson learned in the harshest of ways, but as always, makes you appreciate the moments of wonder and joy when they can still be had. There’s a sense of realism captured that sets this apart from big blockbuster zombie fare. As we are immersed into the action, as in the dark as Jim, it becomes a narrative that doesn’t let up. Also, Naomie Harris is badass.

There’s a lot of creativity at play here that utilizes past iterations of the sub-genre, paying homage while instilling a new way to speak to this way of storytelling. 28 Days Later isn’t the best horror ever, but it manages to spark a fire that still burns nearly 20 years later. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch, let it get under your skin and simmer, for at least, 28 days to come.

Want to listen to the audio article instead?

Spooktober Day 2: Beetlejuice Wonderfully Weird & Horrifying

Listen to the audio version of my article with a couple extra thoughts mixed in!
  1. Spooktober Day 2: Beetlejuice
  2. Spooktober Day 1: 28 Days Later

Malignant (2021): What the…What?

It isn’t news that James Wan is a notably formidable presence in the horror world. While I generally enjoy (most of) his work, I can’t say that I predicted what Malignant would end up being.

If you’re reading this than you must know me or have at least have an indication (from my site name alone) that I’m someone who enjoys being surprised in horror and in the weird. Well, I’m happy to say that all three of these words would come up in a thought bubble when referring to this film. This is a very weird, surprising, horror film.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

After a horribly traumatic event Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins seeing strange hallucinations, as if she is there, with people being murdered. The who and what of these visions is eventually explained, but it has her digging into her own past, and questioning reality.

Told in a narrative design that upends as much as it does stall for answers, Malignant takes its time with clarity and then explodes into what I can only describe as the right kind of outrageousness.

It’s a film that isn’t afraid to take risks and doesn’t mind getting encompassed by the strange. The third act is really where it comes to life in absurd wild fashion providing a twist that is really unexpected.

I found myself actually laughing at the first scene where the twist is revealed, both out of surprise and also entertainment. It’s wild in its delivery, but it’s honestly what saved the movie for me. I often wondered after if I wished I could have known early on, but it wouldn’t have been as shocking if I had.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Malignant takes on an often dream-like, nearly trippy quality, and plays out some pretty impressive visuals that cascade over even the least flattering parts of the script. Some of the dialogue and by extension, acting, seems a bit off, but one wonders if that was part of Wan‘s decision with the film, which feels at once retro and also new. Often times the film seems to be self-aware and making a remark on itself as much as horror movies in general. As you watch you feel like it’s formulaic, but then comes a heavy swing that has you seeing past the tropes first pitched to you.

Sometimes the pieces don’t completely fit. In fact, they’re tossed at you like discarded notes throughout, but once you tape it all together it -well- still looks whacky, but it at least makes you feel less confused, and giddily intrigued.

It’s memorable, it’s bonkers, it’s Wan but more unhinged than he’s been. And yes, he made Saw. There’s camp, there’s creepy, and there’s most certainly a dose of wait…what? The final act is frenzied, bloodied and unrelenting.

Undoubtedly, Malignant will be a film that doesn’t hit all audiences in the same way. As a movie that embraces its outrageousness with open arms, there’s a admirable quality that may often get looked at as too far reaching, but I dug it.

Malignant is current in theaters and on HBO Max until October 10th

TIFF21: MIDNIGHT MADNESS: You’re Not My Mother & Saloum

For the last week or so I’ve been lucky enough to watch a lot of impressive films virtually at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (for the rest of my coverage go here filminquiry.com). But for the most part, surprisingly, I haven’t seen a lot genre, specifically, horror films.

Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, much like other festival that have midnight showings, is for the horrors: the strange and unusual (HELLO!). This year there were two I was able to catch that seemed especially born from a strange and eerie, and different… place: You’re Not my Mother & Saloum. Be on the lookout for both of these directors who are sure to continue to do imaginative work.

source: Toronto International Film Festival

You’re Not my Mother (Kate Dolan)

This folktale inspired story intertwines the youthful uncertainty of being a teenage girl, dealing with a loved one who a mental illness, as well as the supernatural/superstitions that come out of small towns and family secrets.

Char (Hazel Doupe) lives with her grandmother and mother, Angela (Carolyn Bracken), who suffers from depression, and seems on the precipice of something bad. At school she has to deal with consistent bullying, that often goes dangerously too far. When her mother goes missing, and then returns, Char can tell something is wrong right away. Like the title suggests, this isn’t the woman -her mother- who left.

Her mother’s behavior continues to grow more unexpected and volatile. There are a few sequences where her actions are more odd than supernatural, and you aren’t sure if it’s mythical or just medical. Most of the film takes places inside the home, really spotlighting domestic discomforts and how any place can really become terrifying given the circumstances.

Kate Dolan‘s directorial feature debut dances a bit between psychological thriller and horror, effectively being terrifying at times, but often choosing a slow build, more tense, reveal. Using the changeling folklore and making it new, there’s an interesting idea at the center of You’re Not My Mother.

Occasionally the film moves too slow, with lulls that would threaten your attention if there wasn’t already an underlying sense of dread that keeps you invested. I think the story takes on a bold idea, but doesn’t entirely commit. I would have loved it if the film went weirder and darker, but still found a lot to appreciate. All of the performances are great, especially Hazel Doupe.

By blending folklore with horror, psychological with the supernatural, and relying on a quiet terror rather than a flashy reveal, You Are Not My Mother builds a creepy base for which the talent to stand on. I always love a good twist of folklore, and there are some scenes that are definitely unforgettable.

While it’s a simple story, it’s still an effective one. You Are Not My Mother utilizes talented performances, a creepy atmosphere, and an unescapable dread. Look out for Kate Dolan, horror-world!

Saloum (Jean Luc Herbulot)

source: Toronto International Film Festival

Crime? Horror? Western? Fantasy? Saloum mashes all of these genres up, spins them around, and produces something truly unique. As one of the biggest surprises for me at TIFF this year, this unexpected watch proved to be quite the spectacle.

Saloum is a confident directorial vision that manages to be both bizarre and absorbing. Over the course of its lean run time it manages to reinvent itself time and time again.

It starts with the three mercenaries, the “Bangui Hyenas” Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Minuit (Mentor Ba) along with a drug trafficker. A badass opening scene gives us a quick intro to each of these different personalities. When they escape with millions in gold in tow, they soon realize they have to land their plane unplanned, in Saloum, Senegal. The group then heads to a local camp that is run by Omar (Bruno Henry). What starts off as an unexpected stop, soon switches to a purposeful destination. They aren’t alone here, with a few guests and staff residing, and some buried, dark, secrets.

There’s a lot of inspiration pulled from a variety of film styles and genres while also manufacturing something inventive. Saloum keeps the suspense alive while also making time for humor. The lively scores ensures that the pulse is kept high.

“Revenge is like a River.”

From the very beginning the ominous whisper of revenge lingers in the story, and when it finally comes to a screaming head, the events to follow include a supernatural fight for survival. You remember this is midnight madness, right?! Friend and foe have to team up if they are going to make it out alive. This unexpected group carries terrific chemistry, including Awa (Evelyn Ily Juhen) a mute guest, who proves she has just as much bravura as the rest.

Bursting with energy, Saloum doesn’t shy on being consistently entertaining. It’s not a perfect film by any means, at times feeling rushed, but it manages to create a lively mash up that is easily guaranteed to be something you haven’t seen before. While the film is brimming with talent, Yann Gael and Evelyn Ily Juhen were stand outs to me, though the chemistry of the entire cast, especially within the initial group is notable.

There’s really no waste with this fast-tempo’d thrill ride. Halfway through the film, once the curtain is down and the Wizard is – as you will- at colorful play, the film moves even faster, over-relying on horror and style and less on story. I would have appreciated a little bit more time with it, especially if it meant giving extended insight on certain elements. Yet, the movie still manages to sweep you up, and even if I feel like I’m dropped into a story that’s already got quite a past (something I’d love to see, Hyenas prequel anyone?) I enjoyed the ride.

I won’t give away some of what makes this constitute as a horror because it’s best going in knowing less, but once the movie goes into hyperdrive it is reeling with an pulpy almost video game aesthetic. I really loved the costumes, cinematography and the eye catching detail to color. It’s a bold, intriguing narrative that really soars with the help of the visual flair. It’s atmosphere and location are also both striking and unsettling.

Saloum spins a vibrant combination of genres and tones that makes for a blast of a viewing experience.

Were you able to see either of these? Let me know your thoughts!

Weekly Watch Recs, (5/3-5/9) The Moms of Horror Edition

There is so much content out there! Any ideas?

For Mother’s Day (and because there isn’t a whole lot of new content I can chime in on) I figured why not make this all about appreciating some of the best Moms in horror!

Let’s face it, there are a lot of amazing mothers in horror’s cinematic inventory. Here’s a just a sampling! I tried to spread it out with different kinds of horror/portrayals (not necessarily favorites) but know- there are so many more!

Disclaimer: A good horror mommy, doesn’t a good “mother” make. Food for thought.

Mother knows best. 😏

source: A24

Hereditary (2018)

Can Toni Collette do wrong? (Said everyone, always, because she’s just so talented, and the answer is no). In Hereditary, she again proves this thought. It’s not an easy endeavor to protect your family from possession, but she gives it the old college try. She goes… full unraveled. Watch for consecutive disturbing reveals.

Available to stream on Showtime or Fubo tv.

source: Universal Pictures

Us (2019)

Lupita Nyong’o, Lupita Nyong’o, Lupita Nyong’o. Isn’t that enough? 😍 If you’ve somehow missed this terrific sophomore directorial effort from Jordan Peele with another spectacular performance from Lupita I would recommend rectifying that ASAP. Also, Lupita Nyong’o, just sayin.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Cujo (1983)

Okay, no secret- I love Stephen King. While Cujo might not be the best adaptation of his work (certainly far from the worst) this protective mama is as badass as they come. The always amazing Dee Wallace (here’s your reminder, just in case, watch E.T too) will do anything to protect her child. Give it a watch, and just remember: the dog isn’t real, because they would never do such a horrendous thing. 🙂

Available to stream on AMC+

source: Universal Pictures

People Under the Stairs (1991)

This might seem unexpected, but Wes Craven’s film, which seems to be divisive among most, has one mommy you wouldn’t want to run into (let alone rob from and then get stuck in their twisted house of horror). Wendy Robie plays “Woman” and she’s adequately terrifying throughout this horror/comedy/ outright absurd, film.

Unfortunately, this isn’t currently streaming. Want to borrow my Blu ray? 🙂

source: Entertainment One, Umbrella Entertainment

The Babadook (2015)

Essie Davis plays Amelia, another protective mother, hoping to keep her son away from Mister Babadook. It’s a wonderful, inventive horror with a terrific cast. Creepy? Yes. Awesome? Also yes! Bonus Points. Watch if you dare (just watch it).

Available to stream on AMC+ and DirectV

source: Warner Bros

The Exorcist (1973)

It’s tough to deal with life when your daughter has her head spinning and crawls on the ceiling, but you can say, Ellen Burstyn did her best. Burstyn is incredible, as she grounds this horror in reality, making her performance as a mother concerned, really hit home. Also… Classic!

Available to stream on showtime and Fubo tv.

Also see Mama, Serial Mom, Get Out, Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, Goodnight Mommy, Friday the 13th, Mommie Dearest, House of 1000 Corpses, Okay, there are a lot! Not to mention— Psycho 😉, Dead Alive, Scream 2, The Others, The Conjuring.

While it’s not exactly a horror, I’d also like to give Terminator 2 a shoutout. And the Queen in Aliens- that bitch is protective. (I have a hard time stopping).

source: 20th Century Fox

Have fun watching! Happy Mother’s Day!

What are some of your favorites? Let me know!