The Nun Review

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The Nun, the latest film spun off from 2013’s The Conjuring, certainly seems to have an appreciation for the classical elements of the horror genre. Several scenes take place in a fog-shrouded graveyard with constant shots of crows perching, the very place you’d expect Scooby Doo to sneak around in. The opening scene includes a door that leads to a dark abyss, doors opening by themselves, candles going out and upside-down crosses, all the types of things you’d expect to find in a theme park haunted house, and these things only get more frequent as the film continues.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and The Nun could have been a frightening and fun film even with these clichés, but sadly, the clichés are made even more stale by attaching them to a dull and lifeless story that makes an hour and a half seem like an eternity.  The two main characters – priest Father Burke (Demian Bichir) and training nun Irene (Taissa Farmiga) – are played well enough, but there isn’t really anything that interesting about them. Burke is similar to The Exorcist’s Lankester Merrin – an exorcist battling his own demons – but never comes off as engaging nor are the demons he faces as frightening as Pazuzu. The demonic nuns, who bear more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Barlow from the Salem’s Lot miniseries, are more laughable than terrifying.

A good horror film should have you hiding under the seat, hoping the terror will pass and that the main characters will survive. The Conjuring franchise can create a movie like this, as last year’s Annabelle Creation proved, but watching The Nun, you’ll just wish it’ll end.

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Ghost Stories Review

It has been argued that the best format for a horror story is a short story, because then the horror is delivered to you in one sitting. So that is perhaps why not only do we see a lot of horror short story anthologies on our bookshelves, we see them on the screen as well. It’s why we have Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow and Trick r TreatGhost Stories, brought to us by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson adapting their stage show of the same name, follows this format, though there is something bigger beneath the stories it tells.

Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman) has been exposing so-called psychics and debunking the paranormal, but then he is sent to investigate three people who claim to have had genuine interactions with the supernatural. A former night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) who encounters a spectre on his shift, a young man (Alex Lawther) who has a nasty surprise while driving without a license and a man (Martin Freeman) haunted while awaiting his child’s arrival.

The stories themselves are very suspenseful and well-told, utilising the classic horror tropes marvellously. It truly does feel like classic British horror – it may even be familiar to those who have read or seen Whistle and I’ll Come to You. The film really gets interesting after the stories are told, and Phillip sees that things might not truly be as they seem. Actual places are turned into paper backdrops, an unseen baby eating dog food…it truly feels like a nightmare.

If you enjoy British horror, anthology horror, or well, horror in general, this is a fine film to watch.

(The original version of this review had spoilers but I made it less spoilery as per Andy Nyman’s wishes)

Six Terrifying Versions of Humpty Dumpty

Easter is just around the corner, and when you think of that time of year, what comes to mind? Bunnies. Chickens. Daffodils and sunshine and of course, eggs. When you think of eggs in a whimsical, fairy-tale setting, the story of Humpty Dumpty is bound to come to mind. It’s a poem that’s only four lines long, and yet has become a massive, instantly-recognisable pop culture icon.

It also is one of those things from your childhood that can come off as a bit creepy when you think about it as an adult. A children’s poem, a nursery rhyme that revolves around a sentient creature being smashed to pieces, unable to be reassembled. Several writers and artists have noticed that too, and have created their own versions of Humpty Dumpty that err more towards horror than humour. These are just a few of those versions:

Smarties Mini Eggs

Well, okay, this isn’t exactly what you’d call horror, and is an advertisement for children’s snacks, but there is something, well, rotten about this advert. Here, Humpty’s fall was no accident. He was sitting on the wall, minding his own business, when he gets spooked by a Mini Egg, causing him to plummet. Adding insult to injury, as he’s being carried away on a stretcher, the Mini Eggs laugh sadistically, even calling out “omelette”. The nice pastoral backdrop only makes this malicious act all the worse.

McFarlane’s Action Figure

This “Twisted Fairy Tales” figure is definitely not one for the squeamish; here’s a link if your stomach is strong enough. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the rhyme never actually says that Humpty was an egg (not even by yours truly) and that’s the direction this action figure takes. This Humpty is one of flesh and blood, not shell and albumen, and that’s fully revealed to us here. However, even with all these disgusting details, even with all the stitches and blood and worms, the most noticeable thing about this character is his cute little propeller beanie.

TurboTax

If you ever wondered what Humpty would be like if he existed in real life, this might give you an idea. I must say, however, that the “king’s men” anachronistically existing alongside helicopters and televisions make this a very surreal take on the rhyme. Unlike most versions, Humpty is put back together but you still feel bad for his predicament here, especially given that he’s fully conscious while broken in pieces. When he says “everything hurts”, you believe it.

WC Field’s Version

The most famous appearance of Humpty outside the rhyme was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and while he was arrogant there, it wasn’t exactly what you would call frightening. The same can’t be said for his appearance in 1933’s Alice in Wonderland, where he was played by none other than WC Fields. A giant rubber-faced egg with beady eyes and a gigantic smile that could rival that of the Cheshire Cat. It’s a wonder Alice stayed to chat.

The Big Over Easy

This is a spin-off of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and like that series, features several characters from literature interacting with each other and satirising the very nature of fiction itself, with “Amazing Crime Stories” being a true crime magazine that wants to outlaw bodies being discovered by people walking their dogs. This is a murder mystery about the circumstances of Humpty’s fall, where it might have been more than just the fall that killed him and he might not have been such a good egg after all. Not only does Humpty appear, but the case is being investigated by Jack Spratt and Mary Mary, with Solomon Grundy as a suspect and Wee Willie Winkie as another victim. It’s an interesting and entertaining read, as is its sequel.

Kinder

When one thinks of “creepy Humpty Dumpty” this is most likely the first thing that came to mind. Certainly one of the most infamous renditions of the character, with him almost always coming up in discussions about unintentionally-disturbing children’s TV. He has the same beady eyes and wide smile as Fields’, but it’s even worse here. Like McFarlane’s, is a creature made of flesh, but is terrifying without resorting to excessive gore. A giant talking egg in the real world would be a frightening sight and this just proves it.

Unsane Review

Includes spoilers

That’s right, I’m using that warning instead of “may include spoilers” because the first thing I’m going to talk about regarding Unsane is the ending, or rather, what the ending isn’t. Unsane is the story of Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) looking for help regarding a man who is stalking her and ending up involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Now, this set-up led me to think ‘Oh no, is it going to turn out she really is insane like in Shutter Island and The Ward?’ Such a “twist” would especially be egregious considering the film was about something as serious as stalking.

Thankfully, “Sawyer is crazy” is not the twist of the film, but what the stalker, David (Joshua Leonard) wants everyone to believe. When Sawyer is taken to the institution, she sees that one of the doctors is her stalker giving himself a different name, but no matter how much she yells, no-one at the institution believes her.

Unsane can be rather hard to watch. It acknowledges the clichés of asylum-set horror flicks and makes sure to push them aside to create a truly terrifying story of a woman trapped in a frightening situation. The institution feels oppressive and David is a chilling villain so this horror film is an horrific one, where you fear for Sawyer’s safety.

Upon hearing the title and synopsis of Unsane, you might think it to be another dull horror flick set in an asylum, but it really is a chilling, thrilling watch.

Top Ten Movies I Reviewed in 2017

10
Logan

A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.

9
Better Watch Out

Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.

8
It

Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.

7
Split

Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.

6
Spider-Man Homecoming

While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.

5
The Lego Batman Movie

A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.

4
A Monster Calls

Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.

3
Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).

2
Baby Driver

Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.

1
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.

 

Better Watch Out Review

What holiday works better for the world of horror then Christmas? You might say Halloween, but that holiday’s a little too obvious. Christmas works well for horror because not only do the usual cheer and festivities make great contrast with blood and terror, the holiday itself has a little sinister side too (see 2015’s Krampus for a film that makes fun use of one of Christmas’ more sinister characters).

It seems every year brings forth a new Christmas horror flick, and so here we have Better Watch Out. Now that does seem a rather generic title for a Christmas-themed horror, bringing to mind the “All Through the House” episode of Tales From the Crypt somewhat, and like that episode, deals with home invasion.

Don’t let that fool you, however. Better Watch Out knows what came before it and subverts the viewers’ familiarity with the genre wonderfully. It’s not unlike Cabin in the Woods in that regard, and like Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go into this one blind. Thus I don’t really want to go into too much detail with this one, but let me just say Better Watch Out offers great suspense, excellent performances, and a despicable, monstrous villain, and all with a sense of twisted humour.

Some people may like watching nice, heartwarming Christmas movies, but for those who prefer a little bit of gore in their Yuletide flicks, Better Watch Out is a good choice.

Halloween Review: The Addams Family

What are you planning on doing this Halloween? You may be too old for trick-or-treating, and you may not be in the mood for a party, but the best way to spend Halloween is watching a fun spooky movie or binge-watching a fun spooky TV show. If you want a TV show or a movie to get you in the Halloween mood, you could certainly do worse than The Addams Family.

Based on characters created by Charles Addams for a series of cartoons in The New Yorker, The Addams Family hit TV screens in 1964, running until 1966. The characters were nameless in the cartoons, but the TV show was when they became known as Gomez, Morticia etc. (One suggested name for Pugsley was Puberty, which would later be the name of the Addams’s third child in Addams Family Values). A family with bizarre tastes, living in a Gothic mansion with a torture room playroom, a lion as a pet and a zombie-esque creature as a butler. Yet despite their quirks, the characters remained strangely likeable.

True, there are some elements of the TV show that are pretty dated. When a robot assistant is made for Lurch, the robot is “played” by Forbidden Planet‘s Robbie, and the Addams even have a big B-Movie sci-fi computer. Though an episode featuring said computer – where Gomez runs for mayor – is strangely relevant today, given that Gomez learns in order to defeat a sneaky, underhanded politician, he has to be sneaky and underhanded himself, and people are willing to vote for Gomez because he makes ridiculous promises and politicians are known not to keep promises.

Still, the show is pretty easy to binge, given the zippy pace of most episodes, the simple and easy-to-follow stories and how much they actually managed to get out of the characters. It can be seen as something of a one-joke premise – they’re weird and everyone isn’t – but they’re so well-acted, so many jokes still land. Lisa Loring’s Wednesday isn’t as sardonic as her movie counterpart, but still makes some twisted lines work; a guest jokes that the Addamses might have Satan over for dinner, and Wednesday says ‘No, that was last week’ like it was the most normal thing in the world. John Astin’s Gomez perfectly mixes eccentricities with a romantic and fatherly nature (Astin would reprise the Gomez role twice, once for a Scooby-Doo crossover and again for an animated series based on the movies).

Another highlight is Ted Kassidy as butler Lurch. Lurch was originally a mute character, but Kassidy’s ad-libbed ‘You rang?’ went over so well, Lurch got more lines. Episodes with Lurch as the focus are some of the funniest, with Kassidy doing so much with so few lines. An episode has Gomez and Morticia wanting to sell Lurch’s prized harpsichord to a museum, with Lurch’s response to the plan being ‘I quit.’ Then Gomez and Fester build a new harpsichord for Lurch to have, planning for the delivery men to take the real one on Lurch’s day off. The delivery men arrive a day early and when they explain what they’re here to do, Lurch let’s out a brilliant ‘Betrayed!’

It may be old but the 1964 Addams Family show is still a lot of fun to watch, as are the later movies The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

Charles Addams’s original cartoons were a little darker than the TV show, and so is 1991’s The Addams Family, actually recreating some of the cartoons, like the Addamses pouring boiling oil on the carol singers at the beginning. The house is a lot more sinister-looking than back in 1964, and even personified, with a gate that acts as a guard dog and books that can conjure up storms. The implication with Thing originally seemed to be he was a creature we only saw part of, but here, he’s an actual disembodied hand.

In this, Fester (who, while Morticia’s uncle in the TV show, is Gomez’s brother here, a change that helps the characters have a greater connection) has been missing for years after a disagreement between him and Gomez. However, a man named Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), who has a stunning resemblance to Fester, shows up at the mansion, pretending to be Fester to help his criminal mother find the Addams fortune. The plot is a rather typical one for a family movie, but it remains interesting, thanks to Lloyd’s performance as both Gordon and Fester.

Another highlight is Christina Ricci as Wednesday, a humorously macabre and quotable character. However, all of the family get their chance to shine, with Morticia reading fairy tales to children and making them think about the pain the villains went through, and Gomez’s inquiry to a call-in show.

The Addams Family is an enjoyable movie, but Addams Family Values is even better. One reason this is is because two of the best actors from the first film – Lloyd and Ricci are given a bit more to do. The film features the birth of a third child in the Addams family – Puberty – and after that, Fester falls for Debbie (Joan Cusack), a Black Widow murderer who wants to kill Fester and take his money, reckoning without his apparent indestructibility. Cusack is another enjoyable performance, a character just as deranged as the Addamses but in a different way.

This also features Wednesday and Pugsley being sent off to summer camp, which is where most of the highlights of the film happen. Of course, carnage happens when they come there, but you better believe the camp deserved it.

So be it movie or TV programme, what better way to spend Halloween than with the ooky, kooky family?