Tag Archives for " slasher "

September 27, 2019

NHE’s Modern Horror Classics: Final Destination (2000)

Final-Destination_Devon_Sawa-Disaster

While this series delves more into the indie side of horror, I thought it silly to ignore some of the more mainstream releases. The reason for Final Destination’s inclusion is, not only did it kick one of the biggest horror franchises of the 21st Century’s first decade but also your writer here considers it to be one of the most fun franchise of the 21st Century so far. There is little doubt these are silly movies right enough, but for pure popcorn horror thrills most of the “Final Destination” films work a treat.

The 2000 original started life as an X-Files spec script by screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick way back in 1994. A fact well known by fans but maybe less known was when the first draft of the screenplay, then titled “Flight 180”, was sent to New Line Cinema, the project executive took it to read on the flight to read. A decision he changed upon realising that he was on Flight 180 from LA to New York and praying it would land safely which it did.

The X-Files connection remained as after New Line bought the Reddick treatment and brought him on to write the first draft they then brought in eventual director James Wong and Glen Morgan to rework it both of whom had written for the show. In the end, Wong and Morgan rewrote the script, but Reddick’s story and concept remained.

 In some ways, the movie is quite an inventive mix of teen slasher, disaster movie & X-Files episode. The latter aspect is particularly accentuated by the two FBI Agent characters in the film. That said Agent’s Wiene and Schreck (get it? As in Robert Weine and Max Schreck, there are also several other horror referencing character names in the movie) are no Mulder & Scully. In many ways, it looks and feels like that kind of late 90’s/early 00’s Post-Scream slasher.  You can certainly see this in the casting with many of the cast coming off the back of successful teen movies or TV shows at the time such as Sean William Scott (American Pie), Ali Larter (Varsity Blue), Kerr Smith (Dawson’s Creek) and lead Devon Sawa (Idle Hands). The difference here being there is no monster or physical killer instead these teens are stalked by death itself. Not some black hooded version of death either as the studio wanted but an unseen elemental force.

There may be several outlandish and over-the-top moments in the movie, but it does have very creepy opening effectively using sound and music cues as well as clever edits to make what is really just a scene of someone packing seem sinister. The eerie atmosphere is kept well in the opening act in the lead up to the plane disaster something helped out a lot by Sawa’s performance as lead character Alex Browning who envisages the plane's explosion and set off the events of the rest of the film. Other acting performances in the movie are less decent as is to be somewhat expected in this type of movie. There is however a great cameo from Tony Todd who would go on to be a franchise regular. However, those going to see it for the great acting but the deaths. Here the movie delivers for the most part.

The over-elaborate deaths are the thing that is most entertaining and central to the appeal of the film and the franchise. Now some of these over-elaborate accidents are genuinely effective, and some are just ludicrous. Take the first post plane accident death for example. Here the character of Tod (Chad E. Donella) is killed by a chain reaction of things that lead him to be strangled by a cord in the bathtub. Not too ludicrous you would think but more so when you see the scene where he appears to be stalked by the water that he eventually slips on to fall into the tub. Even more hilariously it snakes away post-kill. That is not the most overblown or convoluted death though that honour goes to the death of Miss Lewton (Kristen Cloke) who dies in a chain of events too convoluted to go into, but it ends with her being impaled with a falling knife and her house exploding. Not that this is necessarily a complaint as it is very entertaining to watch.

The most brutally effective and best deaths though are also the simple ones like Amanda Detmer’s characters death via speeding bus or the decapitation of Sean William Scott’s character. The funny thing about the former is you know it is going to happen, but it still works. Much like a joke that you know what the punchline is going to be but laugh nonetheless.

Upon release, the movie did poorly critically but did pick up the odd positive review most notably from the late Roger Ebert who gave it three out of four stars. Also in 2010, the film was featured on a Metacritic list entitled 15 Movies the Critics Got Wrong. It is easy to why critics took against as, as previously mentioned, this is a silly movie, and few would claim stone-cold classic horror status for it. However it’s also easy to see why audiences liked it as the film has a killer concept, some great deaths and it is just very fun.

The same can be said for the franchise it spawned as, except for the fourth one, all of them are solidly entertaining films. Sure it is the same formula repeated in different settings but each entry has a lot of fun with that formula, and there are several stand-out deaths peppered throughout. The Final Destination is also one of the few horror franchises to go out on a high with many sighting “Final Destination 5” as their favourite one. That film also cleverly brings the series full circle by tying into the original giving the franchise a fitting end. We can only hope this fitting conclusion will not be ruined by the long rumoured but as of yet unmade “Final Destination 6”.

July 21, 2019

Episode 30 – G. Patrick Condon Interview

Episode 30 – G. Patrick Condon Interview

 
 
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NHE host Scott Murphy talk to director G. Patrick Condon all about his debut feature “Incredible Violence.” A film we saw at Dead by Dawn 2019 and had mixed feelings about. And yes, that is something we get into which made for a very interesting interview (which begins at 3:37)!

Away from discussing what we did and did not like about “Incredible Violence,” Scott and Patrick chat about how the story developed, the casting of the picture and it’s unusual shoot. Also, the pictures meta nature, why he decided not to cast himself as himself (we told you it was meta!) and the divisive reactions the movie has received at festivals.

Patrick also tells us about how he got into film-making, the Canadian film scene and how he naturally gravitates towards cinema that splits opinion. Plus he gives us a taster of what he is up to next, a project which sounds very interesting indeed!

You can check out the trailer for “Incredible Violence” here

“Incredible Violence” is set for release in the UK on August 13th.

July 10, 2019

Review: Party Hard, Die Young

Director: Dominik Hartl

Starring: Elisabeth Wabitsch, Antonia Moretti, Marlon Boess, Markus Freistätter, Michael Glantschnig

Run Time: 92mins

Austria is not renowned for its horror films and what horror movie it is known for tend to be of more artsy bent such as “Funny Games” and “Goodnight, Mummy.” Not a tag you could put “Party Hard, Die Young” though as it falls squarely into familiar slasher territory.

However, while many aspects of the plot and characters will be familiar (perhaps overly-familiar) to slasher fans from the group irritating horny teens that are bumped off one by one to the revenge plot, there are nifty elements which refresh the old format.

The set-up is certainly simple enough as we meet a class of Austrian school-leavers who gone to X-Jam in Croatia for a week of partying, drinking and, they hope, sexual activity.  The group is for the most part thinly sketched as you get the jock type, the joker, the queen bee, etc. The exceptions are the characters of Julia (Elisabeth Wabitsch), and Jessica (Antonia Moretti) who are individually better drawn plus their relationship as best friends is quickly established. Wabistch performance, in particular, standouts as you genuinely care about her characters fate in a way you so rarely do in this sub-genre.

Hartl also makes each kill in the movie feel consequential in a way that feels refreshing, and while the reveal behind what is motivating the murders is not new, there is a bit more emotional weight behind it than you may expect from the way things kick off.  There is also a commendable attempted commentary on toxic masculinity which kind of works even if it is somewhat negated by the many leering shots of scantily clad young women in the opening half.

The fact the film shot on location at X-Jam while it was ongoing also gives proceedings a unique twist. Plus the location’s party-mad vibe lends a rare air of plausibility to the frequently used device of authority figures refusing to believe, until near the end, there is a killer on the loose despite mounting evidence.

The main innovation here, though is Hartl’s decent use of modern technology with shots being shown as YouTube clips or Instavideos or Snapchat’s popping up on the screen. All of which feels entirely natural in a film about young people but are devices still under-utilised in the horror genre as only a handful of horror flicks have exploited modern technology without it seeming clunky e.g., “Cam,” “Unfriended.”

Overall: An effective little slasher that punches above your standard slasher fare due to its fun use of technology, unique location, slick direction, and a sterling central performance from Wabistsch.

6/10

Party Hard, Die Young is now available on Shudder UK here

February 18, 2019

Episode 19 – Jenn Wexler Interview

Episode 19 – Jenn Wexler Interview

 
 
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It’s Women in Horror Month! And so it feels only right that on today’s episode we talk to one of the best new female directors on the horror scene Jenn Wexler (who we also hasten to add she is one of the best regardless of gender) about her debut feature “The Ranger.” A film that has already garnered much praise at the various film festival it has played since debuting at 2018’s SXSW. As well as discussing that film extensively NHE host Scott Murphy and Jenn also chat about her production work, slashers, the connection between punk and horror and a whole lot more.

Also if you have not seen the movie and the interview has whet your appetite for “The Ranger” it is now avaible to buy on Blu Ray and DVD from Amazon as well as from Black Fawn Distribution. The film is also coming soon to Shudder! So you got no excuse not to check it out!

December 14, 2018

Review: Leprechaun Returns

Director: Steven Kostanski

Starring: Taylor Spreitler, Linden Porco, Pepi Sonuga, Sai Bennett, Emily Reid

Run Time: 86mins

Remarkably this is the eighth entry in the Leprechaun franchise. Remarkable not necessarily for the number of entries but as the Leprechaun franchise has never been as well-loved as some of horror’s other iconic franchises and not only that it is one of the most critically reviled franchises in horror. To give you an idea of how much no fewer than four entries have a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

As you might surmise expectations for this newest chapter are suitably low especially as this is a made for Scyfy production. This latest instalment is also the second feature in the franchise not to feature Warwick Davis, the other being the god-awful “Leprechaun: Origins” which featured former WWE star Hornswoggle in the role and was the most recent entry until now. Not that this movie has anything to do with that one. In fact, following the route of this year’s Halloween, this feature ignores all the sequels in the franchise and leads on directly from the original. Taking place 25 years after the events of the first film (which came out in 1993).

The plot here centres on Lila (Taylor Spreitler) who is the daughter of the original films heroine Tory Reding (Who was played by a Pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston). She is returning to the house of the original at Devil’s Lake which is now an Eco-House run by a sorority. Unsurprisingly there is no return from Aniston, it is explained her character has passed away, but there is a fun cameo appearance Mark Holton who reprises his role as Ozzie from the original. The rest of the characters are your usual slasher fare. There is some effort to make Lila’s sorority sisters intelligent as they are all academic high-flyers instead of the bimbo characters associated with the sub-genre. However, as soon as the killing starts they end up being just as silly and two-dimensional as your standard slasher character.

On the plus side little time is wasted before the Leprechaun is brought back to life and the killing begins. Here is where the films strength lies as there is plenty of amusing gory moments. Also while some may complain at Warwick Davis’s aforementioned absence, Linden Porco acquits himself well as the eponymous villain. Granted some of his rhyming post-kill one-liners grate but overall Porco delivers a fun performance equal parts mischievous and malicious. Spreitler’s also provides a good foil for them, and their interactions are amongst the film’s most entertaining.

Not everything works some of the jokes clunk, most of the action is textbook slasher stuff, and the acting is the variable, but director Kostanski (The Void, Astron 6) keeps it all going at breezy pace and delivers some good kills in what is one of the better Leprechaun outings.

Overall: “Leprechaun Returns” might not be great but it is a solid enough reboot that is better than anyone had the right to expect.

5.5/10


October 29, 2018

Review: Halloween (2018)

Director: David Gordon Green

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilgnier, Will Patton

Run Time: 106mins

 

Believe or not this latest addition to the “Halloween” franchise, the 11th entry, is brought to us by the same people who brought us “Pineapple Express” in David Gordon Green (director/co-writer) and Danny McBride (co-writer). A combination we know can do comedy but what about horror? It turns out they do know their horror or at least “Halloween” as this movie is a fitting tribute to the original while managing to do its own thing for the most part.

It fits too that in a franchise with an incredibly convoluted history that this film adds to that confusion by ignoring all previous sequels and being a direct follow up to the original. So in this timeline, Michael Myers was arrested after the events of the original and has been in a secure asylum for 40 years. We first see Michael as two investigative journalists go to visit him. It is a very evocative opening scene as we see Michael chained up in a chessboard style courtyard with his back turned to us. The camera teases glimpses of his face but never shows his full face giving him an even more sinister air.

The investigative journalist’s angle is good as it gives us the audience a very easy to catch up on what has been happening in Haddonfield over the last 40 years particularly with Laurie Strode (Lee Curtis). It turns out she has two failed marriages, had her daughter taken off her and is now living as a hermit in a fortified house, seemingly waiting for Michaels return. In this opening section, we also get to see the strained relationship she has with her daughter Karen (Greer) and her better relationship with granddaughter Allyson (Matichak). The relationship between these three generations of Strode women forms the emotional core of the movie.

After this opening section, Michael inevitably escapes after a botched prison transfer and starts killing once again. Once the killing begins the film very much goes into traditional slasher territory. This element is one of the things that is likely to delight some while frustrating others as the movie feels like a slasher that could have been made in the pre-“Scream” era. As for the most part events are played with a straight bat, and there is little in the way of snarkiness or post-modernism here which may come as a surprise giving the creative talents involved. However, for the most part, this works well, but it does mean there are a bunch of characters who either you don’t care about or are actively happy to see bumped off by Michael.

As mentioned at the start of the review there are many nods to the original. While sometimes this seems a tad forced there are some instances of this that work well. Particularly the scenes that invert the original and highlight the oddly symbiotic relationship between Michael and Laurie. The other big nod to the original is that we have John Carpenter back doing the soundtrack the first time he has done a “Halloween” soundtrack since 1981’s “Halloween II.”

While there may be some skewy plot logic, annoying characters and some silly moments this latest “Halloween” does deliver some brutal kills, develops the relationship of Strode women well and has an absolutely barnstorming performance from Jamie Lee Curtis.

Overall: “Halloween” 2018 can’t compete with the original but is a never less than entertaining, pleasingly throwback slasher and ranks as one of the best entries in the franchise.

7/10