The Witch – Band of Bitches

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Robert Eggers has made a massive directorial debut with this chilling supernatural-psychological horror film.

This New-England style folk-tale follows a family as it is torn apart by possession, betrayal and of course, witchcraft. It is superbly made, as equally chilling in aesthetics and theme as in subject-matter, however, this film ultimately works on as many levels as it fails.

Some critics have argued that it works better as a psychological horror than a supernatural thriller. I, however, feel it works well in its use of uncanny, where everything is wrong, in some way or another, and one never fully knows what is the cause of such unrest until the climactic reveal.

I do still feel that the film could have pushed harder on the titular Witch who is reduced to only a few on-screen occurrences and possibly never even the true threat to the protagonists.

According to Eggers, the devil as evinced through the Goat, Black Philip, was initially supposed to be more involved in the film with much more onscreen presence. However, a lack in the animal’s training reduced the Goat’s on-screen time. Eggers claims he is still pleased with the outcome of the film despite this, which I agree with, in that it certainly made for a thrilling climactic reveal. But again, I do see it as a bit of a failing in the film as well, in that after learning Black Philip’s true nature, the constant references to the rabbits and the eerie presence of nature itself, can come across as a tacked on post-thought.

Many questions are left unanswered: was there only one Witch? Or were there many? Why was the family kicked out of the commune at the beginning? What was with the rabbits, anyways?

And what does this film say about women, really? The satanic looks damn enticing compared to the squalid living conditions of their farm. And all only at the cost of a simple baby. But what is this film really saying about women, the divine feminine or even female community? That the only way of getting out of arranged marriages or being literally sold to another family, is through allegiance to Satan and murdering a baby or two to bathe in their blood and live forever?

I know I’m being a bit over-dramatic, but it is still an example of the gendered nature of horror films – in that the role of the female is somehow intrinsically dark, and ominous. That the anxieties of women can manifest themselves into very real, very dangerous entities like ghosts, demons and of course, witches. It’s a fear perpetrated from the puritan age and really very little has changed from then to now.

Indisputable: Best Horror Movies of the 2010’s

A couple years ago I did a 30 horror movies for 30 days of October in celebration of my favourite “holiday” – Can you guess it? – Of course it’s Halloween. Part of being an individual with eclectic tastes involves constantly changing your mind, so in lieu of making an entirely revised “top-10”, “top-30”, “top-whateverthefuck”, I’ve decided to instead try and narrow down my list. I’m also attempting to celebrate the plethora of new voices and visions emerging in this dynamic genre while not feeling bad for excluding my favourites and classics.

Note: This list came at no easy lengths, as I watch the purposefully bad, downright terrible and truly disgusting. As any great horror fan knows, a true gem is a rare find indeed, the right combination of scares, tropes, music and atmosphere – among other criteria. For every one of these films there are at least 5 crap-tacular films which isn’t to discredit those that were so very close, the ones that could have been but just failed to ultimately deliver the goods.

In no definitive order, here follows the (indisputable) best horror films the last 5 years has to offer:

Evil Dead (2013) – Fede Alvarez


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A great tip of the hat to the original



My expectations were as high as any other die-hard Evil Dead fan. In fact, when this was announced I almost decided to boycott the film entirely. After all, why try and improve upon perfection? But this film really surprised me – It had great scares, great over-the-top gore, and just enough homage to the original that it was a delight for any fan of the original. This film managed to straddle the line between delightful pastiche to the original, while keeping it fresh and unique unto itself. It also managed to expand upon the Evil Dead Necronomicon mythology without stepping on too many shoes.

The Sacrament (2013) – Ti West

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Most film buffs have giant boners for Ti West and I’ve never ever been one of them. I hated House of the Devil and despised The Innkeepers possibly even more. Now that being said, this film is characteristically Ti West. I guess the format of his films finally seemed to fit for me in this project, rather than in the pseudo-throwback used previously. This often just came off gimmicky and cheap to me. West’s characteristic slow-buildup worked perfectly in this film, which follows a film-crew as they enter an unnamed country attempting to research an elusive cult. It’s also quite masterful in the telling how such little outside influence managed to destroy the foundations of the entire congregation. The slow buildup of course, implodes into an exciting and violent buildup – I say this was West’s best work to date, taking his “signatures” and signing a work that is original instead of his usual throw-back to a decade of film long ceased.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Drew Goddard

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Possibly the most paused scene in the film

This movie speaks for itself. Joss Whedon broke everyone’s brain when this was released and horror-nuts rejoiced. Actually, even non-horror fans rejoiced. This movie is just great. It subverts a genre while simultaneously embracing and celebrating everything and anything horror. Just the right mix of horror-comedy without being campy or bridging on lame, this movie had it all : hot babes, stoner comedy, zombies, the unicorn, secret societies, gore, violence and the end of the world (?). This tops almost everyone’s list of Top horror films of the 2010’s let alone top horror of the last decade, and some even arguing top horror EVER. There are tons of pages out there dedicated to spotting the tiniest of nerdy detail from the mise-en-scene, and as such this film instantly garnered a massive cult following.

V/H/S 2 (2013) – Assorted

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Just…watch it.

While there was the first V/H/S and the newer V/H/S: Viral which both have some notable submissions, V/H/S 2 really throws it out of the park. Following the faux-snuff anthology format from the first film this one went into hyperdrive. It’s like the first one going down the highway 200KM/ph and nailing a sudden turn in the road – while viral stopped short, for example. Of course the entire thing came to a jaw-dropping climax during Gareth Evan’s “Safe Haven” – which perhaps is my one complaint during the entire thing, because they should have ended with this beaut. I feel sorry for the poor bastard that came after because I barely remember it. I doubt it was a weak spot or anything, it’s just… how can you compare to the balls-to-the-wall ridiculousness that just went down? The best anthology film of the early decade, but not the biggest, 2012 had The ABCs of Death which had some great contributions but as a whole failed to deliver.

Sinister (2012) – Scott Derrickson

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The opening sequence.

While not terribly original necessarily, a very admirable and well done additional to any ghost/demon themed horror movie. It’s got all the usual tropes – a mystery to solve, faux-leads, twist ending, jump scares, etc. – but nails them all perfectly. My favourite of all these was the jump-scares which definitely had me tensing pretty hard, and even had my boyfriend asking me to walk him down the hall to the bathroom afterwards. A nerd’s note: the sound design was also very interesting in this film, as displayed most strongly when Ethan Hawke’s character is watching the old tapes but also in that freaky scene where the children’s ghosts are running around silently in the dark, bounding in and out of shadows. The sound design in itself was responsible for some of those jump scares I mentioned earlier, while simultaneously it was the lack of sound in some of the murders which made them all the more disturbing to watch. Apparently there is a sequel coming out soon, but I doubt it could be as good, as it has minimal involvement with the original crew, which is never a good sign. I’ll still watch it though.

You’re Next (2011) – Adam Wingard

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Same-same… or is it?

Any favourite horror movie of mine will either nail a genre right on the head, or else subvert it – playing off your expectations, literally using your expectations to gain a certain explorative power over you as a viewer. This film is the latter. It uses your expectations for a typical “home-invasion” type horror thriller to pull off it’s twists. While I normally derive this genre of horror film, such as, infamously, The Strangers (2008), this film excelled by subverting viewer expectations, taking a new, powerful approach to the genre altogether. I would consider that a success.

The Conjuring (2013) – James Wan

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A movie so good it sparked it’s own – albeit crappy – spinoff, Annabelle (2014). I chose this one versus Insidious (2010) and the sequel because, although James Wan really kills it in both (literally and figuratively, natch), The Conjuring managed to take everything that makes James Wan an excellent horror director and roll with it even harder and without remorse. My favourite thing about Wan as a director would have to be his use of pace – there’s no slowing down in this film, no unnecessary leads, and no time wasted at all. There’s a problem – okay let’s deal with it – instead of going through the typical motions of denial and doubt. Wan also manages to artfully employ just the right amount of comedic relief at just the right time, almost exclusively to keep you from having a heart-attack from the tension. His biggest success is my favorite in the jump-scares though, as the most frightening moments happen when you most expect it but almost always from a direction you are least suspecting it – think it’s coming from in front of you? It’s above you. Behind? Below. Beside? Infront. This never fails to give me a huge jump. Can’t wait for the sequel of this bad-boy to come out either.

Kill List (2011) – Ben Wheatley

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No surprises here: I wrote a post a few years back about this being one of the best horror movies of 2011, it still is and clearly extends to the 2010’s.  I’m not sure what’s left to be said about this movie that is at times relentlessly violent, disturbing and at times even humorous. A new take on an old classic: cults, this film will leave you deeply troubled as the ending comes to a cataclysmic, disturbing conclusion. Although somewhat depressing, there are many small details that are worth entailing a second viewing, and memorable moments seared into your mind whether you want them to or not. Powerful visuals and strong story telling come together to make this an exceptional horror film.

The Skin I Live In (2011) – Pedro Almodovar

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A ceaseless, unrelenting, non-stop thrill ride that somehow ends on a more disturbing note than it began. This is a film you cannot look away from – the storytelling is masterfully woven together in a non-linear fashion and Banderas plays a perfect psychopath, who is twisted, cruel and at times even sympathetic. This was the Antichrist (2009) of 2011, in that everyone had something to say about it. Mixed with artful cinematography and a touch of science fiction, this is a truly unique film – something that has never come before, and I would employ anyone to try and come afterwards.

The Babadook (2014) – Jennifer Kent 

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Quite arguably the most talked about horror movie of the year, The Babadook came out with a big splash. Things seemed to have quieted around the film recently, but if you’ve seen the film, the shadows surely haven’t. This film is deeply psychological and extremely sympathetic – a great testament to loss, grief and melancholy as a mother and her son try and cope in the wake of a terrible catastrophe. The main protagonist comes in my favourite form of power – the acousmatic: that which we never truly see the figure, we are only given hints to it’s appearance, and can hear only through what can be described as a disturbing guttural groan. As far as I know, it’s never been done before but I have a feeling children’s storybooks may become a new trope in horror.

Oculus (2013) – Mike Flanagan

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One of my personal favourites, Oculus is a wonderful mix of surreal, absurdity and hallucinogenic realism that you never truly know what is happening to our protagonists until the very end. The film literally keeps you on your toes, and starts to make you feel very near well mad by the end. I’ve never seen a horror movie with such a great pace, diving into the action only to give you some backstory interspersed throughout the action, all climaxing simultaneously. This movie was a wonderful combination of all that I love in a horror movie: mystery, a bit of blood, jump scares, and madness.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? Disagree?

General horror movie drinking game rules

There are 5 general rules for horror movies, and drinking. I’ve tried with many other movie genres but there are 5 general rules that work for every horror movie, and I hope you enjoy following them and getting subsequently drunk.

1) drink for death
2) drink for excessive blood
3) drink for horror movie cliches (faux-scares and other fare)
4) drink for anytime you laugh
5) drink for sex (or heavy making out and petting also counts)

Follow these 5 rules and a guaranteed drunk you will be!

In review: Mama

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So I went and saw Mama directed by Andres Mucshietti, the newest production by Guillermo Del Toro. Based on the other films I’ve seen in this kind of relationship, for example The Orphanage or Julia’s Eyes I was expecting creepy creepy creepy! And yes that’s what I got.

However, that being said, I also didn’t expect this film to be so cheesy in parts. The audience was laughing in multiple scenes. As was I. My friend who I saw it with even pointed out that there were several parts where he fully expected “Thriller” to come on and for the actors to break out into Michael Jackson dancing. That would actually make a great rule to the whole drinking game thing I love to do in horror movies, so add that to the general list of rules for this particular film.

The film has no gore, so to speak, and lots of creepy “ahhhh!” moments, which I am happy about as, although I love gore, we all know its not particularly frightening.

I also appreciated the fact that this film didn’t strive for a 100% happy ending, but I wont say anything other than that as that would give away too many spoilers.

My only problem with this film is that there was no REAL mystery. We see the “ghost” straight off the bat, so we basically know her deal before it even begins. There’s no contest that this is a ghost we are dealing with. The whole exploration and delving into old files, that are obligatory, with any horror movie seems forced and unnecessary. The entire back-story was forced and definitely nothing new. And to be real for a moment the ghosts “portal” into our world looked like a bloody vagina on the wall. Not scary, just funny.

To be honest, the trailer for this film was more terrifying than the film itself.

In conclusion, while this film brought some good spooks it was still dealing with an old genre, a tired one that has been played out now. I think it’s time for something fresh and new, outside of children and ghosts. I don’t know what that is, but when I see it we’ll all know from a stellar review. Although it may be a while yet as it seems we are still dealing with the 3D craze and old genres. 2o12 was a seriously disappointing year for horror, if this is a glimpse of things to come in 2013, then I’m not hopeful. Oh well, if we all play by my drinking games it will be a drunk year at the very least.

Listmania: 10 Epic Death Scenes

Who doesn’t love a really good death scene? I tried to pick here less of the mindless gore that I’m accustomed to, but scenes which had a lasting impression because they were so shocking. I call them epic because they surprised us in some way, we honestly did NOT see that coming, and maybe uttered a “DAMN” when it happened.

Definitely contains spoilers.

Okay let’s begin! In no particular order:

1) Billy, The Departed

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Things never go quite right for poor Billy do they? Just when it seems like things are finally wrapped up and going his way an unfortunate elevator ride has to happen…

2) Marvin, Pulp Fiction

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Did anyone see this coming? No way! Due to the nonlinear nature of the film, any hints were hidden, the fact that Marvin survived the first massacre seemed a miracle, and then this.

3) Oscar, Enter the Void

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Unless you read the synopsis before watching the film, this is a pretty unexpected death. I mean, killing off the main character 30 minutes in who we’ve essentially had first person POV privileges with? Not your most conventional approach.

4) Anonymous, Cube 

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The movie opens, a man moves through a creepy cube hesitantly, what is he so afraid of? We soon find out.

5)Russell Franklin, Deep Blue Sea

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After an inspiring speech, it’s Samuel L. to save the day! Or not.

6) Palmer, The Thing

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What is the Thing? A horrible alien monster from outer-space that grotesquely mutates its victims. How do you find out who is infected by the thing? The Infamous blood-testing scene – made me jump the first time I saw it!

7) Bill Murray, Zombieland

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Both hilarious and tragic. Who really thought that he’d get shot in the film after a heroic cameo? I mean it’s Bill Fucking Murray after all!

8) Blanche, Drive

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There’s a lot of love, and a lot of hate for this film. But what’s never disputed is how unexpected this death is. Christina Hendricks getting her face blown off in slow motion, yeah! I had a “BUH” moment. It’s this death, amongst many, that really straps you in and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

9) Julian, Children of Men

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Just when they’re getting their lives back together, an unexpected attack on the car which then turns into a thrilling and one of the most brilliantly filmed tracking shots I’ve ever seen.

10) Glen, A Nightmare on Elm Street

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One of my personal favorite deaths in a film ever, Glen has waltzed through the film without any trouble from Freddy, but I guess no one is safe. Blood Smoothie anyone?

2013 Horror Movies: To Watch List

I was going to write a review of the newest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Franchise, this time in 3D Yeegads! But it was so terrible I don’t think even I can review it. Plus I was pretty drunk so I don’t remember any of the details anyways. Probably a good thing.

Instead, I’d like to list the horror movies I’m really looking forward to! The first and second are the only ones I’m really likely to see in theaters, the others are just a general mumble of interesting titles both possibly good and probably terrible.

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1) Mama – I have high hopes for this one and hopefully it delivers. I’ve generally enjoyed most of the horrors Guillermo Del Toro produces, so at the very least I’m expecting to be thoroughly creeped out.

2) John Dies at the End – This looks seriously awesome. I think it will be a lot of fun. Drugs, traveling through space and time, non-humans…directed by the guy who did Bubba Ho-Tep what more do you need people!?

3) Carrie – I actually think this will be an awesome remake. I really like Chloe Moretz, and Julianne Moore is always good, I can see them making a really twisted mother-daughter team. At the very least it will hopefully be better than that sequel they made in the 90’s, I was only 10 when that shit came out and I still knew it was garbage.

4) The Call – Looks like more of a thriller than anything else, but still creepy and disturbing. Plus I’m a total sucker for some Halle Berry in a horror movie.

5) Dark Skies – Looks like the usual  Insidious-esque plot line. Formulaic but bound to have some creepy moments and maybe a few “eeeeks!”

6) The Last Exorcism Part II – I really thought I’d hate the first film when I originally went to see it, but you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t mind it, and I liked the “twist” ending which left me feeling seriously gross. Part II looks ridiculous and at the very least probably has some great jumpy moments.

7) The Green Inferno – Not even finished yet, but an Eli Roth film about travelers in Peru with Cannibals. Can’t wait! Seems like this is his kick these days, Aftershock is also coming out soon, but for some reason it failed to really grab my interest.

In Review: Silent Hill Revelation

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The Events: I got to see this movie on Thursday thanks to a pair of free tickets scored from a friend for an advanced screening. However, if I had actually paid money for this movie I would be pissed.

Which is not to say that its that bad however… but actually it is. I’m at a total loss of words actually, as I’m stuck between thinking that maybe the makers knew how bad this movie was and it’s just a big joke, or else it was a serious attempt which is much worse.

Evidence for the Jury: The usual scares are there, pyramid head, the nurses, Dahlia – whose botox face is actually more horrifying than any of the monsters. And some new friends: a mannequin head monster, Carrie-Ann Moss as an albino witch lady, Malcolm McDowell as a crazy old guy. Oh and a new death for Sean Bean (maybe, maybe not? Third movie?)

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(She’s never looked worse, not even as Trinity in the Second and Third Matrix movies…That’s dedication to her art though.)

What I will say in its defense, is that filmed in style of a video-game was quite a successful tactic. I kept picturing myself in certain situations and thinking about how I would tackle the threat. A good method for a video-game inspired movie if you want to sell more of the video game…

In closing, the final verdict: This movie was little more than a high-budget, cheap thrills cash grab that was not very frightening at all and riddled with plot holes. As one of my friends said as we were leaving the theatre, they had such a high budget but “they forgot to hire a writer”. The sets are a good backdrop for Halloween though, and if you honestly want a laugh on the 31st go and see this for lack of any other good horrors, or else just wait to stream…