• A Quiet Place (2018)

    A Quiet Place is a very creative horror movie. It takes place in the near future when mysterious creatures roam the planet that have acute hearing and kill anything and anyone they hear. We follow the lives of the Abbott family, consisting of a courageous mother, a survivalist father, their deaf daughter, their scared son and their curious youngest child. Over the course of about ninety minutes, we see the family face numerous emotive challenges, fight the mysterious creatures and try to find their weakness in order to survive.

    The film is short and to the point, with an emotional and ominous atmosphere and story line. The fact that one doesn't know where the creatures come from makes the movie even more horrifying and mysterious. Despite the obvious lack of longer dialogues, viewers empathize with the diversified characters and their common goal to save their family by any means necessary. The acting performances are expressive since the actresses and actors rarely have the occasion to speak. The action sequences are brief and intense. The film has a few minor jump scares but otherwise focuses on its menacing atmosphere. The movie ends on a high note, perfectly balanced between emotional and intellectual elements, with one major problem resolved but many questions left unanswered that offer the audience some food for thought and make the movie unforgettable.

    There are only two minor elements to criticize about the movie. First of all, it's hard to believe that a mother would willingly give birth to a child under the grisly circumstances described above, hence risking the lives of the entire family. Having sexual intercourse in an environment where every sound leads to certain death seems out of character for parents who are otherwise very careful, intellectual and organized. Not aborting the fetus seems like an unlikely decision in a world where earnest survival is more important than moral values. Secondly, the movie ended on a high note and certainly doesn't need a sequel. The impact of many great films has been harmed in the past by building a franchise around them when greed took over creativity. I'm not interested in watching a sequel for such a unique film and wished the creative forces behind this movie would reconsider that option and instead focus on another fresh idea.

    In the end, if you like creative horror, science-fiction and survival movies, you can't get around watching A Quiet Place. It has outstanding acting performances, an ominous atmosphere and a unique concept. It's refreshing to have a movie that focuses on sounds rather than dialogues. People who have the tendency to talk all the time without saying anything at all should watch this film as well as Don't Breathe and take them as lessons that sometimes a gesture can mean more than a thousand words. Enjoy the silence!

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  • Jeepers Creepers (2017)

    Being a fan of the first two installments, I had been looking forward to this third film for years but the release had been delayed multiple times and once it got released it received overtly negative reviews. The film wasn't played in any movie theater near me and once it got released it cost thirty bucks which was way too much in my opinion. I had to wait until very recently to pick the film up for ten bucks and didn't have any expectations anymore at that point.

    As it turns out, Jeepers Creepers 3 is much better than its reputation. It isn't as atmospheric, creepy and intense as the first film but it's clearly better than the odd second installment in my opinion. A lot of people criticized that the film follows too many characters. I actually think this is a strength that keeps the movie diversified, entertaining and even surprising from start to finish. The different characters also have enough depth to convince. We follow cool black Sheriff Dan Tashtego and a group of citizens who want to see the titular monster dead because they have lost family members and friends to it twenty-three years earlier. Other parts of the movie focus on sharpshooter Sergeant Davis Tubbs who sees his police officers decimated by the mysterious creatures. We encounter mentally unstable farmer Gaylen Brandon who has lost her son to the creature. We meet her solitary granddaughter from a broken family who tries to defy the monster's attacks with the help of a young gentleman who has a love interest in her. The movie also shows what happens to the rude brother of the granddaughter's best friend and his three mates who go on a fateful biking trip. Despite all these story lines, the movie never loses focus or momentum as everything revolves around the titular monster and its gruesome actions. One could actually say the monster is the lead character here.

    Another element I liked is the importance of the monster's vehicle in this film. It is filled with traps that prevent victims from escaping and others to get inside the vehicle. The vehicle almost seems to be an otherworldly entity which adds a fresh mysterious touch to the franchise.

    The film is set between the first and the second installment which some people criticized. However, the movie connects all three movies and their characters very well. It gives some more background information on the creature without revealing too much which would be fatal for such a horror franchise.

    The movie oozes with atmosphere since numerous scenes are set in the disgusting vehicle and because the titular monster gets a lot of screen time and is seen flying, investigating, killing, running and smelling in order to get as many victims as possible. Even though most parts of the movie take place during the day, the film manages to evoke a creepy atmosphere.

    Despite an abysmal budget, the movie is filmed with care. The special effects look solid and never too artificial. The camera work is calm and not shaky. The sound effects blend in very well. The soundtrack is appropriately chosen for this type of movie. The actresses and actors deliver overall realistic performances.

    However, the film also has its flaws. First of all, the film fails to surprise and is missing some intriguing twists and turns. The story could have been more imaginative. The conclusion is rather underwhelming and indicates that there might or might not be a sequel at a certain time which is frustrating after a waiting time of a decade and a half between the second and the third installment.

    Secondly, the movie has a creepy atmosphere but is missing some truly horrifying scares that made especially the first part so intense. This third entry focuses on character development but fails to elaborate upon its horror elements. One could rather describe this film as drama with supernatural elements.

    Thirdly, the movie obviously hasn't met everybody's expectations and one could have expected something more spectacular after such a long waiting time. The film feels as if it were mostly just trying to cash in on the commercial success of the first two features instead of bringing anything new to the franchise. Don't get me wrong, Jeepers Creepers 3 is still an enjoyable movie in my book, but the delivery is too safe to leave a deeper impression after all.

    In the end, fans of the franchise should ignore the overtly negative reviews and give this film a fair try without any unrealistic expectations. I'm glad the movie finally saw the light of day and was positively surprised by it. I can't wait to watch the three films in a row in the near future.

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  • Phantasm (1979)

    Phantasm is a cult horror movie every genre fan should be familiar with. Despite its excellent reputation, this movie and franchise are still somewhat underestimated if compared to the Halloween franchise for example. If compared to other horror movies of yore, Phantasm has aged surprisingly well and still sends shivers down your spine nearly four decades after its initial release.

    One key element for the film's success is its twisted, mysterious and creative story that isn't always easy to follow because it isn't obvious what's dream, imagination and reality. The movie revolves around mysterious events happening around Morningside Cemetery in an American small town. After the mysterious death of a young man and the awkward behaviour of the grim undertaker known as the Tall Man, curious teenager Mike and his older brother Jody who have recently lost their parents in a tragic accident start investigating the strange morgue. They soon realize that they are opposed to villains with malevolent intentions and supernatural abilities and must risk their lives in order to save their town.

    Another element that makes Phantasm stand out is that the low budget production relies on amateur actors and actresses who really behave like boys and girls next door without any pretense. Some of the dialogues might lack wit but one can easily identify with the grounded characters and root for them. It's obvious that everyone involved in this project poured their hearts and souls into this film.

    The movie comes along with a creepy, ominous and psychedelic atmosphere that goes beyond some efficient jump scares. The mysterious antagonist is particularly memorable and quite scary because his true intentions remain mysterious. Angus Scrimm's acting performance is intense and inspired by iconic early American horror actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. The creepy settings including the dark cemetery and the mysterious morgue look very intriguing. The otherworldly sequence in the final third drifts into the realm of science-fiction and adds yet another twist to the tale. The few special effects might look slightly dated today but look surprisingly well for such a low budget production. The scenes with the mysterious finger are still very efficient by today's standards. These effects aren't overused but rather employed with care in small but efficient doses. The ominous soundtrack blends in perfectly and is one of the best horror movie scores ever written.

    With a length of one and a half hours, Phantasm doesn't overstay its welcome and is entertaining from start to finish. If you care for horror cinema with a mysterious touch, Phantasm is a must-see as it represents one of the very best examples of this genre. The remastered edition looks sharp but hasn't lost the amateurish charm of the original film. Enjoy this creepy trip down memory lane and give this movie the credit it deserves. I prefer this movie over the popular Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises anytime.

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  • Hell Fest (2018)

    Hell Fest doesn't have anything to do with the popular French heavy metal festival of the same name but is actually an atmospheric horror slasher movie.

    The film convinces with atmospheric settings in a horror theme park and includes hypnotizing mazes, dark rides and spooky shows that seem to come straight out of a Rob Zombie film. The movie has a creepy atmosphere since the mysterious antagonist and serial killer, only known as The Other, doesn't speak a single word and never shows his real face to the audience. The flick comes around with a series of jump scares that are efficient because one anticipates the horrors that are going to happen. The movie's last scene and conclusion is quite creepy in a unique way.

    On the other side, the six lead characters remain somewhat uninteresting and the audience doesn't really care about their fates. Some more character development would have improved the movie. The plot doesn't add anything new to the genre and leaves many questions unanswered such as the motivations of the serial killer. The approach to eliminate the lead characters one by one is obviously as shallow as it gets. The movie works a little bit too much with predictable stereotypes.

    At the end of the day, Hell Fest is great movie to watch with your friends on a Halloween night. It isn't a particularly memorable movie but doesn't pretend to be that way either. It's an efficient horror slasher film that should appeal to genre fans and those who are looking for a few scares on Halloween.

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  • Mandy (2018)

    When news broke that Nicolas Cage would be the lead actor of a psychedelic art house horror movie, I was immediately intrigued. Despite everything he has accomplished, Nicolas Cage is often overtly criticized and not given enough credit for being one of Hollywood's most consistent contemporary actors. His performance in this film is brutal, emotional and twisted but it isn't the film's only strength.

    The cinematography is obviously inspired by horror movies of the seventies. While overrated contemporary genre flicks like It Follows only copy elements from the past, Mandy uses flashy colours, psychedelic music and vintage clothing to its advantage. The film follows a couple living relatively secluded in a forest. A fanatic sect kidnaps, torments and burns the woman to death while the agonized husband has to watch her helplessly. He is left behind and for dead but manages to survive and take his revenge.

    It isn't only the liberating carnage in strange settings or the psychedelic references to the seventies or eighties that make this film stand out but also the quite intriguing characters. Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough credibly play a simple couple in love with each other and the nature around their cozy home. The members of the sect are all quite unique. Jeremiah Sand reminds of a mixture of mass murderer Charles Manson and Peoples Temple's religious leader Jim Jones. Brother Swan intrigues as obedient and resilient disciple. Mother Marlene is a sadist who enjoys seeing people suffer. Sister Lucy however shows a different side of the cult as she appears to be a victim stuck in the sect and not knowing how to get out. Every single character is present for a reason and even the Black Skulls, a mysterious biker gang with almost inhuman powers, is quite intriguing.

    The only negative element of the film is that the first third takes some time to unfold. Mandy carefully introduces us to the numerous characters which is a great idea but especially the presentation of the two lead characters Mandy Bloom and Red Miller overstays its welcome. The movie could have been shortened by at least fifteen minutes at that point while the rest is quite concise.

    Mandy provoked quite mixed reactions at the movie theater I went to. The men gave the film a standing ovation and were clearly enjoying themselves while most of the girlfriends they had brought along felt somewhat unsettled. Mandy has an artistic, psychedelic and referential side but it's still a slasher at heart and tells a sinister tale of vengeance. It's not as unsettling as I Saw the Devil but it still isn't for the faint-hearted. This isn't a movie for children.

    If you like art house cinema and horror movies, Mandy combines both very well and offers a psychedelic ride you won't forget anytime soon. If this film plays at a movie theater near you, go ahead and enjoy its magnificent images and sounds right there. Mandy might not reinvent the genre and has a few minor lengths but it's one of the most creative films released so far this year.

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