• It (2017)

    IT offers an excellent mixture of a coming-of-age drama and a supernatural horror movie. What I like about this film adaptation is how the film respects both sides on a perfectly balanced level. We are introduced to the lives of outcast teenage boys and one teenage girl who have to deal with severe cases of bullying, complicated family issues and their conflicting feelings for one another. As if that weren't enough to deal with, they also realize that the fact that numerous kids have been abducted in their hometown Derry isn't a mere coincidence. Behind its peaceful, calm and boring small town appearance, Derry seems to be a cursed place with a hideous past where a mysterious supernatural entity feeds on children's fears before consuming them literally. The outcast teenagers decide to take action and stop the monstrous entity with their curiosity, friendship and perseverance as weapons.

    IT takes place in the late eighties and this movie manages to take its audience back in time thanks to the timeless small town buildings, particular hairstyles and clothes and a fitting soundtrack. The film works so efficiently because it's easy for the audience to picture itself in these settings during their childhood years. The acting performances only increase this movie's authenticity. The teenagers all have different strengths and weaknesses and are refreshingly grounded and normal which is a welcome alternative to the popular world of superheroes and super-villains. The movie also has a strong cultural and intellectual side as it includes many allusions and references to Stephen King's other works. Some examples for this would be the town of Derry that serves regularly as setting for Stephen King's novels, the friendship between outcast teenagers in the key of Stand by Me and several allusions to thrash metal band Anthrax that has written numerous lyrics inspired by Stephen King's novels.

    You won't see the one hundred fifteen minutes pass as this immersive movie is very entertaining thanks to its mysterious story, authentic settings and profound characters. Due to the fact that the film takes place in the eighties, it is quite accessible for adults who will experience numerous deja-vu moments but its timeless brilliance should also be appealing to older teenagers who might easily identify with one or several characters in the movie. IT is a late summer blockbuster you shouldn't miss.

    On a closing side-note, this movie is the first part of a duology. The content of this movie takes place in the late eighties while the second movie is supposed to show what the characters, the supernatural entity and the town have become twenty-seven years later with some flashbacks from the past. These two story lines are similar to the way the original novel was written. You can watch this movie separately from the sequel but it wouldn't be possible to watch the sequel without watching this first instalment.

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  • Snarveien / Detour (2009)

    Snarveien, better known as Detour, is a classic Norwegian horror movie. The story is quickly told. A young couple that illegally smuggles alcohol has to take a detour because of an accident and gets stranded on an abandoned road in the woods. Soon, strange things start to happen. They get into an aggressive argument with an obscene stranger at a gas station, realize that their wheels got destroyed on purpose, run into a confused female fugitive, cross the path of a mysterious police officer and meet a secluded family with an unspeakable secret.

    While the characters and the story are quite predictable, there are several things I liked about this film. First of all, it doesn't overstay its welcome with a very reasonable length of seventy-seven minutes. Secondly, the movie doesn't focus on brutal torture scenes or cheap jump scares but develops a gloomy and mysterious atmosphere from start to finish. Thirdly, the characters might be predictable but they are still somewhat interesting. Martin is a young man who tries to protect his girlfriend but can't hide that he is scared to death which makes him authentic. He gets a bonus point for wearing a cool Black Sabbath shirt. His girlfriend Lina is the heroine of this movie and turns out to be a courageous, resilient and tough pregnant woman who fights to save those she loves and everyone around her. She's a sympathetic character and viewers will care about her survival story. A special shoutout goes out to the female fugitive Lotta who manages to look attractive to me despite the incredible hardship she is going through. Only the villains are somewhat one-dimensional and their background story is poorly developed.

    Snarveien might not be a memorable or innovative horror movie but it's an entertaining average horror film for genre fans with a consistent atmosphere that doesn't overstay its welcome. I have seen far more ambitious horror movies that were much worse. It's definitely a better alternative to the numerous boring remakes and sequels that are flooding the market these days.

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  • Get Out (2017)

    As a horror movie connoisseur, I couldn't get around this movie that has become a surprising box office success, has got positive reviews from critics and fans and has developed a hype that might classify it as future cult movie. Behold! The same was said about It Follows not so long ago, a movie I thought was tedious and overrated. As it turns out, Get Out is another genre movie that doesn't deserve all the praise it gets. Don't get me wrong, it's better than another Paranormal Activity sequel and is overall a slightly above average film but it surely isn't the stunning masterpiece most people make of it. 

    Just to be clear, this film barely classifies as horror movie. I would call it a psychological thriller with some misplaced supernatural scientific elements. The movie had an overall vaguely mysterious atmosphere but it didn't get scary aside of two minor jump scares involving a deer and a servant.

    Let's start with the positives. First of all, the movie has a continuously intriguing mysterious atmosphere. This atmosphere isn't only supported by the gloomy plot but also by calm and precise camera work that offers a more than welcome alternative to cheap shaky camera stylistics in contemporary horror cinema. The movie features a moody soundtrack that blends in without being as eccentric as the Insidious scores. 

    A movie is carried by its main character and British newcomer Daniel Kaluuya is a gifted actor. The character's emotions are portrayed accurately. You can see how the main character starts as calm, grounded and smart person and becomes nervous, hectic and confused. Daniel Kaluuya is a name you should keep on your mind because we might see more stunning movies with him. I could even see him becoming the next incarnation of James Bond.

    Let's talk about the negative parts. First of all, the trailer is basically the entire movie, so don't watch it. I didn't even watch it and it still took me less than five minutes after the main character arrived at the mansion to figure out what was going on and what would happen next. The fact that the movie is so predictable has a negative impact on its otherwise intense atmosphere. The movie fails to offer any surprises to people who are familiar with horror movies. 

    Despite a short running time, the movie feels stretched. When I'm watching a horror movie, I'm not expecting any action and I'm ready to wait until the movie quickens up the pace but some elements in the film are either irrelevant or repetitive. Instead of showing us one scene where specific characters act weirdly, the makers offer three similar scenes until the most feeble-minded viewer has realized what's wrong with these specific characters. A subtle horror movie should take its audience more seriously and offer less redundant clues.

    This leads us to the acting performances. Daniel Kaluuya delivers a stunning performance. Allison Williams offers a solid performance but the two main characters have no chemistry and fail to represent a realistic couple. I could still accept this because that hint might have been intentional. What I can't accept is that every single other actor acts over-the-top, no matter if it suits their roles or not. It starts with the main character's hyperactive friend, goes on with repulsively rude police officers and ends with an entire family and its friends who behave as if they came from a different planet. This acting strategy is repeated to death until the characters have become parodies of specific stereotypes. That doesn't fit to a movie that relies on its gloomy atmosphere and intends to spread a message against stereotypes.

    On the other side, the movie takes itself too seriously. The scene involving a car accident and an encounter with a local police officer is obviously included as an element of foreshadowing announcing the main character's struggle with his mother's death and with white people with debatable stereotypes. However, this scene feels so forced and pseudo-intellectual that it takes away from the movie's atmosphere instead of adding to it. A very similar thing happens at the end, when the writers offer awkward science-fiction elements appropriate for old-fashioned Frankenstein movies but not for a film with such a relevant message when police violence against black people has increased in what is supposed to be the flagship of democracy, equality and liberty. It seems that the movie makers couldn't decide whether they wanted to offer an entirely serious psychological thriller with relevant social critiques or a clever parody playing with stereotypes. In the end, they failed at both attempts. The movie feels directionless.

    My guess is that it got such praise because it portrays an admittedly sympathetic black man struggling with abusive white people. It's funny how a movie that intends to mock stupid stereotypes is itself based upon stereotypes. Would this very same movie have had the same positive reviews if it had portrayed a white main character being abused by black people? I'm quite confident that wouldn't have been the case because people would have called the makers of this movie racist and the film's message debatable. This proves that the reason why this film receives such approval is because of its message that is at the pulse of time and yet simplifies a very important topic too much. If you take away the movie's intentions, what do we have left? We have an average horror movie.

    If you aren't familiar with horror movies and want to get a smooth introduction with a psychological thriller, this film is a good choice. If you are rightfully infuriated by the current rise of stereotypes including racism, you will get some food for thought. If you are looking for a clever or innovating horror movie that justifies its hype, you won't get satisfaction. My final suggestion is to rent this movie instead of spending well-earned money on a cinema ticket.

    Final rating: 60%

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  • The Forest (2016)

    ''The Forest'' is a British-American supernatural horror movie which takes place in the infamous Aokigahara, a vast forest below Mount Fuji that has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and which is a notoriously common suicide site. The film tells the story of a young American woman who tries to rescue her twin sister who was working as an English teacher in Tokyo and who disappeared during a weekend trip to said forest. While local authorities believe that the troubled young woman committed suicide, her sister believes she is still alive since she has a special supernatural connection to her. She travels to Japan on her own and decides to look for her sister despite several warnings from local guides. She gets help from an Australian journalist and a Japanese park guide when she starts looking for her sister. She soon starts to have strange visions, has numerous arguments with the two men, gets mentally unstable and ultimately lost in the woods. The young has to fight her own demons of the past first in order to uncover the mysterious fate of her twin sister and survive after nightfall.

    What I liked about the movie is the inspiring and original settings in Japan. The movie includes a few interesting cultural elements which build up a chilling atmosphere. The introduction of the movie is short and to the point. The background story of the two sisters is a quite good idea but could have been a little bit more detailed and profound. The camera, light and sound techniques are solid and overall there aren't too many low-budget shaky camera sections in this film which is positively exceptional nowadays.

    On the other side, this movie would have been much more authentic if it had been made by an entire Japanese film crew even though most Western cinemas might have ignored such a film due to Hollywood's monopoly. I have seen several Japanese horror movies and they usually offer an intense mixture of supernatural horror elements and perfectly inserted bits and pieces of their own rich culture. ''The Forest'' doesn't have the same kind of depth and remains an entertaining yet exchangeable horror movie that could almost take place anywhere around the world. From an atmospheric point of view, there are two or three mysterious scenes and two or three good jump scares but other parts of the movie are rather dull and sometimes we get fifteen to twenty minutes where nothing important happens at all and where the movie loses a lot of momentum. The acting is of an average quality and none of the actors or actresses leaves a positive impression. This is mostly due to a poor script. It might introduce a few promising ideas like the mysterious death of the twins' parents but they aren't much developed and remain mostly superficial. 

    The conclusion to the film is controversial and in my opinion rather confusing, hectic and absolutely implausible. I'm aware of the fact that a supernatural horror movie isn't supposed to be realistic but this ending is so absurd that it's almost laughable. It's a typical ''deus ex machina'' ending which sadly fits to an overall vapid plot.

    In the end, faithful horror movie fans and those who like to get exposed to Japanese culture by any means can give this film a try. For anyone else, this movie is nothing more or less than an average supernatural horror flick which isn't really scary after all. If you want to go to the cinema with a couple of friends and get exposed to a handful of jump scares, this movie might be entertaining at some points. If you watch it on your own or are expecting something clever, this film is a letdown. If you are truly interested in profound supernatural horror movies connected to Asian culture, you can find much better films from Asia which are ignored by Western cinemas.

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  • Blutgletscher / Blood Glacier / The Station (2013)

    With "Blood Glacier", also known as "The Station", Austrians prove once more that they are among the most diversified, interesting and underestimated movie makers in Europe. While the movie can't equal the neo-noir western "The Dark Valley" that can be considered a future cult classic due to its cool story line, intriguing settings and unusual genre mix, this movie here should be a treat for fans of brutal horror movies, mountain settings and survival stories.

    "Blood Glacier" has a slightly dystopian feeling since it's taking place in the near future where global warming has brought aggressive parasites back to life that transforms and breeds terrible hybrids of different organisms. They are first discovered by four scientists and engineers in Austria when they discover reddish organisms on glaciers and find something resembling a mutated fox in a sinister cave. Soon, different animals and human beings get infected and the four men and women are fighting for survival. At the same time, they disagree about the best way to deal with the unexpected problem and serious tensions arise. Meanwhile, a minister and her crew who want to get more information about the researches are already on their way to the remote station. Partially unaware of the potential dangers, their arrival could mean that the scientists might all be saved or that even more people could get infected and die.

    After a slow start that introduces the characters and settings in the first thirty minutes, the final hour of the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. The clash of the diversified characters, the constant tense action scenes and numerous gore effects are the main elements for an intense ride until the debatable and slightly surprising ending.

    Obviously, the movie also has its flaws. The story line isn't very clever and a few weird and unintentionally humorous scenes towards the end might diminish the enjoyment of the film. Some lines by the characters are so awkward that they are actually rather catchy. The acting isn't exactly stellar and especially the main characters could have been a little bit more convincing. With a better cast, the movie could have worked much better. The special effects and especially the looks of the original monsters are rather cheaply made if compared to more expensive productions but it's not an abominable case either.

    If you are a sucker for intense gore horror movies in an intriguing environment, these obvious flaws won't bother you much because the last hour of the film is much too intense to think about these elements anyway. Genre fans will find a true gem with this explicit roller-coaster ride. Movie connoisseurs will be pleasantly surprised that germanophone countries are able to produce something else than depressive, exchangeable and old-fashioned crime flicks. Over another episode of "Tatort" and the likes on television and this monster b-movie with a slightly environmental message, my choice is quickly made for the latter.

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