• 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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  • Crimson Peak (2015)

     

    ''Crimson Peak'' is an entertaining and enjoyable Gothic movie with elements of supernatural horror, period crime and tragic romantic genres. The greatest parts of the movie are the settings and costumes. Some of it may not always be historically accurate but these elements sure add to the enchantingly creepy atmosphere of the film. They make both the growing metropolises in the North-Eastern part of the United States of America and the wild, rural and lonely landscapes of the United Kingdom and their respective societies come to life in an impressive way. The greatest element is the dilapidated mansion that almost feels like an additional character to the story due to its vast and rotten spaces, pale vestiges of old aristocracy and complex mysteries hidden in the numerous rooms and walls.

    The story itself is rather predictable but nicely narrated. The generic plot still works thanks to a solid acting performance by the feminist yet fragile character portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, the elegant yet sinister character played by Tom Hiddleston and the cold and evil character incarnated by Jessica Chastain. The relationship between the three is very ambiguous, engaging and tense.

    Even though this might neither be the movie of the year nor one of director Guillermo del Toro's best works, ''Crimson Peak'' is a spine-chilling Gothic movie that convinces with atmospheric settings and solid acting. If you're looking for a more classic, elegant and intellectual horror movie around Halloween this year, ''Crimson Peak'' should be your first choice.

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  • Rosewood Lane (2011)

    "Rosewood Lane" is a quite solid mixture of a gripping psycho thriller and a haunting supernatural horror movie. It may not be an excellent film but it's an entertaining, intense and suitable B movie for genre fans.

    The plot isn't the most original one and somewhat predictable for genre fans. On the other side, the fact that the viewers might guess that certain events are going to happen even adds to the anxious anticipation. The movie's atmosphere plays with the audience's expectations. I also liked the somewhat controversial ending of this movie.

    Honestly said, some of the characters in this film are rather shallow and quite stereotypical. Their actions are as predictable as stupid. Still, the frustration and nervousness the viewer feels towards the characters raises the emotional connection to the film itself which is a positive element.

    The acting isn't extraordinary but solid enough to keep the audience interested until the end. The cameo appearances of cult actors such as Lin Shaye and Ray Wise are a nice gimmick for genre fans as well.

    The movie is directed by the controversial Victor Salva and has a similar style as his other movies such as the surprise hit Jeepers Creepers. This film includes several autobiographical elements since the director has had a complicated relationship with his family like the main actress and since he has already worked as a delivery boy similar to the main villain. These elements are well integrated into the story line and add some content to an ordinary plot, depth to an average acting and emotions to an otherwise predictable effort.

    The atmospheric elements of this film are solid. The lighting techniques are suitable since a lot of scenes are taking place in the dark. The Locations are simple but efficient. The sound techniques are quite good and include uneasy moments of silence, nerve-wrecking whispers and quiet sounds but also sudden noisy movements and spoken word passages. The score isn't unique but it adds to the sinister atmosphere. All these elements offer at least a handful of creepy moments throughout the movie and one or two light jump scares which is what I'm expecting from such a movie.

    Overall, "Rosewood Lane" is a well done horror movie that turns out being entertaining over ninety minutes. It's not the kind of movie I would watch at the cinema, purchase at full price or judge as a genre highlight but I would definitely watch it again, suggest it for a horror movie night with a couple of friends and tell you that the harsh reviews are a little bit too cynical, exaggerated and serious. Genre fans should try this flick out without any hesitation.

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