• 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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  • Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    ''Insidious: Chapter 3'' is a prequel to the outstanding first two supernatural horror movies. While many other genre series stagnate or decrease in quality, the makers of this film tried out a couple of new things to keep this brand relevant. Even though the outcome of this third part in the series isn't as intense as the first two instalments, it's still a very decent flick for genre fans.

    Among the positive elements, I must give credit to Leigh Whannell's directorial debut for connecting this story and its characters coherently to the other two movies. If you had any questions left after watching the first two films, you will get your answers here. In addition to this, the movie adds some depth to recurring characters and some interesting background information given in this film could even lead to other prequels in the future.

    The movie focuses on paranormal investigator Elise Reiner who is once more portrayed by Lin Shaye. Her acting performance is credible, diversified and emotional. It's her best acting performance so far in the series. Since the viewers already know this character, most of them might easily identify with her, care about the outcome of the story and appreciate to get a more profound look at her story. The other main character is the charming teenage girl Quinn Brenner, who had tried to contact her deceased mother and is now haunted by a weird demon called The Man Who Can't Breathe. This role is played by rising teenage star Stefanie Scott and she offers a balanced, credible and natural performance that is also the best of her career so far. The acting in this movie might even be a level above the first two instalments.

    Another strong fact is that the movie has a more serious and grounded tone than the other two. While the first two movies rather focused on the action and horror itself, this one adds more emotional depth than expected, concentrates on the different characters and their stories and even gives away some interesting background information about paranormal activities. This prequel feels much more mature and profound than the other two instalments.

    The problem is that the main villain is definitely the weakest of the series so far. The Man Who Can't Breathe doesn't have a particularly scary appearance. He has no particular skills that make him truly dangerous. There isn't have any interesting background story that would explain his actions or his simple presence either. There are a handful of good scary moments in the film but they are much scarcer than in the first two parts.

    In the end, horror movies are not only about solid acting, intriguing characters and some interesting background information about paranormal activities. What makes a good horror movie is the capacity to make those beloved characters portrayed by solid actors that are set in an interesting setting suffer, struggle and survive. This last essential part is clearly missing here. There aren't any really creepy scenes, desperate moments or surprising elements in this movie. The script itself is boring, generic and predictable. The fact that this movie is another prequel doesn't help since one already knows who among the recurring characters is going to survive which decreases any potential tension quite a lot. The obvious problem is that some viewers might feel disappointed about this movie because they will always compare it to the first two instalments that are much scarier. The fact that this film tries out a couple of interesting things where Leigh Whannell adds his own mark to the series, won't save this film for most viewers. Apart of faithful hardcore fans of the series and experienced horror movie maniacs, there isn't much interest for anyone else to check this film. This flick turns out to have a quite small target audience and I wouldn't be surprised if the series lost some spectators after this third part. On the other side, Leigh Whannell's ideas in this film are so convincing, emotional and promising that I hope he will soon work on a new original horror movie without any connections to any other genre flick where he can really show off his very own creativity.

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