Film Review: Host





I’m not a fan of the found-footage sub-genre in horror. In fact, I didn’t like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity (two films famous for being ground breaking for the sub-genre). So I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy Host, since it’s a found footage movie directed solely via zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. I’ll have to admit that Rob Savage managed to create a very suspenseful and scary movie with the limited resources he had available.

The whole premise of the movie is that a group of friends decide to engage in a séance guided by a medium through zoom. But this being a horror movie, things obviously go wrong. The first fifteen minutes you’re wondering if anything is going to happen and when, but soon strange things begin to happen and the chill-factor rises exponentially.

This film was best made to be viewed using your phone or tablet (although I used my notebook), it won’t have the same claustrophobic chilling effect on a large screen TV. I really enjoyed Host, and at only 56 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome by trying to hit the 90-minute mark, which is something many horrors should do instead of trying to fill the last 30-minutes with filler.

Host managed to make me reconsider the found-footage subgenre, and I am curious what Rob Savage will come up next now that he has scored a three-movie deal with Blumhouse. The scariest is yet to come.

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Film Review: Amulet

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Romola Garai is my spirit animal when it comes to writing because the wild, vindictive story she weaves in Amulet is one that I could’ve easily penned myself. Maybe it’s because I write feminist horror, but I found myself knowing exactly what direction the film was going in and to figure out exactly what dark secrets the protagonist Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) was withholding the whole time.

Amulet is Garai’s directorial debut, but audiences have seen her onscreen many times mostly in period dramas like Atonement, The Crimson Petal and the White, Emma, or on TV with the short-lived The Hour, although American audiences know her mostly for having been wooed by Diego Luna in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Having been a fan of Garai as an actress I’ve seen her demonstrate a lot of range and in a perfect world, she would be embodying June in The Handmaid’s Tale because I think she would be perfect. But I digress.

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The film begins with Tomaz, a philosophy reading soldier guarding an outpost in the middle of the woods. At some point, he uncovers a strange looking amulet, that horror aficionados can easily envision it being a harbinger of bad omen. And ultimately, the amulet in question does bring bad luck, especially for Tomaz.

Flash forward to the present and now Tomaz is homeless living somewhere on the streets of London. A nun (Imelda Staunton) discovers him and soon gives him a new place of employment in exchange for food and a room free of charge. The gesture could almost seem lifesaving if the home Tomaz is asked to live in weren’t a decrepit looking slaughterhouse ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or if we didn’t find out that Sister Claire pressed the issue for him to remain at the home to help a young woman, Madga (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother, by withholding the wad of money he had been religiously saving up from odd jobs.

From the very get-go, we know this arrangement is bad. And I’m particularly suspicious of the food that’s served, maybe because the young woman who prepares it never seems to take a bite herself of the huge chunks of meat.

The film is a slow burn horror ala Hereditary with its own interesting mythology surrounding it. But there’s enough creep factor to keep the viewer feeling rightly unsettled. Kudos to Garai for using albino bats in the most terrifying manner possible. The setting and style evoke feelings of dread and you can’t help but draw parallels with the Grimm Fairytale, Red Riding Hood, because we’ve always been taught from a very young age that the woods are never safe for girls of all ages.

This film isn’t for the faint of heart and will surely leave a lot of men feeling very uncomfortable. And for that alone, I applaud it.

Amulet dares to press the issue that “moving on” simply isn’t possible depending on the severity of the crime. And for that reason, the wrongdoer has to pay for their sins in the most horrific ways. If there’s one thing that I walked away from this viewing is that Garai doesn’t want us to forgive and forget. Rather she wishes for us to remember, and enact sweet, sweet revenge.

Amulet can be found to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and Google. Check out the trailer here.

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Throwback Thursday: The Return of the Living Dead

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Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of a Global Pandemic, or maybe because my version of comfort movies is to turn towards horror, but whatever the case may be, the first thing I did whilst under stress from Covid-19 mid-March was to rewatch The Return of the Living Dead. Even as a young child, I always found zombies to be far more comical than scary. Then again, my tune may change if I suddenly were to find myself in an actual zombie apocalypse.

As always, this movie provided the very much needed comical relief that I was seeking but didn’t know how much I was craving. We watch as a group of teenagers have to deal with the undead when a strange acid rain pours upon their small town. The first hing I noticed while rewatching was that as a kid, I never thought these actors were too old to portray real teenagers, but now looking at it with fresh eyes, I can’t help but realize how much those actors resemble me in age than any teens I’ve ever seen.

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Apart from that, the movie is one hell of a fun ride. We get half-body skeleton ladies that reveal the real reason why zombies must devour brains and who can’t help but find the half cut pup horridly adorable? And if you’re anyone with a pulse with a penchant for goth girls, you’re going to simply adore a certain famous grave yard dance scene. Why is the redhead Trash dancing naked? Who knows! But it sure is hot and entertaining to watch!

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There are many other hilarious instances. This movie doesn’t take itself seriously and wants YOU to not take it seriously either. Instead, it wants you to lean back and enjoy the decaying fun. After all, when you look at this way, sure there’s a Global Pandemic, but things could be worse, we could be fighting actual zombies right about now. And I don’t know about you, I still kinda want to keep my brains.

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Film Review: Bethany

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Bethany wasn’t the usual jump-scare horror nor did it have any sort of boogie man so to speak. What I liked about Bethany is that true life trauma intermingled with a sense of dread. Claire (Stephanie Estes) is haunted by past childhood traumas that she endured at the hands of her cold, unfeeling mother (Shannon Doherty) who placed physical beauty above all. Young Claire is forced to compete in beauty pageants against her will and to obsess over her appearance, and somehow all this stress on physical perfection causes a terrible rift between mother and daughter.

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But after the passing of her estranged mother, Claire inherits her childhood home and decides to return to live there with her husband Aaron (Zack Ward). I’m still unsure why someone with such terrible PTSD linked to that particular house would want to return let alone start LIVING in said home, but the couple does just that. Unsurprisingly, Claire begins to be haunted by her past in more ways than one.

You see, as a child, she had an imaginary friend called Bethany that would speak to her from the wall. Was the friend real or had she always been a little crazy? These are the questions that surface throughout the course of this movie. There’s a creeping dread that follows the viewer and characters throughout the whole movie and I like it because it makes you question everything. You know that bad things are going to happen, but are those things merely imagined or are they really happening?

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Bethany is one trippy movie, taking you on this rollercoaster of black emotions. What is real? What is imagined? This is a slow burn horror where everything comes to a head when the climax is finally reached and the twist revealed. I was satisfied by the ending, but then again, I’ve always been a sucker for creepy dolls, childhood traumas, and flirting with schizophrenia. The film combines psychological suspense with the supernatural and the twisty reveal is one that many wouldn’t have seen coming.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you will enjoy this movie as it has many things that horror junkies love such as: an old house, creepy dolls, and strange objects protruding from one’s flesh.

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Check it out, you’re in for a dark thrilling ride.

*Thank you to the director James Cullen Bressack for the free viewing of this movie for an honest review.

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Love or Hype? Bridge Jones’ Diary Movie

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I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of the rom-com genre. Mostly because it always creates unrealistic expectations of relationships and also of love. Real life is much more brutal, and I know many girls love watching this genre as a form of escapism. Having said that, I decided that I was going to check out a very famous rom-com from 2001, Bridge Jones’ Diary. For years I’ve heard how amazingly funny this movie is and how relatable the protagonist Bridget is. Ultimately, I decided to check it out and thought that if I wouldn’t enjoy it, at least I got to see London (my favourite city ever) for an hour and a half.

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Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is 32, and somehow in 2001 that meant she was old and heading towards spinster-ville. This thought horrified me, but I guess maybe it’s something that’s still happening now and I’ve just never worried about getting married by a certain age. Bridget is a fun character and very relatable. She’s pretty but slightly overweight (for early aughts standards), doesn’t feel appreciated at her job, and has still not managed to snag the man of her dreams, Daniel (played by a very charismatic Hugh Grant).

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However, life takes a turn for the better for Bridget and she begins to date Daniel. All seems amazingly awesome, a little too awesome till her life starts to derail yet again. I really loved the fact that Bridget, although she really yearned for a stable relationship and was head over heels in love with Daniel she still had enough self-respect to know that she deserved more than his cheating lousy ass ways.

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Renée Zellweger’s performance as Bridget Jones’ was flawless despite an initial controversy that an American actress would embody such a quintessential British heroine. Needless to say, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance (although she didn’t win that year).

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the movie as much as I did and I can say without a doubt that this movie is well worth the hype. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s by far one of the best rom-coms out there.

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Film Review: The Hunt

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The Hunt was touted as being one of the “most controversial movies of all time.” So much so, that they halted the release of it, and even the President tweeted about it stating that it “was made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” Truth is, this movie isn’t smart enough to cause chaos or inflame anyone.

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The movie has a lazy script at best. While The Purge franchise (especially the first movie) was a smart social commentary about the rich and poor, this movie merely seems to make fun of both the “elites” and the “deplorables.”

A movie that’s supposed to poke at both sides of the political divide doesn’t really garner any discomfort, questioning, or basically any immediate reaction or gut emotion. The reason for this is because every character in the movie is a caricature of what we think a liberal or conservative is. These characters never become real people to us within the realm of the movie, and thus we can’t take them seriously nor care about their survival. When you’ve got “elite” characters screaming, “Climate change is real!” to a “deplorable,” before trying to off them, you can’t help but think that they’re both loonies.

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The controversy and hype over this movie was way more than what the movie ever merited, to be honest. You’ll leave the theatre feeling like you’re not on either side because none of those characters will resonate with real people. And none of us will care what happens to any of them. The world would be better off with all those horrible caricatures gone, and Blum House should focus on making smarter films with some real horror. There’s never a moment in the movie where you feel the ever-growing sense of dread, and even in a splatter torture film, you wish to be terrified or at least feel some kind of tension or suspense. But there’s none of that. There’s nothing. The Hut was all smoke and no roast. You’re better off watching The Purge.

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Women In Horror: Beloved

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February is one of those months on the calendar that offers a unique and exciting blend of emotions. It’s time to honor and celebrate Black history and culture. Valentine’s Day reminds us of love and relationships (the good, the bad and the ugly…). I also enjoy watching The Oscars to see where the needle of society’s values and elevation of diversity in cinema lands. More recently though, February has become a month to showcase women in horror. With the release of Azzurra Nox’s anthology “Strange Girls”, I thought it befitting to make a cinematic recommendation while adding some horror into today’s post as well.

In ruminating on all this, I was struck by how one film, in particular, incorporates all these themes to absolute perfection; a film that has haunted me with its piercing honesty and emotional depth; a film that effortlessly weaves the themes of slavery and freedom in all its various forms; a film that celebrates the beauty, power and, yes, horror that can manifest from immense love.

Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

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I was living overseas when “Beloved” first came out and it had slipped past my radar for a long time. It was always one of those movies I knew I’d appreciate but didn’t get around to seeing it until just a few years ago. Better late than never though. When I did eventually see this film, it made a huge impact on me and has remained one of the top five best films on my list of favorites. It’s haunted me ever since and completely reframed my standards for what constitutes a good ghost story. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to consume fifty classics this year in books and film. Needless to say, Toni Morrison’s novel is next on that list.

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Incredibly acted and unapologetic, “Beloved” threads a needle through the struggles and triumphs of a mother navigating post-emancipation America while the horrors of her past demand reconciliation – with an ever-increasing insistence for attention. As the climax nears, the thread tightens and cinches together all of these elements into a jagged, heart-shaped tapestry of tenacity, terror, and tenderness. It’s a beautiful and painful portrayal of the multi-faceted nature of love. And it raises the question in all of us…

What would you do for your beloved?

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By: Erica Ruhe

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Women In Horror: Top 5 Female Directed Horror Movies

The world of directing is still predominantly male, and so is the horror genre. But more and more women are trying to carve out their space in both directing and horror. Below are some of the best the world of horror has to offer when it comes to female directors. Many times women decide to tackle subjects that many men wouldn’t understand with the same amount of ethos. Women understand trauma, the fear of sexual assault, female friendships, and body horror more than men, and the movies I’ve selected all explore those themes.

RAW – directed by Julia Ducournau

Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats RAW meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.

Honeymoon – directed by Leigh Janiak

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon, where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods. Treadaway (CONTROL) and Leslie (HBO’s GAME OF THRONES) give captivating leading performances as a couple that takes new love to disturbing depths. With romance slowing giving way to terror, writer/director Leigh Janiak puts her unique stamp on this intimate, chilling thriller.

Blue My Mind directed by Lisa Ivana Brühlmann

15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation that calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than she.

M.F.A directed by Natalia Leite

An art student struggling with creativity is violently raped by a fellow classmate. After attempting the traditional routes to cope with her trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker – a decision that has deadly repercussions. Her world is turned upside down as a chilling reality is uncovered: she is one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus. A vigilante is born- retribution is the inspiration she’s been waiting for.

Always Shine directed by Sophia Takal

Two friends, both actresses (Halt and Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis and Masters of Sex’s Caitlin FitzGerald), leave Los Angeles for Big Sur embarking on a weekend getaway to reconnect. Once alone, however, the two women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments bubble to the surface, causing them to lose grasp not just of the true nature of their relationship, but also of their own identities.

What female-directed horror movies are your favourites?

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Throwback Thursday: Disturbing Behavior

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Confession: This wasn’t one of my favourite movies from my youth, however, it WAS a movie I saw once during my youth that I thought at the time was cool and did want to revisit it, so I did. Well, apparently my memory of this movie was completely rose-tinted as I disliked this movie very much on my second go around.

This was Katie Holmes first role playing the “bad girl” and Nick Stahl was an up and coming rising star (that sadly merely crashed into the pit of anonymity now). The basic plot of Disturbing Behavior is that two siblings relocate to a small idyllic small town with their parents after their older brother committed suicide. The first thing they notice is that all the students there are seemingly perfect, and soon even the so-called revels start to turn. Only backfire? The perfect students seem to become irrationally violent when triggered by sensations of sexual desire.

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I feel like the movie was trying to make some social commentary about how teenagers should be allowed to be themselves rather than be pressured by their parents and school administrators to be perfect as it could cause them to become violent (not sure if the director was trying to allude to the pressure of being a teenager as a reason why there were school shootings or teenage suicide).

However, the movie falls short cause of terrible editing, bad acting, and just overall bad script. Although it seems that the director wasn’t satisfied with the end result either, claiming that the movie got so transformed in post-production that it didn’t even feel like it was the same movie he had shot on set. So who knows, maybe this movie could’ve been better than it was. But for how it stands as a completed project, it’s definitely not that good at all, and not even one that has aged gracefully over time either. In other words, you’re better off checking out The Faculty instead. At least that one didn’t try to take itself so seriously.

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Throwback Thursday: Candyman

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There are some movies that stick with you far more than others, and throughout the years, Candyman has become one of the. It recently was added to Netflix, so since my fiance had never seen the film before, I thought it was the perfect occasion for me to rewatch it.

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Candyman has three very unique aspects to it that I love. First, it incorporates an urban legend (somewhat echoing Bloody Mary with the whole mirror curse), a ghost story (cause Candyman is basically a ghost), and a love story (the first one being Candyman with the rich white girl he impregnated and was killed for and secondly, the one he has with Helen, who looks seemingly similar to his first love). The film is based off of Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden, and although elements of it are very similar, the film has given the villain a far more richer back story than the short story ever did. Probably because the short story’s setting was England, and moving the setting to modern-day Chicago, allowed the racial tensions of the past and present be a theme within the film.

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Plus, out of all the horror villains, Candyman has a valid reason to be pissed off and seeking vengeance. He not only was separated from the woman he loved and his unborn child, but was mutilated (an angry mob cut off his right hand, and him being a painter meant they pretty much stole him of both his livelihood and talent) and killed him in the most atrocious way (he was covered in honey and died by being attacked by thousands of bees). So ya know, he has a really good reason to want to off pimple-raced teens who are dumb enough to call upon him.

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But another thing that sets Candyman a little bit above all other movies is the fact that Tony Todd delivers an impeccable performance. His villain isn’t only scary, but there’s an element of seductive danger to him too. We know that Helen joining him means it’ll be her death, but a part of us can also understand why she can’t refuse him. He is both menacing and alluring, and that makes for one complex character. As much as we all love Michael Meters, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger, there’s also no question that we’d haul ass if we ever encountered them and surely wouldn’t find those psychos sexy! But Candyman on the other hand, is almost a Gothic hero. He has a tragic backstory, we feel his pain, and in most cases want to believe that maybe we could make him fall in love again.

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Throughout the years, I’ve seen many horror films, but time after time this one has remained as one of my absolute favourites because Candyman isn’t just your ordinary slasher film. It’s a film that dares to question racial tensions, to push us into that grey area between love and hate, and ultimately giving us one of the very best and redemptive endings of all time.

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