The Shrine, Makeupalooza

The Shrine

The Shrine has earned my respect as a horror movie by relying heavily on makeup effects. Factoring out the Evil Dead remake, you don’t really see a lot of that, y’know? Sure, it looked cheesy, but that’s the fun of it! Retro-glamor with a dash of horrific mutilation and tides of blood. The premise of the movie is really neat, and the scares are viable whether you laugh or scream at goofy looking monster masks.

The ShrineCarmen is a journalist looking to find her next big scoop. She thinks she already has it; several disappearances of European tourists in the Polish village of Alvania. After acquiring a journal from one of the tourists and being haunted by his bloody-eyed visage in a dream, she decides that she’s going to Poland. Not without conscripting the aid of Sara the intern and Marcus the estranged boyfriend first, of course.

In Alvania, they find an enormous patch of dense, dark, unmoving fog, as described in Eric Taylor’s journal. The locals don’t take very kindly to the presence of strangers, and are quick to turn them away from the fog. Carmen notices that the fog is the only part of Alvania that the townsfolk are safeguarding, so naturally, it must be where the tourists are. The team sneaks over to the fog to investigate, and Carmen and Sara go on in. Marcus stays back, because fuck that noise. It’s spooky.

The ShrineIt’s all downhill from there. The townsfolk capture the lot and murder Sara with a ritual that involves hammering a mask with large iron spikes where the eyes would be into her head. The same masks had been seen earlier in a room full of corpses. Clearly the fog has some greater significance if it would incite such an occult reaction. On the brighter side of things, I was relieved to find that the Alvanians didn’t function as a one-dimensional antagonist force due to the snazzy twist near the climax. Horror movies don’t have a lot of room for fluid morality; you have to appreciate the little things. Anyway, we’re nearing spoiler territory, so I’m gonna have to cut this short.

Overall, I’d consider The Shrine a decent horror flick. It’s not radically original, but it has its own unique charm, particularly with the horror evoked by
the iron masks. That could just be personal preference talking, but faceless masks always seem to get under my skin.

The ShrineHorror Movie A Day thought The Shrine had a tactically boring startup with a scare-fest second half, and I’m inclined to agree. As far as pacing goes, setting your audience up with low expectations and then bringing out the big guns works wonders. That specifically may or may not have been planned, but it works all the same. Here’s the alt review for a more detailed look at The Shrine:

An American Horror Story: Murder House, Love it to Death

An American Horror Story: Murder House

I made the mistake of thinking that An American Horror Story: Murder House was a film rather than a TV series, thus spent most of the evening and early morning riding out the thrills and spooks. That’s how it goes with Netlix. Overlook a few things, and badaboom, you’re watching a twelve episode horror-drama from beginning to end in one sitting. Gosh it was fun.

An American Horror Story embodies ghostly horror and a measure of blood and gore that is conveyed by makeup effects all too well. I find the blend of backstory, drama, and scares easy to stomach and tough to find boring. It’s managed to spook me out a few times, but the horror aspect tends to be absorbed by the flow of events and development of characters; a lingering thematic nuance that rears its head when things turn dire or when a particular moment requires vivification. The characters themselves are particularly strong as well. Even the antagonists have stories that haunt them.
An American Horror Story: Murder HouseThe setting for the first season is a ritzy old haunted house in Los Angeles, aptly named “Murder House” due to the high number of deaths that occurred within its grounds since its construction in 1992 by Dr. Charles Montgomery. Dr. Montgomery was an ether-addicted surgeon who resorted to secretly giving women supplied by his estranged wife, Nora, abortions to keep the money coming in.

One day, one of the angry would-have-been daddies kidnaps the Montgomery baby and returns its dismembered body parts in preservative jars. Dr. Montgomery develops a Frankenstein complex and miraculously manages to revive the child with a combination of animal parts and a still-beating heart from one of his abortion clients. Nora, shocked, shoots her husband in the head before doing the same to herself.

Theirs are the first of many deaths that blight the infamous Murder House and leave discontent spirits to linger within. The Harmon family not only has to deal with knowing that such terrible things happened in their home, but has to survive the manic apparitions of every person that dies within the grounds.

An American Horror Story: Murder HouseBen Harmon, Vivien Harmon, and their gloomy daughter Violet Harmon move into the house to seek a “new beginning,” ever since Ben cheated on his wife with one of his students and was caught red-handed. Between dealing with home intruders, spectral children, and increasing paranoid tension, the Harmon family seems consistently on the border of exploding into emotional chaos. It does at one point, but I really don’t want to ruin any surprises. As I said, season one is available on Netflix, so if that service is available to you, go ahead and give it a watch.

Metacritic’s collective impression of An American Horror Story: Murder House is generally positive. It’s praised for its unpredictability and originality, along with an excellent cast. I find the cast to be particularly endearing, and their characters believable. I can’t deny my love for makeup effects, and in that regard this series delivers. I do so hope you feel the same way. Here’s a potpourri of reviews for you to consider:

Evil Dead, Splatstick Horror

Evil Dead

Splatstick. That term is almost as funny as Evil Dead itself. The remake, mind you, done by Sam Raimi. I swear, this guy’s got the most morbid sense of humor I’ve ever encountered. And that’s actually pretty nice, you know. Most horror movies try to be genuinely scary and thus wind up taking themselves a little too seriously, but Evil Dead is a drastic turn in a different direction. Well, sort of. It’s a gross-out jump-startle fest that’s meant to be taken with a grain of salt.

Five estranged friends come together to help the sister of the almost main character break her addiction to… to whatever drug it is she’s using. Likely heroine. They vow to keep her there even after she begins withdrawals, because last time they let her go during her healing process, she OD’d  so badly her heart stopped. I’ll list off the characters for your convenience.

  • Mia: Main protagonist. Heroine junkie going cold turkey.
  • David: Mia’s brother. Good intentions, but a little dumb.
  • Eric: Sexy-ass hippie teacher with aviator-looking glasses.
  • Olivia: Voice of reason nurse. Doesn’t last too long.
  • Natalie: David’s girlfriend. Virtually no relevance/purpose.
  • Grandpa the Dog: Is a dog. Doesn’t survive.

Evil DeadMia complains of a foul stench, which causes everyone to blame her withdrawal. Then Grandpa uncovers the secret basement where the prologue exorcism took place. Dead cats are hung from the ceiling, and Eric discovers the Evil Book. And reads from it after taking graphite rubs from some of the pages. Utter. Stupid.

Oh, right, that reminds me. They kept the tree scene, but it’s a little different. It isn’t graphic by any means, but it’s rather… intense. Yeah. Anyhoo, once Mia gets tree’d, she gets possessed and shit starts going down. From this point on, you have to start worrying about jump scares and visual gross-outs. Worse than the vine thing. Much worse.

There are several things about this Evil Dead remake that I really, really like. The first is Jane Levy’s performance. She plays Mia, by the way. And, er, Randal Wilson plays the “Abomination Mia,” but as a singular character, she earns all my love. The expression she makes when telling her brother about the evil presence… Hoo. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

The second thing I like is that CGI was only used when absolutely necessary. Everything else was done with makeup effects or props. There are a number of CGI scenes, but they never go over-the-top. I mean, over the top with the CGI, not with the violence. All the violence is over the top. Point being, every goddamned scene that wants to make you cringe will make you cringe. See it in theatre.
Evil DeadThe third and final thing I absolutely love is the demon summoned from the souls taken in the cabin. It doesn’t get a lot of screentime, but it’s too many kinds of badass. I can’t stress that enough. Can’t say any more, though; spoiler-heavy talk is a no-no.

I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to say “Eww! Why?!” while laughing their rumps off. It’ll scare you while giving you the giggles. That’s something to be proud of. Evil Dead! Nice one, Raimi.

Julianna Ross of PolicyMic, your review is spectacular. It’s great! Really. I didn’t even notice the lack of god-awful horror movie cliches. The blonde never even gets half-naked, no sex scene, no obligatory sex scene, no legitimate nudity (you’ll notice the final demon has no nipples, just breast-like structures), and the crowning moment of badass is actually pretty damned badass! Sam Raimi, four thumbs up. Full credit. Encore. Er, but the uh, tree scene… Right, well, anyhoo, you should probably rea

d this right here:

Sinister and Mister Boogie


Sinister is a once-off horror movie. That’s kind of the issue with jump-startle heavy movies. You enjoy the ride the first time around, but after that, you know what to expect and when to expect it. It’s a damn shame, too. Sinister had a lot going for it. It had an overall eerie tone that built up the jump scares, the visuals were simple but effective, and the acting was pretty darn good. Had some good characters in there.

Ellison Oswalt is a writer of true-crime books, and for his most recent project, he has moved his family into a home close to a crime scene. Rather, four murders and a kidnapping took place in the backyard. He makes a point to avoid telling his wife and two children this, however, as he thought it would disturb them. It does more than that, to say the least.

Ellison discovers a box in his attic containing a projector and several super 8 film reels. These morbid home movies contain footage of families being executed in terrible ways, from being hung from a tree to being tied to a lawn chair and drowned. According to the dates on the reels, these films all happened in a sequence of what appears to be related murders. In all cases, a single child was found to be missing.

SinisterAfter converting the films to digital files, he begins to notice a strange, recurring symbol, and finds a strange-looking person in the water of the murder pool. He prints several pictures, which leads the audience to discover that creepy-face is going to be the antagonist.

The startle-fest begins before that, though. Their son, Trevor, has night terrors, so he’ll get you first. After Ellison chats with the occult criminologist about Bughuul, it all goes downhill from there. Startle-wise, I mean. The projector starts turning on in the middle of the night, and Elly-baby starts seeing some freaky shit. Eventually, things get so bad that he decides to drop his new project entirely. He burns the reels and projector, then moves his family back to their old home.

Bughuul follows and provides their attic with extended cuts from the morbid morbid movies. The criminologist guy mentioned that Bugpool liked to possess children and lure them into his dimension through captured images. Ellison asked him if getting rid of the images would stop Boggle from coming, and received no legitimate answer. As it turns out, the answer was no. That basically spoils the ending, but you’re in it for the startles, not the plot.

SinisterAnd that’s about all there is to say about Sinister. A 110 minute jump-fest with some snazzy special effects and far too many late-night exploration gimmicks. I have two issues with Sinister, however. The first is that the use of musical cues makes the scares too obvious. It sets them up well, to say the least, but it also gives them away. This leads into my second issue, which is the use of noise to amplify the startles. When a jump-scare happens, the music will get ten times as loud.

I almost feel inclined to provide you with a jump timeline. I’m not gonna do that, though. As I mentioned, Sinister is only good for one watch. Once you know when the scares are going to pop up and the music is going to go DUNNN, then you have nothing to fear from this flick. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong, but now it’s out of theatres. If anything, rent it or check it out on Netflix.

John Campea of TheMovieBlog thinks Sinister ruined itself by showing one of the tension builders in the trailer, and I’m partially inclined to agree. I only say partially because Sinister is creepy from the get-go. They start off by showing the hanging of a family, and the creepy projector comes soon after. Regardless of what the trailer shows, a shocking spree it be. If you sit down and watch, you won’t care about the ending. You’ll be more concerned about the musical score’s elevated tempo. In fact, by the end, you won’t even want to watch it again. Probably. Here’s the review link:

Mirrors: An Idiot Reflected is Just as Dumb

MirrorsI don’t hate Mirrors. I really don’t. I just hate every single actor and actress they put in there. I hate them, and I’m very sad that some of them survive. I’m very happy that bad things happen to them. They come off as very annoying, because they follow the horror movie clichés to the letter. I really don’t hate Mirrors, but thanks to the cast, I do. I feel bad for judging a bad-bad horror movie, but sometimes it feels good to just hate on a deserving one. On with the review, then.

Benjamin Carson is a night watchman at a mall, the Mayflower, that just burned down. He ditched the the police force because of his drinking and the subsequent violence that wrought, and he’s on powerful medication to keep his urges suppressed. Amy Carson, his wife, asks that he stay away from the family until she feels he’s ready to come back. For now, he lives with his sister Angie in her apartment.

So, the clichés start to kick in when he begins to witness unusual imagery in the unusually clean mirrors. From the beginning, we know that the original caretaker was murdered by the mirrors killing his reflection. Or… something. So then, the mirrors begin to haunt Ben with terrifying images. He finds the original caretaker’s wallet, and discovers that the mirrors want someone by the name of Esseker.

MirrorsI’d like to point out that all throughout the course of the movie, all of these scary incidents are relayed from Ben to Amy and Angie, and neither of them believes him. Amy thinks he’s hallucinating because of his medication, and Angie just thinks he’s under stress. Ben even manages to drop the “I’m not crazy” line, which pissed me off to the extreme. I don’t like the crazy gambit in horror movies, not at all. It’s choppy, irritating, persistent, and adds nothing to the movie’s plot aside from a sense of solitude, and that’s not really worth it.

ANYWAYS. The mirrors kill Angie, which really pisses Ben off. They even start to threaten his wife and kids. He starts to investigate Esseker, finds an asylum connected to the Mayflower’s lower area, and finds that Anna Esseker was a patient in there, being treated for schizophrenia. Some mirror shenanigans go down in the Carson home, and Ben winds up finding Anna and forcing her back to the hospital at gunpoint.

At that point, something interesting happens. Something that pissed me off. This movie tends to do that. So yeah, Esseker is placed in a room of mirrors, and the demon escapes the mirrors and into her body. Because she was actually possessed, and they used the mirrors to take it out of her. Ben winds up impaling the dumb, stupid demon on a gas pipe and exploding her. It works, but he winds up stuck in the mirror world. Forever alone.

MirrorsI dedicate this paragraph to bashing on a child actor. He plays Michael. HE SUCKS. Apparently, he can see things in the mirrors. He’s the least convincing in regards to his voice and facial expressions, and he makes me want to punch him in the face. He even manages to get possessed by the mirror demon somehow, which doesn’t make sense considering the mirror demon can’t actually get into people’s minds. That said, he slashes his mom across the face with a knife. What an asshole. I hate him. Argh.

That concludes my in-depth analysis of the movie Mirrors. I can sum up the entire thing by saying I don’t like it. Because I don’t. And the unrated version doesn’t contain any bonus content. It’s actually exactly the same. Literally no difference. What the hell, man? Not worth it. Don’t buy this movie. If anything, steal it and play it when you have something else you need to do that requires background noise. Only time you’ll actually be able to enjoy it. That’s all I have to say about that.

Rec: Angry Spanish Zombies

RecThis is a Spanish shockumentary that’s a step above “so bad it’s good,” which means it’s just good. But since it’s a horror movie, and so many horror movies are bad, a good horror movie is like finding that elusive needle in the mountain of a haystack. So it’s great because it’s good because others are good because they’re bad. Get it? Good.

Angela Vidal is a reporter doing a TV series called While You Sleep, with her cameraman, Pablo. This night’s episode is about the lives of firemen and the duties they perform for their communities. Angela goes around, interviewing people, talking about outfits, recreation, so on so forth, until finally an alarm goes off. Showtime. The call is about an old woman who locked herself in her apartment, after having screaming fits. Whoa. The firemen arrive on the scene, along with the police, and they go in to investigate. For the record, nobody likes the fact that Angela and Pablo are filming the entire time. Not yet, at least.

When they finally get into the lady’s room, they find her bloody and crazed. Whoa nelly, what could that mean? When she tackles one of the policemen and takes a chunk out of his neck with her teeth, that question is sort of answered. Hence the title of this review. As soon as they get the wounded policeman out of the room and into the lobby of the apartment complex, they discover that the government has cordoned off the building and declared a BCN emergency state. Biological, Chemical, Nuclear, by the way. People start freaking out. Someone falls down the stairwell and goes splat. The health serviceman comes in and tries to take blood samples, but winds up being bitten. Aside from that, it’s a lot of mindless chatter, zombie punching, and several failed escape attempts.

RecSince the spoilers don’t really make much of a difference in a movie like this, I’ll go ahead and ruin everything for you. You won’t mind. Once upon a time, there was a girl called the “Demon of Medeiros,” who was supposedly possessed by a demon and was very violent and angry. This girl infected a dog named Max, who bit a girl named Jennifer. Jennifer’s mother took Max to the vet, and went home to her apartment with Jennifer. You already know where this is going. The Angry Spanish Zombie virus spread like… well, spread like a plague. Of zombies. That makes people angry. And… Spanish?

Anyways, a man from the Vatican sealed the Medeiros girl in the penthouse apartment, and during their final escape attempt, Angela and Pablo accidentally free her. Whoops. The good news is, that’s about the end of the movie, and both of them look to be dead, so goody-goody gumdrops. Set up for a sequel? You bet! Don’t watch it.

RecSo, let’s get one of them “overall, this movie” paragraphs in here to mash this whole review together. Rec was a good movie, but its only vice was that it didn’t explain anything until the very end, which hardly seems an appropriate point to explain the anger virus. And the fact that it adds religious connotations to the existence of the virus sort of takes away from the thrill of it all, if you know what I mean. It’s like saying, “I’ll tell you how this virus works, son. It spreads through saliva, has a long incubation period for children and a long one for adults, it causes extreme aggression and violence, an- What’s this? Where did it come from? Demon magic.”

… Yeah. Best to rent this movie before you consider spending money on it. I said it was good, but that was because I’m in the 50% that really doesn’t try to hate certain kinds of movies on general principle. When I say certain movies, I specifically mean bad-good horror movies. Yes, it’s a shockumentary, but it’s worth your time. Watch it, enjoy it. Turn off the subtitles and pretend everyone’s arguing about where the pudding cups are hidden.

The Devil Inside… Almost Had It

The Devil InsideSo very close! The Devil Inside was half an hour away from being the best exorcism movie I’ve ever seen. It touched on so many potentially amazing topics, such as the spheres of demons, their real purpose in the world, their demeanor, even their names. The problem was that the movie only grazed on these possibilities, leaving so much to be desired. Additionally, the ending made me cry. Not because it was emotional, but because it was horrifically bad. It’s like they got bored. I’ll explain.

The movie revolves around the possession of Mara Rossi and the fact that she murdered three people during an exorcism being performed on her. Twenty years later her daughter, Isabella Rossi, travels to Rome to visit the mental hospital her mother is incarcerated in. On the way, she learns of the nature of demons and exorcism by visiting an esteemed college that teaches relevant material. She meets two jaded exorcists, Ben and David, who perform sacred rights in secret, behind the backs of he church and the Vatican.

The Devil InsideAfter viewing a successful exorcism, Isabella has the priests perform one on her mother, this time without permission of the hospital she is held in. Results are unstable, resulting in David’s possession, and ultimately, death. Then Isabella gets possessed, and they all go to a hospital. Ben has gone a bit loopy after experiencing all this, so he panics and attempts to take her to a friend of his in the church in an attempt to exorcise her. They try to drive there, but Isabella’s demon hops over to the driver and they all die in a car crash. That’s the end of the movie. I forgot to mention that Michael, the camera guy and friend of Isabella. He plays little more than the role of the unbelieving friend.

That’s… basically the entire movie right there, plus or minus a few scare events. Now, what I think they should have done differently in regards to content is that they should have focused on making a technical exorcism documentary as opposed to restricting their movie to being a typical horror exorcism documentary. The fact that the movie spent so much time trying to be scary nullified the potential to cover other interesting material, like the hierarchy of demons and other such topics I mentioned initially.

The Devil InsideI’ll assume that the reason the film industry prefers to stray from making movies with demons portrayed as anything but completely evil and sadistic is because the idea of anything less than hostile interaction with demons is considered taboo. Which, in retrospect, is a real shame, because the situational comedic value of demonic insight and demeanor would really make a movie great.

Tell you what, you want to know about the movie, and my opinion of what the movie was like, not what it could be like. Here it is: The movie, overall, was too short. The scares were predictable but still satisfying, the effects were good, the acting was consistently good for a shockumentary, and the overall demeanor is different enough from most exorcism movies to be enjoyable. It’s about an hour and a half long, so you can go out and see it without wasting a good chunk of your day.