The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

Film: The best thing about anthology films is there is almost something that will appeal to a viewer. It’s almost a cheat to have a mixture of stories with multiple appeals, but I’m down for it: every time. I think my first exposure to an kind of horror anthology was at school, with a book I picked up from the Scholastic book called Twisters which had a bunch of short stories that were just slightly horror for a younger reader.

This film, ‘The Field Guide to Evil’, contains 8 tales brought to us by various directors, several of whom made films which interested me greatly: Can Evrenol (Baskin), Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio),Calvin Reeder (V/H/S) and Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy). The cover also said that this was brought to us by the creators of The ABCs of Death, another anthology film which I liked.

The theme of this film is fascinating: it takes horrifying folk tales from around the world and gives them life.

The Sinful Woman of Höllfal is directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz and shows us what happens in Austrian legend when young women fall prone to the sins of homosexuality and masturbation…

Haunted by Al Karisi: The Childbirth Djinn directed by Can Evrenol tells of a hound new mother who is taking care of both her disabled mother and newborn child, but something is trying to get her child from her…

The Kindler and the Virgin is directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska recounts the legend of a man convinced by a demon that if he consumes the hearts of the recently deceased, he be opened to all of man’s knowledge…

Beware the Melonheads, directed by Calvin Lee Reeder, tells of the myth of some children who live in the wild in the US who have large heads and feast on human flesh…

Whatever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?, directed by Yannis Veslemes tells of the legend if Goblins in Greece who like to hide amongst drunken men for fun, but in 1984, some men discover the goblin in their midsts, and decide to have some ‘fun’ with it…

The Palace of Horrors, directed by Ashim Ahluwalia, is based on a Bengali folk legend of a castle built by an insane king, with a secret hidden in its depths…

A Nocturnal Death, directed by Katrin Gebbe tells of a young man in Bavaria in the late 1700s who discovers his sister is housing a demon called a ‘drude’ which when it leaves its host, leave it for dead whilst it spreads disease…

Cobbler’s Lot directed by Peter Strickland is a tale based on The Princess’ Curse, in which two brother vie for the attention of Princess Boglárka and of course, jealousy prevails…

What I found the most fascinating about this film, over and above the myths and legends that is, is how glaringly different the approach is by international filmmakers to their craft. As a document about how different styles of cinema look side by side, it is a total victory. The directors all chose such different ways of telling their tales too. Strickland’s story lies somewhere between silent movie and ballet performance, whereas Ahluwalia is filmed in black and white and almost has a documentary feel to it. It’s truly amazing to see all the artists approach the same artwork from such different avenues.

The legends from the four corners of the earth prove that no matter the culture, horror was a way of warning people against evils that may befall them or others. At first, you might consider them to be obtuse and bizarre, but when you consider the rituals and myths that accompany English/ western beliefs… we are all probably as strange as each other, and mankind is merely a hopeless child hiding in the dark either afraid of monsters, or telling others to be wary of them.

This being made by so many filmmakers and from so many sources, one can’t help but see that the entire film is quite unbalanced in tone, but the episodes are so clearly defined that that doesn’t matter, and each story is enjoyable from its own perspective.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 118 minutes. It is presented in a 1.85:1 image with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track, both of which are fine. The images in each of the stories vary though due to the inconsistent production by each filmmaking team.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: I certainly think there is enough going on in this anthology to watch it again, especially if one is either interested in international film or if you are a student of film.

Us (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Us (2019)

Film: Looking back it was obvious that Jordan Peele, during his days as part of the comedy team Key And Peele, had a sense of humour that learnt more towards the horrible. A lot of the humour that he and Keegan-Michael Key did together had horror themes, from Racist Zombies to parodies of Saw, but even in their more straightforward comedy there were darker elements (they did one who two friends were moving house and one introduced the other to dub-step, with bloody results)… seriously, if you haven’t watched Key And Peele, you need to change that immediately.

This film is Peele’s second horror movie effort, the first being the well-received and successful Get Out, which he both wrote and directed, and just like Get Out, Peele has filled the film with a bunch of subtle, and not-so-subtle, nods to horror that he loves, like CHUD, Friday the 13th, The Lost Boys, Hitchcock’s films (whose style he occasionally emulates to great effect) and many others.

Us starts with a family outing in the 80s which sees the young Adelaide (Madison Curry) go missing from her parents for about 15 minutes whilst visiting the Santa Cruz fun pier… but what happens whilst she went missing remains a mystery as she refuses to talk about it.

We flash forward to now and are re-introduced to Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who is happily married to Gabe (Winston Duke) and have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) and about to enjoy a beachside holiday not far away from where she was abducted all those years ago.

The family visit the beach so they can catch up with their friends, the Tylers; Josh (Tim Heidecker), his wife Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and their children, Becca and Lindsey (Cali and Noelle Sheldon), but Adelaide being at the place where she went missing as a child, she is on edge the whole time.

Much later into the night, back at home, they find a family standing in their driveway just looking at the house. When Gabe challenges them, they attack the house, and our family discovers that these intruders are doppelgängers, or shadows, of them.

These doppelgängers are part of a much greater conspiracy though, and the truth, once unleashed, is scarier than what this small family unit is encountering…

Peele has created a fascinating story that can only exist within the confines of its universe as to question its logic perhaps makes it fall apart. To approach this film as just a ‘home invasion’ story is a mistake as there is so much more and the conspiracy elements of the tale are far more interesting in their mystery.

The performances that Peele gets from his cast are nothing short of spectacular. All the actors’ character and appearance are SO different between the two roles that it’s as if different actors are playing them. I’ve watched a lot of films that have doppelgängers as a theme, from The Sixth Day to Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a personality shift from the original to the copy. Nyong’o is especially fearful from one character to the other. Especially seeing as how her double is like some kind of insane messiah with a speech pattern straight out of a nightmare.

Peele has namechecked Hitchcock as an influence and it’s quite clear by both the way he sets a scene, and with some of the violence being just out of eyeshot, so no dwelling on blood or gore here. That’s not to say the film isn’t violent though, it is! Not just physical but also from a psychological point of view as well.

I am sure that Us is full of hundreds of allegories that an uneducated dunce like me doesn’t pick up upon, and maybe there is some political agenda disguised in its frames, but don’t care about that. What I came here to do was enjoy horror movies and with this film, mission accomplished.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian multi-region Bluray which is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: A really nice bunch on this disc:

The Monsters Within Us is a look at the performances of the actors in both roles they play, and the variation on the same character that they brought to it.

Tethered Together: Making Us Twice looks at the filming of the same scene twice with the originals and the doubles, and the visual effects used to stitch them together.

Redefining a Genre: Jordan Peelers Brand of Horror looks at what Jordan Peele brings to genre films, and his approach to making these films.

The Duality of Us sees Peele discuss some of the symbols used within the film to tell the story.

Becoming Red is a little bit of ‘between take’ footage on Nyong’o who maintained her doppelgänger persona on set during the filming of all these scenes, even when question the director about things happening within the scene. Honestly, this extra was almost as scary as the film: as beautiful as I find Nyong’o, if I’m ever confronted by her doing this schtick, I’ll run in the other direction at full speed.

Scene Explorations breaks down three scenes into their bare bones and dissects their messages.

Deleted Scenes and for me it’s the usual story: there’s a reason why some scenes are excused from a film and it’s usually for the better.

We’re All Dying is kinda-sorta a gag real but it’s a freestyle conversation between Duke and Heidecker that’s occasionally funny.

As Above, So Below: Grand Pas De Deux shows the full performance of the ballet by both versions of young Adelaide, cleverly a dance made for two that the character chooses to dance by herself whilst her tethered version does it somewhere else. Another example of Peele’s symbolism.

Score: *****

WISIA: There is so much more to this film that I’m sure I need to watch it again.