The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Saw (2004)

One from the rewatch pile…

Saw (2004)

Film: The genesis of Saw came from two young Australian writers trying to overcome the main problem of limited budget independent film-making: an interesting story utilizing a small cast. Sometimes, as in the case of this story by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the story can be so good that it gains the attention of Hollywood producers. With that kind of interest it’s only a matter of time before you get a decent cast, including Cary Elwes (Twister), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), Monica Potter (Along Came a Spider) and Shawnee Smith (The Blob) and Whannell himself, and you have a serious movie on your hands, though it has been suggested that the inclusion of names like Glover and Elwes were working of a contractual obligation.

The Saw films became an impressively successful series that saw one being released every Halloween until 2010, and the sequels, which revelled in their love of the torture devices, became a part of the ‘torture porn’ titles named by critic David Edelstein (apparently: he is regularly cited as the one who coined the term) in 2006. People got up in arms over the whole ‘torture porn’ thing, but splatter movies had been around from the sixties, so they all needed to cram the Hell down.

The story of Saw is simple: two men wake up chained by their legs to pipes on either side of an abandoned men’s room. A doctor, Lawrence (Cary Elwes) and a young photographer, Adam (Leigh Whannell) have to sift through a series of clues and lies, to figure out how to get out, but the clock is ticking. As they discuss previous experiences that may have led to their imprisonment, including Lawrence’s being pursued by an obsessed ex-cop (Danny Glover) who believes him to be a violent criminal; they slowly start to realise the truth of their terrifying predicament.

The performances from all the actors are impressive, although Leigh Whannell’s character has more whine than the entire Hunter Valley, and it tends to become a bit annoying at times. I honestly not sure if it’s Whannell’s This film is powerful and has many moments where you really cannot begin to guess the outcome.

In a time when the average viewer expects twists and turns, it is hard to come up with new ideas, but Wan and Whannell delivered the goods, enough so to be some of the ‘pioneers’ of torture porn, if that’s something they want to own up to… I know I would as I enjoyed the whole sub genre. Unfortunately, the story does rely occasionally of coincidence or for characters to do specific things for Jigsaw’s plan to work, but I guess that’s cinema, isn’t it?

A really good film let down by a poor extras package. Saw deserves a lot more respect than what it gets from this release. On it’s own however, it is certainly worth all of it’s hype, make sure you see Saw.

Score: ****

Format: This is a real interesting film to watch. Using everything from an Argento-ish palette to CCTV style images, Saw is very nice to look at, especially on bluray, coming in on the a]Australian multi-region release at a 1.78:1 image. It has a sharp image and even treats its ‘total darkness’ scenes with a nice lighting style. There are only two choices for sound: 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and 6.1 DTS ES (which was not reviewed.. The sound have great depth to them and each echo lingers and creates a truly spine-chilling atmosphere.

Score: ****

Extras: The old DVD release had some pretty poor extras on it but that’s NOTHING compared to this BD release, which has nothing on it but a bluray trailer which talks about the format, and what releases are coming. This release of Saw did come out fairly early in the Bluray lifecycle, to the point it even has a ‘this is how bluray works’ feature on it!

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah, I dig this film and some of its ever-unfolding sequels.

Jigsaw (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Jigsaw (2017)

Film: Am I a fan of the so-called sub-genre torture porn? Oh yeah, you better believe it, though I think that ‘torture porn’ is somewhat of a misnomer. I don’t find a sexual excitement from the films labelled such, but I do find them to be thrilling and I can’t say that I don’t hate the gore of them either.

I’ve stated several times in my career writing horror movie reviews that I don’t find supernatural films in the slightest bit scary, mainly because I don’t actually believe in the supernatural, but I think I like these film is because I find the concept of being trapped horrifying. I just gotta be free…

Jigsaw is the 8th film in the Saw series, this outing directed by Australia’s very own Spierig brothers, who previously gave us Daybreakers and the oddly groundbreaking Undead. The script was written by writing team Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, whose previous outings include Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD and Sorority Row.

Our film starts with a young man being pursued by the police, but he has an objective which is a remote trigger hidden on a rooftop, but when he is shot, it starts a series of events…

Five people, Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), Carly (Brittany Allen), Ryan (Paul Braunstein) and another poor individual (who is namelessly dispatched as as an example of the violent nature of our killer) are chained to a series of doors in a room that has circular saw blades through them, and a mysterious voice (that we as Saw viewers have obviously heard before) tells them that to free themselves blood must be shed… this of course leads them on a series of trials that reduce their number one by one.

As the story of their trial continues, we are also introduced to coroner Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) who begins assisting the investigation on bodies that are being found with a jigsaw piece cut from them… but isn’t the killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) dead? If he is, who is committing all the murders? Could it be one of the members of the website of people obsessed with his work?

The thing about the Saw films is, just like porn, you want the ‘money shot’… the building of tension, and then a wad of gore exploding all over your face. The story is almost secondary to those points, and I’m sure if this were the age of VHS, the tape stretch marks would be all over the kills, which would be rewound and replayed over and over.

That’s not to say the story wasn’t a good facility to move from blood-soaked pillar to barbed-wired post, but I think that the straws are well and truly being clutched at. The persistence of there being a history of people working with Jigsaw is a plot device necessary since his early-in-the-series demise but the excuses for them helping are getting thin.

The murders in this film are fun but the innovation of the machines has become stretched to the point of being ridiculous. One must wonder exactly what type of connection Jigsaw had to be able to get his hands on some of the ironic additions to the devices.

The acting in the film is interesting. There seems to be some characters who are well and truly placed within reality, like Vandervoort’s Anna, and others, like Callum Keith Rennie’s Detective Halloran are over the top, almost parodies but somehow, they work together.. and I can’t figure out how. Maybe Tobin Bell’s John Kramer is the blue that holds it together, with his quiet manner and sociopathic hobbies.

The special effects are are nice and bloody, which is what you expect… though the occasional rubbery barbed wire might spoil the authenticity.

Basically, what we have here is another in a series that has a particular method to its delivery of the goods, and this doesn’t fail in that, it’s just we’ve seen all the gore, misdirection and torture before. It might be time for the good name of Jigsaw to be permanently laid to rest.

Score: **

Format: Jigsaw was reviewed on the Australian Region B Bluray which has both an impeccable 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc that explore not just the making of this film, but the legacy of Jigsaw as well. Also I have to point out just how cool the menu is: it’s bizarre and creepy with a bunch of actors made up to look like Billy, and it reminds me of the Rammstein album ‘Sehnsucht

There is an amazing 7 part documentary, with each part exploring a whole different aspect of the film. They are titled A New Game, You Know His Name, Survival Of The Fittest, Death By Design, Blood Sacrifice, The Source Of Fear and The Truth Will Set You Free. I don’t know why they cut this into 7 mini-docs when one big one would have been a better plan. Maybe it was they assume we have short attention spans. The cool thing is though that it cover every aspect of the film, from the writing to the soundtrack and lots of cast and crew are interviewed.

The Choice Is Yours: Exploring the Props looks at the props that were created for the film. It was odd that this was presented separately to the rest of the mini-docos but it was still a welcome addition.

Score: ****

WISIA: I doesn’t matter if a Saw film is good or not, at some point I’ll end up watching it again whilst having a Saw-festival.

Insidious (2010)

One from the re watch pile…

Insidious (2010)

Film: One thing I have found odd about cinema at the moment is that there is heaps of supernatural horror that’s popular to a mainstream audience. I am sure there is some kind of psychological reason that the general public is shying away from ‘real’ human killers in their horror, but I’m no psychologist so I can’t really comment on that.

What we have here is a film from Australia’s very own James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the Saw series and The Conjuring franchise, so Hollywood must love them with their ability to milk the cash cow.

Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into a new house but strange things start to happen after their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) has a minor fall off a ladder. Dalton goes into an undiagnosable coma and Renai decides after several bizarre encounters with various ‘things’ that the house is haunted, so they quickly move house again.

At the new house the family attempts to restart their lives but quickly discover that the house wasn’t haunted but instead, THEY are. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) Steps in with some information and a contact, psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)

Aaaaaaand then it hits the halfway point, and becomes a farce.

Elise and her assistants, the ridiculous Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), come to investigate their claims, using such tools as a View Master Reel and other devices more ridiculous than anything Egon Spengler created in Ghostbusters, and then the film turns into a parody of Poltergeist, with the couple finding out their son has been taken to ’The Further’, which is basically the same as where Carolanne is taken in that same film.

The usual generic crap takes place with a visit the The Further in search of not his body, but his ASTRAL body which is what has been kidnapped by Darth Maul… I mean, a demon.

Will they get their son back? Will I care? Will this piece of crap spawn two sequels two date because people will watch anything if the marketing is good enough?

After an amazing opening with a likeable cast and a pretty interesting set up, even though it’s another stupid haunted house movie, is devolves into sloppy writing and generic imagery that has been done over and over again, even to the point Wan has even stolen from himself with some of the design looking like the Dead Silence dolls and ghosts, and then FROM here with some of the elements in The Conjuring.

Mostly Wan’s direction is pretty good, and the performances he gets from Wilson and Byrne make them immediately sympathetic protagonists, and he cleverly uses a few tricks from Mario Bava via Dario Argento to occasionally have some impressive looking scenes, which is usually spoiled by using the fast motion camerawork found in film clips by Marilyn Manson 20 years ago.

It’s a real tragedy when a promising first act gets crapped on by a disappointing second and third. Don’t bother with this film at all, unless it’s on free-to-air.

Score: *1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in an amazing and clean 2.40:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, The Beaver and The Tree of Life before we are presented with the menu.

Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar isn’t really a seminar about horror, but instead is the filmmakers explaining what they decided to write within the confines of this film, and how they decided to turn some of the tropes of traditional horror on its head.

On Set With Insidious is one of those usual ego-strokes where all the cast and crew talk about how awesome each other are, and this is all intercut with behind the scenes footage of the production.

Insidious Entities looks at the ghosts and demons of the film.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: I hate this post-millennial ghost story crap thats completely dependent of jump scares rather than actually being frightening, and the only reason I watched it again was for the benefit of you, dear reader, so you won’t have to.

Intruders aka Shut In (2015) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Intruders (2015)

  

Film: Today is the day that I have to admit to the crime that separates a movie connoisseur from a horror movie hoarder. The thing that separates the highbrow champagne film critic from the lowbrow, beer skulling scumbag who is looking for the next film that he can cringe at whilst someone cops a claw hammer to the head.

Occasionally, I buy movies based on the picture on the cover. Even worse, this cover wasn’t a cool Roger Corman 80s schlock flick… It’s a modern, post-millennium, photoshopped cover.

Yes, I am hanging my head in shame.

I found this cover evocative though, and in my defence, like most ‘good’ items used to promote a film, it has very little to do with the story.

This film is the first feature film for director Adam Schindler, who is previously known for writing the 2013 horror film Delivery, and is written by T.J. Cimfel and David White, who previously worked together on V/H/S/ Viral.

This film is also known by the far better title ‘Shut In’ which certainly is more in tune with the story rather than the less interesting, and easily confused with the Clive Owen pic ‘Intruders’. I just don’t get why movies with good names get them changed when released in different countries/ regions.

  

Intruders tells the story of Anna Rook (Beth Reisgraf), an agoraphobic who has been taking care of her sick brother, Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney), who is suffering with pancreatic cancer. Her only real contact with the outside world are their lawyer, Charlotte (Leticia Jimenez) and a homecare meal delivery man, Dan (Rory Culkan). 

Tragically, her brother dies and due to her psychological disorder, she is unable to attend his funeral, and she hides inside from the outside world. Unfortunately for Rose, staying at home on a day she was supposed to be out was plain old bad luck, as a gang of three decide to rob the house as they have heard of money hidden within.  

What these intruders don’t realise is that Anna and her brother have a secret that they keep in the basement, and for their own good, it would be better if they stayed out…

Essentially the film is a combination of seventies home invasion films with Home Alone, but in this film, Kevin McAllister is replaced with a sexy, blonde female 20-something year old, and maybe, if I were the type to be a spoilerer, I’d suggest their to be just a drop of Saw.

I really liked this movie, and considering I knew nothing about it, was very pleasantly surprised. The intruders were great in their different levels of menace, though they may have watched Panic Room for inspiration, and Reisgraf’s performance remained delicate as her character reacted to misfortunes placed in her lap, even when it caused her to become aggressive  

Rory Culkan, on the other hand was the unfortunate exception. He plays his role like an actor playing an unpleasant, sarcastic nerd from an 80s teen comedy, but who has the memory of a goldfish and has to read his lines off a large piece of cardboard held up by an assistant director. I’d say this is an example of nepotism running rife in Hollywood, but how much pull older brother McCauley Culkan has I imagine would be dubious.

One other thing I definitely must point out with this film is that their are several elements within the house that require fairly large leaps of faith to believe that just two people could have set up. It’s difficult to properly explain exactly what I mean here without spoiling massive elements of the film, and I don’t wish to do that, but basically if you can believe the one-man-show aspects of some horrors and thriller antagonists, you should be OK.
I really liked this modern take on the 70s styled home invasion film, with the agoraphobic element thrown in as the first of a couple of twists… Not M. Night Shyamalan styled story-altering twists, just little tweaks. The quiet elements are balanced nicely with with the acts of violence, and fans of budgerigars be warned: this film contains scenes that may cause you to sit in your aviary and rock backwards and forwards for a few hours.
Score: ****

Format: A modern film in the digital format has no excuse for being bad, and this film looks great! The version watched was the Australian region B bluray which runs for 90 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 letterbox and has a perfect DTS HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: None.

Score: N/A  

WISIA: I don’t think Intruders is going to make its way to the rewatch pile, even though it was a pretty good movie. Like a magician teaching others his tricks, once you know the secret, the interest diminishes. I will add that some of the dialogue between Anna and Conrad has a different meaning once you have seen the film, so it’s possibly worth one do over just for that.