The Woman in Black (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Woman in Black (2012)

Film: Any horror fan worth his mettle knows of the famed English studio Hammer films. Over many years Hammer entertained the world with Gothic tales of terror and fright, and gave us brilliant performances from the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They also introduced the world to many a blushing busty English rose. Great things don’t last forever though, and as a new generation of horror came to light in the 70s and 80s, Hammer disappeared. But not forever.

Recently, Hammer have re-emerged with a few new films: the English language remake of Let the Right One In called Let Me In and this, a retooling of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, filmed once before in 1989. This version has been adapted by Jane Goldman, who scripted Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and is directed by James Watkins, who previously helmed Eden Lake.

A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is on his last legs at his job. It has been several years since his young wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during childbirth and he has never gotten over it, bringing up their son Joseph (Misha Handley) with only the assistance of a nanny (Jessica Raine).

As the final chance to save his job, Kipps’ boss has given him the challenge of travelling to the town of Cryphin Gifford to make sure that the final will and testament of the recently deceased owner of the secluded property Eel Marsh, Mrs Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) is correct, by checking through any and all documents at her estate. What Kipps finds there though is a hate filled spirit of a woman in black, but why is she so filled with loathing, and can Kipps do anything to appease her torment of the town and it’s children?

The Woman in Black looks quite beautiful, and has a mood that perfectly matches that of the main character. The township of Cryphin Gifford is so dank that one feels the cold, wet and clamminess as if it is present in the room in which you are watching the film.

The performances are all solid. Still quite young, Daniel Radcliffe plays his Peter Cushing styled character with the intensity of a man well beyond his years, or an emo on depressants. The addition of the wonderful Ciarin Hinds as his ally within the town is excellent, and Hinds has a weight and subtlety in his performance as a man haunted by the death of a young son, and whose wife has never recovered from it.

The script also tells a grand ghost story, but here lies its biggest problem. Ghost stories in cinema have a language of their own and they can fall into a trap. That trap is they either do something out of the norm and have audiences not ‘get’ it, or they stick to the generic ghost story devices such as a creaky house and creepy toys et cetera, and even though they are speaking a cinematic language that your average cinema goer will comprehend, the story just doesn’t stand out.

Unfortunately, The Woman in Black is guilty of the latter. Even though there was some impressive imagery (Eel Marsh itself is simply amazing) the story just feels as though it is telling a tale we’ve all heard many times over. It seems to me that the makers of The Woman in Black tried to ignore the fact that the tastes of horror fans have moved on, and that perhaps this type of film isn’t relevant any more. I know whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel like I was watching a classic horror film, but someone who was trying to emulate one.

So Hammer are back, baby! The pure gothic tales of fright they have given us have returned with them, but, I’m afraid their time may have passed. The acting is generally of a high standard and the movie boasts some amazing gothic horror visuals, but it seems to miss that ‘classic’ horror mood. Perhaps this is due to the main elements of that “classic horror mood” being Cushing and Lee, who would have kicked arse as Kipps and Daily respectively, but without them, this whole event just feels a little ordinary.

Spooky toys, a creaky house, ghostly children, mysterious rocking chairs, generic, generic generic. The Woman in Black is a great looking film that ticks all the ‘spooky’ boxes and has some fine performances, but it fails to deliver any real scares and never tries to rise above the regular ‘ghost story’ trappings.

Score: **

Format: This film is presented in a pristine 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I have to say, due to the colour palette of the film, works much better is pitch darkness, If your lounge room has even the slightest bit of light in it, you won’t get the full benefit of deep blacks and immaculate shadow detail The soundscape matches the visuals in excellence, and like it, works best in the dark, and is presented in DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Lockout, Magic Mike and Killer Joe before taking us to the menu.

There are only two, quite short, extras on this disc:

No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps is a brief exploration of Radcliffe’s performance as Kipps, with comments from other cast and crew as to why he was good for the role.

Inside the Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black, obviously, looks at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Score: 2

WISIA: It’s highly unlikely that I’d ever waste anymore of my precious time on this film.

Mystics in Bali (1981)

One from the rewatch pile…

Mystics in Bali (1981)

Film: When it comes to cinema, gems are hard to find, but now and again you’ll find yourself sitting in front of a film thinking to yourself ” why the Hell have I never seen this?”

Honestly, I had never even heard of this film, but one of the many movie magazines I buy did a blurb on it a few years ago, and I thought I should hunt it out, but other, seemingly more important releases always overshadowed it. This was a mistake, as I can’t even remember what some of those other films may have been. I should have immediately grabbed Mystics in Bali the very second I heard of it!

Mystics in Bali tells of curious tourist Cathy Kean (played by German tourist Ilona Agathe Bastian, who had no acting experience but did the film so she could stay in Bali longer) who wishes to learn the magical ways of the Leyak, an Indonesian black art. Her friend, and potential lover Mahendra (Yos Santo) takes her deep into the jungle to meet a cackling old Leyak witch (Sophia WD) who takes Cathy under her wing as an apprentice. She starts by learning a few spells but soon discovers that once you are under the thrall of a Leyak, it is difficult to get out. Maybe even impossible, even with the assistance of local shamen and mystics!

Mystics in Bali is one of those ‘kitchen sink’ films: you know, as in it has everything but! Witches (well, Leyaks), metamorphosis, floppy titted pig women, ancient mystical masters, flying vampire heads, people vomiting live mice, awkward romance and most incredulous of them all, a baby eaten right out of a pregnant woman’s… um… punani.

Now don’t tell me you didn’t want all that in one film.

The film does suffer from some poor dubbing, but considering the female lead was a German tourist and the rest of the cast are Indonesian, I guess one can overlook that.

The special effects aren’t so special, but are a treat to watch as there are some spectacularly bad animation effects, lightning from fingers and such, that look like hand drawn animation on the original film cels. The metamorphosis scenes do their very best to be American Werewolf in London, and fail, but are actually still quite off putting.

It is without a doubt one of the nuttiest and most entertaining films I have ever seen! If I am to recall how I felt after watching this, I would compare it to how I felt after watching Evil Dead for the first time, though this isn’t at all scary like Evil Dead was the first time I watched it. Although, I was about 13 then, so give me a break.

If you don’t have Mystics in Bali in your collection, it is an error you must immediately fix.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Mystics in Bali has a clarity that is surprising for a film of this age and region. There are occasional film artefacts, and admittedly at some of the more ‘special’ effects heavy sequences it does go slightly foggy, but I don’t think that is a problem with the transfer, but instead the original source. Presented in stereo only, but it is crisp and clear, considering it is an English overdub recorded in a studio somewhere.

Score: ***

Extras: We start with a fairly poor quality trailer and then get some extras that would have been great… if they weren’t text and had instead been actual documentaries. They are Mystics in Bali and the Indonesian Exploitation Movie, which talks about Indonesian cinema, H. Tjut Djalil – Director Filmography, which is just that and How to Become a Leak (sic) which I am sure should have been spelt ‘Leyak’, which contains the rites to becoming a Leyak. Don’t try this at home.

Finally we have a trailer park for Mondo Macabro, which features Snake Sisters, The Blood Rose, The Bollywood Horror Collection, Snake Dancer, The Devil’s Sword, Lifespan, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, Satan’s Blood, Virgins From Hell, For Your Height Only, French Sex Murders, The Deathless Devil, Living Doll, Satanico Pandemonim, Panic Beats, Clonus, The Killer Must Kill Again, The Mansion of Madness, Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, The Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay. Honestly the disappointing text extras are saved by these awesome trailers!

Score: ***

WISIA: Hell yeah! This film is a hoot and a holler!

Ouija House (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ouija House (2018)

Film: The cover to this film boldly presents this film to star both American Pie’s Tara Reid and The O.C.’s Mischa Barton which I find really weird as it seems to me that having their names on a DVD is like those awful photos and warnings that you find on a cigarette packet, though just like those warnings, those of us addicted to horror sally forth regardless and suck up their awful goodness.

Maybe the addition of Dee Wallace (Cujo) takes the edge off?

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Carly Schroeder’s name helps too, but I’m not sure one of the Lizzie MacQuire stars is quite horror royalty.

Anyway, I should point out that this is not a part of the ‘Ouija’ film series that includes ‘Ouija’ (2014) and ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ (2016) but instead one of the knock offs using the ‘Ouija’ name to tap into some of those films popularity… did they even have enough popularity to even do that?!?

If we are even questioning that, I guess they MUST have!

This film was directed by Ben Demaree, the director of Apocalypse Pompeii and Dear Diary I Died, and was written by Justin Hawkins and Jeff Miller, who also co-wrote 2019’s Dolls.

Our tale of the Ouija House begins in 1988, with a group of people, (including Tara Reid and Tiffany Shepis) who are in what appears to be an old, unused house where it was rumoured murder and torture and witchcraft occurred, using a Ouija board to communicate with any spirits who may exist within the house. Of course, this being a horror movie and not an historical drama, everything ends badly.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to Laurie Fields (Carly Schroeder) who is studying demonology at University (cool uni!) and intends on going to the same house, her Aunt’s, for research, even though her mother Katherine (Dee Wallace Stone) has strictly forbidden it.

Laurie goes against her wishes and travels to the house regardless with her friends, Nick (Mark Grossman), Tina (Grace DeMarco) and Spence (Derrick A. King), where they will be meeting her cousin Samantha (Mischa Barton).

The house seems normal enough but after Tina finds a doll, she begins to act… off, and the supernatural shenanigans begin…

The premise of the story is actually pretty good, and even the some of the performances are ok: it’s cheap popcorn horror, but it’s executed well. There’s some pretty stupid inconsistencies in the story, and I mean glaring, dumbass inconsistencies, but there are a few conceptual ideas that are pretty innovative… none I can discuss without spoiling the movie, so please, just trust me.

Barton and Reid are clearly here for name purposes only, though I’m not sure if their names either hit the young hip horror crowd, or the older, degenerative fans (like me, and you can tell I’m one of them as I used the word ‘hip’. These days it’s more ‘hip replacement’). I think the marketing department on Ron Lee Productions need to look deeper into who is cult-popular and cheap.

Overall, it’s a tidy, and mildly innovative story, with a cute cast and a soundtrack reminiscent of some 80s synth scores (by Johnathon Price) so it gets an extra bit of credit from me for that.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment Australian DVD release, presented in a decent and unblemished 1.77:1 image with a clear and precise 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing, not even a DVD menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: I can confirm any prediction that may suggest I will never watch this again. Not because it’s bad, but just because it’s a one-watch screamer.

We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

Film: The only thing that has come out of Italy that is better than the food, is horror films. Seriously, the perfect night would be a fresh lasagne, some garlic bread, along with Argento or Bava, and a nice Chianti (insert bizarre suckling noise here). Demons 2 proves, that not everything for Italy’s cinematic feast is delicious.

Demons 2 is directed by the original’s director, Lamberto Bava, and is written by the same writing team of Bava, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sacchetti, but it is definitely… spoiler alert… the inferior of the two films.

This film has us in a super high-tech apartment block where various occupants are going about their business of dinner with family, studying for tests, being an 8 year old who is left home alone, having intercourse with high quality hookers, working out in the basement gym and having a birthday party.

The part is for whinging superbitch Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) who complains about everything and locks herself in her bedroom after hearing that a person whom she didn’t want invited to her party was actually invited by a friend. Whilst in her room, she watches, like several people who live in the block, a documentary about the demon incursion that occurred in the first film. Unfortunately, like the film from the first film, the doco appears to be cursed… or something… and a demon comes out of the TV, attacking Sally and starting the infection all over again.

Luckily the demons aren’t able to escape the apartment block… or can they?

To put it bluntly, this film is pretty bad. Bad,y acted and dubbed at times, with some dreadful dialogue Nd non-sensical plotlines that don’t move the story forward in the slightest. For exampl, some parents are driving home to their son at the same time as the party is happening, but they don’t make it… so why even show it?

The script is a breadless crap pizza with no real logic as to how the demons appear. The Tv show being watched by the viewers are potently infected but the cameraman filming the doco was resistant? What? Thankfully this eventually explained by the fact that the show is being transmitted by a demon TV station (as a heads up, demon TV stations are like NORMAL TV stations. It with flashing lights): I’ve seen some pretty dumb stuff in my horror experience, but demon TV station is up there with the dumbest.

It’s not entirely bad though. Whilst Demons 2 isn’t as gruesome as it’s predecessor, it features some creative effects work. There is a wider variety of demon looks in this film, and there is an amusing Demon Dog sequence. The effects are generally solid except for one that has a worse that Ghoulies rubber puppet look about it.

I also enjoyed the music far more on this film as it was more to my taste : The Cult, The Art Of Noise, The Smiths, Fields Of The Nephilim and others.

This film is far more a string of effects held together by a dodgy story, than a complete film.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video Bluray which is presented in 1.66:1 and has been restored from the original negative. That being said it does contain a bit of noise on the film here and there. The audio is presented in the original mono and does the job just fine. The film can also be watched with its Italian audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The first thing I should comment on is the excellent packaging design and the non-digital extras. Like most of Arrows Bluray releases when this first came out, we have a choice of four covers on a double-sided Bluray slick. There is also a double sided poster with original movie artwork on one side and art from Jeff Zornow on the other. This package also contains part 2 of a Demons comic, again with art by Zornow and a script by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating. Finally there is a booklet titled Twice the Terror by Calum Waddell which is an interesting celebration of Bava.

There are a couple of extras on the disc as well:

Creating Creature Carnage is a discussion with Italian special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti. If you are interested in practical special effects this is really interesting.

Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi on The History Of Italian Horror is exactly what the title suggests and is the perfect sequel to Cozzi’s discussion on the first Demons release from Arrow Video.

There is also a director commentary hosted by Calum Waddell featuring Bava, Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. It’s not the greatest commentary in the world, but when they do speak, what they say is very interesting.

Score: ****

WISIA: The first Demons film is an Italian classic, watch that again instead of this.

Happy Halloween Flick: Night of the Demons (2009)

One from the to watch pile…

Night of the Demons (2009)

Film: It’s hard to do a review of a remake of a film that has iconic scenes with iconic horrors stars in it. More to the point, it’s hard to do a review of a remake of an 80s horror film that has so many things that make it stand head and shoulders above other smaller budgeted films of the same decade. The ‘lipstick in the nipple’ scene, the ‘bending over in the convenience store’ scene, the atrocious ‘acting’ by Linnea Quigley… actually, in summary, it’s EVERY scene in which Quigley appears!!

It must have been a daunting task for remake director Adam Gierasch to attempt to follow in 80s version director Kevin Tenney’s footsteps, but soldier on he did. As always the key to doing a remake is to take the originals scenes, and turn the violence volume up on them to a Spinal Tap-like 11, but how does one do that when the original has scenes that a SO well remembered for their absolute craziness.

Anyway, the story tells of Angela (Shannon Elizabeth), a club/party promoter who has organised a kick-arse party in a house when 85 years ago, some murders took place, and the house has been shrouded in mystery ever since.

A bunch of Angela’s friends come to the party, but the police shut it down due to the appropriate approvals not being present. Unfortunately, a bunch of them, including drug dealer Colin (Edward Furlong), Jason (John F. Beach), Dex (Michael Copon), Lily (Diora Baird), Maddie (Monica Keena) and Suzanne (Bobbi Sue Luther) get stuck in the building, and after one of them in ‘bitten’ by a dead body in the basement, slowly, one-by-one, they get turned into demons cast out of Hell, but will any of them survive… and will you, the viewer, even care?

Pretty much well everything about this film can be used as an argument AGAINST the concept of remakes being OK, but if I was to be forced into offering this film any sort of compliment, one of the demon designs (the one who has prehensile tit tentacles… titacles?) is pretty inventive, but other than that, this film is like a poor pisstake of the film GO! but with demons in it. The worst crime this commits is that it sets up ideas in the script that are interesting, that don’t pay off, and are just their because, for example, London gangsters are hot right now, let’s have one!

To add insult to injury, the songs on the soundtrack are pretty terrible and emulate sounds from actual big heavy metal songs… one in particular steals so liberally from one of Rob Zombie’s songs that I can’t believe they weren’t sued by him.

When a film is only remembered for Quigley reprising a visual take on her original role, and Edward Furlong looking like a hobo, you know it’s got issues.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 93 minutes (though it feels like SO much longer) and is presented in an average looking and sounding 16×9 widescreen image with a 2.0 audio track.

Score: **

Extras: This film thinks it’s far too good for you and offers you NOTHING in the form of extras!

Score: 0

WISIA: This is one of those cases where the original is so crackers that the remake will never be remembered! I won’t watch this again, not while the original exists.

The Hole (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Film: This is one of those times where I felt like rewatching as it’s like comfort food. First, it’s directed by Joe Dante, responsible for 80s classics like The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, and the awesome late 90s kids flick Small Soldiers and written by Mark L. smith who wrote the Vacancy films and The Revenant.

The Hole tells of single mum, Susan (Teri Polo) who has moved to a small town and away from big city life with her sons, Dane (Chris Massoglia) and the younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and into a house which, as these sorts of movies alway do, is far to big for her ever to be able to afford.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

This house has a weird secret in the basement though: a seemingly bottomless hole that cute next door neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett) suggests may have been dug by previous tenant Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern), but very quickly our young trio discover than maybe, just maybe the Hole has deeper secrets…

…supernatural secrets… secrets that drove Creepy Carl out of the house and into a state weird he fears the stones and what it hides. Will the kids survive the contents of this bottomless pit?

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

This film really is classic Joe Dante with the small town being attacked by ‘something’ and as usual, he hires a charming cast of good guys and an oddball bunch of weirdos. Special mention has to go not just to the casting of Kate Hudson lookalike, Haley Bennett, but to see Bruce Dern in a film again was a heap of fun, and you can throw in a bit of legend Dick Miller as a pizza boy for a great trifecta.

The unfortunate thing about this film is it’s SO damned generic. Every new boy in town moves into a cute, available girl and has an annoying/ embarrassing younger brother/ quirky aunt/ mental grandfather and there is something weird in the basement/ next door/ at the pier. I will say this film succeeds with its extremely likeable cast, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but there is not much new being brought to the table to allow it to stand out. It just seems to be a classic trope of ‘kids’ horror movies… those gateway movies for young horror fans…that is wearing out its welcome.

Honestly that trope was the only thing I didn’t like about the Jack Black Goosebumps film. I just think audiences may have evolved beyond that point.

Anyway, all in all it’s not a hateful bad film, it’s a nicely shot slice of average with a loveable cast from a reliable director.

Score: **

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Format: This film is presented on the disc as both a 3D or a 2D movie, but only the 2D was reviewed as I don’t have the capacity for a 3D viewing at home. The film looks and sound great with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby digital sound, and runs for approximately 92 minutes, which is about the average attention span of an early teen horror fan.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Aftershock, Uninhabited, Larry Crowne and Cane Toads The Conquest, which can also be accessed separately in the extras menu.

In addition to those spectacular trailers though, we also have:

Gateway To Hell: The Making of the Hole which is, well, the making of the the film, The Hole, featuring a whole bunch of interviews with various cats and crew members.

A Peek Inside The Hole looks at the special effects of the film.

Family Matters looks at the relationships between the lead actors and their characters.

The Third Dimension looks at the process of making a 3D film.

The Keeper of the Hole looks at a Bruce Dern’s Creepy Carl character.

Like a lot of extras, all of these featurettes could have been cut together nicely and made a decent 40 minute to an hour ‘making of’ styled thing, rather than a bunch of what feels like worthless little ‘bits’ but I guess more is better, right?

Score: ****

WISIA: The Hole is a cute kids film, but really doesn’t hold up like some of Dante’s other films. I wouldn’t probably watch it again.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

Dead Awake (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Dead Awake (2016)

Film: This film shouted out at me from the shelves of my local store for one reason: how absolutely stupid the title is. I get that throwing the word ‘Dead’ into a title will make most younger (and this older) horror fan stop and check something out, and if it were a term that was actually used in the English language, you know, like Dead End, Dead Stop, Dead Tired, I’d be impressed, but Dead Awake was such a stupid combination I had to check it out.

Then I read the back of the Bluray slick and I find that it’s about sleep paralysis, which is something I find both horrible to think of, and an interesting idea for a horror film, especially when it’s mixed with a little American-styled post-millennial ghost story like Grudge/ Ring/ Darkness Falls/ Boogeyman films that haunted the cinemas in the early 2000s. I’m not really a fan of many films of this period, but for some reason I find I revisit these films occasionally.

This film was written by Jeffrey Reddick, the guy who came up with the concept of the Final Destination movies so it has some positive providence , and directed by Phillip Guzman, who directed A Kiss and a Promise.

When Kate Bowman’s (Jocelyn Donahue) recovering drug-addict sister Beth dies during a sleep paralysis episode, she discovers that perhaps her sister was being haunted by a creature who kills people in their sleep during these episodes.

She meets Beth’s doctor, Dr Davies (Jesse Borego) and at first isn’t convinced of this weird malevolent being bent on killing that he tries to tell her about, until she starts having episodes herself, as does her sister’s boyfriend, Evan (Jesse Bradford… remember Cliff Pantone from Bring It On? THAT guy!).

So Kate and Evan start a trail that starts at a sleep hospital run by Dr. Sykes (Lori Petty) to try and defeat whatever it is that haunts them, but how many people will die along the way, and can this creature, that appears to have existed for centuries, even be destroyed at all?

I really wanted to like this film. The cast are all really well picked, it’s filmed beautifully, the script is ok, but the premise is just so generic.

Dead Awake is a bizarre 80s-nightclub styled megamix of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge and Ring, that is, the male and female lead of Ring versus a dream monster, who moves like the ghost from The Grudge. It’s not that this is a bad film, it’s just been done before by other films that did it far better. Emulating something is fine, but doing so with no point of originality is detrimental to your product.

To provide a metaphor, this film is the nerd who desperately wants to be a cool kid, but ends up being the kid from the Pretty Fly for a White Guy film clip.

Score: **

Format: Dead Awake was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 99 minutes and is presented in a 2.0:1 image and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio, both of which are immaculate.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Revolt, Faults, Eat Local and 13 Sins.unfortunately, that is it for the extras, but those last three films I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for… Revolt, not so much.

Score: *

WISIA: Probably not.

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.

The Forest (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Forest (2016)


Film: I’m no fan of the cinematic ghost story, mainly due to the fact that I don’t believe in ghosts, so unfortunately with no threat, comes no horror.

That’s not to say that stupid jump scares don’t momentarily frighten me, it’s just the idea of impending doom coming from spiritual vengeance holds nothing over me.

My family, however, love a good (or bad) ghost story so I do on occasion find myself stuck in a darkened cinema being insulted by a Paranormal Activity or a Conjuring or one of their kin.

So why did I end up watching something that on the surface has all the hallmarks of a bad western remake of a j-horror classic? Well, that answer can be summed up in two words.

Natalie. Dormer.


Yep. Call me base. Call me sexist, but that is the sole reason why I wanted to see this film. The weird thing is, I haven’t actually seem her in anything else’ I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I never watched the Tudors and the only Hunger Games films I haven’t seen are the final two…which happen to be the ones she’s in!

Heck, I didn’t even know she was from the UK until I heard her real speaking voice in the sole extra on this disc.

I’d only ever seen images of her in magazines or the Internet, and have been fascinated by her half-smirk feline look…they should make her Ben Affleck’s Catwoman in the new DC cinematic universe… So when I saw her name appear as a cast member of a horror film, I decided to give it a go, even though normally I wouldn’t touch something like this with the pointy end of a P.K.E. meter.

Anyway, The Forest tells of Sara (Dormer) who has been informed by the Japanese police that her twin sister Jess (also Dormer) is dead. The police don’t actually have a body, but she went alone into the Aokigahara Forest, which is known for two things: legends of ghosts and demons inhabiting it, and the large amount of suicides that coincidently take place there.

So Sara goes to Japan to search for her sister and quickly learns of the local legends that the forest is haunted by yūrei, demons of the forest. At her hotel, she meets a travel journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who offers to introduce her to a local guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). Michi goes into the forest to look for bodies so he can report them to the police.


The three set off and they find one body, which he makes a note of and then a tent. He informs Sara and Aiden that people who take a tent into the forest are usual not sure about committing suicide, and he acts as somewhat of a councillor to them as well.

Towards the end of the day, the three find Jess’s tent. Sara insists on staying overnight even though Michi insists she doesn’t. Aiden offers to stay with her, but after a while she gets the idea that maybe Aiden had something to do with Jess’s disappearance…

Did he, or are the yūrei, ghosts of the forest, attempting to deceive her… If they even exist, that is…

Unfortunately this film never really stood a chance. The direction is ok, and director Jason Zada has created a wonderfully cold environment. The actors are mostly fine, though not much has been given to Dormer to really differentiate Sara and Jess from each other other than hair dye, and Kinney’s portrayal of Aiden can be somewhat pedestrian at times.

The problem with this film lies in how damned generic it is.

Several years ago, j-horror was huge, and quickly after that, the American’s started remaking every single one of them. Soon the entire horror market was flooded with this sub genre of films where’s blonde female American (usually TV) star would be terrorised by a little black haired ghost girl… Usually set in Japan so the whole stranger-in-a-strange-land alienation angle could be played to its fullest.

I thought those days were gone, but apparently the writers of this film, Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, have decided they are still with us, and every single stereotypical beat made within those films is back with vengeance. Japanese schoolgirls, flickering lights, old white haired Japanese women appearing out of the darkness, the whole nine yards.

It’s for this reason that I just can’t think too highly of this film. I believe you could almost sit down with a checklist of supernatural j-horror impersonator tropes and tick every single one as you watched the film. At no time do I feel like I am seeing a new movie, rather a highlight reel from 10 years ago.

Score: *1/2

Format: The review copy of The Forest was presented on a multi-region Australian release bluray. The image is presented in an amazingly crisp 1.85:1 widescreen with a perfect, and moody DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: *****


Extras: Stupidly, there is only one extra on this disc and that’s something called Exploring the Forest which basically takes everything you want to know about this place, mixes it with the making of the movie and compresses it to barely 7 minutes. The idea of the REAL forest is so fascinating you could have done a 90 minute doco just about that, but no… At least it’s not a stills gallery!

Score: **

WISIA: Like I said before, I’m not really a ghost story fan, and it’s difficult to want to rewatch something that is so generic. Even Dormer can’t help with that!