No matter what you think of “The Evil Dead,” every indie filmmaker wants to have their own version of the Sam Raimi classic. At this point you could compile a sub-genre out of movies involving cabin in the woods demon movies. There was even an actual remake, foreign wannabes like the charming “Wither,” and yes, even a movie called “Cabin in the Woods.” Director Alexander Babaev really wants us to know that he was inspired by “The Evil Dead” and even works hard to convince us we’re watching a successor–sans the tree rape, of course. “The Evil Dead” still maintains its glossy appeal and inherent terror, while “The Bornless Ones” is merely a fine attempt with some admirable ambition behind it. The cabin in the woods this time preys on the weakness of the characters, exploiting their fears and insecurities, allowing them to possess them.
It’s a shame that people still think there’s some horror fodder to be mined from worry dolls, because so far I’m not seeing it. “The Devil’s Dolls” plays out like a gory TV movie, or an extended episode of some supernatural series. There are a lot of bland characters trying to stop what is a pretty convoluted and goofy plot device involving a murderer and evil dolls. Director Padraig Reynolds’ film isn’t a complete misfire as it achieves some level of eeriness in some instances. I really do like how our characters look when they’re possessed by evil worry dolls that turn them in to psychopathic maniacs, but that’s lost in a haze of pretty mediocre melodrama and a hazy sub-plot about voodoo.
The 1978 TV movie “Dr. Strange” is one of the many failed pilots for a potential series based on a Marvel comic. This is yet another of the many seventies pilot movies that didn’t just misunderstand the source material, but didn’t have enough of a budget to realize the concept of its characters. Dr. Strange is a man who battles demons and monsters, and uses his will to use magic. “Dr. Strange” looks like a supernatural version of “Quincy M.E,” following a Dr. Stephen Strange as he focuses his efforts on troubled patients in his hospital while accidentally entering in to the magical arts. The movie even goes so far as setting up the entire series with the beautiful Jessica Walter as the series’ primary antagonist, but the storyline is a big hint at a sequel that would never come. It’s probably a good thing since the pilot movie is ninety minutes and we only get to see Dr. Strange in full garb in the final half hour.
It’s very rare that short horror films leave me wanting more once the credits have rolled, but “The Cleansing Hour” pulls off a short but eerie tale about possession gone wrong. Damien LeVeck’s short film feels like an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” where the characters get exactly what is coming to them when they dare to dabble in the supernatural as a means of deception. Lance and Drew are two failed filmmakers that have managed to storm the web with their webcast that streams live exorcisms to the public.
Robert Eggers’ debut “The Witch” is a marvelous and absolutely mesmerizing film. It’s not just an incredible horror film, but a fantastic examination of how a family basically tears itself from inside out due to ideas of resentment, sexual repression, and pure isolation. Not many directors debut with a bang, but “The Witch” is a slow burn horror film that begins with the fuse burning and burning until Eggers delivers something of a humongous explosion that will leave audiences speechless. Eggers sets his film on 17th Century New England, where a patriarch of a small family named William is threatened with banishment by a puritanical plantation with his wife, daughter Thomasin, younger son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas. Vowing to free himself of the puritanical village, William builds a secluded farm at the edge of the woods, swearing to thrive with his family at his side.
Father Malachi Martin is fighting for the soul of those who have been possessed. In his battle, he encounters fake and real cases. One of the latter is the one of a young girl he truly believes is possessed. Hostage to the Devil tells the life story of Father Malachi Martin through interviews and videos of his work. Written by Rachel Lysaght and Marty Stalker with Stalker also directing, the film has a very even style with the interviews all shot about the same and the way they are shown with straight on interview style and overlays on photos and images gives the film a very straight forward feel.
Playing October 29th in a double screening with “Demons,” at the Anthology Film Archives, NYC [Tel: (212) 505-5181]. “Demons 2” star Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni is set to appear and present both films. Check theater times and ticket prices here.
Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento bring us quite an interesting universe where all elements of their narrative and concept tend to transcend reality and common sense and the realities kind of intercept one another. In either case, “Demons 2” much like the original, is a film where you basically buckle up and take the ride without picking apart too much of the ideas. When dissected nothing makes much sense, but it’s at least a fun tour through some genuinely fun shocks and creative moments of horror cinema. Unlike the first film, “Demons 2” lacks the novelty of the movie theater setting. Wherein the original had demonic forces infiltrating a safe haven for movie lovers, director Bava and producer-writer Dario Argento confine their victims to a locked down apartment complex.
“The Granny” is the definition of late night cable movie fodder. I saw it twenty years ago very late at night on cable television here in America, and it kind of burned itself in to my brain ever since. Granted, it’s not a masterpiece of horror comedy; in fact it’s so furiously stupid and ridiculous, it’s a film that’ll inspire more eye rolls than laughter. It’s at least worthy of one viewing for folks that enjoy pain with their cinema, though, and years later it’s about as silly as I remember. Star Stella Stevens chews the scenery, adjoining buildings and most of the wildlife up with her role as Granny, a bitter and angry old woman who lives in immense wealth. Unfortunately she was cursed with a vile and greedy family, all of whom are obsessed with counting the days until she finally dies leaving her fortune to them.