Kairo/Pulse (2001)

Kyoshi Kurosawa’s “Kairo” is a film dripping in terror that deliberately paces itself as a slow burning end of the world tale. Rather than an all out orgy of gore and carnage, “Pulse” eventually explodes in to something of a last gasp of humanity, and a civilization that ends in a whisper and somber whimper. “Kairo” is written as something of a two act structure where Kurosawa opts for a film that’s episode in the vein of “Pulp Fiction,” and then smashes together in the stunning climax. Much of what we see seems and feels random in many places, and events collide allowing for a cogent unfolding of events that doesn’t just make sense but feels so meticulously planned from square one. What makes “Kairo” so haunting even when the credits have drawn to a close is the way the director opts less for splatter and gore, and more for a requiem that depicts mankind as a stain and nothing more.

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Bloodlands (2017) [FrightFest Glasgow 2017]

An Albanian family with inner turmoil finds itself in the middle of a “blood feud” following a clan reputed to be connected to a mountain witch steals from their business.

Written and directed by Steven Kastrissios, Bloodlands’ story is based in the folklore and traditions of the Balkans with a blood feud creating most of the stress to the characters and conflicts. The film develops as a drama for most of its run time with a few bits and pieces rooted in the horror genre until the epilogue which falls directly and completely in the horror genre. His characters feel rooted in reality while going through hell and back. The family is not perfect, they have issues, they argues, they seem to only by together because they have to or because society says they should at times, which all leads to feeling like a lot of dysfunctional families out there and makes the characters feel real. The father is strong headed while the mother is a gossiper who gets a lot of crap for it. Their kids show interest in leaving their country or at least area which is something most teens/young adults go through. The film shows this family in a true light, with their issues, loving each other warts and all. This family is the root of the film and basically the root of the story in every way possible.

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Channel Zero (2015)

John Nicol’s “Channel Zero” is an unusual but ambitious film that will inspire a lot of avid movie lovers to check out more than once. It’s packed with some heavy ideas and unique themes about reality, and the state of existence, all in the face of what is a pretty vicious prologue and epilogue. Director Nicol has a very striking directorial style that makes “Channel Zero” feel like an absolute nightmare. And though the movie is considerably low budget, director Nicol manages to evoke a world that feels very empty and barren. It’s not very easy to do, especially with independent filmmakers, but director Nicol is able to accomplish that task.

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Don’t Knock Twice (2017)

A young mother who gave up her daughter up during a troubled period is trying to reconnect with her years later.  As they try to repair their estranged and strained relationship, they become plagued by the legendary Baba Yaga witch. Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler and directed by Caradog W. James, the film takes a folk tale that originated in Old Russia and brings it to the UK and modernizes it.  Together they create a horror film that will scare the uninitiated but may not do much for hardcore horror fans.  There are a few well directed and developed scares that should work for all however.  These happen in an environment built around the strained, but attempting to be rekindled, mother-daughter relationship.

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Blair Witch (2016)

It’s just such a travesty that Adam Wingard’s shot at the “Blair Witch” mythology flopped and has been generally derided by fans alike. I, for one, completely loved “Blair Witch,” not only for being such a unique and terrifying experience, but for the respect Adam Wingard has for the mythology. Even if you never bothered to watch those documentaries about Burkittsville, director Wingard brings everything full circle, including nods to the documentaries, the much derided sequel, and the original film. It’s a legacy sequel, but one that also acts as an impromptu book end to the whole series. After this I don’t know when we’ll ever see anything about the Blair Witch ever again, but it’s a great consolation the series goes out on this note.

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Chasse-Galerie La Légende (2016)

La Chasse-Galerie, or the Flying Canoe (aka The Bewitched Canoe) is a well-known legend from Québec about a group of travelers making a deal with the devil to get home.  In this cinematic version of it set in 1863, a group of men travelling home are slowed down by a snow storm.  After they request help, the devil gives them a flying canoe to take them home but with some conditions that come with harsh punishment if not followed.  After one of them cheats the devil, vengeance is taken on his descendant 25 years later.

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Black Christmas (1974): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

It’s about time the world has caught up with “Black Christmas” and (thanks to Shout!) given it the proper treatment it’s always deserved. What is arguably one of the first slasher films ever made was always out of print and hard to find while “Halloween” was granted various editions of VHS, and DVD. While “Halloween” is a masterpiece, “Black Christmas” is far more superior. It works as a slasher film, a mystery, a dark comedy, and is genuinely spine tingling in a movie draped in Christmas ephemera. It’s surprising since the tone for “Black Christmas” is almost the same tone from his other Christmas classic “A Christmas Story.” Yet director Bob Clark really never misses a beat, offering up a very scary tale about an inexplicable maniac wreaking havoc on a small neighborhood during the holidays.

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