Marebito

Marebito – 7/10

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Marebito is a surreal, and literate, little film. It’s also really bloody hard to describe.  One’s never quite sure what the true reality of the situation is meant to be. Mythology, science fiction history, mental health – the film touches on a variety of subjects as it explores its narrative.

It’s a movie I should have found irritating in the non-focused way it approaches its ideas, but instead I found things to be quite the opposite. It made me curious as to what the answers were, and the fact that it kept giving me different possibilities actually worked for it instead of against it. So many films will throw out multiple possibilities in an effort to appear clever. This was a film that I genuinely believed to be a bit clever, and to have more than a passing knowledge of the material it was referencing.

It has its nasty moments, but those are less the point than the strangeness of the world the main character inhabits, and our changing ideas as to what is happening and why. I get that it could be cosmic horror, but it could also be a tale of madness, of mythology intruding into the real world, of prophecy…

I can see that it wouldn’t work for some folks, but for me it was intriguing right to the end, and is one I shall certainly rewatch at some point.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.
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Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt – 6/10

I’ve included Witch Hunt in the Cosmic Horror list only because of its relation to Cast a Deadly Spell. Witch Hunt is in no way Cosmic Horror.

Witch Hunt

An indirect sequel to Cast a Deadly Spell, it’s stronger in some ways than the original, but has flaws that can’t help but damage it.

I call it an indirect sequel because, while it has some of the same characters – Private Detective Phillip Lovecraft, and licensed witch Hypolyta Kropotkin – there are a few small changes to Lovecraft’s motivations and the like. But nothing important.

The story is set in the 1950’s, and presents us with a McCarthy-istic Senator hell-bent on ridding America of magic. As with the first film, a lot of fun is had with the ideas and concepts of a world in which magic is an everyday thing which almost everybody uses.

Lovecraft is played by Dennis Hopper, who isn’t quite sure what to do with the role. Hopper talked about the film as being the strangest he had ever done, and at times he looks a little out of place, but still puts in an okay performance, with small highlights here and there.

Except for his voiceover.

Over the years I have heard many people complain about Harrison Ford’s voiceover in Blade Runner, saying it was lacklustre and awful. Personally I never had a problem with it. However Hopper’s narration for Witch Hunt is dreadful. He sounds like he’s reading the world’s most boring book.

Sheryl Lee Ralph does a fabulous job as Hypolita Kropotkin, Lovecraft’s friend and landlord. Penelope Ann Miller is also well cast as Kim Hudson, who hires Lovecraft to look into her husband’s affairs. Eric Bogosian is mostly good as anti-magic Senator Larson Crockett, while Julian Sands is only okay as Finn Macha, mostly due to giving us an Irish accent that is almost indecipherable. Sands’ acting is fine, just hard to appreciate.

Most of the film is quite fun and watchable, but where it really falls down are the resolutions of its main and subplots. It really is going along quite well, building tension, giving us reasonable character motivations, and holding together okay, and then it drops the ball disastrously. Neither ending makes sense or works well, and certainly the resolution to the main plot is so awful as to be nonsensical. The writing there is seriously flawed in its logic, creating a situation that realistically should have made things worse, not better.

However, I wanted to finish on the film’s most positive aspect – its dialogue. There are some fabulous lines peppered throughout the story. Great moments like the actress Kim Hudson telling Lovecraft you’d ‘have to be as dumb as I look,’ not to realise what was going on. Or the couple of times Lovecraft gives a would-be tough guy his comeuppance. Those moments sing. The actors know they have a great line, and usually deliver it beautifully.

There’s a greater use of computer graphics this time around, but they are still used sparingly and to good effect. The direction in general varies. It’s mostly quite good, but there a couple of moments where things aren’t as clear as they should be.

Like Cast a Deadly Spell, it’s a fun watch. Yes, it has some serious flaws that hurt it, but most of the film is enjoyable and is definitely worth a look. I really wish HBO had done more films in the universe.

 

 

 

 

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Cast a Deadly Spell

Cast a Deadly Spell – 8/10

Cast a deadly spell

Sorry for a long absence, was down with a nasty virus, but I’m getting back to normal at long last.

So, Cast A Deadly Spell…

It’s 1948, magic is commonplace, and private detective Phillip Lovecraft is seemingly the only person who not interested in using magic for all manner of things.

The film is as much fun as it sounds. In fact it gets an extra point just for the fact it does have fun with the core concept, whilst staying a reasonable detective story. The only cosmic horror angle here is really some stuff to do with the The Great Old Ones, but who cares? It’s an enjoyable watch.

It also has a solid cast of character actors all doing a great job – Fred Ward, David Warner, Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown – play their parts as they should given the subject matter. And being a made for TV film from the early 90’s, most of the special effects are practical in nature, so while they may not be superbly flashy, they tell the story and never seem out of place because most of what you see is really there.

It’s not a perfect film, but it is enjoyable, and quite watchable.

 

 

 

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

The Beyond

The Beyond – 5/10

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The second of Lucio Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy is… kinda so-so. The things I found to be strengths or at least evocative in his film City of the Living Dead don’t seem to work here. Apparently his was aiming for more of a dreamlike logic to this one, but it actually seems less surreal than the previous film.

There is plenty of gore for the gore fans, albeit 1980s low budget, and mostly to do with hurting eyeballs, though I think that was a conscious choice as sight seems to be important in this one.

Look, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t very good either. It has nifty ideas and some interesting horror moments, but mostly didn’t work for me. Having read a lot about what Fulci was supposedly attempting with this movie it might hold up better on a rewatch, but I’m not sure I could be arsed.

 

 

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Absentia

Absentia – 9/10

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Absentia is a low budget, crowd-funded film that is a fabulous watch. A woman tries to get on with her life after her husband vanished many years before. But he’s not the only one to have vanished in the area.

The film’s low budget works to its advantage. They don’t have the money for copious amounts of special effects and the like, and so it has to rely on story, characters, good lighting and camera work, and careful editing.

While it does have a couple of low-level, but really disturbing, gore moments, it really pulls off its chills by eliciting actual feelings of dread and tension. It’s also the first cosmic horror that I’ve watched with an ending I thought suited the movie and made a kind of sense. I’ll be buying this one.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Cthulhu

Cthulhu – 7/10

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Another Lovecraft adaption/inspired piece, this one plays with the same tropes as Die, Monster, Die! but does a slightly better job of the alienation and paranoia factors. That said, it falls down in other ways.

The thing is, it’s not actually that memorable a film. It’s not bad. I wasn’t bored by it while I was watching, but it doesn’t linger in the mind. Probably the two most memorable scenes are the sex scene and the ending. The sex scene because it’s beautifully shot, the ending because it’s stark and a bit nasty.

There is one other element I have to mention because it stood out so much. There was only one cast member I recognised in this film. That’s not a bad thing by any means, I’m all for little or unknown cast members. But this lady was terrible. The unknowns around her were giving better performances. And every time she cropped up, I’d be thinking two things – God she looks familiar, and bloody hell she’s awful. Fortunately she’s not actually in it very much at all.

Finally I got to the end credits and there was her name… Tori Spelling.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

AM1200

AM1200 – 8/10

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Nicely made and atmospheric short film. It’s kind of hard to say much about the plot without spoiling it, and I generally believe the less you know about a film going in, the better. Certainly if I’d looked at the IMDB synopsis of the plot, I’d have figured out the ending early on.

What I will tell you is it’s well directed, I liked the story, and being a short film means it fills its 40 minutes well. The acting is all good, and it’s well worth your time to check out. There’s a small amount of gore, which is all the more horrifying because it is a small amount. The atmosphere of the movie is such that I found myself constantly on the lookout for things hidden in the dark, or fleetingly glimpsed.

I was originally told the only way to get a copy of this was to download it, and so I did. I’ve since managed to track down the website and will be buying a copy on DVD. It’s well-made enough to have earned my cash, and it’s a film I will enjoy occasionally showing to people.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Die, Monster, Die!

Die, Monster, Die! – 7/10

Die-Poster

It starts off making use of a bunch of ever-popular tropes – the village that won’t talk to strangers about stuff, the menacing old house that doesn’t welcome visitors, an odd past, secrets, people disappearing or going mad… and the film handles all these things well. It’s weird, creepy, forced, and over-the-top in all the right ways.

On top of that, most of the performances are good, the sets are lovely, the direction fair, and while slow, it keeps one interested. There are also some lovely effects in the greenhouse scene later in the film. Most of the film’s chills and scares come from its over all creepiness.

I say most because it all comes tumbling down in the last third. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a “cursed family” movie, a “science gone wrong,” one, or what. And just when it decides it wants to rationalise everything is right when the things that happen within the film cease to make much sense.

The movie also makes the decision that building a creepy atmosphere is no longer good enough, time to break out the cheap jump-scares that are there for no other purpose. It does know that it has “monster” right there in the title, so it better give us one, no matter how nonsensical the reasons why.

It’s a variable adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space, and definitely worth a look, just keep expectations low so when the ending comes along you’re prepared for the drop in story-telling.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Intruders

Intruders – 7/10

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This is a film made or broken by its ending. If you like or accept the conceit, the film will hold up better than if you don’t.

It’s certainly weird and creepy, with some great moments and concepts. Basic idea is two children in different countries visited by a strange and scary creature. To say more is to spoil the film.

In the end, I think it took the less interesting option with the storytelling, which is a shame because there’s some really great ideas in it. I do think it’s a worthwhile film to see, but your mileage may vary.

At some point I may do a follow up post full of spoilers talking about how it failed to use some of its more interesting ideas.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Rare Exports – A Christmas Story

Rare Exports – A Christmas Story – 8/10

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Went for one of the creepier posters for this one.

 

This one is less cosmic horror and more a mildly humourous semi-Lovecraftian take on Father Christmas. Essentially it’s “What if Santa was an Great Old One?” It’s entertaining and clever, and it plays with its ideas in a couple of unexpected ways.

Not overly horrific, it aims more for being odd and strange. Probably the most haunting image in the film is that of a naked, scrawny old bearded man. With no effects work and little more than stillness and nice direction, some moments with him are really creepy.

Over all, not very cosmic, but with a little nasty horror and some not too over the top humour, it’s a great watch. Can’t wait until my kids are old enough to see this dark, strange Christmas movie.

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For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.