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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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

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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.

Possession (minor spoilers)

Possession – 8/10

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Some people will see this film and think it’s an amazing piece of cinema. Some will see it and find it dreadful. Both views are correct.

Depending on my mood when I saw Possession, I could find it falling anywhere between those two extremes. It’s… a difficult one. People throw around the term ‘mindfuck’ for films with clever twists or disturbing ideas – I think I will now ask anyone using the term how those films stack up against Possession, because I’ve seen few films as psychologically gruelling as this one.

Most of the characters in the film are unlikeable and strange. This is something I’ve complained about in other movies and yet here it is also kind of the point. Early in the film we get to watch to odd, troubled, and unsympathetic characters as their marriage disintegrates horribly. It’s awful in all the ways it should be and a very uncomfortable watch.

From there it spirals into madness. Hard to tell if it’s the film-maker’s or the characters’ or the breakdown of the universe. Despite the title, you’re (probably) watching allegory.

Full credit has to go to Isabelle Adjani for playing her part as the disturbed, and disturbing Anna, with such unflinching, unwavering, mania. There are long, long sequences where she will act out what must have been a truly exhausting scene, physically and emotionally, without the camera ever cutting away. The scene in the subway quickly gets past uncomfortable, moves on to gruelling, and keeps on going way beyond that. She won awards for this and other films, and I’m not surprised. She’s an amazing actress.

Sam Neill does a solid job too, as Mark, who spends much of his time broken and unlikeable. His mood and attitudes vary, but you’re never completely on his side even when his wife is cruel to him.

Credit too must go to writer/director Andrzej Zulawski for filming long unbroken takes which give things a visceral quality. It’s a bit like watching a car crash, you can’t tear your eyes away as events unfold infront of you in terrible and unexpected ways.

One of the things I like about it is that it doesn’t give you any answers. You can’t tell if it’s real, if the film is from the point of view of the madness of its characters, or all shot in Symbolism-Vision. It’s a film that more than earns its right to be called a mindfuck movie, and depending on your mood you’ll hate it or appreciate it, but you probably won’t like it. I’ve seen several reviews by people who said they felt violated by the movie. It’s a strong term to use, but I can see exactly where they are coming from.

It’s not a nice film, and it will likely stay with you. I could easily have given it anywhere between 9/10 or 6/10, in the end I settled on 8 because that’s what I feel at the time of writing. Ask me again tomorrow, it will probably get a different score.

I never want to see it again, and yet I will probably buy a copy because it truly is an amazing piece of cinema that, when I feel strong enough, I will certainly want to revisit.

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