Taghorror

Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween: B+

This review is maybe a bit of a placeholder; I did not take notes during the movie and I’d like to come back to it when I can find some better data on who directed what. For now, I will note that this was a totally fun horror anthology with ten segments. They’re very loosely linked insofar as they all take place in one town during Halloween. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a place you’d want to live. Neil Marshall’s closing segment ties together some of the other bits, but otherwise they’re just related by theme and locale.

If I had to bet, I’d say one of the thematic elements the creators decided to work with was revenge. There’s a lot of that going on. Also trick or treating, which is kind of a gimmie for Halloween. Also gore — this is probably going to win my personal Best Gore award for Fantasia — but that’s just because it’s a total love letter to 80s horror.

Which, let me tell you, this movie wears its heart on its sleeve. Lots of horror character actors you’ll recognize, a couple of even more amusing cameos, and so on. The Neil Marshall segment plays like a John Carpenter tribute in the most loving of ways.

I think this will roll into theaters around Halloween this year and if you like gory horror you should see it.

Anguish

Anguish: A

Sonny Mallhi’s Anguish was excellent. There’s a teenage girl, Tess, with serious mental issues. Her mom is raising her alone while her dad is serving overseas. The question in this taut rural gothic is pretty simple: mental issues, or more?

The movie reaches a conclusion on that one but the journey is good enough not to spoil. In fact, I want to see it again soon for the sake of one relevant cinematographic decision that Susan pointed out to me. It’s not perfect. There’s a subplot that distracts from the main narrative and I think ultimately casts a bit of unnecessary confusion on various motivations, but the movie is strong enough so that it doesn’t detract significantly.

Without a really spectacular performance by Ryan Simpkins as Tess, the movie wouldn’t have had much of a center. She’s got a really tough job playing a quiet, conflict-adverse teenager. Tess hides behind thick hair and silence; Simpkins reveals with her eyes and reactions. The whole cast is strong, but Simpkins is amazing.

I also thought the realist indie aesthetic was great. It’s filmed like one of those documentaries about the death of the heartland, all long shots of cars and pickup trucks and close shots of people struggling with debt and each other cialis per nachnahme. When Mallhi permits himself a horror jump scare, it’s way more effective because of the realist aesthetic.

Definitely worth seeking out if/when it hits theaters.

Jeruzalem

Jeruzalem: D.

This was a lot of wasted potential. You’ve got a promising if somewhat goofy presence — American backpackers trapped in Jerusalem during the apocalypse. The found footage twist is pretty good: everything’s being filmed on Google Glass by Sarah, our viewpoint character. It’s a nice way to explain why she doesn’t just drop the camera and run away, plus the Paz brothers added some really clever moments around facial recognition and other wearable features.

Unfortunately the acting was really, really bad. I’m not going to pick on anyone in particular, because everyone was fairly wooden. If you’re doing helpless Americans abroad, you’ve got to have sympathetic characters and none of the main foursome was up to that task.

The writing didn’t help. Towards the beginning of the movie there’s an excellent chase scene which uses the Glass conceit to full advantage. You get disoriented right along with Sarah as she runs, you get a real feel for her lack of perspective, and it’s easy to understand how she gets lost in the warren of back alleys. Excellent stuff. It’s undermined by the ceaseless repetition of “hey, stop, hey, you, stop, hey, come back, hey, stop!” It’s as if the filmmakers were afraid of silence.

I could go on. The prelude, which is not presented as found footage, winds up being played for Sarah later. So if you’re going to present it within the found footage context anyway, why start the movie outside the frame? Hold it for later, don’t repeat it, and as a bonus you get to save your demon reveal rather than giving it up in the first five minutes.

Whoops, I went on. Done now. Don’t watch this on cable if you happen to trip over it some day.

Twenty Palaces

I just read the debut novel from Harry Connolly, Child of Fire. It’s urban fantasy/horror with a crime fiction feel: if you’ve ever read a book where a couple of investigators roll into a small town and clean up some corruption for their own reasons, you know the approach. There’s an excerpt available.

I’ll give it a solid B. The plot gets a bit complex in the middle; I think I counted at least four distinct factions in the town, which is sort of a lot. The writing’s good, the protagonists are reasonably interesting, and the world’s good. You can tell it’s designed as a series, with lots of back references to origin stories. There are rules about how magic works.

I like the idea of a secret society — the Twenty Palaces — which ruthlessly eradicates magic. I like the source of magic. Connolly writes good creepy modern monsters. I read someone calling him Lovecraftian, but that’s wrong: he’s mining the same post-modern horror vein as Esoterrorists. The scene where he confronts the source of the town’s problems is pretty darned good.

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