possession

All posts tagged possession

Annabelle: Play Date From Hell

Published October 14, 2014 by rmpixie

annabelle

Annabelle (2014, 1 hr, 38 mins)

Remember that creepy doll from The Conjuring?  The one based on the real Annabelle ragdoll paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren kept (and still keep) behind glass because she was so supernaturally dangerous?  Well her story is finally here, presented as a prequel to the wildly successful possession film about a family plagued by angry spirits.

Annabelle starts out with the seemingly normal life of a normal couple John (Ward Horton) and Mia Gordon (Annabelle Wallis) a year before the Perron family experience their nightmare.  Happy and expecting their first child, they are god-fearing, wholesome and sweet, and John has a bright if not stressful future as a doctor.  One evening, after a mild spat, John presents Mia with one of the ugliest and creepiest dolls you will ever see to complete her rare, ugly and creepy doll collection in their baby’s nursery.  After a home invasion where murderous cult members attack John and Mia, a series of chilling events escalate into a battle between good, evil and innocent souls.

I think I am the only person who enjoyed this movie.  After reading countless reviews slamming this film, I am going out on a limb to say that this is a solid prequel. The Conjuring is a hard act to follow, so to put that much expectation on a second film is a little unfair, especially when the writer, Gary Dauberman, is creating an entire background for the doll instead of picking and choosing from factual accounts found in The Conjuring.  I wonder if it’s younger reviewers who don’t like the old school references and low-fi horror?  Or maybe I am becoming senile?  I personally appreciated the nods to classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, from the protagonists names honouring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, to the somewhat gloomy apartment they move to, and the archetypical priest, but maybe I am too simple in my tastes?  Who knows.  You may also notice lead actress Wallis’ first name Annabelle is a weird coincidence, and her uncanny resemblance to Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski’s late wife who was tragically murdered by Charles Manson and his followers while she was pregnant.  It is a clever mix of casting, historical events, and writing that perpetuates a feel and style of vintage horror that doesn’t become campy or tongue-in-cheek.  This is due in part to the great sets and wardrobe, and minimal but seamless special effects to respect the classic forerunners.

Low tech doesn’t mean the film wasn’t scary though.  I enjoyed the jump scares and really dark, chilling scenes that will be nightmare fodder for years to come.  There are also a couple of old school household accidents involving a sewing machine and Jiffy Pop that I was constantly warned about as a kid.  And that doll?  Annabelle’s design, created by special fx artist Tony Rosen, was absolutely hair-raising.   As the evil grew within, her already disturbing face became more hideous in the most subtle but spine-tingling way.  Her lack of movement was also key in this film.  They didn’t cheapen the terror by making her walk around or move a limb.  It created a fantastically sickening anticipation and authentic fear.  I think a lot of people will wonder why these dolls in general were so ugly, but we have to remember the aesthetics of the time.  Creepy looking dolls were a thing back then.  I know because I had a 3 foot Wendy Walker doll that freaked me out a little as a child, in fact, I bet we all had that one doll or toy we had to turn away in order to fall asleep.

The performances were good and almost reminiscent of the vintage General Hospital episodes that Mia watched.  Again, not campy, but understated to mimic the wholesome values of the times, although the motherhood message was a little overdone.  I really enjoyed Evelyn, played by the ageless Alfre Woodard, the book store owner that befriends and eventually helps Mia.  I am so grateful that she wasn’t a stereotype of what Hollywood would paint an African-American woman to be in the late 60’s (whatever that is!).  Her character was a grieving mother who felt a kinship with Mia, and this role could have been played by anyone.  Kudos to the casting team and producers for choosing a woman of colour.  My only issue with the film is the introduction of some children in Mia’s building.  I wished they would have explored their characters.  Also look out for my favourite demon/composer Joseph Bishara, the go-to for the James Wan team of terror, who is always terrifying.

I will state again, at the risk of having popcorn or a shoe thrown at me, that I liked Annabelle.  I might be alone in my enjoyment, but I think it’s good for younger horror fans who haven’t experienced the classics yet, and great for us oldies who love a good throwback that pays homage to well-made vintage horror.

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Deliver Us From Evil: God Cop, Bad Cop

Published July 8, 2014 by rmpixie

deliverusfromevil

Deliver Us From Evil (2014, 1 hr 58 mins)

Scott Derrickson, director of one of the most eerie and disturbing possession films around, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the shocking Sinister, has come out with another good vs. evil story.  Deliver Us From Evil is loosely based on the experiences and book written by real life police officer, Ralph Sarchie, and his battle against demonic forces that run amok in the Bronx.  As far-fetched as it sounds, Sarchie, now retired from the police force, spends his time as a demonologist and assists with exorcisms to this day.  The film was an interesting ride with some highs, lows and a surprisingly great demonic performance.

Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a seasoned cop in the 46th Precinct in the South Bronx.  His partner Butler (Joel McHale) provides snappy and snarky rapport as they investigate unusual crimes  that start out in a dark and spooky Bronx Zoo, and the evidence leads to weirder and more supernatural clues as Sarchie searches for answers.  He tumbles down the rabbit hole after he finds some ex-military types running rampant (and possessed) as they bite and snarl their way around town.  Add his disenchantment with God, a fractured family life, a gorgeous Jesuit priest, and The Doors, and you have a cop drama/family drama/horror movie mashup that keeps you guessing who will jump on the Devil’s bandwagon next.

I had been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I heard the chatter about it in 2012.  The working title then was Beware the Night, the same title as Sarchie’s book, and I had high hopes for it, since I love me a good possession film and I have become a fan of Derrickson’s.  I actually liked the finished product a lot.  Despite being visually dark as many of the scenes took place at night and in the rain, that only added to the suspense and uncertainty.  It let the viewers react along with the characters as the action happened; literally shedding light only on what they saw and not foreshadowing too much.  It also illustrated Sarchie’s journey: lost in his own personal limbo and his redemption.   I did have an issue with the pacing (a touch slow at times) and Sarchie’s unexplained disdain for cats; and some of McHale’s comedic relief was unwarranted, but the second half of the film made up for it all and it was an interesting take on possession with a true story background.

And can we talk about that Jesuit priest, Mendoza, played by Zero Dark Thirty’s Edgar Ramirez?  Can we please?  How gorgeous was he?!  Those perfectly tousled curls, those riveting eyes…it’s just wrong to make him a priest!  Seriously though, Ramirez did a great job as the tarnished man of the cloth, conveying a world-weariness that played well alongside Bana’s lost faith as Mendoza became an unlikely partner.  But the most memorable performance came from Sean Harris, who played the possessed soldier Santino.  Filled with brimstone and menace, his slim build took up space as he terrorized Sarchie’s family and colleagues.  His makeup was brilliant too.  Hats off to the fx department for a creepy and gruesome concept and look for Santino’s character.

To sum it up, Derrickson takes the devil and puts him in a gritty film noir-like police drama.  Emily Rose this ain’t, but check out Deliver Us From Evil for one of the creepiest toys ever, a good-looking cast and some good jump scares.  Definitely worth a watch if you are trolling for some summer horror!

 

 

Stinkers I Have Known Vol. 1

Published May 7, 2014 by rmpixie

I don’t usually like to trash films, as I have worked on a few film sets in my day, seeing the blood, sweat and tears that go into a production regardless of how bad the script, acting or sets were.  What is tragic is the hype associated with not-so-great films or a stellar performance in an otherwise terrible movie.  I have come across many in horror movie land, and can stay silent no longer, so pinch yer noses and hold yer breath because here are just a few to hold at arm’s length:

 

i am bad

I Am Bad (2012, 1 hr, 24 mins)

Well where do I start?  Taking a page from the brilliant and horrifically gruesome Maniac (2012), we are subjected to a shoddy version of the P.O.V. serial killer film.  This fella grew up with an abusive, nut job of a mother who only wanted him to be happy.  She is unfortunately hit by a car when she chases him out into traffic after an argument.  Her dying wish?  “You better be happy or mommy will hate you!”  With that to fuel him through his formative years, this guy (who remains nameless and virtually unseen throughout the film-and that’s probably for the best if he wants to work again) goes on a killing spree starting with his absentee father, a teenage girlfriend and countless other unsuspecting victims.  He finally decides to get help from a psychiatrist that his mother ironically recommended when he was a child, but the good doctor dies. This leaves his attractive assistant and PhD student, Anne, out of a job and apparently in need of a friend, which our serial killer is more than ready to be for her.  In fact, he falls in love with her and struggles with killing, which makes him happy, and not killing Anne, who makes him happy.

I was attracted to this film because the love interest was an African-American woman and hoped it would be an interesting take on the serial killer genre.  Boy was I wrong.  So what can I say about it? That it was a bad rip-off of an already classic slasher film?  That it was unsuccessful as a tongue-in-cheek comedy?  That the acting was substandard?  That the story had so many holes in it I expected moths to be flitting around?  And explain to me the cameo appearance from 80’s singer Taylor Dayne please, because I am puzzled by it.  The only redeeming aspect of this movie was Anne played by Caprice Crawford, a beautiful African-American actor based in Germany for some time.   Aside from Crawford’s engaging performance, and Jessica Makinson who played Tasha, a hilarious love interest for the killer, this movie was a stinker.  You have been warned.  As per the title, it is bad.

 

the quiet ones

The Quiet Ones (2014, 1 hr, 38 mins)

I went to see this movie with high hopes.  Some real life paranormal experiments, conducted in my home town Toronto circa 1972, was reworked into the story of a professor determined to prove Jane, a frail young woman, is suffering from mental illness instead of possession and to cure all occurrences of the supernatural.

Great premise.  Great actors, including a maniacal, riveting performance by Jared Harris as Professor Joseph Coupland, the ring leader of the whole gig.  Only problem was the story itself meandered through some salacious affairs and plodding scenes with Jane played by Bates Motel‘s  Olivia Cooke and the naive cameraman Brian played by The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin.  I really wanted to like this film too because I love me a Hammer film and I’m glad the studio is being revived.  There were some good jump scares that kept popping up until they started to become predictable, and some of the effects were good, but as a whole, it really put me off as I was expecting more scares, more plot and, well, just more.  If you read about the real story of the Canadian parapsychologists (which would have made a much better movie), this film is nowhere near the original experiments.  And if you miss the opening credits, you miss a good chunk of the story.  The Quiet Ones should just stay mum since this big budget stinker gets a mere “meh” from me.

 

nurse 3d

Nurse 3-D (2013, 1 hr, 24 mins)

This rambling film brings us a very enticing nurse Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta), who is bent on bloody, gory revenge on men who cheat.  She also wants to control young nurse Danni (Katrina Bowden), who she is mentoring/obsessing over and who also becomes a threat when she finds out what Abby is up to.  These two tasks collide in a crazy, murderous plot filled with camp, blood and lots of Abby sashaying around town in some really hot outfits or in the nude.

I loved that Paz de la Huerta  played the psychotic Abby.  She is a unique actor with interesting range, and was cast really well in this film.  Not to mention the fact that a lot straight men out there would keel over watching her in various states of undress.  I just got tired of her sleepy Betty Boop voice.  The rest of the cast was really interesting too, with Kathleen Turner in a cameo alongside B-movie king Judd Nelson, Boris Kodjoe, the always fun Niecy Nash and Michael Ekland whom I love.  The problem was the script which missed the mark trying to meld a pulp fiction/drive-in/campy slasher type storyline.  As a result, the film became too convoluted to gain any momentum and to keep a proper pace.  And that sucks, because I think Nurse 3-D had real potential as a sexy slasher flick.  To sum this stinker up, if you are a straight dude with a penchant for Playboy, this movie is definitely a work of art.  If you are a gal like me, who is pretty tolerant of weird stuff on film, this gets a resounding P.U.!  And there is a rumor that a sequel is in the works.  Guess the defibrillator is going to get a workout if it becomes a franchise!

You can breathe easy now, because my list is short and sweet.  I want to believe that at some point, these films will become a late night favourite, or part of some film festival honouring movies that are so bad that they are good (ugh!).  At any rate, someone somewhere is going to love one of the above stinkers, and I think that’s o.k because nobody’s perfect.  To each his own, but I got me some standards.  If you have seen some recent time wasters, please let me know.  I may check them out when I feel like punishing myself!  Until next time dear reader, until next time…

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