Archive for the Horror Category

Oculus

Posted in Horror with tags on April 9, 2014 by Mark Hobin

Oculus  photo starrating-4stars.jpgThe words ‘intelligent’ and ‘horror’ don’t follow one another too often but Oculus is the rare example where they do. Oculus concerns two siblings returning to face the torment of their youth. Kaylie and her younger brother Tim are now adults with a dark past. Their parents were murdered, the mysterious details of which are best left unexplained. They make a vow as children to validate the real reason behind their parent’s death. Kaylie has a theory that involves an antique mirror – an ornate heirloom with a miserable history dating back 4 centuries.  She affirms the mirror houses a supernatural force responsible for 45 deaths affecting the previous owners. Tim, whose recollection has been corrupted over time, is skeptical of Kaylie’s outlook. The narrative documents her endeavor to prove the mirror is evil through an elaborate test to document the power of the malevolent object.

The success of any horror picture is reliant on the believability of the actors. They must behave as if they are genuinely in danger and then we have to actually care that they are in peril. Let me say, Kaylie, as played by Karen Gillan, is the MVP of this story.  She not only registers credibly and resourcefulness, but she is appealing. Early on she explains the history of the mirror to her brother in an expository scene that is obviously meant to bring the audience up to speed at the same time. She commands the screen with her charisma. Her brother (Brenton Thwaites) is also likable. Their younger selves are portrayed by exceptional young actors Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan. Regardless of which timeline we’re in, the characters remain admirable. We presume these siblings like each other because they show respect.  We sympathize with them and worry for their safety. This is rarely the case in horror as of late. Their propriety is such an anomaly that they don’t quite register as American teens, at least not in the way they are usually depicted in this genre. Surprise! Karen Gillan is Scottish. Brenton Thwaites is Australian.  Although you’d never guess. Their accents are flawless.

Oculus is a character driven story shrewdly written and beautifully acted. It’s nice to bask in the sophistication of an intelligently written screenplay that doesn’t depend on jump scares. In fact it’s not really about shocks at all. Rest assured there are some frightful scenes, but the drama is more eerie mystery than horror. That suits this reviewer just fine. As the climax comes to a head, there’s an ambiguous blending between events back when they were growing up and their current identity.  The editing brilliantly parallels past and present. As appearances gets more confusing, we question whether we can actually trust what we are seeing. Is our perception accurate or is it a hallucination? Oculus has technique that aspires to the same rarified cinematic air as films like The Innocents, The Shining and Poltergeist. Perhaps it is more content to sample from those sophisticated influences than create an innovate style of its own. I won’t fault it for the homage. Virtually all horror movies rely on well worn tropes. What makes Oculus something to be admired, is that the presentation has the good sense to appropriate from the best. It’s the most elegantly told supernatural movie of the last few years.

Escape from Tomorrow

Posted in Drama, Fantasy, Horror on October 14, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Escape from Tomorrow photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgThe last day of a family’s vacation at Walt Disney World goes from horrible to worse. Things get off to a bad start when the father gets a call from his boss that he has been fired. He keeps the news to himself not wanting to spoil their trip. But while on the rides he begins seeing the animatronic faces frowning at him. Then his son gets sick after he takes him on Space Mountain. This leads to a fight with his wife. His only relief from his misery are the sight of two pretty young French girls that he trails throughout the park.

At the very least, Escape from Tomorrow is a triumph of guerrilla filmmaking. Since The Walt Disney Company is fiercely protective of their “intellectual property” director Randy Moore shot the movie on the sly, clandestine style. That means his crew did not obtain permits or permission to film. He shot with hand-held cameras commonly used by visitors and tiny digital audio recorders to capture sound. Given the restrictive environment, the production is an absolute marvel of inventiveness. Many scenes are clearly shot at the complex in full view with real patrons in the background. Perhaps to get around copyright laws, no official Disney music from the park is used. This actually strengthens the sinister atmosphere. Weird, alternate music is substituted that give the attractions an ominous quality. At times the director uses green screens with venue locations for the backdrop of extended takes. The effect gives the picture an almost surreal, hyperrealistic quality. Black and white cinematography also adds to the simulation.

Escape from Tomorrow sounds like an interesting curiosity and it is. Unfortunately the back-story of how the picture was created is more fascinating than the film itself. The problem is this fantasy really doesn’t go anywhere interesting. The downward spiral of the tale is sort of a hallucinogenic head trip – but it’s incoherent. There’s a buried subtle critique that even Disney World’s sunny happy facade can’t mask true depression. But this has more to do with negativity in this family’s life than a comment on the actual merits of the park itself. For most of the drama I was intrigued where the chronicle would go. Then the movie takes a particularly nasty turn 10 min from the end that dares the audience to keep watching. It devolves into a scatological creepshow. Shame because with some judicious editing and more intellectual mindset, this could’ve been a perceptive commentary on the artificiality of the happiest place on earth. After screening at the Sundance Film Festival, there was some speculation that future audiences would never see Escape from Tomorrow because of legal difficulties. The work most likely falls under the fair-use doctrine as parody and therefore not subject to copyright law. Whatever the reason, Disney has decided to ignore the production so as not to bring more attention to it. You should probably do the same.

Insidious: Chapter 2

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags on September 15, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Insidious: Chapter 2 photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgLet me start by saying that Insidious Chapter 2 isn’t debased by the torture-porn muck of graphic gore and violence. It still attempts to scare through an eerie mood. For that, I applaud it. However, that is the last positive thing I will say about this movie.

Insidious Chapter 2 assumes you’ve seen the first entry. The chronicle picks up right where the previous one ended without explanation. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are back as the parents, along with Ty Simpkins as their son who sees dead people. It’s nice to see characters we remember, but the workaday script doesn’t take the time to imbue any of them with a personality. These people are ciphers. They aren’t interesting individuals anymore, just bodies reading lines to advance an impenetrable plot.

From a narrative standpoint, Insidious Chapter 2 makes the mistake of thinking we required additional explication to the first film. Insidious was an effective chiller with a refreshingly simple plot. In contrast, Chapter 2 is unnecessarily complicated. Apparently Josh (Patrick Wilson), the father in the first film had a history with seeing an evil spirit as a child too. In that respect, Insidious Chapter 2 is structured very much like the Paranormal Activity pictures with embellishments that complicate the basic plot. Not unexpected since Oren Peli produced both. Apparently there’s a valid reason why the Lambert family is so connected to the spirit world. Thank goodness. Who needs scares? I wanted gratuitous exposition. (Sarcasm)

The most surprising thing regarding Insidious Chapter 2 is the shocking lack of scares. A musical baby walker goes off by itself, an unknown woman dressed in white walks by in the background. Does that make your blood run cold? If so, you might be the audience for this hokum. As things escalate in their home, Josh’s wife and mother confront him with what they’ve seen, but he continues to suppress that anything is wrong. Later we get a dreary séance where they try to contact a paranormal investigator who has passed on. They roll letter dice and the scene is shot with all the excitement of watching paint dry. LOOK! The letters N and O are next to each other. She’s speaking to us!! This ultimately leads them to a hospital where there’s more turgid back-story concerning a man who committed suicide, whose house they visit, where they find newspaper clippings that point to supplementary details involving a dark dimension that exists parallel to our world. There’s even a twisted mother there who wanted her son to be a girl. Great shades of Psycho! None of this is particularly compelling or scary. It’s merely a needlessly complex subterfuge to hide a thoroughly convoluted story. Chapter 2 frequently invokes the respectable name of part 1 and in the process cheapens the value of the original by over-explaining its mysteries. This actually causes the viewer to re-evaluate its merits. If this is only chapter 2, I shudder to think how many more volumes this poorly written book has.

You’re Next

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags on August 27, 2013 by Mark Hobin

You're Next photo starrating-halfstar.jpgThere’s really no point in reviewing You’re Next for fans of this kind of thing. The reasons why I disliked, no HATED it, aren’t going to matter to devotees of slasher films. If you want to satiate your bloodlust, regardless of plot, script, sense, character development or standards, then You’re Next should fit the bill nicely. It’s a contrivance knowingly designed for an audience that wants to see people murdered and voice their approval/disapproval of what’s happening on screen at the top of their lungs in a crowded theater for the entire film. I won’t hold that against it, but that perfectly describes my cinema experience.

You’re Next is a lazily made product that doesn’t hold up to intellectual scrutiny. Our story concerns a wealthy married couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in an isolated mansion in the woods with their kids and respective plus ones. Naturally the estate in the woods is in some remote area. Doesn‘t anyone ever vacation in the city anymore? It gets more idiotic. Assassins start shooting people from outside the cabin with crossbows. Was a catapult not available? The killers wear silly animal masks with tiny slits for eyes. They are impossible to see out of and therefore should give all the victims a distinct advantage in a fight. It doesn‘t (with one exception). The body count begins to escalate. Idiots blissfully enter dark rooms even though they know there are psychopaths roaming the house. Mom is taken upstairs and left to lie alone in a bedroom where strange noises were heard. Why continue to stay inside the house when it’s obvious the lunatics are inside? Because this movie is stupid, was the only answer I could come up with.

I’ve never been a fan of torture. I don’t take delight in observing people die and I don’t relish in the physical pain of others. I’m not a sadist so therefore I didn’t enjoy You’re Next. But it’s only a movie! This stuff isn’t real! It’s just make believe! True, but I still question the entertainment value in stomaching pretend carnage that, let’s face it, looks exactly like the real thing. If nothing else, the filmmakers know how to stage a realistic kill. After enduring one graphic murder after another in vivid detail, you’ll swear you’re watching a snuff film. At least this miserable lot are repellent. Their back and forth bickering is irritating. That makes their ultimate demise less painful to endure I suppose. Many cheered in my theater when the matriarch was massacred, her dead body left lying on the bed. Then they laughed with glee as the girlfriend suggests that would be a perfect place and time to indulge in some intimate hanky panky. You’re Next represents the nadir in popcorn entertainment.

Wait Until Dark, The Desperate Hours (1955), Funny Games (1997), Panic Room. The home invasion thriller has been handled before in much more interesting ways. You’re Next debuted at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival then sat around collecting dust for 2 years. Now it has been foisted on the public during the traditional end-of-the-summer dumpage. It feels even more old and outdated. It should’ve just stayed wedged between whatever moldy crevice it had been shelved into. This is an unnecessary film. We’ve made so many strides in horror in the last 5 years, that this just feels like some dated relic from a bygone era. Start with 10 people, then mutilate in gory detail. The instructions are repeated ad nauseum until one is left standing. There is some surprise as to who this is and how it occurs, but after watching 9 nitwits sliced, diced, cut, chopped and shot, do you really even care?

The Conjuring

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags on July 21, 2013 by Mark Hobin

The Conjuring photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgWhen The Conjuring was slapped with an “R” rating, the producers couldn’t have bought better publicity. Setting out to make a PG-13 film, the picture earned the more restrictive classification, not on account of blood, gore, swearing, or sex – but because it was simply TOO SCARY to get anything less. The decision to leave things as they were worked. It had the highest debut for an original R rated movie ever. Even taking inflation into account, it still ranks up there with record holders like The Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath. I must profess the strategy worked on me. Anticipation levels were off the charts and I was primed and ready to be scared out of my wits. To be honest, I found PG-13 fare like The Ring and Insidious to be far scarier. Of course such an assertion is highly debatable as it rests entirely on personal tastes. That’s not to say The Conjuring isn’t satisfying. It’s a smartly told, well acted tale that earns its scares legitimately.

What pushes The Conjuring into watchable entertainment is the game cast that gives the proceedings an air of substance and respectability. The screenplay is taken from the true story of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The Amityville Horror was based on their research. Their portrayals are sound. Vera Farmiga is genuinely good at eliciting our concern. Also superb are the Perron clan—Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters—victimized by demonic forces after moving into their new home. Naturally their domicile is dilapidated, old and really eerie. I mean the dog won’t enter the house. Lili Taylor reminds us of how underrated an actress she actually is. She undoubtedly gets the juiciest part, but she makes the most of it.

The Conjuring is set in the 70s and the milieu lends the environment an atmospheric elegance. We’re informed Ed Warren was the only American layman permitted by the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms. That’s a nice bit of information. This is intelligent terror that ironically creates tension with well worn clichés. There’s a music box, a creepy doll, birds behaving abnormally, kids in peril. There are at least a dozen conventional tropes from which this appropriates. Horror aficionados will have a distinct feeling of déjà vu. You can roll your eyes at all the movies this borrows from or just go with the flow. If you’re going to imitate you might as well copy from the best I suppose. There is a refined simplicity to the action that is rather effective. When Vera Farmiga is hanging laundry on a clothesline, a white sheet takes on a human form as it blows away from her grasp. I think it’s telling that the simple image elicited gasps from the audience. Director James Wan is continuing the sophisticated path he started with Insidious. His high regard for the classics of the genre continues as he seems to have abandoned the gross-out style he exploited with the first Saw. This isn’t really a step forward, but it definitely isn’t a step back either.

World War Z

Posted in Action, Horror, Thriller with tags on June 27, 2013 by Mark Hobin

World War Z photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgA family sits in their car waiting out a huge traffic jam in some major metropolitan city. A motorcycle zooms by and knocks off the side-view mirror of Brad Pitt’s car. He gets out to retrieve the fallen ornament, his wife and two girls concerned inside. Suddenly an explosion goes off in the distance. So unfolds the trailer for World War Z. I had no idea what the unforeseen threat was to the population, but it had me curious. It was a powerful tactic that had me wanting to see more. It de-emphasized gore, instead focusing on some unforeseen menace.

Ultimately the smart strategy was a good one because the rest of World War Z is similarly restrained. The danger in this case is a universal zombie outbreak, but it could have been anything really. The drama is about survival of the human race. Brad Pitt is a United Nations inspector adept at problem solving. He’s contacted by the powers that be to help join the fight. Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., South Korea, Israel and Wales: as we follow Brad Pitt across the globe, these various locations heighten the situation. Like Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters or War of the Worlds, it affirms a global scale. This makes the calamity all the more dire and real. The response of the governments of the world is a fascinating detail that the narrative effectively exploits. It’s ambitious in scope.

Turns out World War Z is not perfect. Thanks to 28 Days Later, spastic camera work is practically de rigueur in these types of films. Can we please retire this gimmick? It’s meant to emphasize the speed and intensity of the zombie attack., but it just had me reaching for the Dramamine. The plot occasionally drags. It could’ve benefited from some judicious editing to tighten up certain scenes. However other scenes do captivate. A spectacle aboard an airplane is an absolute knockout that creates tension in a setting that already has people on edge in this day and age. It’s spectacularly ridiculous and fun. We don’t really get a clear look at the zombies until much later, but when we do, it’s unnerving. The bulging eyes of one that pierce through the glass wall of a research facility are hard to forget.

World War Z separates itself from many other zombie variations in that it mines thrills out of skillfully staged action. The chronicle has some very compelling sequences, particularly the opening and closing set pieces, the moments you remember most. Along the way the script favors paranoia and claustrophobia over cheap scares and gore. Special effects are restrained and used only sparingly making their occasional appearance that more striking. It creates a thrilling mood. I also enjoyed the score which makes inspired use of the song “Isolated System” by Muse. Marc Forster directs this very loose adaptation of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel. The screenwriters basically threw out everything but the name. Despite the troubled production, the end result is a memorable saga that finds a way to tie the United Nations, the World Health Organization and world governments in with the zombie apocalypse. Forster has finally created his most enjoyable picture since Finding Neverland – a tale that couldn’t be more thematically different.

Paranormal Activity 4

Posted in Horror, Thriller with tags on April 22, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Paranormal Activity 4 photo starrating-2stars.jpgSuburban teen Alex and her little brother Wyatt live in Henderson, Nevada with their mom and dad. One night, Alex and her boyfriend discover a young neighbor boy Robbie hiding in the tree house of their backyard. When Robbie’s mother falls ill, the family takes him in. Then creepy things start happening. For those who still care, Paranormal Activity 4 picks up several years after the events of PA2. (PA3 was a prequel to both the first and second films).

Story fatigue had already crept into this series well before this installment. Once again we are presented with lots of found footage from computer webcams. Shots of seemingly empty rooms, doors that close by themselves and loud bursts of noise following a period of silence. A couple jolted me awake. The script’s contribution this time is to introduce the camera from a Microsoft Kinect video game console with the infrared tracking dots bathing the room in an eerie green light. The outline of an unexplained figure is about as scary as this gets. The human star is Alex, a teen girl played by Kathryn Newton. She is an appealing presence and conveys the natural vibe of a real teen. The same goes for actor Matt Shively who plays her boyfriend Ben. They are understandably freaked out by the strange goings on while the rest of the family inexplicably dismiss flying knives and possessed children as nothing, natch. The Featherston sisters, Katie & Kristi, have historically been the focus of the supernatural activity in this franchise. Kristi appears only in flashback and Katie is relegated to a minor character. The drama isn’t advanced in any meaningful way. We’re merely left with more of the same parlor tricks you’ve seen in 3 installments before. Except this time they’re done with less enthusiasm. Despite the lackluster performance at the box office, PA5 is coming this October.

Evil Dead

Posted in Horror with tags on April 6, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Evil Dead photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgIt’s kind of surprising to see a horror film like Evil Dead in 2013. After Wes Craven re-wrote the rules with the self knowing Scream back in 1996 and then The Cabin in the Woods more recently deconstructed the genre further, I thought the attitudes on display here were a thing of the past. Evil Dead is a giant step backward to the naïveté of the 1980s. Here we’re presented another group of kids playing about in the woods. They behave like idiots, existing so they can be dismembered, killed, and gutted in the most gruesome methods possible. It’s gross yes, but it’s certainly not scary. Ok so this is a “remake” of Sam Raimi’s highly regarded cult film that inadvertently became a camp classic. The cartoon violence was over the top and had, let’s face it, special effects that were so bad you had to laugh. C’mon! The blood looked like grape jelly. But this is a remake in name only. Other than the basic underlying story, this is much different. Its “improvement” is that the torture actually looks real. Evil Dead has technically superior gut churning violence but it’s utterly lacking in spirit, charm, humor or scares.

The plot is simple. A group of 5 friends meet up in an old abandoned cabin in the woods. Mayhem ensues. Why are these cabins always built in some remote area with only one road in and no human contact for miles? Apparently this is where Mia and David’s mother battled with insanity. And they want to spend more time there? The friends are helping Mia kick her drug addiction. In order to detox and get clean they must keep her there regardless of how much she wants to leave. That’s an inspired rule and the script’s lone bit of intelligence. Despite the fact that the kids are a bunch of morons, I will clarify that their acting is fine. These young adults act appropriately scared.  That’s all we require in a product like this. Its unfortunate they serve an inferior story.

Haven’t we seen this before? 5 people are terrorized and then behave in ways so stupid, it boggles the mind. Seriously if I felt any modicum of fear it was that I might roll my eyes to death. First the whole gang stumbles upon a secret cellar under the cabin filled with what looks like decaying cat carcasses hanging from the ceiling. They don’t leave. Then Eric, the biggest idiot, finds a book made of skin with barbed wire all around it that says “Do not open” so naturally he proceeds to open it. Then starts reciting spells that should not be spoken. Mia is subsequently attacked by a tree in a scene that is surprisingly tame compared to the original. She gets possessed and then starts killing everyone in sight.  At this point we couldn’t care less about these people.  I mean they practically asked for it.  Projectile vomiting (The Exorcist), a demonic girl curses creatively (The Exorcist again), nail guns, carving knives – the film is a smorgasbord of atrocities served up to an audience jaded by years of blood and guts. They demand the ante be raised and this will satiate their bloodlust. One guy in the theater literally hooted and hollered every time someone was mutilated. Debating the merits of this flick is pointless. Your enjoyment will depend on whether you enjoy watching people cut, disremembered, slashed in the most sadistic ways possible. I love scary movies, but this wasn’t frightening in the least. It’s gleefully gross and nothing more.

Dark Skies

Posted in Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on February 22, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Dark Skies photo starrating-3stars.jpgLacy and Daniel are the Barretts, a married couple with two boys, Jesse a teen, and Sam their youngest. Father Daniel has lost his job and is trying to find employment. Mother Lacy is a real estate agent desperately attempting to sell houses in disrepair as fixer-uppers. Jesse hangs out with an older boy they deem to be a bad influence and little Sam is experiencing sleepwalking fits. Then strange things begin happening. Someone starts sculpturally stacking food in the kitchen, family photographs vanish from their frames, false alarm sensors are tripped throughout their home at the same time. Apparently mounting stress and piling bills are the least of their problems. PG-13 presentation mines the territory of a suburban nightmare.

At first when I heard the ads marketing Dark Skies as from the producers of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister, I rolled my eyes. Yeah those were good movies, but the writer and/or director is a more accurate indicator of quality. Scott Stewart also wrote and directed the execrable Legion so I wasn’t optimistic. The thing is, Dark Skies is indeed closer in spirit to those horror pictures than to that apocalyptic action film. Admittedly, this doesn’t break new ground. Despite the fact it has nothing to do with ghosts, anyone who had seen Poltergeist will feel this is awfully familiar. It’s a fairly rote horror story, but there are some twists. The narrative interestingly exploits the idea that the parents are being made to look unfit due to the escalating afflictions the family publicly endures.

The cast is solid. Acting in horror can be difficult because the circumstances can be a bit ludicrous. Josh Hamilton is a sympathetic father. He’s likeable. Slightly less warm, but more sensible is Keri Russell as the mom who puts the pieces together as to what’s occurring well before her husband. A horror cliché is the character who has already figured everything out, but must now convince those who will not listen or believe – deliberately adding to the audience’s frustrations. Though I question whether Russell appropriately conveys the fear the average mother would exhibit. Hearing that her youngest is having conversations with someone who visits him at night should’ve prompted more panic. Oh and I almost forgot to mention a memorable cameo by J.K. Simmons who plays Tangina er uh I mean Edwin Pollard, the resident expert on supernatural phenomena.

Dark Skies isn’t innovative, but thankfully it sidesteps tired genre conventions at least. The blood/gore factor is virtually non-existent. The lazy technique relying on loud bursts of noise to cause jump scares, is kept to a minimum. Even the “Gotcha! It was all a dream” gag is intelligently toyed with in an early scene. The script seems aware of overused plot devices. It’s extremely spooky in parts. Furthermore, it never shows more than it should, so the threat always feels mysterious. No this isn’t original, but it manages to create a pretty evocative mood. What it lacks in creativity, it makes up for in creepiness.

Mama

Posted in Horror with tags on January 18, 2013 by Mark Hobin

Mama photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgA father driving too fast down an icy street, swerves off the road hitting a tree on an embankment below. Still alive, he and his two toddler daughters Victoria and Lilly escape with their lives and find shelter in an old deserted cabin in the woods. But all is not right in this shack. Something evil seizes the father, leaving the little girls to fend for themselves. Abandoned and living alone they become feral in behavior.

If Jessica Chastain was embarrassed by this film she could’ve just said no. She’s virtually unrecognizable in a short jet black wig and abundant tattoos. She’s in a rock band and kind of recalls Joan Jett. Her boyfriend (Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is the girl’s uncle and he agrees to take these wild children into their home. Surprise! Surprise! The entity that was responsible for their father’s disappearance seems to have followed the girls. Naturally mayhem ensues.

Mama has a lot going for it before it ultimately falls apart in the final third. There’s a brilliant opening credits sequence that uses the toddler’s drawings to depict life in that cabin from their perspective. The drawings of the children on all fours are chilling and prep the audience for what is to come. That’s a great start. The problem is Mama doesn’t present anything you haven’t seen hundreds of times already, in better movies I might add. The first occasion I saw a person contort their body into a spider-like stance and walk on the ceiling I was totally freaked out, the 10th time it put me to sleep.

Mama is a lazy amalgamation of kids in peril, overprotective mothers, haunted houses and supernatural forces.  Initially the quick glimpses and faraway shots of the entity are very creepy. The soundtrack by Fernando Velázquez is lush and sophisticated in a way that really elevates this material into something elegant. But eventually you realize the only trick this story has up its sleeve is one loud burst of noise after another. Even the sinister moths, yes moths [The Silence of the Lambs, Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Mothman Prophecies] sound like a flock of pigeons when they fly by. Furthermore what was once a mysterious creature becomes more and more visible until it is literally right in our faces. In brief snatches it was scary, but with the lights on in full view it looks like a bad CGI effect. Director Andrés Muschietti expanded his 3 minute short into 100 and it shows. It drags, oh how it drags! There’s not enough here to justify the prolonged running length. Mama is a classy horror film, I’ll give it that. For some, that may suffice. But when the proper remedy is applied to placate this spirit in the climax and it doesn‘t stick, I gave up. I only hope this doesn’t make people forget Jessica Chastain’s fine work in Zero Dark Thirty. That would be the scariest thing.

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