I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)

Rating: 7 of 10

movie poster I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)An insouciant thriller that’s more character study than edge-of-your-seat, whodunit.

Synopsis: “Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer—but he has all the makings of one. Keeping his homicidal tendencies and morbid obsessions with death and murder in check is a constant struggle that only gets harder when a real serial killer begins terrorizing his sleepy Midwestern town. Now, in order to track down a psychopath and protect those around him, John must unleash his darkest inner demons.” (source)

My thoughts: Years back I read the young adult book on which this movie was based. It was a solid story, one I knew had the potential to be an entertaining movie.

Happily, this adaptation didn’t let me down. Where I think the movie sets itself apart from the book is its atmosphere and grittiness. Add to that Christopher Lloyd, an impressive performance by Max Records as John, and you have one of the best indie horror movies I’ve seen in 2016.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like NIGHTCRAWLER, STOKER, or HARD CANDY.

Check out I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER official website and trailer on IFC Midnight | on IMDb | on Twitter

(Watched on Amazon 11/18/2016)

The Invitation (2015)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster The Invitation (2015)A slow-burn psychological thriller, during which you might predict one, or maybe even two of the twists, but the ending will leave you breathless.

Synopsis: “A haunted man attending a dinner party at the house he once called home becomes gripped with paranoia that his ex-wife and her new husband are harboring an insidious agenda.” (source)

My thoughts: We enter the movie as Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who’s accepted a dinner invitation from his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman). So all of the evening’s events unfold through Will’s eyes, and that’s the key to THE INVITATION’s brilliance!

Right away we can feel the tension in the room; Will may be at the dinner but he certainly doesn’t want to be, and even the hosts don’t seem all that happy that he accepted the invitation. We’re on edge almost as soon as Will walks in the door: what exactly happened between Will and Eden? Why did they get divorced? And, if the divorce was as contentious as it appears, why was Will invited? Then we watch, from the edge of our seats, as a group of people so programmed to be polite, actively ignore their sense that something’s off.

Will’s the only person who asks the questions we, the audience, are thinking, and he’s constantly told to calm down.
Until the very end, we’re never sure if what our gut is telling us is actually Will’s reality, or just his paranoia.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like CREEP or SOUND OF MY VOICE.

Check out THE INVITATION official website and trailer | on Gamechanger Films | on IMDb | on Facebook

(Watched on Netflix 9/7/2016)

The Hallow (2015)

Rating: 6 of 10

movie poster The Hallow (2015)A dark fantasy inspired by Irish myths and folklore that’ll make you extra vigilant the next time you go wandering in the woods.

Synopsis: “When a conservationist is sent to Ireland with his wife and infant child to survey an area of forest believed to be hallowed ground by superstitious locals, his actions unwittingly disturb a horde of demonic creatures who prey upon the lost. Alone and deep within the darkness of the remote wilderness, he must now fight back to protect his family against the ancient forces’ relentless attack.” (source)

My thoughts: When mainstream audiences, especially those who don’t read a lot, hear “fairy tale,” they think Disney and cute characters and poofy skirts and happily-ever-afters for everyone (except the “villains,” of course). The truth is, fairy tales are dark, scary, and often filled with all sorts of horrible goings-on. And that’s not even taking into account stories with actual faeries, based on the ‘Fae’ or ‘Fair Folk’ as they’re sometimes called.

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover THE HALLOW, which I at first took for a run-of-the-mill creature feature. Turns out this is one terrifying supernatural horror movie! Outstanding effects made the “creatures” even more ghoulish and frightening, and I especially enjoyed the depiction of changelings. The isolated setting and the mysterious “fungus” evoked such a feeling of claustrophobia and suffocation that I felt their influence right along with Adam and Claire. The ending says, to me, that no matter how much we tear down and destroy, nature will always fight back.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like PAN’S LABYRINTH or NEVERLAKE.

Check out THE HALLOW on IFC Midnight | on IMDb | on Facebook | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 6/10/2016)

Howl (2015)

Rating: 7 of 10

movie poster Howl (2015)Hmm, where’s the worst possible place for a commuter train to break down? Oh, I don’t know: in the middle of nowhere, at night, surrounded by werewolves?!!

Synopsis: “A new psychological werewolf creature feature…” (source)

My thoughts: Wasn’t I just saying not too long ago that there weren’t enough werewolves in modern horror movies? Well ask and ye shall receive. While I did relate to Joe and his difficulties in having to work with the general public, most of the train’s passengers weren’t all that likable. So where HOWL succeeds brilliantly is in amping up the uber creepy atmosphere and delivering stellar creature effects. Plus, these werewolves seem the type based more on folklore than cinematic history.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like LAST PASSENGER or THE DESCENT.

Check out HOWL on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched DVD on 4/22/2016)

Hush (2016)

Rating: 7 of 10

movie poster Hush (2016)A tense, pulse-pounding game of cat-and-mouse in which there’s really no mouse.

Synopsis: “A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.” (source)

My thoughts: A home invasion is scary enough. A deaf woman living alone in the middle of nowhere — the fear factor skyrockets. Fan-freaking-tastic! And that’s coming from someone who thought for sure they were at their limit for home invasion slashers. Then comes along HUSH with its perfect setting of a house in the woods, strong yet vulnerable protagonist (who named her cat Bitch), and a masked maniac with no discernible motive.

I will say, for the record, I was disappointed when I learned that Kate Siegel, who plays Maddie, isn’t deaf. I feel like the filmmakers missed an opportunity by not casting an actor with a real hearing-impairment.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like THE STRANGERS or THE COLLECTOR.

Check out HUSH on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 4/21/2016)

Uncaged (2016)

Rating: 6 of 10

movie poster Uncaged (2016)Most teens look at birthday #18 as the key to their freedom. Great things are supposed to happen when one is officially an “adult” … unless your family is hiding a curse triggered at age 18.

Synopsis: “A sleepwalking teen straps a camera to himself and discovers a sinister family secret.” (source)

My thoughts: Another random selection that surpassed my expectations. UNCAGED’s limited budget is obvious (especially in the transformation department) but it overcomes those constraints by casting Ben Getz as Jack, a young man with a tragic past who just turned 18 and is starting to sleepwalk. Liking Jack and wanting to know what was going to happen to him is really the only thing that kept me watching this movie. Jack’s cousin, Brandon, who Jack grew up with, is borderline douchey. And their friend Turner is 100 times worse. But I guess they provided some comic relief. Sure, the writing needed fleshed out (HA!) and the women needed to be actual people – you know, instead of being either a) a damsel in distress or b) a sex object – but all in all, I had fun. Plus, werewolves are sorely underrepresented in modern horror movies.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like WHEN ANIMALS DREAM or NIGHT WOLF.

Check out UNCAGED official website and trailer | on Facebook | on IMDb

(Watched on Netflix 3/31/2016)

When Animals Dream (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster When Animals Dream (2014)Coming of age is itself a nightmare most everyone hopes to survive unscathed. Toss in supernatural DNA and things can go downhill real fast.

Synopsis: “Marie is a beautiful and lonely 16-year-old who lives in an isolated village on a small island of the west coast of Denmark. Marie’s mother is seriously ill, suffering from an unknown disease – on medication, mentally absent and tied to a wheelchair. Marie’s father, Thor, runs the small grocery store and tries to make life as normal as possible for the small family. On the surface, everything seems fine – and yet, Marie can’t help feeling that Thor is hiding something about her mother’s illness.” (source)

My thoughts: It’s not easy being a teenager in a small town. Feeling like you’re stuck in limbo, between being a kid and being an adult. There’s an inherent otherness to that stage of life. Twist up all those emotions and thoughts with a suspicion that you’re even more of an outsider because of a secret your father denies but your gut insists on, and you have the recipe for a thrilling coming of age horror movie. I absolutely loved Marie’s transformation; no, not the physical one (although it’s frighteningly awesome). I mean the one where she embraces her true self.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like TEETH, CARRIE, or GINGER SNAPS.

Check out WHEN ANIMALS DREAM in Danish Film Catalogue | on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 1/16/2016)

The Stranger (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster The Stranger (2014)A bleak vampire movie, though it doesn’t name itself as such, viewers will either love or hate.

Synopsis: “A supernatural thriller, laced by flashbacks, and set in Canada’s North-West, THE STRANGER turns on the mysterious titular figure of Martin, who comes to a small quiet town seeking to kill his wife Ana who suffers from a very dangerous decease that makes her addicted to human blood – just like himself. However, when he arrives to the town, he discovers that Ana has been dead for a couple of years and decides to commit suicide to definitely eradicate this dangerous decease, but, before he can do it, Martin’s brutally attacked by three local thugs led by Caleb, the son of a corrupt police lieutenant, and the incident suddenly starts a snowball that will plunge the community into a bloodbath.” (source)

My thoughts: THE STRANGER is a quiet movie, that is, until the explosions of bloody violence. It never panders to the audience and refuses to be anything it’s not. A slow-burn story with a payoff only for those receptive to the love story hidden beneath the brutality. Cristobal Tapia Montt was riveting; the angst, the inner turmoil, the suffering – intense!

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like CANNIBAL or AFFLICTED.

Check out THE STRANGER on IFC Midnight | on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 10/8/2015)

Resolution (2012)

Rating: 7 of 10

movie poster Resolution (2012)Slow-burn horror at its twisty unexpected best.

Synopsis: “In an abandoned cabin on the edge of an Indian reservation, Mike (Peter Cilella) stages a risky intervention to force his friend Chris (Vinny Curran) off meth and into rehab. But what begins as an attempt to save his friend’s life takes an unexpected turn when ominous threats start appearing around the house – and they realize that Chris’s addictions are the least of their worries.” (source)

My thoughts: After watching (and loving!) SPRING, I had to check out the directors’ other work. RESOLUTION is one of those movies where you can’t say a whole lot about its plot without spoiling what makes it such a thrill ride. I went into the movie expecting a story about two old friends reuniting so the friend addicted to drugs could kick the habit. Then weird stuff happens. Then it gets bizarre. Trippy, even. I had the most fun NOT knowing what was going to happen next.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like FETCHING CODY or MINE GAMES.

Check out RESOLUTION official website and trailer | on IMDb

(Watched on Netflix 9/1/2015)

Spring (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster Spring (2014)An unconventional love story for fans of the weird and uncanny.

Synopsis: “Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a young American fleeing to Europe to escape his past. While backpacking along the Italian coast, everything changes during a stop at an idyllic Italian village, where he meets and instantly connects with the enchanting and mysterious Louise. A flirtatious romance begins to bloom between the two — however, Evan soon realizes that Louise has been harboring a monstrous, primordial secret that puts both their relationship and their lives in jeopardy.” (source)

My thoughts: You meet “the one” only to discover they harbor a terrifying, mind-blowing secret. Probably one of the scariest scenarios for someone who’s just fallen in head-over-heels love.

SPRING is the kind of rare movie for which I am always on the lookout. One that blends reality with dark fantasy resulting in an uncanny, mythical, yet wholly believable love story. Whether that “love” is romantic, platonic, or familial, matters not; I simply enjoy the exploration of the intersections within love and horror.

It’s also important to mention SPRING’s beautiful cinematography as well as the fact that Louise, the woman, has the power in this romantic relationship. Evan is actually the weaker more vulnerable of the two. It was nice to see a strong woman portrayed with femininity and sexuality but not be defined by either. Kudos to the directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead, for that little breath of fresh air.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like MONSTERS or ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE.

Check out SPRING at Drafthouse Films | on IMDb

(Watched DVD on 8/27/2015)