Tag Archives: atoz

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies S

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter S


Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 29m
Rated: R

Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Patrick Horvath, Justin Martinez, Chad Villella

Writers: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Roxanne Benjamin, Susan Burke, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath,
Dallas Richard Hallam

Stars: Chad Villella, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Kristina Pesic

“Look at us, look at them. We’re the weirdos.”

Initial: Over the years, I had heard quite a bit about this anthology film.

Production Notes: Filmmakers Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella have worked together numerous times, known as Radio Silence and Chad, Matt & Rob. Last year, I watched and enjoyed Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s Ready or Not.

What Did I Think:
I haven’t watched this group of creator’s other anthology film, V/H/S, but I might have to put it on a future list.

There are two ways that an anthology film can go: very separate stories that are loosely held together with a clear wrap-around or the stories can intersect in some manner. Obviously, the second is harder to do, especially if the filmmakers involved have different styles. Southbound weaves the stories together and, for the most part, is pretty successful at creating a cohesive world while still giving individual segments their own style.

The first and last segments are the most connected. We start with two guys in a Ford truck on the run from some nefarious business they’ve been involved in…and also some weird black death angels. The fifth segment is the reason they’re heading “southbound.”

The second segment is a fairly bland creepy-white-people tale. Three girls in a band get a flat and are “rescued” by some suburban weirdos.

My favorite of the stories is the third segment, “The Accident,” written and directed by David Bruckner. Very visceral and, honestly, I had no idea where the story was going. This story also had a notably different look from the rest of the film.

The fourth segment was my second favorite. Danny is in town looking for his sister. There is an extra bit of mysticism and world-building in this story that reminded me slightly of Nightbreed (1990).

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Off-Theme Horn Toot

“S” is also for the Sorrowful Seamstress. The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress is the first in my series of One Ahead mysteries. This series features David Abbott, a magician and skeptic in early 20th century Omaha. The Case of the Sorrowful Seamstress is available at Amazon and is free is you have the Kindle Unlimited service.

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies R

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter R

Rigor Mortis

Year: 2013
Runtime: 1h 43m
Rated: Not Rated

Director: Juno Mak

Writers: Philip Yung, Lai-Yin Leung, Juno Mak

Stars: Siu-Ho Chin, Kara Wai, Hee Ching Paw

“[For] Autie Lai, a bowl of white rice with the Soup of the Day; but to go.”

“Auntie Lai passed away last month.”

“So? She still needs to eat, doesn’t she?”

Initial: This was another change-up from my initial list. There have been many. Vampires? Are there vampires?

What Did I Think:
Rigor Mortis is based in Chinese folklore and is a homage to the Mr. Vampire franchise of Hong Kong movies. I know *nothing* about either of these. Maybe, that was a good thing because I watched this film with no preconceived notions. Some of the reviews are a bit grumpy because the tone is apparently different from Mr. Vampire (1985) and many people found the story hard to follow.

I did not find it difficult, plot-wise, because it seemed to me from the outset to almost be an anthology movie. A suicidal actor moves into a dilapidated apartment building. I probably would have been disappointed if we hadn’t peeked in at the dark stories of his fellow residents. There is Yau, a washed up vampire hunter, and Gau, a not-so-good priest. There is also Meiyi, who would like her dead husband back, and, oh, the vengeful ghost twins who haunt the actor’s apartment. All these characters and stories twist around each other nicely. The end has a tiny bit of a twist which I was fine with.

And I love the look of this film. Much of it is in a very desaturated palette, which of course makes colors pop when colors are used. There are also different looks to the different supernatural beings. For example, the ghost women are sort of glitch-y and tendril-ly; the “vampire” is more grounded. The action is heightened with a very magic kung-fu feel to it.

Rigor Mortis was a really pleasant surprise. One of the more enjoyable films I’ve watched this month.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies Q

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Q


Year: 2008
Runtime: 1h 10m
Rated: N/A

Director: Mumtaz Yildirimlar

Writer: Mumtaz Yildirimlar

Stars: Lucy Christofi Christy, Matt Downton, Kester Hodgson

Initial: Q, another tough letter. It’s said in A to Z prep that if you have your Q, you have your month figured out…

Production Notes: Talking boards didn’t become a prominent occult item until the spiritualist movement of the late 1800s. This movie would seem to imply a much earlier origin.

What Did I Think:
Not a particularly well-made movie. We’re never given much of a sense of who these characters are or the world they live in. For a while, I kind of hoped that the ouija board would never say anything, which would have been an interesting conceit. I hate to sound overly snarky, but the best thing about this movie is that it’s only an hour long. Some movies are good. Some, less so.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies P

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter P


Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 56m
Rated: Not Rated

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Writers: Sang-ho Yeon, Ryu Yong-jae

Stars: Dong-won Gang, Lee Jung-hyun, Re Lee

“Why did you save me earlier?”

“Dad told us we should help the weak before he went to heaven. You looked weak.”

Initial: I had just watched Train to Busan (2016) for the first time when I heard that it was getting a sequel. I was not excited. I’m not even a fan of the zombie sub-genre, but Train to Busan was *good*. But then I heard that Peninsula was pretty good, and ElenaSquareEyes referred to it as a heist movie, so, yeah, that got me.

Production Notes: But I’m not going to call it Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula because that’s worse nomenclature than putting “2” on it.

What Did I Think:
Peninsula is like if you took The Fast and the Furious, made it a zombie movie, and added a dash of Mad Max. It is, of course, not as good as Train to Busan. Heck, you don’t even need to see that film to enjoy this one. Everything you need to know about the “rules” of these zombies is presented clearly at the top of this movie. While the talking-head interview that is used to convey this information is a little cheesy, I appreciate that this movie is always clear about what’s going on. That is actually necessary for any sort of “heist” plot—where are we going, why are we going there, what are the potential complications. Peninsula almost over-does it when making sure we have that information.

Some of the action felt a little video-game-y. The vehicles occasionally didn’t have the right sort of heft and were pretty much indestructible. I did really like that all the competent drivers in the film were women. There is also an inventiveness to how the characters use the environment, including the zombies, that I really enjoyed. It doesn’t quite have the heart that Train to Busan, but I’m not cynical enough to roll my eyes at its attempt. Too often horror movies are just about a character surviving other people being awful. Maybe I’m a sap, but I think horror as a genre can also highlight characters being noble.

I liked it, and I will leave you with the fact that I also like 28 Weeks Later (2007). Both that film and Peninsula have first chapters that are superior, but both sequels offer something on their own as well.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies O

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter O

The Orphanage

Year: 2007
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rated: R

Director: J.A. Bayona

Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez

Stars: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep

“Seeing is not believing. It’s the other way around. Believe, and you will see.”

Initial: I put off this movie for a long time because I was worried about how much it might freak me out. Ghostly kids in dark houses are pretty much the recipe for me watching a movie through my fingers. In fact, I thought I had watched the beginning before, but I don’t think I had.

What Did I Think:
This was a different movie than I thought it was, but that isn’t a bad thing. I guess I thought it was more like The Grudge (2004), but it’s not. Or maybe finally watching The Grudge last year built up my ghostly-kid-tolerance. But really, The Orphanage is the kind of ghost story I enjoy most: a mystery (maybe an unknown crime) wrapped in the supernatural.

I don’t have a lot to say here. The plot was a very nicely put together. The atmosphere was nearly always spot-on. The Orphanage actually has a moment that in any other movie would have been an over-wrought jump scare, complete with soundtrack sting. (Actually, The Grudge has a moment like that too…) I’m not familiar with Belén Rueda as an actor, but she has strong Toni Collette energy. I’m a little sad that I waited so long to watch The Orphanage and lost so many Halloween seasons without it. I can see it in a rotation with Lady in White (1988) and The Changeling (1980).

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies N

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter N

The Neon Demon

Year: 2016
Runtime: 1h 57m
Rated: R

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writers: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham

Stars: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote

“He calls me the bionic woman.”

“Is that a compliment?”

Initial: A horror movie by the director of one of my favorite movies (Drive (2011))?

Production Notes: This is the second time that Jena Malone shows up on my list. She was also in Antebellum (2020).

What Did I Think:
This is 20% horror movie, 80% Nicolas Winding Refn movie—lots of moody hallways, synth music, and awkward dialog. Listen, I don’t really know why I like Refn’s movies as much as I do. (Haven’t seen Bronson or the Pusher movies yet.) They’re sort of like a great 90s music video pulled out into a two hour movie. This shouldn’t work and, for a lot of people, it doesn’t.

The Neon Demon is pretty light on plot. Jesse arrives in Los Angeles, looking to become a model. The reaction to her by people in the industry is that she is so beautiful, that they can’t NOT work with her. This sparks jealousy in other models who seek to capture some of her magic. Jesse is played by Elle Fanning. Fanning is very lovely, but is she really *that* good looking? Or is her beauty meant to be supernatural? I don’t know, I’m asking. The horror bits, when they happen, are be turns gory and uncomfortable.

I’ll take my fall-back Refn position: I liked this movie, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. But, if you haven’t seen Drive, you should.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021: Horror Movies M

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter M


Year: 2017
Runtime: 1h 26m
Rated: Unrated

Director: Joe Lynch

Writer: Matias Caruso

Stars: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand

“Dude, that freak show had some super-good-quality shoes. These are comfy as fuck!”

Initial: I think Mayhem went on to my TBW list after I watched Samara Weaving in Ready or Not (2019) last year.

Production Notes: Filmed primarily in Belgrade, Serbia.

What Did I Think:
You know yesterday when I mentioned that the umbrella of the horror genre is very wide? Yeah, I’m not sure there could be a film as different from La Llorona as Mayhem.

Enjoyment of this film is entirely dependent on whether you can accept its premise: a virus causes inhibitions to be lowered and a lawsuit precedent negates culpability for what an infected person does while ill. It’s sort of like the “The Naked Time” episode of Star Trek meets The Purge. In short, it is an excuse for a lot of violence without worrying about consequences. The message of the movie it something about choosing your own path and not getting sucked in to, uh, big evil corporations, but that’s pretty undercut by all the murder.

That said, Mayhem isn’t without some charm. From scene one, it has an obvious heightened reality, which can be fun. You know immediately you’re not really in the real world. (Also, a quarantine enforced by SWAT teams! Definitely not the real world…) The best thing about Mayhem is Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving together in scenes. They have great chemistry. They need a Lethal Weapon-style buddy-cop movie project. Or maybe a romantic comedy. I can’t decide which. (I just realized that Steven Yeun is nominated for an Oscar this year for Minari (2020). Good luck to him!)

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