Annabelle: Creation

Score: 6.5/10*

Length: 109

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, murderer, toys, prequel, devil, ghost

Waaaaaaaaaaaaay better than the first one. Probably to do with the director, David F. Sandberg, who also did Lights Out. There are a few upcoming directors I’m following, and this guy might add himself to my list. The screenplay is by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle and the upcoming It and The Nun) and of course, it’s produced by James Wan. I don’t usually discuss the people behind the movie, but this is a real winning combination of horror minds. Lulu Wilson also stood out to me- I remembered her from Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Deliver Us from Evil. I hope she continues with the horror genre. So this one stuck with the demon/ ghost girl/ doll theme pretty well, although three things is already pushing it for me. I don’t particularly find dolls scary, so I’m glad the demon was involved. I feel more and more the importance of a movie’s consistency and main focus not muddied by other entities and useless storylines, so this was mildly refreshing. I was glad that the film focussed on the scares and darkness instead of lame CGI and a billion different monsters like some lazy movies…*cough*… Insidious. There were a few scenes and effects I could have done without, but overall, it was pretty solid. The acting was decent, and this film really knew how to drag out the tension. There were even a few cute touches thrown in, such as the original Raggedy Ann doll and the nun from The Conjuring, lurking in a photo. I could have done with more of a backstory to the girl and the doll and I’m still waiting to learn more about the demon. After seeing the first Annabelle, disappointment of the second installment was inevitable, however, I was quite impressed, which was most likely due to my low expectations.

*Friend score average: 6.2

Top Ten Canadian Horror Films

Happy Canada 150, my fellow proud Canadians and adoring non-Canadians! Here are my favorite scary Canuck movies to watch after the fireworks, or hungover the next morning, accompanied by Canada’s top snacks.

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10. The Brood  (1979)

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One of four Cronenburg and sons films on the list, it’s about a woman driven by her psychologist to do some pretty strange things, among them, lead a brood of lumpy lawn gnome look-alikes. The skin sack is a hard image to forget, so you may want to have a couple 2-4s and mickeys on hand.

Canadian Snack: Watch a woman lick her bloody baby while you nosh on some flavour-packed Lays ketchup chips and guzzle down a spicy Caesar with a green bean.

Review here

Trailer here

 

 

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9. Terror Train (1980)

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A satisfying New Year’s Eve slasher movie about med students at a costume party held on a train who are killed off by a masked murderer. What a kerfuffle with everyone stuck on that train. Better grab your toques and runners and get a move on.

Canadian Snack: In order to stay up past midnight you’re going to need some caffeine. But since we’re on a moving train, better reach for a Coffee Crisp instead.

Review here

Trailer here

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8. The Fly (1986)

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Jeff Goldblum and Gina Davis are surrounded by a hefty helping of that goopy, slimy, eighties blood and gore. It’s pretty much every superhero story, without the superhero part, leaving just- man turns into fly, and it doesn’t go too well.

Canadian Snack: If there’s one thing that flies like, it’s sugar. So give them what they want in a sweet, buttery treat: the butter tart.

This movie doesn’t yet have a full review.

Trailer here

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7. Black Christmas (1974)

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This is a film about a woman calling for her cat, Claude… I mean… it’s about sorority girls trapped in a house with a mystery killer. And also Christmas! So it’s snowing and no one is really around to help. Better than the 2006 version by a million kilometres, but not necessarily thrilling.

Canadian Snack: Our country doesn’t really have much to do with Christmas dinner, so instead, grab a Tims double double with a maple-glazed donut for breakfast.

Review here

Trailer here

 

 

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6. Dead Ringers (1988)

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Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie about twin gynecologists addicted to drugs, both played by Jeremy Irons? I generally dislike it when a movie is two or more hours long, but I didn’t mind it in this case. Felt like I was just watching a few episodes in a row of Twin Peaks. It’s labeled as a drama / horror / thriller, but it doesn’t have the typical tension of a horror or thriller; I found it heavy on the drama end.

Canadian Snack: Nothing goes better together than a Montreal-style bagel and Montreal smoked meat.

This movie doesn’t yet have a full review.

Trailer here

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5. Antiviral (2012)

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A film about a business that offers diseases (carried by celebrities) to the public, in order to allow the fans to feel closer to the famous person they’re obsessed with. So strange, and so creative with such a fantastically interesting lead character played by Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out). Lots of drug hazes, needles galore, and so many blood-soaked white things that even Tide couldn’t clean.

Canadian Snack: Some good ole fashioned brand-name KD with a dollop of ketchup. The Canadian way.

This movie doesn’t yet have a full review.

Trailer here

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4. Cube (1997)

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Out of the three Cube movies, the first has the best ending- with a twist. A group of people are trapped in a room-filled structure, where each room has a different violent booby-trap waiting for them.

Canadian Snack: We’re too hip to be square, but a homemade nanaimo bar is to die for, and angular enough to accompany this franchise.

Review here

Trailer here

3. American Mary (2012)

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A revenge flick about a med student turned underground body modifier is American only by title.

Canadian Snack: To go with the American theme, believe it or not, the popular sushi order, California roll, was invented by a Japanese sushi chef who moved to Vancouver in the seventies.

Review here

Trailer here

2. Ginger Snaps (2000) 

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Good things come in threes, but the original of the well-known Canadian trilogy is the best. Nothing beats some simplistic teen werewolf angst, eh?

Canadian Snack: Unfortunately, ginger snaps aren’t really Canadian, so instead how bout some Chinese food? Surprisingly, ginger beef was invented right here in Calgary, AB. I think a werewolf would prefer meat over cookies anyway.

Review here

Trailer here

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1. Silent Hill (2006)

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This dreamlike fantasy horror about a mother searching for her daughter in an eerie, ash-covered town gets the top spot. This fantastic goth film is an adaptation of a survival video game and couldn’t have been done better. Around every turn is a mysterious creature, its details creatively imagined. I’d pay a lot of loonies and twoonies to see this at the theatre in 3D.

Canadian Snack: The number one spot deserves nothing but the number one Canadian food. So versatile and comforting, you can’t do better than a proper poutine.

This movie doesn’t yet have a full review.

Trailer here

 

BONUS! The legendary tv show, Are You Afraid of the Dark, is of course, also Canadian.

Looking for more? Try Pontypool, Hobo With a Shotgun, Pin, The Changeling, Videodrome, The Shrine, Prom Night. 

The Clinic (2010)

Score: 6.5/10

Length: 94

Rating: R

Language: English (Australia)

Categories: 2000s, murderer, recommended, SPOILERS

This well-developed story is about a mother who is kidnapped and surgically robbed of her child. She wakes up in a bath of ice in some sort of factory warehouse and soon finds out that she’s not the only one searching for her baby. There are lots of twists, and it’s a film that keeps you guessing. Although parts of the reveal are quite silly if you think about it, I didn’t feel any disappointment about how the film closed. The only thing I may have liked to catch a glimpse of was what happened to the other babies. This felt like a lady-version of Saw, with strong, emotional acting and an engaging and original plot. I don’t even really have anything sarcastic to say about it, because I can’t think of any part that was stand-out bad. The tension is there in many different scenes, but at the same time, nothing bad happens to the dogs or the cows! Just the right amounts of gore, tragedy, and build-up make this movie well worth a watch. (Unless you’re pregnant, maybe.)

Absentia (2011)

Score: 7/10

Length: 87

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, murderer, monster, alien, animal, underground, recommended

I love a good mystery-horror! And this one is quiet, sad, and haunting. Another monster movie with an “underneath” (it seems like everything good these days has some sort of Malcovichian land and/or a demon-bug). My favorite thing about this low-budget film, is that the only way you can tell it’s not on movie posters at the theatre is because the characters look like normal people. And that’s quite exciting really, because you can imagine them in your apartment building, checking their mailbox and walking their dog. They don’t look like celebrity New Yorkers or muddy red-neck farmers. They’re pretty relatable, though maybe still your run-of-the-mill characters (a woman falls for a cop after her husband disappears, the drug addicted sister, you know). But our main gal is pregnant and going through some major life drama, and the emotions along with the horror tension really make this film one I’d recommend. The story is similar to that of Stranger Things (even though it came first) in that people go missing in a underworld inhabited by a supernatural creature. I liked the filming, I liked the jumps and the twists. It was a pretty decent movie that was really careful to not be over-the-top and to leave a little mystery.

The Monster (2016)

Score: 7/10

Length: 91

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, murderer, monster, woods, recommended

I unintentionally came across The Monster while searching for 2016 horror movies to watch. I was actually surprised to not have heard of it considering it looked good and was directed by Bryan Bertino who also did The Strangers. Apparently it seems that said director has only done three movies, and has produced only a few others. I’m hoping to see more from him in the future, as I loved The Strangers for its tension and realness of characters, and The Monster follows suit. The plot is not complicated- a young, alcoholic mother and her daughter get into an car accident when trying to avoid a wolf on the road. The car is damaged and they are stuck in the pouring rain waiting for help, when they discover a bigger fear than the missing wolf- the monster who took it. The movie is highly symbolic- it’s obvious that the monster represents addiction, and it is easy to see that the mother will have to try to overcome this beast to protect her child. The acting from Zoe Kazan is outstanding, and Ella Ballentine as the daughter isn’t bad either. What really brings everything together is how real-life the characters are and how it’s easy to feel empathy or compassion for them, even if they aren’t the best people. You are always routing for the characters to succeed instead of being pleased when they’re killed off. The masculine, ebony-skinned monster is revealed part-way through, but we never get to see every detail of him, even though he isn’t hiding in the shadows. There’s no bad CGI or weird monster movements that seem created by a computer. Everything about this movie is solid, except that although the tension is strong, it isn’t overly scary.

 

Holidays (2016)

The little treat featuring each of the biggest holidays of the year is composed of eight stories from different directors. Definitely one of the better horror anthologies to date.

Valentine’s Day

Director: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes)

Score: four out of five Hershey’s kisses

A bullied outcast (not unlike in Carrie or The Craft) competes with the blonde popular girl for their swim teacher’s heart. Literally and figuratively. I tend to like a movie about obsessive love, and I really enjoyed this one. It’s memorable in a good way.

St. Patrick’s Day

Director: Gary Shore (Dracula Untold)

Score: three out of five snakeskin flasks

A woman who yearns for a child is put off when her new student begins doing strange things involving a snake. After waking in a parking lot, the teacher becomes pregnant with a reptilian creature. This episode is all well and good until it crashes and burns in a field where a silly CGI snake is celebrated by Danny Zuko’s animal-headed posse.

Easter*

Director: Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact)

Score: two and a half religious rodents out of five

A little girl who is uneasy about the Easter Bunny’s visit gets more than she fears when she stays awake and catches the character himself. The Easter Bunny is this creepy-as-fuck Jesus man-rabbit that’s all skin and no fluffy white fur. There’s not much to this one- she sees the creature and then is turned into a rabbit herself.

Mother’s Day

Director: Sarah Adina Smith (The Midnight Swim)

Score: three out of five bewitched baby bumps

A woman who cursed with a pregnancy every time she has sex goes to a fertility ritual gathering. She is drugged and kidnapped in the most romantic way, as she grows more and more pregnant with “the gateway”. This segment seems to focus on beauty over horror, and is in fact quite enchanting with all its natural female power. Sadly, the end really falls flat and is a huge disappointment in its unoriginality.

Father’s Day*

Director: Anthony Scott Burns

Score: four out of five deep daddy directions

Another woman (yup, the leads are all females so far) receives a mysterious package with a tape player inside. The recording is of her father who asks her to come find him. It’s very simple and vague, and relies heavily on the acting and your imagination. The story reminds me a little of Stranger Things, and I’d love to see how this short would do as a full-length film.

Halloween

Director: Kevin Smith (Tusk, the worst horror movie I’ve seen since Human Centipede)

Score: one out of five cringe-worthy car batteries

A douche who runs a scuzzy webcam business gets what’s coming to him when his cam girls rebel and use the power of three to cause some… er… discomfort. I’m all for a revenge story, but I’m not too into torture porn, and I really could have done without this episode ruining my favorite holiday.

Christmas

Director: Scott Stewart (Dark Skies)

Score: two out of five presented realities

Seth Green is out of luck when he is too late to get a last-minute Christmas present until he has the opportunity to steal the game from a man- or save his life. It sounds exciting, but all the episode is only comprised of a few virtual reality revelations and then it’s over.

New Year’s Eve

Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer (Some Kind of Hate)

Score: two and a half axe-girlfriends out of five

A tired single girl goes on a date with a yellow-toothed psycho, but he’s in for the quite the first date. I empathize, because I’d really like to do the same thing to some of the guys I’ve dated. Not a lot happens, and this episode seems like the shortest one, but it’s still mildly entertaining. Really great to watch before bed, because it makes you want to jump up and brush your teeth.

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Nosferatu (1922)

Score: 7.5/10

Length: 80

Rating: NR

Language: French, English

Categories: 20s, black & white, vampire, murderer, silent, horror-comedy

Original Title: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing this recently at the Seattle Paramount Cinema, which is a stunning 3000 person theatre, for their Silent Movie Mondays. And it just so happened to be on Halloween, when the classic vampire flick was playing. There was an organ player, a costume contest, photo booth, and lots of adult candy. The winner of the contest was a Nosferatu-dressed little girl who had no idea what was going on as her dad gushed nearby. She had the teeth and fingers and headwrap, and it was pretty cute. Nosferatu is completely silent, accompanied only by the organ (which was quite popular back then) or other instruments. It is completely filmed in black and white, however, it’s shown with different film filter colours such as sepia, blue, and pink to convey different moods. It is quite beautiful in its simplicity, but even horror fans might find it easy to nod off when all the lights are out. It’s about a real estate agent, Hutter, who travels to sell The Count an empty house across the street. Unfortunately, the vampire leaves a trail of blood as he lusts over Hutter’s wife.  My favorite thing about this film is that you assume the constantly fainting female is the damsel in distress, when in fact, she saves the day, and it is her husband, and in fact, the vampire, who are the idiots.

Tales of Halloween (2015)

This (mostly) Halloween-themed horror anthology is comprised of 10 stories which are individually rated below. (Segments are rated in comparison to each other, not to movies of the horror genre as a whole.)

Length: 92

Rating: R

Language: English

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Sweet Tooth (dir David Parker)

Score: 7/10    Villian: monster, human

It’s almost a shame that they put the best story first. I forgot that I was watching an anthology and was disappointed when it ended. Although I liked some of the others, I might have preferred to watch a whole movie about this. It’s a simple spooky story about a monster who eats your insides if you inhale all the candy and don’t leave him any. It’s fun and creative, with an ending I can appreciate. I’m sure this was the reason I bought that box of over-priced Halloween candy at the grocery store.

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The Night Billy Raised Hell (dir Darren Lynn Bousman)

Score: 5/10    Villian: devil/demon

A young kid dressed as a devil is pressured into pulling a prank on an old man. He is tied up while a look-alike demon wreaks havoc on the town with the old man devil snickering behind trees and such. The hot mom line was a little overdone and the cheesy noises and sound effects take away from the short. I would have preferred the same idea without the comedy.

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Trick (dir Adam Gierasch)

Score: 5/10     Villian: human

On Halloween, kids decide to trick instead of treat, killing the young adults in vicious ways. That’s all I can really say. I wish this segment had more. It was way too simple and easily forgettable. It deserves a like review.

 

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The Weak and the Wicked (dir Paul Solet)

Score: 5/10            Villian: (monster), human

A kid who is bullied by three hoodlums on bikes returns as a young adult with an evil spirit to invoke his revenge. It’s mostly shots of the female leader of the pack slowly sucking on a cigar and trying to give fire eyes.

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Grim Grinning Ghost (dir Axelle Carolyn)

Score: 6/10             Villian: ghost

Nothing much happened in this segment either, but I could easily empathize with the main character and it has a nice climax build-up. The acting seems genuine and this is a nice, little spook. It’s about a woman at a party who is told a story about a ghost who cackles behind you as she follows. If you turn around, she gets you. After the party on the way home, the tale  comes to life as the frightened gal wills herself not to turn around.

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Ding Dong (dir Lucky McKee)

Score: 5.5/10           Villian: monster/human

This strange story about infertility feels like I’m watching the Babadook in a Bjork video. Probably the strangest out of the bunch and the most unsettling. A couple unable to reproduce, struggle to keep cheery faces on when floods of children come to their door. As the husband tries to make light of the situation, the monster inside his wife appears more and more. The husband is dressed as Hansel, however, he looks more like Stewart from MadTV.

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This Means War (dir John Skipp and Andrew Kasch)

Score: 6/10           Villian: humans

Two generations of Halloween-lovers fight over the better way to enjoy the holiday. Loud, metal music, gory decorations, and a big party -or- classic family fun with animatronics and spooky effects. In the end, no one wins. The idea worked well for a short story, but there weren’t really any surprises, and it left the episode feeling too cute.

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Friday the 31st (dir Mike Mendez)

Score: 3/10             Villians: alien cartoons, possessed humans, and Jason

Deformed freak and movie murderer Jason Voorhees meets a cartoon alien that looks like it could be from an Eiffel 65 video. He finds the creature annoying and stomps on it, which in turn allows the alien to possess a female victim who launches herself at Jason. They hack away at each other and then the alien goes home. I don’t think I need to give any additional comments towards this description.

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The Ransom of Rusty Rex (dir Ryan Schifrin)

Score: 4/10                        Villian: gremlin

Two men kidnap what they think is a child, but what turns out to be a little imp-gremlin of sorts. The vertically-challenged monster torments the kidnappers as they do everything possible to get rid of it. This episode is mildly comical, but easily forgettable.

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Bad Seed (Neil Marshall)

Score: 6/10            Villian: killer pumpkins

This is probably my second-favorite segment, as the director really understands how to make horror cheesy and fun. It’s about an evil jack-o-lantern that eats humans head first. The idea isn’t anything fantastic, it’s the delightful little ending that gives it a small sparkle… of doom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film Face Off: Fright Night

Tonight, two films of the same name are up against each other. The classic eighties version, and the more recent, 2011 remake. Vampire entertainment at its best!

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Fright Night (1985)

Score: 4/10

This teen thriller starts off with some inspiring and suspicious 80s tunes, and then all of a sudden, thirty minutes through… BAM! the vampire changes and confrontations are already happening. It’s the classic premise for any Goosebumps or Bailey School Kids book- a vampire is living next door! This film also includes the longest ever vampire sex dance, followed by a lengthy retro love bite scene. Unfortunately, Dude just doesn’t do it for me- as a regular guy or an idiotic looking vampire. Each vampire’s teeth look more dumb than the last, and I’m not a fan of any horror movies over an hour and a half (I’ll only let Stephen King get away with it), but it’s all worth it, because the end is full of over-the-top amazingly bad CGI, and a fantastic green slimy goop vampire melting scene.

 

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Fright Night (2011)

Score:4/10

The second does good as a remake, using lots of the same bits from the original, including the many pointed and jagged little vampire-monster teeth. Anton Yelchin and Toni Collette are fun and relatable characters, and really aid douchey Colin Farrell as the vampire who enjoys face-posing after sucking blood. I didn’t love macburger as the turned-friend. He just wasn’t the right balance of likeable and killable. The CGI used was silly and almost 90’s-style, but I didn’t hate it. I’m not sure what other options there were for this type of movie, really. It’s great around Halloween when you want a light movie to watch with your teenage sister.

In conclusion…

In a rare twist, I gave these two movies released almost thirty years apart the same score. Both cheesy and fun, both barely watchable, with the exception of Halloween night. The remake is just that- a remake, but I liked that about it, as I doubt many of the kids watching it today have ever even seen the original, and for the rest of us, it’s the nostalgia we wanted.

The Convent (2000)

Score: 5.5/10

Length: 79

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, demon, murderer, zombie, almost horror, horror-comedy, gore

A goth gal turned preppy along with her goth friend and idiot jock friends explore an abandoned church where a woman seeking revenge killed a bunch of nuns and a priest. Nods to Demons and Evil Dead. Demon nuns with glowing face cracks, gnarly pointed teeth, and black eye rings. They look fantastic, though the  scary simplicity of the nun from The Conjuring 2 nudges out these gals for first place. I delighted in the over-used scream sound clips, the gay devil-worshipper, and Coolio’s appearance as a gangsta cop. On the other hand, I really could have done without the bad Run Lola Run music. It’s funny, but it was probably funnier before some of the more awesome horror-comedies of our time were released. The fire effects especially made me chuckle, and I think the light hearted mish-mash of films somehow tied everything together. I wouldn’t have changed many things about this film, but it could have been funnier and gorier with stranger characters and mood-controlling music.