Synchronic is an American science fiction horror drama directed and produced by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and written by Benson. It stars Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie. The film has been touted by many critics as one of the best scifi movies of 2020. Benson and Moorhead have a good reputation as cutting-edge indie scifi directors with previous well-received movies like Spring and The Endless. The duo are also working together on the upcoming Disney+/Marvel Studios streaming Moon Knight series.(more…)
Crimson Peak is a 2015 gothic romance horror drama directed by Guillermo Del Toro. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain in the lead roles with Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver as support.(more…)
Freaky is a 2020 comedy horror drama film based loosely on the classic 1978 Freaky Friday movie which has been remade several times over the years since. The twist in Freaky is that this time, the protagonist switches bodies – not with her mother – but with a serial killer!(more…)
Run is a psychological horror drama starring Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen. The premise of Run is very Stephen King-inspired as it involves a protagonist being kept captive by an antagonist, that happens to be a caregiver. Quite similar to King’s Misery except that instead of author and psychotic fan, we get daughter and psychotic mother.(more…)
The Entity is a supernatural horror drama that bears all the hallmarks of classic 1970s horror though it was ultimately released in 1982/1983. The best reference point for The Entity is probably The Exorcist for its viscerally serious exploration of its subject matter and also for its connection with a real-life incident.(more…)
The Sentinel is a 1977 supernatural horror drama based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz. Directed by Michael Winner, The Sentinel is about a young model (Cristina Raines) who moves into a historic Brooklyn brownstone that has been sectioned into apartments, only to find that the building is owned by the Catholic diocese and is a gateway to Hell.(more…)
The New Mutants is a superhero horror movie directed by Josh Boone. The final movie in the Fox X-Men franchise series, The New Mutants is loosely based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name, in particular the Demon Bear Saga that ran from #18 – #20, in the 80s.(more…)
Possessor is an indie scifi horror movie written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Horror buffs will of course recognise the name Cronenberg. Brandon is the son of iconic film-maker David Cronenberg, director of movies like The Fly, Dead Ringers, Scanners, Rabid et al.(more…)
Is The Exorcist the best horror movie ever made? Based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel and directed by William Friedkin, the 1973 movie was a smash hit when it was first released and its significance and influence on the genre has not diminished in the years since.(more…)
If you are looking for no-frills, lo-fi, indie horror thrills, look no further than the excellent Rent-A-Pal. Written and directed by Jon Stevenson, Rent-A-Pal stars Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek fame) and Brian Landis Folkins, as the protagonist.(more…)
The Swerve is a psychological drama written and directed by Dean Kapsalis. In his first feature film, Kapsalis presents a deep character study of a descent into mental insanity. It is a harrowing and disturbing film that showcases a promising debut from newcomer Kapsalis.(more…)
The Changeling is a Canadian supernatural horror film directed by Peter Medak and starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, and Melvyn Douglas. The film uses ghosts and haunted house tropes to deliver its psychological terrors. Released in 1980, The Changeling is imbued with classic 70s horror vibes where the scares are often in the mind of the viewer. (Spoilers follow)(more…)
After viewing The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, a loose adaptation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and other short stories, it seemed appropriate to check out yet another Turn of the Screw adaptation – The Turning.
The Turning is an updating of James’ classic ghost story. Set in 1994, the premise is maintained, i.e. a young governess is hired to watch over two children after their parents’ deaths. Strange things ensue …
Same old story?
The cast of characters should be familiar to anyone who has read Turn of the Screw or seen its numerous adaptations. There is the unnamed governess (Kate Mandel, in this latest iteration – played by Mackensie Davis). She is of course the protagonist of the story as the plot is centred on her decisions and actions.
There are the two orphaned children, Flora (Brooklynn Prince) and Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and the housekeeper Mrs Grose (Barbara Marten). The previous governess Miss Jessel had mysteriously disappeared and there is also the deceased Mr Quint, a former employee.
In The Turning, Mandel is given a back story in the shape of her institutionalised mother. This provides a suggestion, nothing more, of mental illness within Mandel’s own psychological makeup.
Nothing new under the sun
Plot-wise, The Turning is faithful to Turn of the Screw up to a point. Miles returns to the family home after expulsion from boarding school but almost instantly takes a dislike to Mandel and terrorises her for the rest of the movie.
Apart from Miles’ bullying behaviour, Mandel encounters various strange events, which may either be supernatural or a product of Mandel’s disturbed imagination. Basically, she discovers that Miss Jessel may have been raped and drowned by Mr Quint but that is never confirmed as a fact. Mr Quint also terrorises Mandel but once again, it’s unclear whether any of what Mandel experienced is real or not.
Making a right mess of things
That’s the whole problem with The Turning. Everything is left up in the air. The narrative is ambiguous and it’s difficult for a viewer to make head or tail of it all. The final act is the worst of all as an entire sequence is revealed to be a vision of Mandel’s, experienced by her after she looked upon artwork sent by her mother.
Then, rather abruptly, Mandel is affronted by the children as she confronts them about the ghostly presence of Mr Quint before inexplicably being trapped in her own mind. Mandel finds herself at her mother’s institution and is terrified by something the audience is not privy to.
In the final analysis …
A senseless denouement which simply falls apart. Having done quick research, it does seem that originally the project had Steven Spielberg’s involvement. The famed director pulled his participation from the project due to dissatisfaction with its development.
Subsequently, a new director was hired and new script was written but apparently with Spielberg losing interest. The result is this unsatisfying mess. Avoid.
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… still there’s more …
Sinister is a horror thriller that was released in 2012. A commercial smash at the time, Sinister grossed over $87 million against a production budget of $3 million!(more…)
The Haunting of Bly Manor is a nine-part limited series on the Netflix streaming platform. The series is produced by the same creative team (headed by writer-director Mike Flanagan) that made the popular Haunting of Hill House. The two narratives are not connected whatsoever.(more…)
Sputnik is a Russian scifi horror-thriller released this year. Set in 1983, the story revolves around a young psychiatrist’s efforts to help a cosmonaut who had bonded with an alien creature while in space. Sputnik channels a seventies scifi movie vibe and is loosely influenced by classic alien horror like Alien. Please note that this Sputnik movie review contains spoilers.
The main character in Sputnik is Dr. Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), a young psychiatrist recruited by Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), the officer in charge of a military base holding cosmonaut Kostantin (Pyotr Fyodorov). Klimova is tasked to find a way to separate Konstantin from the alien creature.
Nice and easy
While the plot is uncomplicated, its details are slowly revealed to the audience in a clever way so that the protagonist has to alter her decisions and behaviour to adapt to the new information.
Klimova goes from co-operating with Colonel Semiradov to conspiring against him due to his unethical methods. She also takes greater risks as the movie reaches its final act, in order, to save Konstantin, whom she has fallen in love with.
As mentioned earlier, Sputnik has a very strong seventies scifi movie vibe. A very deliberate pace and realistic tone keeps the audience guessing throughout. We are able to identify with Klimova as her emotions and motivations adjust to the evolving circumstances. Especially in the final act, when drastic action needs to be taken by Klimova and Konstantin.
The setting (Cold War era Soviet Union) is reflected in many of the character’s motivations. Konstantin sees himself as a national hero and appears to have a narcissistic tendency. Colonel Semiradov views the alien creature as a potential weapon to serve the communist cause. Klimova is above these concerns, her main goal is to help Konstantin and hopefully separate him from the alien creature.
No happy endings
The dark ending is again aligned with an early 70s movie vibe. A poignant though-provoking denouement that eschews the American penchant for positivity. Also, considered the genre trappings, the movie is clearly a standalone work, with no hints of any sequels to continue the story. Highly recommended.
… still there’s movie …
Don’t Look Now (1973) is a seminal horror movie directed by Nicolas Roeg. It has been described as a ground-breaking movie for many different reasons (like the explicit sex scene). However, perhaps its biggest distinction is pioneering what we now call the “mindfuck” movie.(more…)
The Invisible Man is based on the classic H.G. Wells novel, is a remake of the 1933 film adaptation and also part of the failed Universal Dark Universe. Here’s our preview of The Invisible Man.(more…)
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