Thursday, October 30, 2014

Film Review: V/H/S (2012)

V/H/S (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...very enjoyable and unique for the genre."

A group of criminals are paid to burglarize a home and steal a VHS tape. They find dozens and dozens of tapes and search for the correct one...

V/H/S is an anthology horror film. The frame story follows this group of criminals as they watch the tapes. “Amateur Night” follows a group of partying friends who plan to record their sexual adventures through a camera secretly placed on a pair of glasses – this is the most interesting but technically-flawed. “Second Honeymoon” follows a couple on their second honeymoon – this one is the most uneventful yet surprising. “Tuesday the 17th” follows four friends who enter the woods and face an different type of killer – also an interesting story, but not very effective. “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” follows Emily, who believes her apartment is haunted, as the video chats with her boyfriend – a very fast-paced jump-scare story that is very enjoyable. Finally, “10/31/98” follows a group of friends who head out to a Halloween party, but find themselves in an odd situation – another fast-paced jump-scare story that is entertaining.

All in all, I liked four of the stories in V/H/S. The only story that was on the mediocre side was “Tuesday the 17th.” Otherwise, they are all very enjoyable and unique for the genre. I really appreciate that, too. I know there are some supernatural elements in these stories, but they are more creative than the typical output in the found-footage sub-genre. I should note, though, “Second Honeymoon” is very slow-paced and somewhat uneventful. This is a Ti West film, which explains the pacing, and, although I ultimately enjoyed it, I don't think his style is suited for short films. The climax is superb, but the buildup is too much for such a come-and-go climax. Most of the short films have a decent variety of horror, such as spooky visuals and plenty of jump-scares.

The acting is good. Most characters are are generic douchebags, but this cast plays them well. The biggest flaw for some of these short films is the found-footage style. For example, “Amateur Night” is a great concept with some solid buildup and creepy visuals; however, this film is plagued with nauseating camerawork, a choppy framerate and sloppy editing. Consequently, it's difficult to get through, which is so disappointing. I even felt sick a few times – and I've seen dozens of found-footage films. Fortunately, most of the other stories keep the camera smooth enough to avoid this feeling. Aside from the poor use of found-footage at times, the direction is great. Ti West, like I said, delivers a tense and suspenseful slow-burn, Joe Swanberg has a great pace and some jolting scares, and Radio Silence deliver a very fun finale. I also applaud the writing for avoiding the run-of-the-mill ghost stories.

Overall, aside from one weak story and some technical flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed V/H/S. However, I am a sucker for horror anthologies. This film has some decent variety and some great scares. Despite being borderline uneventful, Ti West delivers the most memorable moment in this collection. If you love creative horror anthologies and can tolerate the found-footage style, this is definitely worth your time!

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, full nudity and some sexuality.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Film Review: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Review)
Canada/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"It's all absolutely hilarious and that's all you need to know..."

A group of college students go camping in the backwoods where they encounter the eccentric but well-meaning hillbillies Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine).

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is really just one large misunderstanding. On one side, the college students believe Tucker and Dale are psychopathic killers who have kidnapped their friend, Allie. On the other hand, Tucker and Dale believe the college students are on a suicide pact and want to kill Allie, who the pair saved from drowning. It's all absolutely hilarious and that's all you need to know about the plot. This funny satire leads to a satisfying ending.

The story is a humorous, well-written satire. It effectively clowns genre clichés and stereotypes. The humor is irreverent and black, with some gags and slapstick. I loved the use of coincidence in the humor, it was expertly written to satire the tired cabin-in-the-woods genre. There are a few jokes that don't land, but it's consistently hilarious for the most part. The best of the humor comes when Tucker and Dale share the screen, which is fortunately most of the time. As for the horror: it's more of a theme, so don't really expect anything terrifying. However, there's plenty of gore and violence to satisfy some of your horror needs.

The entire cast play their roles well. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine steal the show, though; great chemistry in the friendship, and hilarious reactions and lines. The cinematography is reminiscent of other modern horror films; the film really went all-out in satirizing the genre. Director and co-writer Eli Craig crafts a hilarious horror-comedy; he blends both elements very well, and he also balances the different types of humor well, too.

Overall, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a great horror-comedy. The film has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and plenty of over-the-top gore to satisfy fans of both genres. Aside from a few fall flat gags and jokes, there aren't many issues with the film. There's definitely room for improvement, but nothing worth nitpicking. Fans of comedies and horror films should seek Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some partial nudity. (a very dark and brief scene.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Film Review: The Sacrament (2013)

The Sacrament (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of the better contemporary horror movies..."

A pair of filmmakers document a friend's attempt to locate his estranged sister after she joins an isolate religious community.

The Sacrament is a mockumentary following reporter Sam (AJ Bowen) and cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg), who document Patrick as he searches for his sister. They are led to Eden Parish, an isolated community which is only accessible by helicopter. A community free of violence, drugs, and racism -- free of capitalism, imperialism, and materialism. So, the crew documents this community until they meet the charismatic leader called "Father" (Gene Jones). Eventually, they find everything is not what it seems. The final act becomes more of a traditional thriller; oddly, it also feels slower and less immersive. The ending is good, though.

The Sacrament is a great film. In fact, I think the first two acts are fantastic. I love the mockumentary-style, and the concept is very well executed. The Sacrament feels like a genuine documentary. Eden Parish feels like a real utopia, like a real community. And this great feeling of authenticity contributes greatly to the overall immersion of the film. I also love the feeling of being immersed -- you know, the type of movie where your eyes are locked on the screen and you never check the runtime. Aside from the great immersion, The Sacrament is tense and suspenseful. Some moments were nail-bitingly tense, like the masterful interview segment.

The Sacrament isn't absolutely perfect, though. As I previously stated, the final act becomes more of a traditional thriller and opts for a more predictable route -- you can guess where it's going, probably before even starting the film. As soon as it hits the climax, the amazing slow-burn feeling cools down. The pacing picks up, but it feels less immersive and less effective. Despite the hectic thrills, the film's grand finale fails to land as effectively as the first two acts. That doesn't make The Sacrament terrible, but it makes the ending a bit more disappointing.

The acting is all-around great, especially from the supporting cast. AJ Bowen, who slightly disappointed in The Rites of Spring, delivers a good performance. Joe Swanberg is also good, although he shares less screen time. Gene Jones, however, steals the show with a wonderfully charismatic and memorable performance. The film's mockumentary-style manages to capture some great photography. The camerawork is also great, although it occasionally becomes somewhat nauseating during the final act. The ominous music helped in setting the chilling atmosphere. I wasn't a big fan of the orange blood, though. Writer and director Ti West, who also directs The Innkeepers, is great; the story is interesting and engaging, the performances are great, and the tension is strong.

Overall, The Sacrament is a great film. It's a very tense and suspenseful slow-burn mockumentary. I was hooked during the first two acts and, although I was a bit disappointed, I was adequately satisfied by the finale. The superb performance from Gene Jones helps this film anchor itself as one of the better contemporary horror movies -- both in general horror and in acting. For fans of slow-burn films and Ti West, I strongly recommend.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Film Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (Review)
United States/1990
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...more of an outline of the portrait..."

The brutal murder spree of Henry (Michael Rooker) and his prison buddy Otis (Tom Towles) in Chicago.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer follows the titular character as, well, he kills. It also follows his roommate Otis, who also kills and sells drugs, and Otis' sister Becky, a troubled woman looking to fix her life. The plot is fairly simple, though. It begins in the middle of Henry's killing spree, eventually Otis, who is controlled like a dog by Henry, joins, and Becky works and chats with Henry. It's brutal and savage at times, and paints a somewhat accurate portrait of a serial killer – well, at least the brutal violence is caught accurately. The ending of the film is good, though.

The film is very effective. As simple as it may sound – because it is – it is incredibly effective. The violence is graphic and unforgettable. There are many visuals of death. The visuals of the aftermath were the most impacting, in my opinion. The film has scenes, especially during the beginning, of the dead bodies and these are very graphic. Scenes of strangulation and stabbings, as well burns and dismemberment – truly some shocking stuff. And, it's covered in an ominous and tense atmosphere, with some great suspense here and there. The cold-hearted characters are equally effective, too. Henry and Otis are brutal savages, they laugh and have fun during their murders, which makes them really evil. Their conversations are equally tense, too.

However, the simplicity is also a negative for the film. This is supposed to be a portrait of a serial killer. At least, that's what I would think it would be – and rightfully so, considering the title. But, it ends up being more of an outline of the portrait – it's not filled in, the details are missing. We get a little information on Henry's background, but not enough to really know him. It doesn't make the film bad – not at all – but it makes the film less effective. More importantly, it makes the film's violence feel more gratuitous.

The acting is great. Michael Rooker is really strong as the lead; he has the twisted charisma and charm for the role. Tom Towles is decent. Towles is great when he's being a psychopath, which is most of the performance, but he's mediocre otherwise. The film looks decent, nothing special when it comes to the cinematography. The music is great, though – a soundtrack straight from the 1980s. The makeup is also great, it really helped create more effective and graphic violence. Director John McNaughton delivers a graphic and unforgettable serial killer experience; it does lack some important character, but it is ultimately a film that is difficult to forget – and rightfully so.

Overall, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is great film. It's definitely not a film for everyone, even for people who love serial killer films. For example, a film like Memories of Murder focuses on the investigation and mystery, and it succeeds. A film like The Chaser focuses on the breathtaking thrills, and it succeeds. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer focuses on the violence and murder, and, well, it succeeds. A film that is dominated mostly by violence is not as effective or attractive as the two former, but it ends up working. If you can tolerate the violence and if you're an open-minded fan of the genre, this is for you.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood, including gore, nudity and sex.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Film Review: Omnivores (2013)

Omnivores (Review)
Mexico/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...a very chilling and effective film."

Marcos Vela (Mario de la Rosa), a highly-regarded gastronomic journalist, begins to investigate Clandestine restaurants at the request of an independent publisher. His investigation leads him to a dark discovery...

Omnivores is a simple yet effective horror film. The story follows Marcos Vela as he visits several Clandestine restaurants. He socializes with the other guests and he eats some rare food, such as fugu. Eventually, Marcos catches on to the possibility of a cannibalistic clandestine restaurant. It peaks his interest as a perfect fit for his research and he ventures deeper into this vicious world. The ending of the film lasted a bit too long – I felt like it started to drag without reason – but it was good enough.

Most of the film is good. In fact, I would say it was great. The film develops an ominous atmosphere from the beginning, and the themes of cannibalism are very creepy and chilling. The first half of the film works effectively in building up a shocking and impacting climax – not in the surprising sense, but more in the disturbing and violent sense. Regardless, the buildup is there and, more importantly, it works. Those who cringe at the sight of violence and gore may have some nightmares. I don't think this film has as much torture or gore as Hostel or Saw, but it is graphic and effective.

It's not the perfect film, though. I understand films can't be 100% realistic – I get it, it's unreasonable to expect that. However, there really has to be a line. I won't spoil the latter half of the film, although it does suffer from some inconsistent logic. But, I can use examples of earlier on in the movie. So, minor spoiler, this cannibal restaurant abducts people for their meat. That's clear and seems okay for the plot. However, the abductions are ridiculous. You're telling me someone can walk around with a meat tenderizer, knock a person out, and throw them in the trunk and no one will notice. There's one scene where a woman is kidnapped right after she walks away from her friends – it couldn't have been longer than 15 seconds – and you expect me to believe no one is going to notice.

Otherwise, the acting is great. Mario de la Rosa dominates most of the screen time – fortunately, he's charismatic and very genuine, especially in the latter half of the film. The supporting cast is also very strong. I love watching horror films with great acting, it makes the movie much more effective. The film looks decent, no complaints for the cinematography. The music is also good; however, it is often overwhelming – very loud and unnecessarily strong at times. Director Oscar Rojo delivers a very disturbing horror film; the themes are chilling, the atmosphere is immersive, there some solid tension and suspense, and the torture is cringe-worthy – all in all, it's a very chilling and effective film.

Overall, Omnivores is a very good horror film. In an age ruled by supernatural horror movies, I definitely appreciate a film like this. The concept is both chilling and daring but, more importantly, it's very well executed. It's a film that gave me chills quite a few times and kept me hooked from beginning to end. There are a few inconsistencies in the plot, but it was satisfying enough. It may not be a horror film for everyone, especially those who only watch supernatural horror, this is more of an acquired taste.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood, full-frontal nudity and sex.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Film Review: Martyrs (2008)

Martyrs (Review)
France/2008
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (eOne Films)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of them most unsettling and disturbing films I've ever watched."

Imprisoned and physically tormented as a child, Lucie (Mylene Jampanoi) seeks vengeance from the people responsible.

Martyrs follows the troubled Lucie and her lifelong friend Anna (Morjana Alaoui) after Lucie executes a seemingly normal family. Lucie is convinced this family is responsible for the heinous torture she endured as a child, and Anna reluctantly agrees to help her closest friend. Unfortunately, the revenge doesn't offer Lucie's inner-demons any satisfaction. Eventually, Anna learns more about Lucie's past and is forced to follow the same path. The ending is shocking – it feels somewhat like a cop-out, but it was very interesting.

Martyrs isn't a traditional horror film. It's not even a traditional torture film. Martyrs is more of a horror-drama hybrid, like The Exorcist. Consequently, the horror is much more effective. In fact, this is one of them most unsettling and disturbing films I've ever watched. It's one of the few films that I actually have difficulties watching due to the disturbing themes and graphic violence – both of which are amplified by the drama elements and acting. It's not something that simply aims to gross you out. Instead, this film gave me the chills; it induced that huge lump in my throat.

The story is more complicated and detailed than my synopsis, but it's a film that's better when you know less. The plot is ultimately very effective. It's confined to one area, but it's multilayered. The pacing is great, too, the film flows very naturally and stays on its feet. Other than the graphic violence, the film uses disturbing visuals and jolting jump-scares to frighten. Like I said, it's all very effective. There aren't many jump-scares, if that's what you're looking for, but most of them work very well.

The acting is all-around strong from the entire cast. Mylene Jampanoi is very good. Morjana Alaoui is fantastic as the lead – great expressions. The film is shot very well, despite its graphic violence and unsettling themes. The music is also very effective in inducing several emotions – it can be horrifying one scene, then somber during another. The special effects and makeup are fantastic; these really helped created the disturbing visuals. Writer and director Pascal Laugier, who also directed House of Voices, delivers a vicious horror film and a resonating drama. It's a fantastic blend that creates an incredibly effective and unforgettable horror-drama experience.

Overall, Martyrs is a vicious film. It's definitely not a film for everyone. In fact, despite my high praise and high score, I can't recommend this film to just anyone. It's too graphic in presentation and too polarizing in theme. But, if you're an open-minded film-goer and can tolerate extreme violence, this film might be worth a viewing. It won't be entertaining per se, but it will certainly be effective. So effective, you may never forget it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and blood, including torture, and some nudity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Film Review: Ju-on: Black Ghost (2009)

Ju-on: Black Ghost (Review)
Japan/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...blends several types of horror to create a consistent and versatile horror experience."

After she faints at school, a young girl, Fukie discovers she has cyst in her body, which is actually her unborn twin.

Much like the rest of this film series, Ju-on: Black Ghost is told in non-chronological order. Consequently, it will take some effort from the audience to fully understand the film; it is engaging storytelling, but it can also be unnecessarily convoluted. Also like the rest of this film series, Ju-on: Black Ghost follows a large set of characters as they experience this grudge. The grudged sibling in Ju-on: Black Ghost torments Fukie and her family, as well as anyone who crosses its path, including a young nurse named Yuko and her neighbor. The story is creepy and creative, and it leads to a great ending.

Ju-on: Black Ghost is the most distinct film in the series. It still centers around a grudge, but it feels more like a possession film this time around, with the Ju-on signature horror. And, I like that about the film – I like it a lot. It helps the film differentiate itself while still serving as an excellent complimentary piece to White Ghost, or any other film in the series. The possession elements aren't cliché, either, it serves more as a vessel to deliver some fresh horror to the series.

And, Ju-on: Black Ghost is scary film. It blends several types of horror to create a consistent and versatile horror experience. The ghostly visuals are nightmarish – the piercing eyes in the darkness are chilling. In fact, there seem to be plenty of eye visuals in this film – I like them, a lot of creepy stares. The eerie croaking sound has a strong and disturbing presence, too. There are quite a few jump-scares here, as well, but not nearly as many as its predecessors. I don't necessarily mind, considering it does introduce some possession-like horror, but it is worth noting.

The acting is mostly good. I particularly love the death-stares some of the cast deliver, like Hana Matsumoto and Yuno Nakazono. It is a little melodramatic, though, especially some of the screaming. Otherwise, this is also a low-budget horror film. It does well in using practical camerawork, sound, and visuals to create its horror – I'm impressed. The special effects are good; some seem out of place, but I didn't mind, I was more frightened than bothered. Writer and director Mari Asato, who also helms Ring of Curse, does very well in crafting some terrifying moments and differentiating herself from the rest of the series – without alienating any fans; the film does suffer from some confusing storytelling and plot points, but Mari Asato's direction is as refreshing as ever – she's one of my favorite modern Japanese horror directors, and I look forward to seeing more from her.

Overall, Ju-on: Black Ghost is a very good Japanese horror film. It's a little different from the other films in the series, but it still manages to scare and entertain. I think Ju-on: White Ghost had more of an impact and was a bit more frightening, but Black Ghost is an excellent complimentary piece; in other words, watch them both. Strongly recommended for fans of horror and Ju-on.

Last year during our 31 Days of Halloween special, I reviewed Ju-on and Ju-on 2, now I give you Ju-on: White Ghost and Black Ghost. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed watching and writing.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Film Review: Ju-on: White Ghost (2009)

Ju-on: White Ghost (Review)
Japan/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Well Go USA)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...the best film in the series since the original..."

The grudge of a murdered family is experienced by anyone who crosses it, including family friend Akane Kashiwagi (Akina Minami) and a delivery boy (Hiroki Suzuki)...

Ju-on: White Ghost requires some effort to fully digest. The story, which is really fairly simple, is a bit complicated due to the non-chronological storytelling. On one hand, well, it's complicated. On the other hand, it keeps you engaged. The story itself follows a set of characters as they experience the haunting of a family massacre caused by Atsushi, who becomes possessed after he moves into a new home with his family. It's grizzly and it enters some taboo territory, but it's all-around creepy. The ending is good, too.

Ju-on: White Ghost is an excellent entry into the Ju-on series of films. The story is reminiscent of the original films, which also utilize non-chronological storytelling. However, this film is a bit more violent and a bit more disturbing due to some themes, such as sexual abuse. White Ghost excels most in its use of a variety of horror methods. This film utilizes everything I love about horror – everything!

It builds up some nail-biting suspense and tension. It uses creepy, spine-tingling visuals. (I don't care what anyone says, the grandma with the basketball is chilling!) It also features some spooky audio; in this case, it's not as memorable as the meowing and croaking of the original, but good, nonetheless. And, if you're a fan of jump-scares, Ju-on: White Ghost has a barrage of jolters. I was even more impressed when I considered the micro-budget of the film – it utilizes great practical skills to scare.

The acting is all-around good. It can be melodramatic here and there, but it wasn't bad – not bad, at all. However, it is difficult to gauge the cast's range due to the short screen time of each actor. The film is otherwise a low-budget horror film. It makes do with what it has, though. There's some decent cinematography and some decent camerawork, too. The makeup effects are decent; I personally enjoyed it immensely, but I can see it looks a bit amateurish. Director Ryuta Miyake masterfully crafts some horrifying moments, even more so impressively when you consider the budget limitations; the storytelling could use some work, but it is otherwise a frightening and exciting horror film thanks to Miyake's direction.

Overall, Ju-on: White Ghost is a great Japanese horror film. It blends a great variety of horror to create a consistently scary and entertaining film. The storytelling requires some effort from the audience, but the story itself is chilling and disturbing. Ju-on: White Ghost is the best film in the series since the original – strongly recommended.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including some gore and implied sexual abuse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Film Review: House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (2004)

House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (Review)
France/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion."

In 1958, Anna (Virginie Ledoyen), a cleaning woman, is sent to the closing Saint Ange orphanage to clean, but finds it may be home to a sinister secret...

House of Voices is a conflicting film. On one hand, the story is very simple and even uneventful. On the other hand, the story features some great visuals and symbolism, and is mostly open to interpretation. In a sense, House of Voices is a simple yet complex horror film. The story simply follows Anna, her coworker, and the last remaining orphan as they work. Anna begins to hear and witness the unexplainable, such as whispers and moving objects. Then, she begins to unravel the mystery within the orphanage. The climax is interesting, and so is the ending; however, the ending was overly ambiguous -- I'm not certain I fully understood.

Aside from the often uneventful plot, House of Voices also suffers from some inconsistent pacing. I love slow-burn horror films, I think they're my absolute favorites in the genre. In this case, House of Voices occasionally moves too slow. It starts building up the suspense, keeps building to add the burn... then keeps building, and building, and building. House of Voices simply has too much buildup, which causes some of the suspense to dwindle. Consequently, it also keeps the film on the border of suspenseful and boring, and may cause the audience to disengage and doze off.

It's not all bad, though. I liked the simplicity of the story. I love a classic ghost story, and this film develops a decent atmosphere for the occasion. I also like the complexities of the film. The visuals of the film give you something to think about -- they give you the opportunity to participate in the mystery. At the same time, some of the visual terror is enough to give you goosebumps. The surreal climax is especially noteworthy. I won't lose any sleep at night, but the horror in this film is a saving grace for an otherwise uneventful and often dull story.

The acting is good. Virginie Ledoyen is a decent leading lady; the role isn't really demanding, though. The supporting cast is also decent. The cinematography is fantastic; the film looks amazing, featuring superb photography and camerawork. The music is also very effective in setting the ominous mood and developing the creepy atmosphere. The Netflix Instant version is available in English, but it is not a dub; apparently, this film was shot in French and English, but I might have false information. Writer and director Pascal Laugier is decent; Laugier is great in photography, visuals, and atmosphere, but lacks the proper suspense -- with too much buildup, the film never hits the fuse.

Overall, House of Voices, also known as Saint Ange, is a decent horror film. The story is interesting, but it has a very inconsistent pace, which in turn hurts the suspense and buildup. It can be frightening one minute, then dull the next. Even as a fanboy of slow-burn horror films, I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion. If you're a very patient moviegoer and a fan of ghost stories, this is worth renting or streaming.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some blood, and some full nudity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Film Review: The Booth (2005)

The Booth (Review)
Japan/2005
Format Viewed For Review: DVD (Tartan Asia Extreme)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...one of the most overlooked and underappreciated Japanese horror films..."

Arrogant radio DJ Shingo (Ryuta Sato) temporarily broadcasts his call-in show from Studio 6, a booth with a haunting past...

The Booth is a very straightforward and simple story. The story follows Shingo as he regularly hosts his call-in show. However, it becomes irregular when the call begin to spark some of his memories and as a mysterious voice cuts in to call him a liar. Is it the haunting of the booth? Is he being sabotaged by his co-workers? Or has his own past remerged to haunting him? The story pieces together very well up to an interesting, although somewhat contrived, climax. The story does lose some momentum towards the end, but the ending itself was decent.

I found the simplicity of The Booth to be very attractive. Even as the film jumps from flashback to the present, and vice versa, the storytelling never lost me. It's very clear and concise -- some plot points are strange, but I was never actually confused. The storytelling also kept me engaged and interested. The horror was the main treat, but the mystery was actually mysterious -- I didn't know where it was headed, despite the simplicity.

As for horror, this isn't a "jump-out-and-scare-you" horror film. It does have a handful of loud noise jump-scares, but The Booth is more of a slow-burn. It builds up nail-biting suspense and tension, it has some subtle and spooky visuals, and it's engulfed in an ominous and eerie atmosphere. And, I absolutely loved the latter; the focus on a terrifying and immersive atmosphere allows the audience to genuinely feel like they're in the haunted booth with Shingo. If you like suspenseful films, this is for you.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Ryuta Sato does very well in the role; one second he's the charismatic DJ, the next he is the arrogant person that plays the charismatic DJ. I liked the film's photography and style; I especially loved the introduction. The music also helps create the creepy-vibe of the film; it is sort of a standard horror soundtrack, but it definitely works well with the film. The English subtitles on the DVD are great, I didn't notice any significant flaws. Director Yoshihiro Nakamura expertly crafts a suspenseful and atmospheric horror film; however, it does lose some momentum towards the end and some plot points are strange, to say the least.

Overall, The Booth is a great horror film. It's not an in-your-face horror film, and I genuinely enjoy that. As a big fan of slow-burn and atmospheric horror, this was a surprising treat. The Booth is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated Japanese horror films I've ever seen -- it stands next to classics like Ringu and Ju-on: The Grudge.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some blood and violence.