The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection [Blu-Ray Review]

Alfred Hitchcock was a true master of suspense. He started directing films in the medium’s silent infancy, and continued through the addition of sound, and creating some of his best work after color was added. Through the evolving technology and a variety of genres, what made Hitchcock’s work so compelling was his ability to craft dramatic scenes with ever-escalating tensions. Not everything always came together, but, to paraphrase the man himself, he played audiences like a piano. When he was on his game, his viewers needed to know what came next.

Four of his best — Rear WindowVertigoPsycho, and The Birds — are collected and restored in this new, gorgeous Ultra HD/Blu-Ray Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places takes Algernon Blackwood into the Future

Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” is one of the best pieces of horror fiction ever written. In Blackwood’s story, two travelers get lost on a canoe trip along the Danube. They land on an island where the titular willows are everywhere. The travelers soon realize that the plants are reading their minds. The more they think about the extradimensional willows, the more powerful the willows become. (You can read the story at Project Gutenberg for free). It’s terrifying in the story, and equally terrifying in T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places, which riffs on Blackwood’s concept. 

Kingfisher’s main character, Carrot (Kara with red hair who never shook her childhood nickname), is running her Uncle Earl’s “Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities and Taxidermy” while he has knee surgery. It’s smooth sailing until she finds a hole in the wall. She convinces Simon, the proprietor of the coffee shop next door, to help her patch it. But when they find that the hole leads to a hallway, they decide to explore. Á la House of Leaves, this hall is impossibly long, going past where the coffee shop should start and where the building should end on the outside. 

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Evil Boy is a Cringey Exploitation of Feral Children [DVD Review]

Feral children are lost or abandoned, left to fend for their own, often in wilderness. Many are adapted by animals. Reintegration into their respective societies is difficult if and when they are discovered. These feral children need to relearn everything, starting with language. One of them is the object of objectionable horror in Olga Gorodetskaya’s feature-length debut, Evil Boy

The story starts with Igor (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) identifying the body of a child that may be his son. The coroner says, “I have to warn you, the body is mutilated” before Igor flashes back to the last time he saw his son, Vanya (Yan Runov) alive. In that aside, Vanya asks, “Daddy, please, can I go out by myself?” Mother/wife Polina (Elena Lyadova) says no, but Igor gives Vanya his heirloom watch and instructions to be back by 6. Vanya never returns. The flashback ends, and Igor says the body isn’t Vanya. 

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is Fun as Hell [Review]

What if John Wick fought zombies? That’s the question Yeon Sang-ho seems to be answering in Peninsula, the follow-up to his instant classic zombie flick Train to Busan. That film succeeded for much the same reason this one does: it knows what it is and it commits to being the best version of that it can be.

Peninsula opens with Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) driving his family toward a ferry out of zombie-infested Korea. Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun) is stranded with her family on the side of the road. He slows down, but leaves her because he’s worried that her husband may be infected. She is stranded in Korea, while he and his family escape to the boat. Soon after, tragedy strikes.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

The Dark End of the Street is a Poetic Reflection [Review]

In Kevin Tran’s feature debut, The Dark End of the Street, he ostensibly tells the story of a pet killer wreaking havoc in a suburb. Really though, the plot of the film almost doesn’t matter because Tran’s focus is much more human. Rather than building toward a climactic moment, Tran’s story floods out sideways, showing the different ways the characters in his ensemble cast—all of whom live on the titular street—react to the pet murders over the course of a single night.

That ensemble cast is one of many similarities between The Dark End of the Street and the series defining Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” Both highlight the disconnection of neighbors as well. Despite having lived across the street for years, Ian (Anthony Chisholm) and Marney (Brooke Bloom) have rarely spoken before he comes over to comfort her after her cat is murdered. Other neighbors barely know one another, and also like in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” this lack of familiarity quickly transforms into paranoia when the news gets around.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

La Llorona Frightens and Enlightens [Review]

If you need evidence for why Own Voices stories matter, try watching the Conjuring Universe’s middle of the road The Curse of La Llorona from 2019 and Jayro Bustamante’s excellent La Llorona from this year back to back. Both films are about the same folk monster: La Llorona, a woman who drowned her children in the river and searches for their souls. In the Conjuring Universe film, La Llorona is a typical series villain, shoehorned in as a vehicle for largely unsatisfying jump scares. Bustamante, a native Guatemalan, uses the same folklore to address the Maya Ixil genocide of the 1980s, making an important film that still manages to be scarier than the Conjuring Universe collection of jump scares.

La Llorona is focused around the fictional General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) who is on trial for committing genocide between 1982 and 1983. He’s a clear fictionalized stand-in for  General Efraín Ríos Montt who was convicted of committing genocide between 1982 and 1983. The film opens with Enrique’s trial. His men prepare, with one of them instructing, “Wear no badges. Dark suits, nothing shiny. Dark, not black. You must look flawless. You are heroes, not victims.” Enrique is found guilty early-on with his defense arguing that his mass murder targeted guerrilas who all happened to be Maya Ixil, not the Maya Ixil people specifically.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Nothing But the Blood is Ambitious, Promising [Review]

Nothing But the Blood opens with Father (Les Best) walking to an altar shot in black-and-white. He reads the story of Judas’s betrayal and then looks right into the camera. Best brings a great intensity as he sermonizes, telling his viewers that, “Throughout your life, people will come to persecute you… If you fight hate with hate, who really wins in the end?” It’s a powerful opening, in large part because of Best’s stellar performance. He steals every scene he’s in.

The opening is better because of the contradictions in Father’s life as he opens a new chapter of his Emeth Church. Nothing But the Blood’s protagonist, Jessica (the film’s producer Rachel Hudson), is a reporter in the small western town the new branch is opening in. She begs her editor for the story, and soon she’s interviewing Father’s son Michael (Nick Triola) about the nature of the Church.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Bacurau Smashes Colonialism [Blu-Ray Review]

The film Bacurau opens with the fictional town its named after being erased from the map, literally. In an early scene, Plinio (Wilson Rabelo) asks his students to find Bacurau on Google Maps, but the section where it is is blank. His students are understandably concerned, and he reassures them, “Bacurau has always been on the map.”

The town is facing erasure in the physical world as well as the digital one. The mayor, Tony Jr. (Thardelly Lima), lives elsewhere and has cut off the village’s water supply. He’s seeking reelection, and is attempting to leverage the water for votes. The road into the town is closed to anyone else, but he brings a literal truck full of books when he visits. Before his goons dump them on the steps of the library, he commands the goons to, “Film it.” Along with the books, Tony Jr. also brought food past its expiration date and addictive medicine with dubious benefits. Bacurau is a chilling look at the way fascist regimes abuse the poorest of their people before the mercenaries arrive.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

A Deadly Legend is Legendarily Bad [Review]

As a general rule, good horror movies have simple plots. In Halloween, Michael Myers breaks out of a mental asylum to terrorize Haddonfield and hunts Laurie Strode. In The Shining, Jack Torrance is driven insane by the Overlook Hotel. In The Exorcist, Pazuzu possesses Regan MacNeil to take revenge on Father Merrin. There are exceptions to the rule, but A Deadly Legend isn’t one of them.

There’s no one-sentence (and maybe not even one paragraph) that could sum up all that’s going on in A Deadly Legend’s opening. The Huntar Family is on their way to a summer camp by Pilgrim Lake when a ghost appears in front of their car. They swerve, and the father is killed.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

A Roundtable Discussion with the Director and Cast of “The Bizarrely Beautiful” Relic

Relic is one of the best horror films of the decade. Natalie Erika James’ first feature tells the story of three generations of women: Edna (Robyn Nevin), Kay (Emily Mortimer), and Sam (Bella Heathcoat). Edna, who’s suffering from dementia, has gone missing, prompting Kay and Sam to search for her.

I was lucky enough to attend a roundtable with James and all three of Relic’s principal performers discussing the film with writers from various outlets. The four had a lot to say about their new movie, which has been garnering great responses from critics. It opens to the public on Friday.

Keep reading at Wicked Horror!