Guys, I’ve got you sorted. I get it, alright? Sometimes you want to know if a film is worth the risk of an illegal download.
Like, what if you get caught and have to go to jail and wear sanitary pads on your feet because prison showers probably have a lot of bacteria swimming around in them because we, as a country, have an incredibly fucked up legal system that includes sub-fucking-par health and hygiene standards? But, like, what if that happens and the film wasn’t even good?! Man, you’d be so pissed. And another (but, you know, probably not equally) God-awful thing is leaving the house. For anything. You deffo don’t want to risk doing that for no good reason.
So, my dudes, I’ve got you! Skip the risk and all the boring ass reviews that were paid for by the word. Reap all the reward; here’s a round-up of the horror and thriller films I’ve recently witnessed with my own two eyeballs. Short. Sharp. Shiny as a brand new butchers knife.
Cargo (2017, released in cinema 2018)
Based on my all-time favourite Tropfest entry, which you can watch here, Cargo sells itself as a zombie-drama film. The story is simple. A virus has brought Australia to its knees. The coastal cities were hit the worst, so people aim for inland, Andy included (played by Martin Freeman, who is more of a dickbag than you may realise – Google it). When tragedy strikes, Andy races against the clock to find a safe place to leave his baby daughter.
Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke are the filmmakers behind both the original short and the feature length. This probably explains why Cargo has the same soul as it’s baby version. It’s all heart. The film has so much heart that I wouldn’t really call it a horror (or thriller) at all. It’s a drama with a bit of extra… bite.
Cargo is an important film for Australia. One of the two lead characters is Thoomi, played by newcomer Simone Landers. She’s only a kid and while her Aboriginal family have returned to the land, believing in their Cleverman’s verdict that humans have poisoned the world and created the virus, she stays by her infected father’s side, sure he’ll get better. Through Thoomi we have an insight into Aboriginal culture, customs, and beliefs. Howling and Ramke were careful with their representations and spent a great deal of time researching and consulting with Aboriginal leaders. An Indigenous writer was recruited as a script consultant; Jon Bell assisted with constructing authentic dialogue and avoiding stereotypes. Landers and Bell were joined by a large ensemble of Aboriginal consultants, cast and crew members.
Despite the science-fiction element of the virus (which, for horror fans will within itself provide new aesthetics and lore), Cargo feels authentic. There is heartbreaking tension in the countdown. There is real rejoice when things go well and real tragedy when things go bad. And, my friends, this film delivers both in the same way life does. You win some. You lose some. As a film, Cargo wins far more than it loses.
Bed of the Dead (2016)
Alright, seriously, get this. There’s this bed, right, in this seedy as fuck sex club or something (look, it’s not entirely clear what the frick frack is happening). If you get on this bed, you’re fucked (probably in a sex way but I mean in a dead way) because if you step off it, you die. That’s it. That’s the premise of this film.
Honestly, Bed of the Dead ain’t out here winning any awards. The two dudes that made it haven’t refined their abilities or skills, so it all feels very C grade. However, it’s not entirely shit. If you need something on in the background while you’re doing some homework or whatever the fuck it is you beautiful weirdos do, then maybe give this a go.
Helen Mirren would only do a horror film if it was good, right? RIGHT? That’s the bet I placed as I paid my money and sat in the cinema to watch Winchester. Winchester, like the guns… Like the real Sarah Winchester, widowed and of questionable mental health. She keeps building onto the house she occupies. It grows bigger and bigger and more and more confusing. Everyone is doing a real big concern about her. She’s doing a real big concern about the ghosts though.
See, Lady Winchester has a theory that the people that died too young, looking down the barrel of one of her late husband’s guns come back. They come to her house.
So, we have a haunted house horror movie. But, Winchester is more than that. It is based on a true story. Obviously, the supernatural elements and possible apparitions are debateable, but Sarah and her crooked house are within our reality. Then, we get to the core of Winchester. Yeah, it’s a ghost story, but it’s a story about Sarah’s grief over her husband and how it manifests in guilt about the guns and the bullets and the deaths. It’s about family and how trauma can’t be isolated to just one family member. Winchester is a story about the ghosts that haunt the living – the ones that live in our heads and in our hearts.
The Cured (2017)
I am a hardcore zombie fan. Zombies are arguably my favourite horror film subject, so whenever something comes along that is meant to reinvent the genre or provide new perspective, I’m pretty happy about it. Throw in Ellen Page and a whole lot of Irish accents and you’ve got yourself a fucking deal, my friend.
The Cured is pretty much what you would guess it to be from the title; a virus sweeps through Ireland but is cured fast enough that life can return to normal for most people (obviously with the inclusion of a whole lot of collective trauma and grief). The once-infected are integrated back into society with varying degrees of efficacy. The film, for the most part, is a political drama focusing on the impact to the family, punctuated every now and then by violent flashbacks.
There is a good chance I would have liked The Cured if I hadn’t been such a fan of cancelled television program In the Flesh (2013-2014), which had the exact same narrative. The show was excellent and used zombiism as a metaphor in a way that didn’t make my eyes roll out of my head. The Cured, unfortunately, with the sense of originality taken from it, is ineffective as both a drama and a horror. I think I fell asleep at one point, to be honest.
The Nightmare (2015)
Whenever psychological concepts are used as a foundation for a horror film, I start to get all pissy up on my high horse. Horror has a notorious reputation for absolutely butchering very real disorders and phenomenon for the sake of a cheap scare. Whether that has any impact for the people that suffer out here on Planet Earth is a bigger conversation that neither of us are here for it right now.
The Nightmare is part documentary. It gives a platform for ‘real’ people that suffer from sleep paralysis to share their stories. IRL sleep paralysis is genuinely terrifying and the experiences people report are bat shit crazy and far worse than The Nightmare depicts. So, it’s really a watered-down version of the truth. It could have gone further.
If you’re easy to scare, the kinda-laughable dramatisations of nightmares may do you a real big spook, but the documentary isn’t going to do much for seasoned horror fans and it’s not going to educate anyone on more than what’s told in folklore and film about sleep paralysis.
Meredith and I watched this together because we’re really running out of options on Stan. It sounded like a promising B-grade ‘break and enter/revenge’ type film, and I stan Rory Culkin. The less I tell you, the better the viewing will be. Watch it with a mate, have a drink, and just kinda go with it. That being said, I’m not saying it’s, like, good good. But, it’s… something?
Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alienᶟ (1992), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Predator (1986), Predator 2 (1990), AVP: Alien Versus Predator (2004), Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), Predators (2010)
So, the Alien films are better films, but I like the Predator aliens better than the Alien aliens. AVP is actually super fun, but Requiem is bullshit. If you have absolutely no life like me, you should marathon all of these over a couple of days. I’m pretty pumped for this year’s The Predator (2018), but honestly, expectations are low. Watching all these films back to back was like reliving my childhood, which maybe explains a lot about me. Ellen Ripley, you are my fucking hero.
Okay, who decided to be super edgy and call a film Unsane? Jesus. Anyway. Meet Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy, who is an ~Actual Actor~ and stuff. She’s the new Lisbeth in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018). Sawyer’s gone to see a doctor after some PTSD remerges. It relates to her stalker, but she moved to get away from him so it’s all good in the hood now. Or is it?! DUN. DUN. DUUUUUUN. The doctor tricks her into voluntarily admitting herself into a psych ward. Sawyer freaks out and gets involuntarily committed to more time.
The start of the film is already terrifying. It’s a real fear of anyone seeking help for mental health that we’re ‘crazy’ and going to be ‘locked up.’ Watching the seemingly alright Sawyer lose her power and autonomy so fast and in such a polite and clinical way makes you feel uneasy.
In the psych ward, Sawyer meets a cast of characters and faces many social obstacles. She claims one of the nursing staff is her stalker and shit gets reeeeeeeal. The audience isn’t sure what the truth is. Is Sawyer insane? Or is this dude really a bad guy? This is where the film lost me. It just gets more convoluted and somehow more boring at the same time. Unsane is a super eh film and I’m 10/10 shocked it’s playing in the cinema. Go see Ocean’s 8 (2018) instead. That shit is epic.
A group of ~cool young adults~ get a flat tire on the way home from some sort of ~sick af holiday~ or something. Idk. At the beginning of Downrange, I was very much not invested in what was happening. But then, bullets start flying. There is a sniper perched uphill and he’s racking up dat kill score, baby. And, fuck me, it’s gonna get gory!
I expected very little of Downrange, yet it offered a pretty solid film. Yeah, the acting sucks. Yeah, there’s a lot of ?????? going on. At the end of the day, the tension holds thick. The blood runs red. A wild wolf appears!
A Quiet Place (2018)
Man, oh man, the hype! Am I right? People fucking loved this film. You’ve got to wonder how much of that is residual love for Jim Halpert tbh. People just want John Krasinkski to succeed in life. Guys, he’s married to Emily Blunt. He’s doing alright. No need to pretend A Quiet Place doesn’t have some huge motherfucking plot holes.
Like many successful horrors (The Babadook  – I’mma looking at chu bae) the real fear instilled in the audience of A Quiet Place doesn’t necessarily come from the monsters, but from the very human emotions and experiences of the people trying to survive them. Grief. Blame. Guilt. Love lost.
The film is beautifully shot. It sounds beautiful. It’s acted beautifully. It’s all blah blah beautiful yeah. The monsters that hunt by audio are cool too. Everything is great except for, like I said, a couple of plot holes that simply cannot be overlooked. I won’t ruin it because obviously many people could overlook them (or more worryingly – didn’t even notice them), but just tone down some of ya expectations going into this one.
Tragedy Girls (2017)
Horror teen comedies are my absolute strawberry jam. Tragedy Girls has all the elements of a golden one too: a super cool concept, Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead!!!!) and Alexandra Shipp (cool new baby X-Man Storm!!!!), modern technology that could-be-similar films like Scream (1996) didn’t have, and grl pwr. Yet, it was a letdown. The film tries to punch you in the face, but instead you get a bit of a hesitant slap. I don’t know. It’s alright, like, it’s a background movie type thing, but yeahhhhhhhh. Deadpool is better.
Insidious: The Last Key (2018)
Okay, so, I know I saw this… I just don’t remember it… very well. Insidious: The Last Key follows our old mate Elise Rainer and her trusty crew of that guy from Australian things and then that other guy that apparently is the guy from Saw I, II, and III (2004-2006). Elise takes a haunted house case in none other than her own childhood home. Unsurprisingly, the case becomes more personal and more cooked as the film plays out.
Like I said, I hardly remember the film at all. There was a lot of blue lighting. A lot of rehashing old scares. I’m going to go ahead and say the real Major Key Alert is not to bother with this at all.
Candyman (1992), Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995), Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999)
Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, you king of the tragic backstory, you. Say his name three times in the mirror, he’ll appear and fuck you up. We’re familiar with the ‘myth come to life’ horror film format, but Candyman still stands apart from his peers.
The films get progressively worse as they go along but the original is still pretty horrific imo. It’s a classic, a cult fav, so put it on your watchlist. Tony Todd’s all-twisted-up antagonist is different to others offered in the early nineties. The film tackles some big issues, like the historical and current racism of the U.S.A. and twenty-six years after being made, it all still feels relevant.
Guys, the book is not better. They’re two very different texts really, so it seems unfair to directly compare them. I loved the film. Maybe I was all caught up in the macabre dreamy world or the bullshit science or every Goddamn thing about Tessa Thompson because she is my girlfriend and I love her. Whatever it was, Annihilation got me. For horror fans, there’s one scene with a… creature… I guess… and some screaming that is super exciting and new to watch. It’s a whole new scifi world to explore, and in this landscape of remakes, reboots, and sequels, isn’t that something to be rewarded? I know some people avoid overly-hyped films, but maybe chuck this one a couple hours of your blessed time.
Yikes. Yiiiiiiiiiiikes. The less you know about Hereditary, the better. And, on top of that bullshit cliché, I’m going to be a basic bitch and say that I pretty much agree with all the reviews. The only two things I’d like to add that I’ve not seen anyone comment on are the following. One: I did not walk out of the cinema scared. I didn’t avoid dark hallways or sleep with my light on. That’s not the type of fear I took away from Hereditary. Instead, deep inside me is a restlessness. Under my skin feels like the static television screen Samara crawls out of; under my skin feels buzzy and itchy. I feel dread and guilt, even though the story is fictitious, and I played no role. Hereditary doesn’t provide jump scares. It makes you scared to be alive. To love. To not love. To die. To not die.
Two: It’s by no means a perfect film. The third act is messy tbh. The film works so hard to avoid genre tropes, but in the final scenes, they are rattled off one after the other. You will read articles titled ‘omg what happened in the end?!’ and ‘can someone explain Hereditary’ but to me, it was too obviously laid out. It’s like how they say to never reveal the monster because you lose the fear. Hereditary revealed too much. Perhaps it was studio-driven or designed for a wider audience, but the unfortunate conclusion could have done with a little more ambiguity.
There is imagery in Hereditary that will live with me forever. There are deep, dark emotions I have felt that are so brutally and perfectly conveyed on screen in a way I never thought they could be. If you have ever lost someone, Hereditary will fuck you up. If you’ve ever felt resentment or remorse. If you’ve ever been scared of someone that should love you. If you’ve ever felt out of control. Hereditary could very well very fuck you the fuckaroo up.
You should see it.
Finally, dishonourable mentions to The Heretics (2017), They Remain (2018), Wildling (2018), and Pyewacket (2017). Heed my words. Avoid at all costs.
Alright, alright, alright. I’m a fucking hypocrite. This post was meant to be short, sharp, and shiny. I mean, that was literally my sassy final sentence of the introduction. Mega soz about that, but I hope I have provided you with some guidance and your time can be put to good horror use.
Happy EOFY. xo Rhiannon