It's the middle of the August, and this month's Cutting Room is here to dive into all the horror flicks we've been checking out while trying to keep cool during the height of summer. CR is a monthly post where we all do short, single-person reviews for movies we’ve watched on our own.
We have a long list of films to review, and while the movies you see here haven’t come up quite yet, they may receive the full review treatment in the future. Let us know if you have some thoughts on any of these movies, and check out past posts in the "More Horror" section!
5 Missing Kids
This movie is an anthology from an all woman lineup of directors. I’m not a huge anthology guy, but this one is a ton of fun, and stands up there among the best. Notably different about this movie from other anthologies is that there are no stinkers in this bunch. All of the segments are enjoyable, if bizarre in some cases. This is now available to stream on Netflix, and I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t. Go do it.
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
7 Pool Robots
I only watched the second entry into the found footage Paranormal Activity series because I had a fifteen hour flight, and this was available to download on Netflix in New Zealand. Not that I don’t like the movie, I actually think it’s pretty strong, it’s just not one of those that I would actively think to seek out for another viewing. Shows what I know because this thing holds the fuck up. You know what you’re getting here, so odds are you already know whether or not you’re going to like it. I did.
Train to Busan (2016)
6 Newspaper Window Treatments
This Korean zombie flick it outrageously beautiful. The cinematography is off the charts great. The movie itself was only so-so, and features very heavy handed commentary on the class system in modern society. Still, I’m not a zombie movie guy and I really enjoyed this. Go watch this movie, and ignore the rumors of the American remake on the horizon.
From Dusk till Dawn: The Series (2014-Present)
4 Big Kahuna Burgers
Hey, have you ever thought to yourself: “I’d like to see From Dusk ‘till Dawn, but George Clooney is just too charming, and Quentin Tarantino is just too good at playing a fucking creep. Could they remake this with much more generic characters?” You have? Then good news! If you haven’t, you can probably skip this one. The pilot is worth checking out, and that’s largely because Rodriguez directed it himself, but the next few episodes pale in comparison.
2 Random Skin-Scribblings
This is not a good movie. The thing is just a fucking mess from start to finish. It has a few bright spots of decent looking gore and creepy setups, but holy shit do they screw up the payoffs. And most of the setups too. I would call this most generic horror movie I’ve seen in quite some time, but generic movies can at least follow a fucking thread.
Hell House LLC (2016)
7 Clown Masks
This movie came basically out of nowhere. All of a sudden, Jack was screaming at us and spilling beer all over the goddamned place. Mind you, both of those things are routine for him, but on this occasion it was in excitement for some little found footage flick that was apparently very good, and was flying way under the radar. In an unsurprising turn of events, both Mark and I ended up giving it a watch, while Jack does what he always does. Nothing.
Mark already discussed this one last month, so I’ll be brief. This is a good entry into the found footage sub-genre, and you should watch it. While nothing groundbreaking is on display here, it is a nice add to the genre and a pretty scary haunted house flick.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
9 Garden Spades
This was my hat into the ring for our tribute to George A. Romero after his passing, and I got to take THE Romero flick. There is nothing I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said, so instead, I’ll just comment on how well I think this movie represents the genre as a whole when looking at it from today’s vantage point. I think that if I had to recommend ONE horror movie as the typification of what horror is, it would be this movie. It’s amazing how well it showcases both the classic horror movie aesthetic with its black and white approach and low budget, as well as modern horror sentiment with shock (graphic, flesh eating zombies) and progressive casting (a black man playing the lead character). It should blow your fucking mind that this movie came out in 1968. And guess what? You can watch it for free because it entered public domain due to a naming snafu. Zero excuses not to have experienced this one. You don’t know horror if you haven’t.
The Belko Experiment (2017)
This is one of those movies that is pretty much exactly what you expect it to be. Battle royale. Put some people in a confined space, make it a game of kill or be killed, and see how the politics unfold. This could basically just be humans on earth… But it’s American expats working for some jamoke company in Bogota, Colombia. There really isn’t a ton that can be spoiled here, save for a twist ending that is mildly thought-provoking. I’d recommend this one to most genre fans. It’s really violent and has some good performances turned in by the likes of John Gallagher Jr. and John-Fuckin-C. McGinley.
Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
The excitement for this movie, most of which revolved around Ridley Scott’s involvement in a movie pertaining to aliens that was outside of the Alien franchise, seemed to quickly evaporate around the time of its release. From a surface level, this is really good found footage fodder. The Phoenix Lights are a real event that occurred, and it served as a natural setting for the exact type of story that does well in the found footage sub-genre. For the most part, I thought this did a good job in that regard. At it’s best moments, this did a commendable job of harkening back to the grand daddies like The Blair Witch Project, but my main qualm with the film is that there wasn’t enough of it. On one hand, I appreciate that the movie tried to explain why we are just now seeing this footage from the 90’s, but on the other, I feel like those elements of the film tended to drag significantly for me and somewhat dampen the found footage pieces. The movie jumps around in time quite a bit as the mystery unfolds, to varying degrees of success. The ride is one I’d recommend taking, especially if you are into either found footage or extra terrestrials, but just know that there isn’t much new here.
The Occupants (2017)
1 Yellow Handprint
Ho. Lee. Shit. This is a bad movie. Wildly bad. Terribly bad. I would venture a guess that the best grade anyone associated with this film ever got on a science test across any grade level was a C-. This movie jumps right into the absurdity with lines like “Some people even claim that once you cleanse your body you can open up channels to other dimensions” and “it takes humans back to a more primal state of being where you can openly communicate with the universe.” That bonkers lack of sensibility is consistently accompanied by powerpoint slides that just read PETERSON RESEARCH INSTITUTE as a means of somehow establishing scientific credibility. For god’s sake they invoke the Mayan 2012 thing. They toss this shit around too: Change your thoughts, change your reality. The eye sees all. Black holes are portals? Satellites to blame? Parallel universes: not as uncommon as you think! I’ve forgiven bad science in movies before. Hell, half the time it makes them fun. Ultimately, this movie is bad because (in addition to science that is just flabbergasting) the acting, direction, script, and effects are also unforgivably bad. This movie is absurd in the least charming possible ways. Avoid it, or reserve it as a good “make your buddy watch a shitty movie” bet.
Here Alone (2017)
6 Rabbit Guns
Here Alone was a late entry onto our HRR March writeup, and I’m very happy that we found it. A few months ago I recommended A Girl With All the Gifts. I still recommend that one as an exceptional foray into emotional zombie dramas. If you took that dive and enjoyed yourself, then you should look into this movie. Here Alone follows a woman as she ekes out an existence in a zombie apocalypse. She eventually stumbles across two other fellow survivors and emotional drama zombie things happen. This is not a laugh-a-minute thrill ride. This is, however, a well made and thoughtful horror drama. Give it a watch.
XX is an anthology movie highlighting four female directors from the horror world. Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin, and musician St. Vincent (credited in the movie as Annie Clark). First off, I was completely unaware that St. Vincent was also a director, and a capable one at that. Her segment, The Birthday Cake, is the most unique and entertaining in the movie, and one of the best shorts I’ve seen across the genre.. Joining her segment are The Box (Vuckovic), a strange let’s-call-it-psychological horror about a family stricken with a mysterious illness, Don’t Fall (Benjamin), the obligatory creature feature, and Her Only Living Son (Kusama), an Omen lookalike. Generally anthologies have a lot of filler, but this one was surprisingly enticing all the way through. Give it a watch, especially for the incredibly weird stop motion doll house that somehow functions as a frame narrative.
3 Teddy Bears
So turns out this movie is mostly in Spanish. Not really complaining. It would be stupid if it wasn’t, just not something I wasn’t immediately aware of because I am not an observant person. This movie does a lot of strange things. There’s legit fatguy shaming in this movie on the part of the coyote. There’s also a moderately tense standoff between the villain vigilante dude and a border patrol agent. Aside from just “violence is bad” and “people be crazy,” I’m not really sure what other morals this movie is trying to espouse. As a result of not really having anything complex to say this one just ends up being one long brutal slog through the American Southwest, which also just so happens to **spoilers** have one of the most impossibly brutal dog deaths I’ve ever seen. I like dogs. I did not like that scene. It made me feel bad, and so did this movie. I do not recommend this wildly predictable waste of time.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
7 Unconventional Encounters
If nothing else, this movie is just a vehicle for a fantastic soundtrack; not that it’s hard to do given the 1960’s era. Luckily, this movie is a vehicle for much more than that, including color. This might be the most colorful movie I've ever seen. It explodes off the screen with every color the filmmaker’s computer could generate. This entry into Kong is highly similar to those of the past. There’s an island. It has giant beasties on it. People want to kill Kong. Other people want to save him. Yada yada yada violence. In a strange way, the Kong movies are starting to become similar to zombie movies as a genre. It’s basically a background setup against which human dramas are played out, and the drama in this one is buoyed by the strength of the cast. This isn’t a groundbreaking film (though it might be a great way to show off your new HDR screen), but it is a wildly entertaining way to spend an evening.
5.5 Comics Book
George Romero’s classic anthology piece. I watched this shortly after Romero passed as a way of reviewing some of his work. To be quite honest, I’d never actually seen this one, and I figured watching an anthology would give me a good cross section of Romero’s talents. Creepshow has 5 segments, each largely unique and charming: cake-loving zombie (featuring a super young Ed Harris), hydroseed-meteor-zombie (featuring Stephen King), Serial killer vs aqua-zombies (featuring Leslie Nielsen), a creature feature for variety, and a psychological breakdown of an evil-CEO type. Clearly, you get a feel for Romero’s tendencies, but you also get some nice variety sewn in as well. While it was incredible to see Leslie Nielsen as a sadistic serial killer, the movie suffers a little from pacing problems. It just seems like most of the segments could’ve been substantially cut down without sacrificing much. Give this one a watch if you like anthologies or if you’re wanting to dig into Romero’s catalogue and you haven’t indulged yourself with this one yet.
7.5 Broken Coolant Lines
I went into this movie expecting it to be not much of a horror experience. I was mistaken. This movie is what the alien space horror genre has needed since Aliens. Scenarios that are believable within reason, great acting, good cast, novelty, and an ending that I found to be incredibly entertaining. It’s not frequently that you see the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal in a horror movie so as long as you don’t actively dislike that pairing I highly recommend you put this one on your watchlist. Plus, it goes out with Spirit in the Sky, which automatically rockets it toward the top all time ending credits themes.
Devil’s Candy (2017)
9 Flying Vs
One of the earliest scenes in this movie includes a weird transition between heavy metal and some Blues Traveller-esque harmonica number, and in that transition is a great metaphor for the rest of this movie. This movie is 80% devil worship heavy metal darkness and 20% wholesome family bonding. It actually strikes a great balance where you enjoy the characters on screen for their normal human relationships, but also have a sense that the world surrounding them is one of impending doom. The story centers on a family who has just moved into their new home. As the painter-father is stricken with a new bewildering inspiration he starts cranking out some art that… well…. let’s call it upsetting. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a movie that understands its soundscape as well as this one does. On top of that there are some amazing shots built into this that bring a sense of beauty to the darkness. Ultimately the only major qualm I had with this was that while the first painting is great, the second painting is high school death metal band first-album-we-made-in-our-garage cover art level. Oh well, they can’t all be perfect. I will definitely be coming back to this one in the future, and I recommend you do too. Though, I’ll probably have to watch some Valhallen cartoons in the meantime.