Cutting Room
August 2018

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Cutting Room is our monthly post where we do short, mostly spoiler-free, single-person reviews for movies we've watched on our own. If you hear us shout something out on the podcast, you can swing by here to read our more succinct thoughts on the matter. Let us know if you have some thoughts on any of these movies, and check out past posts in the "More Horror" section.


JAKE'S SECTION

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)
4.5 Irradiated Bears

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Chernobyl is an obvious setting for the horror genre, so it makes some sense that before too long, something would come along and explore the abandoned waste of Pripyat and the surrounding area. Chernobyl Diaries is a movie I’ve heard an overwhelming amount of “meh…” about, but despite the tepid responses I was intrigued enough by the concept to give it a try. The result was a very “meh” experience. This is a movie that technically falls into the found footage genre because it has a lot of the same look & feel, but it’s not a found footage film. It’s more of a documentary without the surrounding exposition. It’s basically first person omniscient. I’m not sure if that’s a stylistic choice or a lazy choice but I’d split my money on both. The story here is pretty drab (group of twenty-somethings go extreme tourism-ing and get into shit) bit the sets are really, super duper good. Overall it’s not enough for me to recommend unless free, but it’s interesting to look at if you like decay-porn and horror converging.

Ghost Stories (2018)
7.5 Attempted Debunkings

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I heard a lot of really good things about this British anthology from earlier this year, so naturally I wanted to check it out for consideration of some end of the year award type shenanigans. This is not what I was expecting to get. At risk of spoiling things, let’s just paint in general strokes. The film is about a dude who makes a living debunking frauds in the paranormal/psychic field on tv. He gets a letter from an idol of his who mysteriously disappeared and is charged to debunk three cases that the guy was unable to disprove. The anthology piece fits into this, but it’s bookended by a very plot heavy frame narrative that gets downright surreal. I’d recommend going into this one blind and paying attention throughout. It’s a good flick.

Are We Not Cats (2018)
3 Hairballs

I heard some surprisingly good things about this very indie flick from earlier this year so I decided to give it a rip when I saw it was on Shudder. You know how some movies just aren’t for everyone? This movie is for downright almost no one. It’s sort of a drama/romance that has a hefty amount of fucked up people trying to get by in it that I’d equate to stuff like Requiem for a Dream while adding the caveat that it’s nothing like Requiem. This is a movie about two people who sort of fall in love and share an urge for tearing out hair and eating it. It all culminates in an extremely cringe-worthy finishing sequence. Would not recommend to almost anyone.


MARK'S SECTION

Before I Wake (2016)
6 Butterflies

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This movie had a very tumultuous release process plagued by a series of bankruptcies that sent the official release careening month over month until it finally landed in Netflix’s lap. They might be losing a lot of content on all the other fronts but their horror game is surprisingly strong. Before I Wake is directed and written by the one and only Mike Flanagan, and he continues to bring dark and brooding sensibility to the screen with this one. I’ll tell you what, maybe it was the butterfly-heavy trailer, or maybe it was the extremely delayed release, but I went into this one expecting a piece of garbage. I mean, at best it was going to be a purely generic bump-in-the-night type movie. Right? Well, I am happy to report that I sorely underestimated this movie. I’m sure there are going to be mixed reviews on this one as there is a lot to dislike, but from my corner I’ll state that I actually quite enjoyed this flick. Look, there’s some heavy CG. There’s an incredibly befuddling series of shifts in tone toward the end of the movie. There are nits you can pick. If you can get past minor problems like those, then I recommend you seek this one out.

Would You Rather (2012)
4.5 Clocks

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Brittany Snow is in this? I would’ve watched this so much sooner if I had known she was in it. If the pretty over-the-top poster you see every time you turn on Netflix has scared you away (it’s the one with the razor next to the eyeball), let me reassure you of something: there is a surprising lack of actual violence in this movie. This movie excels at setting up how violent something is going to be, then cutting away when something actually happens and relying on the actors reaction. As someone who is not a fan of torture porn I am appreciative of that. As someone who had steeled myself for the experience of watching a movie with an eyeball razor as its selling point… I was a little let down.  Ultimately, this one boils down to the violence of Saw (the original one is not nearly as gruesome as you might remember) with a dash of The Most Dangerous Game’s classism. Unfortunately, the decent acting and surprisingly creative scenarios are overshadowed by a generally lackluster story with a lot of frayed edges.

Annihilation (2018)
6 Lighthouses

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I’m gonna put this right at the top. If you are in a state wherein it is legal to alter your state, I have a feeling this would be an optimal movie in which to do so. It is an explosion of color and imagery that I think very few other movies will effectively be able to rival. However, this might also result in you having barely the foggiest semblance of what the hell is going on in this movie. In fairness, though, I watched this stone cold sober and still have barely the foggiest semblance of what the hell is going on this movie. Here’s what I know, there’s Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and lots and lots of plants. Beautiful, murderous, weird looking plants. Why? Well, because there’s a glowing mystery wibbly wobbly shimmer thing around a lighthouse that came from a meteor. That premise roughly encapsulates the overall experience you’ll get from this one. Come for Natalie Portman as a badass, stay for Natalie Portman remaining a badass. I highly recommend this if your up for a preposterously esoteric change of horror-pace.

Strangers 2: Prey at Night (2018)
4.5 Hotel Trailer Parks

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I would just like to point out that this iteration continues to use the disclaimer of “based on true events.” Okay. No? The first one wasn’t based on true events. This one definitely isn’t. But you know what? It actually makes sense that S2P@N would keep that train rolling, because it keeps every other trope from the first one rolling as well. Did you like the first movie, but think it’s characters made too many good decisions? Did you appreciate the original film’s style, but thought it would be better with neon and 80’s music despite being set in modern times? Maybe your biggest qualm was that they didn’t throw a few more completely undeveloped characters on screen to up the kill count? Well, if all three of those things are true then I recommend you seek this one out.

Sleepwalkers (1992)
5 Totally Well Placed Enya Songs

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Sleepwalkers opens with Enya’s Boadicea played unironically underneath a serious murder investigation scene. Oh my god. Wow. This movie is the best. I had never heard of this one, and watched it because I lost a bet to Jack. Well, suck it Jack, this movie was great and you should feel bad about thinking it was dumb. This movie has it all. There is an attacker cat and a cat attacker. Cars, both visible and invisible. A completely made up mythological creature. A second half that flies completely and utterly off the rails. Why would anyone not watch this movie? Objectively, the answer to that question is “because it’s not very good.” Subjectively, objectivity is for party poopers who hate good movies.

The Blackwell Ghost (2017)
7.5 Basement Wells

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I found this on a list entitled regarding the best non-jumpscare-dependent horror movies. This was the only movie on it I hadn’t seen (let alone heard of) so I figured I’d  seek it out. Turns out it’s free on Amazon Prime and only 60 minutes long. Given the low barrier to entry and the surely-not-a-trap recommendation of an online list, I took the plunge. Well, I am absolutely glad I did. Granted, this is 100% my bailiwick, but I found this to be an interesting and refreshing entry into the genre. Is it unique? No, not at all. I’ve seen this movie 20 times before in other forms. But is it well made and remarkably compact? Yes, certainly. Also, to the original list’s credit, there really aren’t any jumpscares in this one.