It's the middle of the month, and the first Cutting Room of 2017 is here! 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 up above!
The Good Neighbor (2016)
This is a really interesting movie. It’s definitely one on the fringe of horror, but it’s certainly a genre flick. There are some issues with the characters and believable technology, but overall, this is a pretty enjoyable film. Not to spoil anything, but this one packed an emotional punch I wasn’t really expecting. Plus it’s free on Netflix, so it’s worth a watch.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
7 Cat Euthanasias
What’s that you say? You can’t pluralize the word euthanasia like that? Fuck you. Of course you can. This was a great movie, and a refreshing return to what makes horror movies great. A good story, simply but competently executed script, great atmosphere, and some damn scares. I dug this movie a lot, though it’s not pushing any boundaries.
The Wailing (2016)
8 Gorgeous Vistas
The Wailing was the prettiest movie I saw in 2016. Bar none. Director Na Hong-jin did an absolutely amazing job of bringing the Korean countryside to life in this horror-thriller. If I have any qualms with this movie, and they are hard to come up with, it’s that the over 2.5 hour run-time is a bit taxing as a viewer. It took me longer to finally commit to giving this one a watch because of it, but the good news is that while some sequences drag, it is about as well paced as something of its length can possibly be. Everything else is top notch. Though I may not understand some of the commentary under the surface on Korean-Japanese relations, it is an amazing flick that is undoubtedly one of the best 2016 had to offer.
I am Not a Serial Killer (2016)
7 Alarm Clocks
This is not what I was expecting. And at risk of spoiling the movie, I’m finding I can’t really say much by way of this mini-review other than to simply give it a thumbs up. Max Records (from Where the Wild Things Are) may look like a discount Rory Culkin, but the kid has chops. He’s paired with Christopher Lloyd, who also puts in a terrific performance. This is one of the better acted movies I saw this year, and while I didn’t necessarily love the direction it went in, it is more a horror movie with commentary on sociopathy than a movie on sociopathy with horror elements. Make sense? No? Fuck you. Go watch it. It’s on Netflix.
Green Room (2016)
8 Dead Kennedys Songs
I have a confession to make. I did not give Green Room a fair shake in our end of year awards for 2016. I saw it because I knew the ripples it had been making. I loved it. But I was left wondering if I could, in good conscience, pot this in the horror genre enough to dish an award. It slipped through the cracks, and a few days later I found myself still thinking about the movie and its realistic, brutal proceedings. Everything that happens in this film is horrifying, and while there is an argument to be had about where genre films begin and end, I can tell you the way it makes me feel is akin to any other effective horror flick. It deserves inclusion as one of the best of 2016.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
7.5 Cold, Metal Tables
We fired this up when we had the chance to watch a movie as a group over the holidays, and it did not disappoint. I think the biggest praise I can give this one is that it succeeds at being an out-and-out horror movie in a time where a lot of the films that are coming out and are highly regarded are something of a genre-bend (see: The Invitation). What I loved about Autopsy is that the small cast of Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox deliver on their performances, but the character of the eponymous, inanimate Jane Doe was a show-stealer. The effects were mostly great, the pacing was awesome, and there were some good scares. I enjoyed watching it as a group, but want to go back and watch it by myself with the lights out and the volume all the way up to see if it hits me any differently.
Blair Witch (2016)
3 Broken Drones
Welp… This movie can chortle my balls. I’m a huge fanboy of The Blair Witch Project, so when this was officially revealed last year, I was cautiously optimistic. TBWP was such a force of nature when it came out that it left an immense impression on me. Could this live up to that? Of course not. Those aren’t fair expectations to have. What it could capitalize on is bringing a new mind to deliver the same general feeling that was so important to the original in new and more advanced ways. It did none of that. The original is a master of subtlety. The noises from around the group’s tent are some of my favorite moments in horror history. This went with non stop, indiscriminate bulldozer-level effects. There were kernels of spook to be found, but they were completely destroyed with the sledgehammer approach of the filmmakers. I didn’t become remotely invested in the characters, and even the bits of fan service chosen (Johnny walker Red in a hotel room) felt very forced. I went into this knowing it wasn’t the second coming and I was still grandly disappointed. Fuck you, you fucking fuck.
They Look Like People (2016)
7 T-Bone Steaks
This was the movie recommended to me by Jack during our year-end-a-palooza. I can totally understand why he recommended it to me. I tend to like the less-is-more, psychological approach with a lot of atmosphere. This had all of that, and I did enjoy it. I was actually tempted to give it a higher rating, but there is a lot going on here that is difficult to judge on a purely horror perspective. It’s a lot like other flicks I’ve been known to love like The Invitation, but there is a big difference (which I’ll refrain from here to avoid massive spoilers). If you’re into anything psychological, this is a must watch. I’d go so far as to recommend it to any genre fan simply due to how well paced and acted it is. Good suggestion, Jack.
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
6.5 Pipers Piping
So… uhhh…. this was surprisingly good. A Christmas Horror Story is a holiday anthology in the same vein as Trick ‘r Treat. There are four stories that happen simultaneously, each having varying amounts of Christmas sprinkled in for good measure. You’ve got your standard Krampus tail, yeah, but the other three stories are creative and well executed. Hell, there’s even a very solid jump scare or two mixed in. If you are looking for yule-tide horror this season and you’ve already seen Krampus and Black Christmas a shot. William Shatner’s dulcet tones narrating the backstory is worth it even without the rest of the content.
Lights Out (2016)
This was alternately titled “Jumpscare: the Movie.” Really though, this movie is hard up on the surprises and low on the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there’s nothing here, but basically nothing sticks with you once it’s over. Honestly, there was probably more of a scare factor in the short film than in the feature. If this film were a type of joke, it would be a knock-knock joke. This is a relatively straightforward horror-ride with not much that will surprise you. I will still give it a tentative recommend because there is still some fun to be had here. Even knock knock jokes are funny every once in awhile..
The Good Neighbor (2016)
I’ll just come right out and say that this isn’t really a horror movie. What’s interesting about it, however, is that relies completely on other horror movies in order to function. In short, two kids play pranks on an old man (James Caan) in order to try and convince him that his house is haunted. And in that way, this is essentially a horror movie from the standpoint of the ghost, which makes a unique and intriguing perspective on the genre. They end up relying heavily on your standard haunted house horror tropes, but stir a few things up that are a little less than expected. I’ll stop there before I spoil too much. I laughed, I cried, I ate a chimichanga. Really top notch. Go watch this.
Alone in the Ghost House (2016)
4 Painted on Third-Eyes
Okay, guys. I did it. I took the plunge. I watched my Top 1 from our August HRR. I gotta say, believe it or not, I wasn’t disappointed. I mean, I guess the ending left a bit to be desired, but aside from that this was actually sort of fun. Look, you know exactly what you’re getting when you go into this thing. It’s an ultra low budget found footage haunted house movie. The actors butcher their lines, there are extremely long scenes of irrelevant exposition, and there is an excess of terrible decisions. All-in-all though I actually did enjoy this movie, even if it was pretty rough around the edges. I hesitate to recommend it unless you are looking for a very specific style of movie, though, just because of how rough the edges are. Ultra low-budgets are generally capped pretty low on the rating ladder. I’ll say I subjectively liked this movie, but objectively disliked it. Does that clear things up?
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
7 Toe Bells
It seems like this movie sort of just appeared on the scene all of a sudden. I saw it mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago, then we had it on HRR, and then just a week or two later we were streaming it. To pull back the curtain a bit, we all ended up watching this one together at Jack’s house for the holidays, and what struck me was how good it was as a group watch while still being a true horror movie. I get the inclination to watch horror movies alone with headphones on in a dark room, and the movies that are good in that setting are generally not as good when watched with a room full of people. This one struck a very nice balance between those two worlds. The movie has its issues, but they’re few and far between. Go see this.
Blair Witch (2016)
4.5 Documentary Class Projects
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m tilting this downward a tad because of my disappointment level. Where The Blair Witch Project from 1999 was a fantastic study in subtlety and pacing, this one is riddled with frenetic and unfocused narrative.There’s stuff in here that might make you squirm (the tunnel scene comes to mind) but all of it just seems dropshipped into the plot instead actually being part of it. There is absolutely no reason for there to be tunnels under the house, and beyond that there is no reason for the chick to crawl through them. It’s just lazy writing. I also just wanted to say that I feel incredibly vindicated because I mentioned in our The Blair Witch Project review that if a new one were made there would be a shot where the witch is scene ducking behind a tree as a cheap shitty jump scare. Not to spoil much,but I was very very right.