Cutting Room is our monthly post where we do short, 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.
The Ritual (2017)
7 Gutted Forest Creatures
We here at A to Z Horror love the hell out of movies where people get fucked with in the woods. When we first saw the trailer for this one it piqued our interest primarily due to the setting. Northern Sweden is pretty. Im happy to report that after finally seeing the film, it hits pretty much all the notes I look for in one of these films. The setting is indeed stark and beautiful, the cast turns in good performances and disintegrates in appropriate fashion. The big difference-maker for The Ritual is that it goes beyond the psychological elements into outright visual splendor, and I respect the decision it made to take a more direct approach. Check this one out, it’s on Netflix.
6.5 Shots of Tequila
I went into this one blind when I was looking for some background fodder and I was impressed enough to drop everything. Monsters is about an altered present where a satellite collecting specimens crashed into Earth in re-entry and said specimens have evolved into dangerous creatures in Mexico, prompting a full-on quarantine of the area. The movie is basically a rescue mission where a Nat Geo type photographer is tasked with getting his company’s CEO’s daughter out of the quarantine zone. Things go awry and they have to hoof it to the border. This is a visually impressive movie in that it’s all CG but it looks really good. It’s well shot and well crafted, but only tangentially horror. I can see why director Gareth Edwards ended up doing flicks in the Star Wars universe.
7 Solar Eclipses
PSA: holding seances during solar eclipses is not an intelligent decision and should not be attempted at home. This movie is about that exact mistake and the price paid thereafter. On the surface, it’s a fairly traditional haunting/possession take, but its particular take on the events is somehow refreshing. This is from Paco Plaza (REC), and if you liked that movie, I think you will like this as well. The dude knows how to stage a scare, and it’s had the Internet roiling with “scariest film ever” talk since its surprising drop on Netflix this month. Check it out.
It Stains the Sands Red (2017)
4 Inflatable Rafts
Zombie movie… Yaayyy… Somehow I found myself watching yet another of these after seeing it show up in Shudder. I remember being interested in the concept of a movie where someone was stalked by a single zombie, and for the most part, that was still interesting and provided some fresh takes on the genre. Brittany Allen also turns in a great performance in a role that lives or dies by her ability to sell a relatively silly concept. Ultimately I just found that this movie couldn’t figure out the balance between goofy and seriousness well enough and it REALLY lost focus going into the third act. I’d only recommend this to the biggest of zombie fans.
The Vault (2017)
5 Firefighter helmets
For those unfamiliar, The Vault is a heist-ghost movie in which a gang of bank robbers get more than they bargained for when they bust open the ancient forgotten vault of a normal bank. They get ghosts. There are ghosts in the vault. This is arguably the number one reason not to rob a bank. Cautionary tale if ever there was one. This movie is all just gunshots and whispering. For those concerned about too much Franco, I can tell you it’s really not something to worry about. He gets a few facechecks in to remind you that he’s there, but for the most part he and his mustachioed face cede screentime to the quartet of robbers. Ultimately you won’t be bored during this movie, but you will be bewildered by the meandering plot and nonsensical “twists.” Solid candidate for background fodder.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Peeping Tom is one of the first (if not the first ) slasher movie. We follow Mark (great name), a handsome cameraman around town as he does typical serial killer stalker type things and maaaaaan, this dude sure is pervy. This movie gives us a great time capsule look at early slasher tropes as well as two other notable horror firsts: first killer’s POV murder scene (paving the way for Halloween nearly 20 years later) and first topless scene in a major theatrical movie. This would be recommended by me because of the historical significance. It would not be recommended by me because of its clunky 60-year-old pacing and writing. Case in point - here is a line delivered with all seriousness during a climax late in the movie: “Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It’s fear.”
A Dark Song (2017)
7 Painstakingly painted ritual circles
This might be the best sounding movie I’ve ever seen. From tip to tail the soundscapes of this film are so artfully constructed that I think if you were watching this movie with cheap headphones or speakers you’d be losing about 75% of the content. That being said, I would still consider this a pretty solid movie even if you had to watch it on mute. The plot follows a young grieving mother as she tries to pursue an occult ritual to correct a pats mistake. It’s not like we’ve never seen that plot before, but we definitely haven’t seen it executed quite like this before. Go see this movie. Barrier to entry is very low. I understand and affirm why Jake had this in his top movies of 2017.
2.5 Strained Allegories
This movie might represent my wife’s second greatest fear - living in an unfinished house that people keep arriving at to party and they refuse to leave. This is next level anxiety inducing and it’s two hours long. Admittedly, the first half of this movie had me on edge. Not necessarily with fear, but with a general level of annoyed anxiety that I don’t think has ever been replicated by another movie. Aaaaaand then the second half of the movie happened. What a goddamn shitty thing this whole movie ends up being. Spoilers: it’s an utterly hamfisted attempt at a metaphor about how we’re destroying the planet. The message is correct, but the vehicle is unnecessary, overlong, and simple. This movie is a waste of time and a waste of talent for the incredible cast. To their credit Bardem, JLaw, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, and the Gleeson brothers turn in solid performances despite the script.
My Bloody Valentine (2009)
I’m going to level with you, reader. This movie doesn’t need a particularly long review. It’s a generic slasher about a particularly mad and particularly crazy coal miner. It gets off to a fast start and then it continues pretty fast until essentially everyone is dead. There’s a lot of death in this movie. It’s actually quite impressive. The only note to make is that it was filmed to be 3D so there’s a few scenes that are shot in a bit of a wonky way where you can tell the blood was supposed to splurt on the camera or the pickaxe was supposed to fly through the screen.
The Fly (1986)
Ultraclassic. Frankly, I have no idea how I’ve never seen this movie before. This is peak Cronenberg and peak Goldblum. It all comes together to form that is something both intriguing and good looking. Jeff Goldblum has exactly the right level of manic for this role. Cronenberg has exactly the right eye for gross-monsters. The only thing ifffy about this one is the science talk, but that’s generally true for 1980s movies across the board. For the record, humans share about 60% of our DNA with flies. Oh also, there’s some regrettable sexual dynamics between the lead actress and her boss. That dude is skeezy. The real horror here is her boss, not Brundlefly. In the end we’re left with just one question: Is it life or is it memorex?
Never Hike Alone (2017)
6.5 Dangly number tags
This “movie” has the lowest barrier to entry of any on this list. You can find it for free (and totally legally) on youtube. Why the quotes? Because it’s not so much a movie as it is a fan made vignette where found footage meets Friday the 13th. It does commit the cardinal sin of mixing first person found footage with 3rd person omniscient footage, but I’m willing to forgive and forget in this case because this is most scared I’ve been by an F13 property since the first time I saw the original. Drew Leighty carries the film as essentially its only character (save for a few bit parts) and does a decent job of it. The only real issue here is the character himself isn’t written in a particularly believable manner. For a dude who was pretty skittish about trespassing he really goes whole hog on exploring the very clearly private property. He’s also completely undeterred by the shower full of blood. Also, I get what they're going for, but they went a little overboard on the footstep sound effects. Jason must weigh about 500 pounds to make those sounds.
Dave Made a Maze (2017)
9 Cardboard Fueled Death Traps
Holy crap. What a thing that was. If Dark Song is a movie you should listen to, this is a movie you should look at. Seems sort of redundant to say that about a movie, but the charm of this thing is in its truly phenomenal visual design (though it has great music as well). There are giant origami birds, there’s a burping papercraft olmec, a cardboard minotaur, a whole segment with 2D characters, and much much more. A review doesn’t do it justice. This movie won’t scare you (well, I mean it might… no judgement here) but you should still definitely absolutely unequivocally see it. It’s got Great music, a great concept, great sets, great overall design of everything, and great tight dialogue. Where’s that beard at? I said the beards on the face.
The Ritual (2017)
7.5 Convenience Stores
This movie has already been discussed at length in this segment by the other two so I’m not going to pile on too much more. This movie was a wonderful surprise. I loved every decision they made (and as you should know by now, they made some decisions). The sets and setting were well done, and extremely well shot. If you want just one movie to make you afraid to take a shortcut hiking through the woods with your buddies, make it this one.