Welcome in, one and all to the October edition of Cutting Room, where we give mini single-person reviews for all the movies we've seen outside of our main weekly reviews. Things are ramping up as we plow forward towards Halloween, so take a look at what we've had on to satisfy the horror habit in the early part of the month.
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!
Cult of Chucky (2017)
5 Melted Doll Hands
So I was wrong about this movie. I shat all over this thing and picked it as my bottom 1 for October’s HRR, and even wrongly called it a reboot. Turns out it’s just straight up a sequel, and every Chucky flick to date is cannon in the universe. Being the big person that I am, I took a look at this after I heard from some people that I should give it a chance (and learned that it’s available on Netflix). It certainly wasn’t as bad as I had initially thought. It isn’t just a heartless cash grab, and there really isn’t any bad CGI. The effects are actually pretty strong, and the movie was pretty good. I stand by not really thinking this needs to exist, but given that it does, it’s worth a watch.
The Transfiguration (2017)
7.5 VHS Tapes
This was a tough watch for me. Not because of anything explicitly seen on the screen or because it was a bad film. On the contrary, this is much more of a slow burn and it is very, very good. This is a good film, period. Horror element be damned. What made it so difficult was how much of a joyless slog it is. There is not one shred of happiness to be found here. Even the extremely fleeting moments where you think something is going to happen that will lift the heavy clouds and provide a reprieve just crush you with something else. Ultimately, this is a movie that I respect the hell out of for pushing the genre and providing an extremely unsettling platform for the vampire story, but god damn. You will not feel good after watching it. Shades of how I felt after Requiem for a Dream.
A Dark Song (2017)
8.5 Circular Runes
There is something special about the isolation on display in A Dark Song. The sweeping, desolate landscape of the Welsh highlands is a perfect, soggy setting for an exploration of magic unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This is no Hogwarts. The runes and rituals on display are long and arduous, and the consequences of getting anything even fractionally incorrect are extreme. The entire movie is carried by two outstanding performances, and as the events unfold it does a tremendous job of making you question the same things the characters in the film begin to ask. This is not for everyone, but the isolation and profoundly unsettling nature of every event that takes place make for a slow burn that sticks with you long after the credits roll. This will be in contention for my movie of the year.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)
6.5 Steak Knives
I was able to see Oz Perkins’ I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House (long fucking title) well before getting my hands on his directorial debut and after having seen both, there are many similarities. I think this is a stronger overall film and there is certainly a lot more going on here than in the glacially paced Pretty Thing, but I still felt left wanting a little more out of something. What that something is I’m not even sure. The real show stealer here is Perkin’s ability to frame a scene. His eye for the shot is amazing and it’s on full display in this movie. I am interested to see what he is able to do the third time around.
5.5 Zero-G Yo-Yo sessions
I watched this movie primarily because Mark saw it and gave it the green light. When it came out, we didn’t even know if it would be horror. After seeing it, I can also confirm this is firmly in the action-horror genre and outer space as a setting ratchets up the horror side of the equation even further. However, I did not care for this nearly as much as Mark. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say I thought it was a bad film, it did almost nothing original and the original elements, most of which tied to the specifics of the titular “lifeform” were far from rooted in plausible science. Not a strong recommend, but the cast and production value save it juuust enough.
Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
This movie strikes me as being similar to another well regarded movie on this website: Lake Mungo. Actually, The Last Broadcast also comes to mind. It’s a long and slow burn that banks on a lightning bolt-esque turn at the end. Hell, they’re even both mock documentaries. The problem that Phoenix has is that the cathartic lightning bolt at the end is unsatisfying. There’s some ratcheting up the sense of impending doom, but the ultimate villain of the film (if you could call it that) just didn’t do it for me, which is too bad because the first 80% of this movie served as a great setup. A better ending could’ve vaulted this one into the 8-10 range. I still give it a recommend, though, as a relatively well made slow-burn movie about getting lost in the desert.
It Comes at Night (2017)
6.5 Bowls of Bread Pudding
This movie is an experiment in how much of a movie you can make without actually having a story. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that it’s an experiment in lack of exposition. There is story here, it just goes largely unstated by the characters. There are hints at things in the world and in the characters’ mannerisms that help paint an outline of a larger picture, but it still leaves a lot to be filled in. Overall It Comes at Night is a well shot, well acted, well put together movie that you should watch, but I can’t help but feel like it was more empty than it was supposed to be. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of those “you fill in the blank” type movies so take my complaints with that grain of salt.
7.5 Multicellular Parasites
I mostly watched this because I was pretty sure that Jake or Jack would accidentally watch this instead of Virus when we reviewed that movie, and wanted to have a backup plan. What I stumbled upon is one of my favorite things that can happen in the horror genre: a movie that you have no expectations for winding up actually being pretty good. Viral is the story of two sisters surviving the early days of an incipient zombie apocalypse. As all good zombie movies do, it focuses almost entirely on their own relationship, the relationship they have with their various friends, and the strain that the emergency puts on them, instead of the actual zombies themselves. This movie is one of those where I’m pretty confident no one on set passed their high school science classes, but overall if you are willing to suspend some scientific disbelief this is a pretty solid zombie romp. It is also worth noting that this movie has some of the most egregious use of “night filter” shots that I’ve ever seen… so there’s that too.
Little Evil (2017)
5 Goat Puppets
Here's to getting hammered and staying sharp. Little Evil is a Netflix movie heavily featuring Adam Scott in the lead role as a dad who recently married into an Omen-ish situation. His son, Lucas, was conceived via cult ritual and is now being used as a tool to bring about the end times… but it’s a comedy so everything is heavily drenched in Adam Scott’s typical sardonic sarcasm. (Sardonicasm?) Taking a skewering look at this plotline in service of a proper horror comedy seems like a pretty good idea, and the supporting cast is there to make it work. Ultimately, though, the humor really only shines for a few scenes. It’s pleasant, and it does have redeeming moments, but ultimately this one is too threadbare to give a firm recommend.
8.5 Shitty Parents
Well, I guess I'm scared of balloons now. Cool. They really turned the schmaltz factor up to 11 on this one. That power of love type stuff doesn’t really align with what I wanted from this one, and as far as I’m aware also doesn’t really match up with the book. That being said it’s still a great movie that keeps the suspense ratcheted up all the way throughout. Can we just pause for a second and point out that they took all the interesting pieces of Mike’s character in the book (like his fascination with town history) and gave them to the other kids? Is that racist? Rhetorical question. Yes, it is.
I lost a bet and had to watch this movie. This has legitimately discouraged me from gambling in the future. Roger Ebert gave this thing fucking 3.5/4, and has thus solidified the fact that I am a better film critic than he is. What the hell was this thing? It’s not fun to watch. It just makes me sad how messed up everything is. I liked the twist (if you can call it that), but it’s too little too late to save the movie. To her credit Natasha Lyonne does turn in a good performance in this otherwise mediocre film. If you are a huge fan of body horror this one might be worth it. Otherwise, go ahead and give it a pass.
A Ghost Story (2017)
1.05 Motionless Long Takes
This is bold, yet incredibly boring. Interesting, yet also bafflingly stupid. You will watch someone eat pie uninterupted for, no joke, more than 2 minutes of screen time. No dialogue. Just eating pie while sitting on the ground. This is the type of film that you make for your undergraduate senior thesis in communication with a minor in film studies because “I dunno, I just always liked how people are sad sometimes but also not sometimes.” Sprinkle one incredibly stupid hillbilly nihilist monologue on top and this is what you get. You get a movie that is completely worthless except for 1/20th of a point for having kinda neat looking ghosts. Watch if you’re an insomniac, or you lost a bet, or you want to come off as a pretentious film student that actually hates themselves.