Each October I take great pleasure in trying to watch as many horror films as I can. Monster movies, gothics, slashers, vampire tales, zombie movies, ghost stories – whatever – I’m just soaking up as many scary movies as possible. I like to mix up my viewing so that I revisit some old favorites and classics as well as seeking out new movies I’ve never seen. This hunt for new horror cinema can mean older movies I’ve just never gotten around to for whatever reason or brand new offerings hot off the Avid machine. This year I used NetFlix to find some newer films and overall I was pretty happy with what I found.
ABSENTIA (2011) was a very well done, low budget tale about a woman finally filing the paperwork to declare her husband legally dead. He went missing near their house seven years before and she is reluctantly trying to move on with her life as can be seen by the fact that she is about eight months pregnant. The film starts with the soon to be legal widow’s sister coming to live with her to help out after the baby is born. The sister has a history of substance abuse which makes her eventual reports of odd sightings in a tunnel nearby questionable to the cops. And then things take a very strange couple of turns that kept me interested for the entire running time. Good movie and recommended.
THE SHRINE (2010) was less good but still a solid example of the ‘rogue reporter on a case that should have been left alone’ kind of story. In this story the reporter is a woman and is portrayed as a bit of an asshole which makes later events rather interesting. As the details of certain mysterious disappearances in a vaguely Slavic European country come to light the film has a nice turn that made it more interesting than I expected. Not great but worth seeing.
THE INNKEEPERS (2001) is Ti West's follow up to his solid HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) and I think its a better film. Here he is channeling Kubrick's THE SHINING in more ways than one and the strength of the film is the element that a lot of people are criticizing - its slow and careful build. The movie takes its time letting us get to know its central characters and their relationship in a way that seems natural and involving. I was enjoying the film long before the haunted aspects of the hotel became apparent simply because these two small town underachievers were actually interesting. And then the ghostly visitations begin and I was riveted! I guess the film's slow burn pacing means some viewers won't have the patience for this one but its their loss. Highly recommended.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011) is a well crafted found-footage film that follows a reality TV show crew as they run afoul of an abandoned haunted asylum. This is a fantastic movie for about two thirds of its running time but then it goes a little off the rails by employing some terrible CGI to amp up the scares turning the final twenty minutes or so into a very hit or miss climax. I like the eventual ending but there are a couple of scenes that could/should have been left out to keep the tone the filmmakers had so carefully crafted up until that point. Those silly moments don't destroy the movie but they effectively stomp on the impressive mood that it so brilliantly captured. Still well worth seeing.
THE HOWLING REBORN (2011) is the turd in the well. I had high hopes for this supposed reboot of the series but this is more a further disconnected sequel than anything else. I have avoided the various HOWLING films as the second in the series was so bad I couldn't face seeing how much further down the drain the films might go. If this one is any indicator I will never see the others. This starts off with an OK premise and I thought it might be going somewhere when the credits claimed it was based on Gary Brandner's novel THE HOWLING II but nothing good comes of the association. I read that book as a teenager and don't remember much of it but this film is a terrible attempt at a werewolf story no matter the pedigree. Filled with logic leaps, bad dialog, stupid characters, nonsensical scenes and dumb twists it is interesting in a 'Le Bad Film' way but not bad enough to warrant seeking it out. I will say that the two leads work very hard to be believable in their roles but the film sucks far too much for any actor to be able to save it. You can safely skip it.