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    Blu-ray Review: “STOKER”, A Fantastic Coming-of-Age Film

    A special breed, the best coming-of-age films are awash in cinematic power that evoke visceral remembrance of adolescence and a time when every emotion was true elation, the most fluttering of butterflies or absolutely gut-wrenching. It’s in adolescence when everything feels a matter of life and death, making this extremity of feeling ripe for exploration through genre. In that sense, and in many others, Park Chan-wook’s first English language feature STOKER is perfect. It’s lead, the young India (Mia Wasikowska) on the cusp of womanhood, navigating a journey of heightened senses, family mystery and eventual murder, is a warped, lurid portrait of coming-of-age. She faces loss, of both a loved one and an idol, and gains herself in the process. In the end, India boasts a sense of self, is assured of her body and is equipped with a thrilling drive.

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    “100 BLOODY ACRES” (Movie Review)

    100 BLOODY ACRES isn’t a straight horror film, despite what the title may lead you to believe. It is, however, a delightful and decidedly Australian comedy in which the characters find themselves in a rather horrific situation, with the resulting shenanigans strewn with bursts of fun gore.

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    “THE CONJURING” (Movie Review)

    Real, palpable dread. In THE CONJURING, it is thick and ever present, and takes on many forms. It is a doll, it is a door. It is a hand clap, it is a spirit. It is malevolence in the air, it is the chill from a dark basement. It is accursed land. It is, eventually, the reveal of director James Wan’s full capabilities as a master of horror. Like INSIDIOUS before it—although miles ahead of that already splendid exercise in shoulder shudders—THE CONJURING is special because Wan, as a filmmaker is. Here, he has proven an innate understanding of the eerie and the frightening.

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    “MANIAC” (Movie Review)

    The two things that set 1981’s MANIAC apart from its murder-movie brethren—Joe Spinell’s performance, and the way William Lustig captured late-’70s Manhattan at its seedy worst—can literally never be duplicated, which posed a challenge to anyone attempting an honorable remake. So it’s one of the new film’s achievements that it showcases a very different lead actor and setting while still feeling like MANIAC.

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    “WORLD WAR Z” (Movie Review)

    WORLD WAR Z is an often exciting action epic, and a pretty gripping saga of one man’s attempt to survive amidst, and perhaps find a solution for, a global catastrophe. What it is not is a zombie movie that will satisfy some die-hard fans, or a close adaptation of Max Brooks’ modern-classic novel, so some adjustment of expectations is in order to best enjoy it.

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    A note on NYC play, “FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS”

    Modern extensions of classic monster mythos are rarely enthralling. Often, it’s the straining to connect, or continue that story and losing sight of what should be the focus — this story’s characters and heart —that does it in. Admittedly, that unavoidable exposition is where Mac Rogers’ new play, FRANKENSTEIN UPSTAIRS feels slightly bogged down, but it’s sure not lacking in character, heart or an intense emotional center. Now playing at the Secret Theatre, the show marries domestic drama and horror story with both wit and tragedy, drawing you in with the former before breaking you down in its second act.

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    “THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP” (Movie Review)

    It never ceases to irk me when filmmakers are adamant about their movies not falling into the category of ‘genre’ films; however, THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP (available on Digital and VOD now from Factory 25) can’t be labeled a horror movie per se. Instead, Rebecca Daly’s feature writing/directing debut is a slow burning mystery with elements of horror. Rather than brimming with cheap thrills to induce quick scares, it is wrought with a deliberate tension that builds throughout the course of the film.

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    “BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO” (Movie Review)

    [This review was originally published out of the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. It is reposted below in light of the film’s theatrical and VOD release.] The word “homage” is a battered old mare when it comes to horror, with many a filmmaker confusing the term—which can most appropriately be applied to directors like Brian De Palma or Quentin Tarantino, who graft elements and DNA of pictures they admire onto fresh frameworks—with ripoff. Look at the “grindhouse” phenomenon, a dubious and meaningless label that has given birth to an endless parade of pink-tinted, fake-aged visuals and replicant movements creating works that are by now rather tired, unimaginative and poor Xeroxes of the accidentally awesome trash classics they ape.

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    “HATCHET III” (Movie Review)

    BJ McDonnell never had a chance. From the beginning, HATCHET III is a film at odds with itself. Opening in the closing moments of the painful HATCHET II, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) finds herself in the throes of bloodthirsty frenzy. With Victor Crowley’s scalp in hand, she begins a long walk through the swamp. Seemingly shot on location, it’s here that camera operator-turned-director McDonnell attempts to add to the saga of Victor Crowley, namely by employing actual visual atmosphere. Marybeth wanders, traumatized, through the picturesque region. On mute, you might think these films were progressing.

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    “THIS IS THE END” (Movie Review)

    A self-referential bro comedy featuring a bunch of mainstream stars playing themselves may not sound like FANGORIA material, but THIS IS THE END packs in more gore and cooler creatures than many a straight horror film, and more laughs than any outright horror spoof in recent memory.

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    “THE PURGE” (Movie Review)

    In the world of THE PURGE, the annual act is sold as both catharsis and entertainment (as a live Purge feed reveals during a stark opening credits). What’s troubling in this vision of American future and attempt at parallel of America current —aside from the fact that murder is wrong — is the question of this catharsis and just what and who it’s for?

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