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    “INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2” (Movie Review)

    The challenge involved in making a direct horror sequel like INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is that it’s harder to mystify and scare both audiences and the characters the second time around. Fortunately, returning director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell have partially changed the source of the terror for CHAPTER 2, though it takes the film a little while to get there.

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    “CANNIBAL” (TIFF Movie Review)

    There are moments of exquisite stillness in Manuel Martin Cuenca’s CANNIBAL. Some might say too many. But for those willing to go along with its deliberately tentative pacing, CANNIBAL  delivers a poignant – if not always totally gripping -minimalist narrative about a man who eats people and the woman who loves him.

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    “UNDER THE SKIN” (TIFF Movie Review)

    There is a scene in director Jonathan Glazer’s unsettling and unusual masterpiece BIRTH where his camera hugs actress Nicole Kidman’s face as tightly as possible. In that sequence, we study Kidman’s porcelain visage as she watches an opera. Not one word of dialogue distracts us from her eyes, her lips, her skin. The character is clearly processing an idea—that a mysterious child may be the reincarnation of her dead husband—and that idea slowly evolves into an epiphany resulting in a single tear streaming from her rapidly reddening eye. It is without a doubt the single most alarming example of an actor’s “inner voice” in effect this critic has ever seen, and a majestic moment of “pure cinema,” uncompromising in its ambiguity and reliance on sound and image to make magic.

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    “A FIELD IN ENGLAND” (TIFF Movie Review)

    With only a handful of movies, writer/director Ben Wheatley has already established himself as one of the finest filmmakers of his generation. Always toeing genre lines, his greatest achievement thus far was probably KILL LIST, a viscous hit man movie transformed into occult horror with one of the most disturbing finale twists since his obvious influence THE WICKER MAN. The genre journalists all immediately demanded that he dabble in horror again and now he kind of has with the twisted art house hallucinogen he calls A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Like KILL LIST, the movie is not pure horror, but it does boast some of the most disturbing images destined to flicker across screens this year.

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    “DEATH FORCE / VAMPIRE HOOKERS” (DVD Review)

    It isn’t every day that fans of both heads-on-stakes and stakes-in-hearts are able to indulge in one stop shopping, but this double feature of films from the “King of Filipino Exploitation” Ciro H. Santiago (courtesy Vinegar Syndrome’s endlessly awesome Drive-In Collections) provides precisely such a buying opportunity.

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    “SAVAGES CROSSING” (DVD Review)

    When WOLF CREEK came out back in 2005, it proved to be one of the most riveting and raw horror films in a long time. The main attraction that tied it all together was the central villainous performance by then-unknown actor John Jarratt. The promise of another horror film starring Jarratt, set in his native Australia, gave rise to great hopes and anticipation—which, unfortunately, are quickly shattered by SAVAGES CROSSING.

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    “OCULUS” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Mike Flanagan’s debut picture ABSENTIA was something truly special: a quiet, slow burning indie horror film that betrayed its budgetary cramps at every turn and used an existing location—in this case, a creepy suburban tunnel—and made it into something nightmarish. Slow zooms, quiet spaces, ambiguity and minimalist music all coupled with better than average performances and the result was a work of practical nickel and dime perfection. If you haven’t seen it, do so immediately and watch in the dark…

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    “AFFLICTED” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Each year, TIFF’s Midnight Madness program provides a home for hungry genre buffs where blood is spilled for adoring crowds to squeal in delight. Pretty well all of the iconic horror directors of the last 20 years have premiered at least one of their features as part of the program, but the finest treat is probably the discovery of new filmmakers bursting onto the scene. This year, the big breakout just might be for first-time Vancouver filmmakers Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee. The duo made the leap from shorts to features with AFFLICTED, their impressive new schlocker that manages to wring a little extra life out of the tiresome found footage genre and even a classic creature as well.

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    Eli Roth’s “THE GREEN INFERNO” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Six years after HOSTEL PART II and a host of acting and producing gigs later, Eli Roth has finally returned to directing. To celebrate, he came back to TIFF’s Midnight Madness program where he enthusiastically debuted his fourth feature for the first audience outside of the post production crew. As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, it’s a cannibal movie, just like those lovable Italian rapscallions Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi used to make. Though Roth’s fingerprints are all over his addition to the indigestion-favoring genre, he plays true to the form both in terms of the graphic gourmet content and the themes of civility vs. civilization. It’s both throwback and something disturbingly new that is sure to be controversial for some, beloved by others, and impossible for anyone with a weak stomach or bleeding heart to forget. 

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    Ti West’s “THE SACRAMENT” (TIFF Movie Review)

    More faux doc than “found footage,” Ti West’s THE SACRAMENT exceeds at effectively blurring lines, subsequently succeeding at being horrifying and grounded. From its inclusion of the VICE brand and positing the cult tale as one of their “Guide To’s,” to the rare-for-this-medium proper opening titles to hewing closely to the tragedy of Jonestown and the Peoples Temple, the film presents itself as fictional entertainment about the evil real men do rather than real capturing of supernatural phenomena. The end result is especially unsettling.

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    “ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Long before they made contemporary controversial horror favorites like MAY, THE WOMAN and THE LOST Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson were a pair of fresh faced film grads who decided to shoot their first feature together. The result was ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE and though it never got much of a release, it did kick off their solo directing careers. Now over ten years later, the two filmmakers teamed up again to remake that film with, you know, production values. The result is as fun as the title suggests and as giddily violent as their subsequent directorial careers guaranteed. It’s also a bit of an artistic regression as well as a nostalgia piece, though. The movie is as messy and tonally jumbled as most first feature films, with the directors unable to tame their old concept with their acquired skills as professional filmmakers. That quality is part of the wacko charm that earned the flick a spot at TIFF’s Midnight Madness program, it’s just sadly a bit of a step back for McKee in particular.

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