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HORROR

Charismata (2017)

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Even if you never had to learn police work like the rest of us plebs,
anybody with a TV knows that it takes three bodies to make a serial killer.
You know what I’m saying, you’re just being pedantic.

Take the brilliant movie “Se7en” and replace the two inspectors Somerset and Mills with a duo that can’t get along and where one of them is female, then you get something similar as “Charismata“. Only it’s far from brilliant in terms of acting and the narrative. And even though Mills was a bit cocky and a wiseass in “Se7en,” there was also mutual respect. That doesn’t really apply to Rebecca (Sarah Beck Mather) and Eli (Andonis Anthony). Eli is an arrogant and obnoxious guy who always sees an opportunity to belittle his partner.

 

 

The movie is filled with unfriendly people.

But honestly, most people in this film are blessed with an ugly personality. The two inspectors, who assist in the investigation, constantly spit sexist statements and never take Rebecca seriously. She’s the daughter of the commissioner. So remarks about her job being dropped in her lap, are commonplace. Even the pharmacists are terribly unfriendly and snippy. I’m starting to believe the U.K. is inhabited with bad-tempered and unfriendly people. But believe me, the constantly unfriendly atmosphere started to annoy me.

 

 

First, it’s a genuine war-movie

Also in “Charismata“, they have to deal with an insane serial killer. The victims follow each other rapidly. The one murder even more horrifying than the other. Unfortunately, the first one shown, is the only one that’s off the same level as those in “Se7en“. A dark room in a dilapidated building where the rats have feasted on a half-decayed corpse. This looked fairly realistic and horrifying. The satanic images and carved numbers in the wall make it mysterious. Unfortunately, the design of the following victims wasn’t so successful. They were just stand-ins covered with lots of fake blood. Probably the budget for special effects was already exhausted after the first corpse.

 

 

Michael Sweet. Such a charming person.

What are the most successful aspects of “Charismata“? First, there’s Jamie Satterthwaite, who plays the snobbish Michael Sweet. A yuppie and partner of a company trading in real estates. And their estates are mostly the location where a victim is discovered. Michael Sweet is for me the most sublime appearance in this movie. His charisma and mysterious smile. He’s as innocent as a lamb and laughs off every accusation. A character who could easily play the role of Bateman in “American Psycho“.

 

 

Hallucinations? Or not?

The next positive point in this movie is the way in which Rebecca’s mental instability is portrayed. The reason why she has a psychological problem is solidly substantiated. A messy divorce. A brutal ex. Selling her apartment goes awry. Unfriendly colleagues who treat her disrespectfully. And then also a stressful case with a serial killer with nauseating crime scenes as a result. Then there’s the fact that she takes antidepressant medication with a lot of alcohol. So it’s no surprise she’s having hallucinations. And those hallucinations are worked out magnificently. No exaggerated effects and some adequately executed scare moments. Or aren’t these hallucinations?

 

 

It had potential.

Is “Charismata” a decent film you should definitely watch? Looking at the plus and the negative points, you’d say that it’s well balanced. Such that it can be called an average film. Indeed. Even though the acting is sometimes of a “Coronation Street” level and the story is rather superficial, you can’t say it’s extremely bad. But that feeling is completely undermined by the terrible, meaningless ending. It’s flat n’inane beyond belief. The run-up to this wasn’t bad. It even became gross at a certain moment. But the denouement creates some forehead-frowning, after which you wonder why on earth you’ve watched it. It seemed as if the makers realized they needed an end and there was no creative inspiration left. Too bad, because the film surely had potential.

 

My rating 4/10
Links: IMDB 

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Featured

Ánimas – A Worthy Addition To The Netflix Originals Range

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When you’re five, it’s normal
to have imaginary friends…
But at my age, it means you’re crazy.

Ánimas” certainly isn’t an easy film. It also takes a while before you realize what’s actually going on. The film looks enormously artistic thanks to the quirky image setting. Scenes in different color palettes alternate. From intense red and bright orange to soothing green. I suppose it’s “a state of mind” related kind of thing. I can’t come up with another deeper meaning. Although I read a statement somewhere where the concept of traffic lights seemed a plausible explanation. The only thing that bothered me sometimes, was the constantly flickering lights. “Ánimas” in itself wasn’t really a horror. But that is perhaps due to the fact that the entire film is spoken in Spanish which gives me a sort of holiday feeling. The movie shows how the psyché of a tormented person functions and how a specific incident can provide a psychological defense mechanism. Hence the sometimes hallucinatory and surrealistic images.

 

 

The result after years of abuse.

It may all sound a bit absurd and complicated. And on top of that, the film is terribly slow in the beginning as well. It starts with Bram (Ivan Pellicer) and Alex (Clare Durant) meeting on the stairs of the apartment where both children live. Bram anxiously hiding there in the stairwell while his father (Luis Bermejo) rages in their home. From the outset, it’s abundantly clear that domestic violence is involved. When Alex tells him how to deal with fear and ensures him she’ll repair his broken yo-yo, it’s the start of a close friendship. A friendship that stays close until both finish high school and they are ready for a university career. A carefree life in which only a budding romance between Bram and Anchi (Chacha Huang) causes agitation for Alex. Well, so it seems. Until we get to see fairly bizarre images. Alex hurting herself while standing in front of the mirror. And the moment Bram’s mother comes into the picture, you realize the home situation there isn’t normal either. A catatonic looking woman who is constantly staring at a clock and appears to be lifeless. The result after years of living under the yoke of a violent husband and father.

 

 

Is it a dream or is it real?

As mentioned, the film seems rather chaotic and difficult to follow at a certain moment. The bizarre storyline and sudden flashbacks don’t make it easy. And when ghostly appearances and mysterious shadows begin to play along, targeting Alex apparently, the film goes down a more sinister path. “Ánimas” wasn’t really horror for me but rather a psychological thriller. A film that seeks to visualize the psyche of a traumatized individual. At times it seemed as if Alex was moving in an unrealistic world created by Escher. It causes confusion. Both for Alex and the viewer. You wonder whether it’s reality or a dream world. Until the moment of the disclosure in the end (or perhaps a bit earlier when you start realizing a little bit what the plausible explanation might be) because then everything suddenly becomes clearer.

 

 

Worthwhile to hang on till the end.

Ánimas” is no ordinary, average horror or thriller. The story has been built up too cleverly for this. And even though you get shivers from the spooky and darkly dilapidated apartment building and the characters are creepy in a certain way, the film will certainly not scare you. I found the acting of the two main characters sublime. Bram, the timid teenager who hides in his own little world far from everything that could harm him. Alex, the bustling teenager whose personality is difficult to place. Only the relationship between the two protagonists remains a bit blurred at the start. And perhaps many will drop out after a while because maybe the movie is too slow, too meaningless and too confusing for them. However, it’s worth the effort to sit out the film in such a way that the entire setup becomes clearer. Perhaps it’s not a film that’ll resonate for a long time and stays with you for days. But it’s a worthy addition to the Netflix Originals range.

You can watch Ánimas on Netflix now!

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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Featured

Deadsight – An Interesting Take On A Subgenre That Could Have Been Buried A Long Time Ago

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Genre : Horror-Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Jesse Thomas Cook
Cast:
Adam Seybold
Liv Collins
Ry Barrett

 

Overnight a deadly virus sweeps across the Grey County part of Ontario. Turning the recently deceased into flesh eating ghouls this mysterious disease ravages this once-quiet Canadian county. A living nightmare for your average person it’s particularly bad for Ben Neilson (Adam Seybold) who is blind. Waking up roadside inside of an ambulance, Ben is quickly forced to deal with his new reality. Able to evade the undead, Ben crosses paths with the inexperienced and very pregnant Officer Mara Madigan (Liv Collins). Relying on each other for help they try to figure out what happened to their once quiet community.

Unlike a lot of other zombie movies Deadsight takes a more minimalistic approach. We aren’t dealing with a worldwide epidemic or having our heroes go on a search for patient zero to make a cure. Instead most of the focus is on Ben and Mara trying to reach safety. Adam Seybold does an admirable job in the lead role as Ben. From the moment he wakes up handcuffed in the ambulance audiences can’t help but be sympathetic for Ben. With his eyes blindfolded like a zombie infested Bird Box, a task as simple as avoiding a zombie to reach the front of an ambulance has all the tension of avoiding an entire horde of the undead. As difficult as this sounds things aren’t going much better for Mara.

 

Late in her pregnancy and about ready to give birth saying she’s in over her head is an understatement. Portrayed by co-writer and producer Liv Collins she shows a vulnerability you don’t typically see in a zombie movie. While brave and willing to jump into danger, Mara is still about to give birth. With each contraction Mara and Ben are brought closer and closer to danger. With each of them having their own difficulties it makes for an interesting watch with stakes not typically seen in movies like this.

A veteran of the indie horror scene, director Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl, The Horde) has proven himself to be more than capable behind the camera. Joined by cinematographer Jeff Maher the two are able to do so much with so little budget. Set against the mountains of rural Canada, Deadsight can’t help but echo the loneliness of the tundra. As the film reaches its climax the lighting is reminiscent of Dario Argento with deep red and green. But as good as it looks that doesn’t mean that the film’s budget ever shows.

 

For a lot of the zombies themselves practical effects and make up is used and it looks good for the most part. Not quite the quality of The Walking Dead but more than the blue paint used in George A. Romero’s early work. What doesn’t work is when they have to rely on special effects. For most of the zombie kills Deadsight relies on some dreadful looking CG with every headshot looking like it came from a PS3. Add in the handheld camera used for most of the film and it can be a tough watch at times.

It takes a lot to make a zombie movie in 2019. It isn’t due to limits in technology nor an economic barrier to entry. I can’t even say it’s entirely due to the genre’s overexposure. No the biggest problem with the zombie movie is that seemingly everything has been done. For those looking for long form storytelling mixed with their headshots there is The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead. For a more lighthearted affair there is Shaun of the Dead. Even if you want to see the storytelling mixed with your zomcom there’s Z Nation waiting for you on Netflix. Whether they’re walking, running or legless there are at least a couple of movies about it. Which is exactly what makes Deadsight so unique. For all of its faults, and there are quite a few, it is something unique from every other zombie movie. What it lacks in budget is made up with some tight film making and two good performances from Andy Seybold and Liv Collins. Deadsight might not be the next Dawn of the Dead but it’s an interesting take on a subgenre that could have been buried a long time ago.

 

 

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

Deadsight is now available on Bluray, DVD and VOD

 

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Drama

Zoo – Is Certainly Not Suitable For a Seasoned Horror Fan

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Come on, it’s just some big
pharmaceutical company trying to cash in.

Admit it, the zombie horror genre has been thoroughly milked in recent years. Last years the market is flooded with films in which a global epidemic causes the rise of a maddened mob of bloodthirsty, mindless people who just want to sink their teeth in a juicy piece of human flesh. The majority of releases are also terribly bad and full of unoriginal clichés. But once in a while, you’ll also find quirky attempts that try to give an original twist to a well-known theme. Like this Swedish production “Zoo” (don’t confuse it with the adventure film in which a young boy and an elephant steal the show) which tries to mix comedy and drama with the zombie genre. Even though I’m not in favor of a mix of comedy and horror, I could appreciate the black humor here. The film immediately reminded me of “La Nuit a dévoré le Monde” where they also put more emphasis on the person who’s trying to survive the Apocalypse than the Apocalypse itself.

 

 

A marriage falling apart and a zombie invasion.

In “Zoo” Karen (Zoë Tapper) and John (Ed Speleers) are the ones whose lives are being shaken up. A pregnancy that has gone wrong has already ensured that they don’t get along so good anymore. Karen has withdrawn deeper and deeper into her shell where she is consumed by grief and reproach. John throws himself into his work. And before they realize it, they live alongside each other, there’s no longer any question of affection and Karen has gathered a lot of moving boxes already. In short, their marriage is falling apart. Were it not that a rapidly spreading virus starts to mess up society big time. Just like their marriage, society is gradually collapsing. And the only thing the authorities advise is to stay inside and keep yourself busy with something.

 

Let’s do some drugs.

And that’s what they do. They watch old films on VHS. Do exercises to keep fit and to defend themselves in case a few infected guys try to smash their door. But mainly the couple grows closer to each other and discover their lost love again. Maybe the supply of drugs Karen has hidden in a cupboard has something to do with it. In any case, everything seems like peace and light again. For a moment anyway. The interaction between Zoë Tapper and Ed Speleers never felt artificial. It was as if they were a couple in real life.

 

 

Drama, humor and to a lesser extent horror.

As I mentioned earlier, “Zoo” is a mix of drama, humor, and horror. Although the horror part is gently slumbering in the background. Every once in a while you get to see some hysterical looking aggressors who throw themselves at every audible sound. But these fragments are so scarce that after a while the horror element is forgotten. The first part is both engaging and moving. Until the neighbors show up and the comical side prevails. Without a doubt the better part of the film. The second part is more tragic and fairly intense. The ultimate message is a confirmation of their wedding promise. And I’m talking about the “for better or for worse” part. “Zoo” is certainly not suitable for a seasoned horror fan. I’m sure horror fans will be disappointed and get bored while watching it. And finally an important warning. This film has the alternative title “Death do us part“. But you should certainly not confuse this with the film of the same name from the year 2014. Because that’s really a monstrosity of a movie.

 

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

 

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