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HORROR

As a Film, ‘Head Count’ is a Step Above Most of its Contemporaries

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Genre : Horror-Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Elle Callahan

Cast:
Issac Jay
Ashleigh Morghan
Bevin Bru

 

 

With summer break just beginning a reluctant Evan (Isaac Jay) heads to Joshua Tree to spend the weekend with his estranged brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe). Meeting a group of other twenty-somthings he captures the eye of photographer Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan). With sparks beginning to fly between the two Evan accepts an invitation to party with Zoe and her friends, leaving Peyton behind. As the night wears on and the drinks continue to flow they all settle around a fire and tell scary stories around a campfire. Without a story of his own Evan goes online and finds a poem entitled Hisji. As he reads it to his new friends he accidentally unleashes a deadly being unlike anything he could ever dream of.

The latest in the quickly growing Creepypasta-based movie subgenre writer-director Elle Callahan deviates from the norm by creating her own urban legend. A mix of The Babadook and The Thing, the Hisji is a humanoid that can shape shift and look like other people. Slowly infiltrating groups of five it ritualistically stalks them before forcing them to commit suicide. Callahan and co-writer Michael Nader give audiences just enough of the Hisji’s lore to keep audiences hooked. A similar level of care can be seen behind the camera.

Stylishly capturing the desolate California desert in her feature debut Elle Callahan shows a technical skill that belies her time behind the camera. Despite Head Count‘s limited budget Callahan is able to deliver some blockbuster scares with things as simple as camera tricks or gradually building tension to its breaking point. She possesses the kind of skills that lull audiences into a false sense of security from a drunken game of Never Have I Ever and turn it into one of the best jump scares of the year. It’s a talent doesn’t necessarily extend to other aspects of the film.

As interesting as Head Count can be on a technical level it stumbles as an actual story. Although performed well by Isaac Jay, Evan can feel unbearable at times. Either afraid or angst-ridden for the majority of Head Count the only time Evan shows any real life is when he is with Zoe. Portrayed by Ashleigh Morghan (Snowfall, The Land) she is able to bring a cheeriness out of Evan that is sorely missing most of the movie. The second-too-long stares, the awkwardness around your significant other’s friends, Jay and Morghan do a marvelous job capturing the awkward yet magical feeling you get when you fall for someone. The same can’t be said of the rest of the supporting cast. For the most part Zoe’s posse, while well performed, come off as beyond cliché. Whether it’s the alpha male Max or the constantly stoned Nico they feel more like Degrassi extras than actual characters.

The other thing holding Head Count back is the film’s lack of budget. Not to say you necessarily need Avengers money to make a good film but Head Count clearly had some pretty big ambitions for its third act. After meticulously crafting a creeping, subtle terror it rushes as fast as it can to the finish line leaving as much chaos in its wake as it can muster. Culminating with a less than impressive CG Hisji it feels out of place in a movie that felt so deliberate in its choices before. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the film but it makes for a jarring change of pace.

As a film, Head Count is a step above most of its contemporaries. With an intriguing lore for the Hisji and a skillful hand behind the scenes, Elle Callahan’s first feature shows that the director has a lot of potential. So does that make Head Count a good movie? Not quite. Despite being good on a technical level an indie level budget, paper thin characters and a too predictable sequel hook hurt the film to outright recommend. But if it’s any indication of Callahan’s future then her next film Witch Hunt, now in pre-production, should be one to look out for. Just don’t go in a group of five.

 

 

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

Head Count is now on VOD and in select theaters

 

HORROR

Pet Sematary: The Film Remains True To The Original Idea

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A place to bury our pets and remember them.
It might seem scary, but it’s not.
It’s perfectly natural.

In the distant past, I was an avid reader and devoured books constantly. That has been considerably reduced over the years. But, occasionally I grab a reading book. Generally, that only happens during a well-deserved summer vacation on one or another beach. Stephen King‘s oeuvre has always enchanted me. This summer vacation I read his book “Elevation” in one go. Not that it was high-quality literature, but King is such a wonderful storyteller whose stories grab you and don’t let go. That actually applies to most of his books. Of course, there are also film versions of his books that are worth seeing. Personally, “Christine” and “Carrie” are movies (horror-related) I enjoyed the most (but I can easily name a few more). And the film “Pet Sematary” from 1989 can also be counted with films that had a huge impact on me. The only question I first asked myself (and many others too, I guess) was: “Is it really necessary to release a remake of this film?“.

 

Pet Sematary

I really, really, really hate remakes.

Those who know me a little have read already a few times that I hate remakes, reboots and so on. I admit that cinematographically and when it’s about acting, it’s most likely to be an improvement compared to the original. But the story, the content, the soul of the film, as it were, will remain the same. And isn’t that a bit too easy? But then again, they could also rigorously change the content or storyline. But don’t you think this would create a completely different movie? And is there really someone who has the guts to thoroughly change a movie classic? Well, Kelvin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer were brave enough and succeeded in retaining the spirit of the story, despite the drastic plot changes. Only, it didn’t impress me as much as the original did.

 

Pet Sematary

 

A drastic plot change.

Some elements from the old movie escaped my memory. For example, there’s Zelda (Alyssa Brooke Levine). Either her part wasn’t explicitly emphasized in the first film. Or the number of years have begun to take its toll on me. In any case, this was actually the most creepy image used in this remake. The most crucial adjustment they have made is the choice of the victim. In the original, the youngest son Gage (Hugo / Lucas Lavoie) can’t avoid a rushing truck. I remember this fact as very shocking to me. That sweet-looking little guy, the kite falling down and the tumbling children’s shoe. I can picture it right now. Not that the choice in this remake is less terrible. But it didn’t shock me as much as it did in the original film.

 

Pet Sematary

 

There’s the initial question again.

This choice not only gave the whole thing a different turn, but the scaryness of the film also suffered a major blow. I found the role Gage played in the first film, more creepy than that of Ellie (Jeté Laurence) here. On the other hand, the cat Church looks more ominous and evil, than its alter ego in the original film. And the dead student Victor Pascow (Obssa Ahmed) also came into the picture more explicitly. Broadly speaking, the film remains true to the original idea. The concept of a father’s all-embracing love for his child. And the will to cross borders to reverse it all. There are no surprises in that area. Which in turn leads to the initial question: “Why a remake?“.

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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HORROR

Monster Party – The Acting Is Far From Amateurish Or Toe Curling Bad

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Them fucking yuppie scums
won’t know what hit them.

Perhaps it would be better that future burglars screen the residents of the targeted house first and then see if there’s something to get. That’s certainly a lesson those young burglars have learned in the movie “Monster Party“. After seeing the mansion they’re planning to rob, they’re convinced that the loot will be big enough. What they didn’t expect was an utter crazy company at dinner with a fairly dark secret. A kind of AA meeting. But not the “A” of alcohol but the “A” of aggression. And this with a capital A.

 

Monster Party

Oh boy, a humorous horror.

My expectations weren’t high at all. I thought the movie would be a second-class slasher once again. And what bothered me the most about the film, was the fact that it’s a combination of humor and horror. And let that now be the combination I least believe in. While watching most of these types of horrors I always get the feeling that neither of the two genres is completed. Most of the time the humor is so lousy that I can’t even smile. And at the same time, the horror story is usually only moderately worked out. Well, a person can be wrong. In the case of “Monster Party” I was completely wrong. Both the cynical, black humor (the kind of humor I like the most) and the bloody and creepy parts weren’t that bad.

 

Monster Party

 

It certainly is a hornet’s nest.

When the three juvenile criminals Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall), Casper (Sean Strike) and Iris (Virginia Gardner) choose this larger target where they can demonstrate their burglar’s talent, they aren’t realizing that they are plunging into a hornet’s nest. The Dawsons are a wealthy family who organizes a dinner party at their large country house and Iris happens to work there as a waitress for the appointed catering company. The three youngsters all have a good (financial) reason to take the risk. From the outset, you have this feeling that the members of this company aren’t functioning normally.

 

Monster Party

 

Just wait till the madness starts.

Have you watched the trailer already? Well, then you already know how it unfolds. Impatient gore fans most probably will be waiting nervously for that moment when the madness starts. And that waiting will be rewarded. Not only because of the bloody situations (and they were reasonably inventive as to how some were slaughtered). But also because of the extraordinary acting performances. Especially Kian Lawley, as the crazy son Elliot whose gaze is a mix of madness and sadism (and he enjoys it), and Julian McMahon as host Patrick whose ultra-calm appearance is really nothing more than a masquerade. Virginia Gardner also acts excellently at specific moments. And for the first time, I even thought that these bloody events were amusing. And there’s more. Director Hoffman has a little surprise in store. Normally I would say this type of surprise was a bit exaggerated. Not now. I thought it was a nice contribution to the movie.

 

Monster Party

 

A noteworthy low-budget slasher.

I’m pretty sure “Monster Party” was made with a micro-budget. The number of locations in this film is fairly limited and the massacres usually take place off-camera. But the main characteristic of a low-budget film wasn’t present here. Mostly the acting-part is rather tedious and crappy in low-budget movies. But in “Monster Party” the acting is far from amateurish or toe-curling bad. On the contrary. And they acted with noticeable pleasure. Cinematographically it looks slick. The pace is just right. And there’s even a feeling of tension as the plot unfolds. In short, a noteworthy film you definitely don’t need to avoid. Watch it when you get the opportunity.

 

My rating 6.5/10
Links: IMDB

 

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Action

Underwater | Official Trailer – HD

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Genre:

Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

January 10, 2020

Director:

William Eubank

Cast:

Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie

Plot Summary:

After an earthquake destroys their underwater station, six researchers must navigate two miles in the dangerous, unknown depths of the ocean floor to make it to safety in a race against time.

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