Horror Movie Cleanse: It Comes At Night

The following is in response to the film It Comes At Night, written by Trey Edward Shults and starring Joel EdgertonChristopher Abbott, and Carmen Ejogo.

it comes at night

A slow burn horror mystery.

It Comes At Night is the story of a family and their experiences in loss when the world is wrought by a killer disease, not unlike the disease in the film Open Grave. Paul and Sarah, along with their son Travis, were better equipped for the epidemic than most. With a house in the woods, secluded from the rest of the world, and enough firearms to protect themselves from the infected, the family was doing just fine on their own. Everything changes when they discover that a man named Will has broken into their home, searching for supplies. Reluctantly, Paul invites Will, his wife and his young son, to move in with them. There is strength in numbers. Right?

The relationship between the two families gets off to a great start. Their is laughter and smiling faces back in the home. Then the family’s dog Stanley runs off, only to come back in the middle of the night; the dog is badly wounded and infected with the disease. When it turns out that Will’s son Andrew opened the door for the dog and is now sick, the two families are forced to sever their newfound bonds. Will wants to leave, taking his share of the supplies, but Paul and Sarah have other plans. In their struggle to leave, Will and his family are shot and killed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that Travis has also contracted the disease.

 

Sweet Simplicity

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people will not enjoy this movie because of how slow it is at times during its ninety minute run time. The movie does not explain much in the way of how the disease and the end of civilization came to be, or show the world in its current state. By focusing just on Paul and his family, we are able to hone in on what the movie is really about—fear and loss. We are told from the very beginning this is what the film is about, when the family is forced to kill Sarah’s elderly father because he is sick. So, yes, the film is simple. If it were a novel it would be a minimalist work by Cormac McCarthy. The tension is created by nightmares that Travis experiences. Travis’ dreams are the things that come at night, hinted at in the film’s title. For these reasons I give It Comes At Night five out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Open Grave

The following is in response to the film Open Grave, written by Eddie Borey and Chris Borey and starring Sharlto CopleyThomas Kretschmann, and Josie Ho.

open grave

Tagline: “The moment you wake up, the nightmare begins.”

This film from 2013 is filled with action from the moment the main character wakes up in an huge pit—an open grave full of dead bodies. As if that weren’t bad enough, he doesn’t remember who he is or how he got there. Making his way out the open grave, he discovers a house with five others who are suffering from the same amnesia. The group figures out some of their names by their driver licenses; there is Nathan, Sharon, Michael, Lukas, an unnamed Asian woman that can’t speak English, and our hero Jonah (though we technically don’t find out his name until later). What I found interesting from the beginning is that even though these characters don’t remember who they are or why they are there, their bodies know how to do the things that they used to. For example, Jonah and Nathan both know how to read Latin and Michael is a wiz with firearms.

As the film progresses, we come to find out that Jonah and the group were conducting research to find a cure for a disease that has plagued the world outside their secluded, wooded area. They were on the verge of perfecting the cure, using the Asian woman’s blood, when everything went sour. When Nathan, who is actually Jonah’s brother, forgets to lock up the infected, a outbreak occurs. They are able to make it back to the house and inject themselves with the antidote, but the injection gives them amnesia. Just as they are beginning to remember what happened, the military comes in to kill the infected—targeting Jonah and the group as well.

Living Characters

This film features a dystopian world, mass open graves, and a fatal disease. That in and of itself is an interesting plot. Add characters that have amnesia and you have yourself an even more thrilling story line. Viewers are usually given information at the beginning of the film or it is trickled throughout the entire movie, but in Open Grave the viewers learn what is going on alongside the characters on screen. For these reasons I give Open Grave five out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Honorable Mentions

girl-with-all-the-gifts

Hello again fellow bloggers and internet-searchers. A month ago I started a series in which I watched horror films and posted a response every day of March. I have been having so much fun and I am not ready for it to end.

In my original Horror Movie Cleanse post, kick starting the series, I mentioned that my friend Felicia helped me out by providing me with a great list of horror films to watch. In this list of thirty-one films, she kindly added a few honorable mentions in the event that I were unable to find any of the films from the original list. I have decided to take this horror movie journey a little further, by watching and blogging about these honorable mentions. Look out for them starting April 3rd, throughout the entire week. If you have been following the cleanse, then keep following me a little longer for some extra great horror films.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: The Witch

The following is in response to The Witch, written by Robert Eggers and starring Anya Taylor-JoyRalph Ineson, and Kate Dickie.

The Witch

Tagline: “Evil takes many forms.”

The Witch is a self proclaimed New-England Folktale that really takes you back to the time period of when the United States was just the English Colonies. The characters speak in Old English and are bound by the religious culture that thrived during that era of history. The film follows a family that have banished themselves away from society on the edge of the woods. The story kicks off when Tomasin, the eldest daughter of William and Katherine, is playing pickaboo with her infant brother Samuel. When Tomasin opens her eyes, Samuel is gone. In this scene, writer and director Robert Eggers seems to be saying to the audience, “pay attention.” You don’t want to be like Tomasin and close your eyes for a moment; who knows what you’ll miss.

As it turns out, poor Samuel was taken by the witch. She chopped him up and rubbed the remains all over her body. The wicked events keep coming and only get worse as the film progresses. The eldest son, Caleb, goes missing in the woods only to return naked and beat up. Later in his bed, Caleb throws up an eyeball and dies. Suspecting that Tomasin is the witch and that their two other children, twins Mercy and Jonas, are speaking to the devil through the family’s goat, the parents board up the children in a pen with the goats. At this point, the carnage speeds up. The witch flies in and kills the twins. The father is stabbed by the goat’s horns. The mother attacks Tomasin, who kills her mother in self defense. And the Witch has won.

Cinematic Horror

There are a lot of shots in this film that linger a few seconds as if to call attention to the effort that has been taken in each shot. When watching this film I was filled with a question. Can horror be cinematic and beautiful in its own way? There are images in this film that stayed with me, like lingering static pictures in my head. I can still see the scene with the witch, naked and kneeling over a goat; the black goat up on its hind legs pointing towards the twins; the mother with a crow pecking at her breast like a suckling babe. Because of the time that Eggers took to engineer each of these shots, I give The Witch four out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Annabelle Creation

The following is in response to the film Annabelle Creation, written by Gary Dauberman and starring Anthony LaPagliaSamara Lee, and Miranda Otto.

annabelle creation

Tagline: “You don’t know the real story.”

Annabelle Creation is the story of Janice, one out of a group of orphaned girls. Though none of the girls have a family, Janice is the outcast of the group because she is a polio survivor and uses crutches to walk. With no place to go, the Mullins take in the group of girls and their caretaker Sister Charlotte. What the girls don’t know is that the Mullins once had a daughter of their own, Annabelle. Annabelle, often referred to as Bee, was killed in a roadside accident twelve years prior to the story that is now unfolding. Though the house is old and Esther Mullins is mysteriously confined to her bed, Janice and the other girls have a normal experience in their new home. However, everything changes when Janice uncovers an odd doll in Annabelle’s old room, and an evil is released.

As it turns out, when the Mullins lost their daughter they were unable to cope with the grief. Turning to the spirit world, they tried to call their daughter back but what they got in returned was more than they had originally bargained for. In fleeting moments they were able to see their daughter and play with her again, but in reality they were interacting with a demon. Once the demon got bored of masquerading as Annabelle, it came after Esther and as a result her face was badly mangled. Samuel Mullins trapped the demon in the doll and hid it away for Janice to find years later, awakening the demon once again.

That Demon Though

The story in Annabelle Creation was interesting and I thought the acting was great considering that most of it was coming from young, presumably inexperienced actors. However, the thing that I liked the most about this film was a superficial one—I absolutely loved the way the demon looked in this film. It wasn’t a spirit out to get revenge or your normal run-of-mill serial killer, it was a demon. As in from Hell. And it certainly looked like one. At first the demon possessed inanimate things, like the doll and a scarecrow, but eventually you will see it; a head-to-toe burned black, emaciated boy with horns and goat-like ears. For these reasons I give Annabelle Creation five out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Prince of Darkness

The following is in response to the film Prince of Darkness, written by John Carpenter  and starring Donald PleasenceLisa Blount, and Jameson Parker.

prince of darkness

Tagline: “Before man walked the earth…it slept for centuries. It is evil. It is real. It is awakening.”

Prince of Darkness is the story of Brian Marsh, a prominent science student. Brian, along with many of his fellow alumni, are summoned to participate in a research project, but they are given little to no information on what they will be doing. Among the students participating in the project is Catherine Danforth, who Brian is crushing over badly. They soon find out that the research that they will be performing will be on a strange object in a hidden underground worship den in the basement of an abandoned church. Though things seem to be going well, they are attracting some unwanted attention; soon the church is surrounded by a horde of homeless men and women that kills anyone that tries to leave.

As it turns out, the ancient artifact that was being kept secret in the church basement is a sentient virus-like substance of biblical proportions. This substance of nightmares is going to bring back Satan. It starts its transformation when it attaches itself to some of the students, compelling them to kill the others. When one of the possessed begins summoning the prince of darkness through a mirror, Catherine takes actions into her own hands. Catherine pushes the possessed woman through the mirror-portal, casting herself through the portal as well in a sacrifice that leaves Brian devastated.

How Possession Works

I am not a huge fan of films that are backed by religion, partly because I am not a big believer but more so because these films seem to scare me the most. Just thinking about The Devil Inside sends chills down my spine and sets the hairs on the back of neck on end. However, this film does have many interesting qualities. Possession definitely has its place in the horror genre. I many films, in order for demons and spirits to possess someone they are seen throwing up in their victim’s mouth. For example, in the movie Annabelle Creation Janice is possessed when a demon, disguised as the Mullins dead daughter, vomits into Janice’s mouth.

The Prince of Darkness is interesting because it takes more of a scientific approach to possession. The substance from the artifact gets into one of the student’s bodies and then it spreads like a virus to the others. The student that tries her hands at summoning the prince of darkness through the mirror is seen with a bloated stomach as if she has become pregnant, seemingly with the devil’s baby. For these reasons I give Prince of Darkness three out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Dead End

The following is in response to Dead End, written by Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, starring Ray WiseLin Shaye, and Mick Cain.

dead end

Tagline: “Read the signs.”

Dead End is the story of the Harringtons, a normal middle class American family. The family is composed of parents Frank and Laura, their son Richard, their daughter Marion, with Marion’s boyfriend Brad who is also tagging along for the journey. They are headed to Laura’s family to celebrate Christmas when Frank decides to take them on a shortcut that he has never taken before. When everyone in the car falls asleep, Frank inadvertently nods off as well, nearly running the car off the road. Following this minor mishap in which no one was injured, strange things began to happen.

Frank spots a woman in white on the side of the road holding a bundled up baby. They give this mysterious woman, who doesn’t speak, a ride to a nearby cabin. While everyone else is out of the car except for Marion’s boyfriend, Brad finds out that the woman in white is actually holding a dead baby. Moments later a black hearse drives past and the family is horrified to see Brad trapped inside. They get back in the car to drive to the next town for help, but the road never ends—they pass the same signs and the same cabin multiple times as if they were in an endless loop. One by one the family members are taken in the black hearse; Richard, then Laura, and finally Frank.

Confessions Of The Dead

As it turns out, the family are already dead. When Frank fell asleep at the wheel they actually crashed, killing everyone but Marion, including an oncoming car with the woman in white and her baby. During this hellish car ride, which we assume that Marion dreamed up as she was recovering in the hospital, the characters confess to sins that they have been keeping secret. I liked the idea that there is a space between death and passing on in which we are able to confess our sins. For these reasons I give Dead End five out of five stars.

Passenger Confession
Frank Frank has had problems with drinking in the past. When he discovers a bottle of alcohol in the trunk of the car he reverts back to old habits.
Laura Delirious after the death of her son, Laura confesses that Frank is not Richard’s father and that she committed adultery.
Richard This rebellious teen admits that he smokes pot. He also masturbates in the woods, which isn’t a confession but rather something he probably shouldn’t be doing at the time.
Marion Marion confesses that she is pregnant and plans on leaving Brad.
Brad Brad plans on asking Marion to marry him. This isn’t a negative thing, but he confesses this to the woman in white when they are alone in the car.
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