Horror Movie Cleanse: The Girl With All The Gifts

The following is in response to the film The Girl With All The Gifts, written by Mike Carey and starring  Sennia NanuaFisayo Akinade, and Dominique Tipper.

The Girl With All The Gifts

Tagline: “Our greatest threat is our only hope.”

The Girl With All The Gifts is a zombie movie that breaks out the stereotypical zombie mold. The zombies in this film are not the undead, but humans taken over by a fungi. I know that sounds a little gimmicky but the movie does a great job at making it feel like a legitimate threat. The stars of the film, including our main character Melanie, are children. These children are the offspring of mothers with the zombie-disease, though they are a little different from their zombie parents. As the second generation with the disease, these children are able to somewhat control themselves and they still have a human personality. They have been gathered at a military base so that they can be studied. The military leaders look at them as regular zombies, treating them as monsters, and the only person that looks at them like children is their teacher, Miss Justineau. Melanie, the star pupil in zombie school in which the students are strapped to wheelchairs, might just be the cure—but not in the way that you might think.

Dr. Caldwell believes that by chopping up Melanie’s brain she can synthesize a cure to the disease. Before the doctor has a chance to do her chopping however, the base is overrun by a horde of first generation zombies and our characters are forced to flee. On the outside, Melanie becomes a part of the team, scouting ahead for safe ways for the others to navigate through a city filled with zombies.

Pandora’s Box

What I liked about this film was the theme that kept coming up centering around the idea of Pandora’s Box. We have all heard of this tale from Greek Mythology, in which Pandora curiously opens a box that unleashes, among other things, death and hope. Having the school teacher tell the story of Pandora’s Box to the children, writer Mike Carey seems to be saying that the point of the story is about learning. When the group that fled from the fallen military base finds that the fungi has formed seedpods in the city, Melanie curiously opens them like the second coming of Pandora.

On one hand she has released death for the disease will now be airborne, but on the other she has also released hope. You see, we are lead to believe that Dr. Caldwell would have definitely found a cure with Melanie’s brain, but that isn’t true. The doctor has already tried coming up with the cure unsuccessfully with dozens of other children and Melanie is no different. There is no saving the human race. The hope that Melanie brings—she is the girl with all the gifts after all—is through the second generation of zombies. Miss Justineau makes it out alive in an airlocked mobile lab, from which she puts up a dry erase board and continues to teach the children for they must be prepared to inherit the earth. For these reasons I give The Girl With All The Gifts five out of five stars.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Snow White, A Tale of Terror

The following is in response to Snow White: A Tale of Terror, written by Tom Szolossi and starring Sigourney WeaverSam Neill, and Gil Bellows.

Snow White, A Tale of Terror

Tagline: “The fairy tale is over.”

Unique among the films that I have reviewed so far, Snow White: A Tale of Terror is a new take and an old Disney classic. In this story, Snow White is Lilli Hoffman, the daughter of a wealthy man. Lilli’s mother died in a horrific stagecoach accident when Lilli was born and her father is getting remarried—to a witch. Lilli’s new stepmother, Claudia, has a curious wardrobe in her room that contains an enchanted mirror. Unlike the original tale that most of us saw a children, this magic mirror is more of an alter ego than its own separate entity. The mirror keeps Claudia on a dark path, that leads her to command her brother to kill Lilli. Lilli runs away and finds herself in the company of seven miners, only one of which is a dwarf. Lilli makes it back home in time to kill her stepmother—climatically stabbing the mirror to do so—and save her father before the house burns to the ground.

Tweaking The Familiar

Taking an antiquated fairy tale and putting a twist on it is definitely not a new phenomenon. The story of Snow White has been remastered several times, as with Snow White and The Huntsman and Mirror Mirror. Another example would be the story of the tooth fairy being retold, in movies like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Darkness Falls. The new stories are oftentimes darker, falling under the horror movie genre. What makes these films successful isn’t that they are extremely well done and have better stories (though they sometimes are), it is because they give the viewer a sense of familiarity that keeps them in the story. At least that is why I think I enjoyed it so much; that, and I have a soft spot for anything with Sigourney Weaver in it. For these reasons I give this movie five out of five stars.


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Horror Movie Cleanse: See No Evil

The following is in response to the film See No Evil, written by Dan Madigan and starring Glenn JacobsChristina Vidal, and Michael J. Pagan.


Tagline: “You don’t know evil: unless you see it.”

See No Evil is a standard slasher film, starring Glenn Jacobs (more commonly known as Kane), a popular wrestler from the world of WWE. Glenn portrays Jacob Goodnight in the film, a man that was taught as a boy to believe that he was the hand of God by his mother. The mother can be seen in a flashback holding Jacob’s eyes under a running faucet to wash out the evil. This is where the name of the film comes into play.

We are led to believe that Frank Williams, a cop, is the hero of the movie. He survived a run in with Jacob four years earlier when he shot Jacob and lost one of his hands. Frank goes on to work for the county detention center where he tries to rehabilitate rebellious youths. He goes out of his way to take some of the young adults in the center to help clean up the old Blackwell Hotel so that it may be used as a homeless shelter, further making the character likable. Not only does Frank die halfway into the movie, taking away his role of hero, but he is also surprised when he finds out that Jacob is still alive. Would he not have heard that the man that took his hand was not recovered from the crime four years ago? For these reasons my rating was lowered to four out of five stars, just barely saving itself because of something interesting I started to notice after Frank’s death. This film takes the old horror movie adage “let’s split up” to a whole new meaning. Every time one of the ten characters in this film splits from another, they die. If they are in a group of at least two then they live, even when Jacob is bounding after them in the hotel.

Splitting up becomes a rule or law of the film that if broken results in the sinners early demise. Don’t believe me? Keep reading for a breakdown of how each character died in  this film. The one exception is the character Michael that is by himself while Christine and Tyson are off to save Kira. Michael shows back up to save the girls. The girls suggest that he didn’t have to come back for them and he replies, “I didn’t want to walk out of here by myself.”

Don’t Split Up

Character Name Sin Committed Split Up and Died
Russel Wolfe Receiving Stolen Property Russel was alone in a room, even though he was helping Melissa down on a rope.
Richie Bernson Computer Fraud Left Tyson when they discovered a dead homeless man.
Christine Zarate Aggravated Assault Christine doesn’t separate from anyone and makes it out alive.
Zoe Warner Shoplifting Zoe left Michael to hide.
Michael Montrose Possession with intent to sell, Assault and Battery Michael comes back for Christine and Kira, and makes it out alive.
Frank Williams Shot Jacob four years ago Frank tells Christine and Tyson to leave without him.
Hannah Anders Guilty by Association Hannah left Frank to check on the kids via the elevator.
Kira Vanning Possession with intent to sell Kira left Christine to sneak out of the hotel and gets captured. She makes it out alive later when she reunites with Christine.
Tyson Simms Breaking and Entering, Possession Tyson left Christine to hide.
Melissa Beaudrox Breaking and Entering, Reckless Endangerment Melissa separated from Russel, hanging upside down from a rope.
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Horror Movie Cleanse: Lights Out

The following is in response to the film Lights Out, written by David F. Sandberg and starring Teresa PalmerGabriel Bateman, and Maria Bello.


Tagline: “You were right to be afraid of the dark.”

The monster in Lights Out is a mix of a  paranormal entity and a tangible monster, a juxtaposition that it shares with the movie Darkness Falls (Look for my review on Darkness Falls later this month on the 27th). Lights Out is the story of Rebecca, the rebellious daughter of an unusual family. The father, the owner of some kind of textile company, is killed at the beginning of the film by a woman that can only be seen in the dark. At first it seems like this woman is some kind of apparition because she literally appears out of nowhere when the lights go out, but it turns out that she is (or at least once was) a girl that met the mother of the family, Sophie, while they were in a mental institution. The young monster, Diana, was a normal girl that was allergic to the sun. Sophie recovered, but Diana was forced to have tests done on her; tests that resulted in her becoming this monster. Life was normal for Sophie when she grew up, that is until Diana returned.

Things come to light when Martin, Sophie’s young son, is haunted by Diana. He doesn’t sleep much at night. In fact, Martin has to go stay with his older sister in order to get any sleep at all. The two of them, along with Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret, go back to the house to get rid of the ghost and save their mother. The plot twists, when we find out that Diana is attached to Sophie and the only way to kill her is for Sophie to die as well.

Marrying Realism and The Paranormal

I didn’t like how easy it was for the mother to let this monster into her house. Though she was once mentally ill, and though she ultimately redeems her bad mothering by sacrificing herself for the lives of her children, I didn’t feel like her character was that believable. Or maybe she was just not relatable and I didn’t like her. For these reasons I give Lights Out three out of five stars. What I thought was successful about this film was the way that the paranormal aspects of Diana were supported by realism. Diana isn’t just a ghost that comes out in the dark, she has flesh and can cause real physical harm. We even see her get burned by the beams of light from flashlights. It adds an extra layer whereas movies like The Tunnel are just creature features.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: The Pact

The following is in response to the film The Pact, written by Nicholas McCarthy and starring Caity LotzCasper Van Dien, and Mark Steger.


Tagline: “Some doors should never be opened.”

Having come this far in my Horror Movie Cleanse, I have gotten better at guessing what is going to happen in each film; that is to say, until I watched this movie and was thoroughly surprised by what conspired. If you want to watch a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire run-time, then The Pact is the movie for you. The Pact is the story of Annie, who reluctantly returns to her childhood home to attend her abusive mother’s funeral. However, when she arrives she finds that her sister, Nicole, is missing. Then the story repeats itself.

Annie meets up with her niece and her cousin, Liz, at the funeral. They assume that Nicole will come back so they stay at the house again; Liz goes missing just like Nicole. This time Annie is attacked by a ghost and she barely makes it out of the house with her niece. With the assistance of a local police officer, Annie goes back to the house and uncovers more about her family that she ever wanted to know. She communes with the house’s ghost and finds out that it is a victim of the serial killer known as Judas. As it turns out, Annie’s uncle is the Judas killer and is living in the basement. With a little help from the ghost, Annie is able to find the body’s of her sister and cousin, and put an end to her murdering uncle.

What’s In A Name?

One of the most interesting things about this film is actually the title. The meaning of The Pact isn’t explicitly explained and leaves the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. Annie has a necklace that she says is the only thing that her mother ever gave her. Annie later finds a picture of her mother with a friend, a friend who is wearing the necklace instead of Annie’s mother, leading us to believe that this other woman is Annie’s mother. Who is this friend but none other than one of the Judas Killer’s victim and the house ghost. The pact seems to be between the mother and her brother—she knew what he was doing and she proceeded to hide him in a hidden room in the house. Now, I liked this mystery aspect to the movie and give it five out of five stars, but I know there are people out there who did not. My question to you dear reader is do you think that The Pact would have gotten a better rating on Rotten Tomatoes if it had been less subtle when it came to these details?

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Horror Movie Cleanse: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The following is in response to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, written by  Ian B. Goldberg and starring Brian CoxEmile Hirsch, and Ophelia Lovibond.


 “Every body has a secret.”

The point of view of this movie, if you have not already guessed by the title of the film, is from a father and son autopsy technician duo. Right off the bat I am relieved to have this new and interesting point of view that breaks from the norm; we are not watching the typical story of a victim, a killer, or even the officer on the case. So, who is Jane Doe? Following an incident that resulted in three deaths, the chief of police brings in the body of an unknown female. The chief needs the body’s cause of death determined immediately so that he will have something to feed the hungry press in the morning. At first glance, this Jane Doe seems like a normal dead body, but as they dig deeper into her innards they find more than what they could have imagined. The wrist and ankle bones are shattered, the tongue is removed, and the lungs are black from damage done by smoke inhalation. Even more bizarre, there are no burns or bruising on the outside of the body to indicate how she obtained these injuries. Things take an even wilder turn when they find ritual markings drawn on the insides of her skin.

Dissecting The Witch

As it turns out, the Jane Doe is the body of some soft of witch that is miraculously still alive. In order to take the lives of the two autopsy technicians and heal herself, the witch bewitches the other bodies in the morgue, chasing the men around the facility as reanimated corpses. As chilling as that sounds, the more interesting thing about this movie is the origin or the witch. The father postulates that she was a witch out of Salem and the townspeople must have performed a ritual on her to bind her, which obviously didn’t work or was at least wearing off. But was he right?

I think a lot of moviegoers take it for granted that characters in the film are always right, but in this case there isn’t enough proof that makes me one hundred percent sure he is correct about the witch’s origin. How would the regular run-of-the-mill townsfolk know how to bind the witch with all the markings found in her body? There is another theory circulating that perhaps our Jane Doe was in a witch coven, a coven that bound her this way because of a threat she put on them. Or maybe this is the body of a normal girl that is possessed. Because of the way this movie got me thinking, I give the Autopsy of Jane Doe five out of five stars. Leave in the comments below where you think she comes from.

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Horror Movie Cleanse: Prevenge

The following is in response to Prevenge, written by Alice Lowe and starring Alice LoweDan Renton Skinner, and Jo Hartley.


Tagline: “Killing for Two.”

Prevenge is the story of a woman named Ruth, who finds herself widowed and pregnant. Obeying the ethereal and omnipotent voice of her unborn child, Ruth is on a quest to kill everyone involved in the mountain climbing accident that took the life of her husband and—more importantly—her baby’s father. Ruth’s midwife is explaining to her that hearing a baby crying, even if it isn’t her baby, will cause her to lactate, when the nurse blatantly tells Ruth that her baby is controlling her and that she must listen. Throughout the film the unborn child urges her to kill, commenting on her disgust of the victims as if she knew them personally. When Ruth is unable to kill the climbing instructor that cut her husband’s rope, saving the rest of the group but killing him, the baby becomes angry. The baby tells her mother that if Ruth doesn’t do as she is told then she will die. Alongside the hilarious commentary of the unborn baby, there are many other dark comedy moments in this film that had me bursting with laughter.

One of the victims is this sleazy disc jockey. Ruth pretends to be interested in him at the bar to get him alone. Back at his place, she literally cuts off his balls. Afterwards she tucks his elderly mother into bed with the murder weapon still in hand. Ruth seems to have what I can only describe as pregnancy strength, but she is at odds when faced with a victim that is very physically fit. Hilariously, she feigns that something is wrong with the baby in order to catch the victim off their guard and stab them. The main character’s name is Ruth, but she kills ruthlessly, and I know it may sound macabre but the murdering in this film will make you laugh.

So Many Layers

I am definitely a fan of films that have a lot of depth, which is why I really enjoyed Prevenge and rate it five out of five stars. On the surface, pregnancy is a horror film in and of itself if you think about it. Babies grows like a tumor, steals nutrition, and then comes out of you like an alien in nine months. If that’s not horror then I don’t know what is. There is an added layer to this film when you find out a little bit more about the writer and director Alice Lowe. Alice, who also portrays Ruth in the movie, was pregnant and jobless when she came up with the story and everything was filmed when she was still pregnant. How’s that for method acting?

The other layer of this movie is the comment that it makes on the role of female characters in popular film. The typical female character gives support to the hero, who is then able to go out into the world and accomplish what he wants. Prevenge is the story of a female character that is cut off from the rest of the world with no support, except for the voice of her baby of course. Lastly, at the basic heart of the movie, Ruth’s story is about what is means to lose a loved one and how that affects you. It can be said that there are many people when faced with the death of a loved one wants to kill those they feel are responsible, the only difference here is that Ruth actually goes through with it. She is killing for two after all.

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