#4: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

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#4: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Sometimes it’s all in the timing. The Blackcoat’s Daughter debuted March 31, 2017, two years after production ended. Oz (Osgood) Perkins wrote and directed this independent full-length feature film. Originally titled February, this movie is another exorcism, low-budget film worth viewing.

The all-female lead actors save this incredibly slow movie. Two boarding school girls are left at the school over the break. Not friends (played by Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton), they battle their own evil. Enter Emma Roberts. She’s a drifter heading toward the Catholic prep school. The movie unfolds, or rather unfolding backwards. Multiple viewings are encouraged.

Film critics enjoyed the film. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan sums it up: “Although very little happens in the way of traditional horror-movie jump-scares, Blackcoat builds and builds toward a profoundly disquieting sense that something really bad is coming.”

If there was a genre of arthouse horror movies, this film would be the shining example. Rated R for bloody violence, the movie runs an hour and 33 minutes.

#3: I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House (2016)

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#3: I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

This art house thriller isn’t for everyone. It’s not truly a horror story but more of a ghost/mystery film. Variety called it “minimalistic.” That it is. What it’s not is mainstream enough for the average viewer. This movie requires dedication and a couple of viewings to understand. But don’t let that dissuade you from viewing.

Lily, a young live-in nurse, is hired to take care of an elderly housebound bestselling mystery writer. The woman is old, possibly senile, and confuses Lily with her most popular character, Polly. Lily reluctantly reads the book discovering Polly’s secret.

The cast is solid. Writer/director Osgood “Oz” Perkins did well in casting Wilson, Paula Prentiss, and Lucy Boynton. Fans of Wes Anderson will recognize Bob Balaban (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom).

My only issue is the title. Long titles are tongue twisters. Although for British actress Ruth Wilson (Luther) it rolls off her tongue. But it’s a difficult title to sell.

Variety nails it. The set is simple. The colors crisp white against black. The house is sterile, devoid of props. The house has a Massachusetts witch-trial feel. I’m sure it was intentional.

This Netflix original is streaming this month. Go in knowing that it’s a ghost story without jump scares and that the story-line slowly unfolds, and you may end up watching this one again.

#2: The Rite (2011)

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#2: The Rite

Exorcists are fascinating. However, there are few riveting movies dealing with exorcisms. It may be that critics unjustly compare every exorcism movie to the classic, The Exorcist (1973). And that’s unfortunate. The Rite is one of those movies that critics bashed because it wasn’t gory, slasher, violent enough. Instead, critics and audiences should have evaluated on its own merits, which are many. The Rite is an interesting look into the Catholic Church’s not-so-secret exorcists and their training.

Matt Baglio’s book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, debuted in 2009. It was quickly optioned for a movie. It follows Father Gary Thomas as he heads to Italy to train as an exorcist. Ultimately, Father Thomas participated in over 80 exorcisms. Indeed, the Devil is at work and seeking to possess as many as he can. The Catholic Church is one of a few qualified religious organizations properly equipped at handling exorcisms. Baglio’s book was altered to fit Hollywood’s formula.

Rated PG-13, The Rite is a hybrid horror/drama film. The premise is a young seminary student, played by Colin O’Donoghue, is approached by Father Matthew (Toby Jones) to travel to Italy and train in the Church’s exorcism practices. While there, Matthew meets Father Lucas Trevant (powerfully portrayed by Anthony Hopkins) who is exorcizing a demon from a pregnant teenager. Matthew has to reconcile his meh attitude about God and if the Devil truly possess people. He’s a skeptic on all levels.

The movie treats exorcisms as the serious stuff they are. There isn’t a one-and-done ritual. The movie is enjoyable because it doesn’t rely on pea soup for jump scares.

Filmed on an estimated $33 million dollar budget, the film generated nearly $100 million worldwide. Catch it streaming on Netflix.

The Awakening Is Traditional Ghost Story

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Halloween is quickly approaching. I have challenged myself to watch 10 new horror movies this year.

First up is The Awakening (2011). The Awakening is a traditional ghost story. It’s contains the elements used back in the day before slasher movies exploded onto the movie screen. This English film is set in 1921 after the war. Florence Cathcart debunks paranormal frauds and works with police to expose these criminals. She has been invited to the boys’ boarding school where staff has reported seeing a child ghost. This film is a traditional ghost story. The tagline: “All the children are gone…except one” drives the film. This film satisfies horror movie aficionados and newbies who freak out over too much blood. This film was crafted in the British horror tradition.

View this movie on Netflix before Halloween ends. Rated R for horror content and running at 1 hour 42 minutes.

It won several awards including London Film Festival’s Best Newcomer for Director Nick Murphy. Mr. Murphy took home three awards at the Gérardmer Film Festival and “The Golden Raven” award at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film (BIFFF). Lead actress Rebecca Hall was nominated for “Best Actress” at the British Independent Film Award.

 

 

 

Stop Trashing the Woods!

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Stop Trashing the Woods!

Legitimate ghost hunters respect property. They leave the location cleaner than when they arrived. Unfortunately, amateur hunters aren’t as courteous. In 2013, the historic LeBeau Plantation in Old Arabi, Louisiana burned down when stoned adventurers trespassed onto the property. Since 2012, the Woodland Trust for Dering Wood in Smarden, Kent has spent nearly £50,000 in security and trash collection. Ghost hunters are ruining the semi-natural park.

Woods are popular locations for ghost hunting, and Dering Wood is one of the most famous in England. Dering Wood is also known as the “Screaming Woods.” Investigators claim to hear piercing screams day and night. It’s also a favorite for paranormal television shows. People like camping out in the forest; however, they are making a mess.

One way to ruin a paranormal location is by vandalizing it. The trust spends a lot of money on something they shouldn’t have to. Instead, they could re-invest the money into the property that was saved from development. The damage has been deemed “unsustainable.” If that truly is the case, then park management may take drastic measures to keep everyone out. That would ruin the woods for all.

“Ghosts” Captured on Film at The Stanley Hotel?

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“Ghosts” Captured on Film at The Stanley Hotel?

The Huffington Post reported yesterday of two ghosts appearing in the same photograph taken at the Stanley Hotel. Ben Hansen, former FBI agent and host of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, stated there weren’t any obvious signs of trickery. However, that doesn’t mean the images taken with the digital camera are real. In fact, there are several issues with these “ghosts.”

The first “ghost” is obvious. It’s a little girl wearing a nightgown or dress while standing on the top stair before the landing. Her back is turned away from the photographer. She is partially transparent.

  1. Honestly, I’ve never seen such a clear and crisp photograph of a ghost. That’s not to say there aren’t any out there; however, they don’t seem to pop up often. A light is reflected toward the image.
  2. The light doesn’t pass through the girl. It looks like the light bounces off of her head. Light bounces off of solids not transparent objects. Instead, lights go through transparent things.
  3. The girl appears to be walking up the stairs; however, neither leg is lifted. Her gown hangs without movement. Granted, she may be a residual ghost who remains stationary. I just find the top step an odd place for her to appear. I would have expected her to be on the landing.
  4. There are parts of her that are more solid than transparent. Becoming a solid means taking a physical form. I really think that if she was materializing, then someone would have noticed her, especially the kids sitting across from her.

The second image is a little bit easier to dismiss. On the left staircase, a figure appears to be walking upstairs. The photographer doesn’t remember a person standing there. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t someone there. The article states that there were 11 in his party on the larger tour. This person on the stairs is moving quickly. The camera shutter speed was slow in taking the photograph. We know that by looking at one of the boys sitting on the bench. He, too, is moving faster than the others. He is blurred just like the image on the staircase. Therefore, this image was created, intentionally or unintentionally, with a slow shutter speed.

Additional photographs taken right before and immediately after would help authenticate this picture. These pictures would serve as baseline images to show whether something or someone was in one photo but not the next one in succession. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. We get only one image to discuss.

The blurry person on the staircase is a person who was moving too quickly for the shutter speed on the camera. Honest mistake. The second semi-transparent image is not a ghost either. Is it trickery on the part of the photographer? Who knows. But it made for an interesting discussion.

 

Binge Season 1 of The Exorcist (2016)

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Binge Season 1 of The Exorcist (2016)

Season 2 of the critically acclaimed TV series The Exorcist started last week on FOX. Catch up on the first season now streaming on Hulu. Originally slated to be a full-length motion picture reboot of the classic 1973 film, the TV series is a continuation of the storyline.

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Starring Alfonso Herrera as Father Tomas, a Chicago-born but Mexican-raised Catholic priest of a declining inner-city parish, and Ben Daniels, as the excommunicated former-Father Marcos who has a long career of exorcising demons, the 10-episode season 1 follows them as they attempt to assist Angela (played by Geena Davis) and Henry (played by Alan Ruck) Rance with their possessed daughter. However, the season is more than one storyline. It interweaves references to the 1973 award winning film, most notably the iconic song, “Tubular Bells,” which has a cameo.

Catch up on season 1 before watching season 2. It’s worth it.

A Yeti Is Just a Yeti Unless It’s Really a …

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A Yeti Is Just a Yeti Unless It’s Really a …

The search for the Yeti took a step backwards last month. Daniel Taylor, whose interest in the Yeti was sparked by the infamous 1951 photograph by Eric Shipton, spent 60 years searching for the creature that made the 13-inch imprint in the snow all those years ago. Taylor’s new book, Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery, provides a new—yet believable—answer to the question: Where have all the Yeti’s gone?

People are fascinated with Yetis, Bigfoots (North American version), and Sasquatches (Canadian version). This is merely semantics since all of these names refer to the same creature. “Yeti” is the Himalayan variety. It’s also called the Abominable Snowman, since it is sighted in snow-covered areas. While setting up foundations protecting the environments they may inhabit, Taylor dedicated his life to locating these humanoid creatures.

DNA testing was attempted to identify this new animal/beast/creature of the snow. It was initially incomplete and abandoned when the researchers learned there was a link with bears. I suspect that since the initial findings didn’t fit with their theory, they dismissed the sample as contaminated. That’s unfortunate. New analysis was completed and the results conclusive.

Nearly every culture has a large, hybrid man/animal creature story. Usually these creatures are classified ape-man, denoting the bipedal mobility of the creatures. One possibility that hasn’t gotten much attention: bears that walk on 2 legs. Until now.

Himalayan Brown Bears, also called tree bears or vegetarian bears (they predominantly eat fruit and are actually omnivores), live in isolated areas in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet and walk on two legs. The hair samples that were analyzed came back belonging to these bears.

This doesn’t end the debate on whether the Yeti exists. It merely means that the evidence found doesn’t belong to a Yeti. Keep searching—but remain respectful.

 

Taylor’s book is getting positive reviews. Check it out.

 

Is That a Banjo I Hear?

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Is That a Banjo I Hear?

Eli Craig’s 2010 cult classic Tucker and Dale vs. Evil features two hillbillies, played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, heading out to fix up their waterfront vacation house. The house is an abandoned cabin set deep in the West Virginian woods. While loading up on supplies, “Tucker” and “Dale” encounter a large group of college students heading out on a camping trip. Queue the banjos. Not so fast. As NPR’s film critic Ian Buckwalter asks: … “what if that banjo were just a bango?” This limited-release feature film upends the horror genre by injecting comedy into the plot.

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A group of college students rely on stereotypes and mistake a couple of mountain men as serial killers. Through continuous miscommunication, the college students get picked off much like students in another cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Make no mistake, though, this is not a spoof or a reboot. The film stands on its own and deserves the favorable reviews it has garnered. Read some of them here:

NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/29/140854152/tucker-dale-vs-evil-deliver-ance-us-yall;

New York Times Critic’s Pick: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/movies/eli-craigs-tucker-and-dale-vs-evil-review.html?ref=movies;

The Hollywood Reporter: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/tucker-and-dale-vs-evil-29235.

Filmed for $5 million, critics doubted the viability of the production. The movie was a film festival favorite being nominated and winning a few special awards. Its release was limited; however, it really—like really—bombed at the box office. Ultimately, the movie exceeded the budget by earning $15 million with strong screenings abroad. It became an instant classic. With it streaming on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, the R-rated comedy/horror movie has become a solid cult classic.

In 2014, the sequel was announced. Asked last month, Tudyk and Labine reaffirmed their interest in a sequel once a suitable script is approved by Craig. Seems they’re up for another adventure. Queue the synthesizer.

Little Evil Delivers Comedy with a Bit of Horror

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Little Evil Delivers Comedy with a Bit of Horror

For those looking for a Halloween movie long on comedy and short on gore, consider the Netflix original movie Little Evil. Adam Scott plays “Gary,” new stepfather to 5-year-old “Lucas,” played by Owen Atlas. Gary is new to parenting and ponders where Lucas’ behavior is typical or demonic. Gary realizes his stepson may be the Anti-Christ and he’s not sure he’s up to the task of eliminating him. Writer/Director Eli Craig delivers a family-friendly horror movie that will have audiences laughing.

Netflix’s $7.5 million dollar gamble pays off. Released on September 1st, Little Evil marks the return of Eli Craig, whose low-budget film Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) became a cult classic. This new film is 75% comedy with 25% horror/spoof. Know that before viewing. The joy in the film is in finding all of the subtle references to other classic horror movies. Craig pays homage to The Shining (1980), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and The Omen (1976). But that’s only the beginning. Multiple viewings will yield more connections.

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Bridget Everett steals the show as “Al,” Gary’s co-worker and best bud in the stepfather support group. Her performance is refreshing, not the anticipated stereotypical supporting role.

Craig updates the stale, overused generalizations that weigh down most comedy/horror films. Rated TV-MA for mature humor, Little Evil makes for a good movie night.