Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Where do I begin with Velvet Buzzsaw? Dan Gilroy has crafted a satirical, ensemble, art comedy meets supernatural slasher horror. It’s very much its own thing. Walking the line between Chuck Palahniuk’s novels (especially Lullaby) and the works of David Lynch, Buzzsaw is a fascinating piece of film making. A blend of genres with some truly great actors and a wicked sense of humour.

Set mostly in Los Angeles, based in the world of modern art, Velvet Buzzsaw is a slow moving, mostly comedic character driven piece, that eventually ends up being about a collection of cursed artwork, discovered in the apartment of a dead man, Vetril Dease.

Josephina (Zawe Ashton) and Rhodora decide to sell the work, despite it having explicit instructions to be destroyed. Of course, things spiral and chaos ensues. The Dease artworks become the talk of LA, but seem to punish everyone involved in selling them. As Dease’s past unravels, our characters edge closer to the encroaching terror, but the humour never quite goes away.

I found Velvet Buzzsaw to be a lot of fun. Yes, it’s self indulgent, pompous and purposefully vague. But so is art and the art world. I enjoyed the idea of the cursed artwork, a classic horror trope, here inserted into what doesn’t really start as a horror film. It’s what brought to mind the Chuck Palahniuk comparison, dropping something supernatural and scary into a largely human, realistic, environment.

There’s a lot to talk about with this movie, a larger discussion about the impact of criticism on artists, on critics and the consumer. Morf sees the effects his words have on an upcoming artist and his guilt combined with the supernatural events send him spiralling. Everyone sort of has their own arc, their own realisation. Largely those motivated by greed or exploitation. Gilroy doesn’t spell things out for us, which I appreciate.

The ensemble cast is absolutely phenomenal, Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf, the bisexual art critic might be the standout, with Rene Russo and Toni Collette giving him a run for his money. John Malkovich and Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer both shine in smaller roles. However Zawe Ashton as Josephina is legitimately awful. I couldn’t tell if it was on purpose to match her unlikeable character or she had somehow sneaked in a stinker of an effort in amongst some stunning actors. I’m not usually one to single out someone’s performance but she really does make some scenes work less than they should.

Los Angeles itself becomes somewhat of a character, stunning city shots that wouldn’t be out of place in Drive. The pieces of art themselves are downright terrifying, Sphere being ominous and mysterious with Hoboman just straight up spooky before things even get weird. Dease’s paintings have an otherworldly look to them too, obviously all designed to heighten the anticipation of just when they will come alive.

I really do like the fact that Netflix is giving more unusual films like this a much broader platform, the general public would probably not rush to see Velvet Buzzsaw on the cinema, but when it’s just one click away on your TV, why not!? Releases like this, Birdbox (also featuring John Malkovich), Roma and last year’s Annihilation prove that good, interesting content is important to Netflix’s strategy and long may it continue.

I think Velvet Buzzsaw is the first must see film of the year, its bold, weird and funny and doesn’t seem to compromise its vision. I think Gilroy could have maybe leaned harder into the horror elements, but then it may have become too far fetched or become more like a Stephen King film if it was adapted by Brett Easton Ellis.

9/10

Velvet Buzzsaw is available to steam on Netflix right now.

For Fans Of :

Twin Peaks (2017)

Mulholland Drive

Choke

The Ring

Reign of the Supermen – (2019)

Blu Ray review By Tim Johnson – SuperNerds UK

Stars: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Charles Halford, Cameron Monaghan and Cress Williams
Director: Sam Liu

The sequel to 2018’s Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen takes place six months after the death of the Man of Steel, leaving a void in the Justice League and in the hearts of the citizens of Metropolis. Before the City even has time to mourn, four new Supermen appear out the blue, no pun intended, – a young-looking Superman, a Cyborg Superman, an Armored Superman and a Superman with a yellow visor. Lois Lane takes it upon herself to investigate who these new heroes are, where they came from and why they’re here. The animation is solid as you would expect from a DC animated film however, I found the colours a little muted, similar in style to the other movies and newer comics, maybe a little dark for my taste, I always like Superman’s outfit to pop just a bit but maybe that’s just me

Having said all that, the picture quality is clean and crisp in its 1.78.1 ratio. The animation integrated with CGI is combined with great synergy, giving the depth and clarity a very polished look. The Blu-ray comes with a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio sound track, but no 7.1 or Dolby Atmos. I would have at least liked a 7.1 track however the surround does ping you at times during the fighting with buildings and glass shattering around you. You can really feel the punches thunder through you as they battle it out giving the sub something to do. The music tends to come from the front speakers mainly but is still engaging enough to enjoy. At 87 minutes long, the story didn’t feel to long or too short but just right, for me anyway! This is the first time this part of the story from comics from 1993 has been made into a feature, with the “Death of..” already being adapted with Superman Doomsday in 2007.

I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. While not blowing me away I was gripped throughout and enjoyed seeing how the world copes without Superman. Lois Lane and Lex Luthor are the main characters and it’s nice to see the two of them have a battle of wits rather than Superman having all the fun. The story has been updated and tweaked to fit into the animated DC Universe continuity, but not for the worse. There is a post credit scene leaving the story to continue into a new chapter for greater adventures of witch I am very much looking forward to.

On the Blu-Ray Special Features you get Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis, A sneak peek at the next animated movie – Justice League vs, The Fatal Five and two Bonus Cartoons. Not loads of extras but enough to keep you occupied for a couple of hours. You also get a digital download of the film which is always welcome.
Overall, this is a well done Blu-ray release but could maybe have done with a little more content like other DC releases seem to have. The film itself is very entertaining, and I always love to get a digital download with my Blu-rays!

Movie: 4 out of 5 – Very enjoyable!
Image: 5 out of 5 – Great clean image you would expect from an animation feature.
Sound: 3 out of 5 – Only 5.1 DTS HD Audio and the music is mainly from the front speakers.

REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN is out now on Digital Download and available on Blu-ray™ and DVD January 28th

Trick R Treat (2007)

My 31 Days of Horror comes to a close with a modern seasonal classic. What better way to end than with a movie about the day itself!?

Trick R Treat is a Halloween institution in my house. We watch it every year, Sam, the impish little mascot of the film is even tattooed on my right shin. I fell in love with this movie, its whole vibe is just right up my street.

It’s absolutely crazy to think that this film was denied a proper cinematic release. Trick r Treat played festivals and had random screenings and was eventually dumped, unceremoniously, on DVD two years later

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, who co-wrote X Men 2 (and pinching its stars Anna Paquin and Brian Cox for this film), Trick R Treat is a Halloween anthology. A mischievous, violent and creepy collection of tales set on Halloween, connected by the presence of Sam, watching and waiting for his turn to get in on the action.

The movie is basically a horror version of Pulp Fiction, non-linear and full of misdirection and call backs. Doughtery clearly had a blast making this movie, framed like an old horror comic and full of joy.

Each story thread sort picks on old Halloween tropes and traditions. Taking down the decorations early, not checking your candy, girls being followed by masked weirdos, ghostly urban legends. There’s sort of a Christmas Carol feel to the whole thing too. I love just how each segment is linked to the others, characters crossing over and plot points paying off in other parts. It takes great delight in its reveals, the reason why the film works so well. It messes with the predictability of this type of film too, not letting anything be too obvious.

Trick R Treat has gradually picked up an audience over the last decade but it’s still somewhat of a cult film, not really as big as it deserves to be. Dougherty has since gone on to make Christmas horror Krampus and is currently working on Godzilla:King of the Monsters. Trick R Treat 2 was announced a while back but I’m not confident we will ever see it materialise.

If you’ve never seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s basically a Halloween version of one of those joyful Christmas movies. Gets you in the mood for the season, launched Halloween icon and most of all, it’s fun! Unapologetically made by and for people who love Halloween.

For Fans Of :

VHS

Krampus

Creepshow

Pulp Fiction

Click here to pick up Trick R Treat from Amazon and help support the site!

Mandy (2018)

I feel like I’m going to sound woefully inadequate trying to describe Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy. This movie is a singular vision, a crazy drug trip of visuals that envelope and surround you. You enter its world and for the two hour runtime, you’re immersed.

Red (Nicolas Cage) is a logger, living near the Shadow Mountains with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in 1983. Their life seems idyllic and peaceful, though Red doesn’t like where they live. A cult led by the enigmatic Jeremiah (Linus Roache) abduct Mandy, with the help of some supernatural forced and demonic bikers. Red sets out for revenge.

I’m not going into plot specifics, mainly because it would give toon much away. Mandy is a film to be experienced, whether for better or worse. I’ve seen it described as an action horror revenge movie and while this is basically right, the movie is so much more. Mandy feels like a the missing link between David Lynch and John Carpenter. Maybe with a bit of Argento. The film is so colourful, lush and visual, my heavy handed mash up comparisons can’t really do it justice. It’s like a Heavy Metal comic come to life.

Linus Roache’s Jeremiah is a truly interesting antagonist, coming across like a Charles Manson meets David Koresh. Horrible and enigmatic, Jeremiah gives the movie a fully rounded villain.

Jóhan Jóhansson’s score really sets the film on a level apart from anything else too. The sound of the movie is huge, walls of sound, massive soundscapes just surround you. Jagged and sludgy guitars, slow drums and massive synths just invade your head space. It’s a film to see as loud as possible. It was Jóhansson’s last score before his death too, the film being dedicated to him. He was an incredible composer, Mandy being an amazing piece of work to leave us on.

Mandy, to me, was also reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s video games, the plot of a girl being taken by an evil group of bastards and you having to kill your way to get to them. Stuff like Splatterhouse, Final Fight and to a less violent extent, Super Mario.

I dug Mandy, a lot. It’s a movie that you feel, one that I can see myself returning to time and time again. A film full of rich imagery, stunning set pieces and iconic characters and I didn’t even mention the Cheddar Goblin.

An absolute must see, Mandy is available on DVD and Blu Ray now.

For Fans of:

The Endless

Lost Highway

Evil Dead (2013)

Prince of Darkness

The Shining (1980)

Most Stephen King films that Stephen King himself likes are, mostly, terrible.

King hates this version of The Shining.

Everyone else thinks it’s one of the greatest horror films ever made.

Stanley Kubrick’s meticulously shot ghost story permeated popular culture so much that I suppose it’s hard to imagine the world without it. Jack Torrance, a former teacher with a history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence takes the winter caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel. His psychic son Danny and beleaguered wife Wendy go with him, with Jack planning to use the solitude to write. Unfortunately for Jack, the evil spirits that reside in the Overlook have different plans for him.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, The Shining is a masterpiece. Sure, Jack Nicholson plays Jack a little bit crazy before they ever reach the hotel, but, I’m splitting hairs. The atmosphere, the music, the cinematography all just stand head and shoulders above any other horrors of the time. A genius auteur like Kubrick turning his hand to horror just doesn’t seem to happen these days. You never see the likes of Chris Nolan or Tarantino doing big horror films really. I’m not counting David Fincher as most of his work has at least a dash of horror.

The movie follows the plot of King’s original novel but does take it’s own direction towards the end. I actually preferred the movie to the book, but I love both. King’s 2013 sequel novel Doctor Sleep followed on from the book of course, but I’d imagine the forthcoming adaption by Mike Flanagan would at least acknowledge the Kubrick film.

Over the years there’s been many interpretations of the film with people even seeing it as Kubrick’s admission he helped fake the moon landings. Seriously. There definitely are many layers to The Shining, the documentary Room 237 is worth checking out if you’re interested in diving deeper into these wild theories.

For Fans Of :

The Ring

Event Horizon

The Witch

Click here to pick up The Shining from Amazon and help support the site!.

It Follows (2014)

The idea of a movie based around a sexually transmitted curse is so good, you can’t believe its never been done before.

It Follows from writer/director David Robert Mitchell is a tour de force of horror. A singular vision, a mythology that seems so complete, that it’s genuinely one of the scariest movies in years. It feels like it’s one of those timeless horror classics from the 80’s, the style, the score and the aesthetic are all just from another time.

Maika Monroe stars as Jay, who after sleeping with her new boyfriend, is told that he’s passed a curse onto her. That an entity will me follow her, slowly and relentlessly until it kills her and goes back up the chain, unless she passes it on to someone else.

“This thing… Its gonna follow you. Somebody gave it to me and I passed it you…”

After they have sex, Jay is chloroformed and tied up. He explains in detail how the curse works. The imagery is stark and decaying. Jay is tied to a wheelchair in a broken up concrete building. I later found out the look of the film is inspired by the amazing photography of Gregory Crewdson, an American artist who’s tableaux photographs are more like paintings.

Once Jay realises “it” is real, she spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to escape it and where it comes from. The entity itself can appear as anyone, so there’s a level of dread and fear about where it’s going to come from next.

The way the film deals with Jay’s trauma and fear is pretty realistic given that she’s being pursued by some supernatural STD. It would have been easy to turn this into a dark comedy, but It Follows plays it serious and it works. It has a Michael Mann feel, specifically Manhunter. The movie dwells on establishing shots, with the score by Disasterpeace just bubbling in the background. It makes even innocuous shots of a backyard pool look terrifying. The director has cited John Carpenter and George Romero as influences, which you can definitely see. The shambling, relentless zombie style of Dawn of The Dead and the unknown shape changing of The Thing are both echoed in the looks of the villain. Then again, It Follows still manages to remain true to its own identity and not lean too hard into homage.

I guess that’s why this film is scary. Fear of the unknown. The fear of catching a sexually transmitted disease. The fear that someone innocent looking could just attack you.

The creature itself changes its look constantly, but one thing that remains consistent is the element of the grotesque. It’s constantly got something uncomfortable going on. Missing teeth, nudity, one of them even urinating on itself as it lumbers towards Jay.

One of the best things about the film is the score. The composer Disasterpeace uses a electronica /8-bit type of sound, that whilst being similar to an 80’s horror is also uniquely its own thing. The main theme is absolutely incredible and the incidental music is so creepy and fear inducing.

There’s been talk of a sequel, of travelling back up the chain to find the origin, but I think that would ruin things. I think the reason this film works so well is the sense of mystery.

It Follows is a true modern classic and not seen by nearly enough people. Don’t miss it.

For Fans Of:

Halloween

Sinister

Insidious

Click here to pick up It Follows from Amazon and help support the site!

Insidious (2011)

By the time Insidious was released in 2011, James Wan had already launched one huge horror franchise in saw. His 2007 puppet horror Dead Silence didn’t set the world on fire but was still pretty good and very well executed. But Insidious, oh boy, Insidious is where Wan showed just how good he was. The sequel landed two years later, the same summer as The Conjuring. Its not a stretch to say James Wan redefined modern mainstream horror, giving us iconic monsters and heroes. If Insidious didn’t do well, there’s no Conjuring universe. Arguably, Warner bros wouldn’t have green lit their epic two part IT adaption either.

Written by Wan and and his frequent collabortor Leigh Whannel (who also plays Specs), Insidious is the tale of a family who’s son Dalton (Iron Man 3’s Ty Simpsons) falls into a coma and won’t wake up. The house is plagued by spirits, so the parents (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) decide to move. They soon realise its not the house that’s haunted. It’s the boy.

I love Insidious. Sure, it’s almost a remake of Poltergeist, but for me it just connects. It’s scary. Really scary. The jumps are fucking wild and the tension is built from the opening. The characters are relatable and the acting is top notch. Lin Shaye’s psychic investigator Elise is particularly brilliant. Shaye has been one of those “that’s her from…” actors for a long time, but she owns this franchise, showing just how great she actually is. She’s the heart of these movies.

I’m getting ahead of myself again. Insidious was made on a budget of $1 million and grossed over $100 million. For a low budget horror it hides the seams well, it creates a believable sense of dread and fear, but most importantly it knows what it is. It doesn’t try to be too much. It gives us “the further” the dimension ghosts exist in, but it doesn’t make it too extravagant. Minimalist set design and fog hide the world around us, making it scary and keeping the budget down. Honestly, its incredibly well done and shot perfectly.

I can’t rate this film highly enough. As a stand alone, it’s incredible. For a franchise starter, it’s even better. The mythology is rich, expanded in each sequel. 2018’s Insidious The Last Key even managing to stay fresher than most franchises are 7 years in, making another huge box office splash.

For Fans Of:

Poltergeist

The Conjuring

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

Pick up Insidious from Amazon by clicking here and help support the site!