Paranormal Activity (2009)

31 days of Horror

For the whole month of October I’ll be watching and reviewing one horror film each day!

The film that jumpstarted the Found Footage genre, Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity was a huge hit back in 2009, spawning FIVE sequels. This first, original movie however, is still the most iconic. The second film, is in my opinion arguably the best of the whole series. The others are a mixed bag at best, with 3 and 4 directed by the guys behind the original Catfish.

Micah and Katie are a couple of regular folks living together in a house where some weird things have started to occur. Cameras are set up around their home to record the supernatural goings on.

The slow burn progression and found footage style cranks up the tension for a satisfying amount of scares. Some found footage movies drag the scares out or just flat out aren’t scary at all. Found Footage films live and die by their ability to sell the audience on suspending their disbelief and Paranormal Activity uses its minimalism to do this perfectly. The realism and the fact that the two leads are likeable and funny only adds to the burgeoning horror.

What I really liked about this movie was that it sets up a fantastic mythology. The haunting is centred around Katie and has followed her since childhood, creating an initial sense of doubt that it may all be in her head. The reveal that the entity isn’t a ghost, but a demon is a real gut punch too, knowing that Katie isn’t going to have an easy ride. The sequels ran with this idea, the third movie even being a prequel about Katie’s childhood and adding even more depth.

I loved rewatching Paranormal Activity, it had been a long time and I’d forgotten just how good it was. Sometimes, something so simple just works perfect. Each time the film shifts to night time, you begin to dread what’s coming next. The sped up bedroom scenes particularly deliver the scares.

As a stand alone film, Paranormal Activity is a solid, scary haunted house movie. It rejuvenated the genre and spawned a host of imitators and spoofs, the sign of a true cultural phenomenon. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you give it a look.

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For Fans Of :

The Blair Witch Project




A Cure For Wellness (2017)

One of 2017’s first big flops, Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness is a curious thing. I missed it in the cinema, despite really wanting to catch it, it wasn’t on for very long and was pummelled by critics and audiences. Finally today I managed to get around to it and was rather shocked by what I found.

I expected an early 2000’s style, trashy horror thriller, admittedly which I do enjoy, but what I got was something very different. A long, ponderous movie, beautifully shot and enveloped in Benjamin Wallfisch’s stunning score, A Cure For Wellness is actually closer to something by Hitchock. The stunning scenery of Switzerland both complimenting and adding to the terror.

Story-wise I found it very similar to Dracula, just without Vampires. Dane DeHaan’s emotionally damaged Lockhart is caught up in some shady business deals. His employers offer to offload the blame on their CEO Pembroke who has run away to a mysterious health clinic in the Swiss Alps. Once in Switzerland, Lockhart finds the clinic is very strange, like a reverse Shutter Island, everyone is sedate and happy. The creepy Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs) is far too nice and Hannah (Mia Goth) is the only other young person in the clinic and she is distant, detached and definitely hiding something. One horrible car crash later, Lockhart is trapped in the clinic, no closer to getting Pembroke home and a new mystery unravelling around him.

There is a LOT going on in this film. I mean, the synopsis above is basically just the first act. Verbinski’s non-linear structure and vague style keeps you guessing and hooked despite a two and a half hour runtime. Wellness is not a hard film to keep track of, but it’s constantly teasing reveals and pulling you along sterile corridors and dank old tunnels. The actual look of the film is incredible, reminiscent of Verbinski’s own The Ring mixed with Shutter Island. Just, y’know, without the terrifying ghost girl but with loads of eels instead.

The only quibble I had was Dane DeHaan’s slightly wooden acting. He comes across as Keanu Reeves without the cool, but as the story progressed his bewilderment faded into despair and anger.

I think in time, A Cure for Wellness will end up as a beloved cult classic. It’s got enough depth and mythology to warrant multiple viewings and certainly has the visual flair to hold up in future. The long runtime maybe off putting for some, but watching at home where pause buttons exist gives no excuses. Plus, the third act reveals are satisfying, which makes a difference. So many long, drawn out films splutter out an ending that doesn’t quite work, but Wellness sticks the landing.
Give it a look, if you’re a fan of slow burning, creepy horror especially.


For Fans Of:

Crimson Peak

The Ring

Dracula (1992)

Shutter Island

Split (2017)

M Night Shyamalan’s Split is a remarkable film. A psychological horror – thriller, darkly comic at times and frighteningly intense at others. 

The story of three girls taken captive by a man with multiple personalities, this could have been a torture porn or exploitation film in other hands, but M Night Shymalan raises the tone and crafts something special. Layering flashbacks, subplots and different characters perfectly, Split never loses track of its multiple strands, each one getting it’s time in the light. 

The unsettling opening scene sets the tone for what follows, as we see Dennis, Kevin’s bespectacled, intense personality, systemically take town three girls, whilst remaining so stoic and calm. It’s a frightening statement of intent from a writer director at the top of his game. 

Anya Taylor-Joy, star of 2016’s horror masterpiece The Witch, plays Casey, a withdrawn, damaged girl, who’s deeply upsetting backstory is revealed slowly throughout the film. One of the three girls taken by Kevin, Casey is held prisoner along with Jessica Sula as Marcia and Hayley Lu as Claire, in an unknown location. Taylor-Joy is carving out a career as a modern day horror icon, next appearing in 2018’s X Men horror film The New Mutants as Magik. 

James McAvoy, also formerly an X Man, gives the performances of his career so far here. He plays a man with 23 different identities, each one that were shown is completely distinct. I feel if this wasn’t a horror/thriller, we would be looking at an Oscar nomination for him. From Barry the fashion designer, Hedwig the dopey 9 yer old to Patricia, a stern British woman, McAvoy is unbelievable. Every single personality inside Kevin is fully realised and an individual character in it’s own right. McAvoy really gives a virtuoso performance here, showcasing his talents and proving himself as a top tier talent. What’s more, nothing ever comes across as silly. Even when he’s dressed as a woman, McAvoy commands your attention with his intensity, never appearing anything less than a fully developed character. It’s a stunning achievement. 

The rest of the cast is great too , especially Brad William Henke’s creepy uncle in the flashback scenes and veteran actress Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher is particularly great. Dr Fletcher’s character drops lots of the information about Kevin’s disorder. Other movies would use her character for exposition dumps and not much else, but Shymalan makes her so compelling and Buckley herself has such a warmth and heart that you can’t help but feel the fear and the compassion yourself.

This being an M Night Shymalan movie, there are two things you’d always expect. One is his gratuitous cameo, and the other is a plot full of twists and turns. Both are present here. Shyamalan’s career renaissance has been impressive thus far, Split only proving his ability to shock and thrill even more. The Sixth Sense was a huge bar to set for himself, so seeing him returning to that level is nice.  It’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling a lot of what makes the movie great. I do feel that while Split’s twists are why it works, that multiple viewings would only improve the film. 

Leaving spoilers out of it, both the ending and credits scene made my jaw drop. A huge talking point for sure and the recently announced sequel sounds very interesting indeed!

Split is a rare thing, a hybrid of genres and influences, ending up as strong as the sum of its parts. Rather like it’s main character. 


For Fans Of: 

Silence of the Lambs


Raising Cain 

10 Cloverfield Lane 

GET OUT (2017)

Jordan Peele is famous for being one half of the amazing comedy duo Key and Peele, but after seeing GET OUT I’m pretty sure “Jordan Peele, Writer/Director” is his true calling. 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading for a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose’s (Alison Williams) family. Worried that they may not be accepting of him being black, Rose assures Chris everything is going to be fine. Some strange incidents with the family’s (all black) staff and bizarre racial comments from Rose’s family lead Chris to think something not quite right is going on. 

Rose’s hypnotherapist mom ( Catherine Keener) is placed under suspicion as the house workers seem to be acting odd or brainwashed. Anything else is knowing too much. The hypnotism scenes were truly unsettling and I’ll probably never use a china tea set ever again. The whole idea of “The Sunken Place” is phenomenonal and transcends horror, especially in 2017. 

Slowly building tension, no cheap jump scares and a very sharp, clever script makes GET OUT quite possibly the freshest horror/thriller in quite some time. I wouldn’t call it scary, but this film really makes you feel something. Dread or anxiety maybe, something a little deeper than you’re usually feeling during a horror movie. 

Discussing racism in America is probably more socially important than it has been for quite some time, especially in this post Obama, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN landscape. GET OUT addresses this both head on and subversively. Peele pulls no punches and some of the tensest moments are with Chris and how he’s made to feel. The stark black and white colour scheme of the posters and ads reflects this perfectly. 

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance is nothing short of star making, I find it very odd he’s being criticised for being British and not Afrcian-American, but he’s responded marvelously to these comments, ironically proving he understands being marginalised for who he is. Truly an actor to watch. 

The supporting cast is phenomenonal, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as Kate’s white liberal parents managing to be lovely yet sinister and Stephen Root popping up with a creepy performance as a blind art dealer. Surely a metaphor in there somewhere.

I avoided all trailers and ads for GET OUT, mainly because Peele being the writer director was enough for me as well as the fact horror trailers ruin everything! Too much! I didn’t quite expect what we got. I think knowing as little as possible is the best way to see this movie,which is why I’m not about to ruin it here. 

9/10, GET OUT is in Cinemas now. 


The Cabin In The Woods 

Hard Candy 

The Stepford Wives 

Ex Machina