Tag Archives: slasher

Hush (2016)

Hush_2016_poster

Hush is half a great home invasion/slasher thriller with a nice twist. The other half? Not so much.

Co-written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who previously found success with the better-than-expected Oculus back in 2013, Hush tells the story of Maddie (Katie Siegel, who co-wrote the script), a writer who lost her hearing and speech following a bout of illness in her youth. She’s published her first book and lives alone in a secluded area trying to finish off her second and to forget about a former boyfriend. One night, a mysterious masked assailant (John Gallagher Jr) appears at her house, intent on terrifying the poor young woman before killing her.

It’s a simple premise without much of a need for any explanation, but the deaf and mute protagonist certainly does add an interesting wrinkle to the well-trodden genre. Not being able to hear danger when it’s right behind you, and of course, not being able to scream, does create a sense of terror audiences aren’t as used to seeing. It makes us realise just how vulnerable we become when we can’t hear and can’t speak — something as simple as calling the police becomes a challenge, and you immediately become at a disadvantage to whoever is trying to hunt you down. I like how Flanagan would occasionally switch to Maddie’s point of view — well, kind of — so that the sound is heavily muted, providing a nice contrast to the hysteria of the fight for survival.

For at least the first half of the movie, probably even two-thirds, Hush is an effective thriller thanks to the premise and some skillful execution from Flanagan. Gallagher Jr is fantastic as the creepy antagonist, quite a revelation given that he plays completely different characters in the only two other things I’ve seen him in — The Newsroom (on TV) and more recently, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Unfortunately, at some point in the second half of the film, the pace and tension begins to lag, and Flanagan begins resorting to my pet hate for such thrillers — relying on the stupidity of the characters to come up with ways to create more tension and prolong the running time (the film’s only 81 minutes, by the way). The thing is, Maddie actually seemed like quite an intelligent person up until that point, but then suddenly turns into a moron who gives up about a dozen chances to escape and kill the assailant, who also suddenly becomes dim-witted so as to match her. On top of that, the film begins to toss in a bunch of cheap tricks before limping to a predictable and nonsensical climax.

It’s a real shame, because you tend to remember movies like this for the bad taste it leaves in your mouth rather than all the good that came before it. By the time the credits started rolling, I had gone from really enjoying Hush to rather disliking it. Writing this review, however, as put things in a bit more perspective, and the positives of the movie have risen back to the surface. The film does start off well and has some nice moments and effective atmosphere, and because of that it still has more going for it than the majority of movies in the genre.

3 stars out of 5

Lost After Dark (2015)

lost after dark

I was coming off the disappointing Curse of Downers Grove and felt things couldn’t get much worse when I decided to watch Lost After Dark, a low budget slasher movie. I turned out to be very very wrong. Compared to Lost After Dark, Downers Grove is a damn near-masterpiece.

I didn’t actually expect it to be any good, though I was hoping the film would surprise me as I had rather quite enjoyed 2003’s Wrong Turn, a similar sort of movie about a bunch of young people who find themselves being hunted down by a bunch of cannibalistic inbreeding freaks.

Wrong Turn was not generally well-received, but I remember it being tense and scary. Lost After Dark was the complete opposite. As a homage to 80s slasher flicks, the premise is that a group of young people find themselves lost after a vehicle breakdown, and soon after the carnage begins.

Apart from moronic cardboard characters, the film suffers from a distinct lack of genuine scares or intriguing developments. A big reason is the laughably designed killer, who looks more like a parody than someone you ought to be running from. And while the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not exactly tongue-in-cheek enough to be fun either. Throw in some tame, unimaginative killings, bad acting and a “keep gettin’ ’em cheques” performance from Robert Patrick in more or less an cameo role, and what you end up with is film that’s bad but not consciously bad enough to be “so bad it’s good.”

I understand the aim was replicate that retro 80s slasher vibe, though the problem is that the vast majority of such films from that era were actually really terrible. Why you would want to aspire to recreate that without trying to surprise us with something different or intelligent is beyond me.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Extraterrestrial (2014)

extraterrestrial new poster

No matter what happens, Gil Bellows can always claim that he was in one of the greatest movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption. From now on, he can also claim to have been in one of the worst films of all time.

Okay, so maybe Extraterrestrial is not one of the worst movies of all time. But it is genuinely awful. Really, really bad. Think of the most typical teen slasher movie you can, but instead of maniacal killers or monsters, you get aliens. Not even creative or interesting aliens, but the archetypal thin grey aliens with the big black eyes.

The story is just as expected. A girl (Brittany Allen) who is having problems with her high school sweetheart (Freddie Stroma) go on a trip to a cabin in the woods with some friends. They witness a UFO crash and encounter an alien. Screaming, killing, blood and gore, and of course, stupid, irrational decisions, ensue. As expected, there is an old crackpot (Michael Ironside) living in the area who claims to know everything behind the alien conspiracies, and cops who are skeptical of our protagonist’s claims.

Bellows plays one of the cops, and he feels completely out of place because it seems like he is actually trying to deliver a decent performance. His character also happens to be the only one in the entire film who is not an obnoxious prick. Unfortunately, he is only a supporting character, and the rest of the cast is woefully inept.

I could actually live with these problems had the film actually been scary. Maybe I was not in the right mood, or maybe it’s because I watched The X-Files growing up, but I was not shocked, frightened or spooked at all. Not even once. And I can’t think of another horror film — even the worst ones — that has not made me flinch at least once.

To its credit, Extraterrestrial has a campy vibe and clearly does not take itself seriously, though there is still a giant chasm between that and calling the film satire or parody, or even fun or funny. The jokes are largely driven by obvious frat boy humour and there’s no sharp wit in sight.

The only thing the film has going for it is its final 10-15 minutes, which contained a couple of nice surprises and some solid special effects. As a result, it was difficult to tell whether the film was unintentionally bad or intentionally trying to be so bad it’s good. Either way, Extraterrestrial is just not worth your time.

1 star out of 5