Starring Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan
Written by Bryce Kass
Directed by Craig William Macneill
“Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”
The story of Lizzie Borden is far from new; its notoriety has hardly decreased since the actual trial took place. Since the 50s, the story has appeared on film in several forms; but rarely has this perspective of the infamous killer been taken. We know Lizzie as a brutal psycho who killed her parents – but have we ever wondered what drove her to it? Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, orchestrated by modern horror maestro Craig William Macneill, led Sundance audiences through this connundrum last Friday night; and turn what could have been another sensationalized melodrama into an empowering, brutal character study.
It’s not news that the film centers around a vicious double axe murder; though it may come as a pleasant surprise that Macneill and team don’t shy away from the case’s gruesome nature. The bulk of the story revolves around Borden’s oppressed life prior to the murder, however – her laschivious, controlling father watches her every move, while she fears he is squandering her inheritance on embarrassing vices. As their relationship boils to hatred, Lizzie grows closer to the family’s maid, timid Irishwoman Bridget Sullivan. The love that grows between them becomes as strong as Lizzie’s will to survive – at the darkest of costs.
Chloë Sevigny has long been a Sundance staple, and her costar Kristen Stewart is becoming a familiar face at the festival as well. Considering the notorious synopsis, their involvement might sound like a stunt; but their chemistry on screen is undeniable. They’re both nervous, subdued – Sevigny is tangibly anxious, sometimes unsettling – but bold as well. Through their awkward sweetness, their love becomes plausible, and we don’t need to see graphic sex to feel it. The cast around them provides depth and layers as well – Jamey Sheridan brings both insidious pride and vulnerability to his infamous father, genre veteran Denis O’Hare is chilling as the Bordens’ greedy uncle, while Fiona Shaw makes a mark as the cold but fierce stepmother.
Director Macneill – previously behind The Boy and the first season of Channel Zero – displays an impressive understanding of Gothic cinema here. The film’s imagery is stark but evocative, often full of candle-cast shadows, while the sparse music brings a level of dread to seemingly mundane proceedings. With a sharp script penned by Bryce Kass and the well-calibrated performances, Macneill mounts the tension slowly, maybe too much so; but the patience primes the audience for the heightened violence that occupies the film’s final moments. In many ways, this is an old-fashioned horror film – it carries the seriousness and weight of an author like Joyce Carol Oates. There’s humor and tenderness as well, though, which sets the film apart from other entries like it. The horror and heart alike come from human behavior.
This movie doesn’t flinch from the violence that made its source material famous, but it doesn’t rely on it, either. This is an actor’s film, and Sevigny and Stewart prove themselves more than capable of carrying it. Their sensitive, focused characterization lends the disturbing act a shocking amount of empathy. These women are trodden upon and degraded by hideous, pitiful men; indeed, the male characters in the film are almost universally unpleasant; and their willingness to bite back, through dialogue and action alike, speaks to a new, vital boldness. Through Macneill’s sensitive approach, the film shifts morality in a beautiful way. It’s imperfect, but it rewrites history in a way that reminds us of what villainy really means.
Slow-paced and subdued in its Gothicisms, this rendition of an infamous murder lends it both horror and pathos through vivid performances.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.
The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Ryan Schifrin’s Abominable Gets a Sasquatch-Sized Blu-Ray
Horror Retro Caps Boasts Hats Featuring The Lamp, The Video Dead, Rosemary’s Killer and more!
Jurassic Park T-Rex Stomps Through Ready Player One Trailer #3
Someone Figured Out How Many Miles the It Follows Creature Walked
Exclusive: Saw Escape Room Las Vegas Review, Video Interviews with Creator Jason Egan and Series Star Tobin Bell
Winchester: Before the Movie, See Dread Central’s Paranormal Investigation of the Actual Winchester Mansion
Hellraiser: Judgment Review – Pinhead Returns in a Truly Solid Sequel
First Look at the Samurais vs. Kaiju Medieval Monster Movie Koujin
Silent Hill: Revelation Director Opens Up On Movie’s Failings; “It Was a Nightmare Dance”
Ron Bonk’s Positively Bonkers House Shark Ready to Swim Home
New Trailer Takes You to A Quiet Place
Cult TV Mini-Series V Big-Budget Film Adaptation Announced
Hellraiser: Judgment – Exclusive Gag Reel Will Have You Giggling
Gorgeous Highly Limited Edition Signed Copies of Stephen King’s Misery Coming This Summer
News6 days ago
Pacific Rim Uprising Is Nowhere Near as Metal as The Asylum’s Atlantic Rim: Resurrection Trailer
News5 days ago
Shane Black’s The Predator Release Date Pushed Back
News4 days ago
First Look: Metallica’s James Hetfield and Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy Face-Off
News5 days ago
Single-player Challenges Coming to Friday the 13th: The Game
News4 days ago
Five Chilling Period Haunted House Movies
News5 days ago
Exclusive First Look: The Dawn Starring Devanny Pinn, Ryan Kiser, and Stacey Dash
Editorials3 days ago
Why Netflix and David Bruckner’s The Ritual Scared the Hell Out Of Me
News5 days ago
John Carpenter Talks the Movie That Inspired His Career, Future Plans, and Halloween