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Ringu (1998)

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Reviewed by Michelle Lee

Starring Matsushima Nanako (Reiko), Mai Takano/Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryuji Takayama), Rikiya Otaka (Yoichi), Yuko Takeuchi (Tomoko), Hitomi Sato (Masami)

Written & Directed by Hideo Nakata


Ever see a Girlcreeture twitch?

Does anyone know how long it’s been since I fucking twitched?!?!

Hooooo, ok, I’m calm now. Through the wonders of the internet and a power known as eBay, and through the massively overpowering curiosity and need exhibited by a certain Roguish Boy, I have seen what seemed like an almost unreachable film. I have seen Ring. And sweet baby Jesus is it something to write home about. Or at least tell all you lovlies about.

Now unless you’ve been living under a casket for the past year or so, you’ve heard about this movie. But just in case, some of us do find our dark scary home places rather comfy and don’t leave them often, I will tell you about the story involved in Ring.

There is a videocassette making the rounds and landing itself in the hands of many a local teenager. No, it’s not porn, which in this case would probably bring a sigh of relief to some parents. It’s just a handy dandy unlabeled and oh so mysterious videotape. It’s been around for a while though exactly how long and where it came from is undetermined. It’s whispered about by almost every teenager in the area and though some may be skeptical as to its authenticity, there’s no doubt that the mention of it will send people into long conversation.

Urban legends occur everywhere; after watching this tape, the phone will ring with nobody on the other end except maybe a really sick sound effects guy, and if you watch this tape, you will die in exactly one week’s time, down to the very minute you finished seeing it. And you will die horribly.

Tomoko and Masami are the two lucky gals who get to introduce us to just how damned awful it is to die after viewing the tape. Reiko is a journalist who has been writing a story on the rumor mill surrounding this particular urban legend. It just so happens that Reiko is Tomoko’s aunt. She strengthens her investigation when she learns at Tomoko’s funeral that her niece watched the tape a week before at a party with a group of friends. It’s no surprise that all of those kids are dead too. Reiko’s investigations bring her to the cabin rented out by Tomoko and her friends the night they watched the tape. While questioning the caretaker of the cabin she sees a blank cassette sitting with various other rental tapes in his office. He claims it’s not his and was left behind by the previous renters. Being a good reporter, Reiko promptly watches the video.

She is presented with a short “movie”. A lovely woman’s reflection in a large oval mirror, brushing her hair. Eerie music and sounds permeate the film. A strange animation of swirling Japanese characters spelling out “the volcano is erupting”(or something similar to that), writhing bodies on the ground, a close up of someone’s eye with a character centered in the iris, a man standing on a beach with a roiling ocean behind him, his head is draped in a white cloth and he is pointing at the ground, and lastly, a grassy expanse near a forest with a well in its center.

It doesn’t seem like much, writing it down here, but damn it’s truly creepy. The phone rings, just like the rumors claim and Reiko hears nothing but strange sounds. She has watched the tape on September 13th at exactly 7:10 pm. Now the investigation really begins. She returns home and contacts her ex-husband Ryuji to aid in her research. He’s skeptical at first, and thinks she’s overreacting. She requests that he take a Polaroid of her, because another rumor surrounding the tape is that once you’ve seen it, every photograph taken of you thereafter will show your face distorted. The Polaroid develops and Reiko’s visage is horrifically misshapen, it almost looks as if she has been beaten severely to disfigurement. Activate spiney tingles now. Still unimpressed, Ryuji watches the video while Reiko waits outside. Nothing. Not even a phone call. Reiko makes a copy of the tape for Ryuji to keep and study more on his own time. When they decide to watch the movie on a special editing viewer at the university where Ryuji works, they get more than they expected and Ryuji’s skepticism fades. They continue their research, gathering more and more clues to the origins of the woman on the tape and what happened to her. One of the more horrifying moments of the movie comes when Reiko is awakened one night while staying at her father’s home to find her and Ryuji’s son Yoichi sitting innocently in front of the TV as the end of the tape plays on in the VCR. It’s a great tension builder because now Reiko and Ryuji have much more at stake than just Reiko’s life; now they must save their son’s.

The solving of the mystery is well paced, and the characters are strong and well acted. Reiko and Ryuji, though divorced, have a good-natured relationship and they work very well together. The performances by all of the actors in Ring are top notch and they all create believable, sympathetic characters, each with well developed personalities and backgrounds. They do not just enter the field of the camera’s lens and take up space. The story itself is both horror story and mystery, a coupling of genres that Hideo Nakata blends so well that he has created a serious piece of atmospheric horror and one creepy thriller. The film itself is well shot; it isn’t very avante garde (which always worries me when I see lower budget foreign horror films) except in the case of the video’s scenes and in certain flashbacks. The style works unbelievably well in these moments because it strengthens the otherworldly aspect of this mysterious tape, it’s history, and the fact that it is truly evil. And the tension builds with each new clue the two leads find, working to uncover what happened to the woman on the tape, and working to break the curse that will soon be coming to claim Reiko and Yoichi. Another great tension builder is the countdown of days throughout the movie. Each day as it passes from the day Reiko watched the tape, is noted in subtitle, to remind the viewer that her time is slowly running out and Reiko is all too aware of this.

Besides the obvious killer visual qualities of Ring, and there are many eerie moments throughout the move, another huge aspect to the success of this movie is the sound. Not particularly the score, but the effects. There’s so much going on that the soundtrack alone can effectively make your skin crawl. In the opening scene before Tomoko’s nasty demise, there’s a hideous skittering sound coming from behind her. The closest thing I can think of that would best describe it is the sound a dog’s claws make on a linoleum floor. But distorted and mixed with various other effects.

I say Tomoko’s demise is nasty, but you never actually see it. None of the deaths are actually seen. You see the victims afterwards, and that’s enough. It only adds to the many characteristics of Ring that make this such a scary film. And you may be thinking I’m just a victim of hype and I’ve been waiting oh so damned long to see this movie after hearing so much good talk surrounding it that I’ve just psyched myself into thinking it’s great, but that’s not the case at all. I figured it would be a huge lesson in letdown. Hell no. Wanna know why? Because the ending of this movie is so freaking superbly done, so evil, so completely horrifying that I was 100% freaked out after I got home last night. I didn’t even want to look at my television. I did not want to think about the movie. Alone. Late at night. I need to mull over good movies after I’ve seen them, but I couldn’t bring myself to think about Ring until this morning. I try to write my reviews directly after seeing them, because the old brainpan is full of the movie and wants to write about it. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that so thoroughly and efficiently creeped me out enough to just trash my imagination and make me feel like a 12 year old again. Did I mention I avoided my TV? Yeah, I did, I’m a big pansy. But I’m a girl, so there (heh heh). I’m glad I didn’t watch this movie alone, I really am, because the payoff almost made me look away, it was that terrifying. And now that I’ve become part of the hype surrounding Ring, I hope that when all you happy creetures out there finally get to see it too, you can appreciate it just as much as I did.


4 ½ out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.62 (21 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.14 (22 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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