Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: House on Haunted Hill (1999)
[House on Haunted Hill, release 1999; 93 minutes. R. Director: William Malone; Review by: Jon Weidler]
Remember the early days of the Internet, when most websites were primitive displays of text punctuated by the occasional jpeg? And then, how someone had the ingenious idea of message boards, which took the conversation out of the privacy of IM windows and into a virtual town square, where the opinions of others could be lauded or flogged by the majority? (Hey, all trolls emerge from some birth canal.)
Anyway: I was an active participant in the anonymous hate-fests that swirled around Amazon and IMDb. The only equivalent to commiserating with some virtual person on something you loved, was dragging something you hated for all online eyes to see. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Insidious (2011)
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, et. al.
Synopsis: “A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.”
Release date: April 2011
Review by: Jonathan Butcher
Throughout its first half, Insidious is a wonderfully unnerving tale about a peculiar type of haunting. Then at some point along the way it becomes a goofy, balls-to-the-wall ghost train ride, complete with wacky gas-mask set pieces and a villain who is basically Darth Maul on hooves.
After the appearance of a menacing hag in the first 30 seconds, the opening credits prime you for watching scenes a little more closely than you might have otherwise. The credits roll to the sound of tense, minimalist strings played over disorienting pans of a large house. In some – or perhaps all – of the brief camera shots, something unsettling is taking place. A ghoulish face appears in a mirror. A chair is moved by an unseen force. A picture frame shifts of its own volition. And with that, the scene is set for a genuinely masterful build-up of tension, caused on some level by the creeping suspicion that unsettling things are taking place right under your, and the characters’, noses. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Final Destination (2000)
Director: James Wong
Writers: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd, et. al.
Release Date: March 2000
Article: What If Death Has A Design?
Review by: Kit Power
[The following essay assumes you’ve seen the film Final Destination, and contains comprehensive spoilers.]
In the early 2000’s, I was bascially out of the horror scene. I wasn’t watching horror movies, and most of my reading was crime fiction – Kellerman, Leonard, Ellroy. My spare time was almost entirely absorbed by a combinaiton of internet poker and my band, Capo Jr, who I confidently predicted would be headlining Glastonbury and/or Download in a year or two. It hadn’t been a conscious choice – I wasn’t ‘off’ horror ,or anything like that – it was more just how things played out, that’s all. Neutral drift. The life thing that happens when you’re making other plans. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Suspiria (1977)
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci
Release Date: 12 August 1977
Review By: Jeffery X. Martin
Synopsis: Suzy Bannion travels to Germany to perfect her ballet skills. She arrives at the Tanz dance academy in the pouring rain and is refused admission after another woman is seen fleeing the school. She returns the next morning and this time is let in. She learns that the young woman she saw fleeing the previous evening, Pat Hingle, has been found dead. Strange things soon begin to occur. Suzy becomes ill and is put on a special diet; the school becomes infested with maggots; odd sounds abound; and Daniel, the pianist, is killed by his own dog. A bit of research indicates that the ballet school was once a witches’ coven – and as Suzy learns, still is.
The 1977 film, Suspiria, didn’t turn me into a horror fan. It was the trailer. I was eight years old when I saw it for the first time, and I was immediately repulsed and fascinated. The title font that looked like pulsating flesh. That ominous voiceover. And what the hell was a suspiria? Was it a musical instrument? Could I buy one? Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Fog (1980)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Adrenne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh, Et al.
Release date: 8 February 1980
Review by: Thomas S. Flowers
For me, the intrinsic appeal of ghost stories is the tale. Sitting around a campfire, sharing a ditty about life, death, and the thereafter typically involving some crime, something that went wrong, some singular cataclysmic event in which something horrible happened that over the years formed into the story. Said story exists both to scare (entertain) and to give warning. Beware the house on Redwood Street, inside its dilapidated walls a horror awaits those foolish enough to enter its haunted halls, etc. etc. In the macabre 1980 masterpiece The Fog, John Carpenter does just that. Using a traditional Gothic atmosphere, he creates a tale, campfire and all, warning the younger generation of the sins the past. Greed. Hate. Betrayal. And murder have stained the lineage of the small California coastal town of Antonio Bay. But as the idealistic community prepares to celebrate their centenary strange things begin to occur and a foreboding blue fog spreads toward the shores. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Amityville Horror (1979)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
A Review-ish by: Feind Gottes
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Adapted for the screen by Sandor Stern from the book by Jay Anson
Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger
The Gist: Come on, even non-horror fans know this one! The Lutz family buys a new home on Long Island (Amityville), NY where a young man killed his entire family about a year prior. Evil abounds and 28 days later the Lutz family run for the hills never to return to the home themselves ever.
My Review-ish: Now if you’re a horror fan and you do not know the basic story of The Amityville Horror I have to assume you’re very young, like under 5 or something, or you aren’t actually a horror fan in which case… WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE??? Due to that fact this review isn’t so much a review as it will be a personal story. Don’t worry I’ll keep it short but I should tell you this film is one of the most important horror films to me personally. Now I’ll move on to some facts then we’ll have a little fun, ‘kay? Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review” The Changeling (1980)
Release date: March 1980
Director: Peter Medak
Staring: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Synopsis: “A man staying at a secluded historical mansion finds himself being haunted by the presence of a spectre.”
Review: “The Changeling: Why Do You Remain?” by William D. Prystauk (aka Billy Crash)
Tales of haunted houses trace their eerie legacy back to Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764 to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher from 1845, and beyond. As horror goes, nothing seems to be creepier than having one’s own home become a threat. The sanctuary turns against its owner and the protective womb of wood and stone may become a tomb. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Exorcist III (1990)
Legion: The Exorcist III
Release Date: August 17 1990
Starring: George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson.
Written and Directed by: William Peter Blatty, based on his novel Legion.
Review by: D. S. Ullery
I have a list I’ve compiled over the years consisting of movies I feel were grotesquely underappreciated in their initial release. Not too long ago, readers read an earlier piece I wrote about one such title – the late Tobe Hooper’s fantastic science fiction horror opus Lifeforce (you can read that article here).
The film I’m discussing today isn’t merely on that list, it holds the top spot. The Exorcist III (originally titled Legion: The Exorcist III after the novel it’s based on, but shortened to just The Exorcist III on screen and in later promotional materials) is the definitive example of a sequel hampered by both the poor reputation of an immediate predecessor (which this film thankfully ignores entirely) and a cinematic climate that didn’t really have much room for this sort of film at the time. In a bit, I’ll break down some of the specific reasons why I regard this film not only as an equal to the original but a masterpiece in its own right. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Hereditary (2018)
The ideal of motherhood is often posited as the pedestal upon which society is built. Mothers are supposed to be the ones who protect us, civilize us. Women are expected to flow gracefully into the role of motherhood with full acceptance and wisdom. Fear or resentment are taboos women are expected to repress. The theme of the perversion of motherhood is a popular one in horror, and is a central theme of writer and director Ari Aster’s HEREDITARY.
Even stripped of all supernatural elements, HEREDITARY is a devastating film about a family destroyed by secrets and mental illness. The death of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother, after a long illness, serves as a catalyst for the family’s final breakdown. They are also attacked by some bizarre force they are powerless against. Annie, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne,) son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro,) all seem disoriented and disheveled, pulled along like the puppets Charlie is constantly making. Annie’s mother was very manipulative, especially of Charlie, who tells Annie, “She wanted me to be a boy.” She also asks who’s going to take care of her after Annie dies. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Entity (1974)
The Entity is a 1982 supernatural horror film based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Frank De Felitta, which in turn was based on the Doris Bither case. Bither claimed to have been repeatedly raped by a trio of spirits–two holding her down while the third raped her–over a period of many years, the assaults eventually becoming less and less frequent until, apparently, they finally stopped altogether.
The film stars Barbara Hershey as Carla Moran, who is based on Doris Bither. It also starred Ron Silver as psychiatrist Dr. Phil Sneiderman; Alex Rocco played Carla’s boyfriend, Jerry Anderson, David Labiosa plays her son, Billy, Jacqueline Brookesplayed parapsychologist Dr. Elizabeth Cooley, and George Coe played psychiatrist Dr. Weber. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Hell House LLC (2015)
[PRAAAAWBABLY SOME SPOILERS IN THIS ONE]
I actually just had to go through my now-double-digits past write-ups for Machine Mean to see if I was right on this…but HHLLC will be the first found footage film I’ve actually reviewed. And by found footage, I mean the shot-on-video incarnation, and not earlier films with an in-progress-documentary-film conceit like Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, etc..
Coincidentally, I think I was supposed to review The Houses October Built but maybe didn’t for scheduling reasons or something. I say ‘coincidentally’ because that was another found footage film about the “Haunt” industry—commercial haunted house attractions run by professionals during the fall season, especially around Halloween. HHLLC goes a very different way with its scares, mostly due to revealing itself as a different subgenre of horror to THOB, which was something more like The Blair Witch Project meets The Strangers. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Grudge (2004)
The Grudge (2004) seems to be one of those films it’s cool to hate. The only thing cooler is preferring the Japanese original. I’m going to be uncool (not a stretch) and play a little devil’s advocate (assuming my proposed generality is accurate). I’m going to try to focus on what I think is the film’s greatest virtue. It may even be the case that The Grudge (2004), Takashi Shimizu’s English language reworking of Ju-on, has a great deal to teach us about how to make an effective horror film, even if it ultimately fell flat for you.
What is the virtue in question? The Grudge is played straight. Its premise is held up to the light to live or die by its own merit. The film doesn’t lean on homage the way many horror films have done. Recent successful horror installments like Hereditary and A Quiet Place share this quality with The Grudge. All of these films owe something to the catalog of horror films that preceded them, but they are the clear result of careful digestion and organic integration of classic tropes, not so much ham-fisted nods to their predecessors. There’s a sense that the creators were excited about the stories they were telling. They felt they had something unique in hand, and the general consensus seems to be that they were right. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Omen (1976)
The Omen: 1976
Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner.
Directed by Richard Donner
Review By: D.S. Ullery
For a great many people, the peace and love movement launched in earnest in 1967 with the Summer of Love – and, in a larger, ideological sense, the innocence of the 1960’s – came to an ugly end on an eerily silent August night in 1969, when Charles Manson sent his followers into the Hollywood hills on a mission of murder. Even the success of the Woodstock festival several weeks later couldn’t quell the tide of rising tensions.
This may seem an odd note on which to launch a review of what’s essentially a mainstream occult horror flick about the Antichrist, but bear with me.
Between 1967 and 1974, the mood in the United States had undergone a dramatic shift away from the sensibilities distinguishing the early days of the Hippie movement. There was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the aforementioned Manson cult crimes, the Kent State shootings, Watergate and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Conner, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, and Franka Potente
Written By: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, James Wan, and David Leslie Johnson
Directed By: James Wan
Review By: Joshua Macmillan
Synopsis: A single mother and her four children are being attacked by a malicious force that is determined to possess one of her young daughters. After attempting to get help from local authorities, the Catholic church appoints Ed and Lorraine Warren to visit the family and try to figure out exactly what is going on.
If you read my previous review for James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013), you would know that I was grasped by that film. It engaged me on levels that I didn’t think it would at all. After I watched it, I immediately wanted to pop in the disk to The Conjuring 2 (2016) but I held off until after I had written my review for the original. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson
This review contains spoilers.
Review by: Kayleigh Marie Edwards
I love horror films but as an atheist, possession movies don’t normally tickle the terror nerve for me. I don’t believe in Satan or spirits or the possibility of being possessed, so as much as I am entertained by the idea of it, it doesn’t scare me as much as, say, Mikey standing in the corner facing into the wall (you know, because forest witches are definitely real). However, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not just another run-of-the-mill possession movie about a teenage girl in a dirty white nightdress spouting Latin in dual voices. Well… I mean… it is actually, but it’s also so much more. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: We Are Still Here (2015)
I had no idea what to expect going into this one, other than hearing some vague things about it being pretty good. I’m glad I came in fresh this time. I usually at least have a vague idea of what I’m getting into but it’s nice to have no preconceived notions of any kind once in a while. I had also heard Barbara Crampton was in it, which was a plus as I’ve been a fan since growing up with Re-Animator and From Beyond, and seeing her more recently in Beyond the Gates.
So, I’m gonna admit right out of the gate that I didn’t pick up on this being a period piece at all when I watched it the first time. Once I found that out, it made sense when I was scanning back over some scenes. I either missed a year tag or just how period specific all the cars and clothes were. Although, in my defense, a lot of what was popular in the late 1970s in those realms is still popular or popular again. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Ghost Story (1981)
Directed by John Irvin
Written by Lawrence D Cohen adapted from the novel by Peter Straub
Starring: Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, John Houseman, Craig Wasson and Alice Krige
Review by: Feind Gottes
The Gist: Four elderly men are haunted by a terrible deed in their youth. The ghost of their past returns to take vengeance on the next generation who stumbles upon the deep dark secret they’ve kept hidden for decades.
The Review (ish): Before I begin I have a couple of confessions to make much like the elderly gentleman who starred in this film. First, I have read many Peter Straub books but I have never read Ghost Story (which released in 1979) which this film is based on. Based on the books of Straub’s I have read I can tell you there are few writers who do horror mystery better than him, I highly recommend his novel simply titled Mystery. Second, this movie is difficult to find without running out to buy the recently released Blu-ray edition which I did not. I saw this film initially sometime in the early to mid-80s and most of this review will be based on that recollection with a little help from videos I’ve used to jog my memory though I will likely pick up the Blu-ray when I have the opportunity. Also, I personally do not believe in ghosts and rarely find movies involving ghosts scary with Poltergeist (1982) being the main exception. That’s my confession so now you’re all priests – STOP TOUCHING LITTLE BOYS!!! Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Burnt Offerings (1976)
There is something about horror movies of the 1970s that I love. Maybe it’s the pre-social media age. There’re no cell phones, no cable TV, no internet, not even compact discs or home computers. The time is one of simplicity. Or so it would seem. I imagine without all our modern distractions, there is more focus on what lies beneath. It was also a time of mystery. Putting a man on the moon was only something, at the time, that we’d just been able to accomplish. We simply knew less. Religion was much more accepted and widespread. Science was growing but it was still looked at as part fantasy. Less knowledge about how the world and the universe worked meant there was more room for our imaginations to wander in the dark void.
Burnt Offerings is based off a novel with the same name published in 1973 by Robert Marasco. Director/producer Dan Curtis co-wrote the screenplay with author William F. Nolan. Curtis was mostly a TV movie guy but does a wonderful job taking up the big chair for Burnt Offerings. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Marsh (2006)
“You can bury the past… but sometimes the past won’t stay buried.”
“The Marsh” (2006) opens with the main character, Claire Holloway (Gabrielle Anwar), who is a stressed children’s book writer, reading to children in a book store, but quickly follows with a more ominous and action-oriented beginning. Images and sounds from an eerie marsh, followed by screaming, are taken in by our senses as the front credits roll. Soon, we realize we are in Claire’s nightmare from which she awakes in a doctor’s office. It seems she isn’t taking her medication and the doctor tells her “something” is evolving. This makes us wonder if she has anxiety, mental health disorder, trouble sleeping, or what? She seems stressed so in the beginning I was going with anxiety. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Supernatural (1933)
One of my buddies on Facebook had been pestering me for years to give Supernatural (1933) a watch. Seeing how we’re in the thralls of March Madness, I thought what better time than now. I am after all a fan of classic cinema, especially classic horror. While produced by Paramount Productions, Universal Studios had been sold the rights in 1958. Directed by Victor Halperin, who just one year prior directed White Zombie (1932), a mildly successful release with audiences of the Great Depression, Supernatural was not as revered and today has become a somewhat obscure and hard to find film. In fact, if you Google Supernatural you’ll only find images of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padaleski in the hit CW show of the same title. Needless to say, Supernatural, the 1933 movie, was hard to track down for screening. But by some miracle of modern streaming devices, I was able to procure a copy. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Blair Witch (2016)
Starring: Callie Hernandez, James Allen McCune, Valorie Curry, Wes Robinson, Corbin Reid, and Brandon Scott
Written By: Simon Barrett
Directed By: Adam Wingard
Synopsis: After what appears to be leaked footage dating back to when his sister went missing, James and a few of his friends enter the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the truth surrounding her disappearance.
At least once per decade, a film comes out that redefines the genre, sending it in a new direction. In the 90’s, we had a renaissance with meta horror found in the late Wes Craven’s 1996 classic- Scream. A mere three years later the genre would change yet again with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Co-Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick helped the genre shift and their little indie film became one of the pioneers of the found-footage sub-genre. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Released in June, 1973, The Legend of Hell House hit unsuspecting theatergoers with a blast. Based on the Richard Matheson novel, Hell House, (and adapted to the screen by Matheson himself) Legend of Hell House was helmed by John Hough. Hough’s credits after Hell House include a slew of notable horror films (The Incubus, Watcher in the Woods, American Gothic) as well as the Disney Witch Mountain franchise.
The story: Physicist Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) and his wife, Gayle (An Barrett) lead two mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, Emeric Belasco, a 6’ 5”serial killer dubbed the “Roaring Giant”. This is done at the direction of eccentric millionaire, Mr. Deutch (Roland Culver). Deutch is terminally-ill and obsessed with discovering survival after death. The Belasco House, the “Mountain Everest of haunted houses”, has yet to be refuted. Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: FeardotCom (2002)
In 2002, horror was figuring out the next step in its evolution. The ’90s had ended on a high note, with The Sixth Sense re-establishing slow-burn ghost stories as financially viable, and The Blair Witch Project bringing found footage to the masses in a way the then-cult stomach-churner Cannibal Holocaust never could. At that point, Dark Castle had brought a few inventive re-imaginings of William Castle films to a new generation of horror viewer, while the remake floodgates wouldn’t be kicked open proper until 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was also two years before Saw (allegedly) captured the zeitgeist of the George W. Bush era, turning notions of torture into a financially lucrative extension of the genre.
2002 did show inklings, however, of where mainstream horror might go. In a nod to the relative subtlety and simplicity of The Sixth Sense, and the “something’s out there” (but not necessarily seen) notion of The Blair Witch Project, Dreamworks mined a hit from Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (itself a remake of Japan’s Ringu). Continue Reading
Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
As I look out my window, the view is an obstruction of what looks like a white sandstorm in the trees. Barren forest, ominous setting, and a perfect time to write a horror film review of the gothic, supernatural variety. Warm, indoors writing of it, I mean! Pull up a chair by the fireplace and join me.
As most people know by now, my sense of humor often carries over into my writing and reviews, so fair warning since I’m reviewing the 1999 horror film, “Sleepy Hollow.” And really, what can one expect with a movie like this starring the king of dramatic over-emphasis, Johnny Depp? However, I will try to be humorous as well as critical, so let’s start over.
“Sleepy Hollow” is a film directed by Tim Burton and I am a huge fan of this director. Consider he’s using the source material of one of my favorite classic horror authors Washington Irving, and one of my favorite short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” what’s not to like? I really enjoyed the show that was on television a few years back as well, but in 1999, just having my first baby, I wasn’t really getting out to the theaters. Somehow, though I always wanted to watch it, I just never did. Now, almost twenty years later, the movie didn’t feel old at all, due to the cinematography, decent special effects, and cast of stellar supporting actors (not to mention how young Depp looks). I’m sure the time period the movie is set in (the 1800s) also helps with that. At any rate, I mean I didn’t feel I was watching a cheesy ‘80s or ‘90s movie of my youth. Continue Reading