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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘The Void’ (2016)

A Void of Strong Women Characters

Let me just start out by saying, there was a LOT about this movie that was testing my fucking patience. It really prayed on “Weaker Sex Syndrome” far too often, and for a hot second, I could swear they were doing “Gladiator Moments.” There was scene after scene of what seemed like completely unrelated artsy bullshit. Thank god I was wrong about that because I really wanted to like this movie just from the premise.

In the end, the random moments of esoteric bullshit did get tied in nicely and the movie almost (note that’s ALMOST) redeemed the “Weaker Sex Syndrome.” I guess I have to give them credit for trying, as it’s more than most in the industry do these days.

But here’s the thing. There are very few Lovecraftian movies that did the feel of the genre justice without getting into the artsy silent films. There was YellowBrickRoadIn the Mouth of MadnessColor from the Dark, and, of course Lord of Illusions (LOI), which this movie very much reminded me of. The one thing that LOI had that this didn’t was the mystery aspect of Lovecraft. The search for truth leading to the discovery of madness. That’s sort of essential to the Lovecraft genre and The Void picks up after that pretty much already over and done with.

Still this movie had amazing atmosphere, a storyline that was coherent, which is hard for this genre, character development that was somewhat decent, and acting that was pretty good, even for horror… so why did I almost stop watching?

SPOILERS!!!

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST THE IRRATIONAL WOMEN IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE!!! They cast all the female roles in this movie pretty much just to drive the plot by being completely fucking useless or even worse, idiotic. If it wasn’t the nurse’s assistant breaking down into hysterics every five fucking minutes, it was the headstrong independent woman who you KNOW is gonna Lois Lane herself into being the damsel in fucking distress. Then there’s the country bumpkin pregnant girl who is only in this movie to give birth to a tentacle beast. Fucking seriously? Where are my Ripleys? Where are my Black Widows? Where are the women at? You know? The real women with active grey matter who drive the plot by being a part of the story, not by being fucking “McGuffins With Legs.”

And the fucking main character. Jesus fucking Christ, it’s like he spends the first fucking 20 minutes either unconscious or getting the shit kicked out of him. Isn’t he supposed to be a fucking cop? I mean, I get that they wanted him to be portrayed as a dweeb, but FUCK. Every five minutes for the first 20 minutes, he either gets knocked the fuck out or faints. Look, he had to have some kind of training, right? Self-defense? Boxing? How the fuck did this guy even become a cop?!

So why did I like this movie? Fuck man, I’m not even sure. The beginning is rough and poorly conceived, but the rest is so captivating.

It’s not just the fact it’s a creature feature with tentacle beasts. I do love a good creature feature, but there was more in this. Now, as you can tell by me complaining about the three “McGuffins With Legs,” a lot of the story is forced. But it always leaves just enough for intrigue. You can’t just ignore the fact that the movie starts off with a cult surrounding a hospital, trapping everyone inside and just slowly erodes from there. You find out quickly that this all has something to do with the bumpkin’s baby. It starts out as s simple struggle for survival, but then the mystery starts to kick in.

Once you get through the bullshit, and the bullshit is livable, it’s actually amazing.

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Review: Clive Barker’s ‘Books of Blood’

When Clive Barker’s Books of Blood began their publication in 1984, it would be fair to say that Stephen King had already reinvented horror as a popular genre. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, King had published more than a dozen novels. Still, even Stephen King himself viewed the publication of the Books as a watershed moment for horror: it was the Books of Blood that led King to famously call Clive Barker “the future of horror.”
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‘Possum,’ ‘Mercy Black,’ and Family Trauma in Horror

To hear Vice’s Ryan Bradford tell it, “Terrifying Family Trauma Is the New Thing in Horror.”

I would dispute that family trauma is a “new thing” in horror, something Bradford himself admits, but his main thesis holds up – namely, that 2018 was marked, in films like the excellent Hereditary and shows like Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block, Sharp Objects, and Haunting of Hill House, by stories of family trauma manifested in horrific and terrifying ways. Continue reading ‘Possum,’ ‘Mercy Black,’ and Family Trauma in Horror

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Black Mountain Side’ (2014)

Kicking off the release of “In the Shadow of the Mountains” by Reed Alexander, one of the many movies that inspired it.  Interestingly enough this movie was inspired by another fantastic work of horror fictions call “At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Can a movie be too intellectual to be scary?

This was a damn good movie.  It’s definitely not for everyone.  I’m not sure what kind of crowd this would appeal to but it hit all my buttons.  It was just such an intelligent movie.  The characters, step by step, logically addressed the illogical.  It’s based on Lovecraft’s “The Mountains of Madness.” It doesn’t follow the actual story of H. P. Lovecraft, but rather supposes what happened before “The Mountains of Madness” kicks off.

But can I recommend this to Lovecraft fans?  It has some of the feel of Lovecraft, but really is a lot more like John Carpenter’s The Thing in stylization.  One could argue that John Carpenter had a Lovecraftian style, but Lovecraft was more subtle, J. C. was pretty in your face.  But it doesn’t have the same brutality as J. C., so can I recommend it to fans of The Thing?

I could almost recommend this movie to fans of anthropology.  Of course the anthropological discoveries are all fake, but they go over them in such amazing detail.  The archaeology builds the mythos so deeply you can almost believe it.  It does get a little strenuous sometimes but it really pulls you into the setting.  It gives it such amazing life.

The acting is fantastic and brilliantly thought out.  When the writer and the actors connect like this, it make for the best movies.  Every reaction is in step with what makes the most sense.  The story just flows out of the actors naturally.  A little too naturally at times.  Dialog turns into needless banter occasionally, but for the most part is really solid.  And the atmosphere.  Man, isolationism is really the strongest setting for any horror.  I mean, it’s easy, but also easy to fuck up.  The wrong lighting, the wrong filters, and a set that’s supposed to feel a million miles from civilization instead feels next door to a major metropolitan area.  But this movie was so dark.  I’ve been talking about this in some of my recent reviews.  It’s dark to the point you have to turn the lights out just to see the screen.  The darkness feels alive.

So, who do I recommend this movie too?  I think it’s a must see for Horror Heads.  It’s certainly required viewing for fans of Lovecraft and J.C.  But I think the people who would be the best target audience are those ancient aliens nuts.

SPOILERS!!!

This movie promised me parasitic cephalopods!  I WANT MY FUCKING CEPHALOPODS!  What do I get instead?  A couple undulating tumors.  Now, don’t get me wrong, creepy rolling tumors are cool, but only because something is supposed to pop out of them.  The characters talk about this mutagenic infection that’s causing tumors which turn into cephalopods, but you never get to see one.  How fucking cool would that have been?  A corpse bursting into dozens of squirming octopus like critters.  That’s the kind of shit horror fans live for.  Maybe they didn’t have the budget?  It was just a disappointment.

They did have fun with the crew’s slow descent into madness.  That’s what this movie was really all about.  Though I’m not sure if slow is the right word.  It’s not fast but the curve is pretty steep.  First a dead cat, then the work crew disappear, then a guy vomits black ichor.  The next thing you know, they’re hacking off a guys arm because something is moving around under the skin, and another character is talking to some strange looking anthropomorphic dear creature from the darkness.  It starts off as a slowly building simmer that last for such a long time, but then suddenly and violently, shit hits the fan.

I don’t understand the motivations of the dear creature.  You get the feeling that it’s trying to propagate the spread of it’s cephalopod tumors, but then it’s constantly having the crew do thing counteractive to the success of the spread.  It infects a guy then has another guy kill him.  Then it doesn’t try to infect anyone else, it just starts convincing them to kill each other.  So, it doesn’t want worshipers, it doesn’t want to successfully spread the parasites.  What the fuck does it want?  It tells the crew that it’s not bound to the dig site, but it doesn’t seem interested in leaving to spread it’s infection.  So what the fuck is it doing?  Pretty much just admiring the stars and brutally murdering any dumb bastard that wanders by.

The ending is actually kinda disappointing, but it did do one thing right.  Say it with me now, in your best Morbo impersonation! “THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS!!!” I mean, if this is supposed to be the incident before “The Mountains of Madness,” then no one can survive.  Two guys effectively die from the infection, most of the rest wind up killing each other, but the last guy is what bothered me.  The last guy dies by getting stuck in a bear trap.  Really?  Is that all?  We’re just going to have it end with some guy dying of bad luck?  That’s just fucking lame.

But yes, I do recommend this movie.  It’s not just good, it’s fascinating.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider stopping by Horror.Media and donating by hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

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New reviews posted Thursday, here on Madness Heart!

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Reed Alexander’s Review of ‘The Ruins’ (2008)

Then Something Eats Your Face…

You know, I don’t know why I like this movie so much.  Maybe because it’s not just horror, but survival horror.  It has that “brink of madness, human limits tested, sense of dread” that I love so much about zombie movies (when they’re done right).  Kind of like The Road.  That wasn’t horror, but it’s just an epic long, grueling march, right into the grave. It’s just fucking brutal. *cue Nathan Explosion*

Continue reading Reed Alexander’s Review of ‘The Ruins’ (2008)

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Pet Sematary’ (2019)

And the Award for Creepiest Child Actress Goes to…

Jesus fucking Christ, Jete’ Laurence is fucking creepy. Can we take a minute to appreciate, that at no point, did she fuck this role up with a Silent Hillmoment? That speaks volumes for her talent as a little actress. Hope she carries it.

Speaking of acting, what a fantastic fucking cast. John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, fucking forget about it. Those two alone could have carried this movie with their performance. Throw in Jete’, and it’s just acting overkill.

So the lingering question, that I’m sure has been on all you filthy mutant’s fucking minds… Is it worth the remake? Is it better? Well, no, not better, just different. Look, we can’t talk about this movie without bringing up the original, and we can’t talk about the original, without admitting to ourselves that it was kind of fucking cheese. Look, the original has a soft spot in my heart (that could be necrosis), but it was cheesy as fuck. The acting was cheese, the atmosphere was cheesy, shit, the creepy little Gage was kinda cheesy. But, that’s why we loved it. It was cheesy, creepy, and fun as all fucking hell.

This one was just more serious, and that’s where it is both better but also kind of fails to be better. Serious is good, if you can really nail it home.  Now, as mentioned before, the acting was just spectacular and really fucking drives it home. The dialog was also just fantastic and the emoting by the actors in the dialog was fucking gripping. However, it was a bit over the top. It was like everyone was just fucking crying all the damn time and it did get a bit draining.

The atmosphere, for the most part, was fucking solid. The problem is, when they breach the barrier into the Wendigo swamps, it gets really fucking cartoonish. Here’s the thing, they must have known they fucked it up too. If you saw the previews, you’ll notice the swamps look gritty, dark, and forbidding. But, when you watch the movie, they’re just fucking cartoonish. They don’t feel real, or even surreal, they just feel fake.

What pisses me off about this is how solid, real, and fucking creepy everything else feels, but then you get to the swamps and it’s like they phoned it the fuck in. Now, this isn’t the only thing they fucked up, but I can’t get into the rest outside the spoilers. Here’s the thing, I mentioned in an interview with Madness Heart Press, that the directors were little known and I was really familiar with anything under their belt. Frankly, they were too green and they made some rookie mistakes. 

So, is it better than the original? No, it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. Is it worth watching? Yeah, I highly recommend this to general audiences. There’s enough good movie here for even casual viewers to enjoy. Not a must watch by any means, but definitely worth watching if you give it a chance.

SPOILERS!!!

I’m not sure if the motivation of Victor Pascow really tracks. Also, does “black guy dies first” count if the actor gets to live on as a ghost? I mean, they gave Obssa Ahmed plenty of screen time, but why have a black actor if you just pigeon hole the guy into the same ol’ horror stereotype. And this is the second place they phoned it in. Not by killing him, but by giving him shit dialog and crappy FX. This was the second thing that felt cartoony in this movie. It’s like they didn’t even try with the FX. Worse, it was practical FX, and that’s not something a major Hollywood production has any excuse fucking up. It’s a rookie mistake, once again proving the directors just weren’t ready.

You know what I did appreciate in this remake that I feel was missing in the original? They really got solidly into the motivations of each character. While Jud from the original was just like, “Every kid should have their animal raised from the dead at least once in their life,” this Jud was like, “I wanted to make the kid happy, but it plays on your emotions, calling you back, using it against you.” Now that’s really deep stuff. Not to mention they just layer on the history with Rachel Creed’s sister. And, MY FUCKING GOD, that is jut some brutal portrayal of abuse. It got me straight up shook. Good body horror too with the FX on her sister. So, please fucking explain to me how they got that right, but fucked up Victor Pascow?

All in all, outside of its failings, it was a pretty solid movie and I’d recommend it to anyone.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider stopping by Horror.Media and donating by hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

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New reviews posted Wednesday, here on Madness Heart!

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of “Splinter” (2008)

Not Just Another Zombie Flick

Kicking off body horror month in celebration for Madness Heart Press’s release of “Trigger Warning,” a Body Horror Anthology.  We begin with an excellent and little know body horror film called Splinter.

Forget the 30-Minute Rule, this movie is face-first in the action just about a minute and a half in.  Mr. Wilkins (director), I could fucking kiss you… This movie drops you right into the middle of the plot, and expects you to figure shit out like an adult.  No expositions, no god damn character building; 90 seconds in and there’s mutant roadkill eating a gas station attendant.  Another 10 minutes to introduce the four victims—and they pretty much just introduce them—and wham, mutant gas station attendant eats one of them.  Not really a spoiler, you’ll figure out who’s going first pretty quickly.

Now really, my only problem with this movie is that it’s pretty much just a generic zombie flick at first.  That’s okay, but I’m just bored with fucking zombies.  Don’t get me wrong, still love them, still love the classics, still go to zombie crawls in my local city, but it’s just been so fucking overdone.  There’s just no new material to throw at the genre.  The horror industry needs to give it a rest for a while, like it did with werewolves before The Howling was released.

So, at first I was a little displeased with what I got, as it seemed to be a generic zombie movie.  It made up for that assumption later, but at first that’s all you get.  The acting was pretty good, and pretty good for movies in general, not just good for horror. The characters were well developed and not too tropey. The atmosphere was pretty fucking dark for a movie that takes place in a gas station.  Yeah, even if this movie didn’t get playful with the generic zombie movie at the end, it would have still been okay.

SPOILERS!!!

So, a while back I complained that Last Days on Mars was just ZOMBIES IN SPACE!  My biggest complaint is that they  didn’t do anything with the idea of a mutative virus infecting the crew of a base on Mars.  Generic zombies, in a generic isolationist setting, and the only thing special about it, is that it takes place on Mars.  Big fucking deal… This movie, however, went full Cronenberg with it’s mutant zombies.  As the zombies fed, they sort of just piled their pickings into a mass.  At the end, one of which was a collection of limbs, heads, and bones.  There were several others that were just leftover bits crawling around.  While it didn’t have the intelligence or mimicking capacity of John Carpenter’s Thing, it did have the same basic organic dynamics.  This organism was just more primitive.  It hunted by heat and used any means of mobility it could create to fling itself at that source of heat.

I mean, there were some problems with this, of course.   Such as, why it didn’t instinctively attack both the cars.  It attacked the one that was overheating first, sure, but the other one had just been running, and it pretty much just ignores it.  If the organism goes after the hottest body around, why didn’t it keep attacking the fireworks and instead go after the one fellow once his body temperature started to rise?  I mean, these are the sorts of things I nitpick about, but it doesn’t really detract from the movie. There are a few really brutal scenes devoted to the organism that shows it slowly taking over one of the victims arms.  At one point, just by twitching itself around, it snaps his finger.  You think that’s bad, but then at another point the fucking thing breaks his arm twice from the inside, forcing them to amputate it with a box cutter and a cinder block.   Fuck me, that was rough.

Above all, I can appreciate this movie for one thing: it lets the story happen.  It never drags the plot kicking and screaming, the characters flow naturally with the story—some of the suspense was a little forced, but no one’s perfect. Yeah, overall it’s a pretty good movie.  I highly recommend it.

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Us’ (2019)


If you met yourself, would you like what you see?

Jordan Peele is hands down the new Master of Horror and I can’t wait to see his take on The Twilight Zone when it airs.

I should mention, I’m easily bored by home invasion movies.  Regardless of the sociopolitical undertones of movie like The Purge, or the feminist undertones of Hush, I simply couldn’t get into the stories.  Home invasion always smacks of silly upper-class privileged fear mongering, regardless of how it was spun.  So, regardless of the fact, there’s clearly some kind of supernatural overtone to this movie, I was still worried it was gonna be just another home invasion movie.  There has also been a huge hype machine behind Jordan Peele since Get Out and I was worried this couldn’t live up to the expectations.

I have to say, not only was I not let down, Us and Get Out have simply set a new standard of horror.

Before we get into that, let me just be clear, that there are some deeper sociopolitical undertones to this movie, but I’m not going to make some embarrassing attempt to “whitesplain” something I don’t understand.

First thing’s first.  Bravo on the fucking acting.  I can’t say it was Oscar material, but who fucking cares.  The Oscars are an antiquated, racist circle jerk that has more to do with bribery than talent.  Now, the acting wasn’t perfect at first.  You could tell, the lead female played by Lupita Nyong’o was struggling a little to split her head between two characters.  Not a spoiler.  She doesn’t have a twin so she had to play the female lead and the lead female antagonist.  But GOD DAMN when she finally puts the pieces together.  Her chemistry with her own damn self is just fantastic.  You really believe there are two of her.

The atmosphere was palpable.  Yes it’s dark, yes it’s gritty, but it feels so real.  It’s like they didn’t dress the set, they just filmed as is.  It felt so right, it could have easily been a ‘Shaky Camera’ movie that was just shot with incredibly expensive digital recording equipment.

The Story is easy enough to follow but it’s deep and clearly layered.  Everything means something, and it will leave you agonizing as to what it’s all about.  There’s a twist ending, not going to spoil that, but the clues were subtle but fair and brilliantly hidden.  I did guess it, but not because it’s obvious, rather because I’m a horror writer and I figured Peele would do the same thing I would.

There was one practical FX where I feel they phoned it in.  It’s not bad, it just feels like they could’ve done more.  I’m talking specifically about the young boy’s evil twin and how the lower half of his face is fucked up.  Again, not a spoiler, they show you in the previews.  I feel like it wasn’t powerful enough or a stark enough contrast.

I am calling this a must watch.  General audiences will appreciate this movie.  I know it’s going on my top 15, at least, but I’m not sure where.

DON’T READ THE SPOILERS UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN IT!


SPOILERS!!!

This is not just one family being tormented by weird doppelgangers.  This is a straight up invasion, body snatchers style.  I recently did a podcast with Madness Heart Press, where I mentioned I was excited to see what the mythos behind these doppelgangers was.  Were they demons, classical changelings, evil twins from another dimension?  All of these guesses hinged on the fact that I thought it was just one family being attacked.  But it’s apparently the whole damn country, or at least all of CA.  These doppelgangers are actually clones from a government experiment and are somehow psychically connected to their original counterpart.  The idea was to control the masses using the connection to their clones, but it failed.  The clones could only feel what the originals felt, while the originals were blissfully unaware.

The clones feel uncontrollably compelled to do what the originals do except they’re lost and confused almost animalistic.  They feel forced to breed with the same people and have identical children but without the help or direction of society.  For instance, Lupita Nyong’o’s character had to have a c-section for her boy, but the ‘evil’ clone had to give herself a c-section after being forced to have a child with the evil clone husband because she felt like she had to.

There are problems with this, however.  There are literally thousands of clones called ‘The Tethered.’  They were originally tended by clinical staff, but when abandoned, how the fuck did they survive?  One lady performing her own c-section is sorta believable, but the infant mortality should have been ridiculously high, not to mention their life expectancy tragically low.  This isn’t the only obvious problem, it’s just the biggest glaring one.  I can’t get into the other big obvious problems without ruining the twist, and I’m not going to.  I want you to watch this movie!

Go watch this movie!

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Dark Waters’ (1994)

Nuns are fucking scary…

The opening of this movie sets the bar so low, you don’t expect much of this movie. That makes it pleasantly surprising that the rest of the movie is pretty good. Of course, the rest of this movie is still begging to be riffed, but it’s still a pretty good movie. The ending is a bit predictable, the practical FX are absolute garbage, and the rubber monster is downright silly, but everything else is okay.

The acting is better than can normally be expected for horror. Yeah, that’s not amazing or anything, but it’s not bad. The atmosphere is fantastic. They really pulled out all the stops on the set. I don’t know where they filmed, but it was pretty cool. It feels like there’s miles of underground chambers on the island. I think this was likely filmed on location, and if it wasn’t, the effort they put in to erecting the set is mindblowing.

The story was solid. As I said before, it was a bit predictable, but that’s not a huge problem. It’s angled as a Lovecraftian mystery, so most of it is making subtle discoveries till the end. I guess that means the ending isn’t a twist, but they should have made the clues a little more difficult to interpret. I pretty much had the whole movie figured out by the halfway mark. Again, not a total dealbreaker, but a four-year-old could have figured it out.

I really can recommend this. Keep in mind, it’s old and a bit silly, but it’s not bad and that’s enough. I REALLY recommend it for riffers. This shit was riffing gold!

SPOILERS!!!

The nun, Sarah, is the female lead’s sister. She’s working for an ancient demon to trick her sister back to the island, so the two of them can summon the demon. Everything starts when one of Sarah’s disciples tries to steal the pieces to an evil tablet and gets murdered by one of the nuns protecting it. So, of course, you think the nuns are this evil cult who worships this weird idol and practices unholy pagan rituals, but as it turns out, they’re actually zealot defenders, trying to prevent this ancient horror from getting loose.

Of course, that’s not the way their initially presented in the movie. They brutally murder Sarah’s friend, they try again and again to kill the female lead, they do all these weird creepy things, and then they burn down the village near their monastery and kill all the villagers. The movie does a pretty solid job of making them seem like the antagonists, but they’re actually the good guys—sorta.

I feel like this all could have been prevented if they just told the female lead to get lost. It’s their fucking island, they could just tell her to take the proverbial piss.

I also don’t understand why the nuns let the villagers live. The villagers are a part of this cult to summon the ancient horror, so why didn’t the nuns just murder all of them decades ago.

But yeah, Sarah is trying to use her sister to summon this demon. None of it is hard to figure out. You find out the lead’s mother never died, there’s all these missing memories from her childhood, she finds a photo of her and her sister when they were children, and she has a ton of flashbacks implicating her in the cult in some way. It’s kinda obvious.

It is fun and riffable though, so give it a shot.

If you like Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, consider stopping by Horror.Media and donating by hitting the ‘Tip’ button. You can also support Reed by sharing his reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

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New reviews posted Wednesday, here on Madness Heart!