150 posts categorized "Horror"

May 20, 2016


The-Neon-DemonCannes, France —All high-contrast shiny surfaces and fetishized sensual (albeit grotesque) fantasy, Nicholas Winding Refn’s ultra slick Neon Demon isn’t the redemption he was looking for in Cannes (we'd all rather forget "Only God Forgives"). Still, the abstract horror film is an extravagant guilty pleasure in the vein of Dario Argento at his best.

The film's badass techno soundtrack (composed by Cliff Martinez) is to die for, and characters do.

Elle Fanning is divine as an underage model who gets in way over her all-too-lovely head. As we know from movies like "The Player," bad things happen in Pasadena. Even worse things happen in L.A. proper.

The most infuriating thing about this flawed picture is how easily Refn could have corrected plot holes that even a cursory script polish could have addressed.


There's 90% of a story here. In interviews, Refn has overreached by comparing himself to Lars Von Trier, and said that Von Trier is over the hill. Clearly, Refn needs to pick his battles better since he has yet to make a film half as rigorous as even Von Trier's weakest efforts.

"The Neon Demon" is cool in its minimalist form, but Nicholas Winding Refn still has a lot of serious woodshedding to do. In the meantime, drink something sticky and watch "The Neon Demon" for its delectable visual style and detached sense of irony. Oh, and see it for its instant-cult-status-approved scene of lesbian necrophilia with Jena Malone on top.



Rated R. 117 mins. (B-) (Three Stars — out of five / no halves)

Cannes 69 Complete from Cole Smithey on Vimeo.

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May 07, 2016


Green-room-poster“Green Room” is white-supremacy-exploitation-lite done up as a horror movie. Attack dogs come gratis. Oh, what bloody work they can do on someone’s throat.

Using an outdated hardcore punk trope, whereby a [obviously] white hardcore band “Ain’t Rights,” (with a badass Jewish girl member played by Alia Shawkat) in their mid-20s, play an ill-fated gig at a remote neo-Nazi bar staffed with skinheads. The band plays a set that necessarily includes a horrible version of The Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” (it would been much hotter if the band were made up of a Muslim, a Black, a White a Jew, a Latina, and a transgendered character). That would have made for ultimate exploitation explosion.

But I digress. Senior members wear red laces in their hi-rise boots. Patrick Stewart is chilling as Darcy, the racist group’s cold-blooded leader.

The biggest problem with writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s is redundancy over resonance. By not bothering to include any characters of color, the film suffers from redundancies where resonance should be.

I have to bust the movie on one key plot point. Spoiler alert. Look away, or keep reading. The band’s bass player Pat (Anton Yelchin) gets his hand cut — badly cut, but in ancient horror-movie fashion, he carries on with little trouble. I say, in modern day cinema, if you’re going to maim a character, let’s see how a person would behave authentically, under those conditions.


“Green Room” is harrowing, but it lacks humor. Fans of extreme violence and gore will be sated. The picture fails to editorialize (cinematically or allegorically) on white racism. I recommend David Wnendy’s great film “Combat Girls,” about a 20-year-old racist German girl. The movie is every bit as distressing as “Green Room,” but has something authentic to say thematically.


Rated R. 94 mins. (B-) (Two Stars — out of five / no halves. 

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April 26, 2015


Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This film’s intimidating title alone was enough to keep weak-kneed audiences away from cinemas and drive-ins back in 1974 when filmmaker Tobe Hooper released what was, at the time, the most intense horror movie ever made. In the United Kingdom, the picture was banned on principle alone. Rumors of the film’s notorious chainsaw-wielding Leatherface character, who impales a young woman on a meat hook, a scene revealed in the movie’s promo poster, spread quickly. Audiences were afraid of how badly they might be scared – and they had good reason.   

If Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was the premiere slasher movie, Hooper’s film followed that film’s thread to its logical arc of exploitation. Tobe Hooper’s limited budget hardly encumbered the visionary filmmaker’s ability to wring psychological tension from the same pool of inspiration that Hitchcock had used for “Psycho,” namely the notorious Wisconsin grave robber and murderer Ed Gein.

Hooper baited his film’s hook with a time-honored exploitation trope about the picture being based on a “tragedy” that “befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin.” There are still plenty of people who believe that the murders we witness onscreen are based on real-life killings; they are not.   


Over a black screen we hear the sound of a shovel digging. Camera flashes reveal short visions of fresh corpses. A news broadcast tells of Texas grave robberies. The camera pans down the body of a ripe cadaver holding the head of another while propped up on a tombstone. Dry dust blows across the macabre scene. We are firmly inside an American gothic atmosphere of Grand Guignol gore. A dead bloody armadillo lies facing up on a Texas road.  

Texas-chain-saw-massacreThe story’s setup has been ripped off so many times that it now seems rote, but remember, no one had seen anything like it at the time. A group of five white hippie types (three guys and two braless girls) pull their Ford van to the side of the road to allow their wheelchair-bound member Franklin to pee into a coffee can. A big rig rolls by and Franklin goes spilling down the hillside. Vulnerabilities lurk. The group is on their way to visit Franklin’s and his sister Sally’s grandfather’s grave to make sure it isn’t a victim of one of the spate of grave robberies. Driving past a slaughterhouse delivers a pungent stench that disgusts the quintet. Picking up a hitchhiker backfires immediately when the facially disfigured young man passes around snapshots of slaughtered cows before cutting himself with a pocketknife. He soon cuts Franklin’s arm before the group evict him from the van. 

Soon the five are separated while visiting grandpa Hardesty’s disused family home. Little does the group realize that they are next door to the uncaptured [family of] grave robbers, who also happen to be bloodthirsty killers. 

Texas-chainsaw-massacreTobe Hooper uses an arsenal of filmic techniques, lighting designs, while an increasingly noisy soundscape (of screams and chainsaw sounds) ratchets up the fear and suspense to a heart-palpitating rhythm of horrific discord. Breathtaking Dutch angles and extreme close-ups of images like bones and eyeballs underscore a gothic dinner table scene that takes the cake for sly social commentary and black humor. No matter how many filmmakers have attempted to recreate the all-out insanity of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” very few have come close.   

Rated R. 83 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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