HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL (2018)

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THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Field Guide To Evil is an anthology flick that has folktales from around the world presented by directors from those countries. It’s simply stories, told from the title book, whose pages we flip through between these tales of the bizarre and the macabre. A simple set-up to bring to life eight horror stories of various styles and from a diverse selection of cultures.

As a collection of stories from around the world, each told by different filmmakers in their own style, Field Guide works very well together as a whole and the chosen stories all blend together nicely. Most take place in days of old though there are a few contemporary tales to chill ones bones. We get Die Trud from Austria and filmmakers Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy), a tale about a vengeful entity who stalks sinners. Turkey’s Can Evrenol (Baskin, Housewife) directs Al Karisi about a demonic entity that preys on newborns. From Poland comes The Kindler and The Virgin directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska about a man enchanted by a witch. From America comes Calvin (V/H/S) Reeder’s The Melon Heads about a rural North American urban legend come grotesquely to life. From Greece comes What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan and director Yannis Veslemes answers that question. The Palace of Horrors comes from India by way of filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia and tells of a castle filled with nightmarish creatures. From Germany and filmmaker Katrin Gebbe comes A Nocturnal Breath, a story of a demonic entity and possession. The final tale is the most fairytale-like, Cobblers’ Lot from Hungary and director Peter Strickland, which tells of two shoemaker brothers who are both in love with the same princess…obviously, it doesn’t end well. The stories are all atmospheric and have their own unique visual style with Die Trud, Al Karisi, A Nocturnal Breath and Cobbler’s Lot being the most effective. The Melon Heads comes up the weakest, as it’s a thin story, loosely based on folk tales about beings said to roam the woods and the contemporary American setting doesn’t quite gel with the more old world style settings of the other stories. That being said, it still has it’s disturbing moments. Collectively, the film looks great for a movie that was crowd-funded, the cast all perform their stories well and there is some very heavy gothic imagery in most of the tales. Spooky fun!

In conclusion, this is a very entertaining, spooky and, quality-wise, consistent anthology. The folk stories from around the world make it very intriguing and give it a nice gothic flavor, with the different tales and styles mix very well. Even it’s weakest story still has some disturbing moments, with the best really enchanting and chilling at the same time. A highly recommended movie!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) field guides.

 

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BARE BONES: HOUSEWIFE (2017)

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HOUSEWIFE (2017)

Second film from Baskin writer/director Can Evrenol tells the story of Holly (Clémentine Poidatz), who as a child, witnessed the brutal murder of her sister and father by her mentally disturbed mother (Defne Halman). Now an adult, Holly is married to an author/artist (Ali Aksöz), though is still so haunted by visions of that night, that she can’t use a toilet, which is where she saw her sister drowned. When Holly is introduced to the charismatic leader (David Sakurai) of an apocalyptic cult, the lines between nightmare and reality really start to blur.

As co-written, with Cem Özüduru and directed by Everol, Housewife can be summed up as Lords of Salem meets Hereditary, even though initially released in Turkish cinemas eight months before the latter. The flick shares some of Baskin’s flaws, in that the characters aren’t all that endearing, not even Holly, and there really isn’t much of a narrative story to follow once we get the gruesome set-up. There are some disturbing images and some brutal violence, but it’s not enough to at least keep our attention as did his continually disturbing previous film. In fact it’s kind of dull at times and really doesn’t reach Baskin levels of freakishness until it’s final ten minutes and at that point, it’s too little and too late to save it. Everol can certainly create some unnerving imagery and give one the creeps, but if he ever learns to add some dramatic intensity and emotional involvement to one of his films, he’d really have something. Watchable as a curiosity, but somewhat tedious despite being a scant 82 minutes. Even when it does finally crank things up, it reminds you of other, better movies.

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BASKIN (2015)

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BASKIN (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Baskin is a Turkish horror film from Can Evrenol that is sort of a mix of Hellraiser, Martyrs and Caligula. In essence a family film! Flick has a squad of tough guy cops called in to a remote, rural area as back-up for some sort of investigation in progress. They get into an accident when they arrive and meet some strange locals who lead them to an abandoned police precinct. There they find a lone survivor of the previous squad babbling incoherently and once they investigate into the bowels of the rundown building, the men find themselves literally in a hell on earth that there may be no escape from.

Evrenol directs from a script he co-wrote with Ogulcan Eren Akay, though there really isn’t much of a story as it is just a very basic set-up to the carnage. He does create a very thick and lasting atmosphere of dread from the opening dream sequence and paints his tale of demonic horror with an intense and very disturbing visual style. He also splashes his canvas with gallons of blood and entrails, acts of horrific violence and some ugly sexual perversion, too, just in case you were missing the point. And that’s were this film does stumble, there really doesn’t seem to be much point to this once it’s all over. After over 90 minutes of some very disturbing sights and acts, the film ends as mysteriously as it began. Who are these people that live in the bowels of the abandoned police station? What exactly is their purpose in torture and murder? Did these men somehow bring this on themselves? The ambiguity works to a degree, but it also gives us a bit of a hollow feeling instead of being truly horrified. The film may be disturbing and downright disgusting at times, but it’s never really ever scary and ultimately is much ado about nothing. It does seem like Evrenol doesn’t have much of a goal here other than to present a series of nightmarish sequences, although he does do that very well. The characters are also not all that endearing and some are outright unlikable, nor do we get to know them all that well. Because of this, we aren’t very attached or empathetic to them once they start being savaged. On a production level the gore is really well done and Evrenol’s nightmarish visuals are well captured by Alp Korfali’s lens and accented by a really effective score by Ulas Pakkan. As for the cast, they are obviously Turkish actors unknown to most movie goers outside their native land, but they all were all fine and effective with their parts…which consisted mostly of yelling and being evicerated.

This isn’t a movie you can say you liked in the true sense of the word. It is very effective in many ways, such as the nightmarish atmosphere and some horrific visuals and acts of perversion and violence that chill. On the downside, the characters aren’t all that well-rounded or likable and we don’t get much of a story to go with the gallons of blood. It’s more of a set piece that we should be more emotionally invested in for it to really wow us, but we aren’t. An effective visceral horror, but a little shallow on the emotional investment side.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 creepy frogs.

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