HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NUN (2018)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

bars

THE NUN (2018)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Nun is the latest film in The Conjuring film series now referred to as “The Conjuring Universe”. The film explores the origins of the demonic nun that plagued the Warrens in Conjuring 2 and is a spooky fun entry in a series that, up till now, has taken itself a bit too seriously at times. The story opens in 1952 where a veteran priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is asked by the Vatican to travel to Romania to investigate the suicide of a nun at a remote Abbey. He is asked to bring along young Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who is about to take her vows to join the sisterhood. There they find that the locals think the place is cursed and maybe with good reason as the Abbey is housed in the castle of a duke who used to perform occult ceremonies. Something evil he conjured has been reawakened and now needs a human host to escape. It’s focused on Irene and so she, Burke and a French-Canadian migrant named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), must find a way to send this demon in nun’s clothing (Bonnie Aarons) back to the hell it came from before it releases it’s bad habits upon an unsuspecting world.

Flick is directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) from a script and story by James Wan and Gary Dauberman. Hardy brings loads of atmosphere and some incredibly spooky visuals to the proceedings. The man knows how a Gothic horror should look. He manages some spooky scenes and delivers loads of nods to other movies such as Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, Raimi’s Evil Dead and at times it even evoked the Blind Dead series and obviously, some of the nun themed horrors out of Europe in 70s, like Jess Franco’s The Demons. It’s never truly scary, even if it does play it’s story straight, but it’s fun in that it throws it’s familiar tropes at us fast and furious and mixes and uses them quite well. We get frightened villagers, ominous woods, exorcisms, fog strewn graveyards, re-animated corpses, folks buried alive and more crosses than you can shake at a demonic nun. We do find out who the demon in question is and why it’s here, but other than liking the style or mocking it’s prey, it’s never clear why it prefers to dress like a nun. But with all the spooky goings on, do we really need to know? What the heck…It works. By the rolling of the credits a good time has been had and the film does gives us that vital link to the Warrens that makes the Conjuring connection. After the holy smoke clears we haven’t seen anything new, but are amused by the way Corin Hardy took all the familiar tropes and ran with them…and run with them he does. He also had good support from Maxime Alexandre’s sumptuous cinematography and a really Gothic score by Abel Korzeniowski.

The cast work well, especially young Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene. She portrays well a young woman of the cloth whose faith and strength are tested against something not even The Bible has prepared her for. She’s a good actress much like her older sister Vera Farmiga from The Conjuring films. She makes for a good heroine. Demián Bichir is good as the priest with a past. He has a grizzled demeanor and a gravelly voice which essays a man who has seen a lot in his lifetime and experienced some harsh events. Of course the demon uses those events from his past against him and it makes things interesting. Jonas Bloquet is OK as the French Canadian Maurice or ‘Frenchie’ as he is known to the locals. He has some of the weakest lines and his character disappears for a long stretch, so his character development is the weakest. Rounding out is Bonnie Aarons as our demonic nun Valak, and she is effective under the make-up and CGI, but never appears long enough to really chill us like she should.

Not being the biggest fan of this Conjuring Universe, the general opinion is that they run hot and cold with the original The Conjuring still being the most effective of the lot, with Annabelle: Creation and now The Nun being the more enjoyable spin-offs. The Nun is full of things we’ve seen before, but mixes them well and serves them up at a rapid pace with some real nice atmospheric and visual support from director Corin Hardy. It’s played straight, but one can tell Hardy is having fun throwing all the crosses, headstones, spooks and specters at us and the film is more self aware and a bit less serious than it’s predecessors in this series…and that’s a good thing. Spooky fun.

For those who haven’t seen Corin Hardy’s first film The Hallow, I recommend you check it out! -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 demonic nuns.

 

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

other side of the door

bars

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (2016)

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

Supernatural thriller is a familiar one, but is well made enough to keep one moderately entertained. Story has a couple, Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Michael (Jeremy Sisto), moving to India to base their rare antiquities business. We pick up the story years later where the couple have had two children, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky) and Oliver (Logan Creran) and a horrible car accident put Maria in a position to save only one of them, Lucy…a decision that haunts her continually. Their Indian housekeeper (Suchitra Pillai-Malik) tells Maria of an ancient temple where one can go to speak one last time to the dead. She also warns Maria that no matter what Oliver says, she must not open the temple door to let him in…so, guess what Maria does and guess what happens.

Directed by Johannes Roberts, who co-wrote with Ernest Riera, this is an awfully familiar story filled with the typical clichés that go with such a tale. We have a heartbroken parent, or parents, dabbling in the supernatural to speak or see their lost child one more time and given an exact set of rules to follow…which they break. We saw it in Pet Sematary and even more recently in Wake Wood and it’s the same story with the same results. Johannes Roberts does direct the tale well and does give it some atmosphere, especially making good use of the exotic India locations and folklore. This keeps the film from being dull and even provides some legitimately spooky moments to keep us entertained. It is ultimately routine and forgettable, but to a degree does work well enough considering how often we’ve seen this scenario played out. The FX are solid and seem to use prosthetics often and the overall production looks good with some spooky cinematography by Maxime Alexandre (Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac remake) and an equally atmospheric score by Joseph Bishara.

It’s got a good cast, too. Lead Callies is very sympathetic as Maria. She strongly portrays the woman’s guilt over having to make a choice between her children and the pain it puts her through every day. It also makes us tolerant of her acceptance of Oliver’s returned spirit, even when it starts to reveal itself as malevolent. Jeremy Sisto is likable as Michael and is a husband pained to see his wife in such torment. He creates a man trying to keep his family together and be strong for them, yet obviously not sure what to do when his wife begins to believe their son’s spirit has returned and he begins to doubt her sanity. Sofia Rosinsky is surprisingly effective as little Lucy who is the first to feel the presence of Oliver’s spirit, but also the first to feel his wrath. Rounding out is Indian actress Suchitra Pillai-Malik who as Piki provides us with our local folklore exposition and successfully portrays a caring woman who, due to her own life experience, is trying to help the family find peace.

Sure this flick is as familiar, routine and cliché as a mainstream horror can get…but it isn’t all that bad. Director Johannes Roberts gives the film some nice atmosphere, there are a number of spooky scenes, some nicely executed jump scares and a cast that adds a little emotional weight to an oft told story. For a quiet night on the couch and approached with moderate expectations, it’s passes the time without wasting it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 stuffed tigers.

other side of the door rating

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

haute_tension

bars

HIGH TENSION (HAUTE TENSION) (2004)

This French horror film brought director/writer Alexandre Aja to the attention of horror movie fans and an impressive first impression it is. Hight Tension or Haute Tension in it’s native French is a gruesome and intense slasher flick set during one long night of terror for two young women Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Besco) who are pursued by a mysterious and vicious killer. The film opens with the two young girls heading out to Alex’s parents’ (Andrei Finti and Oana Pellea) secluded farmhouse in the French countryside. We already know something is amiss as we cut to the family’s home and see an old beat up truck watching the house from a distance and the occupant (Philippe Nahon) seems to be getting oral sex from a woman but, it actually turns out to be a severed head which he discards when done. Once the girls arrive and settle in, the vehicle and it’s ill-intending driver returns in the dead of night and sends them on a journey into terror and murder that no one may survive. Alexandre Aja crafts a very intense and brutal thriller with some very graphic and effective kills. True to it’s name, there are moments of very intense action and suspense to go along with some very effective gore. Aja knows how to build scares and can shock even jaded horror fans with his explosions of gruesome violence. His visual style adds some nice atmosphere to it all, aided by Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography and he also gives us a horrifying juggernaut in his stocky and sadistic killer. His villain is an effective character despite not knowing much about him. All we know is he is up to murderous no-good and in blood drenched and merciless fashion. The enigma of this human monster adds a nice air of mystery to the proceedings and makes his apparently random attack all the more disturbing. The film is not perfect, Alex’s parents and little brother Tom (Marco Claudiu Pascu) are given little or no character development so, they do appear no more then simple fodder for our killer and despite the horrible things that occur to them it’s hard to be all that empathetic without a better glimpse into who they are. The script by Aja and Grégory Levasseur gives us a disturbing twist in it’s last act that, I will admit, I did not see coming but, once it is revealed, it does pose just as many questions as it answers. But, what came before is a really intense horror and even after, it remains effective, even though taking us in a different direction, and still has dramatic impact, so, we can cut Aja a little slack for trying to throw us a curve. All in all Haute Tension is a vicious and intense horror and even with it’s flaws it is still an impressive debut from the man whose re-imaginings of the horror classics The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha were equally impressive and entertaining. Also has an appearance by Maniac remake director Franck Khalfoun as a gas station convenience store clerk who gets the wrong customer.

3 straight razors!

haute tension rating

bars