Archive for horror film

Smucky’s Favorite Horror Films of 2016

Posted in Best Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2016 by smuckyproductions

2016 was undoubtedly a strange, perhaps frightening year; and when it comes to horror, these qualities are quite promising. This was an incredible year for horror films. Reflecting on my favorites, I am reminded that I missed several of the best; yet I can’t resist writing about the ones I experienced. Thus, Smucky’s favorite horror films of 2016:

(For the record, the ones I regret missing are as follows: Under the Shadow, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring 2, The Untamed, Beyond the Gates, The Monster, Eyes of my Mother, and Evolution.)

9. I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE

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While I haven’t seen February yet (a continually delayed release), I couldn’t resist Oz Perkins’ sophomore feature. This poetic exploration of a haunted house is one of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year. Perkins creates a mist-shrouded and cerebral atmosphere through magnificent imagery, patient revelations and musings on the afterlife that leave a lingering chill. It’s not a film to me, but a sensory immersion.

8. THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE

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Cliches and cheap scares aside – though these have their charms, too – André Øvredal’s return to the director’s chair is one of the year’s most original films. It builds its atmosphere of dread slowly, focusing on the mundane, and revealing its uncanny truths with the relish of a rotten advent calendar. With ingenious set pieces, stomach-churning suspense and an utterly terrifying villain, Jane Doe is a morbid blast.

7. GREEN ROOM

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I almost passed this one up; the premise sounded rehashed. And I have learned my lesson – this film cannot be missed. Jeremy Saulnier crafts both a masterclass in violent mayhem, and a layered character study. When your characters are so nuanced and realistic, it becomes even more disturbing when they die painfully. I will never enter a dive bar again without thinking of this film.

6. DEAREST SISTER

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Mattie Do is one of cinema’s most exciting new voices, and her second film is proof of her talent. This searing sociological ghost story is creepy, gruesome and disturbing, but not just because of the phantoms. Do’s exploration of politics, class, greed and family is rendered with brutal human realism. From a genre perspective, it’s entertaining and scary, but there is far more going on under the layers of flesh.

5. SOUTHBOUND

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Anthologies are tough to pull off; but the team behind Southbound seems to have it down to a science. With four stories that all exist in the same world – a purgatorial desert full of demons – the film adopts an atmosphere of the bizarre that harkens back to The Twilight Zone, while creating a dreadful experience all its own. I was enthralled by the environment, thrilled by the individual tales, and amazed by the film’s ability to end it with cohesion.

4. THE INVITATION

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Karyn Kusama is incredible; and this tense, utterly disturbing film is a reminder of her talent. A simple premise – a dinner party that begins dissolving into a cult gathering – becomes a deep and frightening exploration of grief’s effect on relationships. Being partial to Suburban horror stories and occult thrillers, this is right up my alley; and Kusama renders these elements brilliantly through her attention to suspense and character.

3. THE LOVE WITCH

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I adore this film for many reasons – it’s visually gorgeous and uses old school cinematic techniques with brilliance; it shocked me with its depth and tragedy; and it introduced me to the voice of Anna Biller. This lush, complex and upsetting thesis on objectification and sexuality could only have been crafted by Biller, whose attention to detail alone is mind blowing. As far as I’m concerned, she is one of the premiere auteur voices of the decade.

2. TRASH FIRE

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Not only does Richard Bates’ third film revive authentic Gothic cinema – satirical, pitch-black, and rich in grotesque imagery – but it broke my heart, then mended it (sort of) with its strangely empowering conclusion. Equal parts millennial comedy, familial horror and identity drama, this film surpassed my expectations in every way. It’s also one of the few horror films this year to feature a substantial queer character; let’s have more of that in 2017.

1. THE WITCH

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A standard choice, maybe, but it deserves the number one spot. Robert Eggers meticulously recreates a Puritan-era farm, populates it with characters who come loaded with neuroses and paranoias; then unleashes an utterly frightening supernatural force upon them. It’s unapologetically a horror film, a psychologically realistic one, that leaves the viewer harrowed and invigorated. I haven’t seen anything like it, and probably won’t anytime soon. It also introduces us to a new horror icon; who else has pledged their souls to Black Phillip?

In lieu of a 10th spot, I’ll list a few films that came out last year but I only saw recently; or films that haven’t technically been released yet, such as: the subdued and touching psychological thriller They Look Like People; Baskin, the decade’s coolest descent into Hell; a Lovecraftian effects extravaganza, The Void; and a film that both made me retch and blew my mind, We Are The Flesh.

 

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CHAOS THEORY – First Official Trailer

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Happy Tuesday, my favorite creeps! It’s an exciting day for Smucky’s Grave. The first trailer for our feature film, CHAOS THEORY, has just been released.

Watch the video here:

Once you’ve watched, share and spread the fear! When the video gets to 200 views, we will release the second trailer.

All of this leads up to the film’s premiere on April 14th!

SUBMIT TO THE CHAOS and join us on:
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
INSTAGRAM

Announcement: CHAOS THEORY Release!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Happy Friday! In lieu of a Minute Morbidities episode, we have an even more exciting video: the official CHAOS THEORY film announcement!

Smucky Productions’ first feature film will be released on APRIL 14th via YouTube. It’s a psychological horror story about a young woman who battles paranoia and violent premonitions as she fights to uncover the truth about her friend’s apparent suicide.

The first trailer comes out on MARCH 8TH – save the date.

And SUBMIT TO THE CHAOS.

For more information on the film, join us on:
FACEBOOK
TWITTER
INSTAGRAM

Films That Haunt Me: NOROI (THE CURSE)

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Found footage is, and has always been, a point of contention. It tends to opt for cheap frights and frustrating characters, hiding behind the conceit of “being real.” But sometimes, there is a film that uses the found footage format for good, capitalizing on the horror implicit in the raw and unseen. One of these films is NOROI (THE CURSE).

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It’s maddeningly hard to find, but if one gets a hold of a copy, they are in for a nightmare. The film is played off as a paranormal investigator’s final documentary, looking into the disappearance of two unrelated children and the supernatural occurrences surrounding an actress who disturbed a mysterious altar. But the investigator finds that the disparate events are all caused by the same force, a powerful demon that is hell-bent on getting its tribute. And that’s when the real terror starts.

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There is something about this film that sets it apart from others of its kind. Perhaps it is the complicated nature of its plot, and the authenticity lent by the documentary format. While most films of this subgenre settle for a small set of characters and one location, this film involves a wide range of people, all touched by the same force. The variety of the characters gives the story a sense of reality – I always find it more chilling when a pattern is widespread, taking root in many places, because it means that the evil has no bounds.

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With a villain straight out of Lovecraft – the kind of ancient, omnipresent, but invisible evil that drives people mad – and a format that echoes the epistolary nature of those classic stories, “Noroi” instills itself with a suffocating dread. Few found footage movies have been able to achieve this, though they all try. (The only others that I can think of are ‘Marble Hornets’ (not a film, but so good, it counts) and ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ though that one is controversial.) This one stands, for me, as the pinnacle of what the genre can accomplish.

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Found footage in general has its roots in classic horror stories – “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” and much of Lovecraft’s work, just to name a few, are set up as ‘found documents’ that relay a very real horror. Of course we know it’s fiction, but that format suspends disbelief just enough to convince us, while we’re immersed in the story, that we are witnessing something transgressive. If it’s well done. Which, unfortunately, most found footage is not. But there is immense potential in that underdeveloped format.

“Noroi” realizes that potential and, though it’s too slow and complex for some, reaches points of incredible terror. I still think of this film as a far-off nightmare that I tried to forget. Watch it, and see if it haunts you, too.

ONE FOR THE ROAD Short Film – Indiegogo Campaign!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2014 by smuckyproductions

Hello fellow horror fans!

In just two weeks, I will be embarking on a wild journey: adapting Stephen King’s story “One for the Road” into a short film for NYU film school. We are in the midst of casting, location scouting, and makeup testing now – but we need your help to raise the funds to finish the film!

CLICK HERE to donate NOW!

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“One for the Road” tells the chilling of two men who must venture out into a dark, cold night to help a stranger find his wife and child in an abandoned town – a town that harbors a deadly secret.

Based on a Stephen King story, this short film is a labor of (slightly deranged) love. I (being the director!) have dreamed about this project for a long time, and thanks to NYU film school, it is finally being realized! The film already has a fantastic crew of other passionate kids, but we’re missing two things – real vampires, and MONEY. You guys can help with one of those things.

Watch the campaign video BELOW:

Among other prizes, donations will reward you with color instructions on how to make yourself a vampire, and will put your name in the credits. Who doesn’t want to be in the credits of a scary King movie?

Any amount of money will help. Click HERE to support a young filmmaker in realizing a vision of terror!

Top 5 Haunted House Films

Posted in Best Of, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by smuckyproductions

I have a special place in my heart for good haunted house movies. So, in honor of an age-old genre and in anticipation of my new book that uses many of its tropes, here’s a few of my favorites.

5. The Changeling (1980)

This film, extremely influential in the genre, creeped me out beyond words. While not the most well-crafted movie, the storyline is inventive and very chilling, with a great twist and heart-pounding climax. The mansion is perfect, full of hidden rooms and cobwebs. Certain scenes – those who have seen this movie will remember a rubber ball – are wonderfully spooky, and the seance sequence is one of my favorites of all time. A must-see, especially around Halloween.

4. The Woman in Black (1989)

This isn’t really a haunted house movie (the ghost can travel) and it isn’t even a movie, as it was produced for TV, but I forgive this discrepancies. I enjoyed the remake, actually, but the original is one of the only films to manifest its ghost in a truly creepy way – most movies, when they reveal their spirit, loose tension because it just doesn’t look right. The titular character is just terrifying. Again, the atmosphere provided by Eel Marsh House and the misty English countryside is spooky as hell. This movie proves that nothing can beat the British in the 80’s for sheer eeriness. Impossible to find, but worth the search.

3. The Others (2001)

While arguably not a horror film, this quiet tale is horrific enough to include here – at 13, this movie scared the crap out of me. The atmosphere and setting are all perfect, claustrophobic but also large enough to cause fear of the darker corners. Kidman is brilliant, and her character is wonderfully complex. The children’s performances are shockingly good, too. This movie is much more creepy than frightening, but I’ll be honest, the piano scene sends chills up my spine. The ending could have been cheesy, but it’s subtle and beautifully done. A fantastic movie in every sense, and the perfect ghost story for a cold night.

2. The Innocents (1961)

An obvious addition to the list. This film, with its chilling music (can’t go wrong when you have a little girl singing) and dark themes, is fantastic for any genre. Here is another film to make its physical ghosts terrifically scary – when the first apparition appears to the fabulous Deborah Karr in the window, it’s impossible not to be creeped out. The mansion is gorgeous, full of atmosphere. The ambiguous ending – was it real, or is she crazy?? – is ahead of its time, and brilliant. It’s a unique movie, so much so that I was a little put off at first, but when you learn to appreciate it, it will never let you forget it.

And, DRUMROLL PLEASE….

1. The Haunting (1963)

Four years after I saw it for the first time, this movie remains one of the scariest I’ve ever seen… and nothing happens. There are some strange noises, some creepy wallpaper patterns, and a hysterical leading woman (a brilliant performance by Julie Harris), but that’s it. It’s a brilliant piece of cinema. Not only does it raise interesting questions about the nature of ghosts, it also introduces some terrifying ones. Hill House is beautiful and frightening all at once. The cast is amazing. The script is genius. I could go on. Skip the awful remake and see this one – arguably the scariest ghost film of all time.

Honorable Mentions

– Poltergeist: My first real horror film. Would be on this list, but it’s just a little too much for my taste now.

– Full Circle: A great performance by Mia Farrow, wonderful score, cool story – worth a look.

– The Amityville Horror (1979): Rather terrible in some senses, but who can forget Jody? Great memories with this one.

– Dead of Night (1945): This isn’t a 100% haunted house film, but I love it too much to ignore it – one of the stories, after all, involves ghosts.

– The Entity: Very cheesy but very scary, it’s dated but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The Awakening (2012): Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by smuckyproductions

Director: Nick Murphy
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
7/10

Being a sucker for a good atmospheric ghost story, I was exciting to see The Awakening available on Netflix. I had seen the trailer and was convinced that it was worth a watch. While it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, I wasn’t wrong to check it out.

Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a jaded woman who dedicates herself to debunking supernatural tales and legends in post-Great War England. When Robert Mallory (West) approaches her with the story of a haunted boarding school and a dead child, she decides to investigate. Her cold skepticism begins to slip once she begins encountering the ghosts of the school – and her past.

This film reminded me instantly of classics like The Innocents and The Orphanage, all works that employ sprawling mansions and foggy landscapes to create an eerie atmosphere that sets the stage for some creepy supernatural manifestations. The Awakening uses the wintry English countryside to the fullest extent, with beautiful images of misty forests and grey lakes all surrounding the gorgeously spooky boarding school. The cinematography is impeccable, creating many memorable visuals apart from the creepy stuff. If nothing else, it is a feast for the eyes. The acting is also wonderful, especially from the two female leads. In a horror industry that puts performance last, this film stands out.

The creepy stuff, however, does fall a little short. Compared to the subtlety of the camerawork and the acting, the scares are trying just a little too hard. There are a few scenes that gave me legitimate chills, but I was never very scared. In that sense, looking at the film as more of a supernatural drama puts it in a better light. It feels like an arthouse film more than anything, bringing up some poignant questions about the afterlife and the cynicism that World War I brought to Europe.

As a horror film, The Awakening doesn’t work on many levels. The scares are cliched and the ending has been seen too many times. As an arthouse drama, however, the film is well done, and even borders on brilliant at moments. The imagery is haunting, the performances are wonderful, and the questions raised are actually thought-provoking. It is, in some ways, a thinking man’s ghost story. Recommended, as long as it is looked at as something other than a scary movie.