Posts Tagged ‘jumpscares’

I don’t have work tomorrow, and I wanted a horror film to watch on Halloween while still saying I went out for the evening. I’ve seen everything else playing that’s considered “horror,” so I went into this with low expectations. I only knew of it because of some commercials showing audiences reacting like Paranormal Activity and a promotional app popular among teenagers and young adults.

Countdown follows a nurse named Quinn who downloads an app she hears about from a patient, which supposedly predicts the very date and time of your death. When people try to change their fates based on the app’s predictions, they end up stalked by a demon that taunts them before killing them at the appointed moment of their death. Now Quinn has to find a way to cheat death or she and those dear to her will die in the worst possible way.

So, we’ve all seen this sort of movie before. It’s like a simple recipe. People take part in something that seems harmless, it turns out to be real, supernatural in nature and very deadly. Someone becomes affected, finds an expert to help them identify where the evil comes from and possibly how to beat it. After a showdown with a CGI evil and a few deaths, the protagonist manages to beat the evil, which lives on one way or another. Throw in some jumpscares and some creepy imagery, and you have a cheap horror film trying to get in butts in seats because somebody knows how hungry horror fans are.

But Countdown didn’t even manage to meet my expectations for this kind of poor horror! Everything was predictable, and at times, it felt like the cast and crew weren’t even trying. They indulge in a lot of tropes, and not even do it very cleverly. The one trope they try to change is to have the supernatural expert be a priest who, rather than being old and well-experienced with demons, is a young man who literally calls the Bible “the world’s greatest graphic novel” and geeks out over the possibility of stopping a demon. It’s supposed to be funny, but is kind of cringey instead.

There is one thing that sets this movie apart, however. There’s a subplot where Quinn has to deal with a doctor who sexually harasses her and then tries to ruin her career when she spurns him. Now, I’m all for exploring these sorts of subjects in media, including horror. I often feel that horror is a good lens to view societal problems, and horror is a fertile ground to explore women’s issues. However, I don’t know this was the right film to have this sort of subplot. It feels more like a gimmick and a bad one too.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Countdown a 1.5. There are a lot better horror films out there to watch on Halloween. I suggest you go find them, especially if you want to feel scared and that you didn’t just waste eighty minutes of your life.

Well, that’s all for now. Halloween ends in forty-five minutes or so, and then something rather crazy will begin. I’ll let you know how that goes in due time. Until then, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween. See you again soon.

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Someone on Twitter mentioned this film and I thought it sounded interesting. That’s it. I have nothing else to add, beyond the wait at the library took way longer than I expected. Oh well. Let’s get into it.

The Witch in the Window¬†follows a man and his son who go to Vermont to flip an old farmhouse. However, they’re not long before they find out the house is already occupied. And this occupant is very intent on them staying. Whether they want to or not.

Well, this was a surprisingly decent Gothic horror film with a lot of heart.

The best part of this film is the relationship between dad Simon and his son Finn. The filmmakers could’ve gone with some generic story about a moody kid and his dad coming together through adversity, but instead we get a relationship that’s touching and feels organic. You get the sense that they see this trip as getting away from all the toxic influences in their lives and are reconnecting in a way that would make many parents and kids jealous. It’s this relationship that drives the film, and makes you want to root for the characters.

I also like the story for the most part. While there is a jump scare or two, there’s a lot more importance placed on atmosphere and disturbing imagery. There are a number of scenes that make your skin crawl, all without any cringy CGI or loud noises. One scene when Finn wakes up had me in awe because of how clever and creepy it was. Coupled with a plot that goes in unexpected directions, it makes the movie difficult to look away from. You just want to see where it goes and what will happen next.

That being said, the third act does feel rushed, which made the ending feel slightly hollow rather than psychologically terrifying but ultimately sweet. If maybe another ten to twenty minutes had been added to the film, it would’ve been much scarier and maybe the ending might have a more emotional punch.

All told, The Witch in the Window is an engaging and different kind of horror film than what we’re used to. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.8. Pop it in if you get a chance because, like the characters, you’ll be staying for a while.

I’ve known of the legend of La Llorona, aka The Woman in White or The Weeping Woman, for a while before I heard of this film. A woman drowned her children after her lover was unfaithful to her. Horrified by what she’d done, she either dies of grief or commits suicide, her spirit returning to search for errant children in the vain hope of trading them for her own lost darlings. So when I heard the upcoming film about her would be part of The Conjuring universe, I had to wonder, how would they treat the story? Would she be rewritten as a demon? Or would the filmmakers learn some new tricks and add a bit more to The Conjuring universe as more and more people started to find it formulaic and over-reliant on the jumpscares? I went in today to see it myself.

The Curse of La Llorona follows Anna Garcia, a single mom and social worker whose children become the target of the titular spirit after it takes the lives of two children whose mother she previously worked with. With the church’s process to approve exorcisms taking too long, Anna turns to a local faith healer and former priest. But will it be enough to stop a being driven by an unending grief and obsession?

And I’m sorry to say, this film didn’t really do anything for me. Oh yeah, it had some effective jumpscares and moments of atmosphere. There were quite a few moments where I jumped in my seat. There’s a reverence for the source material here, and you can tell they’re really trying to make this tragic ghostly figure intimidating.

Unfortunately, the formula The Conjuring set up has gotten stale almost five years later. We’ve gotten used to someone experiencing a haunting in their home, calling in an expert, and then a final battle where there’s either triumph or someone loses their soul. And predictability, along with jumpscares that we know to look for, just doesn’t do it anymore. And while the film does flirt with the idea of adding something new–La Llorona herself is not a demon, as past antagonists in the series have been, but a ghost whose obsession has turned her into a dark spirit, and there’s a twist during the climax that I was surprised by–but not enough to add new life to the franchise.

As of the writing of this review, The Conjuring universe has the third (and probably final) Annabelle film, Annabelle Comes Home, coming out in June. After that, everything else is in various stages of development (The Conjuring 3 has a release date but so far hasn’t begun filming yet). If Warner Bros and New Line Cinema want this franchise to continue past Annabelle Comes Home, they’ll have to come up with some new tricks to keep audiences coming back (and no, I don’t mean going to space. Sorry Jason X, you’re a lot of fun, but there’s a silliness about you that can’t be denied. At least you’re not the Friday the 13th remake, though. Beyond Jared Padalecki and the guy playing Jason Voorhees, there’s nothing redeemable about that film. Yeah, I took another shot at that film, and I’m glad I did!).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Curse of La Llorona a dismal 2. Has ideas, but needed to buck the formula more in order to be anything other than below average.

But you know what (probably) won’t disappoint? My upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released later this year by Castrum Press. And at the moment, I’m looking for advanced readers for the book, which follows a young woman as she starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you read the book and consider posting a review on or after the release date. If you’re interested, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Pet Semetary is considered one of His Royal Scariness Stephen King’s most terrifying novels, and one King has said he’d take back if he could due to the subject matter of child death in the book. Both it and its 1989 movie adaptation are classics, so people were both intrigued and a little wary when it was announced that the movie would be getting a remake. Then we got trailers that intrigued us and then made our heads scratch. I don’t need to state spoilers here that the little girl dies instead of the little boy this time, right? Well, too bad. But King was okay with the change, so we had to wait and wonder what the movie would be like when it came out.

Based on King’s novel, Pet Semetary revolves around the Creed family, who move into a house in the Maine countryside when father Louis Creed gets a job at a university clinic. He soon finds out that there’s a cemetery for animals on his property, and beyond it another burial ground that has to bring back anything buried in it, including his daughter’s cat. However, sometimes they come back very wrong. When the Creeds are affected by a terrible tragedy, Louis uses the burial ground to reverse the tragedy. But it only leads to an even bigger, more terrifying disaster.

Um…I wasn’t scared.

There’s plenty to like about this movie. It looks the part of a modern Stephen King movie, and they manage to bring the spirit of the novel, especially the feeling of a domino effect at work with the characters, into it. And for once, Jason Clarke, who plays Louis Creed, actually connects with me as an actor. Normally I don’t like him when I see him in something, but this time I really felt it. Every bit of grief, relief, or horror, resonated with my core. And most of the other principal cast members are great in their roles. Jete Laurence (who’s name, by the way, is a dance move in ballet, which I find fitting given her character’s love of ballet in the film) makes a sympathetic protagonist in particular, and later makes a welcome addition to the pantheon of evil kids out to get us.

However, there’s much about this film that left me feeling less than impressed. For one thing, many of the scares were jump scares. And as I’ve become fond of saying lately, jump scares are the cheapest form of terror in horror films. Once they’re done, the fear seeps out of you and you’re okay again. Even after one really effective jump scare, I was okay a minute later.

And then there’s the change from the original story: Ellie Creed, the elder Creed child, dies instead of toddler Gage, and ends up being the one resurrected. Hey, I’m cool with it. If there are no surprises, why bother remaking a film? But that’s the only real change that’s worthy of talking about. Afterwards, the film adheres rather closely to the novel, and even where it doesn’t, it’s pretty predictable. I would’ve preferred it if after this change, they decided to make more changes to the story and send it in different directions. I mean, if you’re going to have an older child, rather than a toddler, the source of terror, why not take advantage of that (especially since older children are much better at planning and being devious)? Go where we won’t expect it and give us the terror of not knowing what will happen next!

That look, like a raised eyebrow. It says my whole opinion of the film and the decisions made with it in one look.

I mean, I had to rewrite two-thirds of my novel to make it publishable, and I went in some different directions to make it work. The result was a much better and far more unpredictable thrill ride. So I know what I’m talking about.*

Finally, I felt Jon Lithgow as neighbor Jud Krendall was underused. The character in this film only existed for exposition. In the original novel and the 1989 film, his friendship with Louis feels real. Here, it’s forced in so the character can explain stuff (sans flashbacks too, by the way. I liked the use of those in the original film, why couldn’t they be in this film?). Between this film and Velvet Buzzsaw, I feel sorry for the guy. He’s been in bad roles in two films this year, and neither of them make great horror films.

Oh, one more thing: you can tell that cat is a puppet at certain points! It’s painfully obvious! Makes me miss Goose the Cat, who I couldn’t tell was a puppet at several points in Captain Marvel.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Pet Semetary a 2 out of 5. Perhaps it’s trying to keep the film under two hours and not alienate Stephen King purists, but in all honesty, I would’ve preferred another twenty minutes or more and some new directions for the story. As it is, the film is going to serve a reminder that not all the adaptations in the current Stephen King renaissance will be gems.

*Speaking of which, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming novel Rose. The story, a fantasy-horror novel, follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you consider posting a review on or after the novel’s release date. If you or somebody you know is interested, just send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

I was very excited waiting for this film to come out. How could I not be? I saw the original trailer three times before I sat down in the theater, and it made me jump at the end every time! And apparently another trailer was so scary, it was taken off YouTube (I wish I’d seen it before it got taken down, but that’s life). So you could see why I was interested in going to see it, and why I hoped it wouldn’t be terrible.

I’m glad to say, for the most part, The Nun lives up to the hype.

The Nun follows Father Burke, a priest who investigates paranormal and strange events on behalf of the church, and Sister Irene, a young novitiate with a history of fantastic visions. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun at a convent in Romania, and while there face an ancient evil that is seeking to escape the abbey and to wreak havoc on the wider world.

First off, the best part of this film is its characters and the actors playing them. Although they’re not the most developed, they feel like real people you might know and even want to hang out with. Sister Irene, played by Taissa Farmiga (the main series’ star Vera Farmiga’s younger sister, if you can believe it), is a loving, down-to-Earth woman who is trying to figure out whether to become a full nun. Frenchie, a young man who helps Father Burke and Sister Irene out, is wonderful comic relief as he flirts with Sister Irene and asks the occasional stupid question. And the Nun…yeah, that monster is still freaky as it was in the Conjuring 2. No wonder a film centering on it got made.

I also love the set of this film, a castle which is like a cross between Hogwarts’s darker sides and some castles in Europe I myself have been to. It’s so creepy and decrepit,, and is made to look almost like a maze you could get lost in. Add in all the touches–like the hundred thousand crosses placed throughout the castle–and it adds the perfect touch.

And, as always, there’s a strong atmosphere in this movie, just as we’ve come to expect from the Conjuring franchise. It keeps you tense and, coupled with some good jump scares (including that one from the trailer, which still got me) and a decent plot, keeps you interested and even a little scared throughout the movie.

Still, The Nun isn’t perfect. While the plot is decent, you can kind of guess where things are going to go about sixty-percent of the time, with the other forty-percent just being minor touches like a twist with the hauntings or something the demon does that you don’t expect. That, and the film may over-rely on jumpscares. This is a criticism that many people have had about the Conjuring films, but this is really the first time it bothered me. It might’ve been better if maybe the film relied more on creeping terror and a few more twists rather than making me jump in my seat.

Still, The Nun is a great addition to the Conjuring series and a good sign that there’s still plenty to mine from the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 3.8. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it and I’m glad I went to go see it. Take a look, and pray for safety…and that the next Annabelle film is good.

Yes, there’s another Annabelle film on the way. It’s going to be released next summer, and it looks like it might be the last Annabelle film, dealing with the titular doll and the Warrens’ daughter. Obviously, I’m looking forward to it.