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A Cure for Wellness

A Cure For Wellnessacureforwellness
Released: 2017
Director: Gore Verbinski

When you think of gothic fiction, you often think of dark and dreary castles, usually hiding unspeakable horrors. You might think of a plodding, surreal story that doesn’t try to frighten you so much as it intends to unnerve you. You’ll surely think of dark secrets, madness, and a sweeping romanticism that is hard to pin down but is unmistakable. While it might not necessarily appear to be as much at first glance, A Cure for Wellness is a modern gothic fairy tale, with all of its trappings.

Lockhart is enjoying his new, powerful position at his company when he’s unexpectedly sent on an unconventional mission: to reclaim one of the main board members of his company from a foreign spa center in time for a company merger. He begrudgingly complies, assuming that this will be an easy retrieval. When he’s met with resistance from the wellness center’s staff, he doubles down on his intent to succeed in his goal, but an accident soon puts him at the mercy of the center’s unusual healing techniques. As his time there extends, he begins to search for information to explain the strange behavior he witnesses – and soon finds more than he anticipated.

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Stranger Things

Stranger Thingsstranger-things
Released: 2016
Creators: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer

It seems that for the past several weeks, the only words coming from anyone’s mouth, facebook feeds, or twitter updates had to do with the phenomenon known as Stranger Things. Part throwback to classic horror, and part love letter to the simple days of the 1980s, it’s easy to understand why people have become to enamored with it; it’s smart, self-aware, and wildly entertaining.

Stranger Things follows the events of a sleepy midwestern town in the early 80s, the supernatural peril it finds itself in, and how it all comes back around to the disappearance of a young boy named Will. The story branches out in how several characters relate to and experience this disappearance: Will’s family, Will’s close group of friends, and the town’s police chief, who is investigating the mysterious event. As this is happening, one of Will’s close friends, Mike, encounters a strange and frightened young girl who is much more than she appears.

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Final Girl

Final Girlfinalgirl
Released: 2015
Director: Tyler Shields

The concept of the final girl is an absolute classic of the horror genre – the last woman standing, the one who overcomes adversity, defeats the monster/killer, and lives happily ever after. Usually these are everyday women, who win through a combination of ingenuity and sheer luck – but what if a final girl was instead cultivated, specifically tailored to this purpose? What kind of character would that create?

Therein lies part of the concept of the film Final Girl. Veronica is a young girl that is orphaned at a young age, and then taken under the wing of her mentor, William. She trains for years into a lethal and formidable assassin, and by the time she’s reached an optimal level of training, William has a mission for her – and targets that have caused the demise of many girls before her.

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Pontypool

Pontypoolpontypool
Released: 2008
Director: Bruce McDonald

I’ll be the first one to admit it: I’m getting a little tired of zombie stories. There was a point in time where I was following The Walking Dead, watching the new films that came out, and even writing in the genre a bit. Eventually, I reached maximum capacity on them and lost interest almost entirely. Unless something truly feels unique in a zombie story, they tend to leave me a bit cold (cue rim shot); rebranding themselves as “infection” films isn’t really enough, and there haven’t been all that many that have gained my attention in recent years.

Pontypool, a film based on a novel by Tony Burgess, did something I was not expecting: it managed to rejuvinate my interest in the genre, and expand my idea of what an infection story could strive to be.

Pontypool is the story of a small Ontario town and the local radio station that broadcasts from there. Grant Mazzy is a radio personality for the station, and seems disenchanted with the dull humdrum of small town life and clashes with the producer of his show, Sydney, due to her apparent dislike of his crass radio personality. On his way to work, he sees a woman out in the middle of a blizzard who seems disturbed and in distress; when he attempts to stop and help her, all she can do is repeat his words and flee, leaving Grant unnerved. However, when Grant reaches the studio, things start to take an even darker turn.

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Krampus

KrampusKrampus_poster
Released: 2015
Director: Michael Dougherty

It’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to warm up the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of eggnog, and stay in during the cold weather, enjoying some of your favorite holiday movies. Usually these holiday classics are more heartwarming fare, filled with hope and belief, with life affirming messages. Recently, comedies have started going the more cynical route, with more dysfunctional characters and relationships highlighted. Christmas horror films, however, have still been seemingly sparse.

Krampus, a film that is seeking an audience with both the cynical holiday crowd, as well as fans of the now-cult-favorite Christmas demon, is an attempt to give you a little bit of everything – with mixed results.

Krampus is the story of a family that is pushing its way through the general holiday dysfunctions to try their best and have a pleasant Christmas. Tom and Sarah are trying to keep things together while their children, Max and Beth, have their own concerns. Despite all of this, Max has a profound love and respect for the holiday, which he shares with his grandmother. Things are complicated when Sarah’s sister arrives with her family, and tensions rise. Angered by the actions of his family, Max defies his belief in Saint Nicholas and makes a wish – one he will soon come to regret.

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Hellraiser

Hellraiserhellraiser
Released: 1987
Director: Clive Barker

There are a handful of iconic characters in horror. These are the characters that come to mind when the genre is mentioned, ones that helped define what the genre is, and what the genre can be. Many of these are characters that defined the slasher genre in particular – Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers, and Jason being the prime examples. However, despite how great many of these characters are in their respective films, my favorite has always been Pinhead from the Hellraiser series.

Hellraiser is a movie that pushed a lot of boundaries in its day, and continues to have a fond place in many horror fans’ hearts. But the question, as with any classic horror film, remains: does it stand up to the test of time?

The film focuses on Julia and Larry, a married couple who are moving in to Larry’s old childhood home. Larry’s daughter, Kirsty, has a chilly relationship with her step-mother, and chooses to find her own place to live rather than move in with them. While settling into the house, an accident that spills blood manages to bring about the resurrection of Frank, Larry’s brother, and reveals the nature of his disappearance years ago. Frank begs Julia to help him become whole again, and escape the mysterious cenobites, which sends them all careening down a path of pain and destruction.

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Loft

Loftloft
Released: 2005
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Have you ever watched a film that left you so completely puzzled that you’re not even quite sure if your feelings lean towards positive or negative? A film that, if questioned on what the film was actually about, you’d probably stammer for a few minutes before vaguely describing a few scenes in the hopes that somehow you’d start to comprehend it yourself?

That, my friends, was my experience with watching Loft.

I’d heard of this film before – it is, after all, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the person behind such brilliant films as Kairo and Cure. I am unabashedly a fan of Kurosawa’s other work, so I certainly was excited to give this film a watch. And it does carry certain traits over that are common in his other works – a crawling pace, for example. Make no mistake, this one has a lot of the same atmospheric charm the others do as well – there’s just a strangeness to it that’s difficult to reconcile with his other films.

Loft follows Reiko, an acclaimed writer who is suffering from writer’s block when trying to work on her new novel. As a way of combating this, she moves into a quiet and isolated house to try and finish up the new book. She becomes intrigued by her neighbor’s strange behavior, and soon learns that the loft she is living in once housed a woman that has since gone missing.

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Noroi: The Curse

Noroi: The Cursenoroithecurse
Released: 2005
Director: Kôji Shiraishi

There are few films that use the much-maligned found footage approach in a way that feels fresh, effective, and truly scary. There are even fewer films that I’m willing to give a full five stars to, because they were just that terrifying and enjoyable to watch. Noroi: The Curse is a film that somehow manages to meet both criteria, and is delightfully creepy along the way.

The words “found footage” have, in recent years, become synonymous with “poor quality,” usually drawing to mind shaky camera work, nonstop screaming by amateur actors, and long, drawn-out sequences in which nothing happens whatsoever. In many ways, the reputation is deserved – which is why it’s such a nice surprise when you’re able to find something that bucks the trend and proves why found footage was ever considered scary to begin with.

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Dark Tarot

Dark Tarotdarktarot
Released: 2014
Director: David Landau, Jim Cocoliato

Usually when I come across a particularly low-budget attempt at a horror film, I cut the filmmakers a break. Even if it’s a failed attempt, I admire the spirit of it, the ambition involved, and the creativity needed for trying to work with so many limitations. And often enough, there’s a competent story in there, somewhere, obscured by the restrictions a lack of funding can cause. Giving films like this a bad review feels more like bullying; these films will more than likely fade into the background based on their own merit.

When films are bad and offensive, I’m somewhat less gentle with them.

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Inner Demons

Inner Demonsinnerdemons
Released: 2014
Director: Seth Grossman

Are you looking for something different in your movie watching experience – such as the glorification of Nice Guy syndrome, to the point where the line between “I’m just doing what’s best for you” and outright stalking is uncomfortably thin? Where the exploitation of a teenage girl’s mental anguish is a secondary plot to the way our male hero feels about her mental condition? Then do I have a treat for you.

For your enjoyment, I present Male Privilege: The Motion Picture.

Now I might sound like I’m being facetious in the previous statements, but I’m being honest: it’s really only a mild glossing over of the events in this film. I don’t think I can overstate how awful this story’s attitude is towards women, its romanticization of stalking, and its lack of respect towards consent. I sincerely felt dirty after watching it; it’s that bad.

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