The Beast Of XMoor – Review


Luke Hyams’ (no relation to Peter HyamsThe Beast of XMoor (X Moor) at first glance reminded me of Daniel Nettheim’s far superior The Hunter, which also revolves around the hunt for a cryptid (according to Wikipedia, an animal or plant who’s existence had been suggested but not discovered by the scientific community).

In the case of Nettheim’s movie the animal in question was a Tasmanian Wolf–which actually may still exist–while The Beast of XMoor‘s seek some sort of panther they suspect is hiding out on the moors.

The most immediate problem with the movie is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.  It begins as a search for an a cryptid, then makes a Wrong Turn, with two very rapey Scottish folk, then turns to a confusing serial killer story.

What’s worse–if that were possible–is that the killer is less a threat to the aspiring cryptozoologists than they are to each other.

The Beast of XMoor isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just very unfocused.  If it were just about a cryptid–an interesting subject in and of itself–then it would have probably been a much better movie.

If the director had jettisoned the whole cryptid storyline, and instead made a movie about a serial killer, then it might have been a much better movie.

Or if the cryptid and serial killer storyline were abandoned, and instead the story revolved about a bunch of mad Scots, then it would have probably been much better movie.

But all three?  It’s a bit too much.

Brave the moors of X Moor via Netflix, because otherwise there are too many ways to die.

The Forest – Trailer

Jason Zada’s The Forest revolves around Aokigahara, a 14-mile forest that sits in the shadow of Mount Fuji.  It’s also known as the Suicide Forest because hundreds of people have killed themselves there over a twenty-five year period.

As if that weren’t horrifying enough, according to Japanese mythology the forest is demon-plagued.

Heck, the movie almost writes itself, which is why I was dismayed to read a review from FilmBook, which pretty much says that  the movie shat the bed, replacing any sort of tension and horror with jump scares.

It amazes me–if the review is accurate–how filmmakers can take events, places and things that are actually horrific, and somehow make them less so.  The review reminds me of Ouija, a not-very-good movie that somehow managed to make a terrifying object–just looking at ouija boards gives me the willies–boring (luckily the sequel is being directed by Mike Flanagan, who knows a thing or two about horror, having directed Oculus).

And that’s not that an easy thing to do.

Harbinger Down – Review

Harbinger Down movie poster

Harbinger Down isn’t a bad movie, though it mimics a much better one.”

Alec Gillis, besides being the director of Harbinger Down, runs StudioADI along with Tom Woodruff, so it goes without saying that practical special effects are in his blood.

And indisputably the greatest practical effect-based horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing, so it’s logical that Gillis would use it as inspiration for his feature debut.

The problem is that Harbinger Down so slavishly mimics Carpenter’s movie that it only serves to show how Gillis would have probably been better served by a more original story, though even that would have not even been too big a hurdle for me to enjoy this movie if it were better written and cast because a lot of the dialog doesn’t ring particularly true, and isn’t helped when many characters pivotal to the plot are almost Asylum-quality (Lance Henriksen is an exception; though at least initially the editor of the movie seemed reluctant to let scenes breathe, which would have went a long way to help flesh characters out.  It’s also worth mentioning that the movie plays better the second time around).

And I know that I already mentioned that Harbinger Down apes Carpenter’s movie, though the opening is from Carpenter’s movie, which is a bit much (it’s actually not, but so close that the difference is almost negligible).

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Baskin – Trailer

Can Evrenol’s Baskin premiered at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) for some serious acclaim, though looking at the trailer–which I understand not only can’t but more than likely doesn’t necessary represent the movie–it feels particularly chaotic, and not in a good way.

Evrenol’s a Turkish director, so the movie probably represents sensibilities that may not necessarily be the same as the average American’s, but I am just not feeling this trailer.

In some ways it reminds me of Indian (as in the country) movies that turn up on Netflix.  I am sometimes curious, but the tendency for Indian movies to throw in dancing and singing at odd moments never particularly worked for me.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept – Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap posterDavid Schmoeller’s 1979 movie Tourist Trap is a particularly effective horror movie–particularly due to the score by Charles Band, speaking of whom doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his composing, which here is at times playful, harrowing and cinematic–that unfortunately is showing its age.

The movie revolves around a tourist attraction, Slaussens Lost Oasis, where Mr. Slaussen (Chuck Connors) owns a museum that showcases the mannikins that are the work of his brother, who’s more than little bit insane.

Slaussen tries to keep his brother hidden–in a way very similar to Hitchcock’s Psycho–but his brother refuses to stay put, preferring to escape from the house he’s held in to lure tourists to their deaths.

The premise of this movie is awesome, and doesn’t actually need that much in the way of tinkering story-wise, other than to bring the special effects more in line with modern sensibilities and technologies.

It’s also worth mentioning that, Besides Psycho, the movie also has more than a passing similarity to Brian DePalma’s Carrie, (which came out three years earlier) yet despite this it somehow manages to be not only original, but its own animal.

It goes without saying that effects need to be practical because it would work best when there’s actually something that actors are acting against (which is typically the case, though there are some instances when it CGI is perhaps a better fit, though not in this movie).

Another thing with mentioning is that what makes Tourist Trap as effective as it is is that the acting (particularly by Jocelyn Jones as Molly and Connors that elevates the material beyond many better known examples of the horror genre).

In fact, I suspect that the writers of the 2012 remake of Maniac (Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur) must have at least heard of Tourist Trap because it plays very similar, especially in its third act.

Why William Friedkin Was Wrong About Wes Craven


For my money William Friedkin is one of the most talented directors working today.  Not everything he does clicks (with the public or box office-wise, for that matter) but as far as I am concerned he’s made one of the best crime thrillers in recent memory with 1985’s To Live And Die In L.A.  Some might suggest that I am crazy, and bring up 1971’s The French Connection, but for my money To Live And Die In L.A., with its combination of a talented director, an outstanding cast and great music hit all the right notes.

Interestingly enough, Friedkin also directed one of the best horror movies, The Exorcist, ever put on celluloid.

And while the movies that Wes Craven created, particularly A Nightmare On Elm Street, managed to tap into The zeitgeist in a way few other films have done besides being visually interesting, though more often then not his movies were products of the time that they were made; which is another way of saying that they don’t age particularly well.

If in doubt check out Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.  While the idea of cannibalistic mutants preying on hapless tourists is always potentially interesting, the movie has not aged well (though Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake…pretty good, almost brilliantly so).

Let’s contrast that with the The Exorcist.  It’s not only one of the scariest horror movies ever made–I think that Craven’s The Snake And The Rainbow was probably his most effective movie as far as terror goes though it doesn’t have the single-mindedness of Friedkin’s classic.

I also had the feeling that Craven was a horror director less because he actually wanted to do it, that it was a niche that he  happened to fall into (which isn’t an insult by any means.  John Carpenter did some groundbreaking horror films, though recognized, and at times seem embittered by the fact, that it limited his ability to move into other types of filmmaking).

So, while Craven was known as a maker of horror films, it never really felt to me that he committed to the genre to the degree that other directors, such as Carpenter (or even Friedkin himself) have demonstrated.

So Wes Craven will always be known for the horrors that he helped to bring to grisly life, though I am not at all sure that that’s what he would have wanted.

It Follows – Review

It Follows movie poster

It Follows is a great idea in search of a better movie.”

Based on all the hype that accompanied It Follows theatrical release, you’d think that David Robert Mitchell was the heir apparent to John Carpenter.

And I’m here to tell you it’s just not the case because It Follows is an awesome idea surrounded by a decent movie.  It’s not terrible by any stretch, though its not “One of the most striking American horror films in years” either.

Though that concept…Wow.  The antagonist of the movie is essentially a curse, a sexually-transmitted demon.  Once contracted, the only way to hold off death is to pass it on to someone else, who will have a limited amount of time to do the same.

If you fail to pass it on, it kills you, and works its way down the list of people who have slept with you.

I told you it’s an awesome concept.  I also liked the idea that the movie wasn’t targeting anyone because of sexually promiscuity (in fact, it could be argued that the more people you sleep with, the better off you would be).

The movie takes place in the present day, though the effective soundtrack has a 70’s vibe to it that hightens suspense.

Though as I implied, the movie has problems, the biggest of which is that it too quickly abandons the mythology it’s built up whenever convenient (Quentin Tarantino was right).

For instance, the creature isn’t stupid, but it’s slow and has to walk to get around. This often serves to heighten suspense–like a zombie, there’s an inevitability to the creature that faster-moving terrors often lack–but there’s some oddness that accompanies the behavior that doesn’t serve the movie well.

For instance, the creature just appears in really odd places, and if it could just turn up anywhere it wanted to, it undermines the whole idea of it walking.  For instance, there’s a moment when it turns up on the roof of a house.  Did it climb the roof?  And if so, why?  And if it didn’t, that means it could pretty much appear wherever it wanted, which as I said, pretty much kills the suspense the movie spent valuable time building.

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