A Horror Movie A Day: Day 8 – “Friday 13th: Part II” (1981)

I’ve stopped relying on my WordPress’ scheduled posts now; I’m about 7 days worth of reviews behind. I don’t want to clog anyone’s newsfeeds or anything, so I’m just going to publish the ones that I’ve already written daily and that should take us all the way up to Halloween.

If you have read my other articles you would know that Friday 13th as a series is something that I’m really into and have been since I was about 13. I don’t include the 2009 remake because honestly it was just an absolute mess and it took itself way, way too seriously.

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So Friday 13th Part 2 is (obviously) the second installment of the Friday 13th franchise and the first one that features the infamous slasher Jason Voorhees as the antagonist. A group of teenagers head up to the infamous Camp Crystal Lake to be camp counselors for the recently re-opened camp, following the tragedies that occurred in the first installment. Jason picks the counselors off one by one in creative and inventive ways.

One noticeable thing about this movie is that although it’s the first time we see Jason, we don’t see him in the hockey mask he’s famous for. Instead a burlap sack covers his disfigured mug. Funnily enough, he only has one eyehole. He picks up his hockey mask in Part III (my favourite of the series).

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Okay so now onto the movie. I was saying before how the biggest problem with the remake is that it takes itself too seriously. The absolute best thing about the original series is that there’s no storyline necessary, just the basic “teenagers go into the woods and get murdered” formula. No messing. It’s easy watching and simple to follow.

So the whole film is Jason killing these guys in some pretty creative ways and to be fair it reaches the point where it’s kind of humorous. It’s a ridiculously far-fetched movie and it’s essentially a horror movie staple. There is one kill in particular that me and my friends always replayed several times, as it’s so inappropriate and hilarious (I’m sure you will be able to guess which one).

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Being a B-Movie, there’s no need to expect any big names, good effects or good acting, it’s just slash-and-grab, gritty, gory fun. The budget was just over $1 million, and comparing that to more recent horror hits, it pales in comparison. So all expectations are lifted, it doesn’t need to be technically good or Oscar winning, it just needs to be entertaining. You’ll understand what I mean when I say poor effects. The blood is bright red and looks like acrylic paint, whenever anyone gets stabbed their skin looks like paper and all of the weapons look like rubber, joke shop weapons.

It’s a fun, easy watch. Not really that good a film, but for a Halloween horror movie marathon, it’s a must. It’s really short as well,

Trailer:

RATING: 7/10

CATEGORY:

Slasher: B-movie, gory, entertaining and ridiculous.

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A Horror Movie A Day – Day 7: “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)

I’m on a lucky streak since the atrocity that is “Annabelle

This really is one of, if not THE best remake there is out there. Usually a remake is just a crippled version of the original, but quite honestly Zak Snyder has managed to one-up the King of Zombies, George A. Romero. It’s an incredible feat by anyone’s standards.

After a zombie virus has decimated the whole of the U.S.A., Ana (Sarah Polley) runs into a rag-tag group of survivors (including Ving Rhames, Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer) who decide to take refuge in a mega mall in an attempt to wait out the plague. More survivors join later on in the film, and soon the team becomes big enough to attempt to escape the mall.

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There is everything that you could possibly want in a zombie film. It’s intense; it’s funny, has some sweet zombie kills and has some really good cameos from the original film and although it abandons the social commentary of the original, you can forgive it because it’s just so damn good!

It’s quite a hard film to review because there aren’t any standout performances from any actors. There is just generally a good team effort, but who watches zombie movies for acting quality? The characters are all essentially zombie fodder. I mean the only truly memorable performance is from Ty Burell (Modern Family) as the pervy, wannabe playboy, Steve. One of the best things about the original is that there was such a restricted cast; there is a lot more character development. Since zombie films have been modernized, people care less about characters and more about action, which Snyder could only create by introducing so many characters. So I wouldn’t say that it’s a lost quality of the original, more of a required adaptation for a modern audience.

Also the zombies are “Fast zombies” meaning that they run and are extremely agile, completely converse to the original “Romero zombie” who are always quite slow and docile. Again, a necessary adaptation to a modern audience, people have recently fallen foul of slow zombies, they provide less intensity and less shock scares. Romero, however, is openly critical of these zombies as he feels that they “limit the impact of the undead”, though Snyder argued that when the camera lingers on the undead for long, they become more human. I agree with the latter testament.

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The special effects are top notch, though it’s an extremely gory film. In fact, there is almost an unnecessary amount of gore. It all does make for a more entertaining movie though; it makes people flinch and provokes a more physical reaction to the film. There are also loads of zombies which were all actors with incredibly detailed makeup. Really good use of practical effects. There are also various additions such as a super strong muscular zombie, a little girl zombie and even zombie baby

There are some cameos from the original, which I always think is a good, respectful way of paying tribute. In fact there are three in total, and all appear on the news. Ken Foree as an evangelist preacher, Scott Reiniger as a general and Tom Savini as the cop who gives the immortal advice; “The only way to kill them is to shoot them in the head”.

All in all a really enjoyable, entertaining film. It’s not particularly scary but provides jumps and gore, which is all you can really want for the perfect Halloween “warm-up” film.

 

RATING: 8/10

CATEGORY:

Zombie: Gory, dark humour and jumps in abundance.

A Horror Movie A Day: Day 6 – “The Exorcist” (1973)

Again, I’m having loads of problems uploading to my wordpress for whatever reason. I’ve stopped using scheduled uploads now, but considering I’m about 5 posts behind, it’s looking like they’re all going to pop up at random times so sorry if I start clogging up your newsfeeds.

I got The Exorcist today. The film I most fear. Considered a masterpiece by many, William Freidkin’s adaptation of the synonymous book by William Peter Blatty was nominated for 10 Oscars (winning 2). It was also the first (and only until 1991’s Silence of the Lambs) horror film to be nominated for the ‘Best Picture’ at the Academy Awards. So you can probably assume that on top of being scary, it’s actually a good film as well, which is undoubtedly extremely rare.

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It’s about the possession of a young girl called Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair – Academy Award nominee “Best Supporting Actress”) and how her mother (Ellen Burstyn – Academy Award nominee “Best Actress”) attempts to win her back from the forces of evil by turning to a pair of Catholic priests (Jason Miller – Academy Award nominee “Best Actor” and Max Von Sydow) to perform an Exorcism.

It really is an awesome movie. Terrifying, shocking and so eerie you won’t want to go to bed alone for at least a couple of nights. There are just certain scenes that remain etched in your memory and will do for the rest of your life; it’s that shocking (for example, the crucifix scene).

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I was absolutely gob smacked by Linda Blair’s (14 at the time) performance. The maturity required to perform such a haunting, creepy performance really shows how much of a talent she was. We’ve seen so many older actresses (see Lili Taylor in “The Conjuring” or even Jennifer Carpenter in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) put in laughably bad performances in an attempt to make these scenes scary, but Blair managed to absolutely nail it. Not too much hollering, screaming or whooping. Just eerie, creepy little lines. She absolutely deserved her Best Supporting Actress nomination and it’s such a shame she blighted her career so early on by taking part in the sequels (more of that later).

The rest of the cast also performed at the top of their game, but with all others being experienced actors/actresses, Ms Blair deserved a special mention for her performance.

William Freidkin’s use of practical effects deserved their Academy Award. They made the room -40 degrees Celsius in order to show the breath clouds. There was also a scene where Ellen Burstyn was pulled with a harness so abruptly production had to be halted for a few days because she damaged her spine. I’m probably going to do a Top 10 List sometime, listing the top 10 facts about the Exorcist; there are so many interesting things about the production of this film to be honest.

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The creepy goings on didn’t just happen on screen however, there are some famous (unconfirmed) legends surrounding the blighted production of this film. For example, apparently the whole set burned down apart from the bedroom the Exorcism took place in. Creeeeepy. Also it was based off of a real life exorcism, from which Blatty interviewed witnesses and the priests to get ideas for his book. This only adds to the horror you see on the screen.

Onto the sequels, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. Some of the WORST movies you will ever see. Please heed my warning. I’m not even going to bother talking about them, but i’ll list their names so you know what to avoid. The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, The Exorcist III and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Take it as a rule of thumb to ignore anything that claims any relationship to this movie.

Honestly, I don’t like watching this film because I really feel uncomfortable watching it. I may be overreacting though and if you think I am, feel free to say in the comments below. It’s a good movie nonetheless.

TRAILER:

RATING: 7/10

CATEGORY:

Paranormal: Creepy, unsettling and downright scary

A Horror Movie A Day – Day 5: “Annabelle” (2014)

Okay, so this is the first film that I’m going to put in my “New Releases” section, and let’s hope they don’t carry on as they’ve started.

Annabelle is the hotly anticipated sequel (well prequel) to 2013’s The Conjuring. When they say it’s a prequel they mean “hey guys do you remember those 2 scenes where you saw a doll’s face?”. Absolutely unrelated film. It’s about a possessed doll called Annabelle (shocker) that is possessed by the soul of a muderous occult member. She proceeds to wreak havoc on a couple with a newborn baby in an attempt to steal their souls for the Devil.

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If you read my review for The Conjuring (2013) it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t exactly badly recieved. As I put it in the article, “It’s the best of a bad bunch”. Annabelle however, is probably the first time I really wanted to rip into a film due to the furore surrounding its release.

The protagonists are a classic, all American, Christian, church going, suburbian couple, and to be honest they are completely and utterly bland. The husband is a Doctor and the wife is a housewife. That’s all I can tell you about those 2 individually, as there is literally no character development at all in the whole movie, for ANY character. Not even a proper backstory for Annabelle herself! The couple, however, are so boring and unlikeable that you feel absolutely no remorse for the events of the film. Do you know what though? I’m not going to blame the actors at all (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) because they did very well to say how terrible the script was.

Annabelle could have been a completely terrifying entity, but after the 20th time the camera freezed on her face after a ghostly occurrence, she quickly became boring and lost the whole fright factor she could have had. I mean, literally every 10 minutes the camera would fixate on her puppety face and remain there for about 10 seconds. Boring. Less of that next time please. I try to be as professional as possible whenever I’m writing reviews, but when this kept happening, I was thinking of this (gif below) as though she was saying “It was me…”

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Further to this, although the film is called “Annabelle” and they have this (initially) completely creepy, crazy scary doll posed to be main evil in the film, they decided to make a sub, and take all of the sinister nature away from Annabelle and make this crappy CGI shadow demon. That doll, had they focused on it’s back story enough, could have been potentially one of the scariest movie villains I’ve ever seen. But no. They push her aside to fit in an anthromorphic, poorly rendered demon.

I know I seem like I’m being harsh, but I’ve never (not a hyperbole, literally never) been so disappointed with a movie in my life. It’s a terribly clichéd, overhyped, unscary piece of garbage.

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Of course there were some smart references throughout, like to the Manson Family  and setting it in a time when cults were really quite a prominent thing on the California pop culture scene. That added realism and really made it feel like it actually happened. It kills me because I really wanted to like it, but the good, smart aspects are so heavily diluted and drowned out by the bad aspects I just can’t give it a good review. My reasoning for all of this is down to a lot of what I said in my review of The Conjuring (2013), they took all of the bad aspects and none of the good. For example, once again they sacrificed storyline in an attempt to achieve 100 scares per minute. It makes you jump. No lasting psychological fears, no questioning reality, all it does is make you jump every now and then and by the time you’ve reached half an hour into it, you’re numb to the surprises and it doesn’t make you jump again. The scariest films purposely don’t have loads of little scary moments, they have a few hugely scary moments. It stops the audience from expecting things and catches them out more often.

As I said before, this is the first time I’ve felt obliged to write a bad review of a film. Following The Conjuring shouldn’t have been too hard, but apparently it was. It’s not good enough to pay to see, so don’t waste your money. Watch it on Sky, believe me, you can wait.

RATING: 2/10

CATEGORY:

Paranormal/Psychological: Creepy at times, a few jumps

A Horror Movie A Day – Day 4: Evil Dead 2 (1987)

For some reason my scheduled uploads are just going haywire and I’m not noticing. Sorry about the delay in so many of these posts, technical errors are the bane of everyone’s life. I mean I wrote this about 3/4 days ago but i’ve had to go back and repost it manually.

I ended up with Evil Dead 2 (1987) tonight and well, what could I say? The Evil Dead series as a whole is amazing, and Evil Dead 2 is probably the best of the lot. In this installment we see our chainsaw wielding hero Ash Williams (B-Movie megastar Bruce Campbell) kicking ass and busting some of the sweetest one-liners of movie history. Basically a guy goes to a secret cabin in the woods with his girlfriend and they listen to a recording of a recital of the Necronomicon (the book of the dead), which causes an evil spirit to awaken in the forest. The spirit possesses people and leads to the creation of strange demons called “deadites”, which Ash promptly slices up with his chainsaw.

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It’s one of the funniest films I have ever seen, it’s just humorous in such a strange way, and the almost intentional over-acting from all involved just makes it so much funnier.

Sam Raimi directs and honestly I would say it’s the best film he’s ever made. It’s witty, creepy and just so obscenely cheaply made it looks intentional, which is a very difficult thing for a director to do whilst he’s on a budget. Then again I’m not really a fan of anything that he’s done apart from this series (I suppose Spider-Man 1 wasn’t too awful, but Tobey Macguire is just awful).

191xq2phccut0jpg The effects are all entirely practical, with some stop motion animation as well as actors dressed in “deadite” costumes. Bruce Campbell said that the contact lenses he had to wear to create a fog over his eyes were as thick as glasses lenses, so they had to stop filming every 5 minutes to allow his eyes to “rehydrate. This is how true horror films should be produced, I’m very anti-CGI when it comes to horror movies, as a lot of the time the monster/ghost looks superimposed and it feels like there’s no peril. This is the best thing about this film; people worry too much about something looking too realistic and forget that people watch films for entertainment. Raimi knew he had a relatively low budget and so he worked with what he had, didn’t take himself too seriously and as a product, he created a masterpiece.

There were crazy amounts of gore, but what do you expect when the most famous thing about the series is that Ash cuts his hand off and replaces it with a chainsaw. Outlandish? Yes, too far? No, never.

The script is a work of genius with one-liners in abundance and the most perfect display of how crazy this film is in the “laughing” scene (you’ll know what I mean when you get to it).

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If you’re just looking for a fun, dark film to watch, you can’t go wrong with any of the Evil Dead series, even the remake (which you won’t hear me say often). Just remember to not take it too seriously. You can see why it has a cult following though; I understand why some people wouldn’t like it. But as I say, if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s beautifully crafted and just a barrel of laughs. Groovy.

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RATING: 10/10

CATEGORY:

Slasher/Gore: Extremely gory, extremely funny.

A Horror Movie A Day – Day 3: “The Conjuring” (2013)

I am starting to get a little annoyed with suggestmemovie, I want to get some old 70s/80s flicks to review. They’re the true embodiment of Halloween horror films, but I suppose I better stick to my word and review “The Conjuring”.

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It’s based on the true story of the Perron family, whom after moving into a new house begin to experience some paranormal activity (a terribly cliché plot). So they enlist the help of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who assist them in discovering the true horror of the house.

Now this movie was massively hyped and was dubbed with titles such as “the scariest movie of all time” and “one of the best horrors of the decade” etc. Usually I don’t buy into this kind of sensationalism, but after reading about the real story of the plight of the Perron family, I began to start thinking “hey, this really could be a truly scary film”.

I have a very split opinion of this film, due to the fact that I feel that the story was sacrificed in order to make the film seem more scary. I just felt that director James Wan (Saw) didn’t really take advantage of the importance of a storyline in a paranormal horror film and how it can be used to bolster the fear amplified onto the audience. The protagonists managed to step in immediately, clock on to what was happening in the house and put measures in place to stop it then everyone lived happily ever after. It was that linear. No curveballs were thrown, no twists, nothing. Admittedly there are some points that are creepy and uncomfortable, but as far as paranormal films are concerned, the most terrifying thing is the fear of the unknown and the feeling of helplessness displayed by the victims, Wan seemed to opt for shock scares compared to psychological scares.

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On the other hand, the parts that are scary are terrifying. There’s no doubt about that at all. The special effects weren’t overused or abused, which presented the antagonist (if you will) as a much more realistic, terrifying entity. The house itself had an eerie air about it, but James Wan does have an aptitude for managing to create creepy, seedy sets as we’ve seen with his work on the Saw films, and one can see how his talent is transferred to the Perron house.

People compared The Conjuring in a negative light to William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” (1973), which I believe is extremely unfair. The Exorcist is quite literally a horror masterpiece; The Conjuring however is full of cheap scares and jumps and all in all is a completely different film. The Exorcist is psychologically scary in the way that at the time nobody could comprehend the terror they saw on the screen and it was arguably the first truly scary horror film. The Conjuring comes from a line of possessed house films, which include “The Amityville Horror”, “The Haunting in Conneticut” and “Sinister”. None of which are particularly scary, but at the time of viewing, they do deliver some scares. People know what to expect from these films now, but I would say that The Conjuring is the best of a(relatively) bad bunch.

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The musical score does deserve a note, as sound plays a massive part in the generation of fear in a movie and Joseph Bishara composed a brilliantly spooky score to accompany certain scenes.

Trailer:

RATING: 6/10

CATEGORY:

Paranormal/Haunted House: A few shock scares, so be ready with your blanket.

 

A Horror Movie A Day: Day 2 – “The Cabin In The Woods” (2012)

Sorry about the 2 day delay in this. I’ve been having trouble uploading content for whatever reason, which has put me way behind schedule. But I’m back now, so you can all rest easy.

Suggestmemovie determined that my movie of the day was “The Cabin in The Woods” starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Kristen Connolly (The Happening). Funnily enough I’ve had this in my DVD collection for a couple of years now but it’s only had one outing and I didn’t really pay attention to it, so it’s good that I have to watch it.

It must be said, I didn’t really have much interest after watching the trailer (as usual, I’ll embed it at the end), the storyline did seem a bit lame, but as the old idiom goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”. So here we go.

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Quite frankly, that was one of the strangest, twisted and just seriously bizarre horror films I’ve ever seen, and I loved every second of it. What you need to know before going into the film is that it’s basically a satire of the slasher genre and with it being produced by Joss Whedon (Marvels Avengers Assemble) it’s almost expected to be darkly humorous in some way.

The Cabin In The Woods follows a stereotypical structure of a classic slasher movie. A group of young adults go to an ambiguous location (the creepy cabin in the title) and one by one fall victim to a terrible evil. One of the most beautiful things about it is the way that at the same time as following the genre to a T, it also simultaneously bastardizes it in a satirical, subtle and fun way.

With slasher films, there’s also a traditional stereotype of characters, which this film rigidly follows. There’s an uptight virgin girl, a scholarly ethnically ambiguous man, a stoner, a jock and his slutty girlfriend. One of my favourite things about this choice of characters is there is absolutely NO attempt to hide what they are, revealing every single characters purpose early on in the film and their stereotypes are so heavily amplified it’s almost a joke in itself.

The primary antagonist is the ominously named religious conglomerate “The Facility” a group of people, who throughout the film, manage to control each action of the group. Richard Jenkins (Stepbrothers) and Bradley Whitford (Billy Madison) both put in excellent performances as the technicians running the whole operation as they provide a darkly humorous edge to the film. They are by far the most likeable characters and weirdly, you find yourself supporting their cause, even though you have no idea what they’re doing.

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An amazing trait this film exhibits is that as we watch the movie, whenever we feel that we’re getting a grip on what’s going on, Whedon manages to throw us a curveball. Things do not end at all how you expect them to end. Don’t think you’re going to guess the end either, because you’ll be proven wrong the very next second. It’s just such a mindf*ck. All in all it reminds me of those old Goosebumps books, you know the ones where you chose your own ending? I don’t want to spoil the movie, but when you see it (which I highly suggest you do), you’ll understand what I mean.

I saw this movie as Whedons way of expressing his own reasoning behind slasher films and why they follow such a specific formula. He also chose to emphasise that the genre can be completely unpredictable at the same time as following said formula. He also uses it as a way of showing how much variation there could be in the slasher/”torture porn”  genre, which indicates that it may have been an attempt to revive a once well loved genre that many appeared to lose patience with a long time ago.

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The only issue I take with the movie as a whole is that if you take it as a straight up, “scare you silly” horror film, you may be disappointed, because really it isn’t that scary. If you take it as a satire and a psychological trip, it’s one of the better films of its type out there.

Trailer:

RATING: 7/10

CATEGORY:

Slasher/Psychological/Satire- Gory, a few shock scares but you really need to be on the ball to follow it.

 

A Horror Movie A Day – Day 1: “Scream (1996)”

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Happy October! The month of Halloween and all things scary, I’ve set myself a challenge of watching a random Horror movie and writing a review of it every day this month. To choose the movies, I’m either going to take on suggestions from people or use the website www.suggestmemovie.com which does exactly what it says, it suggests movies to watch.

I’m basically doing this so if anyone is struggling for ideas of scary movies to watch around Halloween time, you can just come right here and there should be around 21/22 movies that you can choose from. I’ll be rating them out of 10 and placing them in various categories so you don’t need to read the whole review before you realize that you don’t want to watch a movie about a scientist who creates a human/animal hybrid, then has sex with it (yes that’s a real movie).

“Suggestmemovie” determined that my movie for the day is “Scream (1996)”. Okay, I can deal with that. It’s one I’ve watched hundreds of times before but what the hell, it’s an easy watch so let’s get on with it.

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To be honest, I didn’t need to watch it again, I could write a review of it from memory alone but any excuse to enjoy Scream again is good enough for me. I absolutely love it.

When I was younger I had a friend who lived up the road from me; Johno (short for Jonathan). He, my brother and myself began to nurture our love for slasher flicks through a DVD box set of the Friday 13th series (which to this day is one of my favourite movie series) which we would often marathon on weekends. This led to us watching every slasher under the sun (including Scream) so really this was never going to be a bad review.

Scream is a particularly interesting one because it draws from the gory, unclean nature of the 80’s slashers and gives it a more modern twist, adding the use of phone calls to taunt his victims before he kills them which all rolls up to create the twisted, almost perverse nature of the Ghostface killer. There are loads of references to the classics in this movie, in fact one of the first lines in the movie is “Name the killer in Friday 13th” which should naturally cause the viewer to holler “Jason!” but they would be wrong, as we find out.

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One of the stark differences between Scream and other movies of this sub-genre is that the acting isn’t actually that bad. They had a relatively all star cast, featuring Courtney Cox (Friends), Jamie Kennedy (Romeo + Juliet), Liev Schreiber (Defiance), Henry “The Fonz” Winkler (Happy Days) and many, many others. With a cast like this being led by slasher king Wes Craven (Creator of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises), you’re never going to have a bad time.

Undeniably it is a horror comedy, there are some pretty funny moments, like Neve Campbell absolutely lamping Courtney Cox in the mouth (it may not actually be that funny, but I just don’t like Courtney Cox). It doesn’t really break the fourth wall, but one could argue that it takes place in our universe as it makes cross-film references, especially since the killer bases his kills on the horror genre in the real world, so that’s a very interesting aspect of the Scream franchise and credit where credits due; it’s a hell of a debut screenplay from Kevin Williamson.

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It’s a classic whodunit, you have no idea who the killer is and to be honest; unlike other slashers where you only care about people being killed, you REALLY want to know. It arouses your intrigue from the moment Drew Barrymore answers the phone in the second minute. Within 10 minutes of viewing, you’re not really sure when the killer is going to pop up again, which is a huge achievement and important ingredient for a successful movie in this sub genre. Anyone can play a bit of creepy music and have the boogeyman jump out of the closet; Craven eliminated this by throwing red herrings all over the place, to the point where you stop expecting things to happen and keep yourself braced for the rest of the 111 minutes.

Grab the duvets, a pillow, ANYTHING to shield yourself from the horror on the screen. Scream promises to deliver more jumps, twists and turns than Evil Kneivil in his heyday.

RATING: 9/10

CATEGORY:

Slasher – Gory, suspense filled, easy to follow. Just don’t let your guard down.

Trailer:

Any suggestions of horror films to review? Just let me know in the comments belowwww.