Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Inside (2007)

Inside. Released in 2007. Directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. Starring Alysson Paradis and Beatrice Dalle

Inside, released in 2007 and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, is a graphic, and visceral movie experience, unlike anything I have experienced before. It takes a lot for me to squirm in my seat due to gore and violence, but this one accomplished that task. It is a sadistic movie without much plot; instead, it chooses to get inside your skin and see how much you can take. Like Sheitan, this film is apart of the New French Extremity movement, and trust me when I say it earns the title of extreme.

The plot concerns a young expectant mother, Sarah (played excellently by Alysson Paradis), who, after losing her significant other in a car accident, is plagued by a home invader on Christmas Eve who wants to take her child. The home invader who is never named is played by actress Beatrice Dalle who gives a chilling, sadistic, and excellent performance in the movie. I would argue her unnamed villain is one of the best antagonists I have seen in a film like this. The movie goes straight for the throat and features some of the most horrific on-screen violence that I have witnessed. Every time I thought the film had reached a plateau, it would climb higher.

The gore effects in the movie are top-notch. The make-up and special effects team deserves high praise for their brutal and unnerving work. The cinematography by Laurent Bares deserves some special mention as well. His use of darkness and light helps amplify the horror and intensity of the film. These elements, along with an excellent score by Francois-Eudes Chanfrault, help elevate the atmosphere, gore, and horror to new heights. There was only one scene that was off-putting in a negative way, and it comes during Sarah’s nightmare when her unborn child burst from her mouth. The special effects in this scene are quite dated, and it was almost comical to watch. That being said, the rest of the digital effects were decent and not distracting. The movie features numerous scenes of the unborn child in the womb, and that is all done through digital effects. Again, some of the effects are dated, but unlike the mouth baby scene, these scenes are not detrimental to the overall film.

It is difficult for me to say I recommend this film because I would understand people being turned off by the sadism and bleakness of the film, but it is an excellent and visceral horror film. If you think you can stomach graphic gore and violence, as well as a bleak and depressing horror film, you should check this out. Inside is a movie that will stick with me for a while. I don’t think it is a movie that I will revisit often due to its nature, but some moments and scenes will live in my mind for a while; it is a brutally effective horror film that works because of its simplicity and brutality.

Rating 4/5

Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Sheitan (2006)

Sheitan. Released in 2006 and Directed by Kim Chapiron. It stars Vincent Cassel, who we see here looking quite smashing.

Sheitan, released in 2006 and directed by Kim Chapiron, is a horror film that is apart of the New French Extremity movement. The New French Extremity movement featured transgressive films that dealt with challenging, dark, and subversive subject matter in brutal and realistic ways. Sheitan exists on the more absurdist slant of that category of films, but the way it is filmed, as well as the aesthetics and style, lends itself to the movement. The film concerns four friends who get thrown out of a club on Christmas Eve due to their friend Bart’s aggressive behavior. They go with a girl, Eve, back to her farmhouse where they meet Joseph, played excellently by Vincent Cassel (who looks a lot like Nigel Thornberry in this role), the bizarre and satanic housekeeper. The film is incredibly slow-paced, and there is no payoff until the last fifteen minutes or so, and that is definitely to the detriment of the film.

There are about six primary characters in the movie and the majority of them, except Eve, Yasmine, and Cassel’s Joseph, are incredibly abrasive and annoying. I have watched plenty of slasher movies and horror movies in general that feature annoying characters, but this movie takes the cake. The three male leads, other than Cassel, are douchebags; they spend the majority of the film trying to get into the girls pants, even at times when they are being pushed away. Bart is the protagonist of the movie, and he is the most unlikable of the bunch. I would say it is brave to make your leads so unlikable, but it makes the film a miserable chore to watch.

Sheitan is heavily inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it doesn’t feature the same intensity, originality, or style that movie featured; instead, what we get is a slow-paced and bizarre horror movie that takes far too long to pay off. Cassel does an excellent job as the antagonist Joseph, but his performance cannot save the film, and by the time you reach the climax, the payoff doesn’t feel good enough. I appreciate the bizarre, almost surreal atmosphere that the movie is trying to give off, but for the majority of the film, I was bored. It does get insane at the end, but it doesn’t save the entirety of the film.

Sheitan is a strange movie with disgusting characters, a slow pace, and not enough going on. I appreciate the performance from Cassel and the utter bizarreness of the final act, but it is not enough to save the movie.

Rating 2/5

Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Blood Beat (1983)

Blood Beat. Released in 1983. Directed by Fabrice A Zaphiratos. Starring Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day, James Fitzgibbons, and Claudia Peyton

I don’t know how to adequately describe or review a film like Blood Beat; released in 1983, nearing the end of the slasher movie craze, Blood Beat is about a samurai spirit that begins killing residents in a Wisconsin town. That may sound like a typical supernatural slasher, but the movie is so much more than that. It is a confusing mess of a film: bad acting, bizarre musical cues and choices, strange shots, and camera perspectives, and features a scene where a samurai spirit manifests because of a girl’s orgasm. The girl in question is Sarah. Ted, who is dating Sarah, and his sister Dolly are visiting their mother, Cathy, and her boyfriend, Gary, for Christmas. Right from the start, Cathy notices something odd about Sarah, Cathy is an artist and a psychic whose power tips her off to Sarah’s dangers.

I am trying to think of themes or subtext that underlines the movie, but as I run the film back through my head trying to review it, I can’t seem to find an underlying message that the movie is trying to send. Like most slashers, there is a sexual link between death and violence. Sarah’s orgasms summon this spectral samurai slasher, but we spend so little time with her character that I don’t fully understand the link between sex and the samurai. Sarah seems to be a reincarnated spirit angry about the destruction of Japan during World War 2, which is vaguely alluded to through a brief flashback. The dialogue may have offered more hints but is unintelligible and drowned out by the bizarre score. Cathy, the mother, seems to have some connection with this spirit but spends most of the movie painting and shoving people out of her studio.

Even though the acting is terrible, the plot is messy, and the dialogue is hard to hear, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie. There are plenty of unintentional laughs, and the film is incredibly amateur, but I admired the insanity. It feels like the director was going for a surreal, psychosexual euro horror tone, and I feel like he achieves some of that well. It is a movie with an identity all its own, and I can appreciate that, and that’s why I’m going to recommend this movie. Please, everyone, watch this movie about a samurai spirit summoned by orgasm; I implore you, it will bring you nothing but Holiday cheer.

Rating 3.5/5*

*My enjoyment rating, I would fully understand someone who has watched the movie being confused by my scoring.

Movies Reviews

Ho Ho Horror: Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil. Directed by Lewis Jackson, Released in 1980, and starring Brandon Maggart and Jeffery DeMunn

Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson and released in 1980, felt misleading, but that is not a bad thing. I was fully expecting a cheesy Christmas slasher in the same vein as Silent Night, Deadly Night, but instead, it is more reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s not anywhere near as good as Scorsese’s neo-noir classic, but it made for a unique watch and separated it from the cliche holiday slasher that I was anticipating. Brandon Maggart stars as Harry Stadling, who witnessed the lie that is Santa Claus at an early age after he saw his father, who was dressed as Santa Claus to fool the kids, being intimate with his mother. This yuletide fuckery screwed with young Harry, and years later, he lives alone, works in a toy factory, keeps a good and bad list of local children, and dresses as Santa. He is belittled at work and picked on by his co-workers even though he has recently received a promotion.

Typically, I would expect a movie such as this to dive into the gore and violence immediately; however, this movie pulls back and paints a picture of a mentally disturbed man who is plagued by loneliness. Even his brother, played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffery DeMunn, doesn’t seem to care for Harry. He is more frustrated by his brother than anything. The movie makes you feel sympathy for Harry before he explodes into chaotic violence. It makes sense that this doesn’t feature all the slasher tropes since it came out in 1980, not long after the slasher genre took hold of horror, but I wasn’t expecting a character study that dived deep into the psyche of a lonely and insane man.

Harry descends into complete madness.

I don’t know if I buy the whole concept of seeing Mommy kissing Santa Daddy breaking Harry to the point of derangement, but Brandon Maggart does an excellent job portraying a broken man. The scene when Harry glues the beard on his face and starts weeping, both tears of joy and sadness, is magnificently performed, and moments like these make me wonder why I haven’t seen Brandon Maggart in more movies. The ending of the film is also spectacular and weird, which I immensely enjoyed.

Christmas Evil is an interesting Christmas horror film that ended up being more in-depth than I was expecting. If you go into this movie expecting a Christmas slasher, you may end up disappointed. Instead, this is a character study on loneliness that owes more to a film like Taxi Driver than it does the slasher movie cliches of Halloween.

Rating 3/5


Ho Ho Horror: Better Watch Out (2016)

Better Watch Out, Released in 2016, Directed by Chris Peckover, Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, and Ed Oxenbould

One of the activities mentioned in the classic Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams includes “scary ghost stories;” so, for the Holiday season I will occasionally be reviewing and talking about Christmas movies with a horror twist. I will be calling these reviews HO HO HORROR (I’m sure someone else was clever enough to come up with this before, and if someone else has used this title before be sure to let me know).

There is not much that one can say about 2016’s Better Watch Out, so I will keep my review short and sweet. Better Watch Out is a subversive and unique take on the home invasion genre. It offers so much more for the audience, who are expecting something much different than they get. It reminded me of a much darker version of Christmas classic Home Alone, directed by Chris Columbus and released in 1990. Unlike that movie, Better Watch Out is much darker, sadistic, and brutal in execution. The film starts pretty simple with a babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), going to take care of 12-year-old Luke, played excellently by Levi Miller–honestly one of the best performances I’ve seen from a young actor in a while. Luke is infatuated with the older Ashley, who has taken care of him before, and he and his best friend Garret (Ed Oxenbould) talk about how they can woo a woman with fear. He soon gets his chance to prove this theory after someone appears to break into the house after his parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton, leave for their Christmas party; it is from this point on that things get strange, demented, and twisted.

I won’t say too much more to preserve the twist and turns. This movie features a clever script that is reminiscent of both Chris Columbus’ Home Alone and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The performances from everyone are incredible, especially from Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould, and Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton give fun performances with the little screen time they have. If you want a twisted, and subversive take on the home invasion genre with a holiday twist, I would highly recommend Better Watch Out.

Rating 4/5