Director: Mark Tonderai Starring: Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine .USA. 1h 31m
18 years on from Ian Softleys powerful hoodoo thriller Skeleton Key (2005), the time and tested horror had graduated into Spell, which is a strange name for a rootworking movie but nonetheless no one will be surprised when the incantations, grimoire and ritual work is let loose. However this darkened story has closer ties with Misery (1990) and the Hills Have Eyes (1977/2005).
Director: Billy Senese Starring: Shane Carruth, Poorna Jagannathan, Jeremy Childs, Bill Feehely, J Thomas Bailey. USA. 1h 33m
For the most part Dead Center seems to be built on the idea of keeping its audience in a perpetual state of WTF tinged with the feeling that something is creepily wrong. Shane Carruth, stars as Dr Forrester, the eggfree shrink who genuinely cares for people and is often pulled up by his superiors for trying to help everyone, his concerns are not budget related but actually trying to make people better. The really interesting aspect of the films that slowly creeps out from between the slowly driven office politics.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Joel Fry, Ellora Torchia, Hayley Squires, Reece Shearsmith. UK. 1h 47m
Ben Wheatley hit the movie scene with a handful of cracking gritty and unusual films which instantly gained my a cult status and loyal fans, a mix of hard british brutality, comedy and strongest flavoured his early titles and it was only going to be a matter of time before he got bigger budget movies and we all knew this was going to be a downfall for him. He proved that with Rebecca and High Rise he was able to make a movie outside of his own prescribed type cast but ultimately these films weren’t half as interesting as his other gripping and guttural work.
Director: Kevin Tenney
Starring:Patrick Kilpatrick, Chris Miller, Suzane Savoy, Dannt Mora. USA. 1h 25m
From a story that would be dissected for its cultural appropriation and questionable demonising, back in the late 80’s it was part of a movement of creepy Native American legend based horrors, from Wolfen (1980) to Scalps (1983)the idea of a spiritual bankhander from sacred lands, through wooden states, curses and the wendigo began to spring out of Hollywood and this is one of those low level leaks.
Director: Gregory Levasseur Starring: Denis O’Hare, Ashley Hinshaw, Alexandre Aja, James Buckley. USA. 1h 29m
Not quite found footage, but using a lot of the first person perspective shots, the Pyramid attempts to break the story of the century when a team of experts dig up the most uncanny find in a very unusual hidden pyramid.
With a high strung story and worrying cast the movie keeps losing grasp of its own concept. Long are the forgotten days of explorers opening up NEW pyramids, they have all been raided and documented but in Levasseur’s dusty thriller a group finds a longer Lobster pyramid and begins to investigate its potential treaties.
Director: Thomas Robert Lee
Starring:Catherine Walker, Jared Abrahams, Sean McGinley, Jessuca Reynold, Don McKellar. USA. 1h 34m
For the most part, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw is a slightly perplexing pagan tale, seeming to take roots from a host of folklore horror classics but while it’s a masterclass of cinematography and there’s nothing negative to be said about the acting, there’s just not really enough here to bite into, or at least nothing we haven’t seen done better elsewhere.
Director: Kevin Gates, Michael Bartlett Starring: Kevin Gates, Michael Bartlett, Criselda Cabitac UK. 1h 28m
There’s been a big trend in making found footage movies, where the cast head out to investigate something unusual and paranormal, only to find themselves running around in the darkness screaming with terror, and if done well this chilling concept can really get under the skin of a lot of audience participants, however if done with the wrong pace and little care, then the unsettling can become uninteresting.
Director: David Amito, Michael Laicini Starring: Nicole Tompkins, Rowan Smyth. Canada. 1h 35m
I have to admit that before seeing Antrim I had no idea what the word actually meant so I did have to Google it. Turns out that it means, “A nearly closed cavity or chamber…” Well ok, How does one make a movie about a nearly closed cavity? Somehow directors, David Amito and Michael Laicini managed to turn this notion into a retro cursed movie project and argue that the film is (loosely) based on a movie by David B. Earle titled Dining Room or There is Nothing. Believe it or not if you have ever seen any of the creepy movie compilations on YouTube then you probably have seen this short but were unaware of its title, and here is the movie in all of its esoteric glory.
Director: Ali Djarar Starring: Danny Webb, John Game, Neal Ward, Monty Burgess. UK. 1h 1m
This Indie ghost sleuthing found footage horror plays out like a version of Most Haunted, with some hints of Grave Encounters (2013) and Devils Familiar (2020) running through, just sadly not the good bits! All the amazing ideas of a mysterious house being a portal to a Lovecraftian void created by a cult, is washed away with too much banter and not enough on screen action. but it’s a tangible tale and I’m sure if you like any Ghost Hunting TV show then you’ll get a kick out of it.
Directors: Karin Engman, Klas Persson Starring: Elna Karlsson, Thomas Hedengran, Ralf Beck, Nine Filimoshkina, Urban Bergsten. Sweden. 1h 27m
There’s been a modern trend of directors getting back to their ruddy roots and finding terror in the wood which is the driving force in this potent doom folk horror, as local hero’s search for a missing man of the cloth. Draug keeps a sharp edge through it’s dynamic set up of a foul mouthed beer swigging clan leader Kettil (Hedengran), his highly sensitive and possibly psychic adopted daughter Nanna (Karlsson), his main squeeze and apparently his bravest men.
It feels very “authentic” drab colours, crazy locals and lots of beer; it’s the stereotypical perception of any European pagan infused settlement, while not being historically accurate ,if gives you what you’d expect, and more, there are few whoopie moments, modern clothing being the main culprit, it will be interesting to see how many other goods a professional could pick out!?
After setting out, the rescue team start at the last place where the missionary was seen, a quite neighboring village but all they find there is beer and stories about the creepy woods, the only event is Nanna getting creped out by a demented old woman, signs start to appear that adopted daughter is quite different from the other morals around her and the movie hinges on her discovering her origins and powers.
Draug sits well between scandanivan journey epics like Wolfhound (2006) with touches of the dark mysticism of Sauna (2008), yet it really doesn’t know if it wants to be an action flick or something more supernatural. Without having the massive budget or drive, at times Draug flounders, yet manages to keep a somewhat brooding sense of danger until the final act, when all hell is supposed to break loose but this is where the lack of budget trips the production up and it ends up being an extended episode of Nightmare(1987-1994), the mood changes to some kind of ethereal neon lit world and a new entity finally makes itself known within layers of lightning struck scenery side steps all the good build up that the movie achieved until then.
There could be more character development apart from the ale quaffing kind and his daughter everyone else is just mud soaked Viking some braver than others but there’s no real emphasis on who these characters are. There’s a lot of technical and acting fails, see if you can catch modern clothes, people looking for the camera and lots of focal adjustments.
“Where’s the bloody beer”
It’s great to see the forest being used a home for monsters yet again, it’s certainly nothing new in folk horror sub genre, it happens time and time again but the strength of Draug is firstly with its approach of there being some peace between the religious and pagan people, and then in it’s bitter ending. Engman and Persson make a bold leap into the European fairytale narrative where there are no happy endings. There’s a lot to admire with the approach to feminine strength Nanna has to make some difficult choices, finding her a dark secret within her bloodline is something the film is set up to do from the beginning but the implications are so very damning. Draug is surely one that needs to be seen to encompass modern folk horror but it’s a movie which feels challenged by its own storytelling, it wants to be a dark nightmare but it’s a slightly confusing one at best.
Related: The Witch (2015), Hagasuzza (2017), Sauna (2008),The Ritual (2017), Wolfhound (2006) Lists: Folk Horror, A Witch in the Woods Trailer