Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta / Shadows in an Empty Room (1976)
Director: Alberto De Martino Starring:Stuart Whitman, John Saxon, Martin Landau, Tisa Farrow.Canada/Italy. 1h 54m
Shadows in an Empty Room is a distinct 1970s crime film with mad tones of Euro grime; this De Martino might be out of place in Canada, but it doesn’t drag for a minute. Shadows in an Empty Room is what would remain if you stripped a Giallo movie of its euro trash, bumped it up with a heavy Polittesco narrative, and went full frontal.
On the campus of Montreal college a man notices his ex girlfriend having a moment with her lecturer, and suspected lover, Dr Tracer (Landau), later on that evening a prank turns into a suspicious murder, and the prime suspect is Laundau, and his student/girlfriend is stone cold. Unlucky for him, her brother is a hard ass police officer, played by Stuart Whitman and his back up is the steely eyes John Saxon and they are about to get some Canadian Justice.
Director: Alejandro Hidalgo Starring: Joseph Marcell, Will Beinbrink. México/Venezuela/USA. 1h 38m
Every few years there’s another game changing exorcism movie, and these stand out to the weekly releases of the same old tripe. But what makes this heavily laced CGI movie stand out from the rest? First it challenges religious scripture with a bit of cray logic but unfortunately it takes an ice age to get to the fun bits but audiences are entertained with shock moments, jump scares and lots of grisly CGI faces, sometimes with some familiarity to his previous gothic house masterpiece The House at the End of Time (2013). Having grown as a director since then he’s developed his eye but leaves behind the suspense for full out vile visuals but it won’t distract from the silliness that keeps corrupting this horror.
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: Jake Scott Starring: Sienna Miller, Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, Will Sasso, Pat Healy, Amy Madigan .USA. 1h m
What starts out to be a melodrama about a woman, almost down on her luck but making the best of her life. Eventually turns into a homage to the resilience of all women, especially those mothers who have had to fight adversity and their own demons and manage to come out bigger and stronger on the other side.
Sienna Miller stars as Debra, a gorgeous thirty something year old single mother, who lives with her daughter and grandson, life is simple in their small town in Pennsylvania. Debra is forever young, she jokes around, enjoys her freedom and is more of a friend to her daughter, Bridget (Sky Ferreira), offering advice about men more than good wholesome patenting, but their bonds is strong, so when Bridget goes missing and Debra is left to look after her grandson Jesse.
Backwoods horrors seem to have traveled from the deserts of the southern American into the cold forests of the north, incorporating indigenous folklore along the way. The Silencing tries to keep itself in the here and now, offering a grimy armchair detective mystery with icy drama, some daring thrills and a fathers promise to find his missing daughter at all costs.
Director: Martin Radich
Starring: Denis Menochet, Barry Keoghan, Goda Letkaustie. UK. 1h 23m
Sometimes cinema can be drab and unkind, which is the unnerving feeling you’ll end up with after watching Martin Radich’s Surreal coming of age art house drama.
The downtrodden ,depressing atmosphere permeates from the screen, as a father attempts to protect and train his son. While living off the grid in a remote rural location the two have strained relationship, mulling around their isolated home, their only connection is watching tv together. Unbeknowst to the son, a job from the past has caught up with his father and now their lives are in danger and one more murder must be commited, just one more contract or one more act of revenge.
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
Director: Stephen Rick Starring. Patrick John Flueger, Val Kilmer, Mattea Conforti, Taylor Richardson, Paul Ben-Victor, Yul Vasquez. USA. 1h 30m.
There are a number of amazing tenant building horrors and thriller out here, Roman Polanski thrilled audiences with his trilogy of high rise fears, playing on the social and personal psychological terrors that can be conjured by a strange cult living within the walls or being left to one’s own devices, with no idea what kind of community you’re moving into there is a long running horror trope of new tenants finding strange secrets lurking in their new dream home, from either something creepy in the sub basements to demons haunting the halls, all of this is attractively laid out but in my opinion rubbished by a terrible ending, only written to continue a story that I don’t think anyone needs. Continue reading The Super (2017)→
Director: Raffaele Picchio Starring: Aaron Stielstra, Alice Zanini, Francesca Pellegrini .Germany. 1h 27m Based on : the short stories “El monte de las ànimas” and “La cruz del diablo” by Gustavo Adolfo
I have to say I’m one of those horror fans who was wowed by what is now considered retro or vintage horror and I still see 70-90 as a golden age. I do however look forwards, possibly with rose tinted glasses, to find modern horrors which are able to offer something which I find wholesome and non flashy, often I am let down by green screens effects, weak characters and narratives that really don’t go anywhere but there’s always an ounce of hope that when someone attempts to go back to a cult classic and renew an old franchise they might do it with some respect and not shit on a movies history.. alas after watching this abysmal movie I am still waiting… Continue reading Curse of the Blind Dead (2020)→
Director: Peter Newbrook. Starring. Robert Powell, Robert Stephens, Jane Lapotaire, Alex Scott, Ralph Arliss. USA. 1h 39m.
A moralistic story written with a heavy gothic horror backdrop by Christina and Laurence Beers has been cleverly adapted by Peter Newbrook in a pseudo Hammer Horror-esque style. In a large opulent mansion a brilliant Victorian scientist becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming immortal. Continue reading The Asphyx (1972/3)→