Tag Archives: Horror

The Babysitter: Killer Queen (McG, 2020)

In humour and topsy-turvy aesthetic, McG’s The Babysitter proved a surprise word-of-mouth success for Netflix. It was bolstered by a few key notes of merit. The first is that it was undeniably a crucial stepping stone for the star ascent of Samara Weaving, whose first major American role – at least in terms of filming date, more on that later – was as the eponymous character, a loving guardian for nervous pre-teen Cole (Judah Lewis) who turns out to actually be the leader of a devil-worshipping cult, looking to use her innocent ward’s blood for a ritual that will supposedly grant one’s deepest desires.

Second was a theoretically interesting theme concerning how, to kids on the cusp of puberty, older teenagers can have this air of terror, intrigue and incomprehensibility about them that is hypnotising – part of how Cole gets himself into the mess he does is because he wants to see what cool babysitter Bee gets up to with her friends when he’s supposed to be asleep.

Third, peppered throughout The Babysitter was a genuinely quite sweet subplot about Cole’s developing relationship with his best friend and neighbour Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind). In the final half hour of The Babysitter, Cole flees to Melanie’s house as Bee fires at him with a shotgun she swiped while disposing of a cop car and the bodies of two police officers her crew killed. Melanie’s own father is reportedly away on a date with a “protestant”, so, with no adults around to defend them, the pair end up hiding from Bee trying to find them in Melanie’s house.

Once she’s left, Cole tries to make sure Melanie is safe before he goes back to his house to face Bee and his fears. Melanie kisses him, telling him: “Just because she’s a psychopath doesn’t mean women are evil.” Boosted by this romantic development and Melanie’s suggestion they should make out next time, Cole heads back and takes out the remainder of the cult. This includes returning to swipe Melanie’s dad’s car to drive into both Bee and his own house, something the film shows Melanie supporting both as and after it happens.

Fast forward to The Babysitter: Killer Queen, the 2020 sequel with a title that seems to have been chosen on the basis of whatever the most expensive song on the soundtrack was, rather than much to do with the story. Despite two police officers called to the scene that night going missing (you’d think that would be a big deal), no one in the film’s world believes anything about Cole’s account of the first film’s events, except for Melanie who at least witnessed Bee brandishing a shotgun around her house.

A more fantastical film that confirms all the ritual business is real, Killer Queen brings back practically everyone from the first outing, including the deceased cult characters played by Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Andrew Bachelor and Hana Mae Lee, who are resurrected from limbo for another chance at performing the ritual, something that can apparently only happen every two years. Samara Weaving’s Bee is also back, eventually, but since she’s become a much bigger deal of late and was filming both Bill & Ted Face the Music and the currently delayed GI Joe spin-off Snake Eyes when Killer Queen was being shot, adjustments had to be made for this direct continuation…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Dario Argento, 1971)

Dario Argento’s first three features as director – The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o’ Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet – are commonly referred to as his “Animal Trilogy”. They are not connected by recurring story threads or characters, but by visual and thematic motifs in their mystery narratives about murder most foul, many involving voyeurism. And each of the three’s titles contains a species’ name, in case you somehow missed that…

Full review for VODzilla.co’s MUBI Mondays column

Filmmaker Rose Glass on making this year’s best horror

Saint Maud, the acclaimed horror darling of the past year’s festival circuit, finally reaches British cinemas on a wave of hype – despite release delays owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the debut feature of British writer-director Rose Glass, the psychological drama follows Maud (Morfydd Clark), a reclusive, pious hospice nurse with a dark past, who becomes dangerously obsessed with a perceived higher purpose and her latest patient in a seaside town: Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a hedonistic and embittered retired dancer who’s dying of cancer.

Glass has pointed to Taxi Driver as a specific influence on Saint Maud’s structure, with both sharing narration by the increasingly volatile protagonist. She also pays homage to Martin Scorsese’s film with at least two specific shots. “Generally any stuff that I felt that, in some way, I shouldn’t be watching, I wanted to watch,” she says of her burgeoning enthusiasm for left field cinema in her early teen years in the 2000s, which included films by David(s) Lynch and Cronenberg, Hideo Nakata (Ring), Takashi Miike (Visitor Q) and Fruit Chan (Dumplings).

To mark Saint Maud’s UK release, Huck spoke to Glass at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival – in an interview that originally took place back in March – about making an empathetic genre movie concerning mental illness, body horror, and the extreme places the human mind can take us…

Full interview for Huck

Koko-di Koko-da: Don’t Loop Now

Fans of grim but strangely uplifting films but who also happen to love Groundhog Day, will have a new horror fable to prioritise in 2020 with Koko-di Koko-da.

This second feature from Swedish director Johannes Nyholm really does do something inventive – and frequently disturbing – with a time loop storytelling device.

Koko-di Koko-da follows a grieving married couple taking a holiday, stopping off in the woods on the way to camp for the night, only for their tent to come under siege from a group of figures straight out of the circus of your nightmares. We talk to Nyholm about his film…

Full interview for SciFiNow

Koko-di Koko-da (Johannes Nyholm, 2019)

On a day out in Denmark just before her eighth birthday, young Maja (Katarina Jakobson) tells her parents, Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlund), that she wishes the day could last forever. The day will end up playing in her parents’ minds in perpetuity, though not for the reasons that the happy child intends.

And in Swedish writer-director Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di Koko-da, a literal never-ending quality will take effect for another dreadful day in the aftermath…

Full review for SciFiNow

‘She Dies Tomorrow’: Amy Seimetz on her timely contagion film

Writer-director Amy Seimetz’s She Dies Tomorrow isn’t the first 2020 release to gain unexpected layers by arriving during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s perhaps the most prescient. A visually vivid absurdist thriller that’s unsettling and darkly funny in equal measure, it concerns Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), a woman consumed by the notion that she will die tomorrow.

Her’s isn’t a suicidal inclination, rather an unwavering conviction of her imminent demise. She vocalises this belief to her friend Jane (Jane Adams), with Jane then gripped by the same doom-laden anxiety. Jane then talks of her own death tomorrow to her brother (Chris Messina) and his party guests, and an increasing number of characters become ‘infected’ by this emotional contagion, the effects including transcendental visions and varying degrees of either panic or acceptance.

Whether consciously or not, much of the multi-talented Seimetz’s work has concerned mortality in various ways. Her striking first feature as director, Sun Don’t Shine (2012), is a Florida noir that resembles what you might get if Lynne Ramsay adapted a Jim Thompson story – like Ramsay’s Morvern Callar (2002), it involves the attempted discreet disposal of a body. As an actor, Seimetz’s credits include several key horror films of the last decade, from independent breakthrough You’re Next (2011) to studio spine-chillers Alien: Covenant (2017) and Pet Sematary (2019). Her fee for the latter reportedly funded She Dies Tomorrow.

Speaking to us via Zoom, Seimetz discussed the film’s existential dread and eccentricities…

Full interview for the BFI

‘I See You’: Someone’s watching me

I See You is a puzzle movie where revealing the exact horror sub-genres it sticks with to the end, or even to its halfway point, constitutes as a spoiler. Penned by American actor-turned-writer Devon Graye (Dexter, The Flash), directed by Brit Adam Randall (who helmed Netflix Original sci-fi iBoy) and starring Helen Hunt and Jon Tenney, the Ohio-filmed movie benefits from knowing as little as possible, beyond the basic premise that concerns a series of abductions in a small town coinciding with the apparent haunting of a family’s home.

That said, there’s still plenty to discuss without giving the game away. Speaking to SciFiNow at last summer’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, Adam Randall (carefully) told us about his film…

Full interview for SciFiNow

How Robert Eggers made this year’s strangest film

Upon its release in 2016, Robert Eggers’ debut feature, The Witch, spooked audiences across the world with its slow-burn dread and terrifying portrayals of possession.

What truly set it apart as a period horror, though, was an exquisite sense of historical detail when it came to its 1630s New England setting: notably, the particulars of the language its characters used to communicate and process the terrors they faced. Visually speaking – although shot digitally – it often harkened back to some of cinema’s earliest days. It’s no surprise that Eggers has since been attached to remake the influential Nosferatu.

But the writer-director’s follow-up to The Witch isn’t the silent-horror classic: it’s something altogether trickier to define. With his second feature, The Lighthouse, Eggers has in fact enlisted the help of Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe – two of the most idiosyncratic stars of their respective generations – for a two-hander set on a New England island in the 1890s…

Full interview for Huck

Gwen (William McGregor, 2018)

We may not yet be in a full-blown renaissance of folk horror, a subgenre particularly popular in British cinema in the 1970s, but several recent high-profile offerings indicate a burgeoning interest in films eschewing traditional monsters and boogeymen for stories of the land, community traditions, and, occasionally, religion driving hysteria and hauntings.

Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England and Kill List flirt with folk horror in both period and contemporary contexts; Ari Aster’s Midsommar has an isolated Swedish village’s rituals causing terror; and Robert Eggers’ The Witch has the explicit subtitle A New-England Folktale. Gwen, the debut feature from TV veteran William McGregor (Poldark), fits neatly into this scene in terms of its use of landscape and how its writer/director flirts with macabre folklore to fuel a near-suffocating sense of dread…

Full review for Little White Lies

William McGregor on the ‘slow burn, anti-capitalist folk horror’ of ‘Gwen’

No one’s having an especially good time in Gwen, a gothic tale with a rural focus where the most tender moment involves someone applying blood to their cheeks as blusher.

In mid-19th century Snowdonia, north Wales, a young girl, Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), tries to hold her home together. Her father’s failure to return from war has her and her little sister, Mari (Jodie Innes), concerned. Her stern mother (Maxine Peake) has developed a strange illness, the farm’s crops are rotting, their closest neighbours have mysteriously died, and a ruthless mining company is looking to seize their land.

Gwen is the debut feature of William McGregor, a writer-director with various prize-winning shorts and acclaimed TV runs to his name, including Poldark (2015-). His breakthrough effort, co-financed by the BFI, is a tricky film to define, but he has a very specific way of describing it for prospective viewers. “A slow burn, anti-capitalist folk horror would be the best description,” he says. “You have to add that caveat because if you tell people it’s only folk horror, they might go in with slightly different expectations”…

Full interview for the BFI