Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic at Hanging Rock.jpg

This film is based on a 1967 book by Joan Lindsay. So for quite a while I’ve been hearing film fans rave about this movie and how creepy and spectacular it is. So maybe I went in with unrealistic expectations, but this movie really just didn’t do it for me. I mean, it was fine but I was incredibly disappointed in it when it ended. It is considered one of Australia’s defining films, being more of a mystery than a horror film. So let’s get into what this film is about and why I was disappointed.

The film takes place at an all-girls boarding school in the year 1900. It is Valentine’s Day and the girls are all reading love poems and literature. They are excited about going on a picnic to a local geological feature called Hanging Rock. One girl, Sara, is not allowed to attend at the instruction of the overly strict headmistress. Four of the girls break off from the group to further explore the rock, and three girls mysteriously disappear. A wealthy young man who is picnicking near the rock becomes obsessed with hunting down one of the girls, as he saw the group shortly before they disappeared. The girls disappearance causes the boarding school staff and students to slowly unravel, the panic and depression swiftly getting worse.

So, this movie is pretty to look at. The school and the outfits are very romantic and soft, and the lighting is very beautiful. Aside from that though, there wasn’t much else that I liked. The film definitely tends to drag, which I can understand as that is common of films made in the 1970’s. The acting is pretty dry and unremarkable, with the exception of the actress who plays Sara. I also find the ending of the film to be exceedingly dull, while I am a fan of mysteries, if there’s no way to solve it, what’s the point?

Overall I was incredibly disappointed by this film, partly because I had such high expectations, and partly just because I don’t think the film has aged all that well. The way stories were told in the 70’s is very different that the way we tell them today, which lends to the film being a little meandering for my taste. Despite my dislike for the film, I know that it holds widespread acclaim, and I think this is one that everyone should check out for themselves.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfinity available: No

Amazon Video available: Yes

Rating: 1.5/5

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The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

The Lair of the White Worm.jpg

My husband claims this is one of the worst movies he’s ever seen. I think it’s mildly entertaining. To each his own, I guess. The film has a talented cast, and the story is interesting, if not a bit silly. It is based off the Bram Stoker novel and English legend of the Lambton Worm. It’s definitely dated and drags a bit at time, but I don’t think it’s nearly as awful as the Exorcist II.

A Scottish archaeologist, Angus, played by the delightful Peter Capaldi, is excavating a dig site at an English bed and breakfast owned by two sisters, Mary and Eve. When he unearths a big snake skull he thinks it may be evidence of the d’Ampton worm, which was said to have been slain by the ancestors of Lord James d’Ampton, played by a young Hugh Grant. As they begin to dig deeper and deeper into the myth, they start to realize that it may be less of a myth than they thought. Lady Sylvia, a woman in town is a high priestess of a snake god and is sustaining the giant snake underground. They must work to prevent any dangers from occurring to the townspeople.

This movie is silly, I mean the idea of Hugh Grant fighting a giant snake (in all it’s late 80’s glory) is enough to make anyone chuckle. The film does have some tongue in cheek moments, mainly courtesy of Capaldi, and as I said, while the effects and story line can be very unbelievable and silly, I think this movie is fun and entertaining. It isn’t overly long, although it can drag at times, which I think is mostly just an evolution in storytelling over the years. I think overall the movie does its best and it’s definitely different than any other movie I’ve never seen before.

I think this film is worth checking out, but obviously if you asked my husband he would recommend that no one ever watch it ever. I think its something that you need to decide for yourself. It’s a unique film that is definitely a product of the times, with entertaining performances from the cast and a so-silly-it’s-entertaining plot. Even if you don’t like it, the film is certainly an experience. I’d say give it a chance.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfinity available: Yes

Amazon Prime available: Yes

Rating: 2.75/5

 

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Dressed to Kill

Brian De Palma’s 1980’s erotic thriller is an experience from beginning to end. I don’t know that it especially holds up, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s very well made and artistic, it’s definitely a visual film. However, some of the “twists” are a little trite and predictable nowadays, and the reasoning is honestly a little outlandish. The erotic thriller has come and gone as a genre, so this is a cool look into one of the better ones. Despite that, it’s nothing all that special or groundbreaking.

Kate is a housewife who is sexually frustrated and unsatisfied by her husband, a problem she discusses in therapy with Dr. Elliot. While at an art gallery she engages in a flirtatious cat and mouse game with a stranger. She ends up going home with him. She attempts to sneak out after their tryst, trying to write him a love note. While going through his desk she finds the positive results of an STD test. She rushes out, forgetting her wedding ring. While going back to retrieve it, she is murdered by a tall blonde woman. A young call girl, Liz, witnesses the crime and becomes the killers next target. When the police discredit her due to her profession, Liz works together with Kate’s teenage son to track down the murderer. They soon zero in on one of Dr. Elliot’s other patients, a trans woman named Bobbi, who is angry with Dr. Elliot because he refused to sign her gender reassignment papers. Dr. Elliot is continually threatened by Bobbi and is trying to convince Bobbi’s new doctor that she is a danger to herself and others.

The movie is very visual as I said, there are 15 minute spans where there is absolutely no dialogue at all. The cinematography is very entertaining and unique, which keeps the scenes from dragging. After Kate’s murder, the film begins to become a little convoluted and overly complicated. The performances are nothing groundbreaking and the big twist is pretty predictable and honestly, a little offensive, but it’s a product of its time, so you can’t fault it all too much. One of the things about this movie, and a lot of movies that were created before psychology was more wide-spread, is at the end they have a “psychologist” explaining the why and the how and the motivations of the killer to Liz (who acts as a vessel for the audience). I always just think its silly how they felt the need to explain it because they thought the audience would be too stupid to understand it.

This is probably one that you can either skip or watch depending on what you want. I don’t think there’s anything terrible about it, it’s well made, decently acted, the cinematography is definitely the best part. But it’s also dated, overly complicated, and drags in places. You won’t miss it if you don’t watch it, you won’t feel like you wasted your time if you do. It’s a perfectly safe erotic thriller to check out.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfinity available: Yes

Amazon Prime available: Yes

Rating: 3/5

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Last House on the Left

Wes Craven’s directorial debut has left a mark on horror forever. This film is one of my favorites from one of my favorite directors. This exploitation film was groundbreaking and especially horrifying at the time. The brutality and sheer torture of the film was shocking and new and nauseating. This film still serves to make the viewer uncomfortable at the very least, as the story is one that hits a nerve deep within.

Mari and her friend Phyllis are going to a concert to celebrate Mari’s 17th birthday. Her parents are concerned about the girls going into the city alone, but allow it. While trying to buy marijuana, the girls encounter a group of violent criminals and Phyllis is gang-raped. The girls are brought to the woods near Mari’s house and continually tortured. Phyllis attempts to cause a distraction to help Mari escape and is killed. Mari bonds with the leader of the gang’s drug addicted son, Junior, and gives him her necklace as a sign of trust. Junior attempts to help her escape but the rest of the gang catches and kills her, setting her body adrift in the lake. The criminals seek shelter at a nearby house, which coincidentally is Mari’s home. Her parents quickly figure out what happened to their daughter and begin to exact their revenge.

As I said, this film is brutal. The torture that the young women suffer is drawn out and makes me feel physically ill every time I watch it. Part of why it may feel so real, is the fact that David Hess, who plays the leader of the gang, apparently stayed in character the entire time they films, which caused lead actress Sandra Peabody to be legitimately terrified of him.

Criticisms of this film are generally that the film uses the torture and murder of two young women as entertainment without having any real moral against their treatment. Some people argue that it is a cautionary tale for young women about strangers and the dangers of drugs. I don’t agree. I don’t find that horror really needs to have a moral all the time. And I feel that this film differs from torture porn like Hostel or the later Saw films. It isn’t just trying to gross you out. Its supposed to terrify you with the realization of how cruel seemingly ordinary people can be, and remind you that some victims are chosen at random, meaning it could happen to you. Craven has never really shown himself to teach a lesson through his films. Craven often just taps into the deepest of human fears and explores them. Humans have a morbid curiosity and horror films give them a chance to explore those fears and horrors. And I guarantee that this film encapsulates an all too real fear for every woman out there, even to this day.

I think history-wise and just for entertainment purposes this film is worth watching. It’s definitely a tough watch, so prepare to be a little sickened by the end, but I think it is worth watching. It’s a different kind of horror because it’s so real. The killers aren’t supernatural, they’re human. The victims are average teen girls. The film was incredibly influential, as well as the start of an incredible directorial career. Check this film out for a history lesson and nausea.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfinity available: Yes

Amazon Video available: Yes

Rating: 4/5

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Exorcist 2

This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen some terrible movies, but they at least understand how to movie. This film seems like it was made by someone who has never seen a movie before. It can barely tell a coherent story, which is really a shame considering the success of the original Exorcist film. It’s universally considered one of the worst films of all time, and for good reason.

This film follows teenage Regan who is doing better, but is still being monitored by a psychiatric institute. The doctor there has a machine that enables people to sync their brain waves and share memories. Father Lamont comes to gain insight into his colleague’s death from the first movie. The priest is given a look into the past by Pazuzu (the demon who possessed Regan) and sees Father Merrin exorcising a boy in Africa who was plagued by Pazuzu in the form of locusts. He then goes on to work with Regan to destroy Pazuzu forever.

It’s honestly hard for me to even give a good summary of the film’s plot because it is so scatterbrained and nonsensical, but that’s the general idea. I guess the best part of the film is Linda Blair? Even her performance is relatively less strong that the first film. My guess would be she had no idea what was going on because the script made no sense so she didn’t really know how to act. I mean the effects are terrible, the plot is laughable, and in parts it just straight up reuses footage from the original film.

I don’t recommend anyone watch this. I like a “so good it’s bad” movie every so often, but this isn’t even funny. It’s a disgrace to the franchise and filmmaking in general. It’s not bad enough to be funny. I honestly can’t find any true value to this film. Please please, for the love of god don’t watch this movie.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfintiy  available: Yes

Amazon Video available: Yes

Rating: 0/5

The Kindred (1987)

The Kindred

So this is a fairly unknown monster horror movie that is fairly unknown for a reason. It isn’t terrible, it’s a fairly interesting concept, the special effects aren’t remarkable or especially bad. I think the acting is what really keeps this movie from being anything special. It’s pretty bad. I don’t think I could name a single character or tell you anything about them. Forgettable characters are pretty much the kiss of death for a movie, not even an original concept or good special effects.

This movie follows the son of a scientist, John. On her death bed, his mother instructs John to destroy all her notes about her latest experiment and also informs him that he has a brother. At his mother’s funeral, John meets Melissa, who claims to be a big fan of his mothers work. John, Melissa, and some of his friends go to his mothers house and search for her notes and answers about his mysterious brother, who he later discovers is named Anthony. What he doesn’t expect is that her final experiment and his brother may be one and the same.

As I said before the worst part of this film is the acting. None of the characters really stand out and I don’t care what happens to any of them. When you don’t care about the characters it makes it hard to get invested in the movie and really care about the plot. It’s a shame because it could have been a decent little monster flick. The effects are decent, especially for the time. The writing definitely leaves something to be desired, but I think under the right circumstances this movie could’ve been actually enjoyable.

I recommend checking this out if you’re into creature features, just don’t go in with high expectations. If monster movies aren’t your thing, this is probably one you can skip as its nothing all that special. This is also a difficult one to get a hold of, as it is only available on VHS, although there is rumors that it is going to be distributed on DVD eventually. You can find it on amazon if you look hard enough, there’s sometimes a VHS for sale.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfinity available: No

Rating: 2.5/5

 

 

Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Disturbing Behavior

This movie is stupid… and barely even like stupid enough to be funny. It’s trying really hard and it’s a fairly interesting concept. I like all the actors in it and think they’re doing a decent job. I just feel like the movie is mediocrely written. It’s pretty much standard fare for late 90’s teen horror/sci-fi. If you’re looking for a good late 90’s sci-fi-fi horror flick with your favorite teen celebrities, might I recommend The Faculty.

This film is set in Cradle Bay, a small island town off the coast of Washington State. The Clark family are relocating to cope with the trauma of one of their sons committing suicide. When arriving at his new school, Steve falls in with a group of outcasts, Gavin, UV and Rae. The group tells him about a Stepford like academic group, The Blue Ribbons. The group takes in rebellious students and magically transforms them into “perfect” students and teenagers. Gavin is suspicious that something sinister going on. Steve is skeptical at first, but when Gavin joins the group, he becomes convinced that Gavin was right and enlists Rae’s help to figure out the cause and save the teens of Cradle Bay.

As I said before, most of this film is just mediocre. I like Katie Holmes and think she does a fine job playing the angsty Rae, and James Marsden is great as Steve. I don’t think there is any fault on them, I think the writing just isn’t that good. It’s trying to go for something Faculty-esque, but just misses the target. I think it could have been an interesting concept, something about it just isn’t gripping. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I dislike about this movie, it just doesn’t come together.

I don’t think there’s really any need to seek this film out, unless you’re just curious about it. You can definitely live your life without having seen this and be just fine. In fact, I saw this film recently and I honestly had a hard time even remembering it all that clearly. It’s just that average. So I would say this is a film you could definitely skip, or at least push to the very end of your watchlist.

Netflix available: No

Hulu available: No

Xfintiy available: Yes

Amazon available: Yes

Rating: 2/5