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HORROR

Scary Stories to tell in The Dark (2019)

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You don’t read the book.
The book reads you.

A few years ago there was already the movie “Goosebumps“, based on the stories of R.L. Stine, with the not so funny Jack Black. The only thing I can remember about this film is that an immense amount of figures from that book series were used to make life miserable for the protagonists. Fortunately the film “Scary stories to tell in the dark” doesn’t make the same mistake. This film is based on an iconic series of stories of the same name written by Alvin Schwartz. A series of three bundles, full of scary horror short stories about dark revenge and supernatural events. Books that caused a stir among concerned parents who felt that these stories (and especially the lurid illustrations) weren’t suitable for young children. Well, that’s something that arouses my curiosity.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Horror for beginners.

I myself was a big fan of television horror series such as “The Hitchhiker“, “Tales from the crypt” and “The Twilight Zone” in the 80s. Short stories with a sinister undertone and a scary story. In short, horror for beginners. The same kind of stories are being used in this film. The movie won’t scare a hardcore horror-fan though. It’s all too soft. It’s clear that they aimed at a slightly younger teenage audience. A perfect movie for adolescent boys to watch with their first girlfriend. Hoping that the lovely girl will be so scared to death that she’ll snuggle close to him seeking protection in his arms.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Biggest fan: Guillermo Del Toro.

A big name in the film world, Guillermo Del Toro, is a fan of the original “Scary Stories” stories as well and has therefore contributed to this film by working on the script. That means that my expectations were high. The result is a well-cared-for ghost story with a hugely successful 60s setting. Subtle horror with fragments of intense moments. You could clearly feel the influence of the grandmaster himself. Of course, it’s once again situated during the Halloween festivities. The cause of all the misery may not be called earth-shatteringly original. And the way in which the problem is solved is perhaps dull. That means that “Scary stories to tell in the dark” nestles itself in the range of horror films that don’t exceed the average. But that doesn’t mean that you should avoid this film. There are too many positive things to discover for that.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Youthful acting.

First the acting of the youthful cast. They didn’t do so bad. The gang of teenagers to which Stella (Zoe Margaret Coletti) belongs is as usual a collection of personalities with their own distinctive traits. First of all, you have Stella’s best friends. The phlegmatic Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and scatterbrain Chuck (Austin Zajur). Then you have Tommy (AustinPaper TownsAbrams) the chief bully of the village. A good-for-nothing guy who joins the army to fight in Vietnam and who’s actually the cause of the teenagers ending up in the haunted house where Sarah Bellows lived. The only people who accompany them as well are Ramon Morales (Michael Garza), a Mexican boy who tries to avoid something, and Chuck’s sister Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn). These persons are the ones who, after Stella has discovered a lurid book full of horror stories, become victims of their own fears. Personally, I thought the acting performance of Zoe Margaret Coletti and Tommy Miller were the most successful.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

A well-told ghost story.

Like I said before, the horror moments aren’t terrifying. But “Harold” the scarecrow, “The Big Toe” and “Jangly Man” were the most amusing moments from the series of creeps that showed up. Really such figures that would fit perfectly in a Stephen King’s collection of short stories. And the way the stories manifest themselves in the book was also a nice touch. And finally, I thought the overall atmosphere this film bathed in, was wonderful to see. Oh well, maybe the fact that Stella is portrayed as a misfit and her personal torments about a mother who left the family, was a bit too corny. And in terms of shock effects, it also fell short. However, if you like an entertaining and well-told ghost story, then this “Scary Stories to tell in the dark” is perfect for you.

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

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HORROR

Prey | 20th Century Studios | Hulu

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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Genre:

Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

20222 (Hulu)

Director:

Dan Trachtenberg

Cast:

Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Stefany Mathias

Plot Summary:

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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HORROR

Choose or Die – A Miss For Netflix

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Netflix’s home page suggestions can always be hit or miss, and unfortunately its latest release ‘Choose or Die’ falls into the category of the latter. Captivated by Asa Butterfield on the poster, I was curious to see what this film had to offer and begrudgingly it didn’t have a lot.

We follow Kayla, a broke student who has a lot to deal with in terms of her family situation and being the sole provider for herself and her mum. She then stumbles upon a retro video game from the 80s which forces her to choose and ultimately leads to various chain reactions of horrific events involving people close to her.

Lola Evans as Kayla and Asa Butterfield as Isaac

The premise of the film sounds interesting, however, I think it swings and misses quite early into the film’s first act. Eddie Marsan sets the tone and trail of interest for Choose or Die as we are introduced to this sadistic game and the chain of events it will inevitably pursue. 

Choose or Die doesn’t make it easy to empathise with its characters, finding any connection to Kayla or Isaac was difficult. This ‘are they aren’t they’ subplot lingers throughout the film’s narrative but adds nothing to the overarching story. The supporting characters, such as Thea and Laura, are much more interesting and genuinely have you intrigued as to what decisions they will make.

What stood out to me was the violent and gore-like scenes of 80s horrors, with some pretty good stomach churning special effects make-up. Those intense scenes, one involving a rat, had me genuinely glued to the screen, anticipating what may happen next. Choose or Die’s strongest component are the early moral decisions Kayla has to make and ultimately demonstrate Meakin’s passion for the horror genre.

Ioanna Kimbook as Grace in Choose or Die, seen here in the diner in one of the more grotesque decisive moments for Kayla

The way in which this film is shot, felt very “student-esque” with its lackluster camera movements and setting. The set design lacked little depth, except for Isaac’s room which is full of detail, therefore making the world feel small and less three dimensional. An element which pulled me out of this cinematic experience, was the fact that this was evidently filmed in the United Kingdom, and the cast contained predominantly a lot of British actors doing an American accent so I wasn’t fully immersed into this world. 

Meakins clearly uses his passion for the horror genre to influence this film’s dark tone, from it’s leading characters’ moral compass as well as the gorey visuals that inevitably come with those decisions. The whole world feels cold and derelict, be it the place in which Kayla cleans or the housing estate of which she lives in, this is an unwelcoming world that no-one wants to comfort you in. 

Choose or Die isn’t a film that will stick out as one that defined 2022, however I’m sure someone will take something away from this film, be it’s reference to 80s gaming or the violent and graphic elements that the director is clearly passionate about. 

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HORROR

Off Season – To Premiere Exclusively on Shudder

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Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, announced that OFFSEASON will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Friday, June 10, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Upon receiving a mysterious letter that her mother’s gravesite has been vandalized, in OFFSEASON, Marie (Donahue) quickly returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers that the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until Spring, leaving her stranded. One strange interaction with the local townspeople after another, Marie soon realizes that something is not quite right in this small town. She must unveil the mystery behind her mother’s troubled past in order to make it out alive.

Check out the film’s trailer below and read our review HERE as it debuted during SXSW 2021

Written and directed by Mickey Keating (Psychopaths), OFFSEASON stars Jocelin Donahue (Doctor Sleep), Joe Swanberg (The Rental, “Easy”), Richard Brake (3 From HellMandy), Melora Walters (The Pale Door, “Pen15”) and Jeremy Gardner (After MidnightThe Mind’s Eye).

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