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HORROR

Spiral: From the Book of Saw | Review

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It’s quite a relief to be able to say that the ninth film in a horror franchise is actually pretty entertaining and not completely terrible for once. Most horror franchises start to drop in quality as the sequels keep getting churned out and it was definitely looking like the Saw franchise was heading in that direction after the last few films. Spiral: From the Book of Saw isn’t really Saw 9 and its place within the franchise isn’t quite the same as the many sequels but it’s a turn for the good. It’s not amazing but it’s an entertaining film with enough kills and enough gore to keep you engaged right the way through, even if it never reaches the level of the first two Saw films.

Spiral introduces a whole new set of characters including Chris Rock’s police detective Zeke Banks, and him and his rookie partner are tasked with a dark investigation trying to stop whoever’s out there killing cops. And thankfully, the Saw writers have learnt that not every single story has to link back to John Kramer. The new killer seems to be a Jigsaw copycat that’s playing gruesome games with people but he’s still using some really horrible traps.

As far as the traps and the kills go, Spiral has some of the best in the entire franchise. The kills are brutal and bloody and they’re really inventive and outside the box like we’ve come to expect from the traps in the franchise. But one thing Spiral does really well, and one of the reasons why it’s much better than almost all of the Saw sequels that have come before it, is because it’s not complete torture porn. Yes, there’s lots of gore in this and Saw fans will get what they’ve come to see but, there’s a very strong focus on plot and on the characters and it exists as much more of a film in its own right. Some of the previous instalments in the franchise have felt like pure torture porn; there’s not always a particularly good plot, the characters are never likeable and it’s just complete violence and gore. Whereas Spiral strips that back enough that it stands as a police crime thriller film on its own. But it does still has lots of gruesome murders that fans of the franchise love to see so much.

However, one of the biggest problems with Spiral is the writing. There are quite a few times, particularly earlier on, where the film tries to be quite funny and make lots of jokes, and all credit to Chris Rock for trying to inject a bit of humour into the franchise, it’s just that a lot of the jokes didn’t land and didn’t quite do it for me. Some of them did and some were quite funny, but on the whole the humour felt out of place. Additionally, one of the best things about the first film was the incredible ending and the big twist. Spiral tries to create a big twist except it’s just glaringly obvious. Within the first 25 minutes or so I had already figured out what the twist was and where it was going. Granted, I didn’t work out everything and it was still exciting seeing it play out, but when you can work out who the murderer is very early on, the ending doesn’t pack the same punch as it should.

In terms of the cast, Chris Rock does bring some freshness and some new life to the franchise that it had been lacking for a while. It’s really good that the first film in the franchise without Tobin Bell and without the Jigsaw killer is entertaining and does still work. It’s very excited to see that Samuel L. Jackson is in the film playing Chris Rock’s dad however he’s not in it a huge amount and it’s only really towards the end where he features a bit more prominently so that was slightly disappointing.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is an entertaining and enjoyable film with some really great kills but it is let down by its predictability and the fact that it’s not always as tight and tense as a thriller like this should be. That being said, when you reach the final few minutes and the Saw theme music comes on, you know sh*t’s about to go down!

★★★☆☆

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is released in US Cinemas on 14th May and in UK cinemas on Monday 17th May.

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HORROR

Scream (2022) | Wes Craven Would Be Proud

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Scream has officially slashed its way into cinemas and brings with it a killer opening as Ghostface returns, serving up a self-deprecating meta buffet of a slasher sequel that relaunches with terrific terror and nostalgic scares which are bloody brutal. Scream has some big shoes to fill, the directors have to fill the shoes of horror icon Wes Craven, which they honourably do, and the screenwriters also have to honour the brilliance of Kevin Williamson and what he brought to this genre and his script for 1996’s Scream.

The fifth entry in the franchise is filled with references to the franchise’s past, movies of the past, present, sequels, remakes, and now Requel, which in itself is part reboot and part sequel. Scream also discusses topics, specifically horror films released throughout the 2000s to now as it’s very self-referential by using Halloween (2018) and Ghostbusters Afterlife, for example, showcasing that these franchises are making requels by setting the film in the same world, at a different time but adding new characters that are in ways related to the “Legacy” characters from the original. Scream knows that it’s a horror movie, and most importantly, it knows this fifth entry is no doubt a “legacy sequel”.

Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past. Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) return to their iconic roles in Scream alongside Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Sonia Ammar.

Years after the Ghostface killer first struck, teen Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) gets an ominous phone call, whilst home alone, from a stranger asking what her favourite scary movie is. Scream opening sequences are so iconic to the franchise and this new modern take doesn’t disappoint as Tara is attacked and stabbed multiple times by someone wearing the Ghostface outfit from the in-universe “Stab” franchise, based on the Westboro murders committed by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher. The opening is shockingly suspenseful and wholly entertaining. 

Paramount Pictures

The focus here is on a group of young people who certainly have seen enough “Stab” movies to know that the killer could be one of their own including Tara’s estranged sister, Samantha (Melissa Barrera) along with her boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid), who returns to Woodsboro to be with her.

Paramount Pictures

In any sequel, you hope that the new cast doesn’t fall flat and ultimately works well with the returning cast. Take 2018’s Halloween for example with Jamie Lee Curtis returning brings a new generation of Strode women specifically Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter, showing the audience how well the newcomers mix with the legacy characters. Scream successfully achieves this as all characters are handled well, though the body count, unfortunately, rises as Ghostface has some new tricks up its sleeve.

In passing the torch to fresh blood, this fifth entry showcases that there are layers of meta to uncover, fresh scars, and wicked fun to be had. The highlights were Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid. All work to drive the narrative along with the help of Sidney (Neve Campbell), Dewey (David Arquette), and Gale (Courteney Cox). The legacy characters truly provide the nostalgia and emotional connection, the filmmakers treat these iconic characters with the utmost respect.

Scream lives up to its slasher roots as Ghostface goes to town with the hapless victims like a butcher skewing his meat. Characters are sliced, stabbed, and ultimately gutted with glee. They’re brutal when happening but gory and glorious for some. However, some kills have impacts attached as many are heartbreaking and some you want Ghostface to go to town on. I was on the edge of my seat, as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who both previously directed Ready or Not, know how to build tension especially with Brian Tyler’s haunting and eerie score that truly intensifies the film.

Paramount pictures

Scream is about deconstructing the genre and pop culture of the day and aims at filmmaking with killing commentary that’ll make you scream with laughter, whilst still containing the known tropes of a slasher movie. Its squeal-inducing traps and false alarms are so well-earned.

Overall, I believe Wes Craven would be proud of this movie and what it does for fans of the slasher genre. It strikes a visual cord with its toxic fandom commentary and provides a phenomenal entry to the 21st century of modern horror. It’s entertaining with laughter and brutal deaths as Scream continues to reinvent itself and still manages to remain a consistent franchise 25 years later since it started it all.

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Reel Recommendations: Possession – One Restoration You Do Not Want To Miss

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One of my favorite elements in the horror genre is taking a contemporary story and somehow implementing the genre’s core elements. Take the film Cure (1997) directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa; the film is about a detective who is investigating a series of grizzly attacks by a serial killer. On the film’s surface, it is your simple crime-thriller ala David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) or his 2007, Zodiac. However, throughout the film, the viewer gets inside of the mind of his victims in a psychological battle between light and dark; understanding the killer’s motivations and way of attack. Enough talk about Cure (1997), that is for another time.

I hold this element of the genre close to my creative heart because the genre does not always need a monster or killer or the loose, the genre is about set-up, execution, and the atmosphere in which those two elements listed are contained. If you are looking for more horror films like that, that are not about unstable detectives, look no further than Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession.

This 40-year-old lost film has recently been gaining a cult following and the film distributor Metrograph has graced film fans with a restoration. My thoughts on that are listed below the review.

Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill @ Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981

Possession is a film about how division; division of two people who seem to be at odds and have fallen out of love for one another amidst the middle of the Berlin Wall, a division of communication between a couple and the affair that has brought them down as well as a division of body and state. Possession is about the breaking point between a couple as they’re in the very early stages of a divorce. They both have simply fallen out of love with one another and have started sleeping with other people, mainly Isabelle Adjani’s Anna. As Sam Neil’s Mark understands the situation unfolds, the more angry and sickly he becomes. There are points where he will look like he has not eaten in days and looks incredibly pale-skinned. There is a moment throughout the first 25 minutes where Neil is having a seizure in a cold sweat.

While Possession is a body horror in terms of visual effects, its a body horror from the performances given. We see both of the films leads reach sadistic and stomach-churning when it ocmes to range. The first half being dedicated to Sam Neil’s perspective of the situation and how he is treating himself during this change, where he goes from calm to physically abusive. Then as the story unfolds, Żuławski pays more attention to Adjani’s Anna, as an audiences we are opening the curtain to what she has been up to when the camera is not focused on her. The camera work works in one takes with very abrupt takes in its editing. Żuławski wants everything to feel like one fluid motion rather than have multiple takes for one single scene. The subway scene in particular roughly has about two-three takes and you do not evne notice because of how hypnotized you are to Adjani’s otherworldly performance. I am treading lightly on the plot due ot the genius of this film is to go in knowing nothing.

Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill @ Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981

Possession is one of those horror films that were lost in time but recently have been gaining a resurgence through word of mouth and many clamoring for a Criterion blu-ray release, and for good reason. Possession includes some of the best performances I have ever witnessed with direction that is unpredictable and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. If there is one restoration you should have eyes on it is this one.

Restoration Review

Possession not only is a wonderful film but is also one of the best restorations I have seen recently. Metrograph elevates the horror film and at times looks like it was made from the last decade. The stark blue color pallette shines due to how cold and emotionally distant the characters are. The sound design is wonderful, every whisper is heard and understood, every scream feels like a scare, every tension-building moment plays like gangbusters. This is one restoration you do not want to miss especially for cult-genre fans.

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HORROR

Stranger Things | Season 4 – Official Trailer

The upcoming fourth season of the American science fiction horror drama television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 4, is scheduled to be released worldwide exclusively via Netflix’s streaming service in 2022.

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Genre:

Horror, Sci-fi

Release Date:

2022

Director:

Netflix

Cast:

Millie Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo, Natalia Dyer

Plot Summary:

The upcoming fourth season of the American science fiction horror drama television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 4, is scheduled to be released worldwide exclusively via Netflix’s streaming service in 2022.

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