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REVIEW: The Devil’s Doorway

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Found footage films have carved out a very specific niche in the horror genre ever since the original Blair Witch Project from the late 1990s, offering a hint of realism to a film.

The Devil’s Doorway‘ is a found footage film that is based in 1960 and centers on two Vatican priests, Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton, armed with 16mm film cameras, who are dispatched by the Vatican to investigate reports of a miracle, a statue of the Virgin Mary weeping blood at a Catholic asylum for immoral women.

The initial horrors don’t originate from any statue, but instead at how the nuns are treating the women, who sadistically beat and imprison dozens of the women living in the asylum.

As Father Thomas takes an investigative approach that seems to dismiss any notion of a presence of God, Father John is terrorized by experiences he has at night, when alone in his room.

Sounds of children running, laughing, and visions of a little girl playing with a doll keep Father John up most nights, and the experiences get more vivid, and more intrusive.

Father John tries informing Father Thomas of the phenomena, but, again, Father Thomas is dismissive, steadfast in his belief that nothing peculiar is going on at the asylum, instead stubbornly resigned to his belief that all the activity is the result of a trickster.

Father Thomas and Father John are introduced to Kathleen, a pregnant virgin teen who is shackled in a cell by the nuns and who is apparently possessed by a demon.

The nuns oddly go to great lengths to seclude her and have neglected her so much that they asylum doctor believes that she is going to die from giving birth, stressing the importance of focusing on only saving the baby.

The film falls into the pitfall that most found footage films do, the cliche jump scares are plentiful, but executed well, and the films approach provides a different sense, and a unique feelings.

IFC Midnight has churned out some incredible horror films this year, and it should be noted that they are quietly becoming a powerhouse in the horror genre, when so much attention goes to Netflix.

While ‘The Devil’s Doorway’ isn’t incredible, it is a strong film with plenty of scares, that will creep you out with angles, tone, and execution instead of relying on the tired formula of heavy jump scares that have polluted a majority of the horror films that have come out over the past decade.

The vintage film aspect is also a nice wrinkle.

While the ending doesn’t offer answers of explanations as to what exactly was going on, or is going on, at the asylum, and leaves a lot of questions, it doesn’t deviate from the purpose of what this film is based on. Found footage that is simply played for interpretation, not for specific purpose.

Fright Nerd Score
78 frights
Summary
'The Devil's Doorway' is finely paced and entertaining enough to keep yu engaged, and most importantly, scared.
Fright Nerd Score78

 

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REVIEW: Halloween

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I got the chance to see the new Halloween movie, and it came with a ton of hype ahead of it’s nationwide release, but did it live up to the lofty expectations?

David Gordon Green’s movie was meant to be a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original and it was packed with homages to the first classic film, including the opening credits which reminded me of the initial entries into the iconic series.

Michael Myers has been kept in a psychiatric ward for 40 years, ever since that faithful night in Haddonfield, and it set to be transferred to a new facility where he can live out the final days of his life. Myers had been under the care of Dr. Loomis’ successor, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) who has made Myers is his life’s work and his obsession, wanting to understand the pure evil that exists within Myers.

On the flip side, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been in seclusion since her horrific experience, training herself in arms and combat, and turning her property into a secure battlefield and bunker,  awaiting the day that she encounters Myers again. This life has drove a wedge between her and her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and put she granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) in the middle, at times.

To her family, and most of the community, Strode is a nutcase.

During transport of Myers, the prison bus crashes and Myers is again set loose on Haddonfield, ironically, on Halloween, and immediately picks up where he left off in a brutal killing spree. Myers even reunites with his mask along the way, which seems to only accelerate his psychosis.

The movie starts to go off rails the moment Myers hits the streets of Haddonfield again. The pacing, the subtlety, the build, and the tense moments that made the original so memorable, were absent from this new entry, and it severely hurt the film.

Despite a stellar performance from Curtis, and despite a handful of gruesome kills, Myers lacks the suspense, lacks the terror, and lacks any real volume. He’s just a dude that is hard to kill, that wants to kill everyone in sight, and that’s unfortunate for such an iconic movie character.

Not even a solid twist properly resonated, and brought on laughter more than it’s intended affect.

While Halloween is watchable, it fails to be what it should be, and although it ranks much higher than Rob Zombie’s take on the films, it still falls short of truly bringing back Myers to the forefront of the horror world, and that’s what really holds this film back.

Naturally, there is room for a sequel, but if this same team gives it another try, I suggest they look at the original less for homage scenes and more for structural direction.

Fright Nerd Score
65 frights
0 Users (0 votes)
Summary
While Halloween is watchable, it fails to be what it should be, and although it ranks much higher than Rob Zombie's take on the films, it still falls short of truly bringing back Myers to the forefront of the horror world, and that's what really holds this film back.
Fright Nerd Score65
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REVIEW: Knuckleball

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I was pretty excited for the release of ‘Knuckleball’ which seemed to be the perfect twist on the classic ‘Home Alone’ plot, and last week it finally released.

The Michael Peterson film tells the story of, “left alone on an isolated farm, a 12-year-old boy must fight for his life when he becomes the target of a crazed psychopath.”, and stars Munro Chambers, Michael Ironside, Kathleen Munroe, Drew Nelson, and Luca Villacis.

While the film is strong, the lack of any true teeth from Dixon (Chambers) as he tries to hunt and kill Henry (Villacis) really hurts the overall tale of the film. It’s as though the film was too scared to allow Dixon to really hurt Henry, beyond a couple of scratches, in moments that were perfectly setup for more sensible damage. For Henry to walk away from the ordeal practically unharmed really hurt the story’s realness, in my opinion, and maybe a bit more damage, more in line with the unfolding events, could have had a greater impact.

While many films have laid claim to being a “horror version” of the Home Alone tale, this movie really captured it, and the setting of a frozen farm out in the middle of nowhere provides a perfect backdrop for an isolated tale of horror. And, despite it’s lone flaw, the film delivers a good pace, solid acting, and plenty of problematic moments that pit Henry and Dixon one-on-one, and perfectly illustrate the root of Dixon’s psychotic break and motive for targeting Henry in the way that he does.

The pacing allows perfect story building and character development, and the chemistry between Chambers and Villacis really comes through as they play a deadly game of cat and mouse.

 

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REVIEW: Malevolent

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Last week, Netflix kicked off it’s horror spectacular with the release of ‘Malevolent’, which we have been covering leading up to it’s premier.

According to the synopsis:

“Brother and sister team Angela (Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) are nothing more than scam artists. Preying on the grief-stricken and the vulnerable, they convince the bereaved that Angela has the ability to contact the dead. It’s a simple con, until Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie) summons the pair to her home — the orphanage that was once stage to a string of murders of young girls — and Angela grows less and less certain of what’s actually real. The fake paranormal investigators suffer the ultimate reality check when they are confronted by the true horrors and terrifying past that lie hidden within the haunted orphanage.”

The film’s story is pretty straight forward, a brother and sister, along with their friends, team up to scam people based off the reputation of Angela and Jackson’s mother, who was believed to have powers that Angela has inherited.

As they venture from house to house, and scam to scam, there seems to be no remorse for the course they continue to take, until Angela has a real experience that isn’t for “show” or part of the theatrics that the small team relies on.

Angela starts honing in on her gift, and starts to take a more serious approach despite being dismissed by Jackson, who is in a world of financial trouble and needs the scam to pay off big.

Eventually they are summoned by Mrs. Green, who is complaining about the children who haunt her massive house. What lies beneath the surface is a story much darker, and one that slowly unravels once Mrs. Green smartens up to the scheme.

The movie is slow paced, and lacks scares, drudging on with a monotone story that seems beaten to death by the time the movie moves towards the climax. The story is solid, but loses it’s effect after spending far too much time on dialogue and boring scenes.

While it will surely draw in viewers looking to celebrate a scary month of October, it’s sadly disappointing, causing more boredom than scary moments.

Fright Nerd Score
45.5 frights
0 Users (0 votes)
Summary
The movie is slow paced, and lacks scares, drudging on with a monotone story that seems beaten to death by the time the movie moves towards the climax. The story is solid, but loses it's effect after spending far too much time on dialogue and boring scenes.
Fright Nerd Score45.5
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