25 Films That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid

May 10, 2011 in Entertainment, Misc, Movie Reviews, Reviews

When I was a snotty little kid, my older sister used to always borrow horror movies from the local video store.  Scary movies were all that she watched.  Scary movies and Stand By Me and White Fang (on loop — thanks to crushes on River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke).

I grew to like horror films too, but it wasn’t before they caused some serious lifelong trauma.  Without further ado, here the 25 that scared me the most (entirely from memory).

(to see the list, click on ‘more…’)

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Movie Review: The Rite (2011)

March 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Paranormal, Reviews

I am a huge fan of horror films, and few intrigue me more than those with ‘possession’ and ‘exorcism’ angles.  So of course I was eager to see The Rite, which was apparently aiming to be this generation’s The Exorcist.  It stars Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Colin O’Donoghue (great screen presence), and tells the story of the young son of a mortuary owner (O’Donoghue) who almost drops out of seminary school and is instead whisked to Rome to participate in ‘exorcism’ class, and ends up learning from an unorthodox expert (Hopkins).

I didn’t have to see the film to know that critics were probably going to savage it — few horror films these days, especially those dealing with the supernatural, are likely to pass through unscathed.  However, I thought the previews looked pretty promising, so I was kind of hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

I’ll get straight to the point.  The Rite started off extremely well, almost too well for its own good.  It was atmospheric, intriguing, chilling and rather eye-opening.  It also asked some interesting questions about religion, faith and psychiatric illness, without coming off feeling contrived.  There were some fantastically effective scenes and sequences that made me recoil in horror.  It’s supposedly ‘inspired’ by true events, though I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

However, at some point, around halfway through the film, The Rite takes a massive wrong turn.  I can almost pinpoint the exact scene where things start going downhill.  The point of view begins to switch awkwardly all over the place, and all subtlely flies out the window.  Instead of keeping you guessing, everything is spelled out and shoved down your throat, and genuine chills are replaced by cheap scares and special effects.  What began as potentially a new classic spiralled into just another uninspiring supernatural horror flick.

Sigh…

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the first half.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Last Exorcism (2010)

December 6, 2010 in Movie Reviews

I guess it was only a matter of time before they did a mockumentary on exorcisms, but surprisingly, The Last Exorcism, directed by Daniel Stamm and produced by Eli Roth, is actually very good.

It is an edited “found footage” movie in the vein of The Blair Witch Project that tells the story of Louisiana preacher Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who comes from a long line of “exorcists”.  Naturally, Marcus is not a true believer, and to prove his point, he takes part in this documentary (which explains the film crew) — and of course, the one case he picks up at random turns out to be a genuine case of demonic possession — or is it?

For the most part, The Last Exorcism comes across as pretty authentic for a film of this kind.  The screenplay is rock solid with great dialogue and compelling characters, especially the smug Reverend.  It does an excellent job of raising questions about the truthfulness of the possession (and possession and exorcism in general) and cleverly creates several alternative possibilities and suspects to keep audiences intrigued.

The scares were fairly good — not as terrifying as the original Exorcist (what film is?) but there is decent tension and the aversion to cheap scares only adds to the realism.  The best thing about the film is that the non-scary bits are also fun to watch and not just time-fillers for the next fright (unlike say Paranormal Activity).

However, I did say “for the most part” because The Last Exorcism could not entirely escape the tendency for horror films to fall apart at the end.  The film’s authenticity was thrown out the window as it headed towards the climax, with the single hand-held camera occasionally discarded for quick cuts and close ups from different angles, and additional sound effects added in for…effect.  If you’re really into the movie you probably won’t notice, but for the more astute viewer it’s a bit of a distractiion.

The final scenes were also an unexplained mess that felt rushed and incomplete — some might say it adds to the authenticity of “found footage” and promotes discussion, but to me it was unsatisfying and needed to be fleshed out more.

Having said that, The Last Exorcism is still one of the best-made horror films of the year.

4 stars out of 5