The TSL’s Grindhouse: Amityville: The Awakening (dir by Franck Khalfoun)

You have to feel bad for the DeFeo family.

Not only where they murdered in their sleep by a junkie loser who also happened to be a member of the family but, for the past five decades, their names have been slandered in a countless number of Amityville books and films.  The house’s subsequent owner, George Lutz, realized that he could make a fortune by claiming that the murder house was haunted by a demon and, working with an author named Jay Anson, he did just that.  Anson’s book, The Amityville Horror, was published in 1977.  The first film version was released in 1979.  Since then, there have been over 20 Amityville films, the majority of which feature reenactments of the DeFeo murders and all of which let Ronald DeFeo, Jr. off the hook by suggesting that it was the supernatural that led to the murders as opposed to a raging heroin habit.

With so many different films having been made by so many different directors and companies, it’s next to impossible to maintain any sort of consistent continuity from film to film.  2017’s Amityville: The Awakening acknowledges this in the most meta way possible by having the film’s lead character, Belle (played by Bella Thorne), watch the original film with two of her friends while discussing all of the sequels.  In the world of Amityville: The Awakening, the films exist and the house is both famous and infamous.  And yet, people still voluntarily live there.

The latest inhabitants are Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her three children, Belle, Juliet (McKenna Grace), and James (Cameron Monaghan).  James is on life support after having been paralyzed in an accident and Joan is fanatically devoted to him.  Though Dr. Milton (Kurtwood Smith) says that there’s no chance of James ever recovering and that he’s probably brain dead, Joan remains convinced that James will someday come back again.  As she explains at one point, she’s abandoned her faith in God but she still has faith that there will be a way for James to recover.

No sooner has the family moved in then all of the typical Amityville stuff starts happening.  Flies start buzzing around.  The dog doesn’t want to be in the house. Juliet starts talking to people who aren’t there.  One night, James flatlines but, after being dead for several minutes, his heart suddenly starts to beat again.  Suddenly, James is showing indications that, though paralyzed and unable to speak, he is aware of his surroundings.  Joan is convinced that James is recovering but is it possible that something else is happening?

If I may take the risk of damning with faint praise, Amityville: The Awakening is not bad for an Amityville film.  Yes, you do have to wonder why the house has never been torn down and yes, I’m as bored with the big Amityville flies as anyone else.  And the scenes where the characters discuss the DeFeo murders are icky and unethical as Hell.  But, with all that in mind, this is actually one of the better-made Amityville films.  Director Franck Khalfoun was also responsible for the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be remake of Maniac and he brings a lot of energy to his direction here.  He’s smart enough to realize that the audience is going to automatically roll their eyes at yet another Amityville film and he often rolls his eyes with them.  As a result, we get some deserved digs at the shoddiness of the other films.  Khalfoun is also smart enough to understand that Bella Thorne is more effective as a personality than an actress and, as such, the character of Belle is carefully developed to fit with Thorne’s public image.  Jennifer Jason Leigh, on the other hand, is such a good actress that she actually brings some unexpected depth to the role of Joan and the film as a whole.

Amityville: The Awakening is one of the better Amityville films.  You still have to wonder why that house is still standing, though.  Seriously, tear it down already.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Dracula 3D, Maniac, Silent House, Sinister

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 2012 Horror Films

Dracula 3D (2012, dir by Dario Argento)

Maniac (2012, dir by Franck Kahlfoun)

Silent House (2012, dir by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau)

Sinister (2012, directed by Scott Derrickson)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Horror Remakes (Evil Dead, Maniac, The Fly, The Thing)

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Been awhile since I did one of these. Time to get back on the horse, so to speak.

Today’s edition of “4 Shots From 4 Films” is all about horror remakes. Not just any horror remakes since those are as common as the cold. I’m talking about horror remakes that are good to great. Sometimes, the remake even surpasses the original.

4 Shot From 4 Films

Evil Dead


The Fly

The Thing


The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: High Tension (dir by Alexandre Aja)


Oh God.

As I watched the end of High Tension, my immediate reaction was to storm out of my office, walk down the hallway, kick open the door to Arleigh’s mancave and yell at him for recommending this film to me.  But then, I realized that Arleigh never recommended that I watch High Tension.  He recommended La Horde and I got my French horror movies mixed up.

So, Arleigh is off the hook.  I have no one to blame but myself and the filmmakers.

Anyway, High Tension is one of those films that starts out well but then totally falls apart due to a big twist that doesn’t make any sense.  It’s also a pretty obvious rip-off of a Dean Koontz novel called Intensity.  Intensity is a really good book, by the way.  Perhaps not coincidentally, that awful twist that ruins High Tension is not present in Intensity.  That twist was the one original thing that was contributed to High Tension and it pretty much ruined the whole movie.

Anyway, in High Tension, Marie (Cecile de France) and Alex (Maiwenn) are law students and best friends.  Marie is spending the weekend with Alex’s family.  She meets Alex’s mom.  She meets Alex’s dad.  She walks around at night and smokes a cigarette and sits on a swing and briefly spies on Alex as she showers.  And then, during the night, a killer (Philippe Nahon) suddenly shows up, kills mom and dad, and kidnaps Alex!  Determined to save her friend’s life, Marie chases the killer across the French countryside.  For a while, she’s locked in the killer’s truck with Marie.  And then, later on, she’s in a car and she’s chasing the truck.  Because of the twist, it’s important to pay attention to the scenes where Marie is in a car and chasing the killer’s truck.  Because, honestly, I’m not sure how any of that was supposed to have actually happened…

See, I love a good twist.  I love a clever twist.  I love an implausible twist.  I love twists that are totally and completely over the top.  What I do not like is a totally and completely unfair twist, one that cheats by basically defying the laws of the physics.

What’s truly unfortunate is that the film works perfectly without the twist.  The twist is not necessary.  (For proof, just read Intensity.)  Up until the twist, the film is well-directed and suspenseful.  Cecile de France, Maiween, and Nahon all give excellent performances.  The film’s graphic violence may be excessive but it’s still undeniably effective.  The nightmare-inducing gore effects were provided by Giannetto De Rossi, who created some of the most effective zombie makeup of all time for Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

I mean, there’s so much that works and then just hit that twist and you shout, “Dammit!”

It could have been so good.


Film Review: Maniac (dir. by Franck Khalfoun)


By all logic, Maniac has no right to be as good a film as it is.

A remake of William Lustig’s notoriously sleazy (if grimly effective) 1980 film, Maniac tells the story of Frank Zito (Elijah Wood, taking on a role previously played to repulsive perfection by Joe Spinell).  Frank is a twitchy young man who sells mannequins for a living, has frequent conversations with his dead mother, suffers from intense migraines, and relieves stress by scalping strangers.  Much like the original Maniac, the remake is largely plotless.  Frank stalks women.  Frank yells at his mannequins.  Frank pursues an unlikely romance with an incredibly naive photographer (played here by the very sympathetic Nora Arnezeder).  Much blood is spilled and the film eventually comes to a conclusion that’s even darker than Lustig’s original.

One thing that does distinguish this remake from the original Maniac is that director Franck Khalfoun and producer (and screenwriter) Alexandre Aja attempt to truly put the viewers in Frank’s disturbed mind.  With the exception of a few isolated moments, the entire film is a collection of p.o.v. shots.  While we hear Frank talk throughout the film, the only time that we actually see him is during the rare moment that Frank takes the time to look at his reflection.  That may sound gimmicky (and it is) but, at the same time, it actually works surprisingly well.  Much like Frank, the audience spends the film trapped in his disturbed mind and often unsure about whether they’re seeing something real or having another hate-fueled hallucination.

It helps that Elijah Wood gives a surprisingly credible performance in the role of Frank.  While we only actually get to see his face a handful of times, Wood makes every one of those moments count.  Unlike the original’s Joe Spinell (who gave a performance that was so incredibly sleazy that he almost seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of grime whenever he showed up on screen), Elijah Wood uses his youthful face and his deceptively gentle voice to turn Frank into a disturbingly plausible threat.  With his nervous eyes and rather befuddled expression, Wood makes Frank into the murderer next door  One reason why serial killers are so scary is because the majority of them look more like Elijah Wood than Joe Spinell.  Director Khalfoun uses Wood’s passive screen presence to put the audience at ease, just as surely as Frank uses his innocent face to fool his victims.  As a result, the viewers keep expecting Frank to show some shimmer of humanity.  That’s make it all the more disturbing to watch as the film reveals just how much of a monster Frank truly is.

Playing the role of Frank’s love interest, Nora Arnezeder also deserves a lot of credit.  While the original film definitely suffered because you never believed that Caroline Munro’s classy photographer would actually be attracted to Joe Spinell, the relationship between Wood and Arnezeder is a lot more plausible and hence, it also has the potential to be a lot more tragic.  Without Arnezeder’s empathetic performance, Maniac would just be a numbing collection of scenes of people being murdered.   However, Arnezeder creates a character that viewers will actually care about.    We worry about her as we watch her relationship with Frank develop but, at the same time, we can understand what she thinks she sees in this shy and eccentric man.  As opposed to the original film and despite all of the graphic violence (and it is graphic, make no mistake), the remake of Maniac never feels misogynistic and that’s largely due to the work of Nora Arnezeder.  Arnezeder gives us something that the original never bothered to do, a character to sympathize with.

Finally, you can’t talk about the remake of Maniac without mentioning the film’s excellent score.  Composed by a French composer who goes by the name of Rob, the synth-heavy score has a wonderfully retro feel to it that pays homage to both the old grindhouse films and also adds a propulsive element of menace to every scene.  Much like the electronic score of the far different Upstream Color, the score of Maniac becomes a character all of its own.  I would even go as far to say that it’s perhaps one of the best horror score that I’ve ever heard.

I wasn’t expecting much of Maniac.  In fact, the only reason I saw it was out of curiosity.  I was expecting to be a typical horror remake, a cynical film made solely to exploit the notoriety of its source.

Was I ever wrong!

Maniac is not a pleasant film.  It’s a dark and gore-filled movie but, in its disturbing way, it’s also oddly effective and compelling.  It’s a film that probably has no right to be good and yet, that’s exactly what it is.

The First 6 Minutes of “Maniac” Remake

Maniac Remake

There was one film that had caught my interest once the project was announced in late 2011. The film was going to be the horror remake of the classic, grindhouse slasher flick from 1980 called Maniac. This film is considered by many fan of the grindhouse and exploitation scene as a classic in the slasher genre. It was also hailed by many moral groups as a prime example of how horror cinema was beginning to reach “pornographic levels of violence” especially towards female victims.

So, it was quite an interesting bit of news when the remake was announced and Frodo Baggins himself would take on the role of the film’s serial killer in Frank. It was an inspired bit of casting that gave the film’s early production a much needed boost in interest. It’s now been over a year and the film has made the genre film festival circuits and the buzz surrounding the Franck Khalfoun-directed film is that it more than lives up to the grindhouse and exploitation aesthetics of the original while bringing in a fresh new stylistic take on the slasher genre.

We have below is the first 6 minutes of the Maniac remake and one can see how creepy the POV-style the filmmakers are going to take for the film has turned out.

There’s still no release date announced for Maniac.

Trailer: Maniac (Red Band)

Last November I posted news about plans to remake William Lustig’s classic grindhouse slasher flick, Maniac, and how the most unexpected choice of Elijah Wood for the role of the serial killer Frank.

The film had it’s premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the response to the film by filmmaker Frank Khalfoun seem to be positive. Horror remakes have always been hit-or-miss. If such positive reactions are to be believed then 2012’s Maniac may just be the horror hit of the year.

The film hasn’t been picked up by a North American distributor so any sort of release date for the US is still up in the air. Until then enjoy the first trailer of the film and a good red band trailer to boot.

News: “Maniac” Remake Gets A Killer Wood

If there was ever a film that many people who hate grindhouse and exploitation films always like to point out as a perfect example of films that should never have been made it would be William Lustig’s classic 80’s splatter film, Maniac. This film has been called depraved, misogynistic, obscene and those are just the tame labels heaped on this horror film.

There had been talks down the years to make a direct sequel to the film, but the many plans to do so always never got past the development stage. In late 2010, the remake rights to Maniac was obtained by a French company and it looks like the world will soon be seeing a new take on this controversial film hitting the theaters in a year or so.

The film will be produced by the kings of horror remakes, Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, with Franck Khalfoun (director of the underrated P2) set to helm the project. It’s the role of the serial killer Frank which has been much discussed by fans of the film who either hate or love that a remake was being of it. While names such as Tom Sizemore has been discussed the role finally landed on the lap of a very unexpected choice: Elijah Wood.

Elijah Wood would be the last pick many fans of the original film would make, but I think this pick is interesting in many ways. For one thing, Wood can definitely pull off the serial killer look, just not the beefy way Joe Spinell did. Wood already has done the serial killer role as the mute and creepy Kevin in Sin City. Wood’s casting as Frank can also go a long way in making sure this remake puts it’s own stamp on the character and story. Finally, Wood has the boy next door look that goes against the stereotypical film serial killer.

While I’m still hoping that Aja would do more original film projects instead of remaking past horror films, I am impressed at how he has done with past horror remakes like The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha. Even though he’s producing and not directing I hope he still brings the sort of manic glee to the production that the two previously mentioned films seemed to have which translated to the screen.

My opinion is that if this remake recreates the Disco Boy scene in all its glory then the remake will be the greatest ever.

So, grindhouse fans what do you think of this remake and the casting?

Source: Bloody Disgusting