4 Shots From 4 Films: The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, Drag Me To Hell, The House of the Devil, Zombieland

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 2009 Horror Films

The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009, dir by Gabriel Bolongna)

Drag Me To Hell (2009, dir by Sam Raimi)

The House of the Devil (2009, dir by Ti West)

Zombieland (2009, dir by Ruben Fleischer)

4 Shots From Horror History: Halloween, Paranormal Activity, Colverfield, The House of the Devil

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we complete to the aughts!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Halloween (2007, dir by Rob Zombie)

Halloween (2007, dir by Rob Zombie)

Paranormal Activity (2007, dir by Oren Peli)

Paranormal Activity (2007, dir by Oren Peli)

Cloverfield (2008, dir by Matt Reeves)

Cloverfield (2008, dir by Matt Reeves)

The House of the Devil (2009, dir by Ti West)

The House of the Devil (2009, dir by Ti West)

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: The House of the Devil (dir by Ti West)

When was the last time you actually saw a good movie on Chiller?  Seriously, it doesn’t happen that often and perhaps that’s why, when, a few years ago, I curled up on the couch and watched 2009′s The House of the Devil on Chiller, I wasn’t expecting much.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that The House of the Devil is actually one of the most effective low-budget horror films that I’ve seen in a while.

The plot of House of the Devil is pretty simple.  Samantha (a likable performance from Jocelin Donahue) is a college student who has just moved into her first apartment.  However, Samantha can’t really afford to pay the rent so she agrees to take a babysitting job for the mysterious Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan, who is just so creepy in this film).  Ullman offers her one hundred dollars to come babysit for the night.  Samantha agrees and, with her skeptical friend Megan (Greta Gerwig, who is hilarious here), drives out to Ullman’s home.  It turns out that Ullman lives in an isolated house out in the country and that he actually doesn’t have any children.  Instead, he wants Samantha to babysit his aging mother while he goes into town so he can watch the lunar eclipse which just happens to be happening on that exact night!  Samantha is reluctant but agrees to stay when Ullman offers to pay her $400.00.

And can you guess where this story is headed?

This film isn’t titled House of the Devil for nothing.



As I said before, I wasn’t expecting much from The House Of The Devil.  I was honestly expecting it just to be a typical, low-budget Chiller horror film, good for nothing more then maybe a laugh or two and maybe a few memorably silly gore effects.  Having now seen the film, I’m very happy to say that I was incorrect.  The House of the Devil is a well-made, effectively creepy horror film and it’s one that other horror filmmakers could very much learn from.

Don’t get me wrong.  The plot of House of the Devil isn’t going to win any points for creativity.  Even if the film didn’t open with a wonderfully self-concious title card informing us that the movie is “based on a true story” of Satanic activity, it would be pretty easy to figure out that nothing good is going to happen once Samantha goes into the house.  But that actually works to the film’s advantage.  The House of the Devil feels like an old ghost story told at a sleepover.  You know where the story’s heading but you get scared nonetheless because, ultimately, it’s the type of story that plays on the fears that everyone has.

Also, in the style of the scary ghost story told by a storyteller with a flashlight pointed up at her chin, The House of the Devil understands that the best horrors are the ones produced by an overstimulated imagination.  With the exception of two or three scenes, this is not a gory film nor is it a film that sadistically lingers over scenes of torture and carnage.  Instead, director Ti West takes his time to set up both the story and the characters.  This is a film where the horror comes more from a carefully constructed atmopshere than any sort of easy shock effects.  As a result, this is a horror film that actually stays with you after you watch it.

The House of the Devil is a film that I’m very happy to recommend.

Netflix Halloween 2014 : “You’re Next”


Okay, so here’s the deal : over at my “main” site — http://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com , for those up you not aware — I’m spending the month of October looking at various horror flicks currently available in Netflix’s instant streaming queue. So far there have been some semi-winners, some semi-losers, and some real clunkers, but I promised myself that if I ever found one that was an absolute, indisputable home run, I’d write about here on TTSL and thereby hopefully spread the word about it a bit father and wider than a post on my blog alone would accomplish. I’m pleased to say I’ve found just such a film.

I’m not sure why or how I missed “splat back”/”mumblegore” director Adam Wingard’s 2011 offering, You’re Next, when it hit theaters — I certainly found the ads for it intriguing and meant to go check it out, but I never did. My loss — but not anymore, since I finally caught it the other night and damn, was I impressed.

Seriously, this has everything you want in a horror movie : an involving premise, a few characters you want to see live, even more you’d love to see die, plenty of first-rate gore, suspense, intrigue, and all kinds of ass-kicking. You might ask for more, I suppose,  if you’re picky, but come on — how often do you get it?



Anyway, friends, you know how it goes — you’re gathered together for a family reunion full of not-so-subtle tension and disdain (think the kind of situation where everyone would be stabbing each other in the back, except for the fact that they’re doing it out in the open), when suddenly assailants in animal masks armed with crossbows start firing away and, presto! Next thing you know, you’re all under siege and fighting for your lives.

What? That’s never happened to you? Well, it’s what happens to the family here (who, curiously enough, are never given a last name), a very well-heeled clan who have gathered at their family’s palatial “summer estate” to celebrate their mother and father’s 35th wedding anniversary. Roll call : there’s struggling- academic brother Crispian (AJ Bowen) and his Aussie girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vison); douchebag brother Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife, Kelly (Sarah Myers); younger douchebag brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his emo/goth “squeeze,” Zee (Wendy Glenn); darling baby sister Aimee (Amy Seimetz);  and presiding over the whole houseful of ungrateful, self-centered whelps we have dad Paul (Rob Moran) and mom Aubrey (the still-drop-dead-gorgeous Barbara Crampton). We get to know each of these characters just enough to give the first half-hour or so a strong dose of Woody Allen-esque upper-class dysfunction when the shit starts hitting the fan.



And when it hits, boy does it ever. Aside from the mere fact that it’s gleeful fun (well, at least for me) to see members of the 1% finally get what’s coming to them,  Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are to be commended for not taking their collective foot off the gas pedal until the end credits are rolling, and while we quickly learn that only Erin has the smarts and guts to survive the situation thanks to her weird survivalist upbringing in the Outback, the other character revelations along the way come in measured steps and and at just the right points (usually as a means of breaking up what would otherwise be a non-stop  series of creatively brutal slayings). Still, you probably won’t see the end coming, simply because you’ll figure you’ve got the whole thing sussed out already — even though, trust me, you don’t.


To be completely fair, I do have some relatively minor gripes with said ending — I think there was a way Wingard could have made it even more shocking, but shit, I’m not gonna complain. The conclusion he serves up is still a doozy even if it’s not exactly the one I would have gone for. If I think I’m so fucking good at this kind of thing, then maybe I should just go and direct my own movie, right?

Add in fun little cameos from the likes of fellow “new horror” icon Ti West and some wink-and-nudge homages to other genre classics, throw in a throbbing musical score that’s more than just a bit reminiscent of Goblin (hold your horses, I’m not saying it’s as good as Goblin, only that it’s stylistically similar to their justly- legendary efforts), keep the blood flowing, and you’ve got a recipe for a sure winner. Whatever you’re doing right now can wait — if you’ve got a Netflix subscription, You’re Next deserves your immediate attention.



Arleigh’s Top 9 Films of 2014 (Front End)

We’re now past the halfway point for the film season of 2014. The year has seen it’s share of hits, bombs and surprises. Many look at the box-office numbers some that these films generate as a sign of their success. Others look at how the critics-at-large have graded these films as a way to determine whether they’ve been successful.

I know some people would list nothing but independent arthouse films as their best. They look at genre and big-budget films as not being worthy of being the best of the year, so far. It’s that sort of thinking that limits one’s appreciation of film, in general.

Does having a 150 million dollar budget mean that a film cannot be one of the best of the year. Past history will suggest that’s not the case. Yet, there are cinephiles out there who will dismiss such films because they consider it as being too Hollywood. The same goes for people who look down upon genre films like horror, scifi, westerns and many others that do not fit their slice-of-life drama study. They’re not existential enough for some.

I’ve come to look at all the films I’ve been fortunate enough to see through the first six months of 2014 and picked 9 of the best (I picked a random odd number since Lisa Marie already does the even numbers thing) no matter their genre, type of film and budget. I’ve picked a couple of scifi films, a documentary, an action-packed blockbuster sequel, a wonderfully made 3-D animated film (itself a sequel), a neo-noir Western, a brutal crime-thriller, an indie horror-thriller and one of the best comedies of the last couple years.

In no special order….

noah-banner222Noah (dir. by Darren Aronofsky)

capawsmovarthc-cvr-a91f8Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. by Anthony and Joe Russo)

cold_in_july_ver2_xlgCold in July (dir. by Jim Mickle)

HTTYD2How To Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean DuBois)

JodorowskysDuneJodorowsky’s Dune (dir. by Frank Pavich)

the-raid-2-berandal01The Raid 2: Berandal (dir. by Gareth Evans)

Snowpiercer (dir. by Bong Joon-ho)

GrandPianoGrand Piano (dir. by Eugenio Mira)

22JumpStreet22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

My honorable mentions: All Cheerleaders Die, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Joe, Edge of Tomorrow, Lego: The Movie, Blue Ruin, Locke, Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Sacrament

Film Review: You’re Next (dir by Adam Wingard)

If Luis Buñuel had ever made a slasher film, it would probably have been a lot like You’re Next.

You’re Next tells the story of the ill-fated Davison clan.  Paul (Rob Moran) has recently retired from his job as a defense contractor and now, he and his wife, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are looking forward to celebrating their anniversary at their isolated vacation home.  Soon after they arrive at the house, Aubrey is convinced that she can hear someone else in the house.  However, since the frail Aubrey is obviously emotionally unstable, Paul dismisses her concerns.

Over the course of the day, Paul and Aubrey’s children arrive at the house.  Though, in the best tradition of all troubled families, the Davisons attempt to maintain a facade of peace and harmony, it quickly becomes clear that each member of the family is dealing with his or her own issues and petty jealousies.

For instance, oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) obviously feels that he’s superior to his siblings.  His wife, Kelly (Margaret Laney), is just as obviously unhappy with their marriage.

Crispian (A.J. Bowen) is a neurotic academic who is struggling financially and is viewed as being a weakling by the rest of his family.  His girlfriend, Erin (Sharni Vinson) has a secret in her past that will become unexpectedly important as the day progresses.

Daughter Aimee (played by Amy Seimetz, who was so good earlier this year in Upstream Color) tries so hard to be cheerful that you know that she has to be secretly be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.  Her boyfriend, Tariq (Ti West), is a struggling filmmaker who is scandalized to discover that Drake prefers to watch commercials as opposed to documentaries.

Finally, there’s the youngest son, Felix (Nicholas Tucci).  Felix appears to be the most well-adjusted of all of the Davison children but his quiet girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a different story.

Once the family has gathered together for the anniversary dinner, the bickering begins.  What the family don’t realize is that a group of men (all of whom wear animal masks) have previously slaughtered the neighbors and have now surrounded the Davison house.  The bickering is interrupted by a brutal attack that leaves one dead, one seriously injured, and the rest of the family fighting for their lives.

You’re Next starts out as an effective but rather standard home invasion film (think of The Strangers or even Michael Haneke’s Funny Games) but the film features two twists which set it apart.

The first twist is that Erin turns out to be as effective and determined a killer as the men laying siege to the house.  I’ve sat through a lot of horror movies and I love movies where women get to kick ass and I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, that there’s probably no other horror heroine who kicks as much ass as Erin.  As played by Sharni Vinson, Erin is destined to become an iconic character in the history of horror.


The other twist is one that I can’t tell you about because it’s this twist that literally turns the entire film upside down.  What I can tell you is that this twist forces you to reconsider everything that you’ve seen up until that point.  Most impressively, director Adam Wingard reveals this twist to us long before he reveals it to the film’s characters.  As such, just when the viewer is getting used to the idea of You’re Next being just another home invasion film, a whole new element of suspense is added to the story.

Some reviewers have referred to You’re Next as being a comedy.  I disagree, if just because the film’s violence is too brutal and the gore is too graphic for this film to be considered anything other than primarily a horror film.  That said, there is a strain of dark humor that runs through the film and occasionally provides a much needed relief from the nonstop tension onscreen.  A good deal of the film’s humor comes from just how incredibly screwed-up the Davison family is, even before they find themselves under attack.  This is a family of people who, even while they’re trying to plot their escape from the house, can not resist getting into argument about who can run the fastest.

Ultimately, You’re Next works as both a brutally effective horror film and as a satirical portrait of an All-American family that’s secretly so dysfunctional that — even if they weren’t being attacked by masked men with crossbows — they probably would have eventually ended up killing each other anyway.  It’s a genre film that manages to transcend the rules of genre even while embracing them.  In a year that, so far, has been dominated by surprisingly intelligent and effective horror films, You’re Next is one of the best.


Horror Trailer: V/H/S (Red Band)

This film has already been making the film festival circuit so for genre fans it’s nothing new, but for the general public are probably still not aware that it even exists.

V/H/S is another one of those “found footage” films that everyone either hates or loves. I’m sort of straddling the fence between the two. I can dig well made ones, but some have been awful. From what I’ve been hearing about this horror anthology the reactions seem to run the gamut of it being good to almost great. I keep hearing and reading that despite flaws and unevenness in the way the five stories were told (each with it’s own filmmaker directing the segment) the film overall should satisfy genre fans everywhere. Like having so many different segments with a different filmmaker and storytelling style should give at least someone watching one good thing to like if not more.

The one thing about this film that has me interested in making it one of my must-see for this October is the fact that one of the filmmakers doing a segment in the film is none other than Ti West. His horror work has been sparse but eah one he’s released has become favorite of mine. Here’s to hoping his segment in V/H/S is not one of the flawed ones.