Raw, creepy, and thought-provoking: The Babadook is designed to give the viewer an inside perspective on what depression feels and looks like, and it succeeds. In The Babadook, there is no romanticizing this disease, which is cleverly disguised as Mister Babadook. Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film was not wasted with this incredible picture. Beautiful cinematography and allegorical expression are used brilliantly to cover a subject that is sometimes kept in the basement, under lock and key.
We are introduced to Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), and instantaneously, due to the superb misè-en-scene, it is painfully obvious that this is a tense household. The feelings that are presented through the use of these elements give such believable verisimilitude that it is hard not to imagine yourself in Amelia’s situation.
Recently, we featured reviews from two students on the 2009 film The House of the Devil. Below is another perspective on the same film, written by Jet Fuel Review Managing Editor Sam Gennett.
For film fans who are nostalgic for the ‘80s but are tired of re-watching Halloween to get their retro-horror fill, Ti West’s The House of the Devil (2009) is a refreshing rejuvenation of late ‘70s and early ‘80s horror. Shot on 16 mm film, this movie seems to have been teleported from the ‘80s into the 21st century. With the grainy film look, dim cinematography, and use of Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart,” West brings viewers back to the good ol’ days of flannel, indoor ashtrays, and Satan worship.
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), desperate for money, takes a babysitting job, but didn’t we all learn what happens when you babysit after watching Elizabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting (1987)? Clearly, Samantha missed that film because she coerces her friend into driving her to a house in the middle of nowhere. They pass a cemetery on their way there, and the shot is briefly superimposed over the establishing shot of the house, effectively foreshadowing events to come.Continue reading →
James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither) is one of the premiere screenwriters working in Hollywood today, but his near-spotless track record doesn’t save the latest film credited with his writing, The Belko Experiment, from disappointing mediocrity. It’s too bad, as the premise alone should have made for an exciting moviegoing experience, but the self-seriousness, uninspired filmmaking, and extremely underwhelming ending results in a messy, unrewarding watch.
The poster for the The Belko Experiment cites it as a sort of “Office Space meets Battle Royale,” but the comparison to Office Space starts and ends with the fact that it’s set inside an office building, and it’s only like Battle Royale in that it’s central idea revolves around a group of people who are forced to murder each other. Unfortunately, The Belko Experiment isn’t nearly as hilarious as Office Space, nor as exciting as Battle Royale.
Below are two Lewis University students’ perspectives on the 2009 horror film The House of the Devil.
Get Your Paper Bags Ready
House of the Devil takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. You start by comfortably strapping into the relatable college environment, listening to the deafening, upbeat ’80s soundtrack, and awaiting the thrill. Once you’re secure and devoted without an exit, you begin by slowly traveling into heightened suspense and elevated anxiety as you become aware of the climactic drop that is inevitably in front of you. Once you reach the top, you get a few short moments to gasp and take your last breath before you’re consumed by the full-speed terror, teased without knowing what twists and turns may come next. Finally, you’re abruptly halted as the ride has come to a stop.
If you look back on the history of horror cinema, you’ll find that many make use of timely social issues in order to convey poignant commentary on their respective subjects. Visionary horror director George Romero continually did it in his Dead series, with Night of the Living Dead tackling race relations during the height of the Civil Rights movement, while Dawn of the Dead took shots at consumerism and its power to literally turn society into zombies. The Purge series of films delve into classism, Rosemary’s Baby is related to feminist ideals, They Live looks at the power of the media, and plenty of other examples handle countless other social issues.
The latest film to do this is Get Out, which comes courtesy of comedian-turned-writer/director Jordan Peele. Get Out is Peele’s first foray into the horror genre, as well as his first time being in the director’s chair, but this is never apparent as you watch it. The film is so successful in so many aspects that it ends up not only being one of the most impressive debuts of the last decade, but also perhaps the most socially charged mainstream horror film in that timespan as well.
Get Out’s central character is Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a 20-something black man who’s in an interracial relationship with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), who plans to take him along for a visit at her family’s house for a weekend getaway. Chris is noticeably skeptical about the trip and coyly asks Rose if her parents are aware that he’s black, implying that he believes he may not feel welcomed by Rose’s family. “My dad would vote for Obama for a third term if he could,” Rose responds, Peele obviously making fun of the people who say things like, “I have a black friend,” as if that can automatically save them if they have racist opinions or support racist ideas. The punchline of the joke lands a little later on when Rose’s father recites this line to Chris verbatim.
Michael Dougherty’s 2007 cult classic Trick ‘r Treat is a well-realized anthology that works at face value as both a fun and sinister horror film, but also serves as an absolute celebration of Halloween. Over the course of 82-minutes and four interweaved tales, Trick ‘r Treat revels in the centuries-old pagan holiday, intermingling traditions both new and old to substantial effect.
A character seen throughout the stories ties the film together. This character is Sam, short forSamhain (pronounced Sah-win), the name for the Gaelic holiday precursor to what we know of as Halloween today. Sam masks his face within a burlap sack, appearing to be a child due to his size and stature. This is appropriate for a supposed figure that symbolizes Halloween within the film, since the holiday is often recognized as one for children anyways — it’s children who “trick or treat,” after all.
Trick ‘r Treat is most successful when twisting many childhood fears associated with Halloween, a trick Dougherty employs throughout. Horror films are a Halloween tradition, but very few truly capture the spirit of the holiday like Trick ‘r Treat does.
I can say with certainty that I’ve never had a more frightening experience watching a film than the first time I saw The Blair Witch Project. Revolutionary in its time for its found-footage camera style and unique ad campaign, the 1999 original is widely considered one of the most influential horror films ever made. It’s a film that I hold a deep respect for, and I even regard it as one of my all-time favorite horror films.
Now, 17 years later, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett attempt to revitalize the legacy of the series with a new film simply entitled Blair Witch. Being a massive fan of the original film and the previous collaborations of Wingard and Barrett (which includes You’re Next and The Guest), I was ecstatic going into Blair Witch. As much as I hate to say it, though, Blair Witch comes off as nothing more than a soulless, uninspired, and even somewhat disrespectful retread of the original rather than a worthy successor.
Blair Witch is set in 2014, picking up 20 years after the events of the original. Our lead here, James (James Allen McCune), is the younger brother of the lead that went missing in Project. In the film’s fiction, the tapes that Heather and her crew shot those 20 years prior were found and released for public consumption, and ever since, James has been obsessed with his sister’s disappearance.