Student Double Feature: Courtney Dial and Ahimme Cazarez Review Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook”

Below are two Lewis University students’ perspectives on the 2014 horror film The Babadook.

Courtney Dial:
You can also visit Courtney’s own blog at Horror Film Mondays.

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.

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JFR’s Managing Editor Weighs in On a Frightful Classic: “The House of the Devil”

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

Bring Your Weapons to Work Day: A Review of “The Belko Experiment”

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.

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Party Hard: A Review of “Murder Party”

Over the following weeks, I will be reviewing the three films directed by Jeremy Saulnier, a particularly exciting young filmmaker who has been garnering a lot of traction these past few years. Perhaps not so well known to mass audiences, but definitely in the view of more niche horror/indie film corners of the spectrum, Jeremy Saulnier is a young writer-director best known for his critically acclaimed 2013 revenge-thriller Blue Ruin.

After seeing his latest release, Green Room, I went back and watched his previous films, and will be reviewing them in chronological order of release.

And so, Murder Party:

Murder Party is an 80-minute comedy-horror film from 2007 by a first-time director, created with virtually no budget, and featuring a cast of amateur actors. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem to have much going for it knowing that, but Saulnier and Co. actually work to create a humorous, lean, and unique horror film that is unlike any I’ve seen before.

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13 Netflix Horror Films for Halloween – Part 2 of 2

So, did you take the last week to watch the six horror films I suggested in my previous post? Whatever the case may be, I have an eclectic list of seven more quality horror films that you can find streaming on Netflix to help you celebrate the Halloween season.

First up is a 1985 film that is depressingly the last great film that zombie king George A. Romero would write and direct, and it’s also just a criminally underrated zombie movie. I’m of course talking about the third in the “Dead” series — Day of the Dead. Romero had his work cut out for him following up Night of the Living Dead, but somehow he was able to craft an even better zombie flick with the 1978 original Dawn of the Dead (personally, my favorite horror film ever made). Romero came back to zombies in 1985 and successfully ended the original “Dead” trilogy on a high note.

Day of the Dead takes place deep into the zombie apocalypse, perhaps years after the initial outbreak. The story follows a group of soldiers and scientists who have been posted at an underground facility to survive and perhaps find a reasoning behind the incident and a solution. Day of the Dead focuses more on the human versus human aspect of this situation, as was previously seen in the first two “Dead” films. But this one is unique in that it highlights and introduces the notion that the zombies could perhaps “learn,” making for some cool and unique scenes. Horror effects master Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th) came back to do the zombie effects for Day of the Dead (along with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, who worked under Savini), and I almost feel like this movie is worth a watch just to see the incredible effects work displayed here. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or zombie movies in general, then this is a must watch.

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13 Netflix Horror Films for Halloween – Part 1 of 2

It’s mid-October. The chilly breeze rolls through your window. The leaves swirl and rustle on the ground outside. You sit inside your cozy house as the sun sets. It’s time for a spooky movie to celebrate the Halloween season. Here’s part one of my top 13 horror movies available to stream on Netflix that you should be watching this Halloween.

Starting off this list is a handful of amazing indie horror films that have all come out in the past two years: The BabadookStarry Eyes, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Guest, Houseboundand Creep.

I wouldn’t fault anyone for arguing that The Babadook is the best horror movie to come out since the turn of the decade. It’s just that good. Essie Davis stars — and does a fantastic job — in this Australian film that focuses on her character Amelia and her young son Samuel. Amelia is a recent widow who is struggling to cope with losing the love of her life. Before bed one night, she finds a storybook in her son’s collection she wasn’t aware of before called Mister Babadook. She reads it to Samuel, but the book turns out to be quite nightmarish and not at all suited for a six-year-old boy like Samuel. Samuel soon begins to have nightmares and claims he sees the creature from the storybook in his room, and it’s not long before Amelia actually believes him. This film is a wholly original, truly mind-bending psychological trip and it really is one of the best horror films released in the past five years.

Starry Eyes is a very recent addition to my list, as I watched it for the first time just this past week. The film follows Sarah (Alex Essoe), who is just one of the many young girls trying to make it in Hollywood. She tries out for a part in a horror film called The Silver Scream, which is produced by a once big power in Hollywood. The audition doesn’t really go too well, at least she doesn’t think so. But she keeps getting callbacks, and while she is excited, the callback auditions keep getting stranger. However, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to be a star. Starry Eyes is fairly slow to start, but ramps up in the last 20 minutes, turning into one of the most sickening horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s both a fantastic send-up of the ridiculous lengths some will go to become Hollywood stars, and at times a striking homage to 80s slasher flicks. Starry Eyes is one you won’t soon forget.

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