horror movies “based on a true story”: House of the Devil

mv5bmtaxmdaxodg5odreqtjeqwpwz15bbwu3mdi5odyxodi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…”

This is the text which opens the 2009 film, The House of the Devil.

What is true:

  • The statistics – which don’t actually say that any Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) occurred.  The stats are about beliefs.  I don’t know which survey was used to cull these particular statistics, but I found this article which mentions a 1990 study that reported “that 90 percent of Utah citizens believed that ritualistic sex abuse was occurring.”  So the belief was certainly there.

What is not true:

  • Any of the actual events depicted in the film.

The verdict: This film is more an homage to films made in the 1980s.  It was recorded on 16mm film to give it an authentic early 80s look, and uses familiar tropes, like the baby-sitter under attack.  The use of a “based on a true story” tagline is likely an homage as well, since many films of that era used it.  “True unexplained events” could mean anything, really.  There were thousands of cases of SRA reported in the 1980s, most of them after a few high-profile cases such as the one described in the book Michelle Remembers, and the McMartin preschool trial.  In the end, however, the preschool trial led to charges dropped and dismissed, with no evidence of any actual Satanic abuse, and Michelle Remembers was largely discredited.  In many cases of alleged SRA, recovered memories (which are highly questionable and often false memories) played a large role.

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31 Days of Halloween, Day 4 – Baskin

mv5bndi2nzawotezov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzmxnzi2ode-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Naturally, when I came across a Turkish horror movie, I had to watch it.  I’ve seen a lot of foreign horror movies, but never one from Turkey!  I have not seen any Turkish movies at all, so I really had no idea what to expect.

This got a LOT more explicit than I thought it would – there were some S&M-type orgy scenes – but the moments of culture shock I sometimes get with foreign movies was limited to a scene where the five male cops (the protagonists) are on their way to answer a distress call and start singing and dancing to a song on the radio.  And I mean they are getting down.

Naturally, the distress call is from a place where spooky stuff happens and they end up swerving off the road after hitting someone, and stumble upon the aforementioned orgy, led by a super creepy dude who is clearly in this for some religious purpose.  I might have expected there to be some cultural difference in that religious purpose, but the horror here doesn’t have a cultural barrier.  The surreal moments where the main protagonist (who I shall call “the cute cop”)

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has these visions where he’s chatting with his uncle? boss? (might have been some translation issues in the subtitles here) made what was happening in the orgy cult that much weirder.  Possibly it’s more culturally acceptable for men and people in general to be attuned to the supernatural in Turkey, but I don’t think it would be too far-fetched for a dude in an American movie to have ghostly visions.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

If you have a taste for more foreign horror, try these:

Audition (1999) – This is one of my favorite horror movies ever.  It certainly has the surreal quality of Baskin mixed with the bizarre flavor of Japanese horror movies – before The Ring homogenized them.  Starts out like a romantic comedy and slowly turns into a nightmare.

Hell’s Ground (2007) – The first Pakistani horror movie I’d ever heard of.  Can’t say it was all that great, as it followed the generic storyline of five teens on a road trip who get lost, but their attacker does wear a burqa.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 3 – Hellions

220px-hellions_posterI did not have high hopes for this one, since Netflix showed the average rating as 2 stars.  How could this be?  You’ve got creepy kids in masks!  This is a surefire way to make a horror movie awesome.

So Dora discovers that she’s preggers, and opts to stay home while her mom and little bro go trick-or-treating.  But the little hellions immediately start messing with her, and soon Dora’s both convinced that her baby is a demon and she’s trapped in a nightmare house as the trick-or-treaters try to get that baby out of her.

This movie did a great job of playing off the tropes and doing some oddly original stuff.  Visually it was pretty awesome, what with Dora’s gun-toting angel costume and the creepy masks and the Willy Wonka-esque nightmare sequences (although I suspect that the strange purplish lighting throughout had more to do with low budget, but it still looked cool).  I’m giving this one a solid 3 stars.

A fun drinking game for this movie: Drink every time “it’s just a dream” and chug when it turns into a “dream-within-a-dream.”

A few suggestions if you enjoyed this one:

  • The Children (2008) – This film (and most of those that I will suggest here) is basically birth control. Lots of screaming children… like, to the point where I wished the kiddos would start chanting creepily.
  • Eden Lake (2008) – A happy young couple goes to a secluded lake, only to be terrorized by a gang of teens.
  • The House on Pine Street (2015) – Add this to my list of movies not to watch while pregnant, the main character is both pregnant and recovering from a nervous breakdown, and the creepy new house isn’t helping.
  • Trick ‘r Treat (2008) – Five stories for the price of one, plus a super creepy trick-or-treater.
  • Village of the Damned (1995) – John Carpenter’s remake of the classic is a little cheesy, but damn those platinum-blond kids are creepy.

31 Days of Halloween, Day 2 – Opera

220px-opera_-_film_1987Today’s horror movie was Dario Argento’s Opera (1987), a film so buried in my Netflix DVD queue that I’ve forgotten how or why I put it there.

Dario Argento is considered one of the masters of horror, and yet I’ve always had sort of a “meh” feeling about his movies.  To be fair, I’ve only seen Suspiria, Phenomena, and Giallo, but none of them did it for me.  The death scenes often feel a little too carefully orchestrated.  Opera was no exception.

The main character is an opera singer, an understudy who is forced into the spotlight after the lead is injured. She keeps getting attacked by a mysterious masked person, who tied her up and tapes needles against her eyes so she is forced to watch the murders he commits.  And then he lets her go.  The baffling part is how, after each attack, Betty doesn’t seem to report the murders she has witnessed, and then doesn’t seem too nervous about being alone, or leaving her door unlocked.  During the second murder, the victim attempts to run away but is taken down when the killer hurls an iron and hits her in the lower back.  Like, really?  That’s what gonna keep you down?  Another victim gets shot through a peephole, in slow motion.  It was pretty cool, but again, a little too choreographed to feel real.  There’s no panic or emotion during the last murder – she keeps her composure while watching her friend die and while luring the killer away and attacking him, and then she has a random spiritual moment with a lizard, with her friend’s blood on her blouse.  And don’t get me started on the rock music that would play during the murders, contrasted to the opera music playing throughout the rest of the movie.  Also there was a lot of footage of crows because the “crazy opera director” wanted to use live animals in his show.

While I have to say that this was probably the best of the Argento films I’ve seen, I’m still not convinced about him as a director.  Apparently I have Tenebre in my queue, so this might not be the last of Argento you hear from me this month!

Have you seen this and want to watch something similar?  (Or perhaps, after reading my review, something else?)

  • The Birds (1963) – I don’t think there were any crows eating eyeballs in this one, but I think Hitchcock is more of a horror master than Argento.
  • Black Swan (2010) – Not a “horror” movie but some pretty scary things happening in this one.
  • Stage Fright (2014) – This one has some memorable actors (Minnie Driver and… Meatloaf) but a more predictable plot for a horror movie centered around the stage (honestly I don’t know what to make of Opera’s ending).

31 Days of Halloween, Day 1 – We Are What We Are

we_are_what_we_are_2013Feeling a bit hungry last night, I decided to watch a movie about cannibals.

“We Are What We Are” (2013) has been sitting in my Netflix queue for a while, and I’ve heard generally positive things about it, although I wasn’t aware until now that it’s a remake of a Mexican film.  The good reviews are not unfounded and I enjoyed this story of a strange, religious family who have a yearly tradition of killing and eating people.  Much of the cannibalism is implied until the very end, with any image of meat made to look absolutely disgusting.  So if you’re hungry and don’t want to be, here’s a way to kill your appetite!

What I really liked about this was how it was more about the family dynamics and how their cannibalism affects their relationships with outsiders.  The two sisters are sympathetic characters, while their father is domineering and their little brother is creepy, as all children in horror movies are…

The eeriness of the opening scene reminded me a bit of another movie I watched recently, so I’m going to offer up a few suggestions if you’ve also enjoyed this one.

  • Benny’s Video (1992) – The opening scene of this Austrian-Swiss film involves videotaped footage of a pig being slaughtered.  This movie was more disturbing than scary and uncomfortable to watch.
  • Grimm Love (2006) – Based on the true story of a cannibal killer, whose dream was to eat a willing victim and found one such victim online.  Probably the most emo cannibal movie I’ve ever seen.
  • Mum and Dad (2008) – The British family at the center of this movie aren’t cannibals, but they sure are fucked up.
  • Offspring (2009) – This cannibal family is just a little more feral, and they have fashioned themselves metal teeth for dinnertime.  If you were wanting more gore than “We Are What We Are,” you’ll find more than enough here.
  • Snowpiercer (2012) – In addition to eating cockroaches, cannibalism is what happens when people are trapped on a train for a few decades.  More implied than anything, but this is such a weirdly awesome post-apocalyptic movie it doesn’t matter.

recent movies roundup

Since the 4th of July holiday has derailed my Camp Nanowrimo’ing, why not post about movies?

In Theaters

The Heat – Hilarious.  If you are a fan of Melissa McCarthy and/or Sandra Bullock, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

World War Z – Completely unlike the book, but still pretty great.  Just try to think of it as a more typical zombie action/thriller (rather than a complex social commentary, like the book).  I’m always a bit disappointed when the zombies are “fast” instead of the traditional shufflers.  In the book, this was explained by the virus needing to spread.  The movie makes no such explanation.  Still, it’s very watchable.

Monsters University – The plot was a little predictable, but this was just as fun as Monsters Inc.

 

 

Now You See Me – Loved this.  Made me want to go to a magic show in Vegas.  Also made me watch to watch “The Prestige” again.

 

 

The Hangover 3 – Meh.

 

 

 

On DVD

The Call – Decent thriller that certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.  Since I watch a lot of horror movies, I was ready for it to go to a more torture-porn place, but it didn’t.  Although I was not a huge fan of the ending.

 

Identity Thief – I love both Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, but this was just okay for me.

 

 

Side Effects – An interesting thriller… it’s hard to have an original twist these days.

 

 

The Collection – In the tradition of Saw, this was more about creatively gory ways for people to die than a coherent plot.

 

 

Stitches – If you enjoy horror comedy, I highly recommend this one.  The tagline says it all: “Never accidentally kill a clown at a party.”

 

 

John Dies at the End – The book was really funny, and this movie somehow makes sense of it while keeping the humor.

 

 

Silent Hill: Revelation – Certainly creepy, I love the imagery.  Plus Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) costars.

 

 

Chasing Mavericks – Sometimes I check out movies from the library not because I especially want to see them but because I’m bored.  I wasn’t particularly excited about this one, since I felt like the whole movie was in the preview… but I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it.  Of course Gerard Butler isn’t bad to look at.  I admit, I got a little teary at the end…

 

Silver Linings Playbook – Being a fan of Bradley Cooper, I wanted to see this since before it hit theaters, but somehow I never got to see it, even when it hit theaters again during Oscars season.  It was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time.  Don’t miss it!!

 

Horror Movie Remakes

Mother’s Day (1980) vs. Mother’s Day (2010) – I thought this was going to be a complete remake, but the new movie took the idea of the old – a family of criminals and murderers led by their mother – and created a whole new plot.  The original was pretty hilarious in that campy awesome way of movies from the early 80s.  The new version is not campy.  Mother is played by Rebecca de Mornay and she is quite frightening.  I loved the group dynamics situation of a house full of hostages, as well as the family dynamics angle.  There were perhaps too many layers in this movie.

Texas Chainsaw – This is not a remake.  Close enough.  It is the third in the revamp of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.  For some reason, this film used footage from the original TCM to set the stage for a sequel involving the heir to the family’s house, which also includes a secret room containing Leatherface.  It was typical horror movie fare, with the group of partying young people getting massacred, with none of the campy humor of the originals.