Category Archives: Horror

Review – It: Part One (15) [2017]

Star Rating: 2.5/5


  • Andy Muschietti – Mama, It: Part II


  • Bill Skarsgard – Anna Karenina, Victoria, Allegiant, Emperor
  • Jaeden Lieberher – St Vincent, The Confirmation, The Book of Henry, Low Tide
  • Jeremy Ray Taylor – Alvin and the Chipmunks, Geostorm
  • Finn Wolfhard – Stranger Things, Dog Days
  • Chosen Jacobs – Hawaii Five-0, Cops and Robbers
  • Jack Dylan Grazer – Me, Myself & I, Beautiful Boy
  • Wyatt Oleff – Someone Marry Barry, Guardians of the Galaxy I & II
  • Nicholas Hamilton – Strangerland, Captain Fantastic, The Dark Tower, Stream
  • Owen Teague – Contest, Echoes of War, Cell, Bloodline, The Empty Man
  • Jackson Robert Scott

Music Composer:

  • Benjamin Wallfisch – The Escapist, Hours, Hidden Figures, Annabelle II, Blade Runner 2049

Stephen King is a prolific author. To date, he has written 54 novels and over 200 short stories, many of which have been adapted for the screen. Predominantly, King has specialised in the horror genre, as The Shining, Misery and Salem’s Lot (to name but three) attest. Nevertheless, throughout his novels, King’s stories lose their horror. It is another example of this. Why is that?

Bill (Jaeden Lieberher, right) hands his brother, Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott, left), a boat that he has made for him. It will be the last time Bill sees his brother.

It: Part One is about Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard), who hides in the drains of Derry, a small town in Middle America, and kidnaps children. One day, a young boy called Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing. This leads his brother, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), to round up his friends to find out what happened.

It has a very disturbing premise and the opening sequence holds true to that. But it does not take long for the disturbing elements of the movie to lose their scariness. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King stresses the importance of ‘situation’ in his stories; for example, what if vampires invaded a small village in New England (Salem’s Lot)? Or what if someone wakes up after a car accident to find himself/herself tied to a bed and being cared for by a psycho in the middle of nowhere (Misery)? These are terrifying premises. However, after a while, the audience become immune to the horror. The same is true for It. Very soon into the film’s (bloated) 135-minute run time the clown/It no longer seems as scary as he did at the start.

It does not help that Pennywise becomes silly and comical as the movie wears on. Indeed, this is symptomatic of It as a whole. The movie’s tone is inconsistent. It wants to be scary, but seemingly every time the film tries to be scary one of the characters throws in a joke. This ruins any chance of tension, which is essential for audiences to feel fear.

Bill (centre), with his group of friends, looking through reels of films on a projector. What they see, horrifies them.

Then again, even if the characters did not make jokes at the wrong times, viewers still would not have got the chance to feel afraid due to Benjamin Wallfisch’s score. It is so overbearing and it rams down one’s throat what director Andy Muschietti wants one to feel. No doubt, he wants his audience to feel scared. But this is not the way to do it. He should have created situations for the characters wherein one feels that they are in danger. This would have induced fear naturally into viewers. Then, the music would have enhanced the fear. But when there is nothing to be scared of, viewers cannot feel afraid. Music (however loud) cannot change that.

It has many problems. Yet, that is not to say that it has no redeeming features either. One, the late-1980s setting of this small, Middle American town is authentic. King writes a lot about Middle America in his books and It captures the spirit of his work in its aesthetics.

Two, some elements of the horror in the film are genuinely unnerving. Alas, these have nothing to do with Pennywise/It. Still, though, they are unsettling. Muschietti should have combined these with the (supposed) horrors of Pennywise/It. Then, the film would have been chilling.

Pennywise the Clown/It (Bill Skarsgard) ready to bounce on his next victim with a red balloon.

And, three, the acting is decent. The acting is done in the main by child-actors and Bill Skarsgard, and they do their best with the (limited) script that they have been given. But they cannot save the film. The dialogue, the plot and the film’s sense of timing are too poor for that.

All-in-all, It: Part One is a disappointing movie. The film has its qualities, not least in its terrifying premise. But, like in so many of Stephen King’s stories, It cannot maintain the terror of its premise throughout the duration of the movie. The film becomes laughable long before the end. That there are more funny jokes in It than sensations of fear underline that the movie is not scary enough.

PG’s Tips

Review – It Comes At Night (15) [2017]

Star Rating: 3/5


  • Trey Edward Shults – Krisha


  • Joel Edgerton – Animal KingdomWarrior, Zero Dark Thirty, Exodus: Gods And KingThe Gift, Red Sparrow
  • Riley Keough – Magic Mike, Mad Max, We Don’t Belong Here, Welcome The Stranger
  • Christopher Abbott – Martha Marcy May Marlene, A Most Violent Year, Criminal Activities, Tyrel
  • Carmen Ejogo – The Purge: Anarchy, Selma, Alien: Covenant, Roman Israel, Esq.
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. – The Birth Of A Nation, Mudbound, Assassination Nation
  • Griffin Robert Faulkner

Music Composer:

  • Brian McOmber – A Teacher, Krisha, Collective: Unconscious, The Last Shift

There are some films that are titled in such a way as to give viewers the wrong impression of the movie. Silence of the Lambs was about a serial killer and had merely a passing mention to its title; Heavenly Creatures was not about idyllic angels placed on Earth, but two psychopathic, pretty girls; and Batman v Superman was merely a headache-inducing, money-spinning ruse of a title to kick start the Justice League franchise. Similarly, It Comes At Night is mistitled and, consequently, misdirects its audience in a negative way.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) questioning Will (Christopher Abbott), who he has tied up to a tree and gagged, after Will broke into his house.

It Comes At Night is a film, set in an eerie forest in America. Disease/plague is rampant and Paul (Joel Edgerton), the militant patriarch of his family of three, will do whatever it takes to make sure his family do not become infected; even going so far as not to let anyone open the front door without his permission, to ensure that the disease does not come in.

But one day, a stranger called Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into his house and begs for them to let him and his family enter. They have no other way of surviving the plague. Paul is suspicious, but lets them in. However, not long after Will and his family arrive, Paul’s son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) finds the front door open. Who did it? Who has potentially let the disease into the house?

  It Comes At Night is a bad choice of title considering it is a film about (incurable) disease, the fear it brings, and the behaviour (paranoia) it manifests in people as a result. Nonetheless, disease does not just come at night; it can come during the day too. This is the first problem with the movie.

The second is that the film’s title does not epitomise the movie it wants to be. From the sound of it, one would think It Comes At Night is a paranormal horror film. There are a couple of jump scares, but not enough for the movie to be marketed as a horror film. Very soon, it becomes apparent that the tone of the movie is wrong for a horror film and that alone is enough to disappoint viewers (especially horror fans).

The door before the front door that must remain locked at all times, and only Paul has the key to it. Paul reckons it is the only way to keep out the disease…

If anything, It Comes At Night is a psychological drama. Through Will and his family, the film raises the fascinating moral conundrum that people faced in the Medieval times when the Bubonic Plague was rife: should people show compassion and humanity to others who need help, despite the risk that this could further spread the disease and kill members of one’s own family; or should people close their doors to strangers until the plague ends, despite this meaning many will die who could have been saved?

The film puts up a decent fist of conveying the conundrum. But there three problems with its execution: one is that not a lot happens, which makes for a dull watch; two, the movie is completely devoid of context and we are none-the-wiser by the end of the film as to what has happened to the world and how Paul’s and Will’s respective families have ended up in respective predicaments; and, three, Will does not come across as a trustworthy individual, which has the distortive effect of making viewers sympathies lean heavily toward Paul (and his suspicions/paranoia) over the needs of Will and his family.

The actors themselves are blameless for the way audiences see Paul and Will. Indeed, Joel Edgerton and Christopher Abbott are really good in their respective roles as two (very different types of) fathers doing their best to save their families. Interestingly, Director Trey Shults believes that the father-son relationship is a crucial element to It Comes At Night as he did not have a good relationship with his father growing up. What this means for Travis and Will’s son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner), is anyone’s guess; particularly Travis. Much is ambiguous about him and it would have been helpful if the film explored his personality in greater detail. But again Kelvin Harrison Jr. is blameless and does well with what he is given.

The two families accusing one another, bitterly, of opening the door after Travis finds it open.

Additionally, Brian McOmber’s score growls and helps the audience feel the claustrophobia of the situation. Indeed, it deserves for something to build up to a climax and actually happen (and at night too).

All-in-all, It Comes At Night is a disappointing film. It has a fine cast, an interesting premise, and an important conundrum at its core. For if a disease akin to the Medieval Bubonic Plague returned, mankind may well behave like Paul and Will do in the film. Nevertheless, the sense lingers that something is amiss with It Comes At Night. It is boring, devoid of tension, and incorrectly marketed as a horror film. Ultimately, this all stems from its ill-chosen title.

PG’s Tips

Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane (15) [2016]

10 Cloverfield Lane - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5


  • Dan Trachtenberg


  • John Goodman – The Big Labowski, Red State, The Artist, Argo, Going Under
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Black Christmas, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Die Hard 5, So It Goes
  • John Gallagher Jr. – Jonah Hex, Margaret, The Newsroom, Hush

Music Composer:

  • Bear McCreary – Knights of Badassdom, The Forest, The Boy, The Walking Dead, Mayhem

2008’s Cloverfield was a torturous watch. It was an alleged horror film in the found footage genre. It centred round some vain and irritating young adults, running around and screaming through New York City, trying to avoid being killed by a Godzilla-like monster and his small killer minions.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) looking for reception upon waking up to find herself locked in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) looking for reception upon waking up to find herself locked in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Well, fast forward eight years and we have a (sort of) sequel in the form of 10 Cloverfield Lane (even though it has little to do with the original movie other than in title). The film begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving her fiancée. She is driving at night when her car is smashed into and sent tumbling. She wakes up to find herself in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Howard (John Goodman) claims to have saved her. Yet, when Michelle asks to leave, Howard states that she can’t. He says that aliens have invaded the planet and that if she goes outside, she will die. Michelle does not believe him. She wants to get out and suspects that Howard has ulterior motives for keeping her down in the bunker…

10 Cloverfield Lane is a terrifying and tense film. Like with Room, the premise for 10 Cloverfield Lane is entirely realistic. Anyone could be involved in a horrific car crash and wake up to find themselves having been abducted by someone claiming to be their saviour. One can empathise with the claustrophobic predicament that befalls our main protagonist, Michelle, and we understand her motives and her fears implicitly.

Howard (John Goodman) staring at Michelle, warning her not to go into his room or to push her luck.

Howard (John Goodman) staring at Michelle, warning her not to go into his room or to push her luck.

It helps that Michelle is a fully round, three-dimensional character. She is deeply flawed and has behaved in illogical ways (as she elucidates upon during the film), but uses her intelligence to deal with the horrifying situation she finds herself in. It is entirely believable and one must praise Mary Elizabeth Winstead for playing the role so well.

Equally, one must praise John Goodman. Normally, he plays funny roles akin to Baloo, the big cuddly bear from The Jungle Book. But here he is frightening, more akin to the grizzly bear that attacked Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Part of the reason Goodman is so scary is because he is usually so funny. Laughter and fear are not emotionally far apart and one feels just how close they are throughout 10 Cloverfield Lane. But, during the film, one wonders (along with our protagonist) if Goodman/Howard is right: have aliens taken over Earth, as he claims? Or is Howard just a mad psychopath who enjoys abducting people, with a penchant for young-looking girls? The latter question adds a chilling quality to the film.

For all of this, director Dan Trachtenberg must be commended. This is his debut feature film and he has put together a really good piece of work. His directing is really decent (note: he does not adopt the shaky camera of the first film) and it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Howard believes that there is a traitor among them, so brings out some highly corrosive substance to tacitly threaten Michelle and another captive, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr).

Howard believes that there is a traitor among them, so brings out some highly corrosive substance to tacitly threaten Michelle and another captive, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr).

In saying that, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not without faults. One, Michelle has a chance to escape (as is shown in the trailer) but chooses to stay in the bunker (presumably, otherwise the film’s 103-minute run time would have been halved). And, two, the ending is problematical. It makes complete sense in the context of the Cloverfield series, but it poses some very awkward and dangerous questions. (Alas, I cannot go into detail about this as it would spoil the last scenes.)

All-in-all, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an unnerving and truly terrifying film. Its premise is utterly plausible and the claustrophobic nature of the setting ramps up the tension. The acting is also really good, not least from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the unusually frightening John Goodman. Yes, 10 Cloverfield Lane has its issues, particularly the ending. But as far as debut features go, Dan Trachtenberg has made a really impressive introduction to directing. In the main, his film is the epitome of what a horror movie should be like to experience.

PG’s Tips

Review – It Follows (15) [2015]

It Follows - title banner2

Star Rating: 2/5


  • David Robert Mitchell – The Myth of the American Sleepover


  • Maika Monroe – At Any Price, Labor Day, Echoes Of WarIndependence Day II: Resurgence
  • Keir Gilchrist – Dead Silence, Just Peck, The Heyday Of The Insensitive Bastards, Dark Summer
  • Olivia Luccardi – The Rewrite, Like Sunday, Like Rain, Ironwood
  • Jake Weary – Fred: The Movie I-III, Altitude, Zombeavers, Pretty Little Liars
  • Lili Sepe – Spork
  • Daniel Zovatto – Beneath, Innocence, Revenge, Primal/Ethereal

The basic principle of a horror film is that it should scare people for much, if not all of the film. Why then, with the exception of last year’s The Babadook, have so many recent horror films not been scary in the least? Simply, watch It Follows and find out.

Jay (Maika Monroe) tied up and in an abandoned car park, after her sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary).

Jay (Maika Monroe) tied up and in an abandoned car park, after her sexual encounter with Hugh (Jake Weary).

It Follows centres round nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), who lives in the suburbs of Middle America. She goes out on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary) and has sex with him in the back of his car (classy, I know). While taking a break from having sex, Hugh puts a handkerchief wet with chlorophyll over Jay’s mouth and she passes out. When Jay wakes up, she is tied to a chair in an abandoned car park and Hugh tells her that he has passed on to her an STD (a sexually transmitted demon) that will follow her until, either, she has sex with another person or it kills her…

The premise for It Follows is a terrifying one. The threat of acquiring an STD (a disease, that is, as opposed to a demon) is enough to make all sensible people carry protection with them at all times. So, to change the disease element to a demon could have made for really interesting (and frightening) viewing.

Unfortunately, Director David Mitchell has ruined a very good premise with bad execution in several different ways. First, he employs the scene-fading technique too often to dizzy his audience into disinterest. Second, he has too many pointless and uninteresting scenes that add nothing to the plot. Third, the movie is boring and one rapidly becomes impatient for the film to end.


Jay and her friends going into an abandoned, derelict house. Why? Because that's what people do in horror films.

Jay and her friends going into an abandoned, derelict house. Why? Because that’s what people do in horror films.

Part of the reason why It Follows is boring is because there is no suspense. The ethereal, atmospheric music that the director employs can only induce terror into viewers when it is timed correctly and if they care about the characters. Alas, Mitchell turns the music on and up to eleven when it is not needed so it never has the desired effect (unless the desired effect is to give audiences a thumping headache); and the characters are so vain and stupid that even if Mitchell had used the music correctly, it would not have heightened one’s sensations as no-one cares about the characters. Jay and her (chemistry-less) friends are so daft, viewers almost pray for the demons to devour them so we can go to the bathroom sooner.

In fairness to Mitchell, he has the right ideas in place to make (what should have been) a scary horror movie. He has taken the right approach by making his characters the central focus of the story (unlike, for example, The Woman In Black where James Watkins made the silly ghost the driving force of the story). Indeed, if Mitchell had made his characters a tad more interesting, perhaps It Follows may have made pulses race after-all.

Kelly (Lili Sepe) attempting to calm Jay down upon the latter seeing a demon closing in on her.

Kelly (Lili Sepe) attempting to calm Jay down upon the latter seeing a demon closing in on her.

Additionally, the suburban setting is apt (if cliché) for a scary horror film as suburban areas can create a naturally tense and creepy atmosphere, like in The Babadook. Except, It Follows is neither tense nor scary, and seeing the setting merely reminds one of how good The Babadook was and how much of a let-down It Follows is.

Over-all, It Follows is a dull film. Director David Mitchell may have some good concepts upon how to make a decent film (and one awaits to see what he comes up with next). But his first horror film can only be described as a failure. It Follows does not make viewers feel on-edge or afraid for the characters within the story. Furthermore, the movie wastes its petrifying premise with bad execution. And there is only one crime in film worse than bad execution: boredom. Oh wait, It Follows has that too.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Babadook (15) [2014]

Babadook - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5


  •  Jennifer Kent – Monster


  • Essie Davis – The Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions, Australia, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Assassin’s Creed
  • Noah Wiseman – The Gift
  • Tim Purcell
  • Daniel Henshall – The Snowtown Murders, Not Suitable For Children, These Final Hours, Fell
  • Benjamin Winspear – The Last Goodbye, Breeding In Captivity
  • Hayley McElhinney
  • Barbara West

Music Composer:

  •  Jed Kurzel – The Snowtown Murders, Dead Europe, Macbeth

In recent years, the ineptitude of the horror genre has been documented on this blog. The Woman In Black, The Possession and Mama did not induce enough fear into viewers and illustrated, to the point of a rule, that the horror genre has become a joke. Nevertheless, Jennifer Kent’s latest film The Babadook wonderfully proves otherwise and shows that the horror genre still has the power to terrify viewers.

Amelia (Essie Davis) with her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), looking under the bed to make sure that no monsters are there.

Amelia (Essie Davis) with her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), looking under the bed to make sure that no monsters are there.

  The Babadook is a low-budget Australian movie. Amelia (Essie Davis) is a nurse/carer in an old people’s home by day and a single mother the rest of the time. Her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is a difficult child who believes to the point of obsession that he sees a monster (the Babadook) in the closet. He creates improvised weapons to deal with the monster when the correct moment arises. At first, Amelia believes that Samuel’s unusually obsessive behaviour is not an in issue. But soon she realises, to her consternation, that a sinister presence might be lurking in the house…

The Babadook is a brilliant horror film that is sincerely scary. At its core, the movie is about a supernatural being haunting a house in need of renovation. But, amazingly, the movie does not fall into the current horror genre trope of quiet, quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG to quicken one’s heart rate. Instead, in a similar vein to The Shining and We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Babadook messes with one’s instincts and emotions in a very natural and unsettling way.

Amelia reading Sam a book to help him go to sleep. Only, without realising it, she is reading to him the poetry book written by the Babadook.

Amelia reading Sam a book to help him go to sleep. Only, without realising it, she is reading to him the poetry book written by the Babadook.

The director, Jennifer Kent, does this by four means: one, through the use of discomforting poetry; two, through the use of ethereal sounds like thud, dook and the crawl of insects to build tension; three, by creating a situation whereby a mother is as fearful for her child as she is fearful of her child (and his disturbing behaviour); and, four, by inflection by making both the mother and the son, in different ways, look more and more like the Babadook as the film goes on. All four of these factors are executed exceptionally well and ensure that one feels a knot gradually tightening in their stomachs.

Undoubtedly, one would not be able to feel this way if the two lead actors, Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, had not put in such strong performances. Yet, at the same time, both actors have been privileged with richly complex, three-dimensional characters. For this, one must applaud Jennifer Kent for writing such believable characters and a brilliantly written script in general.

A page from the Babadook's actual book. The poetry is as fantastic as it is unsettling.

A page from the Babadook’s actual book. The poetry is as fantastic as it is unsettling.

Nevertheless, the script (sadly) does not hold out for the whole of The Babadook’s 94 minutes. Arguably, the climactic scene near the end of the movie veers away from the direction that the film had seemed to be going down for more than three quarters of the film. This is a shame as the scenes near the end feel a little jarring and out of sync with the rest of the movie. In addition, the special effects look amateurish at times, which may undermine the scare element of the film. However, one should not put too much stress on these flaws because that would be to take away what is a delightfully accomplished horror film.

Over-all, The Babadook is a superb and genuinely scary horror movie. As a whole, the film is well-written, superbly acted, and deeply unsettling in a very normal way despite the supernatural element within the film. One might nitpick and say that the special effects are not great. Yet, at a time when the horror genre has become a laughing stock, Jennifer Kent demonstrates with The Babadook that there is more to the horror genre than the base (and boring) denominator of quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG, and that horror films still have the potential to scare people.

PG’s Tips

Review – Mama (15) [2013]

Mama - title banner

Star Rating 2.5/5


Executive Producer:


  • Jessica Chastain – The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Help, Zero Dark ThirtyInterstellar
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – Headhunters, Game of Thrones, Oblivion
  • Megan Charpentier – Jennifer’s Body, Red Riding Hood, Resident Evil: Retribution, Never Ever
  • Isabelle Nélisse
  • Jane Moffat – Alphas, Come Dance With Me, An Enemy
  • Javier Botet – Rec I-III, As Luck Would Have It, Al Final Todos Mueren
  • Daniel Kash – The Dresden Files, Alphas, Split Decision

Music Composer:

  • Fernandez Velázquez – The Orphanage, Devil, The ImpossibleA Monster Calls

The Woman in Black and The Possession are testament not only to the tiredness, comical and abysmal nature of the horror genre, they also signal that ghost stories and films about possessive/evil spirits have been done so many times that they seem to no longer be capable of scaring audiences. Despite being a notch up from most other recent horror movies, Mama does little to alter this view.

Annabel (Jessica Chastain) and Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) talking with Dr. Dreyfuss. Lucas is determined to foster his late-brother's daughters, despite their problems.

Annabel (Jessica Chastain) and Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) talking with Dr. Dreyfuss. Lucas is determined to foster his late-brother’s daughters, despite their problems.

  Mama begins with the mysterious death of Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in a cabin in the woods, leaving his two very young daughters, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lily (Isabelle Nélisse), to seemingly fend for themselves. But were they alone?

  Five years later, the two girls are found, looking like wild barbarians, and are sent to live with their uncle, Lucas (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his rock-chick girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain). But something else has come with Victoria and Lily; something they call ‘Mama.’

As far as horror films go, the plot for Mama is actually not bad for the first 60 of the movie’s 100 minute running time. The film may not be particularly frightening, despite a few jumpy moments, but at least it can make one’s heart-rate speed up a bit at times (which is almost novel for horror films these days).

But, disappointingly, Mama loses its way at the hour mark. Subsequently, it descends into the normal clichés and follies that are symptomatic of the genre: parts of the plot get thrown by the wayside; plot threads don’t add up; and the parts of the storyline that do work become so contrived that they might as well not work. Worse, long before the end, even the things that made the film tense and jittery lose that ability.

Annabel concerned by what devilry has come with Victoria and Lily, and is now in the house.

Annabel concerned by what devilry has come with Victoria and Lily, and is now in the house.

The key reason for why Mama can sustain viewer’s interest for as long as it does is due to the acting and the dialogue. For once, both are acceptable by anyone’s standard (and not just in comparison to the acting and dialogue in abominations like Jennifer’s Body and The Wolfman). Unsurprisingly, Jessica Chastain holds her all as the lead character, albeit in a far more casual manner than in Zero Dark Thirty, and makes conversations about evil spirits seem mundane and normal, which is not as easy as one would think (as The Woman in Black and The Possession attest). The two young girls also perform unexpectedly decently. Lily’s behaviour is particularly weird and unsettling, yet Isabelle Nélisse makes it look nothing out of the ordinary due to her character’s peculiar circumstances.

Indeed, the only actor who is somewhat disappointing is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and for no fault of his own. Lacking the smugness of Jaime ‘the Kingslayer’ Lannister from Game of Thrones, Coster-Waldau does alright with what he is given. But his role is quite minimal and modest, meaning that his talents are largely wasted in Mama. The rest of the cast, including Jane Moffat, as Jean, Lucas’ sister, and Daniel Kash, as the suspicious Dr. Dreyfuss, have even less to do than Coster-Waldau, rendering their value to the film close to irrelevant.

However, the person with arguably the most irrelevant impact upon Mama is Guillermo Del Toro. Was he solely made executive producer to enable debutant director Andrés Muschietti to ride on the coat-tails of his 2006 Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth? Well, that and to dupe people (like me) into the cinema most probably.

There is little doubt that Mama is not a par with Pan’s Labyrinth, but it has its own music and that should be commended. The music lacks the power, depth and variety of the scores in The Lion King, The Dark Knight Rises and Lincoln, and it might be limited in range too, but at least it does not recycle the standard stringy music (followed by a sudden crescendo) that is sadly all too common in horror movies.

Annabel with Lily and Victoria, as they realise, with horror, that 'Mama' has come to pay them a visit.

Annabel with Lily and Victoria, as they realise, with horror, that ‘Mama’ has come to pay them a visit.

  The same can roughly be said for the special effects in Mama as well. They’re not bad and, initially, whatever ‘Mama’ is can make one feel like something is crawling underneath one’s skin (which is a good thing!). But this wears out soon enough, making the effects little more than an unpleasant, immaterial sight.

  Overall, Mama is not a terrible horror film and is certainly better in every respect than The Woman in Black and The Possession. Mama shoots itself in the foot after an hour, so to speak, but at any rate, it has some suspense with passable acting and dialogue, and curious music. Nevertheless, even with all of the above and a new director, Mama underlines the exhaustion and lack of innovation in the paranormal-inclined horror genre, which has been going on for too long.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Possession (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 1/5


  • Ole Bornedal – Nightwatch, Deliver Us From Evil, 1864


  • Sam Raimi – Xena: Warrior Princess, Spiderman I-III, The Evil Dead


  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan – Watchmen, Grey’s Anatomy, Red Dawn
  • Natasha Calis – Donovan’s Echo, The Firm
  • Madison Davenport – Jack and the Beanstalk, Shameless, Noah
  • Kyra Sedgwick – Man on a Ledge, The Closer, Chlorine
  • Grant Show – Melrose Place, Marmalade, All Ages Night
  • Matisyahu

In my review of The Woman in Black, I spoke of the urgent need for the horror-genre to be revamped. Too often, so-called ‘horror’ films have become formulaic and a joke. Well, unbelievably, the genre has sunk even lower due to The Possession.

Em (Natasha Calis), unaware of the evil held within the container, purchasing the ‘Dibbuk box’ at a yard sale not far from her father’s home.

The Possession is a supernatural horror movie based on a true story. (Yeah right.) Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport) are two young girls, whose parents are divorced. While staying with their father, Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), they go to a yard sale to purchase some new things for their father’s new house.

At the sale, Em comes across an old wooden box with an inscription of Hebrew writing and buys it. Little does she know, though, that the box contains a Dibbuk (Hebrew for an ‘evil spirit’). Em doesn’t find out until after she opens it. But by then it is too late, as the Dibbuk is already consuming both her soul and her flesh.

The Possession is neither scary nor interesting, thereby making the film feel a lot longer than its 92 minutes. Also, starting the movie with ‘based on a true story’ just renders the film stupid. One is generally not going to take a film seriously after watching human beings fly upside down across rooms, before smashing into walls and denting the brickwork. (Because that happens in real life, doesn’t it?)

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) holding the ‘Dibbuk box’ while his daughters are with their mother and her new boyfriend. Clyde is trying to work out what is inside the box that could have harmed Em.

It is not as if those scenes are unique to The Possession either, as the recent The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Rite and The Devil Inside attest. Like all of those films, The Possession suffers from an embarrassing number of clichés, which seem to be endlessly recycled in (bad) horror movies. Seeing (poorly-made CGI) insects coming out of someone’s throat or hearing a young girl talking with the voice of a nasty old hag has been done so many times that it ceases to shock or scare.

Combined with these standard techniques is the reprocessed music. Usually these unoriginal scores at least make viewers’ hearts flutter and pump up their adrenaline. In The Possession, however, it doesn’t even do that. The music sometimes threatens to make one feel that he/she will be jumping out of their skin by the end of the scene. Yet, because the film builds up to a climax that invariably doesn’t happen, the non-atmospheric music is reduced to pointlessness to the extent that the scenes would have been tenser with silence.

Matisyahu, donned in full chassidic gear, reading out holy verses, hoping to exorcise the evil spirit that has possessed Em.

And in case The Possession isn’t pathetic enough, the acting is terrible and the script is even worse. Indeed, it is all so dreadful that it almost forces one to question how a donor or Sam Raimi (whose reputation has plummeted since the much-maligned Spiderman 3) could have been duped into thinking that The Possession was a film worth making. At least The Woman in Black was an adaptation from a successful theatre production, so there was an excuse for it to be made. The Possession, on the other hand, has no such strong foundation and is almost solely the result of (the lack of) imagination on behalf of Stiles White and Juliet Snowden (both of whom helped to write Knowing, an appalling movie that was all over the place).

Over-all, The Possession is yet another wretched and stereotypical horror film. It adds nothing new to the genre, is neither funny nor frightening, and is remarkably dull. How many more ‘horror’ movies like this can Hollywood make before donors, directors and producers alike gain some dignity and pull the plug on this woeful genre?

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