Horror mini-reviews

Soon it will be Halloween, so it’s time to watch horror. I watched a few of these earlier in the year. Have been saving the reviews for October. Lets get to it!

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Arthouse horror from Jim Jarmusch. Has a refreshing approach to the vampire story, and I like that it wasn’t about killing, which these types of horror films so often are.
Touches on themes such as vampires in love for centuries, being dependent on blood controls your life like a drug, and that the vampire lifestyle doesn’t have to be harmful to others. How you can learn a lot and have a ton of experience from staying alive for so long. In her suitcase is the huge book Infinite Jest, and she reads Les Anglais au pôle Nord by Jules Verne. Asks, what would you do, if you lived forever? Also about how a famous figure from the past (John Hurt character) could influence the present. The ice lolly scene was a fun idea. To my knowledge the wooden bullet was never used?
Does have an atmospheric soundtrack, which gives it its own mood. Funnel of Love was my favorite.
I liked how full of ideas it was, and it did seem unique. But I had problems with the storytelling and slow pacing. In many scenes they talk rather than do. They just sit or stand around. Speaking about the past, not letting us see what happened.
Hardly anything happens, I would call it a situation, rather than a story. I found it dull. A pity, because there was huge potential in those script ideas. I think the story is better suited for a book, because I sense it’s more about an inner struggle than an outer experience.
Jim Jarmusch interview about the film in March issue of Sight & Sound magazine was actually more fascinating than the movie. Could have been a classic, and somehow didn’t quite get there.
Rating 6.5/10

28 Days Later (2002)
Rewatch. I liked it more on second viewing. The opening 15-20 minutes of 28 Days later (in London) are what you remember. The rest of the movie is pretty good too. The “fast zombie” thing was something new. About what happens when society crumbles.
The soundtrack is quite haunting, especially In The House, In A Heartbeat by John Murphy
Rating 7.5/10

Beetlejuice (1988) 
Over the top horror comedy, directed by Tim Burton. I would say it’s suitable for the younger audience, despite the 15 age certificate. The film has a fine Danny Elfman score, and I like the original idea of ghosts learning the ropes. The sets and sfx are imaginative, yet isn’t really funny. There are contrived moments, on 2-3 occasions a character needs to know something and another character happens to be there to give the information. The finale is confusing, how are the couple cured from the séance? I guess when dealing with a fantasy world, there’s a certain creative freedom, anything is possible, so you just have to go with it as an audience.
Rating 6/10

It (1990)
Rewatch. Stephen King mini-series. Not as good as I remember. We see the characters both as adults and children. The first half when they are children I still think is the best part. The adults are hard to take seriously during the reunion in second half, and it drags a bit, maybe the acting is just poor. Pennywise (the clown played by Tim Curry) scared me as a kid, now he doesn’t. He gives a good performance. However the scares are quite lazy with repetitive confrontations with the clown.
Rating 7/10

Last House On The Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first feature. Still scary despite made in early 70s. Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange was probably an influence. The dentist dream is terrifying. Only issue I have is the soundtrack doesn’t feel right for a horror film. Better than expected, Wes Craven made a great little movie on a limited budget.
Rating 8/10

The Innkeepers (2011)
I wasn’t scared by it at all, but it has atmosphere, likeable characters, and I wanted to see it through to find out about the mystery. Kind of a contemporary The Shining, as it’s set in a hotel. I’m surprised that it has such a low score on IMDb, as it really is quite good.
Rating 7/10

Irreversible (2002)
I’m including it as horror, because of the disturbing nature of the film.
Told in a somewhat confusing, yet involving non-chronological order. The violence is quite extreme at times.
Why Monica Bellucci wanted to star in that transgressive rape scene is unfathomable, I guess someone had to play that role. You won’t be in a hurry to go in the subway after watching. An ugly, yet unforgettable film.
Rating 8/10

Battle Royale (2000)
Debatable whether it can be labeled horror, you could call it a hybrid of drama, action, thriller and horror. I can appreciate that it’s an original idea(a precursor to Hunger Games) but in terms of personal preference I just don’t like to watch all that killing. Pretty gruesome to have your head chopped off, and then use the head as a grenade to kill again.
Favorite quote: Teacher: “Now you can’t even get angry when a student stabs you!”
Rating 7/10

Have you seen any of these films? Agree or disagree? Which horror will you be watching this month?

20 thoughts on “Horror mini-reviews

  1. I thought Irreversible while it had some good ideas was just disgustingly exploitative movie. I liked Only Lovers Left Alive, mainly the mood of the story and the music, atmospheric vampire movies are very rare but they are the most memorable.


  2. @Sati: Irreversible is repulsive and not easy to watch, as with other films from new French Extremity, such as Martyrs, it pushes the boundaries of what can be shown on screen, and like your comment provokes a strong reaction, I think the message is anti-rape.
    I agree Only Lovers managed to create a mood. For me, the film was overlong and lacked story development.


  3. Beetlejuice I can't help but like. Something about the absurdity of it all. Yeah, a lot of it doesn't make sense, but … it's a pretty original film.


  4. @Jaina: Agree there’s originality, and the miniatures are fun to watch. I wish I had discovered Beetlejuice at a younger age, then it might be precious to me as well.


  5. Yep… films don't come any more horrific than Irreversible. I've never seen It but that clown is all anyone used to talk about when I was a kid. Loooooove In the House, In a Heartbeat… such a brilliant way to help that scene escalate!


  6. @Pete Turner: Thank god was a fake latex head in fire extinguisher scene in Irreversible.
    Yes, the clown Pennywise from IT is pretty creepy, especially for kids. Glad you are also a fan of the soundtrack pick from 28 Days Later.


  7. There's an interesting story that as Monica Bellucci and her then-husband, Vincent Cassel, watched Irreversible at Cannes, Cassel started crying during the rape scene. Apparently, Bellucci leaned over and said, “What's wrong? It's only a movie.”

    I've heard that story a lot, but can't conform for certain if it's true. But if so… wow, I can't imagining detaching yourself from the experience that much. Guess you'd almost have to.


  8. @Alex Withrow: That’s an understandable reaction, I think I would have to detach myself, no matter if was real life or acting out that moment. There’s a revealing interview with director Gaspar Noe at Salon.com, where he defends the rape scene and says the reason it was 9 min is because that’s how long it might take in real time. Apparently a member of the crew had been raped http://www.salon.com/2003/03/12/noe/


  9. I guess 28 days later is the only one of this selection that still holds up as a decent horror film for me today. My mini-mini reviews: Battle Royale has a more interesting basic setting than execution, Irreversible is pretentious, IT never loses its TV look and feel, Only Lovers Left Alive is a sad love story among vampires, which is not the same as a horror movie, I guess; Bettlejuice is a comedy and as such not really a horror film; Last House on the Left has not aged too well, I think; and The Innkeepers is fine if you do not watch too many horror films – otherwise it's riding on the shoulders of too many genre cliches.
    But right: about time we get the play list for the autumn nights ready, thanks for getting it started 🙂


  10. @thomas4infosoc: From those comments it sounds like you are hard to please when it comes to horror, or a bit burned out from watching them. While I did give entitle the header “horror mini-reviews” , I agree that some of these cross over into other genres, and I did allude that in the post. In most of the examples they are listed as semi-horror on wikipedia.
    We disagree about Last House on the Left which I thought was good.Hopefully you'll find something worthwhile during October.


  11. Bummer about Only Lovers Left Alive, I guess Jarmusch style is a bit of an acquired taste. I'm mainly curious to see it because of Tilda/Hiddles duo. Oh 28 Days Later is excellent, perhaps one of my fave horror films, granted I don't see many of them, ahah. Saw IT years ago and there's a reason I hate clowns! 😀


  12. @Ruth: Yeah, Jarmusch's style is not for everyone, I prefer other films by him such as Ghost Dog, or Night on Earth. Glad you liked 28 Days Later. There’s actually a term, Coulrophobia, for fear of clowns 🙂


  13. Nice batch of horror films right there.

    It's been a while since I saw it, but I remember really liking 28 Days Later as well. The sequel, not so much.

    Beetlejuice is a film I have been wanting to revisit. I know I watched it as a kid, but I honestly remember very little about what actually happens in the movie.

    I watched The Innkeepers fairly recently as well. I thought it was a solid horror flick, definitely better than the House of the Devil.

    Irreversible… man, what a film. It definitely deserves to be called horror. Some really impressive filmmaking from Gaspar Noe, though it's something I have no desire to ever watch again.


  14. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Thank you, and happy Halloween tomorrow!

    28 Days Later still holds up, I haven't seen the sequel. Sounds like I'm not missing anything there.

    Beetlejuice I wish I grown up with, I think I would have enjoyed it as a kid. I saw it for first time this year.

    The Innkeepers I agree is a solid horror flick

    Irreversible yep, very disturbing. I saw it as horror, even though it really isn't


  15. Interesting group of movies. Of these, Battle Royale is easily my favorite, partly because of the hyper-violence. I feel it fits such a dire situation better than the sanitization of it we get in The Hunger Games. Plus, BR is a much more concise effort.

    I'm rather lukewarm on the rest with two exceptions. I really disliked Only Lovers Left Alive and I thought The Innkeepers was ten times worse than that.

    I haven't seen Ireversible, but you've got me intrigued.


  16. Wendell Ottley: I think I admire the originality of Battle Royale rather than the actual viewing experience.
    I remember you disliked Only Lovers Left Alive from your review, again I liked the premise/originality, just wasn't in love with the end result.
    Ireversible is a tough one to stomach, very daring and with several unforgettable scenes.


  17. Irreversible definitely belongs on here. I've only seen it once, but it's hard to shake that film. I loved Only Lovers Left Alive, which seems quite polarizing, and I liked Battle Royale a lot when I watched it recently. I really need to give 28 Days Later another look.


  18. @Josh: Only Lovers Left Alive has certain things going for it which I mentioned in my review, but the slow pacing and lack of story tested my patience. Irreversible I'll probably never see again, indeed tough to shake.


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