Quickie review: Troubled Youth (short horror film)

Trouble Youth (2018)

What’s worse than a school shooter? Well, nothing. But this looks more like something out of Buffy’s monster killing high school nightmares. It’d be a shame to spoil any more, so please enjoy this troubling demonic delight.

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This also rounds off the devil worshipping theme this month (though expect some cultish goodness in September) we’re finishing up with this very bite-size but very effective piece from CryptTV, where nothing’s quite how it first appears. But it is wicked-good.

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Movie Review: February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

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Cast:

  • Lucy Boynton as Rose.
  • Kiernan Shipka, as Kat
  • Emma Roberts, as Joan
  • James Remar, as Bill
  • Lauren Holly, as Linda
  • Emma Holzer, as Lizzy

Director: Osgood Perkins (the son of Anthony Perkins – yes, Norman Bates himself)

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No spoilers:

Boarding schools are ripe for demonic possession and dastardly plots in general, given the potent mix of hormones, schoolgirl-age jealousies and extreme isolation. ‘February’ takes that scenario one step further, as we follow young ‘Kat’ during a lonely winter break at ‘The Bramford School’. We also also follow the story of ‘Rose’, who’s hitchhiking through the snow with a kindly older couple. As Kat’s unease grows worse during the break, and Joan’s paranoia increases, it’s well worth holding on to learn how these stories converge and how it all links back to the sinister forces lurking in the chilly, semi-abandoned school.

Making a big positive out of its low key vibe, February (also known as The Blackcoat’s Daughter) steadfastly refuses to rush towards its most shocking moments, preferring instead to chill you with endless views of untouched white snow, then glorying in the pitch dark shadows within the frigid school’s buildings. With a muted, groaning soundtrack designed to stimulate unease (but, sorry guys, on the first watch it nearly sent me to sleep) calling this movie ‘bleak’ would be an understatement. It’s dark yet pale and it’s deeply unhappy, and that’s just the schoolgirls. It has surprisingly sympathetic adults too, who are simply unable to comprehend the true darkness at hand.

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And oh boy, is there a lot of darkness, in the film and the plot. Expect no primary colours from this at all, just austere shades of bright white and municipal blues, though it has dodged the grimy greenish horror filter that a lot of genre films used to favour. It does make the inevitable splashes of scarlet blood pop from the screen, which works well, and hopefully you’re still watching by then.

So  even if I prefer little more warmth and glee in my horror movies, I really want to love this film more than I do, and there is plenty to appreciate. The ending’s gut punch resolution is definitely worth hanging on for, and requires some attention to the subtle clues and a spot of emotional empathy to really figure out – why the fuck did she even do that? Recommended, if you want a low key, creepy horror. In fact, February has kind of grown on me. So if you give it a try, just remember that it saves most of its boldest moves for last. Worth sticking with.

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With Spoilers:

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Movie Review: Veronica (2017)

Veronica (2017)

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Cast

  • Sandra Escacena as Verónica
  • Bruna González as Lucía
  • Claudia Placer as Irene
  • Iván Chavero as Antoñito
  • Ana Torrent as Ana
  • Consuelo Trujillo as Hermana Muerte
  • Sonia Almarcha
  • Maru Valduvielso
  • Leticia Dolera
  • Ángela Fabián as Rosa
  • Carla Sampra
  • Samuel Romero

Director: Paco Plaza

Spoiler free review

Yes, this ‘Verónica ‘ is the one set at the Catholic School in early 1990s Spain, instead of a remote cabin in Spain. It can be confusing as they were both released in the same year, and both on Netflix with identical names, but the one we’re discussing right now is the one (very very) loosely based on the first ‘paranormal’ Police report where inexplicable events were officially recorded as ‘fact’. Which, OK, gives it a little more weight than most ‘true’ horror films.

Reality or not, this is an effectively told story of madness and possible possession. The titular Verónica is a schoolgirl tasked with, mostly, raising her little brother and sister alone while their mother has to work. Then she and her friends perform a seance in the school basement during an (always ominous) solar eclipse, and from then on everything about Veronica’s reality gets called into question. Her life gradually falls apart. Strange stains and scary figures start to appear in the family’s tiny apartment, and a creepy blind nun seems to know more than first appears. Has Veronica caught the notice of a ghastly demonic influence? Or is it something more mundane? The original police report certainly lent towards the former…so what really happened to this schoolgirl?

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Clearly an ‘Event Horizon’ fan…

Well, it’s still a horror film, though genre fans’ tolerance may vary, as we spend a lot of time following this schoolgirl’s quite humdrum life. She’s a mother to her little siblings, dealing with with wet bed sheets, trying to do homework, and still grieving for her dead father (hence the Ouija experiment). The very domestic angle and naturalistic acting is needed and grounds the threat, so the corrupting evil is even more of a violation. Verónica’s increasing vulnerability is vital as she’s pushed by her responsibilities into increasingly resentful isolation. Losing control is one of the scariest things in the world, and the film uses this fear to pummel you with unease, while Verónica struggles hard to keep a grip on her sanity. But there will be no sanctuary in her bed, or anywhere else within their dingy apartment. Something terrible is coming for them all.

Capturing the terror of a teenager well out of her depth, the film is incredibly well crafted and looks gorgeous. Shadows and coloured lights are perfectly used, and the soundtrack is beautiful; soaring electronic eeriness gets mixed with the odd early-1990s rock injection. The atmosphere is often chilling, and although Verónica was marketed as the most terrifying film ever, if you’re not frightened by much, then you probably won’t be too frightened by any of it for long. But that’s a shame. This is a scary, rewarding story of madness and repression, and it conjures up some very fresh and often brilliantly unsettling imagery. Even if you think you’ve seen it all before, there’s still plenty to be afraid of and enjoy. Oh, and seriously, kids and teenagers, please stop messing with those damn Ouija boards. It almost never ends well…

Spoilers below:

 

I really enjoyed this and found the tall, terrifying demonic entity that haunts Veronica to be perfectly monstrous. It’s not constantly going ‘boo’ but its shadowy appearance is more than enough to tip anyone over the edge. With a similar feel to the Babadook – is it all in her head? – the reveal that sends Veronica to her doom is the perfect payoff to the tension. I feel bad for everyone in the original case, but it has inspired a gorgeous movie steeped in religious superstition. If you don’t like the kids, then you probably won’t like the movie, but I found the child actors to be very endearing and incredibly believable. If the story is somewhat over familiar, it pays mild homage at best and does great things with it. There’s a moment that’s very much like the attack on Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters, which may or may not raise a smile or recognition and a scream of horror. It was pretty horrific in Ghostbusters, after all! Also the ‘Simon’ game was used very effectively in one of the Paranormal Activity films.

Shout-outs aside, I really liked this movie, and as a final note I want to give yet another cheer for its frickin’ beautiful soundtrack and imagery. The use of the advert jingle in a seance was another nice touch. For most fans of demons and creepy horror, with a little patience, Verónica is well worth a look.

The Good

  • Familiar plot but created in a fresh, interesting way
  • Great child actors
  • Domestic setting and strained family life grounds the movie
  • Decent twist brings her sanity into question

The Bad

  • Familiar plot of demon haunting
  • Kids in horror movies, booo
  • Too domestic
  • Predictable twist?

Quickie review: Ghost Paper: The Other Side (short horror film)

Quickie review: Ghost paper

Crew:

  • Written By: Kyle Godfrey
  • Directed By: Kyle Godfrey Co-Directed By:
  • David Ajibodu Camera Operator / Cinematographer: Alex Lieu
  • Screenplay: Kyle Godfrey, David Ajibodu
  • Edited By: Kyle Godfrey
  • Cast: Kiki Zorzi as Mackenzie @kikizorzi

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What have we learned so far this month? Don’t make a deal with the devil or any of his demony friends! Or sit in any suspicious chairs! What have we learned from this video? Maybe just don’t speak to them, either. There’s currently a trend at for performing ‘Rituals’ often held at 3am, you’re  supposed to follow a series of strict instructions (there’s a handy guide to performing these correctly at The Ghost in My Machine). These get you in touch with the other side, and supposedly take you everywhere from other dimensions (lifts and taxi drivers) to speaking with demons (mostly involving stairs, mirrors and candles).

Ghost Paper is very loosely based on one of these rituals, and the titular game involves writing questions to an entity on a piece of paper, then performing a series of knocks, and waiting for it to take it from you under the door. If something spooky is passing or can be bothered to respond, you should then have an interesting back-and-forth with the unknown.

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This short film uses the urban myth to create a terrifying horror short, elegantly bringing the dangerous ritual to its inevitable conclusion. Young Mackenzie is beautifully played by Kiki Zorzi, convincingly conveying Mackenzie’s apprehension, curiosity and terror as the game’s stakes escalate. It’s uncluttered and very effectively pared down. No gratuitous jump scares, here, this benefits from a quiet, ideally dark room, but give it its five minutes and you’ll soon enjoy a quality piece of modern horror.

Cast & Crew Social Media:

Movie review: Pyewacket (2017)

Pyewacket (2017)

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Cast:

  • Laurie Holden as Mrs. Reyes
  • Nicole Muñoz as Leah
  • Chloe Rose as Janice
  • Eric Osborne as Aaron
  • James McGowan as Rowan Dove
  • Bianca Melchior as Pyewacket

Without spoilers

Mothers and daughters can have fraught relationships, and Leah (Nicole Muñoz) and her mother (Laurie Holden) are no exception. Her father has recently passed away and neither of them are dealing with it healthily. Leah has started getting into the Occult, her bedroom is full of books and moody posters, and although it at first seems like a morbid teen rebellion – and quite understandable – after an epic fight with her mum, Leah angrily storms into the woods and starts slicing into her arm, trying to summon ‘Pyewacket’ to rid her of her mother. Bad move, Leah. At first nothing happens, but then odd occurrences start to mount up. Was her ritual successful, or has she really gone off the deep end?

Pyewacket (it’s fun to type!) fully gets that ‘nothing’ is usually scarier and wrings every bit of tension out of that. It’s closer to Paranormal Activity than the more overt Insidious, using shadow and suggestion to creep us out. The camera makes us very intimate with Leah too; we’re often pressed up uncomfortably near to her face, watching her reactions, the snap of her emotions, sucked right into her point of view. Leah seems to feel trapped in the repetitive routine of School, drinking with friends and moping at home, whilst being driven, sulking next to her mother. It’s clear that she’s still very much a child and her efforts to kick her way out of that role sends her down a darker and darker path.

I found Pyewacket fascinating and sad, and can highly recommend it for some deeply uneasy, mostly very subtle, horror. Like Hereditary on a sliver of the budget. Pyewacket requires applying a little empathy – but then most good horror, the kind that stays with you, does. If demons really exist, then please don’t mess with them. Their deals rarely turn out the way you hope. Just steal your mum’s credit card instead.

WARNING MASSIVE Spoilers in the section below that make more sense after you’ve watched it:

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Short story: The Devil’s Seat

A story inspired by our Devil’s Chair review from Monday, here’s a Friday read for you, written by your friendly neighbourhood Eyeball. Have a fab weekend everybody, and be careful what you wish for:

church, religion, christian, christianity,abandoned, ancient, church, creepy, england, evening, folly, haunted, henge, landmark, landscape, medieval, norman, pagan, ruined, ruins, sacred, uk, old church, creepy church, creepy old building, old religion,  mossy, algae, ruined, forest church, gloomy day, overcast day, english weather

The Devil’s Seat

I clench the arm rests with a shudder, skin prickling at the cool air. My feet and legs are numb. I feel slightly sick. How long have I been sitting here now? The church is old and full of shadows, even as the moon passes a cracked window, my eyes still haven’t adjusted. Shadows become small crouching imps, the rats stop and stare at me with no fear at all. Why would they fear a human silly enough to sit here all night long, their bare arse pressed into a seat that is no doubt riddled with woodworm. Can woodworm burrow into flesh? I shift uneasily at the image of the wriggling creatures gnawing against my skin, shivering. I thought that hell was meant to be warm, but I’m not there yet. The visitor I’m expecting has not arrived, and surely time is running out now. How long remains until dawn? The storm that was threatening earlier has returned, giving the summer solstice air a very electric charge.

A rat or a large spider scuttles across my foot. I nearly leap into the air, but control myself. I have to stay put. I cannot leave the chair from midnight until dawn. That’s the rule in the legend. But it’s so dark. I haven’t sat this still for this long in my life. I think of Harry and Sarah, and strengthen my resolve. It also said you have to be naked for this to work, so I even took off my watch just in case. And like an idiot put it inside my shoes rather than somewhere I could actually see it. I have no idea how long I’ve been freezing my arse off, waiting here for the Devil himself.

Can you tell I’m desperate?

The moon slides behind a cloud and in the open church door I see a tall dark form, a huge creature is out there, watching! I see a flash of bright eyes and a sharp mouth – but as the moon reappears there’s nothing there. I barely got a scream out, and curse myself. That’s why I’m here, idiot. I should welcome the monstrosity, whatever form it takes. That’s part of the fucking test, after all. I’ve been here for so long…the thunder rumbles above and the air is both metallic and chilly, it’s harder and harder to breathe in the weird humidity.

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A splinter works into my wrist as I fidget now, trying to keep warm. Must remember what to say, remember what to do, when he gets here. When I get what I want. I want this. I want to do this. I grip the arm rests and whisper, “I command thee, Satan…” I whisper it over and over now, keeping my eyes tightly closed, “I command thee, come to me, come to me now…”

I take a single breath, and I’m abruptly aware that the rats have gone silent. Even the woodworm I imagined chewing away beneath my bum have gone deeper into the wood. Hiding. The air is freezing now, and a fetid reek of old shit and sweet rotting meat fills my nostrils.

When I open my eyes the huge dark figure is standing over me and…

“I demand my right to one request,” I say immediately. I’m almost impressed I got the words out. Fucking hell…

The huge figure stoops, and looks almost normal. I can’t take my eyes off of his eyes and face. He’s beautiful. Not…not at all what I expected. Not quite male or female, but definitely The Prince of Lies. The Lightbringer. God’s favourite angel, come to solve a big problem for little old me. It’s very very hard to speak now.

“Oh really, little one?” he shows no expression beyond possible mild amusement. He says, curtly, “You truly demand something of me?”

“I…I invoke the power of Saint Catherine to compel you, Lucifer, to grant me one wish tonight before the sun rises.”

The shitty sweet stench intensifies, and my eyes brim with water. I want to vomit, hold it down with an effort. “I invoke the power of St Catherine!” My voice croaks in the tense still air.

“Yes, yes, little thing,” and he caresses my cheek, smiles charmingly even as flies begin buzzing around us both. I want to scream. His touch is electric, painful but i want more of it desperately. “Tell me your deepest desire?”

“I wish…” I struggle to get all the words out. He’s looking at me like I’m an edible snack.

“Speak, dearest,” he purrs, leaning in right to my mouth, ready to kiss. Kiss, really? I push the thought away. I have to do this.

“I wish that my uncle would pass away so that I can inherit my parent’s money and look after my sister and little brother and also so he’ll stop hurting us all the time,” I blurt out at last, unable to take my eyes off his sharp, gleaming teeth and the purplish tongue briefly glimpsed inside.

“Do you wish this, little one?” he asks one more time.

“I wish this. I give my consent to this.” I whisper.

The Devil grips me hard then, pulls himself over me, pinning me to the chair. I’m enclosed entirely by a kiss deeper than any I’ve ever experienced, I’ve never tasted anything like his mouth, I can almost overlook how much he reeks. It’s…divine.

Then the smell changes from shit to the disgusting body spray my uncle uses, and I blink and try to fight it, the horribly familiar odour almost propelling me from the chair, but he won’t let me up, he never lets me up…

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Then I’m falling, and the Devil’s stench returns. Tears roll down my cheeks. There’s a soft, almost sympathetic laugh. One more caress along my lips, and I hear thunder and lightning and a deluge of rain begins to thunder like cannonfire on the rotten church’s roof.

I suppose I sleep then. I don’t remember what else he did or when he let me go. I’m know I’m utterly exhausted and only just heard the storm passing right overhead and the violent snarls of rain and wind crashing outside.

When I wake, my neck aching, Lucifer is gone. My face still burns where his fingers touched me. his handprint also seared onto my bare thigh, my mouth tastes thickly metallic. I spit several gobs of teeth and blood onto the sodden floor, shivering like crazy. I’m still in the chair and it’s daylight now. The summer solstice has come and gone. I slowly, awkwardly get to my feet. The old church is cracked all over. Everything is soaked through. I retrieve my clothes and pull on wet pants and jeans and my jumper, spitting another tooth into the destroyed floor. My mouth paid the price for sealing the deal, but a little dentistry will be a small price to pay for getting rid of my disgusting uncle.

I pull on my sodden boots and squelch back to the village, shocked at how deep the floodwater is. Pausing to catch my breath at a stile, I snort a short, shrill laugh. I can’t believe I met the Devil. Spoke to him. In the cold – very cold – morning light it seems unthinkable that the old legends about the church and St Catherine’s chair were even true. But I did it. I can’t wait to get back and see what came of it. It’s usually just a fifteen minute walk across two fields, but I have to take several detours to get back, and slide into the mud more than once. The rain really came down last night and the paths are like rivers. I’m really dying for a hot shower, hotter tea and some dry clothes. Then I’ll forget my uncomfortable night with the Devil ever existed, as long as he kept up my side of it.

I reach the village border, and am assailed by flashing lights. Emergency services. People everywhere, crying and calling out. I rush forward then, kicking flood water as I go.

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“Wait!” one of the emergency service guys, maybe an ambulance person, grabs me as I splash toward the village street, trying to reach my family house.

“Where’s Uncle! Where’s Sarah and Harry?” I demand.

“Where do you live?” he asks. I tell him.

“You’d better come with me, little one. What’s your name?” he grips my shoulder.

“Andrew,” I mutter. “What’s going on?”

“I’m so sorry, sonny.” The ambulance man says, and steers me towards the police, who take my information and tell me the news. I sit in another chair, wrapped in a blanket, trembling and dripping as the grim-faced policeman explains.

“Your house was hit by a tree last night, it brought down an electrical cable. I’m afraid, they didn’t survive. Your Uncle, as well, was found in the garden beneath the tree. I…I really don’t think any of them suffered. I’m sorry.”

I don’t take it in at first. I can only picture my little brother and sister as I left them last night, tucked up cosily in bed as the storm started outside. I’d told them a story, and promised them I would solve all our problems. Then I’d slipped out to meet the Devil.

I lift my head and see the ambulance driver watching me from the village entrance. I think, just for a second, that his eyes glimmer with an obscene, gleeful beauty.

Then I sink to my knees and throw up.

Story copyright Haunted Eyeball – please email TheHauntedEyeball@gmail.com for reuse requests or message me via Twitter @HauntedEyeball. Thank you.

Movie Review: Devil’s Chair (2007)

Movie review: Devil’s Chair (2007)

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Cast:

  • Andrew Howard as Nick West
  • Pollyanna Rose as Sammy
  • David Gant as Doctor Willard
  • Louise Griffiths as Melissa
  • Elize du Toit as Rachel Fowles
  • Matt Berry as Brett Wilson

Without spoilers:

Some films are so bad they’re good (or good enough). This distinctly odd low-budget feature is one of those. Starring Izzy from Hollyoaks (Elise du Toit), the money-lending bad guy from Limitless (Andrew Howard) and the now very established Matt Berry, I’d been aware of this film for a long time and always intended to see it. Back in 2006, I’d been intrigued by the original trailer that promised a nightmare inducing monster and plenty of gore. Now that I’ve finally caught it for 99p, over ten years since its release, I’m caught between acknowledging it’s kind of awful, but impressed that it mostly delivered on what I was hoping for.

It centres around an unwise investigation into an insane asylum. A bunch of academics and a survivor investigate the ‘devil’s chair’ which apparently caused a big mess several years ago. The characters bicker constantly – it’s always a fine line between that attitude being fun, and making me hate the characters. In this case it leans towards the latter. Particularly annoying is Matt Berry’s ‘Brett’ character (named for Alien’s Brett perhaps) who takes ‘entitled rich arsehole’ to new levels. Maybe it’s more grating because I’ve seen him in other things, but in Devil’s Chair he tries for the funnybone, intentionally or not, and it’s quite jarring compared with the rest of the cast’s efforts. His magnificent voice actually works against him in this case.

In contrast, Nick West’s constant narration about how much he hates the university schmucks drags the whole story down, bashing on and on with his repetitious contempt – we get it, you truly loathe the academics and think you’re better than anyone else there – but it does, at least, serve a purpose.

If you can get past the awkwardness of its presentation, there’s plenty here for gorehounds. Clocking in at 91 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and gleefully straddles that awkward, camp-yet-nasty area that the Human Centipede movies squirm around in. Whilst its monster is pretty great, and the twist even greater, this is definitely not a GOOD flick. But if you can get past the smug-bastard voiceover – which does ultimately serve a purpose – then it’s a bloody good ride into low-budget madness.

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The devil advances. Might be best to watch in a darkish room. Light is the enemy of horror film watching!

Review with SPOILERS below – going to go into detail here about events in the film, decisions of characters. Do not proceed further unless you really want to know what happens. Also don’t read its wikipedia entry, which summarises the entirety of the plot for some reason.

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