Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror,Sci-Fi 2023 Halloween Horrorfest

2023 Halloween Horrorfest

2023’s Halloween Horrorfest, consisting of a directly of full reviews and mini-recaps of new films.

Part 1: The Sadness

An Id virus ravages China in this pre-apocalyptic gore-fest which sits in the chaos of the initial outbreak and wallows in it’s own depravity. [4 stars]  (Full Review)

Part 2: Bird Box: Barcelona

A vastly superior sequel that travels halfway around the world, centers around an anti-hero and challenges in the audience in the way that Bird Box and most sequels do not. [4 stars] (Full Review)

Part 3: There’s Something Wrong with the Children

A massive leg-up from Roxanne Benjamin’s barely-a-movie Body at Brighton Rock dips into the killer kid genre and has some fun with the pulp of it all. [3 1/2 stars] (Full Review)

Part 4: Children of the Corn

Malachai gets gender swapped with an angry (if well performed) girl in Kurt Wimmer’s pointless prequel that is over-edited and under-written [2 stars] (Full Review)

Part 5: Killer Book Club

The works of Kevin Williamson get a Spanish rip-off in this cross between I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream. [1 star] (Mini-Review)

Part 6: Cobweb

From the director of site-favorite Marianne and staring two of the best character actors working today, Cobweb can’t deliver much new in the terrified kid genre. [2 1/2 stars] (Full Review)

Part 7: No One Will Save You

A terrific performance from Kaitlyne Dever propels this experimental spin on the usual home invasion movie. With no more than 1 line of dialog, Dever navigates the story of young woman crippled with social anxiety, after the death of her mother and best friend, and more pressing, a Signs-esque alien invasion of little grey men. The movie plays best exploring the titular isolation, in it’s second act where Dever’s Brianne combs the town for anyone to help her. The autuer decision to run the movie without dialog (and the fun of realizing that’s what we’re in for) is muted by the contrasting decision to show the grey’s in all their CGI glory early and often. It turns Save You from a thriller to a battle that in it’s exhaustive third act doesn’t know where it’s going or when to quite. [3 stars]

Part 8: Appendage

I’m more than a little delighted at the trend of new filmmaker emulating Frank Henenlotter film. If James Wan’s frothy 80s creature cocktail Malignant kicked open the doors, Anna Zlokovic’s feature debut is a full-throated homage to the 80s schlockmeister of high concept creature features. Appendage is full Henenlotter, centered around a wonderfully practical mutant creature barking demands at it’s host to gain it’s own strength. In this case that creature is twin of a different order that voices it’s host Hannah’s (Hadley Robinson) innermost fears and feeds off human brains. Schitt’s Creek’s Emily Hampshire is terrific as Hannah’s guide through this world of people with “dual DNA” with a few twists along the way. Appendage is a nice little bridge between anxiety-set elevated horror and 80s body horror an it is lots of fun. [3 1/2 stars]

Part 9: Cocaine Bear

A movie that doesn’t know what it is and dares you to hate it, Elizabeth Bank’s tone-deaf When Animals Attack film is more like a poster in the background of a scene in Bojack Horseman than a fleshed out campy fun idea. [1 1/2 stars] (Full Review)

Part 10: Slotherhouse

The campy When Animals Attack movie that Cocaine Bear thinks it is. Fast, silly and played just as straight as it needs to, this Killer Sloth vs Sorority movie knows exactly what to do with it’s ridiculous premise, leaning far more into a straight thriller than these movies usually do. Where studio films play it too straight and indie movies can’t help but crack up at their own joke, Slotherhouse has time for it’s sorority presidential election and time to beat it’s one joke idea into the ground in new and increasingly absurd ways. The sight of a sloth rolling someone off the roof or it’s little puppet paw reaching for a keys to our heroine’s Mustang are laugh out loud funny. [3 1/2 stars]

Part 11: Unwelcome

Starting out traditionally enough, a couple moves from the city to the peaceful countryside and runs into odd residents and an increasingly bullying family of construction workers (led by Colm Meany). When the husband’s masculinity is questioned and violence breaks out the family is saved by the most unlikely of creatures. Unwelcome is very silly and very dumb, but it did surprise me, veering into a direction I did not expect. Still the film has a slew of technical issues, from tone to pacing to simply not able to decide what it is. Dragging out it’s third act to a point where the fun balloon is popped, the movie can’t decide where to focus, who we should root for or how formidable it’s creatures are. The puppet effects are welcome but the human performances and movie’s basic identity crisis about where it’s going and what it’s doing is frustrating and unconvincing. Straw Dogs by way of Jim Henson, but more perplexing than fun, Unwelcome is one of the worst movies of this year. [1 star]

Part 12: Hellhole (2022)

I was so wrapped up in Polish horror duo Bartosz Kowalski and Mirella Zaradkiewicz’s old school mutant slasher Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight and it’s sequel, I missed their follow-up film – and it’s their best movie yet. Hellhole is an atmospheric ghoulish thriller in the vein of demonic investigation movies like the recent The Pope’s Exorcist or Agnes where the action unfolds in a small silent, convent. This movie has one of the more cleverly unfolded horror stories since Marytrs, with a new revelation to what our hero is investigating and what the master plan is at each turn. All leading to a jaw-dropper of an ending. [4 stars]

Part 13: Totally Killer

Jamie goes back in time to stop The Sweet Sixteen Killer in this Christopher Landon-esque hybrid of teen sci-fi comedy meets slasher movie that name checks all of it’s influences along the way. Both admirable and annoying in it’s anti-nostalgic look at the 80s, but with a predictable story, obvious jokes and a disengaged lead. (Full Review)

Part 14: The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

The teenage girl, STEM genius trope woven together with Frankenstein in this reasonably well made, high-minded genre effort about a girl who proposes to cure the disease of death and runs afoul of neighborhood gangs in the process. [3 stars]

Part 15: El Conde

Director Pablo Larrain hit the top of my Best of 2021 List with the immaculate Spencer, now goes for a dark irreverent spin on the vampire lore in this black-and-white historical fiction story of a vampire turned Chilian dictator that threatens to hit cinematic highs occupied by Chan-Wook Park’s Thirst before crashing down into an movie that strides between over-edited and frustratingly inert. I desperately wanted to love this movie and it kept fighting against me at every turn. [3 1/2 stars]

Part 16: Saw X

Tobin Bell gets a story worthy of his gravitas and John Kramer gets the origin- and send-off that he never did in this revisionist Saw film that breaks the series formula, gets out of the basement and focuses more on a character-focused revenge film than torture porn. Well done. I never thought I’d live to see Saw show this much storytelling growth. (Full Review)

Part 17: The Conference

Swedish slasher movie about a group of corporate workers who go into the woods on a retreat and get picked off one-by one by a guy in a giant plastic head (which along with Killer Book Club’s clown seems to be the costume de jour this year). A movie about office dynamics and slasher movies seemingly made by people who have never worked in an office or seen a slasher movie, with obvious “satire” and cut-away kill scenes. The Conference was much better the first time, when it was Christopher Smith’s fun, inventive 2006 film Severance. [1 star]

Part 18: Bad Things

Backyard indie head-trip film swings for the fenced by trying to take on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, with a rebranded psychological horror tale of 3 friends trapped in an empty, but not isolated, motel. Effectively re-creating Kubrick’s cinematic stillness without the character-study in progressing madness, Bad Things focuses on relationship melodrama. From the “What do we have?” school of filmmaking and in this case what they had was an empty motel. [2 stars]

Part 19: M3gan

What Megan lacks in scares it makes up for in sheer unadulterated entertainment. A perfectly self-aware, about parenting anxiety starring an AI child robot that goes on a killing spree, the movie has it’s tongue firmly planted in cheek, delivering exactly what it needs with maximum efficiency and viral worthy moments. [3 1/2 stars]

Part 20: Talk to Me 

In what might be the best horror movie of this year, the supernatural blends perfectly with teenage viral videos in this taught, effective, visually beautiful and head-trippy Australian film about an embalmed hand, teens that get possessed for the lols and the terrifying purgatory that awaits those that break the rules. Great stuff that freshens up the supernatural horror film and the Dead Teenager movie with crowd-pleasing results. [4 stars] (Full Review)

Part 21: Terrifier 2

Last year’s indie slasher giant,  Terrifier 2 is back in theaters for your post-Halloween enjoyment. Dameon Leone gives his creation an epic canvas to create havoc in and the result is the Terminator 2 of horror movies. Terrifier 2 is funny, character-focused, well acted, a loving tribute to 80s slasher films, sincere in a time when everything is ironic and absolutely, without a doubt not for the faint of heart. The bar is high for Art the Clown and Terrifier 3. (Full 5-star Review)

 

 

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