The WitchAnne Murphy
A devout family of Puritans, in early colonial America, are outcast from their community.
"The Witch" gets off to a flying start. Pardon the pun as there are no broomsticks involved, and this film is without humour. The story does start well and builds some tension, but ultimately fails to deliver any real spine-tingling chills. The offering is not all that satisfying as we're left to interpret the action, and it's a bit too open ended. What did happen? Does religious fervour invite evil acts? What we do know is that this is an atmospheric folk-tale, or a moralistic warning. No cackles.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost DimensionStefan Sgarioto
Using a special camera that can see spirits, a family finds out that their daughter is the target of a demonic entity.
The tired and overused format of the Paranormal Activity franchise becomes apparent in its fifth and supposedly final outing, concluding not with a bang but with a fizzle. While it does try a few new tricks, 'The Ghost Dimensions' forgoes the "what you can’t see is scarier" tactic and elects to show you a lot more of the 'activity'. Unfortunately with this lacklustre effort, in addition to the extremely disappointing finale, much of the tension and suspense is lost. Ghastly one-dimensional.
Crimson PeakAnthony Macali
An aspiring author, haunted by the ghost of her mother, falls in love with an engineer seeking funds for a clay harversting machine.
Early in the piece, mother ghost remarks "Beware of Crimson Peak"... and sadly it's a warning to be heeded by all. This gothic romance is incredibly dull, and no amount of lavish production can bring it to life. Sure it's creepy, and certain characters are appropriately sinister, living in their haunted house brimming with broken timber, oozing red clay, and white snow. For all its effort, it achieves little in the scare or excitement stakes. A hollow tragedy.
A Skype conversation within a group of high-school kids goes awry when an unknown person infiltrates their digital world.
For the entire length of its short-running time, "Unfriended" takes place on a computer screen. This high-concept setting is the best thing about this horror movie. A techie's wet dream, its brilliance lies in its detail, adeptly capturing modern-day communication and its various tools. You won't sympathise with a lot of the characters, and you aren't supposed to. The only exception is the young girl who forms the premise, and perpetuates the strong anti-cyberbullying message. Like.
It FollowsStefan Bugryn
A young woman is relentlessly pursued by an evil curse after having sex with someone.
What stands out in this film, and what will stay with you the longest, is the soundtrack. The otherworldly, ethereal, 80's synth soundscape creates an incredible dynamic to the drab suburbia world the characters inhabit. It adds tremendous strength to the story itself, which fully encompasses an overbearing fear of the unknown. Anyone and anything is a threat. This psychological terror, never fully explained, evokes feelings of paranoia, which continue to follow you as you exit the cinema. It, Entertains.
A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.
Crash, bang, creek... "Annabelle" is a pointless prequel. Not afraid to cash-in on the success of its predecessor, this film possesses no plot. Instead it relies on well-worn tricks to frighten the audience; exaggerated music, disheveled apparitions and the countless slamming of doors. Once the audience starts laughing at the glaringly obvious setups and lingering doll shots, you know there's a problem. Put her back in the cupboard.
Deliver Us from EvilAnthony Macali
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie investigates a series of crimes. He joins forces with an unconventional priest, schooled in the rites of exorcism.
"Deliver Us from Evil" is a bizarre crime thriller where the victims are 'possessed'. For most part, the police investigation at its core plays out rather conventionally, affirming the real world setting and origins. Gradually evil and scares creep in, usually in very dark rooms, accompanied by very large bangs. Even with the terrifying gore-extravagant finale, bouts of surprising humour break up the overwhelming moments of occult. Delivers on its promise.
Wolf Creek 2Andrew O'Dea
The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor.
Set against the harsh yet beautiful Australian outback, "Wolf Creek 2" manages to carry its own as a quintessentially 'Aussie' horror flick. This bone-grinding sequel might lack the shock surprise of its predecessor, but there's still enough depravity and carnage to appease the gore-hungry and chill-seekers alike. Although some may find the story bordering on predictable, most will giddily revel or revile in the grim-humour and violence of the 'fair dinkum' sociopath at its core. Bloody hell.
100 Bloody AcresAnne Murphy
Brothers Reg and Lindsay are struggling to keep their organic blood and bone fertilizer business in motion.
"100 Bloody Acres" is a splatter-comedy and more Australian than anything seen in donkey's years. From the bush setting to the larrikins and drongos who inhabit the screen, the film's ethnicity is unmistakably true-blue. It's even set on an Australia Day long weekend. The plot is imaginative and original, and the director delivers plenty of scares. Thanks to the cast, who each play their parts perfectly, the way events unfold is funny as well as bloody; bloody funny.
The ConjuringAnthony Macali
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Rooted in the origins of a true case, "The Conjuring" is frightening. Largely set in an eerie country home, this story doesn't appear to bring anything new to the genre, but the execution is haunting. The tension slowly builds and the heart-rate jumps with each scare. Even with the lights on you don't feel safe. There are few moments of silliness, but they are lost in the shadowing score, and the many bumps and thumps that mark the return of the exorcism. The film is possessed.
Alberto forms an unusual friendship with Luly, the manager of the 24-hour gym where he works as a night guard.
For anyone who finds the idea of open caskets a bit nauseating, this film is like looking in one for a really long time. And instead of an embalmed body with nice clothes and make-up, imagine if it was undressed and still decomposing. This is not a horror flick in the 'who's behind the door' kind of way, but its real-life quality makes it so disturbing and quite hard to watch. Not suitable for children, or anyone having a good day.
World War ZAndrew O'Dea
U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic.
"World War Z" is an apocalyptic thriller that spans the globe. What it lacks in gore and horror, it makes up for with epic, large-scale action sequences, and the brisk pacing is indicative of a film that has favoured cinematic spectacle over the socio-political commentary of its source material. Although the story may feel somewhat predictable as our hero evades a procession of close calls, it nevertheless remains an entertaining enough adventure. Sure to divide the audience, it could've been better with a little less 'A to B' and a little more 'Z'...
Warm BodiesAndrew O'Dea
After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
This offering from the 'zom-rom-com' movement is a refreshing approach to the tale of teen-romance. Zombie purists expecting an onslaught of guts and gore will be sorely disappointed, as at its heart, this movie is an unlikely love story that bucks convention. Although the action and comedy are sparse, it still entertains when necessary. With more wit and life than most from the genre, "Warm Bodies" makes for a surprisingly charming film. Dead on.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersAndrew O'Dea
Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.
The old adage hints that you should never judge a movie by its title, but in this retelling of the classic fable, audiences would be remiss to expect anything remotely more than Hansel & Gretel... hunting witches. The premise is ludicrous and predictable in this film that values style over substance, yet action fans will nonetheless be entertained by watching a host of witches serving as nothing else but vessels to cackle then splatter across the screen. Don't be lured by this candy.
A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
"ParaNorman" has an admirable vision; introducing a younger audience to the world of horror. From the outset, the slightly warped aesthetics grab your attention, signalling an animation far from normal. There are plenty of ghouls, but they are a small distraction. At its core, the story is about a kid fighting his fears and the bullies at school. It's a touching experience and one with welcome bouts of humour. Inspiring a generation to battle their demons, this film is alive and well.
A young boy conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog back to life.
"Frankenweenie" is the pet project of its director, brought to life in trademark gothic style and ethereal black and white. The cute story is bound to resonate with any person caring for a creature of their own, but the kids can only make it last so far. Despite all the odd and wonderful characters, and the adorable dog Sparky, you have to wonder who the target audience is in this animation veiled by horror. All of the nods and winks to the many iconic films of its inspiration can't save this beast, eventually waning in interest. Frankly boring.
A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building - along with a 12-foot Great White Shark.
"Bait" is the story of a very hungry shark, brought beyond the shore with the help of some unremarkable special effects. Once the disaster subsides, the talent emerges from the water and we have the consummate setting for chills and spills. They make it quite clear which fish we want to live, and the chumps to be chewed, not shying from the blood and limbs synonymous with killer sharks, yet still suffers from taking itself a little too seriously. Dead in the water.
The Woman in BlackAnthony Macali
A lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost terrorizing the locals.
The message is clear from "The Woman in Black". Stay away, or be haunted. A mist-laden and exquisite countryside plays host to the ghost, a town riddled with scary looking kids and impending doom. The film is at its terrifying best with the lead simply exploring the dark house of his confinement. In a time when one cannot simply turn on the lights, every creak and crack builds unbearable tension. Unfortunately this apprehension doesn't last to the end. Good old-fashioned frights.
The Devil InsideWendy Slevison
In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms.
This movie follows the lead of others in its genre by using the found-footage, hand-held camera, mockumentary style of filming. The problem is we've see it all before. Despite strong attempts at realism, including using a highly talented contortionist for the possession scenes, and interviews with real specialists discussing exorcism to add credibility to the fact/fiction pitch, the film is disappointingly clichéd and time-worn. Worst of all, though, it's just not scary! And as for the ending, what the devil were they thinking?
Underworld: AwakeningAnthony Macali
In a changed world, humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans.
Selene wakes to a slightly new and promising premise, although nothing has really changed in "Underworld: Awakening". Cue the familiar leather, washed-out hues and dramatic, flickering, down-lights. Some sinister human characters are introduced and they successfully stretch the short running-time, often with scenes faithfully inserted between the countless Vampire/Lycan in-fighting. While the action sequences are impressive, they go far too long, thanks in part to the resilience of each race. You won't find fresh blood here.
The Darkest HourThomas Jones
In Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.
What this film lacks in originality, it makes up for in its effects. The cinematography is seriously cool, particularly the large-scale depictions of Moscow as a ghost town, which will have you wondering 'how'd they do that?' The acting falls a bit on the melodramatic side and you kind of wish the invisible threat, which they are all running from, was more frightening. For a big budget, end of the world flick this does not fail to capture you for a darkest hour (and a half).
Red StateStefan Bugryn
Three young teenagers get more than they bargained for when they accept an online invitation for sex.
"Red State" is a bit weird, but weird in a good way. It's a real genre bender. The films begins as your average teen horror, then reverts to action, before finishing off as a comedy - all with socio-political undertones! Just as you think you know where it's going to turn, it hits you with a different twist. Characters are chopped, changed and dropped like flies. The plot thickens more than the blood that is spilled. An interesting state to be in... whatever it may be!
Fright NightCourtney Slevison
A teenager suspects that his new neighbour is a vampire.
The 'teenage vampire flick' has become a cinema epidemic, and "Fright Night" wastes no time in slotting itself right into the sexy/comedy/horror genre. Neither funny nor scary enough to hold its own, this latest addition feels like a clumsy mash-up of movies we have all seen before and is therefore predictable, soulless and unengaging. For some, it may be an enjoyable enough way to spend a couple of hours, but ultimately this one is frightfully forgettable.
A priest disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.
"Priest" makes the most of its short running time to deliver what is, in the end, a sleek action flick. Sure, there are clichés aplenty and the dialogue may cause you to wane at times, but it's all offset by some seriously stylish action sequences. What else could you honestly expect from a film where the hero flings ninja-stars in the shape of a crucifix? Although lacking in originality and littered with flaws, the target demographic will nonetheless be more than satisfied by this perfectly acceptable vehicle of vampire-slaying. Say 'Three Hail Marys' for enjoying this guilty pleasure.
A group of students investigate a series of mysterious bear killings, but learn that there is something more dangerous going on. They follow a strange hunter, and learn that he is actually a troll hunter.
Those who don't take this film too seriously are certain have a lot of fun, as the film's comedy is essentially rooted in this very mantra. The director is to be applauded for the resourcefulness of integrating the giant trolls - almost seamlessly - on what must have been a very modest budget. Although the film has a tendency to become quite languid at times, its drolly comic style and the beautiful fjords and forests of Norway littered throughout make it watchable. Fee, fi, fo... fun!