Tag Archives: horror movies

Movie Review: The Eyes Of My Mother

Nicolas Pesce makes a brutal horror debut with The Eyes of My Mother
© 2016 Borderline Presents/Tandem Pictures

Teach Your Children Well


Francisca (Olivia Bond), a young girl, lives with her parents on an isolated farm. Her mother (Diana Agostini), once a practicing surgeon in her native Portugal, instructs the girl in both the spiritual and scientific marvels of nature, encapsulated by the devoted veneration of her namesake Saint Francis. Francisca’s taciturn father (Paul Nazak), while not outwardly cruel, appears to suffer from an excess of rural repression. Horrible tragedy befalls the family one day, at the hands of a leering drifter named Charlie (Will Brill). Nicolas Pesce’s debut film The Eyes Of My Mother moves this far down a predictable genre path, and no farther.

Following the emotional example of her family unit, Francisca confronts her trauma with unnerving dispassion, and even a certain scholarly interest. Rather than cope with her grief, she embarks on a study of its causes. Faced with the human capacity for senseless brutality, she notes both its devastating effect and its prurient allure. She accepts both in the spirit of education, an ironic perversion of the intellectual curiosity her mother imparted with the best of intentions. Gradually, in subtle glimpses of her life, the film reveals Francisca as a perfect storm of love, fear, clinical stoicism and spiritual hunger. Each of these qualities, we learn, is marked by the ugliness life has dealt her. Privately she burns with humanity, but within her may also lurk sufficient inhumanity to cancel it out.

Outwardly, Francisca grows into a lovely young woman (Kika Magalhães). She carries herself in a near-constant attitude of birdlike observation. Only in utter solitude and darkness does her demeanor slip to show the true ruin that loneliness and horror have made of her. From minute to minute the film invites its audience to ache with sympathy, tremble with revulsion, and sometimes do both at once.

The Eyes Of My Mother is a short and, at least in its formal construction, a simple film. Discussing individual scenes out of context might do them disservice. A somber black-and-white palette, an understated narrative pace, and frequent ellipses in action mask intermittent moments of pure, soul-scorching horror. As the story progresses, less is implied and more is shown of Francisca’s dreadful secrets. Her sporadic interactions with the world outside are sincere efforts to know love and fulfillment in the eyes of others. Even so, each desperate act yields more hideous results than the last, tightening the confinement of her arguably doomed existence.

Francisca is, without doubt, a monster. It is fair to say that she was made into one, but at such a crucial stage of her formation that it may be inseparable from her nature. Psychological points of escape, moments where she might turn aside and spare herself a monster’s fate, are never certain until they have passed. The film’s chief dramatic question seems to be whether Francisca will be able to touch another life without turning it monstrous as well.

Be aware. This is a horror film, and a savage one. It is often beautiful, occasionally even tender, but no less harrowing for that. Personal sensitivity to depictions of physical and emotional suffering may face a strenuous test or two. The rewards of such an ordeal are the promise of explosive catharsis and the pleasure of sharp, economical drama presented for its own sake.

Movie Review: Hush

Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel create weave soundless horror in Hush
© 2016 Blumhouse Productions/Intrepid Pictures

Now Hear This

To date, director Mike Flanagan has helmed two successful horror films. The first is Absentia, a poignant and absorbing yarn in the style of a creepy urban myth. The second is Oculus, a blistering fable about family dysfunction (and haunted mirrors) told in parallel timelines. For his latest film Hush, Flanagan steps off the supernatural plane, applying his visual storytelling prowess to a more straightforward suspense thriller. Straightforward it would seem anyway, but the script by Flanagan and lead actress Kate Siegel (also seen in Oculus) has just as many sneaky tricks without conjuring ghosts or other forces from beyond. Brace for old-fashioned hometown horror with some keen new ideas.

Maddie (Siegel) is a novelist caught in the chasm between publishing a successful first book and the nebulous, looming horror of penning an equally brilliant follow-up. Her main stumbling block is the ending. Early in the film she agonizes over a suitably powerful and satisfying denouement for her new story. Are you getting a prickly feeling about where this narrative might be headed?
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Movie Review: The Witch

Robert Eggers weaves New England period horror in The Witch
© 2015 A24

The house began to pitch, the goat to twitch…

Some horror fans have complained that The Witch failed to scare them. Too bad for them. It is certainly a horror film, but not one whose pace or tactics will be to everyone’s taste. There are moments of pure shock and horror, but these rely on long periods of foreshadowing and quiet dread to set them up. Something important to note is the opening title card, which announces The Witch as “a New England Folktale.” That is exactly what viewers should go in expecting. The key themes of the film are the reality of frontier life, the dour trappings of superstition, and a lingering ambiguity about where the two might intersect. The Witch is a fanciful, fatalistic yarn that a master storyteller would take an entire evening to tell. As with any story told by candle or campfire light, the more you open yourself to The Witch the more firmly it can grip you. Those hoping for the squirm-a-minute pace of James Wan’s The Conjuring, or even the abstract visceral menace of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, may not find what they want here. Those willing to stew with painful slowness in suspense and paranoia will find their patience well rewarded. The Witch is very scary.

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Movie Review: The Babadook

by Dan Fields

The Babadook terrorizes Essie Davis in Jennifer Kent's horror tale
© 2014 eOne Films/IFC Films

Early this year, director Mike Flanagan brought audiences a horror story of surprising cleverness and punch. That film, Oculus, took a soul-sickening look at the decay of an American family at the hands of of a sinister entity with the power to prey on souls across generations. Now Australian director Jennifer Kent presents a fresh exercise in domestic terror. The Babadook is the more straightforward horror yarn, but thanks to skilled direction and performance it manages to be several times more personal and devastating.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a loving mother in a tough time of life. Widowed by tragedy, raising an eccentric and troubled son (Noah Wiseman), she is a familiar face in horror films. She is the parent doing her best, which never seems to be quite good enough, and in the tradition of stories like Pet Sematary or The Shining she is dangerously close to the edge when we meet her. Son Sam has an overactive imagination which makes him a keen inventor and illusionist, but it also leaves him horribly prone to nightmares. He almost never sleeps, which means Amelia sleeps less. He is sensitive and sweet, but unable to cease the morbid jabbering of his thoughts in the company of others, he often proves embarrassing to his overtaxed mum.

Barely coping with the twin devils of loneliness and exhaustion, Amelia discovers a mysterious children’s book about a cloaked figure named Mister Babadook, so named for his habit of knocking “Ba-ba-Dook! Dook! Dook!” on the door to be let in. The story turns darker from there, enough to upset mother and son alike. Amelia quickly puts the book out of sight, but the monster becomes Sam’s new obsession. Plotting to trap and destroy the Babadook (which seems more and more real every night) he withdraws further and further into his paranoia until Amelia’s nerves are perilously frayed. She does not stop to consider that maybe the shadowy intruder has begun to change her too.

The Babadook is exceptionally crafted, inventing a plausible storybook hobgoblin and then exploiting his dreadful potency to the very last scream. Not many times in recent memory has an original horror film maxed out its monster so vigorously. The film manages not merely to shock or unsettle. It is genuinely frightening throughout most of its running time, a rare distinction among movies of its kind.

When done with care and skill, an exploration of the desperate lengths required to turn a caring parent on a child arguably makes the most poignant and frightening kind of story. The best ones never lose sight love’s power to overcome any spell of darkness. Whether or not love will triumph in this end is immaterial. Until the very last moment, there must be hope.

Movie Review: The Houses October Built

by Dan Fields

The Houses October Built is a Halloween haunted house meta-journey in found footage style
© 2014 Image Entertainment

Found footage horror is played out, to the extent that an exhausting number of reviews begin with the complaint that “found footage horror is played out.”

See what I mean?

With that requisite disclaimer covered, Bobby Roe’s The Houses October Built is pretty excellent entertainment for this Halloween season. The notion of a POV camera going all meta-fictional on the phenomenon of live haunted house attractions, now simply termed “haunts” owing to the diversity of venues, turns out much better than it may sound.

Five friends – Zack (co-writer), Bobby (co-writer and director), Mikey, Brandy and Jeff – set out in an RV to tour and document the most extreme haunts out there. Most of them seem to be in Texas and Louisiana, by the way. While most are fairly traditional walkthrough attractions, other memorable outings include a hayride modeled on a zombie apocalypse, complete with paintball guns to pelt the legions of shambling ghouls. However, some of the “haunters” appear more aggressive and personally invasive than the rest. It even seems that certain characters are following the RV from one location to the next, across dozens and eventually hundreds of miles. Continue reading

Shoot Me Twice: Friday The 13th

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review spends the night with the four original Friday The 13th films and their 2009 remake

Gear up, campers! This week, we salute the ominous convergence of the summer holidays and a real live Friday the 13th. If you are striking out into the wild with your pack and lantern, don’t forget to throw in a snakebite kit, a guitar to ward off bad vibes, and a working knowledge of the following films. Knowing the paths to avoid may save your life. You’ll be fine, of course. Just count your tent stakes and pitchforks before going to bed. And if you were planning for a weekend of fooling around in the woods with someone special, you may want to reconsider. Abstinence and meditation might be better ways of keeping your head attached.

More prolific than Halloween or Hellraiser, or even A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th originated one of the longest-running film series in popular horror. Much credit is due to the creation of Jason Voorhees, an undisputed icon among movie killers. Another probable reason for its longevity is that among well-known movie franchises, its content is the cheapest and easiest kind to mass produce.

Friday The 13th (1980)
directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Kevin Bacon meets early doom in Friday the 13th
Six Degrees Of Mutilation! The Crystal Lake curse makes bacon of Kevin Bacon
© 1980 Paramount Pictures

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Shoot Me Twice: Black Christmas

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review dials up the 1974 and 2006 versions of Black Christmas

The original Black Christmas shares 1974 with the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, preceding both Carrie (1976) and Halloween (1978) – films commonly credited with shaping horror movies as we know them today. Black Christmas seldom gets the same acknowledgment, though its structure arguably makes it more influential on the slasher genre than even Chain Saw. At very least, it gave rise to its own distinct branch of the tree. Whereas Chain Saw honed the conventions of the psycho-redneck road saga, Black Christmas made the world unsafe for sorority sisters, babysitters, camp counselors and other teenage miscreants in such milestone movies as Friday The 13th, Prom Night, and once again, John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Black Christmas (1974)
directed by Bob Clark


Classic Billy has an eye on the naughty list
© 1974 Ambassador Film Distributors

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Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 4)

The hour draws near to upend your buckets and devour the annual trick or treat plunder. Together, we’ve spent another October stacking up horror movie programs for your Halloween enjoyment, and what fun it’s been to make up the menu!


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Four:
I Put A Spell On You!

In Week Three, we spent the evening in some of our favorite haunted and possessed places, having already tackled two weeks of mutants and bloodsuckers. Sometimes it takes more than the right monster and the ideal setting to chill an audience’s blood to perfection. A close cousin of the traditional haunting is the good old fashioned curse. Whether a broken convenant, a vengeful malediction, or just a bit of spiteful magic, the very best spells and curses are difficult, often impossible, to break. They can be used to trap, terrorize, or hideously transform all manner of unsuspecting victims. The target of a curse may have earned it by cowardice or criminal trespass, but might just as likely have stumbled into it by accident. The lesson in all cases is clear: be careful whom (or what) you cross. Damned careful.

The most popular entries in this category are a diverse and disturbing bunch. Universal’s 1941 classic The Wolf Man set the standard, pitting Lon Chaney, Jr. against the indwelling rage that plagues mankind… with the help of a cursed wolf bite. Lycanthropy, like vampirism, is a special sort of curse that eventually merited its own special genre. Author and filmmaker Clive Barker tackled a number of nasty curses, including those that resulted in the demonic romance Hellraiser and the sleepover game turned inner-city gauntlet Candyman. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead proved that chainsaw cannibals are far from the worst thing roaming cabin-filled woods. Infamous if less fondly remembered is the Stephen King yarn Thinner, if nothing else a memorable throwback to the classic notion of the gypsy curse.

And now for you unrepentant graverobbers, trespassers and meddlers where you don’t belong, here is a delicious triple jinx of our own devising.

First Course: Drag Me To Hell
(dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)

Sam Raimi curses the careless with demonic torments in Drag Me To Hell


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Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 3)

And so we gather once again at Fields Point Manor, to munch on the macabre. As before, we have a three-course horror marathon lined up to tide you over as the Halloween excitement really starts to build. Remember, a good scream is the best way to ease the grip of fear, keeping everything else inside you where it belongs.


Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Three:
We Gotta Get Outta This Place!

Last week we dined on blood and lots of it, in the company of vampires and other thirsty ghouls. But not every nightmare scenario can be solved with stakes, garlic or sunshine. Sometimes evil oozes out the very walls, floors, furniture and doors we count on to keep bad things away.

James Wan scored a victory this summer with The Conjuring, a haunted house thriller with modern intensity and classic storytelling sensibilities. The fear that we are not safe in our own beds is a timeless and potent soft spot on the human soul, and filmmakers of all sorts have eagerly probed that spot for decades.

Thinking outside the box on this topic was a challenge. Haunting stories make up a goodly portion of almost any top-10, desert-island horror movie countdown, and great ones have been made to suit every taste. The Shining is bleak and lavish, Poltergeist playfully hideous, The Haunting and The Innocents each a parade of good old-fashioned dread, and even those in the mood for the madcap have choices ranging from William Castle’s The House On Haunted Hill to the surreal Japanese freakout known as Hausu (House). If you have not had the pleasure, stop what you have going on and make room for these movies in your life, too. Meanwhile, we adjourn to the brandy and popcorn lounge for tonight’s features.

First Course: El Orfanato
(The Orphanage)
(dir. J. A. Bayona, 2007)

J. A. Bayon's The Orphanage tests a mother's love and sanity to their limits

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