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Out in Theaters: ‘THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS’ 

Kids meet Eli Roth. Eli Roth, kids. The horror auteur, infamous for torture porn cornerstone Hostel and – to a lesser degree – gooey meta-slasher Cabin Fever, takes to Amblin-produced PG material with surprising poise. Roth, who up to this point has strictly directed hard-R films, adapts the first of John Bellairs’ twelve-part children’s novels from the 1970s, The House With a Clock in its Walls, proffering a mostly family-friendly vision of dark witchcraft, haunted houses, and misfittery. The tale of woebegone wizardry may never fully clicks into place like the magical clock in its title but this Halloween-tinged creeper should fulfill paperback preteens looking for an age-appropriate spook. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MANDY’

If you’ve ever asked yourself “What the fuck did I just watch?” just wait until you get a load of Mandy. The avant-garde metal midnighter from Italian director Panos Cosmatos yields a phantasmagoric descent into hell itself, where none other than Nicholas Cage (in all his unhinged glory) plays a logger named Red Miller who hunts down an LSD-fueled Christian cult and a literal biker gang from hell to avenge the love of his life (Andrea Riseborough, rocking a heavy metal Shelley Duvall look) . Turns out, hell hath no fury like a Nicolas Cage scorned. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE NUN’ 

‘The Nun’ (a.k.a. ‘Bad Habit’)  is a handsome twinkle of a horror movie that’s never developed into a full-bodied anything. It’s a movie that dangles on the precipice of actually being half-decent for quite some time without ever making the effort to, you know, actually be good. Its mid-century Romanian setting is certainly atmospheric, a nod to the far-flung haunts of golden-age horror; it contains some decent acting, both Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir are solid enough to headline, if only they were privy to some superior written material; and some of the visual flourishes and cinematography suggest a horror movie well above the average pay-grade. And yet, it’s all pretty much for nothing as The Nun  never gels into something of any discernible substance.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB’ 

The internet is dark and full of terrors. From the Nazi memes of 4Chan to Live Leaks, a website where you can literally watch people get murdered, jet-black corners of the web lurk in waiting. To imagine that there lay a second layer of the internet beyond the scum and villainy readily apparent, a sector where one can purchase illegal drugs, elicit prostitution, even hire paid assassins, is an unsettling reality but a reality none the less; and this is where Unfriended: Dark Web strikes. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE FIRST PURGE’ 

There’s a moment in The First Purge where Isiah (Joivan Wade), a young African American teetering on the brink of breaking bad, wanders down an alleyway. His eyes are illuminated a ghastly blue, irises cloaked in live-stream contact lens there to capture the experimental first night of legalized murder. Any newsworthy POV footage documented for mass distribution is met with “financial compensation”, as is remaining in the kill zone. As Isiah hunts a leaky junkie by the name of Skeletor (a crazed and wildly watchable Rotimi Paul), a multitude of different colored lens peer at him, stalking his moves.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘HEREDITARY’ 

Every once in a blue moon, there comes a horror movie that’s legitimately capital-T terrifying. One that’ll cause your eyes to dart around the dark stillness of the theater at the smallest creak. One that’ll hitchhike a ride home with you to invade your dreams; an unabortable mental pregnancy. One whose delirious imagery will burn into your cranium as if doused in paint thinner and struck by a match. I am happy to report that A24’s Hereditary, dear readers, is just that kind of movie. It’ll take your damn head off. Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID’

Not even children are spared in this gritty Mexican fantasy-thriller from writer/director Issa López. Both grounded in dark realities and anchored by larger-than-life fantastical elements, Tigers Are Not Afraid shares DNA with Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language horrors movies (think Devil’s Backbone), which smuggle pervasive social commentary in with spooky, mythic thrills. A 10-year old girl joins up with a similarly orphaned child gang, roaming the streets and eluding ill-intentioned adults in this unsettling fable about loss and criminality. Moody and uncompromising, Tigers marks López as a blooming talent to keep a close eye on. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘RUIN ME’ 

This concept horror from Preston DeFrancis tries to combine the shlocky guesswork of a whodunnit in with the craze of Escape Rooms to middling effect. When ex-addict Alexandra (Marcienne Dwyer) accompanies boyfriend Nathan on Slasher Sleepout, the orchestrated haunt becomes menacingly real and the pair must fight for survival. Some of the narrative twists work but the acting is standard C-list horror subpar, the practical effects disappointing, and the scares lacking entirely. The script from DeFrancis and Trysta Bissett is loaded with bromides and jump-to-conclusions dialogue as well as some hare-brained endgame mustache-twirling that comes across as more tasteless and off-putting than brutal and brilliant. (C-) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘BLUE MY MIND’

A maybe-mermaid metamorphosis, MDMA, and mean girls combine to make Blue My Mind an unforgettably queasy coming-of-age body horror fantasy. Lisa Brühlmann’s Kafkaesque sexual awakening exists somewhere between Raw, Girlhood and The Fly – a Cronenbergian exploration of feminine maturation that deals in earnest themes of friendship and acceptance, tackling the challenges of life’s transitions through a unique, sexually-charged, and often dangerous lens. This Swiss import boasts the distinction of complicated performances (Luna Wedler’s fire) and a supercharged young talent in Brühlmann, who, mind-blowingly, submitted this as her film-school thesis. Bravo. (B+) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘REVENGE’

Vengeance is a dish served gory in this stylish, brutish bloodbath that updates 70s rape-revenge fantasy exploitation films to the #MeToo era. The bare bones plot leaves Jen (a hypnotic Matilda Lutz) pitted against three male assailants/trophy hunters, stranded in the middle of nowhere with an axe to grind. Hallucinatory camerawork and a throbbing soundscape bring artsy flair to this otherwise stripped-down final girl kill-fest that pops with cringetastic, French New Extremity levels of blood geysers. At nearly 2 hours, the feminist horror crowd-pleaser drags in spots but deeply satisfies nonetheless. (B+) Read More