Women In Horror Month: XX (2017) Review

XX is a horror anthology film featuring four stories written and directed by four different women. In the first story “The Box” it tells the story of a young boy who meets an elderly man on a train with a box, the old man shows the boy what’s inside and afterwards the boy begins to starve himself, leaving his parents worried about what happened that day. “The Birthday Party” is about a mother who is trying to throw her daughter the best costume birthday party ever, however she finds her husband dead and now has to try dispose of the body before the guests arrive. “Don’t Fall” follows four friends who go camping in the desert, but after coming across weird rock paintings the friends find themselves dealing with demonic forces. “Her Only Living Son” involves a woman who discovers her son is developing odd and disturbing behavior as he’s about to turn eighteen.

The latest anthology horror film is particularly special because it proves that women are just as capable of directing horror films as men are. The talented women at hand do just that. Each story is really well-directed, even if some of the stories aren’t exactly the best written, but they do an excellent job of bringing their vision of the story to life and how it’s presented. Like most anthology horror films, this one is a mixed bag. “The Box” (written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic) has an extremely interesting premise and I was invested the whole time, sadly it ends with a pretty unsatisfying ending where nothing is really revealed. “The Birthday Party” (written and directed by Annie Clark) was hands-down my favorite entry. This one is definitely the least horror-filled and is instead more of a creepy black comedy. Melanie Lynskey plays the lead and she’s no stranger to playing odd characters, but Lynksey is excellent here and provides very great comedic moments with pretty minimal dialogue. The story in general is one of the better dark humor stories I’ve seen and it made me almost want to rewind this segment and watch it again. “Don’t Fall” (written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin) was the strongest of the stories in terms of being an actual horror film and really made wish it was a little longer. It offers a very creepy setting in the nighttime desert setting, and the imagery of the demon released is super well-done and creepy. The friends are pretty likable and come off as realistic in how they joke around with each other and the overall interactions. So you do care for them. Angela Trimbur proves in this segment that she is totally capable of being the main girl as opposed to always playing the slutty party animal best friend, so here’s to hoping other horror directors see what she’s capable of doing. Sadly the weakest story was Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”. I was really looking forward to Kusama’s because I absolutely loved her previous horror films Jennifer’s Body and The Invitation. But this one just came off a very basic, predictable, and pretty boring. You can see where Kusama’s vision is at, but it just needed a stronger script, and truthfully the acting wasn’t that great. Between each story are weird stop-motion-animated segments. In general they’re really well-done and set the odd and weird mood for the film, but in all honesty, they weren’t particularly necessary other than to be fillers to extend the runtime.

XX doesn’t follow full-on horror anthology tropes, but it does a fine job of mixing it up with weird, creepy, and humorous ones. Some are better than others or end up being missed opportunities, but they’re all wonderfully directed and fit well together. Not only does it show the abilities of its female directors, but it shows the potential of under-looked actresses like Melanie Lynskey and Angela Trimbur and what they can bring to the table.

–Cody Landman

FINAL Week To Submit IRRATIONAL FEAR Audition Video

Want to be a part of the latest horror movie from Slasher Studios? IRRATIONAL FEAR is currently featuring an open casting call for the roles below. We will be filming in the Wisconsin area in mid to late June and food/lodging is provided for the duration of the shoot. Please note that February 18th is the FINAL day to submit any and all audition videos and we will be making our final decisions at the end of the month. Interested in a role? Please send us an email at [email protected] and we would be more than happy to send you some audition sides for an Irrational Fear audition read. It’s going to be a bloody good time!

We currently have the following roles available:

HELEN (age range: 40-50)— Middle aged, alcoholic housewife. Helen is the kind of woman who realizes her best days are behind her as she turns to the bottle for a trip down memory lane. Hates her husband as she believes she gave up her best years for him. Has a fear of being in or around water.

JAKE (age range: 13-18, if looks younger)—- Preteen boy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, Jake looks like the poster child for a whitening toothpaste commercial. Outgoing and charming, he hides his insecurities by closing doors on his emotions.

NATE (age range: 40-50)— Jake’s father. Much like his son, he is obsessed with personal appearance and order in life. He is a high profile lawyer who has taken this weekend off to be with his son, something that he never lets his son forget. He’s slick and sophisticated with a George Clooney type style.

KELLY (age range: 30s)— Thirtysomething tough, wilderness girl who has grown up around the area and knows the ins and outs of the land. She’s not afraid to get dirty but she has a softer side after she lets her guard down.

CAMERON (age range: 16-24, if looks younger)– Teenage jock, muscles are larger than his brains even though he normally means well. Tries to appear smarter than he actually is but it normally backfires on him. He’s a sweet guy who tries to do what he can to help out others. His biggest fear is choking and he obsessively cuts up his food into the smallest pieces “just in case”.

Building A Mystery: HAVENHURST (2017) Review

Jackie (Julie Benz) is a recovering alcoholic who loses her daughter in an accident due to her drinking. In an attempt to start over, as well as figure out what happened to her missing friend Danielle (Danielle Harris), she moves in to the large Havenhurst gothic apartment building under the management of the rule-oriented Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan). As Jackie lives there, she begins to uncover dark secrets about the buildings history and what happens to the tenants when they don’t live up to building’s rules.

The film starts out with the most disappointing cameo since Katherine Isabelle in The Girl in the Photographs. And this is quite probably worse. It’s worse due to the fact that this is Danielle Harris we’re fricken talking about, and she gets a measly 3 minutes or so of screen time before she dies, and the scene itself could have been really good had it been longer, but even worse, much of those 3 minutes are shown in the trailer. Mini rant done. Havenhurst actually as a really good set-up for itself. We have a very nicely constructed and creepy setting with some good set pieces, along with a good mystery to it. The lead character is likable, even though she has the most overdone backstory ever and clearly she has to do something to redeem herself for her past. But despite that you do care for her. The supporting characters aren’t really well-developed, but they’re painted as naturally shitty people, so it’s not exactly a big loss. The history revealed about the building is actually fricken cool. I admit I knew nothing much about the real history that was borrowed to use towards the story of this movie, but upon some google searching it’s very interesting. So unless certain elements leading up to the reveal stand out to you that you may know where it’s going, it’ll be a nice treat for you. But sadly once this is revealed, it doesn’t go much further with it. Which really is a huge shame, because for such a big reveal you really want it to go into that area more. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall motive. There’s not much connection between the reveal and the motive behind that disappearances that I could tell. Unless I missed something in my googling, then my bad. The death scene do have some pretty nice blood and gore images though but doesn’t get too carried away with them.

Julie Benz turns in a well-done performance as per usual as the lead, which in turn does help in making the character likable and sympathetic, because I feel that given to the wrong actress, she could have half-assed it and made you not give two shits about Jackie. Fionnula Flanagan does a fine job as well, but I wish she could have been given more eerie moments involving her character than we got, because as she she displayed in The Others, she sure as hell can be creepy. And then in her minuscule role, Danielle does as well as she possibly can and at least we get her scream we all know and love.

Havenhurst has a great setting and set pieces and good performances, and is given a solid reveal, but it’s a huge victim to not reaching the potential it could by going further with this reveal.

–Cody Landman

Terror on the Line: DON’T HANG UP (2016) Review

Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and his best friend Brady (Garrett Clayton) get their kicks out of prank phone calls and recording them and are put on their blog. But these are typical prank calls. They’re actually very menacing and dark prank calls. The first scene depicts them pranking a mom (Sienna Guillory) home alone with her daughter, and the two boys convince her there is a mad man in the house and that her young daughter is in danger. When Sam’s parents are out of town, Brady comes over and the two commence with their pranks as well as drinks. However, they get a call of their own from a madman who knows what they’ve been up to and decides to have some fun with them. The two then find themselves as well as those they care about in danger.

Don’t Hang Up is actually a pretty fun teen slasher film. It’s has elements of Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls, but with a modern and tech savvy twist. The whole is set inside the one house and it does a great job of putting you inside of it with the characters with their sense of paranoia. Now it sure as hell doesn’t match up to the scares of the aforementioned films, but for what it is, it does a hell of a job of keeping your attention waiting to see what will happen next, and some generally well-constructed suspenseful moments. The cinematography is often really well-done too with some of the camera techniques reminding me of how Panic Room was filmed. The two leads aren’t exactly the most likable because of how really mean-spirited the pranks are, but as the film does progress, you do develop some attachment to them and their bond. There are some inconsistencies in the script like how the killer tells them they are to not hang up, but there are many times where they do hang up and the killer doesn’t pay much mind to this like he does when they do it the first few times he calls. Like I mentioned, the movie is really engaging from beginning to end, and besides the prank calls, it does a good job of making these two come off as real teen boys in their behavior and dialogue. Unfortunately what hurts the movie is the extremely predictable ending. I was honestly really disappointed that it went that route.

The acting is pretty decent. Gregg Sulkin does really well and probably gives more than he really needed to in the role. He shows the side of his character that gets kicks out of the pranks, but knows when enough is enough. But more than anything he does an excellent job of showing the fear and terror his character feeling. Unfortunately Garrett Clayton turns in a less than good performance (in terms of emotion). In all actuality it’s his character should be having the biggest emotional reaction (as his parents are being held hostage by the madman) but instead he fails to really deliver any genuine reaction. Emotional-wise Clayton lacks, but he does well with his comedic moments of being the typical teenage douchebag. In her smaller role, Sienna Guillory (known for being Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil films) makes her small screen time worthwhile.

Don’t Hang Up is a fun often thrilling movie that does really well with it’s one location and developing the two leads as well some fine performances, but the predictable ending unfortunately hurts it from being the solid horror film I wanted it to end up being.

–Cody Landman

Horror Flashback: THE THING (1982) Review

About one week ago I watched “The Thing (1982)” for the first time. This movie is directed by John Carpenter (Halloween) and based on John H. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?” – which was first adapted in 1951 as “The Thing from Another World”. The cast includes Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight), Wilford Brimley (Cocoon), T.K. Carter (Runaway Train), David Clennon (Gone Girl), Keith David (Platoon) and Richard Dysart (Back to the Future Part III). I’ve had the DVD of this movie in my collection for a little under three years now.

This is the third John Carpenter movie I’ve ever watched after “Halloween (1978)” and “The Fog (1980)”. I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about this remake. I did see the prequel of the same name when it first came out in 2011 and I really liked that movie. It wouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I ended up loving the 1982 version even more. The acting by the all-male cast is excellent. Kurt Russell’s performance was hands down the best of the bunch. There is so much suspense and a sense of dread throughout the entire movie. Two aspects that definitely helped to elevate the suspense are the hair-raising musical score by Ennio Morricone and the creepy make-up effects by Rob Bottin. After watching the feature length making of documentary “John Carpenter’s The Thing: Terror Takes Shape” (which everyone MUST watch) I’ve gained so much more respect and admiration for the production of this movie. There was a lot of hard work that went into making this movie and every cast & crew member deserves credit for that.

John Carpenter delivered yet another timeless classic! There are some minor flaws that I’ve experienced while watching The Thing, such as: the totally wrong anamorphic shot 2.39:1 “scope” ratio, the muddled pacing in some scenes and the ending. I get what the makers were trying to do with the ending, but the alternate ending would’ve worked better in my opinion. I learned that the footage was actually filmed, but it has yet to be released. Overall, The Thing is an exceptional science-fiction horror film with some of the best practical effects I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended!

-Ferdi Akkulak

Slasher Studios Horror Podcast Is Back With Three New Episodes

The title says it all, slasher friends. After a long (too long) break, Slasher Studios Horror Podcast is back on Blogtalkradio and Itunes. We have three brand new episodes for you to sink your teeth into. We discuss the best & worst horror movies of 2016, the horror movies we are most looking forward to in 2017, and our favorite female horror performances. Check out the episodes belong and make sure to subscribe on both Itunes as well as Blogtalkradio to never miss a future episode. Happy slashing everyone!

Slasher Studios Horror Podcast: The Best & Worst of Horror in 2016
Slasher Studios Horror Podcast is back with a special episode as Kevin Sommerfield & Andrew Beirl discuss their favorite and least favorite horror movies of 2016 and also discuss their latest horror film, IRRATIONAL FEAR.

Slasher Studios Horror Podcast: Upcoming Horror Movies of 2017
On a brand new Slasher Studios Horror Podcast, our hosts Kevin Sommerfield and Andrew Beirl will be dig back into their worst horror movies of 2016 as well as discuss the new horror movies they are looking forward to in 2017.

Slasher Studios Horror Podcast: Horror Actresses That Deserve a Breakout
On a brand new Slasher Studios Horror Pocast, our hosts Kevin Sommerfield and Andrew Beirl celebrate Women in Horror month by picking the horror actresses they think deserve to break out into the mainstream.

Terror Comes Knocking: DON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016) Review

There’s an urban legend that tells of an elderly woman that’s said to be a witch and does the bidding for a demon who feasts off of young children. You go to the witch’s house, one knock wakes her spirit, the second knock opens the door to unleash her. A young girl named Chloe whom she and her friend believe the witch took someone they knew go to the witch’s home and knock twice. Chloe has been in the foster care system since her mother gave her up due to addiction and Chloe feels bitter against her for this. Feeling she might be safe in her care she goes to live with her mother Jess. As the mother and daughter work to rebuild their relationship, the evil that Chloe has unleashed threaten to tear them apart.

It’s a shame that this movie didn’t get a wide theatrical release. Instead it got stamped with the limited and digital release format. Don’t Knock Twice is actually a very well-done film and provides an engaging story with some pretty great thrills. On one hand we have a very solid mother/daughter storyline involving Jess and Chloe. Katee Sackhoff provides an extremely strong performance as an ex-addict who is only trying to make things right with her daughter. Sackhoff really does a fine job of showing the struggle she’s going through of trying to put the past behind her, win her daughters’ affections, and ultimately fight for Chloe’s life. Chloe is played by Lucy Bonyton and provides a well-done performance as well. She captures the bitter and cold attitude of Chloe towards her mother well, but then does an even better job of showing the gradual emotional attachment she begins to feel. Putting the two together is even better because they play off of each other so well and really capture the mother/daughter aspects of the story and you really care for them and hope they both come out of this alive. The horror aspect is super well-done here as well. It features a lot of creepy imagery involving the demon, and even just capturing it’s shadow is enough to bring on the chills.

It’s also worth mentioning that this is excellently filmed too and provides a great helping hand into making the horror work, as mentioned the way the camera captures the demon is great, and even the way it captures the characters moving around the house (inside or out) can make it creepy. It keeps the jump scares to a minimum and purely relies on the build up of scenes, the imagery, and the creepy atmosphere to make the horror work. The script does a good job of covering important aspects pertaining to the folklore of the witch and the demon that makes everything in the ending work. It features some nice plot twists as well that keep it from being too basic. I have no doubt that some people will be able to predict what happens, and that may ruin it for them, so be it. Some will even point out some of the movies it reminds them of, which may be off-putting. The latter is a little unavoidable, but it didn’t ruin the experience for me. I do however wish that the final act that takes place in a particular setting had been more eventful than it was because I really loved what they gave, and I wanted more from it.

Don’t Knock Twice, despite some familiarity of other films, really presents itself as a fresh story and does so with great confidence. It has a perfect blend of familial drama and horror, both are giving a great amount to shine, but I do feel the horror gets more of the pull in the end. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest. With a solid script, being really well-filmed, and the great performances by the two leads, I highly recommend this movie. It’s available on iTunes right now, but if you happen to have it playing in a theater near you, definitely check it out there.

–Cody Landman

Leave Well Enough Alone: RINGS (2017) Review

A young woman and her boyfriend seek to investigate the history behind Samara and her haunted video tape after the tape has suddenly gone viral. The two hope to end her reign of terror once and for all.

When I first saw the trailer for third film for The Ring, I can’t say I was excited, but I was at least interested into seeing the direction it would go now that Samara’s type has gone viral. Unfortunately, that aspect of the movie is hardly touched upon and is merely a set up for the rest of the film. The second film was very by-the-numbers, and I had some optimism that this third film could only go up. I was very wrong. This movie is terrible. The first half hour had some promise when it establishes how the tape is now spreading and it’s developed an almost underground cult following. A college group led by their professor Gabriel (Johnny Galecki) are almost addicted to the tape like a drug and try to look for spiritual elements from it, all the while having to pass the curse on by finding a “tail” to stop their curse. The spiritual/science aspect is far fetched, but it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting than what we got. Instead we are introduced to the annoying, loving, happy couple Julia and Holt (seriously, they’re really nauseating). Holt goes off to college and suddenly goes off the radar, so Julie just drops everything and follows him to campus and looks for him.

This is when she stumbles upon the cult and sees that Holt has watched the tape. She ends up watching it to save him, and then the two team up with Gabriel to track the history of Samara. Besides the first half hour when the only horror really happens, it has some nice throwbacks to the original film, more so that they used the actual footage from Samara’s flashback and not just redone stuff. Even though we’ve seen Samara come out of the t.v., the phone call, and the famous video tape before, it did have a good sense of nostalgia to it from when you first saw the original. But the rest of the film plays out like the first movie with the investigation aspects. But at least the investigation done by Naomi Watts in the first film had scary moments thrown in and actually felt like it was going somewhere. This was dry as hell with no real scares or tension or suspense at all, and it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. They try to throw in “a tape within the tape” that only Julia can see that makes no sense whatsoever, and then it just turns into them talking to a bunch of people and we get more background on Samara and her mother Evelyn. And quite frankly it is all pointless. The small bit of information we got from the first film and the second film gave just enough to satisfy but didn’t get carried away. For those who hate origin stories, this one is the worst, mostly because, as I said, there’s no point whatsoever to it. Had it explained what made Samara so evil, that would have been better. Instead it tries to make us feel sympathy for Samara and not fear her anymore, oh and again they have the characters wanting to “set her free” in order to stop everything (we all know how that works). Basically after the first half hour it no longer feels like a Ring film, just two people trying to solve a mystery about a dead girl. It doesn’t even follow the formula of the 7 days stuff. Nothing spooky happens, and it just forgets that this is all happening and Julia could potentially die. The final scene then ends up being almost a repeat of the plot for The Ring Two and feels completely out of left field. And don’t get me started on a sequence that is clearly ripping off Don’t Breathe, and not very subtly either.

Along with the horrible script, we have horrible actors. Matilda Lutz who plays Julia is the worst lead actress in a mainstream horror that I’ve seen in a while. It was cringeworthy, and her delivery made her sound like she was drunk. Alex Roe plays Julia’s boyfriend Holt, and he has no purpose other than to be the good-looking and caring boyfriend and goes through the film just speaking the dialogue and hardly seems like he’s trying or even cares. Even Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance is bad. Johnny Galecki is okay, but he also seems bored at the same time, and really he’s the only interesting character in the movie. Surprisingly, Aimee Teegarden turns in a much better performance here than I’ve seen her in past films, most especially Scream 4 and Beneath the Darkness. Had the film revolved around her character (who is kind of established as the punk girl) and Gabriel, we at least would have characters with a personalities to follow. But Teegarden has like only 7 minutes of screen time in the first half hour.

I am really baffled at how bad this movie was and how they let it go that much off the rails. With such an appealing first half hour, they choose to remake the first film but no real scares, build up, and really forgetting what made the first film scary, as well as the main plot line with the tape. Add in shitty acting, and you have one of the worst horror movies of this decade.

–Cody Landman

Funded & Opening Casting Call Extended for IRRATIONAL FEAR

We are pleased to report that the latest horror feature from Slasher Studios, IRRATIONAL FEAR, has officially been funded on Kickstarter! We cannot thank you all enough for the incredible support in both backing and sharing the project. When I say we couldn’t do it without you, it’s true. There would be no movie without the kindness we’ve received from you awesome indie horror lovers. So, what happens next? We are currently looking to film in Wisconsin this June for a late October, early November release on DVD & limited edition bluray. We’ve also decided to extend our open casting call (new deadline February 17th) to allow for actors to receive one more shot at having a place in our new horror movie.

We currently have the following roles available:

HELEN (age range: 40-50)— Middle aged, alcoholic housewife. Helen is the kind of woman who realizes her best days are behind her as she turns to the bottle for a trip down memory lane. Hates her husband as she believes she gave up her best years for him. Has a fear of being in or around water.

JAKE (age range: 13-18, if looks younger)—- Preteen boy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, Jake looks like the poster child for a whitening toothpaste commercial. Outgoing and charming, he hides his insecurities by closing doors on his emotions.

NATE (age range: 40-50)— Jake’s father. Much like his son, he is obsessed with personal appearance and order in life. He is a high profile lawyer who has taken this weekend off to be with his son, something that he never lets his son forget. He’s slick and sophisticated with a George Clooney type style.

KELLY (age range: 30s)— Thirtysomething tough, wilderness girl who has grown up around the area and knows the ins and outs of the land. She’s not afraid to get dirty but she has a softer side after she lets her guard down.

CAMERON (age range: 16-24, if looks younger)– Teenage jock, muscles are larger than his brains even though he normally means well. Tries to appear smarter than he actually is but it normally backfires on him. He’s a sweet guy who tries to do what he can to help out others. His biggest fear is choking and he obsessively cuts up his food into the smallest pieces “just in case”.

If you are interested in any of the roles, please send us an email at [email protected]. It’s going to be a bloody good time!

Best For Last? RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2017) Review

Following the events that ended the previous film, Alice discovers that in order to end the horror she’s so long lived, she must return to where it all began. Teaming up with Claire and a new group of survivors they go down into The Hive where Alice discovers secrets about Umbrella, the T-Virus, and herself.

The final entry in the popular series is an extremely solid closing to Alice’s story. Everything comes full circle and anything that’s revealed doesn’t feel completely out of left field. All of the secrets about Umbrella and the T-Virus make sense, as do the secrets revealed about Alice’s background. Now granted, some of these reveals can contradict some of the details revealed in past films. For example, the Red Queen was said she was a recreation of the daughter of one of Umbrella’s founders, and the creator of the T-Virus. Back in Apocalypse this was revealed about Jared Harris’ character and his daughter. It’s pretty annoying, but it’s more detailed here and helps wrap up the story.

Alice is just as bad ass as ever and we finally see her being really tested with her abilities and her emotions. It’s also great to see Claire return as well, but per usual, we are left with no other returning characters that survived or hear what happens to them. And once again we are given new characters that are underdeveloped, we don’t care about them, and they’re merely used for expendable purposes. One of these characters is Claire’s love interest, and besides one small recognition to this, their relationship isn’t developed, nor is it recognized after that small moment. And for such a fairly popular actress like Ruby Rose, you would think that she would have been given more development. Not the case. Those are a lot of the flaws. The return to The Hive is great, even if there weren’t too many callbacks to the original, regardless, The Hive is one huge death trap here and provides for a lot of thrilling sequences as Alice and her gang try to get inside, and the overall production design is solid. The entire film is one action sequence after another, and it’s pure fun and thrills all the way through. However, a lot of the action sequences are pretty brutally edited to where they’re complete quick cuts. It was really annoying sure, but I managed to work with it, but it was a horrible choice to do.

Milla Jovovich as always kicks ass as Alice, and she brought more to the table when it comes to showing a more vulnerable side to Alice as she begins to question things she thought she knew about herself. Ali Larter also recaptures Claire really well, even if she did deserve a lot more spotlight than she did, and I really wanted more double team action with her and Milla. Iain Glen is at his best in the series in this one. He’s more villainous and despicable, and you can’t wait for the final showdown between him and Alice, and Glen really delivers and gives it all he has as the bad guy.

RE: The Final Chapter really does wrap up the story well and brings it all full circle. Despite the usual flaws found in the series involving characters, a little contradiction, and questionable editing, it’s a fun, non-stop action-filled way to close Alice’s story.

–Cody Landman