Thursday, October 23, 2014

Top movies to watch this autumn {part 2}

movie recommendations

This is the second part of my wrap-up of the Sitges Film Festival 2014. The first part can be found here.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night 

What is it about? 
A female veiled vampire wanders around the Iranian streets in search for blood. She also falls in love. Based on the comic novel series by the same author.

Why should you see this? 
Many called A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night a beautiful, but empty box. The mystery Ana Lily Amirpour creates around her characters doesn't leave much room for detail and so we never really care what happens to them. But it hardly matters, because the emotion stems from the beauty of its envelope, always reminding the viewer of films such as The Addiction, Down By Law, and Only Lovers Left Alive. I bet that some shots (such as the final ones) will stay with you for a long time.

Cold In July
Cold In July Michael C. Hall

Cold In July 

What is it about? 
When a man breaks into Richard's house, he has no choice but to shoot him. But the thief has a father, one that is hellbent on avenging his son's death. With Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. 

Why should you see this? 
Cold In July will be one of the best thrillers you'll see this year. Directed with style and feeling for suspense, the film also surprises with several unexpected twists. I've never been a fan of Jim Mickle's films before (We Are What We Are, Stakeland, Mulberry Street), but with Cold In July, he finally has my attention.

The Infinite Man
The Infinite Man

The Infinite Man 

What is it about? 
A couple breaks up during what was supposed to be a romantic weekend. The man then comes up with a rudimentary time machine to try and fix the mistake, as many times as needed. This will lead them to meeting several versions of themselves, both from the past and the future, all of which will become each other's contestants. 

Why should you see this? 
The concept and execution of The Infinite Man are pretty smart, but the film is monotonous as there's not enough variation in terms of locations (one), characters (three), and scenes (a handful).

Mr Leos Carax
Leos Carax

Mr. Leos Carax (Mr. X) 

What is it about? 
Documentary about the visionary director Leos Carax who made Holy Motors, Boy Meets Girl, Les amants du pont neuf, Pola X, and Mauvais Sang

Why should you see this? 
If you aren't familiar with Leos Carax, this beautifully made documentary is a good introduction to his work. There's a lot of footage from his movies and explications as to why his work is considered mysterious and poetic. I liked how even the interview passages were put against a backdrop of movie scenes so that the whole exuded the same beauty as Carax' oeuvre.

Jijon Clan
Non-Fiction Diary

Non-fiction Diary 

What is it about? 
In the early nineties, the Jijon Clan killed rich people to rebel against class differences caused by capitalism. Non-fiction Diary is a documentary about this group. 

Why should you see this? 
There are several interesting statements to be found here, such as one of the murderers saying: “I regret I didn't kill my mother myself. I only wish I could have killed more people” or the implication that it all started because one of them was punished at school for not having the means to buy materials for his art class, and then rewarded the following day for stealing those materials from a rich kid. Overall, though, Non-Fiction Diary never finds its focus, and lacks in terms of pacing, lighting, and editing.

Still Life

Still Life (Naturaleza muerta) 

What is it about? 
A journalist investigates the disappearance of a woman who is supposedly attacked by an animal. She'll come face to face with a story about animals who cry out for vengeance for centuries of exploitation at the hands of man. 

Why should you see this? 
Because you're a carnivore. As a horror film, Still Life is too easy and by-the-numbers, and definitely not suspenseful. But that's not the reason you should watch this. In fact, Still Life very much looks like a pamphlet to promote vegetarianism, and on that level it works rather well. I wouldn't be surprised that many viewers stop eating meat after watching this film. Funny that this was made in Argentina, the land of steaks.

Wetlands
Wetlands

Wetlands 

What is it about? 
Wetlands is about a girl who hurts people on purpose, picks her nose, never changes her underwear, obsesses over her anal polyps, fantasizes about pizza covered with the semen of several men, and who, because of all this, seems to be incredibly attractive to others. Based on the novel by Charlotte Roche.

Why should you see this? 
Because you like all of the above portrayed with great visual detail and with the style and pacing of a music video. Prepare to be disgusted.

Annabelle movie
Annabelle horror movie

Annabelle 

What is it about? 
Do you remember Annabelle the doll from The Conjuring? Its story, one of the most famous supernatural phenomena of the twentieth century, is now embodied in a film produced by James Wan. 

Why should you see this? 
Because you like horror movies such as Insidious and The Conjuring and you think it's logical that demons can write (in English), procrastinate about their objectives, and look for a soul when they already have one.

The Double Jesse Eisenberg
The Double

The Double 

What is it about? 
Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd tells the story of dull Simon who is ignored at work until James appears. James is a dead ringer for him physically but with a charismatic character. Based on the novel by Dostoyevsky

Why should you see this? 
Every single aspect of The Double is brilliant and fascinating – its visual style, Jesse Eisenberg's double performance, its soundtrack (Andrew Hewit, Kyu Tsakamoto, Danny and The Islanders),... The Double also reminded me of one of my favorite Polanski movies, The Tenant. A must-see.

El incidente
The Incident

The Incident (El Incidente) 

What is it about? 
Whenever someone causes an 'incident' (someone's death), they enter an alternate reality in which they are forced to remain in the same place. It's supposed to be an allegory on how we refuse to change and move forward as adults and how that makes us nostalgic. 

Why should you see this? 
Because you like discovering low-budget tales of the supernatural. The first half hour of The Incident is hard to sit through as it's terribly amateurish, but once the second story-line and set of characters are introduced the film becomes more interesting and professional.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween reading list

Halloween reading list

What's on your Halloween reading list this year?

This week, I published a guest article over at Midnyte Reader about the five books I'm planning to read this Halloween. My reading interests are usually varied, but around Halloween the only thing I want is to curl up with a book that has any hint of spooky goodness. Here's the list in case you missed it.


Vampires Bones and Treacle Scones

Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones by Kaitlyn Dunnett

I'm about halfway through this cozy mystery and it's an instant mood-setter for Halloween. In Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones the town of Moosetookalook is planning a Halloween party in an abandoned mansion. But nothing goes as planned. Objects disappear. Hidden rooms are discovered. And then, someone is murdered. What follows is an investigation to try and find the killer.  

Say Her Name James Dawson

Say Her Name by James Dawson 

This YA horror novel is supposed to be one of the creepiest books you'll read this Halloween. Set in a boarding school, Say Her Name focuses on a group of students who dare each other to summon the legendary ghost of Bloody Mary: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear... At first, nothing happens. But in the next five days, it'll become clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife and that she will come for them, as she has come for countless others before.  

The Shuddering Ania Ahlborn

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn 

I absolutely loved Ania Ahlborn's horror novel Seed. She didn't really re-invent the wheel, but she took all my favorite elements from obscure horror movies from the seventies and eighties and threw everything into her own mix. With The Shuddering, she seems to be doing the same thing. This time, she focuses on a group of friends vacationing in a mountain cabin in Colorado. Something lurks in the forest, watching the cabin, growing ever bolder as the snow falls. After a blizzard leaves the group stranded, the true test of their love and loyalty begins as the hideous creatures outside close in, one bloody attack at a time. 

October Dreams

October Dreams: A Celebration Of Halloween edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish 

October Dreams is a delightful mix of Halloween goodies: never-before-published short stories, classic novellas, essays on the history of Halloween, personal reflections on Halloweens past, and guides to Halloween fiction. Among the authors are Dean R. Koontz, Poppy Z. Brite, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Tim Lebbon, Ed Gorman, Tom Piccirilli, Douglas Clegg, Ray Bradbury, Richard Laymon, Kim Newman, Christopher Golden, and many more. Many call this a must-read for Halloween.  

Vacationing With Ghosts

Vacationing With Ghosts by Sharon Day 

Being an avid reader of Sharon Day's blog Ghost Hunting Theories, I've already had a preview of the many weird things that happened to her. Vacationing With Ghosts is partly a nostalgic flashback of the childhood family holidays in their beautiful summer home, and partly an account of the supernatural occurrences she encountered there. Having never experienced the supernatural, I'm usually the first to be sceptic. But Sharon Day's experiences always make me doubt my own belief. 

What's on your reading list this Halloween? I'd love to hear. Anything to recommend? 

And, of course, if you're looking for spooky reads, you can always check out my books Drowned Sorrow and The Strangers Outside. They're meant to really put you on the edge of your seat, so be prepared what you're getting yourself into. 

Halloween reading list

Megan Blackwood has just lost her son in an accident. Now she has come to Moonlight Creek with her teenage daughter, Jenna, hoping that a change of scenery might help to put their lives back together. 

But something odd is happening in Moonlight Creek. 

When rain falls over the village, its inhabitants commit grisly murders, leaving the village deserted again with the first rays of sunshine. Beneath the lake's surface, something watches... and waits... Waits to reveal a tragic past drowned in mystery and fear. One that doesn't bode well for visitors. 

By the time Megan realizes that her daughter's life is in danger, it might already be too late. 

“Pretty damn spooky” -- Book Cover Justice 

“A disturbing gem of the horror genre.” -- The Current Reader 

“A roller coaster ride of mystery, horror, and overall creepiness.” -- Reading Urban Fantasy 

“The scariest story of the year.” -- Sword and Magic 

Halloween reading list

Two sisters return to their remote holiday cabin after a day at the seaside. But little do they know they're being surrounded. Shortly after their arrival, the girls will come face to face with THE STRANGERS OUTSIDE. When the assailants make their intentions known, things take a shockingly terrible turn and an intense battle for survival will begin. 

The Strangers Outside has been turned into a movie starring Pierre Lekeux and Iulia Nastase. 

"This was a really fun, creepy horror story PERFECT for Halloween." -- Little Squeed Book Reviews 

"This had me on the edge of my seat, wanting more, more, MORE! Basically, this is an amazing horror story you should go buy NOW!" -- The Beaucoup Review 

"The Strangers Outside had me thinking about the ending for a couple of days after." -- The Diary Of A Bookworm 

"Vanessa Morgan's writing is not to be missed, for it comes from the depths of fear to give readers a chance to be entertained as well as enlightened." -- Pitching Pencils 

Halloween badge

Monday, October 13, 2014

Top horror movies to watch this autumn {part 1}

Top horror movies to watch this autumn

Don't you like cozying up on the couch with a good movie and your favorite hot drink, or to spend a night at the cinema for an unforgettable date? There's something about autumn weather that makes these activities sound really appealing. 

Just like last year, I've teamed up with the Sitges Film Festival in Spain to put together a list of the top horror movies to watch this autumn. If you haven't heard of the Sitges Film Festival, it's one of the biggest movie events in the world and thus an ideal place to watch upcoming films before anyone else hears about it. Filmmakers from all over the world attend this festival and this year I was in the good company of people such as Antonio Banderas, Joe Dante, and Jake Paltrow. Anyway, I think you'll love the top horror movies I selected for you... 

Musaranas
Shrews Nest

Shrew's Nest (Musaraňas)

What is it about? 
Montse suffers from agoraphobia and many other emotional traumas. After the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father, she raises her little sister on her own. One day, the upstairs neighbor falls down the stairs and Montse takes him in the time he needs to recover. 

Why should you see this? 
If you liked Misery with Kathy Bates, you might also find something of interest in this comical turn on the same theme. The film starts with a fascinating concept – the neigbor's presence brings a part of the outside world into the apartment that Montse never leaves and thus forces her to stretch her boundaries. Directors Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel don't use this theme to their advantage, though. The story could have been more surprising and deeper in my opinion. 

Amor Eterno

Eternal Love (Amor eterno) 

What is it about? 
After his teaching hours, Carlos checks out his cruising area at Montjuïc and notices one of his students. A day later, they start a tumultuous relationship. 

Why should you see this? 
Amor Eterno is extremely well directed with beautiful dark imagery, a powerful built-up, fascinating characters, and an intriguing soundtrack by Don the Tiger. Some viewers were put off, though, by elongated love scenes and the bizarre ending. 

Young Ones Jake Paltrow
Young Ones

Young Ones 

What is it about? 
Produced and directed by Gwyneth Paltrow's little brother, Jake, Young Ones is set in a nearby future where water has become so scarce that people are willing to kill for it. 

Why should you see this? 
Because it's a beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. The science fiction element mixed with a western landscape makes for a very strange, dreamy atmosphere. Young Ones may be a bit slow for some, but it's undeniably made by someone with a big heart for cinema. Also, it won the award for best screenplay at the Sitges Film Festival.

The Guest
The Guest Adam Wingard

The Guest 

What is it about? 
Adam Wingard from A Horrible Way To Die and You're Next comes back with The Guest, a thriller about a family who's grieving over the loss of their son in Afghanistan. When an old friend of their son appears at their home, everyone is immediately charmed. Unfortunately, the man is not who he pretends to be and he has some bad surprises in store for the family. 

Why should you see this? 
While there have been numerous similar films before, none of them are as fun and cool as The Guest. The story may not be flawless, but I guarantee you'll come out of this film smiling like a child. 

Electric Boogaloo
Charles Bronson

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films 

What is it about? 
Mark Hartley's documentary grants the viewer funny insights into the world of Cannon, the production company behind Breakin', Runaway Train, Cyborg, Cobra, American Ninja, etc. 

Why should you see this? 
Electric Boogaloo provides more or less the same information as the documentary The Go-Go Boys (which I saw at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year), but accentuates different subject areas. Whereas The Go-Go Boys focuses on the relationship between the two men behind Cannon Films, Menaghem Golam and Yoram Globus, and how their differences in personality brought the company to its known success, Electric Boogaloo shows lots of scenes from Cannon films and looks at the company and its founders with a critical eye. Whether you're familiar with the films or not, Electric Boogaloo is a delightful and engrossing documentary and a good introduction to the world of Cannon. 

La distancia
The Distance

The Distance (La distancia) 

What is it about? 
In Siberia, three dwarves with supernatural powers plan a robbery of The Distance. 

Why should you see this? 
Because you are brave enough to sit through an experimental film in which nothing happens apart from dwarves sitting around a table while moving a pot of salt through telekinesis and reading each other's meaningless thoughts. At least, you'll have some unique Siberian filming locations. 

Housebound
Housebound

Housebound 

What is it about? 
A girl is forced to move in again with her parents when the court places her on home detention. There's only one problem: the house is haunted. 

Why should you see this? 
Housebound won the prize of the audience at the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival and had almost everyone in the auditorium laughing. Not my taste, though. I thought the jokes were silly and predictable, and the main character was so unlikable that I rooted for the ghost instead of her. 

The Voices
The Voices

The Voices 

What is it about? 
Ryan Reynolds headlines as Jerry, a single man with mental issues. Whenever he doesn't take his medication, he has elaborate conversations with his cat and dog and, luckily for him, they talk back. But pets don't always give good advice, especially not cats, and especially not when that advice is about the joy of killing and following your instincts. 

Why should you see this? 
Because you like pets that talk, especially if they are foul-mouthed. Apart from the talking animals, however, there's not much that keeps the story together. I like the idea that the film mixes romantic comedy with gory horror, but director Marjane Satrapi never dares to go far enough for the concept to work. Therefor it's all too obvious and cute. Overall a funny watch, but definitely not worth the hype. 

Dog to cat: “I earned the right to be called a 'good boy'” 
Cat to dog: “You earned the right to be hit by a van.” 


What movies are you looking forward to this autumn?