Kuntilanak (2006)

Kuntilanak

Directed by Rizal Mantovani [Other horror films: Jelangkung (2001), Kuntilanak 2 (2007), Kuntilanak 3 (2008), Kesurupan (2008), Mati suri (2009), Air Terjun Pengantin (2009), Taring (2010), Jenglot Pantai Selatan (2011), Air Terjun Pengantin Phuket (2013), Wewe (2015), Firegate (2016), Jailangkung (2017), Bayi Gaib: Bayi Tumbal Bayi Mati (2018), Kuntilanak (2018), Jailangkung 2 (2018), Tembang Lingsir (2019), Kuntilanak 2 (2019), Rumah Kentang: The Beginning (2019), Rasuk 2 (2020), Asih 2 (2020), Kuntilanak 3 (2022)]

Known in English as The Chanting, Kuntilanak has the distinction of being the first Indonesian horror film I’ve seen thus far. How does it hold up? It’s a mixed bag, but overall, while below average, it’s okay.

Now, some of my perceived shortcomings come not from the film itself, but from the quality of the upload I happened to view. The audio had an echoey feel to it, the English subtitles weren’t the best, and the video quality was on the grainy side. As best as possible, I will not let these technical aspects hamper my review.

Julie Estelle plays our main character, and as she moves into a boarding house near a cemetery, the young woman becomes the medium to a pontianak, or kuntilanak, and hell follows with. The beginning and middle portions of the film are a bit dull, as far as I was concerned. The setting was on par with what I’d hope to expect; a spooky boarding house near a cemetery is just what the doctor called for. And our main actress, Estelle, is a very attractive young woman. But it takes 45 minutes or so for the movie to really pick up. And when it does, it’s not exactly amazing.

For every cool, if not dated, jump scene the movie presents, it also brings with them elements I wasn’t fond of, such as the fact our main character herself has (rudimentary) control of the aforementioned kuntilanak. Also, there’s a Satanist element thrown in also, which, even with the ending sequence, didn’t do much for me.

Lastly, as far as negatives go, the last split second of the film was a jump scare, which has always annoyed me. Still, it’s not all bad. Many of the scenes with the kuntilanak were suspenseful, and there were plenty of frightening sequences to keep you happy (past the first 45 minutes, that is). The ending was a decent one, though not wholly unsurprising. Kuntilanak wasn’t an overly spectacular film, but it held up well given its deficits.

If most Indonesian horror films came out like this, even with my rating not being amazing, it’d still indeed be something to applaud. On a quick side note, there are two sequels to this film, 2007 and 2008 respectively, and while I don’t know how they compare to this one, I do know that Estelle appears in those also. As for this one, though, it’s not a great movie, but a decent one, somewhere around average.

6.5/10

The Snow Creature (1954)

The Snow Creature

Directed by W. Lee Wilder [Other horror films: Phantom from Space (1953), Killers from Space (1954), Fright (1956), The Man Without a Body (1957)]

The Snow Creature’s an overly tedious film, partially because of the documentary-feel it has for the first half, and the stale nature of the second half. Though it’s just under 71 minutes, I couldn’t really help but feel bored with the plodding story. It might have had been a decent movie with a higher budget, or a different direction, but as it stands, it’s just not that good. Even toward the end, when police were scouring the sewers, I felt absolutely no dread. The whole movie felt, for the most part, pretty soulless. The Snow Creature’s dull and tedious. Had it been slightly better made, it’s possible it could have possessed a certain charm to it, but as it was, it really isn’t anything to remember fondly.

4.5/10

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Wiene [Other horror films: Furcht (1917), Genuine (1920), Orlacs Hände (1924)]

This film, generally known as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, is a true classic of horror cinema. True, silent films can at times be hard to get into – I perfectly understand that. And this movie’s not perfect.

But here’s what it does have: 1) An interesting plot, which brings to mind films such as Murders in the Rue Morgue, 2) Impressionist set pieces, which look somewhat tacky, but also pretty cool from today’s perspective. 3) You have some good actors, especially Werner Krauss (who plays a fantastic Caligari) and Hans Heinrich von Twardowski (who looked surprisingly like Matt Smith’s incarnation of The Doctor). 4) Lastly, you, believe it or not, have some plot twists, which come as a pleasant surprise, especially from a movie this old.

Germany used to be one of the most prolific and well-regarded countries insofar as producing horror films at the time (this film, Nosferatu from 1922 and Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam from 1920, are the three pillars of horror in the early 1920’s, as far as I’m concerned). Many of the existing prints out there are pretty bad – blurry, scratched up, what-have-you, but I found a really clean print, in it’s natural German with English subtitles. Only problem is it had no score. Oh well, you can’t have everything. A very good movie, and definitely one of the better silent horror films out there.

8/10

My Little Eye (2002)

My Little Eye

Directed by Marc Evans [Other horror films: Trauma (2004)]

Maybe back in 2002, this movie was fresh, but this is the second time I’ve seen it, and still, it doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Horror movies based off reality television can often be risky – you get a lot of bad movies, such as Reality Check (2002) and Cruel World (2005). This isn’t nearly as bad as those two, but it is very average.

Plot twists you see coming a mile away. Atrocious early 2000’s techno music played incessantly toward the end. Unnecessary slow motion scenes. Heck, I don’t even think the conclusion is all that satisfying.

There are some good parts, though – some of the characters are bearable, and one of the kills (though annoyingly done in night vision view) was sort of cool. Overall, though, while My Little Eye is, by some people, called a gem of the time (which may be true), this is the second time I’ve been disappointed by it, and I don’t anticipate that to change with a third viewing.

6/10

Jurassic Attack (2013)

Directed by Anthony Fankhauser [Other horror films: Tsunami Beach Club (2008), 8213: Gacy House (2010), Shadow People (2011)]

This is a very generic film about military men getting trapped in a lost world – a crater in which dinosaurs exist still.

Truth be told, I’ve not much to say about this. The CGI dinosaurs were some of the worst I’ve seen. The CGI blood was even more cringe worthy. Acting and story was nothing worth writing home about whatsoever. Lastly, most of the characters were thoroughly unlikable – in fact, I’m hard-pressed coming up with one I even sort of liked, and there weren’t that many characters in the movie to begin with.

Jurassic Attack can be fun at times – I mean, seeing terribly made CGI dinosaurs chase after terrible actors, how can you not have fun, especially with alcohol and weed? If I had to describe it in a short phrase, though, I’d simply call it overly generic. And seeing it twice was definitely too much.

4/10

Ghosts Don’t Exist (2010)

Ghosts Don't Exist

Directed by Eric Espejo [Other horror films: N/A]

This surprised me. I’ve not heard of this film before I watched it – it’s one of those post-2005 horror films that slipped through my fingers. Which makes sense, really – supernatural movies, especially ghost films, have never been my favorite. But Ghosts Don’t Exist was a pretty decent, if not a bit generic, movie.

Acting was okay all around – nothing too special. I did rather enjoy Josh Davidson’s character (a rather arrogant skeptic), and the lead, an emotionally-unstable ghost hunter, was also well-played by Phillip Roebuck. The story, like I alluded to earlier, isn’t overly original: it comes across as a ghost story, but some elements certainly make us question if everything is as it seems. About three-fourths into the film, actually, a plot twist rears it’s head, and I have to admit, I rather liked it. It was reminiscent of a 2004 Japanese film I rather enjoy, truth be told.

I liked the movie before the twist came about, but afterwards, it just got better. Problematically, though, the movie runs for an hour and 40 minutes, which, while was mostly okay, still seemed a bit lengthy. Ten to fifteen minutes could have been cut out, and we’d probably still be fine. Regardless, while generic in some ways, the last ten-ish minutes were rather atypical – I certainly didn’t see it coming, especially from a modern horror film. Ghosts Don’t Exist isn’t amazing, but it did surprise me, and I liked it well enough.

7.5/10

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Birdemic Shock and Terror

Directed by James Nguyen [Other horror films: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)]

I’ve not seen this film before, but I’ve long heard it was a doozy, and boy, is it ever.

I won’t go into all that’s wrong about this movie. The meandering first half, focusing on a boring individuals’ romantic life for the first 48 minutes. The clearly computer-animated birds, and the fact that they somehow have the ability to dive bomb into buildings and blow up. The stilted acting and atrocious dialogue. The minute-long scene of people clapping. The stock music on repeat. The prolonged ending. About everything that could go wrong in a movie went wrong here.

I’ll say one positive thing about this movie: the actress who played Natalie, Whitney Moore, was pretty attractive. She couldn’t act worth shit, but she did do far better than Alan Bagh, who gave one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a while. And the constant talking about going green, and solar panels, and preventing global warming. Obviously, I’m all for these things, but come on, tone it down. This movie is not helping the case to go green whatsoever.

Aside from the pretty Moore, this movie is an embarrassment. Definitely a movie to watch with a bunch of friends while drunk or high, but that’s about it. Still, as bad as it is, you will definitely be amused, which is why it’s not getting a lower rating.

3/10

Cathy’s Curse (1977)

Cathy's Curse

Directed by Eddy Matalon [Other horror films: N/A]

First thing’s first – this is a very low-quality transfer that I watched. I’ve heard better quality versions of this film exists, though they’re in French without subtitles. *Shrugs*. So this is a pretty bad print, and if you’ve seen the most common version of Cathy’s Curse out there (one released on Mill Creek Entertainment’s Creepy Classics), I’m sure you’d agree.

In a way, though, I think it brings the movie additional charm. I’ve never been to a drive-in, but I can imagine this is the exact type of movie that would be great to watch at one, and while the quality has faltered, it’s a pretty fun romp.

Cathy’s Curse is one-part The Bad Seed, one-part Burnt Offerings, and one-part The Omen – in it, a little girl is possessed by her father’s deceased sister, and one by one, people around her start dying or going mad. All things considered, it’s a pretty simple film.

Three things about it stand out, though: Firstly, the music has a charming quality to it. Sometimes eerie, sometimes not, the music stood out and enhanced some of the scenes. The acting too was noticeable. It wasn’t always great – Beverly Murray sometimes went a bit overboard portraying the panic-stricken mother. But both Alan Scarfe and Roy Witham did pretty decent jobs (despite Witham only having been in three other films). And lastly, you had some occasionally creepy scenes (along with, of course, some rather ridiculous scenes, but that’s half the fun).

Some of the quotes are pretty classy too – at the beginning, a father tells her daughter “Your mother’s a bitch – she’ll pay for what she did to you.” About halfway through the film, a drunk Roy Witham (playing the groundskeeper as a kindly older man) and gleeful Cathy scare a medium away from the house, shouting, “Get out you old bitch,” and calling her a “fat dried-up whore.” The delivery of these lines were excellent, in my ever-humble opinion.

Cathy’s Curse can at times be a bit of a mess, that much I can say. But I did enjoy it more this time around as opposed to the first time I saw the film, and really, it’s not all that terrible. It doesn’t really drag on, it’s amusing, and is undeniably a product of the 70’s – what more could you want?

7/10

Earth vs the Spider (1958)

Earth vs the Spider

Directed by Bert I. Gordon [Other horror films: Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Tormented (1960), Picture Mommy Dead (1966), Necromancy (1972), The Food of the Gods (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977), Burned at the Stake (1982), Satan’s Princess (1989), Secrets of a Psychopath (2015)]

This is one of those movies that isn’t overly great, but I can’t help but enjoy. Starts off somewhat similarly to The Blob (also from 1958), in which two teens try to convince the authorities of a giant spider residing in a cave on the outskirts of town. And once they see it, they believe.

In a scene somewhat like the cave scene from Night of the Lepus (1972), authorities witness the spider and gas the caves. Of course, the fun doesn’t end there. We have a groovy scene where, as a band is playing some early rock ‘n roll, the unconscious (everyone thought it was dead) spider wakes up, and strikes horror into both the students playing music and the town proper.

The movie, as a whole, is moderately unremarkable, really, especially considering the budget and effects of Tarantula (1955) were higher. Personally, I think this one has more spirit, though. Only problem I have, aside from some rather fake-looking webs, is one of the characters, Mike, comes across as an asshole half the time. Other than that, this is some solid fun, and even stands up upon a rewatch. One of the better creature features of the time, despite others’ claims to the contrary.

7.5/10

Idle Hands (1999)

Idle Hands

Directed by Rodman Flender [Other horror films: The Unborn (1991), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Nature of the Beast (2007), Eat Brains Love (2019)]

Idle Hands is one of those movies I caught when I was quite young, so though it’s not my usual style of horror-comedy, I can’t help but feel a tug of nostalgia when revisiting this one. That said, I do think the silliness could have been notched down, and while aspects are decent, I’d be lying if I said I thought the movie was good.

There are so few killer hand movies that, at the very least, they had an interesting premise going into the film. Off the top of my head, The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) and The Hand (1981) are the only two similar movies that come to mind, so I do give props for coming up with something different.

I also give props to the strong cast. Devon Sawa (later in Final Destination) did a great job as the lead, Seth Green and Elden Henson (who I retroactively recognized immediately from the NetFlix Daredevil series, where he played Foggy Nelson) were both pretty good, and Jessica Alba looked quite the angel at times. Some of the performances from Green and Henson (and to be fair, many of those in the movie) were a bit goofy, but that’s more the style of comedy this was going for as opposed to their faults.

As far as the special effects went, I will say they were impressive. There’s a decidedly disgusting scene where the hand was thrown into a microwave, and as it bakes, blood bursts from the fingertips, which was gruesome. The effects behind the hand mostly look good – sharpening the fingers with an electric pencil sharpener even gave a fun and deadly look to the appendage.

Another thing worth mentioning is the strong opening. While much of the time spent with Anton (Sawa’s character) was more on the generic side, we open seeing his parents get killed by a mysterious figure. The suspense isn’t anything overly impressive, but it does have a darker tone than the rest of the movie, and so I definitely appreciated that.

My biggest problem with Idle Hands, and this has been my biggest problem ever since I was a kid, is that sometimes the comedy is just too silly. Some characters return from the dead and go on silly side-quests (which include eating burritos after duct-taping a decapitated head back onto a body) and eventually become guardian angels. It’s just too ridiculous for me, and I don’t care for that aspect of this whatsoever.

If that is your type of humor, though, then I don’t doubt you could do worse than Idle Hands. The performances and story are surprisingly solid, and though at times it might feel like you’re watching a stoner teen comedy as opposed to a particularly terrifying movie, you can have an okay time with this. It’s not my preference, and I do find it below average, but at the end of the day, this horror-comedy hybrid is serviceable.

6/10