Village of the Damned (1960)

Directed by Wolf Rilla [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a classic that I’ve never loved. Now to be honest, “never” entails a whole of now two full viewings, but that aside, the story isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s not the movie’s fault – I also didn’t much care for The Gamma People (1956) for similar reasons. That said, I maybe enjoyed the film a bit more this time around, but it’s still not a movie that I’d consider a go-to for the 1960’s.

The first twenty minutes are all on point, though, when a mysterious blackout occurs affecting everyone in a small village (and by blackout, I mean everyone blacks out, not that there’s some concerns of an electrical nature) and in a sequence reminiscence of the 1994 The Stand mini-series, we see multiple downed people which was pretty ominous. Once they come to, all of the women who were able were pregnant, and here’s where my interest waned.

I don’t know what the state of abortions were in the United Kingdom in 1960. I know that in 1967, abortions became legal, so if they had just been more progressively-minded, there may not have been a problem here at all. Surely the women who hadn’t even have had sex would have probably taken care of the problem, and many of the other women too, who had husbands that thought they were cheating on them, would have also terminated the pregnancies.

Regardless, it was a backwards time then, and the children are born, and they’re all Aryan. There are some interesting conversations about other places in the world where this has happened, along with the aftermath, but a group of emotionless kids with psychic powers isn’t really my idea of a fun time.

It’s not something that anyone in the cast (George Sanders, Michael Gwynn, or Barbara Shelley) could have fixed, because they all did fine (especially Sanders and Martin Stephens, who played one of the kids, and who was also in The Innocents), and I even found the ending to be decent (although not altogether surprising), but it’s a well-made movie with a  story I don’t love, and that’s something that I can’t lie about.

Village of the Damned is a decent movie. It looks nice, there are some good actors in it, and there are occasionally some decent scenes here. It’s also not all that long, even if you are not having the best time with it. For classic horror, it’s a lesser movie for me, but it’s still around average prolly.

7/10

Maniac (1963)

Directed by Michael Carreras [Other horror films: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)]

I can’t say that this Hammer film is exceptionally good, because it’s not. By no means a bad movie, Maniac has a pretty decent story and a somewhat stellar ending. Even the method of murder is interesting (when it pops up), but all of that said, I don’t know if it’ll end up being all that memorable.

One thing that doesn’t necessarily bother me, but does make me question the sanity of Kerwin Matthews’ character, is when he falls for Nadia Gray over Liliane Brousse. Nothing against Gray, who certainly wasn’t unbecoming, but Brousse looked quite fantastic throughout, but I guess that the heart wants what the hearts wants.

Otherwise, it’s a solid story, and has a pretty fair conclusion, the likes which somewhat reminded me of the 1972 mystery-horror film Endless Night (though I still think Endless Night has a better finale), though I do think there was a change or two this movie could have made to make the ending even better. That said, it was a solid ending still for what they cobbled together.

I’m not familiar with any of the names in the cast – Kerwin Matthews (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf being one of his few other horror roles) was pretty decent, had a good look to him, and though I can’t say I care for his romantic choice, still seemed a solid guy. Nadia Gray didn’t do poorly, but I never thought much of her character, especially in the beginning when she was obviously trying to pull Matthews’ attention away from Brousse’s character. And as for Liliana Brousse (who was also in Hammer’s Paranoiac, which came out earlier in 1963), she was quite cute and I felt for her throughout. Donald Houston (A Study in Terror) was appropriately threatening.

While I do wish that Maniac had a bit more frights in it than it ultimately ended up having, I think the suspense was decent enough for what they had, and overall, it’s one of the lesser-known Hammer films that might be worth checking out. I have to admit, though, that others they made around this time, such as Paranoiac, were superior.

7/10

Trog (1970)

Directed by Freddie Francis [Other horror films: The Brain (1962), The Day of the Triffids (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1966), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970), Gebissen wird nur nachts – das Happening der Vampire (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Son of Dracula (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), Craze (1974), Legend of the Werewolf (1975), The Ghoul (1975), The Doctor and the Devils (1985), Dark Tower (1989)]

A frustrating movie that occasionally has the sense of potential, Trog is, more than anything, a somewhat dry drama with a few horror portions sprinkled in (mainly at the beginning and the end), but it’s not enough to keep my interest, especially since I have to suffer through the idiocy of anti-scientific sentiments from multiple characters (one of them a scientist himself, which is just insulting).

The characters were one of the more frustrating things about the film, to be sure. I’m not saying that the story didn’t have problems, because it certainly did (once the troglodyte got to the research center, I certainly felt the movie went into a bit of a lull despite some moderately interesting looks at how scientists would react at such a discovery), but many of the characters (pretty much everyone who wasn’t either a scientist or Jack May) were entirely against the concept of keeping the discovered troglodyte for research, which really grinded my gears.

Of course, the worst of these characters was played by Michael Gough (who was in plenty of horror films in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, from The Skull and Curse of the Crimson Alter to The Legend of Hell House and Satan’s Slave), who did a good job at playing a detestable, anti-scientific individual. That guy was a bigger danger than 80 troglodytes ever could have been, and almost every death and ounce of destruction caused by the troglodyte could be traced back to his character’s idiocy.

And what’s worse is that, most of the community, and the police, seem to blame the scientists more, specifically Joan Crawford’s character. Crawford (who was in the fantastic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? nearly ten years previously) was great here, playing a scientist who was actually interested in doing all she could to both benefit the Trog (as I’ll call it from now on) and the scientific community. She had sound reasons for everything she was doing, and even instilled that ethic into her daughter, played by Kim Braden. She was a great character, and it’s just a shame that people blamed her for the troubles caused almost exclusively by the anti-science bigots in the film.

To be clear, the story here, even without the characters, wasn’t great. I think the opening was pretty solid (three guys running amok of the Trog while cave-diving – it had a solid, claustrophobic feel to it), and the Trog’s rampage at the end was okay (it would have been better if it was actually a wild animal as opposed to a creature that just felt threatened), but most of the film follows Crawford’s character as she tries to ramp up support for keeping the Trog alive and try to train the Trog to do simple tasks (learning how to use toys, catch balls, understand colors, that type of thing).

The design for the troglodyte was somewhat laughable, and I think that, along with it’s admittedly dry plot, is a lot of the reason this has such a poor reputation. There’s also that ridiculous four-minute flashback that the troglodyte has, which uses claymation, I believe, and was overly tedious.

I didn’t really think that Trog would be a movie I’d end up liking, and it wasn’t. I wish there was more rampage here and less science, and more likable characters than just Crawford and Braden, but for the most part, this is a dry British film that, while the color looks nice, doesn’t have near enough to really hold interest for a long period of time.

4.5/10

The Mummy (1959)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

Confession time – I’m a big fan of Universal horror films, and in fact, it’s probably the fact that I was largely raised on movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man that I’m a horror fan today, and a lover still of the Universal classics.

I never could get into the Mummy, though, and to this day, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’ve sat through the whole thing without losing either my focus or consciousness.

Luckily, Hammer came around 20-some years later and gave us a new version, and it’s one I’ve seen a couple of times now and find quite a bit more palatable. Now, to be fair to the 1932 version, I don’t think there are any scenes in Hammer’s rendition that are near as classic or memorable as the opening to Universal’s story (the ‘he went for a little walk’ scene, with that slow, dragging hand, always kicked things into gears that just couldn’t be sustained), but overall, I find the Hammer version an easier movie to get into and enjoy.

Definitely the cast has to do with that. Peter Cushing is one of my favorite classic horror actors (Vincent Price is preferred, but Cushing is a close second), having starred in some damn fantastic movies such as Horror Express, Dracula (1958), The Flesh and the Fiends, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskerville, and The Abominable Snowman, and he’s no less great here. I love how, despite his character’s leg injury, he’s able to get some decent action in toward the end, and his back-and-forth with George Pastell’s character near the conclusion was top-notch stuff.

Pastell isn’t an actor I’m widely familiar with, but I really liked him here. Obviously, Christopher Lee played the titular Mummy (doing so much like how Karloff played Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1931 classic), and while his more muscular design wasn’t quite as good, or as classic, as the original version, I loved how he just burst through doors and went to town on people. Definitely a quicker-moving and more action-packed mummy, and I can’t complain about that.

Some aspects, or perhaps better said, the only aspect of Yvonne Furneaux’s character seemed to come in a bit late into the story, and it felt somewhat cliché (and in fact, it was done before in previous Universal Mummy movies), but it still led to some quality scenes. Eddie Byrne was solid too as an inspector who was actually open to the possibility of a mummy walking around and committing murders, so kudos to him.

There is a 13-minute flashback about halfway through the film that does drag a little (most of this is the history of the mummy and Egyptian stuff that you can find in every mummy horror film), mostly during the funeral procession lineup, but it’s the only time in the film we can really see Christopher Lee outside the decaying bandages, so it comes with it’s pros.

Being a Hammer film, the color here does help bring the film more to life, and the film, at least to me, rarely feels as dry as my experiences with the 1932 version. After seeing this twice, I still enjoy it, and while it’s not quite as good as Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein or Horror of Dracula, it is perhaps one of the few Hammer films that, to me, outdoes the original Universal counterpart.

7.5/10

An American Haunting (2005)

Directed by Courtney Solomon [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m somewhat of two minds about this one. I certainly like some of the scenes in the film, and I don’t object to that much of the movie, but the finale didn’t really feel right to me, and the ending scene itself struck me as just overly dramatic (here’s a hint: instead of screaming at a moving car, just call the police to stop the car. It’ll probably work better, at least if you’re white).

Before I go further, I should explain that there are two versions of this film, a PG-13 version and an unrated version. I didn’t know this before hand, but thankfully, it turns out I watched the unrated version, which was about eight minutes longer. I saw this film once before, and I can’t recall if what I watched then was also the unrated version, or perhaps the PG-13 version, but either way, what I thought about the movie the first time around is about what I think this time around.

I don’t hold it against the film for looking for an explanation that might be a little more memorable than your average supernatural movie, but I have to say, even with the tiny hints and clues that something else was afoot, it felt, at least to me, that the ending came out of nowhere. Also, while I believe that the victim of such a circumstance might be forced to forget about the incident, others who happen to just walk into such a situation strike me as not being able to forget so quickly. It just felt odd, especially when it seems that the entity, whatever it was, set out to harm and persistently bother both Donald Sutherland’s and Rachel Hurd-Wood’s characters.

Some years ago, I watched a Japanese film known as Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment, and it was mostly a decent little Asian horror film. That was, until the ending, which threw in a plot twist that, as far as I could tell, was basically never hinted at once throughout the previous hour and a half, and it just felt like it was thrown in to shock people. Here, there are hints given, but I don’t know if they’re too subtle or maybe not given enough, but it just didn’t really feel like an earned finale to me.

I’ve only seen Sutherland in a handful of movies (the most recent ones being the 2004 Salem’s Lot mini-series and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job), but I think he’s pretty okay here. I think that if the story had been changed up a little, his character could have been a lot better, but hey, he’s still a good actor. Rachel Hurd-Wood is solid too, though she doesn’t necessarily have a high amount of personal agency in the movie. Sissy Spacek (most famous now and forever for Carrie) was fine here, as was James D’Arcy (who played Jarvis in the ill-fated Agent Carter series), but neither one blew the top off the house.

Many of the haunting scenes themselves are decent, though few are stellar. Much of it is the being-held-down-by-an-unseen-entity variety, but that carriage scene was pretty solid from beginning to end. Also, I think Hurd-Wood’s interactions with the spirit at school were all enjoyable, though I wish the spirit had done more to help her than to terrify her, but then again, who am I to criticize how a spirit operates?

Once all is said and done, and we get past that ending which still feels off, An American Haunting is an okay movie, and certainly more well-made than some other versions of the story (such as the low-budget 2004 Bell Witch Haunting), but I don’t think there’s enough here for me to call it a good movie, even with the unrated version at my disposal, and overall, while I think there’s some good things here, ultimately it’s below average.

6/10

Eye of the Devil (1966)

Directed by J. Lee Thompson [Other horror films: The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), Happy Birthday to Me (1981)]

So I didn’t really know what to expect going into this one, and to be entirely honest, I wasn’t really anticipating that I’d enjoy it, which goes to show (not that this needs any additional examples) of how wrong I can be.

Eye of the Devil is far from your typical Satanist movie, even for the time period. I was expecting something along the lines of The Devil Rides Out (1968), which seemed a fair basis of comparison since that’s also a British Satanist film from the latter half of the 1960’s, but again, I was far, far mistaken.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Eye of the Devil’s horror is subtle, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s far more uneasiness and unsettling situations than there is outright horror. Certainly there are some tense scenes (two of my favorites being the children playing on the roof and the main actress being chased through the woods by robed cultists), and I think they work beautifully in the movie, but it’s not a thrill-ride from beginning to end.

Another somewhat surprising aspect about this film is the fact it’s in black-and-white. By the mid-1960’s, most movies had made the full transition over to color (Night of the Living Dead being the most famous exception, but other cases of black-and-white movies post-1965 include Hour of the Wolf, Blood Bath, Ghosts of Hanley House, The Living Skeleton, Confessions of a Psycho Cat, Zinda Laash, and A Thousand Pleasures), so the fact they filmed this in black-and-white was a bit of a surprise. That said, I do think it worked wonderfully with the story (especially during the scene when Deborah Kerr is being chased by the cultists).

Kerr (The Innocents) here is great in her leading role, as she is well aware something sinister is going on around the castle and surrounding village, but she can’t ascertain as to exactly what it is (and it doesn’t help when everyone who knows something has exactly zero intention on letting her in on it). Playing her husband, David Niven (who has an extraordinarily familiar face, but aside from the murder mystery spoof Murder by Death, I haven’t seen anything else with him it in) does a great job too, especially as his somewhat tragic tale unfolds. I often wonder if he is seeking, or the one being sought.

Of most interest to me, of course, is Donald Pleasence (most famously Halloween, though he also really stood out in 1960’s The Flesh and the Fiends), who played a priest here. He was pretty much as you’d expect, speaking in soft tones (it’s hard for me to even hear him speak without immediately thinking about The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water), so that was fun. David Hemmings isn’t a name I know, but he was also great (and that scene where he pops up blowing that horn just randomly amusing), and brought a fantastically tense character. Others who stand out here include Sharon Tate (yes, that Sharon Tate), Edward Mulhare, and Flora Robson.

What really sets Eye of the Devil apart from many of it’s contemporaries is the atypical cinematography, some of which is really quite smashing, as my homeboi Nigel would say (90’s kids what’s up!). Seriously, some of the camera-work here is fantastic, and much before it’s time. Even if the story isn’t up your alley (and it should be, because there’s some solid uncertainty and a great feeling of dread of the unknown), you should probably watch this just to see how it was filmed.

Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t really expect to like this film, but I was quite mistaken. I’ve not honestly seen that many 1960’s horror (at most recent count, only about 148 total films for the decade), but I can say that I think Eye of the Devil would be in my personal top 20 list for the decade, and it’s a movie I’m sorry I waited so long to see.

8.5/10

Stepfather II (1989)

Directed by Jeff Burr [Other horror films: The Offspring (1987), Stepfather II (1989), Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993), Puppet Master 4 (1993), Puppet Master 5 (1994), Night of the Scarecrow (1995), The Werewolf Reborn! (1998), Phantom Town (1999), Straight Into Darkness (2004), Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn! (2005), Devil’s Den (2006), Mil Mascaras vs. Aztec Mummy (2007), Resurrection (2010), Puppet Master: Blitzkrieg Massacre (2018)]

While not near as good as the first movie (which I have heaped praise upon, and will continue to do so), Stepfather II is still a solid film worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of the first one.

Terry O’Quinn puts in another great performance as the Stepfather, and again, while his scenes were stronger in the first movie, he does a very good job here. He just nails it, from that small scene where he’s listening to the snap-crackle-pop of the Rice Krispies to his musing about the importance of tradition (“If more people stuck with tradition, there’d probably be a lot happier people and a lot fewer divorces”).

I mentioned this in my review for the first film, but I’ll do it again – I find the character of the Stepfather so damn interesting. His old-fashioned view on the world, his desire for the perfect family, but at the same time, how easily he dispatches those who disappoint him and optimistically moves on, hoping to finally find that perfect home, family and all. His origins are hinted at a bit in this one, with him mentioning his father, but we still don’t get that much, which I’m actually fine with. He’s great as is, and O’Quinn really brings him to life. If only it weren’t for that whistling and wine…

Meg Foster is also good here, as is the guy playing her son, Jonathan Brandis, but neither one is quite as captivating as Jill Schoelen (who appeared in flashback form at the beginning, on a side-note). I didn’t notice until just now, amazingly, but Brandis played young Bill Denbrough in the It mini-series. Looking at him now, it’s not clear how I missed it, but there you go. Meg Foster is certainly solid, but again, I wasn’t quite as engaged with her character.

The only other performance to mention is Caroline Williams, who played Stretch in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. She was one of the few things I liked in that movie, and she was similarly pretty enjoyable here, though I probably would have approached the situation she found herself in somewhat differently.

Much like the first movie, the kills here aren’t great. A character getting strangled had some suspense to it, to be sure, and seeing this one guy get pummeled to death was oddly satisfying, but kills were never the strong points for these movies. Perhaps O’Quinn’s breakout of the mental institution was the best sequence, but I digress. The lack of memorable kills never really bothered me with the first film, and it doesn’t bother me now. I would say the overall story, though, isn’t quite as engaging, partially because of the characters.

Stepfather II isn’t near as good as the first movie, but then again, few movies are. This is still a surprisingly solid sequel, and despite it not being great, it’s an enjoyable watch, and if you enjoyed the first one, I can’t imagine this coming across as a big let-down.

7.5/10

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo [Other horror films: Intruders (2011)]

When I revisited 28 Days Later…, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Revisiting this one didn’t have the same outcome, alas. Not that 28 Weeks Later is terrible or anything, but I just never found it in me throughout the film to get too excited. Some interesting ideas, and I’ll touch on those, but overall, it’s almost bland in comparison to the first movie.

I’ll give it to the main cast, though, who are all decent (save for perhaps Robert Carlyle). Rose Byrne (Insidious) was decently fine, though I admit that it would have been nice to learn maybe a little more about her. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) may have made some questionable decisions, but I rather enjoyed his character, and I personally don’t have a problem with him going AWOL. What moral person wouldn’t in his situation? Imogen Poots wasn’t really special, but despite her atrocious decisions, I thought she had more heart than Mackintosh Muggleton, who played her younger brother.

The story, though, was somewhat hard for me to get into. I don’t really mind the asymptomatic idea, but the fact that they (military and scientists both) left her entirely unguarded is utterly laughable. And when they’re gathering up all the civilians into a “safe area,” that “safe area” has more than one exit, and one of the exits isn’t guarded, so, well, infected individuals get in, and all hell breaks loose.

Past that point, it’s entirely on the military what happens to the population, as small as it was, in London. When the snipers get orders to start shooting everyone, infected or otherwise, it may be the logical choice, but you can’t fault anyone getting shot at for attempting to escape in any way possible. At that point, as far as I’m concerned, the military screwed up, and void all right to authority over anyone on the ground.

I mean, really, I’ve never served a day in uniform, and never would, if given the choice, but apparently I’m more intelligent than the commanders in this situation. Collecting all the civilians into one location in order to keep them safe is fine. It’s a good idea. Having multiple exits is, of course, a good idea. But why does only one of the exits have guards? With that easily avoidable mistake, they infected pretty much the world (because there’s no way a second outbreak isn’t reaching mainland Europe).

When there’s a lot of questionable set-up before the primary action, it becomes hard to really get too invested. Sure, I was rooting for Renner’s character when he left his sniping of innocent people and instead went to help them escape, but the whole situation was ridiculous to begin with, and realistically, I don’t think it’d ever happen.

Here’s another thing –  Robert Carlyle’s character is a caretaker of one of the buildings. Pretty much, he keeps things running smoothly. That’s all fine and well. His key-card grants him access to any place in the building, which makes sense. The problem is it also grants him access to purely military installations. Why? Why not just allow him access to his job locations, and restrict access to, you know, parameters outside of his employment?

An asymptomatic woman is found. She’s infected, but is still mostly normal. She’s not crazy, nor does she desire to eat flesh. Carlyle’s character is her husband. Because his key-card was idiotically keyed, and because the woman wasn’t guarded, Carlyle’s character was able to get to her, kiss her, and start the infection up again.

I don’t blame Carlyle’s character at all. If your wife was found, of course you’d want to get to her. Who can blame him for that? It’s entirely possible he didn’t even know she was infected, because I don’t believe he was told. If his key-card hadn’t granted him access to her, none of this would have ever happened.

This is what I’m talking about. It’s not the character’s faults, as far as I’m concerned. Even the military probably weren’t the ones who designed the architecture of the facility, nor the ones who came up with the emergency plans in case of a new outbreak. Because of the foolishness that went into these aspects, though, it just comes across as pretty bad.

28 Weeks Later is still a thrilling and decent zombie film, make no mistake. There’s some pretty cool scenes (though one of the most-talked about sequences, being the helicopter one, was just too much), and of course the budget here came to play. The story itself, though, was faulty, and that can’t just be excused, especially after how spectacular the first movie was.

6.5/10

Eden Lake (2008)

Directed by James Watkins [Other horror films: The Woman in Black (2012)]

The thing about Eden Lake is that it’s a well-made movie with an interesting premise, but it’s utterly demoralizing. It’s not a happy movie, and it’s not something you walk away from without being partially disturbed. That makes for a good movie, but not necessarily a good time.

Like I said, though, it’s certainly well-made. The rising tension and growing escalation between the main characters and a bunch of thug kids is certainly on point. What makes it slightly more interesting is that it’s a scenario that’s somewhat thought provoking in spite of the brutality. Much of this is due to Kelly Reilly’s character being a teacher, and the situation she and Michael Fassbender find themselves in, and she has to defend herself, going on the offensive, against the kids.

And speaking of which, I want to speak a bit on Fassbender’s character. He didn’t seem to have a problem with the kids bullying another kid early in the film. Why? It’s just ‘boys being boys.’ When it personally impacts him and his enjoyment of the day, though, he takes issue, because of course he does.

I don’t mind him asking the kids to turn the music down. I don’t mind him looking out for the kids in town once they cause one of his tires to deflate. But entering another person’s house without permission in order to confront them? Dawg, let it go. But he didn’t, and after his car was stolen, well, we see what happens. Really, past that point, both he and his girlfriend were screwed.

Eden Lake doesn’t take long to get brutal. There’s a bit of build-up, sure, but once the damn breaks, it breaks hard. Some painful scenes throughout assault the two protagonists, from very painful cuts from a box-cutter to someone’s foot being impaled by a rather sharp stick. When said character is pushing that stick out, I cringed. Likewise, when one badly injured character is struggling to keep consciousness, knowing that they are likely to die no matter how quickly help can be brought, it’s pretty dismal.

As is the movie as a whole, to be fair. Like I said, it’s a well-made film, but this is not an enjoyable romp. It’s dark and depressing, and very often more distressing than not. Seemingly good characters turn out to be a bit more ambiguous, and those who move toward a more positive side are killed in generally terrible ways.

To put it as simply as possible, if you had a Baby Blues and Eden Lake double feature, invest in some therapy afterward in order to get through the depression, as both of these are gloomy as all hell.

Certainly, though, Eden Lake is worth seeing. It’s a simple premise, but it’s done fantastically, and as much as a downer portions can be (such as that ending, which just leaves you a mixture of angry and discontent), it’s a great film, and probably one of the better British films in recent times.

8/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Eden Lake. It’s dope, yo.

There’s Something in the Shadows (2021)

Directed by John Williams [Other horror films: The Mothertown (2014), The Slayers (2015), Crispy’s Curse (2017)]

I’m not unsympathetic toward the plight of found footage movies. Personally, I feel it’s an issue of oversaturation that makes it hard to really stand out. But there are certain pet peeves I have when it comes to this style of movie-making, and There’s Something in the Shadows pretty much check marks everyone.

First of all, I quote:

“On the 16th of September 2020, amatuer Paranormal investigation team ‘Theres Something in the shadows’ set off to the Scottish highlands to record the third episode of the popular YouTube series. / After a couple of unusual live social media feeds from the group leader Jon Farmer, concerns were raised. This would be the last time any of the group members would be seen alive. / In early December, several cameras were found by a Group of hikers. Despite not being able to contact any of the group, the footage was considered to be a hoax. The group have not been heard of since that last live broadcast.”

Putting aside some confusing grammar choices (‘the group have’, really?), I probably don’t have to point out that this isn’t true. I don’t know why those who make found footage films insist on these inserts. We know it’s fake. Just start the damn movie. I certainly understand how saying things like ‘the police don’t know what to make of the video’ and ‘this was uploaded to the deep web’ might make people feel there’s additional nuance, but it never did much for me, and personally, it comes across as silly.

Related, late in the movie, the police are contacted, and presumably sent out to look for these lost individuals. Certainly the GPS location they were given was wrong, but it strikes me as odd that the search was apparently given up so quickly, and it took a group of hikers two months later to find the footage (but no blood, I guess, which I also find odd).

I also shouldn’t need to point this out, but I will: nothing supernatural has ever been demonstrated scientifically before. No ghosts, no extraterrestrial beings on earth, no Bigfoot, no sasquatch, no God, no demons, no miracles, nothing. I’ve never seen a show along the lines of Ghost Hunters, but I can imagine it’s the closet thing there is to what Hell would theoretically feel like.

There are many things said in this film that are problematic, and I’ll point out a few, because I’m just in that type of mood.

A character suggests that, after hearing an odd whooping, a Bigfoot may be near (he also suggests perhaps it’s the spirits replying to an earlier action). When asked, “Bigfoot?”, he replies, “Yeah, what else could it be?”

I present to you a logical fallacy. Until such evidence is presented that the whooping is indeed caused by Bigfoot, you cannot presume that the whooping is caused by Bigfoot. Once you have that evidence, then you are welcome to your truth claim.

It’s also said later that if skeptics saw a video of aliens landing and chasing the crew around, they wouldn’t believe it, instead insisting it’s something like CGI or puppets. Certainly I would hope so – no one should believe anything by simply seeing a video – and yet, this seems to be presented by this individual negatively. He also says that until skeptics “see it with their own eyes”, they’ll go on not believing.

As a skeptic, that’s not true. If I saw something with my own eyes that I couldn’t explain, I wouldn’t immediately think “Hey, that’s a supernatural event.” I would think “Hey, that’s unexplained, I wonder what that was.” It should also be said that personal experience wouldn’t be enough, as it could be a hallucination or a trip or something along those lines. What I would need is scientific evidence, and then I would be able to accept that evidence, should it be credible.

I’m taking way too long on this. My point is that shows like what There’s Something in the Shadow are mimicking are beyond ridiculous. Is it possible one of those shows could find evidence of ghosts? Sure, if they’re conducted scientifically, it’s possible. Of course, if they could be demonstrated, they wouldn’t be supernatural, but that’s just semantics, I suppose.

When it comes to this actual movie, things don’t really pick up until the final ten minutes. Sure, we hear what could be footsteps outside of someone’s tent. We hear what could be whooping. We hear what could be screaming. Someone goes missing, but as they’ve done so before during previous episode filming (as stated by the characters), that’s nothing immediately relevant either. But things do pick up toward the end.

It’s because of that fact that I didn’t absolutely despise the film. Look at a movie like Wolfwood – it’s another British found footage film, but in that case, it was way too bogged down when it came to a convoluted story. In this movie’s case, while the story isn’t good, at least it keeps things simple. It’s boring a lot of the time, and I don’t buy the chemistry between the actors (unlike The Land of Blue Lakes), but at least it doesn’t try to be more than it is.

To be honest, I don’t even like harping on this film. It has a beautiful setting at times, being filmed in the United Kingdom (and though the credits don’t say, I imagine this was indeed filmed in Scotland, where the movie takes place), but I can’t stand the characters, their complete lack of scientific mindset (the main character stated that he’d been possessed almost 50 times, and was a self-professed cryptozoologist – yeah, like I can get behind this guy), and even the ending, though it was marginally more entertaining, didn’t really do much at all for me.

Maybe people who enjoy found footage as a whole will get more out of There’s Something in the Shadows than I did. I think there are fantastic found footage films (Hell House LLC, Ghostwatch, hell, even The Blair Witch Project), but this one just didn’t cut it at all for me.

2.5/10