Director – Kevin Tenney
Cast – Candace McKenzie, Lewis Van Bergen, Ivan Gueron, Thomas Wagner, Rosalind Allen, Brittany Alyse Smith, Ron Canada
Release Year – 1996
Reviewed by John of the Dead
If you know me then you know that inanimate horror is one of my absolute favorite horror sub-genres, and that brings me back to a film I rented when I was about 11 years old…Pinocchio’s Revenge. Now 17 years later I am revisiting this “laughable” piece and naturally finding it less enjoyable than it was when I was young and stupider. This experience was a tough one because it takes so darn long for the good stuff to hit the screen, and that will most likely turn off most of its viewers. Pinocchio’s Revenge is not a horrible film in my eyes and it does get a few things right, but there sure are a lot of wrongs.
Defense attorney Jennifer Garrick is doing everything in her legal power to save her client, a serial killer who claims his Pinocchio doll killed his children. She makes the mistake of bringing the doll home, where her daughter takes a liking to Pinocchio and strange accidents begin to happen.
Right from the get-go you will notice that this is a very low budget film, and the lack of budget may have something to do with how slow this story moves. For the extreme majority of the film we are teased with Pinocchio action, never giving us anything good and merely showing us a motionless doll that appears to move on his own offscreen. After 56 minutes of waiting the horror intensifies when Pinocchio finally speaks, and he finally begins to move around a little over an hour into the film. Sometimes I like long development and sometimes I don’t, and in this case I was very disappointed at how it took for the horror to develop. Little was offered to keep the viewer engaged during the long development and while the horror afterwards was decent it never made up for the damage done – especially when you consider the minuscule amount of kills the story provides.
Kevin Tenney’s direction did little to aid the story and his poor execution had a negative effect. The look and feel of the flick is that of a low budget 90s experience, with decent sets, poor acting performances, and sadly…poor execution of everything involving Pinocchio. I really disliked seeing Pinocchio speak without moving his lips. Instead we are forced to endure a cheesy voiceover for his dialogue. Eventually he does begin to move his mouth, via claymation, and that is when things finally picked up. It was cool seeing him move around and torment the Garrick household, but with the lack of kills and short-lived third act the horror does not improve on the rest of the film.
Overall, Pinocchio’s Revenge is a cheesy flick that may interest those who enjoy inanimate horror, but be forewarned that the horror takes way too long to develop and is gone too soon.
Director – Vincenzo Natali
Cast – Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Peter Outerbridge, David Hewlett, Michelle Nolden, Samantha Weinstein, Sarah Manninen, Eleanor Zichy, Peter DaCunha, David Knoll
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was very excited to see Haunter because it comes from a director whose work I have enjoyed, Vincenzo Natali. I was first exposed to Natali’s work when I saw Cube, one of my favorite films, and based on this I was excited to see his take on the supernatural with Haunter. He found success in the medical/sci-fi horror sub-genre with Splice, but could he once again deliver a solid entry in a new sub-genre? For the most part, yes, but Haunter is a film I really wanted to enjoy more and is probably my least favorite of his horror films.
On the day before her 16th birthday in 1986 Lisa and her family were killed in their home under sinister circumstances. Because they are unable to move on they have been repeating this same fateful day for years. So far, only Lisa has “woken up” and realized what is going on, but this never-ending afterlife will soon become a nightmare when she tries to aid a being from another realm and her killer returns to put a stop to it.
I have seen a lot of haunted house films, but I can say that I have never seen one like this. Usually, we see a living person haunted by the dead, but in this case we are provided a dead person who is being haunted by the living. We soon learn the reason behind this “haunting”, and that pretty much brings us to a crossroads. It seems you are either going to enjoy the source of the horror or you will find it a bit cheap, and I leaned towards the latter. When this revelation is revealed it lessened the experience for me because the film was no longer scary in my eyes. Some may beg to differ, and I hope that you do find this scary, but for me it just did not work. When the main antagonist gets involved it does little to improve on the story and in my opinion makes it quite cliché in his execution and mannerisms. What makes this story unique though is everything else BUT the tangible horror. Seeing Lisa’s world turned upside down after living the same day over and over again was an interesting story element I had yet to see. There are reasons behind why she does not just leave the home, and as the film progresses more and more revelations come forth. To be honest this story felt like one aimed at teenagers. Despite its pseudo complexities it felt dumb and aimed at a crowd that wants something “different” but with the appeal of a teen horror flick…and not the good kind.
Vincenzo Natali’s direction is pretty good overall, and he does an especially good job of deliver good atmosphere and chilling sets. From the get-go you have a strong sense of dread prevailing over Abigail, and as the film’s initial scares hit the screen you get this feeling like you are about to witness the first great haunted house flick of 2014 (after a limited release in 2013). Sadly, after these initial scares the story takes over and the positive horror takes a backseat to the “teen” horror I mentioned earlier. From then on out I never found myself scared or nervous and was left with disappointment regarding the horror. We do get some very solid performances from Abigail Breslin and the film’s antagonist actor Stephen McHattie, who provided most of the film’s tension with his haunting demeanor and Lance Henriksen-esque appeal. I’d like to say that Natali did another great job delivering horror to his fans, but the story really held him back this time.
Overall, Haunter is a flick I expected much more from due to it being a Vincenzo Natali film. The bulk of the flick’s problems lie in its story, which starts off well but then gets silly as the runtime increases. This flick does offer some interesting ideas that I have yet to see used in the genre, but with poor writing execution and Natali unable to redeem the experience from these faults this is a flick that could have been much better.
Director – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Cast – Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Oberst Jr., Kurt David Anderson, Skyler Meacham
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was pretty stoked to give this indie flick a watch after passing it over numerous times, and after finally giving it a watch I must say that it was not as enjoyable as I expected it to be. The overall story is an interesting one that I really have not seen the genre take advantage of, but that is about as interesting as the film gets. For a low budget film the direction is solid and the look is good, but in the end Resolution did not hit as hard as it could have.
In an effort to save his best friend Chris from the throes of an extreme methamphetamine addiction, Michael ties him up in an abandoned home and forces a withdrawal, and with terrifying consequences.
It is not often that we see horror films involving drugs, so I found this story to be pretty unique overall because of that. I especially liked the idea of Chris’ forced withdrawal causing the horror as well, as that was a story element I had yet to see in the genre. It does not take long for Michael to show up to the home Chris has been squatting in and force him into what they assume will be a hellish week of his body reacting to the lack of drugs. Soon after arriving they both begin to experience strange occurrences going on around them. They try to find a logical explanation for what is going on but logic is defied more and more as the events become more and more sinister. By the end of the film we finally have a decent idea about what is driving the horror, but in the end we are never really given a full answer. Some may balk at this and others will enjoy the open climax and the discussion that comes with it. I do feel that the story was a bit slow and uneventful for much longer than it should have been. The horror remains a bit subtle because of this until pretty much the last 15 minutes of the film. Had the horror been more prevalent and tangible I think the flick would have fared better, but with this being an independent film it could be that the budget did not allow for it.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s direction was fairly good and they accomplished quite a bit with such a low budget. The atmosphere is good and I enjoyed the locations used in the film. The majority of the flick naturally takes place in one location, the abandoned home, so it was of utmost importance for this set to be an engaging one and it really was. Acting-wise the performances were good enough, although the story did not push Chris to the limits I expected for someone going through withdrawals. There is good tension here and there when the horror shows, and I found this tension somewhat surprising given how tame the majority of the horror is. Good direction will do that though, and I hope to see the directors keep making films and show us what they can do with a bigger budget.
Overall, Resolution is a film I wanted to like more but its story held it back from being a truly solid watch. The horror is OK overall and does not really hit hard until the film’s latter scenes, giving us just enough to get through the bulk of the story but not enough for me to recommend this.
I know I say this every year, but this was a great year for horror. James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence) returned with another classic, as did Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy I & II, Mimic), and the Irish left their mark with three films on this list. Remakes/re-imagings are still a fad and this year produced a few good ones, but I had no idea that 2013 would be as great as it was, forcing me to expand the number of honorable mentions. So here you have it, the top 10 horror movies of 2013, and 10 honorable mentions.
- Horror anthologies have been revived thanks to today’s up and coming directors taking part in V/H/S and The ABCs of Death, and the films continue to improve with V/H/S2. Containing some of the most horrific footage to hit the genre in 2013, namely Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans’ segment “Safe Haven”, this effort improves on its predecessor and gives us 5 solid tales for the viewer to enjoy. Ranging from experimental medical procedures to alien abductions, with a side of zombies and Satanic “cults”, V/H/S2 will leave you smiling. Read my full review for this film here: V/H/S2
- Along with Evil Dead, Maniac was the “other” overly-hyped horror re-imaging hitting the genre, and much like Evil Dead this was a damn good experience worthy of the wait. From the filmmakers behind High Tension, Maniac brings an intense psycho-sexual story to life with crafty cinematography that gives us a literal front-row view of the insanity and the gory kills that come with it. Elijah Wood gives us a character I never thought I’d see him portray, and he does it so well it’s as if he is portraying his true self. Read my full review for this film here: Maniac
8. Evil Dead
- Evil Dead was supposed to be THE remake of the year, and then we learned first-hand that it is not a remake but in fact a sequel to one of the genre’s most terrifying stories. Using gore as its forte, Fede Alvarez’s debut effort literally leaves the ground soaked in blood and unlike most wide release horror films these days, the gore live action and very little CGI is used. This film is hard to watch at times, and I mean that in the best way possible. Read my full review for this film here: Evil Dead
7. The Battery
- This is the film that left viewers in awe. Filmed on $6,000, The Battery gives us one of the greatest film experiences of the year, regardless of genre, and offers so much more than the usual zombie effort. Focusing heavily on the dynamic contrast between its two main protagonists, we are given a character-study that follows two former baseball players and their quest for survival in a post-apocalyptic New England countryside. From great laughs to utter despair, The Battery has it all and does not forget it is a zombie film either. Read my full review for this film here: The Battery
6. John Dies at the End
- John Dies at the End (what an awesome title) is another one of the year’s most hyped films because it marked famed horror director Don Coscarelli’s return after this awesome Bubba Ho-tep. Adapted from Jason Pargin’s novel (under the pseudonym David Wong) of the same name, this story gives us a cleverly zany experience heavy in good laughs and awesome horror. You really need to pay attention with this flick, and that is usually a good thing. Read my full review for this film here: John Dies at the End
5. The World’s End
- If there is a “cool” film on this list, it has to be the climax to Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End. At its core the film is about reliving good times with old friends, but by the end credits you will be left with so much more than that. Coming off as Beerfest meets “The Twilight Zone” with a hint of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The World’s End is definitely one of the most fun horror films on this list. With superb writing and expert direction, The World’s End blows away another apocalyptic horror/comedy from a comedic group, This Is the End. Read my full review for this film here: The World’s End
- No matter the year, decade, or even millennium, killer clowns will always be scary and always have a home in the horror genre. Stitches is not only one of the best horror films of the year but one of the best killer clown films of all time. Heavy in hilariously gory kills that come from a truly creepy clown, this revenge tale brought the seldom-used horror sub-genre back to light. Read my full review for this film here: Stitches
3. You’re Next
- As far as the horror genre goes You’re Next was 2013’s most hyped flick. After amazing responses from festival showings, Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S, V/H/S2, The ABCs of Death)’s sophomore effort was foolishly placed on the shelf and denied to wide audiences for two years. Giving us an expertly executed slasher experience where the killers don cheap and utterly creepy animal masks, the horror provided made for a film very much worth the hype. An independent and fairly low budget experience from an up-and-coming (at the time) director, You’re Next is a film the genre needed to succeed, and it did. Read my full review for this film here: You’re Next
2. Pacific Rim
- Famed horror director Guillermo del Toro returns to the genre to give us the most colossal horror film of the year with Pacific Rim. Pitting giant monsters against mankind’s last hope, equally giant robots controlled by a human source, this idea (loosely based on the Japanese Manga) gives us one of the coolest films of the year regardless of genre. While not heavy in scares, the action is expertly executed and the look of the creatures is so horrifying that only a monster guru like del Toro could dream them up. This is not the best horror film of the year, but it is my personal favorite for 2013. Read my full review for this film here: Pacific Rim
1. The Conjuring
- After giving us one of the best films of 2011 with Insidious, James Wan secured himself as a modern day horror legend with the best horror film of 2013, The Conjuring. This time James Wan directs a highly engaging story based on the true events surrounding one of the most haunting paranormal investigations in US history. The story is moving, exhilarating, scary, and James Wan executes it to perfection. His atmosphere is fantastic, the scares jolt the viewer, and…there’s Annabelle… Read my full review for this film here: The Conjuring
(close but not good enough)
- After almost 20 years away from the genre, Neil Jordan returns with another take on the vampire sub-genre with Byzantium. Equal parts drama, fantasy, and horror, this is a story-driven piece that also comes with the expert direction you should expect from Jordan. While this is much more than the usual vampire film the horror is still very much prevalent and makes for maybe the best vampire flick since Let The Right One In / Let Me In. Read my full review for this film here: Byzantium
- American Mary holds a special place in my heart because it stars my longtime crush Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, Freddy vs. Jason). Medicine and horror have a long history together, and this awesome story from the Soska sisters blends medicne and body modification in the most awesome way possible: horror. The Soska sisters (Dead Hooker in a Trunk) make great improvements as directors and this is one of those films that would have made the top 10 had this not been such a competitive year. Read my full review for this film here: American Mary
Under the Bed
- Under the Bed is a film I waited anxiously to see after really enjoying Stephen C. Miller’s The Aggression Scale. Much like The Gate and Joe Dante’s The Hole, Under the Bed brings back that childhood fear of being scared of what we consider to be “childish” things. We have all been told not to fear monsters under the bed, and Miller brings that statement to life in such awesome fashion. Read my full review for this film here: Under the Bed
Game of Werewolves
- I never thought I’d say this but Game of Werewolves is the lone Spanish film on this year’s list. For a while Spain had a stronghold on the genre, but thankfully they are still putting out quality material. Werewolf flicks are one of the oldest sub-genres but somehow director Juan Martinez Moreno found a way to deliver a fresh experience that is equally horrific as it is hilarious. Read my full review for this film here: Game of Werewolves
Here Comes the Devil
- I liked Here Comes the Devil, but this was definitely the most over-hyped horror film of 2013. It does an OK job of giving us a pseudo 70s psychological horror feel, but its story keeps it from greatness. While the overall story is a terrifying one, pacing and plot hole faults held back an otherwise great horror experience from one of the genre’s constantly improving directors, Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Penumbra, Cold Sweat). Read my full review for this film here: Here Comes the Devil
- Boy was this a year for the Irish! Grabbers is one of three Irish films to make this year’s list and this flick does so by mixing good horror with every major Irish stereotype…especially drunkenness. When a small coastal town is attacked by a giant squid-like alien race, the surviving townsfolk must use whatever makeshift weapons they can to fight off the invasion, only to realize that alcohol is truly their strongest ally. Of the three Irish flicks on the list this was the most “fun”. Read my full review for this film here: Grabbers
- Citadel is the third Irish film to make the list and it is the most gut-wrenching as well. Writer/director Ciaran Foy gives us a dark tale that is as much about overcoming weakness as it is about what hides in the dark. This story and its excellent execution ensure that the viewer feels the same daunting pain as the film’s lead, and when we see what hides in the dark we are left maybe the scariest Irish horror film since The Eclipse. Read my full review for this film here: Citadel
- The first time I read the storyline to Bad Milo all I could think of was Basket Case, and sure enough this film about a man with an evil demon living in his anus is very much like the 1980 Frank Henenlotter cult classic. The genre needed a film like this and it is sure to please those who enjoy zany stories heavy in brutal kills and good laughs, plus stars Ken Marino and Peter Stormare work very well together. Read my full review for this film here: Bad Milo
- It has been a long time since a Troma produced film has made one of my top 10 lists – the last was 2006’s Poultrygeist – and Father’s Day is definitely worthy of inclusion. Following a serial rapist who only rapes fathers, this story is as outlandish as you can expect…but you know the zaniness does not stop there. With full-frontal gratuitous kills thanks to in your face direction, Father’s Day is a film you will never forget. Period. Read my full review for this film here: Father’s Day
Berberian Sound Studio
- Berberian Sound Studio was nowhere near as good as I expected / wanted it to be, but it did something no other film has done before in the genre: give us a inside view of the sound engineering for a giallo film. Giallo flicks were in their glory days in from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, and fans of these films will surely enjoy what this film set out to accomplish. Expertly directed, this story gives us a perspective that envelops the viewer into the ever-important emphasis of one of horror’s most important elements: sound. Read my full review for this film here: Berberian Sound Studio
Director – Neil Jordan
Cast – Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Caleb Landry Jones, Sam Riley, Warren Brown, Thure Lindhardt, Glenn Doherty, Gabriela Marcinková, Daniel Mays, Uri Gavriel
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I am not a big fan of vampire films, but I am definitely a big fan of Neil Jordan films (Interview with the Vampire, The Company of Wolves). After a near 20 year hiatus from the genre (and vampires), Byzantium brings him back to the sub-genre he loves so dearly, and he does so with damn good results. As with most of his efforts, this is a story-driven film that also comes with superb direction to seal the deal. Vampires are not my thing, but Byzantium is a perfect example of vampires used as they were meant to be used: to sell the despairs of love and sacrifice.
Suffering the pitfalls of eternal life, mother-daughter vampire duo Clara and Eleanor are on the run and take refuge in a sleepy coastal resort. The lonely Noel offers them shelter in his empty guesthouse, Byzantium, but what seems like an ideal situation for the vampires in hiding proves costly when Eleanor befriends the charming Frank and tells him their deadly secret.
If you enjoy films that rely heavily on good story telling then you are sure to enjoy this Moira Buffini screenplay, adapted from her play “A Vampire Story”. The first act moves quickly, giving us insight into the lives that Clara and Eleanor are forced to live. Clara provides sexual favors for money, which comes at the behest of her daughter Eleanor. Eleanor knows that her mother is doing what she “has” to do in order to provide for their monetary necessities, but it is far from the life she wishes they could live. We soon learn that a sect of vampires known as the Brethren have been hunting Eleanor for 200 years, after her mother broke an code she swore to abide by. When they eventually arrive at their new home they seem to have it made. Clara is able to expand her prostitution business and Eleanor is finally able to attend school and enjoy the company of the opposite sex, which is where Frank comes into the picture. As with most cases involving secrets you should keep to yourself, desperate desires lead Eleanor to spill the beans to Frank, putting both her and her mother in serious danger of being found by the Brethren, who are still in pursuit of the two. Buffini does a fantastic job of selling this story as a drama, a fantasy, and a horror film, although this flick’s emphasis is in such order. There is plenty of horror to make this a horror flick, especially with some sweet gory kills, but the drama and fantasy make this more than your basic genre film.
Neil Jordan’s direction is as good as ever, bringing this highly engaging story to life with amazing atmosphere and good performances from our lead actresses. Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton do a fantastic job selling Eleanor and Clara to the viewer, both on their own and when they are together. The chemistry between them is real and while pretty much every other major supporting character did well in his/her roles, these two stole the show. Jordan’s direction of the horror is also very well done and as I mentioned earlier, he delivers some gory kills for us to enjoy. The focus of the film isn’t so much the kills as it is the horrors that come with living a life of eternity, but thankfully Jordan makes the most of the horror when it presents itself.
Overall, Byzantium is a fantastic story-driven experience that blends drama, fantasy, and horror into one of the greatest vampire tales since Let The Right One In / Let Me In. While the horror is not at the forefront this is still a great horror experience that has so much more to offer than the cheesy Underworld-esque vampire flicks we get these days. If you are looking for a genre flick that demands your undivided attention, Byzantium is highly recommended.
Director – Jeremy Gardner
Cast – Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O’Brien, Larry Fessenden
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Battery is a film that I heard a lot about in 2013, but like many others I was skeptical and took my time getting to it. What astonished me about the positive buzz surrounding this film is its very low budget of $6,000, and I constantly asked myself the question “How do they pull off a good experience with such a low budget”, and then I found out first-hand. When this 101 minute experience was over I realized I had just witnessed the biggest film accomplishment of 2013 (that I had seen) and one of the best horror films of the year as well. While not devoutly horror, The Battery mixes zombies/horror with comedy, drama, and an amazing soundtrack to make for a remarkable experience I highly recommend.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies, Ben and Mickey, two former baseball players, find that their personalities clash as they travel across rural New England as a means to stay alive.
The Battery is so much more than your basic zombie film and that is what I loved most about it. Auteur Jeremy Gardner’s story takes off right away and makes the viewer feel as if he/she is living the life our protagonists are forced to live. Much like sharks, they constantly love and never stay still for longer than necessary, and Ben, the more adventurous of the two, loves this way of life. Mickey has yet to adjust to it, instead drowning himself in his headphones and the film’s highly engaging soundtrack. Despite their friendship and their love for baseball, their personalities clash often, and they make for good drama as well as humorous conflict. As with most zombie films that “do things right”, the true focus of the story is not the zombies but mankind’s reaction to their new way of life, and Gardner’s story focuses heavily on our protagonists. There are zombies in the film and they provide both horror and kills, but they are more of an afterthought and take a backseat to the amazing chemistry between Ben and Mickey.
You can write a screenplay for less than $6,000, but can you bring it to life on such a low budget? Jeremy Gardner did and his direction is so incredible it has to be the most impressive direction of 2013 for the horror genre. The camerawork is amazing and plays a major role in keeping the viewer engaged in what is going on by really putting us inside the lives of our protagonists. Gardner’s soundtrack is also highly engaging and is sure to be looked up by the extreme majority of the film’s viewers. What really sells the film direction-wise are the performances from Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim as Ben and Mickey. Their interaction is incredible and they themselves are what brings Gardner’s fantastic story to life, taking us from triumphant joy to gut-wrenching sorrow. Gardner’s execution of the horror is great as well, and thankfully so given the horror’s backseat to the film’s heavy emphasis on character-play. The zombies were positively executed and served their purpose as the source behind the sorrow surrounding Ben and Mickey, although one zombie inadvertently aids Mickey in a way I never thought possible – one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen involving a zombie.
Overall, The Battery is an incredible experience that I highly suggest you become a part of. An epic story complimented with good direction makes for one of the best horror films in recent years. The horror does take a backseat to the more prevalent elements going on, but the horror is still worthwhile and with a film this good you will hardly notice its absence.
Director – Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Cast – Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia, Michele Garcia, David Arturo Cabezud, Giancarlo Ruiz
Release Year – 2013
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Here Comes the Devil was one of the most hyped and sought-after horror films of 2013. After sweeping the horror awards at Austin’s Fantastic Fest 2012 for Best Picture / Screenplay / Director / Actor / Actress this was a film I, like most others in the genre, absolutely had to see. After viewing this piece I can say that it is definitely one of the better horror films of 2013, but I do not feel it is quite worth the hype. Nonetheless, Here Comes the Devil is a flick I am glad I watched and I am glad to see director Adrian Garcia Bogliano become a growing force in the genre.
While vacationing in Tijuana, Felix and Sol’s two young children go missing while exploring a large cave-ridden hillside. Fear and tension grip the couple, but their worries turn to elation when their kids inexplicably return the following day. Their children seem different and the couple believes stress is to blame, but they will soon learn that their children are not who they used to be and something sinister has come home with them.
This storyline really grabs my attention. I love that it has to do with a place unfamiliar to the family, it has to do with their children, and the origin of the horror is supernatural. Once I got into the film I realized the story would come with a strong sexual element as well. Bogliano’s film opens with a nude lesbian tryst that is interrupted by the panicked knocking of the front door, and bloody results ensue. At first I was left wondering what purpose this scene would serve, and soon enough I started to catch on. After the opening sequence we follow the vacationing family enjoying their stay in Tijuana, despite a weird encounter with a strange local after their young daughter hits puberty and “becomes” a woman. It wasn’t until the children disappear on the hill while their parents are messing around (sexually) in the car that I was sure beyond all doubt that sex would be the root of evil in this flick. If you have seen the film Antichrist then this scene should remind you of its infamous opening sequence. From then on out we watch the couple’s panic and then joy as their children return safe from the hill after an overnight stay, but it is obvious that whatever they experienced on the hill was of ill-nature. According to the locals the hill harbors a supernatural presence, and it seems that it is not a coincidence that the childrens’ disappearance coincided with an earthquake on the hill. After returning home Felix and Sol begin to experience strange and unexplainable events going on around the home, and as expected only one parent believes something is wrong while the other is searching for a logical explanation. Soon enough the horror intensifies, and the most shocking scenes occur when Sol’s relative babysits the children and learns first-hand what they are capable of. The film’s twists and turns are interesting and we ourselves are kept somewhat in the dark over what happened to the children, but the story’s tremendous climax should take care of that.
While I enjoyed this story overall and found it highly engaging, I feel that it had quite a few faults. There are still many unanswered questions, and while some may argue that this allows for the viewer to engage in discussion I felt that the story’s lack of clarification regarding certain events held back what could have been an even better story. At times it really felt like Bogliano was unsure of what type of story he was trying to give us. The film is a slow-burner that also tries to be a supernatural thrillfest and ultimately fails at both. Earlier I mentioned the film’s highly noticeable use of sex as the source of evil in the film, and while we get a few more instances of sex playing a role I felt that if Bogliano wanted to use sex as such a crutch he should have focused on it more instead of teasing us with it. Little things like these added up and left me feeling like the story was a bit dry and lackluster, and this is why I felt like the flick was not worth the hype. I love the story as a whole, but as a 97 minute experience there is a lot missing.
Bogliano’s direction is pretty good, giving us excellent atmosphere and delivering good tension. He gives us a modern feel that also bleeds 70s-esque psychological horror, much like Ti West’s The House of the Devil. There is a heavy sense of dread that prevails throughout pretty much the entire film and this keeps the viewer at attention, knowing that the horror can hit at any time. His execution of the characters is pretty basic, with the children coming off as quite and distant, yet displaying this look and interaction with each other that indicates that they are obviously hiding something. When the horror hits supreme levels inside the home we are shown the best he has to offer, and while it was mostly effective at delivering a chill or two I was expecting better. I will say that my favorite scene was not of the children’s mischief when their parents are sleeping, but the scene involving what happened to the babysitter. This sequence was expertly executed and managed to freak me out a bit despite it being told after the fact – a sign of good atmosphere, storytelling, and execution.
Overall, Here Comes the Devil is a haunting experience that is deserving of your time. Bogliano’s direction is good and as a result we are given one of the better horror films of 2013 and a few good chills for the viewer to enjoy. The story is an interesting one overall that only suffers a few faults that other viewers may not even have a problem with, and may even find preferable. While I still believe this experience is a bit over-hyped, it is definitely one I suggest you check out yourself.