MARCH 19 ― With this year’s Oscars ceremony arriving at the end of the month, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time catching up with all the major nominees, and my piece on that part of the film calendar year should be out next weekend, just a couple of days before the ceremony itself.
Gorging on that many dramatic Oscar-bait pictures in a short period of time can leave you a bit dizzy, of course, which is why I’ve always made it a point to also fit in some palate cleansers like horror movies and comedies to keep things fresh and exciting.
Any fan of horror flicks will tell you that right now, if horror/genre is what you’re looking for, then Shudder is definitely the streaming platform to go to, and I agree.
Along with the older horror flicks that are added every few days to the channel, they also tend to premiere at least two to three Shudder Original Films every month, making the channel a fine and easy way to discover brand new horror/genre movies.
I’ve finally managed to catch up with their new February releases, and one new March release, so here’s a little something to help you decide whether they’re worth checking out or not.
When I first read about the Adams Family, a DIY family filmmaking collective consisting of a father (John Adams), mother (Toby Poser) and their two daughters (Zelda and Lulu Adams) based in New York, it was with their breakthrough film The Deeper You Dig from 2019, which was also a Shudder hit.
Apparently, they’ve been making these DIY films in their hometown since 2013, when Zelda was six and Lulu was eleven. Having not seen those earlier efforts, it’s clear how much that experience of making movies has improved the whole clan as filmmakers, because Hellbender is a pretty remarkable (and stylish) exercise in horror filmmaking, DIY or not.
A mother-daughter story in which 16-year-old Izzy (superbly played by Zelda) has been living deep in the woods with her mother (played by Toby, of course) because Izzy has been told that she has a rare autoimmune disease, that whole idyllic life basically exploded the moment Izzy accidentally finds out that she’s some sort of a witch called a “hellbender.”
A scary coming-of-age tale then unfolds as Izzy gradually discovers her powers and rebels against their almost hermetic way of life. Punctuated by plenty of stunning dream/witchy mindscape sequences, this is a very accomplished effort that might just lead to bigger and better things for the whole family.
In horror especially, the term “so bad it’s good” when it comes to enjoying movies has long lived a prosperous life, with fans more than willing to indulge in low budget, low-rent effects, cheesy dialogue and wooden acting if the film can deliver on the other things expected of a horror film ― blood, gore and the fantastical.
Depending on your taste, The Seed might just be one of those.
If you’re a fan of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna (responsible for delights such as Reanimator, Society, From Beyond, Dolls and The Dentist), then I think you’ll be in for a good time with director Sam Walker’s take on a yucky alien invasion flick, in this case focusing on three besties ― influencer Deidre, yogi Heather and vet clinic worker Charlotte ― on a girls’ trip at Heather’s family vacation home way out in the desert to witness a historic meteor shower.
Anyone who’s seen horror movies before will instantly know that there’ll be aliens coming along with said meteors, and Walker has concocted an icky, sleazy gem that plays a bit like the bastard child of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Species and Society.
Heartbreak horror, when done right like in The Babadook, His House and The Haunting Of Bly Manor, can very easily remind you how great films in the horror genre can be.
While definitely not in the same league as the aforementioned examples, writer-director Jeremiah Kipp’s Slapface is definitely one of those horror films where the horrors happening around the main characters reflect the heartache/torment suffered by its protagonist.
In this case, it’s young Lucas (a heartbreakingly impressive August Maturo), a victim of bullying not only at school, but also at the hands of his older brother Tom (Mike Manning), after both their parents died in a car accident.
Tom’s bullying comes in the form of a private game they call “slapface”, where they slap each other silly to relieve themselves of pain or vent out their unspoken grief/anger.
Often wandering around town alone, Lucas comes across the local legend of the Virago witch, said to be haunting an abandoned local hospital.
For whatever reason, Lucas one day manages to stumble upon said witch and starts befriending the witch, with increasingly violent consequences.
A sad and sorrowful allegory on the pain and trauma caused by bullying, Slapface suffers a bit in terms of pacing, but its heart is definitely in the right place, and it deserves to be seen because of it.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.