JUNE 17 — Last year turned out to be a pretty great one for genre movies, with a very steady stream of cool horror flicks turning up throughout the year, which is not something that can be said about this year so far.
On the plus side, we have seen at least three genre knockouts so far this year with Get Out, Headshot and John Wick: Chapter 2 and a few other small miracles like The Void, Scare Campaign and Hell House LLC stealing genre aficionados’ attention from below the radar.
As we head towards the end of June to enter the second half of 2017, I really did start to wonder whether this year will pale in comparison to the strong bounty of genre delights that was served up last year, but lo and behold, here comes three new (or relatively new) horror films to remind me to never lose faith in the resourcefulness of film-makers to disturb or scare the living crap out of you, even when they’re armed with low budgets.
So here they are, in no particular order.
The Belko Experiment
Probably the most high profile movie here, courtesy of it being written by none other than James Gunn (of Guardians Of The Galaxy fame) and directed by Greg McLean (of Wolf Creek fame).
On paper this one has so many things going against it, especially the fact that it arrived after maybe everyone has seen Battle Royale and the long list of films it influenced like Exam, The Human Race and even The Hunger Games, with Gunn basically transplanting the kill-or-be-killed survival game of Battle Royale into the corporate world.
The movie begins by introducing us to a few of the main characters going to the office like any other normal work day.
Things then start to get strange when they find themselves locked in, with the PA system blaring instructions like X number of employees must be killed in order for them to survive.
It really is something that we’ve all seen before, so it’s a testament to the craft and skill on display here that The Belko Experiment still works marvellously, keeping us on edge and rooting for the good guys to win.
And when you also add to that a cast of very familiar (and lovable) character actors like Michael Rooker, John C. McGinley, Tony Goldwyn and Melonie Diaz, you know that you have in your hands an irresistible piece of bloody carnage.
The Devil’s Candy
Undoubtedly a lot more obscure compared to the talents on display in The Belko Experiment, The Devil’s Candy nevertheless will set genre fans’ pulses racing just by knowing the fact that it’s Aussie director Sean Byrne’s follow-up to his wonderful debut film The Loved Ones.
Armed with quite a recognisable cast that consists of familiar names like Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince and an almost unrecognisable Ethan Embry, The Devil’s Candy is sort of like a haunted house movie crossed with a serial killer thriller, coloured by a wonderful thrash metal and doom metal soundtrack.
It tells the story of a metalhead painter who buys a big new house way out in the country for cheap and moves into it with his family, with the knowledge that they only got it for cheap because the previous owners died there.
What’s conveniently omitted from that piece of information was the fact that the owners were actually killed by their mentally unstable son who is still alive and looking to go back “home.”
Why and how the “devil” in the film’s title comes into play, I’ll leave it for you to experience. Suffice to say that the movie is an uncomfortable and quite disturbing experience visually, mentally and aurally, thanks to a brilliantly evil-sounding score by doom metal legends Sunn O))).
Last but not least we have another neat example of a found footage film done right, made by a group of film-makers whose previous feature film credit was a movie I haven’t yet managed to see, The Sighting, which has been described as a Bigfoot movie.
Now that I’ve seen their excellent follow-up, The Triangle, you can be sure that I’ll be hunting down that debut film pronto.
Convincingly posing as a documentary made by the gang of film-makers, who also play themselves in the film, the documentary was supposedly made after one of their best friends wrote to them, asking them to come see him in a commune he’s living in way out in the desert and to maybe make a documentary about the commune/cult there.
So be prepared for about one hour of pure slow burn as we get to observe the commune’s daily activities, which mostly consists of mundane things like cooking, eating, fetching water, partying and things like that (with more than enough ominous clues hinted at to keep the viewers intrigued), before the payoff arrives in a truly involving and fascinating twist, which turns the final third of the film into an exhilarating thrill ride that’s filled with heart pounding suspense.
Does that brilliant final third save the whole film? I’d say yes, because that brilliant final third won’t be there without the patient build-up of the first two-thirds of the movie.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.