Hereditary (2018)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity

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Written by: Ari Aster

Directed by: Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Woolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, and Gabriel Byrne

In between all the basic horror movies along the lines of The Conjuring to Annabelle to The Boy to The Bye Bye Man, you can find some really unique films that could easily be seen as classics in the future such as Insidious, Sinister, It Follows, The Babadook, and even Mother! if you count that as a horror movie (Most people find it pretty horrifying). Here we have a film that is a very original and intriguing new vision in horror that I personally feel can be ranked up with the best horror films of the last decade.

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After a bipolar woman’s (Toni Collette) mother dies, she still holds harsh resentment to her for her overbearing parenting. When her daughter (Milly Shapiro) begins to act extremely odd after her mother dies, she begins to wonder what was really going on between her young daughter and her mother. The hidden truth begins to unravel as time goes on, and the family falls apart as things become more supernatural.

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I had to take a while to really think about what I should say about this film and even now I’m not completely sure how to put it all together into one review. There’s some very disturbing visuals and events that occur throughout the film. It’s already gotten a ton of flack for being indecisive on what type of film it is. From what I saw, I thought the director was going for an homage to classic horror films by creating a supernatural story and atmosphere that captures the essence of The Exorcist, cinematography that reminds me of Kubrick’s work, especially The Shining, and a surreal ending that seems semi-Lynchian.

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I honestly think people are being way too harsh to Hereditary. Yeah, it wasn’t perfect, but at least it was an original and interesting new idea that isn’t the same film that’s been made a million times. The CGI flies are probably the worst part about this whole film, the actor’s were sitting there swatting at nothing and none of the flies around them reacted. Also, at the very end of the film, it spells everything out for the audience with this person explaining everything, in case you didn’t get it the first time, and it ruins a very sinister feeling that the film possessed in the finale leading up.

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The good thing is that the acting is generally very professional and well done. Milly Shapiro makes a wonderful on screen prescence with her odd features and even odder personality. The one performance that kinda put me off was the one given by Alex Wolff who hams it up with his cries in certain scenes. I will say that in one of the most critical scenes in the film, he really stands his ground and holds up in a believable manner.

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Cinematically, Hereditary is a very intelligently made horror film. They create some very interesting shots throughout (frame within a frame and upside down shots just to scrape the surface). A large portion of this film feels less like a horror film and more like a family drama. I’ve heard a lot of people call this a slow burn and say it’s very boring. I honestly didn’t think this film was slow at all, I feel that it just took it’s time to develop the story and characters, which isn’t a bad thing. All in all, don’t let what people are saying turn you away from this great horror film, it’s one of the best that I’ve seen in a long time.

Grade: A

Mark of the Devil (1970)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Written by: Michael Armstrong and Adrian Hoven

Directed by: Michael Armstrong

Starring: Herbert Lom, Olivera Vuco, Udo Kier, Reggie Nalder, and Herbert Fux

Upon seeing any promotional material for this film, one may expect this to be a disgusting, torture porn exploitation flick that takes things way too far. While there is torture and other horrible acts, this film actually handles itself as more of a drama than a horror film. Surprisingly, Mark of the Devil holds up due to it’s dark undertones and historical commentary on religious retribution. One may be surprised to find out that this was originally written as an Jess Franco-esque Dracula film. What comes out in the end is a very artistic and enjoyable film that is it’s own style.

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1700 A.D., Austria, after a town’s witchfinder (Reggie Nalder) has become out of hand, forcing himself upon women and then claiming them as witches, Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) and his apprentice (Udo Kier) come to restore order. After falling in love with a young woman (Olivera Vuco) who’s accused of witchcraft, the apprentice begins to question his master’s practices while witnessing countless accounts of murder, rape, and injustice.

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The fact that this film is so entertaining and well made says a lot. Especially since there were many problems during the production of this film of the producer and director constantly being at each other’s throats; until Michael Armstrong was ultimately thrown off the project. Adrian Hoven had a grudge with Armstrong from the beginning, since he was granted the director’s chair and he drastically changed Hoven’s original script. Armstrong was only interested in making a great historical piece that pays homage to Vincent Price’s film Witchfinder General. Adrian Hoven original envisioned a hokey little trash film that he was upset never was carried out.

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With that being said, you would expect this film to be an absolute disaster of mixing styles and ideas. But, after Armstrong was kicked off the project, Hoven had realized that he had to keep continuity and made the decision to keep Armstrong’s style and general idea of the film (other than the ending which was originally a surreal, dark demise). Everything about this film just works so well. The cinematography is so stylistic and intense. The score is triumphant as well as deeply disturbing; it’s also a score that you would expect to be in a big budget historical film.

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The acting all across the board is very professional and each performance is memorable for different reasons. Even small side characters stick out in your head long afterwards. It feels like these people spent a long time to become their characters and they all do a great job making you hate and love them. Udo Kier, who has been in almost 200 films, is very entertaining on screen even though this was his first color film. The production design for Mark of the Devil is top notch and really feels more documentary like than fictional in some scenes.

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There’s really not much I can pick out about Mark of the Devil that I didn’t enjoy. Some parts are very badly dubbed and the kids are horrible at acting sad. But, other than those things there really isn’t much else that I don’t like. Some scenes feel like something out of a nightmare and some scenes are really intense. Mark of the Devil is a very smart film that shouldn’t really be considered a pure exploitation film, and contains an underlying message that is still generally relevant.

Grade: A-

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for zombie violence/gore and language

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Directed by: Edgar Wright

Written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, and Bill Nighy

The biggest problem about loving a film as a child is that you gain a biased opinion about that film throughout the years. For example, two of my favorite childhood films were Baby Geniuses 2 and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (both of which are far from desirable on recent re-watches). I brought a subtle fear to the table when I sat down to watch Shaun of the Dead of “maybe this film isn’t as good as I remember it being”. All I can say is the second i pressed play and heard the opening sounds, all my fears drifted away as I slowly became engulfed with enjoyment.

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Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a simple man who spends most nights at a local pub, named The Winchester, with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost). Shaun is very neglectful of his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) and after failing to take her out on an adequate date, he gets dumped. While recovering, Shaun begins to realize that something odd is happening. The news keeps talking about some sort of virus, people keep getting bit by lunatics, and there’s a random lady standing in his backyard. It’s up to Ed and Shaun to figure out what the hell is going on and make (multiple unsuccessful) a plan(s) to save the day.

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I’m going to start off by saying that this is one of the most brilliantly hilarious horror comedies that I’ve ever seen. Made way before Zombieland and a million other zombie comedies, Shaun of the Dead was a great, original idea for the time that it came out. I haven’t seen a film keep me so entertained for the entirety of the running time in years. That’s the biggest thing I can say about this film, it is overwhelmingly entertaining. This film isn’t all laugh and gore either (which is all I was expecting from this film); Shaun of the Dead holds some truly terrifying sequences that I remember giving me nightmares as a child and even has a couple heartfelt scenes.

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The writing is outstanding, Pegg and Wright had to have spent an extensive amount of time writing this film for it to be the thoroughly intriguing film that it is. The climax of this film gave me a rush of utter excitement, watching the characters you’ve come to love beating the shit out of zombies to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now was a satisfying experience. The ending of the film is also one of the most memorable parts of the whole film and has stuck with me throughout the years. There is not a single character in Shaun of the Dead that feels out of place or isn’t developed well. Everything about this film just makes complete sense.

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To nit pick this film would just be an injustice to the brilliance that was put into every aspect of this film. The far fetched ideas in the story work and only add to the movie’s charm. The complete obliviousness to the havoc that these people are being surrounded in makes for some really interesting scenes. The social commentary also adds so much to the film, just as much as social commentary in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It’s even more accurate today, everybody walks around like zombies, having no real social interaction with each other. Also, the sound design and the quick edit transitions give the film some extra flare and gives it a unique style.

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I feel that Shaun of the Dead doesn’t get the appreciation it truly deserves, being slightly overshadowed by it’s sequels. I can see Shaun of the Dead gaining a huge cult following ten years from now, and it would be well deserved. Shaun of the Dead is worth all of your time, money, and effort. Shaun of the Dead is highly recommended by both child and adult Carson.

Grade: A+

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