A new feature highlighting criminally underseen horror films that deserve a look
Every horror movie fan knows what films are considered to be the classics. But there are a TON of great horror movies that maybe a lot of people have never seen.
Well, ScarySteve.com believes in shining well-deserved spotlights on the horror flicks that might have passed you by.
So, here's the first installment of a series where I present movies that you should definitely check out.
CASE FILE #1: COLD PREY (2006)
Now here's a real good one.
This 2006 Norweigan slasher flick tells the story of five friends who head out for a weekend of snowboarding in the Norwegian Alps, and when one of the friends breaks his leg the group finds shelter from the winter elements in an abandoned, secluded ski lodge.
However, it doesn't take long for the group to discover that the lodge isn't as abandoned as they thought, and its sole inhabitant is a madman who is determined to see them dead.
Yeah, okay, it's not the most original premise, but, boy, does Cold Prey deliver in suspense, scares and gore. The cast is likeable (which is important because they gain sympathy when they're attacked), the setting is terrific, the killer is convincingly menacing and the effects are impressive. And kudos to the first-rate direction by first-timer Roar Uthaug, who does a great job creating scene after scene filled with either creeping dread or outright suspense.
This was a major box office success in Norway and has spawned two sequels (I have only seen Cold Prey 2, which is also worth watching). Sadly, there are reports that an American remake is on the horizon, as WWE (yes, the wrestling company) purchased the rights to the remake in 2017. There is no need to remake this, dammit!
But anyhoo, I strongly recommend this movie. It's not a revolutionary game-changer in the history of horror, but it's a damn impressive, lean and mean fright machine that entertains during its entire 100-minute run.
Yes, this is a foreign film, which means that you have to read subtitles to understand what's going on. But trust me, the subtitles are not a distraction to the horror that unfolds. And if you're one of the people who refuse to watch any movie with subtitles, then I feel sorry for you, because you're missing out on some of the best horror movies made.
As of right now, Cold Prey is available on the Shudder streaming site, and can also be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu and more.
Check out the trailer below.
Perhaps you've heard the hype about a new horror movie on Netflix called “Veronika.”
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been buzzing with chatter about this new flick, asking “Is this the scariest movie ever made??” and showing clips of real people watching it and being absolutely terrified. Posts and comments have been made – and legitimate news sites are writing a ton of stories – about how it's so scary that people are shutting it off halfway through.
After all the hype and buzz, I sat down one night and dared to take on “the scariest movie ever made.”
I gotta be honest, I turned it off about halfway through.
But not because I was so scared that I crapped my pants or was shaking in my shoes … rather, it was because I was frighteningly bored.
Don't believe the hype, folks. “Veronika” is a mediocre, forgettable and not-terribly scary movie, which is especially disappointing because the director, Paco Plaza, is responsible for two of the greatest experiences in modern horror, the criminally unseen (at least by American audiences) “Rec” and “Rec 2.”
“Veronika” plays like a “Greatest Hits” (or at least a bad karaoke version) of devil/Oujia/exorcism movies, giving us a likeable teen who dabbles with a Oujia board with some of her high school buddies, unleashing a demon and putting herself in great peril.
Yes, it's been done before. Many, many times. And better.
So … where's the hype coming from? Simply put, it's a clever marketing tool by some folks trying to drum up some interest in a bleh flick. And, it's apparently working … Millions of clicks, views, likes and whatever across various social media outlets clearly show major interest in the film, but die-hard horror fans who buy the hype and check it out on Netflix are going to be seriously disappointed.
Interestingly, a newspaper article investigating the phenomenon of this movie's hype reported that Netflix got the hype ball rolling because their research showed that a lot of people were tuning into the film and checking out early – so, they assumed, it was because the film was too scary.
Trust me, it isn't.
Maybe, just maybe, people were tuning out halfway through because they found something better to watch.
I know I did.
Look, our time is very valuable, so if you're gonna spend some time watching something scary on Netflix, don't bother dating “Veronika.” There are other horror movies worth checking out on Netflix, such as “The Ritual,” “The Void,” “Train to Busan,” “Hush,” “The Babadook,” “1922,” “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil,” and many more.
And in the meantime, take my word for it: If you see something on social media touting that a movie you never heard of is “the scariest movie ever made,” don't get Rick Rolled … Chances are the movie is gonna give you up and it's gonna let you down.
A ScarySteve.com Review
(NOTE: Spoilers abound in this review. Do not read if you don't want key points to be revealed, but ScarySteve.com recommends that you avoid the film anyway.)
After all of the hype, all of the buzz and positive word-of-mouth from critics, I finally got to see the huge mainstream horror hit, “A Quiet Place.”
Viewing this film in a theater with a few friends and a packed crowd, I anxiously sat in my seat with my large tub of popcorn and my abnormally huge cup of Mr. Pibb, excited about the film that has wow'ed critics and moviegoers alike for being an original, tense-filled and actually SCARY new movie.
But when the end credits finally and mercifully rolled, I sadly came to the conclusion that the only thing I enjoyed throughout the viewing was my popcorn and drink.
To say that the movie was a letdown to me would be an insult to the word “letdown.”
Directed and starring John Krasinski of “The Office” fame and also starring his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place” is a perfect example of how a movie with tremendous potential can go so horribly wrong.
A family who we know nothing about (and we learn very little more about as the film stumbles along) is fighting a survive a nightmarish world (is this taking place now? In the future? The movie doesn't say) where a race/colony/whatever of beings (Aliens? Demons? The movie never tells us) who are blind kill anything they can hear near them.
Krasinski and Blunt and their children (whose characters' names I cannot remember, probably because they're never said) hide in an old, big house (Is it their house? Did they hole up there while running from the creatures? The movie doesn't say) and attempt to stay alive by making zero sounds. They use sign language (helpful since their oldest child is deaf), they cook and play board games silently, and they basically wait until someone in the family accidentally makes a sound and then fight for their lives.
There is no dialogue and very little music throughout the film's first hour, which I'm sure the filmmakers thought would be innovative and ratchet up the tension, but it's actually annoying, it slows down the pace of the film and it generates boredom – the OPPOSITE of tension.
In a film filled with flaws and problems, one of the biggest is that we know NOTHING about the family or the creatures. As far as the family is concerned, who the heck are they? Why should we care about them, since the movie does not develop their characters? They are relegated to stock types – the well-meaning Dad, the pregnant Mom, the deaf daughter, the trouble-making young son. Also, at one point, another character (A neighbor? A total stranger? The movie doesn't say) is briefly introduced only to be swiftly killed by the creatures – but we have no idea who he is or why we should care about his death.
And as for the creatures, what the heck are they? Their origin/background is never explained. We are just plunged into the lives of a family that is fighting them. Are they from another planet? Are they demons summoned for the Apocalypse? Are they killing because they are hungry, or is it just for sport, or do they just want to take over Earth? And the movie makes it clear that they are blind but their sense of hearing is heightened. But wouldn't their other senses being heightened as well? I ask, because there are several scenes where the family members are dangerously close to the monsters but they are left alone because they're not seen. Wouldn't the creatures' sense of smell be heightened as well, especially since it's very likely that these people are living in a world where showers and baths are no longer commonplace, and the characters are, well, probably a tad stinky?
And just how many creatures are there? Not just near the family, but across the world … is this a global problem? The movie never says. All we get are newspaper clippings briefly seen on a wall written by reporters about how awful the creatures are, and how the world is being wiped out. So, where was the military? And how fast did the creatures start killing, if there was enough time for reporters to write about them and have their stories printed?
More flaws abound. At one point, the husband and son go to a waterfall and carry a normal conversation, because it is explained that the creatures can't hear their voices over the noise of the water. Huh? So the creature's hearing is so evolved that it can hear if a child coughs, but they can't make out distinct speech patterns over running water? And more importantly, why then doesn't the family just live near the waterfall? Or at least spend more time there so they can communicate more?
The movie also shows that the family has a soundproof basement so they can talk there. So why don't they move into the basement, or at least spend more time there?
Oh, there's more. The movie shows a giant silo filled with corn that, naturally, leans to a scene where the kids nearly drown in the corn. But the corn is not rotted and looks fresh, despite the fact that's it's been nearly 500 days since the creatures started attacking. I'm no farmer, but is that accurate? (The family may or not have been taking care of the crops ... the movie doesn't say.) And why did the family decide to install a lookout area that seems like it's miles away from the house, which would be meaningless if they spot creatures attacking the house?
And since it seems that the world has been shut down since the attacks, then how does the family have power at their house? (A generator is never shown, and even if there was one I'm sure they would run out of fuel by the 500-day mark.) And where did they find thousands of identically colored light bulbs to string up outside the house, and how did they install them without making a sound? And there's a scene where one of the kids releases the brake on a truck and gets away from an attack without starting the car, but in the very next scene the truck is seen barreling down a dirt road at a high rate of speed – much too fast for a truck that isn't running, and it's making noise and kicking up dust. So if it's going that fast, why didn't the creatures hear it?
Here's another howler: The movies establishes the fact that the family has poured a huge amount of sand along miles of walkways and paths around their house, obviously to muffle their footsteps. Sounds like a great plan, except: where the heck did they get all that sand to cover the miles and miles of area, and how did they not make any noise whey the spent hours and days pouring all that sand in the first place?
I also laughed at a scene early on where the family is raiding an abandoned pharmacy, and the Mom looks for antibiotics to give her ailing son. (What is he ailing from? The movie doesn't say.) As the camera scans across a counter top with dozens of filled medication bottles lined up (I guess no one else bothered to take them, even though the pharmacy clearly appears to have been previously looted), she grabs just one pill bottle - conveniently, the right antibiotics needed to help her son. What are the odds that she finds the exact pills she needs so swiftly, and why doesn't she just take all of the pill bottles and look at them later, so you have them all just in case the medications might be needed at another point in time?
And I chuckled a lot at the scene where the mother gives birth just inches away from a creature, and as she's pushing she covers her mouth and doesn't make a single sound. No grunts or cries, even though she's scared for her life and she is having a baby without the benefit of pain-killing drugs. It is the quietest birth scene you will ever see in a movie, and the most unrealistic. (And I bet she wishes she took all the medications from the earlier scene, huh?)
And I got annoyed at how many times the kids did dumb, illogical things and walked away by themselves and constantly put themselves and other family members in peril – not because their actions made sense, but because it was obviously done to attempt (but fail) to ratchet up suspense.
You know, I could have forgiven most of these flaws to some degree, if only the movie had been, y'know, SCARY. I can accept movies about zombies and aliens and monsters and unkillable killers, if they make me jump out of my seat, or unnerve me. But truth to be told, out of all of this film's problems, the biggest sin committed is the fact that there is not one iota of tension to be found, at any point. And the more absurdities pile up as the movie goes on, the more you will recognize them because there are no scares to distract you from them.
I wish I could say that the biggest reason why this movie was such a flawed, disappointing mess was because the studio insisted on making it a PG-13 safe and mainstream film, whereas a harder, rougher R-rated movie would have been better, more intense. But, no, it wouldn't have mattered what the rating was, because the film has far too many problems. The only way this could have been better is if it was scrapped from the start and rebuilt.
(Although truth be told, an R-rated version of this movie would have been a slight improvement, because at least we would have been able some of the horrific carnage caused by the creatures, which would have possibly made us feel more sympathy toward the characters and their plight. But the few “kill” scenes are so quickly edited that you can barely tell what the heck happened. But maybe we should be grateful that the effects are hardly shown … after all, there's a scene close to the end that shows a multitude of creatures racing to the house after hearing a shotgun blast, and the creatures look so fake that's it's hysterical.)
It truly boggles my mind that at any point along the way of this film being made, not one person involved in the production stopped to think that there are so many things wrong with this film – almost as mind-boggling as to how this film is receiving so many rave reviews, and how many people are going to see it.
Yes, I believe that a good horror movie could be made with this plot and even with similar characters. But this isn't that movie.
It should be said that I like Krasinski and Blunt as actors, and I thought the kids are obviously capable of being good actors, too. But they are unfortunately sandbagged by a staggeringly flawed film that does them no favors as one ridiculous flaw happens after another.
Sadly, the only thing that the film got right was its title. Because during the film, the theater where I saw the movie was most definitely a quiet place. The audience wasn't audibly gasping or squirming in their seats. Not a sound was made, not a creature was stirring … because they, like me, were bored.
Between the over-hype of successful, mainstream so-called “horror” films such as “The Witch,” “Get Out,” “Split” and now this, I'm starting to worry about the future of horror. Because if flawed movies like this continue to drum up big box office business, then more mediocre, safer movies like this are going to be churned out.
Here's the bottom line: If someone tries to convince you to see “A Quiet Place,” then scream like hell and run away.
You've been warned.
And as for those critics and moviegoers who are praising this film as the greatest horror film released in a long time, then I feel really, really bad for you. You are the people who obviously need ScarySteve.com more than anyone else.
“The Strangers: Prey At Night” worth seeing
It won't win any awards and it won't be remembered as a classic in the years to come, but horror fans starved for a suspenseful, blood-soaked thriller that's proud of its “R” rating should find “The Strangers: Prey At Night” a worthy viewing.
A much belated sort-of sequel (or is a reboot/remake/re-imagining/whatever they call it these days?) to 2008's “The Strangers,” the home-invasion thriller with Liv Tyler and three killers wearing very creepy masks, this new installment finds creative ways to bring back the sense of creeping dread that so skillfully dominated the first film.
Be warned, though, that this film takes its sloooow time before getting to the scares. Too much of the film's first half is devoted to getting to know the protagonists before it kicks in. But once the formalities are out of the way, the film becomes a lean, mean killing and scare machine.
What I liked the most about the film is that it follows the original's best asset – that we have no idea who the killers are, or why they're doing what they do. There's no talky explainin' about their motives or reasons, which – in my opinion – makes the villains all the more creepy.
The main characters are likeable, the effects are realistic, the villains are particularly unnerving and monstrous, and the setting – an isolated and dimly lit trailer park – is original and effective.
Is it great? Well, no. Is it at least as good or better than the original (which I liked a lot)? Not quite, because I feel that the startling effect of the creepy masks worn by the baddies has lost its luster a little bit after the first film.
But give credit where it's due. It TRIES to be scary and it's not ashamed to be what it is – an effective, fast-moving thrill ride that flips a middle finger to the politically correct, safe PG-13 tripe aimed at teens and that tries and fails to pass off as horror these days.
It's this simple: If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. It doesn't re-invent the wheel, but that's okay. And it would make a great double-feature with the first one if you decide to wait until it comes out on DVD.
Just remember: If you're waiting to watch this at home on DVD, make sure you lock your damn doors first.