Antlers (dir. Scott Cooper, 2021) – A middle-school teacher grows concerned about the wellbeing of her student, who seems to be hiding dangerous secrets about his family.
From the Djinn to fae, old folklore is where many of the most chilling on-screen creatures are birthed. That includes the infamous Wendigo that has evoked shivers in myriad horror films and TV specials, from Antonia Bird’s masterwork Ravenous to a particularly memorable Supernatural arc.
As its title suggests, Antlers marks the most recent revisit to the gory flesh-eating subgenre. In this, the beast has made a den out of an abandoned mine, where it meets its next victims in two unsuspecting intruders. Meth dealer Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) and his son Aiden (Sawyer Jones) survive the brutal encounter, barely.
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Two / Dos (dir. Mar Targarona, 2021) – A couple wakes up to find themselves imprisoned in a strange room, with their abdomens sewn to each other.
Two strangers awaken in an unimaginable nightmare, in which they are sewn skin-to-skin and left alone in a locked room. This isn’t one of John Kramer’s demented games. Ostensibly reliant on the controversy of body horror and so-called torture porn, Dos veers in an unexpected direction, showing only glimpses of the disconcerting mutilation before having them hide it beneath white sheets.
Fear turns into anger as the couple begins to suspect each other to be the cause of their predicament. David (Pablo Derqui) admits to being an escort, who may have accepted a carnal request from the wrong man. Sara (Marina Gatell) isn’t off the hook either, for her jealous husband may just have had a hand in the twisted surgery.
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Fever Dream / Distancia de rescate (dir. Claudia Llosa, 2021) – Amanda lies in pain as she is questioned about what had happened to her – by a young child who is not her own.
Amanda (María Valverde) keeps her daughter Nina at a safe rescue distance, protective of her only child. Carola (Dolores Fonzi) doesn’t share the same love for hers, whom she had almost lost to poisoned water once. Not anymore. Her boy David had only survived because of a spirtual healer, but at the cost of part of his soul, or so she claims.
Before its filmic adaptation, Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream was once a book that begs to be read. Unlike a standard narrative, the story unfolds in nothing beyond a seamless conversation between a woman and a boy, who bear no direct relations as one might think. What ties them together is their bonds with their families that were similarly severed by circumstance.
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Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (dir. Bartosz M. Kowalski, 2020) – A group of teenagers is sent to an isolated camp to break their screen addiction, only to face worse dangers in the woods.
Back from my hiatus with a horror review, in time for Halloween!
Of mutant killers and slaughtered teens, Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight revives every trope from the horror playbook, lifting the monstrous cannibals off The Hills Have Eyes and throwing them in the midst of unwitting campers of knock-off Crystal Lake. Rid of phones, the rehab camp setting even serves as a perfect throwback to the 80s, where help is far from reach.
The massacre begins in no time. In their search for the first victim, one of the teenagers starts to spell out the cinema sins to avoid — no sex, no splitting up — and gets wilfully ignored. We all know how the story goes from here. Those looking for a stroke of ingenuity may do better with genre-benders like The Cabin in the Woods or even a self-aware tribute in The Final Girls. A pastiche of tropes it may be, the Polish slasher is nonetheless entertaining and relentless with its brutality.
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Malignant (dir. James Wan, 2021) – Experiencing visions of murders in her sleep, Madison’s fear grows when she discovers that her waking dreams are in fact reality.
An unseen patient unleashes a brutal attack on the hospital employees, who are armed with weapons that clearly aren’t enough. We do not see who or what he is, only the gruesome aftermath that hints at something unimaginably monstrous.
The macabre cold open of Malignant calls to mind old horror films in the vein of It’s Alive. Yet it is nothing quite as straightforward as a b-movie about an indiscriminate monster born to kill. There is something much more to this than meets the eye, and to draw any further comparisons may only spoil the mad ploy James Wan plans to unravel.
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A Classic Horror Story (dir. Roberto De Feo & Paolo Strippoli, 2021) – Travelling in southern Italy, five strangers become stranded in the woods and fall victim to a deathly ritual.
A band of strangers travels on a camper van to Calabria. When swerving to avoid a goat carcass, they veer off their intended path in the dark and wake to find themselves nowhere near the road. Lost in a forest, they search for help. All they find is an eerie cabin in the woods that homes the remnants of a terrifying murder cult.
A Classic Horror Story lives up to its name, following a familiar narrative that stitches together the horror genre’s notorious tropes. It isn’t just the paint-by-numbers opener too. The forsaken settings scream Evil Dead and the sinister town, The Wicker Man, before the disquieting ambience starts to mirror Midsommar.
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