“As you sow, so shall you reap!”
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 min
MPAA Rating: R
Starring: Lori Heuring, Scout Taylor-Compton, Chloe Moretz, Geoffrey Lewis
Amazon Link: Wicked Little Things
SYNOPSIS: Wicked Little Things” tells the tale of the recently-widowed Karen Tunny and her two daughters, Sarah and Emma, who move to a remote mountain home inherited from the family of her late husband. Unbeknownst to Karen, the three of them are not as alone as they assumed. The home lies near an old mine abandoned almost a hundred years before, after a tragic cave-in killed a group of children who were forced to work there.
After Dark Films billed Horrorfest as “a weekend of horror films that are considered to graphic or too disturbing for general audiences.” Ok, let’s not beat around the bush. That announcement isn’t just a marketing statement; it is a boldface lie to separate patrons from their money. Most of these films are crap and a waste of time (The Gravedancers being the exception so far).
Wicked Little Things starts with a great premise: In 1913, children laboring in a Pennsylvania mine are killed by callous adults supervising the mine. Glimpses of kids in mining gear, rickety elevators, dynamite, and tight spaces let us know we are in for something cruel. Some of the early scenes, reminded me of Neil Marshall’s feature, The Descent. Not for the creatures, but the claustrophobic atmosphere: There is a primal fear associated with tight spaces – especially rocky places, deep underground. Unfortunately, the scenes within the mine are limited, from that point we leave the panic-inducing confines of the mine to never return. The film effectively throws away the scare-rich environment and never really recovers.
Flash forward to the present: From some fairly painful dialogue, we learn that recently widowed Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring) and her two daughters, Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Emma (Chloe Moretz) are headed to an inherited homestead in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. We are introduced to Sarah, the archetypal teen daughter, probably 15 or 16 years old – a real handful. We’ve seen this character a thousand times, gallivanting around town, complaining about her parent(s), and hating the move; and of course, the little sister who makes the film’s first contact with the deceased children. In the new home, it is apparent that things are awry. Bugs, bad plumbing, dark, rotted wallpaper, and a bloodstained front door – the usual ingredients that make up a spooky house are present. Not to mention the creepy neighbors living in the woods, with interesting tales about the haunted hills and what takes place at night.
Once night falls, gangs of undead children roam the hills seeking fresh meat. Although the kids are described as zombies by local teens, they are actually some kind of hybrid ghost-zombie, a ?ghombie? maybe. The deceased appear only at night to exact their revenge as flesh devouring phantoms, so the term zombie fits. Although the gore scenes are relatively rare, when we do get a glimpse, the pay-off is realistic. Some scenes show us what the ravaged corpses look like once the deed is done, and it isn’t pretty. Furry carcasses are scattered all through the woods, and there is one scene involving a pig, which may upset some novice horror fans. While these gore effects are above par, these zombies are not. The zombies are little more than kids with white faces.
There’s not really much more that can be said about this movie. The bad heavily outweighs the good and the audience is asked to swallow way too many clichés. For instance: There’s the little girl who makes friends with the monster; Townsfolk who know EVERYTHING but choose to not say anything; Newspaper clippings chronicling everything about the “incident”; woods atmospheric with dense fog; a dark legacy of an evil family, and the ubiquitous walking around in a dark house.
In addition to the other problems, a good portion of this movie was very dark and hard to see. Filmmakers should realize that dark does not necessarily equal scary” When a movie is that dark, it’s more annoying than anything else.
Unfortunately, Wicked Little Things falls prey to the unsettling trend in modern horror films, where the conclusion requires gift-wrap and a bow, implying that audiences are too stupid to connect the dots in the plot. Undeniably boring and formulaic to the point of frustration, Wicked Little Things telegraphs every action: People pop into sight right when you’d expect them to, deliver the cheesy lines you’d wish they wouldn’t, and die exactly the way they would in any other movie. This sleeping pill of a movie and everyone involved is what’s hurting horror films these days. If you’re looking for a safe alternative to sleep medication, try Wicked Little Things.
“You just can’t find good paranormal help, these days.”
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 min
Genre: Horror, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R
Starring: Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran, Clare Kramer, Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo , Megahn Perry
Amazon Link: The Gravedancers
SYNOPSIS: Three twenty-somethings learn the hard way about proper cemetery behavior in this independent horror film by Mike Mendez. Harris (Dominic Purcell), Sid (Marcus Thomas), and Kira (Josie Maran) are three longtime friends reunited when their college pal, Devin, dies in an auto accident. After attending Devin’s funeral, the three stage an impromptu, graveside wake. Before long, the revelers are singing and dancing around the cemetery, trampling nearby graves. Later, the friends discover they’ve made a serious mistake; they’ve awakened very angry spirits.
After watching several films from 2006’s Horrorfest, I was really beginning to doubt that there was anything redeeming about the group. For the most part the collection is a compendium of artless, cheap rip-offs, studio hybrids, and needless remakes, none of which demonstrate much success in scaring audiences. The sole exception so far has been Mendez’s The Gravedancers, a breath of competently fresh air. From the brutally shocking opening scene through to the Evil Dead-esque CGI finale, this is indie sports scares the likes of which we seldom see. The script is fresh and somewhat clever, the performances are for the most part solid (Marcus Thomas would be the sole exception), the production values are good, and the score is great – particularly for an indie production.
The film’s story is fairly simple: Dominic Purcell (of Prison Break and Blade: Trinity) plays Harris McKay, a successful lawyer who lives with his wife Allison (Clare Kramer) in wedded bliss. But when an old friend dies in a car crash and Harris is reunited with his old college pals Kira (Josie Maran) and Sid (Marcus Thomas), their lives go from paradisiacal to paranormal. Kira, Harris, and Sid visit their pal’s grave in the middle of the night, drink and reminisce, and find a strange card with an oddly apropos poem; caught up in the moment, the group read and dances in tribute to their friend. Little do they know the words on the black card were not harmless; they’ve accidentally activated an ancient “gravedancing curse” that will make their lives a living hell.
There are many horror movie no-nos such as don’t go in the dark basement, and stuff like that. Here is another one: If you find a strange card in a graveyard, don’t read it aloud. This brings me to one of the few problems I have with the film. These people are obviously not teens, what we’re dealing with here are supposedly young adults. You would think these people… who seem to be in their mid 20s, wouldn’t even be taking part in shenanigans like these. Who goes to a cemetery for a freaking nightcap? If one of your friends suggests such a thing… maybe it’s time to seek out some new friends.
From that point, things start quietly enough, with a few strange sounds here and there and the tendency of doors to open and close on their own. Soon there’s someone playing the piano when no one’s in the living room and a strange, female nutjob appears in Harris’ bedroom vanishing into thin air. When Harris and Allison contact the others, they find that Kira has been beaten and sexually assaulted, and Sid has a team of paranormal scientists in his apartment investigating a series of spontaneous fires.
The paranormal experts explain that the three have disturbed the spirits upon whose graves they danced, and those ghosts (a jealous woman with an axe, ten-year-old boy who burned to death in a fire he started, and a psychotic rapist) have one lunar cycle to exact their revenge. As the attacks become more frequent and more violent, the bonds between the three friends give way to old jealousies and petty rivalry.
Second complaint: Although the ghost/creature designs are rather chilling and off the wall, the ghosts from House on Haunted Hill (1999) and 13 Ghosts were far more aggressive and dangerous than these three phantoms. You would expect them to be making these peoples lives a living hell. Instead, they seem more content with screwing with their heads. This is explained away later on in the film when Karyo’s character Vincent tells the group that the ghosts will become more violent as the curse’s cycle nears it’s end.
The paranormal experts might have a way to reverse the curse – but will they complete the ritual in time, and will it even work? As things get more desperate and the spirits get stronger, things get far more complicated than expected – soon enough there are explosions, crashes, flying objects, possessions, and enough assorted spectral misconduct to put Hell House to shame.
The Gravedancers has many things going for it. For one, it’s a “grown-up” horror movie that trades in sex-crazed emo teens for slightly older, more fleshed-out characters. They’re also more complex and likeable than your standard horror victims. The characters go through a number of harrowing events and for the most part, their reactions to the increasingly bizarre things happening to them are believably realistic. There’s a nice balance of sensible curiosity and legitimate panic that rings true on numerous levels. Purcell is a grounding force as the somewhat inexpressive, stubborn Harris (his character was the first to settle down), and the more colorful characters play off him nicely.
As Horrorfest’s rose among several thorns, The Gravedancers, is a solid addition to the haunting subgenre. Fans of spooky classics like Poltergeist, Legend of Hell House, and even The Entity will find this film right up their alley.
Goozlepipe Rating:Really Liked It
Monika Bartyzel, on cinematical, wonders “why we don’t get many classic fairy tale horror movies. I’m not referring to reimagining familial tales into something more adult (like Dorothy and BDSM), but rather going back to the source of the fairy tale”:
Hansel and Gretel: A family is starving, burning of the old woman, and her cannibalistic dreams. That the mother or stepmother happens to die when the children have killed the witch has suggested to many commentators that the mother or stepmother and the witch are, in fact, the same woman.
Sleeping Beauty: Originally published by Charles Perrault, the story consisted of two parts. The first is what we’re familiar with, except that the prince raped the sleeping girl. Then there is Part 2: Attempted infanticide and cannibalism, war, and an Ogress Queen torn apart by snakes and vipers.
Red Riding Hood: In an earlier version, the wolf was a werewolf, and he feeds grandma’s blood and meat to the little girl (more cannibalism). He then makes her strip, throw her clothes in the fire, and has her come to bed. However, before anything can happen, she figures things out and asks to go the bathroom so she can escape.
Rapunzel: A pregnant women who will agree to any demand, a witch, an imprisoned 12-year old girl who is impregnated by a passing prince, the prince is blinded by thorns after near fatal jump from a tower.
Rumpelstiltskin: A gold-spinning demon, an imprisoned daughter facing execution: "she would be skewered and then fricasseed like a pig,” a infant ransomed, and the gory end to Rumpelstiltskin: "in his rage drove his right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to his waist; then in a passion he seized the left foot with both hands and tore himself in two."
Snow White: Attempted murder by: poisoned apple, comb with poison, asphyxiation by tight dress and a kingdom’s retribution: "a pair of heated iron shoes were brought forth with tongs and placed before the Queen. She was then forced to step into these and dance until she fell down dead."
The Juniper Tree: mother dies in child birth, stepmother decapitates child, daughter convinced she cause the child’s death, child’s body fed to Dad in pie, ghost seeks revenge on evil stepmother
There’s even a song that goes along with The Juniper Tree:
My mother, she butchered me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister, little Anne Marie,
She gathered up the bones of me,
and tied them in a silken cloth,
and laid them under the juniper.
Tweet tweet! What a pretty bird am I!
We came up with a few to add to Monika’s list:
The Red Shoes (paraphrased): Once there was a poor little girl, named Karen, was adopted by a rich old lady after her mother’s death. She grows up vain. Then, she buys a pair of red shoes and repeatedly wears them to church, without paying attention to the service. Her adoptive mother becomes ill, but Karen deserts her, preferring to attend a party in her red shoes. Once she begins dancing, she can’t stop. The shoes take over. She cannot control them and they are stuck to her feet. And the shoes continue to dance, through fields and meadows, rain or shine, night and day. She can’t even attend her adoptive mother’s funeral. An angel appears to her, condemning her to dance even as she grows cold and pale, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen then asks the executioner to chop off her feet. He does so and gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches. Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes Karen decides to go to church in order for the people to see her, but the chopped-off feet with the red shoes dance before her, barring the way.
The Girl without Hands: A deal with the devil, child’s hands chopped off, a king demands the queen and newborn child kill; the eyes and tongue as proof.
Godfather Death: Death becomes godfather to boy, physician receives the power to heal or condemn to death, tries to trick death, ends up dying in hell.
Struwwelpeter, a series of stories that include: boy bitten by a dog; a girl plays with matches and burns to death; a rabbit steals a rifle and hunts the hunter; a son told not to suck his thumbs – a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors; a healthy, strong boy refuses to eat, over the next five days he wastes away and dies; a boy goes outside during a storm and is blown away to his doom.
Cracked.com’s Colm Prunty has compiled his list of “monsters that anyone with working legs and the IQ of a well-trained Dalmatian could escape.”: The 7 Most Easily Escapable Movie Monsters
Unfortunately, Cracked’s list is flawed because almost every horror movie is written about people who are captive and cannot escape from the monster – it’s the ‘trapped in the haunted house’ premise. If the audience sees the people escape the creature then the movie is over. With that said, here are some equally lame monsters:
"Zombies, man. They creep me out." –Kaufman, Land of the Dead (2005)
Zombies are fascinating creatures. Combining the horrors of the undead and cannibalism, zombies have become a staple of modern horror fiction, where they are brought back from the dead by supernatural or scientific means, and eat the flesh or brains of the living. Commonly referred to as the Romero zombie, after the filmmaker that defined the concept, this movie monster has become the archetypal version in modern media and culture.
In time for Halloween, the Zombie Reporting Center has released their Top Ten Quotes from Zombie Movies:
They also maintain a database of all previous zombie films as well as upcoming undead movies. Here is there list as of Oct 21st: