Horror Cinema: Pearl

As a prequel to X, Ti West’s Pearl is an excellent companion piece. What I liked most about it was that it was not an overly complicated story written only to justify or launch the drama in X. Instead, it was a character study of X‘s villain. I also liked how Pearl was told in a very different way than X, more like a drama than a gore flick.

Pearl had a slower pace, which reminded me of the pacing in West’s The Roost. A slow build. The movie was held together by Mia Goth’s outstanding performance that delivered a mix of desperation, naivety and vengeance that was disturbingly relatable and sincere.

I can’t say that Pearl went onto my list of favorite West movies like X did, but it did not let me down, and I would consider it an achievement that West can be proud of.

West, Ti. Pearl, A24, 2022.

Horror Cinema Trivia: Annabelle

I never made the connection between Annabelle and Rosemary’s Baby, but, once it was laid out before me, I cannot believe I missed it. Might explain why I enjoyed Annabelle so much.

ScreenRant explains Annabelle‘s homage to Rosemary’s Baby:

“Several references to the classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby are alluded to in Annabelle. For instance, the protagonists are named John and Mia after John Cassavettes and Mia Farrow, the stars of the horror classic. John and Mia also name their daughter Leah, the same name as one of the neighbors in the 1968 film.

“In addition, the plot closely resembles Rosemary’s Baby. Both films center on a couple living in an upscale apartment while expecting a baby, as a host of satanic neighbors plotting to overtake the mother and her child. Moreover, the sound cues of the neighboring apartment are directly taken from Rosemary’s Baby.”

Find more facts about the Annabelle series at The Annabelle Series: 10 Creepy Facts About The Conjuring Spin-Off.

Horror Cinema Trivia: New Nightmare

In Wes Craven’s 1994 New Nightmare, Freddy Krueger is depicted much closer to what Craven had originally intended for the character, much more menacing, much less comical, with an updated attire and appearance.

However in 2015, before his death, Craven would admit he regretted changing Krueger’s appearance and said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which was why he kept Ghostface’s mask the same in every Scream movie.

More behind-the-scenes facts at IMDb Trivia: New Nightmare (1994).

Horror Cinema: Smile

I like that I found a good new horror movie on Paramount+ at the heart of the holiday season. It was a nice palate cleanser from the Christmas vibes of most everything else I am watching this month.

I went into the movie with low expectations, but I was delightfully surprised. Jump scares are my favorite, and this one has a healthy amount, and they are scary and satisfying. For that alone, I would recommend this movie. The story was also good and followed the creepy vibe of a curse like the Ring series, which, again, my favorite. I enjoyed it and think it would be worth checking out.

Finn, Parker. Smile, Paramount Pictures, 2022.

Horror Cinema: Sadako vs. Kayako

This Halloween, I revisited the Ring and Grudge series of movies. In addition to the classics, the US remakes and the Netflix Grudge series, I discovered movies that were new to me, Ring 0, a Japanese prequel to the Ring series, and Sadako vs. Kayako, a mash-up movie of the two franchises.

Ring 0 was good and worth the watch, but it was Sadako vs. Kayako that captured my imagination. I was ready to like it because the director was Kōji Shiraishi, who made possibly one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Noroi: The Curse. The style of Sadako vs. Kayako is nothing like Noroi, but Shiraishi succeeded in making another scary movie.

I fully expected and even wanted the cheesiest, corniest movie out of a Ring-Grudge mash-up, akin to Freddy vs. Jason. It held up to my expectations in the best possible ways, with jump scares and spooky scenes with Sadako, Kayako and the cat-crying boy, Toshio. What I liked more was how unforgiving and cruel they were.

What I liked best about the movie was how it told the story of two cursed girls: how they got cursed, crossed paths and fought together to break their curses. I cannot say that I loved the ending of the film, but the way it took a flimsy and kitschy idea and turned it into a tale of two cursed girls was enchanting and lasted with me.

Shiraishi, Koji. Sadako vs. Kayako, PKDN Films (via Universal Pictures), 2016.

Images from IMDb and Fear Forever.