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.

Horror Cinema: Gone in the Night (2022)

As a teen in the 90s, I loved Winona Ryder. Her movies, from Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael to Reality Bites, shaped much of my adolescence and coming of age. I was excited to see that she recently starred in a horror movie, Gone in the Night.

Image from Cover City

I admit that I went into the movie with low expectations because I haven’t liked much of Winona Ryder’s work over the past 10 or 20 years. But her renewed popularity being on Netflix’s Stranger Things gave me hope that she could be working on a better quality movie.

Image from JoBlo.com

I enjoyed the film. The characters were interesting, and how the story unfolded kept my interest. Although it had plot reveals throughout it, there were clues in scenes well before the reveals, which I appreciated. I don’t like twists and turns that blind-side me, so I liked how I could piece together the story as the protagonist uncovered the plot’s mystery.

The movie could have ended in one of many ways, and I liked how it concluded. It felt just artsy and weird enough to make me feel satisfied that I was watching a Winona Ryder movie.

Image from Readsme

Horowitz, Eli. Gone in the Night, Vertical Entertainment, 2022.

Horror Cinema: Grave Encounters

Full disclosure: I love Zak Bagans and Ghost Adventures.

The host, Zak, is endearing and kind to others but becomes angry and dramatic around ghosts and ghost activity. I live for ghosts caught on camera, and the show has some of the best audio and video recordings that send chills up my spine. I also like that the episodes are thoughtful in their storytelling about the locations they visit, with their mix of spookiness and a reverence for the past and the spirit world.

Watching the movie Grave Encounters, I was immediately connected to the characters because they were a parody of the Ghost Adventures crew, and I felt like I already knew who they were. I love jump scares and all things ghosts, so I truly enjoyed the movie. I was particularly surprised by the turn of events in the last quarter. It was not what I was expecting, but it was everything I never knew I wanted! Grave Encounters is one of a few horror movies that I liked from beginning to end, and on multiple viewings.

A sequel was made that I did not like as much, but I would recommend it for the purists who want to see it for themselves.

The Vicious Brothers. Grave Encounters, Tribeca Film, 2011.