I didn’t plan to watch three horror films whose titles begin with D; it just turned out that way.
A family move into an isolated house in the Spanish countryside, only for strange things to start occurring (inexplicable power outages, visions of children etc.), which has a knock on effect on the mental health of father Mark, who is recovering from problems in his past. Young son Paul seems to be suffering the most, with his only help coming from sister Regina (Anna Paquin) and, possibly, the grandfather who lives nearby and gifted them the house. Investigating Regina learns that six children disappeared in and around the house forty years before and that it was built for the completion of an occult ritual requiring the deaths of seven children, with a vital lunar eclipse about to recur. I have mixed feelings about this, but enjoyed it rather more than not. Aspects of the plot put me very much in mind of Christopher Fowler’s novel Nyctophobia. There are some excellent jump moments, with the children’s ghosts coming across as extremely creepy, and a nice plot twist towards the end, when we learn who the real villain of the piece is. Concerns about Mark’s mental health, with wife and mother Maria (Lena Olin) in denial, add to the tension and play nicely off the supernatural elements. And the end sequence, with the final fate of the various characters revealed, is handled with a gratifyingly understated sense of menace. On the down side, we never actually learn what the purpose of the dreaded ritual was, why occultists were prepared to sacrifice those that they loved, and really, forty years later its completion doesn’t really seem all that necessary. In conclusion a decent horror outing that is good on the who and how, but somewhat remiss in providing a why.
This one comes with the curse that is usually conveyed by the line ‘based on a true story’. The true story is that of New York cop turned demonologist Ralph Sarchie, here played by Eric Bana. It opens in Iraq in 2010, with three Marines finding an underground cavern and, presumably, getting possessed by whatever evil entity it contained. Skip forward to 2013, with Sarchie investigating a series of oddball and disturbing crimes that all lead back to the three soldiers. With help from a priest who believes they have been taken over by a demon, Sarchie manages to stop two of them, but the third kidnaps his wife and child, making an exorcism necessary to learn where they are being held. This is all pretty much familiar horror fare, with most of the scenes shot in dimly lit rooms, with dead bodies, hieroglyphics on the walls, cockroaches etc., all used as stage setting. One scene in particular, with a mother at the zoo who has thrown her child into a wild animal pit, is especially well done, both unsettling and convincingly staged. The scenes of the climactic exorcism have to be among the best that I’ve ever seen, with some horrific effects, though I have to admit that I have no idea why, having taken Sarchie’s family, the demon possessed ex-soldier hung around to get caught. All in all it was an entertaining horror film but nothing special.
Yet another attempt to find a fresh spin that can be applied to one of horror’s archetypal figures, and this time they have turned him into a superhero (albeit Marvel may have got there first). Luke Evans is Vlad, the rather nice ruler of Transylvania, albeit he has an unsavoury past. With a Turkish invasion pending, Vlad realises that his people can’t be saved by his being Mr. Nice Guy, and so he goes to a cave where a master vampire is trapped and makes a deal with the monster, gaining great power in exchange for its freedom. With his newfound abilities, which he has passed on to others, Vlad has no trouble dealing with the Turkish horde, mostly. The master vampire is another matter entirely. There’s an interesting dichotomy at the heart of this film, as expressed by the tagline, ‘sometimes you need a monster’ (actually that’s not the tagline, but I can’t remember the actual quote and it captures the spirit of the thing). The idea that sometimes you have to do nasty things for a noble end isn’t really explored all that much though, gets lost in an action movie where things like soul searching and moral dilemmas are just stepping stones to the next big fight scene. We don’t have the sense that Vlad really is a man fighting to hold his monstrous impulses in check, to release the inner beast only when circumstances compel him to do so. In many ways it reminded me of the historical scenes of Vlad from Bram Stoker’s Dracula but without the star cast and Coppola’s assured hand on the directorial helm. I enjoyed it in a pass the time sort of way, but apart from Charles Dance as the master vampire, found little that was memorable. It’s Dracula awash in sentimentality not blood, and that will never do.
So, anyone got any recent horror film recommendations, beginning with D or otherwise?