Digging through the DVR – 4 the fun of it

I DVR so much crap off the dozens of movie channels that it’s unusual to watch 4 in a row in one weekend that all give me a few cheap thrills—especially when at least half of them are mainstream horror. But that was the case here.

RITUAL (2012)

ritual cover

Ritual throws us right into the thick of the action with as little clue as to what’s actually going on as the protagonist. A man wakes up in the woods, buried just enough to be able to dig his way out. Problem is, he can’t remember anything. A videotape in a nearby cabin reveals the truth…someone has killed his wife and now he must find his two kids.

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The first part of the film is quite atmospheric and suspenseful. It feels very much like playing a Silent Hill video game as the man explores dark cabins with nothing but a lantern. Someone is pursuing him, hiding in the shadows, trying to kill him.

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As he comes closer to finding his kids, the film takes a surprising turn. The real twist comes when another family appears on the scene, but by then you’ll probably get a sense of what’s really going on.

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You just need to pay close attention to what is unfolding or you will miss important, complex details that explain all.

ritual water

For a moment, I thought the other family was actually a bunch of cute gay guys and a fag hag…and that the main guy was washing off to join in on some fun…but sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.

HORNS (2013)

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Anti-snob that I am (which kind of makes me a snob), I cringe at the thought of watching any artsy indie film Daniel Radcliffe has starred in since his Harry Potter days. Plus, just seeing an image of him with those horns made this look too fantasy for my tastes, so I never sought it out. But, since it was on cable, I figured I’d DVR it and then do something worthwhile as it played in the background.

With the need to shave 30 minutes off the 2-hour running time being a given, I have to say, Horns, directed by quite versatile horror director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors, Piranha 3D) and based on a novel by Joe Hill, was a pretty damn entertaining flick. It would be easy to compare the plot and Hill’s style of storytelling – small town faces supernatural dilemma that causes social rift between locals – to the works of Hill’s father Stephen King. However, I think the influence is bigger than that. Joe Hill is a product of the 1970s and 1980s, just like the rest of us GenXers who grew up on King, Spielberg, Tales from the Darkside, The Ray Bradbury Theater, etc. And it shows. Horns is part horror, part human.

Everyone in town believes Radcliffe’s character is guilty after his girlfriend is raped and murdered in the woods. It doesn’t help that he begins to grow those damn horns. He gains powers to see things and to get people to confess things and to do things (he even gets two cops to admit they are gay for each other and start going at it).

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He has an attack snake that he sets loose on people. He seems like a pretty dark character, and yeah, there’s a good dose of religious symbolism mixed in there.

horns snake attack

But that’s what makes the film so intriguing. Because it’s up to Radcliffe to prove he didn’t do it and reveal who really did even though he is the one basically turning into the devil.

horns demon

The film is a bit slow and unfolds more as a mystery, with the horror elements saved for the final act. And it sure does get horrific all of a sudden, with some brief but wicked gore. Only thing that could have made it better were if it came thirty minutes sooner.

LIGHTS OUT (2016)

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No idea what is with the guy on this unused poster art, but it’s much sexier than the final poster….

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Anyway, when short film Lights Out blew up the Internet a few years ago and it was then announced that it was being made into a full-length feature, it was pretty obvious that doing so would simply water down the effectiveness. So in watching this one, I just went with it and had more fun than I probably should admit to—although it’s not much of a surprise. This film isn’t much different than Darkness Falls, another film I like that most love to hate.

lights out original star

It gets bonus points immediately because the star of the original short virtually recreates her scene for the opener of this film—lights off, form of scary lady appears; lights on, it disappears. Each time it’s done, she moves closer. Eek!

For the movie, Lights Out Lady gets a backstory. A young woman tries to convince her little brother that their mother is just losing her shit and has an imaginary friend, but the boy believes the Lights Out Lady is really coming for him. Pretty soon, the sister briefly turns out a light and discovers he’s probably right.

Unlike Darkness Falls, this film makes the smart move of keeping most of the action contained to one house, although Lights Out Lady goes wherever the hell she wants at times. And even though she has a very particular motive involving the mother, it doesn’t stop her from killing anyone who turns off a light. Plus, she also seems to have the power to just turn lights off and on at will, giving her the upper hand. No fair!

I just had an epiphany as I was writing this. As far as PG-13 cheap scare tween flix about evil bitches in the dark go, I actually like this one better than Darkness Falls. Lights Out Lady looks much scarier, and she’s way scarier than the little bug-eyed girl with the big smile in the short film.

lights out monster

Plus, I kind of get a kick out of watching the boy being dragged all over the place by Lights Out Lady while clinging to his candle, yet the flame never goes out.

lights out candle

THE BOY (2016)

boy 2016 movie cover

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this cheesy film just to cleanse my palate of that horrendous The Boy flick that serves as a portrait of a little psycho bastard. No thanks.

This PG-13 Annabelle cash-in stars our beloved Maggie of The Walking Dead (aka: Lauren Cohan) and is directed by William Brent Bell (Wer, Stay Alive, The Devil Inside). The eye rolling starts right away. Maggie, having accepted a nanny job, gets to this big mansion in the middle of nowhere, is greeted by no one, and then meets the cute, 40 year old grocery boy.

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After they chat for some time, she meets the older couple she’ll be working for, who introduce her to their child—a doll. She laughs, they look hurt, she looks confused, and the entire audience thinks, why the fuck didn’t the grocery boy warn her? Which is the very thing she asks him the next time she’s alone with him.

boy 2016 parents

Anyway, things play out as predictably as possible as soon as she’s alone with the doll (the couple is going away for a few months), complete with cheap dream scares. We learn that as much as Maggie fears the doll is alive, living with it is better than going back to her abusive ex. We also learn that she should have listened to the couple when they told her to treat their “son” exactly as outlined in the list of rules they left for her.

boy 2016 doll wave

However, I must say, just when you start getting a case of the giggles because the doll is obscene phone calling Maggie (the call is coming from inside the dollhouse!), the film actually takes an unpredictable turn…onto a another well-worn route. Seriously, there’s nothing new here, and there are loads of plot holes when all is said and done, but at least the film bombards you with an assortment of clashing clichés to create the illusion of originality.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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One Response to Digging through the DVR – 4 the fun of it

  1. joshuaskye says:

    I need to see Ritual. I’ve seen the others and really liked them.

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