I recently learned that Christmas in July was a real thing. From what I’ve gathered winter weather happens in July for countries in the southern hemisphere like Australia. That said despite loving family and getting stuff that sounds boring to me. So because I have a lot of time on my hands I decided to do my own thing and celebrate Halloween in June for a week. But how? I haven’t worn a Halloween costume since high school and I know my body would hate me if I got drunk for a week. Then it hit me, horror movies. For the past few years I’ve spent my Halloween watching scary movies like lord knows how many other people. But why limit it to one night? Why not make a whole week out of it? That’s the ticket! And considering the fact that different countries celebrate Christmas in July I figured why not do movies from all over the country. So with a week’s worth of movies and time to kill I present Halloween in June reviews!
Grand Piano (Spain)
Tom Selznick, the most talented pianist of his generation, stopped performing in public because of his stage fright. Years after a catastrophic performance, he reappears in public in a long-awaited concert in Chicago. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: “Play one wrong note and you die.” Without leaving the piano, Tom must discover the anonymous sniper’s motives and look for help without anyone realizing… –(C) Magnet
When horror festivals were in full swing last year there was one movie that kept popping up, Grand Piano. Not only did it have a great cast (I’ve been really digging Elijah Wood’s forays into horror) but it also used the single place story technique (Gravity, Buried) which I really dig. So I plopped in the Blu Ray and I’m happy to say it lived up to the hype. What surprised me the most is how great the cast was. As I mentioned Elijah Wood’s been good in his darker films but John Cusack is really effective as a villain. In another surprise Alex Winter (Bill &a Ted, The Lost Boys) is not only prominent but he makes for a good smarmy henchman. Last, but certainly not least, is the soundtrack to the film. As cliché as it is to say the orchestral music, licensed and original, really is a character on its own. Every note just ups the tension and is perfect for the scene. While more of a thriller than a straight horror movie I can’t recommend Grand Piano enough.
Dream Home (China)
This extreme slasher film from director Pang Ho-cheung stars Josie Ho as Cheng Lai-Sheung, a woman in Hong Kong whose goal is to live in a place where she has a view of Victoria harbor. She goes to desperate, often illegal, means to raise the funds required to live in such prime real estate, but no matter how hard she tries she can’t ever seem to reach the ever-increasing funds needed. Then one day she realizes that her dream is worth killing for. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi
Dream Home has fascinated me since it first came out. My interest in horror mainly consists of slasher movies and a slasher from China really intrigued me. Add the general aesthetic of Hong Kong and I was in. Any worries I had about the movie were swiftly put aside watching the first kill. It was probably one of the most brutal slasher kills I’ve seen in quite some time. Slowly this dark sense of humor emerges adding a whole new layer of insanity. What makes the movie work is Josie Ho as Cheng Lai-sheung. It’s heartbreaking to see the amount of crap she goes through only to be denied at every turn. Maybe I’m crazy but at a certain point you understand why she does what she does and want her to get her dream home. Currently on Netflix Instant this is one open house well worth the visit.
Lesson of the Evil (Japan)
A popular high school teacher concocts an extreme plan to deal with the rise of bullying and bad behavior among the student body.
I think it’s an understatement to say Takashi Miike is a unique director. Since 1991 he has put out everything from Yakuza films (Dead or Alive) to ultra-violent horror (Audition, Ichi the Killer) to superheroes (Zebraman) and even kids movies (Ninja Kids). His last horror film was 2012’s Lesson of the Evil. What I found interesting is how non Miike (well horror wise) it felt. Instead of an ultra-violent gore fest or a tense slow burn it felt a lot like American Psycho. We are introduced to English teacher Seiji Hasumi and he seems perfect. A good teacher he is a friend to his students but is still firm in his convictions. Slowly we see past his glossy veneer and see how unhinged he is. Going into his past we get this trippy look at him killing in the United States and having delusions about Odin before he starts killing his students. Not just one by one but it goes into school shooting territory. All while we listen to the always delightful Mack the Knife. Like Dream Home it’s an interesting genre mash up that goes from psychological horror to slasher and even some Cronenberg-esque dream sequences. With a tag hinting at sequels I would love to see where Miike takes this. If for no other reason than hearing Mack the Knife more.
Kill List (England)
From director Ben Wheatley, Kill List is a mind-blowing genre concoction being called the “#1 Horror Film of the Year” (Bloody-Disgusting). A brilliant blend of family drama, hitman action-thriller and terrifying psychological horror film, Kill List tells the story of an ex-soldier turned contract killer who is plunged into the heart of human darkness. Eight months after a disastrous hit job in Kiev left him physically and mentally scarred, Jay (Neil Maskell) is pressured by his partner Gal (Michael Smiley), into taking a new assignment. As they descend into the bizarre, disturbing world of the contract, Jay’s world begins to unravel until fear and paranoia sending him reeling towards a horrifying point of no return. — (C) IFC
The road to watching this movie has been a long time coming. While I heard about it when it first came out it was reading Remy Carreiro talk about it. Considering the dude’s good taste in horror I was on a quest to track it down. A real quest since I refused to just buy it on Amazon like a normal person. After weeks of searching for the movie at every Zia and FYE I could I finally found it. I had the holy grail and I didn’t watch it. Whether there were other movies or I was doing something else I just never found the time. Luckily I made Halloween in June a thing and Remy totally delivered.
Now I could be talking about how the movie’s slow burn keeps you curious and at the edge of your seat. Or I could talk about how great the cast is, particularly Michael Smiley who I’ve only seen in comedic roles. How about how it melds horror, crime thriller and road movie perfectly. But all I will say is the ending. Sweet Moses that ending. I won’t spoil it but you will be left with your mind blown and a piece of your soul missing. Well worth the watch.
“It’s young Lucy’s first day as a trainee in-house caregiver. She visits Mrs. Jessel, an old woman who lies in cerebral coma, by herself, in her large desolate house. Learning by accident that Mrs. Jessel, a former dance teacher of repute, supposedly possesses a treasure somewhere in the house, Lucy and friends William and Ben decide to search the house in the hope of finding it. At night, they get into the house, which reveals itself to be increasingly peculiar. Their hunt for Mrs. Jessel’s treasure leads them into a horrifying supernatural series of events that will change Lucy forever…” — Bloody Disgusting
I still find it a bit hard to reconcile that this comes from Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. While it may differ for others their 2007 film Inside is the epitome of the New French Extremity horror movement. It’s this shocking, f**ked up film that is still great looking. Fast forward to 2011 and the duo returned with Livide. While not as good as good as Inside it’s definitely an enjoyable watch. What struck me the most was the atmosphere of the movie. With a spooky mansion and long shadows it had a gothic look that I didn’t quite expect. That isn’t to say they completely skimp out on the gore though. There are some brutal kills from the ballerina vampires. Yes, ballerina vampires. And you know what? They are actually quite effective as monsters. Definitely different from what you usually get in movies like this. Despite the ending being kind of stupid it’s actually pretty bittersweet. Besides that I thought this was an effective, if flawed, second outing from some of my favorite newer directors.
With a work week and five movies that’s it for Halloween in June. Have to say that overall it was pretty enjoyable. Each of the movies provided a different version of horror and, more importantly, were quite entertaining. Can’t wait to do this again next year. If for no other reason than to bust out Paint and use Comic Sans.