After a week long of premiering some of the most anticipated horror films, the Toronto International Film Festival has finally drawn to a close and with that, the reviews are in. Did Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem live up to the hype, did Ben Wheatley succeed in his follow up from Kill List with Sightseers, or what about Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral? I’ve pulled together some completely spoiler free reviews of those and much more below.
Berbarian Sound Studio starring Toby Jones gained a lot of interest just before its premier giving this film a sort of unknown quality to it that some of the other films didn’t have. The major draw of this one was not only Toby Jones but the premise of it was something different that looked to be genre-bending with a psychological throwback to the old Italian horror cinema. It certainly didn’t fit the mold which was something that helped fuel the attention of horror fans. So how did the stylish film do?
Unfortunately for Berbarian Sound Studio word out of TIFF wasn’t great. Some of the negatives were that the film was “punishing” in the sense that a lot of the scenes would go nowhere ultimately making the film boring. Toby Jones — probably the biggest draw to the film — was underused; which I find very surprising considering the amount of talent Jones brings to a film like this. And as far as a storytelling experience goes there really wasn’t much of a story. It all seemed to have just fallen flat. What positives I did find were that it is incredibly well shot that really displays the talent that the director Peter Strickland has; unfortunately his talents didn’t extend much further than that because we end up with a boring horror film that never really goes anywhere.
I’m pretty disappointed with the overall consensus of the film because it had a very intriguing premise for a horror film that you just don’t see very often. And with Toby Jones leading the film I could only image great things for Berbarian Sound Studio but unfortunately this one missed the mark.
John Dies at the End is a film I’ve been anticipating for quite a while because not only is it one of my favorite novels, but the entire premise of it is so out of this world that it just HAD to be seen on the big screen. The characters are unbelievably funny together and with the right cast and crew you could really bring this crazy novel to life in a fantastic way. While I’ve been extremely excited for this film’s release, it’s certainly not one of the more anticipated films at TIFF this year because the audience for this film just isn’t that big. Fans of Don Coscarelli and David Wong’s novel are about the only audience this film has which could end up hurting it in the long run. With amazing source material and creatures that would make any horror hound smile, just how did the adaptation hold up on the big screen?
Where the film succeeded and failed seems to be pretty unanimous across the board. The problem with turning David Wong’s novel into a feature was that in order for it to be done right you would need a pretty big budget which is just something that Coscarelli didn’t have access to. And with a cast that did just an “okay” job the film ultimately loses the flair that the novel had. Not only this but the novel has so many different ideas that Coscarelli could only squeeze in a couple of them which barely scratches the surface of Wong’s novel. However, the film starts at a break neck pace that never slows down delivering enough WTF moments coupled with plenty of laughter to keep the audience entertained. Overall, 90 minutes just isn’t enough to properly bring the novel to life and for fans of the book this might be the reason it falls flat.
So it’s basically like any other book to film argument. Fans of the novel might come out of this disappointed while others will walk away completely entertained.
Room 237 is a documentary that explores the multiple theories that surround Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film, The Shining. Like many horror fans, The Shining is one of my favorite horror films because what’s not to like about it? It’s perfect. That being said, I was never aware of all of these “theories” that have surfaced regarding the film and its supposed “hidden messages”. Upon hearing about Room 237 I became instantly intrigued and have eagerly been waiting for my chance to see this film. Did Room 237 wow audiences or was it just chasing its own tail?
Room 237 blew minds at TIFF this year. It’s as simple as that. The presentation of the film and its refusal to take sides on issues seems to be its strong point because rather than having a set stance on a certain theory the film just lets everything unfold on screen letting the audience soak up as much as possible. It lets the theories “speak for themselves, and the results are by turns hilarious, revelatory and utterly bewildering – but always totally enthralling.” An extraordinarily entertaining film that shines a light on one of the greatest horror films of all time in such a way that will blow your mind and is a “one-of-a-kind experience that is also one of the year’s very best films.”
I couldn’t be any more excited to see this movie. I’ve seen The Shining countless times as I’m sure many of you have as well and the idea that Room 237 successfully opens up so many new doors in such a way that it makes any return visits to this classic almost like watching the film for the first time again makes this film a must see.
Sightseers hit the radar of many horror fans since its announcement because after his huge hit, Kill List, Ben Wheatley really made a name for himself in the horror genre. Wheatley is a force in the genre who doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon with plans for a couple of films already on the horizon. Since it was announced that Sightseers was being premiered at TIFF it quickly became one of the must see films of the festival. Did Wheatley’s follow up film disappoint after coming off of the huge success of Kill List, or did it solidify Wheatley’s spot as one of the most exciting up and coming directors in the genre?
I’m pleased to say that Sightseers looks to be yet another gem from director Ben Wheatley. His fascination with the unpredictable and his unvarnished style of filmmaking make his films stand apart from much of what we see these days and Sightseers is definitely no exception. The film is undoubtedly a Ben Wheatley film which is music to the ears of fans of Kill List. While a much smaller film than his previous one, Sightseers is still extremely well made that switches from different tones at a speed that you almost never see from directors. It’s filled with ridiculous humor, sheer violence, and genuine depth of the characters that make this film worth while. Wheatley is only getting better with each film and Sightseers is “a trip well worth taking”.
I couldn’t be happier to see that Wheatley is getting the attention he deserves who will undoubtedly become a name that is very recognizable in the near future.
Antivral marks the directorial debut of Brandon Cronenberg; the son of legendary director David Cronenberg. For obvious reasons this horror film hit the spotlight the second it was announced because many people instantly became curious to see how Brandon would stack up against his father. It’s unfortunate that he immediately became compared to his father who not only has many years under his belt but has created some unforgettable horror films. When your father is David Cronenberg that is just something that will never go away and should become something that energizes him as a filmmaker. Body horror was made famous by his father so it only seemed natural to take that genre and run with it as Brandon came up with the crazy idea of Antiviral.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Antiviral seems like the obvious choice for his directorial debut. Cronenberg’s stomach turning debut is directed with great precision and conviction but for those exact reason the film “becomes sterile and mostly void of humanity or even emotion”. Despite the lack of emotion, the film manages to be imaginative and creative but ultimately never quite becomes the mind-blowing film that many were hoping it would be. A strong debut that successfully accomplishes what it set out to do, Antiviral is just a stepping stone in what looks to be a promising career from Brandon Cronenberg. Despite its faults it “still manages to engage its audience to a certain degree with its unique premise, proficient cinematography and a breakout performance from Caleb Landry Jones that won’t soon be forgotten”.
I think the biggest problem this film faced was the comparison between father and son because people set the bar so high that it ended up falling just short of the expectations. While it might not have been the debut everyone was hoping for this still sounds like a solid entry in the genre that marks the debut of Brandon Cronenberg who is sure to have a very successful career ahead of him.
The Bay came out of nowhere with a trailer that featured a shaky cam found-footage style of filmmaking about an infection that spreads over a small town. It quickly raised some eyebrows because it was a horror film coming from an unlikely source in Barry Levinson. The fact that Levinson — who is a very accomplished director — was stepping outside of the box to direct a horror film grabbed the attention of many people. But was his first effort in the horror genre a good one?
The Bay really shows that Levinson is new to the genre because he relies on “cheap” scares that are never quite earned. I have a big problem with the newer horror films only using loud noises in the dark to scare its audience. How much effort does that really take? Not much. While Levinson is new to the genre, he did try to make a genuine horror flick that ultimately falls flat. “While it may work on the average folk who have never seen a horror film in their life, it won’t fool a hardcore fan by a long shot. The Bay is an admirable but ultimately dull thriller”.
As awesome as I thought the trailer was and excited I was to see Levinson break out of his box to direct this horror film I’m really not surprised to find out that the movie isn’t anything special. Horror is a tough genre to please in these days and I’m happy that Levinson gave it a shot and wouldn’t mind seeing him give it another go.
Byzantium is the return to the vampire genre from Neil Jordan which is exactly what makes this film so exciting. Jordan knows how to make a vampire flick and with a fantastic cast backing up the film this one quickly became a must see. Does Byzantium mark a true return the vampire mythology for Jordan? Let’s see what TIFF had to say.
The biggest success of Byzantium is the fact that Jordan somehow managed to bring the genre into “uncharted territory” that’s refreshing and ambitious. Unsurprisingly, Arterton and Ronan make a “striking pair of vampires” that really make their characters believable. Heavy on the emotion, Byzantium’s biggest flaw is the first half that “feels a bit too much like Interview with the Vampire, but without the campy fun.” However, the second half is where the film really hit’s its stride by seamlessly blending the past and present, and “organically weaving in the narration with the pertinent part of the flashback.” While Byzantium starts out slow, the film finishes strongly but never quite gets where it wants to go. It’s a very promising addition to the vampire genre that presents a world worth exploring.
I’m pleased with the overall reviews for Neil Jordan’s latest vampire film. It’s hard to stand out in a genre that has been retold time and time again. And the fact that Jordan managed to still tell a story that took the genre into a new direction is extremely exciting.
The Lords of Salem is easily one of the biggest horror films to be releasing next year that has every horror fan at the edge of their seat in anticipation. Rob Zombie’s films — love them or hate them — have a very distinct brand of horror that many directors aren’t willing to go. His films play like gritty grindhouse films with some truly unforgettable characters. His remake of Halloween was extremely brutal and while it was very far from Carpenter’s classic it managed to bring a style to Michael Myers that fit the character very well. After two Halloween films Zombie finally created a new original horror story that has been the talk of the horror community for quite a while. Does it live up to the hype? We can only hope so.
Rob Zombies “most mature directorial work to date” is what really adds another rung to the ladder for The Lords of Salem with “Kubrick-esque visuals”. As with all of Zombie’s films this one will be split right down the middle of love-it or hate-it. While the reviews might be on both sides of the fence one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that this is a “twisted dark nightmare of a film” and “freaky as hell”. Not only is this being called Zombie’s most “mature” film but it’s easily his most gorgeous to look at. The idea that The Lords of Salem has the typical Rob Zombie stamp on it while being a beautiful looking film is really something special because all of his other films have a very gritty tone to them and it will be nice to see something visually striking from a director that isn’t known for such qualities. Fans of looking forward to seeing Zombie grow as a director will no doubt be pleased with what they see. And with the tone of Argento’s Suspiria with a Kubrick style of visuals The Lords of Salem looks to have lived up to the hype. And finally, “If you’re into some weird shit- LORDS OF SALEM is not one you can afford to miss.”
After the reviews I’m even more excited to see Rob Zombie’s latest horror film because when a movie like this comes out I usually lean towards to the love-it side because let’s face it… I’m into some weird shit.