Review: Hounds of Love (2016)

Ben Young’s astounding debut feature film is one of the most disturbing movies we’ve seen of ALL TIME. That’s quite the accolade. It’s a horrific and claustrophobic study of a serial killing couple in Perth, Australia – John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn White (Emma Booth – superb), who abduct, torture and kill teenage girls. Young takes ‘inspiration’ from the infamous serial murders in Perth during the 1950s and the crimes of David and Catherine Birnie, who murdered four women in the city in 1986. A fifth intended victim escaped…

Although John and Evelyn’s relationship is messed up, to others they come across as a normal young-ish couple and here lies the horror. Hounds of Love addresses the unthinkable that can happen behind closed doors – do we ever truly know anyone in our neighbourhood? What atrocities and perversions are being committed? It’s designed to make us all very uncomfortable indeed.

When teenager Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) sneaks out of her Mum’s house to go to a late night party, and is approached by John and Evelyn in their stalking car to give her a lift, the sense of dread and gloom builds. The depraved couple tempt Vicki back to their house and she is drugged – in a haze she realises her fate as she is tied to a bed, whilst John and Evelyn dance, sexually charged, to the Moody Blues ‘Nights in White Satin’. It’s really, really nasty and upsetting.

As Vicki is held captive, we do move into torture porn territory and it’s all rather grim. Throughout Evelyn is seen to be jealous of Vicki and worried that John desires Vicki more. Vicki is the victim and horrific things do happen to her which will test most audiences to continue watching, but she’s also setting the wheels in motion to fight back. And her Mum is desperate to find her which leads to some very emotional scenes.

Hounds of Love is extremely hard to watch and won’t be for everyone. But if you have the stomach, you’ll witness a beautifully shot film with solid performances – and you’ll ensure your door is firmly locked at night.

RATING: 9/10
Watch it for: An intelligent but horrific serial killer flick
Watch out for: The second most disturbing use of the Moody Blues in horror – see also Rob Zombie’s Halloween II


Trailer buzz: Suspiria (2018)

We’re HUGE Dario Argento fans at Dead By Words so when we first heard that his classic Suspiria was being remade, well, it sounded like sacrilege. HOW COULD YOU DO SUCH A THING? But there’s been promising rumours including disgust from critics at a preview (yay!) and with director Luca Guadagnino in charge, we have hope.

The teaser trailer hit today and we’re quite excited.

Positives: the casting of Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson (even if she is in a baddddd wig) and the superb Mia Goth. The soundtrack by Thom Yorke. The look and feel from Luca is very 70s/80s giallo. There’d better be a room full of barbed wire though.

Now watching: The Alienist

Netflix’s The Alienist is an intriguing premise with a star cast –  Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning team up in 1890s New York City to investigate a serial killer preying on street children. Brühl plays Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the so-called ‘alienist’, a criminal psychologist – those suffering from mental illness at the time were said to be alienated from their true natures, so the experts who studied them were known as alienists.

It’s a suitably gruesome and dark series, with New York City looking fantastically grubby but recognisable. It reminds us of the feel of The Knick with a little bit of Penny Dreadful and we’re really enjoying it. Evans is a hoot. Do give it a try.

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

An intelligent British post-apocalyptic zombie flick, The Girl with All the Gifts introduces us to the ‘hungries’ – humans infected by a devastating fungal disease which makes them all so chompy. Humanity’s only hope is from a group of ‘hungry’ children who are able to think, learn and interact with survivors but will still kill if the flesssssh cravings overwhelm them. The children are imprisoned and schooled at an army base, with Dr Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close, in a brilliant role) experimenting on them to try and find a vaccine. Alas the outside hungries invade the base, and a merry group of survivors with young protagonist Melanie (Sennia Nanua – tremendous) have to flee. They make their way to a very I Am Legend looking London.

…Gifts is a great watch with some genuinely terrifying moments – we see the same old run of the mill zombie clichés again and again, but this film brings new ideas and some real jumps. A group of hungry children the survivors encounter in London are particularly nasty, and don’t get us started on the hungry baby in a pram. THING OF NIGHTMARES.

It’s also a good, old fashioned quest movie – we’re on the move to find a safe base and a cure – and the leads are all very likeable, with you caring about their fate. Sennia Nanua is a star on the rise for sure, and you want Melanie to survive despite everything that is in her path. Will Dr Caldwell kill her for the cure/will Melanie sacrifice herself for humanity?

RATING: 7/10
Watch it for: A zombie film with brains (mmm, brains)
Watch out for: That horrific baby. JUST, NO

Review – Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

The most underwhelming installment in the original The Omen series, The Final Conflict pits a damp Sam Neill as Antichrist Damien (he’s just not evil enough!) against, well, the Second Coming of Christ. THE MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES. You’d think so, right? Not in this film.

Damien, now all grown up as U.S Ambassador to Great Britain, orders his followers to kill every infant boy born on the morning the Second Coming happened, and some Italian priests try to kill him so he won’t kill the Christ Child. It’s rather lame, the baby killing isn’t very nice at all, and there’s no ferocity in Neill as the Antichrist. You’d think he’d be a real turd.

There’s some good set pieces involving a devil dog and someone falling into a river, but the film lacks the previous impact and chilling shocks of the first two Omen movies. It’s all rather boring. You’d expect the Second Coming to be a bit interesting, yo.

RATING: 3/10
Watch it for: The demon dog – he’s a good actor!
Watch out for: The baby reveal. Unpleasant

Review – The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

This isn’t going to be a film for everyone. At Dead By Words, we like to think we’re pretty broad-minded and not easily shocked and this film stayed with us for a longggggg time after we watched it. There’s a scene which is up there, as disturbing as anything in Martyrs, which will get you. You’ll know it.

Yorgas Lanthimos is quickly becoming one of our favourite directors – The Lobster was absorbing and phenomenal – and once again he is reunited with Colin Farrell (who knew he would turn out to be an arthouse indie darling?!), who plays his lead protagonist in this movie. Steven Murphy is a heart surgeon and has a beautiful family – wife Anna (Nicole Kidman – fantastic performance) and two kids – in a beautiful home. He regularly meets with a strange teenage boy called Martin (Barry Keoghan – chilling) and the nature of their relationship becomes evident as the film progresses. We’re thrown into a scenario so dark, so disturbing, where Steven has to make the ultimate choice. What path will he take?

From the start, Sacred Deer grips hard with unsettling imagery, dialogue and a score which chills to the bone. Comparisons will be made to Stanley Kubrick and The Shining, from the music through to Murphy stalking the stark corridors of the hospital like Danny on his trike around the Overlook Hotel. Everyone is slightly off-kilter and not present. Murphy family life revolves around select, isolated locations. Steven and Anna’s sex life involves her pretending to be anaesthetised. It’s difficult viewing but a masterpiece of cinema. Give it a shot…*

Your interpretation of Sacred Deer may well be different to ours, but to say anything further would be to give the game away. Let us know your thoughts below in the comments section…we’d love your interpretation on who Martin actually is…(we’ll let you know ours!)

RATING: 9/10
Watch it for: A stunning piece of filmmaking, however unsettling it is
Watch out for: Steven’s selection. Bloody hell

*a bad choice of wording

Review – The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

2013’s The Purge was a fresh and scary premise about an annual night of crimes and  killing in the U.S to keep law and order throughout the rest of the year, and this sequel is a solid entry in the franchise.

At first it starts a bit mehhh – the characters aren’t that captivating, the dialogue is slow and the lead, flawed hero the Sergeant (Frank Grillo) isn’t very exciting – but something changes about 40 mins through where we’re suddenly in a contemporary version of Escape from New York (well, LA), The Warriors, Judgment Night and The Running Man. The Sergeant leads a group of non-purgers through the suburbs of LA to survive the night against various would-be murderers. But there’s something more chilling yet to come…

A neat turn is how rich people enjoy the purge, and the group is caught and sold to the elite and they have to enter a killing ground to be hunted down. It’s all very sinister and a bit Society-esque.

From a dodgy start, Anarchy pulls it back and actually becomes a very tense film.

RATING: 7/10
Watch it for: The elite hunting ground
Watch out for: A sharp shooter in the back of a truck