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!)

GORE RATING: 1/5
SCARES: 3/5
DISTURBIA: 5/5
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

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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.

GORE RATING: 2/5
SCARES: 2/5
DISTURBIA: 3/5
RATING: 7/10
Watch it for: The elite hunting ground
Watch out for: A sharp shooter in the back of a truck

Review: Personal Shopper (2016)

When a movie is booed at Cannes, we usually take that as a seal of approval. That’s what happened to Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper at the festival in 2016, a haunting and beautiful film that gets under your skin. It’s not a horror but there are ghosts. Kristen Stewart’s Maureen is a personal shopper to the stars in Paris, but she’s also a medium and wants to make contact with her dead brother Lewis. They both share the same genetic heart condition, from which Lewis died.

Mourning oozes from every pore of Maureen and Stewart is captivating throughout the 110 minutes. You can’t take your eyes off her. Some will find the film VERY slow but there is that special something that hooks you. It’s delivered with style and a sense of otherworldliness. As Maureen glides sullenly (and we know Stewart does sullen well) from Paris to London to pick up exquisite clothes and jewels for her rich client, it’s juxtaposed against the darkness of the ‘haunted’ house of her late brother where she is desperately trying to make contact with him. And things do go bump in the night, in the style of a Japanese horror movie.

The dénouement takes us to Oman and leaves everything a bit open to interpretation but this is a strange little film that is definitely worth checking out for Stewart’s performance alone. It’s daft, spellbinding couture. 

GORE RATING: 0/5

SCARES: 0/5

DISTURBIA: 0/5

RATING: 6/10

Watch it for: Kristen Stewart

Watch out for: The apparition in the house 

Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

An effective and original chiller, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is about a mystery body that turns up in a murder house and baffles father and son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) as they struggle to determine the cause of death. When a violent storm starts and a radio takes on a life of its own, playing songs about the Devil, they realise that this may be an extraordinary corpse.

It’s got the gore of the autopsy – performed real-time – which reveals more and more strange horrors and clues about Jane’s demise. Add into that the sinister supernatural undertones and you’ll be jumping as to what’s coming next.

Cox is excellent as the main lead, and gels well with the innocent Hirsch. The last Act is slightly confusing – as to what Jane is and what her motivations are – but don’t let this distract from a great little horror film that is one to draw the curtains and turn off the lights to.

Kudos must also go to Olwen Kelly who plays the Jane Doe, when most of her performance is being laid out on a slab. Despite not doing very much indeed, she has a formidable presence throughout and is damnnnnnn scary.

GORE RATING: 5/5

SCARES: 2/5

DISTURBIA: 2/5

RATING: 8/10

Watch it for: When ‘Jane’s’ powers truly come to light. Breaking the lights

Watch out for: The ring of the toe bell

Review – Damien: Omen II (1978)

The second installment in The Omen series, we follow 12-year old Damien (a seriously spooky Jonathan Scott-Taylor) as he starts at military academy and realises his destiny. Damien is now living with adoptive parents – after both his parents were taken care of in The Omen – and as those close to him get to know what he’s all about (the 666 on his scalp is a big sign), they start being bumped off. There are also those who exist to protect him.

It’s a good watch and features some pretty gruesome Final Destination-like scenes – the journalist having her eyes pecked out by a raven is especially nasty, as well as the doctor who is chopped in half by a falling lift cable. Scott-Taylor is excellent as our chilling protagonist, who knows he’s a little different to other boys but comes of age with his powers.

Omen II sets us up nicely for Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), and it’s a solid and classic horror franchise that’s still very eerie.

GORE RATING: 3/5

SCARES: 3/5

DISTURBIA: 2/5

RATING: 7/10

Watch it for: Scott-Taylor’s Damien. Creepy kid

Watch out for: Large trucks, if your eyes have been pecked out 

Review – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

An atmospheric, beautifully shot Iranian vampire Western, A Girl Walks… is a stunning film which also features one of the best cats in cinema – just as good as Ulysses from Inside Llewyn Davis.

Arash (Arash Marandi) is a hardworking young man who cares for his drug addict father. He also looks super cool, like James Dean. The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalks the streets of Bad City dressed in a chādor, taking drug dealers as her vampiric victims, and listens to moody indie music in her home. One night Arash and The Girl meet – Arash aptly dressed as Dracula, straying from a Halloween party – and she takes him back to her apartment. The rest…that’d be telling.

There are nods to David Lynch throughout – the point of view night time driving, people dancing and throwing strange shapes, the general oddness – and it’s an achingly hip film. Vand is captivating as the quiet but threatening Girl, and Marandi is an old school cinematic heart throb. Be prepared to be absorbed into the strange goings on in Bad City, and to be swallowed by this movie.

GORE RATING: 1/5

SCARES: 2/5

DISTURBIA: 1/5

RATING: 7/10

Watch it for: The cinematography is exquisite

Watch out for: Finger lickin’ good 

Review: Society (1989)

We’re now in a rather apt political climate to revisit Brian Yuzna’s 80s horror cult classic, of the wealthy elite consuming the lower classes. Not much happens for the first 60 minutes but then…then…oh god. Can we even talk about it?!

Baywatch’s Billy Warlock plays Bill Whitney, a rich kid who doesn’t feel he quite fits in with his family although they have it all. When his sister’s ex boyfriend plays him an incriminating recording from her first society party – including incest, an orgy and what sounds like a murder – Bill becomes a bit suspicious of what his family are actually up to.

The first two Acts set up what is coming to Bill nicely, with almost David Lynch/Blue Velvet like qualities to its look and feel. Are Bill’s concerns justified or is his family, with their secret parties, a different species altogether?

Yuzna’s film is clever, satirical and never more relevant body horror. The climax is as yukky as we remember it and…hang on…doesn’t that look like Trump in the throng?

GORE RATING: Off the scale 

SCARES: 2/5

DISTURBIA: 5/5 *sob* 

RATING: 7/10

Watch it for: The ending. Oh boy!

Watch out for: Butthead!