Three Horror Films

Andrew Stephens, Tuesday the 20th of September, 2016

1408

1408In general I avoid films whose titles consist of a single integer. For every 2001 there are a dozen 10s or 2012s. I should have listened to my instincts before watching this aggressively mediocre film based on a lesser Stephen King short story.

It starts off promisingly. Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a writerI always feel that Stephen King follows the "write what you know" advice a little too closely who travels the country penning popular books on haunted inns and B&Bs. His latest project is the titular room in New York's suitably old fashioned Dolphin Hotel. Despite the strenuous objections of the Dolphin's manager (Samuel L. Jackson), Mike checks himself in, dooming himself to a terrifying night and us to a tedious 90 minutes.

The rest of the film is Mike stuck in a room as various eerie things happen. At first these are actually pretty effective but the plot soon becomes tiresome as the room starts resorting to jump scares of masked killers and bleeding wallsRemember when The Simpsons made fun of bleeding walls - in 1993. Cusack tries his best to keep things going, but he just isn't the sort of actor that can sustain a film like this alone. I could almost see it working with a single-man-meltdown-specialist like Nicholas Cage, but as it is 1408 doesn't have enough of anything to sustain interest. Halfway through the film gives up and starts using wield camera angles instead of ideas.

Not recommended

Sinister

SinisterAnother horror film featuring a washed-up writer. This time it is Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) who makes the bad choices for the sake of his art, moving his family (wife, daughter, and son) into an infamous murder house in order to get inspired for his latest true-crime book. Up in the attic, Ellison finds a box of old Super-8 films and a projector, apparently left behind by the murdered family. Watching the films reveals horrifying details of the murders and several previous crimes. Even worse, each film contains a demonic figure lurking in the background.

So far, so good. Sinister is well made and the first half is genuinely creepy. Ellison is cracking under the strain, his wife is not happy he moved them into a murder house, and his son is starting to behave oddly, but he just can't stop watching the home movies.

But somewhere about half-way through it is revealed that the problem is a demon called Bughuul who looks like he wandered in from the Gathering of Juggalos and Sinister begins the slow process of failing to live up to its title. All that carefully constructed suspense and mystery is resolved in the most ham-fisted ways as the film creaks towards its disappointing ending. What kind of hipster demon would manifest through Super-8?

Better than 1408, but only the first half is any good. A disappointment.

Below

BelowBeing on a WWII submarine in the Atlantic Ocean was probably stressful enough, but it turns out it could be worse; the submarine could be haunted!

Below is a cheap but effective film that really tries to escape the limitations of its premise. A sub makes for a claustrophobic setting, and the fact that about everyone seems to be hiding something from the three survivors the sub picked up adds to the intrigue.

Not a great film, Below is a little talky and low-budgetIt looks like it was made for TV, I don't think it was though, but it succeeds in what it sets out to do unlike two other films I could mention.