The Cleansing Hour – Short Film Review

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4.5 out of 5

4.5 out of 5

 

 

A little while back I was invited to review a short film directed by Damien Leveck titled The Cleansing Hour.

Director Damien Leveck

Director Damien Leveck

As a fellow content producer of the genre, I am always honored to peek behind the curtain of other creative scare meisters.  Add to that my admiration of short subject narratives and I was excited to receive screening privileges and provide my two cents into the blogosphere.

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I said HOLY WATER, NOT SULFURIC ACID!!!

The concept of the film is simple:  “The Cleansing Hour” is a web series that promises a new, unique exorcism each episode, streamed live, for the world to view.  Unfortunately, it’s all a sham.  The priest is a less-than-holy egomaniac and the possessed merely hired starlets, paid to moan, writhe and receive the rite of exorcism – all rigged to lighting effects and other not-so-paranormal stage tricks designed to provide avid on-line viewers with a few minutes of supernatural reality content.

Writer Aaron Horwitz

Writer Aaron Horwitz

But what happens when the starlet is actually possessed by a REAL DEMON?  Well, that’s exactly what writer Aaron Horwitz explores throughout the 18 or so minutes of The Cleansing Hour.

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Talk to the cross, man! Sam Jaeger as Father Lance


Heather Morris as Heather

The cast is top notch, delivering worthy performances, selling the concept through and through.  Sam Jaeger (American Sniper, Lucky Number Slevin) delivers a fine performance as the hypocritical Father Lance, and Heather Morris (Glee, Ice Breakers) does a fine job as Heather, the possessed starlet.

Jonny Radtke aka Jonny Skellington aka Braden

Perhaps one of my favorite choices regarding the cast is that of Jonny Radtke as Braden, the substitute sound man.  He is a gaunt figure, almost skeletal, and moves with an other-worldliness that haunts the scenes.  Hopefully, Filter can spare the guitarist for other acting gigs.

 

The pacing is dead-on, and the writing is solid.  Director Damien Leveck’s visuals lead us deftly through the story, punctuating the appropriate plot points without rubbing our noses in them.  I particularly enjoyed the Korean policemen scenes, keenly executed by actors Joonho Huh and Wanhi Lee.

Joonho Huh


Wanhi Lee

Overall I gave The Cleansing Hour 4.5 out if 5 skulls.  My only complaint is that I prefer a little more grit and texture with my horror.  The Cleansing Hour might have been a little too “clean” for me.  Yeah I know, pea soup is passe, but I still like things to decay, rot, ooze and slither before my eyes.

Ok, that's kinda gritty...

Ok, that’s kinda gritty…

That said, the writing is tight. Beginning, middle and delightfully wicked end all work without fail, the performances outstanding, and the overall execution top notch.  I couldn’t help thinking that the Catholic Church might want to actually stream their exorcisms live, you know, to help boost membership – I might eschew my atheism for that content!

Kudos to The Cleansing Hour – looking forward to more horror from Damien and company in the future.

 

skulldugjerry

-SkullDug Jerry

For more info please visit:

http://www.cleansinghourmovie.com

Bucket (of Blood) List – 10 horror films to see before you die

Life is short. So many horror films – so little time. Quite the predickelment. “Hey” you say – is that even a word? No. But who has time for things like grammar, linguistics and etymology – we’ve got things like vampires, zombies and demons to discuss. And movies to watch. Lotsa movies.

I think many would agree that the films listed below are true classics of the genre – so there’s a good chance you’ve seen them all already. But if there are any films on this list you haven’t seen – I’d say sit your horror-film-lovin’ carcass down, right now, and start a watchin’.

Dracula (1931)

Dracula“Listen to dem…children of de night…vhat music dey make.” Iconic lines delivered in the unmistakable voice of the actor who, to this day, is the definitive blood-sucker – the most Dracula-ist of all Draculas – Bela Lugosi. It’s like, how much more Drac could he be? The answer is none. None more Drac. Yes, the film Nosferatu, was released a full 9 years earlier, and is certainly a classic in it’s own right, but Tod Brownings’ Dracula laid the unhallowed groundwork for countless vampire flicks to come.

Psycho (1960)

Psycho

Girl steals money from work, leaves town, and finds an off-the-beaten-path hotel for an overnight stay. Good set up for any standard horror/suspense film, but this film is so masterfully crafted that even those who are not fans of the genre should be thoroughly entertained. And, of course, it contains one of the best-known (and most studied) 45 seconds of film in the history of cinema – the shower scene (“Mother! Oh God, mother! Blood! Blood!”). It’s unarguably among Alfred Hitchcock’s best films. If you need more convincing – the American Film Institute lists it as #14 on their list of the 100 greatest films of all time.

 Carnival of Souls (1962)

CarnivalOfSoulsOK, I’m not great with math, but I think the “equation” for this film would be something like: creepy + creepy, divided by low budget + more creepy = creepy to the 10th power. What I’m trying to say this movie is…creepy. The slow pacing, extremely low production values and amateurish acting (other than from our lead – Candace Hilligoss – who’s performance is dead on) may, at points, distract, but overall add to the pervasive feeling of unease. The story of a woman who has a series of strange experiences after a car accident gets an “A” for atmosphere. Director Herk Harvey’s one and only feature film will haunt you long after the carnival has left town.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

NightOfTheLivingDeadThe dead were born right here; a horror sub genre started with this film. There were other zombie films before this, but the earlier films lurked somewhere a bit closer to reality – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligiri (1920) dealt with hypnotism, and White Zombie (1932) was a tale of voodoo. It was director George Romero, who truly defined the zombie as we know it – the shuffling, rotting dead, with a big appetite for life.
Night of the Living Dead trailer


Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

RosemaryThe story of a pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) who fears that everyone around her intends to harm her unborn child. Roman Polanski’s cinematic adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel was a critical (an Oscar for best supporting actress – Ruth Gordon) and commercial success. But its biggest success may be the powerful and paralyzing sense of pure paranoia that permeates the picture.
Rosemary’s Baby Trailer

 

The Exorcist (1973)

ExorcistThe first horror film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (it lost in that category, but won Best Adapted Screenplay), also finds itself first on many “greatest horror films of all time” lists, and with good reason. The story, of a girl possessed by the devil and a priest whose faith is fading, contains plenty of intense moments and genuine scares. One or two of the special effects may not quite hold up fully to today’s standards, but overall the make-up (by Dick Smith) is incredible, and the scenes of Reagan in full-on-possession mode (her scarred face spewing split-pea-soup-coated profanities) will find a permanent residence in your brain.
The Exorcist trailer

The Omen (1976)Omen

Richard Donner directs old-school Hollywood stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick in this story of a diplomat and his wife who become the foster parents to the antichrist. This terrifying tale of a terror-inducing tyke on a tricycle, with it’s creative death scenes and Oscar-winning score by Jerry Goldsmith (perhaps the best horror soundtrack ever), put this way out in front of most other spawn-of-Satan flicks.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

DawnoftheDeadRomero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead successfully mixes horror with a healthy dose of social satire. But what really makes this flick so much fun are the “fantasy” elements that speak to the 12-year-old in all of us: living in a shopping mall, having an arsenal of weapons and an endless supply of slow moving targets, being among the last people on earth, etc. Throw in loads of comic-book-style gore and you’ve got yourself a bloody good time.
Dawn of the Dead trailer

The Shining (1980)

ShiningStanley Kubrick’s meticulous direction, Jack Nicholson’s tour-de-force performance, and Stephen Kings’ finely crafted novel (about a family who spend a winter as caretakers of a remote, haunted resort) combine for a perfect trifecta of terror. While, at times, the over-the-top sense of drama may bring some unintended humor, overall, Kubrick’s unique interpretation of the source material, the film’s poetic cinematography, and the evocative, intensely effective score, make the film truly hypnotic.

It’s a mesmerizing psychological study of the disintegration of a family – and a spooky, brilliant mood piece.
The Shining trailer

The Evil Dead (1981)

EvilDeadA group of college friends, off in a cabin in the woods, find the Necronomicon (a book of the dead), and high-octane-horror hijinx ensue. Sam Raimi’s generous use of blood and gore and high-energy camera work make for a wonderfully messy thrill ride of a movie. Filming some of the gore scenes in stop-motion animation gives the film an extra feeling of the bizarre. The love of the genre and the pure joy of movie-making are evident in every scene of this low-budget, frantic fright fest.

Author Stephen King’s quote says it all:
“The most ferociously original horror film of the year.”
Evil Dead trailer

Jeeze, that’s 10 already, and we’re only up to 1981. Lots more good stuff beyond that…but I guess that’ll be for another list, another time….assuming we don’t kick the bucket between now and then…

-S. Blood

A review of Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth movie graphic

A tree grows in a girl’s mind…

Pan’s Labyrinth (or, it’s original title, “El laberinto del fauno”) is a 2006 foreign fantasy/horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro, and it’s one of my favorite movies. Taking place in 1944, a few years after the Spanish Civil War, the film focuses in on a young girl fighting to cope with many changes and traumas that she has faced and is still facing as the story moves on. This dark fantasy also incorporates the reality of strife in post-Civil War Spain, tying it in with contrasting transitions.

The plot, with as few spoilers as I can manage, is as follows: A young girl named Ofelia moves in with her new stepfather, a ruthless military leader. In an overgrown, dilapidated labyrinth, she encounters a mythical creature – a Faun – who tells her that she is believed to be the princess of a forgotten world. However, she must prove that she is the princess by completing several tasks. But this is truly a dark fantasy, with realism tied in – a subplot involving Spanish rebels, the cruelty of Ofelia’s stepfather, and her mother’s declining health, all running parallel to Ofelia’s alternate world.

At first, it sounded fairly mild. I was lulled into a false sense of security by all this talk of princesses and fairies (although the dark coloration and lighting told me this was no lighthearted film). I admit, I was caught off-guard by the gruesome occurrences in both the reality and fantasy story lines. This really is a movie that can hold your attention, sometimes seizing it when you least expect it.

Pan's Bad Man

C’mon, help me find my contacts…

Full-bodied, detailed SFX makeup create fantastic creature designs, such as the Faun himself or perhaps the most terrifying antagonist, the Pale Man (both of whom are played by Doug Jones, who’s probably been in something else you’ve already seen). As the story progresses, most of the characters become more developed and fascinating, and you will either grow attached to them or hate them – either way, some emotion is invested, which is always a sign of a good character, protagonist and antagonist alike.

All in all, this movie has a captivating plot with subplots intertwined, all of which fall together at the end quite nicely. The final scene is fairly open-ended and can be interpreted to the watchers’ choosing – in short, it could either be a happy ending or a sad ending, depending on how you look at it. As a fantasy, it’s filled with beautiful images and modified versions of classic mythology. As a horror, it lacks the generic guts and gore that many horror fans seek, but it has plenty of little moments that will quench the blood thirst and several that will have you at the edge of your seat.

Little Miss Mad

Little Miss Mad

-@Little_Miss_Mad