REVIEW: HEREDITARY

Starring

Toni Collette (Krampus)
Alex Wolff (Jumanji: The Next Level)
Milly Shapiro (Splitting Up Together)
Mallory Bechtel (FBI: Most Wanted)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)
Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)

Toni Collette in Hereditary (2018)Annie Graham is a miniature artist who lives in Utah with her husband, Steve; their 16-year-old son, Peter; and eccentric 13-year-old daughter, Charlie. At the funeral of her secretive mother, Ellen Leigh, Annie delivers a eulogy explaining their fraught relationship. Steve is later informed that Ellen’s grave has been desecrated. Annie attends a support group for the bereaved and reveals that her family suffered from mental illnesses that resulted in their deaths.Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018)To attend a party, Peter lies that he is going to a barbecue with friends, and Annie forces him to take Charlie with him. While there, an unsupervised Charlie eats cake containing nuts, to which she is allergic, and she falls into anaphylactic shock. As Peter drives her to a hospital, she leans out of the window for air and is decapitated by a telephone pole as Peter swerves to avoid roadkill. In shock, Peter goes to bed on arriving home, leaves his sister’s headless corpse in the car for their mother to discover the next morning. The family grieves and tension rises between them all, leading to Annie viciously berating Peter one night at dinner for his actions. As he deals with the tremendous guilt, Peter is subsequently haunted by Charlie’s presence around the house.Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, and Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018)Annie is befriended by a support group member, Joan. Influenced by Joan, Annie forces the family to do a séance to communicate with Charlie. Charlie seemingly possesses Annie until Steve douses her with water. Suspecting that Charlie’s spirit has become malevolent, Annie throws Charlie’s sketchbook into the fireplace but her sleeve also begins to burn. She quickly retrieves the book and heads to Joan for advice but Joan is missing. She notices that Joan’s welcome mat resembles her mother’s craftwork and goes through her mother’s possessions, finding a photo album linking Joan to Ellen, and a book with information about a demon named Paimon who is a king of Hell and wishes to inhabit a male host.She also discovers photos of Ellen with cult members who apparently worship her as their leader. In the attic, she discovers Ellen’s decapitated and rotting body and a strange symbol on the wall written in blood. At school, Peter sees a disturbing apparition of himself and slams his head against his desk, breaking his nose. Annie begs Steve to burn the sketchbook so she can sacrifice herself and stop the haunting. Steve sees Ellen’s body but assumes Annie has gone mad. When Annie throws the book into the fire herself, Steve bursts into flames and dies.Peter awakens to find his father’s charred body, and encounters a nude man. He is then chased by a now-possessed Annie into the attic. Levitating, Annie beheads herself with piano wire as naked coven members and a shocked Peter look on. Terrified, Peter jumps out of the window to his death. A light enters his body, and he stands, following Annie’s levitating corpse into Charlie’s tree house. There, Peter sees Charlie’s severed head with a crown. Joan, other coven members, and the headless corpses of his mother and grandmother bow to him. Joan puts the crown on Peter’s head, explaining that Charlie had originally been the host of Paimon since her birth—which was Ellen’s doing—but they have now corrected their mistake: Paimon has been given the desired male host. The cult members pledge their lives to Paimon, allowing him to rule over them.Toni Collette in Hereditary (2018)Hereditary doesn’t redefine horror. It puts a wicked stamp of its own on the tropes of the genre. The film is a tremendous success, and a truly impressive feature-debut from Ari Aster. Horror doesn’t get any better than this.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: LITTLE WOMEN (1994)

CAST

Winona Ryder (Black Swan)
Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata)
Trini Alvarado (The Frighteners)
Kirsten Dunst (Bring It On)
Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet)
Christian Bale (Batman Begins)
Eric Stoltz (Caprica)
John Neville (Odyssey 5)
Mary Wickes (Sister Act)
Susan Sarandon (Tammy)
Matthew Walker (Highlander: The Seires)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Samantha Mathis (Broken Arrow)
Sarah Strange (White Noise)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)

The film focuses on the March sisters: beautiful Meg (Trini Alvarado), tempestuous Jo (Winona Ryder), tender Beth (Claire Danes), and romantic Amy (Kirsten Dunst), who are growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother, affectionately called Marmee (Susan Sarandon). As a means of escaping some of their problems, the sisters revel in performing in romantic plays written by Jo in their attic theater.Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. Laurence (John Neville), whose grandson Theodore, nicknamed “Laurie” (Christian Bale), moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family, particularly Jo. Mr. Laurence becomes a mentor for Beth, whose exquisite piano-playing reminds him of his deceased daughter, and Meg falls in love with Laurie’s tutor John Brooke (Eric Stoltz). Mr. March is wounded in the war and Marmee is called away to nurse him. While Marmee is away, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor’s infant. Awaiting Marmee’s return, Meg and Jo send Amy away to live in safety with their Aunt March. Prior to Beth’s illness, Jo had been Aunt March’s companion for several years, and while she was unhappy with her position she tolerated it in the hope her aunt one day would take her to Europe. When Beth’s condition worsens, Marmee is summoned home and nurses her to recovery just in time for Christmas. Mr. Laurence gives his daughter’s piano to Beth, Meg accepts John Brooke’s proposal and Mr. March surprises his family by returning home from the war.Four years pass; Meg and John marry, and Beth’s health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college, proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realizing she thinks of him more as a big brother than a romantic prospect, she refuses his offer. Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now sixteen (and now played by Samantha Mathis), with her to Europe instead of her. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her to write better stories than the lurid Victorian melodramas she has penned so far.In Europe, Amy is reunited with Laurie. She is disappointed to find he has become dissolute and irresponsible and scolds him for pursuing her merely to become part of the March family. In return, he bitterly rebukes her for courting one of his wealthy college friends in order to marry into money. He leaves Amy a letter asking her to wait for him while he works in London for his grandfather and makes himself worthy of her. Jo is summoned home to see Beth, who finally dies of the lingering effects of scarlet fever that have plagued her for the past four years. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twins Demi and Daisy. A letter from Amy informs the family Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain in Europe with her. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth’s death and mentions Amy is in Vevey, unable to come home. Laurie immediately travels to be at Amy’s side. They finally return to the March home as husband and wife, much to Jo’s surprise and eventual delight.Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with the printed galley proofs of her manuscript but when he mistakenly believes Jo has married Laurie he departs to catch a train to the West, where he is to become a teacher. Jo runs after him and explains the misunderstanding. When she begs him not to leave, he proposes marriage and she happily accepts.It’s a small scale masterpiece that will leave you in tears. The film is honest and true in it’s portrayal of human emotion. It went from being an adaptation of the book to it’s own story and portrayal of people and their lives. It’s beautiful aesthetically and dramatically, and a real gem of a film.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: END OF DAYS

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Maggie)
Robin Tunney (Hollywoodland)
Gabriel Byrne (Stigmata)
Kevin Pollak (Mom)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Derrick O’Connor (Alias)
Miriam Margolyes (Magnolia)
Udo Kier (Blade)
Victor Varnado (The Intern)
Rod Steiger (The Amityville Horror)
Jack Shearer (Star Trek: First Contact)
Steve Kramer (Masked Rider)
Sven-Ole Thorsen (Gladiator)

In 1979 a priest at the Vatican sees a comet arching over the moon (described as the “Eye of God”), heralding the birth of one chosen to be the mother of Satan’s child. The priest is sent on a mission by the Pope to find and protect the girl from Satan, although a few Vatican Knights (led by a corrupt cardinal) insist that she must die. In New York a newborn girl, Christine York, is identified by Satanists (including her physician, Dr. Abel, and her nurse and future guardian, Mabel) as the woman chosen to bear Satan’s child on New Year’s Eve, 1999. The Satanists perform occult rites on the newborn.In late 1999, Satan possesses an investment banker in a restaurant; he then destroys the restaurant, killing many inside. Suicidal and alcoholic former police detective Jericho Cane, depressed since his wife and daughter were killed in contract killings, works for a private security company and blames God for his plight. Jericho and co-worker Bobby Chicago are assigned to protect the possessed banker. A priest, Thomas Aquinas, unsuccessfully tries to kill the banker. Jericho captures Aquinas, who warns Jericho: “The thousand years has ended, the dark angel is loosed from his prison” and says that a girl is central. Jericho shoots Aquinas, who is arrested by the New York Police Department. Marge Francis, an NYPD detective and Jericho’s former colleague, tells him that Aquinas has no tongue.Jericho and Bobby investigate on their own, learning that Aquinas was trained at the Vatican and was sent to New York before disappearing. Jericho questions Father Kovak, a priest who knew Aquinas. Kovak asks Jericho if he believes in God; when he says no, the priest tells him that Aquinas was driven mad by forces an atheist could not understand. They go to Aquinas’ apartment, where they find his tongue in a jar and messages and symbols written in blood on the walls. Marge arrives, forcing them to leave. Satan infiltrates Aquinas’ hospital, and crucifies him on the ceiling. Although he survives, he is shot by a Satanic police officer. Jericho and Chicago see Latin words and “Christ in New York” scratched into Aquinas’ skin, and begins searching for Christine York.Jericho and Chicago find Christine in her apartment, saving her from the Vatican Knights, and she brings them to Mabel’s house. After Satan destroys Chicago’s van, killing him, Jericho attempts to leave with Christine. Mabel attacks Jericho, refusing to let him have Christine. Satan enters the house and kills Mabel for failing him; Jericho and Christine escape. Marge and another officer, both Satanists, tell Jericho to surrender Christine. Jericho kills them, but Satan resurrects Marge. Father Kovak tells Jericho and Christine that Satan must impregnate her moments before midnight on New Year’s Eve to usher in the “end of days”. Christine accepts Kovak’s protection.Satan infiltrates Jericho’s apartment, showing him a vision of his family’s murder, offering to bring them back in return for Christine. Enraged, Jericho throws Satan through his apartment window after a fight, and Chicago appears. At the church, the Vatican Knights try to kill Christine before Satan kills them. Chicago tells Jericho that he is in league with Satan after he brought him back. Kovak rescues Jericho, and Satan kidnaps Christine. After locating Satan’s underground temple, Jericho rescues Christine and again kills Marge. Chicago stops Jericho, who persuades him to fight off Satan’s influence; Satan burns him alive. Jericho escapes with Christine into a subway tunnel. They battle to survive against Satan together; Jericho fires a grenade at their pursuer, who leaves the banker to die for a new host.Jericho and Christine escape to another church, where Jericho renews his faith in God and prays for strength. Satan confronts Jericho as a massive, winged creature and possesses him. Jericho attempts to rape Christine, who tries to escape before Jericho deliberately impales himself on a sword protruding from a statue. At the stroke of midnight God frees Jericho’s dying body, sends Satan back to hell and the world celebrates the new millennium. Jericho and Christine see the former’s family waiting for him in the afterlife. He dies in peace, and Christine waits with his body for the authorities.All in all, an enjoyable romp for fans of the Arnie before his attention was diverted by a political career. It compares well to his classic eighties work by trying to do something different and while it may not gel properly in places, for a good 80% of the running time it does a very entertaining job.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: GHOST SHIP

CAST

Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)
Julianna Margulies (City Island)
Ron Eldard (Scent of A Woman)
Desmond Harrington (Wrong Turn)
Isaiah Washington (Bionic Woman)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Emily Browning (Sucker Punch)
Alex Dimitriades (The Principal)
Francesca Rettondini (The Nymph)

MV5BMTg2ODAxNTAzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjU4NDE3._V1_To start things off, recent “Sucker Punch” fans can find an early performance by actress Emily Browning who plays the little ghost girl in the film. The movie has actor Gabriel Byrne playing the salvage captain Murphy. Him and his team head out to sea to bring back salvaged equipment and metal parts for resell. When the group is approached by an anxious researcher (Desmond Harrington), he offers them a chance to salvage a long forgotten abandoned ship lost to the Bering Sea. The potential to earn a hefty return from the deal is too big to pass up and the crew heads immediately back out to sea. The crew consists of (Julianna Margulies) Epps, (Ron Eldard) Dodge, (Isaiah Washington) Greer, (Karl Urban) Munder and (Alex Dimitriades) Santos.

Upon locating the lost ship “Antonia Graza” (which at first appears off the radar), the team climbs aboard to claim salvage loot. Though it’s pretty evident early on that the ship is not “quite” what it seems with the weird appearances of ghosts, objects, and the occasional manifestation of the ship’s decor before it was inflicted in tragedy.

To get us engaged right from the get-go, we are taken back in the films intro to the time when the ship was in full swing (1962). In one of my favorite horror film moments, a cable breaks free slicing entirely thru the occupants who are in mid-celebration (aka the Captains Ball). This is fantastically done as each of the ship’s guests begin to fall into pieces (after an uneasy pause). If you don’t end up liking the film, you have to at least acknowledge this great intro opener.MV5BZmNjNmEyN2QtM2NlMS00NWM0LWFmM2MtODU3MWNlNzVlMzMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Getting back to the story in progress, the crew happens upon a large shipment of gold bricks. This find signals instant riches for the team as they prepare to gather their claim and call it a day. However, the ship seems to have its own agenda for stranding them causing their own ship “the Arctic Warrior” to burst into flames.MV5BYmQzNTZhNWMtNTM5Ny00MGUwLWEwMDMtMjk2ZDgxNmU0ZjY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ4ODE4MzQ@._V1_Celebration turns to terror and tragedy as each slowly becomes victims to the ships dark forces. We learn a bit more about what happened with a few surprises waiting down the road about what is “really” going on. While the movie flows rather nicely with plenty of great shots, we seem to be missing much of what we came for…….the scares. I believe perhaps that the production focused more on trying to kill off some of the crew members moreso, that they forgot to really focus more on the needed tension. The actors and cast all gel pretty well which didn’t surprise me with “Ghost Ship’s” worthy cast behind it. What I did like is that as mentioned before it has a “few” reveals in its storyline to throw at us. I think with the base of the film itself, most didn’t really see these coming. The final ending is a nice extra roundup which despite not being scary is a great rule of thumb in filmmaking…..end the movie on a strong finale.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: STIGMATA

CAST

Patricia Arquette (True Romance)
Gabriel Byrne (End of Days)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Nia Long (Big Momma’s House 2)
Rade Šerbedžija (X-Men: First Class)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Jack Donner(Power Rangers In Space)
Thomas Kopache (The West Wing)
Portia de Rossi(Scream 2)
Ann Cusack (Sully)
Patrick Muldoon (Starship Troopers)
Shaun Toub (Iron Man)

In the Brazilian village of Belo Quinto, Father Andrew Kiernan, a former scientist and a Jesuit priest who investigates supposed miracles, examines a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe weeping blood at the funeral of Father Paulo Alameida, who had experienced stigmata. While Andrew is collecting evidence, a young boy steals the rosary from the father’s hand. The boy later sells it to a woman in a marketplace, who sends it to her atheist daughter, Frankie Paige, living in Pittsburgh.Frankie is attacked by an unseen force while bathing, and receives two deep wounds on her wrists. As the wounds are treated, the doctors cannot find the cause. Frankie asks a priest if he is Andrew Kiernan, but the priest says he is Father Derning, the lights in the train flash, and Frankie is whipped from behind by an unseen force. While Frankie is hospitalized again, the priest sends security tapes showing the attack to the Vatican, and Andrew is sent to investigate.Andrew interviews Frankie, believing her wounds may also be stigmata. When she tells him she is an atheist, Andrew tells her that stigmata is when the deeply devoted are struck with the five wounds that Jesus received during the crucifixion. Frankie begins to research on her own what the cause could be. Her head begins to bleed, the third stigmata wound caused by the Crown of Thorns. Frankie runs home, where Andrew is waiting, and then runs into an alley. As Andrew pursues her, Frankie smashes a glass bottle and uses the shards to carve symbols on the hood of a car: when Andrew approaches her, she yells at him in another language.Andrew takes Frankie to Father Derning’s church, and the Vatican translates what she was yelling in Aramaic. The next morning, Andrew returns to her apartment to find her writing on the wall, now covered in Aramaic. Frankie talks in a male voice, speaking Italian. Wounds appear in her feet, the fourth wound of stigmata. Andrew emails photographs of Frankie’s apartment wall to the Vatican, where Brother Delmonico recognizes the words and deletes the pictures. He tells Andrew the words are from a document the church found that looked to be an entirely new gospel. Father Dario shows the pictures to Cardinal Daniel Houseman, who also recognizes them. Delmonico phones Marion Petrocelli and tells him the missing gospel has been found in Pittsburgh.Andrew goes to Frankie’s apartment to find the wall she wrote on painted over, and Frankie attempts to seduce him. When Andrew rejects her, she attacks him and denounces his beliefs in a male voice, ending with Frankie levitating off the bed, crying tears of blood. Houseman and Dario arrive with Derning and take Frankie to another church, sending Andrew to Derning’s. At Derning’s church, Andrew meets Petrocelli, who tells him the words Frankie has been writing are part of a document found outside Jerusalem they believed to be a gospel in the exact words of Jesus. Petrocelli, Delmonico and Alameida were assigned to translate it, but Houseman ordered them to stop. Alameida refused and stole the document to continue translating it alone, having been excommunicated by Houseman.Petrocelli tells Andrew that the document was Jesus telling his disciples that the Kingdom of God is in all of us and not confined to churches. Petrocelli tells Andrew that Alameida suffered from stigmata. Andrew races to the church where Frankie is, while Houseman and Dario attempt to perform an exorcism on Frankie. Frankie shouts at them in a male voice, and Houseman attempts to strangle her. Andrew stops him, and the room is set on fire. Now believing Frankie is possessed by Alameida’s spirit, Andrew offers to be Alameida’s messenger instead. He walks unharmed through the fire to retrieve Frankie, bidding Alameida’s spirit to depart in peace. Some time later, Andrew returns to Belo Quinto and finds the original documents for the lost gospel in Alameida’s church. Text describes the discovery of the Gospel of St. Thomas, believed to be the closest to the actual words of Jesus stating that the Catholic Church refuses to recognize the document as a gospel and considers it heresy.I loved this film, both for it’s interesting film quality and it’s thought provoking script. I believe it had an important message for us all to ponder created by excellent acting and beautiful film imagery. The mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been a subject avoided by the Church since their discovery in 1945. I appreciate controversial filmmaking.