Secret in Their Eyes

“Jess: Life Sentence Ray Kasten: For you as well.” When you catch murderers for a living, it must bite that much harder when they murder your child. When you know the wheels of justice grind slowly, it must be hard not to take the law into your own hands. Secret in Their Eyes (2015) Cast … Continue reading

Jess: Life Sentence
Ray Kasten: For you as well.”

When you catch murderers for a living, it must bite that much harder when they murder your child. When you know the wheels of justice grind slowly, it must be hard not to take the law into your own hands.

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
Cast
Chiwetel Ejiofor

as Ray Kasten

Nicole Kidman

as Claire Sloane

Julia Roberts

as Jessica Cobb

Directed by
Billy Ray
Written by
Billy Ray, Juan Jose Campanella
Other Info

Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Rated PG-13
1h 11min

Secret in their Eyes is a mystery thriller that started advertising far before it was released. The Julia Roberts factor was likely the reason there. Her movies almost always draw in the minions but sometimes they do fail to convince them. I wonder if her being listed at #3 on the IMDB cast page has to do with that. In the days of “Erin Brokovich,” “Pretty Woman,” et. al. the list goes on, she would likely have appeared first. Now, the two above her are a much hotter commodity.

It’s a great thriller! I don’t understand exactly why the critics have been so hard on it. It has a strong backbone of a story that was adapted from a 2009 Argentine film, “The Secret in Their Eyes.” That film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. As I watched this film I felt empathy, revulsion, anger, and so much more. I felt I was among the characters, not just in the audience. I think it’s a universal theme of revenge.

There’s a twist at the end some may not see coming. The movie is made very well but it was a little predictable for me. Some viewers will enjoy the thriller aspect of this film as it unfolds while others will find the locations limiting and the events unbelievable. Takes on face value, this is an excellent thriller. I definitely enjoy watching it to the credits even though there were times I could clearly see what was going to happen next. After all, Jess Cobb’s daughter is brutally murdered and she becomes a basket case. I knew for sure some sort of retribution would happen, and it does. The manner and details of that retribution are what they hope you’ll go to see after the trailer. It’s a very cool thing, I recommend it!

‘Star Trek: Beyond’ – Don’t Blink on This Ride

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Starring: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho

Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Directed By: Justin Lin

Studio: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating
PG-13

I saw Star Trek: Beyond last night on its second night after release. When I see Star Trek films, I usually miss some secret winks because I am not much of a “Trekkie” and therefore don’t know the labyrinth of secret passageways that many others I meet new. In fact, my wife, who is not a film critic, explains a lot to me when we go to see these films. Last night had a few parts I couldn’t figure out but I’ll avoid those.

Instead, I’ll tell you that Captain Kirk is put in a position to save the galaxy (common theme). The adventurous quest to do that is a rip-roaring ride! Directed by Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious), the spaceships are now the race cars. There is a lot of action in this film but I must disagree with some other critics who are saying it’s too fast and furious. There are moments of suspense as well and moments where the viewers is ban rest, stop, and get cerebral..

The visuals are stunning. Because this is a quick review intended to have “no spoilers,” I won’t describe them to you. I will say that in 1977 when Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, and Mark Hamill saw the death star for the first time, it had a mind-blowing effect on movie goers. There is actually some stuff in this film that will leave you in “shock and awe” in a similar way. Please note however that the plot is pretty good and special effects are secondary to that, which always makes me happy.

There is so much in this film worthy of the ticket price. There is a side story Spock is dealing with, sense that virtually fill the movie with the now departed Anton Yelchin, a Smokin’ hot Zoe Zaldana, a vaguely funny Simon Pegg (but funny all the same.) I had a blast watching this film. I anticipate Trekkies will like the new villain Krall (Idris Elba). He’s a tortured creature with a lot of hate for the federation which makes for some really juicy fight scenes. I did have some issues with the film. Instead of developing the villain they sort of catapulted him into hate mode. I wanted to know more about him and why he became who he was. It was explained a little in a very rushed fashion in the last 1/4 of the film but I think doing that earlier would have invested me more in his character. For the haziness of the villain, I took one star away. This is an amazing film, I highly recommend it.

‘Good Kill’

Ethan Hawke gives an amazing performance of grounded pilot trapped in a box, unable to escape his fate.

*This review contains spoilers.

This thriller moves a bit slow but builds the suspense until you get the point like a tidal wave: War is hell whether “in theater” or via joystick.

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Good Kill (2014)
Cast

Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz

Directed by

Andrew Niccol

Written by

Andrew Niccol

Other Info

R
1h 42min
Drama, Thriller

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol has an impressive resume: 2014 Good Kill, 1998 The Truman Show, 1997 Gattaca, and more. Good Kill is just the latest impressive project he’s done. It deals with the individual conscience amidst a system that goes against it.

Major Thomas Egan, Ethan Hawke, is a grounded pilot. He has become part of a secretive force that controls drones in Afghanistan by controls resembling that of an XBox. He is stationed in Las Vegas and goes to kill every day in a portable room of sorts where the remote equipment is kept. There are many rooms like this. In fact, Egan is not alone in his daily kills. He has a team with him.

In charge of Egan’s team is Lt. Colonel Jack Johns (Bruce Greenwood). Being a huge fan of his, I was glad to see him in this role. I liked the character because he wore his heart on his sleeve. He shared his difficulties with the drone kills they were doing. Still, he never breached his orders and did what he was told from his commander.

Egan starts regretting what he has to do every day. He begs the Colonel to put him back in the plane but that seems like it will never happen. Egan starts seeing rape and murder happening and he is told to stick to the orders. He is told the rapist “is a bad man but not their bad man.” He is ordered to let him be.

Events like this and others like collateral damage he witnesses cause profound strain on Egan. He starts drinking and neglecting his wife and kids. From there we starts to see him crumble and we learn through his story what this sort of remote warfare can do to an individual.

This film is done very well. The obvious comparisons to XBox games like Call of Duty are there but it’s more about real war I think. How many of theirs do we have to kill until they stop killing us? Is this sort of warfare that is going on now in real life actually protecting us from terrorism? So many questions like these are raised in this film. I would have liked it if they gave more background on his type of warfare and showed the connection to video games. It was alluded to that there is a connection but seeing that as part of the story would have sent a stronger message to the young men and women out there who get vehemently into these games. Because that connection was not explored much, it lost a star for me. I still think this is one of the better films of 2014, I recommend it.

Candyman (1992)

Here we have a cult favorite with underpinnings of a low budget cheap thrill horror movie. Centered around an urban legend where if you say “Candyman” 5 times in the mirror, the characters are killed one by one. Not too cerebral but with a lot of jump scares.

Candyman

Candyman

“The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.” -IMDB

Cast

Virginia Madsen Helen Lyle
Xander Berkeley Trevor Lyle
Tony Todd The Candyman/Daniel Robitaille
Kasi Lemmons Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh

Directed by

Bernard Rose

Written by

Clive Barker, Bernard Rose

Other Info

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 16 Oct 1992 UTC
99min
IMDB Rating: 6.6

Kids freak out over urban legends. The idea that a chant in a mirror can summon a killer or a demon or even a product of ones imagination scares the crap out of them, Some people say we are all kids inside no matter our ages. Perhaps that is why this film has become such a cult classic.

Where I get off the bus is when Virginia Madsen’s character start researching this killer as a supernatural entity. Throughout the 90’s we had slasher films that centered on legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer comes to mind. Perhaps this film tried a bit to hard to weave a scientific basis into it. I think we’ve learned as viewers that the legend need not be explained. Of course, there is always the twist that works well.

Final Thought:
Candyman is a gore-filled jump fest that may appeal to pajama party teens. For those of us seeking to see the elements of horror, it grows tiresome wading through the cheap thrills to get to the real stuff that scares us. It’s all there though, I can’t deny that. Don’t expect a dark sense of foreboding but then again not much n the 1990’s produced that good stuff.

3/5
3 Stars

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Cast

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Written by

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Other Info

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Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

The Neon Demon

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The Neon Demon
Cast

Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

Directed by

Nicolas Winding Refn

Written by

Nicolas Winding Refn

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated R
118min

L.A. looks like a cut-throat place for the fashion profession in this film. Elle Fanning plays a 16-year-old girl trying to break in by any means necessary. She’s willing to lie on documents about her age and hang out with dangerous people if it means a chance as a famous model. There’s some fake blood here and a startling wildcat that jumps by the window in the dark but neither of those things constitutes horror. You may be shocked by the ending but I doubt many would consider that a “scare” either. It’s more disgusting than scary. I’ll acknowledge right here that there may be intended metaphors and alternative interpretation going on here. I’ve chosen to not look into that. Mostly for the reason that the film made no attempt to explain it to me.

Keanu Reeves plays the landlord who appears to exploit kids. I thought he did a great job with his voice and movement. It was like he was a different person. That’s a sign of a studied actor. I think Keanu plays the same character again and again but in this one he is unique. So, if you’re a big Keanu fan, this might be worth your time. The celebrity photographer “Jack” is played by Desmond Harrington and he does a pretty decent job looking resolute and creatively twisted. Unfortunately for me, I binge-watched Dexter years ago and I got used to his character there night after night. I kept expecting him to call Jesse “Deb.” Amazon produced this film. I wonder if we’ll see much more of this from them. This film was a basic let down and bombed at the box office proving that hand over fist. The reviews have been polarized, mine unfortunately is closer to the South.

While this film may not be correctly labeled as horror, it is a neon art-film treat for the rods and cones. I was drawn in early on by the visual artistry of the film. Just when you think you’ve seen the best it has, it brings more. The colors are reminiscent of Tron. I think it’s meant to draw us in that way. The director is a visionary influenced by Kubrick, David Lynch and others who have done similar things with color and space. Unfortunately this story gets caught up in a fashion world and doesn’t explore what’s going on in the head of the protagonist. Beside that, the characters are underdeveloped. Having said that, it’s a pretty simple reason to be ascertained why they do what they do in the end.

It’s nice to see a film with a message against underage modeling and what it can do to women. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough horror here to justify being in the genre. I wonder if I speak for anyone else when I say I don’t care to go into a psychedelic reality of modeling, unless it’s Zoolander (I).

If you have patience and you are really interested in how women can exploit other beautiful women out of jealousy, this may be for you. Or, for those interested in an amazing visual experience (strobes and neons) you too may like it. For everyone else I don’t recommend this one, I was rarely entertained as I watched it and the end was quite disappointing.

31

A strength of 31 is its gritty kill settings, a weakness is its unrealistic plot. While an enjoyable horror movie as it is, it borrows from several plots like those of Saw, The Hunger Games, and The Purge. I found this distracting and it’s not good to be distracted when you’re trying to take in a horror film. Notwithstanding, this film is a fun, wild, and gory ride. I watched it on VOD and loved it.

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31
Cast

Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips

Directed by

Rob Zombie

Written by

Rob Zombie

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 42min

One thing I really enjoy about Rob Zombie is his ability to recreate an era. He is especially good at creating a flavor of the 1970’s. That’s why I was excited to see this film took place in 1976. People had vans like the one in the film. They did all sorts of things in those vans like smoke pot, have sex, and sometimes, they camped out or took road trips in vans. I think “the van” 1970’s style is a thing of the past now. Yuppies use them to stow their kids on trips but they don’t carry the same connotation. Those chracters alluded to by 1970’s vans are the characters in 31, part and parcel. It feels like we are being taken on a journey. It takes a little while before we start to realize where that journey will take us, and that’s when things get scary. As in so much modern media and literature, we are shown the rift between the rich and poor .

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The idea of rich people making bets about what poor people will do under duress is not new. I recall Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy being bet on in the 1980’s film Trading Places. That’s a comedy but the core idea is the same as the more recent Hunger Games. Every camera is on Katniss as she fights and kills. There is an element of that here. Malcolm McDowell is a rich oddball among others and he thrives on the same sort of “game.” All modern horror fans know the premise of Saw so I won’t bother getting into it.

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The characters are threatened and it seems they may be picked off and killed one by one but these stoner victims have a few tricks up their sleeves. It’s a fatalistic film in many ways and you’ll have to see if you agree with that in the last 3rd of the film, up to the final credit. This was a bummer. I’m not saying that horror movies are meant to motivate us, far from it. I am saying that a good horror movie operates under some sort over overreaching vision or sense. I really don’t know why these killings occur. It’s never explained. Could it be that these films have already set a precedent for a “death challenge game.” Perhaps it is common background knowledge that certain rich people out there would play murder games with our lives if we were guilty of nothing else than making a wrong turn.

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I guess I wanted more explanation of the game in the plot. Rob Zombie’s film expects too much from the audience. We need a little psychology of why certain people laugh as they watch murder. I can accept it is because they are crazy but the lessens the impact of the movie. The homicidal manias are being paid but what about the bosses? Why are they orchestrating such a game? I wish I knew what Rob Zombie’s answer to that is.

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To close this up, I’m a fan of Rob Zombie and I fully enjoyed watching this film. It is gore-filled, which is one of Zombie’s main colors he paints with. It tries to be cerebral but I think the owing to so many other film’s plots takes away from that thoughtfulness. It doesn’t feel entirely original at any point. It would have been 5/5 with me if it didn’t have the obvious plot pieces of other films. Having said that, it’s a fun film to see with your friends and family who like gore and the other works of Rob Zombie.

Chained

Vincent D’Onofrio stars as a serial killer who has his craft down pat. ‘Chained’ is a film about him, and the boy he keeps on a chain, mentoring against the boy’s will.

*This review contains spoilers.

I’m fascinated when I watch biographies of serial killers and discover they had some very normal characteristics. It’s in those normal places this film finds its strength. Could a kidnapped victim become like a son to a serial killer? Would that victim choose to follow in the killer’s footsteps?

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Chained (2012)
Cast

Vincent D’Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Evan Bird

Directed by

Jennifer Lynch

Written by

Jennifer Lynch

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 34min

If there were a book on serial killing and how to do it, Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) could have written it. He has a perfect routine for killing. Bob goes about as a Taxi driver, picking up women and then taking them back to his secluded home to kill them. It’s an ingenious method because who could track a person to a Taxi? Beyond that, how could you question all the taxi cabbies in a high traffic area? It would be like picking a needle from a haystack. Bob’s domicile is also perfected for his occupation. There is no way out for his victims once they are inside. Only Bob has control of who gets at, and of course, since he’s a serial killer, no one gets out.

So what’s missing for a guy like Bob. Whether he realizes it or not, he needs a helper or a slave to help him clean up after his kills. That’s where Tim comes in. Tim’s father arranges for he and his mother to get a taxi home from the movies one day. There is an element of premeditated evil in this on the part of Tim’s father which is revealed later. Bob picks them up, kills Tim’s mom in the usual way and keeps Tim on a chain, treating him like a slave and animal until he is 17-18 years old, Tim cultivates a deep enmity for Bob and we see it play out toward the end of the film. The end is somewhat satisfying though I would have preferred the sideline of studying books on medicine and anatomy to play a larger role as the vengeance scenes unfurl. I kept wondering how Tim might use his knowledge of medicine from books to take out Bob. It can be argued it does but I expected something more intricate and satisfying.

The psychology of an abducted prisoner is always interesting. In this case, Tim is on a chain, he cannot eat without permission, and what’s more he cannot eat anything other than what Bob leaves on his plate. After years of this, the actor playing an older Tim (Eamon Farren), has dark eyes, an emaciated figure, and deep-seated hatred for Bob. My favorite scene in the film is the featured image above. Tim hovers above a sleeping Bob like a crouching demon. It’s a quite scary scene. Jennifer Lynch did an amazing job as director. She is not a horror director per se but she has a bit on her resume. One of note was an episode of “Damien.” Ha! Scary, symbolic name is it not? 😉 I’ve always liked it.

I liked this film. There isn’t as much gore as the subject matter suggests. I saw it as a psychological thriller with some horror elements, the above described scene being one of the few horror scares. D’Onofrio gives a solid performance. I saw parts of famous serial killers: Ted Bundy, for example, used to pick up girls and lure them back to him home to kill them. It’s an interesting study of confinement and being held for years against ones will. We live in a world where people threaten so much. “I’m going to sue you!” etc. People rarely make good on threats like “I’m going to kill you.” or “I’m going to make you my house slave on a chain and call you rabbit.” I kept thinking Tim would escape but the years went by and alas, he didn’t. The ending is as much exciting as it is good writing. The question is though, after a film like this, can vengeance be exacted when so much abuse and harm has taken place? This film is better classified as a study in human behavior and how it reacts in the face of evil. Because Tim’s study of anatomy and medicine from Bob’s books was not used cleverly enough, it lost a star with me. In conclusion, this subject matter is not for everyone. Having said that, for fans of the horror, thriller, and criminal psychology genres, I highly recommend it.

The Purge (2013)

‘The Purge’ is a sci-fi horror slasher film that almost shines a light on the separation between socio-economic classes.

With 2 sequels to its name, The Purge has proven it’s a movie people want to go and see. The question is: what is it about this film that keeps viewers coming through the turnstiles? Let’s see.

purge

The Purge
Cast

Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Directed by

James DeMonaco

Written by

James DeMonaco

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated R
1h 25min
Riley’s Rating:

There is something profound about ourselves in this film but it’s more recalcitrant horror with no message about mankind. I imagine one still. Because the movie stops at horror, I can only take away stars that make it less effective horror. If it were a rational drama, for example I’d rate it much lower. Still, the metaphors hang in my consciousness.

I’m writing this review more than 3 years after the original film came out. I must admit I had not seen it until this week. This seems amazing because it is a household name in horror and sci-fi in recent years, and I have been busy at work seeing horror movies. The director James DeMonaco is known for the Purge franchise as well as The Negotiator.

It appears scary when the cover contains a masked villain and it certainly is. The part I saw in this film that not everyone may see is the fact that the villain is really you and me, our inner killer.

Watching CNN or any news channel will show you that people are barking vehemently about the economy and most assuredly welfare. To hear some wealthy folks talk, it would seem they want the poor people killed or “purged” as it were. This would, in theory, lower the unemployment rate and clean up the streets. On the other hand, you have self-proclaimed champions of the poor, like Al Sharpton for example, coming to the defense of welfare recipients. He would likely blame the ghettos and shacks where the undesirable poor live on the rich. They don’t pay their fair share. If you’re within a generation of me (born 1969) you are likely to have heard these arguments.

This film poses an idea that we as people are bloodthirsty. In the Purge, for one night a year, the people are allowed to kill the poor. That’s the crux of the plot in this film. People love the movie. I am interested in what that says about us inside. I see the movie as a metaphor. When we practice hate, we purge (kill). I’d argue further that the poor are just as guilty of this. Some people try to appear diffident but hate is all around in this film. In the same breath, neither side is represented accurately of course, I might add. Still, there is something to this class hate that rings true in our world today.

Unfortunately, this horror movie doesn’t stretch out enough as sci fi and more tenderly examine the disparate classes. That’s where The Purge loses a couple stars with me because it could have. According to the director, we’re all pigs.

Horror has less rules to follow than drama, sci fi, and even suspense but there are some rules it must follow to make it scary.

The killers in the Purge are bigger than life and they don’t seem like normal citizens. This is where the masks come in handy. They add to the scares and give the people a “John Doe” look and demeanor. Perhaps that helps my reading of the film.

Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a 30 something alarm and security systems area manager. The neighborhood seems to love him due to the fact that he is keeping the rich shored up with his protective wares. We find out later how some of them really feel. There is so much resentment in this film you could cut it like a knife. The most astounding thing to me is the rapid process that causes normal citizens to kill. He has a high school aged daughter (Adelaide Kane) who is in the house with her boyfriend. They have sex (in keeping with the horror tradition). He has a young son (Max Burkholder) who has health issues and a wife (Lena Headey) who is very strong and definitely a foundation for the family success. I couldn’t help but think he wouldn’t be one of the rich with a slaes job. Still, it’s relatively believable.

I see The Purge as a highly violent Twilight Zone where a commentary on human nature is being displayed. I find this exciting. If only I could believe that movie goers at large saw this message. This is a good horror film that engaged me but that I am surprised was made into 2 other sequels. I am not sure I’ll be quick to see #3, though I will see it for sure. I have watched #2 already. If you go purely for horror you will enjoy it. If you want the Purge to show you a message about democracy and humanity, you’ll need to wait for a better made sci fi film. I recommend it to you as a well-made horror film and poorly crafted sci fi with potential.

Hush

Hush was made for under $75,000 usd but leaves us with the Hush product which is as scary as any high budget horror film. It’s a “thinking person’s scary” which some may prefer to the pure slice and dice variety, though there is certainly some of that here.
hush movie posterThis film was directed by Mike Flannigan (Oculus). He co-write the film with Kate Siegel (plays the main character Maddie) who in real life shares a house with Flannigan. In fact, several sources indicate they wrote the screenplay with their home layout as a blueprint. She starred in Oculus.

“Hush” is a thriller and horror movie that features a deaf writer at her laptop being broken in on and attacked by a masked man. There are few casualties, few actors, and definitely a few gallons of blood spilled on scene. One original component that builds suspense is that the main character/victim is deaf. This is an ingenious idea as it allows for a few really spine tingling scenes requiring no cgi or music for that matter. The killer’s mask looks different from the standard ones we’ve seen in break-and-enter thrillers, for example presidents and Star Trek masks. In this case, it’s very carefully crafted. In some scenes it appears to be part of the attacker’s own face. This serves for another original, simple, scary element that probably didn’t cost much to create.

Another film that comes to mind that created massive scares on a low budget is Insidious. It’s being proven again and again we don’t need million dollar movies to be scared and thereby entertained. Through a series of slashings and “intruder” scenes, the deaf Maddie learns she doesn’t have to be a victim. She fights back. Everything is filmed in a dark setting outside and inside the house. This accentuates the revenge element that weaves throughout and leads us to an ending that is pleasing horror critics all over the internet.

The film screened at SXSW for a panel of industry “buyers.” It did very well there but somehow ended up on Netflix where I was fortunate enough to see it. Netflix needs more quality horror and suspense films like Hush. Frankly the category is small on the service and appears to be shrinking. I had a lot of fun watching this film and highly recommend it if you can catch it on Netflix or elsewhere. Imagine you have earplugs in and can’t hear a thing and you can’t hear anyone sneaking in the window either. This film makes the most of the simple scares. I think it would be great to see it on the big screen.