This week I’m departing from books for a while and talking about a couple of cracking horror films I’ve seen lately. First up is Sinister.
This comes from the writer of the Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I didn’t enjoy very much) so I went in with low expectations but my opinion soon started to change in the first few minutes when I discovered that the lead actor was Ethan Hawke and that he was playing a true crime writer. I always enjoy films featuring writers and frankly I don’t care if that’s a cliché.
When Hawke’s character turns up at a new house we soon discover that it was home to a family murdered (hanged in the tree in the back garden no less) and the youngest daughter kidnapped. He soon finds a box of Super 8 vides in the attic, each one showing a horrific murder of a family.
Hawke plays his character superbly, showing us how he gets obsessed about the case, and his book, and starts to unravel. His conflict isn’t just with uncovering the hideous truth of these murders, but also trying to keep his family together. His career hasn’t done so well for the last decade and he sees this as his last shot. His wife however doesn’t share his confidence, and when their son starts having night terrors, and their daughter paints freakish pictures on the wall their relationship is strained to breaking point.
I’ve been disillusioned with horror films from Hollywood for a long time. Insidious which had a great deal of acclaim I found to be a train wreck, and with all the remakes and sequels coming out instead of decent new films, I was done with Hollywood. But this one gives me a slight renewed confidence. Despite a couple of contrivances, this was a smart, well written, and well directed horror film with a tight story and a great end—which so many horror films fail to achieve. Highly recommended.
On the other end of the scale of production, Absentia is a small indie production film. And despite the poster isn’t a ‘boogeyman/slasher’ flick. Instead its a smart, slow-burn film with quirky ideas and an atmospheric feel.
The story is centred around two sisters. The older of the two is finally applying for a death certificate for her husband who has been missing for the last 7 years. The younger sister is a wayward, ex-drug addict who has come to stay now that she’s all cleaned up.
The two sisters bond, and we learn that the elder sister has been developing a relationship with a police officer in the missing person’s division (and is pregnant by him). Everything seems to be okay as she gets closure from her husband’s disappearance until she starts to hallucinate, seeing him in the closet, in the living room, grabbing her from her behind etc… her psychologist tells her its just the anxiety of finally sighning him off as dead and the associated guilt. From there the mystery of his disappearance deepens as the younger sister learns more about the mysterious subway. (I can’t say much more than that).
Absentia is stylish, tense, and well written. The two sisters are very well acted and you really feel for their relationship. There’s a really nice undercurrent of weirdness and offbeat-ness that runs throughout the film, and the unease ratchets up at a nice pace. The film is relatively quiet and subtle, and for that I love it. It’s all too easy to bang out the shock scenes and overblown soundtracks to get a scare, but Absentia achieves it through great characters and great writing.
Also highly recommended. Support an indie film maker and check it out.
Other notable horror films I’ve seen lately (mostly on the word of horror author Adam Nevill) are: The Pact and Berbarian Sound Studio (the later is genius, but I couldn’t sum it up so I’ve linked to IMDB instead). Happy films watching!