‘Orphan: First Kill’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When the original Orphan was first released many people rallied behind the performance of Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She gave such a chilling and believable performance that the first film has become a must-see horror film every October. If you are a horror fan, you know her name and that is why many people will watch Orphan: First Kill to understand her backstory a bit more. Her presence on screen alone will send chills down your spine, but watching her interact with others is where she becomes even more fascinating to watch. Fuhrman does fantastic work in both films and is the main reason this prequel works. 

After escaping from a psychiatric facility in Estonia, Esther travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. Yet, an unexpected twist arises that pits her against a mother who will protect her family at any cost. From the start of the film director William Brent Bell sets the tone and brings the audience back to a different era. The lens is all foggy as if it were a dream in Esther’s mind and the viewer gets to watch her descent into madness. At the time, Esther was in her cell and she knew how to draw people in, which is one of her many talents. Then, of course, she went in for the most brutal kill imaginable. It was fun to watch because you see this young girl who appears to be so sweet and innocent engage in such violent situations. 

What worked forthis movie was the pacing and the timing of the twist in the middle of the film. Once Esther gets adopted there needed to be something more to carry the movie out to the end. And set up her future storyline. Esther’s adopted family Tricia (Julia Stiles), Gunner (Matthew Finlan), and Allen (Rossif Sutherland) all welcome her back with open arms but notice that something is different. The twist is possible the best part of the movie and Julia Stiles is very strong in this. Her chemistry with Fuhrman carries the second half of this film and the third act has some great sequences. The lighting and sound design throughout the movie created a different atmosphere in each room, especially where Esther felt the safest. 

Orphan: First Kill is another sequel that will leave you pleasantly surprised because of how detailed Esther’s story is. It has been years since the first one was released, so it is only natural to bring it back with a good enough backstory for her. If it’s even possible Fuhrman shined even more in this prequel because she had to develop a different side to her and it added so much depth to the original movie. The cast is great and there are some graphic kills in the movie that will make you clutch your stomach because of how much contact Esther makes with some objects. It’s a fun horror prequel that will make you want to watch the original right after.

‘Scream’ (2022) Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

To many of us Scream directed by Wes Craven means the world to us. The reason why it does is because it was our first horror movie ever. To be introduced to the slasher genre through Scream is probably the best way to dip your toe into horror. It is the perfect starter film to get anyone into the genre. Not only does the first Scream have great kills and an awesome cast, but it also has a strong story that is self aware of the film they’re making. Using all of the horror tropes, while crafting a slasher in itself is difficult to do and that’s why no one has even come close to what they did in the first instalment. There comes a time where the franchise goes too far in the horror genre and Scream (2022) did not make a requel that does justice to any of the characters.

Without getting into the actual events of the film, the story is about two sisters reuniting after one of them was attacked by a new Ghostface. The younger sister, Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) was attacked in her home as the conventional opening kill, but she survived. Her estranged older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra) returns to Woodsboro with some secrets of her own. All of Tara’s friends are connected to the history of Woodsboro in some way and naturally; one of them is the killer. We all know the rules, and so did her friends, but it got a bit too preachy when Dewey Riley (David Arquette) steps in to help them solve the case. The first four instalments were self-aware, but still managed to form an interesting narrative that wasn’t predictable. This fifth instalment took the metafiction writing to a whole other level that made this feel more like Scary Movie than Scream.

In a way this film does go back to the roots of the franchise (quite literally) and doesn’t really add much for the new characters. Trying to form a new cast by linking all of them to a legacy character or one of the friends that went to Woodsboro High is very much a stretch. It’s also lazy writing to go back to something that had already been done in a better way 25 years ago. This story just wasn’t strong enough to push any of these characters forward without the legacy characters going with them for the next two instalments. It’s like this film was more of a tribute to the 1996 version than a film that can restart the franchise with these new characters. The first act seemed promising because they tried something different but then that third act just fell apart as they directly mimicked what happened in 1996.

Scream (2022) was one of my most anticipated movies this year and I left the theatre feeling extremely underwhelmed. I did not connect with anyone other than Tara, and unfortunately, Jenna Ortega is technically not the final girl, Melissa Barerra is. For me, Barerra fell flat and she doesn’t seem like she’s capable of leading a franchise without Ortega by her side. The one takeaway is that co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett brought a modernized look to the franchise, which really worked. The kills were also more brutal than they’ve ever been, which I really appreciated heading into a franchise revamp, since they are competing with other slashers that are amping up the look of the kills. It’s definitely a love letter for Wes and that’s perfectly fine, but what they did with this story just didn’t work for me at all.

‘Halloween Kills’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The slasher subgenre of horror can be fun and horrific at the same time. That is the beauty in finding the balance of suspenseful kills, brutal violence, and sarcastic comments from characters within the world. The importance of building suspense and creating an atmosphere for the viewer is what makes slasher films fun to watch. When it’s a new, original piece, the story can be straightforward and have decent kills. But after four decades, the story is important, the lore becomes integral to push a well-known villain into the next instalment. That is where Halloween Kills suffers the most.

David Gordon Green picks up right where we left off in 2018. Halloween Kills is a direct continuation of that Halloween night, which is hard to believe because of the time frame within the first film. Exactly how long can this night be? As we get back into the groove of that night, Green abruptly cuts back to that same night in 1978. The way the flashbacks were integrated did not work for this film at all because it is just repeated information. We already know everything about Michael Myers, so why do we need to rehash it? What is the point of course correcting a franchise that has had three remakes and a one-off film?

Halloween Kills 2021 Michael Myers Figure | Figures.com
Courtesy of Universal

This was one of the weakest openings in the ‘Halloween’ franchise. From the opening title sequence something already felt off. After the fantastic generational family story for the Strode’s that was presented in Halloween (2018), this sequel seemed to switch gears into a different tone entirely. They strayed so far from the family connectivity and turned it into a social commentary about mob mentality. Which wasn’t executed in the way it should have been, in order for this middle instalment to hold any weight in the Myers-Strode extravaganza.

On this particular Halloween night, Michael Myers escapes the flames of the Strode dungeon, thanks to heroic firefighters, who had no idea that they were walking into the Strode house. Myers is now unhinged and ready to kill anyone standing in his way. Cut to, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is injured and taken to the hospital, where she sleeps for the first half of the movie because of her surgery. In the meantime, we have the children of the 1978 babysitters club, drinking at a dive bar. Good old Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) tells everyone about his encounter with the Boogeyman. As if, after eleven films, no one knows what Michael Myers is capable of.

Everything We Know About Halloween Kills << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV  News
Courtesy of Universal

The townspeople find out that Michael is on the loose and they take matters into their own hands. Two of the Strode women, Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) joined other survivors to form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael. The focus shifted from the Strode women to this giant mob, who apparently, had no idea what Michael looked like. What was also incredibly frustrating, apart from the poor execution of the victims attempting to kill him, no one listened to Laurie. How do you keep referencing her, as the one person who knows Michael best, and just disregard everything that she says?

Halloween Kills is one of the most disappointing movies of the year. It does show a completely different side of Halloween night. Unfortunately, the secondary characters were brought in, just to be killed off, and it felt like lazy writing with a messy execution. This movie was incredibly frustrating to sit through because the kills were awesome, but the story was painfully boring and lacking any form of suspense. When the audience is laughing and rooting for the killer, instead of being at the edge of their seat, something definitely went wrong.

‘Candyman’ (2021) Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The horror genre has been giving audiences so much to look forward to. Each new addition to the genre is original, unique and delivers the scares. Some aren’t as strong as others, but they add something new each time. Whether it be visually, psychologically, or emotionally, the genre has been elevated. Even with the more obscure horror films, that did not stick the landing, the director’s vision would almost always standout. With direct sequels to the original, such as Candyman, it is important to differentiate between a reboot, and a sequel. They never marketed this film as a sequel, and if I never watched the first one, I wouldn’t have gotten the references or the connection to the urban legend.

This is also supposed to be Nia DaCosta’s film. Notice how I said supposed to be. Unfortunately, with a name like Jordan Peele signed on as producer and co-writer, there is a lot of him in this movie. The main issue with Candyman is that there are two main ideas clashing. It felt like DaCosta’s vision for this film, versus Peele’s modern social commentary, were constantly trying to outdo the other. DaCosta’s direction was very strong and there were some great, unique moments, to drive the story forward. But Peele’s voice overpowered hers. The humour would undercut the scares – which were very limited- and take you out of the eerie atmosphere DaCosta created.

Every time DaCosta wanted to get deeper into the urban legend and really add some depth to the story, it was cut short. It stayed on the surface, barely making an impact. The only thing I can speak on are the technical aspects of this film, as the story itself and the social commentary, are not for me to dissect. DaCosta made some great visual choices to explain the lore and some kills were strong. However, there weren’t enough kills shown on screen and it was not nearly scary enough. DaCosta tried to work with the script that she had, but ultimately her full vision for this film was held back.

Candyman is one of the most disappointing films of the year. Sure, it visually delivered some great moments, the entire cast gave solid performances, but it was not scary, and the script was a complete let down. DaCosta and Peele were trying to say something but they only managed to scratch the surface, leaving the social commentary empty, and convoluted. DaCosta has a cool style and I am looking forward to seeing what else she does next. Just because the script was poor, does not mean that her choices as a director, should go unnoticed.

‘Fear Street Part Three: 1666’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We are back for one last Shadyside scare! Fear Street Part Three: 1666 ties up the trilogy quite nicely, making it one of the most consistent horror trilogies in the past couple of years. We dive into Sarah Fier’s backstory, as we head to the time of witchcraft, and the devil. Fier’s small, colonial town is gripped by a witch hunt, that has deadly consequences for centuries to come. Fier’s story is then combined with Samantha Fraser’s from 1994, as the group of teenagers try to put an end to the Shadyside curse before it’s too late. The way this slowly flows into each instalment and era is really well done. The characters are all somehow linked to the curse of Sarah Fier, and the reveal in this third instalment is genius.

What worked incredibly well in this third instalment is that Deena is transported to 1666 through Sarah Fier. The concept of possession normally works for the present time and the body is rarely brought into the world of the dead. So it was a really nice change of events. We see that majority of the characters from the first two films are also in this third one. Doing this allows the audience to remain familiar with the faces while telling a new story, so that the emotional connection that was previously established could carry through.

The structure of Sarah Fier’s story was interesting because of the queer representation in 1966. Relationships were kept hidden, or were called abnormal; those who were queer were automatically linked to the devil. Fier’s story became rather important once we found out what had actually happened to her. It took one person, a town filled with misogynists and loyal Christian followers to create a false narrative. This all ties together at the end of Sarah Fier’s story, there was a Saw-like montage, showing the audience everything they missed in the trilogy. Once the audience goes back with Deena to 1994 they know what the plan is to end the curse for good.

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 has a sinister atmosphere from the start and authentically presents 1666. The score was disorienting and reminded me of Hereditary, there were plenty of animals used, flies were very prominent, and the essence of the devil around the townsfolk was felt. The violence and gore in this third instalment was subtle, but effective. The fun, fancy kills, were brought in at the end in 1994, which made complete sense. All in all, this trilogy had a perfect release strategy from Netflix, allowing this to become one of their best properties in their library.

Oh, and don’t worry, there could be another sequel… I wonder where they will go next?!