‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Due to the popularity of other slasher films making direct sequels to the original film in the franchise, Texas Chainsaw Massacre decided to take a stab at it. Now, the difference between this slasher film and the others is that they had a distinct final girl. We have Laurie Strode and Sidney Prescott, both of who have been the central focus in their designated franchise. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never really had a memorable final girl, but they had Leatherface. No matter how many sequels they make with Leatherface, nothing compares to the original film and the stunning cinematography. The kills in the original were brutal and the film itself had more tension because of the camerawork alone. This direct sequel doesn’t really add much to the story and it doesn’t even have a strong enough motivation for its characters.

In order to make Leatherface relevant for this generation, the story needed to be centred on influencers. After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. These young kids have no idea what they are getting themselves into, as they step into the house owned by an elderly lady with some demons of her own. Director David Blue Garcia does some good work in building anticipation but the story just doesn’t pan out as well as it should have. The story is straightforward and feels recycled, but we are all really watching this for the kills, aren’t we? It doesn’t matter if any of these characters survive because they are just placed in this town to get murdered with no prior knowledge of Leatherface.

This is the type of sequel where you’re just waiting for the kills to happen. Texas Chainsaw Massacre has some of the most brutal kills I’ve seen in a while. There’s so much blood and gore, that even the close-ups of anything piercing someone’s skin will make you cringe. The kills will also make you laugh because of how bold they are. You can definitely feel every single blow to the head or axe to the chest. It does get a bit ridiculous in the third act because it could have ended in three different spots, but it kept going. They tried to make a final girl out of Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré) but it just didn’t make any sense because no one is connected to her enough to make this feel like “one last time” heading out to kill Leatherface.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a sequel that tries to recapture the same essence of the original but falls flat. The characters are hollow and there is absolutely no reason to even root for them. Leatherface has always flown under the radar and his backstory was always weak. If we compare his story to Jason, Freddy, or Michael, each of their stories is a bit more developed, which created well-rounded antagonists. In this case, it felt like they were mimicking the importance of other franchise villains with Leatherface in their place. Fans of the franchise will definitely appreciate the kills but at the end of the day, it’s just a recycled story trying to cater to this generation to make it relevant again.

‘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.

‘Midnight Mass’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

I really had to sit and think about this one.

As everyone knows, I am a Mike Flanagan supporter. He has captured my heart and I love his work. He brings so much detail and knows how to create tension throughout his pieces. However, Midnight Mass did not do it for me. I left this series feeling a bit underwhelmed.

It is a very different approach to the horror genre. He strays away from his typical ghost stories from Hill House and Bly Manor. Instead of paying close attention to the things that are creeping around the home, Flanagan puts all the focus on the dialogue. I am a fan of dialogue heavy projects BUT it must be engaging. We are rating this show as a whole and not based on a fantastic finale.

Courtesy of Netflix

The arrival of a charismatic priest, brings miracles, mysteries and renewed religious fervour to a dying town. The first half of Midnight Mass is very slow. The character introductions are fine but definitely not strong enough to make me care for any of them. Flanagan started out with Riley Flynn’s (Zach Gilford) story and then it fizzled out halfway through. There were many storylines that didn’t really intertwine the way they should have. Some character stories fell flat. The only interesting character, who held all this together was Monsignor Pruitt (Hamish Linklater). He commanded the screen and had powerful moments during his sermons.

You have a very complex character in Pruitt. There are so many layers to him. Unfortunately, he had no one to bounce off of, that matched his level of intensity during dialogue heavy scenes. There needs to be some back-and-forth for his character to work. Majority of the time, I would be waiting there to see when he popped up on screen because then I knew it would get interesting. I just expected so much more from the characters and the performances. Unfortunately, nothing really grabbed my attention until the final three episodes.

Netflix's 'Midnight Mass' Review: Mike Flanagan's Latest Gothic Horror -  Variety
Courtesy of Netflix

There are still great moments throughout this series. The creature designs are beautiful and there are some great kills with tension-filled moments. The practical effects and use of blood were both lacking at certain times. I appreciate that Flanagan is having a healthy conversation surrounding faith. That people should not blindly follow a system that can sometimes be corrupt. He also showed the fine line between good and evil, especially with the Angel coming into play. The journey that Flanagan takes you on in these seven holy episodes ends up spiralling out of control.

Midnight Mass is an interesting new addition to Flanagan’s body of work. This series just did not hit me in the same way the previous two did. Maybe it’s because I already contemplate all of the questions raised as a Catholic myself? So it felt repetitive for me. I feel like the point Flanagan was trying to make about faith, self-doubt, and corrupt religious systems got lost in translation as the show went on. It also ended up in a very different place and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

‘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?!