Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Movie Reviews 363 – Suspiria (1977)

September 29, 2018

SUSPIRIA, poster art, 1977

While Mario Bava can be considered the grandfather of Italian Horror, Dario Argento just as easily can assume the mantle of giallo cinema maestro. But oddly, Argento’s best films are not his giallo’s but his pure horror oeuvres, and topping them all is his masterpiece Suspiria.

An aspiring ballet dancer from New York (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany and arrives in the middle of the night in pouring rain at the doors of the prestigious Tanz dance academy. As Suzy ascends the stairs to present herself another delirious eyed student is exiting while muttering some incomprehensible warning. When Suzy rings she is told that there is no one by her name expected at the school, leaving her out in the cold.

The escaping student makes her way to a friends apartment where she is terrorized, drawn to the rooftop only to be tangled by a cord and dropped through the stained glass foyer ceiling, killing not only her but her confidante.

The next day Suzy is finally brought into the school and immediately notes the cold reception by many of the girls and miss Tanner one of the instructors with a Nazi demeanor and the looks to match. But she does make friends with Sara (Stefania Casini) who confides that the student who died had warned her that something was amiss. As Suzy begins her dance classes she tells the instructors that she is not feeling well but is none the less goaded to continue and soon faints. But this is but a pretense to keep Suzy under the eye of Madam Blanc (Joan Bennett) who runs the academy. Under the medical supervision of the school doctor (Udo Kier) Suzy is  drugged but wise enough to continue her snooping even after her only friend Sara disappears under mysterious circumstances. Suzy eventually learns the secret hidden behind the walls of the school, but can she do anything about it?

Brimming with horror clichés of faraway footsteps, hidden passageways, clues that must be twisted to make sense, gargoyle fixtures and bloody encounters by the handful, Suspiria also brought new life to the genre by Argento’s bold use of pulsating colors, Masonic emblems and lush lodgings (pink Deco!) befitting Alice in Wonderland, all captured with masterful camera work. The horrors include maggot infestations, canine casualties, and razor wire trampling to name a few. As good as all that, no mention of this film can be complete without lauding the immaculate score by Italian prog-rock Goblin (credited as The Goblins).

Written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi (his wife at the time and mother of their daughter, actress Asia) Suspiria was the first of the The Three Mothers trilogy which included Inferno and The Mother of Tears  which he only completed in 2007, 30 years after Suspiria. Needless to say, this was not my first viewing of this classic, but even so it was only this time around that I noticed the distinct influence of The Exorcist here. All that to say that this movie never ceases to surprise.

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Movie Reviews 359 – The Human Centipede (2009)

August 28, 2018

Well I finally got around to watching The Human Centipede, the conceptually stomach turning film in which victims are surgically attached – lips to butthole – forming a veritable frankensteinian centipede. Now I’ve watched more than my share of the grotesque, gruesome and repugnant films over the years but even I, a hardened veteran, had some trepidation if not hesitation watching this Dutch ditty. After all, the mere concept forces one to imagine some indelible images even without seeing the actual film visuals. But truth be told, once the initial revulsion factor has been, uh, digested, this isn’t as bad as one would imagine.

Of course this kind of a movie relies on a demented scientist and as Dr Josef Heiter Dieter Laser not only emotes the necessary insanity, but creepily looks the part. When two young American tourists, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) get stranded with a flat tire out on a desolate country road on a rainy night, they take refuge in Heiter’s home and shortly fall to his long planned scheme of creating a tri-human centipede. Heiter, who practiced the procedure on a trio of hounds before, has his basement lab and infirmary all set up and even already has a comatose victim already lined up. And when the meticulous doctor determines that the existing victim is not physically compatible with his two new nubile “segments” he disposes the ‘incompatible’ and forages for another landing him with Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura) a male Japanese tourist to complete his human checklist.

Explaining the surgical and anatomical details of the procedure to follow, the language barrier presented by all three bound prey renders the discussion pointless but the drawings are more than enough to have them wailing in vain. It’s a lot more intricate than you would imagine and I was fascinated by how the incisions and stitching solves what would be real life problems in such an undertaking… and making it all the more morbid.

Lindsay, the more outspoken of the girls makes a brief break but that just lands her the coveted ‘middle’ segment of the experiment. But once Heiter awakens his masterpiece post-op, not only does he not have to worry about her or any of the other conjoined bodies easily escaping, but only Katsuro is left with a voice for the entire group – odd in that being unilingual Japanese his ramblings are undecipherable, but we get the idea.

The ‘centipede’ can slowly move about but of course ‘it’ is not as obeisant as the Heiter’s old doggy-train. It’s really only once bodily functions like bowel movements kick in that the film reaches the pinnacle of grossness, but even so, it is one of the imagination rather than any actual visuals.The final act of the movie is one in which escapes are contemplated and planned while some snoopy detectives that come knocking on Heiter’s door with a few questions.

When the horrific description of the subject matter of this film by Tom Mix was announced one would assume a public up in arms, but I must say that as far as I could tell it garned more of an anticipation reaction within genre fandom and nary a blip in mainstream reporting. How far we’ve come since Silent Night, Deadly Night when mothers were lined up at the cinema in the mid 80’s for a simple slasher movie. This on the other hand is a movie clearly influenced by Dr. Josef Mengele’s Nazi experiments and perhaps a dose of Jack the Ripper, all real horrors. Honestly aside from some cool ‘stitch’ makeup the goriest part was listening to Heiter detail his planned procedures of the ensuing surgery, stitch-by-stitch.

Technically the title of this film is The Human Centipede (First Sequence) as it was the first in a trilogy which includes The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) and which concluded with The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence).

You want real horror? Try Martyrs, A Serbian Film, or hell even Pink Flamingos (for that one unforgetable gross scene). True, this one isn’t for the squeamish but Human Centipedes are just bugs on the wall compared to those.

Movie Reviews 358 – Burnt Offerings (1976)

August 18, 2018

Check out this lineup. Karen Black, Oliver Reed, and Bette Davis. Throw in Burgess Meredith for good measure. Now how can anyone pass up a lineup like that and for a horror film no less? Rounding out the talent behind Burnt Offerings, is writer and director Dan Curtis, the man who brought us the original Dark Shadows soap opera and a few other notable horror entries.

When a young family go searching for a house to rent for vacation, wife Marian (Black) can’t believe their luck in finding a slightly rundown 19th-century mansion given the great price offered by the elder brother and sister living in the house. But husband Ben (Reed), already had misgivings even before hearing the slight catch in that they would have to take care of the mother of the old siblings who never leaves her two upper level rooms. When Marian promises that she alone will tend to the old lady, Ben agrees and along with his aunt Elizabeth (Davis) and son Davey (Lee H. Montgomery) move in for the summer.

Even before they move in the sinister house begins it’s work. Slowly taking over Marian who is entranced by the abode, Ben has nearly the opposite experience, becoming irritable and short fused who now suffers dreams about his mother’s funeral. The stakes are raised when Ben nearly takes his own son’s life but when the vibrant and spirited Elizabeth suddenly becomes frail and sickly the family finally faces the house head on.

Lumping this film with the other stock haunted house tales does not do this one justice. If one were to be honest then clearly the main character is the house itself which not only manipulates the family but controlling things like the electricity and other utilities, but it literally transforms itself in front of our eyes.

While the driving force is the residence, the tension is all in the inner conflict it creates among the family members which is why the superlative casting makes all the difference. Davis is not one of the main stars here but not one to ever be outdone she shines here as always. Her career was defined playing strong, commanding stalwart roles which she certainly does here as well – at least at first – but most uncharacteristically her performance is at it’s best when her health starts to fail as a result of mansion interference. It is in those moments of weakness and frailty and during the transition itself that we are subjected to Davis as we’ve never seen before which is a treat in itself.

Take it from me, this is one offering you have to take up.

Movie Reviews 356 – The Legacy (1978)

August 3, 2018

When Margaret (Katherine Ross), an interior designer gets a generous unsolicited request for a job in the English countryside, she must first persuade her partner Pete (Sam Elliott) to go. With some reluctance lingering he concedes after she suggests it as vacation opportunity and the couple soon find themselves blissfully riding a motorcycle across lush green back roads. But their carefree ride soon comes to a crashing end as they careen into a luxurious Rolls Royce. Lucky for them the occupant of the car not only promises to have the local mechanic repair their cycle but invites also them to rest at his place while they wait for the repairs.

Their first surprise is the enormous Victorian estate their rescuer, Jason Mountolive (John Standing) occupies with a large entourage of housekeepers. This includes a white habit nurse who just as soon informs them that their visit is expected to be an extended one as the cycle repairs are not expected to be completed as quick as they were led to believe. As they settle into their luxurious room Pete spies the sudden arrival of an odd array disparate individuals. They soon learn that Jason, vibrant and full of energy just earlier in the day is now at death’s door and about to bestow his possessions to one of the visitors, and shockingly that includes Margaret who was purposefully mislead into coming. But the dispensation is not simply a matter of divvying up possessions. The main handout is only to be received by one of the visitors and as the bodies mount it becomes clear that Margaret is about to inherit more than anyone could have imagined.

This movie is an entry from what I call the Satanic Seventies touched off by the success of earlier movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist and while it does have an interesting premise it isn’t remotely as good as any of them. One part that was frustrating was the lack of context regarding the other visitors awaiting Jason’s death. We eventually learn that they do share one common attribute but we don’t know how and why they all knew of each other before they arrived and yet Margaret, ostensibly part of the group, knew nothing about them or the reason they were assembled.

As for the group itself – one member being notably played by rocker Roger Daltrey of The Who, but Who should have stuck to vocals given his performance here – only the barest of information is given to their backgrounds despite some intriguing bits and clues. A missed opportunity to expand on their backstories especially since it was relevant to the plot and seemed to be more interesting than the path the story was taking. This was particularly surprising as the movie was based on a story and script by veteran Jimmy Sangster, an early Hammer films scribe, who has delivered much better than this. And while I’m in my rant phase I have to mention the ghastly inappropriate music score that really does not fit the mood at any point and the dreadful Kiki Dee theme song that inexplicably got top billing in the opening credits.

But there are some good points to the film. I was most impressed by the fabulous Gothic mansion and the abundant array of Victorian exotic art, Baroque paintings and portraits as well as the architecture itself. The portraits fill every inch of wall space and one I immediately noticed was the familiar Mary Shelley image – a clever hidden nod to the author of Frankenstein. I suspect that closer inspection of the many other faces would reveal other horror luminaries. And the lavish decor of a mansion would not be complete without a few hidden passages between the nooks and crannies used to good effect in the film.

While the film makers missed the boat on the characterization of the visitors they were much more successful with the commanding nurse and hints that her true lineage of which I won’t say more other than to take a close look at the movie poster. As for the horror, this one presents a mixed bag. Some of the carnage is quite shocking and surprising, but some of the butchery comes out of nowhere and are done before you can fully absorb them, especially since the characters themselves don’t seem to give them much thought.

In the end this Legacy is not befitting it’s title and I would only recommend it to those horror fans that are completists.

Movie Reviews 355 – Angel Heart (1987)

July 27, 2018

Robert De Niro has always been one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood with roles ranging from roguish mobsters, punch drunk boxers, power hungry revolutionaries and surprisingly even in comedic portrayals. But when he took on the role of The Devil in Angel Heart it turned a lot of heads. But ever the trendsetter, DeNiro’s lord of darkness is not any red horned caricature but an immaculately attired and dignified Satan with a slick haircut and even sporting my earliest recollection of a “man bun”. Yes, this movie is different in many ways.

Beginning in post WWII New York, De Niro as Louis Cyphre (get it?) hires private eye Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to determine the status a man named Johnny Favorite. Cypher explains to the disheveled looking Angel that Johnny, a one time singer but later war veteran who returned with post traumatic stress and is reputedly being held in a mental institution. But Cyphre has his doubts and explains that he has some outstanding business dealings with Favorite and would like Angel to substantiate Favorite’s institutionalized status. Sure enough Harry discovers that records have been falsified and with great reluctance ends up following a trail that includes a fiancee (Charlotte Rampling), a mistress and her daughter (Lisa Bonet), and former band members all of which Harry encounter in New Orleans.

This “gumshoe-horror” – for lack of a better description – is both a mystery in the traditional sense, while the horror elements are more those of human failings than supernatural ones with just a touch of voodoo rituals. But there is a distinct trail of bodies along Harry’s journey for the truth and the truth is the twist ending.

This movie was criticized more for the scenes of Lisa Bonet – a member of America’s idyllic TV family at the time for her role as one of the kids in The Cosby Show – exposing herself in a few shots and one particular racy sex scene than any of the horror gore. There is also a lot of symbolism, some obvious and others not so much – I could never figure out why but there are fans, big, small, rotating, stationary, every few minutes. And there are plenty of chickens as constantly being pointed out as one of Harry’s phobias and the voodoo offerings.

All of these bizarre elements make Angel Heart stand out as an unusual film that I would classify as ‘must see’ by any cinefile no matter your genre of preference.

Movie Reviews 353 – Infestation (2009)

July 13, 2018

Last week we endured a sweltering heat wave and to take my mind off that I sheltered myself into my nice and cool basement and watched Infestation so that my worries could switch from anxiety of global warming to global swarming. This post apocalyptic bug invasion movie does not start out in the traditional manner. Instead of taking a linear storytelling approach we begin with the camera panning over an office environment where cobwebs are strung across desks and walls and then cocooned bodies are revealed strewn across the floor. And then one of the bodies twitches…

As flashbacks we learn that Cooper (Chris Marquette) is a young undisciplined office goofball working in a telemarketing firm – largely thanks to his dad (Ray Wise) – whose lax work ethics and office hijinxs had caught up to him. It was just as he was getting fired that a high pitched sound had everyone blackout. Inexplicably awaking while others cocooned lay dormant, Cooper soon frees up some of his colleagues while running into a few giant, man-sized beetles still scurrying around the office. With communications all down, everyone else within the city encased and with wasp-like bugs plucking people off the streets, Cooper becomes the de-facto leader with a plan to head out to his father’s house and the safety of the Cold War era bomb shelter there.

The group includes an assortment from the firm as well as others who were in the area at the time of the blackout including Sara (Brooke Nevin), one of Cooper’s old highschool colleagues and the daughter of Cooper’s boss, who was plucked into the sky by one of the wasp creatures. While stopping over a few homes of family of those in the group they discern the fate of those unlucky enough to be stung by the bugs and also come across a vast mound structure the bugs are building. And when Sara decides to go there in the hopes of finding her mom, Cooper rallies the gang to help out.

Ray Wise steals the show as the Alpha, take charge, half nuts father while Cooper finally shows some backbone, standing up to Ray (sorta) and bravely faces the bugs to help Sara. The horror comedy is pure CGI, some of it decent, some of it ‘cookie cutter’, but the film does give new meaning to the term “spider-man”.

While I kind of enjoyed it, this movie is not for everyone. A lot is just not explained and not investigated by the survivors. They do find out one quirk about the bugs but in the end the tired thread of a group having to ‘go across town’ is just too predictable.

What really degrades the film to substandard fare is the idiotic and infuriating non-closure ending. While I suspect that a sequel was in mind which may account for part of it I’d say that even that excuse only goes so far and you have to deliver some sort of ending. In this case the final credits start rolling mid action and leaves viewers agape.

There are better bug movies and better horror comedies than this one. Watch it only if you find yourself in a bug infested post-apocalyptic situation and don’t have your copy of Alien Apocalypse handy.

Movie Reviews 351 – Piranha (1978)

June 30, 2018

The huge success of Jaws in 1975 generated a flock of imitation shark movies jumping out of the waters as producers scrambled to cash in on the wave. This included the king of the B movies himself, Roger Corman taking a dip. But Corman was smart enough to see that the competition where simply putting a shark or two into their mediocre offerings and instead of merely being another pale imitator he wanted to retain the aquatic threat and the cuspid edge while dropping the iconic dorsal. The solution: Piranhas!

When a couple of teenagers stumble upon a seemingly abandoned military research facility and take a midnight dip into the pool they find out the hard way that the pool isn’t exactly empty. Their sudden unexplained disappearance has Maggie (Heather Menzies) scouring the area where she meets Paul (Bradford Dillman) hiding as best he can from civilization in his booze stocked isolated cabin. The two make their way to the discarded facility where they run into crazed old researcher Doctor Hoak (Kevin McCarthy) but not before accidentally draining the pool into the local river.

Hoak explains how the Vietnam era facility once worked on project ‘Razor-Teeth’ creating mutant piranhas intended to help the war effort. Once it was abandoned Hoak stayed on to continue the research himself while keeping an eye on the now frenzied ravenous piranhas. As the trio realize the fish are now making their way downstream they race to close a dam before the school enters human populated areas. Maggie and Paul manage to close the dam only to be rounded up by a military unit that includes a veteran colleague of Hoak’s (Barbara Steele) but their captors don’t even believe the piranha are still alive. But not only are they still swimming, but they are headed straight for a resort about to open to the public.

While the plot differs as much as the actual threat there are still many sequences and even characters that mirror those in Jaws. Aside from the obvious movie poster design rip-off, many characters shrugging off the threat despite people going missing and a chronology that pits the menace about to have a feast with a holiday start, the resort owner (Dick Miler) is even a dead giveaway for actor Murray Hamilton who played the equally obstinate mayor Vaughn in Jaws.

This was director Joe Dante’s first solo feature which he also painstakingly edited to great effect. Despite the low budget and some clear shortcuts taken for the some of the special effects, the production had the luxury of having master craftsman Phil Tippett and the then up and coming prosthetics genius Rob Bottin working the piranha sequences. You just have to see the gyrating masses of piranhas frantically gorging and ripping everything in their path. If you have the Shout Factory DVD be sure to check out the extras where we get even more impressive views of the fierce piranhas.

One thing that bothered me was seeing some very cool looking, weird miniature stop motion creatures shown in early sequences that were never fully explained or revisited later in the film. That and some actors annoyingly calling the fish Pee-ran-hee-ah. (What’s up with that?).

If you want a more polished look I recommend Alexandre Aja’s remake Piranha 3D. But if you want a good old-school Corman treat, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Movie Reviews 349 – Last House on the Left (1972)

June 15, 2018

I finally got around to watching Wes Craven‘s classic Last House on the Left, a film with a both a notorious reputation while at the same time being an acknowledged groundbreaking movie that tested the limits of morality and propriety in horror. It is a movie that embraced the sexual revolution of the era but then turns that freedom around to show how that latitude can be exploited by the darker side of society.

Celebrating her seventeenth birthday Mari (Sandra Peabody) and her friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) take in a concert in the city. Trying to score some weed before the concert they approach Junior (Marc Sheffler) in front of an apartment building. Little do they realise that Junior is the son of prison escapee Krug (David A. Hess) and that within the apartment Krug along with fellow escapee Fred “Weasel” (Fred Lincoln) and their female companion Sadie (Jeramie Rain) have set up a trap for the girls. After having their way with their victims that night, the gang, girls in tow, head out of town to keep ahead of the authorities concentrated in the city.

Mari’s parents living in their rural home are not immediately worried as they are quite liberal themselves, but when she fails to come home by the next morning they decide to call the local cops who turn out to be bumbling fools and simply deride the parents concerns. As it so happens, the gang’s car has broken down just yards away from Mari’s parent’s house. After dragging the girls into the nearby woods and inflicting yet more sadistic carnal torture, they kill Phyllis in their unbridled enthusiasm and needing to dispose of witnesses shoot Mari who is already in a near catatonic state.

Still stranded the gang are then welcomed by Mari’s unaware parents into their home for the night. It isn’t until the next day when Mari’s mother is tipped off by clues that the visitors have been up to some bloody foul play with her daughter that Mari’s father comes across his dying daughter. Enraged the parents decide that they will enact their own revenge. A meticulously planned bloody comeuppance rivaling that of what was done to the girls.

To fully understand this film and some of the elements it contains, one has to comprehend the nature of it’s beginning. Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham were initially contracted to deliver a porn flick and while that quickly developed into the psychological horror it became, many remnants of that salacious seed remain in the final product delivered. This is not limited to some scenes and dialogue passages, the very first scene being once in which Mari and her parents discuss her boobs, but also includes cast members who were recruited from the adult film industry. As Craven and Cunningham had no real filmmaking experience a lot of the production was done on the fly which was essentially cinema vérité which coincidentally worked in the films favor. But the low budget is also evident with flaws such as some grainy and even often out of focus footage.

I must admit that I was surprised to learn that Craven was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring which has many similar (if not outright copied) passages and that this was not as original a plot as I thought. But the horror is pure Craven at his inventive best, preceding the equally (more?) horrific rape revenge I Spit On Your Grave. It should be noted that the muscle bound Hess also wrote the music score.and had a venerable career as a musician and songwriter. I did see the 2009 remake and thought it was quite good. That version of Last House on the Left tinkered with a few things in the plot but kept the essentials intact.

The catchy slogan for the film was the repetitive line “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie…”. But what a movie!

Movie Reviews 347 – The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

June 2, 2018

Robert Clarke was a fairly prolific B-Movie horror actor who played smaller roles in films such as The Body Snatcher and Bedlam before deciding to make his own, ultra low budget vanity film. Producing, writing, directing, and starring, The Hideous Sun Demon is a quaint feature that offers little substance but isn’t bad enough to make elicit too many groans either.

In the most simplistic of plots, Gil McKenna (Clarke) is exposed to a radioactive isotope while working at a nuclear production facility. At first there seems to be absolutely no adverse effect on him which puzzles but puzzling his doctor at the hospital. Deciding to keep him for a short observation period, a nurse brings him to the hospital’s rooftop sun deck to relax. But after some time exposed to the sun’s beaming rays he is transformed into a lizard skinned monster.

Returning back to normal after a brief period of time Gil is now faced with the prospect of living a secluded life in his isolated country home with only the sunless night hours giving him short reprieve and a chance to go out and mingle. His worries are briefly allayed when he meets Trudy  (Nan Petersen) a buxom piano singer playing at a cocktail lounge. But that brief respite is shattered after the couple decide to go for some late night beach frolicking after the pair fall asleep and Gil awakens to the first hints of dawn light.

But his former colleagues at “Atomic Research Inc.” have have not forgotten him, especially  Ann (Patricia Manning) who has a thing for Gil. They have called in a world radiation expert they hope will find a cure for Gil. Noting that that every time Gil gets exposed his transformations happen increasingly quicker and taking longer to revert back to normal once out of the sun, Gil promises to remain indoors until the doctor can complete his analysis. But rankled by guilt having left Trudy alone at the beach without any explanation he once again heads out to see her at the lounge. But as luck would have it he is not only detained by thugs once again transforming, but also commits a horrible crime as the monster. Now on the run with cops on his heals he makes on last break. But will medicine have a chance to cure him before the law catches up?

Reputedly cast with friends, family and USC film students, the film does not suffer as much as one would expect. One evident result is Trudy repeatedly singing a tune called “Strange Pursuit” that was penned and dubbed by one of Clarke’s relatives. The script at least tries to add another dimension to the plot by injection Gil’s alcoholism as factor to both the initial accident and some of Gil’s later problems but don’t expect too much

This is no masterpiece and suffers in a few spot but as a quick retro cult reprieve it shines nonetheless.

Movie Reviews 345 – Get Out (2017)

May 17, 2018

The adage that there are no new horror concepts is a common complaint of fandom and somewhat true given the constant feed of remakes and reimaginings. So it’s more than refreshing when a novel concept comes along like last year’s Get Out. The film did a lot more than just give us a fairly fresh tale. It also broke a few stereotypes along the way and reminded us that a good story can come from people with diverse backgrounds. In the case of Get Out, that happens to be writer, director and producer Jordan Peele, a well known comedian with a lengthy, laudable television comedy résumé – although given the huge box office and critical acclaim for the film (four Oscar nominations) I would not be surprised that a career change is forthcoming.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are taking the next step in their relationship by visiting her parents out at the Armitage family’s estate in the woods over the weekend. Chris is somewhat concerned that Rose never explicitly told them that he is black while his good friend Rod jokes about the entire interracial affair. Once there, the well-to-do parents, a surgeon and a psychologist, appear to be nonchalant about the situation.

Chris then learns that the weekend is also the annual get-together for the extended Armitage family and as he tries to duck out of a few race related awkwardness with some of the odder clan his concerns begin witnessing odd behaviour with the African-American servants. The mystery deepens when an older woman presents her companion, a much younger black man that Chris recognizes but now seems completely different from the man he knew. When that acquaintance momentarily breaks out of character and explicitly yells at Chris to get out his anxieties are enough for him to comply. Of course, that does not turn out to be as easy as he thought.

There is a slow but palpable buildup of suspense that something is clearly wrong here, but what? With hints coming only in dribs and drabs the audience is gently pulled into the story until all the cards are on the table. Although definitely a horror there isn’t all that much gore or reliance on cheap scares, the story being strong enough to stand on its own. Another strong point in favor of the film is that it does not shy away from pointing racial stereotypes, particularly treatment of colored people and benefits of white privilege, which of course are main points of the story. But those aspects are not force fed and only enhance the plot. There are surprises although I was able to deduce some of the twists early on.

Although Peele may have been tempted to inject a lot of comedy given his background he restrained the jokes to Rod’s character (Lil Rel Howery) with just the right amount of levity to not break the suspense. The film comes as a cross between Ira levin’s The Stepford Wives and Frankenstein if you can even picture that, but I prefer not to pigeonhole and set expectations.

While it may be too late to see this one on the big screen, I do urge everyone to get out and see it at some time.