Count Gore De Vol's Screaming Room

With Lady Pam De Graff

Lady Pam De GraffLIE STILL aka The Haunting Of #24 (2005)
FEATURING: Tim Barlow, Robert Blythe, Susan Engel, Granville Saxton, Nina Sosanya
TAGS: Occult, mystery
RATING: 5 Pints Of Blood

PLOT: When a young man moves into a boarding house with a checkered past, the very edifice itself seems to reel him ever deeper into its morbid history.


COMMENTS: Sean Hogan put himself on the Screaming Room's radar as a name to watch in the horror genre by producing and co-writing/directing the horror anthology, Little Deaths (2011), the review of which appeared here last October. Hogan also wrote the 2009 film, Summer's Blood (aka Summer's Moon.) Lie Still represents an earlier effort at an indie feature film. It demonstrates Hogan's penchant for gloomy settings which hover ominously like winding sheets over a boundary between fantasy and reality that is always disturbingly malleable to his troubled characters.



In Lie Still, Martin (Blythe) is a new tenant in an out of the way, seedy boarding house, far removed from his obscured, but evidently turbulent past in downtown London. Seeking a quiet setting away from bad influences where he can straighten up and figure himself out, Martin moves in under a caveat from the landlord (Laing) that the other residents are similarly taking refuge from the mainstream. It's a quiet building. Silence is the rule here. Nobody likes to be disturbed. The other renters keep to themselves, the landlord cautions Martin. Martin would be well-heeled to follow their example. But where are the other tenants? They really do keep to themselves. Martin hears them but never actually sees them. Except for one.



And this is more or less agreeable to Martin, who finds the landlord a little creepy and presumptuous, having sized up Martin as for the ideal guest and predicting his acceptance of the lease. But Martin is barely settled in before someone leaves him a note commanding him to "Leave!" Matters deteriorate from there.

The elderly woman down the hall (Engel), the one accessible neighbor, warns Martin to get rid of his television, but won't tell him why. She tires to none-too-subtly seduce him. Unsettling noises in the middle of the night and around the home's secluded grounds, a backyard grave that is unconventional to say the least, someone determined to enter his room at night, and the vanishing of his visiting girlfriend add to Martin's growing sense of unease. So does a disturbing photograph of the building's original owner which hangs in Martin's room. Like the very house itself, the portrait seems to take on a life of its own, its subject, face mysteriously obfuscated in shadow, approaching ever closer with each passing day.



But does it really? Or is the perpetually agitated Martin's own stressful and unfortunate past merely catching up with him?

Lie Still doesn't break fresh earth in the funeral plot of the horror genre by offering surprising insight into those situations where a character is either being haunted, or slowly going mad in an oppressively possessive old house. The film does do a nice, job with the idea, however without being frivolous or feeling worn and familiar.

Well executed on a micro-budget, surreal dream sequences and genuine chills sauce-up Lie Still's claustrophobic framing and mausoleum-esque interiors like a shot of strong formaldehyde. Its dingy optical footprint renders the picture delightfully reminiscent of one of those older, made for BBC television horror productions. This dark, shroud-like filming quality makes Lie Still a good pick for a rainy Saturday afternoon, and since Lie Still achieves its aims with no nudity or gratuitous splatter, it's a good one to screen for the kids and teens, while remaining sufficiently sophisticated to clammily grasp the attention of older audiences too.




Lady Pam De GraffSINISTER (2012)
WRITTEN BY: C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson
DIRECTED BY: Scott Derrickson
FEATURING: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D'Addario, Clare Foley Rob Riley
TAGS: mystery, crime, occult

PLOT: A true crime writer ventures down a dark path when he finds home movies of a serial killer's crimes.

Note: This is NOT a "found footage" style movie!

COMMENTS: True crime writer Eillison Oswalt (Hawke) moves to the gloomy rural home and grounds of the victims of an horrific mass murder to investigate the crime. He finds that the murderer is not only surreptitiously spying on and stalking him, but has left a box of snuff movies in the attic for Oswalt to find. The grisly movies detail past mass murders committed by the killer. Contending with hostile local authorities, a reproachful wife (Rylance), and a son (D'Addario) bedeviled by bizarre night terrors, Oswalt delves headlong into the macabre film library.




As he does so, Oswalt soon discovers a horrible link between all the victims. It appears the killer has been active for half a century. As Oswalt probes further, he becomes increasingly disturbed and gruesomely obsessed. Unable to keep his perspective, Oswalt entangles himself in a sticky web of horrific intrigue which puts him and his unknowing family directly into the killer's cross-hairs. As he starts to doubt his sanity, Oswalt must toe the increasingly blurry line between reality and fantasy. Or is it something more?



Sinister takes the familiar serial killer-as-real-life-boogeyman concept in a fresh direction. While it's not a shock-you-out-of-your seat type of scary movie, Sinister proffers up a foreboding atmosphere of oppressive dread, dark as black-strap molasses -or congealed blood. Yet we're compelled to wade into the morass; we must see what happens. There are some genuine, chills and artfully conceived, spooky occurrences.



Oswalt's bickering wife and his son's puzzling sleepwalking episodes contribute only slightly to the plot. The overall idea behind the movie however, comprises a creative treatment of the serial killer/boogieman idea which is redemptive because it's enjoyably imaginative and creates clever twists and turns. Refreshingly, the characters are all driven by credible motivations and their actions are logical. In other words, Sinister won't insult your intelligence, and it's not predictable or run-of-the-mill.



There's some buzz in the media that Sinister is a "found footage film." I emphasize that this is not the case. The Super8 home snuff films which Oswalt discovers become an integral part of the plot. The story itself is conventionally filmed and competently crafted. Sinister is not another Blair Witch Project style movie.

The murders are ghastly, but not explicit, and Sinister is not a stalker flick or a splatter film. Suitable for a general audience of horror fans, yet sophisticated enough for the hard-to-please. I confer upon it an honorable and above average rating of six pints of blood.



You can also watch "Sinister" On Amazon Instant Video

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