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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Ghostland [2018] * * *

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"Ghostland", or "Incident in a Ghostland", is the fourth film written and directed by French director Pascal Laugier and, as his masterpiece "Martyrs" (2008), this film is also surrounded by controversy. This time not so much about the extremely violent content (despite having received some criticism saying that the film is "mean-spirited"), but due to an accident during the filming.

Actress Taylor Hickson, who plays Vera, suffered an ugly cut on her face during the filming of a scene where the producers asked her to knock herself against a glass door. The glass was real and the door shattered. She received 70 stitches and is now, justifiably, suing the film's production.

Some people even accuse the producers of alluding to the accident on the poster trying to draw attention to the film. If it's true, that's pretty fucked up.

Talking about the film itself, "Ghostland" is well filmed, has great performances (including the famous French singer Mylène Farmer who plays the girls' mother), a good (although very irresponsible) production and has a very tense and exciting initial sequence.

The creepy and oppressive atmosphere is sustained until the end. Unfortunately the movie suffers from several cheap jumpscares in its first half. And in the second half, the conclusions are quite predictable.

[---BEGIN SPOILERS---]
My biggest problem with the plot is that the director decides to break the ambiguity of events, as quickly as possible, in exchange for an ending with a tired moral lesson about following your dreams and being yourself. It would've been interesting if the mystery were kept to the end as in "Total Recall" for example.

That said, I confess that I loved the way Vera was used as the white rabbit of "Alice in Wonderland" in Beth's second illusion. She decided to follow her down the hole to face the harsh reality.

Also, the film has some nasty and shocking details, such as a character pissing in fear while upside down and her piss dripping down her face, or when one of the villains decided to sniff between the victims' legs and makes a face of disgust when smelling the girl who just had her period. Disgusting to say the least.
[---END SPOILERS---]

Probably critics were referring to these sordid details when they called the movie "mean-spirited". I agree, but I also think that, in this case, "mean-spirited" can be seen as a compliment. After all, it's a horror movie. It's expected to be "mean-spirited".

Another weak point is the villains who, despite being efficient at creating fear, are never developed beyond caricatures.

One of them reminded me a lot of one of the villains in the survival horror game "Haunting Ground", both in appearance and how he acts. Both are tall, strong, bald, mentally retarded, have a deformed face, and are sexually perverted.

"Ghostland" is fast, brutal and nasty. A pity that all this is diluted by cheap jumpscares and a conclusion that prefers the safer and more boring way.


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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Alucarda [1977] * * * *

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One of the most famous Mexican horror films, and certainly the most famous Mexican nunsploitation movie, "Alucarda" impresses with the richness of detail in the scenarios, the great practical effects, and the commitment of the actors, especially Tina Romero (not to be confused with George A. Romero's daughter) who commands the show giving life to the striking title-character.

Alucarda is a 15-year-old girl with rebellious black hair and penetrating eyes who was raised in a convent after the mysterious death of her mother while giving birth to her.

It isn't clear during the film, but it's safe to assure that, even before contacting a spirit (or demon) hidden inside a coffin while exploring some abandoned ruins with her new girlfriend Justine, Alucarda already had something supernatural within her. Something that went way beyond just simple curiosity or fascination with death.

This film presents a more ludic atmosphere than other nunsploitations. Almost like a satanic fairy tale where the expression "the powers of faith" is taken literally and manifested through telekinesis, levitation, and even pyrokinesis, used in abundance in a spectacular sequence at the end.

Visually, this film is unique. The sets are quite rustic, almost medieval. The convent looks more like a large stone cave with a dazzling altar with hundreds of lit candles and dozens of huge wooden crosses hovering behind the priest.

Even the nuns (who have a more secondary role here, although the themes are the same covered in other nunsploitations) use a style of habit different from anything I'd ever seen. Long and mostly white dresses and a cloth wrapped around their heads.

Other good points are the great sound effects that create a successful oppressive atmosphere, as well as excellent stunt work and practical effects that create a marvelous sequence at the end with lots of fire and lots of people on fire.

And the negative points are the very fast pace with which the romance between Alucarda and Justine is developed that makes it difficult, for those who watch, to believe in such strong connection between them in such a short time of convivence, and, also, the character of the doctor who drags the plot a little with his disbelief even after we already learn what's really happening.

Also, it ends up being an excess of explanation and repetition that makes a film of only 85 minutes (75 without counting the credits) seem to take forever to end.

Nuns in spontaneous combustion, a big and unbridled orgy under the moonlight, hysteria, a plethora of curses, screams and scandalous fainting fits, a hilarious and overdramatic stair fall in slow motion, a huge crucifix on fire, tears of blood, rain of blood, a coffin filled with blood... What else can we expect from a nunsploitation horror movie?


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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Satanic Pandemonium [1975] * * *

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Also known as "La Sexorcista" and as "the film that inspired Tarantino when he named Salma Hayek's character in the classic 'From Dusk Till Dawn'", this Mexican nunsploitation horror movie crosses some scandalous boundaries.

"Satanic Pandemonium" includes a very intense and violent scene where a teenage boy is sexually abused by an adult woman. Nothing too shocking for the '70s, but enough to cause seizures in some easily-triggered millennials.

Apart from this scene, the film is quite standard in relation to nunsploitations. Here we have lesbianism, female nudity (and a bit of male too), bloody penitence, visions of the infernal fire, murders of Christians and a lot of blasphemy, debauchery, and inversion between Catholic and Satanic symbols.

It caught my attention the inclusion of a subplot about racism inside the convent. Unfortunately, just like other subplots, it's forgotten throughout the film, but the earlier scenes with the only two black nuns being treated like slaves/animals (forced to do all housework, serve food to other white nuns, sleep next to cows in the stall...) and the confession of one of them about her desire to die in order to escape the abuses are by far the scariest scenes in the movie.

But as I said before, it has a serious problem of continuity. Several events are discontinued and, mainly, there's no clear definition of time. These problems could've been explained by the final twist, but the film ends in a confusing and ambiguous way. If the intention was to create an atmosphere of delirium, it failed to clarify, at the end, the limits between real and feverish delirium, since the structure of the film itself is rather confusing in this regard.

Possibly the biggest positive point of this film is the beautiful natural scenery including a magnificent stone church in the middle of the woods. Just breathtaking.

"Satanic Pandemonium" is a very entertaining and shameless mess.


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