Satan’s Slaves (2017)

Director: Joko Anwar

With a title like Satan’s Slaves, there was a strong likelihood that I would never have considered wasting my time on a movie that sounds like any cheap generic horror film at the bottom of the bargains bin, but its name is not representative of the content. So trust me, do not let this put you off. The basic premise of the film is that after a lengthy and stressful period suffering from a strange illness, a mother passes away. But she’s coming home for her children, and she’s not coming alone.

A remake of the 1982 occult classic of the same name, on the surface this Indonesian film may be a fairly stereotypical horror and hence a little unoriginal with its tropes, but it uses these horror tools so effectively that it puts most others to shame. Sometimes horror films can make it difficult to care for its characters due to poor writing, but this is definitely not the case with Satan’s Slaves; it had me constantly twitching nervously and covering my eyes in fear for the children. It made subtle and effective use of humour, which didn’t detract from the scares, and in fact, there was very little reprieve from the tension in this film; it’s so packed with genuinely terrifying moments, that you not only have to fear the dark, but the daytime can’t save you either.

Being a horror cinephile, it takes a lot to scare me, but Satan’s Slaves left me terrified that I could lose control of my bowels. Do not watch it alone.

The Witch in the Window (2018)

Director: Andy Mitton

The Witch in the Window was one of my surprise favourite horrors of 2018; whereas it undeniably possesses many traditional horror elements, it executes them in a novel and heartfelt manner. Despite the fact that it’s a slow-burn-creeper and keeps you on edge, it’s probably couldn’t be considered a pure horror film, but instead more of a supernatural film with horror elements.

The Witch in the Window has a dramatic factor that’s driven by family discord and you end up feeling particularly torn for the father figure, whose wife has fallen out of love with him and he’s also having a difficult time being an appropriate father to his son. In order to win back the love and respect of his wife, he and his son move to a farmhouse in Vermont, which he plans to fix up with his son in order to flip it. Enter creepy guy in the basement scene with a bucket of exposition. In this regard, The Witch in the Window is quite an old fashioned haunted house story, but without your typical ghost. The scenes involving the witch are devoid of cheap scares, but instead full of unsettling moments. Do not expect this movie to turn out how you expect; despite the fact that it doesn’t break any writing molds; it’s actually quite atypical in its twists and turns. Also, they added an element that’s becoming popular in horrors of late; scare factors in the background that you really need to pay attention to the movie to see, keeping the audience constantly on edge.

The Witch in the Window may is simple in its format, but it is brought to life due to the depth in its characters, stunning cinematography, and a strong child actor, which can be hard to come by. You don’t need to add loads of bells and whistles when the plot is strong enough to carry on its own.

Terrified (2017)

Director: Demián Rugna

As its name may suggest, this film is not short of scary moments. Something is happening in suburbia; and there’s no clear explanation of what that might be. If you’re interested in dark, horrific imagery and moments, but no clear explanations of what this is, Terrified is the movie for you. Personally, I found the first half of the film to be stronger than most horror films I’ve seen. It’s incredibly viscerally disturbing and unnatural, that despite every axon in your nervous system telling you to look away, you will remain fully fixated against your best interests. As opposed to your typical haunted house story, Terrified presents us with a haunted street.

The director makes clever use of the element of perspective here, teaching the audience that not all is as it may seems, and that moments from now everything could possibly change. There are no clear leads, and instead flits back and forth between characters as we follow specific elements of the plot. There is a lot going on in Terrified, a LOT. I felt a little overwhelmed at the end, and despite the fact that my overall experience of the film was of enjoyment, I still feel like it could have simplified some elements in order to retain some of the earlier impact.

I’m a little apprehensive about the fact that it’s going to receive the Hollywood make over; if a big studio get it’s hands on it then they may run the risk of over-polishing, and ruining what makes this film truly stand out. However, if the rumours are true and Del Toro is on hand as producer then it should be in safe hands. Despite some plot hiccups; Terrified is deeply original, full of scares, supernatural moments, and beasties to haunt your nightmares. You’ll never sleep without checking under the bed again.

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