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Unless you go in knowing what it’s about, it’s hard to watch The Wolf House and understand it completely. Outside of a brief synopsis that offers a little bit of insight, nothing in the film will actually say what’s happening as it sends you on a psychedelic acid trip made out of creepy paper-mache. It’s “Three Little Pigs” meets “Red Riding Hood” set in a house in Hell. Only 75 minutes long, it feels like two hours. A Chilean stop-motion animated horror film, its natural title is La Casa Lobo, and it’s a propaganda film spoken entirely in hushed whispers.

It’s not literally a propaganda film. Kind of like a mockumentary but without the documentary part. The film is presented by a small, reclusive community in Chile that’s never named, but referred to only as “The Colony” or “The Society.” A quick dive into the film’s history, however, will reveal that the community in question is Colonia Dignidad, a real colony founded south of Santiago in 1961 by a group of Germans that fled after WWII. The leader of the colony, eventually turned cult, was Paul Schafer, a convicted pedophile and Nazi.

The film opens with an introduction that feels like those absurdly cheerful videos about “hugs not drugs” in grade school, where it’s explained to be a presentation put on by the Colony for the outside public in an attempt to “dispel the horrible rumors” about them. The brief introduction is filmed like a welcome video tour of the Colony, full of images made to look like happy Amish country, and then the actual film begins.

The Wolf House is very much a dark fairytale, and like any fairytale, it tells a lesson of obedience. It focuses on a young girl named Maria who one day was disobedient and punished for it. Rather than take her cruel punishment like a good girl, she flees the Colony into the surrounding wilderness for a life of independence. Not long after, a large wolf finds her and chases her deeper into the woods where she’s forced to take refuge in an abandoned house.

Inside the house, she finds two baby pigs and becomes their mother. The three end up staying there for years (maybe months, it’s never clear), as the wolf patiently waits outside. His voice, like a dark hymn, calls her name all throughout the night. “Maria. Maria. Maria,” he chants, playing nice. “I was very harsh on Maria, but it will be good for her.” He is not really a wolf but Schafer hunting her down.

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From there the film gets super surreal. It is a stop-motion animation made from paper-mache so a dreamlike creep factor was pretty much a given. The house is connected to Maria directly and changes to match her moods, fears, and thoughts. Essentially the third little pig in their strange family of three, Maria’s power to shape the world around her eventually bleeds into her two piggy adoptees as she turns them into human children. Pedro and Ana.

She’s given them life but is ill-equipped to manage it, and soon this freedom turns against her.

Themes of innocence, naivety, fear, and hunger, in more ways than one, are all on display in The Wolf House, but given the Colony’s purpose of the film, it’s all used against poor Maria. We watch Maria go from child to mother then back to a child again, from liberated survivor to frightened victim, her spirit is beaten down until she’s meant to believe that life on The Colony is actually better. As time goes on, the house and the two children become more nightmarish. They’ve grown beyond Maria’s influence and the wolf’s quiet, unseen, presence begins to suffocate her.

Verdict

This review’s title is actually misleading because this isn’t the creepiest animated film since Coraline, it’s much creepier than Coraline. I honestly never got what everyone liked about Coraline and never really thought it was all that frightening, even though everyone else did, but The Wolf House is definitely an eerie little film, disturbing and beautiful in its pastel-colored grotesqueness. The animation is a horror show all its own.

Watching the animation shift from form to form, accompanied by a crackling sound like a thousand cockroaches crawling up and down the walls, is just unnerving. You’ll be completely transfixed, unable to look away, and if you watch it in the dark it’ll sound like those creeping cockroaches are all around you. The icing on the cake is the film’s chosen silence. The characters whisper their dialogue as if they’re whispering for the purpose of not waking the dead.

It is an acquired taste. Not exactly fun to watch, or even that exciting. It will demand your full attention so if you aren’t willing to give it, maybe skip it. The Wolf House is directed by Cristobal León & Joaquín Cociña in their first fiction feature film co-written with Alejandra Moffat and featuring a cast of just two voices, Amalia Kassai as Maria and Rainer Krause as the Wolf. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Photos are the property of Diluvio and Globo Rojo Films

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Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

Movies n TV

X-Files, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas

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Airing in December of 1998, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas is a classic monster of the week episode of the X-Files. Except, of course, it’s ghosts, not monsters. Because it’s Christmas, and there’s no better time for a little ghost story than that.

The story

Our story begins like any good holiday evening should. Mulder is telling Scully a ghost story. They’re sitting together outside a supposedly haunted house on Christmas Eve, waiting for the ghosts of two lovers to appear. The story is that they killed each other eighty-one years ago, that very night. Mulder is very excited to see some ghosts. Scully would rather be at home celebrating the holiday.

One of these people has a family life and a dog. The other only has his partner.

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Eventually, the two of them do make it inside, where they find an elderly couple named Maurice and Lydia. They seem like a nice enough couple until things start getting weird. Doors lock and unlock as they please. Lydia and Maurice seem to appear and vanish. And, of course, some dead bodies are found.

Edward Asner and Lily Tomlin in X-Files.

As Scully and Mulder try to find each other in this sprawling maze of a house, the ghosts are after them. They tell them terrible, insightful things about themselves and each other. The scary thing is that some of this is good advice.

The scary thing is how much of this Mulder and Scully needed to hear.

Eventually, our heroes escape, though they sure don’t exorcise the ghosts in the house or themselves. Lydia and Maurice are left to enjoy their quiet Christmas Eve in the comfort of their love, no longer a raging fire of passion, but a warm bed of glowing embers.

What worked

First off, let me say that I’m a sucker for a bottle episode. Especially in a show like X-Files. (And it is a true bottle episode, being the cheapest episode of the season.) For the most part, our story takes place in one location, with just four actors. It is tense, it is tight, and it is intimate.

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Honestly, this episode has everything going for it. Of course, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson bring their A Game. And they’re joined by two of the funniest comedic actors of all time, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. These people could read you the phone book and have you in stitches.

But the writing is also exemplary. Mulder and Scully are forced to take a good look at how they treat each other, for better or worse. They have to consider their relationship, the way they live their lives, and the darker voices in their heads.

In the end, I think they come together beautifully.

Finally, I want to praise the location. The haunted house looks so much like Hill House, it can’t be an accident. It’s in turn freezing and warm, falling apart and beautifully maintained. The cobwebs and hanging sheets on the unused furniture are just classic. And with the massive fireplaces, bookshelves to the ceiling, and the well-stocked bar, the whole place has an air of old-fashioned comfort, left to rot.

X-Files How The Ghosts Stole Christmas.

What didn’t work

I honestly cannot think of one thing that didn’t work in this episode. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s dark. It’s the perfect Christmas episode of television.

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In the end, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas is a dark, spooky little tale. It’s filled with scares and chills but still manages to warm your heart. And if you want to fit a little more blood and gore into your holiday watch list, this is a great way to do it.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Jack Frost

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Released in 1997, it would be understandable if you confused this Jack Frost with the movie of the same title that was released in 1998 and starred Michael Keaton. We are not talking about the Michael Keaton Jack Frost because it’s not horror. It’s also not good.

(Look at that, you’re getting two reviews in one today. Merry Christmas.)

No, today we are talking about Jack Frost, starring Christopher Allport and Scott MacDonald. And it is possibly the most bonkers Christmas movie I have ever seen.

The story

We begin our tale in a very messed up fashion. A little girl asks her uncle for a bedtime story on Christmas Eve. The uncle tells her about a serial killer named Jack Frost who was caught after leaving bits of his victims inside pies. But there’s no need to worry, the uncle explains. Because Jack Frost was caught and is being executed that very night.

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Marsha Clark in Jack Frost.

And we won’t be hearing from these two characters again for the whole movie.

Instead, we cut to Jack, being transported to his execution. Somehow he manages to escape, only to be doused with some sort of acid and melted into the snow.

Meanwhile, the sheriff who caught Jack Frost, Sam, is trying to come to terms with his death. He’s thankful that he’s gone, but the nightmare just doesn’t feel over yet.

Then, of course, people start turning up dead in his little town. And in spectacular ways.

Slowly, Jack Frost seems to work his way through a family called the Metzners. Even though it appears that this family didn’t have a single thing to do with him. First, he murders their son, then proceeds to stalk the entire family.

Sam is joined by an FBI agent named Agent Manners and a scientist named Stone. Together they fumble around the tiny little town, trying to figure out how to kill Jack. Bullets do nothing. He can melt and slip through cracks. But hairdryers seem to do the trick.

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A still from 1997 Jack Frost.

What worked

I’m going to be honest here. Nothing in this movie was good. The effects were bad. The writing is bad. The constant snow puns are bad. The acting is bad.

But it is this exact combination of bad aspects that makes Jack Frost funny. It is so intentionally bad that it is hilarious. None of the characters are likable, so we’re not overly upset when they’re murdered in horrific ways. None of the effects look real, but they look fun. The writing is awful, but it’s hilarious.

And here’s the greatest thing about Jack Frost. Everyone working on it is having fun. You can just tell that every single actor is having the time of their lives. Nobody was having a single bad day on stage here. And that alone makes Jack Frost enjoyable to watch.

What didn’t work

One thing I have to say here is that the acting was just bad. It was not, I believe, intentionally bad acting. That is to say, it wasn’t a talented actor acting badly for comedic effect. This was just bad acting from almost everyone in the cast. The two exceptions are Allport and Marsha Clark, who plays Marla. Everybody else is overacting so hard that they’re pulling muscles. They’re chewing the scenery so much that they’re not going to have room for Christmas cookies.

Or oatmeal.

To enjoy Jack Frost, you need to have a deep appreciation for campy effects, bad snow puns, and really inappropriate humor. It’s one of those movies where you turn off your brain, make sure all loose items are secured and your lap bar is completely locked, and enjoy the ride.

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If you can do that, then you’re going to have a great time with this movie. If not, don’t worry. There’s lots more holiday horror to come. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023), a Film Review

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is an award-winning sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story.

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The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is a sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this unrated and award-winning film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Amani Summer. As of this review, interested viewers can enjoy this film from Shudder with additional availability through purchase or rent.

After a sequence of tragedies and loss, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) seeks to cure death. Despite her genius earning her a private school education, few take this ambition seriously. Those who see it think of her only as an example of a girl separated from reality. But all that changes when she has a breakthrough. Unfortunately for her, the systemic issues that oppress her neighborhood can’t be solved as simply as curing death.

A woman looks at something out of frame, a switch in her hand that she looks ready to press.
Laya DeLeon Hayes as Vicaria

What I Like about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Recognition Earned

This film received nominations from four separate film festivals. It won Best Narrative Feature by the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Best Horror / Sci Fi from Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. In addition, it received nominations for Best Narrative Feature from the Atlanta Film Festival and a nomination from the SXSW Film Festival.

The beautifully shot scenes earn respect, and the cast remains strong throughout. While Laya DeLeon Hayes executes the most demanding role, Reilly Brooke Stith (Aisha) and Amani Summer (Jada) elevate their material.

The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster dips its commentary into several hot topics. While I would have liked to see further exploration, it deals with scientific responsibilities, systemic issues facing Black Americans, and more. Needless to say, this film has ambition.

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While particular elements vary in execution, this remains a unique approach to the dehumanization of these racist and systemic issues while telling an engaging story in the process. While I wouldn’t consider this an arthouse film, it dips into that category in many ways.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes, Trigger Warnings, and Considerations

For a better viewing experience, don’t take the film with the utmost realism in mind. An example of what I mean is how easily and unnoticed bodies are moved and hidden. As a metaphor or motif, it works better to serve the overall message.

As mentioned, many systemic issues come to light within the story, with varying levels of depth. Some examples include racial profiling, police violence, and microaggressions that stretch the “micro” aspect of the word. I also want to clarify that the film focuses on Vicaria’s personal story, using these experiences when applicable to the plot.

Drug addiction and gang violence play prominent roles in the plot. As mentioned above, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster addresses many of the systemic issues that make a thriving drug industry as opposed to dehumanizing those participating in it.

The titular Monster evokes levels of realistic body horror. While it’s not particularly extensive, the rot remains present and vivid. Partly related, the film creates a surprisingly gory story.

A man looks out of the screen. The lamp and the couch in the background suggest he is in a house.
Chad L. Coleman as Donald

What I Dislike about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster

Several plot points remain underdeveloped or underexplored. This choice might indicate sequel material, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, viewers hear about a “body snatcher,” but the narrative doesn’t build the mystery until the end. Perhaps this requires a slightly longer run time, but it also could be cut with some edits to the script.

Her Monster didn’t particularly evoke fear. The rot evokes disgust but not terror. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains more focused on the story than the horror.

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Final Thoughts

For those looking for horror rooted in real issues but not afraid to delve into the absurd, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains a strong choice. While it might not evoke the terror and haunting we horror fans hope for, the bittersweet film certainly provides many reasons to give this film a view.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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