'Revenant,' 'Demonologist' and Reviewing 'Absentia,' a Solid Horror Movie Funded Through Kickstarter

'Revenant,' 'Demonologist' and Reviewing 'Absentia,' a Solid Horror Movie Funded Through Kickstarter

Aug 23, 2012

Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a column dedicated to all things horror on film.


The Revenant banner

Check out the new red-band trailer for The Revenant – Get ready for tomorrow’s VOD and limited theatrical release of The Revenant with this brand-new (and Not Safe for Work) red-band trailer.

An undead soldier and his slacker BFF become vigilantes in director Kerry Prior’s new horror comedy – and if this newest clip is any indication, the laughs come as frequently as the gore FX. The idea of undead vigilantes is brilliant – the streets are safer for all involved, and our undead soldier maintains a steady supply of food to keep him walking and talking. We all win!

Check out the clip below.

Universal hires scribe to adapt The Demonologist – Andrew Pyper’s horror novel, The Demonologist, hasn’t even been published yet, but Universal is already hard at work with plans to bring the book to the big screen. This week, they’ve hired Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan to turn the book into a script.

The film, which focuses on a skeptical university professor who studies demonic literature and is forced to concede that dark forces may exist when they abduct his child, is still searching for a director. The studio optioned the novel back in February. The Demonologist is scheduled for publication in March of next year.

Tom Savini documentary to debut at Montreal Comic-Con – If you’re heading to the Montreal Comic-Con, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the premiere of Jason Baker’s new documentary -- Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini. The film, which chronicles the life of one of horror’s most beloved and talented FX maestros, will debut at the convention on Saturday, September 15 at 10:15PM. Baker and Savini will be there as well.

Check out the film’s trailer below. 

Creepy new trailer for Irish chiller The Inside debuts – Ireland is slowly but surely starting to develop a horror scene of its own, and many of the films released so far have been surprisingly good. Can they continue that trend with The Inside?

Eoin C. Macken’s found-footage flick is set to premiere this weekend as part of the annual FrightFest lineup. The film’s unveiled a trailer in anticipation of this event – and it looks fairly interesting… provided you’re still open to found-footage films.

The story revolves around a man who buys a used videocamera and finds a tape still nestled inside. When viewing it, he sees a “horrific series of events involving a group of teens.” Then, like in Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap, he sets out to find the location – and gets far more than he bargained for when he does.

No word on when we might see The Inside here in America, but check out the clip and see what you think.

Horror Review

Absentia posterFledgling filmmakers are often drawn to horror because it’s one of the few genres where a low budget isn’t necessarily a hindrance, and because many believe the films are easy to make because they follow a formula. That first part is certainly true – but the second has led to more awful horror movies than I care to think about. Horror films may feature specific beats, but emulating the best of the genre involves more than just following a schematic.

With that in mind, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous when I sat down to view director Mike Flanagan’s film Absentia. The title is Flanagan’s first full-length feature – and it was largely funded through a Kickstarter campaign (meaning Internet fans kicked in money to fund it). Each of those things makes a film reviewer nervous – but putting them together? Scary beyond words. Fortunately, my fears were soon allayed – Absentia is a genuinely good horror indie, filled with creepy moments, fine performances, and some genuine narrative depth.

Tricia (Courtney Bell) lost her husband seven years ago when he simply vanished without a trace. Now pregnant and hoping to finally move on with her life, she’s prepared to have him declared dead in absentia. Her sister Callie (Katie Parker) shows up to help her get through the difficult process, which is even more challenging since Tricia is seeing her dead husband everywhere. Things take a turn toward even creepier territory when Callie starts to link a series of disappearances spanning almost a century to an underpass in the area near Tricia’s apartment. Is there something supernatural afoot?

Flanagan’s film (which he also wrote) is not a straight-up horror movie. Like many indies, it’s more than content to blend genres – in this case, drama and the supernatural – and craft something that’s different than what you’d expect to find at the local multiplex. Fans expecting a monster movie or a violent ghost story may be disappointed – because Absentia is about loss and regret as much as it is about things that go bump in the night.

The title wisely builds its tale around the characters rather than supernatural presence, which only serves to make the film’s final moments that much more powerful. The cast is uniformly likable. Bell and Parker are believable as sisters who’ve led very different lives. Bell’s called upon to play up her vulnerable side regularly as she copes with her loss and the strange things happening around her, and she’s more than up to the task. She’s believable in the role and the audience often finds themselves concerned for her well-being as things start to unravel later in the story.

Flanagan’s skill behind the camera is serviceable. The film had a tiny budget (reportedly less than $70,000) so there aren’t a lot of fancy setups or big effects moments. Absentia has a simple visual aesthetic, but it works in the film’s favor – there are moments where it feels like we’re watching a documentary and not a fictional narrative. This serves to create a genuine feeling of immediacy and dread for the audience.

The filmmaker plays it coy when it comes to the resolution, which may annoy some viewers. Is there a monster? Has something else – something much more plausible and grounded in mundane reality happened instead? We’re never 100% sure because Flanagan shows us both possibilities and leaves it up to the viewer to make up their own mind. This kind of narrative ambiguity won’t sit well with folks who like their endings to deal in absolutes, but fans who enjoy something to ponder and debate after the credits roll should find some meaty talking points in the film’s final moments.

All in all, Absentia is an impressive piece of filmmaking. Mike Flanagan has deftly avoided falling into the trap that trips up most young directors – he’s made a horror movie that is aware of genre conventions, but not slavishly devoted to the formula. With a solid cast, a smart script, and just enough creepiness to keep up constantly wondering what’s coming next, Absentia proves that you can make good low-budget horror flicks and that not every film project on Kickstarter is bound to end in failure or look like a student film. Flanagan has genuine talent – here’s to hoping some studio out there realizes it and gives him a shot at making bigger features. 

Horror on the Horizon

In Theaters

Late August is like a horror goldmine at the multiplex. After a relatively slow summer, there are several fright flicks headed our way as we approach the start of autumn.

August 24 features the opening of The Apparition – a supernatural chiller wherein Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan confront an otherworldly force that’s invaded their home.

If that’s a little too scary for you, perhaps The Revenant is more your speed. Dave Anders and Chris Wylde star in this horror comedy as a former soldier and his slacker buddy who become zombies and use their newfound status as members of the undead to become vigilantes. I’ve been following this one for awhile and it looks pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, it’s a limited release – so unless you live in a fairly large city, it’s probably not playing at a theater near you, but you can catch it on VOD.

August 31 brings us The Possession – wherein Supernatural veteran Jeffrey Dean Morgan takes on a demonic Dibbuk box hellbent on destroying him and his daughter. The trailers for this one have been surprisingly creepy.

Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs was the best horror film of 2009 in my estimation, and now the French filmmaker is back with his latest project – The Tall Man. Not to be confused with Angus Scrimm’s Phantasm character, this feature stars Jessica Biel as a mother in pursuit of the legendary title character after he kidnaps her son. Like The Revenant, this one is only getting a limited release.

DVD/Blu-ray

August 28 will see the arrival of Lovely Molly, Jean Rollin’s cult classic The Living Dead Girl on Blu-ray, season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Universal 100th Anniversary edition DVD of Hitchcock’s classic Psycho.

September starts off with a bang as well – offering up Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers, Piranha 3DD and the Blu-ray release of Re-Animator

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