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Gaia (South Africa, 2021)

I have a big list of films people have recommended to me over the years. While I rarely remember to check it, some titles just stick in my head. Gaia was one of these, recommended to me by Jon Cohorn of Modern Horrors, back when I was canvassing for suggestions for my 2021 OHMC. Jon rarely steers me wrong and I’m always keen to check out his recommendations. Gaia wasn’t available to stream at the time, however, so it languished on the list. Happily, I stumbled across it while trawling the streaming services this year, so it’s time to head deep into the jungle and meet Mother Nature.

Gaia is currently available on Freevee in the UK.

Gaia 1

Synopsis

Winston and Gabi are forest rangers, patrolling a huge area of virgin jungle in South Africa. They have monitoring cameras set up throughout the region, but someone has been sabotaging them. Winston blames some “crusty old hippies”.

When the drone they’re using to survey the jungle crashes, Gabi heads off to retrieve it while Winston continues checking the cameras. This quickly goes wrong when Gabi steps into a trap that sends a wooden spike through her foot, dosing her with strong psychedelics. She is retrieved some hours later by the crusty old hippies and taken to their shack.

These hippies turn out to be a father and son, Barend and Stefan, who have been living in the wild for many years. Barend is a former scientist, specialising in plant pathology. He rejected the modern world when his wife, a chemical engineer, developed cancer from exposure to benzine. They headed into the jungle together, and their lives were transformed when they met God.

As Gabi learns about this vast goddess, who lives under the earth, Winston encounters those the goddess has touched and transformed.

Will the rangers manage to escape Gaia’s blessings? Are Barend’s apocalyptic prophecies mere delusions? And what really happened to his wife out there in the jungle?

Gaia 2

General Thoughts

Didn’t I review this film already? A forest ranger is taken prisoner by a former scientist living in the woods who worships a huge, underground mushroom god, leading to a wildly psychedelic third act. Oh, and there’s a serious foot injury. I’m not saying that Gaia and In the Earth are identical, but the parallels are uncanny. If they hadn’t come out around the same time, I would have assume one had borrowed from the other. Maybe there really is a mushroom god, and it guided the creation of both these films.

The mystical aspects of Gaia are rather different, however. Barend has constructed a belief system that rejects modern technology, inculcating this in his son. This is so strong that when Gabi shows Stefan a picture of a car, he recoils, telling her it is a monster. Everything in their world comes from nature, and they consume psychedelic morsels of their god as a sacrament.

Gaia was shot on location in the Tsitsikamma forest in South Africa. Every moment we spend in this jungle environment is stunning to look at. This is a film that makes perfect use of its locations, enforcing a sense of isolation and the deadly duality of nature.

While Gaia makes sparing use of special effects, they are very good indeed. The sprouting growths of fungus that appear everywhere look disturbingly real, and I can imagine viewers scratching themselves for days afterwards.

As others have already pointed out, the mushroom creatures in Gaia very much resemble the Clickers from The Last of Us. While I only know them from the TV adaptation, which came out after Gaia, I understand the monsters in the original video game are almost identical.

Gaia 3

Verdict

In another year, Gaia might have been my pick of the month. It’s only the stiff competition it’s up against that makes that unlikely this time.

This a thoughtful, weird movie that shows us both the beauty and horror in nature. The characters and their motivations are fascinating, and I loved watching Gabi unwittingly fall into the role of the serpent in Barend and Stefan’s Garden of Eden. As I became invested in the growing, shifting conflict between these characters, I almost forgot about the fungal monsters and the giant mushroom god beneath the earth. And the ending ties everything together in a way that is pitch dark, and subtle without being oblique.

For all the comparisons I made with In the Earth, Gaia really does feel like something fresh and original. Every aspect of it simply works, and it’s never less than engaging. Highly recommended if you fancy something unusual to round out your month’s viewing.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

Talk to Me (Australia, 2022)

I’ve been hearing buzz about Talk to Me for a while. People kept telling me that I should watch it and that it seemed like my kind of thing. The problem with this kind of word of mouth is that it builds up expectations that no film can actually meet, inviting disappointment. I don’t know whether I’ve finally learned to temper my expectations in the face of hype or whether Talk to Me really is that good, but it certainly didn’t let me down.

Talk to Me is currently available on Netflix in the UK.

Talk to Me 1

Synopsis

After opening with a pretty brutal murder/suicide at a house party, we meet Mia, a teenage girl who is trying to come to terms with her mother’s death two years ago. Happily, Jade, Mia’s best friend, knows just the thing to raise her spirits — a séance!

This isn’t any stodgy old-fashioned séance, however. It takes place at a house party held by their schoolmate, Hayley, where people take turns making contact with the dead. This involves clutching a plaster hand and offering the invitation, “Talk to me”. The person holding the hand then sees a spirit, and can invite the spirit to possess them by saying, “I let you in”. Conventional wisdom is that it’s dangerous possession continue for more than 90 seconds, as the spirit may not want to depart after that. Of course, like something out of a fairy tale, you know someone is going to break this rule. What else are such rules for?

These séance parties become incredibly popular, not only because of the thrills and chills, but because being possessed is a euphoric rush. Mia becomes even more obsessed than her peers, however, when a spirit possessing Jade’s little brother, Riley, purports to be her late mother.

This séance ends in tragedy, driving a wedge between Mia and her friends. Even worse, Mia starts seeing spirits afterwards, making her wonder if some doorway to the spirit realm has been left open. As horror piles upon horror, Mia is left unable to tell what is real anymore as she and her friends are plunged into mortal danger.

Talk to Me 2

General Thoughts

The way the teenage protagonists use and abuse with the hand is depressingly believable. This film is riddled with subtext about addiction and peer pressure. After each person gets over the shock of seeing a real ghost, the experience becomes a mix of party game and getting high. There is a fantastic montage of the second party showing this terrifying experience gradually morphing into a fun lark for everyone.

While the hand and its powers are at the centre of Talk to Me, I like that nothing is explained. Characters share conflicting stories about the hand’s origin, but it’s all rumours and speculation. Ultimately, the truth is unimportant, and a bit of mystery goes a long way.

Of course, this could change. A prequel and sequel are apparently in the works, so Talk to Me may become a franchise. If this happens, I can see future screenwriters exploring the hand’s origins, although I hope they resist the temptation.

The ghosts in Talk to Me are particularly impressive. Some are predatory monsters, manipulating the living into terrible things for their own amusement, while others are just pitiful wretches. All, however, are repellent, looking diseased and filthy. I was reminded of some of the ghosts in The Sixth Sense in the way their appearance carried the trauma of their deaths.

A small thing, but Hayley may be the non-binary character I’ve seen in any mass-market media where there was no need to comment on or explain their gender identity. It felt rather refreshing.

Also, is that the true horror of Talk to Me that it may bring the Crazy Frog ringtone back into style?

Talk to Me 3

Verdict

You’ve probably heard any number of positive reviews and recommendations by now, but I’ll add to them anyway. Talk to Me is definitely one of the best horror films of 2023. I still have a few more recent releases to catch up on before I can say whether it’s my favourite horror movie of the year, but it’s a strong contender.

I have a soft spot for films that confound my expectations. While the murder/suicide that Talk to Me opens with is pretty brutal, the first 40 minutes or so definitely lulled me into thinking I was watching a teen horror film, albeit a very good one. It’s entertaining, with moments of darkness, but it feels safe. Once we get into the second half, however, the darkness and horror intensify at every turn. More than once, I found myself rewinding a scene to see if it was really as nasty as it had seemed at first. All of this pushes us towards a mercilessly dark ending that caps off the film beautifully.

While the build-up may be deceptively gentle, it still doesn’t play coy with its supernatural elements. From the moment the hand is introduced, we’re seeing ghosts. There is no ambiguity here. It’s just not that kind of film. The horror comes from adolescent risk taking, grief, and raw desperation much more than the spirits themselves.

So, if you want to see a film that delivers fun, some unexpected frights, and a harrowing emotional journey, Talk to Me is well worth your time.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)

Herschell Gordon Lewis has become a staple of my October Horror Movie Challenges, for better or worse. I started out by reviewing Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs! and The Wizard of Gore, each of which had a strange charm to their primitive, blood-drenched delirium. Last year, however, I watched the deeply mean-spirited The Gore Gore Girls, which I found a thoroughly unpleasant experience. That left me wondering whether I wanted to give up on Lewis, but I decided that the good had outweighed the bad so far.

So, here we are with The Gruesome Twosome, giving Lewis one more shot.

The Gruesome Twosome is currently available on Shudder in the UK.

The Gruesome Twosome 1

Synopsis

Mrs Pringle, her adult son, Rodney, and their stuffed cat, Napoleon, run a rooming house/wig shop in a college town. The wig business is booming as girls from the college like cutting their hair short then wearing wigs when they want to look glamorous. Happily, Mrs Pringle has a solution for keeping up with demand — murder!

When young women come to look at the room she supposedly has for rent, she locks them in with the homicidal Rodney, who carves them up and scalps them. Their harvested hair then becomes new wigs.

When one of her dorm mates goes missing after a visit to the Pringle residence, self-styled detective Kathy starts sniffing around.

And, um, that’s about it. Don’t expect any more than this.

The Gruesome Twosome 2

General Thoughts

The character of Rodney has not aged well. Having a young man with learning difficulties as a serial killer isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but the portrayal of the character as a semi-coherent, babbling man-child is not a good look. I found myself wincing every time he appeared.

His mother, Mrs Pringle, fares a little better. Her constant asides to her stuffed cat are pretty much the only fun you’re going to get out of this film.

Even if no one told you The Gruesome Twosome was made in the late ’60s, you would still know at once. Everything about it is almost offensively groovy, from the hip slang to the college girls’ habit of punctuating expository conversations with impromptu dance parties.

From a technical perspective, this is pretty much on a par with HGL’s other films. The gore is cheap-looking, mixing terrible makeup with real animal viscera. While the sound isn’t the worst I’ve heard in his films, it varies drastically from scene to scene, rendering some dialogue almost impossible to decode. And the film has exactly the kind of wooden, porn-quality acting you might expect. All of these factors usually add to the appeal of a Lewis production, but here the lack of content makes them stand out even more.

Ultimately, we watch Herschell Gordon Lewis films for their proto-splatter movie excesses. Sadly, this is where The Gruesome Twosome is weakest. There are only four brief set pieces in this slog of a film, and three of them are almost exactly the same. Rodney does change weapon for each kill, but otherwise the scenes are interchangeable. In a film where almost nothing else happens, falling down on the gore sequences is fatal.

The Gruesome Twosome 3

Verdict

One thing I never imagined Herschell Gordon Lewis could be was dull, but that is exactly how I would describe The Gruesome Twosome. While it’s certainly a step up from the incoherent misogyny of The Gore Gore Girls, it still has little to recommend it.

There isn’t really much of a story, not that Lewis generally needed one, but this is pitifully thin even by his standards. But what makes The Gruesome Twosome egregious is that the script doesn’t even work as a framework for presenting its gory set-pieces. Part of this is certainly because there aren’t actually many of Lewis’s them. But worse, the framework is so blatantly and clumsily padded that it feels wildly overlong at 72 minutes.

To give you some idea of how padded it is, the film includes a rambling conversation between two mannequin heads, a long narrative dead-end where Kathy follows the college janitor home, a weird interlude at a drive-in where we watch an absurdist comedy about crisps and domestic violence, two impromptu dance parties, and a long scene of stock car racing. For a gory exploitation film, there isn’t actually much gore, or much film for that matter.

Lewis clearly thought he was making a comedy, even more than usual, and there are some funny moments. The problem is that any even mildly amusing scene is drawn out for so long that the joke peters out and we are left staring at its corpse.

While I didn’t hate The Gruesome Twosome, I found little to enjoy in it. The few moments of entertainment it offers don’t justify spending another hour watching filler. If you fancy some schlocky. gory fun this Halloween, pick a different HGL film.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)

I actually started watching Murder Me, Monster the best part of a year ago. After getting around 30 minutes in, something interrupted me and I made a mental note to come back and finish it when I had a chance. The opening had looked promising and I was keen to see where it all went. And then, because I’m getting old, I forgot.

Happily, looking through my Shudder watchlist for OHMC selections reminded me of all this, and I’ve finally caught up with it. This is making me wonder how many other half-watched films I have on various streaming services. If any of the others are this good, I should be kicking myself.

Murder Me, Monster is currently available on Shudder in the UK.

Murder Me Monster 1

Synopsis

It needs to be said up front that Murder Me, Monster is a dreamlike film, and any plot summary is not going to do it justice. Trust me when I say that the experience of watching it will be much stranger than I am about to make it sound.

Cruz is a police officer in a rural, sparsely populated area of the Andean highlands of Argentina. When a woman is murdered and decapitated, a man called David comes under suspicion. He is a strange sort, and he suffers from some kind of blackouts or seizures. The whole situation is complicated by the fact that Cruz is having an affair with David’s wife, Francisca.

Following another beheading, David is committed to a psychiatric hospital. He blames a monster that has been making psychic contact with him, manipulating his actions. No one takes this seriously except Cruz, who has also started hearing the monster speaking to him.

Is there really a monster, or are both David and Cruz delusional? Why do both men keep hearing the message, “Murder me, monster”? And is everyone in the Andean highlands really as weird as this film makes out?

Murder Me Monster 2

General Thoughts

As I was watching Murder Me, Monster, I kept noting that various scenes reminded me of David Lynch. Looking at other reviews afterwards, I see that I am far from the only person to make this connection. The sheer eccentricity of the police officers, in particular, felt straight out of Twin Peaks. Their absurdity goes a long way towards lightening what is otherwise a brutally downbeat film.

Cruz is given to expressing himself through a dance that is both absurd and deeply melancholic. His procedural manual has become his sketchbook, filled with strange and beautiful drawings, executed over the instructional text. Cruz’s captain is no less strange, given to wild tangents that take any conversation into strange waters indeed. The scene in which he enumerates an extensive list of phobias to Cruz is a highlight.

The strangeness of these characters is accentuated by the slow, ponderous camerawork and editing. Rather than trying our patience, these build dread in a way that reminds me of Lynch at his darkest. The sparse dialogue also adds to the generally oppressive atmosphere, with much of the storytelling being purely visual. This is a film that will punish you for not paying full attention.

Murder Me Monster 3

Verdict

Murder Me, Monster is an odd film. I mean that in both a good and bad way. At its best, it’s a darkly comic nightmare that blends surrealism, Freudian fears of sexuality, and the lurking presence of a predatory monster. Despite its understated tone, there is more raw imagination here than in any other film I’ve seen this month. At the same time, the story telling is oblique enough that it almost becomes disjointed, sacrificing emotional impact in its subtlety and cleverness.

As a piece of cinema, Murder Me, Monster is simply gorgeous. The Andean highland setting is both beautiful and stark, adding a haunting quality to every external shot. The cast are similarly striking. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many characterful faces in one film. Victor López as Cruz is like an even gruffer Ron Perlman, whose taciturn manner also manages to convey a real sense of vulnerability.

The resolution of Murder Me, Monster will almost certainly alienate many viewers, although it worked for me. It is downbeat and weird, leaning more into dream logic than tying up loose ends. The reveal of the monster will probably be the most divisive part, as I can imagine it provoking as more laughter and eye-rolling than horror, although I suspect this is by design.

If you’re in the mood for something more absurd and unsettling than frightening this Halloween, Murder Me, Monster could be just what you need.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!

The Premonition (USA, 1976)

After enjoying Dark August earlier this month, I decided to dig through the other 1970s indie oddities Shudder had added around the same time. The Premonition stood out as having the highest IMDB score, and the mentions of psychic powers and a creepy clown finally sold me.

The Premonition is currently available on Shudder in the UK.

The Premonition 1

Synopsis

Sheri Bennett and her annoyingly paternalistic husband Miles are the happy adoptive parents of Janie, a young girl whose birth mother, Andrea, was institutionalised with psychiatric problems shortly after Janie’s birth. Now that Andrea has been released, however, she follows a tip from her boyfriend Jude, a clown and photographer, who spotted Janie at the fairground where he works.

Andrea starts stalking the Bennett family, looking for an opportunity to take her daughter back. This brings her into conflict with the lovesick Jude, who feels Andrea’s obsession is driving them apart.

At the same time, Sheri starts having psychic visions, warning her obliquely of the dangers posed by Andrea and Jude. These visions are vague and confusing, often making the situation worse. While Miles is initially dismissive, his colleague at the university and apparent lover, Jeena Kingsley, believes Sheri’s visions to be real.

Of course, all of this is building towards murder, kidnapping, and general child endangerment. Will Sheri’s psychic visions be Janie’s salvation or are they just making things worse?

The Premonition 2

General Thoughts

As I mentioned in my review of Dark August, there was a surge of interest in all things paranormal during the 1970s. The Premonition touches upon the pseudo-scientific interest in psychic powers of the time, via Dr Kingsley’s academic study of paraphysics. While the little snippets we see of her experiments look pretty standard for media of the time, with volunteers taped up to electrodes and encouraged to tap into their psychic abilities, it amused me that she’s referred to as being part of the physics faculty.

The scenes involving Dr Kingsley talking bollocks about telepathy are the highlight of the film. It’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.

Also, the most ’70s thing about The Premonition is a brief shot of a pile of Reader’s Digest condensed books sitting on a table in the Bennett residence. It took me right back.

The Premonition 3

Verdict

Given the elements that make it up, The Premonition should be a lot weirder than it is. For a story involving a creepy clown, crimes of passion, and psychic visions, it’s an oddly sober film. While there are some strange moments, it feels much like a ’70s TV movie, if a pretty dour one. For the first hour, in particular, we are tantalised with the possibility of unsettling things, but they never quite materialise. There are some unexpected turns as things progress, although not enough to stop the film from feeling safe.

The final act almost saves The Premonition, however. What seems initially like a series of disjointed events starts coming together into something satisfying. The very end manages some of the weirdness I craved, but it was a bit of a slog getting there.

And all this isn’t to say that The Premonition is a write-off. Both Ellen Barber and Richard Lynch put in delightfully unhinged performances as Andrea and Jude the clown respectively. Each manages to capture a simmering madness and potential for violence without ever losing the humanity of their character.

Ultimately, The Premonition is a pretty average supernatural thriller, with a slow pace that does it no favours. A few more shocks and a willingness to embrace its weirder aspects could have turned it into so much more.

The October Horror Movie Challenge

Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.

If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:

  1. Dark August (USA, 1976)
  2. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
  3. The Banishing (UK, 2020)
  4. Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
  5. Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
  6. Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
  7. Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
  8. You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
  9. No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
  10. The Sect (Italy, 1991)
  11. Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
  12. Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
  13. 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
  14. The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
  15. In the Earth (UK, 2021)
  16. Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
  17. Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
  18. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
  19. Older Gods (UK, 2023)
  20. Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
  21. Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
  22. Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
  23. The Premonition (USA, 1976)
  24. Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
  25. The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
  26. Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
  27. Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
  28. Demon (Poland, 2015)
  29. Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
  30. El Conde (Chile, 2023)
  31. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)

A Final Note

If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.

If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!