Category Archives: Horror

Cocktails & Movies Review: “Alien: Covenant” – A Frightening Summer Blockbuster, With An A-List Pedigree

by Mike Reyes

Ridley Scott continues to excite with his Alien franchise, returning to the series’ terrifying, blood soaked roots.

Alien Covenant Waterston

While no one can hear you scream in space, they probably can hear the outcry of upset fans who feel they’ve been done wrong. It’s no secret that Ridley Scott’s 2012 prequel Prometheus has its fair amount of detractors, but I myself am among its champions. I felt it was an interesting origin point for an earlier era in the story that would eventually follow Ellen Ripley’s lineage in grand style, depending on what the next couple of films in the prequels did. After seeing Alien: Covenant, I can safely say that the direction Scott is heading in is an exciting one, filled with much more danger and darkness than Prometheus could have ever promised.

In the vast distance of space, the crew of the “Covenant” are ready to start a new home on a planet that’s just ripe for the living. But after discovering a random signal, they are drawn to a planet that is much closer, and can inhabit human life just as easily. One decision will send a crew of colonists straight into the mysteries of this planet, and all of the terror that their shadows conceal. A very familiar terror, with a very interesting origin story.

In early reactions to Alien: Covenant, I remember reading someone coming out of the premiere saying that they knew this was going to be the new film for Alien fans to argue over. That’s definitely the case, as the latest film in this ever evolving saga has taken an interesting turn, in regards to the origins of the species. While ruining those turns is pretty much high treason at this point, it’s a good bet that I can say the mythos of the Alien saga is moving forward in some pretty interesting ways. The ideas that Covenant has when it comes to the creation of the Xenomorph race are not only intriguing, but also thematically ballsy, as their connections to Prometheus make even that film a little more interesting. And all the while, this film unfurls with genuine pacing and craftsmanship that only Ridley Scott could bring to such a film.

Prometheus Crossing Mission

Though it should be noted that Michael Fassbender steals this goddamned movie from everyone else. We get two scoops of synthetic this round, as Alien: Covenant has Fassbender reprising his role of David from Prometheus, as well as introducing us to Walter, a newer, more tame synthetic designed down the line. In both performances, the man shines, playing one character who feels like a soldier and the other like a mad scientist. Watching the two Fassbenders collide on screen is truly a treat, and a testament to the fact that the man is one of our greatest acting treasures in modern cinema.

That’s not to say that the ensemble containing Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bashir, and Carmen Ejogo is weak. In fact, each member of the cast sells their portion of the story with great gusto, with a particularly interesting turn from McBride. In fact, this is probably the most grounded I’ve seen him since his supporting role in Up In The Air, and when you see him upset or scared, you really feel it thanks to his usually egotistical bravado. And Waterson, whom we last saw in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, is definitely ready to be more of a Ripley-esque presence, as she gets to show in certain key moments in this film. While she’s not a full Ripley just yet, I do hope she gets the chance to work in that space, as she’s simply too good not to allow to do so.

Alien Covenant Review

Ultimately, your enjoyment of Alien: Covenant will depend on several things. Chiefly among them will be how much you like Prometheus, and just generally how you like your sci-fi. But one thing applies to all who are interested in uncovering this new film’s mysteries: you really do have to see it for yourself. It is as thrilling as it is visceral, and it might possibly be the bloodiest film of the summer, at least for this moment in time. For someone who’s loved the series since they were a kid, warts and all, I absolutely loved this film, and cannot wait to see where this series goes next.

My Rating: 5/5

Cocktails & Movies Review: “Get Out” – A Horror Debut Of The Highest Caliber

by Mike Reyes

Jordan Peele makes a writing/directing debut so impressive, it’s destined to be a horror staple.

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Socially conscious horror films can be pretty horrific, whether it be because of the actual horror in the content they provide, or just because they’re a really bad movie. Directorial debuts can be equally as painful, as talented folks who’ve “always wanted to direct” can be just as weird to watch. So somewhere, in some Hollywood lab, Get Out must feel like a film that’s grasping at a relevant subject, with comedic talent Jordan Peele trying to make himself relevant as a solo act. That lab couldn’t be further from the truth, as Peele is a true student of the horror genre, and has made a tremendously thrilling film that should stand as one of the pillars of social horror done right.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for four months. Surely that’s enough time to wait to introduce your African American boyfriend to your WASP-y family, especially when you haven’t told them his ethnicity? What begins as a strange trip to meet the family (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) turns into something a lot more sinister, and more deeply disturbing than what you could ever imagine.

You can tell that Jordan Peele has had Get Out on his mind for a while now, as the film is nothing short of a breathless horror thrill ride. Not once does the film step out of line, nor does it deflate its tension with undue humor. If anything, the humor helps amp up the thrills, as the threat of further danger is always lurking out of the frame. This is thanks to Peele’s sense of atmosphere and world building, as he takes his time conditioning the audience into the right frame of mind that allows Get Out to really screw with their expectations.

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And at the center of it all is the all at once vulnerable and strong performance by Daniel Kaluuya, whose Chris is our guide into this world of macabre race relations. His relative innocence pitted up against Allison Williams’ naivete and the subtle menace of both Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener is what makes this film such a powerful horror film, as he’s put through quite a ringer of societal, mental and physical pain. All of this without stooping to stereotypical racial tropes, and without using the granddaddy of all racial slurs.

Though a moment should be taken to praise the entire supporting cast of Get Out, as there’s no role that’s out of place. If all you know of Allison Williams is her role on Girls, then you’ll probably be a bit surprised with her role as Chris’s girlfriend, as she’s definitely given more of a range than the show has. Not to mention former X-Men star, and character actor in the making, Caleb Landry Jones, as well as beloved character actor Stephen Root, both play some rather memorable members of Rose’s family. But perhaps the one actor that almost steals the film completely from under everyone else’s feet is comedian LilRel Howery, whose TSA agent / best friend to Chris is drop dead funny. His appearances help relieve the pressure of the threats that came before, while helping prime us for the next round.

Get Out is probably one of, if not the most, artistic horror films on the market. It helps that protagonist Chris is a photographer, which more than likely informed Jordan Peele’s writing and directing process in telling his story. But even in the prologue that takes place before Chris’s story, or even in the moments he’s not involved in, there’s a slick menace to Peele’s visuals and sound design. With the score and sound effects used as tools to enhance the dreadful atmosphere, rather than shock the audience into a cheap scare, it’s as if we’re being conditioned right alongside Chris. We’re just as helpless and scared as he is, and that’s something horror films forget to do by and large.

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Get Out isn’t a blunt instrument trying to bludgeon you with its message, rather it’s a subtle knife that cuts you in all the right places. With Jordan Peele’s strong and confident voice as a writer, director, and horror auteur, his ascendance should not only be seen as a triumph of diversity, but also as a victory for the horror genre. I, for one, am looking forward to whatever Peele does next, as he’s proven that he’s ready to take the reins again, perhaps on a bigger scale than before.

My Rating: 5 / 5

 

CocktailsandMovies.com Review: “The Girl With All the Gifts”

by Tim Barley

The Girl With All the Gifts has all the makings of a great zombie film

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In my mind, one of the best “zombie” films made is Danny Boyle’s 2003 film 28 Days Later. Since then, all manner of zombie films and TV shows have been made, sharing with us zombies that shuffle slowly and zombies that are crazy, rabid super-human monsters. Each has seemingly tried t outdo the last, ramping up the action, blood, gore and scare factor. And then comes along a new post-apocalyptic film that downplays the focus of the zombie horde and instead concentrates on the relationship between a military group trying to find a cure and a group of children, including Melanie, that may hold the cure. This film is a very enjoyable return to the days before Hollywood ran with the zombie film.

Take Out Theater: The Guest

by Mike Reyes

This week: Cocktails and Movies brings a mysterious Guest to the Take Out Theater, and you’re going to want them to stay for dinner!

Around two years ago, Tim and I started this groovy little column named Take Out Theater, and it was pretty damned good. It gave us a chance to suggest films that you may not have heard of and could easily watch at home, while at the same time involving our other passion – hand mixed cocktails. Flash forward to today, and we’re ready to re-launch the home version of Cocktails And Movies with a Halloween pick that’ll thrill you to death. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to welcome The Guest into your homes.

The FilmThe-Guest-Poster-150x150

The Guest
Directed By: Adam Wingard
Year Released: 2014
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelly, and Maika Monroe
Rating: R
Runtime:  100 Minutes

David (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family on a random Texas afternoon. A friend of their dearly departed son, who was killed in action Afghanistan, David makes himself at home with a family looking for closure, and in need of a little bit of housekeeping. The father is a borderline alcoholic, the mother is melancholy, and their kids are either being bullied or hanging with a rough crowd. Before long, David becomes a part of the family, helping put everyone’s lives in order in a way that they’d never been able to on their own. Of course, this just lends to the mystery of why David showed up, and what his intentions are now that he’s there. Each step closer to the truth forces his hand just a little more, and sooner or later The Guest is going to wear out his welcome.

Even though The Guest sets the audience up for some twists in its storytelling, the film plays David’s interactions with the family so well that the initial dread we’re supposed to feel sinks back into the background. We come to enjoy his presence, and we’re reminded of another sort of genre classic – the film where some random stranger rolls into town and makes everyone’s lives better. Take your typical 80’s comedy, crossbreed it  with The Night of The Hunter, by way of Chuck Norris, and you’ve got The Guest.

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Part of that is the strong writing and directing choices that Barrett and Wingard respectively make, as they set the tone for an 80’s flavored throwback right from the opening credits that sport a logo paying tribute to that of the legendary Cannon Films, and weave that thread through the rest of the film’s core. The Guest, much like You’re Next before it, plays like one of those action/thriller movies that anyone would have seen on the shelf of their local video store back in the genre’s heyday.

Yet for as much 80’s nostalgia as this film dredges up, it reminds itself that it’s taking place in a modern setting, integrating the throwback and contemporary elements in a perfect mash up of entertaining proportions. Let’s just say that after watching The Guest, you won’t cringe as much as you used to whenever you hear Stevie B’s infamous hit, “Because I Love You (The Postman Song.)” Any other film might have played its love of the 80’s and 90’s as a cute little touch, but Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are definitely deep in the paint when it comes to their love of an era drenched in synth pop and bright colors. They aren’t mimicking the films they love as a lazy sort of thematic shorthand, they’re actually making a film we could have seen a couple decades ago, undoubtedly starring the likes of Norris, or perhaps Jean Claude Van Damme.

Maika Monroe in The Guest

Most impressively, The Guest deftly maneuvers through the various tropes and pitfalls of this type of film, faking out the audience consistently enough to mislead them – while letting them trust the film enough not to turn on it. The filmmakers deliberately will ramp up the tension of some scenes, promising the old-school payoff, only to ramp it back and let the audience relax again. But make no mistake, the shit hits the fan eventually – and when it does it’s not only justifiable, it’s also a bad-assed treat to behold.

I could go on about how much I enjoy this movie, as well as write about how much I enjoy the character of Dan Stevens’ David. Hell, there’s a lot of words to be said about how the audience is made to root for Maika Monroe’s Anna and David to actually make it through this flick as a couple! Of course, to say too much more would be to spoil the surprises, and trust me – I haven’t even given the best parts away. So if you’re having a Halloween party, and needs something to show between Halloween and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Guest is a treat that’ll trick your guests to a delightful end.

Now that we’ve got that movie business out of the way, it’s time for some old fashioned boozin’! After all, what good is an adult Halloween party without some libations? And as luck would have it, good old David suggested a devilish treat that’ll knock you on your ass, if he doesn’t kick it first! Before his rough and tumble dust-up in a local bar, our guest orders himself a Fireball – and not the type you’re thinking of, although the popular whiskey of the same name can be used to liven it up!

Drink Pairing: The Fireball

FireballIngredients

1 shot cinnamon schnapps (or any Cinnamon liquor you prefer. We suggest Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.)
1 shot Bacardi® 151 rum
2 dashes Tabasco® sauce

 

 

 

Preparation

Mix the schnapps, rum and tabasco in a shooter glass.
Stir briefly.

Thanks to Drinks Mixer for the awesome recipe, and thanks to Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett for the awesome flick! We’ll see you next time on Take Out Theater, so until then – be careful who you let into your house… you just may have a bad-ass over there. Happy Halloween, and remember to drink responsibly and wear reflective clothing while trick or treating.

Budget Slashing: Which Horror Franchise is the Biggest Money Maker?

By Mike Reyes

Cocktails and Movies does a body count and adds up the proceeds

horror cocktails and movies profitable moviesHorror franchises are easy to set up. The villains are so over-powering and easy to resurrect that all you really need are one or two survivors and a fresh batch of unsuspecting teenagers and dim witted adults. It’s not hard for evil to kill, die, come back, kill again, and die again.  What is hard, though, is keeping a franchise going for a long period of time without spending too much money in the process. Still, good brand recognition and a frugal budget can keep you rolling in dough for quite a few movies. Taking into account the total budgetary expenditures versus total box office grosses, we’re going to look at the numbers for several of Hollywood’s most prominent blood banks and see who reigns supreme.