Dare to be poep-scared

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SPOOKY: Kristen Connolly, Jesse Williams and Chris Hemsworth in The Cabin in the Woods.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Ster-Kinekor intends to leave you shaking in your boots this month with the launch of its exclusive Skare-fest (aka Scare-fest).

Skare-fest will launch on July 20 and run until August 10 with The Woman in Black screening from Friday July 20, Cabin in the Woods from Friday July 27, Chernobyl Diaries from Friday August 3 and, screening in 3D, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from Friday August 10.

Watch all four of these titles and receive a limited edition Ster-Kinekor Skare-fest T-shirt (while stocks last). Ster-Kinekor wants your feedback, so it has designed a “skrik-o-meter” on Facebook, for you to decide which movie is the most horrifying.

What the critics said:

The Woman in Black

According to spiritualists, the veil separating the world of the living from the world of the dead is tissue-thin at times. When it comes to cinematic ghost stories, however, there’s a wide gulf between those who love the genre and those who just like to laugh at it.

That divide was in stark evidence at a recent screening of The Woman in Black, a poltergeist-themed drama in which Daniel Radcliffe – making his post-Harry Potter debut – plays a London lawyer sent to the middle of nowhere to settle the estate of a deceased woman whose house is filled with ghosts, cobwebs, creepy wind-up toys and dark secrets.

On one hand, the movie provoked squeals of genuine terror from what seemed to be the student body of an all-girls middle school. On the other hand, the rows of professional critics kept erupting in the kind of guffaws you’d expect at a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Who’s there?” Radcliffe’s character, Arthur Kipps, demanded at one point as he stared, wide-eyed, at a mysteriously jiggling doorknob one dark and stormy night.

“Land shark,” joked the comedian two seats down from me in a stage whisper loud enough for the whole auditorium to hear. (The crack drew an appreciative chuckle from those old enough to get the palaeolithic SNL reference. Critics, it seems, ain’t afraid of no ghosts.)

As for me, I had one foot in both camps. Every time the middle-school girls shrieked – which was often – I did, too. The Woman in Black, based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel (which was also the inspiration for a 1989 made-for-British-TV film), delivers a better-than-serviceable if less than Sixth Sense-worthy scare. Director James Watkins knows how to make a body jump out of its skin, even when using the face-reflected-in-the-mirror/window trick once too often.

At the same time, the film is kind of, well, silly. – Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Seth Grahame-Smith adapted his own novel, a genre mash-up that rewrites history about the 16th president, played by Benjamin Walker.

Starting from a premise that suggests a hybrid of history lesson and horror show, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a mishmash of styles that might leave viewers’ heads spinning.

Beginning with Lincoln’s Indiana childhood in the early 1800s, the film speculates that after young Lincoln and his father dare to interfere with slave trader Barts, who also happens to be the nexus in a large network of the undead that has infiltrated the South, the vampire exacts revenge by attacking and killing the 16th president’s mother.

Lincoln seeks revenge on Barts years later.

At a taut 105 minutes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter credibly delivers the thrills and gore it promises, though it’s ultimately too lightweight and conventional to merit either cult or classic status. – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Chernobyl Diaries

Paranormal Activity creator Oren Peli co-wrote the horror film focusing on friends exploring the site of the famous nuclear reactor disaster.

A basic monster movie that benefits greatly from its unique setting, Chernobyl Diaries again demonstrates Peli’s ability to wrest scares with minimal production values and a clever premise.

The film concerns six twenty-somethings who impulsively decide to forego their planned trip to Moscow in favour of some extreme tourism. Led by their guide, Uri, a hulking ex-special forces soldier, they embark on a tour of the Ukrainian town of Prypiat, abandoned since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster.

After half an hour or so of subtle build-up, it’s when the group’s dilapidated van refuses to start that all hell breaks loose. As darkness falls, it soon becomes apparent that they are not quite as alone as they thought.

Even with its brisk 90-minute running time (including credits), Chernobyl Diaries soon proves repetitive. – Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

The Cabin in the Woods

A fiendishly clever brand of meta-level genius propels The Cabin in the Woods, a pulpy, deceivingly insightful send-up of horror movies that elicits just as many knowing chuckles as horrified gasps.

Like its spiritual heirs – the Scream franchise, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever and the collected works of Sam Raimi – The Cabin in the Woods comes not only to praise the slasher, zombie and gore-fests of yore but to critique them, elaborating on their grammatical elements and archetypal figures even while searching for ways to put them to novel use.

Those opening scenes are when viewers meet the principal players, who hew telegenically to horror-movie conventions. When they all pile into an RV and head for Curt’s cousin’s new place on a rural lake, carnage is sure to ensue. When they encounter a spooky old coot at an abandoned gas station on their way, their tragic fates are all but sealed.

As a playful departure from the torture porn that it obliquely lampoons, The Cabin in the Woods marks a welcome return of cheap thrills and simple bump-in-the-night frights, with some stinging self-critical commentary on the side. –

Ann Hornaday


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