ANNABELLE COMES HOME

Cert 15 105mins Stars 2

Even the most eager seekers of supernatural scares will struggle to find anything to get their teeth into with this seventh instalment in the Conjuring horror franchise.

Designed as a standalone film so you don’t have to seen any of the others, the haunted Annabelle doll is safely locked up in the suburban basement of the Warrens, the married self-styled consultants of demonology and witchcraft.

When the paranormal investigators leave their young daughter in the care of her high school babysitter and her impetuous best friend, Annabelle unleashes various demonic spirits such as a hellhound, a haunted wedding dress and a samurai warrior, who stagger about infirm of purpose.

Time drags in this severe case of consequence-free paranormal inactivity, and nearly all the action is limited to the house, with its early 1970s styling being the creepier than the ghouls

It all feels like an episode of Ben Stiller’s Night At The Museum films, but without the scares, or the laughs.

CHAINED

Stars 1

This violent psychological thriller is shamelessly provocative, unconvincing and dull, and sees director Jennifer Lynch insulting the intelligence of the audience with a transparent attempt at courting controversy by treating a murderous sex offender with sympathy and understanding.

When a young boy is kidnapped by a Vincent D’Onofrio’s taxi-driving psychopath, Bob, he’s taken to a remote farmhouse where he’s chained to the kitchen sink and renamed Rabbit, where he’s forced to clean up the bloody cadavers that are the result of Bob’s night-time cruising for female victims.

Lacking wit, insight or even the cheapest of thrills or hollow spectacle, this is a contender for the worst movie of 2012.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4

Cert 15 Stars 2

This found footage low rent horror sequel is a cynical and dull addition to a once promising franchise.

Once again an emotional disturbed child is thrust into the home of a middle-class family whose mother is ill, prompting things again to go bump in the night.

There’s a curious moving shadow, a strange sound, and doors that stand menacingly open. Eventually the signs of the occult begin to appear, strange symbols are drawn, and a cat wanders around, probably looking for an agent to fire.

Our fear and dread rises at the sight of a rolling ball, and wooden floors in long corridors, and a child riding a cycle, as all of a sudden we mortified we’re watching a bargain basement version of The Shining.

There are no new ideas and the found footage device has to work very hard to justify itself, as no matter how scared people are, they just will not let go of their phone.

Easily the most terrifying aspect of this movie is apparently how simple it is for teenagers to use technology to spy on their own family.

US

Cert 15 116mins Stars 5

Get scared out of your skin by the full-blooded popcorn thrills of this intense home invasion horror which asks cutting questions about identity.

A suburban family holiday near the coastal resort of Santa Cruz, turns into a fight for survival when attacked in their house.

They’re terrorised by a family who are identical to themselves, except for wearing prison fatigues and bearing scissors and a grudge.

Having won an Oscar for harrowing drama, 12 Years A Slave, Lupita Nyong’o is now the woman to beat at next year’s awards ceremony for this demonstration of her remarkable range in a physical demanding role.

She’s an electric wire of anxiety as the fearful mother on a mission to protect her husband and two kids, and her fellow cast members are equally likeable and committed, and not shy of talent.

With telling nods to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, this is an ambitious and scalpel-sharp fable which combines deadpan humour, acute social observation and stomach churning violence.

The assured storytelling is in the cruel tradition of folktales in leading us down a very dark path to reveal hard truths about ourselves.

As the story expands with an apocalyptic vibe there’s a welcome element of political paranoia typical of 1950’s sci-fi, which isn’t surprising as the script is influenced by an episode of TV’s The Twilight Zone from the era.

Writer, director and co-producer, Jordan Peele is the multi-talented and busy creative force who was responsible for 2017’s comedy horror smash, Get Out, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. 

And while again exploring racial fault lines in US society Peele also broadens his scope to include class division, but he never sacrifices pace, excitement or knuckle-chewing action..

It’s a privilege to watch as Peele pushes on creatively, and I’ll be shocked if this isn’t scaring up support at next year’s Oscars.

POSSUM

Cert 15 Stars 3

This disturbing psychological British drama from debutant director and writer, Matthew Holness, is a deeply unsettling small budget success.

Sean Harris oozes self-hate as Philip, a gaunt and socially inadequate puppeteer who returns to his dilapidated childhood home in Norfolk to confront his dark past.

Once there he’s confronted by Alun Armstrong’s aged relative, who mocks Philip with memories of a calamitous fire which damaged the property sometime ago.

This is a dark portrait of shame, guilt, anger and torment which refuses to offer comfort or shelter to the audience.

THE EXORCISM OF KAREN WALKER

Cert 15 Stars 1

Family secrets are brought into focus in this lumbering and laboured British supernatural horror which takes his inspiration from the Soviet inventor, Semyon Kirlian, who claimed to be able to photograph a person’s ‘aura’.

Written and directed by Steve Lawson, it sees expecting couple Diane and Mitch Walker move into his late uncle’s spooky country house, where they unwittingly release an ancient evil.

Released as ‘Aura’ in the US where this is unconvincingly set, Spanish actress Denise Moreno plays Karen, and Rula Lenska enjoys herself as a local psychic far more than I did watching this.

HALLOWEEN (2018)

Cert 18 Stars 3

Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode to the horror slasher franchise which kick-started her career, as forty years after she survived the killing spree of masked knife-wielding psychopath, Michael Myers, he returns once more to torment her.

And her star presence helped to scare up nearly £200m world wide on a terrifyingly tiny £8m budget, making this the biggest grossing episode of the eleven strong series.

It’s success was also helped by being a direct sequel to the 1978 original, and by basically pretending all the other films don’t exist, it’s easy to catch up.