Director: Alexandre Aja (2013)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson
Find it: IMDB

When I was roughly, oh-say-eight-or-so, I had one of the more troubling nightmares of my life. Like, top five, easily. Even more troubling than that one bad dream I had where it was my birthday and no-one wrote on my Facebook wall. Or that other one, where I got back with the mad ex girlfriend I'd split up with and spent months hiding from. No, in this one (which I still remember vividly, to this day), I woke up in the middle of the night and sleepily padded through to my parents' room, where I found them both sitting bolt upright in bed. "Go away," they told me (I'm paraphrasing - this was twenty or so years ago), "we don't love you. Never did." Oh.

Such nightmares are what informs Horns, the latest from occasionally great French horror director Alexandre Aja, adapted from a novel by Joe Hill. Suspected of his girlfriend's murder, Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) spirals into misery and despair. Everyone thinks he did it, from his girlfriend's furious dad to his fellow townfolk through, apparently, to his own family. However, when he awakes one morning to find he's sprouted a pair of honest-to-God horns out of his forehead, he finds that he might just have a chance at finding out whodunnit. It's like Gone Girl, except with Harry Potter instead of Daredevil and David Bowie instead of Trent Reznor.

One side-effect of said horns is that those around him suddenly feel the urge to offer up their darkest secrets, whether it's the local bully admitting his closeted homosexuality (of course) or his parents telling him that they wish he'd go away and that he's the less favoured son. Traumatic, but potentially useful in uncovering secret murderers in one's midst. Iggy needn't look very far, since the mystery element is the weakest part of the story, the perpetrator of the piece being entirely obvious from the outset. Where Horns works best is in seeing Ig interact with the various denizens of his small town, reacting to the horrible things they tell him. Although I witnessed a woman screaming abuse at her daughter ("what a wonderful advertisement for contraception you are, Lily!") simply by riding around on a bus for half an hour without the aid of horns, so I guess it just depends what the transport links in your city are like.

Horns is another very interesting piece from Aja. Not as good as his Hills Have Eyes remake but better than Switchblade Romance (which I loathed) or Mirrors and more substantial than Piranha (which I love). It has a wonderful soundtrack and great sense of style and, goofy as it is at times (and it gets pretty damn goofy) it reaches some really dark places, not least in the relationship between Ig and his family. Radcliffe delivers a strong performance as the talented young man, although many will dismiss it as the actor's attempt to dismiss his Potter upbringing in a film in which he smokes, drinks heavily, murders and repeatedly takes his clothes off in a manner the boy wizard would never dream of. Just like that time he fucked a horse on a stage. To dismiss Horns as such is to ignore a very good performance, even if his American accent is highly distracting. Also, it only makes one "feeling horny" joke, which is to be lauded.

Happy Mother's Day: 10 Great Horror Moms

In which I channel my inner Buzzfeed (no, I can't even right now) to compile a list of horror moms - good and bad - in honour of it being Mother's Day.

10. Vera Farmiga's Norma Bates - otherwise known as the only reason to watch Bates Motel.

9. Mother? Grandma? Aunt? Sister? 
Who knows, where this family of probable inbreds are concerned.

8. Rebecca DeMornay - the best reason to watch the Mother's Day remake.

7. Lending horror cinema its best bit of trivia in being the original killer of Friday the 13th.

6. Henrietta, Evil Dead 2's best zombie - and played by Ted Raimi, no less.

5. Sure, her daughter got herself killed, but Carol has turned into one of The Walking Dead's best survivors yet.

Ooh, look, flowers!

4. Achieving more post-death than Bates Motel will ever muster, no matter how long it manages to stay on TV. 

3. Poor stressed mom Essie Davies, giving horror cinema its best antagonist/protagonist combo of 2014 in The Babadook.

2. I'll pass on the custard, thanks.

1. Best Mom Ever, courtesy of 1980's Mother Day. 

Happy Mother's Day, moms everywhere! Thanks to my own mother, without whom this piece - and, indeed, my own existence - would not have been possible.

Mother's Day (2010)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman (2010)
Starring: Rebecca De Mornay, Jaime King, Shawn Ashmore
Find it: IMDB

Note: this review has lost a Screaming Scream Queen since I watched it in 2013. Between then and now, I have seen the original Mother's Day and this, sirs and madams, does not compare well. 

A family of criminals break into a house full of the bickering middle classes and their also bickering, also middle class friends (plus crap toupee) looking to recover a stash of money they left there years ago. Leading the criminal clan is Natalie 'Mother' Koffin (the hand that rocked the cradle, Rebecca De Mornay) who proves to be just as ruthless and violent as her horrible sons. Mother's Day is a heartwarming tale of the bond betwixt mother and child.

Mother's Day also continues a recent trend in horror movies in which Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from X-Men) plays useless characters in horror movies and lets everyone he loves die around him. Here he plays a doctor, but not a good one, like The Doctor or Doctor Dre; no, a sad, wet one, like Doctor Jack from LOST.

He's not alone though: all of the characters in Mother's Day are either unlikeable or ineffectual. Sometimes they're both. The house guests (the invited ones) argue and lie and throw one another under the bus at the slightest chance of survival. It's little wonder that Mother Koffin gets so frustrated with the lying bastards. In its treatment of the characters and depiction of its villains, Mother's Day feels very old-fashioned, like an authentic video nasty or exploitation flick. Darren Lynn Bousman does a great job with this remake; it's far more enjoyable than any Saw movie (of which Bousman directed the best instalments) - it's tense, thrilling and a lot of fun, even in its more unpleasant moments. It also stars Briana Evigan, which I most definitely approve of.   

Mother's Day is a remake, but it is one of the decent ones. It's nowhere near as intelligent, inventive or original as the film upon which it is based, but then it doesn't take much from that movie other than a few character names, death sequences and a title. It's largely content to go off and do its own thing, which is infinitely preferable to scene-for-scene robbery or cheap imitation. Stack this among such remakes as The Hills Have Eyes and Dawn of the Dead, in that they do justice to their predecessors without completely re-inventing the wheel.   

Happy Mother's Day, mummies! This review is not dedicated to my mother though, because she most definitely would not approve of this movie. She's more of a Walking Dead woman, herself.

Motivational Growth

Director: Don Thacker (2013)
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Adrian DiGiovanni, Danielle Doetsch
Find it: IMDB

If there's one thing nobody warns you about when moving out of the family home and into a place of your own, it's how much of a bloody pain in the arse cleaning up after oneself is. One can sympathise with Ian (DiGiovanni), then, when he simply doesn't bother. To be fair to him, he is also suicidal. Again, if there's one thing nobody warns you about when turning 30 (give or take) it's the sense of futility and meaningless one can feel in this dead-end life. You can be anything, they tell you, growing up. Anything at all. You probably won't be, but you can. As you can tell, I connected with Motivational Growth on a very personal level. And not just because I never bother cleaning my shitter.*

After a suicide attempt goes terribly wrong, Ian finds himself taking advice from a talking lump of mold (voiced by the wonderful Jeffrey Combs). Pretty soon, Ian is shaving, putting on trousers in the morning and cleaning up both his act and his home. But at what cost? A series of visitors wind up only as food for the mold, which grows more and more powerful, even as Ian's home looks more outwardly normal and less like Fungus the Bogeyman's bedroom. It's a very compelling - if grimy - depiction of twenty - thirtysomething male depression. 

Beyond its smart story and impressive visuals, Motivational Growth is remarkably well turned out. Seeing Combs's name on the poster and credits, I had assumed that his role in the film would amount to little more than a headline-grabbing cameo for a quick and easy paycheck (Trejo's bread and butter these days) but his is a substantial screen presence in spite of a lack of actual, y'know, presence. Some good old-fashioned animatronics round off Combs's fun vocal performance, while DiGiovanni makes for an easygoing lead, like a grubby Tom Hanks in Cast Away. The bizarre writing and direction choices make it difficult to tell what's real or fantasy, while a number of hilarious spoof TV adverts and animated sequences keep the story's limited scope (set in just one location) feeling fresh and fun. Ian's would-be love interest (Leah, played by Danielle Doetsch) isn't so well-developed, but the actress's sparkiness and the smart writing paper over the cracks there, for the most part.

A thoroughly original low-budget gem, Motivational Growth makes great use of what it has - most notably, Jeffrey Combs's voice and a really, really gross looking bathroom.

*Toilet, not bumhole.