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Don’t Go Back in the House!

Trite-and-true celluloid treats for Halloween

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As Halloween looms, horror movies creep out of the shadows. We’ll see the return of Michael Myers in a new Halloween, the slasher franchise’s ninth go-round, not counting Rob Zombie’s two remakes. But this one isn’t just more of the same. The Scream Queen is back! Jamie Lee Curtis plays a grandmother hellbent on ridding mankind once and for all of her knife-wielding, mask-wearing nemesis, the same creepy slasher who terrorized her and her neighborhood in John Carpenter’s original.

We’ll see how she does, 40 years on.

Netflix debuts two new films, one British, one Indonesian, to goad legions of horror fans. Like many Netflix “Originals,” both have distinct differences beyond the usual tripe aimed at movie-going masses.

The most original thing about Malevolent is its pedigree. The screenplay is by Ben Ketai (American), based on Eva Konstantopoulos’ (American) novella, set in Scotland, with a Scots/English cast playing Americans. It’s directed by Icelandic filmmaker Olaf de Fleur.

You don’t see that level of diversity every day, except maybe on Netflix.

The story starts as a variant on the haunted house theme. Siblings Angela (Florence Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) head a ghostbusting scam, to wrest money from desperate clients who claim their homes are haunted. Angela and Jackson’s tech team—Elliot (Scott Chambers) and Beth (Georgina Bevan)-work the audio/visual racket.

The movie opens with the ghostbusting squad defrauding yet another haunted, grieving client, as Angela’s starting to get some scary intimations about the nature of reality. Her suspicions bloom into terrifying truth at their next assignment.

Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie) wants to silence the voices she hears in her sprawling home. Angela wants nothing to do with this one; she feels she’s getting more like her dead mother (who saw things that weren’t there). Mrs. Green’s isolated place was a foster home where three young girls were murdered. Reluctantly, Angela goes along with Jackson’s scam.

You know what’s next, though. Malevolent does crank out an unexpected plot twist in the end, elevating the film above the usual haunted house dreck. De Fleur employs the de rigueur “scare moments,” but the cast raises the film to a whole other level. And that decidedly creepy twist near the end … yikes! Malevolent is a hellish Halloween treat.

The Indonesian horror film The 3rd Eye is more of a trick. Capably produced and acted, it gleefully cannibalizes just about every plot gimmick that runs the gamut of the genre. You’ve seen it all before, but never in such a steamy stew as this.

The screenplay is attributed to Riheam Junianti, but the story is by the director, Rocky Soraya. So the question of where to lay blame for blatant rip-offs is moot.

The plot is all over the place. Sisters Alia (Jessica Mila) and Abel (Bianca Hello) live in a haunted house, though only the younger Abel knows it. We get this in the prologue, which shows their parents dying in a horrific car crash.

Ten years on, the girls return to the house, despite Abel’s reluctance. Abel gets creeped out and scratched up, causing Alia to consult local psychic Bu Windu (Citra Prima), who tells Alia that young Abel is cursed with “a third eye” or psychic sense, which lets her see dead people.

To help Abel, Alia asks the medium to enable her to gain this sense, too. In no time at all, those corpses are stalking her, too. The girls and Bu Windu, along with Alia’s boyfriend Davin (Denny Sumargo) hold a séance to find out what the hell is going on in their house.

To their dismay, they find out.

The 3rd Eye rips off The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, Insidious—nearly every movie with séances, Ouija boards and/or haunted houses. The Netflix debut ends with a saving grace, a twist I should’ve seen coming.

Be warned: The 3rd Eye 2 is in production. One shudders to think.

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