365 Days of Horror, Day 37: Krampus (2015)

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I finally saw this! The movie I’ve been waiting for since it was announced! A home invasion movie featuring an Alpine Advent demon!

Early press announced that Krampus was going to be a horror-comedy (especially as stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette are veterans of the latter genre), though the trailers made it look darker than it really ended up being. Because of everyone involved, not least director Michael Dougherty (responsible for the excellent Trick ‘r’ Treat), it looked promising. And it was fun!

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66 Things to Do in Salem, MA (Updated July 2015)

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salem-witch-museum-roger-conant--statue

Because I like lists, and sympathise with the tourist dilemma of “Bollocks! We only have 5 hours to spend here – what do we do first??”, I’ve decided to compile a big fat list of awesome things to do in Salem. Yes, this list could have been shorter, but the number 66 is cool, so shut your face (and click “Continue reading” to read more!):

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365 Days of Horror, Days 71-78

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So I let posting lag again, but I did watch a bunch of stuff!

But I missed two (I swear just the one, but whatever) days. Perhaps if it gets to 5, I’ll stop the whole thing. I’ve also ben rid of Facebook for the last couple of weeks, so my readership is probably nil at this point. Oh well.

Day 71: I Know I Watched Something, But I Didn’t Make a Note, and YouTube History Won’t Tell Me What It Was, So Fuck It

Day 72: Tik Tak (short) (2015)

Creepy time loops are more terrifying if you experience them, but hard to convey with if you’ve seen it all before. Simple and gracefully-shot, and without the mar of a cheap jump-scare.

Day 73: The Backwater Gospel (short) (2011)

Spindly, pop-up-book-style animated horror is always incredibly striking, and The Backwater Gospel is no exception. Throw in some bitingly witty commentary on religion as social manipulation and you’ve got a winning short. Whispers of a potential feature abound, but a commenter on YouTube echoed everyone’s thoughts when he implored TellTale Games to get involved. Incredibly talented lot.

Day 74: Help Me (short) (2011)

Yikes. This one did a number on me, because it employed cyclical storytelling to such excellently devastating effect. Brutal, uncomfortable to watch and thoroughly unpredictable, this French short ought to be used as a cautionary PSA on the dangers of partying and over-inebriation. Sharp editing and great acting to boot.

Day 75: Cam Closer (short) (2013)

Ah, David F. Sandberg and Lotta Losten crop up in my list once more! Though not as hair-raising as their other efforts, it’s a nice little spook, but it does fall into the now-predictable jump-scare-trap at the end. As an aside, I now feel I’ve seen every room/hall in their apartment. But they really need to stop those floorboards creaking.

Day 76: Oops, Nothing; Back Where I Started on This Post

365 Days of Horror, Day 70: The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow (short) (2008)

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the facts in the case of mister hollow

I never would have thought that a camera zooming in and panning out over and over across an old-timey-looking photograph would be such a fascinating, spooky little short.

After a series of newspaper clippings, we as the viewer are invited to take a close look at a single photograph of four people in a forest clearing. One man is kneeling, possibly tying his shoelace or fixing something on the ground; another in sunglasses is waving at the camera; a woman is holding a baby, and an older man is looking at the car to their right.

At first glance, it just looks like a regular 1920s-era photo of a family or group of friends who are headed off on a road trip or something (there’s a house in the background behind the trees).

But as the camera rolls in and out, poring over the photo over and over again, little details start to emerge, and parts of the photo, especially the odd facial expression, morph as our understanding of the photo becomes clearer.

It’s all quite spooky and gothic and menacing, in a vintage, sinister kind of way. A jump-scare at the end mars it a little, but it’s a minor low point at the end of an innovatively-designed piece. The way in which we’re shown the photo over and over is like a pop-up book; the forest’s trees don’t just get glossed over, they become 3D; we weave in and out of the branches and around cawing crows. We peer into the car’s backseat, zoom in and around what the kneeling man is really doing and, even on subsequent viewings, can still pick up new details, which is a nice touch for a short based on the hidden details that any photograph could be hiding.

A picture telling a thousand words, indeed.

365 Days of Horror, Days 46 – 69 (AKA I let posting slide)

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Well, let it be said that, aside from one more missed day, I’ve still been horror-ing it up these past few weeks, even though Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and a last-minute trip abroad (for said birthday) were flying thick and fast.

So here’s the list of stuff I actually watched (at least I kept a list this time):

Day 46: Selfie From Hell (2015)

2 minutes of some actually quite tense build-up. Similar to A. Friend and Lights Out, where a woman is alone and things just defy the laws of normality. Taking a selfie and then having a random creep inexplicably appear in them would set anyone’s nerves on edge. Surprisingly scary stuff, and makes me want to invent an app that does this every time you take a photo and surreptitiously install it on the phones of people who have irked me.

Day 47: Zombinladen: The Axis of Evil Dead (2012)

I wanted to like this one, but the humour was a little bit forced. Granted it’s made as a fake trailer and produced on a nothing of a budget. 4 minutes of zany fun. Plot’s pretty obvious; hopefully they’ll get funding for a feature-length version.

Day 48: Perspective (2014)

Decent sound and some creepy, claustrophobic shots. 2 minutes of if one of an Escher staircase had a tantrum and rewound the video tape of it taunting you. Music and VFX are a bit overdone, though, and it’s a bit odd that the title card appears halfway through the video.

Day 49: Treated (2015)

This 2-minute bit genuinely looked cheesy at first, with its overused-everywhere-Nutcracker theme and dry ice and colourful, cheerfully-lit frames. And it mostly is, save for the utterly nightmare-inducing shot at the end. Show it to your kids.

Day 50: I’m Not Jessica (2013)

Cute, one-joke sketch that I’d imagine has crossed every horror fan’s mind. Not the best acting or sound production, but some very good pizza-cutting in the first shot.

Day 51: The Furfangs: Little Creatures from Space (2010)

If Critters and Gremlins had a low-budget baby. Not entirely clear if they came from space, but if the title says it, so be it. Music is fun – think Looney Tunes. Creature design is cute and devilish but comes off a bit CBeebies. Of particular note is the lead’s complete lack of facial expression. He looks like he’s waiting for a bowl of off-brand baked beans to finish cooking in the microwave.

Day 52: 3AM  (2015)

Part of a BBC Three competition (The Fear), 3AM takes the ‘things defying the laws of thing so what can you even do about it’ concept and turns it into something lip-chewingly tense. Fast edits, tight shots, great lighting and music, and an expressive actor tie it all together.

Day 53: Deathly Presents (2015)

Bloody Cuts have been pretty reliable with their offerings – usually gathering a spate of decent actors and filmmakers. Deathly Presents, their Yuletide-themed horror, doesn’t disappoint, with its holiday horror lore making me wish for a feature-length version to follow 2015’s Krampus. It almost feels like a trailer for something bigger.

Day 54: The Stairs (2014)

Bit of a long build-up for some too low-lit scares, which are pretty easily telegraphed, then the climax happens off-screen with some overdone sound effects.

Day 55: Tufty (2010)

I never thought I’d get this emotionally invested in a fake video showing where teddy bears come from. It’s gory,  it’s funny, it’s tearjerking and quite inspired. It’s also disturbing and surreal to the point of uncomfortable. All this in less than 10 minutes! Show this to anyone who went to Build-a-Bear over Christmas.

Day 56: Ash vs. Evil Dead, Episodes 2-8

Now one of my new favourites. It’s hit the right mark between originality and fanservice/homage (in post-show behind-the-scenes, the showrunner looks like he hadn’t even been born when Evil Dead came out). We’ve got Ash Hand. Chainsaw. The Cabin. And…EVIL ASH. There’s humour and gore and deliberately turgid one-liners (the latter especially so -just like the movies, which makes me happy), and still plenty of real scares because the characters are all so likeable. Personally, I found Brujo (1×04) the weakest of the bunch, but only because I find a vision-heavy episode about as much meaningless non-fun as a musical episode of something. But EVIL HAND CABIN ASH.

Day 57: Yummy Meat (2015)

With a promise hidden in plain sight that often fails to deliver, Scary Endings really needs to up their game. This 6-minute short about a trick-or-treater with its throwaway line referencing Lon Chaney and some outdated TMNT slang (‘that shit ain’t cool’ ‘bounce, kid’) tries, but scary its ending ‘aint’. The SFX makeup is impressive, though.

Day 58: The Room (2014)

So I was in Japan at that point (for my birthday – woohoo! Flew out on Boxing Day – had never been before – my GOD it was amazing; I could write several essays on why I would consider moving there)…so this Japanese-made short made sense as an ‘I’ll watch this tonight’ afterthought. It’s actually pretty tense, touching on circular narratives in a way that I thought Perspective might have done. It’s competently-acted, with decent editing and a score that doesn’t over-or-underbear the proceedings. Very simple but unsettling plot you could relate to. Really reminded me of the sorts of tall terror tales you’d tell around an upward-angled torch at childhood Hallowe’en parties.

Day 59: I Heard That Too (2014)

This works better if you haven’t read the 2-sentence horror short – a number of which were posted on a writing challenge on Reddit. It’s effective on its own, but should have ended a whole minute earlier than it did, with the ‘I Heard That Too’ mother pulling the daughter into her room. Instead (spoilers), we slowly pan downstairs, soundtracked by ‘we’re-trying-too-hard ’80s synth horror throwback’ music to see a demented-looking, frizzy-haired version of the real mother squatting and holding a huge carving knife. The original terror of the short story was that we didn’t know which ‘mother’ was the real one and which was the ghoul. This short sort of shits on that. Maybe just stop the video at 1:00 entirely.

Day 60: Diabolik Lovers: More Blood

Aaah, this anime – I’m a little sad I had to bundle all these viewings into one post, because I honestly feel that this anime (‘More Blood’ is the second season) deserved its own post.

i started watching it in America on Crunchyroll, thinking it was some awesome vampire show. Instead it was a reverse-harem-type situation, in which a bunch of vamps literally feed off a spineless wench that one of them nicknames as ‘Bitch-chan’ (‘chan’ usually being a suffix for a subordinate or younger person’s name). She’s pretty much their prisoner (she was kidnapped from school and nobody is really looking for her).

Season 1 was painful to watch, as it wasn’t clear what direction the show was going in. I was waiting for this pathetic, meek main character to stand up for herself and stop faintly protesting whenever one of them just randomly feeds on her. But that moment never happened.

And then season 2 came along – but still nothing. She’s practically developed Stockholm Syndrome, so at least we have some development. We get a whole new family of vampires, plus some werewolves. It’s not clear where Bitch-chan (I honestly can’t be bothered to remember her character’s name)’s motives and loyalties lie, because she’s such a weakling, but it all still makes for fun viewing. My personal favourite character is Kanato, who carries around an eye-patched bear called Teddy.

The show is a ridiculous guilty pleasure (it’s so bad it’s bad that it’s so bad that it’s good), and I hate watching it, but I hate that i enjoy watching it somehow. This show makes Twilight look like Sleepless in Seattle.

Day 61: FAIL

I completely forgot to watch anything that day. But if it helped, I was in Tokyo(!!!), making crazy new friends and being near-crushed (in a polite way) by ever-growing moshpit-like crowds in Shibuya. And then I decided to stay mostly awake for my flight home 11 hours after midnight. That’s sort of horror, isn’t it?

Day 62: Playing with the Devil (2015)

So at this point I was back home (well, visiting the folks), and after 15 hours plus a stopover in Amsterdam (I’m not counting that as my first Dutch visit), I was already missing Japan terribly. The courteous, considerate, bend-over-backwards-helpfulness, the kindred shyness, the beauty yet efficiency, the quirky madcap design aesthetics, and the nerd/gaming/anime/merch heaven that is the neon jungle of Akihabara – they were all soon to be a distant memory as I was about to be plunged back into the shoulder-shoving arseholery that is London and the rest of my native UK. So I was hoping that a bunch of inconsiderate asshole Americans at least would get the chop in this short inspired by a Japanese ritual.

It’s quite a beautifully-shot piece; the believable acting by the terrorised little girls and even the title design give the impression of a project with a much higher budget. I’m happy there wasn’t a cheap jump scare (though there is a half-hearted one post-credits – fuck, just delete it, guys), and the fact that any violence happens off-screen amps up the scare factor in an inexpensive but not cheap way. I’d pay good money to see a feature-length version of this one, albeit under a different title.

Day 63: Thresher (2014)

(SPOILERS follow)

I’d seen the thumbnail for this video pop up in ‘Recommended for You’ on YouTube (perhaps a sign that I should be sticking to Vimeo). The alien-like, skeletal gurning grin and hollow pin-eyeholes and jet-black body certainly stand out in a list of gaming and behind-the-scenes-of-comic-book-movies videos.

This short by Mike Diva features some truly excellent camerawork, rich lighting and beautiful set design. Throw in some impressive CGI and an expressive actor and you’ve got a potentially winning formula. Even the premise is intriguing – a captive man is slowly losing his mind, dancing with mannequins and playing opera on vinyl, in between trying every single combination to unlock a tangled padlock on the one door that leads out. Yet every time he touches it, he gets (jump-scare) visions of terrifying creatures. It’s the stuff of nightmares, scrambling to finish a task before the monsters get you.

My only gripe is that I felt it should have ended a minute earlier than it did, once (SPOILER) he opened the door. That aside, again, as with Playing with the Devil, I’d pay to see a feature-length version of this, but in some ways it works better as a short.

Day 64: Waffle (2012)

Another nicely-shot short with some decent actors (once they get going with their dialogue; it’s a little clunky with exposition in the beginning).

Some of the sound editing is a little off (2 minutes in, some random screaming is a lot louder than the rest of the dialogue (note to those watching it at 2am), and the ending is a little rushed, but it’s not short on shocks, and the makeup and SFX are nicely done. Loved the real reason it was called Waffle.

Day 65: Vermin (2015)

(SPOILER)

This might seem petty but I enjoy horror shorts in which there isn’t the need to insert a barely-clothed, uncomfortably-positioned sex death toy as the lead. I’m far more likely to be scared because I can relate to the seemingly ordinary scenario of a woman moving into a new home and unpacking her things, rather than being fully made-up and walking around barefoot in my very uncomfortable sexy underwear and push-up bra that I totally lounge around in while talking on the phone.

Vermin is the former, and it’s all the creepier for it. It’s a wordless 2 minutes, made on the cheap, but still very unsettling. (SPOILER) The disparity in the title choice vs. the actual threat was a nice misdirectional touch.

Day 66: Polaroid (2015)

I was a tiny bit irked by the video description imploring me to use ‘headphones or studio speakers to enjoy the full range of the film’s score’ (all in CAPS). It was fine as it was, and it was impressive in its own right.

But this was expertly-shot, especially in low light, and the single actor was pretty decent in his line delivery. It still delivers a cheap (and I mean cheap – melty Linda Blair all growed up) jump scare at the end, but it’s 2 minutes, so I guess I didn’t know what else to expect.

Day 67: Not so Fast (2014)

(SPOILERS follow)

It’s David F. Sandberg! And his wifely actress collaborator Lotta Losten! I utterly fucking adore these two. Ever since the brilliant Lights Out (which I always show to people who want a horror film that’ll scare them), I’ve been keeping an eye out for anything these two have cooked up.

And this one didn’t disappoint! Drawing on the stuff of nightmares, we see Lotta about to enter her apartment, only to find her front door has somehow shoved itself a half-mile down a black hallway of nothingness. It sits, and it waits, and every time she takes a step or two closer, it reels further back. More of that ‘things defying the laws of things’ terror-rhetoric (how are you supposed to combat something like this?).

(SPOILER)

The ending is a little sweet, surprising and funny, and might explain Lotta’s previous fatal escapades. Finally she doesn’t get swallowed up by whatever evil’s been plaguing her! And we get to see Sandberg himself. It’s adorable. They’re adorable.

And! According to the comments section, Sandberg confirmed that we’ll be getting a FEATURE-LENGTH VERSION OF LIGHTS OUT IN CINEMAS IN, well, he said ‘next year’ but IMDb lists it as 2016, and it’s in post-production, set for a July release. YES!!!!

I’m super happy that they’re getting this break (James Wan and Atomic Monster/New Line are attached, so hopefully it’ll ride a decent hype train), and Lotta apparently has a role, even though it’s not the lead. Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) looks to be playing the lead. Yay!

Day 68: He’s Right Behind You (2015)

(SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Scary Endings strikes out again (I really need to stop watching these).

We’ll start with the good – the pacing and the low-light filming, and some of the shots. And once the short gets going, there’s actually enough tension to keep it creepy.

But it’s sandwiched by a lame beginning and a lame ending. Perfectly centre-framed, we start off with Kylie Minogue-lite sexily chatting to some dude about something blah blah blah. She hears a noise, then leans towards the camera like she’s an awkward webcam model and it’s her first day. Everybody leans forward like that! Especially when they’re scared!

Then (SPOILER), the creepy entity turns out to be a tallish dude in a dark grandfather shirt and with a receding hairline, and any and all tension is deflated. I was honestly expecting him to be the girl’s friend/boyfriend from the phone earlier (“be careful the rest of the way home; I’ll see you in a few minutes”), and that maybe she’d accidentally kill him with her meat tenderiser (no, she actually picked one up from her kitchen), and oops oh hell it was really just a silly prank and she overreacted to being terrified. But no, lame either way. Scary Endings these really aren’t.

Day 69: Slappy (2013)

Well, I’ve gone through my entire life not being creeped out by dolls or mannequins (and I’ve been to a weird toy museum in a castle in Prague that had rooms of Christmas trees decorated with doll heads), and this one wins!

It’s barely 3 minutes long, shot entirely on a beaten-up couch (with one awkwardly-focused shot in a fridge), but the puppet is just so creepy-looking it really got under my skin. The only actor on-screen is decent enough, and the plot moves pretty quickly. I don’t know if there’s enough to make it into a feature-length, but I could see it being a surreal horror comedy in the vein of ‘imaginary friend’ projects like Wilfred.

It all ends very suddenly though, which is a shame, but perhaps at just 73,000 views, the filmmaker probably didn’t think there’d be much more pressure for a follow-up, but he is making a part 2. I hope he changes his director name though, because it’s a little cringeworthy.

Hopefully we’ll see said part 2, because this team might have a decent little web series at least on their hands.

365 Days of Horror, Day 45: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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source: horror.land

Holy boobs, there are a ton of boobs in this movie. Every excuse there is to have boobs on screen, no matter how flimsy, there they go! I’d say there’s probably one instance in which boobs are bouncing in a consensual way; the rest of the time it’s pretty much Game of Thrones.

Let’s start with the opening. Little kid (who gives a fuck about his name) watches his parents get murdered by a drunk Santa (not THE Santa) on Christmas Eve. Killer actually attempts to rape kid’s mum by ripping open her blouse (guess mum doesn’t wear a bra) before cutting her throat in some spectacularly bad stage fighting. Looks like dude just drew a red line on a neck using a fucking cake icing piping bag.

Anyway, kid is naturally PTSD-ridden, which is helped by his upbringing in a suffocating orphanage that fulfils the classic Catholic stereotype of “punish, punish, punish”. Which, funnily enough, ends up being Grown-up-kid’s (Guk) catchphrase once he flips a switch and decides to start murderizing.

Said switch is flipped when he’s at a Christmas gathering at the toy store he works at. He witnesses his coworker crush get full-on sexually assaulted by a douchebag coworker, and, much like that fateful night with his mum, watches transfixed until bouncing coworker boob flashes back to bouncing mum boob and then BOOM: KILLER ACTIVATED.

Luckily the Guk is dressed as Santa, which makes it all the better when he Caveman-grunts ‘PUNISH.’ whenever he axes or knifes someone. Sadly the store only has two other people left as fodder, so the rest of the movie follows his surprisingly large-radius rampage of complete strangers so we can get more screen time of Santa offing people with boobs.

silent night, deadly night

There’s a point at which the boob thing gets ridiculous. One girl is making out with her dude and, when realising she’s got to let the cat back in, pulls up Daisy Duke shorts over her pants (which cover nothing) and then goes out into the driveway completely topless. What’s the fucking point? Just be naked!

It’s not quite video-nasty-gory, but it does seem to drag on, and the lead actor isn’t terribly convincing as a psycho killer. He looks a bit too much like if you took Michael Pitt’s eyes and placed them in Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s head. It’s cheesy, but it still ranks as some great holiday horror viewing. Maybe not quite with Home Alone/Love Actually crowd, but you can probably make a strip poker drinking game about the boobs. Because boobs. Merry Boobmas!

365 Days of Horror, Day 44: ???

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I’d like to take this post to point out how shitty Chrome’s History function is. It just can’t be bothered to list everything you’ve ever been to on said day, and instead just skips large chunks. I know for a fact I definitely watched something on this day (December 14), but I cannot figure out what it was. Just no clue.

Also crap are YouTube’s Viewing History and my ability to type up these things the day I actually watch them, as well as my own crappy record-keeping skills. All of these things add up to me not remembering what the hell I watched. Let’s hope there’s less of these.

I was out until around 3am (what kind of idiot does that on a Monday night?), but I’m pretty sure I half-assedly watched something before collapsing into bed with my makeup still on.

365 Days of Horror, Day 43: Arrêt Pipi (short) (2015)

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arrêt pipi short horror As if I needed another reason to avoid public toilets.

This Belgian short is predictable but grimy, gritty and realistic enough to sustain some pretty decent dread. It’s smoothly shot; nice colour contrasts, and capable acting. The plot is simple: a young couple stop to use a public loo but are out of loo roll in each cubicle (seriously, unless you’re drunk, who doesn’t fucking check before going in?). The janitor/bathroom attendant/old lady asks if they want red or blue toilet paper. The couple laugh, but, well, then it gets weird.

Predictably weird, but gory and scary enough. The atmosphere’s been effortlessly built for us: said public toilet (gross and nerve-wracking enough for any germophobe); lack of toilet roll (even scarier); being trapped in said toilet by aforementioned lack of toilet roll and weird goings-on. Not like you can escape, right? That’s already uncomfortable and tense enough without what follows.

I don’t care if I get backed-up kidneys. If I can avoid using a public loo, I will hold it until I get back to the comfort of my own home/hotel. Especially after this.

[And fuck you if you hover; you actually ruin it for the rest of us]

365 Days of Horror, Day 42: Hellgate (2011)

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hellgate 2011 cary elwes

What the hell, Cary Elwes? You don’t need to do bad horror! This is why I was tempted to make this a sole short-film affair, because at least a shitty short horror movie is just 2-15 minutes of your life.

Perhaps it would have been better to look at Hellgate as a sort of…unfocused portrait of grief. Elwes plays a man who loses his wife and young son in a car accident, though his family’s painfully awful line delivery made me glad their screen time was swiftly snuffed out. He doesn’t fare too well either, ending up in a coma, and once he’s out, he starts to have gruesome visions of people he doesn’t know.

hellgate 2011

Turns out he can see dead people, including his family (sporadically), and he enlists a nurse and her aunt and some random old wise white hippie played by William Hurt to do a bunch of séance stuff and jungle pilgrimage and blah blah probably not even accurate anyway voodoo. It’s all just so predictable and linear and by-the-numbers.

Shot entirely on location in Thailand, every frame’s lighting is gorgeous and crisp. The Thai cast are sadly forced to act and emote in a language they’re clearly not comfortable acting and emoting, because, again, line delivery is awful and clunky, and you can tell that, especially with some of the older actors, that they would have knocked out some affecting performances if they’d just been allowed to speak in Thai with subtitles.

hellgate 2011The whole thing adds up to a bland, made-for-TV feel, so the bursts of gore are confusing rather than scary, sort of like a boring-faced corporate middle-manager swearing at a big meeting.

At least you can make it a drinking game out of it. Take a shot every time Elwes is covered in sweat. The poor fucker’s stress-drenched in about every other scene.