Unseen

Unseen is a documentary about Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who murdered eleven women. This movie reminded me of another documentary called Tales of the Grim Sleeper. The subject matter of these documentaries is eerily similar, drugs, prostitution, poverty, mass murder and the apathy of the authorities.

Unseen consists of interviews, mostly with the women who encountered Mr. Sowell. Many of these women were prostitutes struggling with drug addiction at the time. There is also news and police footage. There are no interviews of law enforcement authorities in Unseen, and after watching this documentary it’s not hard to figure out why.

Mr. Sowell was not careful about covering his tracks. An awful smell permeated the streets near his home, which residents thought came from the local sausage shop. When police entered his house, they found four decaying bodies. A few of Mr. Sowell’s victims escaped, and he let a few of them go. One tried to press charges and was unsuccessful, even though Mr. Sowell was a known sex offender who spent fifteen years in jail. Another jumped out of a second-floor window to get away from him; authorities thought he was her husband because he rode in the ambulance to the hospital with her. According to the documentary, none of the disappearances of his eleven victims was ever investigated.

Unseen is the type of movie that makes you think the world is a piece of shit. The guy who owns the convenience store next to Mr. Sowell’s house says on camera that Mr. Sowell was doing the world a favor. We see police footage. The investigators are eating potato chips while interviewing Mr. Sowell.

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories is a British horror anthology released in 2017. The plot: psychic debunker Philip Goodman uses his TV show to expose hucksters and frauds. Interestingly, he is portrayed as a spoilsport with an enormous ego. I’ve seen horror movies featuring skeptics before, but this is the first one I’ve seen that is so openly hostile to its main character. Anyway: Goodman gets a message from his mentor, Professor Cameron, who now lives in a spooky trailer by an abandoned amusement park. The good doctor gives Goodman three cases of the paranormal he’s never been able to solve, and there’s your frame story.

The first case features a security guard keeping watch over an abandoned women’s prison/asylum. Why anyone would hire a security guard to do such a thing, I have no idea. The lights keep going out as our hero wanders around in the dark. This asylum features lots of women’s mannequins, because reasons.

The second story involves a younger guy who hits something in the woods while he’s talking on his cell phone. In an act of cosmic justice, his car stalls in those selfsame woods and the goat thing he hit comes by to pay a visit. The third story involves a rich guy whose older wife gets pregnant. She goes into the hospital while he stays in his enormous home. From what we see of his personality he’s doing his wife a favor by staying away. Is it poltergeists that invade the baby’s room or something else?

Ghost Stories contains a few decent jump scares and shrieking ghouls. They made me jump anyway, but that’s pretty easy to do. The first story is good, but the second and third are skimpy. That’s because the frame story becomes vital to the plot as the movie progresses. Watch Ghost Stories closely, as certain characters and scenes repeat. Unfortunately, there’s no way for the viewer to guess what’s happening.

After awhile things get really, really surreal and I didn’t know what was going on, never a good sign in a horror movie. Please note that some of the characters make anti-Semitic statements, and since this movie dislikes its protagonist I wasn’t sure how to take them. Ghost Stories reminded me of Dead of Night, a wonderful 1940’s horror anthology which features a psychic battle between a ventriloquist and his dummy. Ghost Stories isn’t as good as Dead of Night, and for reasons I won’t go into (because spoilers) I also found this movie to be depressing. A decently made jumper that gets incoherent towards the end.