Saturday, October 31, 2015

POLTERGEIST (2015)

Poltergeist Movie Review

A family moves into a house and almost immediately strange things begin to happen. Soon afterward their youngest daughter is trapped in some alternate dimension via a portal in her closet. We all know the original Poltergeist is a horror classic--this remake...well...we'll just say the words "horror classic" will never be used by any sort of majority to describe this film. The storyline is similar, but different enough to separate itself a bit from the original. The family in this film seems to be struggling more financially than the family in the first (this may lead the viewer to question how they can afford all the expensive stuff we see throughout the film). This film also seems less horror driven, and almost borders on comedy, in thanks mainly to the father/husband in the film, Eric Bowen.

Smile Eric

Let me preface this by saying I am a Sam Rockwell fan. I have loved him in practically everything I have seen him in (Seven Psychopaths, Iron Man 2, The Way Way Back, even Galaxy Quest), but he is absolutely miscast in this film. His performance completely throws off the mood of the rest of the film, one that should be of doom and horror is offset by Rockwell's portrayal of a father seeing his family falling apart and being nonchalant (at best) about it. The iconic scene of the daughter turning to her family and proclaiming "They're here" returns in this film, but the delivery is as mundane and uninteresting as you can possibly imagine.

"They're here...what's for breakfast?"

The clown also returns, but looking a bit more sinister, so I guess that's a good thing. The special effects don't seem any better than those in the original...that's pretty disappointing considering the CGI capabilities of a 2015 film and taking into account this film came out 33 years after the original! The special effects of the 1982 film, while dated now, were groundbreaking for the time. The special effects and CGI in this 2015 film are largely laughable. There are a few scares here and there, and some creepy images, but you really expect more from this film. Sam Raimi was one of the producers of this film, and you can certainly see his influence, but unlike some of this legendary works from the past, Poltergeist seems to lack any particular direction and vision. There are enough bright spots in the film to keep you watching until the end (Jared Harris as poltergeist expert/reality television star Carrigan Burke really shines here), but unfortunately this film is neither scary, funny, or terribly interesting--Instead, it is a movie that is doomed to be on lists of worst horror remakes and lost in the sea of mediocre movies for years to come. 


On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

Poltergeist Movie Trailer

I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Movie Review

Having escaped the hook swinging fisherman in I Know What You Did Last Summer, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) joins friends for a vacation to a remote island--where it appears the fisherman has followed them. The first film in the series was sort of unique, and was actually a fairly decent horror film; as is often the case, however, the sequel has a difficult time recapturing whatever it was that made the original enjoyable. I believe the acting is the first thing that throws this film--Brandy, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Settle, and Jennifer Esposito are all here, and each is just bad in this film. That said, no other actor in this film can touch the absolute acting ineptness of one Mekhi Phifer (Dawn of the Dead)...not even this guy...

Yes, that's Jack Black

Once you get past the bad acting and questionable script, there actually is some stuff to enjoy about the film. Jennifer Love Hewitt is good in her role as leading lady, Bill Cobbs is creepy, and we get appearances (albeit short ones) from John Hawkes and Michael Bryan French. They attempt to throw in a bit of a twist at the end, but if you're paying at least a little bit of attention to the film at this point you will see it coming. Fortunately, some of the death scenes are gruesome enough to keep you going. This movie has that classic 90's horror feel to it, and while not a bad movie, it comes off as more a direct to video film than the follow up to one of the most well known horror flicks of that decade.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Movie Trailer

Thursday, October 29, 2015

THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT

The Houses October Built Movie Review 

Five people rent an RV and set out to find the most terrifying haunted house attractions in the United States--think Halloween Horror Nights. After determining the first couple they go to are not scary enough, they are told of The Blue Skeleton, located in New Orleans, that is supposed to be the scariest of them all. This found footage film is, if nothing else, a unique idea coming out of the box, and it actually starts out with a lot of promise. Being a fan of such attractions I thought it was interesting to see a film about them, and there actually are several scary images and moments as the story mounts.

She was terrifying

Unfortunately, as is the case with almost all found footage films, it's the acting and characters that bring it down--honestly, how hard is it to create likable, or even intelligent, characters? Instead, we get the run of the mill stereotypical characters who say absolutely nothing interesting and offer no reason to care about them between scare scenes. On a side note, when will directors and writers understand that a character repeatedly screaming profanities does not create a tense, scary moment?! If you can manage to get past this you are presented with many moments that are so dark you can't tell what's happening (great potential for scares, but alas, ruined by horrible character reaction), camera work that will make you wish you had a trashcan next to you, and characters making decisions that will remind of you the insurance commercial you see play around this time every year. All this said, believe it or not, it's not all bad. The interviews the crew does with some of the attraction workers is interesting. Many of the "monsters" you see in the houses are frightening (if you have a fear of clowns you should avoid this one)--I believe the porcelain doll girl pictured above has the potential to be a classic cult horror character. If you make it to the end you will wonder how a group of people could be so stupid, yet you will be on the edge of your seat waiting to see what will happen next (you'll probably be disappointed). When I first saw Netflix had this film months ago I decided to hold off until October to watch it, and I'm glad I did that, but to me this was a film with a fantastic premise, some truly creepy moments, but one that never quite delivers (it should have never been made a found footage flick).

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

The Houses October Built Movie Trailer

THE RING TWO

The Ring Two Movie Review

Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aidan (David Dorfman) have moved away from Seattle into Oregon to, among other things, escape the horrors we saw unfold in The Ring, but when a high school student turns up dead in the same manner as the victims back in Seattle, Rachel realizes the evil that is Samara has returned--this time possessing Aidan himself. This follow-up to the immensely popular original remake has tons of potential, but most unfortunately, it fails to deliver. Yes, we get some scary scenes again--the scene of Samara climbing out of the well is the thing nightmares are made of--but we also get a lot of, well...

this...

...and other poor CGI nonsense. The acting seems to have gone down a notch, especially from Dorfman, who went from genuinely creepy in the original to just sort of uninteresting in this outing. The movie drags terribly at times, and at over two hours long (this review is for the unrated edition), is a true test of patience and endurance. That said, the story is still pretty strong, as we get more details on the life of Samara and we get to see just how far a mother will go to save her child. The Ring Two is not a bad film, but coming off the heels of The Ring, one can't help but be a slight bit disappointed in it.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6

The Ring Two Movie Trailer

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

KING OF THE ZOMBIES

King of the Zombies Movie Review

A plane carrying three people crashes on an island. The three men find help in Dr. Sangre (Henry Victor), a mysterious man with a mansion filled with servants...and zombies. This 1941 horror comedy is a lot more comedy than horror, as when on the rare occasion we see the zombies, they are far from scary. The acting is pretty bad throughout, with the exception of Mantan Moreland as Jeff, the valet of lead character James McCarthy (Dick Purcell). Jeff is the comedy relief of the film, and man, is he ever good at it.

Zombie food
 
His comedic timing, the delivery of his lines, and his facial expressions make him an absolute gem in this otherwise dull film. His teaming with Purcell reminded me a lot of the Abbott and Costello horror comedies of the same era (though Purcell and Moreland aren't quite as good). If you're looking for a scare, skip this movie, but if you're looking for a laugh, you may want to give this a shot.
 
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5
 
 

King of the Zombies Movie Trailer

Monday, October 26, 2015

MESSIAH OF EVIL (aka Dead People)

Messiah Of Evil Movie Review

Arletty (Marianna Hill) arrives at her father's house, only to discover he is gone. Inside, she finds writings from her father describing unusual and unsettling happenings in the town. Arletty is soon joined by three strangers--Thom (Michael Greer), a guy who only seems interested in sleeping with Arletty, and two women (Joy Bang and Anitra Ford) who get jealous when Thom shows Arletty attention. This 1973 film is a combination of the good and, unfortunately, the boring. It moves very, very slow, and the acting is often questionable at best. We discover fairly early on that the town, as a result of something that happened a hundred years ago, and a blood moon, is overrun by the undead. The zombie-esque humans are actually fairly creepy looking when they finally appear on screen. While not incredibly scary, there is one scene that, with a wonderful slow build, becomes absolutely frightening.

Toni suspects not all is normal

The real strength of this film is the dialogue. It is very well written, and the combination of the narration of Aletty and her reading of her father's writings is a very effective way of delivering the story. Other than at the beginning of the film (and a stream of it coming from the eyes of the undead) there's not a lot of blood in the film, and little to no gore. Messiah of Evil has an interesting premise, and a very cool presentation, but ultimately it fails to live up to its potential. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5 


Messiah Of Evil Movie Trailer

THE RING

The Ring Movie Review

Rachel (Naomi Watts Stay, King Kong), a journalist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, investigates the mysteries surrounding a video tape--specifically, do people really die after watching it? This 2002 film ushered in a trend in Hollywood--American remakes of Asian horror (this one being a remake of the Japanese film Ringu), and, unlike many films that would follow, it did it the right way. The movie starts off with a bang, slowly builds a very intense and interesting story, and delivers a fantastic ending. For the most part the acting is pretty good in this movie. Watts does a fine job, as does David Dorfman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) as her son Aidan. The special effects in this film are really fantastic, and the film is genuinely scary, in particular the scene that is probably most well known.

You guessed it

I remember seeing this movie in the theatre when it came back and actually gasping and moving back in my seat when I saw this scene, and the scares and surprises don't end there. The Ring really was one of the first movies to be released with a PG-13 rating that was actually scary, and that still holds up to this day. Samara (the girl above) quickly became an iconic image in the realm of horror films, and for good reasons--she is a well-written, sympathetic yet evil, frightening character. There are times throughout the film when it drags a bit long (the run time is just shy of two hours), and some of the decisions the characters make are highly questionable, but these things are not enough to ruin the movie by any stretch. While The Ring may not be a perfect horror film, it is still an outstanding horror movie that, in many ways, paved a path for many films to come, and it still ranks among my favorite horror films of its time.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8

The Ring Movie Trailer

Saturday, October 24, 2015

THE RAVEN (2012)

The Raven Movie Review

Inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, a killer terrorizes Baltimore, leading police to turn to the foremost expert on the inspirational stories--Poe himself. This film builds on fact--the final few days of Poe's life remain a mystery. From this a fictional story is created. That is a simple premise that seemed to elude many when this film was released, as people, I guess, expected the ENTIRE film to be historically accurate--again, it was never intended to be. With that in mind, what we have here is a really, really good film that sees Poe assisting the police in finding a serial killer that has also kidnapped the love of Poe's life, Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve, ATM). John Cusack (2012, 1408) plays Poe, and, as is typical, delivers a fantastic performance. The supporting cast, particularly Brendan Gleeson, also turn in impressive performances. This movie does a really impressive job bringing some of the words of Poe's work to life...often to bloody consequences.

Everybody knows this one
 
This is more a thriller/whodunit film than a straight horror, but considering the source of the story and the sheer amount of violence and bloodshed, it is no stretch at all to consider this a horror film. The cinematography is wonderful here, giving the viewer a plethora of beautiful shots and scenery. MANY of the works of Poe are mentioned in the film, much to the delight of myself, an avid Poe fan. The movie is already a white-knuckle ride, and knowing the work of Poe before watching the film will only make the viewer experience that much more enjoyable. My only complaint of this film is I wish they had toned down the CGI a bit on some of the death scenes--this always hinders a movie in my estimation. Outside of this minor complaint, however, there's not much to not like about this film (the music during the credits notwithstanding). I loved this film when I saw it in theatres, and I still love it to this day.
 
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9
 
The Raven Trailer

Friday, October 23, 2015

HALLOWEEN II (2009)

Halloween II Movie Review

Somehow Michael Myers has survived a point blank gunshot to the head, and returns to terrorize Laurie Strode and the citizens of Haddonfield. Rob Zombie returns for this sequel to his remake of the John Carpenter classic Halloween, and the bloodshed starts immediately...unfortunately, it is followed by more flashbacks of Michael as a child, and Michaels's continuous visions of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie reprising her role of Deborah Myers) and a white horse.

I couldn't make this up

This psychological look into the mind of Michael Myers is completely unnecessary and very distracting...cutting this out would have brought the film down closer to 90 minutes, something the film would have benefitted greatly from. One has to wonder if Zombie did this as a simple excuse to have a role for his wife in this movie. The character of Deborah Myers has changed as well (and not just the way she looks)--in the first Zombie Halloween she was very much a good hearted mother who only wanted her son to get better--in this film she wants him to kill everybody in site, including her daughter Laurie (or Angel), so they may be a dead family together. Another oddity that is different from the first: Michael now grunts and makes various sounds when killing people (he was completely silent in the first). Also, and most bothersome, is that Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) is an arrogant jerk--this is a really hard pill to swallow. This movie has plenty of action, gore, and death to make it a decent horror flick, and the cameos are there once again (including Howard Hesseman, Mark Boone Junior, Weird Al Yankovic, and my favorite, Silas Weir Mitchell and his "crazy eyes"), but outside of that, there's not much going for this film. A convoluted plot, irritating characters (honestly I just wanted Michael to kill all of them, including Loomis, which is Halloween blasphemy), and a subpar ending make this an overall disappointment of a film.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5

Halloween II Trailer

HALLOWEEN (2007)

Halloween Movie Review

This remake (of sorts) of the John Carpenter classic takes us more into the childhood of killer Michael Myers--we see that he comes from a broken white trash family and is bullied in school, leading to him snapping and killing his stepfather and sister on Halloween night (after previously killing a bully at school). We then get to see young Michael in therapy with Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange) before we flash-forward to a grown Michael (he grew from an undersized child to a giant of a man in these years) going on a murderous spree in his asylum before escaping to return to Haddonfield.

Michael vs Pumpkinhead?

Before continuing let me state for the record that the original Halloween is one of my favorite horror films. As hard as it may be, when I watch this film I attempt to separate myself from the original and enjoy the 2007 version, directed by Rob Zombie, for what it is. That said, my number one issue with this film is the prequel portion. In the over half dozen films to feature Michael Myers before 2007 it was established that Michael Myers was "pure evil", and as the series went on, he becomes practically superhuman--even ignoring this, the explanation that he was "evil" was more than enough to make him not only a believable killer, but a horror icon. With all this said, there is one perfectly acceptable conclusion--WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW WHY MICHAEL MYERS IS EVIL!!! Showing Myers as a child, and using such stereotypical excuses as to why he is evil absolutely shatters the illusion that makes the character so effective! I cannot state enough how much I HATE that Zombie did this; however, once we finally get to the point of Myers as an adult, the rest of the film is actually pretty good. Myers is a ruthless killer, and there is no shortage of blood, gore, and slayings. My second major issue with this film is Loomis. I understand that it would have been hard to pull off a Halloween film without this character, but seeing anybody other than Donald Pleasence play Loomis to hard to swallow (much like seeing anybody other than Robert Englund play Freddy Krueger), and this is certainly saying nothing bad about McDowell, who I consider myself a fan of, but something is just unsettling about seeing Dr. Loomis look like this...

Lost Allman Brother?

Now, as promised, I will get past the comparisons to the older films--we knew when it was announced that Rob Zombie was going to direct this film there would be a certain amount of sleaze, so that was not unexpected. The acting in the film is pretty good for the most part, especially Brad Dourif as the sheriff, and, being a Zombie film, there are some interesting cameos (Sid Haig, Ken Foree, and even Micky Dolenz show up). The one issue I have with the characters in the latter part of the film is the portrayal of Laurie Strode, the hero of the film. From the moment she first appears in the film she is unlikable. I don't blame this on the actress (Scout Taylor-Compton) but rather how the character was written. Another drawback is the sheer amount of profanity used by practically every character in the film. There is a subtle difference in using excessive profanity to build the character (see Goodfellas) and using it so much it makes the character seem dumbed down--that's what we get here, as the profanity is so gratuitous one wonders if Zombie channeled his inner ten year old trying to impress his schoolmates with the new word he learned. Not all is lost with this film however--once Michael gets to Haddonfield the movie takes off and never slows down as bodies pile up left and right. There are many nods to the original film splashed in here and there as well. There are some truly terrifying scenes, and really, these are all things you expect from a horror film. The end would seem to imply this Zombie remake was a one and done shot, but we know that not to be the case. I realize this review contains a lot of negativity, but truthfully, as a stand alone film I do enjoy this film--however, try as I may, I cannot help but compare it to the Carpenter classic, and that is a comparison Zombie's film will never find itself on the winning side of.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Halloween Trailer

CRIMSON PEAK (From The IMAX Theatre)

Crimson Peak Movie Review

Siblings Thomas and Lucille Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Avengers movies) and Jessica Chastain of Mama fame, respectively) visit the States from England in hopes of making money--one way or another--for Thomas' invention. When they meet aspiring horror author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska of Alice In Wonderland), the daughter of a filthy rich businessman, they whisk her away to England and the haunted house the Sharpes reside in. This Guillermo del Toro nod to Gothic horror of days past follows the same basic path of most of those films--somebody falls in love with a mysterious person, ends up in their creepy house or castle, where creepy things begin to happen--slowly--building a mildly interesting story that erupts in a fantastic finish. But, much like the films this one was inspired by, Crimson Peak has it's share of shortcomings, beginning with this...

Boo
 
As a general statement I am not a fan of computer generated ghosts, and this film only reinforces my opinion on the matter. If this technique is subtle enough it can somewhat work--the ghosts in Crimson Peak are the opposite and just look--fake. I wish they had put as much effort into making the ghosts look real as they put into making the violence look authentic. Some of the scenes are horrific, and border on looking TOO real. The acting from the two lead characters is nothing fantastic, but nothing terrible either--it's pretty much what you would expect from these two, and they do what they can with the mundane interactions they have for the majority of the film--and it's always weird seeing two actors you know from primarily one prior role together on screen (one may have the thought "They could have called this movie "Alice and Loki In Love"). Chastain is the scene-stealer of the film, playing the cold as ice Lucille. The film is visually beautiful--the houses, the outside surroundings, and the clothing are all certainly visually appealing. At a minute under two hours the film seems to drag at times, and unfortunately, the "twists" can be seen coming a mile away. Ultimately, Crimson Peak turns out to be what many Gothic horror films of the 1960s and 1970s were--a just above average film that is worth watching once, but is probably not one you would watch multiple times.
 
On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6
 
Crimson Peak Trailer

Thursday, October 15, 2015

TREMORS

Tremors Movie Review

The denizens of a small town in the middle of a desert are terrorized by giant worm-like creatures that attack from below. This 1990 horror/sci-fi/comedy hybrid delivers on all fronts--it is funny at times, scary other times, and is an obvious nod to creature feature sci-fi films of the 1950s. The cast is filled with actors you will recognize: Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th, Flatliners), Fred Ward (The Crow: Salvation), Michael Gross (Family Ties), Bobby Jacoby (The Wonder Years) and even country music singer Reba McEntire. The acting is pretty much on par with that you would expect. I have always been entertained seeing Gross play a character that is SO different than the ex-hippie Steven Keaton he played on Family Ties. Jacoby (now known by his real name, Robert Jayne) does a really good job as wise-cracking Melvin. On the other hand, Finn Carter is irritating as Rhonda, and, though I am a big Kevin Bacon fan, this is one of my least favorite performances of his.

I'm not THIS big of a fan

The creatures, termed "Graboids" in the film, are really impressive. They tunnel through the sand at rapid rates, have several tongue-like appendages, and absolutely devour their prey.

Say, here's one now

If you are looking for a terrifying film to watch with a storm outside at three in the morning, this is not what you should turn to--however, if you are looking for a movie that will entertain you, make you laugh, give you chills, and make you happy you don't live in the middle of the desert, Tremors is your film.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 8



Tremors Movie Trailer

INSIDIOUS 3

Insidious 3 Movie Review

Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) comes out of retirement to help Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott), a teen having trouble contacting her dead mother--the trouble you ask? Evil spirits are terrorizing her. The third installment of the Insidious series is actually a prequel to the first two, and, most unfortunately, focuses largely on Elise. This sort of character is fine as a character that pops in for a few minutes, but to have half a film dedicated to her is a bit much, and Shaye's acting doesn't get any better--sadly she's not even the worst actor in this film. That dubious distinction goes to Tate Berney as Alex, Quinn's brother--mercifully he's only in a couple scenes, and honestly, I have no idea why the character was even written into the film. On the other end of the spectrum Scott does a pretty good job as Quinn, and Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns 2, Where The Day Takes You) is decent as Quinn's dad, though honestly I expected a much better performance from him. The strength of the film, naturally, is in the scares.

Your face without eyes

Some of the spirits/demons are fairly scary (in particular The Man Who Can't Breathe), and we get a brief return of the red-faced demon everybody knows and loves. We do see some very intense, scary scenes in this film, including the spirit walking calmly about Quinn's room, making it darker as Quinn is frozen in fear. We also get some unexpected jumps, though the reliance on this is a bit much at times. As we approach the apex of the film we are re-introduced to Tucker and Specs, who once again provide unneeded comic relief (though it was much more welcome in this film). Of course we also see how the pair form a business with Elise.

I am a big fan of the first two Insidious films, and was excited when this third installment was announced, but alas, it fails in many ways to live up to the first two. As with all sequels/prequels one must separate it from the other films as much as possible and imagine it on its own legs--applying that theory to Insidious 3, you are still left with a film that is just okay and does little to separate itself from the pack of similar films.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6

Insidious 3 Trailer

INSIDIOUS 2

Insidious 2 Movie Review

Picking up the pieces of the first movie in the series, in Insidious 2, we find that something has followed Josh (Patrick Wilson) from The Further. The film sort of jumps around from the time Josh was a boy, to the events of the first Insidious film, to the present day. The original cast returns here, and the main players (Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey) all do a fantastic job once again. The scares in this film, remarkably, as just as terrifying as in the first.

One of the creeps

Of course this film does have the same drawbacks of the first (weak acting from the kids and Lin Shaye) but once again, the viewer can easily get past this. The story is advanced nicely in this film, it has a very tense build to a wonderful ending, and once again the director and writer (Wan and Whannell) manage to make a genuinely scary film without clichés, gore and blood--and it does all this while maintaining a PG-13 rating. It is a rare occasion that a sequel can live up to an original if the first film is a good one--Insidious 2 does just that.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9

Insidious 2 Trailer

Thursday, October 8, 2015

INSIDIOUS

Insidious Movie Review

Josh and Renai (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) have recently moved into a new home. It's here that one of their children, Dalton, falls into a coma-like state that doctors cannot explain. After experiencing ghostly encounters the family agrees the house is haunted and move again--but the experiences continue to take place, resulting in a terrifying realization: it's not the house that's haunted, it's the child. This is really just scraping the surface of this horror film from the dynamic duo of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the pair that brought us the Saw series. This journey also takes us to the world of dreams, the nightmare of being trapped in them, and the possibility of ghosts and demons entering our world.

You'll also never hear Tiny Tim the same again

This is a really, really slick movie that pulls off something many other films attempt and fail at--it's rated PG-13, there's no blood or gore to speak of, but it's actually a very scary film. The premise is frightening, the mood and scenery are chilling, and the faces of "The Further" are just...creepy.


This is not a happy place

The acting ranges from very good--Wilson and Byrne do a wonderful job portraying the victims--to very bad--Lin Shaye is simply unbearable as the medium brought in to help, and as much as I enjoyed the interaction between her sidekicks, I found the comedy they added took too much from an otherwise straight forward horror film. Fortunately these couple minor complaints are not nearly enough to bring this film down. When I first saw it in theatres I proclaimed it one of the better horror films I have seen--several viewings later I stick to that comment.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9

Insidious Movie Trailer

DRAG ME TO HELL

Drag Me To Hell Movie Review

A crazy old lady puts a hex on loan officer Christine (Alison Lohman) after Christine refuses to extend her loan, allowing the bank to foreclose on her home. Now Christine must find a way to break the curse before she's...yes...dragged to Hell. This 2009 film was a return to horror of sorts for Sam Raimi, the mastermind behind the Evil Dead trilogy, and his nod to that series is obvious in this film. Drag Me To Hell looks a lot like what The Evil Dead would have probably looked like had they had the budget for it. There is a TON of CGI in this film, which is a turn off to me.


Except this guy--awesome

Another setback to this film is the acting of Lohman. While it's not what I would call horrible, it's not particularly good either. With a film like this one expects a lead who is either ridiculously talented or so bad she's good--Lohman is just below average and not interesting in any way. That said, the supporting cast, lead by Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers), Dileep Rao (Inception), and veteran character actor David Paymer, is pretty strong. The story itself is a pretty clever and cool one, and the scenes involving blood and/or gore that are done without the use of CGI are really fun. The end is an interesting (if not predictable) one that will certainly get the viewers attention. Much like The Evil Dead trilogy of films, Drag Me To Hell is a horror film with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and delivers a nice combination of terror, comedy, blood, gore, and gross out moments. While it will never go down as a classic, this is a fun movie that I enjoy quite a bit very time I watch it.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Drag Me To Hell Trailer

Monday, October 5, 2015

THE STRANGERS

The Strangers Movie Review

Couple Kristen (Liv Tyler of The Lord of the Rings Films) and James (Scott Speedman of Underworld films) are terrorized by three masked people in a remote home. This 2008 film created a lot of buzz when it was released, and it's easy to see why--the premise of the film is terrifying. Home break-in is a fear that practically every person can relate to. Unfortunately, the delivery of the film is less impressive. Off the bat I will admit to being a fan of neither Tyler nor Speedman, and their performances here did nothing to change my mind on that opinion. The film itself--it starts off very slow, and when things finally do start to get going, much of what is happening is in the dark, and I get that darkness adds to the fear, but SO MUCH of this film is almost complete darkness, and silence, and as a result, uninteresting. There is a fine line between creating atmosphere with dim lighting and silenced fear and using these techniques so much you lose the interest of the viewer--sadly, that's what this movie does.

At least some cool Halloween costumes came from this film

The film also tends to fall into some horror clichés: jump scares, the victims doing to the most illogical things they possibly can, and, worst of all, the very human villains suddenly vanishing as soon as a victim turns around. The camera work was also very poor in this film--at times it looked as if the camera was placed on top of a giant bobblehead--this can be a fairly effective technique when filming an intense scene--it's less effective when the scene is a couple sitting at a kitchen table in silence. All is not lost with this film. Once the sun rises we get a really good five minute sequence that, sadly, has a poor payoff. I really, really wanted to like this movie--I first saw it upon its DVD release years ago, and bought it years later in hopes that if I gave it another chance I would like it the second time around--unfortunately, I found it once again to be just an average film. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5



The Strangers Movie Trailer

Saturday, October 3, 2015

CREEPSHOW

 Creepshow Movie Review

Longtime readers of this blog have likely seen Creepshow mentioned a time or two. Now, with Halloween season kicking off, I put this movie in to DVD player (as I do every year around this time) and decided to finally review it. Creepshow is a 1982 anthology film that partners three legends in the horror industry: it is written by Stephen King, directed by George A. Romero, and Tom Savini is the special effects guy. The anthology starts out with a jerk of a father throwing out his sons comic book, leading to the stories on the pages coming to life on the screen, beginning with...

Father's Day
Having been murdered by his daughter Bedelia, cantankerous millionaire Nathan Grantham returns from the grave to seek revenge...and his Father's Day cake he never received.  
"Where's my cake?!"

This segment sort of gets your feet wet and preps you for the fun that is to come. While the story itself isn't fantastic, it does introduce you to the style of the film and the absolutely fantastic cinematography, including the reaction/terror shots we get, complete with comic book style backgrounds.

Like this
 
This segment also features one of the most awesomely awful dance sequences in film history, starring a young Ed Harris.

The facial expression says it all

Father's Day is my least favorite of the segments, but it is still very good--and for my entire life I have thought of this segment at any event that serves cake.


THE LONESOME DEATH OF JORDY VERRILL

Up next is the most comical of the five segments, and also my favorite. This tells the story of backwoods simpleton Jordy Verrill (Stephen King) finding a meteor on his land. Dreaming of selling it to the local University (the University Department of Meteors, to be exact), Jordy touches the meteor, burns himself, throws water on it, breaks it in half, and sees his dream diminish. Unfortunately, he also gets something else on him...

Indeed

Jordy now finds alien moss-like growths forming all over his body. King does a wonderful job here playing this poor idiot of a man, and the segment is filled with classic lines and humor, but what really makes this story shine is the dread that surrounds it--you begin feeling sorry for Jordy, and the closing shot, complete with the forecast, is actually quite chilling.


SOMETHING TO TIDE YOU OVER

The third segment sees Richard Vickers (Leslie Nielsen) seeking to extract revenge on the much younger Harry Wentworth (pre-Cheers Ted Danson), the man Vickers' wife has run off with. Most people familiar with Nielsen may find it strange to watch him play such a vindictive, cold character, but he plays it well. Danson also does a fine job here, making you feel bad for a guy you know probably deserves his fate--being buried up to his neck in sand as the tide rolls in and also, just to add to the torture, watching his girlfriend in the same predicament.

And being harassed by this guy

When Harry looks at the camera and vows revenge, you know he is about to meet his demise--this being Creepshow, however, you know he'll be back.


Such a lovely couple

Something To Tide You Over probably has the least humor and the fewest "scares" of any of the segments, but it really doesn't need it--the fear that comes with thinking about the situation Harry is in is frightening enough.

The Crate

After discovering an abandoned crate under a stairwell, Mike, a custodian, informs Professor Dexter Stanley (Fritz Weaver). They decide to pull it out and have a look, only to discover a human-eating monster.

THIS human eater

After a frantic Stanley tells his friend Henry (Hal Holbrook) about the discovery, Henry sees the opportunity to live out his daily fantasy: killing his abusive loudmouth wife Wilma (Adrienne Barbeau from The Fog).

Just call her Billie--everyone does

The Crate is, by far, the bloodiest, goriest of the segments. The acting is probably better in this than any other as well: Holbrook does a good job making the viewer sympathize for his pathetic character, Barbeau does a fantastic job as the wife, and Weaver is wonderful playing the professor near his wits end. Savini's work creating the creature and the amount of bloodshed also contribute in making The Crate a lot of fun. 

THEY'RE CREEPING UP ON YOU

Deplorable businessman Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) hates one thing above all else in life: bugs. So when his expensive penthouse apartment starts to have visitors...


...these guys...

...he begins to go into an absolute panic attack. The final installment of Creepshow is a combination of humor (the exchange with the guy at the door is hilarious) and terror--I can't even imagine how horrifying this would be for somebody who is scared of cockroaches (actually I can--I watched it with my girlfriend and she was trembling and gagging the entire time). Marshall does a wonderful job as Pratt, and the slow build of the roaches taking over the apartment is well done, leading to one of the most known scenes in horror history.

Get up dummy!

Creepshow is not the scariest film you will ever see--in fact, it plays up the camp aspects quite a bit--but it certainly is one of the most fun horror films from a decade that had tons of them. This film will always hold a special place in my heart as one of a handful of horror films from the early 1980s that reminds me of being a kid and growing up in that time, watching this with my Mom more times than either of us could count. Even to this day I believe Creepshow to be the standard-bearer of horror anthology films, and though some have come close, no movie has ever done it better. Do yourself a favor: pop a bowl of popcorn, grab a drink, and watch "Creepshow on a chilly October night. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 9



Creepshow Trailer

Friday, October 2, 2015

AXED

Axed Movie Review

After losing his job, Kurt Wendell (Jonathan Hansler) takes his wife Steph (Andrea Gordon) and children Megan (Nicola Posener) and Jay (Christopher Rithin) to a remote house for a day away--once there, however, the unhinged father reveals his true reason for the getaway.

Not what they had in mind

This low budget English film is packed with potential but comes up a bit short. The story would be an interesting one if Kurt was presented earlier in the film as a caring, sympathetic character, but he is a jerk from the start, so when we see him come undone, it is of no surprise. We learn the character wants to kill his family, but the reasons are boring--the wife is sleeping with his former boss, and he feels that if he kills her for it he also must kill the kids (who both appear to be pushing thirty years of age) because they cannot possibly go on without him, as he also has plans of killing himself (it's also implied heavily he wants to kill his son for being gay and his daughter for being too slutty, things we've seen in horror a million times). Had they made any of the victims even remotely likable this could have made for a decent film, but instead we get three irritating twits who always do the exact thing they shouldn't do, and who are some of the absolute weakest characters ever presented in horror--at times it seemed like they were so uninterested in fighting back that they actually WANTED to be killed. The script is dull, the acting is dreadful, and the end is way too drawn out. There is a fair bit of blood and gore in the film, and it actually is shot well, so it does have that going for it, but I recommend skipping this movie.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4

Axed Trailer

On a personal note, I'm proud I made it through this entire review without an "axed" joke.