Sunday, September 29, 2019

DEVIL TIMES FIVE (aka Peopletoys)

Devil Times Five Movie Review

Five children escape from a loony bin and make their way to a huge house, where they begin killing the adults inside. Loony bin--that's something you just don't hear anymore. Whatever happened to that term? I'm guessing somebody was offended by it at some point so it made its way out of our everyday speak. I say we bring it back because it's just so fun to say! Anyway, back to our movie. This one is from 1974, stars a very young Leif Garrett (The Outsiders), and is rather bizarre.

They don't look like much trouble

The strength of this movie, believe it or not, is in character development. Every character, from the kids to the adults, is very different, each with very distinct personalities--this is quite impressive, as this is done with a dozen characters in the span of 88 minutes. The acting really isn't too bad either--it's certainly better than you would expect from a cast whose most successful actor was arguably Leif Garrett. Where this movie is likely to lose you is in the directing and editing. If the use of slow motion is a pet peeve of yours (as it is of mine), this movie may drive you to madness. The scene of the kids beating the guy to death is entirely in super slow motion, and seems to go on forever. After minutes of this, I finally hit fast forward x 1 (the sound was as bad, so you don't miss anything with that) and that brought it close to real speed, and it still seemed to take an eternity to get through the scene. Some of the death scenes are more impressive--the bathtub scene particularly stands out. There are tons of continuity errors in this one, and the believability of the kids committing some of these murders without the adults being able to stop them is lacking as well. The ending is a bit surprising and it provides some stunning, memorable visuals. One could pick up on a commentary from this film--if you take from this a message that adulthood brings boredom and sucks all the imagination out of you, you're not alone. Devil Times Five will probably never be a movie you watch dozens of times, but it's certainly worth watching once. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6


Devil Times Five Movie Trailer

Saturday, September 28, 2019

THE GIRL IN THE CORNFIELD

The Girl in the Cornfield Movie Review

Driving home after a night of partying, Heather (Briana Aceti) accidentally runs over a girl near a cornfield. She and her friend cannot find the woman, and instead of calling the police (the gals had been drinking), they head home, where they are haunted by an unseen person...wonder who it could be? That is the story of this 2016 zero-budget flick from writer and director Ryan Callaway. You know how you select a movie to watch, and as soon as it begins you notice it looks like it was shot on a cell phone--you rolls your eyes, thinking to yourself “The next 90 minutes are going to be torture” and you wonder if you can make it in one sitting, or even if it will be so bad you just turn the movie off and forget you even tried? This is one of those movies, but I did make it in just one attempt, and it never got so bad that I considered turning it off—this isn’t to say this is a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly not unbearable. More unbearable is the acting, particularly that of our lead, Aceti. I would have liked to have seen a switch in roles between her and Tina Duong, who plays best friend Corrine--not that Duong will be bringing home any Oscars soon, but she is much better than Aceti.

"Am I really that bad?!"

The mysterious ghost in the cornfield looks very much like a girl with cheap Halloween store makeup, and is not the least bit scary, but there is an odd charm about this--it reminds me a lot of cheap horror films from the 1950's and 1960's, so it actually gets points for this. It also scores points for the whole cornfield thing--as a city boy, but one from the cities of the Midwest, I am a bit of a sucker for cornfield settings...not that the entire film takes place there, but many of the key moments do. There's even a slight bit of tension built up at one point! Where the movie falls apart is in execution. The directing is painfully dull, the dialogue is mind-numbing, the lighting is very inconsistent, and the end is a disaster. The Girl in the Cornfield is a better movie than you will expect after you first hit play, but it's not one you should go out of your way to check out.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 4

The Girl in the Cornfield Movie Trailer

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

SLASHED DREAMS (aka Sunburst)

Slashed Dreams Movie Review

Spoiler--I am going to summarize everything that happens in this movie in five sentences. Ready? Jenny (Kathrine Baumann) and Robert (Peter Hooten) decide to hike through the woods for what seems an eternity to visit an old friend named Michael (horror legend Robert Englund, in just his second film). Along the way, Jenny is raped by two rednecks. Robert, bent on revenge, wrestles one of the rednecks in the mud for a minute before the rapists get away. Michael tells Jenny everything will fine. The movie ends, presumably with everything indeed being fine.

"There's more than that! There's also....umm..."

In between all this "excitement" we have melodrama involving some other young people at school, extended establishing shots, skinny dipping, and horrible music courtesy of songwriter Ed Bogas and singer Roberta Van Dere, who sounds like Tiny Tim on a really bad night. The acting, especially from some of the actors near the start of the film, is bad--Englund is far and away the most talented here, though he is still quite a ways from attaining the awesomeness we would get from him the following decade. If you are considering watching this movie just because you are a fan of the future Freddy, be warned--he doesn't show up until there's about 20 minutes left in the film. Speaking of A Nightmare On Elm Street, one can only assume the title of this movie was changed from Sunburst to Slashed Dreams to capitalize on the success of Englund's horror breakthrough, though I could find no proof of this. A fact I did come across that will be interesting only to myself  is that Hooten was born in Clermont, Florida, a town I frequent. The pacing of this film is...well, there really isn't any, but it is very consistent in delivering the dullness. Other than the brief time Englund graces us with his presence, there really isn't much to see here. Put it on if, and only if, you are having difficulty getting to sleep.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 3



Slashed Dreams, the entire movie. Insomniacs, you're welcome

Monday, September 16, 2019

BRIGHTBURN

Brightburn Movie Review

After something mysterios crashes to Earth, a farming couple (Elizabeth Banks, Slither and David Denman, The Office) find a baby boy. They raise the child, but as he grows older, it is clear this alien in human form has incredible powers. No, I didn't just accidentally summarize Superman--this 2019 film takes that basic storyline and twists it a bit, essentially asking the question "What if Superman turned out evil?" The child, Brandon Beyer (Jackson A, Dunn), snaps after being picked on at school, and unleashes his fury on...everybody, as he follows voices telling him "Take the world". Side note--if you ever wondered what Tobin Bell of Saw fame looked like as a child, Dunn may just be the answer.

He wants to play a game

Dunn is actually not too bad in this movie--he is a believable kid who has just enough natural creepiness to pull this character off. When it comes to creepy kids, I think, as a general statement, girls are much better in the roles, but, keeping in mind the Superman angle, that would't have worked here. Banks, who is much more known for her comedic abilities, is also strong as the Brandon's mom--Denman less so as the father. This film is also much gorier than I expected--the gruesomeness of Noah's (Matt Jones, Badger from Breaking Bad) truck accident is nothing short of jaw-dropping. You kind of wish the mayhem would have happened a bit earlier, but one can assume this movie was used in part to set the groundwork for future films--the ending would support this theory, though no such films have been announced at this time (its lack of success at the box office may contribute to this). I can't say this with complete certainty, but I would imagine being a fan of, or at least familiar with, the Superman story will help your appreciation of this movie, and those who write this off as some sort of rip-off of that story are missing the point. Brightburn isn't a phenomenal film, but it is a bit scary, and somewhat better than I expected it to be. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7


Brightburn Movie Trailer

Sunday, September 15, 2019

THE REVENGE OF DOCTOR X (aka Venus Flytrap)(aka Body of the Prey)

The Revenge of Doctor X Movie Review

Dr. Bragan (James Craig), a scientist, uses thunder, lightning, a Venus flytrap and some other nonsense to create a flesh-eating mutant plant.

Specifically, THIS flesh-eating mutant plant

If you decide to watch this movie, and want to see this monster, patience is a must--I'm not sure how long into the movie the creature finally shows up, but I estimate it to be around 17 hours in...or at least it feels that long. In the meantime, this movie offers little more than bad acting from Craig and his assistant, Dr. Noriko Hanamura (Atsuko Rome)--in fact, Craig's performance is one of the worst you will likely ever see, as he randomly shouts his lines for no apparent reason, and laughs like a buffoon for even less reason. I don't often turn a movie off, but Craig's performance is so horrendous I was really close to giving up on this one. The title is misleading--there is no revenge, and no Doctor X for that matter. You can also ignore the credits--what you see is actually the credits for a movie titled Mad Doctor of Blood Island. Hanamura and Bragan briefly enlist the help of a group of women on a beach--they're topless, just because...or perhaps to wake the viewer up, as we are more than midway through the film by this point. The ending is ridiculous, but did provide a laugh, as it reminded me of one of the all-time great movie endings.

Fantastic!

All the randomness, awfulness, and ridiculousness may make a bit more sense when you learn the film was based on a movie script written by none other than the legendary Ed Wood, though he is uncredited as the writer of this movie. Until the blood-thirsty plant finally made an appearance, I was ready to give this movie a 2--the botanical beast brought it up a point.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 3


I couldn't find a trailer, but here's the entire movie

Saturday, September 14, 2019

BLEED

Bleed Movie Review

A group of friends go on a ghost hunting adventure in what remains of an old prison, finding ghosts are, indeed, very real. Every once in a while you will come across a film that seems to have one sole purpose—fit every horror cliche possible into the movie, and that is exactly what Bleed does here. Creepy kid? Check. City folk going to a backwoods town? Check. The people in said town being backwards zealots? Check. Young couple starting a new life together? Check. Stoner? Check. Bad CGI? Check. Somebody born with a curse and a marking to identify this? Check. My baby? Check. What this movie does different is...well, nothing really. Literally nothing new or remotely creative is done in this movie. Even one of the ghosts appears lifted, as it bears quite a resemblance to Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe album cover.

"Dig through the ditches..."

The acting is rather mediocre—no awards will be given out for the performances, but none of it is terrible either. The directing is as bland as the rest of the film, the ending is uninspired, and the gore is nothing that will catch your eye. If you remember anything at all about Bleed a year after watching it, it will be a vague “What was that one movie that was like every other horror movie combined?” memory—you probably won’t even have that.

On A Scale Of One To Ten:4

Bleed Movie Trailer

Friday, September 13, 2019

MA

Ma Movie Review

A group of underage high school kids begin partying with an older woman they call Ma (Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water, The Help) after she agrees to buy them alcohol. What the friends don't realize is Ma is a little crazy, and the kids' parents are at least partially the reason. Like so many Blumhouse productions before it, this one was made on a relatively small budget (five million dollars) and made a fortune--almost 56 million dollars in profit as of this writing. As a horror fan, you have to love this formula because it is very much the same mold used for many years prior to switching to expensive CGI for practically every theatrical release--while many may complain about the Blumhouse films for this reason, I am all for it.

"Get back to my movie Josh"

Besides Spencer, we have a handful of other familiar faces here, including Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers), Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven), and Allison Janney (I. Tonya)--I am a fan of all these people, but Spencer's performance in this film dwarfs all of them. The high school kids are a group of unknowns, and their performances are less memorable, though none are really what one would classify as bad--McKaley Miller stands out from the rest as the new girl's best friend. The premise of the movie is solid, but unfortunately, the delivery is less so. Way too much of the film is focused on the parties at Ma's house instead of expanded Ma's actual story. If more emphasis was placed on her experiences with her high school classmates, her revenge, and her daughter, with fewer scenes of the parties and the kids trying to get the alcohol, this could have been a MUCH more well-rounded film. A better ending--maybe even the alternate one--would have done wonders as well. Even with that, there are some very tense scenes in this film, a little gore, and some rather unexpected moments that make Ma a fun ride.

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 7

Ma Movie Trailer

Sunday, September 8, 2019

THE GIANT CLAW

The Giant Claw Movie Review

A giant bird, initially mistaken for a UFO, terrorizes mankind. This is a 1957 sci-fi/giant monster movie that most will likely not think of when they consider the greats from this era, and for good reason--we'll come back to that. Electronics whiz Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth) tries to warn the Pentagon, but by the time they take him seriously, the winged monster is in full attack. Morrow actually does a decent job in this film, but the rest of the acting is as dull as you would suspect. The story plods about, and the dialogue is filled with questionable science. As is the case with most creature features, it's the monster we really watch these for, and my goodness, is this ever some beast!

Wonderful!

Naturally, this film is best known for the monster, so here are a couple stories about it. The original plan was to have the bird created using stop-motion, but producer Sam Katzman deemed that too expensive. Instead, he paid a company in Mexico $50 to create the monster, and the result was the marionette we see in the film. Morrow had not seen the bird before going to the premiere of the film, and when it appeared on the screen, the entire audience laughed. Morrow was so embarrassed he sneaked out of the theatre before he could be recognized. I personally place our feathered friend in the "so bad it's good" category and could watch it destroy model trains all day. 

"Aww, you're too kind"

A large portion of this movie is filled with stock footage, something that was not uncommon at the time. What makes it hilarious here is how mismatched some of it is, including using footage of two very different airplanes to depict the same plane in the movie. We also see a plane fly past San Francisco just moments before attacking the bird...in New York City. It kind of goes without saying that anything happening on screen when the winged one is not present is uninteresting and not memorable in the least, but if you are into cheap looking monsters, you will find enjoyment with this film. No, The Giant Claw will never have the universal appeal of, say, Godzilla movies, but those precious moments when our fifty dollar phenomenon graces us with its presence make this one worth watching. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6




The Giant Claw Movie Trailer

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

Village of the Damned Movie Review

The denizens of a small English village simultaneously fall asleep one afternoon. Months later, the women give birth to blonde haired children with mysterious mind control powers...and weird eyes.

"You will give this film a positive review"

This movie came out in 1960, and caused a weird bit of controversy. The eyes of the children were created by superimposing negative shots of their eyes over their actual eyes--the film's native country, England, deemed this too frightening and this effect had to initially be removed for release there. I find the effect kind of cool myself, though there are several times when the negatives are not lined up perfectly, revealing the actual eyes behind them. Speaking of the fair-haired brats, they really are quite a menace. One of their favorite things to do is making the adults kill themselves--these scenes, particularly the one involving the shotgun, are rather shocking for their time, as you didn't see stuff like this too often in 1960. As cool as these scenes are, we have to sit through a lot of not much happening to get to them. The acting is stiff, and nobody in the film is really likable, making the already dull dialogue even harder to pay attention to. The saving grace is the film is short at just 77 minutes. A big plus is that if you are struggling to make it through the movie, the climax of the film will certainly open your eyes. I personally believe Village of the Damned is held in a little higher regard than is warranted, but it's by no means a bad movie either. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 6


Village of the Damned Movie Trailer

Sunday, September 1, 2019

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (aka Insidious: Chapter 4)

Insidious: The Last Key Movie Review

In 2010, a horror film titled Insidious hit theatres. The movie was unique in that it was rated PG-13, but was actually scary and really good. Three years later, Insidious: Chapter 2 was released, and pulled off something even more rare--it was a sequel that was just as good as the original. Unable to leave us with a perfect one-two punch, Insidious: Chapter 3 was dropped on us in 2015. This was a prequel to the first two movies, and while still entertaining, failed to capture the magic of the other films. Sticking with the Hollywood theory of "If it's making money, keep beating the dead horse" (Disney has mastered this), Insidious: The Last Key came out in 2018. This movie chronologically falls between Chapter 3 and the original movie, and, much like the third film, centers on Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), the parapsychologist we came to know and tolerate in the first two films. I made the point when reviewing the third movie that Elise was not a strong enough character to center the movie on, and Shaye's acting doesn't help this issue--the exact same can be said for this film. A good thing about the previous three installments is they all had a cast that was strong enough to overlook the questionable acting of Shaye and her sidekicks, played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson--no such support is in this film, as the acting beyond these three is equally as bad. The scares also take a step down here, and our new demon may remind you of a fella from another movie.

Castle Freak's brother?

Whannell, who also wrote the previous three films, seemingly wrote this one to connect the dots and answer some questions that still remained within the franchise. The beginning of the film is actually a prequel to everything, as we see Elise as a child--these scenes are, from a story standpoint, probably the most interesting of the movie. Whannell, the director of the third movie, hands those reigns over to Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan), and the drop in that department is obvious--going from James Wan (Saw) directing the first two films to Whannell in the third film was a drastic change, and from Whannell to Robitel is just another step down. Even with all this said, not all is bad with this film. There are still a few scenes that are a little frightening, though the reliance on jump scares takes away from this. We also catch a cool glimpse of the Lipstick-Faced Demon that terrorized the Lamberts in the first film. The title would indicate this is the final film of the franchise, but we also know this one made more money than any of the three previous pictures--keeping in mind the Hollywood rule above, I'd be surprised if we don't get a fifth chapter. Here's hoping the Insidious story is over. 

On A Scale Of One To Ten: 5



Insidious: The Last Key Movie Trailer