Friday, December 20, 2013

Favorite Movies of 2013

Top 10 Movies of 2013
10.The Battery - Took me a couple viewings to really like it.  It’s slow.  It drags in parts.  The characters aren’t overly likable.  But it feels like a realistic depiction of the impending zombie apocalypse.  It’s a different look at the genre, so it’s something even Renfield may be able to appreciate.
9. The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh - If I ever finish editing the film club entry on this, you’ll see my full thoughts.  Slow, but a good sense of tension throughout.
8. Star Trek Into Darkness - Exactly what I expected.  Lots of fun.  Great performance by Cumberbatch.
7. Best Friends Forever - Kind of cheesy in parts, but I really loved this.  Had a great feel to it.  Loved the interaction of the two main characters.  A cool little apocalyptic road-trip movie.  I adore this film.
6. World War Z - Nothing like the book, but I didn’t expect it to be.  It starts fast and doesn’t let up.  I could’ve done with less of the pointless cut-backs to Gerry’s family (because I’m a heartless fiend), but that didn’t really ruin it.  Just a fun, fast-paced action movie.
5. The World’s End - The weakest entry into the Cornetto trilogy, but I still loved it.  Much better the second time around.
4. Mama - I totally understand the complaints about this movie, but I didn’t have those same issues.  I choose to overlook the ending and the glaring plotholes and look at the story and the performances of everyone involved.  The final showdown on the cliff looked like something straight out of a Universal monster movie.
3. Evil Dead - I was so excited about this coming out that I figured I would be disappointed.  That was not the case.  I loved this movie (it helped that I went with a squeamish friend).  It had a myriad of problems, but I really don’t care.  It was crazy and bloody, and I had a lot of fun watching it.
2. Maniac - Gave a sleek makeover to the scuzzy original.  Kind of felt like Drive, but with a more scalpy protagonist. I had no idea what to expect going in, and this absolutely blew me away.
1. Pacific Rim - MONSTERS AND ROBOTS FIGHTING!  I felt like a little kid watching this.  I giggled during every fight.  I excitedly punched my knee during a few parts (“They have a rocket that makes them punch harder!”)  I’ve seen this 4 times now, and I get excited every single time.
Honorable mentions: Kill Me Now, John Dies at the End, Grabbers, You’re Next, American Mary, Inside Shadows
I don’t have a hated list, but here are a couple I didn’t love.
Escape From Tomorrow - I had such high hopes for this.  It just feels like a waste opportunity.  Instead of a slow descent into madness at Disney World (which would’ve been amazing), we were treated to a middle-aged man trying to bang every woman he sees.  Kind of surprised he didn’t use pick-up lines like, “Hey baby, you wanna see the real Magic Kingdom?”  Then point to his johnson (“Johnson?”).  Anyway, this movie was kind of terrible.
Lords of Salem - Decent idea.  Absolute mess of a film.
Frankenstein’s Army - I heard this was good.  “The creature effects are amazing.”  They weren’t bad.  The rest of the movie was wretched.
The Purge - Not horrible.  Just really boring.  Again, a really cool idea, but not a very good movie.

This is also posted over at Horror-Writers.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inside Shadows

Short synopsis (from the film’s website):
When a young couple move into a converted shop, they are filled with excitement and ideas as to how they will make the house their own.  But it would appear the property is still clinging to its past, and unbeknown to them they are living inside its shadows.

My thoughts:
Having recently watched The Orphanage (again), The Awakening, and The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, it seems clear that I’m a sucker for a slow-developing ghost story.  This really isn’t a surprise, but it’s something that is reinforced with each movie I watch.

Inside Shadows fits comfortably into that genre.  Calling it a slow-developing ghost story is a completely accurate description.  It may even be even slower moving than the aforementioned films, which is really saying something, seeing as how none of those movies move at a breakneck pace.  It’s very good once it gets moving, but it takes a little while to get to that point.  It would be extremely easy to lose focus before the good stuff kicks in.  The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh was slow, but it had a sense of tension that started early and kept up throughout the entire film.  There was none of that here.  This was more like Entrance: a slow-building movie that doesn’t really even try to build tension until late. 

Once it gets going, it’s pretty good.  And there are a handful of moments that hint at the upcoming insanity.  They do a pretty good job at teasing it.  But, like I said, it would be pretty easy to lose interest before it gets to that point, especially if you’re not in the right mood for this type of movie.  It’s less a “slow burn” and more “lighting fireworks with punk sticks”.  

Even when the craziness started, I had a couple issues with it.  They felt the need to give a big musical blast every time the ghost appeared for an instant.  It was somewhat reminiscent of the musical goosing we got when Michael Myers showed up in Halloween, but this less subtle.  It was extremely distracting, and completely unnecessary.  Seeing a shadowy figure appear in the background is startling by itself; there’s no need to throw it in our face.

I also had a pretty major problem with the decision-making of some of the characters late in the film.  For spoiler reasons, I can’t really get into the specifics.  Suffice it to say that a couple characters had some highly dubious logic late in this film.  It almost ruined the movie for me.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this movie, but I didn’t love it like I hoped I would.  Superficially, it suffers from the same problems that plague a lot of low-budget movies: mainly, poor lighting and inconsistent sound (although I will say that the sound was better here than a lot of low-budget movies I’ve seen).  I’ve never had a problem getting past those things as long as the story is good, but, if you have a problem with those things, you should probably stay away.
But, if you like a good ghost story, it’s definitely worth giving a shot.  It was pretty well-acted, and had a pretty cool style to it.  Pick a quiet night, shut off all the lights, and dive in.

Rating: 3/5

Inside Shadows is now available on VOD.  Check it out here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Purge

Description from IMDB:
In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.

I think I'll go ahead and put a blanket SPOILER WARNING at the top here, since a lot of the problems I have with this get into spoiler territory.

First off, I'll say that I love the concept of this movie.  The idea of a world where all crime is legal for one night is a pretty fun idea to play around with.
However, I have a major issue with the idea behind that concept.  The idea is that unemployment rates and crime rates are down because people can go bonkers 12 hours a year.  There's no way it would work out that way.  If people want to kill/rob/vandalize, they won't wait all year for a 12 hour window to do it.  They'll just do it.
For example, look at the main invader, known only as The Polite Stranger.  He is obviously wealthy, and he mentions that he and his compatriots are well-educated.  He's also a psychopath.  It's foolish to assume that his bloodlust (and that of his Purge-buddies) will be sated for an entire year just because he kicked a couple drifters to death one night.  That's not how this works.

As was depicted, it looks as though the majority of people taking advantage of "Purge Night" were out there for killing.  Which makes sense.  Perhaps you're just a normal fella who wants to pee in public without being fined for it.  You're not going to risk that when there are rich kids with automatic weapons running around the neighborhood.  Which brings up this issue: those people with the urge to get into some petty crime for the evening won't be indulging that urge, as they don't want to be murdered.  Those people won't be purging themselves that evening, which means they'll probably indulge that urge at some other time and hope they don't get caught.

The deeper you find yourself digging, the less sense it all makes.

That's not to say this entire movie was terrible, nonsensical trash.  Because it wasn't.  There were quite a few really cool parts.  I loved the opening, where we see the violence of the Purge as shown by surveillance cameras.  It gave me context and scope for what was to come.  Even though most of this movie played out as a home invasion movie, it showed that this was just one incident among thousands (millions?).  It took a huge idea and pared it down to a single incident, while still giving us a taste of what the rest of America looked like.  It was a jarring way to start a movie, but it was extremely effective.  I'm hoping to see more of this in The Purge 2: Lost in Yonkers.
My favorite scene was the nonchalant way the next door neighbor was sharpening his machete a few hours before the start of the Purge.  Big fan of that guy.  I really wanted to follow him around for the evening and see what shenanigans he got himself into.

In the end, this was a claustrophobic home invasion movie.  In a movie with limited characters, a lot hinges on how I feel about the main characters.  And they were terrible here.  The acting wasn’t bad, but the characters were extremely unlikable and made some awful decisions.  I didn’t like a single one of them.  More than any of my other complaints, this is really what killed this movie for me.

Not terrible.  Not great.  A good concept, but not really anything interesting done with it.  It’s worth catching if you don’t have anything better to do for 80 minutes, but don’t rush out to watch this.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, October 31, 2013

24 Hours of Horror Movies for Halloween

A good friend of mine posed this question to me this past weekend: “If you wanted to watch movies for 24 hours on Halloween, what would your list look like?”  For the sake of ease in this, he told me to assume every movie was 2 hours long.
I really loved this question, so I thought I would put together a viewing list for Halloween.  24 hours of horror movies.  What could be better than that?
One note before I dive in: this does not double as my list of favorite horror movies.  Rather, this is a list of movies that put me in the Halloween spirit.  I had to leave plenty of great movies off this list.  Some day, I’ll put together a list of my favorite movies.  This is not that day.
Feel free to add your own viewing lists in the comments.

12:00-2:00 AM
What better way to kick off the day than with a viewing of the John Carpenter classic?  Beyond being a perfect way to set the mood, it also gives you a lot of tips of what not to do in case the boogeyman decides to show up in your small, nondescript town.  It also reminds us that everyone – even a cynical old codger like Dr. Loomis – is entitled to one good scare.  Use it wisely.

The Orphanage
2:00-4:00 AM
The atmosphere throughout this entire movie is perfect for late-night (or early-morning) viewing.  It’s a beautiful and spooky little ghost story.  It’s not uncommon for mist to rise around this time of day, which would be the ideal setting to watch this.

Evil Dead [2013]
4:00-6:00 AM
I realize this might seem a bit early for such a gory, intense movie.  But I believe in you.  If you’re willing to watch 24 hours of horror movies, you can deal with watching the insanity that is this movie at 4 in the morning.  I may just end up watching this every morning when I get out of bed.  Better than a cup of coffee.
Anyway, this movie is amazing.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
6:00-8:00 AM
The sun is starting to come up, so we need to move to some lighter material (mainly because it just doesn’t feel right watching some movies when the sun is out).  This seems like a good way to kick off this portion of the day.  It’s a smart, funny, and perfect deconstruction of the slasher genre, while still managing a few scares.  This is one of my favorite modern horror films.

Drag Me to Hell
8:00-10:00 AM
Sam Raimi’s return to the horror genre is a ton of fun.  Dancing goats and gypsy curses and horrible, horrible things happening to an adorable blonde.  Justin Long is terrific, and David Paymer even makes an appearance.  More like Christine on the hoof, amiright?  Anyone? 

The Monster Squad
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
I hadn’t seen this movie since elementary school, and wondered how well it would hold up.  As it turns out, it holds up wonderfully.  It’s The Goonies with monsters.  It’s funny and odd, and it’s everything I wanted to be a part of as a kid.  And now.  I would totally be in The Monster Squad right now (although it would probably look like Mystery Team at this point).

Return of the Living Dead
12:00-2:00 PM
Crazy, bloody fun, with Linnea Quigley dancing on graves as an added plus.  It’s a fun addition to the zombie genre.  It’s extremely funny, and I find something else to love about it every time I watch it.
It would’ve made sense to watch Night of the Living Dead before watching this, but I just couldn’t find room for it so early in the day.

2:00-4:00 PM
I don’t know what it is about this movie.  This series doesn’t get overtly goofy until the second movie (and that goofiness really hits hard in the third and fourth), but this movie is pretty unintentionally goofy.  The effects are pretty bad.  The Ghoulies look ridiculous.  But there’s just something I love about this movie.  It doesn’t feel like Halloween until I watch it.

4:00-6:00 PM
As we transition to dusk, it’s time to get away from the lighter stuff and back into the darker side of the genre.  May is a perfect fit.  It’s a darkly funny movie, but it has a heavy dose of gore and creepy moments as well.  It’s The Bride of Frankenstein or Pieces, as lived through an awkward girl who wants nothing more than to fit in.  It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking movie.  I’m always left wondering whose side I’m on.

Night of the Living Dead [1968]
6:00-8:00 PM
This movie may not be as terrifying as it was when it was first released (and violence against women is generally frowned-upon these days, even if they are in a state of hysterics about how the walking dead killed their brother), but it still holds up extremely well.  An air of creepiness surrounds the entire film.  This is still my all-time favorite zombie movie.

8:00-10:00 PM
The day is winding down.  It’s time to get uncomfortable.  This movie is less scary than it is deeply unsettling.  It has a great story and atmosphere to it.  And, while there are a handful of moments that I would cut (the “children dancing in the hall” scene was downright laughable), it never quite lost me, and it drew me back in immediately afterwards (this is in stark contrast to Insidious, which lost me fairly early and never regained my trust).  This is a dark, twisted movie that will stay with you for long after the credits have rolled.

Trick R Treat
10:00 PM – 12:00 AM
Our day ends with Trick R Treat, which takes 5 stories (all taking place on Halloween in a small town) and weaves them together through the use of interacting characters and Sam, an undersize pumpkin-man who seems sworn to uphold the ancient traditions of Halloween, enforcing them with swift justice and a sharp lollipop.  There really isn’t a likable character to be found here, but I love the stories and the feel of the movie.  If nothing else, it’s pretty good justification for staying inside on Halloween and watching movies.  It’s better than being a disturbed principal’s human jack-o-lantern.  Just make sure to keep that pumpkin lit.

And there you have it.  Twelve movies to fill up 24 hours of your day on Halloween.  Of course, limiting myself to only twelve movies assures that some terrific options were left off.  Also, in looking at the actual running time, these would not take up the full 24 hours.  So feel free to plug any of these into the list.  They just narrowly missed the cut, anyway.
Psycho [1960]
Cabin in the Woods
Amityville Horror [2005]
The Haunting [1963]
A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984]
The Bride of Frankenstein
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974 or 2003]
Shaun of the Dead
Final Destination
Paranormal Activity

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Evil Dead

For as excited as I was about this movie, it's kind of amazing that it exceeded my extremely high expectations for it.  It's violent.  Gory (they used all practical effects, and they all looked terrific.  I'm not totally convinced one of the girls didn't actually cut her arm off).  Creepy.  Overrun with second-guessing and illogical plot points.  Uneven acting (although it's worth noting that Jane Levy is terrific throughout.  I hope to see her in more movies very soon).  It's a beautiful and blood-drenched horror film.  It feels less like a remake and more like a love-letter to the the genre, while still adding its own memorably bloody chapter to the genre.  It shows the audience dozens of potential weapons, then gleefully uses each and every one of them.

If I have one complaint it's that the unrated version has yet to see the light of day.  I know it's out there (the first cut was rated NC-17, so they cut out some stuff to get down to R).  And, while I know they probably didn't have to cut too much (30 seconds would be my guess), my mind desperately wants to believe that there are 20+ insane minutes floating around out there, just begging to be released.  In two years, they will no doubt release it, and I will happily pay whatever they ask.

You can read my original review here.

Monday, October 28, 2013


A terrific British horror-comedy.  It sets a slasher film during a staff retreat.  On top of hitting all the familiar slasher beats, there is also a healthy amount of gore involved.  Lots of blood.  Some terrible carving.  But it injects a perfect amount of humor to the mix.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


One of my all-time favorite movies.  I end up watching this multiple times a year.  It's a beautifully shot movie, and the soundtrack is incredible.  I love the dialog.  I love how crazed Dr. Loomis is (and the look of joy on his face when he gets in his one good scare).  I love Laurie, Annie and Lynda.  I love Michael Myers dressing up like a ghost and putting on Bob's glasses.  I love everything about this movie.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I can't remember the last time I had seen this movie.  High school, I guess.  Considering I graduated in 1998, that was a long time ago.  I remembered the very end - what happened to the house - but that was it.  Pretty much every other detail escaped me.  I even forgot that Carol Anne was taken, and that's one of the central plots of the movie.
So, while I had seen this movie, it felt like I was watching it for the first time.

There were some odd goofy moments, and some of the special effects felt dated, but I thought this movie holds up pretty well.  It wasn't quite as creepy as I had remembered it, but there were still a number of moments that made my skin crawl.

A solid movie.  I won't wait 15+ years to watch it again.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Trick R Treat

I've written about this movie in the past (here), so I'll keep this short.  This has become essential viewing every year around Halloween.  It always puts me in the Halloween mood.  It has a great feel and atmosphere to it.  I love this movie.

If you haven't seen these vintage pictures of people in Halloween outfits, you really need to.  The schoolbus scene in this movie reminds me a lot of these.  Some freaky, freaky stuff.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You're Next

Description from Netflix:
When shy Erin joins her new boyfriend at a family reunion to commemorate his parents’ anniversary, the tense gathering is horrifically interrupted by a gang of masked invaders who brutalize the celebrants…until someone starts fighting back.

My thoughts:
Going to the dollar theater by yourself is always a ton of fun.  I highly recommend it.

I really liked this.  It had a cool 80s slasher vibe to it, due in no small part to the stellar synth soundtrack.  The soundtrack really set the mood for this movie.  The filmmakers also did a great job at using silence at times to ratchet up the tension. 

It would be easy to compare this to The Strangers, and I suppose there’s a bit of that in here, mainly because it’s a home invasion movie with masks.  But, as I pointed out above, it looks and feels more like an 80s slasher.  This really felt more like Friday the 13th or Halloween than The Strangers.
But even that comparison isn’t overly accurate.  Erin was far more competent at fighting back than the majority of final girls in those movies.  Erin is a fighter.  She was raised as a survivalist.  She has no qualms with picking up a meat tenderizer and raining down holy hell on someone twice her size.  This movie won’t rank high on the list of best slashers ever, but Erin should rank pretty high on the list of all-time survivor girls.  She’s scrappy.  She’s nasty.  She’s resourceful.  And she’s responsible for one of the best kills I’ve seen in recent memory. 

Without getting too slap-sticky, this has a lot of really funny moments (provided the gruesome deaths of some main characters is something you find amusing, which I do).  It was never goofy, but there were quite a few laugh-out-loud funny moments.
One of those funny moments was seeing a man in a sheep mask walk around with a crossbow.  I’m not even sure it was supposed to be funny, but it killed me.

This was a really bloody slasher movie.  It earned its R rating.  And it had a terrific ending.  I’m already looking forward to watching it again.  It was a really fun time.

Also, Ti West is in this movie, and he gets killed off really early.  I could watch Ti West get killed a thousand times.  That’s how much I hated The Innkeepers

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Orphan Killer

Description from IMDB:
Marcus Miller is a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. His lessons are taught in massive doses of vulgar and unimaginable pain. Throughout her brutal torture we learn that Marcus is not the only Miller with Killer in the bloodline as Audrey proves to be a formidable adversary.

Yet another movie I didn't know much about before I started it.  I knew it was a slasher.  And that's about all I knew.

Because of this, it took me a little while to settle in.  It's not a good movie in the traditional sense.  The lighting is terrible.  The acting is comically bad with most of the characters (I thought Diane Foster did a good job, but no one else stood out as particularly good).  The music is awful.  The story is decent, but nothing special.  I got the feeling that the filmmakers thought they were creating a great backstory of this killer, but it really just seemed like they were trying too hard.
The music was the main sticking point for me.  With very few exceptions, the soundtrack was just a bunch of terribly thrown-together metal songs.  There was no sense of setting a mood.  No sense of trying to match the music with the action on the screen.  It was as if the filmmakers just said, "There's a chase scene.  Throw on some metal.  He's killing someone.  Throw on some metal."  As I mentioned, it never fit with the scene, and it was usually louder than it had any reason to be.  It was incredibly distracting, and also seemed pretty lazy on the part of the filmmakers.
Some scenes also seemed to be ripped directly from Rob Zombie's Halloween films, but without any of the visual style that Zombie brought to those.

But, after a while, I settled in and found that I was enjoying it.  No, it wasn't good.  But, when viewing it as a kind of grindhouse movie, it made a lot more sense.  It was incredibly violent.  When there was blood (which was often), it spewed forth like a fountain.  It pooled on the floor.  It splattered on the camera (which made no sense, but whatever).  The blood splatter was inconsistent from scene-to-scene.
There was also some gratuitous nudity.
All of that just kind of added to the grindhouse charm of it.  I'm not sure if that's what the filmmakers were going for, but, if they were, they pulled it off pretty well.
I also really enjoyed seeing a psychopathic child wearing a mask.  That's always fun.

It wasn't a great movie, but it was a pretty fun movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Escape From Tomorrow

Description from IMDB:

In a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father's sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.

Before I talk about this, let's watch the trailer again.  Because the trailer is amazing.

You know what that looks like?  It looks like a terrific psychological horror movie filmed (illegally) in Disney World.  You can read what I said about it the first time I saw the trailer here.
I was excited.  You were excited.  I tried to temper my expectations, but I couldn't help myself.  I mean, look at that trailer?  For someone who went to Disney World quite a few times as a child, I couldn't help but be excited for this.

Sadly, it wasn't very good.  Most of the great moments can be found right there in the trailer.  What I thought would be a movie about a man slowly losing his mind at Disney World (complete with lots of horrifying takes on familiar images) turned out to be a movie about a married man with two children lusting after every woman he happened to cross paths with.  Underage French girls.  A nurse.  A fallen Disney princess.  Current Disney princesses.  
And that is what drove the story forward.  They easily could have made this movie revolve around horrific Disney imagery, but instead chose to drive the story based on the libido of a middle-aged man.  Not the best choice.

Some of the imagery was great.  The fact that it was shot in black and white really helped.  The acting may not have been great, but it wasn't terrible.  I loved the music.  It alternated between whimsical and dark, and it fit the mood of the film very well.

There was a decent amount of green screen, and it was terrible.  However, since they shot the bulk of the movie on location at Disney World, any added shots (as well as any scripted scenes featuring more than a couple of people) needed to be filmed in green screen.  It looked awful.  But, given the limitations of the film, I give the green screen a bit of a pass.  It was distracting, but they had to work with the limitations they set for themselves.  It was bad, but not the worst part of the movie.

Within the next week, I'm sure to have some better formulate thoughts and opinions on this.  As it stands now, I'm just disappointed.  And tired.  But mostly disappointed.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frankenstein's Army

It's that time of year again.  The time when I try to watch as many horror movies as my little eyes can handle.  Instead of my usual, long-winded reviews, I'm going to just post a few thoughts about each movie I watch.  That means I will likely be posting about movies I've seen before.  So, for the next month, this blog will become my own personal viewing log.  You're welcome.

Description from Netflix:
As they push into Germany near the end of World War II, Russian troops discover that the Nazis have used the research scientist Victor Frankenstein to create monstrous new soldiers that are pieced together from body parts of the dead.

Here is a list of things I knew about this movie before I started it:
1. Good creature design
2. World War II

That's it.  That's the sum of my knowledge about this movie.  Which is good, I guess.  I didn't really have any expectations going in.

Here's something I didn't know that would have been useful.  It's a found footage movie.
I hoped this would be good.  I'm a sucker for horror movies set in different periods (at least, I think I am.  I often find that I like the idea of these movies better than I actually like the movie).  And I love good creature design.  This should have been right up my alley.

Sadly, it was not.  It was pretty boring, and I wasn't overly impressed with the creature effects.  They pretty much looked like rejects from Hellboy.  Some of them looked pretty cool, but, if they were planning on driving interest in the movie based on that, they failed horribly.

There really weren't any likable characters, either.  It's hard to really get too invested in a movie when there aren't any characters to sympathize with.

The first-person style was really distracting.  These kinds of movies are pretty hit-and-miss for me.  When done well, found footage movies can be really good, and the style can add a lot to the movie.  When done poorly, they're extremely distracting to the story.  This was the latter.
I normally don't get too tied up in the camera logic of these movies.  Whether a person is filming under strange circumstances makes very little difference to me.  But this one was really obnoxious.  There were a number of times when the cameraman was running from a monster, dropped the camera, and took time to pick it up, hold it back up to his face, and film as he ran.  I understand needing to do this to keep showing things, but it doesn't make any sense here.  Again, I normally don't have these issues, but it was impossible to ignore here.

This was a movie that started really slow, and, even when it picked up, never really held my interest.

Rating: 1.5/5

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Curse of Chucky

Description from IMDB:
After her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.

Notable actors: Brad Dourif (of course), Fiona Dourif (his real-life daughter), Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez

My thoughts:
I did not go into this movie with high expectations.  While I enjoyed the previous films, a direct-to-video sequel that comes 9 years after the last installment doesn’t exactly scream “high quality”.  Still, I wasn’t looking for anything amazing, just something entertaining.  So, with my expectations cranked down to an acceptable level, I was ready to begin.

Let’s start with the things I liked about this.
Fiona Dourif was terrific as Nica, the wheelchair-bound protagonist who is suspicious of the Chucky doll from the moment he arrives at the house.  The acting in this movie was considerably below top-shelf, which only made Fiona’s performance stand out even more. 

The majority of this movie takes place in the old house where Nica and her recently deceased mother lived.  It looked fantastic.  It kind of had the vibe of an old castle, or a smaller version The Overlook Hotel.  Huge and spacious, but sparsely furnished and dimly lit.  It allowed the film to feel claustrophobic, while still allowing for a lot of shadows and corners for Chucky to hide in.  Even though we see much of the house throughout the course of the movie, I always felt there was another room I hadn’t seen yet.
Even though I liked the look and feel of the house, I still kind of had a problem with it.  The size of the house (combined with the sparse furnishings) was pretty distracting.  They never said why they were living in this house.  I figured there had to be a story behind it.  But, unless I missed it, there was no such story.  Maybe it’s not a big deal, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Perhaps this isn’t a problem for everyone, but I found myself waiting for the bomb to drop.  I was waiting for the scene where they would talk about this house, and how them living in it was central to the plot somehow.  I felt like Dignan, screaming, “How did an asshole like Bob get such a nice kitchen?” 

There was a bit of showing the audience the weapons of the family’s destruction early on.  “Here’s a knife.  Here’s an axe.  Here’s some rat poison.”  And so on.  The Evil Dead remake did this extremely well, building up a level of anticipation for the promise of gore to come.  The same concept was at work here.  The same concept was at work here.  And, while it wasn’t done nearly as well as Evil Dead, it was still enjoyable.

I really love the delivery guy at the beginning of the movie.  It was like they cast him straight out of porn.  “Hey there, pretty lady.  I like your face.  Is your mother home?  Yes?  Too bad.  We could’ve had some fun.”  (This is a bit of an exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.)

He fixes the cable?

Now for the things I didn’t like.
The Chucky animation looked horrible.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the other movies, so it’s possible that the animation in those is worse than I remember, but it was really cheesy here.  I wasn’t looking for it to be perfect, but it was distractingly bad.

There’s a trope that is common in movies with children, and I really dislike it.  It’s when the child is the only one who can hear the doll talking,  yet acts like everything is normal.  In this movie, the little girl kept saying, “Chucky told me this.”  At one point, she dropped the line, “Life’s a bitch and then you die, bleeding like a stuck pig.”  Which, while humorous, struck me as extremely odd.  What little girl says stuff like that?  Wouldn’t she think it was strange that Chucky told her such a thing?  She was young (they don’t mention her exact age, and I’m terrible with the ages of children, but I would say she was no older than 7).  Wouldn’t she be freaking out that this doll – which is almost the same size she is – is talking to her and saying things like that?  Sure, the Good Guys dolls talk, but it’s mostly benign chatter like, “I’m your friend to the end,” and “I like hugs.”  Not “Your whole family is going to die tonight.”  Unless we’re dealing with extremely stupid children, they would react differently than the children in these movies do.

There’s a scene where a wheelchair hits a full-grown-man, and he does a complete flip.  I don’t necessarily care that this flies in the face of Earth gravity so much as I care that it looks terrible.

There was a complete lack of understanding of how electronics work.  On multiple occasions the power was blinking in the house, and the screens of the laptops in use were also blinking (in one instance, the screen turned to static snow, like an old TV with bunny ears on a terrible connection).  Laptops have batteries.  If the power blinks, laptop screens do not blink.  And yet, over and over again, that’s exactly what happened here.

They worked very hard to work the story of this family in with the first Child’s Play movie.  While I enjoyed the idea behind it, the execution was terrible, and it resulted in entirely too many false endings.  It’s like they weren’t quite sure how to end it.  The first ending was fine, if a bit sudden and more than a little illogical (I won’t discuss those issues here, since it would include a pretty big spoiler).  But each one after that got a little more goofy.  I could almost see the filmmakers winking at me.  “See?  See?!  Get it?!”  It got to be a bit old by the end of it.  (The end of the last false ending before the credits was really terrible.  And then, of course, there’s a stinger after the credits.  Just thinking about it makes me tired.)

My main problem was this: this movie didn’t seem like it knew what it wanted to be.  It was pretty serious and dark for the most part.  But, eventually, it turned into dumb Chucky one-liners, while never changing the tone of the movie.  It’s like they wanted to mix the darker horror elements of the original with the goofiness of the latter movies, but it just didn’t work.  If there’s a happy medium between those, they didn’t find it.

All of this sounds like I hated it.  I didn’t hate it.  For the most part, I enjoyed watching it.  If nothing else, it’s worth watching for Fiona Dourif and the creepy spaciousness of the house.  If you’re a fan of the previous movies, you may not love this, but I’m sure you’ll find enough to enjoy to make it worth your while.

In summary: it wasn’t great, but it was more-or-less enjoyable.  A rousing review, I know.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let's Talk About: Escape From Tomorrow Trailer

This will be less "talking about" and more "just watch the trailer and get excited with me, please".

This was shot completely on-sight (and completely illegally) at Disney World.  It looks completely unique and extremely creepy.  I'm trying not to get too excited about it, lest my expectations get too high before the October 11 release date.  

Needless to say, very much looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The World's End

Description from Netflix:
Twenty years after attempting a marathon pub crawl, a group of friends reunited to give it another shot.  Their ultimate destination is the World’s End pub, whose name turns out to be rather literal.

Notable actors:
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Smiley, David Bradley, Rosamund Pike, Mark Heap, Bill Nighy, Peter Serafinowicz, and many, many more.  This movie became an exercise in “name that actor from previous Edgar Wright productions”.  “Look, it’s Duane Benzie.  Look, it’s ‘the other Andy’.  Tyres!  Brian!”  And so on.

My thoughts:
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Edgar Wright.  Beyond my love of the first two installments in the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), I also love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Spaced.  I’ve seen each of the movies at least five times, and have gone through the entire series of Spaced at least three times.   I might be in love with him.  I’ve made my peace with that.

This one had a different feel to it.  It had the same message as Shaun of the Dead (trying to grow up and leave childish things behind), but with a more somber tone.  Shaun was a slacker.  Gary is an alcoholic.  Shaun’s attempts at trying to save the lives of his loved ones were heartwarming.  Gary’s attempts at trying to save his loved ones were selfish. And so on.

There were serious moments in the previous two films, but nothing like what we saw here.  I’m hesitant to say much more than that, lest I mention any minor spoilers.  There were quite a few genuinely heartbreaking moments here.  And, while the previous films had some of these as well (the goodbye scene between Shaun and Ed in Shaun of the Dead always gets me), there were a greater number of them here, and they all hit home.

That’s not to say there weren’t jokes.  There were plenty of jokes.  But some of these jokes were different from the rest of the series.  Where the other two movies had a lot of quick-hitting jokes that were set up well, this one seemed to go for easy humor, at least in the beginning.  Weird little jokes, like Gary calling a glass door a “windoor”. 
Since most of these jokes came from Gary (the one in a state of arrested development), I assume that they were in there to get pity laughs from the audience.  They were cheap jokes.  Obvious jokes.  And they were coming from a man-child who was obviously trying to relive his high school days.  I believe we weren’t supposed to find these jokes funny, but were there to help us connect to Gary on a deeper level.  We felt the same level of pity for him that his former friends did.  These jokes were as desperate as Gary.  If that was indeed the reason for them, then Edgar Wright is brilliant.  (In case you wondered, I firmly believe this is the case.)
Still, the majority of my theater laughed pretty hard at most of these attempted jokes, so I thought that I was missing something.  Upon further review, I don’t believe that to be the case at all. 
One of the people in my theater nearly hyperventilated when a white-haired Cumberbatch appeared as Julian Assange is a trailer for The Fifth Estate, and later giggled maniacally when Martin Freeman showed up.  Other people started laughing when Gary told the others his mom died of “the big cancer” (someone actually repeated “cancer” loudly, then laughed heartily).  These were the people laughing at everything.  For the record, I love Sherlock, but I have a feeling that most of the people laughing haven’t seen many British TV shows/movies outside of Sherlock, so they assume that every single line said in this movie was supposed to be a joke. 

"That door says 'Gents'.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Opening jokes aside, there really were a handful of terrific jokes in this film.  As is the case with the Cornetto Trilogy, a lot of the major laughs involved either extreme violence or extreme profanity, both of which I approve of.  The first really big laugh involved the first fight with a robot in a pub bathroom.  It was drunken and violent, and it ended with a decapitated teenager in a puddle of blue liquid.  And it killed me.
All of the fight scenes were terrific.  As the movie progressed and our heroes drank more, the fights got steadily sloppier.  It was obvious that a lot of thought was put into each fight.
After watching this, I found out that the stunt coordinator was also the stunt coordinator on Drunken Master, which makes perfect sense.

I loved the look of the robots.  They looked like normal people, but, when they charged to fight, they revealed bright blue lights from their mouths and eyes.  It was a great visual, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the aliens in Attack the Block.

One of the things that ties the Cornetto Trilogy together are some recurring jokes.  Here are a handful of the jokes I saw here:
1. Cornetto.  Of course.  It makes a very late appearance here.
2. Jumping the fence.
3. The noise the bar game makes when it starts up.
4. Knocking over a “Stay off the grass” sign.

I’m sure there are more that I missed.  I guess that means I’ll just have to watch all of them again.  That’s a challenge I can meet.  I’m nothing if not thorough.

Overall, I really liked this.  It was a great take on the sci-fi/bodysnatcher genre.  I would rank it my third favorite in the trilogy, but that’s more due to the strength of the previous films than the weaknesses of this one.  I have a feeling this will get better the more I watch it.  I look forward to many repeated viewings once this makes it to DVD.

Rating: 5/5

A collection of cool posters: