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Coming Through the Rye (2015)
This was my overall favourite (non-horror) film from the Phoenix Film Festival, hands down. It was just so well done! I can't even find a bad thing to say about it. A truly perfect film!
This is a coming of age story at it's core, but it's also the (mostly) true story of the writer/director's quest to meet the notoriously private JD Salinger.
I had the opportunity to hear the director discuss this film and his respect for Salinger was obvious. He also stated that the conversations with Salinger were actually verbatim because he wrote them down immediately, and then used these notes to write the film. So you're truly getting a bit of insight into the real Salinger with this film.
The movie is so much more than that, though. In my opinion, this is truly an Oscar worthy film.
The Greasy Strangler (2016)
There is No Excuse
There is no excuse for this movie to exist. None.
I will likely have PTSD every time I go to the car wash now, because some things just can't be unseen.
Sometimes the phrase "Hootie Tootie Disco Cutie" pops in my brain just to torment me.
I can't even cook bacon anymore because the sight of grease induces flashbacks.
I saw this at the Phoenix Film Festival. When the screening was over, I went home and attempted to bleach my brain. The following morning, at the next horror movie, we all discussed the trauma inflicted by this film. None of us are likely to recover. We considered a support group, but were frankly afraid to continue reliving the details. I wish I could forget.
Oh, how I wish I could forget.
This movie has zero redeeming qualities, not just as a horror film, but a film in general. I didn't laugh, I didn't get scared. I mostly just wanted to throw up.
Do not, under any circumstances, see this film. You've been warned.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
I saw this at the Phoenix Film Festival and this is tied, with Under the Shadow, as my favourite horror film from the Festival. (I did indeed see them all.) I'm rating this one higher, though, because if I had to nitpick, the other movie's ending wasn't perfect, and this one nailed everything.
Kika Magalhaes attended the screening and did a Q&A where she discussed her influences on her performance. One was clear while watching it - Audition. Her character, Francesca, behaves, in some instances, very similarly to Asami. If this alone doesn't get you excited to see the film, you're probably not a horror fan.
I love the choice of black and white for the film. It dulls the gore without lessening the impact of the violence. This makes it easier for the squeamish, but in no way detracts from the horror on the screen.
And make no mistake, this movie is horrifying - in the best possible ways. Expertly acted, and directed. The cinematography was outstanding. Overall, best horror I've seen in a long time.
Interesting, but Really, Really Weird
I'm going spoiler free on this review, so you'll have to forgive me for being vague. The only joy you'll get from this movie is watching it without knowing where it is going. If you know too much, there's nothing worth watching.
I think there is some merit in seeing this film. My biggest issues with it were the direction it took, which isn't my preferred genre. I really can't say more than that without spoiling it, and I'm sure you're going to rate my review as "not helpful" for saying that, but everyone I said that to at the Phoenix Film Festival (where I saw this film) immediately understood.
What that means for you, dear viewer, is you're going to have to take a gamble. Do you like non-mainstream horror? How open-minded are you? If you like formulaic horror, move along. The movie is bizarre in many ways.
My rating reflects that I was not at all happy with the direction it took (as a personal preference...you might think it was the best ending ever), but I'm actually glad I saw it. If nothing else, it's interesting. The soundtrack is also a nice bonus. Loved the music!
Under the Shadow (2016)
I saw this at the Phoenix Film Festival. I'd say this is tied for my favourite horror movie from that festival (with Eyes of my Mother...also amazing).
Ghost movies are really the only horror films that stand of chance of scaring me these days. There were a few times during this film that I was completely tense, and a few times, absolutely on the verge of terror as to what was going to happen next. The film was just so well done in terms of pacing.
Unfortunately, ghost movies also suffer from poor endings, quite frequently. This ending was better than most, but something about it didn't sit right with me, and that's all I'll say to prevent spoilers. You may disagree entirely. I'm a tough one on endings.
I really hope this gets a wide distribution, because if you're at all a fan of ghost movies, this movie is just fantastic. A definite must see!
One Magic Christmas (1985)
One of my Favourites
***Minor Non-Plot Specific Spoilers***
I watched this movie a lot as a child. I loved it and thought it was a really good movie back then. I'm sure I saw it at least a few dozen times. Over the years, I honestly forgot about it, but I was delighted when I saw it appear on Netflix a few years ago and I watched it again for the first time in at least 20 years.
Watching this movie as an adult, I was absolutely amazed at how horrifying this movie actually is and there was a good long stretch where I just sat there sobbing. It's really, really tragic. I sat there for a while wondering how on earth this was a kids movie, until I remembered that I never really picked up on all of that as a child. I had a vague understanding of the stress the mother was under, because I saw my mother behave the same way, but to truly grasp the reality of this movie is not something most children will do.
I still think this movie is great, and definitely worth watching. It's got all the great elements for a holiday film - magic, love, pulled heartstrings, tears, and that warm fuzzy feeling. You're not getting a typical sugar-coated holiday film here, but you'll get a film you won't soon forget.
Thankfully, I saw this at a free pre-screening. I would have been livid if I had paid money for this joke of a movie.
Note: I am a huge fan of horror, so please do not think my review comes from a lack of knowledge of the genre.
Now, as for this film directly - it was more than clear that the target audience was males 15 - 25 due to the ridiculous amount of boobs, and the ridiculous amount of men around that age behaving like idiots. This movie made all men out to be drunken, sex obsessed buffoons. The first story was probably the worst of this, with the characters being so annoying I could barely stand it. This story should just flat out be removed from the movie. It's AWFUL.
Moving beyond that stupidity, you have some stories with excellent potential, but none of them panned out. There were a few genuinely tense moments, all of which were ruined by one thing or another (leaving out details to avoid spoilers). Worst of all were the plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, particularly in the last story, and the tie-in story.
Overall, the whole thing is an insult to a thinking horror fan. And a word to the directors - plot twists do not make you clever if they don't make the story better.
The Covenant (2006)
Run while you can...
I could tell from the trailer what this was - a male version of The Craft and a teen-centric cheesy horror. So, I went in there expecting that and nothing more. At least I could tell from the trailer that there was eye candy, so I figured that would make up for it.
Well folks, even the eye candy can't make up for the 97 minutes of my life I just lost.
The acting was some of the worst I have seen and whoever wrote that dialogue ought to be banished from ever putting pen to paper again. I left the theatre deciding I had actually lost IQ points from being subjected to that level of stupidity.
The story was nothing new, which was obvious from the trailer. I was at least hoping for some twists to make this somewhat interesting. That was also a disappointment. The movie was so transparent and predictable, there was no fun in watching it unravel.
So, when you add up bad acting, bad dialogue, and a predictable plot, you get a moronic movie and my one star rating.
In all fairness, I am not the target audience, being a late twenty-something. But I wanted to appreciate it for what it was, and found that to be impossible. I think it's actually an insult to teens to give them that kind of dialogue and predictability and expect them to swallow it. Surely the younger generation has not that hit that level of idiocy....
Save your money folks. You work too hard for it to be blown on this garbage.