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427 reviews in total 
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Don't Bother Watching (but maybe learn from it), 23 February 2014

Neil Amdur's May 28, 2010 N.Y. Times article "Acting in a Film: It Could Happen to You" stated "Mr. D'Onofrio, who made the movie for $100,000, said he was more interested in finding young talent whose 'rawness, flatness and bad timing' as actors would 'work in a kind of odd way' for what has been described as a slasher musical."

Vincent D'Onofrio deserves some credit for trying to be a little experimental in the horror genre, which is too often formulaic. Going into it, I really wanted to like it. That said, the plot was entirely formulaic and too much of the film taken up by undeveloped characters and singing. "Rawness, flatness and bad timing" are definitely on screen but they don't work in an odd or any other way, unfortunately. I wish the director had said more about why he thought that might work, or other aspects of making the film. I don't blame the cast or crew for wanting to work with D'Onofrio in the Kingston vicinity; I'd have willingly done so myself. In Q&A's he and his co-writer indicated hey took inspiration from Slacker (1991), Clerks (1994), Haute tension (2003), Severance (2006), and Once (2007), though that unfortunately is not apparent in Don't Go in the Woods itself.

Unlike some of the other reviewers, I like both horror *and* musicals, and have enjoyed some horror/musicals. Don't Go in the Woods isn't so much a horror/musical as a horror movie with a lot of music in it, or perhaps is better described as an outdoor band rehearsal with a very paltry amount of horror and acting in it.

The killer's garb and weapon are kind of neat (though little seen), a tracheotomy by a melodica garnered the mildest wisp of a chuckle, and the scenes of one character stopping to play and record on portable Digital Audio Tape a song while fleeing the woods and of another character seemingly singing along to a recording while being attacked (the singing might be imagined) were sort of funny in a way. Perhaps if the rest of the music had been more integrated it would have worked better, or if there wasn't quite so darn much of it. There is frankly more singing in it than in most musicals - possibly only Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), where every line is sung, exceeds it.

Meredith Border's October 19, 2011 review for Badass Digest stated D'Onofrio "said he only wanted to make it as entertaining as possible" and "said that he made the film after asking himself, 'What can I do right now? I have a very good friend (Bisbee) who is a great composer, and I have woods and a film crew. So I thought, How about a slasher musical?'" The band was friends with his nephew, and actors were people he encountered at coffee shops or cast by randomly asking people on the street. She also noted he joked, "If we made a sequel, I would call it I SAID, Don't Go In The Woods!" His humor and graciousness all make one really want the film to be good, and to feel somewhat bad about criticizing it.

Good horror movies are hard to make, and so-bad-they're-good horror movies are rare. This isn't either, sadly. As poor as it is, really *because* of how poor it is, the videos of D'Onofrio's Q&As at screenings that are available online, are somewhat worth watching (though the video and audio on the ones I've watched so far are very bad, probably done with cellphones). Most of the Q&A's have the same questions and answers; one wishes more probing questions were asked. If there were a DVD with commentary by him regarding its production, I'd definitely listen to that.

it won't be a classic, but the book is!, 9 December 2010

The art, characters, and storyline are pretty close to the charming original 1970s children's book by Wende and Harry Devlin. Mr. Whiskers is kind to children, who he lets skate on the pond by his house. Cyrus Grape is a crotchety old man who is mean to children, claims the pond is his, and won't let them skate there. Mr. Whisker's sister is coming to visit for Christmas, and if his house is as untidy as it was the last time she visited, she would like him to move in with her in the city. Maggie and her grandmother help Mr. Whiskers with both problems. Cranberries figure in via the setting in Cranberryport and the grandmother's cranberry cookies, a recipe for which is on the back cover of the book. There are a number of cute details from the book which get lost in the TV special, like Mr. Whiskers being a sea captain, and the source of his Christmas tree decorations.

The TV special starts with a depiction of the harvesting of cranberries from a bog, not surprising since Ocean Spray was a sponsor. The skating pond is an iced-over cranberry bog. Cyrus Grape is not just crotchety, but owns spying equipment, and vandalizes Mr. Whisker's house to the point of collapse. What the special does with him at the end is particularly unbelievable in light of that. More than a little inspiration was taken from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) (TV), I think.

Barry Manilow narrates and sings "Christmas is Just Around the Corner," and a song about Mr. Grape reminiscent of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

It's fairly cute, and at less than 30 minutes, nothing you'll be likely to regret watching unless you really resent the changes from the book. However, you would be much better off checking out the book, if you're unfamiliar with either!

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
the only thing we have to fear is... a bad horror movie, 21 November 2010

A relatively tame film about teenagers who sneak into a common fear-themed haunted house attraction before it's due to open, where their fears actually can come to life and kill them because of an evil statuette. Possibly the lack of violent or sexual content was due to the movie being shot in the very Mormon state of Utah?

The things they're afraid of are not very focused, in that they don't just attack or kill the person who has the fear, but go after everybody. Some people get injured or killed by things that as far as we know, nobody was afraid of. It's a little weird that way. In the advertising for the film I'd read, there was mention of "sinister clowns, killer scarecrows." There's really only one of each and the clown barely gets any screen time at all.

The characters aren't particularly interesting. The women are pretty, while the guys are somewhat goofy-looking. Corri English's Samantha is a little more developed by virtue of some backstory accompanied by flashbacks which are fairly well-done.

Cydney Neil, former owner and operator of the Rocky Point Haunted House in Salt Lake City briefly appears as herself. A shame more use wasn't made of her.

The director is listed as the producer for an upcoming film titled Hell House, which oddly appears to have the same plot.

Nightmarishly bad CGI on Elm Street, 21 November 2010

While I don't worship the original, I still wasn't keen on ever seeing this remake - but a friend had rented it and consequently I did sit through it. Thankfully I didn't pay to see it.

According to IMDb, director Samuel Bayer directed "Absolute Garbage" before ANoES, and "Fiasco Heights" after; either title would be an adequate summation of this remake.

The movie kicks off with opening credits that are both scrawled in chalk and printed clearly, as though they couldn't decide which look to go with and decided redundancy was a good compromise.

Poorly-written, poorly developed, poorly acted characters have "nightmares" which entirely fail to capture the feel of a nightmare, in which they are threatened and sliced by Freddy. Freddy's dialogue is poor, the voice is poor, and the effects they added to his voice laughably bad. They decided to make him look more like a real burn victim, which is fine, but they also decided they didn't want to make him look *too much* like a burn victim, which is silly. They also decided to have part of his face filled in with CGI via a green screen mask, and indeed part of his face looks distractingly like CGI.

The worst CGI is in the scene where Freddy presses himself against a wall from behind the wallpaper. I don't think there is any way to watch that scene in particular without being taken out of the movie and having to laugh or comment on how bad it looks. As a side note, Nancy's wallpaper is surprisingly dull and stodgy looking for a teenager.

In quite a lot of shots in the movie, objects have a jittery or blurry or shimmering look to them similar to what one gets from poor quality video or the awkward look of bad pan & scan applied to a widescreen film. This is particularly evident in shots where the camera pans and dollies simultaneously. I'm not sure what caused this or where the fault lies.

There are some moments taken from the original, like Nancy's bathtub scene. Why they bothered isn't clear. It's as if they said; let's redo that bathtub scene, but there shouldn't be anything sexual or scary about it; let's instead make it briefer and pointless.

One of the silliest scenes is when Nancy's mother tries to get Nancy to give her a photo while simultaneously repeatedly denying that Nancy went to school with the people in the photo. Indeed, the memory problems of the kids are not really handled well. They never noticed they didn't remember their childhoods before, never noticed that the pictures of their childhoods were removed from photo albums before? If Nancy's never seen a photo of herself as a child before, how does she even recognize herself in one when she does?

Another bad scene is when Kyle "sad face" Gallner seemingly arbitrarily decides that when they were children they lied to their parents about what Freddy did with them. He goes from supporting Rooney "expressionless" Mara to taking off with his father.

Yet another ridiculous aspect has to do with the backstory, wherein they have Freddy being employed as a full-time gardener by a very small daycare center which probably has no need of even a part-time one. Equally ridiculous, the daycare center allows him to live and sleep in the unfinished, unrealistically cavernous basement of the daycare center. The owners must be rather dodgy, I guess.

Somewhat inexplicably, director Bayer and writer Eric Heisserer are attached to the sequel, listed as being in pre-production for 2012 as of this moment. It must be because this remake did good business; it's certainly not because they made a good movie.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Gorilla Suit Assault, 14 November 2010

Poachers in a bear preserve capture Bigfoot, who ends up being transported to an almost- abandoned police station, where he wreaks havoc.

On the "good" side, Cristina Santiago is smoking hot, there's some brief nudity from another actress, and some of the gore is decent and at times funny, as with the impalement by "Dead End" sign.

On the bad side, the video is of a poor quality which doesn't work well in low-light conditions resulting in a hazy look, and most of the movie is set outdoors at night or in dim interiors. Additionally, the comic relief of Don and Murph is extremely bad. They're very annoying characters, particularly Don who is a grossly overweight man-child who breathlessly shrieks and yells constantly. It's an unfunny shtick he's been doing on YouTube for years, and it's no funnier here than there. Padding out the running time, there are some scenes where the two go around asking people if they're seen the sasquatch, which they have not.

The sasquatch has quite a bad costume, and his behavior is hard to figure. Sometimes he attacks while unprovoked, sometimes he wants to peep on or kidnap young women, at other times rescue them, at other times fight them. Sometimes he'll kill, while at other times he'll just knock somebody out or ignore them.

I guess on the whole the movie is fairly amusing, but it isn't very funny and it certainly isn't good.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
little-seen horror anthology deserves to be little-seen, 9 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In this horror anthology, a dead soldier introduces the first story "The Bootmaker." All but two soldiers in a platoon in Vietnam are killed. One thanks his "lucky tattoo" (which we never get a good look at). Years later, they look exactly the same, and the tattooed guy's wife is cheating on him with his buddy, now a bootmaker. The bootmaker has flashbacks and nightmares of the other soldiers telling him to kill his friend. The end is pretty predictable, but botched in that the tattoo can't be seen.

"The tombkeeper" introduces the second segment, "Choice Cuts" in which two brothers run a butcher shop. One is a racist, sexist bully while the other is kind-hearted and begins a relationship with a customer. Some nudity in this segment. The end is again pretty predictable.

The last segment has no introduction. An actor bombs an audition, but receives a message that he has been requested by name for another audition. A devilish-looking man gives him a script to read, and as he reads it there are flashbacks to episodes from his life when he performed the same evil deeds in the script. Predictable ending here too. At least some zombies show up.

This may be older than 1989, I'm guessing. The 1989 Legacy Home Video originally retailed for $59.95! Yikes. It can be picked up for less than a dollar used on Amazon, if you must see it. It's not very good, but it's not the worst horror movie I've ever seen.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
mysterious little short, 27 October 2010

Happily, I was able to view this award-winning short online.

A man constructs a contraption while surrounded by pitch black darkness. A musical saw wavers out a tune on the soundtrack. Contrary to one description I've read, I did not see or hear his wife berating him while he was doing this. The end might come as a surprise, but probably not. The one line of dialog at the end suggests why the contraption might have been built, but for the most part we are left wondering who the characters were and what their lives were like and why it ended this way.

I wonder what Dearden's other short films are like?

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
pretty good, but blending Poe's life and work is a little too clichéd, 23 April 2010

Like the early 1910s silent-era versions of The Raven, this version of The Black Cat blends a representation of Poe's life with his work. There's a tendency to represent horror authors as themselves as horrific as their work, capable of the same violence, or as insane as their characters. This seems to be particularly the case with Poe, the poison pen of Rufus Griswold having unfortunately secured the image of Poe as a drunken addict. Griswold appears in The Black Cat as a potential piano buyer, oddly.

That issue aside, it's a pretty good episode of Masters of Horror. Combs is nicely made up as Poe and thus has now done two of the greats, having done Lovecraft in the anthology Necronomicon, where he wasn't a bad likeness either but not as good as Christopher Heyerdahl. The accent Combs gives Poe is a little hard to take, but for all I know it may be an accurate one. The work is gorier than I recall the story being, thanks to Stuart Gordon. One wishes the blood did not look so much like Karo syrup in some scenes. There's a scene with an ax that also was a little too blackly humorous, or attempted to be, in the vein of Reanimator. Anyhow, it's perhaps worth watching - if I seem too critical it's only because I noticed there were many positive comments already and thus didn't think I needed to write about its strengths.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Incomplete companion to The Burrowers, 4 June 2009

I first saw director J.T. Petty's movie The Burrowers. I liked it, but it didn't entirely work for me. This short works somewhat less.

As in The Burrowers, some people search for someone taken by The Burrowers. They're some kind of creature that cuts the neck and buries their victim alive. There's very little information and no sight of them in this short, more in the movie. Unlike The Burrowers, the protagonists here are Native Americans. It's an all-native cast save for one white man who tries to shoot a deer they were hunting. The dialogue is all subtitled. There are a number of shots of nature. There's a slight iris effect or at least the edges of the picture are dim. It ends with someone going off to learn more. Very unresolved. The music is nice, sounded a bit like a thumb piano.

I wonder why this wasn't included as an extra on The Burrowers DVD? I watched it on FearNet, for which it was produced I guess. I'm also not sure of the relationship of the TV series, which I have not seen, to this short and the feature.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
interesting experimental modern dance film, 24 May 2009

Two dancers in two locations; outdoors in tall grass, indoors in a black setting. The same dancers in both, cutting between them being in the same positions in both. They strike some awkward-seeming poses braced against each other, but they do so with an incredible grace, seeming to be held up by nothing at times. There are some shots of a large bird in the sky. There's a few shots that would not be out of place in a horror movie, the woman with her hair bedraggled in front of her face, leafless tree branches.

The film is in black and white, grainy and high contrast. Blotches on the film appear at times, and the camera sometimes goes in and out of focus. On the soundtrack, there's an instrumental piece, pretty, but sad. At times there's static and voices as from a radio, television, or broadcast of some kind.

It's said to be inspired by a poem by Dambudzo Marachera, "Darkness as a Bird of Prey." I'm not familiar with the poem or poet but may try to find it now. Googling it, I find only one mention: a different film inspired by it, also a dance film: "Return Flight... above this dead-weight night" by directors Viv Hamblin and Anna Morris. Curious!

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