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The Invitation (2015)
Predictable story with good cinematography
I was able to predict most of the plot of this film within the first ten minutes, but somehow still ended up watching it all the way through to the end. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it was the clever way the film was shot, the camera angles that made otherwise normal situations seem otherworldly and foreboding. Maybe it was because it took far too long for the film to reach its climax. Maybe it was because I kept expecting it to be a little less bleak. Maybe it was the acting that somehow brought trope-laden and potentially flat characters to life.
I don't know.
The film's redeeming qualities were more in its design than its content. It is not a pleasant film. It is not an easy watch. It is quite thought-provoking, but only inasmuch as the subject matter already was before it was used in the film.
Watch it for the acting, the cinematography, and the one redeeming twist at the end. But do not watch it anticipating that you will be surprised by much or be particularly blown away by the story line. Watch it for the discomfort. The sour taste it leaves is probably intentional.
Rites of Spring (2011)
I personally enjoy watching bad scary movies and roasting them in real time. If you also enjoy doing this, then Rites of Spring is the movie you've been waiting for. The plot is just barely passable as an actual coherent story, with "twists" you'll see coming a mile away. I found myself completely not caring about the characters at all. In fact, this movie features quite possibly the most annoying female "protagonist" (who just barely qualifies as such purely by process of elimination) I've ever seen. The acting is bad. BAD.
But, like I said, bad horror films are kind of my bag. So I had fun watching it. The only reason it got two stars instead of one was because of this. And because the gore was actually pretty decent quality.
Sushi Girl (2012)
A bloody gem
I saw the preview for Sushi Girl a few months ago and had forgotten about its existence until it popped up on Netflix. I figured the trailer looked interesting enough, why not give it a try? I wasn't expecting much out of it, and ended up being very pleasantly surprised.
Sushi Girl is a (comparatively)low-budget B-movie that manages to not feel at all like those two descriptors. It manages to mix together elements of a crime thriller, a gripping drama, and just enough torture to keep you locked in for the whole runtime. The plot twists are unexpected, but never out of place.
By far, though, my favorite takeaway from this film was Crow, played by Mark Hamill. He portrayed the giggling sociopath in a way that I found absolutely delightful and scary all at once.
All in all, I ended up being incredibly satisfied with this movie. It's dark, tense, and very fun. I'd definitely recommend it!
Dark and intriguing
I'm sensing a theme among negative reviews: that this is a SAW rip-off without the gore. As much of a sweeping statement that is, and how little credit it gives to this movie, I can see where they're coming from. I was always fascinated by the small amount of psychological horror in the SAW franchise, but felt like it was too much of a gorefest to truly be able to appreciate it.
On the other hand, "Die" takes all of the elements I had wished to see in SAW and uses them full-force: there's the murky morality, the inescapable desperation, choices that don't feel like choices. "Die" is violent, but it is subtly so, and focuses a lot more on the characters and what they're going through. I found it incredibly intriguing and entertaining. The acting was good, the cinematography well-done--overall, I was impressed.
Twisted and brutally good
I'll admit, I have a thing for low budget horror films. But I don't review all of them, just the ones that impressed me. This one definitely falls in that category.
Here's a few reasons:
1) It's less about gore (although there is some) and more about human behavior. It's an incredibly psychological film that really makes you wonder "what would I do in this situation?" and, possibly, leave you surprised at your answer. Not what I was expecting, but definitely kept me watching.
2) The acting was pretty good. So many of the low-budget movies get stuck with a good story but wooden acting--not this one.
3) The story. They actually give you a solid background for what's going on and it never felt too rushed or too slow.
This isn't the goriest or grossest I've seen, but you still might want to leave your stomach at the door. If you're into dark, scary movies about human depravity, this one's for you. I found it entirely fascinating.
The Final (2010)
Flawed but interesting
I will start out by telling you straight: the first act of this movie is terrible. The acting is terrible, the setup is terrible, almost all of it is terrible. But you should keep watching. Trust me, if you try to watch this you will think I'm insane for about the first 20 minutes. But you should keep watching.
Not for the acting (although it does improve, especially with the outcasts). Not for the film quality (low budget) or the gore effects (almost none, and again--low budget). Keep watching for the story, because it is this film's best asset. It is riddled with ideas: who is truly evil here? What is the meaning of consequence? How much power lies in our words and actions? At it's core, The Final is not a revenge movie. It is about consequence. It is about realizing that the way you treat other people can be monumental--in both good and bad ways. No one is right here. No one is safe. The Final is unsettling, but its message is worthy of attention.
It's a far from perfect movie--Horrorfest films are always hit or miss. The Final has a lot of potential and I really wish someone with a bigger budget could get their hands on the story, because it could be so much better. But I still found myself, at the end of the movie, feeling moved by the plight of the characters. And that, to me, made it worth it.
"What you refused to see with reason, you will understand with wrath."
Interesting idea, less-than-excellent execution.
Playback could have been a lot worse, but it could also have been a lot better. The underlying story had a lot of potential, but ultimately ends up getting lost between too many other details. This is one of those movies that proves why the editing room is so important in the world of film. Playback drags on for far too long, so that by the time you actually get to the interesting part, you feel like the movie should have ended a long time ago.
I'd put the characters under the "nice try" category: they're far too flat--cliché high school students whom I had no desire to relate to, much less feel sorry for. The only interesting character was Christian Slater's, but only for negative reasons. The special effects were laughable for the most part, which should have been attended to more considering this is a horror film.
The only reason I watched Playback all the way to the end was because of the main storyline--which was actually quite good. Unfortunately, it ended up being almost completely buried under a mêlée of things I couldn't bring myself to care about.
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
I have so much more respect for Paris Hilton now
Your life will legitimately never be the same after you watch this movie. It is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. The closest description I can conjure is if Sweeney Todd and The Rocky Horror Picture Show had a baby.
In all seriousness, however, this really was a great movie. It is not something everyone will enjoy. But for those who do, you will fall in love in the first ten minutes. It is a rock opera unlike any other, with fantastic goth visuals and beautiful accents like Sarah Brightman's voice. I was so overwhelmed by all of it that I didn't even notice that Paris Hilton was Amber Sweet until nearly the end of the film.
Simply put, you will know whether or not you like Repo! very quickly. I hope for the sake of your artistic life experiences that you do.
Better than expected (SPOILERS ONLY IN 2ND PARAGRAPH)
(SPOILER-FREE REVIEW) To be honest, I really only picked this up because Josh Peck was in it. But, this really wasn't as bad as most of the reviews on here are saying. I really enjoyed it. It builds up a really nice tension by using an everyday location in some not-so-everyday circumstances. Three characters, whom I found quite relatable, and a villain who you continue to think should be harmless (which, I thought, was a factor that made him even more terrifying). If you're looking for a couple hours' entertainment with something suspenseful, give it a go. It's not exactly Oscar-worthy, but it was fun to watch.
**SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT**
Personally, I found the fact that the villain didn't have much of a reason other than that he just enjoys doing it and watching people suffer to be pretty effectively spooky. The killers with no reason, no justification, no way to let yourself explain it away--those are the ones that are truly terrifying. I didn't mind the ending at all. Once I saw the shelf of "souvenirs" from his victims, I had a very chilling moment of understanding. So at least for me, the "explanation" I was waiting for the whole movie was different than expected--in a good way.
Greek done right
I didn't expect much out of this movie coming into it. It popped up on Netflix one night, and grabbed my attention because it was a "frat movie." I'm not in the Greek system myself, but I have many good friends who are, so the subject is of interest to me (also because they are so often misrepresented in the media, but that's a discussion for another day). I prepared myself for another overblown party movie, and ended up being served something completely different and far more impressive.
What I ended up watching (instead of a fluff-piece on partying and sex) was a gripping, well-paced, superbly-acted and well-executed drama. Brotherhood is about more than "frat boys": it is about human motivation and decision making, it is about loyalty, and it shows how just one simple turn of events can change everything you had ever planned or expected.
I know the plot description for this sounds cliché and awful. Trust me--I almost didn't watch it myself. But don't pass this one up. It is a truly engrossing ride from start to finish. I really wish this film were more well-known!