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Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
A Fun Film Noir with a Sci-Fi Twist!
Memoirs of an Invisible Man was a pleasant surprise. I had read countless reviews panning this as one of John Carpenter's worst movies and I strongly disagree with these misleading opinions; clearly the soul of this movie was invisible to their eyes. Memoirs of an Invisible Man is classic John Carpenter. His presence and style is felt throughout the movie, and it reminded me a lot of Starman. Those looking for more of a horror/thriller type by Mr. Carpenter should look elsewhere within his catalog of filmography, because Memoirs is really a film noir with a sci-fi twist. It's about a man who is struggling to come to terms with a dramatic change in his life while also falling in love. For those that loved Starman I highly recommend Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
This movie had a terrific cast with great performances: Chevy Chase as the protagonist Nick Halloway, Daryl Hannah as the love interest Alice Monroe, Sam Neil as the antagonist David Jenkins, and Michael Mckean as Nick and Alice's friend George Talbot. The special effects had to have been incredible twenty years ago, and were creative in such scenes as Chevy watching his food digest and regurgitate as he got sick, or seeing his lungs fill up with smoke from his cigarette. Definitely filled with John Carpenter magic, even if it does look outdated today (like the floating head chase sequence).
The plot as a whole was actually quite good, it flowed very well. I've seen some Carpenter films where the plot is very spotty, Prince of Darkness comes to mind, but this movie had a very nice story that was executed well. This movie also conveyed great emotion, from quirky humor to some touching love scenes. One scene in particular that stands out for me is where Chevy begins to take form and glimmer in the rain outside the train station and Darryl can gaze into his eyes, it's actually a very touching scene and reminded me of Starman. The musical score in this movie is fantastic as well, and I admit it's up there with some of the best scores in film history; quite unbelievable for a film so overlooked.
The only negative criticism I have about this film is some of the story is a little flat or outlandish (I can't quite accept that Chevy would have survived drowning in that river or Sam Neil just jumping off the building in the end) and some of the comedy is pretty bad as well, but overall these are minor details that can be overlooked.
To sum it up Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a fun and under-appreciated movie with great character acting, creative special effects, and a heart-warming romance. It has all the classic John Carpenter traits from the "don't trust the government to help you" motto, to a man dealing with a situation he is thrust into, as well as magical sci-fi effects and fun dialog. I now (having just finished viewing it) consider this to be one of John Carpenter's greatest movies not worst, and I consider this a Must-Watch for Carpenter fans and especially fans of Starman!
Well at Least Raquel's Boobs Were Nice...
All kidding aside Dagon is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I must admit I have never read any of H.P Lovecraft's work, so I'm not judging this film on any adaptation or material basis. I had not even heard of this movie before yesterday, and for good reason. I discovered online a list of 101 Greatest Horror Movies You Must See Before You and decided to browse through it, seeing it contained a lot of great horror flicks I went ahead and put some on my Netflix Instant Queue and Dagon happened to be one of them. I thought the story summary sounded interesting and was hoping for a decent horror movie; a pleasant surprise that had evaded the radar of mass appeal. Instead Dagon played out like a Sci-Fi Channel original movie, uncensored to be sure, but bland and predictable.
I'm not one to completely bash on films (Unless they really utterly deserve it) so I'll talk about some positive aspects first. What I did really enjoy about this film (and the main reason I didn't condemn it with a 1 rating) is the atmosphere and the sets of the village were captivating especially during the thunderstorm. It really reminded me of the popular and highly praised video game Resident Evil 4, with the mass of crazed Spanish villagers on the attack. This film also had one particular scene that will forever stand out in my mind as one of the most disgusting and grotesque killings ever put to screen in which a man is flayed alive. I was completely caught off guard by the level of gore in that scene, and did not expect that in this type of film.
Now for the rest. This movie had the potential (at least I think it did) to be great as far as broad overall story is concerned. Unfortunately the result was a train wreck of a film. The acting was awful; awful! Especially the main protagonist played by Ezra Godden whose character was a bumbling idiot throughout the film; his lines were flat and I couldn't tell if he was trying to be funny with some of them or not. I actually enjoyed Raquel Merono's character until the very end anyway. The film would have been better if her role was flipped with Ezra's, I wish she had more screen time. And as for the older guy with the beard that helps Ezra, I couldn't understand a damn thing he was saying throughout the movie.
The biggest flaw in this movie was that there was no character development at all, completely absent! I did not care at all about what happened to any of the characters in this story. In fact I didn't need to as this movie does the biggest cop out cliché of all, where the characters suddenly (and out of nowhere) lose hope and just kill themselves. Absolutely ridiculous writing, and one of my biggest pet peeve movie clichés. Also this storyline is boring, there's nothing really creative about it. It's just a bunch of crazed townsfolk chasing Ezra around for the majority of the movie. Nothing clever happens, nothing unique to make this movie stand out, not even any wry humor. It's a bad movie thinking and trying to be epic and that formula never meshes well.
As for the ending, well it only got worse. I must admit after that shocking flaying scene I thought this movie would pick up and I actually had hope...well a crappy CGI monster dragged what little hope I had down into the murky depths of the sea. Then the plot twist came! LOL you can't be serious Dagon, another overused movie cliché??! Yeah...the weird mutant thing (who was barely even in the film) is Ezra's father! At that point I couldn't help but laugh at how I wasted an hour and half of my time thanks to a misleading online movie list. It was somewhat comforting to see that Ezra's character agreed as he lights himself on fire at the end and rids himself from this movie as well.
If you haven't seen this film don't waste your time with it. If you want to see it just because you've heard of that infamous flaying scene, watch the scene online and spare yourself the misery of watching this film to its entirety. I can only recommend Dagon to fans of sci-fi channel movies.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Don't Believe the Hype this Film Does Not Live Up to the First One
The biggest thing that stands out for me upon viewing this film, was the loud sigh of disappointment from the theater audience when the ending credits began to role. I had read all the hyped up reviews before seeing this, everything from "the last 30 minutes was the most intense of any movie I've ever seen," to "this film is up there with The Exorcist," to "Easily the best one of the three." Needless to say, the first Paranormal Activity really creeped me out, but the 2nd one was much tamer and predictable which left me feeling skeptical about seeing this 3rd one until all these positive reviews persuaded me otherwise. I'm glad I saw it because Paranormal 3 did have some very good moments in it, however as a whole it was an extremely disappointing movie and much more on par with the second film than the first.
This film takes place in a suburban California home in 1988 and focuses on the two sisters from the first two Paranormal films when they were kids. A strange image is caught on the father's camera during an earthquake and he decides to set up more cameras around the house to catch more...well, paranormal activity. Hence, the story is one you've seen before. Of course being the 3rd film in the franchise they do try to bring new elements into the story to freshen the scares. The new elements in this film are the two little girls, one (Kristi) who has an "imaginary" friend named Tobi, a camera that is mounted on a swivel fan (a unique feature that heightens the suspense as the camera pans back and forth across the living room/kitchen), a creepy storage door in the kids' room, a cute babysitter, and a geeky camera-loving friend of the father who plays "bloody Mary" with one of the kids...and of course another plot twist that personally ruined the movie for me...which I'll get to later.
Although I found this to be the tamest of the three, it is also the best filmed of the three. While the storyline contains plot holes (What happened to the house fire?) is very weak and loses direction, there are some very fun and creative moments in this film. One that stands out is when the mother reaches her arm into the disposal unit late one night while the camera is panning, and suddenly a light fixture pops and an enormous bulb falls. Another is the ironic ghost in a bed sheet that creeps up on the babysitter only to shrivel up into a heap on the floor. I also really enjoyed the 80's references in the toys as I was born in '86 and grew up with many of these. The teddy ruxpin scene was a personal favorite of mine, as well as seeing the light bright, cabbage patch dolls, and plastic barbies scattered about.
Now I'll get critical. The ending really ruined this movie for me, not to say that it wasn't suspenseful, but it certainly was not "the most intense ending I've experienced in a movie." First of all it got away from the heart of what made the first movie so terrifying. The family actually gets out of the house in this one (Not that I blame them.), but it rids the audience of that sense of feeling trapped in a nightmare. We finally got out of it this time...well sort of. I admit I like how it started with the father suddenly finding himself alone with his family missing, but the whole grandma is a cult leader scenario left me confused and almost cheated. The end of this film played out more like Blair Witch Project with a touch of REC than a Paranormal Activity movie. It also made the demon itself less scary, as it became clear that the grandma was controlling it. The unexplained terror of the night has become nothing more than Grandma's invisible pet. I don't understand either why the grandma would off her own daughter like that, really it just kind of happened to draw the movie to a close. To be fair, the endings are the weakest part in every one of these films, but this cult reference just felt so out of place to me.
This movie also leaves less room open to the imagination which is what makes the first two films so terrorizing. In this third installment more surreal computer effects take place such as the daughter's ponytail being tugged, pulling her off the ground, or seeing a dusty outline of something just makes the realism disappear. What's the point of doing a mocumentary style film with totally unrealistic events taking place? The first movie was the best example of keeping the boundaries between what "could happen" and the ludicrous in balance, this one tended to exploit what they could get away with. A lot of the scare tactics are more of the same (I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen the bed sheets move by themselves in horror movies). Also there wasn't a whole lot of originality in this movie: ghost in a sheet (Halloween), imaginary friend (Amityville Horror), locked in scary little storage rooms (Sixth Sense), satanic cults (Blair Witch), demon children and night cams (REC).
For my conclusion; Paranormal Activity 3 is a fun movie to watch and I recommend it to fans of the first two films. Just don't believe the hype and expect this movie to live up to the expectations of the first one. I admit I enjoyed it slightly more than the second one, although they are easily both on the same level when it comes to suspense and storyline. It is the tamest of the three films (the part that made me jump the highest was in fact not caused by the paranormal but by the babysitter yelling Boo! into the camera lens.), however the acting is the best as well as the filming techniques.
A Phenomenal New Horror Film!
I've been hearing praise towards this movie all year long, and since this October 2011 has been a rather stale Halloween season for newly released horror films, I decided it was time to see Insidious for myself. I'm glad I finally did. Insidious is a phenomenal new horror film that starts off as an all too familiar haunted house tale, but then quickly takes the viewer on a very creative and unique journey. The cinematography is brilliant; full of dark narrow hallways with clocks, winding staircases, and shadows lurking in the corner. The sound effects are spine tingling and the eerie violin shrieks and mellow gongs from the musical score perfectly set the mood. The acting is also very good for a horror film.
A quick plot summary; Insidious is about a young family who moves into a creepy old house. An incident in the attic causes their eldest son to fall dormant in a coma-like state. Strange occurrences and hauntings begin to take place forcing the family to leave and move into a new home where the hauntings continue to happen. A psychic reveals to them that their son is the cause and that ghosts and demons are trying to get into his body to bring pain towards others.
Now I must admit, Insidious did not scare me as much as I thought it would, but it certainly has some very creepy moments and is up there with some of the scarier movies I've seen in my life. For one that red demonic creature is terrifying! - especially the first time it appears, in broad daylight behind the grandmother who is describing her dream. Nowhere is safe now. I wasn't expecting it at all, and the special effects team did a frighteningly good job on its features; hoofs and all! That's when I realized that this horror film was for real; the rest of the film left me tensed and waiting for that thing to appear again. I should mention that one of its later appearances was a very cool scene that reminded me of Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street, the demon is sharpening it's claws in a chilling red sanctuary.
Aside from that the atmosphere of both the houses creates very uneasy environments and works well in the film. The séance scene was really adrenaline inducing as well and is a great example of how well this film worked to create fear without being overly gory and violent. In this scene one of the paranormal investigators is writing really disgusting things on paper that the demon is apparently saying; this allows the viewer's imagination to run rampant. Another notable part of this movie is the hellish journey the father must take at the end in order to save his son. This mind-bending quest allowed the filmmakers the freedom to do anything in order to make sure we (the viewers) would not sleep at night. It also breaks the rules of reality putting the viewer even more on edge to the fact that he/she has no idea what to expect anymore. This was brilliant story writing and filmmaking!
For all the praise I have given Insidious, I took some points off primarily because some of the plot line was pretty far-out there. The fact that the kid has the gift to allow his spirit to travel out of this world when he sleeps was slightly vague; can that kid ever sleep sound again? Also the ending, although it was a good twist, could have been a bit better. I still don't really know how the father and creepy demon lady got switched around or what really was going on as they were facing each other down at the climax. So a couple vague plot elements, but overall they can be easily overlooked to allow for an enjoyable film experience.
In conclusion, Insidious is a spectacular new horror movie that stands out from many of the rest. I'm excited to say that James Wan is finally beginning to establish himself as one of the great new horror directors of film having done Insidious, Dead Silence, and of course Saw.
Poltergeist III (1988)
A Decent Chilling Follow-up to a Dismal and Shallow Puddle of a Second Film
Poltergeist III is a fun and chilling inclusion to the Poltergeist "franchise". Neither sequel comes anywhere near the brilliance of the first film, yet I found this third addition to be much more enjoyable to watch than the second one. The plot begins with Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) staying with her aunt, uncle, and cousin in an apartment within the famous John Hancock skyscraper in downtown Chicago. Carol Ann is seeing a psychologist who in an attempt to help her cope with her past unknowingly unleashes the demented spirit Kane who once again pursues her.
What I liked a lot about this film was how it built up suspense. From the start we see the window washer resemble Kane, a mysterious crack creeping up the glass walls of the building, lots of eerie shots of mirrors, cold temperatures, and a creepy piece of art turn its head. Throughout the movie the story does a good job moving at a fast pace. The puddle scene was very cool, but one of my favorite scenes of all three of the Poltergeist films is when Tangina is turned into a rotting corpse and Lara Flynn Boyle's character is seen screaming and digging her way out from inside the decrepit body. This film has a very creative plot full of mirror tricks, icy fogs, dead animals screaming to life, and watery portals, although it loses its way towards the end. The ending itself is rather disappointing, as it literally ends with Tangina and Kane holding hands and walking together into the light like old friends; haven't they been duking it out over a span of three movies? Also I'm scratching my head as to what ever happened to Lara Flynn Boyle's crush, did they just leave him in the spirit world at the end? There are definitely some gaping loop holes in the end.
Overall I felt this was a fun 80's horror genre film to watch, and enjoyed it much more than the second movie. As long as the viewer isn't expecting it to come anywhere near the first Poltergeist as far as quality goes, Poltergeist III is worth experiencing.
This sequel was a Tough Bug to Swallow...
It's been about eight years since I saw the original Poltergeist movie. Recently Netflix obtained both the second and third films so I thought I'd give them a shot. I wasn't expecting much from this movie as the first Poltergeist really didn't require a sequel, in fact this sequel isn't even all that compelling. It drags along at a slow pace, doesn't contain much suspense, and only has one or two memorable moments in it. It seems the studio greenlit a poorly written movie just for the money, and not for a follow-up to a horror classic. Poltergeist 2 was a very bad movie with decent special effects, mediocre acting, and overall does not do any justice to the first film.
I'll begin my review with the pro's. It was nice to see almost all of the original cast from the first film come back for this one. The acting was slightly above par as far as horror movies go, this at least helped me make it through the entire movie as much of the film was really establishing backstory and plot lines rather than horror and suspense. The special effects were also a plus in this movie as it is always a pleasure to see classic 80's pre-CGI effects. That always makes me smile and the artists did a great job with that. Probably the one single scene that really stands alone in this film is the infamous tequila worm. Having been possessed and swallowed by Craig T. Nelson, he then coughs this monster up and it squirms about on the floor quickly growing corpse like features and crawling off. I only wish this movie had more of that. The other great scene to applaud was that of Julian Beck when he confronts the family at their doorstep as the eerie spirit Kane.
Okay now for the con's. It's hard to know where to start, but I feel the biggest problem with this movie is the screenplay is just terrible. It's just way more of the same but on a much tamer and lazy level. Much of this movie is just flashbacks of the first film (Which just made me want to watch Poltergeist again), very drawn out and boring plot conversations, and random Indian rituals. There is very little suspense going on in Poltergeist 2, really not until the last 30 minutes or so. Most of the suspense that does happen is just ridiculous such as the son being tied up in his own braces or Craig Nelson being thrown out of a chair. No suspense is even built up; the viewer sees Kane walking through people right from the start, or campy looking Indian corpses peeking through the mirror, or ghosts materializing on the front lawn. This movie has no jump scares, really no standout horror at all. It's a very forgettable movie. Even the joke in the end about the happy car didn't make any sense and came nowhere close to funny. Also what ever happened to the eldest daughter? I know that the actress Dominique Dunne died before this was filmed, but why scrap the role completely and without any explanation; like the audience wouldn't notice ha.
Now for my conclusion, Poltergeist 2 is just not a movie I would recommend to anybody except for die hard horror genre fans. I honestly would not even recommend this film to fans of the first Poltergeist, skip this one and watch the third; that one at least has suspense in it as well as a creative storyline. This movie should never have been made as it adds nothing to the first film. Poltergeist 2 is the stale corpse of Tobe Hooper's masterpiece that Brian Gibson should have left in the ground.
Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
A Decent Horror Flick...but Falls Flat to the First One
So I just finished watching Paranormal Activity 2 alone late at night in a dark living room, a setting that I pondered about whether to go through with at first (As the first Paranormal Activity really creeped me out) but thought what the hell, my couch is against a wall, and of course there is no better way to watch a horror movie; especially when it's about demonic spirits haunting a house. It turns out that yes I did want to reach for the lights a few times, but overall I was quite comfortable in the dark on this one.
Paranormal Activity 2 focuses on Katie's (the woman that starred in the first film) sister and her family as they move into a new house with their teenage daughter Ali, a dog named Abby, and their newborn baby Hunter. The film takes a bit longer to develop the characters before odd things start to happen and inevitably take a turn for the worse. I must admit I thought the characters in this movie were much more interesting and real than the first, especially the father and daughter. However the film as a whole does not deliver in the end, which is too bad as, given some of the material, it had the potential of being much better than the first film.
Having said that Paranormal Activity 2 does convey a very creepy and ominous atmosphere, that leaves its audience (especially viewers of the first one) on edge and alert to what may be dwelling in the dark. The film does deliver a couple good scares; some scenes that come to my mind are the kitchen cabinets simultaneously exploding open (I jumped at that since I was expecting the pots to just drop again), and the toy vehicle rolling across the floor by itself while playing a creepy melody. All in all though much of the scares are more of the same: doors opening and slamming shut, ouija board meddling, fires starting by themselves, wife being dragged out of a room and down a stairwell (I couldn't help but laugh at this as it just appeared so unreal and campy while everything else in the film was more subtle.) I felt more could have been done to strengthen the story and add better and more distinct scares. I wish the director or writers had done more with the baby monitor, the shadow figures, the basement, and even the parents' bedroom. So many subtle scares took up the majority of this movie that by the time really drastic things begin to happen the movie is over. The climax of the film was exciting, but the nightvision basement scene couldn't help but remind me of REC which is a much better horror film.
My biggest disappointment with this movie was the way it ended. I wish the scriptwriters hadn't tried so desperately hard to fit the first two movies together as far as events go. They even could have ended this story on a happy note rather than at the last minute bring Katie over (quite randomly and viewers who missed the first film would not understand) to finish off the father and mother in really stupid manners. In fact I don't think that even fits the first film as far as the timeline goes as I thought it ended with a demented Katie curled in a fetal position for days in her bedroom before being gunned down by police (At least that was the ending I saw in Paranormal Activity 1).
And so I conclude, Paranormal Activity 2 is a must-see for people who enjoyed the first one, but don't expect this movie to exceed it. The movie has a compelling yet lengthy build-up with interesting characters but then quickly falls flat on its face and delivers one of the worst endings of any movie I've ever seen.