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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Original Concept Watered Down By Clichés And A Flat Pace
Andre Ovredal's previous film "Trollhunter" was a surprise hit back in 2010, nobody (myself included) expected a movie about giant trolls to be anything other than a cheap B movie, but it was actually quite good and very entertaining. Now Ovredal is back with another somewhat unique film "The Autopsy Of Jane Doe". The film follows a father and son who work together in a morgue, after the body of an unidentified young woman is dropped off the pair begin an autopsy on her, but from the second they cut into her they start to discover strange things about the body and strange events start to occur.
The premise is definitely interesting, I was hooked right off the bat, I wanted to find out more about the body and the film did a good job of revealing things slowly to increase the tension. I also liked the characters, it's rare that you see a father & son as the leads in a horror film, it worked well and added some emotion to the film. Unfortunately though the film never really does much with it's story or characters. The set up is quite good and the tensity of gets fairly high, but then things kind of just start to fizzle out mid way through, at this point the film is still entertaining but it just started to feel like another cliché ridden horror flick.
"The Autopsy Of Jane Doe" had a lot going for it, a good quality cast, a fresh concept, and what looked like a decent budget since nothing ever appeared cheap or poorly done in the film. But for me it failed to deliver a big enough pay off in the second act, which really hurt the film overall. Had the potential to be a gem in my opinion, but just missed the mark. Still an entertaining horror film that is worth you time though, should please most horror fans.
Entertaining If You Can Look Past All The Cheesiness
As far as Possession movies go there really isn't a whole lot left to do, and most films on the subject tend to not try anything new at all. That's where "Incarnate" stands out, the film does try to approach possession in a different and more science fiction way which on paper seemed like it could be really interesting, but unfortunately the execution was so basic that the whole thing ended up feeling really flat.
The film opens fairly promising, the opening scene kind of has an eighties horror feel to it and that continues on through the opening credit which I really dug. But from there the movie starts to take on a very strange vibe, the overall tone is serious but some of the characters and lines just felt like they were bordering on parody. Some parts of the movie were just so dumb that it was impossible to take it seriously. The main character (played by Aaron Eckhart) speaks in a very gruff severe tone and honestly I found myself laughing at his delivery on some of the lines. Eckhart is a good actor but his performance here was a little comical.
With all that said though the film does manage to be entertaining for the majority of it's run time. It's a very short film (clocking in just under an hour and twenty minutes) and the pacing is very quick so boredom was never really a big issue. So if you are interested in some cheap thrills and you are not easily put off by very dumb/cheesy movies than you may find yourself enjoying this.
Interesting Premise But Fairly Boring Movie Overall
Seth (Dominic Monaghan) is a lonely mild mannered guy who doesn't have a lot going for him, he has no girlfriend, no friends, and a job at a pet shelter that barely bring in enough cash to pay the bills. One day on the bus he spots Holly (Ksenia Solo), a pretty girl that he recognizes from high school. Seth is desperate to ask Holly out but he simply doesn't have the looks or skills to impress her and ends up getting shut down, after a few more failed attempts at asking Holly out Seth starts to becomes obsessed. Eventually Seth's obsession drives him to kidnap Holly, but things don't go exactly the way he planned. I'll refrain from saying more about the plot since one of the few things that this film has going for is that it puts an interesting spin on the whole "Captive" premise.
The film starts off pretty dry, the set up is bland and none of the characters really caught my interest at all. I started becoming a little eager for Seth to just Kidnap Holly already because I just wasn't interested in watching him sulk around obsessing over her and stalking her. Once Seth Kidnaps Holly things do get slightly better, but not much. As I said before the film throws a little curve ball here that mixes things up a bit, it was definitely interesting but they just don't do a whole lot with it, the majority of the film is still just a run of the mill captive flick. There is a little bit of gore, but aside from that and the little twist there just wasn't that much content here. It was basically just enough to keep me from turning it off.
Another thing that becomes clear right away with this film is that even though the cast features a lot of familiar faces, the acting is actually pretty sub par. Lots of mono toned deliveries and many lines that you can tell were supposed to be delivered with a lot of emotion but just come off forced. The majority of the actors featured in the film have given much better performances in previous works that they have been in, so it was weird to see them all just fall flat. It's definitely not the worst acting ever, but it does take away from the tone of the film and makes it a lot less captivating, since this is a pretty dialogue heavy film that was a pretty big blow.
Despite the OK premise, this just wasn't a good film. It had some potential but overall it just fails to do anything worthwhile.
The Monster (2016)
A Unique And Emotional Monster Movie
I'm a big fan of Bryan Bertino's first feature film "The Strangers", it was a somewhat realistic tense horror film that genuinely creeped me out. Since than Bertino hasn't been up to very much directing wise, in 2014 he released the film "Mockingbird" which was a huge disappointment and received a mostly negative response from fans of the horror genre. Now eight years after his last big hit Bertino gives us "The Monster", which is a super dark and dramatic monster movie that follows the struggling relationship between a young mother and her daughter, and also their encounter with a vicious monster on a desolate road in the woods.
The film gets started with a very somber pace, as we are introduced to our two main characters (A young girl named Lizzy and her mother Kathy) it becomes very clear that they have a dysfunctional relationship. Kathy obviously isn't a good mom; she's rude, irresponsible, and she has a drinking problem. This has lead to Kathy deciding Lizzy will most likely be better off living with her father, and this is where we come in on their story. Well into their trip to meet up with Lizzy's father the duo has a car accident leaving them stranded on a road far off from any populated area, and then monster stuff starts to happen. This set up may sound cliché but the film actually does it in a very unique and interesting way. As the film builds up to revealing the monster we are treated to some character development via extremely emotional flashbacks which highlight the big problems in Kathy and Lizzy's relationship. These flashbacks were extremely well done and really did a great job of getting me interested in the characters. The whole pacing of the film was great, and those who enjoy slow burn movies will appreciate it.
The film is very character driven and the small assortment of actors really did a great job of capturing that. Ella Ballentine, who plays Lizzie, does an outstanding job of playing a little girl who is desperate and angry for her mother to get her life together. She actually out acted her adult counterpart in the majority of the scenes. Zoe Kazan did a fine job of playing Lizzie's mother Kathy but Ella really stole the spotlight here and really helped to add to the realistic tone of the film. Even the supporting characters with very small roles managed to be believable and played their parts well, something you don't see too often in horror movies. Some of the best acting I've seen in a horror movie since "The Witch".
With how well done the characters and the story was it's easy to forget that this is a monster movie, an interesting premise and intriguing characters aren't exactly things you expect when watching a monster flick. But I'm glad the film makers went the route they did with it because it really added to the intensity of the monster once he is revealed. It's not the scariest looking monster, and the effects aren't top notch, but it definitely gets the job done. There were few scenes where the monster came off a little cheap looking, but those scenes were mostly made up for by some very brutal attacks by the monster. There isn't a whole lot of gore or kills, but the few that are featured are pretty vicious.
This was a great movie, it's emotional, realistic, and very well acted. Some may find it to be a little slow depending on what they are looking for, it's definitely not your usual fast paced gore fest type monster flick, but it is an extremely engaging dramatic horror flick that some people might really love.
Trash Fire (2016)
Well Written Film About Terrible People
Richard Bates Jr's first film "Excision" was a film that stuck with me for a long time after I watched it, it was very unique and incredibly bizarre. So when I saw that Bates had a new movie coming out I was pretty excited to see what else he was capable of. While not nearly as memorable as Bates' first film, "Trash Fire" does have a bit of dark charm and was an interesting experience.
The first thing that really stuck out to me in this film is the fact that just about all the characters are unlikable, everyone is somewhat of a jerk and everyone is pretty judgmental/critical of others. This wasn't a bad thing though, it actually worked pretty well and went smoothly with the premise of the film. As unlikable as all the characters were they were also very interesting, and were the best part of the movie in my opinion. Our main character "Owen" (played but Adrian Grenier) is mean and dismissive to just about everyone he meets and even when he's trying to be nice he still comes off as a dope. But once we learn more about Owen's family it becomes clear why he is the way he is, and that he may actually be one of the more normal people in his family.
The story was alright, although it had a bit of a "Lifetime Movie" feel, but the dialogue really sets it apart from the overly simplified movies that come on that network. The conversations that the characters have throughout the film are actually pretty engaging, something you rarely ever see in a horror film. It's a good thing that the dialogue was well done because there is a lot of it, people who are not fans of dialogue heavy films will definitely be put off for the majority of this. I thought it worked though, and I found myself intrigued to see what the characters would say to each other next.
Another thing that I think is important to point out is that this definitely isn't a traditional horror movie, in fact I've seen a lot of people make the claim that this isn't a horror movie at all. I would disagree though, while there isn't a masked mad man running around or a spooky ghost haunting people, "Trash Fire" does have a overall tone of horror and the final scene definitely creeped me out and left me with an uneasy feeling. It was refreshing to see the genre approached in a different kind of way.
This won't be for everybody, but I enjoyed it, like "Excision" it was fairly odd and a little quirky. Worth checking out for people who don't mind a lot of dialogue and a bit of a slow pace.
Under the Shadow (2016)
A Great Drama That Develops Into An OK Horror Movie
The first thing that stood out about this film was it's unique setting for a horror flick, it take's place in 1980's Iran during War Of The Cities. Our main character Shideh (Played by Narges Rashidi) has just learned that she won't be able to attend Medical school due to her background in activism. On top of all that her husband is being drafted to fight in the war leaving Shideh in a war torn country raising her daughter alone. The whole set up/first half was excellent, the acting is believable and director does a great job of establishing a tense tone. It definitely did not feel like the usual set up to a horror movie, in fact if I hadn't known before hand that this was a Horror flick I probably would have just assumed it was a Drama depicting live in Iran during a hard time.
So as the story progresses the horror elements are introduced, Shideh's daughter starts having trouble sleeping because she is afraid of Djinn (Demons). Some paranormal things start happening around the house and eventually things do get a little creepy. This part of the movie started to drag a bit a bit on the tension died down a bit for me. There are some scares that were well done and caught me off guard, however a few were too obvious and came off a bit too cheesy. Overall the second half is good but parts of it just felt like a run of the mill ghost movie. Plus the last fifteen minutes or so kind of fell flat on me, I felt like that was suppose to be a big tense scene but I just wasn't feeling it.
I enjoyed "Under The Shadow", it has it's flaws but it does enough right to make it a worthwhile experience. If you are interested in watching a decent ghost movie that has very interesting setting then this one if worth a watch, it doesn't do anything mind blowing but it does a good enough job at being an effective horror film.
You'll Spend Most Of The Movie Waiting For Something To Happen
Four teenagers (some of the oldest teenagers in the world) venture into the inner city for a night of fun at a sketchy night club, after one of them goes missing the rest of the group goes looking for their missing friend by using the "Find My phone" app to pin point her whereabouts. Obviously things go wrong and they end up going to a house belonging to psychopaths. It's a very generic set up for a very generic low budget horror movie.
So yeah this movie is pretty bad but it isn't just a bad movie, it is also kind of odd as well (not in a good way). The way the characters act is just so off and unrealistic, and it's not the usual kind of dumb things you see in horror movies that are used to further the story or set up a kill, it's just a lot of random actions done by the characters that don't really have anything to do with the story and have no purpose at all. The actors reactions to things were strange as well, it almost felt like some characters were taken out of a Disney sitcom and transferred them into a Horror Movie.
The whole pacing of the film was pretty awful as well, it takes about fifty five minutes for anything to really happen, and even then it's just twenty minutes of the main characters running around the house trying to avoid the killers. There are some kills but none of them are anything special, very basic effects and a relatively small amount of gore. As the movie neared it's end I started getting anxious for it to be over because it was just so stale and boring.
I knew not to expect much when I decided to watch this movie, however I was still disappointed, it's just another cliché ridden horror movie and we didn't even get a high body count or a bloodbath.
Fender Bender (2016)
If You like Slasher Flicks You Will Probably Enjoy This
By now I think all horror fans know what to expect when they turn on a slasher movie, 99% of the time you aren't gonna get anything ground breaking that does anything new for the genre, we know it's going to be a killer that slowly picks off some dumb kids one by one until there is one left who may or may not survive the night. So really the best we can hope for is some not so annoying characters, a somewhat intriguing killer, and some brutal kills. "Fender Bender" delivers somewhat in those aspects.
Our main character is a naive 17 year old girl who finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her, shortly after that her bad day gets worse when her car is hit from behind while she is stopped at a stop sign, she is un-harmed and there isn't much damage to her car so here and the driver who hit her exchange info and go on their ways. I thought this was an OK way to kick off a slasher movie, and a fairly interesting way to introduce our killer (not a spoiler, they make it pretty evident that he is the killer from the get go), it was kind of cool to see the main character interact with the killer before all the killing began.
So after a little bit of story development the killing starts, one thing some slasher movies do wrong is wait way too long before they start killing people off but "Fender Bender" does a good job of getting started right as the set up is starting to feel tired. The kills were actually pretty good too, fairly graphic with a decent amount of gore and the effects were well done for sure. The actors weren't the best though and the characters really weren't all that interesting so I didn't care all they much when they died, but at least the kills were entertaining. Everything leads up to a rather familiar finale with a slightly emotional twist which I thought was well done.
I think fans of slasher movies who aren't bothered too much by the usual clichés and the not so great acting will be able to find things to like in the movie. It doesn't really try anything new but it does a good job of delivering what we expect to see from a slasher flick.
The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Completely Bizarre And Disgusting
This is one of those movies that if I sat down and explained the whole thing from start to finish you would either say "Eww that sounds terrible" or "I need to see that now because I can't believe a movie like that exists." Everything about "Greasy Strangler" is just so strange and stupid, but at the same time it's hard to look away and throughout the movie I was pretty interested in seeing what would happen next. It's kind of like if Troma and the guys behind "Napoleon Dynamite" teamed up and made a movie.
There is tons of graphic nudity, over the top violence, and buckets upon buckets of grease. By the time the credits rolled I felt like I needed to take a shower, the movie has such a dirty/uncomfortable tone to it, but honestly that didn't prevent me from being entertained and intrigued by it. It's a film that needs to be seen to be believed. The gore/crudeness isn't exactly on the same level as a troma film or some hardcore underground horror films, but I still found myself slightly shocked at some of the stuff that they brought to the table.
Greasy Strangler is so odd and out there that it's almost like an anti movie. It doesn't follow any guidelines or strive to be like any other movie, it just simply does whatever it wants which makes it really hard to know what to expect next. The dialogue, crude humor, and strange characters will likely turn a lot of people away, but those willing to look past the gross exterior of the movie may find themselves laughing a lot.
I liked "The Greasy Strangler", it is completely stupid but it is also original and oddly interesting. Definitely not for everybody, but for those who know what to expect and aren't turned off by the idea of over the top disgusting humor this could be a movie experience that you won't forget.
Jack Goes Home (2016)
I Liked The Premise But The Execution Was A Big Misfire
"Jack Goes Home" is a psychological Thriller (with some horror elements) about a boy named Jack (Rory Culkin) whose dad is killed in a car accident, after hearing the news he returns home to help his mother with the funeral and cope with the whole ordeal. As Jack struggles with the loss of his father he starts to notice strange behavior from his mother while also attempting to uncover possible secrets that his parents have been hiding from him for years. I thought the plot line was interesting enough, unfortunately the movie does a poor job of developing and delivering it.
The movie is essentially about a man's struggle with the loss of his parent and his own mental instability. I like movies that dig into the human mind and really focus on one individual slowly losing it, however "Jack Came Home" does a very poor job of pulling that off. Jack is a pretty unlikable character from the get go, he's emotionless, dull, and really has no interesting character traits so to be honest I really had trouble watching him mope around and complain about everything for almost two hours. Jack's mother (player by Lin Shaye) is an interesting character and makes for some of the more interesting scenes in the movie, unfortunately she isn't featured that much.
The movie tries to keep things interesting by throwing in a little bit of mystery but again they just do such a poor job of developing it, by the time big reveals are made you will have likely figured everything out and be bored with it. I saw the final twist coming a mile away, so much so that I kept telling myself maybe that wouldn't be the twist since it was so predictable. I feel like they had the right idea in a lot of places but then just completely dropped the ball in the points that mattered most.
As far as indie horror movie goes "Jack Goes Home" is far from one of the worst, even though it's barely a horror movie, but it is definitely not anything to write home about. It's predictable, drab, and pretty dry overall.
The Neighbor (2016)
Not The Best But Still Worth Your Time
"The Neighbor" is a brand new horror/thriller from director Marcus Dunstan, who also directed one of my favorite horror movies "The Collector" and it's sequel "The Collection". Dunstan did a great job in putting a spin on the home invasion premise with "The Collector" so I was excited to see what else he could bring to the table. The film stars Josh Stewart who was also the lead in "The Collector" and "Collection". So there are definitely a lot of similarities between those two films and the similarities do not end there.
The film follows John (played by Josh Stewart) who is a low level criminal looking to get one more big payday so he can get himself and his girlfriend Rosie (Alex Essoe) out of the business. But just as John gains the opportunity to get out he starts to realize that his neighbor Troy (Bill Engvull) is up to something very dark that may get in the way of John's hopes for a new life. It was definitely hard to ignore how similar the set up to this movie was to "The Collector", but as the movie progresses it definitely starts to take on it's own form. It does drags a bit in the beginning, it's not incredibly boring or anything but they do kind of take their time to kick things off. After about forty minutes the film really picks up and is a lot of fun, it's still not wildly original at that point but it does enough to feel fresh, for me at least. There are a couple scenes I could have done with out, and there were a few good scenes slightly ruined by some cheesy dialogue but for the most part the movie really delivered in it's third act.
I was pleased with the majority of the cast, especially Bill Engvull. I never would have thought that he would take on a role in a horror movie since he is known for being a very cheesy comedian. I was never really all that impressed with his comedy and the only movies I ever saw him in before this were low bro comedies that were not funny in my opinion. But he does a good job in this, he portrays his character well and actually came off as a little sinister in some scenes. Josh Stewart was good also, he plays almost the exact same character he played in "The Collector" but he does it well so I guess I can't complain. Alex Essoe does alright but there were a few scenes where she was trying a little too hard to be "The Tough Girl" and it just came off as super cheesy and unrealistic.
I enjoyed "The Neighbor", it's a little unoriginal and fairly predictable, but it's a well done movie with some tense scenes and a mostly good cast. Worth checking out for sure in my opinion.
Friend Request (2016)
You've Seen It All Before But Some Might Not Hate Seeing It Again
"Friend Request" follows a college student named Laura (Alycia Debnam Carey) who receives a friend request on Facebook from a lonely girl named Marina (Liesl Ahlers) who has 0 friends. Laura accepts the friend request out of pity but quickly regrets it as Marina becomes obsessed with Laura in a very short amount of time. Once Marina's overwhelming advances of friendship are rejected by Laura, she decides to take her own life, film it, and put it on the internet. After Marina's death Laura begins to lose control of her life and her facebook account due to further harassment from Marina's ghost.
I felt like the plot was an OK lead in to a very familiar concept, college kids getting picked off one by one while one person tries to figure things out and find a way to stop the person or thing that is terrorizing them. After the initial set up this movie really starts to look a lot like a number of previous modern day horror films, it just makes no effort whatsoever to try to shake things up a bit. They took an overused formula and stuck to it pretty much to the tee. I even find it hard to write much about the film because it was so bland and just didn't really offer much at all. You will predict every twist, you will see every death coming, and you will not be shocked by the ending at all.
I tend to like these kinds of movies so I was willing to forgive a lot of the film's clichés, but it got to the point where it just felt like the film makers were going down a list of horror movie clichés and checking them off as they made the movie. It's not the worst movie ever, it looks good, the acting is good enough, and a few of the kills weren't bad. However there just isn't enough here to warrant watching it over many similar films that are much better. "Friend Request" is simply a film that is so Luke warm that it's hard to think of much good things or bad things about it.
Murder Party (2007)
Tons Of Fun, Laughs, and Violence
Jeremy Saulnier is one of my favorite directors right now, his two most recent films (Green Room & Blue Ruin) are two of the best movies I have seen in the last five years or so. I originally saw Murder Party years ago when it first came out but I was too young to fully appreciate it and didn't really have too many memories of it, once I realized that Murder Party was in fact Saulnier's directorial debut I knew I had to go back and check it out again.
The film centers around a lonely young man (Chris Hawley) who lives alone and has no real plans for Halloween other than sitting at home with his cat watching horror movies. On his way home from the video store he stumbles upon an invitation to a "Murder Party", Chris assumes that this is just an invitation to a normal Halloween party and decides to put on a homemade Halloween costume & attend the party. Upon arriving Chris quickly realizes that the party is anything but normal, instead it is actually a project set up by an art collective made up of some very pretentious artists. Their plan is to murder Chris simply for the sake of art, and everything just spirals from there.
I love the plot of this movie and the overall comedic tone of it as well, the film never takes it's self too seriously and they do an excellent job of mocking the art scene. I was very pleased with the way the characters were all written, I loved how calm and casual they all were through all the insane events that transpired throughout the film.The acting was all top notch for a low budget flick, especially Macon Blaire's performance (who has been featured in all of Saulnier's films so far). It's very rare that horror comedies are able to be genuinely funny but "Murder Party" really succeeds in that sense, it never felt like the comedy was forced or anything which made the jokes really land for me. One of the things I really like about Jeremy Saulnier's films is how brutal and violent they are, and "Murder Party" definitely doe not disappoint there. There is a massive amount of gore and brutal murders (hence the name), even during these scenes though the film still manages to be hilarious and make you grin.
"Murder Party" really delivers on multiple fronts, it's violent, hilarious, bizarre, and at times super witty. If you want to laugh and you are not afraid of a little blood then I highly suggest checking this out, it's a blast.
The Funhouse Massacre (2015)
Had All The Ingredients To Be A Really Fun Slasher Flick But Just Doesn't Deliver
I tend to love cheesy slasher flicks that don't take themselves too seriously so I was excited to check out "The Fun House Massacre". After seeing some trailers and reading some reviews this seemed like it would be right up my alley. Story seemed somewhat interesting and there were some very interesting names on the cast list (Robert Englund and Clint Howard), but for the most part I was just excited to see some over the top gory kills and from the looks of it I figured this movie would definitely deliver in that department, it did somewhat but it was also a bit of a disappointment.
Six psychotic maniacs have broken out of a secret asylum that houses people who too violent for modern society, from there they descend upon a Fun house (haunted house) on Halloween and take the place of the staff so that they can have their violent psychotic fun without arousing too much suspicion (since people just assume it is part of the act). So the film does a great job of setting the scene for an ultra blood bath, but I think the main problem here (for me at least) is that the kills just weren't all that fun to watch. The effects weren't terrible but every kill was just kind of generic or not brutal at all. Of the six killers I really only felt like two of them were worthwhile, the rest just kind of felt pointless.
The cast was OK, unfortunately the guys I was looking forward to seeing the most (Englund and Howard) had very little screen time, although the little screen time they had was pretty solid. Everyone else does their parts well enough aside from a few people who tried a little hard to be funny (although I would blame the cheesy dialogue for that). I felt like the killers could have had a bit more personality. It seemed like they wanted The Stitched Face killer to be the stand out but she just wasn't an interesting character and really just ended up feeling like a watered down version of Harley Quinn.
"The Fun House Massacre" isn't an awful movie, it does have points where it is fun and entertaining but with the story line and cast they had at their disposal I feel like this could have been a much better slasher movie. They were headed in the right direction with it but at some point they took a wrong turn and the movie definitely suffers from that. In the end it's just another cheesy slasher movie that has a few redeeming qualities but is far from being anything special.
Scare Campaign (2016)
Fun, Clever, & Gory
"Scare Campaign" is a new Slasher flick from Directors (& brothers) Colin and Cameron Cairnes. Their first film "100 Bloody Acres" was a great horror/comedy that got slightly over shadowed by "Tucker & Dale Vs Evil" due to having a similar tone/storyline. I really enjoyed their first film a lot so I was excited to see what else they had to offer, and "Scare Campaign" definitely did not disappoint.
So the storyline follows the cast and crew of a TV show called Scare Campaign (a prank show that aims to scare the hell out of it's stooge), very similar to the real life TV show Scare Tactics, they are in their fifth season and the show has gotten a bit stale so they are asked to step up their game. So the creator of the show hatches a plan to boost ratings and things don't exactly go as planned. I liked the storyline, it's kind of simple and I saw most of the twists coming from a mile away, but it's a solid backdrop for a slasher movie and kept me interested as I sat their waiting for the killing to start.
Once things get going (and they do fairly quickly) the whole thing turns into a very entertaining blood bath, just about all the kills were done really well and the gore level was pretty high. For a lower budget flick the cast, effects, etc were all very impressive. Really from start to finish "Scare Campaign" had me entertained and interested to see what would happen next. The ending could have been better though, was kind of hoping they would go another way with it but it didn't really take too much away from the film.
If you are a fan of gory slasher movies that don't take themselves too seriously then you will most likely enjoy this film, one of the better slasher flicks to come in recently.
Lights Out (2016)
Better Than I Expected But Still Just Another Jump Scare Movie At It's Core
When it comes to horror movies I personally prefer more psychological scares/thrills rather than movies that just constantly try to get a cheap jump scare out of you. I thought "The Ring" was pretty OK but after that came a string of poorly done (mostly remakes of Asian films) PG-13 Horror films that all had similar stories and similar clichés. For a while we saw a decrease in these types of movies, but recently they have made a comeback and "Lights Out" is one of the newest releases in the "Jump Scare-athon" Genre. Surprisingly though this film actually does do some things very well and managed to exceed my expectations (they weren't really all that high though).
I was a big fan of the opening scene, it is spoiled a bit by the trailer but it still did a good job of packing a pretty brutal punch for a PG-13 movie and getting me immediately interested in the movie. From there the pace continues to move very quickly, they do not hold back from showing the Shadow'd baddie multiple times in the first fifteen minutes. The fact that they showed her so often early on did make her less scary but it also made the movie much more entertaining in my opinion. As the story began to unfold I was actually fairly pleased with it, it's not a extremely original story but it does have more depth than stories in these kinds of movies usually do.
Then we are introduced to the movie's first big problem, the main character Rebecca (played by Teresa Palmer), she is just so bland and mono toned through out the whole film. Just about every other character in the film is more interesting than her yet she gets the majority of the screen time/lines. Usually in these kinds of movies it's the young child actors who ruin it but honestly I thought the character Martin (played by Gabriel Bateman) was actually done pretty well and succeeded in not being too obnoxious or annoying. The kooky mom (Maria Bello) and the picture perfect boyfriend (Alexander Dipersia) were so-so characters, didn't really add much to the film but also didn't really take anything away from it.
Aside from a super bland main character another big problem that the film had was it's pacing. As I mentioned above it does pace itself very well in the beginning, unfortunately from there we are treated to some very long, drawn out, uninteresting scenes that felt unnecessary. The first fifteen minutes are good and the last fifteen minutes are great, however in the in-between was a bit lackluster. The movie is at it's best when Danielle (Shadow'd baddie) is going after people and wreaking havoc, however instead of making those scenes the key points of the film we instead have to sit through a lot of meh jump scares and shotty attempts at character development. Had there been more victims for Danielle to go after I think the film would have been much better, an R rating wouldn't have hurt either.
All in all it's really not a bad film for what it is, it does stand out from the other jump scare movies by having some very well done scenes, a pretty OK story, and a few brutal moments for a PG-13 film. But was definitely held back by it's rating, the lackluster small cast, and too many boring scenes.
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
Propaganda Aside This Really Is Just A Bad Movie
So I'll start off by saying that I actually liked the original Purge, I know many people were expecting it to be a bit bigger and to expand more on the premise but I still enjoyed it and thought it was a pretty fun Horror/Thriller. Then the second Purge (which really wasn't a sequel, more of just a separate movie set in the same universe apart from one little tie in) came out and I enjoyed that one as well, however I thought it was a bit more cheesy than the original and it was really more of an Action/Thriller than a horror movie. I was pretty set with those two, I didn't think there was any need to continue on with the franchise, but we rarely ever get big release horror movies anymore so I decided to just suck it up and give The Purge: Election Year a chance.
So the premise was actually pretty interesting, a Senator whose family was slaughtered in front of her on Purge night is running for president in an effort to stop the Purge. However from there things start to get really really stupid. Since her opposition wants to keep her out of office they decide to disband the law that protects political officials on Purge night, thus making her fair game. When this news is shared with the Senator she decides that instead of locking herself up in a safe house (which would keep her and her dream to stop the purge alive) she'll just put the life of herself and the lives of her security team in jeopardy by just hanging out at her house on Purge night. This is one of many stupid decisions made by the Senator, and that is one of the main reasons why I found it very hard to root for her. Luckily she has a bad ass security guard (the main character from the second film) who is there to rescue her when things go south on Purge night, from there the film basically just becomes a rinse and repeat of the second film. There is also a sub plot about a extremely cookie cutter deli owner who will do anything in his power to protect his deli.
I think my main issue with the film is that the characters were just so cheesy and unrealistic. All the good guys who we are suppose to care for just ooze cheese and almost every line that comes out of their mouths is cringe worthy. The is one character in particular (the deli owner) who I found myself rooting against because he was just such a lame and unbelievable character, they actually tried to give this guy catch phrases. These felt like characters out of a bad action movie, and that's really what this film was at it's core, a lousy action movie in a horror setting. The villains weren't much better, at one point they try to pass off a group of obnoxious teenage girl as villains, the scenes with these girls were drawn out and extremely irritating, these characters belonged in a teen comedy not a R rated "Horror" film.
All in all I thought this was a lousy sequel and that the Purge Franchise would have been better after just being two films. They basically just repackaged The Purge: Anarchy with worse characters and a little bit more of an expansion on the story. The worst part is they will probably make more of these, they will run this franchise into the dirt just like the Paranormal Activity franchise. My expectations were not very high, yet I was still pretty disappointed.
Not Bad But Could Have Been Better
Horror Comedies have a reputation of either being great or terrible, the mix of genres can work and has in the past but a lot of the times (especially in low budget films) the comedy just seems forced and lame. With Clinger (a new horror comedy from first time director Michael Steves) there are glimpses of a really good movie, but there are also a lot of very sloppy attempts at comedy.
The story follows Fern Peterson (player by Jennifer Laporte who did a really good job in her first feature film), Fern meets Robert Klingher (played by Vincent Martella who is best known for his appearance in the show "Everybody Hates Chris"), Fern and Robert are both fairly inexperienced when it comes to dating and they quickly fall for each other. Everything goes great at first but Robert begins to become much more invested in the relationship than Fern, it doesn't take Fern long to realize that it's time to break things off with Robert. However during the break up Robert is killed in a freak accident, now he is back as a ghost and more obsessed than ever. I really liked the plot line, it's one of the best parts of the movie in my opinion. They really do a good job of capturing the awkwardness of teenage relationships and that really gave the movie some charm.
While there is a decent amount of stuff to like in "Clinger" there is also quite a bit of stuff that really throws the film off and prevents it from being great. One of the big negatives that really stood out for me was the fact the two of the characters (Fern's Sister and Fern's Coach) were extremely obnoxious. You can tell that these were the two characters that were suppose to bring most of the laughs, everything they say is an attempt at comedy but 95% of it fell flat on me and after a while it just got really annoying. There are definitely some funny parts in the film, the more subtle jokes and even some of the psychical comedy worked really well, but too many times the film tried a bit too hard to be hilarious.
Parts of "Clinger" were extremely fun, gory, and entertaining as hell, unfortunately a few poor characters and a few too many bad jokes really prevented this from being a great low budget gem. Nevertheless this was still an entertaining Horror/Comedy, just a few steps away from being more than that.
Carnage Park (2016)
Really Enjoyed The First Thirty Minutes, Got Pretty Bland After That
Carnage Park is a brand new horror film from Director Mickey Keating. Keating put out two pretty solid horror films last year, Pod and Darling, so I was pretty excited check out his latest offering. Plus from the trailer the film looked to have a grindhouse type feel to it, that combined with the fact that the cast featured Pat Healy (Innkeepers, Cheap Thills, Compliance) and Ashley Bell (Last Exorcism, Last Exorcism Part 2, The Day) was enough to make me want to see this on it's release.
Almost immediately the film had me interested, the opening scene does a good job of setting the tone of the film, then from there they jump right into a homage to one of the great scenes from Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs". The first thirty minutes or so were very Grind house esque, I liked that a lot. The first character we are introduced to (Scorpion Joe) is a very cool character, the type of character that we usually don't see in horror films like this. Then we are introduced to our leading lady Vivian (Ashley Bell), Bell plays the part well but her character was pretty uninteresting in my opinion. Unfortunately though right at the thirty minute point the film started to get pretty bland. The Grind house style is thrown to the side and instead we are treated to a rather familiar scenario of a cat and mouse game between an attractive female lead and a crazy psychopath. Pat Healy does a decent job as the Killer, he is under used though and does not get enough screen time.
Of Keating's three most recent films (Carnage Park, Pod, and Darling) I would say that Carnage Park is the weakest. It really borrows too much from other movies and fails to do much to stand out. It's not a terrible movie, as I said the first thirty minutes were done very well, but the last hour or so of the film is just basically a rinse and repeat of so many other cat and mouse type flicks. Probably worth watching for die hard horror fans who need their horror fix, but outside of that I think most people will find "Carnage Park" fairly bland and boring.
Hong yi xiao nu hai (2015)
A Clever Ghost Story That Would Have Been Better With Less CGI
I don't watch a lot of Asian horror films, mainly because I have never really been much of a fan of paranormal movies, and for the most part Asian horror films tend to focus on paranormal type things (mostly scary little kid ghosts). But the other night I was bored and in the mood for a horror film, I decided to not be picky at all and basically just randomly pick one of the newer releases from the genre. I stumbled onto a Taiwanese film called "The Tag Along" and honestly I am glad I did.
The film follows Zhi-wei He, a young adult who lives a fairly busy life trying to juggle his job, his girlfriend, and spending time with his grandmother who lives with him. Zhi-wei He's life is turned upside down when a little ghost girl in a red dress shows up and takes his grandmother away. From there things get pretty wild as the little ghost girl makes multiple appearances to terrorize Zhi-wei and the other people in his life.
Early on "The Tag Along" does a lot of things right, the characters are interesting and the story is set up well, plus there are a lot of very well done subtle scare scenes that did a good job of catching me off guard. Unfortunately as the film progresses it becomes more and more dependent on CGI and less on practical scares. At this point it was still entertaining, however the CGI caused the film to lose a lot of it's creepiness. There are actually quite a few scenes that had me giggling a bit due to the goofy effects.
I liked "The Tag Along", overall it was a pretty fun ghost story that was clever at times and didn't rely too much on the normal Ghost Movie clichés (even though there are quite a few present here). Without the CGI I feel like this could have been a lot better, but even with it the film is still entertaining and worth checking out.
Very Chilling Film With An Excellent Dark Tone
One my my favorite horror films of the last decade was 2015's "The Witch", I loved how the movie set a dark tone that continued to get darker and darker as the movie progressed. I don't mind horror films that are a little lighthearted or even a bit humorous, however I really love when a horror film decides to just be dark & dreary as possible without ever really making you feel like things are going to get better. "February" does not quite pack the punch the The Witch had but it is still a very interesting film with a pitch black tone.
The film follows Kat and Rose, two girls at an all female boarding school who are left alone at the school when their parents fail to pick them up for break. From there things take a bit to really get going, the film moves at a very slow pace however I thought that worked and matched the tone well. There really isn't much action or shock scenes, but for me that just made the shock scenes even better when they finally did happen. There was one scene in particular that kind of just pops out of nowhere and actually gave me chills a bit.
I honestly don't have a lot to say about this film, but at the same time I really felt the need to write review because this is one that stuck with me and had me still thinking about it a few days after viewing it. It's not perfect, the pacing won't be for everybody and I'm sure many people will find it too drab and depressing to get any enjoyment out of it. But I really liked it and think it does a good job of standing out in a genre that is filled with too many cliché films.
The Break-In (2016)
Lots Of Filler With Very Little Thrills
Awh Found footage, a genre that at one point I was very interested/obsessed with, after I watched Blair Witch project I was very interested in finding other movies similar to it. Some years back I remember searching for similar films and really only being able to find like 4 or 5 legit ones. Then Paranormal Activity was released and the genre became extremely over-saturated, now a new found footage movie is released just about every week and they bast majority of them are absolute crap. Is "The Break In" a fresh new take on the genre, or is it more or less the same old crap we have been fed in recent times.
The film follows Jeff Anderson (played by Justin Doescher who also directs the film) who has just gotten a new smart phone which has prompted him to film every little thing in his house for really no reason at all. He has a cute wife named Melissa (Maggie Binkely) who is pretty much the most understanding/calm female I have ever seen in a horror film. Jeff has just recently installed security cameras in his house due to their being a break in in the area. Ultimately these cameras prove to be useless since the high majority of the movie is filmed from the perspective of Jeff's phone.
The Break In suffers from the same things that plague all these types of movies, more filler than actually thrills, no interesting characters, and a bland shock ending that is meant to leave you on the edge of your seat but really only left me shrugging and bored. That's really all there is to this flick, you spend the majority of the film watching Jeff and his Girlfriend kill time by shopping, hanging out with their friends, and talking about the fact that Melissa is pregnant. All that leads up to one big shock in the last 3 or 4 minutes of the film.
The Break In had me slightly intrigued when it first started, non paranormal story line and some decent acting, but in the end it was just another bland found footage film. I think it's time we let this genre die, at least for while.
The Other Side of the Door (2016)
Nothing New Here
The first word that comes to my mind after watching Johannes Robert's new film "The Other Side Of The Door" is standard, this by the books horror movie never tries anything new and mostly piggy backs off of things more successful horror films have done.
The story is about a couple who loses one of their children in a tragic accident, unable to live with the loss of her child the mother Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) seeks out a way to see her son one last time (I think we can all see where this is going). Maria conjures up the soul of her dead son and things start to go downhill from there. Sound familiar? Yeah this is basically a more paranormal version of Pet Semetary. Don't get me wrong, this is not nearly as good as Pet Sematary, it just has a lot of similarities.
Well once all the haunting stuff gets going it is pretty cliché, things moving by themselves, other child starts acting odd, and *insert scary girl ghost with hair in front of her face*. I found it hard to really get into the film due to it just feeling like every other ghost movie that has come out in the past 15 years. It never tries anything new and seems to follow every ghost movie cliché down to the tee. There were a few things I liked about the film, Sarah Wayne Callies performance is pretty solid and showed that she can carry a film alright even if the film isn't very good, plus the film is set in India and I thought that was pretty cool.
"The Other Side Of The Door" is pretty much every modern day ghost movie, if you enjoy those types of films and want to see more of the same then you will probably enjoy this film. However for me I was just kind of bored by it, everything the film does has been done better in different films.
Most Likely to Die (2015)
A Very Poor Slasher Flick Without Much Slashing
Anthony Diblasi's film "The Last Shift" was one of my favorite horror films of 2015 and was a nice surprise, it was one of the few recent horror films that was actually able to creep me out a bit. So when I saw that Diblasi had recently released another horror movie I jumped at the chance to see it even though there were quite a few red flags, Jake Busey and Perez Hilton on the cast list plus a very generic teen slasher type plot, lets just say I should have listened to the warning signs.
The film starts out with a very cliché slasher type opening scene, an attractive blonde arriving at an seemingly empty house where she was suppose to meet up with her old classmates for a reunion, she strips down into almost nothing and roams around the house until she is eventually killed. From there the rest of the classmates begin to arrive and this is where the film really started to fall apart, we are introduced to all the characters and it becomes very clear that none of them are going to be interesting at all. Usually in a slasher film unlikable characters are not necessarily a big deal since you are there to simply watch them get brutally killed, however this film desperately tries to get you attached to these boring characters, this would be OK if their stories/relationships were interesting but it all just feels like a bad soap opera episode.
So after about forty five minutes or so of our characters discussing the past and having dull conversations the killings finally start, really only one of the kills is well done and brutal, however none of the cast really seems to care all that much that their friends are being murdered. There is one scene in particular where they find the dead body of one of their classmates, then literally like five minutes later two of the characters start having a nice reminiscent conversation about their high school days as they sit outside a shack that houses the body of their dead friend. After a bunch of sloppy dialogue and running around the killer's identity is finally revealed, but at this point you won't really care, his/her motive doesn't really make any sense and their attempt at acting like a psychotic frantic killer is pretty pathetic.
Overall this was just a mess of a slasher film, which is disappointing because I know Anthony Diblasi is capable of making a quality horror film, shame to see his talent wasted on such a generic flick.
Chaotic Last Half Makes This Worth Watching
Baskin is a fairly new Turkish horror film from director Can Evrenol, it is his first feature film and it is based on a short he did in 2013 of the same name. The film follows 5 police officers who are just finishing up their shift when they receive a call on their radio requesting back up at an old abandoned police station. On the way to their destination the police officers crash their van and from there pretty much all hell breaks loose.
My major complaint with Baskin would be it's pacing, the first 50 minutes or so are rather dull, there are a few redeeming scenes however for the most part the first half of the movie is uneventful filler. They kind of make an attempt to get you attached to the characters but none of them are really that likable to be honest. This is something that is present in a lot of horror movies, a dull first half that leads up to an exciting finale. I have never been a fan of this style of pacing, some would say it's a way to build tension but in my opinion it just seems like an easy way to eat up film time with cheap easy to shoot scenes.
So after quite a bit of dullness the police officers finally arrive at the abandoned police station, from here the film does a complete 180, the boring filler scenes are replaced with scenes of chaos and gore. The film does a good job of making this abandoned police station really feel like a living hell, and it actually made me feel a sense of dread for the characters experiencing this nightmare. Pretty much all the scenes in the police station are done very well, costume design on the baddies is cool, gore looks real enough, and the main bad guy is fairly creepy and interesting. The only problem during this portion of the film is that they keep cutting away from the chaos to these dream scenes (I guess that is what they are, it's never fully explained), and that really kind of kills the chaotic mood of the second half.
Overall Baskin is a mixed bag, the second half is pretty insane and should please most horror junkies/gore hounds, but some may be deterred by the slow humdrum first half. Still I would suggest checking it out for the last half alone.