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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.