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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Ghost Town" is a rather enjoyable and entertaining effort with a few
Returning from a debate match, team-members Chloe, (Jessica Rose) Serena, (Annabelle Wallis) and Katie, (Shelly Varod) pick up fellow collegians Stuart, (Erbi Ago) Harvey, (Nikolai Nikolov) Josh, (Alexander Nikolov) Dale, (Cian Berry) Goodman, (Vlado Mihailov) Carl, (Randy Wayne) and Scott, (Kristian Malinov) in their bus, only to get stranded in a supposedly abandoned ghost town. Deciding to figure out what to do, they split up and investigate the town, and soon afterward, they find a series of clues toward a group of gunmen who had invaded the town hundreds of years ago who have been tied to live forever through a special ceremony in the town, killing again due to a long-standing prophecy that has been broken and must find a way of getting the prophecy back into power and escape the town alive.
The Good News: There was some good stuff here that really worked nicely. One of the best areas to this one is the fact that it contains a lot of actually rather entertaining action scenes that are a blast to watch. The opening Old-West shoot-out, while not up to the caliber of the great ones from the past, still manage to contain some nice set-pieces, including a few parts inside the town's surroundings that are pretty fun, a few explosions thrown in for good measure and topped off with the supernatural opening and ending with their cult mentality that ends the affair quite nicely. There's also a couple of rather fun shoot-outs later on in town, with the kids stumbling upon the ghosts and their struggle to get out, from the main-street shootout that results in one of the members being drawn-and-quartered and the gunfire-led escape through to the ambush laid for them later on at the explosive ammo cart that results in a huge fiery blast and an earlier scene where they encounter one and are unsuccessful in fending it off much less scoring a hit on it due to constantly transporting to another location but still brawl with the kids anyway, it has some really good action moments. The ghostly hauntings aren't that bad either, and some of them are downright cool. From the scene in the barn, with its ghostly whispers and abandoned-location look, the resulting investigation that leads to two rather gory kills and them not being able to find the bodies after hearing it all, to a tense searching scene up on the second level of the hotel and finding the warning written in blood on the walls, to a great scene within the motel after a shoot-out of them abducting a member of the group and then bloodily doing away with them, it's got some rather good ghostly hauntings. Even better are the extended set-pieces, which are some of the film's best parts. The attack on the bus driver, with the unknowing help, missing tools and eventually possessed by the drained oil that is then vomited out before being set on fire, a fabulous scene in the middle of town where the teachers are split up, with one falling into a casket hidden under the ground and then buried alive while the other one is spooked by a ghost appearing in a window and turning to run right into a noose and eventually hung and lynched before the eventual discovery, and a couple of fantastic manifestations, either warnings to leave or a way to help things get going, there's a lot of these and they're all quite fun. It even gets a touch atmospheric with the scene involving their escape outside the town, with the nearly-impenetrable fog which makes for a great scene. Another plus is the explanation for their appearance, which is logical, well-explained and doesn't feel forced anyway at all, and combined with a high body-count, are the film's best points.
The Bad News: There wasn't a whole lot of areas here that didn't work. One of the main issues with it is the fact that the ghosts aren't on-screen all that much, really only showing up once every ten minutes, getting into a brief scrape with the kids and then disappearing, which manages to highlight both the brevity of their appearances and the fact that they really don't do a whole lot to impose fear beyond keeping them trapped there. This really needed them to do a bit more to actually keep them on-screen more and make them that much more of a threat and not just background filler to make sure it was a horror film. They also have a major problem in that they don't seem to mind all that much about methods of disposing of their abilities, since it makes a mention that they keep appearing, but do nothing to make sure that they remain there. There's nothing about them trying to destroy the one method that would ensure they would be banished, and tend to just focus on the kids there rather than staying around, and makes it quite plausible that they can be easily fooled with them splitting up to deal them the final blow. The last flaw here is the fact that the film's kills are pretty much quite tame or just bloodless, resulting more in a brief splatter rather than actually doing something bloody or brutal with them. It really could've used a little more bloodshed here to really stand-out a little more, and instead it tends to feel a little dry despite the high body count. These here are the film's flaws.
The Final Verdict: Not really all that bad of an effort, this one manages to come up with enough to make it worthwhile enough that it's not overly bad at all. Really recommended to Sci-Fi Channel original enthusiasts, western-horror fans or those who are interested, while those who aren't into any of them should heed caution.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, Language and Brief Nudity
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"After Midnight" is a surprisingly fun if not all that demanding
Attending a psychology class, Allison, (Jillian McWhirter) is perturbed by the teacher Prof. Edward Derek, (Ramy Zada) methods, and eventually he's forced to change his curriculum. When he offers a special after-hours seminar that contains his original plans, she joins Maggie, (Kerry Ramsen) Pat, (Patty Avery) Ron, (Kent Burden) Dave, (Richard Gabai) and Ray, (Billy Ray Shakely) at his house to indulge in telling scary stories to experience fear.
The Good Stor(ies): The Old Dark House-On their anniversary, couple Joan, (Nadine van der Velde) and Kevin, (Marc McClure) go for a midnight drive and get stranded on an abandoned road containing a house with a mysterious past. Eager for help, they ignore the warnings and go over, but when no one answers, they attempt to break in and get separated, forcing him to accept a deadly secret about the house's history. This here is a rather enjoyable entry, with a lot going for it. The atmosphere of the house, with the abandoned, sheet-covered furniture and shrubbery-lined walkways outside, give off a perfect Gothic atmospheric feel, combined with the back-story told to create a rather creepy setting. The mystery, with the bloodied necklace and off-screen call, works nicely with the key set-up scene, the collection of skulls covered in spiders and bugs as well as the flashlight-through-the-keyhole sequence, and then the final resolution is quite nice as it's a neat twist. If there was a flaw, it's not the fastest-moving story, but it's still enjoyable.
A Night on the Town-Trying to find a club, friends Jennifer, (Judie Aronson) Amy, (Tracy Wells) Kelly, (Penelope Sudrow) and Lisa, (Monique Salcido) drive around the city, and when they're low on gas, stop off at a gas station. When they meet the proprietor and his vicious dogs, they find themselves in an escalating series of encounters that makes them wish they hadn't stumbled upon. This is a slightly uneven effort, hampered really by the fact that there isn't a real effort to develop this one early on and simply making it run on the situation. They're lost in a strange part of town, the man they run into is somewhat slimy and perverted, but it never really does anything really interesting with those areas. Once it shifts into action, though, it's a lot more interesting and exciting. From the different ambush attacks of the dogs through the town, to the derange owner's extreme attempts to break into the car while it's on the run, this one is a lot of fun with its action set-ups and is an extremely better entry in the second half. Throw in an explosive finale, and it's a really redeeming effort.
Allison's Story-Arriving at the house, the students proceed to tell their stories, but she becomes concerned something is wrong. As the night continues, she begins to think those feelings are getting even stronger, and they eventually find the real reason why the events have been happening all night long. As the wrap-around, the main parts before the ending are just minor set-up pieces where the real fun is in the finale, which is a lot of fun. After the main stories, the ambush in the basement, complete with the flowing circle and eventual fire-filled room and slaughter, makes for a good time, and the interweaving with the stories told allows for a nightmarish feel in the manner done. It just takes a while to get there since that is the movie's logical end.
The Bad Stor(ies): All Night Operator-Returning to her apartment, Alex, (Marge Helgenberger) wants to forget about the ski accident that injured her and goes to work at a phone-call answering service. After getting several harassing phone calls from a deranged lunatic, she starts to realize that the caller is a little more unhinged than he let on, and thinking he's coming after her, she tries to defend herself. This here is the lone weak-link among the stories, simply through the exploits of two factors built into the main plot. This here has a one-note story that never really gives it a chance to go anywhere without a twist that is extremely illogical and unneeded, so it lumbers on mainly hitting all the expected notes until it's expected climax, driving out much of the suspense out of the premise. The other factor is the trapped-in-one-location nature, never allowing for there to be any suspense built up over the killer gradually coming closer to here, which combines with the first factor to lower it heavily. The finale chase through the building, with some clever hiding tactics and a couple suspenseful moments with her injury, is rather good, but it's too little too late.
The Final Verdict: While it's not going to be recognized as a true out-and-out classic, there's enough to like within this to make it a perfectly acceptable viewing choice. Recommended mainly to fans of 80s-style cheese-fests, fans of the creative crew or the curious, while others should heed caution.
Rated R: Violence and Language
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Telling" is a rather fun if slightly problematic anthology effort.
Gathered together for Sorority Rush, Stephanie, (Holly Madison) gathers potential pledges Haley, (Jean Louise O'Sullivan) Tonya, (Jessica Noboa) and Phoebe, (Stephanie Sanborn) for the final initiation rites, their telling of a scary story.
The Good Stor(ies): Doll Fear-Living together in New England, Lily, (Rebekah Kochan) isn't particularly pleased with Tommy, (Ryan Freeman) inviting ex-girlfriend Sarah, (Kimshelley Garner) to live with them, until he gives her an antique doll as a peace offering. Growing impatient over the situation every day, she gradually comes to think that the doll is alive and after her, which no one in the house believes. As a series of weird incidents around her force her to believe that the doll is alive, she eventually discovers the truth and tries to stop its murderous antics. This was an incredibly enjoyable and entertaining entry, with a lot of really great stuff about it. One of the best things it does is the build-up with the doll being alive. From the different sayings in different situations, him waking up with the doll despite being placed in another location beforehand, as well as the best set-up, watching them have sex and giggling while doing so, followed up by the encounter on the stove afterward which really works well. All of these make the jealousy angle all the more fun and creepy, and once it moves into the final stalking, there's even more fun. The off-screen clattering and giggling set-up the slashing perfectly, the trail of bloody footprints is chilling, and the final resolution is really good. There's only one flaw in this, the fact that it's a pretty clichéd story and pretty much goes right where it's expected to without really offering anything surprising, but it's not a detrimental flaw at all.
Prank Call-As their plans are canceled, friends Anna, (Amanda Ward) Jenna, (Jessica Lowe) and Meredith, (Veronique Vicari) decide to play a couple of prank phone calls, only for them to accidentally hear a murder over the phone during one of their calls. Understandably freaked out when they start receiving numerous threatening phone calls tormenting them about what they did, and their suspicions eventually get the better of them, they find that the killer may have found them. This is the most middle-ground of the stories. This here gets the tension of the situation really nicely, with the prank phone calls as well as the act heard over the phone which is quite creepy, followed up by the killer's call knowing of them with no knowledge beforehand. The police investigation segments are perfectly in keeping with that approach, and the first murder is really surprising. The stalking throughout the house is also pretty thrilling, especially the second one with the shadowy figure on the wall. These are all melded together nicely to make for a great premise, despite the execution somewhat lacking as the fact remains, however, that this is incredibly short and really could've done more to expand its stalking parts. There isn't enough to really play with all it's capable of and really should've used a few extra minutes into its stalking moments to actually get going nicely, as well as actually showcase its murders on-screen with some gore, which would've been helpful. However, it's still really good.
The Bad Stor(ies): Crimson Echo-Fallen on hard times, actress Eva DeMarco, (Bridget Marquardt) agrees to meet with director Victor Aymesco, (John D'Aquino) on a new movie and goes to his house for preparation of the film. As he begins to explain the concept of the film, she grows incredibly uncomfortable with what's asked of her, until she learns the truth about the movie and what they demand of her. This one is really problematic, as it's such a potentially-entertaining segment. Easily the most chilling part of this, and the film as a whole, is the dinner party, from the silence from the guests as they sit around the table to the intense lecture given that goes well with the upcoming tension and growing concern over where it's heading, which works nicely. There's also the rather creepy masks worn as well as the abduction part at the end, along with the rather disorienting dream sequence that is highly erotic and trippy. There's some work to be done, though, in that the most disturbing segment, the showing of the war footage to really throw her off, is marred by the lame song played over the scene, not even showing it but just her reaction which really ruins the impact it's supposed to have as well as being utterly inappropriate for the situation. There's also the fact that, almost immediately afterward, one of the listeners aptly describes the entire segment as being weird over scary, since it's low on scares and tends to get by on its rather hypnotic look and feel to generate scares, and as well as ruining the dinner party scene, the abduction at the end and eventual torture is seen in such mild flashbacks and cuts that it's impossible to determine what happened to her or why it should be something to fear, and instead the end is just her acting like one of them without any explanation why, greatly ruining the power it should've had and altogether ruining the entire segment.
The Final Verdict: Pretty much like most anthologies, it has some good parts and a couple miscues, but overall this one here wasn't all that bad and definitely worthwhile. Recommended mostly to fans of the creative side or those who appreciate cheesy anthologies, but those looking for more substantial fare should heed caution.
Rated R: Graphic Language, Violence and Nudity
"Colmillos, el hombre lobo" is a surprisingly fun and enjoyable Mexican
Plagued by strange nightmares, Cristobal, (Miguel Angel Rodriquez) allows it to interfere with his horse-track job for Roman, (Jose Elias Moreno) and while making up the time, is attacked by Tara, (Julieta Rosen) a weird woman who gives him a strange statue. Noticing it's full of precious stones, he sells so he can quit his job and gain the love of Susana, (Olivia Collins) a socialite who frequents the racing track where he works but is unable to do so. Still troubled by the nightmares, a series of vicious animal attacks in the community confirms his fears that he has been cursed with the mark of the werewolf even though no one else believes him. As the attacks continue, he finally comes to believe that he has been cursed to become a werewolf and those around him try to stop it before more in the area are slaughtered.
The Good News: This was actually surprisingly good with a lot of good things about it. One of the best features is the fact that it manages to incorporate the past traditions of the werewolf with a welcome infusion of Gothic trappings to be atmospheric while still keeping with tradition. This is nicely realized in the opening nightmare, where the night-time setting, the journey through the underground caves through POV and the unknown panting in the background and the disorienting design of the caves makes for a rather inspired intro before the attack happens, which provides a nice jump. This is continued nicely with the first sequence of him being afflicted with the curse, the night-time stable encounter. From being drawn into the wilderness by the mysterious woman in white, the eerie blue light being emitted in the distance, and the slow stalking around the area into the woods by himself while the animals are seeing visibly protesting the actions all are classic Gothic trappings being reworked here, and along with the dissent into the caves and the confrontation there, with the statue being found and the skeleton right there for a great jump all coming before the attack, and the scene is both hauntingly beautiful and unnervingly chilling, another classic Gothic exercise being put to good use in the modern times. There's even a good old-fashioned forbidden-romance angle thrown in that is put to good use, using it to build up to the finale that plays homage to the past traditions that are quite obviously worked out in advance but still playing true to the traditions of what's come before. The modern influences here come from the rather fun, brutal and enjoyable attack scenes, which are part of the film's best scenes. The first attack of the dog-walker is quite chilling, due to the atmospheric set-up and grisly action that follows within, and the second encounter is just as good with its taking place in a barn, allowing for the film to take some liberties with almost slasher-film like stalking moments within, like the knocked-over hay-bales, the unseen charging and the final attack making it quite enjoyable, as well as the second part where it continues on outside to grab the second victim. The best stuff, though, is the last half as it's filled with some great encounters with the hunters being stalked among the woods, the creature going into the house to continue the assault within, and the group tracking it back into the woods, complete with a lot of action, suspense and gore in the kills. Those have some good parts too, as they're vicious scratches and maulings, showing the victims getting really cut up and bloody. The last plus is the werewolf's look, which is pretty cool and unique in the genre, and the transformation is effective. These are its good parts.
The Bad News: There wasn't a whole lot here that didn't work. The biggest flaw to overcome is the absolutely inane editing during the attacks, which aren't all that great. Rather than giving good, clear shots of what's going on, it tends to either rattle the camera back-and-forth so that the entire set-piece is so blurred it becomes a guess as to what's happening or the scenes are spliced together so rapidly that it's essentially being assaulted by thirty different cuts during a five-second sequence, almost negating the entire experience to the point of being unable to detect what's going on. That these rapid-fire edits only occur during the scenes of the werewolf's attacks are where it becomes even more of a hassle, as there's very little opportunity to see what's happening during the best part of the film and that's really the reason to see this one, making it stand-out even more. Also problematic is the film's rather cheesy-looking effects for the werewolf, which are really quite goofy and not really that realistic. While it looks good and unique, the fact that there's no way to get around the fact that the creature still looks a little silly, and the transformations to get there, can't be avoided. The last flaw to this one is the rather long portion of set-up it has within the racetrack and finally getting him to leave. It spends a little longer amount of time than it really should due to the fact that he's already left there, yet it still has a series of scenes afterward of them wandering around, which just eats up time it could've put to better use. Otherwise, these here are the film's flaws.
The Final Verdict: Without much in the way of flaws and really packed with some good stuff, this here is a much more enjoyable effort than expected and gets a lot of stuff right. Highly recommended to fans of the creative side, the more Gothic-tinged horror or a Mexican horror fan, while those who aren't should heed caution.
Rated UR/R: Graphic Violence, Nudity, a mild sex scene and some Language
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Oasis of the Zombies" isn't all that bad of a zombie movie.
After hearing of his father's death, Robert Blabert, (Manuel Gelin) convinces friends Prof. Deniken, (Albino Graziani) Erika, (France Lomay) Sylvia, (Caroline Audret) Ronald, (Eric Viellard) and Ahmed, (Miguel Angel Aristu) to leave for Africa. Finding the location of a long lost secret Nazi gold convoy and the remains of a previous expedition led by Colonel Kurt Meitzell, (Eduardo Fajardo) they set up camp and wait for nightfall. During the night, a horde of zombies arise from the sand and launch an assault on the group, forcing them to defend themselves against the voracious creatures.
The Good News: This isn't as bad as many make it out to be. The sequence of the fire-fight back in the war is a fun action sequence that is far better than what's been said. The fact that it lasts as long as it does is it's main strength, and rather than just being a singular round of gunfire and then it's over, this one wisely features a close-rendition of a battle, going back and forth and featuring some really nifty moments. The zombies do look suitably creepy and have a really Italian look to them. They have suitably rotting faces and sand-encrusted features complete with charred Nazi uniforms, and some of them are pretty decent looking in their execution. Several of them have a really rotted out eye-hole with one eye missing, and there's another which has the skin rotted away and giving the impression that it's eyes are bugging out. It's a memorable look, especially with the sandy features. The fact that they have several creepy moments throughout is not a bad thing, with the opening attack being the most creepy with off-screen noises and the general sense of the unknown really hammering it home. Their resurrection at the end through the slowly-shifting sand dunes with the hands slowly crawling out is incredibly atmospheric and goes a long way to giving them a menacing appearance. The part that follows, the assault on the campsite, is a full-on attack, full of action and burning bodies. The zombies score as well, and the overall scene is a general highlight. This is a far better film than what's been said about it.
The Bad News: There is surprisingly very little to say wrong about this one. The zombies don't have a whole lot of screen-time in here is a big disappointment, seeing as how they look decent enough, but that also limits the fact that there's no real gore on display other than some really bloody wounds on bodies that would really be more enjoyable if it was shown how they were made. The fact that Franco is also toned down a lot is noticeable, in the zooms and also in the exploitation angle with the violence and sleaze. This really could've had more of both, and only features a fraction of what is usually in his films. The slow pace is the last major problem, and really hampers the film a lot more than it should. It takes a long time to get rolling, and the zombies being in it so little, without the usual Franco exploits this meanders around for a while until it gets going, and this is filled with lots of scenes of people talking and other such activities. That hurts the film the most, but then most of Franco's films are slow so it shouldn't really hurt it like most others.
The Final Verdict: While nowhere near the best of the genre, this is a rather decent entry in the sub-genre and does have some really nice and impressive moments spread throughout to keep it from being a complete failure. This is really only recommended to the most hardcore European zombie and Jess Franco fans, and others are advised to seek caution.
Rated R: Violence, Language, Nudity and a mild sex scene
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Devil's Den" is a rather fun and extremely enjoyable effort.
Coming back from Mexico, Quinn, (Devon Sawa) and Marcus, (Steven Schub) stop off at the Devil's Den strip club to test a new drug on the strippers before they distribute it. When they realize that the club is actually home to a horde of flesh-eating ghouls that rely on human flesh to survive, they are attacked with Caitlin, (Kelly Hu) Leonard, (Ken Foree) and Candy, (Karen Maxwell) also able to survive the experience with him. Unable to escape, their attempts at trying to destroy the creatures are unsuccessful and only lead to the group continually retreating without making much of a dent against them. Finally able to get a hold on the situation and discovering a method of killing the creatures, they finally set off to destroy them before the creatures can escape into the world.
The Good News: There was a lot to like in this one, and it's a lot of fun as a result. One of the main things it does right is containing a boatload of action that makes for an incredibly entertaining film all the way around. The first instance, where the guy is lead down the dark hallway into the alley, the playful banter before it turns a little more violent, is off-set with the fun gunfight to be had before the reinforcements show up, leading to a race to hold them off while they try to break in, and when that turns into the massacre in the main hall, it gets even better. With the turning creatures, the fighting with the patrons leading to the destruction of the furniture, the mass deaths of everyone, the general chaos of the situation and the different fighting methods used to hold the creatures at bay are just a lot of fun, and with the extreme splatter used as well as some timely jokes, it makes for a winner of a sequence. More fun is had, both in the action and comedic-sense, of the two ideas of a famous movie samurai would handle the situation, with one putting it where it would be a massive slaughter, the other saying it'd be more controlled and precise, only for them to have it ruined by the telling of the realistic scenario that would unfold, which is pretty funny as well as adding in the action for the re-tellings. Beyond all the action, several of them are actually somewhat suspenseful, as the one into the main tunnel where they find their den, with the foggy atmosphere, rocky walls and inability to notice them initially, then trying not to wake them up makes for a rather chilling experience, and once the mayhem starts when they spring an ambush on the group and the retaliation starts, it gets a lot more fun. That it leads to two big action scenes, the brawling martial-arts fight in the forest outside and the attack in the dance-room are what make it especially fun. The outside sequence even has the moment where the true revelations and allegiances are revealed, and it's a lot more inviting than expected which adds nicely to this one. That the main fight in the den is the film's highlight is no surprise, what with the extreme martial-arts on display, the comedy of his commentating on it and the general sense of fun it elicits. Another plus is the deaths in here provide plenty of blood and gore, with decapitations, scratches, ripping and tearing into the body, impaling with swords and much more, along with the feasting on remains seen from time-to-time. Combined with effective ghouls and a lot of nudity, this one's really enjoyable.
The Bad News: There wasn't a whole lot to this one that didn't work. One of the bigger complaints is that there's a lot of comedy that doesn't quite work, mainly the recurring gag with the squirrels. It'd be nice if it was actually played up or even explained, but all it does with it is simply have him voice his uncertainty about the creatures and then never do anything with it, and it grows old without anything done with it. The severed head still coming around and making threats is another issue, mainly due to the fact that it's just not all that good of a gag. It's been done numerous times and really has most of the steam taken out of it, so for it to be constantly replaying in this makes for some stretches that aren't so great. The last bit of lame comedy is the film's fighter telling the stories about the movie actor coming into their situation and how he would handle it. While the film's realizations of those scenes provides some nice action, they're completely flat due to the constant talking-over of the scene and how wrong each of their stories are, feeling theirs is the actual method. It's not that funny, despite the joke giving the film some nice action. The scene where the one reveals the back-story whole laying there injured and supposedly dying is also a problem, since there's not a whole lot it can do with it, the scene serves no purpose and is highly clichéd, appearing so regularly it's totally unrealistic and doesn't really need to be there. The last issue some might have is the rip-off of the storyline appearing quite frequently in other films, but it's not a big issue at all and isn't a big hamper to it like the other scenes in here.
The Final Verdict: A lot of fun with only a few minor, barely worthwhile complaints against it really works well for this one, and it's one of the better entries in the genre. Give it a shot if you're into these kinds of films, a fan of the cast or want a good party-film, though those looking for more serious material should heed caution.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, Graphic Language and Nudity
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"They Come Back" is a certainly fine Lifetime-style ghost film.
Following a traumatic experience, Mason Charles, (Jonathan Watton) asks psychologist Faith Hardy, (Mia Kirschner) to come watch over his niece Marley Charles, (Niamh Wilson) who has been the subject of a strange phenomena she is quite familiar with. Meeting with her, she agrees to take her on as a patient, where she's revealed to be blamed for a series of supernatural incidents that plague her. As she spends more time together with her, the more she comes to believe that the special incidents are caused by invisible specters that are causing all the accidents and weird events, making the others around her a little skeptical. When they finally believes that she's seeing ghosts, they race to help her understand what she's telling them in order to stop her from seeing them.
The Good News: There was some good stuff to this one. One of the main points is the fact that there's some pretty decent haunting-action going on, as the different ghost-heads that keep popping up in different places, such as the cemetery gravestones and in the mirrors around the house, but to the more traditional type of haunting actions is where it really shines. The first house walk-through, where the creepy noise in-the-distance leads to a full-on investigating of the house by flashlight into the living room where we get a marvelous visual of the place as it looks like the ceiling is underwater at a viewing exhibit with the wavy lines appearing and finally to the ghost appearing with a verbal warning leaves the entire scene feeling quite enjoyable and original. A second big haunting scene is done with the girl in the classroom, as the taunting of the student next to her leads into the verbal warning from her and then the teacher's warning, followed by more taunting and finally into the surreal shot of the glass cage in the back of the room utterly exploding and breaking into dozens of pieces, with no one around to claim responsibility. It's a pretty impressive scene, as well as the film's biggest scare when the psychologist is in the bathtub, including a tease in the disrobing before she enters and the faucet turning off on its own, but then when it appears as if she has been pulled underwater and the surface acting as a glass barrier to prevent escape is all handled extremely well and the entire scene being surrounded by the off-kilter lighting makes it look all the better. This one also manages to work in a couple nice build-up scenes that are used to effectively make the whole thing a lot more suspenseful, including the ghostly heads but also with the card-guessing game they indulge in as well as the new-puppy's reactions and behavior top her as well. Most telling, though, is the different tactics done with the drawings, the initially ones being quite innocent even if a little ominous-looking before it goes full-on in to the dark and disturbing, making full-use of the escalating events to make it even creepier. The last plus in here is the fact that this one has a couple of impressively-done car accident crashes, being a lot more violent in tone than would be expected in such a film and coming off quite nicely in the intended nature. These here are the film's pluses.
The Bad News: This one here didn't have a whole lot of flaws, but they are ones to be expected. The main issue, like most of these Lifetime films, is that the film is so filled with dramatic moments for its' female lead that it manages to suck away a lot of the tension and suspense the events have been building up which would be exploited in more traditional horror films. From the meetings of the therapist and her assistant where they discuss different psychotherapy techniques and the insane amount of time they spend before the actual treatment sessions managing to become friends and the budding relationship between the two, this one is filled with such techniques that it's really hard to get any sort of fear present during the supposed-supernatural hauntings. Another familiar tactic in here is the film's insistence on using non-threatening events as the basis for its' supernatural goings-on, here played out with a bit on a moving tape-recorder no one touched during the session, despite it only being shown in its final place and not in the process of being moved, the card-game where she guesses everything with no hint or clue beforehand, and a series of scenes where she vocally expresses what's happened but there's no physical evidence, and it feels like a cheat since we see nothing of what' s going on. The hypnotherapy session they engage in also has a few problems, mainly the fact that it's nearly an hour into the film and we're just finding out the root cause of everything, from the hauntings to the interactions with the girl and much more, and it reveals a gaping plot-hole that is pretty hard to ignore, in that the ghost targeted the girl to be able to have her solve her death, yet there was no way they were in contact before, after the hauntings started, so it's pretty confusing what was supposed to happen here. The last flaw is the typically sweet ending, which doesn't really mean much of anything and really just reeks of the style of film. Otherwise, these here are the film's problems.
The Final Verdict: A rather typical Lifetime style film, filled with all sorts of the usual tendencies associated with those films that it's quite an easy film to view. Recommended solely to fans of these films or fans of the cast, while hardcore horror fans who demand more will be sorely disappointed.
Rated UR/PG-13: Mild Violence and Language
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Dark Rising" is a lot of fun if still plagued with a few minor flaws.
Still upset over a break-up, Jason, (Landy Cannon) finds that his friends Renee, (Julia Schneider) Marlene, (Haley Shannon) and Jasmine, (Vanessa James) are coming along with him and Ritchie, (Jay Reso) on their camping trip, and uses that to try to get back together. Getting everything together, they start their outdoor activities only for him to keep throwing obstacles between them getting back together, and everything gets put on hold when they're attacked by a strange monster in the forest. Struggling to understand the situation, the group discovers Summer Vale, (Bridgette Kingsley) who they were initially trying to contact via séance, living in the forest and fighting the monsters that were unleashed from another dimension by their black magic book, forcing them to fend off the creature together to get out of the forest alive.
The Good News: There was a lot here to really like in this one that really works. One of the best parts is that the film manages to include a lot of action in it that's a lot of fun and gives the film a large dose of excitement and enjoyment. The campsite ambush, beginning with the séance held between the girls surrounded by candles in the middle of the forest to the sounds it makes off in the distance and finally the shots of it stalking them, to the creature appearing at the campfire and chasing them around, leaving bodies in its wake amidst the chaos, is a lot of fun and definitely a highlight moment. The battles with the creature in the forest, from the quick ones with the battle axe to the hand-to-hand combat, are highly enjoyable and definitely add more action into the film, as do the multitude of different dreams that are brought into the fray. As there's several of them, each one has something different. The first is the most visually-arresting, with the different operating tools being laid out and the confusion over everything, while the second one is the tension-packed one with the chained-up women, the darkness around them and the siren as well as the victim being dragged into the darkness screaming uncontrollably with the inevitable awaiting them next. The third one is the action part, where it's a full-on, back-and-forth fist-fight and martial arts filled brawl between the two that is just over-the-top and extra enjoyable. Aside from this, the film also manages to include a few moments of suspense amongst the action, including the initial confrontation with the girl in the house, searching through the empty rooms before finally finding her and the struggle to figure out what's going on and the eventual finding of the bug in her back, cutting it out and the confrontation within all makes for a pretty thrilling sequence. The opening, where the demon is resurrected through the incantation of the spell, followed by the green light glaring through the night, causing the walk-through of the house to discover what's going on searching for her father and the eventual discovery that ensues, is another pretty suspenseful scene, and the later technique where they discover what's going on with her is also quite good. Another plus for the film is that it manages to work in the lesbian subplot and get some mileage out of it, delivery some comedy with them in the bookstore while on the phone to the oblivious boyfriend, a bit of sensuality with the whole group frolicking in bikinis at the camp, including several of them going topless, and finally the sleaze in the full-on sex scene between the two, which is really good. The monster design is quite good, with the skull-like head, horns, warrior helmet and huge spiked-hand, along with its outfit design make for a really memorable creature. The last plus here is the film's gore, which is quite nice. From slices across the chest, a splitting in half, amputation and a decapitation, this one certainly satisfies. These here are its' positives.
The Bad News: There wasn't a whole lot wrong here that holds it down. One of the biggest issues here is the fact that the film doesn't really manage to keep it's different story lines cohesive enough, as it tends to shift around between all of its different plot elements and never really makes sure it's important to the scene. It'll simply shift into one of its different stories in the middle of another one, going from the girl's childhood to her past battles with the demons as a warrior/barbarian and then back to the group's struggles in the present and then shifting back to the different dreams where they're fighting the others, are never really put into logical order and the constant shifting around is something that could've been fixed. Also what could've been fixed is the film's lack of explaining anything, since we don't know anything about the creatures other than they come from another dimension, but their purpose, motives or even what the thing is to begin with are all skipped over, as is the explanation of how she became the warrior/barbarian, all crucial items in here to understanding the film. The last flaw here is the rather quirky and utterly stupid music thrown in whenever the guy is failing to impress the girl. It's obvious the guy's a doofus, but to have the non-comedic music that's just plain irritating all the way through doesn't help matters. These here are the film's flaws.
The Final Verdict: A whole lot of fun but still containing some flaws here and there, this one really doesn't have much of anything that will really turn off those looking for some fun. Give it a shot if you're into those types of films, a fan of the cast or just interested, while those that aren't into these should heed caution.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, Graphic Language, Nudity and a sex scene
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"100 Feet" is quite simply the greatest ghost movie ever made.
Placed under house arrest, Marnie Watson, (Famke Janssen) is forced to live in the house where she killed husband Mike, (Michael Pare) but is still under the protection of Officer Lou Shanks, (Bobby Cannavale) his old partner with an electronic monitoring device. Almost immediately after moving in, she begins to experience a series of strange events that has her convinced he has come back to continue assaulting her, which lead to their current situation to begin with. Even using the help of neighbor Joey, (Ed Westwick) doesn't help and the incidents continue on, eventually managing to drag others into his violent path. Finally managing to get too hard for her, she makes a final stand against the tormentor so she can live her life again.
The Good News: This here was a phenomenal ghost film with a lot to love about it. One of the best aspects to this is the central premise, which is just utterly perfect for a ghost movie and gets a lot of creativity points to it. That the build-up is absolutely forgotten in favor of simply showing the ghost makes a great use, since it can now simply focus on the spectacular haunting scenes with flavor. That's what they provide here, and are some of the best ever done in the genre. From the opening encounter, with his screaming face interrupting her slumber, the chase down the hallway and falling down the stairs before the shadowy ghost comes along, disturbing the environment where he touches them which is a great skill and one that manages to be quite overlooked in these kinds of films, to a marvelous encounter in the basement with the dim-lighting keeping everything mostly dark, and along with the tinkling bracelet making for a fantastic timer and the struggle to accomplish her task and getting interrupted again with another brutal beat-down in the room before another struggle on the staircase to escape, this one provides the goods with incredible haunting sequences. Further good work is accomplished with a tense garbage-disposal encounter, with the running blades trying to slice into her before she can turn it off, and with a bit of acrobatics manages to accomplish it, as well as a series of fun scenes with flying dish-ware, creaking floorboards and footsteps in the distance to signal even more fun to come along with its beginning set-ups. The big set-piece, though, is the part where she blesses the house, which is done quite nicely as she tries to perform her ritual thoroughly, but when he gets involved it takes a turn for the worse as he drags her across the hall by the hair, uses her bloody head to write a message on the wall before commanding a series of objects supernaturally through the house to block her escape attempts, only to do so when she approaches them rather than just doing them all at once so as to further hammer home the maniacal tone intended with everything. It's even got some great scenes full of tension without the ghost, as the truly original sequence where she tries to keep a mutilated body hidden from the investigating police officers in the house, even with the body emerging through its hiding place in plain sight of them is a marvelous suspense piece and works well for the film. The finale, though, manages to become the film's best part as its just full-on action, with the ghost creating a fire in the house, spreading nicely throughout the area and managing to cause nearly as much grief as the ghost, and that all leads to a fantastic confrontation in the basement surrounded by the fire and trying to stave off the beatings in that environment for a marvelous scene, and even mixing in some fireballs and explosions for more action. The last plus one kill in the film, being one of the most brutal and bloody beatings ever filmed in a horror film, and just getting a lot more out of the film. These here are the film's positives.
The Bad News: There wasn't a whole lot here that didn't work. One of the biggest flaws is the film's weak back-story. The fact that the relationship wasn't spelled out at all makes it very hard in the beginning to get into this, as we're just plunged into the situation without really getting a chance to know anything that's happened so far, especially with a film that's relying so heavily on that back-story to tell this story. That also makes the motive for everything a little shaky, since it's explained that she was beaten but not what started the initial round. Later ones are given, but the start isn't mentioned, and that's a product on its messy back-story. Another minor problem is the disbelieving cop sub-plot, which here is played more as him being the partner backing him up rather than trying to believe the supernatural. That makes it seem a little clumsy and forced, not all that natural like it's trying to be. The last flaw to this is the film's rather deaden pace in the middle segments, which offer up very little of excitement. From the endless shots of her tidying up around the house to her incessant desire to be among the neighbors but are refusing to be with her to begin with, as well as the sister's visit that accomplishes nothing, it's pretty boring in these parts with no ghost action. These, though, are the film's flaws.
The Final Verdict: An absolutely spectacular and nearly flawless ghost movie, this one manages to cram so much good stuff into it that it's nearly impossible not to love it. Utterly essential for fans of killer ghosts films, the interested or those looking for some quality entertainment, while a few might not get into this one.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, Graphic Language and a mild Sex Scene
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Fear House" is a typical and overall average haunted house effort.
Going on a drive, friends Anthony Ballard, (Matthew Stiller) Fiona Bloom, (Olivia Price) Mortimer Gladstein, (Matthew Montgomery) Eva Tinski, (Meredith Barnett) Rhett, (Ryan Caldwell) and Suzette, (Kiersten Hall) arrive at a secluded house to fins his missing sister Samantha Ballard, (Aleece Jones) who had rented it to write her new book. Seeing something is wrong immediately, they soon learn that an evil spirit who died hundreds of years ago has taken over the house and preventing them from leaving, yet none of them believe the story. After they are each exposed to various situations around that house they all believe to be their individual worst nightmares come to life, they accept the story and try whatever they can to ensure that they stop the spirits' rampage and get out of the house alive.
The Good News: This one had some rather good stuff to it at times. One of the main pluses here is the film manages to do a superb job of placing rational fears into the set-ups that they are just quite freaky at times when they land perfectly, which is the perfect solution to these situations. The first walk-through of the house, with the spider-filled fuse-box during the blackout and the cut on the hemophiliac, which leads to several more great gags including a hallucinatory spurting wound into an empty sink to fill it up with blood as well as a later bit of suspense with a falling can of nails, is quite creepy and starts it off nicely before building to the bigger ones later. Those are the best part of the film, mainly the upstairs segments as there's two really great moments. The first one, in the bathroom, features the ghostly father appearing to torment the victim before falling into a full-bathtub full of blood before a ghostly sister rises out, these alerting others and forcing a tense resuscitation effort. A later continuation, where they are sensually felt-up by a ghost hand before appearing behind them in a creepy face is quite nicely done, and mixes in some eroticism as well. The second big upstairs one, the other victim alone in the bedroom before the big reveal with the ghost in the room tying them to a chair before being rocked by flashing images, is a pretty nifty sequence and makes for a couple big moments. Other big suspenseful scenes occur in the basement, where the darkened-staircase-descending opening, along with the eerie voices in the distance, create a fantastic backdrop for the later action where the creatures found are perfectly chilling, the different chanting and dialogues engaged with the ghost-girl are a great trap for the zombies emerging to engage them from out-of-nowhere, and that's a fine moment. The wheelchair sequence later on is one of the film's most inventive scenes, where the crazed actions that are clearly-inhuman are just thrilling, the chasing around the house is creepy and the final payoff is spectacular. The first encounter throws some action into the proceedings with its dog-attack in the car followed by the electrical-wiring shock, and the back-story flashback does the same with regard to its storytelling actions. The finale is one of the creepiest parts to this, with the blowing wind, the attacks by the house and the others, and the final fates are just great. The last plus to this is the kills, which are quite good, from a decapitation, a body burnt to a crisp, multiple impaling and a lynching. These here are the film's good parts.
The Bad News: This one had some pretty big problems to it that did hinder it somewhat. One of the biggest issues with this one is the fact that there are just not a whole lot of scenes that make much sense in the overall scope of the film. The purpose of the fire-taunting scene in particular is the biggest one, which is just outright confusing and is really questionable since there's so many questions around it. From the purpose of figuring out her fear, it would've been a lot easier to logically figure that out rather than in a way that would burn the entire house down and kill them all inside as the fear could've easily paralyzed them to the point of inactivity, and with the others upstairs at the time, it's a potentially deadly situation that comes across more as confusing than anything. Even the point of the ghost appearing in the bathtub during that flashback is quite strange, since that's the obvious route to go here, so setting it up as such with such a quick-cut scene that fails to generate its scare is a little strange and quite problematic. Other problems come from the film's rather slow pace, since it's all based on the fears materializing to generate the scares so there's a long stretch where the house does nothing and there's no supernatural activity at all during those scenes, leaving a lot of time without a whole lot going on and that's something which can drag the film out during the middle portion. The film's last flaws are its wraparounds, which are just plain weird. The opening ambush is a little strange in that there's no scares that come, despite the activities performed, because the cheesy effects give so much away that it's impossible to take them seriously, and the finale is just hampered by so much questionable actions that you leave the film at the very end more confused than anything, the wrong way to do so. These here are the film's problems.
The Final Verdict: While not a stand-out effort in the genre, this one has enough good parts that make it decent even though there's not a whole lot out there to really wow most. Recommended to haunted-house enthusiasts, low-budget connoisseurs or those interested, while those who aren't should heed caution.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, Nudity and Graphic Language
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