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I'm not sure "Watchmen" and "Up" should be viable for that same exemption though, not being horror and thus not having that problem - therefore I'm including two honorable mentions
Return of the Walking Dead
Probably a film that while it influenced many media, that many people who saw said media probably never heard of.
It's very energetic and has likable characters - and, interestingly, the gang at one point threaten other people to get information, thus reminding us our protagonists/potential victims are, on a normal day, probably to be avoided themselves.
Individual zombies have personality too, notable because many villains in films have no personality - and unfortunate convention, but often it seems a movie's villain only exists as an obstacle for the hero.
Fortunately, there isn't much stupidity here as the threat is dangerous that the potential victims are pretty much fighting an uphill battle.
The music is pretty amazing.
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Hotel on Coastside Cliff
I'm not sure what to rate this film.
Some horror films focus on gore and sometimes nudity; those are splatter flicks enjoyed more frequently by younger viewers (i.e. teens and maybe early twenties). Many older horror fans prefer films reliant on character development and atmosphere.
When I was younger, I found this boring. Now I find it incredibly stupid.
Beyond the opening part, most scenes have something wrong - often a complete disregard for common sense.
Apparently a guy who only runs amusement parks - unlike Disney or Universal, he has no other assets spoken of - can afford to throw away millions of dollars like its nothing. Note that the existence of another big amusement park would reduce the income taken by each company, making this less believable.
Ali Larter's character, on seeing the house locking itself down, preventing the cast from escaping, thinks its an attempt to scare them into leaving and forfeiting the money.
Rush's character provides the guests the means (loaded guns) and motives to murder each other. Forget the $1 million, or even $5 million. The lawsuits this surely opens himself to would ruin him.
Rush and Janssen play a couple who would be at home in a "Tales from the Crypt" episode. Kattan plays an unlikable guy who despite believing the house to be evil is willing to let people die for a few thousand dollars. These people play the only real characters.
Larter and the other girl might have been if they stared with their mouths closed but lips slightly apart, often while looking up, they would be paid for acting. Diggs has nothing to work with besides a couple of generic "movie black guy" lines toward the start. Whoever played Blackburn kinda just stood there mostly.
Essentially, there's a "Tales form the Crypt" plot line, which isn't that bad, and a haunted house plot line, which never makes sense. Even poor films like "Mirrors" and "The Unborn" had more logic to what their malevolent spirits were capable of - here, the darkness within the house was contained by cork board through most of the movie.
At one point, Diggs's character or a ghost resembling him is encountered by Larter's character. That ambiguous aspect is closest the movie comes to being scary. It's ruined because either the lighting or effects team resulted in the glowy eyes.
On the upside, it's very enthusiastic and feels the behind it were actually trying to make something entertaining - a feeling missing most big-budget horror films today.
Buried Alive (2007)
One interview video I watched once involved, after the interviews, the interviewer/presenter stated that the reason one person wasn't hired was because she would've made a good drinking buddy, but wasn't the material they needed.
"Buried Alive" is kinda like that. Little happens, but the characters are very entertaining, and mostly juvenile, but their antics stopped the movie from being boring.
Tobin Bell is essentially a poor man's Tony Todd, wondering around and providing some sense of menace.
There's some very gory murders, but much screen time is taken up watching the amusing potential victims, which alone should tell you whether you would enjoy watching this or not.
School of Horror (2007)
Essentially, if you've seen the first few minutes, you've seen the movie! This prank (putting someone in a horror flick non-consentually) is pretty much the entire film.
Locked in a bar, with a monster outside, Rocky antagonises people until they venture outside. Not believable. Not remotely believable anyone would be more scared by Rocky than being eaten by a monster and even worse because if the audience can't buy it, why would the protagonist?
Oh, the twist kinda explains it - rather odd, really, that this incompetent movie still cheats less than The Uninvited for example.
A big cast brings nothing but boredom, with most kills being offscreen; you'll probably be fed up long before it finishing.
Mega Snake (2007)
Oddly, this movie resembles "King Cobra" heavily - the killing of someone watching TV, the police and hillbillies forming additional teams to fight the creature besides the hero group, and even the hero group itself - medical guy, police officer and snake expert - is similar, missing only one character, as the character responsible for releasing the snake dies early in "Mega Snake".
Oh, and shed skin scenes. Discovering one might also happen in "Anaconda" but I don't remember - maybe the hunter in "Anaconda" was already carrying it.
Also resembles "Python" - a cop wants to arrest the protagonist for murdering the snake's victims and perhaps the protagonists' ending.
The great snake kitbash brings only the rampage at the fair that's almost new. That, and maybe disjointed attack scenes.
Oh and very poor characters - much worse written than the characters of "Python" and "King Cobra", and even the expendable victims of "Anaconda". Here, the protagonist's brother, for example, mocks the protagonist, blaming their father's death on him at an otherwise casual moment, while the police antagonist is nowhere near as likable as his counterpart from "Python".
Warriors of Terra (2006)
Warriors of Terri... well alright, complete f-ing awful
"Warriors of Terra" is kinda like "Return to the House on Haunted Hill" - they are best described as "imitation movies".
It's pretty much clichés, nothing but clichés, without any purpose besides being clichés. Almost like the writers' thought train was "well, that's what happens in movies like this".
The main problem? It takes over one hour before an actual characters start dying, and there's not many redshirts either. Of the main groups, only three characters are "actual characters" meaning there's few people to converse with besides redshirts.
Nothing happens without the monster's presence, and when she's on screen you can't see much. She's not on screen much, although you can't see much anyway. It's dimly lit.
So remember only view this movie if... actually I can't think of a suitable excuse.
From Beyond (1986)
From Beyond doesn't resemble a Lovecraft story, really. Monsters appear on screen too much, there's no atmosphere at all, there's too much action (quasi-action?) going on throughout the movie. Actually there's more emphasis on violence and maybe gore (don't really remember gore content) than trying to scare anyone.
It actually resembles Hellraiser more than any Lovecraft story I'm familiar with. It also predates Hellraiser, which means technically my title makes more sense than it's supposed to. Anyway, the themes include things like people who become aroused due to exposure to the other world or dimension or whatever its supposed to be.
And also some creature that tries to absorb people or something for sensual reasons... maybe? Its pretty weird, and I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out only the opening segment actually resembles the events of an actual Lovecraft story.
Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
Sometimes they come back and then leave after eating your food
The atmosphere is quite good during this film and emotional scenes involving the family were effective too. Its quite easy finding affection for these characters.
There is one problem though - in the process of increasing the story's length, the writers threw in scenes of students being murdered.
IIRC, dead students simply disappeared from the story, replaced by (un?)dead people. Here we're shown how they died and it almost seems like the writers thought the audience would be bored without action scenes.
They don't even match the film's tone and frankly, the crew proved capable of making me uncomfortable without anything happening on screen, meaning they were talented enough to not need random kills to interest the audience, making these scenes redundant.
Riding the Bullet (2004)
Riding the Mallet
I don't really understand what I saw while watching this film. I'm not sure whether it was intended as a character study, incredibly surreal or whatever.
I'm not really sure whether the protagonist's paranoia was really supposed to be important, if so, the suspicions were justified when spooky things started happening, so... I repeat: I really don't understand.
The antagonistic spirit tries to force on the protagonist a sadistic decision. Perhaps if, instead of watching weird stuff happen to the protagonist, we had been given more emotional investment in him, this might have been more effective.
So the roller coaster shares its name with a metaphor for mortality. Right. But then what effect did literally riding the coaster have? Any? Very weird...
The method of presents the protagonist's thoughts to the audience was inventive, but besides that I don't know what I could recommend about it. But then its probably among those films where reading about it simply can't substitute the experience of watching it.
Night Drive (2010)
Firstly, I'm reminded of my favorite now gone horror review site and a "rule" they mentioned sometimes - a horror movie shouldn't run over ninety minutes unless it has something special for audience members.
Additionally, I'm reminded of the fifty movie pack I once bought, and some among those films share the habit of padding the film with a sequence that adds little to the movie. Night Drive's was worse - it rendered the central characters as unlikable.
Apparently drugged people experience motion like a 1st-person Nintendo 64 shooter - their walking viewpoint looking like the perspective of someone sliding across the ground instead of walking.
It's also kinda like the inverse of the haunted house film Dead Birds, where the crew mixed an atmospheric film with gory scenes, here its a character-driven splatter flick, which doesn't really work because the characters aren't that endearing. The elderly couple were probably the most charismatic characters and contributed little.
Ultimately the film falls flat because the pieces, well, technically fit together, just not very well.
Essentially the movie is about the writer Paula, who travels to her uncle's house hoping for inspiration there on writing another book.
And admittedly, the film has good atmosphere at first, and then some weird writing assistant shows up. From there it appears as if the movie could take itself in an interesting direction, but...
It's like this - suddenly the assistant is in control of the situation, and here's technically a SPOILER - not because of the detail itself, but because this works up to a very overused twist; see basically, Paula isn't seen talking to the assistant near anyone else, she never inquires about the things her assistant does, almost like she already knows, and so on.
If it had taken another direction, the film might have been pretty good, but this became predictable and unexciting.
Creep Van (2012)
"Creep Van" is impossible to rate because the movie often makes little sense, indeed, its often nonsensical.
The best comparison is to say it was watching the average YouTube video; the people making it obviously thought it was much funnier than the movie actually was. Often absurd, and occasionally I laughed, but often in disbelief or at the absurdity of the events on screen, rather than because it was funny.
Another description would be Troma without the talent. Or, if you've seen any Syfy movie where the monster kills bystanders long before interacting with any central characters, the van's screen time is generally limited to things like that.
Otherwise there's much nonsense, like a drug dealer screaming into his phone before finishing with "of course I'll tell Mom I love her", the martial arts girl beating up perverted engineer before both get turned into roadkill, etc.
It's stupid, but you'll probably be tired of it before it's over.
"Wreckage" is a film that puts quite some effort into the characters, from the Sheriff who becomes suspicious of people quickly, to the hillbilly junk yard owner. The exceptions are, naturally, the lead characters, who were quite bland.
Thankfully the characters were treated as being less expendable than most slasher films, so the good characters aren't mere fodder. Although some actions made little sense and become unbelievable like for example the Sheriff trying to apprehend the killer AFTER he killed a cop - seriously, when you even attempt killing a cop, other cops won't show mercy - the term "suicide by cop" has a reason for existing.
The kills, one of the biggest selling points for a slasher, are pretty weak though, with a sole imaginative kill, perhaps two if you count one failed attempt.
The film conceals something important, and that something requires the killer's early attacks to happen offscreen, which might be annoying to at least some watching.
I was surprised when, after some time with effective atmosphere,a very weird, silly occurrence changed the film's tone. However...
1 - When its scary, its actually scary, featuring atmospheric scenes that build tension very well.
2 - When its funny, its actually funny, perhaps because of the contrast with the serious scenes, and actually handles the switch very well - usually it takes itself as seriously as any individual scene needs to be, which occasionally resulted what just happened, so perhaps this film isn't for everyone - it's very weird.
3 - I was considering actually dropping the rating of any horror film focusing on teenagers - fortunately these ones are fleshed out somewhat, and aren't nearly as annoying as the ones found elsewhere in the genre,
Interesting premise, unsure about the actual movie. The premise is basically the entire storyline.
The characters are... well the character focus scenes are quite natural, but, travelling a lot, naturally they're tired and stressed, so perhaps we see comparatively little of how they interact normally.
However, those few scenes without Simon were quite good, and there's some scenes with Simon and Rich goofing off.
There's many things left ambiguous and some things are alluded to and dropped, which was surprising. I prefer ambiguity although sometimes I was unsure what I was supposed to interpret from scenes.
Really this movie is better experienced than read about, and I can't put into words very much description for that reason.
Ferocious Planet (2011)
There's not much that bears mentioning here, not even bears, because bears only dwell on savage worlds, not ferocious ones.
John Rhys-Davies got killed early and frankly he was still needed, I would've preferred watching him to these random people were. Kinda annoying as he's stuck around longer in worse movies.
These critters' heads had many eyes, possibly supposed to resemble arachnids, top-mounted nostrils like a brachiosaurus, except there's one nostril, the overbite and eye ridges from a tyrannosaur, and those tusk- mandibles from some critters from the "Tremors" films. Probably many other species' anatomy were mixed into them too.
Also the characters kept getting killed by stupidity, actually only one or two died without stupidity. But somehow, it works.
Last Summer, a year featuring many boring-looking Summer movies, another IMDb reviewer wrote, "considering the weak theatrical releases out this summer, and the ticket prices that look like they were set by a big-oil executive, watching this for free is the better option"
Amusingly, this Summer, ANOTHER year featuring many boring-looking Summer movies, you know what? I too think you're way better off watching "Ferocious Planet" than wasting your money on those films.
Half generic, half interesting.
Okay, some friends on vacation anger local gypsies, which results in a killer bird being summoned and trying to slaughter them. Actually, these people are slightly more interesting than the archetypes normally found in films like this.
The monster, at first it appeared it was going to be offscreen for much longer than many similar films - it technically was, although it briefly stalked the cast offscreen but then appeared fully.
I can't really offer much detail on the interesting parts beyond saying it becomes clear the story won't play out like you're expecting, which, given how uninspired films commissioned by the Syfy channel usually are, is definitely something.
Army of the Dead (2008)
The premise of reanimated skeletons on the rampage is as imaginative as "Army of the Dead" ever gets.
The characters are telling ghost stories at the campfire. Naturally, one recounts the film's backstory. The next day a greedy man tries to steal the treasure along with some mercenaries.
Naturally, to establish the mercs are terrible people, their boss pushes the greedy archaeologist to promise more riches, both from the treasure and otherwise, then tries to murder him after reaching the gold anyways, apparently his previous antics didn't qualify as obviously evil.
One of the expedition is rescued by the central characters, of which some exist solely to provide more deaths - literally, some people are only on screen in group scenes.
If you intend on watching a film almost interchangeable with many other horror movies, try viewing this.
The Stepfather (1987)
What makes "The Stepfather" stand out is despite the absence of paranoia (the title character is revealed to be a killer in the opening few minutes), it remains quite effective with the plot line of the daughter trying to prove he is, and because he knows she knows, he attempts to conceal the truth.
Interestingly, the death of another character is quite sad, whereas similar films only have deaths for shock value.
The film also provides a subplot involving a relative of Jerry's previous family hunting him, although it raises the question of where relatives are I suppose, although that didn't detract from the movie.
The Objective (2008)
It's understandable this was in the science fiction section of Bluckbuster. It has unexplained phenomena that characters are subjective to, something often capable of unsettling people. Howevr, here its played for mystery value, as often there were scenes that didn't feel like the audience was supposed to get scared.
The characters were, aside from the character of Abdul, not terribly indistinguishable. The protagonist was mainly separate from the others by being from the Government rather than the military, but besides being more aware of the phenomena he was quite bland. The chief officer was mainly distinguishable from the others only because he provided conflict with the protagonist.
The others - one died quickly, one became sick, and, honestly, that's the closest to characterisation I remember them getting.
Despite this, its quite interesting and, despite early resemblance to "Death Watch" and "Outpost", its a different film.
The Watermen (2012)
I don't understand exactly why this was entered into Frightfest, it seems pretty sub-par.
Anyways, some young adults, possibly on a fishing expedition, when suddenly their boat breaks down and they get attacked by...
Actually, that's probably why I couldn't enjoy the film much. Its quite generic disguised by superficial aspects - broken down boat rather than having a broken down car, villains who grind people into chum instead of the somewhat common villains selling their kills as snuff films, and actually, some elements are unchanged, like strange locals.
The teen characters meanwhile are quite generic with only minor traits differentiating them (one brother detests people who pollute the ocean, the other doesn't really care), and some weren't very capable when under attack, one even standing "helplessly", despite being armed.
Dead Heist (2007)
I don't usually like horror movies about criminals or delinquent types (e.g. "The Wilderness"). I know there is an audience for films where everyone's constantly swearing, threatening each other and generally being unpleasant, but I don't really understand that.
Here, the characters have some motivation for being thieves, one's the admittedly cliché type who's trying to get away from this lifestyle but is required to do one more job. The other members aren't exactly against living like that but this heist will improve their lives. They might have wanted out also, not because of moral reasons however.
However, obviously this plan doesn't quite work - partially because the more moral guy doesn't get along with the other members, but also because there's vampire zombie critters running around.
There's also another character hunting these critters, and, well, the film feels more ambitious than standard zombie films, with some surprising developments occurring throughout. Definitely better than I was expecting.
Session 9 (2001)
Firstly - pay attention, the film's quite detailed and many minor details are easily missed.
The film relies on unsettling the audience, generally making them feel uncomfortable with the interior of the abandoned building, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.
There is heavy character focus, resulting in a film where most characters get decent amounts of focus. Actually, the protagonist didn't even feel prominently featured, which is different and I appreciate it although many viewers might not.
However, the film holds back information, which, if revealed, would have made the final product much worse, yet it feels like the film relies on the withheld information too much, resulting in an ending that feels disappointing.
Zone of the Dead (2009)
This film contains some interesting ideas, including a warrior prophet who thinks humanity is being punished for... producing global warming.
It contains some goofy moments, including a professor who decides to check the area has become poison-free. How? By removing a gas mask from his head.
It contains some downright strange things happening, for example a zombie who bites one person, then runs.
Unfortunately, that means very little. This movie drowns under formulaic plot points you will already be tired of if you've watched any of several (hundred?) zombie films released before. If the same film were released several times, under different titles, instead of multiple films like this getting released, it wouldn't make much difference.
Perhaps that's why it was called "Apocalypse of the Dead" during the opening credits and ending credits called it "Zone of the Dead"
During the first half things were quite interesting, and when the group initially gets into trouble when the bridge they're walking on starts to collapse, things get quite tense.
The characters are quite varied really, consisting of one enthusiastic guy, a girl who is (was?) considering quitting her nurse job, that girl's whiny boyfriend, her ex-boyfriend who's easygoing but occasionally tries provoking the boyfriend, and another girl who's personality isn't distinct...
Things get worse for this group of characters as a killer is in the area, using the abandoned hiking path for a hunting ground.
Things get worse in another sense, actually, because while offscreen this villain was probably more effective. Unfortunately just before he appears, one character does something very stupid, which drags the film quality down somewhat. I'm not going to spoil it specifically but someone acquires the stupidity level often found in villain characters populating Syfy-commissioned films.