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American Poltergeist (2015)
Far from impressive. Possible to enjoy with lowered expectations.
In a genre sadly known for releasing an increasing number of films of below average quality, the action which best serves me is lowering my expectations. That way I can at least almost enjoy even the not so well made films, by recognizing their positive features. American Poltergesit is not a good film, but the rates and reviews on this site are (as always) extremely exaggerated. Giving 1 star to any film that isn't a masterpiece doesn't make you cool, it makes you a juvenile amateur.
The story starts off as nothing remotely original. A bunch of teenagers arriving at a haunted house. There have been, what, a thousand similar plot in the past decade? However, as events unfold and new information is given, the story takes a rather interesting turn, actually offering something rather new. Additionally, the antagonist ghost (played by screenwriter Nicole Holland in a nice Peter Jackson/Stan Lee kind of touch) is very well designed, and comes out as pretty frightening (so, compliments due to the make-up artists, I guess).
Sadly, that's pretty much all I can say in favor of this film. While the acting by most of the cast was okay (and not more), Donna Spangler (Diana) wasn't really acting. I don't know if I should blame her or the instructions she'd received from director and screen-writer Mike Rutkowski, but she honestly appeared unconvincing and in no way professional. Her attempt at being troubled and eccentric came out as "this is my first time in front of a camera". Seeing as how this is in no way Spangler's first performance - I must assume bad direction.
In addition, a lot of the build up receives no conclusion at all, some of the scenarios are illogical enough to make you face-palm yourself, and the ending lacks any twists or climax. I can't say I suffered during watching this, the purpose of "let's enjoy a Horror flick I haven't seen yet" was indeed served, but nothing about this film was impressive or worthy of remembrance. One can only hope that the sequel will be better, despite the tendency of sequels to be far worse.
The Secrets of Emily Blair (2016)
Surprisingly good! Definitely worth watching.
I must admit, I had zero expectations from this one. Another exorcism film, sadly (or better yet ridiculously) trying to live up to The Exorcism of Emily Rose (I mean come one, even her name). Many such attempts have failed in the past few years, and all I wanted was to enjoy an exorcism film I haven't yet seen, in hopes that it wouldn't bring the level down too much. I'm happy to say I've been very pleasantly surprised!
The film starts as one might have expected. Nothing remotely innovative, original, or impressive. A cookie cutter story of a kindhearted nurse becoming possessed. I was a little annoyed that they cast an eye-candy-and-nothing-more, and half-expected her to do very poorly. My sincere apologies to Hellen Hollman for that terrible misconception, as nothing could have been further from the truth. After all the possessed women we've seen on screen, she still managed to be impressive, both as Emily and her "demon-self".
On that matter, while the story felt slightly forced and in no way compelling, the cast made everything right. First of all, seeing Colm Meaney as a priest about to perform his first exorcism in a Horror film? Nothing less than a treat! Not his best performance ever, but not at all below standards (and high ones for that matter). Will Kemp and Adrian Paul were excellent as well as concerned fiancée William and former priest Henry Roizman respectively.
In addition, while I didn't so much like the way they designed the demon itself, displaying the way Emily attempts to fight it is one of the two sole original features in this film (and a great idea). The second being, of course, the ending (which lacks any impressive or special characteristics, as Horror endings often do, but is original to some extent in its own way - you'll realize when you get to it).
All in all, surprisingly good and well-made, and another Horror film poorly judged by IMDb ratings. Honestly, take my word for it and never trust this site's ratings or reviews (present company in no way excluded). If the trailer and plot synopsis (or cover photo, or cast, or crew, or any manner by which you choose what to watch) appeal to you - watch it. If they don't - don't. However, I would certainly give The Secrets of Emily Blair a chance. I'm sure glad I did.
Profound acting, some clever writing, do not miss out!
After watching, I looked up XX (as I do each and every Horror film I watch), and the first review to greet me was a 1/10 trashing, with something like 67 out of 109 finding it helpful. While I've long realized that taking consideration of reviews and rates is an act of pure folly (feel free to do just that, just bear in mind that you'll be missing out on some pretty impressive gems), I still find it difficult to understand anyone claiming XX is bad enough for a 1 out of 10. Seriously.
So okay, yes, two of the stories fail to produce an ending per se (which stands out all the more due to excellent buildups), which means half (and not "all" like the biased review stated). Horror, in my opinion, has to borrow from Psycho Thrillers and work hard on endings, preferably with a clever twist (see Saw for "done right"). In addition, I believe the gore scene in the first segment is cheap, unnecessary and nothing more than revolting, an attempt to flaunt some budget or art skills. Then again, I despise gore with a fashion, so if you don't (which is completely legitimate, to each their own, a matter of taste etc.) you might actually appreciate the sensation of "OH DEAR GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?".
That's it. Honestly, that's all the trashing I can come up with in good conscience. Some of the segments exhibit original and innovative writing (others stick to more familiar themes), the acting is absolutely profound in each and every segment, and the cut-scenes appear like an actual bizarre nightmare. All in all, uneasy and discomforting, enticing some very unpleasant emotions, just as modern horror is supposed to, by definition (for better or worse).
If you're looking for another theme that's been over-made for a decade, you'll probably won't enjoy XX as much as I did. You'll still enjoy it to some extent as Horror fans. In no way does it deserve less than a 6, and I'm going with 7 in an attempt to salvage some honesty and overall fairness. Stop trashing everything you don't understand.
Don't Knock Twice (2016)
Not top quality, but fun to watch!
As most of us sadly know, despite its growing popularity Horror is not a genre known for neither masterpieces nor blockbusters. Most films of the genre are cookie-cutter patterns following the same unwritten yet repeatedly utilized set of rules concerning the plot, the characters and even the specific scenes, while offering very little innovation or originality. Don't Knock Twice is another example of this phenomenon, but one well made.
First, we have the exposition, involving a tragedy or post-trauma, in this case a teenager growing up in a foster home after her drug addict mother gave her up in order to spare her. Now reformed, the mother wishes to try and win back her daughter's love, with the support of her loving second husband. Not surprisingly, the teenager is bitter and cold, bearing a very legitimate grudge, but turns to her mother's protection when all else fails. In time, the mother learns that the supernatural demonic entity haunting her daughter is far from being imaginary, and the two begin their battle for survival, using advice given by the mother's friend who's an expert in superstition and witchcraft. Sounds familiar? Indeed, I'm certain most of you can think of two or three similar plots with little effort.
The original bit is actually very nice in my opinion, although the film failed to capitalize on it (and in a way didn't even try). The demon, awoken as a result of kids' disregard of an urban legend, needs to enter through a door in order to seize its prey. Contrary to basic instincts - those hoping to fend off the demon must avoid closed doors of any kind. This feature of the story receives very little screen time, which is unfortunate, as it is the one display of originality and creative innovative thought. Huge potential unfulfilled.
The acting is right on the spot, especially by the main mother and daughter duo (Katee Sackhoff as mother Jess and Lucy Boynton as daughter Chloe). Sackhoff's acting is particularly impressive, especially her nonverbal acting. Her body language and facial expressions, her way of displaying emotions, everything is as authentic as can be. I had to actively remind myself that she was an actress playing a role. Boynton wasn't as impressive, but the gap was really small. Imaging a teenage daughter's behavior towards her estranged mother after years of growing up with child services - and you've imagined Boynton's acting. Excellent job by director Caradog W. James in shaping these characters!
In addition, I for one think the soundtrack is excellent, perceived by me as a delicate combination of Slasher soundtracks like Friday the 13th, and supernatural Ghost Stories like Insidious. Many such soundtrack are great and serve their purpose accurately, but this one felt new.
All in all, Don't Knock Twice is a mediocre horror story well presented on screen. Despote its obvious (and oftentimes frustrating) shortcomings (especially screenplay-wise) - the jump- scares (though a cheap trick) are well used, the eerie haunting scenes are terrifying, and the film offers a fun and worthy Horror experience.
Somehow, this amateur embarrassment wasn't that bad.
In my opinion, Satanic is one of these cases of "I know it's terrible, but I still enjoyed it to some extent", and to me - as long as I enjoy something, I don't really mind how low level and quality it is. Some of the aspects are actually quite tolerable, like the soundtrack and the acting (nothing profound, but professional and does the trick).
The story is very Slasher. 4 friends, two females (one good-girl, one b*tch) and their two boyfriends (one goth douche-bag, one jock snob) head towards spring break, with a stop in LA in order to view some Satanic landmarks... I've seen worse. Things get a little insane of the occult persuasion when a girl they pick up along the way slits her own throat in their hotel room as part of some evil demonic ritual. From here on - a combination of "kinda creepy" and "dear god this is so stupid please make it stop".
Another thing: Scrrenwriter and Director whose names I'm not even going to check - pay your viewers minimal respect and do your research. LaVayan Satanism is not Crowley devil worshiping, it's a hedonistic philosophical doctrine combining certain religious features, but it couldn't be further than the way it was portrayed and depicted in this film. And no, I'm not a Satanist, I simply have this bizarre ability to read.
All in all? If the concept of Satan scares you - you'll probably enjoy this. If not - you'll probably feel you could have lived without it. I didn't suffer through it, but this is far from being one of the best Horror films, or part of the top 1,000. Then again, and I'm serious - NEVER judge ANYTHING according to raters and reviewers here, always check for yourselves.
The Invitation (2015)
Different and impressive, profound acting by supporting cast!
Usually, I find it more difficult to fully connect to realistic Horror scenarios. Not to say I don't appreciate a good Slasher, Cat & Mouse or a well made Torture Porn with an actual story, plot and preferably a smart twist - but I always enjoy supernatural Horror and Ghost Stories more. Still, I believe one really needs to make a conscious effort in order to fail to recognize the relative greatness of The Invitation.
The first thing that hits you is the conflicted music of the soundtrack, ominous yet relaxing, beautiful yet creepy and uneasy, and absolutely suitable to the overall ambiance of the film's occurrences. The music is only the first out of many things that cause and unnerving and uneasy sensation that "nothing is wrong... yet". I'm not sure which song this is in the detailed soundtrack, but whoever the composer - way to hit the nail right on the head!
The story another feature to add to the uneasy feeling, as Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are on their way to a gathering of old friends, with the common ground being the untimely tragic loss of a child. The hosts are Will's ex-wife and her new husband, whom she met in a support group for bereaved parents. Eden (Tammy Blanchard), the ex-wife, is surprisingly happy and calm, in a way that bluntly contradicts Will's depression, paranoia and overall neurotics. Having mentioned some of the cast, allow me to say I was very impressed with the acting, especially the facial features and body language. While Marshall-Green is a very convincing paranoid grieving man and Blanchard an equally convincing griever turned slightly crazy, I was impressed the most with Lindsay Burdge as Sadie (sexy and promiscuous) and John Carroll Lynch as Pruitt (silent, violent and deadly), both able to portray their feature characteristics with nothing but a look. Honestly, I've added one point to my rating because of how awe-inspiring these two's acting was.
The emphasized features of the film are the tense suspense, building up slowly and almost agonizingly from the start all the way to the final part, and the obscurity regarding Will's fears which keep you guessing all the way to the end. Every time a surprising occurrence or development supports Will's paranoia, another follows up to contradict it. There is simply no way to know, which serves to amplify the suspense and uneasiness. Director Karyn Kusama and screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi have definitely done their job.
In the end, what truly gets under your skin is how realistic the depicted scenarios are. Nothing supernatural, nothing remotely unreal, just situations anyone could find themselves in, hence the compelling reason to feel afraid. In addition, I always love seeing more modern characters, like an interracial couple and a gay couple (which I very rarely see in Horror). It's okay to show it on screen, you know, welcome to 2017.
All in all, I didn't expect the film to run and end the way it did. The pace is slower than my usual preference, and the feelings evoked are less in the line of "fear", and more "discomfort", "uneasiness" and "danger". Still, I very much appreciate the experience I went through while watching, and while I'll probably not watch it again - I'll be sure to recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different in the field of Horror.
Lights Out (2016)
Original take on fear of the dark, and some fine acting. That's it.
When it comes to Horror, I enjoy sub-genres dealing with ghosts, haunting and such supernatural beings the most. It makes my inner child tremble in fear, and that's just the feeling I look for in a scary film. So obviously, I simply had to try Lights Out, both because of James Wan (only a producer here, but still his touch can add magic to any and every Horror story) and because of the theme (monsters in the dark? Good night, inner child, enjoy wetting the bed!)
The best feature of the film is presented right at the start (it also appeared in trailers, so if you haven't watched any because you'd rather approach the film without any prior knowledge - stop reading now). Something evil lurks in the dark. The lights go on - it disappears; the lights go out - it reappears with a vengeance. A very original take on "monsters in the dark", presented beautifully. Not to mention the creature itself has been designed with all the makings of a horrific nightmare.
Unfortunately - this concludes the part discussing the film's strengths. Don't get me wrong, the story is nice and the characters are relateable and authentic, but the overall film is mediocre at best, lacking a a proper plot twist, and ending anticlimactically. Also, the acting is quite impressive, especially from Maria Bello as Sophie (that's the way to play a manic neurotic single parent!) and young Gabriel Bateman as Martin (too many children in Horror films are far too courageous, intelligent and perceptive to be convincing. Bateman shows us how a terrified, confused and distressed child behaves in the real world, and does so as professionally as they come!)
In summary, the lovely antagonist and the fine acting compensate for the lack of anything special, and the viewing experience is fun and terrifying at times (though mostly on account of jump scares). I can't in good conscience rate it over 6, but it's important to understand that it doesn't mean you should refrain from watching it. I always advise people to be judge things themselves and never rely on others' opinions, and that's especially true for Lights Out. Most chances are you'll enjoy a lot more than I did, and as mentioned before - I'd enjoyed quite a bit.
Patient Seven (2016)
Stolen ending, amateur conclusion, a blunt and unworthy disappointment.
I'm sure you've read the short plot summary or seen a trailer. Seven mentally ill criminals, telling their stories to a psychiatrist writing a book, and all that in a Horror story... what could go wrong? Well, if you've sat down to watch this with high expectations - everything. If you haven't - well, just enough to make you feel alright about taking the time to give it a chance, but a bit guilty for enjoying parts of it, as altogether - Patient Seven is far from good.
Let me start with the good parts, firstly the acting. I was pretty impressed, but I couldn't tell you precisely with whom (and if you try to look at the cast list here, you'll understand why, perhaps they used the time an effort they should have used to make a better film to make the cast list cryptic and incomprehensible, good for them!). Secondly, the stories are well presented and fun to follow.
Now the bad parts - anything and everything else. The "plot twist" bluntly stolen from another film, the sorry conclusion, the realization that yes, it was actually made this badly and I've just spent 2 hours watching it... Yes, the stories are enjoyable, but having a build up crash so pathetically really destroys the experience for me. I honestly felt like punching the screenwriter. Besides, the plots are too "all-star", meaning trying to combine as many horror aspects as possible (vampires, haunting, zombies, psycho killers etc.) and doing a mediocre and below job.
Watching it was kinda fun, until it ended and became the most disappointing Horror film I've ever watched (and that's saying something). Do NOT watch this. I guess rating it a 1 isn't all that fair, but neither was making this film to begin with or stealing an ending. Yeah, I'll go with 1.
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
First Saw, then Insidious, and now this. Another Horror Masterpiece by the Wan and Only!
In this day and age, where Horror very seldom receives the attention and praises of which it is so worthy, creators of Horror films have to constantly challenge themselves with aspirations of newer heights. If you didn't successfully reinvent the wheel and improved on it - you project probably won't be as successful as others from different genres. "If you want a good Horror film", say the critics and reviewers, "make a great one. If you want a great one - make a masterpiece". "Is that so?" says genius director-screenwriter James Wan, "challenge accepted!"
At first, I must say I was slightly disappointed having realized that The Conjuring 2 isn't a straight sequel, and doesn't pick up after the events of the first film (as I was looking forward to getting some long overdue answers and closure). The sequel, in short, as another crazy Ed & Lorraine Warren adventure, beginning with a fine and well deserving tribute to the famous Amityville incident. Her premonitions still haunting her, Lorraine hopes to convince Ed to stop their work as Possession/Haunting 911, but the two find themselves unable to send away a family in need, who is haunted and terrorized by yet another malevolent entity of the underworld. Nothing new so far - but only because I'm refraining from spoilers. Towards the final third of the film, Wan presents one of the best, most off-guard catching twists since Insidious.
As in the first film and the less impressive spin-off "Annabelle", the story is divided into the main plot (Ed & Lorraine to the rescue vs. haunting spirit), and a side-plot portraying an entity haunting the couple itself. Both come to a closure in a suspenseful, creative and innovative manner as only Wan has been able to produce in the past decade. The story is compelling, interesting and well presented, and the conclusion is absolutely marvelous!
As in the previous film, Patrick Wilson is extraordinary and Vera Farmiga is only slightly less impressive. Patrick McAuley deserves as many complements for such fine acting skill at such a young age. However, the show is breathtakingly stolen by Madison Wolfe as little Janet, the spirit's main point of interest. In the first film I thought I'd seen the pinnacle of "possessed"-acting, but just as Wan was able to higher the stakes of writing and direction - Wolfe presented a whole new level of exquisite acting.
In addition, The Conjuring presented one of the scariest Horror icons ever seen on screen (being Annabelle, the nightmare-inducing doll). I really hadn't expected Wan to be able to top that. Surprise surprise, he did. The painting and appearance of the "nun-demon" in this film is one of the most terrifying images I've ever seen, very much resembling the haunting spirit in Insidious, yet not enough to qualify as recycling.
As for the other info some might find interesting - the music and soundtrack are as "Wan" as can be, combining haunting thrilling tunes with nursery rhymes, with the addition of a religious song. Hey, if it worked so greatly in Insidious, why change it? The cinematography is nothing special, but this goes unnoticed during the films. In addition, just like in the first film, cliché jump- scares are almost non-existent, and the very few that do appear are in very good taste.
In summary, the creator of Saw and Insidious has done it again, placing The Conjuring franchise right at the top with the best of them. I never have high expectations of sequels, but I tell you, Wan is going to make a believer out of me yet. I had to think a lot about the rating I was going to give this film, but the final plot twist (which is of a whole new level and never seen before) made it an easier decision. If you are in any way a fan of Horror - go watch the first film, and then this one. You'll be happy (and terrified) that you did.
The Other Side of the Door (2016)
Mainstream Horror done right! Not great, but definitely good, smart and fun!
It's been a few months since my last Horror film, and I must start off by saying I'm very glad I've chosen The Other Side of the Door to ease myself back into it! Despite what other raters and reviewers might say (as usual, NEVER trust IMDb ratings when it comes to Horror), the film is good, enjoyable and scary enough without being nightmare inducing (at least for experienced Horror fans).
True, the story is a bit cliché, after all this is a Fox production, not an indie creative project. A family suffers a tragedy, and while trying to cope begins to experience a supernatural haunting. However, the story succeeds in being original and innovative enough in regards to the plot-line, especially during the transfer from past to present just after the exposition, and the frame concept of a door through which one could converse with a deceased loved one.
The acting is right on the spot, and is definitely one of the stronger features! Sarah Wayne Callies is excellent as Maria, the distraught mother trying to cope with the loss of her son, and later with the supernatural phenomenon tormenting her family. Her counterpart, Jeremy Sisto as Maria's husband Michael, is absolutely excellent! His portraying of the strong husband, trying to be an island of strength and normalcy in his wife's depression while quietly trying to cope with his loss himself, is impressive and simply profound. Only slightly less impressive is Suchitra Pillai as Piki, the nanny (and I do mean slightly, as she is excellent as well). As for Sofia Rosinsky as the daughter Lucy, I can see the obvious talent, but am not too happy with the instructions she obviously followed with her character. Often times characters are over dramatic, but Lucy felt under-dramatic, even if it meant portraying a more accurate seven year old's coping with the loss of her brother and the deterioration of her mother.
As for jump-scares, yes, there are a few, but anyone who's watched 5 Horror films in their lifetime could tell you that these were subtle, well planned and definitely not exaggerated. A few "boo!" moments don't spoil a Horror film for anyone who isn't looking for reasons to not enjoy (in my opinion of course). The soundtrack and cinematography were also right on the spot, adding a fine dimension of eeriness and uneasiness.
Now, if jump-scares always lower a Horror film's level (even if just slightly) when I'm concerned, smart plot twists and endings definitely make it higher! The film ends with a very nice twist towards the ending, and with a very smart conclusion leaving many questions and "what-ifs". A direct sequel is probably ill advised, as these tend to butcher the franchise and have so far only been done right in Insidious: Part 2 (and even that film wasn't as good as the first). Still, I love finishing watching a Horror film with this feeling of "oh no... oh no!!".
All in all, as I've started by saying, a good film, fun to watch, scary and eerie in the right places, a great experience for both experience and new Horror fans. It's not a masterpiece, and might even be just "good" and not "great" (especially, in my opinion, because of too little screen time given to the first twist, not letting it settle before jumping to the 2nd one, although this may have been deliberate...) But it definitely deserves more than the terrible average rating it currently has. I don't understand you, IMDb, I truly don't. I would definitely recommend this film, had a great time watching it!
Hear no evil, unfortunately... Very recommended!
Everything that falls under the Horror label has a reason for being frightening. Usually, it's derived from basic human fears which in most cases relate directly to survival instincts. Hush's main story line deals, obviously, with Home Invasion (following other titles like Panic Room and Strangers), but aside from that it deals with the loss of senses. Usually, as we've all seen and read in Horror films and stories, the sense of sight is the one focused on. This time - a film has set out to show us just how scary the loss of hearing could be, and has done a wonderful job!
The story is quite simple. Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a deaf writer living on her own, with very little human interactions, mostly her friend and neighbour Sarah (Samantha Sloyan) and her sister Max (Emilia Graves, with whom she chats online). There are also references to an ex boyfriend by name of Craig. One night, out of nowhere, a killer (John Gallagher Jr.) arrives at her doorstep with the sole intention of toying with her, and finally killing her.
The acting is very impressive, especially Gallagher as a profoundly creepy and unnerving killer, and Siegel as a deaf woman fighting for her life. However, the greatest feature is by far the direction (Mike Flanagan). The focus on certain sounds to emphasize Maddie's deafness, the cutting of all audio in certain scenes to show things from her point of view (or more appropriately hearing), the wonderful use of a single location in the project - all have added value making this good film great.
Hush is not a masterpiece, especially because of the over-simplified plot and lack of any twists or actual turning points. A smarter story, with half the thought shown to given by Maddie to her books' endings, would have really made the film exquisite. However, even with the story as it is, Hush is suspenseful, authentic, relatable and on in all manners fun and rewarding. Very recommended.
Final Destination 5 (2011)
An unnecessary (failed) attempt.
Many of you FD fans out there who'd been there since the first film probably wondered what as to the point of FD 5 (and by that I mean the point of making a 5th film to begin with and making it the way it had been made). FD 4 was excellent, resembling the first in its level. FD 5, on the other hand, felt like nothing more than an unapologetic attempt at squeezing the franchise for another few bucks.
The plot has nothing of interest and nothing worth mentioning. The cast, the acting, all is adequately planned and executed, just like the previous films (good to see Candyman Tony Todd back in this one!) The only thing that should have given this film the edge and added value is its being a "prequel", but even that was poorly done. The ending does connect this film with the first film (and very nicely, I must say), but besides that - one of the key plot points is when the group realizes people are dying in the same order as they did in the premonition. Obviously this was for the sake of new watchers beginning to follow an anthology on its 5th film (there might 2 or 3 people like that, good for them then), but the rest of us had already known everything the characters "learnt" in the film.
Besides the nice ending adding a sense of nostalgia and Todd's dominating presence (regardless to short screen time)? No point whatsoever in watching this except for crossing it off the list and unlocking the "watched all 5 FDs" achievement in your Horror scrapbook. Not bad, enjoyable at times, but unnecessary and not the least impressive. I feel bad that FD has to finish on such a low note instead of going out with a bang (as it would have had it ended with number 4 the way it should have had).
The Final Destination (2009)
Finally, one that's as good as the first film, and almost better!
Although I'd really enjoyed the first film (and to some smaller extent the second and third), I did find myself wondering what exactly did the directing duo James Wong and David R. Ellis have that was going to justify another film - and then another. Wong did the first and third, Ellis the second and this one, and after watching it - I daresay I almost pray Ellis took charge of the next project as well. The Final Destination has without a doubt matched the first film, and in a way maybe even surpassed it.
After an excellent first film (could have been a masterpiece but Wong's directing botched it), the 2nd and 3rd were mostly appealing to the already existing fan base, offering absolutely nothing innovative or in any way new. This 4th film, however, has decided to shuffle the deck and reintroduce the familiar motives, and has done an amazing job! The protagonist, a male character like in the first film, has numerous vision this time, most of them being the clues and signs to which the group must pay attention in order to foresee the next death. Having the signs appear as independent (yet confused) visions is a wonderful upgrade! The of course, the opening credits scene featuring the deaths shown in the first 3 films, and the ending scene - both have some very nice use of visual effects. The ending has some sort of a twist to it, offering a new perspective on the futile battle the group has against death. Everything feels upgraded, new and improved.
Personally, I wasn't happy with the gore scenes (which I consider a cheap cheat and something that has no place in Horror, but in a separate inferior genre), nor the nude scene (again, cheap and unnecessary), but these were the only blunt disadvantages I could find. All in all, The Final Destination isn't a masterpiece more than the first film, but it finally lives up to it (unlike the two previous films). One of its best features is that it appeals to old fans of the anthology as well as to new viewers, as it doesn't at all rely on the occasions of the previous films (perhaps a small hint here and there). If you've seen the first three film, this one is a must-see for you, and if you haven't - while I'd always recommend starting at the beginning, you might as well begin with this one and enjoy the upgrades.
Final Destination 3 (2006)
Better than the 2nd, not as good as the first, but fun to watch nonetheless.
I must say that after a rather wanting sequel, I've had very lowered expectations from Final Destination 3. Luckily, this have turned out to be in my favour, as this film has impressed me more than I could anticipate and has spared me unnecessary disappointments.
The main gist of the story remains the same, the premonitions of foreboding doom made famous and turned into a franchise. This time, it's a roller-coaster accident. Again, the survivors start dying, and must learn to read the signs and recognize death's design in order to intervene and save each other. Seeing as how director James Wong (who's done a much better job here than in the first film) had obviously had no intentions of offering anything innovative or new, and had just meant to capitalize on the already successful motives - the best way to look at FD3 is by comparison.
The good: I find it difficult to connect to the whole damsel in distress routine when it's forced upon the main protagonist, but objectively speaking - it was called for. The first two films showed very brave young people in their late teens or early twenties, and being so brave and composed in the face of such tragedies and dreadful predicaments damages suspense of disbelief. This time, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Wendy) is a much more realistic character, much more human in the face of death. Also, using pictures as signs and hints (while completely unoriginal in Horror) was a nice addition. And finally, the ending was the best one yet. Involving a few surprises and half- twists, and not at all comical like in the first film (altogether, there is nothing comical about this film, no comic relief or anything of the sort. Good to see Wong has learnt from his past mistakes!). Before I forget - Candyman Tony Todd doesn't appear in this one, but his voice does!
The bad: first of all, the famous nude cheat. Come on. Was it really necessary to degrade the film and audience by throwing in two naked girls? Not to mention degrading the actresses (Chelan Simmons and Crystal Lowe, who've performed beautifully delivering a very convincing and authentic duo of shallow bimbos - yes, it takes some skills playing the part right). Second, the unnecessary addition of viciousness felt forced and redundant. There was no need to add a vindictive side to Death, having it simply doing its jobs and killing those whose time had come was more than enough.
All in all, I still don't think the film had the same impact as the first, and I did miss the sense of continuity which appeared in the 2nd film, but if you're a fan of the franchise - you'll definitely enjoy this one.
Final Destination 2 (2003)
Average film, good sequel, doesn't live up to the first.
After finally getting to watching the first film, I've just watched this one last night, hoping it's as good as the first. Let's start off by saying it's not. I did have plenty of criticism for certain aspects of the first film (especially to do with the work of director James Wong), but unlike the first film - this one was never going to be as groundbreaking, original and inspiring.
Not unlike the first film, the story kicks off with a group of youngsters on their way to to party somehow somewhere. During the drive, Kimberly (the driver) has a vision which makes her pull over, ultimately saving the lives of the people stuck behind her on the highway. When the survivors begin dying, Kimberly seeks out Clear Rivers, one of the survivors of the famous plane explosion from the first film, in hopes that she could help her and her new friends "break the pattern" and "beat death's design". The only original addition is new information shared by the creepy mortician (always great to see Candyman Tony Todd, eerie and unnerving as ever).
Besides the obvious lack of originality or even the slightest attempt to offer something new plot and story-wise, Final Destination 2 suffers from two obvious shortcomings (in my opinion of course): First, any attempt to compensate for a lacking story with over-intensified gore scenes is low class in my book; and second, the deaths seem too supernatural, much more than in the first film. Where in the first film some water leak, causing the victim to slip - this time the amount of "coincidents" leading to each "freak accident" feel too much like divine (or unholy) intervention, too deliberate and too far fetched. Not as convincing, not as reasonable, not as good.
The small attempt at a plot twist towards the ending isn't successful, and the ending itself is far too comical (again, not unlike the first film). All in all, as a standalone film the film is average at best, and as a sequel - not more than good. It's still a lot of fun to watch after the first, and it definitely isn't a bad film or a reason to quit on the anthology, it just very obviously could have been better.
Final Destination (2000)
Excellent story, could have easily been a masterpiece with better direction.
While being a devout Horror fan for over a decade, I must sadly confess that I've missed out on many of the classics, by which I mean that even if I did end up eventually watching them, I was far too old to really appreciate them (and have thus lost most of the scare-effect in classics such as Children of the Corn, The Omen, Village of the Damned, and don't even get me started on Chucky). Thankfully, Final Destination is simply an excellent film, and therefore immortal.
The story altogether is original and compelling, showing a teenager which an obvious fear of flights getting a premonition of his plain bursting into flames. Thus he discovers his power to comprehend and anticipate death's "pattern", thereby avoiding it. What he doesn't realize before it's too late is that nobody cheats death. At first the story feels a little mixed up and not too well presented, even considering director James Wong's former known project (The X Files). With no build up whatsoever, the unfolding of the story feels like a long episode of the cult series, for better or for worse. Also, certain parts of the story are simply left out, and the audience is left with the sole option of figuring things out relying on later scenes. While not a dire shortcoming - this still feels amateurish and bluntly unnecessary, especially considering the few seconds it would have taken to set things right.
Then there's the acting, or more appropriately the cast. As a huge fan of both SLC Punk and Idle Hands, I simply couldn't take Devon Sawa as a serious (even tragic) character. I kept half expecting the joke or wise crack to magically appear around him, and that's the last thing one would want while watching a Horror film. Luckily I'd never realized he played the role of Stan in Eminem's music video, or it would have been ruined for me too. I assume this is a personal problem, as Sawa is a great actor and performs beautifully, and yet. Then of course there's the slightly weird choice of casting Steven Stifler as Billy (which brings us to the question - why have a Billy in the first place? Such films have absolutely zero need for a comic relief, this is not a slasher parody). After his immortal performance in American Pie (and later Road Trip), even seeing his face in a Horror film severely damages the sensation of fear and suspense. Lastly, Kristen Cloke as Miss Lewton. Having a young high- school teacher is a risky move, and takes some talented maneuvering to pull off (for instance Drew Barrymore in Donnie Darco). Cloke, while obviously a talented actress following bad directing instructions, is far too timid and overdoes the whole damsel in distress routine. Having such a character as a teacher, after presented as strong and secure at first, felt unrealistic (yes, I realize she's been traumatized, yet as I've said - overdoing it).
Then, of course, the ending, following a very weak plot twist (if it can even qualify as one) and being as predictable as one could imagine, and far too comical. If Sawa and Scott were too comic for my personal liking, the ending is simply too comical for the average Horror viewer. With such an ending as the wrapping paper, the entire project stinks of "I want to be mainstream". This is Horror... why try and be mainstream instead of trying to make a better film?
Please understand, the reason I have so much concrete criticism isn't by far that Final Destination is a bad film. On the contrary, the original and innovative story (even today, 16 years later! Hats off to screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick) could and would have been enough to make this film a masterpiece. Sadly, all these bad choices by Wong turned what could have been an excellent film, to just a good film. Such potential gone to waste...
All in all, I had a great time watching this. While obviously more Suspense than Horror, it's definitely one of the classics, and if at 30 and 16 years after its debut it still managed to leave such an impressive mark on me - I can't recommend it enough.
The Boy (2016)
Not what you might think it to be - for better or for worse.
It is somewhat difficult for me to explain my viewing experience of this film, and in no way do I mean to sound condescending of uppity, so kindly bear with me... Usually, after years of "experience" with a certain hobby, one is able to differentiate objective criticism from lack of personal satisfaction. For me, The Boy is a perfect example, so I'll make sure to separate my personal opinions from what I perceive to be the makings of a fine Horror film.
I've always been a big fan of the Supernatural sub-genre, with a special liking to films portraying evil dolls (films like Dead Silence or Annabelle, NOT Chucky). After watching the trailer for The Boy several months ago, I've been eagerly anticipating its release. As presented in the teasers, the story is original and well told (hats off to screenwriter Stacey Menear), and the jump-scares (while still cheap) are sufficiently few and well made to add the occasional scare without damaging the experience. Music and cinematography are great, as is the acting (especially supporting actors Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle as Mr. and Mrs. Hillshire).
Now for my problem... the plot twist is smart, surprising and in no way predictable (although some of you might have guessed it from the start, I personally was impressed). It adds a stroke of genius creativity and originality to an otherwise all too known pattern of a film. I just didn't like it... it felt too original, like trying to reinvent the wheel when the wheel works just fine. Objectively - great twist, great ending! In my opinion? A let down.
All in all, the eerie sense of suspense and fear is maintained throughout the entire film, and I would definitely recommend it to other "supernatural dolls" fans. However, personally, I couldn't help but feeling it was ultimately a let-down, and I wouldn't watch it again.
The Pyramid (2014)
In short - not worth watching.
You know how sometimes "Reality" shows and "documentary" programs feel not only fake, but outright silly? Well, imagine a Found Footage / Mockumentary film that attempts to mimic these shows instead of actual documentaries. That's exactly how The Pyramid feels.
The plot and story are basically the most basic use of the all too familiar template. A group of explorers find "the discovery of the century!", are told to drop the project on account of it being too dangerous, but no, they can't, for the sake of science and all of humanity! Shockingly, things go from bad to worst, and now instead of struggling to have their name attached to the discovery, they struggle to escape with their lives.
Another thing one simply can't overlook is the film's inability to decide its own genre. It appears to be Found Footage until the point where it's no longer convenient, so the director decides to cheat. Very unprofessional and annoying, Mr. Grégory Levasseur.
The one thing I can say I liked about this film is the antagonist. Its appearance and characteristics are the only thing resembling creativity and an attempt at being original, and even the downright amateur level CGI can't spoil that. Other than that? Low level writing, low level directing, low level film. If you're a fan of this "dangerous archaeology" type of film, you might enjoy this enough to not feel your time had been wasted. In any other case - this one is simply not worth the trouble.
Excellent writing, great acting and characters. Not so scary, but very well made!
A loving couple moves to a small rural town after the wife is in a car crush, in order to start their life anew and await the birth of their first child. However, the pregnant wife begins experiencing visions/hallucinations, and fears their new house might be haunted with evil spirits! Sounds as corny and unoriginal as any of the hundreds of Ghost Stories out there using the same story frame, right? Well, stop right there and watch it anyway, because you're in for a treat!
The story is actually original, innovative and impressively smart! The build up is immersive and suspenseful, leaving the audience on edge and constantly guessing and second guessing, while maintaining an eerie pace more suitable for Horror and less for psycho- thrillers. The characters are authentic and well thought of. I was specifically impressed with the female cast, Isla Fisher (Eveleigh), Gillian Jacobs (Sadie) and Joanna Cassidy (Helena). I also loved how the male characters were. Both Anson Mount (David) and Bryce Johnson (Ben) have a supportive role as the rock and back-up of their wives, the main characters, and they do so beautifully. Great acting and excellent direction work by Kevin Greutert.
Most importantly, the twist and ending are surprising, satisfying and simply great! After so many anticlimactic endings, Visions is a shining example of how a plot twist and an ending should be. Screenwriters L.D. Guffigan and Lucas Sussman have shown us all that fine Horror writers are still out there!
All in all, a fun and surprising film! Not as scary as Horror should be in my opinion, but an excellent film highly recommended!
Bound to Vengeance (2015)
Profound acting, but seriously downgraded by some poor screen writing. Could have been much better.
Ever since watching the remake of I Spit on Your Grave (and the far less impressive unnecessary sequels) I've become a big fan of female revenge flicks. Seeing the victim rising from her ashes in order to punish the sick monsters who've done unspeakable things to her, extract her revenge the way we all wish we could - is not only fun and exciting, but therapeutic. Having recognized Bound to Vengeance as such a film, I've immediately set out to watch it.
First thing I must say is that the film resembles I Spit on Your Grave only very remotely, which turned out to be not necessarily a disadvantage. It throws the audience straight into the eye of the storm right after the opening credits, as we meet Eve (excellent acting by Tine Ivlev), the girl who was kidnapped, and Phil (even better acting by Richard Tyson, definitely the star talent), her kidnapper. The film actually begins with Eve managing to not only escape, but trap Phil in her stead. From there, instead of getting as far away as possible, she forces Phil at gun point to take her to all the other girls he has kidnapped. More than vengeance, Eve is bound by a mission - to save the other girls.
While the acting is profound, the story itself becomes less and less authentic and logical, making less and less sense the deeper we go. Many of the actions and occurrences are too hard to believe, and really ruin the suspense of disbelief. Think of a constant reminder shouting "this isn't real, you're watching a fictional film!". A bit of a mood killer... To make things worse - while the twist towards the ending is actually nice (if too predictable due to some irresponsible spoiler-giving screen writing), the ending itself adds a twist which I can only describe as stupid.
All in all, I can't say Bound to Vengeance is a great film, but it does pass as a good one. Watching it is intense, suspenseful and harsh, the soundtrack is excellent, and Eve does manage to squeeze just enough violent vengeance into her tight schedule of saving everyone else. If you don't expect to be amazed - you'll definitely enjoy this one.
A unique artistic film. Welcome to Hell!
Southbound is unlike most Horror films, belonging to a sub-genre I would define as "intertwined". 5 different stories leading to and deriving from each other: Two friends on trying to get home, a girl band trying to get to their next gig, a man trying to go home to his loving wife, a brother trying to rescue his sister, and a family on vacation before their daughter goes to college. Sufficing to say nothing ends well.
The common ground for the tales is the actual ground, as they all seem to be taking place at the same location, referred to as "the middle of nowhere" and giving a strong sensation of Hell itself. Also, all the characters seem to be tuned in to the same radio station, where the DJ hints of his awareness to their sins and struggles. In each story, the protagonists (if you can call them that) have secrets in an escalating level of severity, and I guess the moral is that Karma always catches up to you.
Seeing as how each story is around 17 minutes in average, it's quite challenging for me to rate the film as a whole. The screen writing is by far the best feature, as the stories leave you confused, wondering, desperate and lost. Some fine shooting and cinematography as well, especially during the beginning of The Accident part (great work from directors and screenwriters Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin). The acting is also good, but the each of the cast is given little screen time, so it's hard to say anything more. I will say that all the cast is largely unknown, and still showed a lot of promise.
All in all, Southbound would appeal to fans of more "artistic" Horror films. It's unusual and quite unique, leaving the audience with an uneasy sense of bewilderment. While not my preferable sub- genre, I was very impressed with it and enjoyed it to the last second.
Good film, fine acting, disappointing ending.
When I choose new Horror films to watch, I usually rely on IMDb posters and synopsis, followed by the video trailer (and sometimes based on proximity, in the list of "users also liked" found on pages of films I've enjoyed). So it was a very pleasant surprise for me to see the name James Wan (a.k.a the Wan and only!), master artist of modern Horror-Thriller, in the opening credits. With numerous triumphs to his name (Saw, Insidious, Dead Silence, and The Possession for instance), James Wan is to me no less than a brand name, guaranteeing top quality modern Horror mixed with suspense and just the right amount of drama. However, in this case - I must sadly say that the film didn't remotely resemble the level I've learnt to expect from Wan. Probably because he was a producer here, not in charge of story or direction.
The first obvious characteristic made known is that it's somewhat of a combination between narration and found footage. A detective reaches a murder scene in a house infamous for similar murders 20 years ago, relating heavily to the occult. As the sole suspect is interrogated, he recaps the occurrences of the past few hours, or at least what he remembers. Simultaneously, the police technicians manage to salvage the footage of the cameras placed in the house, and together both testimonies slowly uncover the story. As a Horror fan who really doesn't like found-footage "mockumentaries" - I must say this combination was very well done!
As for the acting, those of us who've seen Eurotrip were in for a nice little Easter egg, with Scott Mechlowicz playing the role of blunt antagonist Brian. After seeing him as the comic romantic, his skills in portraying the condescending patronizing ex-boyfriend were pleasantly surprising, the proof of acting talent! Other than that, I found the entire cast to be very good, with no-one standing out in particular.
Now for the lesser parts... For starters, the story followed the all too familiar pattern of "youngsters performing seance, things go wrong, enter possession?". The exposition bringing said youngsters together and the overall conclusion of events were the only things resembling originality, with the conclusion part even less so as it's been done in other films. The build up lasts most of the film and does a good job in being compelling and creating suspense, but leads to an anticlimactic and somewhat disappointing ending. It feels like preparing the audience for a major twist, which turns out to be all too obvious and predictable (whenever the adjectives "anticlimactic", "obvious" and "predictable" are used to describe the twist and ending - disappointment is eminent).
It's difficult for me to remain objective when the ending is a let down, but all in all I must say Demonic is quite a fun experience. I believe James Wan had no business participating in a mediocre production, but not all things mediocre are necessarily bad. I enjoyed the film pretty much until the ending, and I guess it's worth trying if you're a fan of this particular sub-genre.
The Vatican Tapes (2015)
Great acting, not a great film. Still worth a shot!
Demonic possessions and exorcisms have always been some of my favourite themes and sub-genres in Horror films. Indeed, we have come a long way since the original cult The Exorcist, with certain films far exceeding others in any aspect there is. Sadly, in my humble opinion, The Vatican Tapes is not one of these chosen few, far from it.
The story isn't particularly impressive, but does express some originality, as the possessing demon isn't just another foul spirit. Beyond that - nothing special, nothing new. The ending, however, while lacking a good twist and a less anticlimactic conclusion of events - is rather unique in its own way, and left me personally quite content with my decision to sample this film. Not remarkable, but definitely deserving of certain praises directed at original writers Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin.
The way the possession itself is portrayed is pretty much a combination of all the known classics. It appears director Mark Neveldine had no intentions of reinventing the wheel, and simply meant to show us the possessions we already know and love. I personally was impressed with the decision to refrain from using voice effects, and simply relying on lead actress Olivia Taylor Dudley's profound skills.
Speaking of which, the acting is by far the finest aspect of this film. Dudley does an amazing job as possessed, disturbed and distressed Angela, and Dougray Scott (Roger) and John Patrick Amedori (Pete) are authentic, convincing and excellent as the possessed's loving and concerned father and boyfriend. The Vatican priests (Peter Andersson and Djimon Hounsou) were also quite remarkable.
The biggest problem with such films is that they rely too much on specific religions, Christianity in this case (and in most cases). This leaves many of us non-Christians struggling with suspense of disbelief, which sourly affects the overall sensation of fear (the main reason for watching Horror, isn't it?). I in no way whatsoever mean to criticize Christian beliefs, for films focusing on Jewish exorcisms, for instant (like The Unborn and The Possession), suffer from the same problem. It would be spectacular to see a production that would succeed in avoiding the easy way out, and find a way to create a possession film relevant to all audience regardless of religious upbringing.
All in all, the film reminded me very much of The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, which wasn't a success to say the least, only slightly better. While far from being a masterpiece, The Vatican Tapes does offer certain unique benefits and advantages, making it definitely worthy of watching. I would say to give it a chance, but with lowered expectations.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
A little too political and not enough Horror - but an excellent film and sequel!
In my opinion, every Horror story's plot, premise and conclusion it define it's need (or lack thereof) a sequel, as well as set the borders for the sequel's story-line. The first film from 2013 took a fantastic and original idea executed in a manner that unfortunately left a little to be desired. Unlike most Horror films, and in a way slightly resembling the Hostel series, The Purge's main theme is criticism of the human nature. As such a film, the plot and story- line are secondary, and there was absolutely no interest in the Sandin family once the film concluded.
Thankfully, profound screenwriter and director James DeMonaco had recognized the aforementioned fact, and therefore created a sequel focusing on an entirely new plot. On his way to extract his (well justified?) vengeance on the one night when it isn't just legal but a legal civic right - a stranger (Frank Grillo in what could very be his best part to date) stumbles upon Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) who are about to be cruelly executed by a gang of purgers. Despite himself, he tries to save them, and ends up saving the troublesome couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) along the way. While the main goal is to survive, the frightened four led by the stranger can't help but feeling uncomfortable with the fact that their savior is still just another purger seeking to end lives.
The entire cast has performed profoundly, regardless to being mostly anonymous. Unlike the first film,The Purge: Anarchy is mostly an action film with some Horror aspects, with characteristics and a general pace not unlike a Zombie flick. While the name of the game is survival, the central aspect is the criticism and social statement. Adding to the human nature criticism of the first film, the second adds a more obvious debate against capitalism, social gaps and the American way. A little too political for my taste this time, but still delivered professionally and impressively.
All in all, this sequel is just as entertaining as the first part, albeit much less of a "Horror" film per se. Unlike 99% of films focusing on social justice, The Purge: Anarchy presents its statement in an entertaining, fun and thought inspiring fashion. Watch and learn - this is how cinema is supposed to criticize the foundation. A very recommended film, both to fans of the first one and to those only now getting familiar with this new national holiday.
Seed of Chucky (2004)
In a word - terrible. In two words - extremely terrible.
Congratulations, Don Mancini. Until now, I have prided myself for never giving up on a film, for always giving stories and plots a fair chance, and for being able to find the minute positives even in films I did not completely enjoy. But Seed of Chucky has defeated me. I have managed to survive 33 minutes of it, and I've had enough. Please, please no more!
It appears those in charge of the Chucky project insist on digging their own professional graves deeper. After succumbing to Chucky's status as a joke, they have decided to capitalize on how bad everything about these projects is, and turn themselves into an ironic parody of everything they'd used to stand for. After stealing from slasher classics, Mancini now steals from Pinocchio (only his name is Glen, or her name, the doll is too gender-less and androgen in the same time, showing just how desperate for support the cast is...) Also, it appears the worst "Horror" film ever has decided to steal from the worst action film ever, and now actress Jennifer Tilly plays as herself playing Tiffany playing herself playing Tiffany playing whatever the heck that is... You deserve better, Tiffany. Much better.
I do not know how the story continues or ends, and I couldn't care less. Never in my life have I been exposed to such a terrible pile of cinematic rubbish. If you're a Chucky fan, of course you'll love this film. Then again, if you're a Horror fan, run before Mancini destroys all your appreciation for the genre. I've never before rated a film 1, but this film deserves a blunt 0. God, I hope none of you paid to watch this...