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The Monster Project (2017)
Well done found footage
Victor Mathieu's feature length debut, The Monster Project, is a semi-original Found Footage horror movie that manages to stay interesting in a sub-genre filled with hastily thrown together bore- fests. Mathieu, who also co-wrote, brings us a tale of an aspiring filmmaker intent on making a documentary about supposed real monsters. When he advertises on the internet for subjects to be interviewed, he and his film crew get more than they bargain for as they are relentlessly pursued through a decrepit mansion from which they cannot escape.
The film borrows slightly from Adam Green's Digging up the Marrow as we (and the film's characters) find that monsters are more real than we imagined. The acting is decent for the most part, especially from the monsters. The vampire especially did a great job. The CGI is fairly well done. I found it reminiscent of films like Grave Encounters. The first third finds our protagonists bickering incessantly due to some awkwardly scripted conflict, causing a but of unnecessary tension, but once the thrill ride starts, the action and scares come a mile a minute.
I found The Monster Project to be a fun movie and a great way to spend an hour and a half in the dark curled up on the couch with your partner. 7/10.
Hathaway shines in surprisingly dark Godzilla homage
Anne Hathaway shines in this sci-fi monster movie that successfully blends a mishmash of styles and sub-genres in a very effective way. Portraying out of work party girl Gloria, she is effectively kicked out of her posh digs by her boyfriend when he realizes he can no longer put up with her constant drunken antics, and finds she must move back home to an empty house in her hometown.
There she is reunited with her childhood friend Oscar, aptly played by Jason Sudeikis. Broke and without friends, Gloria accepts a job at Oscar's bar. Oscar's intentions toward her, though, remain a mystery until it is revealed that a giant monster is stomping its way through Seoul, killing people and destroying buildings. Gloria finds she has a strong connection to this creature. Here is where some well done comedy is thrown into the mix and the film pays quiet homage to the Godzilla films of yore.
The movie is well paced and never slows down for very long. Although flashbacks attempt to explain the reasons for what is going on, this isn't done very well and that is perhaps the only drawback to the film. One of Oscar's drinking buddies, Garth, portrayed by character actor Tim Blake Nelson, is particularly well written and acted and adds a nice humorous element.
All in all this is a satisfying and entertaining movie that won't disappoint genre fans or the casual monster movie viewer. 7/10.
Descent into madness
May wants a friend. May needs a friend. The only friend she has is her doll, completely enclosed in a glass case. Her mother informs her that the doll is "special" and cannot be removed from the case. She also has a wandering eye which keeps her from connecting with other people. Her mother taught her from a young age that no one wants to be friends with a girl who has a lazy eye.
May spends her days working at the local animal hospital and her nights sewing her own clothes and talking to her only friend, her doll. She is waiting for a connection with another person but is much too socially awkward to do anything about it.
Then one day she meets Adam, whose hands she becomes obsessed with. She immediately falls in love with Adam and sets out to win his heart. She gets contacts to correct her wandering eye. She sews up some sexy clothes to wear around him and makes herself available around him. They begin dating but it soon becomes apparent to Adam that May is too weird for his tastes.
So begins May's downward spiral. This is where actress Angela Bettis really shines. She immerses herself so much in the role that we see a true breakdown of epic proportions. We feel May's pain and loneliness yet we see why the people around her ultimately reject her. Writer/director Lucky McKee has crafted a superior tale of longing for acceptance and trying to fit in. May wants to be normal and connect with people but her upbringing has shaped her in such a way as for this to be practically impossible.
When May lets her sexy co-worker Polly, played by Anna Farris in possibly her best role, seduce her, she feels that maybe she has finally made a connection but is ultimately let down again when Polly falls for the gorgeous Ambrosia and leaves May by the wayside.
Ultimately May's doll breaks and she must find a new friend, or make her own...
This is writer/director McKee's first solo effort and he really shines. He has crafted a tale that is appealing to the socially awkward, and those that don't fit in, and depicts a frightening and murderous descent into madness. 9/10.
Die Präsenz (2014)
Fun haunted castle found footage
I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of found footage movies, having listed about 145 of them. They tend to get low ratings here, for the most part, as this one has.
The problem is that some of them can be pretty boring, with one dimensional characters and bad acting and/or dialogue. Some people can't take the shaky cam or hard to see video.
This one however I found to be quite refreshing, if not entirely original. It concerns a trio of friends who go to investigate a haunted castle far out in the German boonies.
The setting is quite creepy, both indoor and outdoor. The action doesn't take too long to get going and things get interesting pretty quickly.
I found it pretty fun to watch and genuinely scary/creepy in just the right places. At 82 minutes, it doesn't slow down for long or overstay its welcome. All in all a fun watch. 7/10.
Area 51 (2015)
Peli's sophomore effort works
Oren Peli gave us Paranormal Activity way back in '07. I liked it a lot, and it kind of brought a new resurgence to the found footage genre which has exploded since then. Since then he has racked up a bunch of writing and producing credits but now finally 8 years later he has directed his second feature.
Area 51 begins like so many other found footage entries of late. A bunch of young adults with a camera film their partying, going to strip clubs, basically doing a bunch of young adult stuff.
But when they decide and plan to infiltrate Area 51, things get really interesting. Peli brings a lot of refreshing ideas to the table and in my opinion, totally delivers. The tension and suspense as these people infiltrate first the area, and then the actual facility is nailbiting. Once inside, we are treated to a non-stop ride of weirdness and all kinds of alien technology and other stuff I won't mention.
Definitely a must-see for found footage nuts like me and fans of sci-fi horror in general. There's a lot to like here. 8/10.
Another stab at Bigfoot found footage
I was fairly excited for this one. Eduardo Sanchez, the director, is half of the genius behind The Blair Witch Project and I tend to enjoy me a Bigfoot movie, especially one that's found footage.
When a group of friends take a trip to a cabin in the woods, things go horribly wrong as they are stalked by a creature who just may be Bigfoot. It seems like a simple premise and it actually is, but the filmmakers use this simple plot device to good effect.
From early on, the tension is ramped up pretty effectively as they are first stalked around the woods, and all of this is captured on video or go pro cameras. The go pros are used to good effect, especially with the bikes, and make for some interesting scenes.
It then switches tone to a home invasion movie and this is done fairly successfully they barricade themselves in against a terror they don't really know the dangerousness of.
What Sanchez is successful here at is building up the tension as he reveals just a little bit more each time an encounter occurs, and escalates the action, moving the film along at a decent pace.
All this makes for a fun watch, not on the groundbreaking level of TBWP, but entertaining nonetheless.
The Taking (2014)
A hidden gem in the recent wave of possession movies.
There has been a recent wave of found footage possession films, ranging from so-so to pretty good. They can be pretty generic for the most part, and contain mostly the same elements. I have been fortunate to enjoy a few of them, and this one falls into that category.
When a trio of documentarians decide to make a film about Deborah Logan's Alzheimer's, they get more than they bargained for as her "episodes" become increasingly violent and dangerous. As clues are revealed they start to realize the truth of what is going on.
This film is terrifically acted, especially by Jill Larson and Anne Ramsey, who play the elderly Deborah and her daughter Sarah. The found footage gimmick is used to good effect, showing just what needs to be shown. The movie is frightening in all the right places and the ending is just what it needs to be, escalating the terror for a great finale.
I enjoyed this one a lot and recommend it for fans of found footage and or horror movies. It is rare to find a possession movie lately that is worth your time, and this is it.
The Houses October Built (2014)
Just in time for Halloween
I for one am someone who has jumped on the bandwagon supporting the new onslaught of found footage horror movies. I review them, list them and enjoy them as a whole. The problem lately is that they seem to be limited to just a few plots. Alien attack/abduction, people exploring haunted asylums, bigfoot etc.
Here we have something kind of new. A group of five people load up an R.V. and decide to tour the country visiting haunted houses, not the spirit haunted kind, but the ones run by people in costume designed scare people around Halloween. They film what they see inside and this is interspersed with what seems to be actual footage of interviews with people who work in these attractions.
This goes on for a while as they become bored of these cookie cutter haunts and try to find something more extreme. Eventually they find what they want and it becomes much more than what they bargained for.
As seems to be the case with a lot of these found footage movies, this one takes a while to get to the scary stuff but the tours through the haunts are interesting and some of the interactions with the (possible) workers are frightening. When things start to go horribly wrong, there are some pretty intense sequences and a pretty frightening ending.
All in all this was good fun if not perfect and a great view for this time of the season.
V/H/S Viral (2014)
Doesn't match the success of the first 2.
I am a big fan of the VHS franchise. There were some great segments in the first two movies and I found them to be a lot of fun. This one is a little different though. For one, the wraparound segment is not very interesting, very repetitive, and overlong. That's not to say the first 2 had great wraparounds, but they were at least interesting in their own way.
This one only has three other segments, and they range from decent to weird. I found them to be fairly interesting but they didn't seem to reach their full potential. The first, Dante the Great, was the best of the bunch and without it I would have rated this movie lower.
The second I found pretty interesting but it wasn't fleshed out enough and could have been a bit longer.
The third was a bit of fun and I enjoyed it but again I didn't feel that it reached its potential and could have done more.
The movie could have benefited from a fourth segment and a shorter wraparound, and I don't feel the quality matched that from the first 2 movies, which had much stronger segments
Hollows Grove (2014)
Interesting found footage follows in the footsteps of Grave Encounters
Lance Henrikson has become a horror icon. He's protected the Antichrist, fought the Terminator, battled demons, Aliens and Predators. He's been in over 200 movies and now he's in a found footage horror movie. Too bad he only has 2 scenes.
I went into this thinking it would be along the lines of Grave Encounters, which I really like, and it sort of is. The problem is that it's missing most of the scares. Whereas Grave Encounters went right for the jugular, this one has most of the spooky stuff happening off camera (singing and whispering heard, things disappearing when an area is returned to). The setting is creepy and some genuinely frightening stuff happens near the end, but it is almost too late by then.
Hollows Grove did keep me interested throughout however and is definitely worth a watch for fans of these types of movies. 6.5/10.
Found footage horror falls short of the mark.
4/10. Three set of people: a woman, a couple, and a man who lives with his mother are mysteriously given large bulky VHS cameras (it takes place in 1995) on their doorsteps and told to "keep filming." In addition the man is told has been entered in a contest where he can win 10 thousand dollars.
This starts out as an interesting premise but doesn't really go anywhere. The woman and the couple stay in their homes as they begin to be terrorized by bangings at the door and sinister telephone calls but are given very little to do.
The man is given orders to leave his home and perform a variety of tasks in full clown suit and makeup and this is a little more interesting, but it doesn't really carry the movie.
Eventually it all culminates in a twist that I didn't see coming, but thought was full of plot holes and didn't make much sense.
I wouldn't necessarily say avoid this one but don't look for anything groundbreaking or very cohesive and entertaining.
Inner Demons (2014)
Doesn't offer much new, but entertaining nonetheless.
6.5/10. A young religious straight A student becomes an intravenous pill and heroin user seemingly overnight and causes turmoil for her family. Believing she is on a path of destruction, her family agree to let an Intervention style reality show document her addiction and eventually try to get her into rehab.
As they follow her every move, they come to realize that she believes she is using drugs to hold back something sinister inside of her and that she has no other choice.
Once she goes to rehab and is off the drugs, events are set into motion and the real fun begins (for us, at least).
This entertaining found footage possession horror doesn't offer much new to the genre but does deliver some scares and an entertaining story. In the quagmire of these types of movies being released these days, this is one of the better ones and worth a watch.
The Mirror (2014)
Creepy mirror horror sub-genre carries on
This found footage entry features 3 flatmates who buy a supposed
haunted antique mirror online in the hope of winning a million dollars in a paranormal challenge. All they have to do is prove the existence of ghosts.
They of course set up the mirror on the wall, and the apartment up in cameras, as things slowly get out of hand. One of the three immediately starts to undergo a drastic mental transformation, and the other two simply don't know how to deal with it. Things get progressively creepy and weirder around the apartment as they finally start to wonder if the mirror is really haunted.
The first hour of this movie is creepy and effective in places, but does suffer a little from being a little repetitive, with not much moving the plot forward from time to time.
The last half hour ramps up the tension and is where the film really delivers in its scares. There is a little bit of gore and a couple of nice scary sequences.
Overall worth a watch, especially for fans of the found footage sub-genre.
Found footage from Australia delivers
Refreshing film from Australia picks up on the new trend of combining found footage and Cults. Two documentary filmmakers follow a trail of clues until they are invited to spend a few days at a cult deep in the forests of Australia. When they get there things start really getting bizarre.
As they start following the daily lives of the cult members and interviewing them it becomes clear that things just aren't right. The leader, a creepy old man named Michael, regales them with tales of the apocalypse and their little group's role in it. The cult is comprised only of women and girls. Where did the men go?
Comparisons can be drawn here to Ti West's "The Sacrament," and rightfully so, but this one is so much more bizarre and sinister that it seems more like a horror movie than a rehashing of the Jonestown Massacre.
There are allusions to pedophilia and murder and so much else. The mood is just perfect and the scenery is at once beautiful and strangely creepy. The ending is startling as well as ambiguous and just perfect for this type of movie. It definitely kept me enthralled throughout. Highly recommended for fans of the genre, and fans of horror in general.
Long Pigs (2007)
Cannibalism From Canada
Odd Canadian film has two obviously first time documentary filmmakers following around a cannibalistic serial killer as he first stalks and kills his victims, then prepares them in stews and barbecues for consumption.
The way this is all show in nonchalantly and in such an off-hand manner adds to the dramatic effect as he literally hangs his prizes upside down, decapitates them and hacks them apart piece by piece, extracting "the best parts" for consumption along the way. The practical effects are absolutely amazing I must say. There is one incredible scene where they show him preparing an entire body in a very fast forward sequence that must have been a gruelling long shot.
The performances are all pretty credible here, and the movie is well shot. The winter Canadian scenery is nice to look at with one scene in particular showing New Years at the Toronto City Hall.
Fun fare for fans of the genre.
Worthy freshman effort from David Jung
After the death of his wife, non-believer Michael King sets out to prove that there is no such thing as the supernatural, God, or The Devil. He sets up cameras throughout his home and enlists his friend to film everything.
First, he tries to summon a demon on his own using a hokey kit he buys off the internet.
Eventually he goes to some real supposed demon summoners and engages in their bizarre rituals. He goes to a necromancer and tries to summon dead spirits using an equally crazy ritual.
Of course he becomes possessed, as we know through the title, and strange and really freaky things start to happen. This is all told in the now familiar found footage style.
This one has some original ideas and some really freaky scares. There are some of the prerequisite jump scares of course, and some scenes don't work as well as others, but freshman writer/director David Jung does a good job of keeping the viewer interested as the story progresses along nicely, and he doesn't wimp out with the ending. This is a nice refreshing possession movie, one of which I haven't seen in a while. I look forward to see what he comes up with next. 7.5/10.
Still relevant after 32 years
Very mild spoilers.
I am slowly introducing my thirteen year old daughter to the (mostly horror) films of my youth. She scares easily so it took a few weeks to talk her into watching this one. Tonight we shared the experience. It was about my tenth time seeing it.
"A Steven Spielberg Production" is what the opening and closing credits promise, and this is exactly what we get. In actuality, it's more of a Spielberg/Tobe Hooper hybrid. Anyone familiar with Spielberg's work of the late 70s/early eighties will see the similarities. Kids riding bikes and playing with remote control cars around sprawling residential cul-de-sacs. Period cultural references abound. The kids' room is covered in Star Wars, from the sheets on the bed to the little R2-D2 toys and Chewbacca jacket, as well as the poster on the wall. A Rubix Cube sits on the shelf in the background and by far coolest of all, AN ALIEN POSTER IS PROUDLY DISPLAYED ON THE WALL!!! (see my avatar for significance). Pizza Hut is of course mentioned also (see E.T.).
This is not your average Spielberg fare though. There is some weird stuff here. An 8 year old boy is almost eaten by a tree. A woman flounders in a swimming pool full of rotted corpses and skeletons. A man literally rips his own face off. These two latter scenes are where the film becomes more "Hooperesque."
Where the film really succeeds is in playing off on our childhood fears. Ghosts of course are the main focus here. Who as a child didn't harbour some sort of fear of ghosts or monsters in the closet? And while we didn't all have one, that damn demonic clown doll is enough to scare the hell out of any child. Even for adults, the memories of those fears are enough to put a few scares into you while watching this movie. Add to that the fear of losing a small child and you up the scare factor a few notches.
Zelda Rubinstein is usually mentioned as a standout here, and she does a great job as Tangina, but her part is very small and it is O'Rourke as Carol Anne and Williams as Diane who are the real standouts here. It is really very sad that O'Rourke's life and career were cut short at such a young age.
Another thing that needs mentioning is Jerry Goldsmith's score. It evokes emotion in all the right places, and dread very effectively. It is very haunting and melodic.
I'd also like to add that jump scares are used here. There are only two or three, but they work, and they work well. For those of you who think that they are just some new plot device improperly and over used in recent film, give this one a re-watch.
The only regret I have is that I couldn't take my daughter to the theatre to see this, as I did as a thirteen year old boy almost 32 years ago to this day.
Those are my thoughts on Poltergeist. Now with all that said, I can't imagine this remake coming out next year capturing any of the above qualities.
Para Elisa (2012)
Spanish horror borrows from other films but still entertains
I haven't seen a decent Spanish horror movie in a while so I was kind of excited to watch this one. I read up on it and heard some good things and some not so good things but I decided to give it a try.
Beautiful university student Ana is on the verge of graduating with a Fine Arts degree. The grad trip costs 1000 Euros however, and her parents won't give her the money. She finds an ad for a nanny job and calls to arrange for an interview. Things of course are not as they seem when she arrives at the house as she is drugged and finds out she is to be a living doll to a not so young psychotic girl.
This movie plays out like a cross between House of the Devil and Misery (There's definitely an homage to Annie Wilkes). It is pretty interesting for the most part and though it did drag a little in places, the pace always picked right back up. The movie itself is pretty short at about 73 minutes including the credits so there wasn't much of a chance for it to slow down too much. All in all it is worth giving a look-see. 7/10.
Hunting the Legend (2014)
Bigfoot meets found footage, again.
As of late Bigfoot and found footage seem to be combined a lot. Bigfoot movies are generally full of mystery and can be a lot of fun. Not this one however.
Five years ago, Chris went hunting with his father, who was killed. Chris believes it was a Bigfoot that killed him. Now he's grown up and wants to return to the scene of the crime and exact revenge. Chris hires a cameraman and sound guy for seven days. He buys a semi-automatic rifle and shotgun. He enlists his girlfriend and best friend to accompany him and even rents an attack dog for protection.
What follows is a found footage horror that follows the formula of The Blair Witch Project pretty closely.
The trio arrive at the town and interview the townspeople. Then they descend upon the forest in search of the elusive Bigfoot. This is the part where the tension builds, right? Wrong. Nothing much happens for a very long time. In fact nothing really happens until the last 15 minutes, and even that isn't very interesting. No build up and little payoff make for a mediocre experience.
As a Bigfoot AND found footage fan I can't recommend this one as it doesn't really deliver on the scares.
The Conspiracy (2012)
Fun Canadian Found Footage
Canadian found footage finds a duo of documentarians following an conspiracy theorist around and trying to make sense of his ideas and theories.
When he disappears, one of the filmmakers takes up where he left off and starts believing in and researching the ideas that were left in the man's apartment.
They soon learn of a secret society of powerful and rich people and a ritual meeting which they plan to infiltrate.
This paranoid found footage horror is a different take on the subject matter than I have seen so far. It was a lot of fun and got quite creepy towards the conclusion. I found the ending to be a bit of a cop-out but it was still very enjoyable.
Evil in the English countryside
Two couples vacationing in the English countryside get caught up in what might or might not be an evil curse centering around a large tree near their cottage.
As they explore the tree and the ruins nearby, relationships are tested and strange noises are heard. The four begin acting strangely and a lot of arguing and fighting ensues.
I found that the characters were more three dimensional and fleshed out than in a lot of other found footage movies I have seen but that their actions towards the end were sort of inexplicable. The film does offer some explanations as to what might have led to the ending but ultimately it is left up to the viewer. There are some creepy parts but a lot of the fighting and arguing scenes dragged.
All in all worth a watch for fans of found footage horror.
Willow Creek (2013)
Goldthwaite does it again
From writer/director Bobcat Goldthwaite comes the story of Kelly and Jim, who drive out to the forest to follow the trail of a 57 year old Bigfoot sighting.
The movie begins with a lot of interviews as they start to film Jim's lifelong dream of making a documentary on the subject. After gathering as much information on the subject as they can, they go hiking into the forest in the hopes of capturing some footage on their own.
The two main characters' dialogue and interactions seem natural and not forced as in some other found footage films. Once they enter the forest and camp for the night, things really start to happen. I found myself holding my breath a couple of times.
All in all this is a decent found footage entry from Goldthwaite, who first captured my attention a few years ago with his entertaining film festival entry, God Bless America.
Too little happens too late, annoying characters
A young couple embark on a road trip to an abandoned hospital with the man filming everything along the way. The woman is a painter and the idea is to scope out the hospital to hold an art show there at a later time.
When their car is towed, they call a couple of friends to pick them up, but plans change and they all re-enter the building. This is when bad things start happening as supernatural forces begin to manifest.
The characters are so annoying and their decisions either do not make sense or just plain drive you crazy. Too little happens too late and what does happen is not very interesting. If there were more supernatural goings on and the characters were more likable I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more.
Amber Alert (2012)
Annoying characters and stupid police almost ruin this one
A guy, his friend, and his brother on a road trip see an amber alert sign on the highway and instantly see the car it details. They decide to follow said car and instantly the the two friends begin to bicker incessantly. I'm telling ya, it gets annoying.
The of course call the police to report the car but incredibly the police do nothing about it. They call again to no avail. They even get stopped by the police and STILL they do nothing.
The film has an interesting premise and starts out pretty interesting with some nice ideas but reality is held in disbelief as to some of the main character's and police's actions.
Eventually they get into some trouble that I won't reveal and the ending gets pretty good, the only problem being that you don't really care about the main characters by then, they being so annoying.
The film has it's share of suspense and enough twists and turns to make for a decent watch.
Original Japanese found footage
Three young actresses are hired to help a documentarian film an exorcism at the house of a young girl and her mother. Cameras are set up everywhere as the supernatural events start to unfold.
Numerous exorcists are brought in to help but the problem only seems to get worse as everyone is drawn into a nightmare of demons and curses.
This Japanese found footage entry is a refreshing take on the sub-genre as some original elements are introduced that take a different direction from the Paranormal Activity franchise. There is a bit of humour injected into some of the characters which makes the experience a bit more enjoyable.
Some of the effects are a bit hokey but others are original and creepy and atmospheric. There are enough twists and turns to keep the viewer's attention as the tension escalates.
The three girls get a little annoying at times but do a passable job in their roles and some of the secondary characters really stand out.
All in all an interesting and refreshing Cult movie from Japan.