Horror Movie review

Hack-O-Lantern
Massacre Video Blu Review

The leaves are changing, there is a crisp chill in the air and every die-hard horror fan is gearing up for the greatest holiday of all: Halloween. Every year I try to buy at least one Halloween-themed Blu to add to my collection, and this year it just so happens that Hack-O-Lantern slashes its way in HD. This is super exciting news as this boasts not only a brand new transfer but a host of new features. Truly we live in a golden age of home media with weird little gems like this getting the special edition treatment. Lets me be totally real for a second Hack-O-Lantern is awful…I mean god-awful but I still love it. Yes, the plot is all over the place. Yes, the dialogue is laughable with an ending that frankly makes zero sense, yet it has just the right amount of 80s cheese-tastic nostalgia that makes it endearing.
  • Picture: Horror fiends that grew up watching the crappy VHS or a VHS rip off Youtube will be totally blown away but the new print. As per Massacre Video, the original film elements were found using a 2k scan completely restores it to all its trash glory. I can honestly say that this film will never look as good as it does. Colors are natural and thankfully aren’t blown out like some 2k scans. The scenes at night really take advantage of this new scan.
  • Sound: As with the picture, the sound is great and includes a 2.0 mix and for those purists, an original Mono is included.
  • Special Features: Hack-O-Lantern thankfully isn’t bare bones and fans of this seasonal favorite aren’t tricked but treated to a host of new goodies. The highlight is a wonderfully entertaining interview with stars Gregory Scott Cummins and Katina Garner. And as I’m a huge commentary fan, I was delighted that one was recorded with producer Raj Mehrotra. Other features include some great behind the scenes stills, a rare public access interview with the cast/crew and trailers. Oddly, though, the trailer for this film is not present, and I find this is strange to leave out. Minor complaint though.
  • Overall: Massacre Video did a bang-up job on one of my favorite VHS titles. Not only does it look and sound amazing but it features some great extras. You won’t find any tricks only treats with this Blu and should be considered a must on any collector’s shelves. I`d even say this makes my short list for best Blu of 2017.
BLU REVIEW: Hack O Lantern – Just in time for Halloween!

BLU REVIEW: Hack O Lantern – Just in time for Halloween!

Hack-O-Lantern
Massacre Video Blu Review

The leaves are changing, there is a crisp chill in the air and every die-hard horror fan is gearing up for the greatest holiday of all: Halloween. Every year I try to buy at least one Halloween-themed Blu to add to my collection, and this year it just so happens that Hack-O-Lantern slashes its way in HD. This is super exciting news as this boasts not only a brand new transfer but a host of new features. Truly we live in a golden age of home media with weird little gems like this getting the special edition treatment. Lets me be totally real for a second Hack-O-Lantern is awful…I mean god-awful but I still love it. Yes, the plot is all over the place. Yes, the dialogue is laughable with an ending that frankly makes zero sense, yet it has just the right amount of 80s cheese-tastic nostalgia that makes it endearing.
  • Picture: Horror fiends that grew up watching the crappy VHS or a VHS rip off Youtube will be totally blown away but the new print. As per Massacre Video, the original film elements were found using a 2k scan completely restores it to all its trash glory. I can honestly say that this film will never look as good as it does. Colors are natural and thankfully aren’t blown out like some 2k scans. The scenes at night really take advantage of this new scan.
  • Sound: As with the picture, the sound is great and includes a 2.0 mix and for those purists, an original Mono is included.
  • Special Features: Hack-O-Lantern thankfully isn’t bare bones and fans of this seasonal favorite aren’t tricked but treated to a host of new goodies. The highlight is a wonderfully entertaining interview with stars Gregory Scott Cummins and Katina Garner. And as I’m a huge commentary fan, I was delighted that one was recorded with producer Raj Mehrotra. Other features include some great behind the scenes stills, a rare public access interview with the cast/crew and trailers. Oddly, though, the trailer for this film is not present, and I find this is strange to leave out. Minor complaint though.
  • Overall: Massacre Video did a bang-up job on one of my favorite VHS titles. Not only does it look and sound amazing but it features some great extras. You won’t find any tricks only treats with this Blu and should be considered a must on any collector’s shelves. I`d even say this makes my short list for best Blu of 2017.
Posted by Mike Vaughn in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Tapes (2017)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Tapes (2017)

Face the Unknown with The Dark Tapes (2017)

The Dark Tapes (2017) / Fair use DoctrineAfter three long years of dedication and personal funding, Michael McQuown and fellow producers, are proud to present their film The Dark Tapes. This film blends genres with its interlocking story-lines covering horror, fantasy, sci-fi and more. With a crew comprised primarily of himself and four producers (who also served as the primary crew members), The Dark Tapes is Michael McQuown's first film to direct. Fellow producer, Nicola Odeku gave him the original idea for the story. When asked what three words he would use to describe this film, Michael said, “Twists, Tension and Terror”. This film was 100% independent from any studio but that has not affected its achievements. Among the film festival circuit, The Dark Tapes has won or been nominated for 61 awards across 30 festivals. This includes a nomination for a Rondo Hatton Award for “Best Independent Feature”. You can also find it ranked in the top three highest rated films ever on FoundFootageCritic.com.
The Dark Tapes is a found footage horror anthology film comprised of four primary narratives. As you watch, you will find each story original and interweaving with some great surprises in store for you. The scares are not cheap and the fear is genuine. This film doesn't rely on jump scares or gore to scare you. It will build the tension until you must turn your lights back on. It proves that you don’t need a big budget to put out a quality film. Dark imagery, good effects and sincere acting drives it to success.
It is now available for purchase on most VOD platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, VUDU, Google Play, Sling TV, Vimeo, Xbox, PlayStation, and more. Due to its popularity, Michael and his crew are already in pre-production working on a sequel titled The Darker Paths. I expect them to lead us even further into the nightmares with this follow-up.
Check out The Dark Tapes at the links below:
Happy Nightmares,
ZombieGurl

Posted by ZombieGurl in ANTHOLOGY, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW:  Observance (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Observance (2015)

Picking random low-budget movies is risky. For every hidden gem that you find, you have to wade through dozens of awful movies. I've grown accustomed to wading through the dreck, though, as I can usually find some merit in even the worst of films. Even if it's just for the laugh factor. With that being said, I wasn't expecting much from Observance. All I knew about it was that it was extremely low budget and that it was filmed in Australia. Other than that, it was new to me.
Observance is an Australian horror/thriller directed by Joseph Sims-Dennett and released in 2015. The story follows a private investigator (Lindsay Farris) returning to work after the loss of his young son. He is tasked by an enigmatic client to observe a woman (Stephanie King) from an empty apartment across the street. He is never told why he is watching her, or what to watch for. Only to watch, and report back. He soon begins to have dreams and visions concerning this woman and his deceased son. As things progress it becomes apparent that his task is not what it seems.
The story moves along at the exact pace you'd expect from a movie where you're watching a guy sit in an empty apartment watching a woman. Suffice to say, very slow. Not boring though. His various actions and interactions with the appliances, windows, and a corded phone (seriously, do those things even still exist?) are enough to keep you wondering what is and isn't real. Also, the director's use of a handheld camera make it feel as though you're seeing real life events unfold as opposed to watching a movie.
The storytelling is tight and concise with limited dialogue and sparse music, which adds to the tedious nature of the investigator's job. The whole story has a very subtle, Lovecraftian feel to it. Not in the crazy monsters from the depths of your worst nightmare sense, but in the very real sense that there is a flipside to everyday normalcy that is so close to the surface that we can almost catch glimpses of it. Unfortunately, that also means that it has an ending that fits this type of narrative.
My only real issue with Observance is that it is a very green movie. Not green in the sense of environmentally friendly, but green in the sense that the director went a bit overboard with color correction software. I'm not opposed to a director using colors to establish mood and atmosphere, but it gets a bit tedious at times.
If you like glossy terror with lots of monsters and jump scares, you might want to pass on this one, but if you enjoy a slow burn with a conclusion that is a bit open ended you will probably enjoy Observance.
Observance poster / Fair use doctrine.
Posted by Richard Francis in MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Tales From Halloween ... I have so many mixed feelings on this film. Tales From Halloween is a compilation of ten short stories all woven into one Halloween night.
The film, at first watch, I must admit, was a huge disappointment. I have been wanting to see Tales From Halloween since I first heard of it, so my expectations were really hopeful. For some reason, it first felt like I was watching a made for TV movie. I thought the special effects were extremely low grade and the music was even quirky. I am the biggest fan of the Halloween season and always make it a point to watch any movie based around it. So, sorry to say, I wasn't a happy trick-or-treater!
As the movie went on, I tried to put my disappointment aside and give it more of a shot. As I did, my frown became more of a smirk. I started to see the campy and almost comedic side to Tales From Halloween. In my opinion, the movie isn’t a horror/comedy, but it does have you a campy B movie horror feel.
The film opens with the narration of a local radio disk jockey as the camera pans over a small town. The DJ, who is talking about Halloween and the witching hour, is none other than the sultry voice of movie legend ADRIENNE BARBEAU, and it set the mood for the film. The short stories range from legends of sweet tooth killers, aliens, neighbors fighting over the best yard decorating, children's revenge, and what would Halloween be without a killer jack-o-lantern.
The film does host a very impressive list of names to the cast, Barbeau, being one, obviously, the lovely Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Contracted), Greg Grunberg (Heroes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Spin City (TV series)), Tiffany Shepis (12 Monkeys (TV series), The Night Watchmen), Lin Shaye (Insidious 1+2, Theres Something About Mary), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, We Are Still Here, You’re Next), Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) Pat Healy (Compliance, Cheap Thrills, Carnage Park) and a small appearance by legendary director John Landis ( The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf In London) Now with a list like this, you would be expecting one of the best horror films ever, but sadly it isn't. To be honest, most of the names on this list have relatively small parts.
In keeping up with recent director compilation films (The ABCs of Death 1 and 2) and other Halloween films (Trick Or Treat), Tales From Halloween falls a bit short. Enjoyable for a non-serious horror film night - or a fun watch with friends.
Sorry, guys, but this is one where I loved the cover art for more than the film.
Keep It Evil...
Posted by John Roisland in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Neighbor (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Neighbor (2016)

By Dixielord
The Neighbor is the new home invasion horror movie from director Marcus Dunstan. Dunstan is best know for The Collector and its sequel The Collection. The Neighbor stars Josh Stewart (The Collector), Alex Essoe (Starry Eyes) and Bill Engvall (Blue Collar Comedy Tour). Yes that's right. Bill Engvall, Mr “Here's your sign” is starring in a horror film. Now even if you aren't particularly a fan of The Collector series, that should be enough to pique your interest in The Neighbor.
Bill Engvall is The Neighbor / Fair use doctrine.
Josh Stewart plays John who along with his girlfriend Rosie (Alex Essoe) works for his shady crime lord uncle, switching license plates on (apparently) drug running cars. It's never explained exactly what they do, but it's illegal and beyond that, unimportant to the story. Their separative neighbor Troy (Bill Engvall) also appears to have a secret he's of which he is very protective. When Rosie goes missing, John sneaks into Troy’s house and discovers what he is trying to hide.
Set in rural Mississippi, The Neighbor puts everyone under suspicion early on, showing just how sketchy and shady each is. Being born and raised in rural Mississippi, I can pretty much confirm this. No one in the film is particularly innocent, but John is probably the most sympathetic. He's a military vet come home and given a job in his uncle’s illegal enterprise. You get the feeling he isn't happy, and he and Rosie are making plans to escape to Mexico.
The first part of the film moves along a little slow, and is uneventful other than setting up the last half of the film. The last half is where The Neighbor shines. It borrows from other home invasion style horrors with hidden tunnels and cages (but without the traps that were the signature portion of the killer’s work in The Collector series). But it varies from most home invasion films, and most horror films in general, in that the protagonists and antagonists are fairly evenly matched. The conflict between Engvall and Stewart is less cat-and-mouse than two wily foxes battling.
The final fifteen minutes or so is a symphony of glorious violence. It gets brutal when it needs to get brutal. No gimmicky walking away from a fallen victim, it's combat to the death. Guns, knives, camera tripods, and even a telescope become weapons in the fight. When the final battle condenses down to villains and victims, there are no wilting flowers, just fighters. It's not as gory as The Collector, The Collection, or the Sawseries of films but it is brutal. Have I said that already? It's brutal. Watching Alex Essoe go apeshit was wonderful fun. It all ends with an ambiguous ending that a lot of viewers might not catch, but it left me with chills. Also be on the lookout for what I can only assume is a homage to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Alex Essoe spies on The Neighbor / Fair use doctrine.
All and all I really enjoyed The Neighbor. It's another solid and bloody success for director Dunstan. I enjoyed it enough to give it a 8 out of 10. Check it out on DVD now.
Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Plank Face (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: Plank Face (2016)

By Dixielord

Plank Face is the story of Max (Nathan Barrett), a seemingly normal guy with a dark past. While out camping with his girlfriend Stacy (Ellie Church), he kills a rapist and is then captured by a feral family. He is tortured and sexually abused by the clan as they prepare him to be their new leader and provider. Forced to wear the wooden “plank face” of their dying leader, Max is given the choice to abandon his old life or die. And it's a choice that maybe isn't as hard to make as it seems.

Plank Face movie scene fair use doctrine

Plank Face

Bandit Motion Pictures has quickly gained a reputation for putting out original films. They also have the rep of making films that twist the normal horror tropes. That rep won't take a hit with Plank Face. It's a lot bloodier than their previous film Harvest Lake, which wasn't a shocker considering the story. However, I was a bit shocked to find it's a much more sexual film than Harvest Lake. Or at least the sex reaches out and grabs you harder than Harvest Lake.

Director Shirmer has never shied away from non traditional, uncomfortable and even transgressive sex in his films. Plank Face takes it to another plane. In a time and culture where the presence of rape in films is becoming more controversial, he takes rape and twists it, showcasing female on male rape. In doing so he twists the normal horror trope of the female captured for breeding on its head. Max is no damsel in distress, captured to bear young. He's a strong violent man with bloody tendencies, captured to sire a new generation of cannibals. That, in itself, is a fresh twist on the normal inbreed hillbilly horror.

There's very little dialogue in Plank Face other than grunts, and the cannibals’ twisted version of English. We learn whats up with the cannibals in much the same way as Max, by reading their gestures and body language. Not having everything spelled out or explained might seem annoying but it adds to the immersion, and by the end you find yourself understanding more and more of the feral words. Which isn't always comfortable.

I won't spoil the ending, but I will say, it's not what you usually expect. You will probably see the final “confrontation” coming from early on, but it's still shocking and bloody. Plank Face is a film that will please the fans of Bandit Motion Pictures, and it stands as a good example of an American cannibal movie. While it might not have been as good as Bone Tomahawk, I enjoyed it much more than the over hyped and much bigger budgeted The Green Inferno.

It's not a perfect film, but very few, if any, are. There are small things I didn't like, or didn't seem to work as well, but they were small and I think most can be contributed to budget concerns. While the acting of the leads was effective, especially considering the lack of dialogue (and clothes). Some of the extras came off as forced. But those scenes were a momentary distraction and wont hurt Plank Face overall. It's all compensated for by the main cast, performing with little speech, sometimes with their faces covered, really forcing them to act, and Plank Face is a film that forces them to act. With all it's gore, sex, violence and nudity there is still a story to convey.

While Plank Face will please a lot of fans, it's not a movie for everyone. It's got tons of nudity, full frontal, female and male (ripping another common horror gimmick of only having female nudity). There are multiple scenes of rape, male on female and female on male, as well as scenes of consensual sex (not considering it as a result of Stockholm Syndrome, which I think some scenes could be blamed on SS, others not, but I won't go into reasons here. Comment if you want to discuss it). Plank Face also features explicit scenes of violence, gore, and cannibalism. People who can't handle these images should stay far away. Especially those unable to deal with the depiction of sexual violence.

Plank Face / Screenshot / Fair use doctrine.

Plank Face brings home the bacon

Overall, Plank Face is another success for Bandit Motion Pictures. At first watch I wasn't sure if I liked it more than Harvest Lake but it's growing on me with every viewing. It's growing on me between viewings. It's a movie that merits multiple watches. It's an original and visceral take on the cannibal family and the legacy of Sawney Bean. Check it out if you have the balls (that will be funny after you watch it)

Plank Face is directed by Scott Schrimer, written by Schrimer and Brian Williams. It stars Nathan Barrett as Max/Plank Face, Ellie Church as Stacey, Susan Martin as Granny, Brigid McCauley as The Bride, Jason Hignite as Old Daddy, and Alyss Winkler as The Bunny Girl.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Blair Witch (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: Blair Witch (2016)

The Blair Witch Is Back

By Dixielord

In 1999, movie making changed forever. A new subgenre of horror was born, the found footage shay cam film. It ushered in a wave of jiggly screens, bouncing videos and migraine headaches. It was a hit movie, and filmed in a way that way too many people believed it was real. It was The Blair Witch Project. Now, fifteen years later, a sequel is being made.

Okay, it's a second sequel if you count Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which didn’t follow the story line of the first film and may or may not be considered canon depending on which day of the week you ask the creators. But now we have a true sequel, following the storyline of the first film.

The plot of Blair Witch (2016) concerns the brother of Heather (Heather Donahue) from the original film. After scouring the Internet, he finally finds what he believes is evidence to the location of his missing sister.. Gathering a group of friends and video equipment, they trek into the woods in search of Heather. Instead of his sister they find, just like in 1999, the Blair Witch.

Sadly, however, the 2016 version doesn't have much of the magic of the original. Found footage and shaky cam is no longer a novel device but a pain in the ass. Plus, for a POV movie, there are times when you wonder just where the fuck the footage is coming from; there are some shots that are just not possible from one of their headsets. But that's a small nit picky point. I do think the film would have been better to just forget the shaky cam and go with a traditional steady-cam film. Too many times the quick spins were near nausea-inducing, and the dark scenes did little to build suspense.

Which is my biggest qualm with the film. For a movie like this to work, there has to be a build up of tension. The first film, at least for me, managed to build a sense of fear as Heather, Josh, and Mike wandered lost in the woods. When Josh disappeared, we had no clue what happened; in the new film, even with the black outs, we see way too much. We aren't left to wonder if Josh was taken by the witch? Did he just get lost?Kill himself? Here we see the victims dragged away. It's good for a quick jump, but nothing else.

There was also the decision to show the witch. And of course we have to make her creepy and inhuman looking so we can use the CGI budget. So they add to the back story, and now the witch has been hung from a rack so we have a witch that could give Slenderman a boner. To their credit, the witch does look creepy and inhuman and she's limited to a few quick views. So while it's somewhat effective the addition just seems cheap and unnecessary.

A haunting scene from Blair Witch

One of the more haunting scenes in Blair Witch
Photo credit Lionsgate films. Fair use doctrine.

But I wanted to try and review this on its own merits and haven't seen the original since it's first release. So I'm going to try and limit it to what I liked and disliked in this film. The main thing that killed my enjoyment was the pacing. The beginning was just too ungodly slow. Slow isn't always bad. If you are building tension or developing characters, slow can be good. But an hour in I still didn’t feel like I knew anything about these characters. Nothing beyond the stereotypical horror movie tropes anyway. Then once things become strange, they try to build that tension too fast - people disappearing, people reappearing, people getting lost - all in compressed time. Add to it headache inducing camera work and shifting perspectives that went on too long before the pay off.

The Blair Witch is back

The Blair Witch is back!
Photo credit Lionsgate films. Fair use doctrine.

There was also way too much time at the beginning showing the cast goofing off. There was no real reason for this, it didn’t tell us much about the characters and didn't advance the story, It seemed like nothing more than filler to pad out the length.

Once you get close to the end, the action, and tension does finally ramp up. The POV camera works to the films advantage during the chase and hunt through the cabin. The confusion and claustrophobia starts to make the viewer uneasy (and not just in the tummy), but only the cabin scenes had this effect. The filmmakers tried for a claustrophobia-inducing tunnel scene, but it failed pretty miserably for me. The camera shots, from wherever they came from, made the space look too open. Film is all about illusion and those shots broke the illusion. To see claustrophobia done right check out The Descent or Crawl or Die, where you literally feel suffocated.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, even though it felt like a cheap rip of the end of the original Blair Witch, it did manage to build up my level of dread. There's also the hint that the entire film was some type of paradoxical time loop. Which doesn't really do anything for the film, but it doesn't really detract from it. It's more of an Easter egg than anything else. So let’s call it a push.

So my final verdict? The last 20 minutes or so is serviceable and even scary at times. Sadly it takes way too long to get there and very little tension is built up along the way. It copies a few of the more well known scenes from the original, which is good for a nostalgic “ha”. While casual horror fans might enjoy it, most horror fans will be bored to tears before the action starts. As slow and plodding as the original was, it held me. That's not the case here. I definitely don't see Blair Witch (2016) having anything like the cultural impact of the original. And they didn't even try to convince us it really happened.

The Blair Witch was directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) and stars Callie Hernandez (From Dusk til Dawn:The Series) and James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead). I really wanted to like it but unfortunately I just found it too slow, and the pay off, while not horrible, isn't worth the wait.

4/10 stars

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, REVIEWS, 1 comment
MOVIE REVIEW: Jebediah (2011)

MOVIE REVIEW: Jebediah (2011)

By Nicole Robinson

https://youtu.be/bAiiYDtn1AU

They are a few things in life that are better than a satisfying horror movie. Finding one has become much more difficult since the era of the comic book splashed onto the big screen. In times such as these, some horror fans choose to kick rocks and whine rather than turn to the straight to streaming gems that can be found. This is a mistake and if you need proof, go to Amazon. There you will find Jebediah, a story of a menacing, sickle wielding Amish man with a creative and expressive love of killing from director Joe Ripple and starring Brian Greenwell.

In the role of Jebediah, Greenwell portrays a silent and creepy Amish man with a presence that creates an intimidating persona instilling fear into the victims and the viewers. Greenwell manages to capture a spark of madness as a silent killer. This is no easy task. While a silent killer like Michael Myers can be seriously terrifying, it can also be comical if not portrayed properly. Greenwell almost makes it look easy, leaving the viewer wondering what dark place this actor had to go to in order to embody the role of this madman in the title role of Jebediah.

The main point that can be said about this flick is the violence leaves the viewer wanting nothing in the end. No one is safe and by the end, the carnage leaves no one unscathed. What starts out as a seemingly innocent camping trip among a small group of girlfriends, ends in a blood bath while leaving the audience trying to figure out who among them is going to make it out alive. Lacking predictability is an important feature for any horror movie, and Jebediah manages to make it look easy. Don't bother trying. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. And don't worry, the annoying blond one who is wearing the wedges while walking in the woods does die in the most glorious of ways. Writer Robert Ziegler held nothing back when he penned the deaths of Jebediah's victims. Spoilers withheld, this is not a film for the faint of heart.

From the moment Jebediah curb stomped an infant strapped to a car seat, the audience knows they are in for a treat. Jebediah is not just creepy, but disturbingly violent, providing a level of satisfaction for the viewers that has been seemingly lacking in recent years from the blockbuster films on the big screen. By the end of this slasher film, an uncomfortable, yet satisfying feeling of dread is left with the viewer, probably hoping there is a sequel (there is not sadly). One thing is for certain, this is a fine piece of horror.

Starring: Danielle Lozeau, Jessy Danner, Lauren Lakis, Jemma McDime, Sabrina Taylor-Smith, and Brian Greenwell

To find out more or get your own copy, CLICK HERE 

Posted by Nicole Robinson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Dark (2015)

“New Yorkers make weird look easy.”

Elias Gansters Dark

From straight out of the opening moments, Dark shows itself to a tense and intimate thriller. Character creation and destruction happens right at the beginning, and continues throughout the entire film. Every scene and act adds a subtle amount of tension through utilizing incredible acting and strong dialogue.

While not traditionally a horror film, the theme of the film is terrifying, with an unflinching glimpse into the reality of being a woman.

Technical failures mark this as a first film, however it shows nothing more than a lack of experience, and not a mark of any lack of talent. The director has an excellent eye for framing and good choices for camera movements, however there could have been better grading choices, and more risk taken during scenes of lengthy dialogue.

Overall, even with weaker choices in technique during the first act, the movie is incredibly strong for the second and final acts.

The production has a incredibly strong concept. The creator definitely deserves a full budget to do this again, with every wish of his granted. If not for his technique, which I see easily becoming much better very quickly, but for the importance of the story being told.

Posted by Jason Thompson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Not Your Daddy’s Cloverfield

I enjoyed the original Cloverfield. While it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I still really liked it. So when a “spiritual sequel” 10 Cloverfield Lane came out of no where I was intrigued. Probably one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood, the trailer was perfect to ramp up excitement while giving away almost nothing. It hooked me, but I was still worried there would be some half assed M. Night twist and this wouldn’t be a horror film at all. Well it was and I loved the hell out of it.

John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

10 Cloverfield Lane

For those who hated the original, and I know a lot of people did, 10 Cloverfield has almost nothing in common with the original. Gone is the shaky cam, which seemed to piss off the most people. Gone was the urban setting with a large part of the film taking place in the underground bunker seen in the trailer. The cast was also streamlined with only three characters getting any amount of screen time, the trio anchored by John Goodman (Roseanne) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) and rounded out by John Gallagher Jr

Goodman gives his best performance in a long time. He is truly frightening to watch. Even when he is not talking, just sitting near motionless with a camera on his face he oozes intensity and insanity. I don’t want to give away any more spoilers than I want to, but you know almost right away, that he’s not a good guy, During the course of the movie he goes from creepy, to scary to psychotic and it all feels way real.

John Goodman

John Goodman is scary as shit in 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane managed to hold it’s secrets during filming, and it holds them well even in the movie. Beyond Goodman’s insanity, you never know what strange roads the film is going to go down. All but maybe the last 15 minutes and opening 10 minutes are spent in the bunker, where the tension grows between the three cast members. And it keeps building, then it explodes. It explodes so quickly you are as much in shock as Winstead’s character. Then after a chase, and what we think is a wind down, it ramps up and changes the entire theme of the movie.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and john Goodman

John Goodman has a captive audience in Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane

One of my peeves about horror movies is that so many lock themselves into a situation where no matter the finish, you feel cheated and let down. I mentioned that let down in my review of The Boy. I was worried that would happen in 10 Cloverfield Lane. During the final chase/hide/escape scene I was worried that no ending would feel right. That I would walk out feeling cheated and duped. But director Dan Trachtenberg and writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Steucken pulled it off. The ending not only left me satisfied but made me want to stand up and cheer “Murica!”

I ended up enjoying it much better than the original (No offense JJ) and I’m giving it a solid 9 out of 10 stars. It’s a damn fine cinema experience, fun, suspenseful and great story telling, with a fine acting job from the three main characters. Now for a few spoilers for those worried about the Cloverfield. connection.

Spoiler alert and stuff

Yes there are monsters. No it is not the Cloverfield Monster although it is very easy to surmise they are connected and have the same origin. Supposedly it is set in the same Universe as Cloverfield. It’s not a true sequel though and possibly (likely) is happening at the same time as the original film. The entire film is not set in the bunker but most of it is. As I said no shaky cam, but there is a car crash that goes shaky, and happens so suddenly it physically shocked me. There isn’t a lot of gore, but some extremely out of the blue, shocking violence. There’s not a lot of objectionable content such as profanity, sex or nudity, but it will probably scare really small kids.

Now stop reading and go see 10 Cloverfield Lane

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Movie Review: The Witch

Movie Review: The Witch

By Dixielord

I don't think any horror movie in recent years has gotten the amount of buzz that The Witch from director Robert Eggers has received. From praise at Sundance to a ringing endorsement from The Church of Satan, the praise has had horror fans chomping at the bit for The Witch. But this week saw it tested with a wide release at the theater. Did it live up to its buzz or fall flat?

The Witch title card

The Witch

The Witch, billed as a New England Folketale, is the story of a pious Christian family, who leaves the comforts of society for banishment in the wilderness. Everything seems idyllic at first, the family works hard, prays hard, and tries to be as penitent as possible. It isn't long, however, before the serpent intrudes on paradise. The baby, Samuel, disappears, taken by a wolf, or so the father tries to convince his family. Other evil portents follow: the crops fail, small accidents happen, and the family's goat, Black Phillip, starts to whisper to the children.

Creepy kids from The Witch

The creepy kids from The Witch

The Witch is sure to be a hotly debated topic among horror fans. It's certainly not a film that will appeal to everyone. The pace is slow and deliberate, there aren’t many jump scares or gory effects, and the language, authentic to Puritan New England can be hard, even near impossible, to understand at times.

But The Witch is a work of art. It's beautifully shot in stark Puritan tones, almost completely devoid of colors. So that the one scene we do see color it is glaring and shocking in its own right. When we see that color, we know it is a transgression, a sin. We know shit is going to get real.

Naked Thomasin in The Witch

The Bewitching of Thomasin in The Witch

The film's score took a similar tact. Throughout a large part of the film there was no score, no music, no sound at all except what was made by the characters. The silence kept a tension building, kept me on my toes waiting for the next sound. So when there was a bump on the roof, you heard it along with the characters. Lots of movies are noisy, but The Witch found the horror of silence. Not that the score, when it played wasn't beautiful, but it was used sparingly.

The Witch is painstakingly authentic, from the look to the language. It is probably the most faithful and beautiful period piece you will ever see. They also stay true to the folklore and legends of New England witchcraft. Not only are are there the common tales we might be familiar with, like black cats and broomsticks, but there is more obscure lore, such as like witches using hares as familiars, witches writing their name in the devil's book, and Satan appearing as a black goat, Black Phillip.

 

Black Phillip from The Witch

Black Phillip, Black Phillip=The Witch

Black Phillip was a hit of the pre release buzz, and he is a integral part of the film. However, for me, he was upstaged by the twins Mercy and Jonas. They are the creepiest kids I have ever seen in film. Every time they were on screen they captured my attention. Their singing of “Black Phillip” while they chased the evil goat around the hose still echoes in my head. Young kids aren't always the most believable actors, but these two did a phenomenal job with a role that had to be difficult at their age.

Not that there was any weak acting. Ralph Ineson, who played William, was perfect in the role. Ineson is sorely under used as an actor and hopefully this will lead to more good roles in the future. In The Witch, he is a devout man, struggling to work hard and bring up his family. Yet as strong as he is, he makes mistakes, and his fear of admitting those mistakes helps destroy his family.

Thomasin in The Witch

Thomasin in The Witch

Then there is Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor Joy, who most of the film revolves around. Thomasin is a young girl living in a male dominated society and family, but with a domineering mother. She is just reaching womanhood, and her budding sexuality doesn't go unnoticed by her mother or her younger brother. She overhears her mother's plan to marry her off to get her out of the house. Obviously, Thomasin isn't content to be a child bride or to suffer a Puritan lifestyle. There is a theme of rebellion and feminism as she revolts against her mother, and father. We go through the movie cheering for her, hoping for her to survive and somehow prevail.

Which leads to the major question in The Witch. Was there ever a witch? Was the entire film simply Thomasin's descent into insanity? Was she the witch? Or was it all exactly as we saw it. Was there an evil presence in the woods? An evil so dark that even the most devout, strict, and puritanical family had no chance of salvation? Regardless of what actually happens, it makes The Witch a dark, subversive, hopeless film. It's an outstanding feature debut for director Robert Eggers, and hopefully we see more from him in the future.

As I said to begin, I know a lot of filmgoers wont like The Witch. A lot wont get it, I'm not sure I totally get it, but I can still appreciate it. It's not a gory film, where masked killers jump out at you or zombies eat you alive. There are a few incredibly disturbing scenes, one near the beginning that I wont spoil, and another one later on involving a raven. But don't expect a constant barrage of visceral horror; instead, expect to immerse yourself totally in The Witch and to be transported back to a time when witchcraft was all too real.

I give The Witch 9 out of 10 pentagrams

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SATANIC/DEMONIC, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Horsehead (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Horsehead (2014)

By Amy Mead

Horsehead movie poster

Directed by Romain Bassett

Starring Lily Fleur-Pointeaux, Catriona MacColl, and Murray Head

All her life Jessica has been plagued by strange and peculiar nightmares that terrify her. These unsettling nightmares have led her to study the science behind dreams in an effort to understand her own.

One night she receives a call from her mother who tells her that the grandmother she barely knew has passed away and asks her to come home for the funeral. Upon Jessica's arrival at the family home, it quickly becomes apparent that the relationship between the two woman is strained and distant. She is much closer to her stepfather, who seems genuinely happy to see her, much to her mother's chagrin.

After a long and restless first night in a room next to her dead grandmother's, Jessica suddenly becomes quite ill and wrestles with a raging fever. Jessica decides to use this to her advantage and attempts lucid dreaming for her studies. Using ether as an aid to go deeper into her dream state, Jessica is soon immersed in a bizarre world where there are different versions of the people in her family and before long a mystery presents itself...

Beautifully shot, bold, and extremely artsy, the real star of Horsehead is the cinematography and although it is very visually pleasing, the film will most likely not be remembered for much other than that. Even with repeated viewings, the film makes little sense and is more than slightly confusing.

I didn't hate the film, but I tried very desperately to like it. In spite of the appearance of one of my personal genre favorites, the lovely Catrionna MacColl (whose performance was of course thrilling to watch for a Fulci fan like myself), I was left wanting more out of this story. Much more. There was plenty more there, it just wasn't played out to its fullest. 

Although the creep factor is high and there are some definite nightmarish qualities, it just seemed incomplete and unfinished. Additionally, too much of the focus was placed on the visual aspects of the film, which harken back to days of Italian master Dario Argento, and not enough emphasis on the twisted story line, which actually had a great amount of potential. 

There are a few horror films already in existence involving nightmares but none like the potential Horsehead had going for it. HAD. Unfortunately it appears that all that potential was forced into the back seat by the intense visuals, and we are left with quite a literal narrative rather than being able to extract the films themes of shame, guilt, and regret for ourselves. 

While not one of my favorite recent horror films, I do recommend it, if only for the stunning visuals and the rather fitting soundtrack which seems as though it was made just for the film and works extremely well with it. However, if you are someone looking for a complete package in a film, you may want to sit this one out. Sadly, Horsehead is a film that prides itself on being much smarter than it really is and it disappoints in that aspect.  

 

Posted by Amy Mead in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Boy (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Boy (2016)

 

Maggie from The Walking Dead in The Boy

The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan in The Boy

By Dixielord 

The Boy (2016) is the latest in the subgenre of evil doll movies. It stars Lauren Cohan, best known as the popular Maggie Green on AMC's The Walking Dead. Evil dolls are back in vogue it seems with the recent release of Annabelle, Dead Silence and Curse of Chucky. The Boy is much closer in theme to Annabelle than Chucky, more serious than camp, and more ambiguous to the actual source of evil.

Cohan plays Greta, a young American woman with a bit of a mysterious past. She takes as job as a nanny to a British couple, the Heelshires, and their young child, Brahms. The couple is going away on a long delayed holiday and need Greta to watch their young son. However things take a strange turn when Cohan meets Brahms and discovers he is a lifelike doll. It seems the real Brahms died in a fire and the distraught couple, unable to deal with the loss, has a new Brahms made as a surrogate.

Before they leave the Heelshires give Greta a list of chores to perform each day for Brahns. Mr. Heelshire also gives her a warning, “Be good to Brahms, and he will be good to you. Be bad to him and he will...” and he is shushed by his wife before he can continue. This, of course, should be a warning to Greta, but in good Gremlins fashion, she chooses to ignore the rules. Its all good till nightfall. When darkness falls and Brahms feels ignored, Greta starts to hear sounds in the house. Then things disappear, and she begins to wonder if shes losing it, or if maybe Brahms is more than just a doll.

Evil dolls have a mixed history in horror films. There have been a few excellent ones, like Magic with Anthony Hopkins, some decent ones, like the original Chucky and Puppet Master, and lots of blah to horrible like Annabelle (blah) to any of the Puppet Masters after Puppet Master 2. The Boy is definitely one of the better entries in the field, and I was really enjoying the first three quarters of the movie.

The Boy starts off great. Beautiful, but haunted woman in a secluded country home. A very dark and unconformable vibe on everything. However there is a twist, or a reveal, might be more appropriate tag, late in the film. I'll get to that later with a spoiler alert, now for what I liked.

Lauren Cohan is gorgeous, and you don’t have to be a fan of The Walking Dead to enjoy seeing her on film. For The Boy, she has dropped her fake Georgia accent for a generic fake American accent. It's a much better accent, and much more believable than Maggie's drawl (no hate TWD fans just talking honest). Which gave me a chuckle, that we have a British actress, playing an American nanny in Britain. Whatever, Cohan is a treat for the eyes and she looks lovely in every scene. She even does the old shower tease scene (booo!), but hey, at least she's clean in The Boy (psst Daryl).

Even without Cohan it's a beautiful film. The house was an imposing gothic structure, full of menace and dark rooms. The final scene with the survivor(s) fleeing reminded me a lot of The Legend of Hell House. Brahms himself was a creepy little fuck and regardless of whether he was being good or bad, I couldn't sleep in the same room without nightmares.

Brahms

Brahms from The Boy

Before the big reveal The Boy does a great job of building up a dark, moody feel. As the happenings in the house get more sinister, Cohan's Greta at first doubts her own sanity, but soon comes to accept hat she is dealing with a supernatural entity in Brahms. One thing that the movie does, successfully in my opinion, is it never makes me doubt her sanity. Even when she was thinking she was going insane, I was sure she wasn't. Unless the movie was really cheating.

Brahms is a creepy little doll to begin with and at first he seems to hide his movements, and activities. But eventually he loses his shyness and shows off in front of Greta and her friend the local grocer Malcolm, played by Rupert Evans. When Greta refuses to follow the strange instructions like play loud music for an hour each day, read poetry to him in a loud voice, kiss him goodnight, don't feed him after midnight...ok maybe the last one was from another movie, Brahms starts to torment her. After she agrees, things become much less sinister. Brahms still shows supernatural activity, but seems protective of Greta. Possibly too protective as he doesn’t seem to pleased when Malcolm sleeps over. Still things seem to be going ok. Till Greta's past shows up.

Then there is the twist. Be warned there will be some slight spoilers ahead. Throughout the movie we are lead to believe that Brahms is more than just a doll. We also find out, about midway, that Brahms when he was alive was not such a good boy. As his father said, he was “odd”, and possibly a murderer. His parents, no longer able to cope, decide to take their holiday by taking a long walk off a short pier, with pockets full of rocks.

Then there was the twist itself. I wont completely spoil it, or maybe I will, you be the judge. The twist takes the film completely out of the realm of the supernatural. A realm it had spent the full movie convincing us off, and drops us into the realm of masked killers hiding in basements and walls. The reveal itself was unexpected, for me at least, and well handled. I really didn’t know what the fuck was happening, I was so sold on the supernatural element. Still as well done as it was, I wished they had kept it supernatural. I got nothing against the masked deformed spree killers out there, but I wanted real supernatural evil horror!

I think the moment that Brahms openly revealed he could “move” I was expecting a let down. And in that regard the movie succeeded. It still didn't ruin the film for me, but it definitely took it down a few notches.

So while I did enjoy The Boy overall, the final twist was a downer. If you are a Maggie fan, I would still see the film in the theater. For her first leading role Lauren Cohan does a great job and it's fun to hear her without that annoying drawl. Everyone else can probably just wait till it's on the Netflix or home video.

6 ½ leaning toward 7 stars.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 1 comment
MOVIE REVIEWS: Intruders (2015)

MOVIE REVIEWS: Intruders (2015)

By Amy Mead

Intruders-Movie-Poster

(Original title Shut In)

Directed by Adam Schindler

Starring Rory Culkin, Beth Riesgraf, Martin Starr, and Jack Kesy

For ten years, Anna has been afflicted with Agoraphobia so debilitating that she has not stepped outside her family home in which she resides with her cancer stricken brother, Connie. Very quickly, Connie succumbs to his illness and Anna is left all alone.

On the night of Connie's death, Anna is visited by the charismatic and somewhat charming Dan, who delivers Connie's meals every day. She breaks down in front of him when he tries to make her smile with his usual goofy banter. She invites him in, he consoles her, and she ends up offering him a paper bag loaded with a small fortune. Dan respectfully and awkwardly declines even though she claims that has more than enough to spare.

On the day of Connie's funeral, in spite of her best efforts, Anna cannot bring herself to leave the house and attend his funeral. While she is making tea, she hears a car pull up to the house and sees three unknown men advancing toward her home. It is immediately apparent that they believe she is at the funeral and intend to break in for the money.

All too quickly, they are inside and she is unable to flee because of her crippling illness. They capture and restrain Anna, but she escapes and a deadly game of cat and mouse soon begins. Little do these intruders know that there is something more to her psychosis than her Agoraphobia, and they have severely underestimated her. There is much more to Anna AND the home she lives in than what meets the eye...

Having been a long time fan of home invasion films, this is one that I had been eagerly awaiting. I was also intrigued by the thought of someone with a disorder such as Agoraphobia being in that situation and wanted to see how it played out. Fully expecting the worst, I checked Intruders out the minute the film became available (because I like to torture myself) and I was very, very pleasantly surprised.

A bit of a mash-up of home invasion thriller and vigilante justice, there is a bit of a twist to Intruders and it's a pretty badass concept that I rather enjoyed. For me, there's just something that's extremely rewarding about watching some deserving assholes get what's coming to them and seeing that karma (as well as Anna) really is one evil bitch. 

In addition to the film's theme, I was really taken with the character of Anna, and Beth Riesgraf's beautifully nuanced portrayal of this complicated character is a damn fine one. The change we witness her go through is fun to watch, and seeing her unleash the fury within her was one hell of a payoff. 

Although the script may leave a little to be desired, Schindler's direction really saves the film. It's suspenseful, brilliantly paced, and he keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. 

Overall, I found the film to be highly enjoyable and entertaining, and it may very well climb it's way to the top of my favorite home invasion films. If the home invasion sub genre is your thing at all, I recommend giving this one a watch. It's definitely worth checking out at least once, and it's one that I will likely be adding to my own collection. 

 

Posted by Amy Mead in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW (SHORT): Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (2014)

By Jason Thompson

Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse

“He called me a dicksplasher. I don’t know what that means but I’m offended.”

Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, created by Jonathan Rej (Authority Films, Adult Swim) and Shane Morton (Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Dear God No) is an excellent indie short film that delivers a flawless send-up of how life is working at Haunt Attractions. This came easy for this production, being as it was birthed and inspired by the original Haunt of the same name. Haunt workers will recognize the industry right away, and immersion is satisfying in regards to how the film portrays the lifestyle.

The opening is perfectly executed, delivering a concise summary of the players and their relationship to each other. Sharp dialogue (Kevin Smith style all the way here) and great acting from the entire cast launches this movie out of the gate showing that this film is going to be a loving homage to our favourite horror films of the 80s and 90s. Characters and tropes are stereotypical, but they work perfectly, reminding us of multiple horror classics without ripping off any of them in particular.

Once the action starts, it starts well, with clever reveals on assaults from the zombies. Moments of tension are broken up by good bits of comedy and the occasional jump scare. Amazingly, the movie shows its source by relying on the same rhythm of tension and release you get from any well executed Haunt. While the film itself doesn’t break any ground, it does what it intends, and does it incredibly well.

Not without it’s barely noticeable flaws, such as slight technical issues that come from a lack of experience, Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is a triumph of indie horror filmmaking. I hope and expect the people involved in this will be picked up by bigger and better as soon as they’re discovered. My only complaint about this film is the abrupt ending and it just didn’t go on long enough. Weirdly enough, that’s my same complaint about some of the Haunts I’ve been to, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done on purpose. If so, once again the movie delivers on its theme.

Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse is honestly one of the most professionally produced indie films I’ve seen in quite some time. I cannot stress enough how well crafted the script is, nor how this just might be setting the bar for any future endeavours created by future horror filmmakers. Most importantly, the cast and crew showed an incredible amount of heart, and they joy they felt during filming easily translates well for the viewer. The producers created a world full of believable characters that I would love to revisit once again, and that’s not something I say very often.

The soundtrack is excellent, delivering a punk rock & heavy metal musical wave that almost rivals Return of the Living Dead. And that scores big points in my book.

If you’re a member of a Haunt attraction, an horror filmmaker, or a fan of either type of production, you owe it to yourself to watch this award-winning film. But don’t take my word for it, watch it now, for free at http://www.azamovie.com/

Posted by Jason Thompson in MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, ZOMBIES, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Goodnight Mommy (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Goodnight Mommy (2014)

Goodnight Mommy Is a Mother's Nightmare

By Amy Mead

Goodnight Mommy poster

Directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz

Starring Susanne Wuest, Elias Schwarz and  Lukas Schwarz

After what appears to be an idyllic summer for a young set of twins, their young mother returns home to them after an unseen incident causes her to have facial reconstruction surgery. The boys seem a bit taken aback by her appearance, almost hesitant and afraid to approach her, as she is still healing and her head is swathed in bandages.

Almost immediately her behavior seems very odd and based on the boys reaction, it is very much unlike her. She imposes harsh rules and guidelines for play and she seems almost hostile with the twins, particularly Lukas who she refuses to speak to or even feed.

When she suddenly begins lashing out at Elias with violence, the boys begin to question if this woman is really their mother and not some sort of replacement. This woman seems like a stranger to them with each passing day and it doesn't take long before the boys take some pretty extreme measures to find out is she really is in fact their mother. This culminates in some fairly shocking images of torture and a twist ending that won't soon be forgotten once witnessed, even if it is easy to be seen coming very early on in the film. 

Like many others, I was enthralled by the trailers for Goodnight Mommy when they first began to surface and was anxiously awaiting the films release. Unfortunately, the trailer is very misleading and all the things that  seemed to draw an audience in are sadly shown in the first thirty minutes of the film.

Not only that, Goodnight Mommy is one hell of a slow mover with a lot of prolonged periods of silence. There isn't much action to be had. That being said, the silences do really seem to work for the film, giving it an unsettling and almost melancholic feel while simultaneously helping to build the tension and atmosphere within the film.

Goodnight Mommy offers a very limited but talented cast but the three key players, knock it out of the park with their performances. There's something very unsettling about the twins (Elias and Lukas Schwartz) and they play their roles brilliantly and Susanne Wuest also gives a very chilling performance in her role as "The Mother". The audience is never really sure how to feel about any of them and this effectively dials up the creep factor and gives the film a little darker edge.

Goodnight Mommy is definitely a film with an art house feel but that doesn't make it any less creepy or tragic, it in fact adds to the film. It's a psychological thriller but there is also a great deal of sadness and an underlying sense of loss that keep it from ever becoming a full blown horror film.

While entertaining and full of some pretty graphic and horrific elements, it never fully lives up to it's potential and it almost feels as though there is something missing. Some vital piece we are not made privy to, however we are unable to stop watching or look away and have to see where the film takes us. The films end is one that is likely to stay with you after the credits roll and the final five minutes could very well be what brought on all the critical acclaim the film received when it hit the festival circuit. 

Even if mildly confusing and somewhat disappointing, Goodnight Mommy is definitely worth a watch. It didn't deliver in the way I had expected it to or hoped it would but is does still deliver. Check it out and judge for yourself. 

Posted by Amy Mead in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Pod (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Pod (2015)

pod-poster

By Nick Durham

Well, this is…something.

What happens when your crazy, war-vet brother claims he’s found something in the woods that is some sort of blood-hungry, otherworldly beast? Well, you go stage an intervention of course! That’s pretty much the basis of Pod; a super brisk (about 78 minutes long) dirge of a thriller that has a quite a surprising amount of positive things going for it for about half of its running time.  After that though…well, read on and find out.

From writer/director Mickey Keating, Pod tells the story of bickering brother Ed (Dean Cates) and sister Lyla (Jug Face‘s Lauren Ashley Carter) who unite to take a road trip up north in an effort to stage a possible intervention for their seemingly mentally ill brother Martin (Brian Morvant). When they arrive at Martin’s cabin, they learn his dog has been slaughtered, the windows and doors are secured and boarded and taped up, and there’s something in the basement that Martin keeps referring to as a pod that he claims is responsible for his behavior and the death of his dog…along with much, much more.

Fairly minimalistic in its presentation, Pod has a lot going for it. From the initial trip and tour of the dilapidated cabin to the first encounter between the siblings, this film manages build a shitload of wonderful tense moments. The camerawork, editing, and acting are all wonderfully impressive given the film’s almost barebones nature. That’s all pretty much the first half of the film though, as all the good things that are built up initially are betrayed as Pod stumbles towards its conclusion.

The major flaw of this film is that from the beginning sequence onward, we pretty much know that this monster exists and that Martin isn’t totally crazy. Pod could have benefited as being more of a psychological-based thriller if this wasn’t known right away. If instead the film kept playing with the viewer, making you wonder if this thing is real or if Martin is as much off his fucking rocker as it seems. Instead it degenerates into a creature feature, with a predictable hoot of an ending.  Oh, Larry fucking Fessenden is here too in a small, yet pivotal, role as someone whose presence never gets explained. I swear, I can’t fucking escape him.

That’s the other thing about Pod: nothing is ever really explained. We don’t know if the creature is some kind of mutant or a fucking alien or what. The film’s promotional material kind of makes the film look like an alien abduction-style affair (which is what I thought this was at first glance) but in reality it’s little more than a monster-in-the-woods affair. The little to no explanation of things about the film is something I actually kind of dig. There’s no cell phones present and the cars are old models, so we know this film takes place in the past, but we’re never sure exactly what decade. Little things like this kind of elevate the whole thing, at least to me that is.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a brisk and somewhat enjoyable thriller that actually does tension (mostly) right, Pod may be for you. It doesn’t wind up being as promising as its first half makes you think it might be, but it isn’t horrible either. It was just added on Netflix, so give it a look.

Rating: 3/5

Posted by Nick Durham in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Knock Knock (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Knock Knock (2015)

By Amy Mead 

Knock Knock poste

KNOCK KNOCK

Story by Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald Ross 

Screenplay by Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo

Directed by Eli Roth

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas and an appearance by Colleen Camp

Due to work, DJ turned architect Evan is forced to stay behind at home while his wife and two children go on a short beach vacation without him. After saying goodbye to his family, he settles in for a long night of work.  Just as he decides to take a break, there is a knock on the door and he finds two scantily clad and beautiful young women, Genesis and Bel, standing in the pouring rain and soaking wet.

The girls apologize for the intrusion and explain that they are lost. They were headed for a party but due to a dead phone battery they no longer have the address. Being a nice guy, Evan lets them in and offers to call a car for them.

After discovering that there will be a 45 minute wait, the girls quickly make themselves right at home while Evan dries their wet clothes and makes them tea. They begin to regale him with tales of lovers in every city they fly to in their jobs as stewardesses and before long, it becomes obvious that they are subtly coming on to Evan.

The car arrives for the girls and he discovers them in the bathroom, naked, in a bubble bath and waiting for him. He tries to resist at first but a night of extramarital bliss unfolds despite his weak protests.

The next day Evan wakes up and finds the girls in the kitchen, making a huge mess, eating like pigs and basically acting like assholes. He politely asks them to leave and they seem completely unconcerned the he wants them gone and they carry on with their antics, going as far as defacing his wife's original art pieces. He threatens to call the police and they respond by calling him a pedophile and informing him that they are minors and they will have him charged with statutory rape. Craziness ensues and it takes him actually calling 911 to report a break in before the girls finally agree to leave.

But later that night, they come back, knock Evan unconscious and tie him to the bed. It seems these girls are playing a viscous game and it becomes clear that they have done this to others before. What started out as a genuinely kind act on Evan's part leads to a dangerous and terrifying  game that he may not survive...

Knock Knock is a fun mix of borderline softcore porn, laced with a touch of home invasion thriller and a splash of horror/comedy thrown in for good measure. If you've seen the 1977 exploitation flick Death Game (the original film that Knock Knock is based on) then you pretty much already know how this is going to play out.

The performances by the limited cast are better than in most of the previous Roth films and fans of his work will recognize a few familiar faces from his previous films, such as Roth's real-life wife, Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, The Green Inferno, The Stranger) Aaron Burns (The Green Inferno, The Stranger) and Ignacia Allamand (Aftershock, The Green Inferno). For the most part, the acting is much better by these three than in the past Roth films. As for Keanu Reeves, it's hard to tell if his performance is so stilted and wooden was what Roth was shooting for or if it's just typical Reeves fashion. whatever it is, it works well enough for the film, especially when the laughable "free pizza" scene goes down. The real scene stealers, however, are Izzo and de Armas who were delightful in their femme fatale roles, even if you are inclined to beat the living shit out of them through most of the movie. These girls are crazy and clearly just do not give a fuck. 

Although the premise is unbelievable (how the hell are these two doing this repeatedly and never getting reported by the men they torment or caught by authorities?!) and often comedic, the ending is a bit anticlimactic and the social commentary on infidelity, pedophilia, and our growing social media obsession is heavy, watching what these two women do to make this poor guy suffer, does have some entertainment value and is not completely unrewarding. By the time these girls finally leave, Evan has basically been raped, tortured, his home is in virtual ruin and his marriage is almost guaranteed to be all but destroyed. 

If you are looking for a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, I recommend Knock Knock. Just go into it expecting it to pay off like the exploitation thriller that inspired it. 

Posted by Amy Mead in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Dementia (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Dementia (2015)

By Dixielord

Newly released on VoD is Dementia, the latest film from IFC Midnight Films and director Mike Testin. Dementia stars Kristina Klebe (Proxy) and Gene Jones (The Sacrament). The plot revolves around Jones' character George Lockhart, a veteran of the Vietnam war, who has memory issues, and after suffering a stroke is no longer able to care for himself. Jones has a rocky relationship with his son and grand daughter so he is placed in the care of Michelle, a home nurse, played by Kristina Klebe. Klebe seems to be a kindly person eager to help Jones, but he eventually finds himself trapped in his own home and at her mercy.

Dementia with Kristina Klebe

Kristina Klebe in Dementia

Dementia at first glance seems very similar to Stephen King's Misery, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan in the film adaptation. However most of the similarities between the two are only surface deep. As the viewer gets deeper in the similarities drop away, making Dementia a truly unique story, but none the less brutal and horrifying. Eventually all your preconceived notions of how this is going to go fade away, and as the final credits rolled, I was still half waiting on a new revelation.

Dementia starring Gene Jones

Gene Jones in Dementia

Like Misery it is basically a battle of wills between captor and captive, showcasing the talents of Jones and Klebe, both seriously under rated actors. They carry the weight of most of the film, and they carry it well. Both play their roles well, Klebe as the wolf in sheep’s clothes, and Jones as the confused vet, who isn't sure of anything around him. It's so well done that at the beginning, I thought it might actually all be Jones confusion. Was he being tormented, or was he doing it himself in his confusion?

 

Kristina Klebe with a gun in Dementia

Kristina Klebe, caring nurse, psychopathic killer, or something else in Dementia

Soon however we see that Klebe is, in fact a vicious killer, who is doctoring his medicine. But is she just a crazed person looking to get her jollies by torturing a helpless man, or is it something deeper. Dementia takes the usual hero/villain dynamic and turns it on it's head. I really don't want to spoil this film. It's too good and needs to be enjoyed spoiler free. It's not an M. Night wild twist out of nowhere. Astute viewers will know something is up, and the clues are all there. Clues that everything isn't as it appears.

Gene Jones in pain in Dementia

Dementia tortures Gene Jones

Dementia isn't an extremely gory film. It's horror relies on our fear of getting old, of losing our memories and being at the mercy of someone with no mercy. The fear of estrangement from family and loved ones. Then it turns slowly turns it around. Kudos to Jones, Klebe and the rest of the cast on doing a film that is more than it could have been. Dementia could have stayed on the safe straight path of a Misery clone, but it went for more and succeeded. 9 stars out of 10 from me.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Krampus (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Krampus (2015)

Krampus: Stomping Through the Snow

By Amy Mead 

Krampus Poster

Krampus

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Starring Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Conchata Ferrell and Allison Tolman

KRAMPUS is a horror comedy film which focuses on  The Engel Family and their Christmas celebration at their suburban home with family members from out of town. Right from beginning, there is a sense that no one is particularly thrilled about this yuletide gathering. The two families are from two different worlds. with the Engels being well to do and the rest of the family being loud, gun-toting jerks who do nothing but bully and complain. There seems to be no excitement, only apprehension. Everyone seems to be on edge and filled with dread instead of cheer. No one seems to have much holiday spirit except for young Max (and his beloved grandmother "Omi"), who is desperately trying to hold on to their old family Christmas traditions, including his belief in Santa. He wants to keep Christmas as it has always been.

After the arrival of Max's Aunt Linda and her family, things quickly begin to go south. Max's cousins steal Max's letter to Santa and read it at the dinner table, mocking and embarrassing him in front of everyone, thus making him cry. He flees from the room but not before tearfully screaming  that he hates everyone and hates Christmas. In the safety of his room, he angrily rips up the letter to Santa and quickly throws it out the window, in essence saying goodbye to Christmas as he has always known it to be and eschewing any traditions. Almost immediately, a massive, freak blizzard hits and predictably, the entire neighborhood loses power. Now forced to coexist together in one room without heat, electricity, phones or internet access, the family quickly reaches a peak in its dysfunction. 

The next day, An ominous looking snowman has strangely appeared in their front yard as if by magic and a mysterious bag of gifts has been left at the front door. The family brings it inside not knowing that Max has unwittingly unleashed the fury of Krampus by turning his back on Christmas. And by the end of the night, things quickly go from bad to worse, particularly when Max's sister Beth ventures out into the blizzard to visit her boyfriend down the street and never returns.

When the family does not heed Omi's tale of Krampus (and what happened to her on Christmas so many years before) allies must quickly be made amongst the feuding family members when it becomes apparent that they need to stick together if they are going to survive.

Krampus' gingerbread henchman

Although somewhat flawed with poor character development and a bit slow to get moving, Trick R Treat director, Michael Dougherty brings us something new and original with Krampus. While it may not be as thrilling or as terrifying as some of the past Christmas themed horror films that so many of us have come to love, it has much to offer fans of something with a darker theme and twist.

The acting in the film is all top notch it is brilliantly acted by a more than qualified cast with the talents of Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrel, Emjay Anthony and Krista Stadler all on the roster but they are hilariously upstaged by all the different toys and minions that are brought to terrifying life, most notably the gingerbread henchman, the band of marauding elves and the horrifying jack in the box. And of course, Krampus himself.

Loaded with both comedic and scary moments, Krampus stays well within the confines of its PG-13 rating but it is by no means a family friendly movie however. Krampus is a film that is definitely geared towards an older audience in spite of its camp and its rating and offers up plenty of truly nightmare inducing visions with some incredible practical effects and limited CGI.

A cross between the likes of Home Alone and Gremlins, Krampus is nothing groundbreaking by any means but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun in spite of its flaws. It beats getting a lump of coal in your stocking or the dreaded socks under the tree on Christmas morning and if the box office numbers for opening weekend are any indication, it's almost a certainty that Dougherty's second holiday filmed effort will achieve the same cult following as his first.

Krampus bell

Posted by Amy Mead in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments