Monday, August 28, 2017

Can't Take It Back (2017)








DIRECTOR: Tim Shechmeister

WRITERS:

Tim Shechmeister
Matt Shechmeister

CAST:

Ana Coto
Meredith Foster
Logan Paul
Noah Centineo
Ivanna Sakhno
Lexi Atkins
Jill Larson
Anne Richardson

PLOT:

When a group of friends decide to leave hateful comments on the social media page of Morgan Rose, a teenage girl who has recently committed suicide. They don't think about the repercussions of their actions. Little do the group of friends realise, that if you speak ill of the dead, don't be surprised if you can't take it back.
 







In today's modern digital age. The most significant way of connecting people together is by way of social media. Long gone are the days of communication where you meet people out and about or in a bar. While that still happens, it almost feels like this lost art. It feels, old-fashioned. With dating apps and social media websites, we find close interaction in other people's lives from a distance and behind a screen. I believe this is now the new normal.

However, social media also comes with a dark side. The world-wide-web is a seriously nasty place. At the press of a button, you can degrade and abuse someone. It's given people the power to use the internet to spew hatred and bile. Can't Take It Back takes that premise and runs with it while adding a supernatural twist to the proceedings. In today's horror climate, it's a premise that we have seen countless times before. I also doubt that it will be the last time that we see such a story.

In the realm of horror, we have seen Unfriended, Friend Request, Ratter, The Den and Chatroom, the list goes on. We also have Searching and Unfriended: Dark Web which are coming soon. This latest sub-genre of cyber horror is all the rage. They have also been done to varying degrees of success. Sadly, Can't Take It Back feels like this adds nothing really new to the sub-genre. The story feels very familiar and at times almost identical to Friends Request.

What this movie does wrong is that it misses a chance to really say something about the downside and pitfalls of using social media. While we get a short scene of two of the girls writing a horrible message on a dead girl's social media page, it is over and done within a matter of seconds. Only one of them really shows any remorse for her actions. While probably realistic of today's internet trolls. You would think that these writers could have touched on this a bit more instead of glossing over it.

The biggest positive that I can throw this movies way is that it never really takes a breather. From the very first moment that the film begins, we are witness to a girl committing suicide. The teenagers that choose to slut shame, bully, and abuse this now dead girl begin to witness her ghost, and she starts to seek her revenge. I can say that the winning element of Can't Take It Back is that the film is never once dull. It may not be a good movie, but this is not a slow-moving story.

While I didn't find Can't Take It Back scary at all. I do believe that the film delivers enough violence and bloodshed that it should keep gorehounds happy. The movie gives us a few bloody kills but what makes them somewhat compelling is that the ghost of the dead girl drives them to commit suicide, just like she had done. Even though I enjoyed her getting revenge, it's a pretty heavy theme to be dealing with. It's basically an eye for an eye, but teenagers taking their own lives is still a pretty horrible thing, regardless if they tormented other people.

When it comes to the acting. I didn't mind the cast here. My biggest issue was Logan Paul. By now, he's more well known for his troubles than he is for being some famous YouTube personality. Having his character playing a massive douche doesn't help. This is the kind of jerk-off that posts footage of a dead body online while visiting a sacred place in Japan and uploads it onto the internet for likes, which funnily enough sort of mirrors his despicable actions in the movie. He shows no remorse for his idiocy and only gives fake apologies.

Lastly, another issue that I had with the movie is that because it dives right into the story. We are barely given any character development. We don't really know all that much about the victim, who is our dead girl. We also don't know anything about the majority of our teenagers. We only know that one has recently moved into the town. She is peer-pressured into leaving a nasty comment, and that's about all there is to it. Minus each character being a typical archetype that is well known in the genre. We get nothing which makes us not care for any of them.








DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Gruesome shots of blood and death on television.
- A teenage girl has a nightmare that she is stabbed to death with pencils.
- A teenage girl is seen covered in blood and has slashes up her arms.
- A teenage girl cuts her own throat.
- We see a bathroom covered in blood.
- A teenage girl is scratched by ghosts.
- A teenage boy shoots himself in the head.
- A teenage girl is seen cutting her wrist.








Like Friend Request and Unfriended that came before it. Can't Take It Back doesn't really add anything new to the whole cyber-horror sub-genre. In fact, I think it felt pretty similar to the first of those two mentioned films. So much so, that at times, I was wondering if they'd watched that movie to take notes. While the movie is never boring, it just doesn't feel all that fresh or original. The bloodshed can't save this one. Sadly, I can't take back my time with this one.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Vault (2017)








DIRECTOR: Dan Bush

WRITERS:

Dan Bush
Conal Byrne

CAST:

James Franco
Taryn Manning
Francesca Eastwood
Scott Haze
Q'orianka Kilcher
Clifton Collins Jr.
Jeff Gum
Debbie Sherman

PLOT:

When Vee and Leah, two estranged sisters decide to rob a bank in order to save their brother Michael. The job is simple, get in, get the money, and get out. Little do these two sisters realise that this is no ordinary bank. In the basement vault of the bank, it hides a dark secret. Once the gang opens up the basement vault to retrieve all of the money inside. All hell breaks loose, and they unleash something far more sinister.







When I first noticed that The Vault had popped up on Netflix, I had passed over it on several occasions. I thought that it was a heist flick. I had no idea that the movie had elements of the supernatural or was deeply rooted in the horror genre. You could look at the poster for the film and see all of the creepy masks that the gang donned or the images of those ghostly figures burning in the background. However, I feel that I may have not taken much notice on this occasion.

The movie starts off like most action heist films. The gang starts a fire in a warehouse close to the bank in hopes of creating a diversion to keep the police off of the robbery. We are introduced to our gang. One is applying for a position at the bank, fake blonde wig and all. Before you know it, its revealed that she is the leader and like most heist movies, we are treated to scenes of the staff and patrons being taken, hostage. It all seems pretty straightforward up until this point. What works well in The Vault is how quickly things descend into madness in the story.

As the gang starts to round up all the tellers and the people who've come to deposit some money. This is where the shit starts to hit that fan. They quickly discover that the bank isn't carrying that much loot. The gang have made a grave mistake. They have assumed the bank is holding millions in cash. They were very wrong. Cue the dramatics, the plan reassessments, and a character confirming that the vault in the basement is where they keep all their stash. The gang decide to trust the mysterious bank teller and things go south.

Once the gang starts to make their way into the basement vault, this is where things start getting fun. Whatever was hiding in the vault is unleashed, and the nightmarish visions begin. We now start delving into the history of this haunted bank. We see that something terrible has taken place in the past. As the movie slowly starts to unravel, things escalate, and I found myself having an absolute blast with it. Is it perfect? No. The film has problems, but they weren't enough to ruin what I felt was this original take on the heist movie.

Is The Vault gory? No, not really. While the film is filled with blood and violence, and many of the characters meet some grisly fate. This story feels pretty restrained for a movie that deals heavily with vengeful ghosts that murder a bank full of people. We get a lot of aftermath shots, quick flashes of gore, a few stabbings, and a death that involves a drill. I think the film provides enough bloodshed to keep most gorehounds happy. Some of them may even desire more from this one. I could've used several more gruesome demises.

Was The Vault scary? I think the movie delivers a few nice jump scares throughout. What I really liked about the story was that from those very first moments that the movie begins, we get a sense of dread. We know something is going to happen. We know that the bank robbery will go wrong. But what I didn't see coming was where this film would end up going and for that, I was kept on my toes for most of it. This goes to some dark places and I have to hand it to the director and writers for coming up with something that felt somewhat original.

The acting in The Vault is decent. The standout for me is Taryn Manning. The woman is a great actress. I think she plays that criminal-type very well as seen from her six years on Orange Is The New Black. Clint's daughter Francesca Eastwood also delivers a solid performance in the movie. I liked the dynamic between the two and wanted to see these sisters make it out of this haunted bank alive. James Franco is the support here and I enjoyed what he did with the role. Lastly, we have Q'orianka Kilcher who I just adore. She plays one of the tellers. I think she is just such a talented actress and this amazing screen presence.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up the twist. While I had no idea where the film was going early on with the bank being haunted and the vault full of vengeful ghosts. I kind of guessed where the twist was going as the lead up is right in front of you. One of the characters is not who they appear to be, and the way that they are dressed is not of our time. You can sense that this person may be connected to the past of this bank. While I liked the twist, I saw it coming. Some may have no idea and this will provide a great surprise or shock for them.







DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A security guard is repeatedly punched in the face with knuckledusters.
- A man is shotgun blasted in the leg.
- We see quick lashes of people being killed.
- A man is shown with his finger cut off.
- A robber is dragged off into a vault and repeatedly stabbed.
- A man drills himself in the face.
- A guy shoots himself in the head.
- Several people are burned alive in a bank vault.
- A couple of men are shot in the head.
- A man with half a head is seen in the basement.
- A man is blown up when he ignites the gas main.








I went into The Vault not expecting much. I thought I was about to witness a heist thriller. Instead, what I got was a violent and bloody supernatural horror movie that delivers a new spin on the heist story. With some solid acting, tension, and a couple of nice visual touches. The Vault surprised more than it disappointed. Just for sheer originality, I found myself taken with this dark little heist film. While the story clearly has problems and a silly final shot, the movie is definitely worth a once off watch.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Veronica (2017)








DIRECTOR: Paco Plaza

WRITERS:

Fernando Navarro
Paco Plaza

CAST:

Sandra Escacena
Bruna Gonzalez
Claudia Placer
Ana Torrent
Ivan Chavero
Consuelo Trujillo
Angela Fabian
Carla Campra

PLOT:

Set in Madrid, June of 1991. Veronica is a teenage girl who is trying to overcome the death of her father. Her mother also works all day in a bar which leaves Veronica the one in charge of her three younger siblings. During a solar eclipse, Veronica and two friends decide to play around with an Ouija board to contact their dead relatives. The friends instead, invite in something far darker.








When Veronica made its way onto Netflix, it made a pretty big splash. The movie was touted as the next great scare-fest. Some reports were calling this the scariest horror film ever made. Lists suddenly made their way onto the wide-web after the movie had premiered on the streaming service that had this listed as one of the top ten creepiest films you can now watch. The promotional campaign was in full-swing for Veronica. It was the hype-machine working overtime. I got caught up in the whirlwind.

The movie is directed by Paco Plaza. He is no stranger to the horror genre. He is the man responsible for creating one of the greatest, and scariest found-footage zombie movies of all time with [REC]. The movie was an incredibly intense, and low-budget zombie film that utilized the found-footage genre, in the same way, The Blair Witch Project kind of revolutionised it. It was also released at a time when the sub-genre wasn't oversaturated with hundreds of the same sort of movie. His experiment had paid off and hit at the exact right time.

With Veronica, Paco Plaza has now turned his sights on the Supernatural genre. Here we have another sub-genre of horror that has been wildly popular over recent years with franchises like The Conjuring universe or the Insidious and Paranormal Activity franchises. Veronica feels very akin to those films. So much so that at times, it feels almost beat for beat in the way that a lot of the tension is ramped-up or how a lot of these set-pieces play out. This is what probably hurts Veronica the most. It feels like a case of 'i've seen this all before.' It doesn't feel like it breaks any new ground.

Another issue that I had with Veronica was that the movie was awfully slow. I'm not going to lie, this took me three watches over two separate nights to get through the entire thing. The movie runs at a respectable hour and forty-five minutes. However, the way that this story drags on, it feels like it clocks in at over two hours. At times, this was honestly boring to me. The story is meant to be based on a real crime and event. I just didn't find myself invested with a lot of what was happening on screen.

Visually, I think Veronica looked excellent. Paco Plaza is a talented filmmaker. I will never deny that. This is probably his most polished looking film to date. The entire sequence with the solar eclipse was a highlight for me. I also feel confident that he knows how to capture the darker material well. While a lot of the horror effects feel familiar as I mentioned above, he is still able to deliver us a solid looking movie. My biggest gripe is how similar the final demonic attack scene looked. The entity, and what takes place, looks almost identical to Ouija: Origin Of Evil.

When it comes to the suspense and tension, I think Veronica has a few very creepy moments. There's a sequence that features demonic entities that are naked and for some reason, it really makes me uncomfortable. A dead person naked is just a very eerie piece of imagery. Also, the fact that this happens around a teenage girl makes this even scarier. I also thought the 'Sister of Death' character may be the creepiest nun in a film since The Nun in The Conjuring 2. I also enjoyed the fact that she was sassy in her delivery towards Veronica.

I think the acting in Veronica is the highlight. I've never personally seen any of the actors or recognise them from any television or movies, but I found them all to be very solid. I believe that the entire film rests on the shoulders of Sandra Escacena and she gets put through the wringer in this movie. What really surprised me was how brilliant the three young kids performances turned out. Child actors can either make or break a performance. Sometimes, we get shining examples. Then we have other times where an audience is subjected to the annoying brat from The Babadook.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the opening scene and final showdown. Paco Plaza does something that really frustrates me with horror films. He opens the film at the end. He leads right up to the very moment we are about to witness that final horrifying shot and then cuts back to a few days before the terrible events. What makes all of this so annoying is that it basically lays out exactly where this film will end up. While he has some restraint and doesn't show us the character, we know exactly where this will lead and it adds no element of surprise. 








DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Little children chew open a teenage girls flesh.
- A demon rams its arm down a girls throat.
- Blood forms under a sheet.
- A girl cuts her hand open on glass.








Veronica is a film that has seen its fair share of hype. As soon as it landed on Netflix. People were already calling this the scariest film ever made. The articles and lists that came out only added fuel to the fire. Going into Veronica with that type of knowledge, I couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed by it. On a technical level, the movie is gorgeous. Some of the imagery is also incredibly creepy. What lets it down the most is pacing problems and an all too familiar retread of supernatural tropes. This sadly won't break any new ground.
 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Freehold (2017)








DIRECTOR: Dominic Bridges

WRITERS:

Dominic Bridges
Rae Brunton

CAST:

Javier Botet
Mim Shaikh
Mandeep Dhillon
Michael McKell
Kola Bokinni

PLOT:

An amoral estate agent is preyed upon by one of his evicted tenants.








Looking at the poster art for Freehold, I went into this one expecting a supernatural ghost story. The poster for the film features a picture of an apartment complex that has what appears to be dead hands grasping it. So I could be forgiven for believing that this was going to be one of the supernatural kind. Those hands don't look very human to me. Had I discovered the movie under its other title, Two Pigeons? I may have gone in expecting something utterly different from what I eventually got with this film.

What I actually got from this movie was a dark, and disturbing tale of revenge. The film is about an amoral estate agent who evicts a man and in the process ruins that man's life. So the man then seeks to turn the tables on the estate agent by secretly moving into his apartment unseen and concocting a malicious campaign of revenge against him. Instead of providing the audience with scares and violence. This story goes for more of a gross-out, gag-filled sort of display. Nothing in Freehold is very pleasant to watch.

Like The Greasy Strangler or Kuso that came before it. I was disgusted and repulsed while I was watching Freehold. But the only difference here is that I actually enjoyed Freehold. The other two were gross and not at all entertaining to me. I didn't connect with either of the movies or any of the characters that inhabited those worlds. There was something about the two characters in Freehold that made me feel sorry for both of them in the end. Both had their reasons for what they had done. Both were equally as revolting in their actions. Still, I liked their character arcs.

Nothing in Freehold feels gruesome or violent. If you go into this one expecting some gory horror film, you'll be sorely disappointed with the outcome. The movie isn't very creepy either. The entire tone and vibe of the film feel almost like some twisted dark comedy. The unseen man spends the duration of the running time concocting these horrible ways to get revenge on the estate agent. Some far nastier than others. At times, I was almost dry heaving during some of his scenes of revenge. It really was gross and over the top at times.

Our unseen man pours bleach into his shampoo. He spits phlegm into his mouthwash. He uses his toothbrush to clean out his rectum. The list goes on and on. The build-up to their confrontation is incredibly sick and twisted. I like that this unseen presence is able to navigate this small apartment without his rival knowing he's even there. It's quite the scary notion. To imagine that someone is living in your apartment and you are none the wiser? He's able to break you down over this period of time, ruin your friendships, and relationships or even make you sick. I loved how they captured this in the film.

The acting in the Freehold is great. Javier Botet is our unseen man. He stands at 6'6". He's got this frail, and thin body that allows him to move in a way that seems almost inhuman. I love how he's able to get around the apartment. Hide on top of cupboards and under beds, and in the walls. I felt that he was equally gross as he was menacing once we get into the third act of the film. It makes sense that this is the man that has played pretty much every creature or monster in a movie that Doug Jones hasn't. The both of them are just such talented performers.

Our other main stars are played by Mim Shaikh and Mandeep Dhillon. Both Mim and Mandeep get to do the most here in terms of performance. They play a couple who is slowly torn apart. Our unseen man destroys their relationship by viewing gay porn on her laptop. Blowing his nose into her panties. He takes a dump and doesn't flush the toilet. As their issues continue to grow, they can no longer tolerate each other, and I liked watching their relationship fall apart. It's a testament to both of them as actors when you feel sorry for them even if one is a pretty dodgy guy from the outset.

Visually, I think Freehold looked incredibly well made. For a story that is set entirely in one location. It takes a lot to make that interesting. We spend the vast majority of the movie inside this apartment. I think what makes this movie look so impressive is the way the camera moves around this apartment. I enjoyed that the director tried to get into every nook and cranny of this place. I also loved the use of the fluid camera shots where they would go over the walls and into the ceiling. They even use a lot of these overhead shots as the cast maneuvers the apartment. I think this looked a lot bigger than what the budget probably was for the film.
 







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man slices his hand open and pours blood over a naked man.








Freehold is a movie that plays with the tropes of the home invasion genre. The film is never gory or violent, nor is it ever really suspenseful. What the movie does very well is that it slowly builds towards a dark third act. The entire build-up unfolds like some gross and twisted dark comedy. With some solid leading performances and great use of the one-location set. This is a movie that deserves to be seen at least once. Will it be a pleasant experience? No. This is quite nasty and will likely turn a lot of audience members off. Still, I believe this is worth a watch.
 


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Ghost Story (2017)








DIRECTOR: David Lowery

WRITER: David Lowery

CAST:

Rooney Mara
Casey Affleck
Brea Grant
Kesha
Liz Cardenas
Bryan Pitts
Will Oldham
Jonny Mars
Rob Zabrecky

PLOT:

A recently deceased man returns to his home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.








Some folks may be wondering why I've decided to review A Ghost Story on the blog. On IMDb, it's not listed as a horror movie. Some people would even consider this to be the furthermost thing from a horror film. Earlier this year, we had a movie called Personal Shopper. A supernatural drama that deals with a medium trying to contact her deceased brother. Like that movie, A Ghost Story feels very similar to that story in both tone and visual aesthetic.

If anyone goes into A Ghost Story anticipating some violent or intense supernatural horror film. They will be sorely disappointed with the outcome. The film feels like a meditation on love, loss, grief, and death. You won't find any vengeful ghosts here. While the main character in the story is a sheeted ghost walking the Earth. It's not exactly spooky. It's very odd to watch this story that deals with such heavy themes but has a man wearing what some would consider the traditional Halloween ghost costume as a get-up.

What I loved about A Ghost Story was its examination of life and death. This is a devastating film. The entire thing felt very poignant. Almost immediately we lose our husband character in a car accident right outside of their own house, and we watch as his wife tries to come to terms with his passing. It's from the very first moment that this movie begins, there is this sense of sadness looming over this entire thing. The whole thing feels incredibly sombre.

Another element that I think worked beautifully is how it handles the passing of time. This movie plays with time in a way that makes us feel like we are right there as our main character watches everyone around him move on after his death. It really hits you hard emotionally. It's one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this story. To be in love, then pass away, and watch as that love moves on or moves out of the home you shared and you are now destined to spend your existence in this place. It really felt profound. I don't think I've seen death handled this way.

We now come to the performances. I don't think I can really rate the performance of Casey Affleck as he spends the entire film under a white sheet and he never speaks. This is Rooney Mara's show. I think she was absolutely fantastic in this film. There is this moment where the camera lingers on her as she sits and eats pie on the kitchen floor after he husbands passing. It's a simple scene but so compelling. It really hit me hard. As someone who has never really felt the loss of a partner, parent, or sibling. I don't know that grief. But I think this movie captures that feeling of loss.

Visually, I think the movie is beautiful. Early on, the film is quite neutrally toned. It has a lot of greys, whites, and blacks. As he starts to spend his time wandering the Earth. We begin to see the film open up. A scene where he stands in the rubble that was once his home and is now demolished and all you see is his ghost standing in a field. It just looked so haunting. There is also a moment where his spirit stands on a rooftop while overlooking a futuristic city which provides the film it's most colour. I really loved the look of this movie.

My biggest issue with A Ghost Story is that at times, I felt like it may have dragged a little. The movie is very slow-paced. A lot of the film is shot in a way where we linger on characters for extended periods of time. We have the camera just stay on certain people for minutes at a time and a lot of it while necessary to the visuals. It felt like some moments just drag during those scenes where we navigate away from our two central characters. A scene involving Kesha at a house party is a pleasant surprise, it may have gone on a little too long. It may have taken me out of it as well.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about the suspense. I mentioned earlier in my review that if anyone goes into this one expecting some intense or violent ghost story. People will probably leave this movie unimpressed and disappointed. I just wanted to bring up that there are scenes within the film where Casey Affleck's ghost does try to scare families out of his home by knocking books off the shelves or throwing plates that actually play quite creepy. There is no jump scares here, but the tension does ramp up during one or two of these scenes during the film.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is shown covered by a blanket in the morgue.
- The skeletal remains are found with a spear in its back.
- We see a body decay in the grass.

There is no blood or violence in this film.








A Ghost Story is a movie that hit me pretty hard on an emotional level. While this is not violent or incredibly scary. Some wouldn't even call this a horror movie as it feels like an existential drama. This felt like a beautiful meditation on life, love, loss, grief, and death. This is a story that genuinely moved me. The performances, as well as the visual aesthetic, are standout. While some of these scenes drag during the long takes, it's not enough to ruin how profound this movie felt after watching it. I highly suggest that people give this one a watch.