Monday, October 31, 2016

When The Bough Breaks (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jon Cassar

WRITER:
 Jack Olsen

CAST:


Morris Chestnut
Regina Hall
Michael Kenneth Williams
Theo Rossi
Jaz Sinclair
Romany Malco
Glenn Morshower
Denise Gossett
GiGi Erneta
Tom Nowicki

PLOT:

A wealthy couple who are unable to have a child, decide to use a young surrogate mother. After the surrogate is beaten by her current boyfriend, the wealthy couple decides to take her out of that environment and into their home to protect her and their new baby. Soon they discover that the surrogate mother has a much darker past when she begins to become obsessed with the new father-in-law.







When it comes to the obsession thriller, they aren't a new concept in the realm of cinema. We have had so many of these type of films over the years that they rarely break new ground. The most well known would be Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Fear, Fatal Attraction, and Obsession. Going into When The Bough Breaks, I was already expecting a movie that would be very by the numbers. I was hoping that I at least got some decent bloodshed.

After watching When The Bough Breaks. I discovered that it's a movie that follows the rules very closely. The film never tries for anything new with the story. It's pretty predictable from the first moments right up until the last. We are well aware of where this movie is going to end up. The movie is almost beat for beat along the lines of those other films that I mentioned. It never really strives to be anything other than by the numbers.

The biggest shock in When The Bough Breaks comes at the end of the movie. When this movie ends, I just couldn't believe they ended the film the way they did. [SPOILERS] The movie ends with the wealthy couple managing to kill the surrogate and taking the baby as if everything is going to be happy families now. The movie then rolls the credits and I was left with my jaw on the floor as to how poorly executed the film turned out.

The movie spends a good chunk of its third act explaining that the wealthy couple is unable to simply take the baby when the surrogate turns all 'bunny boiler' as she hasn't signed the baby over to them. So the baby is still the surrogate mothers until she signs it over. The movie sees the wealthy couple kill her in cold blood after they've kidnapped her child and she retaliates to get her baby back. As the cops show up, the father-to-be turns to his wife and says 'It will be alright' and the movie ends.

Earlier on in the movie, we find out that the surrogate mother had murdered her stepfather after he had molested her in her youth. This surrogate mother was clearly raped by her foster fathers and the men who showed her any love. Being obsessed and clearly mentally ill, the movie is basically saying that if you're wealthy, it's okay to murder a mentally ill person and steal her child. That's what I got from When The Bough Breaks. I still can't understand how the writer and director saw this as a good way to end the film. There was no legality to it at all.

The acting in the movie was one of the only things that I can say that I enjoyed about the film. Regina Hall who is well known for playing Brenda in the Scary Movie franchise is decent in her role as a woman who is unable to have a baby. I felt her pain throughout the film. Jaz Sinclair as the young surrogate mother is an actress who I haven't seen before but playing crazy, she does it well. Morris Chestnut and Michael Kenneth Williams are decent in their roles as well.

When it comes to the movie delivering thrills, the movie is pretty barren. Yes, that pun was very much intended. The film isn't very scary nor did it ever have me on the edge of my seat. The movie tries to deliver some gore and bloodshed amongst all the stalking and craziness but it's never really scary at all. The film lacks on all fronts. I think had the movie delivered some more violence and even jump scares, It may have been a little more enjoyable.

Visually, When The Bough Breaks is slick looking. The movie has some solid production and the film looks very well made for an average thriller. I can't fault director Jon Cassar as he has delivered a well made looking film. It's just a shame that everything else about the film really can't match up to the polished look of the film. The ten million dollar budget clearly went on the locations and sets.







DEATH TOLL:
 2

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A woman is beaten up.
- We see domestic violence.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed and slashed.
- A man is shown to have been stabbed to death with scissors.
- A man is seen decomposing on the floor.
- A cat is shown dead in a crib.
- Two women are seen beating each other up.
- A man is stabbed with a hook.
- A woman is thrown through a glass cabinet.
- A woman is hit and killed by a speeding car.







When The Bough Breaks is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill obsession thriller. This movie could've been made for the Lifetime channel. The movie has possibly the worst ending for a film that I've seen in 2016. I'm actually shocked that the writer thought the ending wouldn't be hated and questioned. It really is unbelievably bad. One of the worst movies I think I've seen in 2016.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Incarnate (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Brad Peyton

WRITER: Ronnie Christensen

CAST:

Aaron Eckhart
Carice Van Houten
Catalina Sandino Moreno
David Mazouz
Matt Nable
Keir O'Donnell
Emily Jackson
Paul Vincent O'Connor
Breanne Hill
Emjay Anthony

PLOT:

Dr. Ember is still coming to terms with the death of his wife and young son. They were killed in a head-on car crash by a woman possessed by a demon. Dr. Ember was also left paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair in the accident. He has since spent every waking moment trying to hunt down the demon who killed his family. When the Vatican comes to him for assistance, Dr. Ember will come into contact with a young boy who may or may not be possessed by Maggie.

 





Incarnate is a film that joins an extremely long list of films that deal with religious horror. Over the last decade or two, movies that deal with religion, possession, and exorcisms have seen a huge increase in the realm of horror, so much so that the whole premise has been driven into the ground. A rare occurrence is now trying to find a movie that adds something original to the sub-genre.

Here we have a film that's produced by the WWE. A production studio that is known for dealing with the sport of Wrestling. Over the last thirteen years, they have decided to start churning out low-budget action, thriller, and horror movies. In over a decade, they have only managed to get one of those films right, the brilliant Oculus. The rest of the films are below average that will at best find their way onto video-on-demand.

The WWE have decided to venture into the overpopulated religious horror sub-genre. Do they manage to deliver something original or is it a case of seen it all before? Incarnate is not good. The film suffers from far bigger problems than just being predictable and a case of familiarity. This is a movie that really suffers first and foremost from an utterly terrible screenplay. The dialogue is some of the most painful that I think I've seen all year.

When it comes to Incarnate's plot, the biggest difference to other religious horror movies sees the plot try to introduce a very familiar premise idea. Our main protagonist Dr. Embers is able to enter the mind of victims who are suffering from demonic possession. Does the premise sound familiar at all? It's because it's the exact premise that saw Jennifer Lopez enter the mind of a serial killer in the visually stunning The Cell.

The story has a lot of moments in the film that just don't connect. We have a scene where a man is horribly murdered, as is a homeless woman but the cops and paramedics remove the body and ask no questions. It's never explained why and it all just moves from death to death without any plausible explanation. The ending also drops what feels like not one but two false endings and when it does finally come to an end, it gives us the dreaded 'a sequel will be on its way if this makes bank at the box office'.

The leading performance from Aaron Eckhart is one of the worst of his career. This is up there with I, Frankenstein in terms of chewing the scenery. Here we see him bound to a wheelchair and wearing a terrible, dirty wig. Any chance that he gets to overact in a scene, he does it. The film is luckily balanced out by adequate performances from Carice Van Houten and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Personally, I think Brad Peyton is a talented director when it comes to doing large scale action. I had a lot of fun with his over the top disaster flick San Andres. Here he isn't given much to work with. The fact that the movie has our main character entering possessed minds, they really drop the ball with the endless visual possibilities. The movie swings low with red and black contact lenses and colourful doors. They really missed their chance to show a hellish vision of a person trapped in a demonic state.

Lastly, when it comes to the gore in Incarnate, it gives the audience enough blood and guts to satisfy. We have one of the most brutal arm snapping scenes that I think I've ever seen in a film. We also have a nice scene with intestines being ripped out. The movie goes for gore over suspense. It tries to deliver on the jump scares more than tension building. The jump scares aren't very successful, It also wasn't successful in getting me on the edge of my seat.







DEATH TOLL:
 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A kid snaps a homeless woman's neck.
- A demon attacks an exorcist.
- Someone is seen bleeding from the stomach.
- Someone coughs up blood.
- Someone has their intestines pulled out of their stomach.
- A man has his arm snapped in half.
- Someone's head is smashed into the floor.
- A woman and child are killed in a head-on car crash.
- A man dies after being cut open.
- A man slices his own throat.
- A demon is set on fire.
- A leg is snapped.
- A man jumps from a building onto the road below.







Incarnate is another religious horror film that sadly lacks in almost every single aspect. The leading performance from Aaron Eckhart sees the actor at a career low, the movie lacks any real tension or suspense and the dialogue is terribly cheesy. The film doesn't add anything new to the saturated sub-genre. The only element that I can recommend is the gore.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Neighbor (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Marcus Dunstan

WRITERS:


Marcus Dunstan
Patrick Melton

CAST:

Josh Stewart
Alex Essoe
Luke Edwards
Bill Engvall
Melissa Bolona
Jacqueline Fleming
Ronnie Gene Blevins
Skipp Sudduth
David Kallaway
Heather Williams

PLOT:

A small time criminal couple are currently keeping low in the town of Cutter, Mississippi. They soon find that they have bigger problems when their neighbor introduces himself to them. What comes across as odd turns out to be far darker when John returns home to find his girlfriend Rosie has disappeared. Josh will soon discover that his neighbor hides a much darker secret in his basement than he could have ever imagined.







The Neighbor was the second film in my themed night of bad neighbors. I watched The Good Neighbor earlier and followed it up with what I assumed was going to be the more violent movie of the two films. The Neighbor is from the team behind The Collector and The Collection. A film series that seemed to take inspiration from the SAW movies. While I enjoyed the first film in that series, I found myself tiring with the second. Now we see them team up again.

Going into The Neighbor, I felt like this latest film was going to be very similar and in line with movies like The Good Neighbor, Rear Window, and Disturbia. After the same reservations I had with The Good Neighbor, I was right in my concerns as the film really doesn't add all that much new to the 'Evil Neighbor' storyline. The newest film adds a captive and kidnapping subplot to the story but I found myself guessing where this latest movie was going, pretty early on.

I found myself pretty bored by The Neighbor. The first and second act of the film slowly build the story towards its rather predictable showdown. We know immediately that the film will end in a bloodbath when we are introduced to the neighbor. When it's revealed what the neighbor is involved in, it's not really a surprise where things end up going. The film treads a very familiar track. It never tries to be anything more than a kidnapping thriller.

When it comes to the third act of the film. I was expecting the movie to throw in a clever twist or two or even add a few shocks to switch things up in the story. Sadly, the film never does. The Neighbor just goes from criminals hiding out, to meeting the threat, to kidnapping the girlfriend, to rescue mission and finally getting revenge. It really is by the numbers. I guess with a movie that has a poster like it does, I expected something a lot darker.

The winning element of The Neighbor for me was the supporting performance from Alex Essoe. It starts off like the criminal girlfriend who appears to be a damsel in distress but by the third act, she becomes this kickass, take-no-shit female who starts beating people's heads in with a camera tripod. I thought her role was the big standout in the film. She continues to deliver after her excellent turn in the disturbing Starry Eyes.

Josh Stewart who I'm well aware of due to his performance in The Collector and The Collection is again the leading man who is a tough guy. I think he gets overshadowed by Alex Essoe. This isn't a role that is new to Josh Stewart, he's done it all before in the previous films and could perform it in his sleep. I feel that if they all team up for the fourth time, they'll need to switch up the roles and have him play the villain as the good guy is getting old.

When it comes to the violence, The Neighbor shouldn't disappoint. The movie is quite bloody. It's not as gruesome and clever as The Collector but it still has a few gory moments that will keep most horror fans happy. When it comes to being suspenseful, I don't think the movie is all that scary. The movie is more edge of your seat than flat-out creepy. It's about the loud noises and jump scares than successful tension building.

Visually, I think The Neighbor is less polished than The Collector and The Collection. The movie has a rather cool, almost grindhouse opening credit sequence which I thought was pretty cool. The movie is mainly set in two houses. The film feels very confined like The Collector but has an almost grittiness that The Collector didn't. Overall, it is another well-filmed movie from Marcus Dunstan.







DEATH TOLL:
 8

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A gory bloodshot wound.
- A man covered in blood is struck and killed.
- A hole full of animal guts.
- Someone is choked to death with animal intestines.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- Someone is shot in the cheek.
- People are gunned down.
- People are bashed to death with a camera tripod.
- Someone is shot in the face with a shotgun.
- A wrist is cut open when removing handcuffs.







The Neighbor is a run-of-the-mill kidnapping thriller that isn't so much a horror film but an average thriller. The film over the course of it's running time doesn't try to add any shocks or twists to the story. The film is ultimately predictable. The best element of the film comes in the form of the leading performance by Alex Essoe. She is the true standout of The Neighbor.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Good Neighbor (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Kasra Farahani

WRITERS:

Mark Bianculli
Jeff Richard

CAST:

James Caan
Logan Miller
Keir Gilchrist
Anne Dudek
Laura Innes
Edwin Hodge
Mindy Sterling
Bailey Noble
Lili Reinhart
Tamlyn Tomita

PLOT:

Ethan and Sean are two close mates who decide to secretly film and prank their elderly neighbor. The neighbor is known around the neighborhood as being a drunk, unsociable and unapproachable.
 They also believe that he murdered his wife. The prank will be a social experiment by creating the illusion that his house is haunted too scare him and see how he reacts. Little do they realise that they may uncover something much darker with their neighbor.







Based on the trailer for The Good Neighbor, I went into this movie thinking that I had it in the bag. I thought I knew exactly how this film was going to play out. It felt like the sort of story that I had seen a hundred times when it came to these type of thrillers. The premise felt very similar to other films in recent years. I was expecting to come out of this film and absolutely hate it due to predictability.

In terms of the premise of Good Neighbor, I was right with my original thoughts that I had seen this type of film many times before. The film has elements of Rear Window and Disturbia. The films only new addition that felt original for me was the found footage angle. The rest of the story felt like a familiar retread of the two films that I mentioned above. They all have their own spin on the story but all in all, I felt like I seen this before.

The found footage element of Good Neighbor is where it sees its biggest differences from films like Rear Window and Disturbia. I thought the addition of the two teenage friends who illegally film their neighbor and prank him by rigging up his house to appear as if it's haunted was kind of interesting. It adds another dynamic to what is essentially a familiar premise. I was actually enjoying this element of the story.

I thought that The Good Neighbor had an Exorcism Of Emily Rose vibe to it as well. While being a thriller at its core, the movie is intercut with courtroom drama that adds to the story as it builds towards the final twist. The courtroom scenes hint at what these two teenagers may or may not have done to their elderly neighbor. It adds a little something more than just the found footage element to the story.

The twist is my favourite part of Good Neighbor. I think some people will absolutely hate this movie just based on that twist. I thought the movie was building to something really dark. I expected the movie to have our elderly neighbor turn homicidal due to him believing his house was haunted. I couldn't have been more wrong. The fact that the film goes in a completely different direction will annoy a lot of genre fans.

What the twist does is that it lends the film this kind of poignant end that I didn't expect. I said that I thought this was going to go to some dark places and instead, it flips the entire film on its head. Instead of the people that we think we'll be rooting for and wanting to see survive, it's completely thrown out of the window. I found myself doing a complete one-eighty by the time the film revealed its switch-up.

Now onto the acting. This is James Caan's show. The man is a talented actor. He may not make 'Godfather' or 'Misery' type masterpieces these days but he certain adds a sort of class to any film that he stars in. His final scenes killed me. Logan Miller and Keir Gilchrist as the two teens also deliver decent performances. I found Logan Miller to be the more annoying role but I think it's written to be. Both actors are talented enough and I liked their roles.

Lastly, I think the film was rather polished. Kasra Farahani has created a good looking film. We don't have any shakey-cam footage when it comes to the found footage elements. The movie looked great when it switches back to normal film. The movie isn't big on the suspense or gore. The movie isn't very scary either. I don't think this was going for a jump scare type of film. It's not so much thrilling as I found it more intriguing.
 







DEATH TOLL:
 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone shoots themselves in the head.







The Good Neighbor will never be seen as an original or groundbreaking film. The movie feels very similar to a lot of other films with this type of story. What I liked about the film was the switch-up in the third act. The film chooses to bring the film to close on a poignant note instead of going down the suspected dark path. The film also has a solid leading performance by James Caan.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Always Shine (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Sophia Takal

WRITER:
 Lawrence Michael Levine

CAST:


Mackenzie Davis
Caitlin FitzGerald
Khan Baykal
Alexander Koch
Lawrence Michael Levine
Colleen Camp
Jane Adams
Michael Lowry
Simon Barrett

PLOT:

Two actresses who are also best friends have started to drift apart over recent years and decide to take a weekend away to Big Sur. They hope that this weekend will allow them to catch up and re-establish their strained friendship due to years of competitiveness and jealousy. Things start to go from bad to worse when secrets begin to unearth and an inevitable confrontation changes both their lives forever.

 





I remember hearing the positive word of mouth about Always Shine after it had played at the Venice Film Festival. I had heard that the film was a dark and impressive slow-burn thriller that had a solid amount of tension as well as fantastic performances from both the film's two leading actresses. After watching the film myself, I can confirm that everything that was said about the film out of Venice was spot on.

From the opening frames of Always Shine, we are made to feel immediately uncomfortable. We are first introduced to Beth, the more successful actress of the two friends. She is in the middle of doing an audition where two pervy producers are hounding her about not going back on her word about being comfortable with doing onscreen nudity. Almost straight away, the film makes a pretty big statement and is pretty clear throughout about how women are seen and treated in Hollywood and what type of roles are available to them.

In the next scene, we are introduced to the more outspoken and dominant Anna. She is not shy or reserved. She is being ripped off by a mechanic and she doesn't stand down when she thinks she is being taken for a ride. Once these two women come together for their trip to Big Sur, the movie wastes no time in getting things rolling. Things don't take long before the movie starts to head down a darker path.

What Always Shine does so successfully is that as soon as these two friends come together, you can cut the tension with a knife. Every single conversation or exchange between the two has this horrible sense of foreboding uneasiness and it never lets up throughout the entire film. At times the exchanges become so uncomfortable that I was actually on the edge of my seat. These two women are venomous and it's done in a way that's never gratuitous.

Always Shine is never in your face with gore, blood or violence. Instead, the movie slowly builds the exchanges between these two friends that reaches a breaking point. The tension in the film is masterclass. I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the dynamic of these two women. Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald are fantastic. Whatever awards they receive for their roles in this film, I think they deserve them. Both are fantastic in Always Shine.

The film has a few problems but it's not enough to derail my enjoyment of it. The biggest issue that Alway Shine faces is the fact that the film builds towards what I thought was going to be a really dark and disturbing final and the movie sort of builds to not much of anything. While the movie certainly ends on a sour note, it just felt more like a whimper than a bang. All the tension that is dripping off the exchanges of the first and second act is lost in the third act.

In the third act, I also found a few other issues with the film. There is a twist-of-sorts that takes place and it's one that has been used in a few other films. It throws into doubt if what we have just witnessed actually happened. It plays like a battle of split personalities. I think I would've simply preferred that the film built to a really bloody and dark final where the tension became too much and our two actresses went head to head.

Visually, I think Sophia Takal has crafted a gorgeous indie thriller. The movie is mostly set in the wilderness and I think overall the movie looks lush. The film has a lot of quick cuts and frantic editing with shots showing what appears to be a murder interconnected with sex. I thought all the scenes in Big Sur gave the film this beautiful nature look to it all. Even the dark tonal shift in the third act was well done. A great looking film overall.







DEATH TOLL:
 1

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Quick flashes of a bloody murder.
- Two women fighting and choking each other.
- A body is shown being carried out in a body bag.

The gore in this film is all implied.







Always Shine is a film that from the very first frame will get under your skin. The movie is so successful at making you feel uncomfortable and it's all based around two women conversing. It's a testament to the two fantastic performances from Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald. The movie falters towards the third act but it's not enough to ruin the film. I highly recommend that you check the film out.


Friday, October 14, 2016

The Disappointments Room (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 D.J. Caruso

WRITERS:


Wentworth Miller
D.J. Caruso

CAST:

Kate Beckinsale
Mel Raido
Lucas Till
Duncan Joiner
Gerald McRaney
Michaela Conlin
Michael Landes
Marcia DeRousse
Ella Jones
Jennifer Leigh Mann
Celia Weston

PLOT:

When Dana and David suffer the horrible tragedy of losing their baby, they decide to move away from the big city and into an old rural mansion. Dana is an architect and hopes that this move will allow her to fix up the property and take her mind off the past. Little does Dana realise that she will uncover a very dark secret about the property that will unleash unimaginable horror.







The Disappointments Room has had a bit of a struggle with the lead up to its 2016 release. The company behind the film filed for bankruptcy back in 2015 which put the release of the film in jeopardy. Once the company managed to sort out its money woes, the film finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The movie was finally released in cinemas. All the problems that the faced may have been finally over.

After watching The Disappointments Room, I think the money woes that this production faced were the last of the film's problem. This is a movie that is riddled with issues that are deeply rooted in the way that the story plays out and the editing of the film. The movie currently sits at zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I think somewhere along the way, this movie had too many cooks in the kitchen at one time and it shows in the final film.

The film is written by actor and writer Wentworth Miller. He wrote the incredibly dark Stoker back in 2013 and seems to have continued honing his writing skills in the thriller genre. I think maybe at one stage, he had a clever idea in there somewhere with The Disappointments Room. This is an extremely dark story at its core. The entire reveal of what a disappointment room is could have taken this story to some much darker territory. Maybe being a studio film, they tried to tame the story down during the editing process.

While watching it, you can feel that this is a film that has suffered from someone coming in and trying to edit the story during post-production. The movie is so horribly cut up that the premise starts to make little sense in parts. There are moments in the film that happen that aren't ever really explained. The editing is clearly done in such a way that you think there must be a lot of the movie that was left on the cutting room floor.

Once the ending of the film rolls around, the execution and handling of what some would claim to be a twist ending is just horribly pieced together. I found myself asking was that all? The film throws in a psychological aspect to the story but still is not able to tie it together successfully. I believe this all falls back on how badly edited the film is and how the story plays out. At some point, they had edited this movie to the point where it feels like it was too hard to recover, so they simply gave up in the end.

The first thing that The Disappointments Room gets right is having D.J. Caruso at the helm. He's a solid director when it comes to crafting a polished looking thriller. He has worked with these type of genre films before with Disturbia and Taking Lives. Like those two films before this, the movie looks great. The film contains plenty of clever and gorgeous shots and cinematography. I found myself really enjoying the movie on a technical level.

When it comes to the gore and tension, it does contain a few scenes that may make some folks with weaker stomachs get a little queasy. We have a scene involving a hammer that almost rivals the extremely brutal kill scene from Kill List. We also have a pretty awesome and gory dog attack. The movie in terms of suspense is quite a slow burn thriller, it never really made me jump out of my seat but the film does have an overall sense of dread to it.

Lastly, the performances from Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido needs a mention. I think Kate Beckinsale is highly underrated as an actress. Yes, she doesn't always pick the best films to showcase her talent but here I enjoyed her as a sassy, take-no-shit mother. I also enjoyed Mel Raido as her husband and the cool, aloof father. He did his role justice. Both lead performances are notable in an otherwise painfully generic thriller.







DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A kid and woman are covered in blood.
- A very violent and bloody dog attack.
- A decapitated cat.
- Someone is smacked in the face with a shovel.
- Someone is seen hanging from a tree.
- A child is hit in the head with a hammer.
- A dog's neck is snapped.
- A man's head is pulverized with a hammer.
- A baby is suffocated.







The Disappointments Room is a movie that I think may have suffered from studio interference and too many people getting in on the editing process. The film is badly edited together, which in turn makes the movie not very cohesive or well told in terms of story. This is a film that is all over the place. The movie isn't completely worthless, it is polished and has some solid leading performances and gore. Just don't go in expecting something very original.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Billy O'Brien

WRITERS:

Billy O'Brien
Christopher Hyde

CAST:

Max Records
Laura Fraser
Christopher Lloyd
Karl Geary
Bruce Bohne
Matt Roy
James Gearen
Elizabeth Belfiori
Tim Russell
Michael Paul Levin

PLOT:

John Wayne Cleaver is not like other teenage boys, he is a diagnosed sociopath. He doesn't feel any emotion towards anything or for anyone. When a string of brutal murders begin happening in the small town that he is from, John starts to suspect and spy on his elderly neighbour who he believes is the one behind the murders. Could it be his elderly neighbour or something far more sinister?







I Am Not A Serial Killer is based on the novel of the same name. I hadn't had the pleasure of reading the novel before going into this movie. I have, however, read a few really good things about the novel from some of the followers over on Twitter that have told me that the novel is fantastic. With my review for the film adaptation, I won't be
 making any comparisons to the novel as I haven't had a chance to read the source material.

When I went into I Am Not A Serial Killer, I was completely unaware of what to expect from the movie. I remember watching the trailer a few months back but not remembering a single thing from the trailer, I went into this blind. The only thing I was expecting was a small town murder mystery. After watching I Am A Serial Killer, I was left completely shocked as well as surprised by what I had just witnessed with this film.

The film begins like a homespun, small town, murder mystery. The movie introduces us to our leading character and we follow his footsteps as an outcast. He is your typical teenage boy who is seen as the freak in school. He works in a morgue. He's interested in prepping dead bodies. He has that emo quality to him and it feels like I've seen this sort of story before. It's a serial killer in the making tale.

The second act of the film begins to unravel a little more with the story. I found myself during the second act also picking up on several very similar plot beats to Rear Window, Disturbia, and John Lithgow's 'Trinity Killer' Dexter season. The spying, the stalking, watching the neighbour as he killed people, it felt again like I had seen it all before. Still, I found myself really enjoying the dynamic of Max Records and Christopher Lloyd.

Once we get to the third act of the film, the story starts to deliver the strange. This is where shit hits the fan and it never stops from this point on. What essentially plays like a small town murder mystery turns into something that is akin to John Carpenter's The Thing. I was not at all prepared for the absolute insanity that this film delivered. Those final few minutes shocked me. I thought I had this movie picked from the beginning and was completely blindsided by the third act. It is deserving of the praise that the critics have been giving it.

One thing that needs to be noted that I loved about I Am A Serial Killer is that it doesn't have a huge complex twist. It's a movie that slowly unravels but even gives up who the killer is early on and glimpses of what the killer is capable of and yet when it's finally revealed, it still kicked my ass all over the place and I was still left jaw agape and on the floor. I was left thinking 'what have I just witnessed'? This is one of the oddest turns I've seen in a movie in quite some time but I loved it. It needs to be seen to be believed.

The acting is absolutely fantastic in I Am A Serial Killer. To see Max Records come from Where The Wild Things Are which is based on my all-time favourite childhood book into a mature role like this film, I can't wait to see what he has in store for us in the future. Christopher Lloyd is a long way from Back To The Future. This is probably his most dark and sinister performance and I would put him up there with Robin Williams in One Hour Photo.

Lastly, I Am A Serial Killer isn't a movie that I'd call scary. This movie never really delivers huge jump scares but what it does well is that it slow builds the tension in several scenes. The ending scene is one that had me on the edge of my seat. Billy O'Brien has crafted a neat and at times intense low-budget serial killer thriller. The movie also has a few scenes that will make some viewers quite uncomfortable. I was pleasantly surprised.







DEATH TOLL:
 8

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Entrails fall out onto the street in front of onlookers.
- A female corpse is being prepared for embalming.
- Blood is seen being drained from a corpse.
- A corpse is shown ripped in half.
- Pieces of someone's stomach are shown on the slab.
- A corpse is shown with its arm torn off.
- Someone is stabbed.
- Two police officers are choked to death with oil.
- Someone's chest is being ripped open.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a telephone.
- Someone is hit by a car.
- Someone is injected with embalming fluid and drained.







I Am Not A Serial Killer feels like a homespun murder mystery, with a dash of Rear Window and a splash of John Carpenter's The Thing. I thought I had this movie picked from the first moments and was left completely shocked by the third act. The movie has gore, tension and some great performances from the leads. If you want an original and bonkers serial killer thriller, this is a movie that deserves to be seen.


Saturday, October 08, 2016

Abattoir (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Darren Lynn Bousman

WRITER: Christopher Monfette

CAST:

Jessica Lowndes
Joe Anderson
Lin Shaye
Dayton Callie
John McConnell
Bryan Batt
Michael Pare
J. LaRose
Aiden Flowers
Carol Sutton
Jay Huguley

PLOT:

Julia, an investigative reporter, receives a phone call from a man claiming to have brutally murdered her sister, she discovers a horrific crime scene and her sister's entire family dead. When Julia returns to her sister's house after the funeral, she discovers that the entire crime scene has been removed from the house. Julia and a police officer friend will soon uncover a dark and twisted mystery that not even she will be able to report on or have anyone believe.







After watching this film. I decided to do a little research. Reading up on Abattoir, I discovered that this film is based on Radical Publishing's comic book series of the same name. I, myself, haven't read the comics so I won't be comparing the comic book source material against the film. This review will be solely based on what my thoughts of the film are and not whether the film was anywhere near as good or bad as the comic series.

It has to be said that Abattoir has one of the coolest premises I think I've seen in a horror film in quite some time. Abattoir tells the tale of a man by the name of Jebediah Crone who collects rooms where tragedies have taken place. Removing these murder rooms and crime scenes, he creates a large house in the wilderness of New English in which these murder rooms have been stitched together to create a never-ending maze of rooms that house the dead and the damned. It's just a shame that this film is so very poorly executed as I really liked the premise.

When I began to watch Abattoir, I won't deny that I was a little confused by the setting of the film. The time frame for when the film is set is left completely unknown to the audience and I was thrown off guard while originally trying to piece this mystery together. The film is shot as if it's set in the forties or fifties. The film is dripping with this Neo-Noir, old-school look and vibe. The characters drive beautiful classic cars, yet the characters have mobile phones and live in current modern homes. It was a little confusing to me at first while the story unraveled.

A big problem that Abattoir faces is the fact that that it's pieced together badly. The mystery at the heart of this film is put together so poorly and it moves so quickly that it feels all over the shop. While moving so quickly in terms of story beats, it somehow manages the impossible feat of still feeling sluggish. Our main characters move from investigation to investigation, without much explanation. The film relies on montages of murder and that's about it in terms of story.

The ending of Abattoir is where I also had issues with the movie. The movie builds up to this dark ending where it has the big reveal of what our villain has set in motion and the town of New English has done to bring themselves hope. It's extremely dark but the entire bargain seems rather ill-fated for the townspeople. It's never explained in detail what the pledge will bring other than hope. Maybe they're saving this important plot point for a potential sequel?

The acting in Abattoir is also pretty dreadful. Our two leads Jessica Lowndes and Joe Anderson have seen much better days. I honestly believe different actors in these leading roles, we may have had a completely different film in terms of quality. We thankfully have entertaining turns by genre queen Lin Shaye who does weird and odd very well. She was the shining light of Abattoir. Dayton Callie as our villain delivers a rather entrancing yet menacing performance.

Visually, Abattoir is steeped in dread. I mentioned above that the film has this neo-noir look that is rather interesting. When it comes to with the overall feel of the film, it's extremely dark and depressing from the first frames up until the last. If Darren Lynn Bousman gets something right, it's that he has created a movie filled with dark visuals. I think the set design of the mansion in the final is extremely cool. the only time I didn't think the visuals worked were the ghosts in the film, they looked rather cheaply done.

Lastly, when it comes to delivering suspense in Abattoir, I think the film lacked tension and even real jump scares. The film is more slow burn in its approach. This film, however, makes up for a lack of scares and tension with some rather brutal gore. The film is in fine form when throwing around the red stuff and delivering a variety of kills. Within the first couple of minutes, we are showing a range of nasty kills and it never really stops getting creative on the gore front.







DEATH TOLL:
 16

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is drowned in a bathtub.
- A guy shoots himself in the head.
- Suffocated with plastic bags.
- Someone is pushed down the stairs.
- A woman is hit with an ax.
- Two people are shot with a shotgun.
- A man is seen covered in blood.
- Blood soaked walls.
- People are shot in the head and face.
- People's throats are slit.
- A woman has her head repeatedly bashed in with a hammer.
- Someone hangs themselves.
- A handyman is crushed by an elevator.
- A group of people at a party are poisoned.
- Someone is gutted on video.
- Lots of ghosts repeating their own demise.
- Someone is shot in the stomach.







Abattoir is a movie that has one of the coolest premises I think I've witnessed in a horror film in years. With all the brilliant ideas that the movie has at it's disposable, it just feels very poorly executed. The mystery at the heart of the film feels rather convoluted. The movie does contain some solid gore and kills as well as some pretty dark visuals.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Happy Birthday (2016)








DIRECTED:
 
Casey Tebo

WRITER: Casey Tebo

CAST:


Matt Bush
Riley Litman
Britne Oldford
Vanessa Lengies
Erik Palladino
Matthew Willig
Steven Tyler
Jeff Daniel Phillips
Tristin Mays


PLOT:


When Brady discovers that his girlfriend has cheated on him on his birthday, his friend Tommy has planned a wild weekend away for his birthday. The weekend will involve a lot of debauched fun of drinking, drugs, and banging hookers. When the two friends meet two beautiful girls while out partying, they become involved in an extremely sinister kidnapping plot.









Going into Happy Birthday, I was going in blind with what I was expecting from the film. I hadn't witnessed the trailer beforehand or even read the premise for the film. I was only going off the very cool poster art for the film which was listed as a Horror online. I went into this film honestly expecting an anthology film. Little did I realise, I was about to witness a very dark and twisted little comedy that actually surprised the hell out of me.


The movie starts off like a road trip comedy between two friends. The jokes fly fast and we are introduced to our two good mates. Immediately I was enjoying the dynamic between our two friends. We get enough character interaction early on for us to start to like these two guys. By this point, though, I was wondering when the horror elements would begin to kick in as this movie was ripe with an over the top silliness.

For the first thirty minutes of the film, we have these two guys partying it up in Mexicali. We have many scenes where the comedy is at the forefront of the film and I was ready to stop writing down notes as I always do in preparation for reviewing a horror film. Scenes of cockfights, Steven Tyler as an 'Aztec Shaman', a huge bodyguard shitting and vomiting simultaneously and a Mexican tour guide getting his balls licked by a tranny were making me reconsider this review.

It's at the thirty-minute mark of the film where the darker elements take over in a very cool tonal shift. For the next forty minutes or so, the film ramps up the tension. While not exactly a horror film, things get pretty intense. The movie still never loses that sense of dark comedy and at times is extremely mean-spirited. I still found myself enjoying the hell out of the film even if at times it was seriously cruel.

The best moment of the film comes with the first reveal or twist if you will. I didn't see it coming at all. The twist knocked me for a six. While not shocking in a horrific way, it's just unexpected and I was very surprised by it. The film then goes and throws in a second twist but at this point, I had kind of guessed it was coming and anticipating it. While not bad, it adds a meta touch to the story which also kind of throws all that build up and intensity out the window. It's still rather cool how it all tied together, though. I thought it was rather clever.

The last thing about the twist that I want to mention and what I could class as maybe a bad thing is that when the twist is revealed, while I think it's a pretty clever reveal, the whole thing made me question how far you can take friendship. It sort of feels so mean-spirited that it's unbelievable. If a friend of mine did what he did to his mate in this film, I think I'd have killed him. It's just the most extreme things and it feels cruel.

The acting in the film was pretty good. Matt Bush and Riley Litman as our two friends have great chemistry and I felt like they had been friends for years. They had a great dynamic on screen. So when trouble hits the pair, I felt like I wanted to see them safe. Vanessa Lengies and Britne Oldford as the two girls they meet in Mexicali deliver the best performances in the film. Both give the most emotional and dark roles in the film. I enjoyed all four of the leads.

Casey Tebo has crafted a slick looking film. The movie is well made for the most part. The movie isn't a big budgeted film but for a rather indie comparison to something like The Hangover it looks great. With the movies very colourful poster, the visuals within the film represent the same sort of feel of the poster. I noticed that during the darker scenes, all flare is drained and I really liked that about the film. It's a decent looking production. 







DEATH TOLL:
 
0

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Someone is seen carrying a body in a carpet.
- A bird splats against a car window.
- A chicken has its head ripped off.
- Someone has their throat sliced.
- Someone is given a sedative and has an allergic reaction.
- Someone chokes on their own vomit and dies.
- Someone crawls over tacs.
- A chicken is shot.
- A kid is covered in blood splatter.
- Someone is shot in the chest.
- A goat is launched with a catapult.
- A person is shot three times.







Happy Birthday isn't a horror film. So if you go in expecting something gory and horrific, you'll be sorely disappointed. The best way I can describe Happy Birthday is that its a very dark and mean-spirited comedy. It has a bit of The Hangover II meets Very Bad Things. The film is well acted, at times intense and has a clever first twist. I came out of this film rather surprised. Worth a watch.