Monday, October 31, 2016
DIRECTOR: Jon Cassar
WRITER: Jack Olsen
Michael Kenneth Williams
A wealthy couple who are unable to conceive a child, decide to use the help of a new young surrogate mother. After their surrogate is abused by her current boyfriend, the wealthy couple decides to take her out of that environment and into their own 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 father of the baby growing inside of her.
When it comes to the obsession based 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 any new ground. The most well known of these movies 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 formula very closely. The movie 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 heading. The film 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 most significant 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 story the way they did. [SPOILERS] The movie ends with the wealthy couple managing to kill their surrogate and taking the baby as if everyone is going to play happy family now. The movie then rolls the closing credits, and I was left with my jaw on the floor as to just 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 directly take the baby when the surrogate turns all 'bunny boiler' on them and she hasn't signed the baby over to them. So the baby is still the surrogates until she signs it over. The movie sees the wealthy couple kill her in cold blood after they have 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, we find out that the surrogate mother had murdered her stepfather after he had molested her in her youth. This surrogate was raped by her foster fathers and all the men who showed her any love. Being that she is obsessed and mentally ill, the story is saying that if you're wealthy, it's okay to murder a mentally ill person in cold-blood and steal her baby. That's what I got from When The Bough Breaks. I still can't understand how the writer and director saw this as an excellent way to end the film. There was no legality to it at all.
The acting in When The Bough Breaks 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 very 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 terrifying 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 several jump scares, It may have been a little more enjoyable.
Visually, When The Bough Breaks is slick and polished 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 decent looking movie. It's just a shame that everything else about the movie really can't match up to the polished look of the film. The ten million dollar budget clearly went into 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 movie that I've seen in 2016. I'm actually shocked that the writer thought the end wouldn't be hated and questioned. It really is unbelievably bad. To end with a cold-blooded murder and have no questions asked is terrible. One of the worst movies I've seen in 2016.
Friday, October 28, 2016
DIRECTOR: Brad Peyton
WRITER: Ronnie Christensen
Carice Van Houten
Catalina Sandino Moreno
Paul Vincent O'Connor
Dr. Ember is still coming to terms with the death of his wife and son. Both were killed in a head-on car accident by a woman who was possessed by a demon. Dr. Ember has also been left paralysed and bound to a wheelchair due to the accident. Since the car smash, he's spent every last waking moment trying to hunt down the demon who is responsible for killing his family. When the Vatican comes to him for help, he'll come into contact with a young boy who may or may not be possessed by Maggie.
Incarnate is a film that joins an incredibly long list of movies that deal with religious horror. Over the last decade or two, movies that deal with religion, possession, and exorcisms have seen a considerable 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. Does Incarnate bring anything new to the 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 their catalogue fall someone between below average genre films that may find their way onto video-on-demand.
The WWE has decided to venture into the overpopulated religious horror sub-genre. Do they manage to deliver something original or is it a case of, I've seen it all before? Incarnate is not good. The movie suffers from far more significant 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 most of those other semi-religious horror movies sees the plot try to introduce a very familiar premise idea. Our main protagonist Dr. Embers is able to infiltrate 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 witness a scene where a man is horribly murdered, as is a homeless woman yet 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 consequences. The ending also drops what feels like not one but two false endings and when it does finally come to an end, it's 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 regarding him chewing the scenery. This is all his show, and he will not let anyone upstage him. Here we witness him bound to a wheelchair, and he is wearing a terrible, cheap, dirty wig. Any chance that he gets to overact in a scene, he does it. The movie is luckily balanced out by adequate performances from Carice Van Houten and Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Personally, I think Brad Peyton is a rather 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 plot has our main character entering possessed minds, they really drop the ball when going with bland over 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 gory scene with intestines being ripped out. The movie goes for gore and carnage 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 movie that sadly lacks in almost every single area. This may be one of the only times where they had a chance to go all out and give us something visually spectacular, and they set the bar low and never tried to raise it. The lead 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 sadly doesn't add anything really new to religious horror. The only element that I can recommend is the gore.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
DIRECTOR: Marcus Dunstan
Ronnie Gene Blevins
A small-time criminal couple is currently laying low in the town of Cutter, Mississippi. They quickly discover that they have more significant problems when their neighbour introduces himself to the couple. What comes across as odd turns out to be far darker when John returns home to find his girlfriend Rosie has disappeared. John soon finds that his neighbour hides a much more dangerous secret in his basement that he could have ever imagined.
The Neighbor was the second film in my themed night of bad neighbours. 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. Here 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 that I had with The Good Neighbor, they were realised here. I was right in my concerns as the film really doesn't add all that much new to the 'Evil Neighbor' storyline. The latest adds a captive and kidnapping subplot to the story, but I found myself guessing where this newest movie was going, pretty early on.
I found myself pretty bored by The Neighbor. The first and second act of the story slowly builds the plot towards its somewhat predictable final showdown. We know immediately that the movie will end in a bloodbath when we are introduced to the neighbour. When it's revealed what the neighbour is involved in, it's not exactly 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 does feel 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. She starts off like the criminal girlfriend who appears to be a damsel in distress, but by the third act, she becomes a kickass, take-no-shit fighter who starts beating people's heads in with a camera tripod. I thought that her role was the real standout in The Neighbor. 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 intelligent 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 film is more edge of your seat than flat-out creepy. This is more about the loud noises and jump scares than the successful tension building.
Visually, I think The Neighbor is less polished than The Collector and The Collection. The movie has a slightly impressive, almost grindhouse looking opening credit scene which I thought was pretty neat. 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. I would like to see what he could do given a hefty budget.
DEATH TOLL: 8
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A bloody bloodshot wound.
- A man covered in blood is struck and killed.
- A hole is 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 as it is an average revenge thriller. The Neighbor over the course of it's running time doesn't try to add any real shocks or twists to the plot. The is a film that is ultimately predictable. The best element of the film comes in the form of the lead performance by Alex Essoe. She is the real standout of The Neighbor. If you want to see this team in fine form, watch The Collector and it's sequel.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
DIRECTOR: Kasra Farahani
Ethan and Sean are two high-school friends who decide to secretly prank their elderly neighbour. The neighbour is known around the neighbourhood as being the old drunk who is unsociable and unapproachable. They believe that he is responsible for killing 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 neighbour.
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 already when it came to these types of thrillers. The premise felt very similar to other movies in recent years. It didn't help that The Good Neighbor was another movie using the Found-Footage gimmick to tell its story. I expected to walk out of this and absolutely hating it due to predictability.
Regarding 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 movies 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.
It's well known that I find found-footage of late to be a style that I'm not exactly fond of in my horror films. The found footage element of Good Neighbor is where it sees its most significant differences from films like Rear Window and Disturbia. I thought the addition of the two teenage friends who illegally film their neighbour and prank him by rigging up his house to appear as if it's haunted to be kind of interesting. It adds another dynamic to what is mostly 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 a 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 neighbour. It adds a little something more than just the prank and trying to prove their grumpy neighbour is a possible murderer. Being told in a non-linear fashion will keep people on their toes.
The twist is my favourite part of The Good Neighbor. This is a reveal that I think half the people will either love or absolutely hate just based on where it ends up landing. I thought the film was building to something really dark. I expected the movie to have our elderly neighbour turn homicidal due to him believing that 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 movie 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. It will subvert most audience members expectations. Instead of the people that we think we'll be rooting for and wanting to see survive the ordeal, it's entirely thrown out of the window. I found myself doing a complete one-eighty by the time the film revealed its switch-up. My jaw was left wide open and on the floor.
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 certainly 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 somewhat polished. Kasra Farahani has crafted a beautiful looking movie. We don't have any of that terrible shaky-cam camera work when it comes to the found footage elements. The movie looked great when it switches back to standard film. The movie isn't big on the suspense or gore. The film isn't exactly horrifying either. I don't think this was going for a jump scare type of movie. It's not so much thrilling as I found the story 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 movie. It's a movie that 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 twist will divide audiences. The film chooses to bring the film to a close on a poignant note instead of going down the suspected dark path. I think this is saved by the reveal. The film also has a fantastic leading performance by James Caan.
Monday, October 17, 2016
DIRECTOR: Sophia Takal
WRITER: Lawrence Michael Levine
Lawrence Michael Levine
Two actresses who are also very close friends have started to drift apart in 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 with their careers. The weekend away will go from bad to worse when secrets begin to unearth and an inevitable confrontation changes both of their lives forever.
I remember hearing all of the positive word of mouth about Always Shine after it had played at the Venice Film Festival. I had read that Always Shine was an impressively dark, slow-burn thriller that had a substantial amount of tension as well as fantastic performances from both the film's two leading actresses. After watching the movie myself, I can confirm that everything that was said about the film out of Venice was spot on. This is a taut experience.
From the opening frame of Always Shine, we are made to feel 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 by men in Hollywood and what type of roles they have available to them. In today's current climate, this scene would play even more topical.
In the next scene, we are introduced to the more outspoken and dominant Anna. She is not shy or very reserved at all. She is being ripped off by her mechanic, and she is not about to stand down when she thinks she is being taken for a ride. Once the 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 and things turn incredibly sour between the friends.
What Always Shine does so successfully is that as soon as these two girlfriends 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 movie. 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 close to masterclass. I can't talk enough about how much I enjoyed the dynamic of these two women. Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald are both fantastic here. Whatever awards they receive for their roles in this film, I think they deserve them. Both are outstanding in Always Shine.
The film has a few problems, but it's not enough to derail my enjoyment of it. The most significant 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 indeed ends on a sour note, it just felt more like a whimper than a bang. All the tension that is happening between 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 different movies. 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 preferred merely that the movie 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 superb 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 brutal murder that is interconnected with sex. I thought all the scenes in Big Sur gave the film this beautiful natural 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:
- We see 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 movie that from the very first frame will get under your skin. It is so successful at making you feel uncomfortable, and it's all based around and on the two women conversing. It's a testament to the two fantastic performances from both Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald. The movie falters towards the third act, but it's not enough to ruin the overall film for me. I highly recommend that you check this psychological thriller out. It's worth investing an hour and half of your time.
Friday, October 14, 2016
DIRECTOR: D.J. Caruso
Jennifer Leigh Mann
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 new move will allow her to fix up the property and take her mind off of the trauma of their 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 release two years ago. The company behind the film filed for bankruptcy back in 2015 which put the release of the movie in jeopardy. Once the company managed to sort out its money woes, the film finally saw the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. With the movie finally being released into cinemas, all the problems that the production had faced may have finally been over.
After getting to watch The Disappointments Room, I think the money woes that this production faced were the last of the movie's problems. This is a film 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 a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I honestly 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 with much darker material. I think maybe at one stage, he had a bright idea in there somewhere with The Disappointments Room. This is an extremely grim tale. The entire reveal of what the room represents could have taken this to some much nastier places. Maybe being a studio film, they tried to tame the story down during the editing process.
While watching this movie, you get a sense 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 chopped up that the premise starts to make little to no sense in sections of it. There are moments in the movie that happen that are never really explained or do they ever get touched on again. The editing is apparently 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 are 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 poorly edited the film is and how the story plays out. At some point, they had cut this movie to shreds. It's to the point where it feels like it was too hard to fix, so they just 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 movies before with the likes of Disturbia and Taking Lives. Like those two films before this, the movie looks great. The film contains plenty of impressive and gorgeous shots and cinematography. I found myself really enjoying the film 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 that involves a hammer that almost rivals the ferocious death scene from Ben Wheatley's Kill List. We also have a pretty impressive and gory dog attack. The movie regarding 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 both Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido need a mention. I think Kate Beckinsale is hugely underrated as an actress. Yes, she doesn't always pick or choose the best movies and roles to showcase her talent but here I enjoyed her as a sassy, take-no-shit mother. I also enjoyed Mel Raido as her husband as the cool and aloof father. He did his role justice. Both leads 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 pulverised with a hammer.
- A baby is suffocated.
The Disappointments Room is a movie that I think may have suffered from a lot of studio interference and too many people getting in on the editing process. The film is poorly edited together, which in turn makes the movie not very cohesive or well told regarding the 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. A missed opportunity.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
DIRECTOR: Billy O'Brien
Michael Paul Levin
John Wayne Cleaver is not like other teenage boys, he is a diagnosed sociopath. John assists as his mother's funeral business and has a fascination with death. He doesn't feel any emotion towards anything or anyone. When a string of brutal murders begin happening in the small town that he is from, John starts to suspect that it may be his elderly neighbour who is the serial killer committing the murders. As he begins to spy on him, he soon realises that it may be something much darker.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is based on the novel of the same name. I hadn't actually had the pleasure of reading the story before going into this movie. I have, however, heard a few really positive things about the novel from some of the followers over on Twitter that have told me that the book is fantastic. With my review of 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. Please let me know in the comments if you've seen and read both.
When I went into I Am Not A Serial Killer, I was completely unaware of what to expect from this movie or prepared for what I was about to witness. I can remember seeing the trailer a few months before but not remembering a single thing from the trailer, I went into this one blind. The only thing I expected 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 vibe. When the movie introduces us to our lead character, and we follow in his footsteps as an outcast. John is your typical teenage boy who is seen as the freak in his Midwestern high 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 the early serial killer in the making tale.
The second act of I Am Not A Serial Killer begins to unravel the story a little more. I found myself during the second act also picking up on several very similar plot beats to Rear Window, Disturbia, as well as John Lithgow's 'Trinity Killer' from his season of Dexter. The spying, the stalking, watching the neighbour as he murders 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 moving from this moment on. What mostly plays like a small town murder mystery turns into something that is akin to the great John Carpenter's The Thing. I was not at all prepared for the insanity or where it ends up going. Those final few minutes shocked me. I thought I had this pegged 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 on what I loved about I Am A Serial Killer is that it doesn't feel like it has a substantial or complex twist. It's a movie that slowly unravels and even gives up who the killer is early on with 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. I was left thinking 'what have I just witnessed'? This is one of the oddest turns I've seen in a film in quite some time, but I loved it. It needs to be seen to be believed.
The acting is absolutely fantastic in I Am Not A Serial Killer. To see Max Records come from Where The Wild Things Are which was 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. He may not be acting in a lot, but his performances and turns are always memorable to me. 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 doesn't ever really deliver enormous jump scares but what it does well is that it slowly 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, supernatural, serial killer thriller. The movie also has a few scenes that will definitely 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 body.
- A corpse is shown ripped in half.
- Pieces of someone's stomach are displayed on a 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 low-budget homespun murder mystery, with a bit of Rear Window and a splash of John Carpenter's The Thing. I thought I had this film picked from the first moments and was left entirely shocked by the third act. The film has some solid gore, tension, and some great lead performances from Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. If you want an original and bonkers serial killer thriller, this is a movie that deserves to be seen. I hope we get more of the book series made into films as I'd like to continue with these characters.
Saturday, October 08, 2016
DIRECTOR: Darren Lynn Bousman
WRITER: Christopher Monfette
Julia is an investigative reporter. She receives a phone call from a man who claims to have brutally murdered her sister and her family. Discovering the horrific crime scene, Julia is left devastated. When Julia returns to her sister's house after the funeral, she finds that the whole kill room has been removed from the home. Julia and her police officer boyfriend will soon uncover a dark and twisted mystery that has her returning to the small town of New English.
After watching this movie. I decided to do a little research. Reading up on Abattoir, I discovered that this movie 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 graphic novel source material against the film. This review will be solely based on what my thoughts on the film are and not whether the movie was anywhere near as good or bad as the comic series.
It has to be said that Abattoir has one of the coolest and most original premises that I think I've ever seen in a horror movie. Abattoir tells the tale of a man by the name of Jebediah Crone who collects rooms where tragedies have taken place. Removing the kill rooms, he creates a large house in the backwoods of New English in which these crime scenes have been stitched together to form a never-ending maze of rooms that house the dead and the damned. It' a shame that this film is so very poorly executed as I really liked the premise.
When I started watching Abattoir, I can't deny that I was somewhat confused by the setting of the film. The time frame for when the film is set is left entirely unknown to the audience and I was thrown off my guard while initially 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 unravelled.
A huge problem that Abattoir faces is the fact that it's pieced together sloppily. The mystery at the heart of this movie is put together so poorly, and it moves so rapidly that it feels all over the shop. While hurrying along when concerning story beats, it somehow manages the impossible feat of still feeling sluggish. Our main characters move from investigation to investigation, without much explanation. The movie relies on montages of murder to give us history, and that's about it regarding the story.
The ending of Abattoir is where I also had issues with the story. The movie builds up to this rather dark conclusion where it has the big reveal of what our villain has set into motion, and what the town of New English has done to bring themselves hope. It's incredibly dark, but the entire bargain seems ill-fated for the townspeople. It's never explained in detail what the pledge will bring other than hope. Maybe they're saving this vital 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 that two different actors in these leading roles, we may have had a completely different movie regarding quality. We thankfully have entertaining turns by genre queen Lin Shaye who does weird and odd very well. She really was the shining light of Abattoir. Dayton Callie as our villain delivers a somewhat 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 the overall feel of the film, it's incredibly 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 film filled with dark visuals. I think the set design of the mansion in the final is exceptionally cool. The only time I didn't think the visuals worked were the ghosts in the film, they looked rather cheaply done. This could have been a budgetary issue.
Lastly, when it comes to delivering suspense in Abattoir, I think it lacked tension, and even real jump scares. The premise is more slow burn in its approach. I believe that the movie, however, makes up for lack of scares and tension with some rather brutal gore. The film is in fine form when throwing around blood 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 axe.
- 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 has one of the most original premises I think I've ever witnessed in a horror film. With all the brilliant ideas that the movie has at it's disposable, it just feels very poorly executed. Being based on a comic book series, I think this would have worked better as a TV show as I believe there is much more that could be done here than the hour and a half provided. The mystery at the heart of the film feels convoluted. The positives of Abattoir are the neo-noir style, set-design and performances from Lin Shaye and Dayton Callie.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
DIRECTED: Casey Tebo
WRITER: Casey Tebo
Jeff Daniel Phillips
When Brady discovers that his girlfriend has cheated on him on his birthday. His best friend Tommy plans a wild weekend away that should take Brady's mind off of all his recent troubles. The weekend will involve a lot of debauched fun, drinking, drugs, and banging prostitutes. It's when the two mates meet two incredibly beautiful girls while out partying, that they become involved in an extremely sinister kidnapping plot.
Going into Happy Birthday, I was going into this flick blind. I don't know what I was expecting from this movie. I hadn't witnessed the trailer beforehand or even read the premise for the movie. I was only going on the very cool poster art for the film which was listed as a Horror online. I went into this film honestly expecting some type of an anthology film. Little did I realise, that I was about to witness a very dark and twisted little comedy that actually surprised the hell out of me.
Happy Birthday starts off as a road trip comedy between two friends. The jokes begin flying fast, and we are introduced to our two good mates. Immediately I was enjoying the dynamic between our two friends. We get enough character development early on for us to start liking these two guys. They do well in providing us lots of interaction between these two friends. By this point, though, I was wondering when the horror would kick in as this movie was ripe with an over the top silliness.
For the first thirty minutes of Happy Birthday, we have these two guys partying it up in Mexicali. We have a lot of scenes where the comedy is at the forefront of the film, and I was ready to stop writing down notes as I always do when preparing to review a horror film. Scenes of cockfights, Steven Tyler as an 'Aztec Shaman', we witness a huge bodyguard shitting and vomiting simultaneously, and a Mexican tour guide ends up 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 incredibly mean-spirited. I always found myself enjoying the hell out of the film even if at times it was seriously cruel in its nature towards its characters.
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 stunned by it. The film then goes and throws in the second twist, but at this point, I had kind of guessed it was coming and I was already anticipating it. While not bad, it adds a meta touch to the story which also kind of throws all of that build up and intensity out the window. It's still rather cool how it all tied together, though. I thought it was rather amusing.
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 smart 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 situation, and it feels cruel. I think them staying mates is a little hard to swallow.
The acting in the film was pretty good. Matt Bush and Riley Litman as our two friends have some 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 the two of them make it out safely. 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 movie. 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 somewhat indie comparison to movies like The Hangover, it looks great. With the film 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. I can't wait to see what Casey Tebo does next.
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 but a very dark, pitch-black comedy. 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 very intense and has an incredibly clever first twist. I came out of this movie somewhat surprised. Happy Birthday is worth a watch.