Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Forest (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jason Zada

WRITERS:

Nick Antosca
Sarah Cornwell
Ben Ketai

CAST:

Natalie Dormer
Taylor Kinney
Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Eoin Macken
Noriko Sakura
Rina Takasaki
Terry Diab

PLOT:

Sara, a young American woman, receives a phone call from Tokyo telling her that her twin sister Jess was last seen heading into Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest. A detective informs Sara that the forest is well known for being a place where Japanese people go to take their own lives. Worried for the well-being and safety of her sister, Sara jumps on a flight to Japan and heads to Aokigahara in hopes of bringing her home safe and sound. She will soon discover that the forest holds more than just dead bodies within its surroundings.







When I first got wind that a horror movie was being made about Aokigahara (Suicide Forest), I was absolutely ecstatic. Growing up I always had a fascination with visiting 'scary places' from around the world. I'm one of those people that loves reading lists of 'must visit haunted places' and I watch paranormal shows, and I've visited places that have made the lists to satisfy my morbid curiosity. I've seen The Catacombs of Paris, I've visited the Quarantine Centre in Sydney and even the Hiroshima Museum while I was in Japan. Aokigahara is up there with Auschwitz and Chernobyl regarding places I must visit before I die.

So when I first watched the trailer for The Forest, I was excited to see a movie that was set in a place that I've always wanted to visit and been fascinated by. The whole 'mystery' of why people trek to this place and take their own lives has me extremely intrigued. I've even seen the Vice documentary where they do a tour into Aokigahara, and it's pretty disturbing stuff. It's also fascinating that this forest draws people from all over Japan to end their lives for whatever reason. There is just so much sadness in the premise that I was honestly excited to see what they could do with the story.

The trailer for The Forest was always going to cater to horror fans. This wasn't going to be a simple story of some woman making her way to a forest to take her life, and it becomes a rescue mission. This was going to have supernatural elements to cater to the J-Horror crowd, and I knew immediately people would find this premise to be in poor taste to those who have taken their lives there. The whitewashing allegations began to start as well when Natalie Dormer was front and centre in the trailer. I have no issue with Natalie being the lead as this was an American heading to Japan, being out of her depth and going into the unknown. I did, however, sympathise with those frustrations that it would turn the dead into vengeful ghosts. It seemed disrespectful.

Once the scathing reviews came flooding in, I began getting worried that I may have hyped this one up much more than what I probably should have and I was concerned. After an eight-month wait to finally get myself a copy of the movie, the hype had died down and went into the movie just hoping that I would at least leave having enjoyed what would essentially be a silly supernatural horror film. I hoped at worst that this movie would be of the guilty pleasure variety and after sitting through The Forest, I found a movie that had a lot of potential, and an interesting premise with a creepy setting loses itself along the way.

The Forest had me for the first hour. I was really enjoying the build-up to the third act. This film is a slow burn horror. There isn't a lot of huge jump scares or scenes of prolonged suspense but the few scenes in the first hour that require the film to ramp up the tension, they worked for the most part. The scene in the dark hallway with the old lady was a perfect example of that. It's in the third act where this movie decides to head off the path. Once the supernatural elements kick in, this is where it becomes silly and formulaic. The scenes of supernatural terror have all been done many times before, and I found myself enjoying them less than the actual scenes of a desperate sister being stuck in a foreign country who is worried sick for her sister.

The familial moments within the first hour are lost in the third act. It becomes less about the rescue attempt of her sister and more about giving the audience a whole lot of unnecessary and poorly done looking ghosts. Had they focused more on Sara descending into madness as well as tidy up the messy ending, I think it would have fared better with myself and more critics. Even reading some of the theories on the internet about split personalities and mental illness, I believe those assumptions are reading deeper into what the filmmakers and writers were initially trying to do when creating this story. I think people are giving them more credit than they deserve. It's a little messy, and while it's disappointing, it's not the worst horror film of 2016.

Now onto the performances of The Forest. I'm a huge fan of Natalie Dormer. She's excellent in Game Of Thrones and even in Rush and The Counsellor in her supporting roles. I think she has a lot of presence on screen and for the first hour, I thought she did a fantastic job. A few cheesy moments towards the end, sadly lessen the impact. Taylor Kinney as the male support is decent and I didn't mind his performance. The best performance comes from Yokiyoshi Ozawa who plays the guide that takes our American's into the forest. I found his performance to be somewhat sincere.

Finally, I feel that another winning element of the movie is the cinematography. As someone who has been to Japan and loved every single second of it. The Forest took me back seeing Tokyo on screen again. The beautiful tracking shots through the busy streets of Tokyo to the arrival in Aokigahara and the overhead shots of the landscape were beautiful. Once inside the forest, I found a lot these scenes to be quite gorgeous as well. The scene where we go into a close-up of Natalie Dormer's eyes, and it shows bits of the forest in extreme close-up were beautiful. Overall this is one of the better-looking horror films I've seen in 2016.







DEATH TOLL:
 4

BLOOD AND GUTS:

- A woman is shot dead with a shotgun in a suicide pact.
- A hand is cut open.
- Maggots found in an infected wound.
- Someone is stabbed in the chest.
- Rotting corpses are seen hanging from nooses.
- A suicide pact.







The Forest was one of the horror movies that I had high hopes for when I initially learned of its existence. I have always been fascinated with the Suicide Forest and was really excited to see what this film would do with that premise. After seeing The Forest, I was left a bit disappointed with the finished film. While I enjoyed The Forest for the first hour. The film loses it's way in the third act and descends into a formulaic ghost story. I really wanted to enjoy this and sadly, it fell short.

Monday, November 28, 2016

They're Watching (2016)








DIRECTORS:


Jay Lender
Micah Wright

WRITERS:


Jay Lender

Micah Wright

CAST:

Carrie Genzel
Brigid Brannagh
David Alpay
Kris Lemche
Mia Faith
Dimitri Diatchenko
Cristian Balint
Cici Caraman

PLOT:

An American Renovation and Home Improvement show heads to a remote Eastern European village to film the follow-up episode for a past contestant who purchased a dilapidated fixer-up home in the wilderness outside of the remote village. Once they arrive in town, they begin to notice that all the local townsfolk aren't very welcoming of the new guests. Are the crew in danger or is there something much darker hiding in the wilderness?







Being an avid traveller and someone who has a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always drawn to horror films that feature plots about the darker side of travelling. Recently, I did four months of travelling and backpacking through Eastern Europe which ended in me being attacked, robbed, and having my passport, wallet, and phone stolen. It's a situation that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It's a really frightening thing to be in a foreign country and not understanding the language and no one believing you. I guess when it happens, you sympathise with the characters in horror movies because you've been through it.

So when horror movies feature people in situations where they suddenly get lost in a foreign land and end up on the chopping block, I always seem to be incredibly drawn to them. While my case was never that extreme, I still really enjoy horror movies of travel gone awry. Some of the movies I love are Eli Roth's Hostel and Hostel Part II, Turistas, Wolf Creek, The Ruins, The Hills Have Eyes, American Werewolf In London, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They all touch on the above subject, and they all do it rather well.

When it comes to They're Watching, I was immediately drawn to the movie being set in Eastern Europe. I went in knowing that this movie was more a horror comedy so it wouldn't be as dark as the movies that I had mentioned previously. I also knew that it features Americans being stuck in some 'lost in translation' type of scenario. Lastly, I was excited to see how the home improvement found footage aspect would play out, even if I believe that found footage is now saturating the horror genre. I was hoping that this would add some new element to it.

I found myself enjoying They're Watching for the first hour of the film. The first hour basically builds up all the characters, and we get to know the crew of this American Home Improvement TV Series. The movie actually makes you care about most of the characters before they're all killed off in incredibly grisly fashion. As with every one of these horror films, we do have one or two characters who are written as disposable, but the movie for the most part actually builds up the characters which I found as a positive in this film.

The first hour doesn't contain many scares or suspense at all. It's pretty much free of both. Either do the last thirty minutes of the film if I'm brutally honest. The first hour does, however, deliver a few of the huge do's and don'ts when it comes to travelling and paying respect to the different cultures and countries. It's probably the only time during these scenes that the movie makes any type of blip on the tension scale. I've been in those situations before and felt the feelings of not being sure if you've done something to disrespect the culture.

Once the movie starts killing off the entire crew, the film just descends into one of the most hilariously lousy horror movie finals that I've seen in quite some time. If the film was trying to take itself seriously towards the end, it fails miserably. The movie's final showdown is so over the top and filled with such awful visuals that it ultimately takes you out of the film. It's just so laughable and cheesy that it sort of ruins the rest of the film. The somewhat predictable reveal of the big bad is also rather unimpressive.

Even with the awful final massacre, I have to say that I liked the cinematography in this found footage movie. There are lots of scenes of gorgeous old architecture, we have a lot of shots of the village and it sort of made me miss Eastern Europe while I watching the film. I really wanted to travel again after sitting through it. The movie also gets that aspect of the film right. It's a beautiful looking movie.

Lastly, The acting in They're Watching is above average. I think that the entire cast give it a god ol' go of things. Kris Lemche as our comedic relief is easily the standout of the movie. Brigid Brannagh is also excellent in her role. She looks like she gets to have the most fun with her role, and you'll see why and Carrie Genzel as our studio executive and nasty businesswoman bitch is the most disposable but god she can play a nasty, hateful bitch really well.







DEATH TOLL:
 25

BLOOD AND GORE:

- An axe to the skull.
- A dog is shot after attacking someone.
- Eyes removed and a live frog stuffed in their mouth.
- Someone is nailed to a barn.
- A fire poker through the arm.
- People explode.
- Someone is turned into frogs. Frogs eat another person.
- A person is hit with a tree.
- A rotting corpse.
- People are impaled and burnt alive.
- People are ripped into pieces.
- Someone's head explodes.
- A person is torn in half.
- Someone has their head bashed in.







They're Watching has a enjoyable first hour but slowly descends into one of the most hilariously bad finals I've seen in a long time. Some horribly cheesy visuals and over the top violence do the rest of the movie a disservice. The film gains some points for the above average acting and some substantial character development during the first hour and some rather gorgeous cinematography of Eastern Europe. I think had this played things more seriously and went practical with the gore and blood effects, we may have had a different outcome.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beyond The Gates (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jackson Stewart

WRITERS:

Stephen Scarlata
Jackson Stewart

CAST:

Barbara Crampton
Graham Skipper
Chase Williamson
Brea Grant
Justin Welborn
Jesse Merlin
Matt Mercer
Henry LeBlanc
Sara Malakul Lane

PLOT:

Two estranged brothers reunite when their father goes missing. They have reunited to liquidate the video store that he owned and sell off his assets. As the brothers begin to rummage through all the old shelves of the video store, they discover an old VHS board game called Beyond The Gates. When they decide to play the game, they soon find that it may have something to do with their father's disappearance.







When I was thirteen years of age, I had just started high school. Not wanting to be like some of the kids from my area who got up to no good, I walked into that local video store and asked for a job. Being that you need to be fourteen years and nine months old to legally work in Australia. I told my boss that I would work for free as long as I could hire VHS videos for free. My boss was a lovely lady who agreed to the terms and conditions. This is where my love of horror movies started.

I feel sad that kids these days that will never know the absolute joy of working in a video store. I worked in the video store from the age of thirteen until eighteen years of age. I saw the VHS come and go and the considerable rise of DVD. I also managed to work for free, until I was old enough and began getting paid until I was eventually a manager. This is still the all-time favourite job that I've ever held. Sad these kids today will never know how amazing the video store was to work in.

When I started Beyond The Gates, I was immediately overcome with this sense of nostalgia. Not because the movie has this really cool throwback, eighties old-school, horror vibe to it but because it opens in a video store. Over the years, I've seen less and fewer video stores staying open. I've watched Video Ezy, Blockbuster, and Civic video disappear, and it's really disheartening. Kids these days won't ever know the joys of having your parents take you to the video store to pick up all the latest new releases or browse through the shelves to find ten old school movies for ten dollars.

The movie didn't just hit me once with this tremendous wave of nostalgia, but it had managed to successfully do it twice. Beyond The Gates is about a VHS board game that when played, it traps the souls of anyone who plays it. The film took me back to being a child and playing the board game Nightmare with a group of my friends and being absolutely terrified of the Gatekeeper. Just for nostalgic reasons alone, I found myself having a lot of fun with Beyond The Gates even if the film wasn't perfect.

I'll start with the issues that I had with Beyond The Gates. I'll get the bad out of the way first. The movie has one of the most fun premises that I think I saw in 2016. It sadly doesn't always live up to its premise, though. This story is quite a low budget flick, so I don't think they were always able to fully immerse us as an audience in the Beyond The Gates realm. I'd have liked to see more of our characters entering that world or even a showdown with Barbara Crampton who plays the gatekeeper in the video game.

We also have a few moments in the film that had me questioning the story. We learn that the father has been trapped within the board game yet he's managed to lock his back office in the video store and get the key home. I would've liked to see them try and explain the rules of the board game a little more as we get instructions but it's so quick that we don't get the full details. Little things within the story like this don't add up or make all that much sense, but these are things that I was able to overlook due to my enjoyment of the film.

Beyond The Gates wins on the practical gore effects front. The movie chooses to use a lot of over the top and gruesome gore that took me back to the early days. I will always welcome practical effects over shitty CGI blood spray or gore. I can't tell you how much I was loving all the exploding faces, carnage with kitchen knives and guts being ripped out of people's stomachs. Bravo on giving us practical effects. Long live the practical visual effects and down with the computer generated shit.

The acting in Beyond The Gates was decent. Barbara Crampton stole the show. I'd have been happy with about ten more minutes of her manically laughing or creepily staring at us. She just has the alluring presence about her. Brea Grant who plays the girlfriend also delivered in her role. I thought the women killed it in this film. Chase Williamson and Graham Skipper who play the brothers are alright in their parts. I had much preferred Chase Williamson's character as he was more lively and less mopey than Graham Skipper. His character almost dragged a few of the scenes down.

Lastly, when it comes to chills and thrills, I think Beyond The Gate isn't all that scary. The film has a few scenes where our characters meet a couple of ghouls and demons that try for the loud jump scares and more often than not they don't land. I thought this film wasn't really going for all that, though. I thought they were trying to almost play the scenes in a comedic and over the top sort of way. At times, this plays almost like a horror comedy than a serious story of two brothers trying to battle evil to save their father.








DEATH TOLL:
 5

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A girl is covered in blood.
- A guy's intestines get pulled out of his stomach.
- Someone's heart is ripped out in their dream.
- Someone's face explodes.
- A knife through the arm.
- A demon is repeatedly stabbed with a kitchen knife.
- A demon has its head bashed in with a baseball bat.
- A monster is stuck in the back.
- A demon is stabbed in the head.
- A demon is stabbed and has its heart removed.







Beyond The Gates is far from perfect. The movie has a few problems with the story. However, as a late eighties and early nineties kid, this film had enough sentimental value that kept me really enjoying and interested in the movie. I loved the throwback to eighties horror, the practical gore effects were also a lot of fun. This film made me want to go on eBay and try and find a copy of Nightmare and get a group of friends together to play the board game and relive my childhood.


Friday, November 25, 2016

The Shallows (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jaume Collet-Serra

WRITER: Anthony Jaswinski

CAST:


Blake Lively
Oscar Jaenada
Brett Cullen
Sedona Legge
Janelle Bailey

PLOT:

Nancy is a med student who has decided to take a surfing sabbatical to the secluded beach in Mexico that her late mother once surfed and told her stories about. Heading off to the remote beach alone, she packs a small bag and her surfboard ready for an adventure. While hitting those waves, Nancy paddles into the vicinity of a dead whale carcass, and the feeding ground of a great white shark. After Nancy is knocked off her surfboard, bitten by the shark and 200 yards from shore. It will be a fight for survival as the tide is rising on the lone rock that Nancy has taken safety on.







When I watched the trailer for The Shallows, I had immediately thought, 'not another shark' film. When I read the credits and noticed that director Jaume Collet-Serra was at the helm, I had a little more faith in this movie. I'm in the minority of people that enjoyed his remake of House Of Wax and his extraordinarily dark and twisted familial horror film Orphan. The man knows how to make a gorgeous looking horror film. At worst, I thought if The Shallows is terrible, I will at least have a lot of fun with the visuals Collet-Serra will throw at the screen.


After seeing The Shallows, I quite pleasantly surprised with the final film. The shark sub-genre has become oversaturated with so many movies of late. What with Syfy's franchise of cheesy low budget shark movies Sharknado or their continued fascination with creating hybrids like Two-Headed Shark or Sharktopus, the list goes on and the results vary wildly. So it's somewhat rare to find a shark-themed film that is intense and keeps you glued to the screen. I found The Shallows did that for the most part.

Regarding story and plot, The Shallows is pretty simple. We don't have some overly complicated reason of how and why Nancy is heading to the beach or how she will survive her wounds and the attack. It's all pretty much straightforward from the get-go. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess where The Shallows will begin and end. Predictability is one of The Shallows most significant issues, but it's hard these days to create a film about a bloodthirsty shark and having the setup and conclusion feel original.

I found Blake Lively to be the winning element of The Shallows. The movie primarily rests on her shoulders for the entire hour and a half, and I think she delivered a solid performance. If any people doubt her talent as an actress, just watch her in the Ben Affleck-directed heist thriller The Town. I've seen a couple of reviewers claim that her performance and the actions that she takes in the film are not believable. The actions aren't entirely her fault, that's down to the writers, and I think she gave us a decent performance of a woman trying to survive a shark attack. She had me on her side, rooting for her to escape. So for me, she was great in The Shallows.

When it comes to tension and suspense, I found that The Shallows delivered those elements very well. There were a few moments within the film where my conscious was yelling for Blake Lively's Nancy to swim faster or watch out every time that she had to retrieve something from the water. The Shallows also has a few jump scares throughout. Not all jump scares land as you can guess when they will take place but in saying that, I also expected a few to be thrown at the screen that never happens which kind of threw me off on what was going to happen.

The cinematography and shark effects were impressive. Jaume Collet-Serra can make a gorgeous looking Horror film; there is no doubt about that here. The beach scenes, scenery, and anytime Nancy is underwater or on the buoy; The Shallows is gorgeous to look at, the standout scene for me is a scene involving Nancy swimming through a fluther of Jellyfish. When one stings her, and they begin lighting up, I found the scene incredibly beautiful. The shark also looked great. On the Scale of Sharknado to Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows is far superior then Sharknado and on par with Deep Blue Sea at it's best concerning visual creature effects. The only time I felt the effects weren't well done were the early surfboarding scenes where they superimposed Blake Lively's face onto a real surfer, and the result is a terrifying Aphex Twin look alike.

Now time for some tomato-throwing. The Shallows has a few moments of cheesiness scattered throughout it's running time. We have a scene where Nancy wakes to see a drunk Mexican bloke on shore; she screams to wake him up and go call for help from her phone on the beach. Instead, he steals her cash, mobile, and bag. So instead of taking off with her possessions, he stupidly decides to get into the water to retrieve her surfboard. Did the guy's mother never teach him about drinking and swimming? Well, low and behold, the shark gets him in the most predictable and groan-worthy moment of The Shallows. The scene felt ridiculous and slowed down the pacing. 

I also had a few moments where I snickered during the final buoy attack scene. Am I mistaken or can sharks now chew through metal grating and steel? I understand that human flesh isn't that big of a deal for sharks but the way the shark chomps through an entire buoy like its cheese, I was rolling my eyes so hard. I didn't find that scene entirely believable. But as with any killer shark movie, I guess you have to suspend disbelief and the scenes where I really thought The Shallows would cause laughing fits were the 'Steven Seagull' scenes, and it turns out I was completely wrong. The scenes were where I felt the most heart. I never thought I'd want to see a seagull make it to safety more than I had in this film.



DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Jewelry is used to close shut a shark bite.
- A surfer is grabbed out of the water.
- A seagull is injured.
- Someone is ripped in half. The upper body crawls away from legs.
- A dead whale carcass.

The Shallows also features quite possibly the best way a shark is dispatched of in a movie since Brody blew up Jaws. The shark swimming at very high speed and slams mouth and head first into rusted rebar, I thought the aftermath looked excellent.



I have to admit that I went into The Shallows with reservations. With the somewhat positive reception from critics and my own hyping it up after I saw the great reviews. I thought I may end up disappointed with the final movie. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the movie as much as I did. The Shallows has a few moments where I groaned and even though these scenes slowed down the pacing of the suspense, but a solid lead performance from Blake Lively and some great scenes of suspense make this one of the more entertaining shark films of recent times.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Boy (2016)


 





DIRECTOR:
 William Brent Bell

WRITER: Stacey Menear

CAST:


Lauren Cohan
Rupert Evans
Jim Norton
Diana Hardcastle
James Russell
Ben Robson
Jett Klyne

PLOT:

Greta Evans has travelled from the US to assist with an elderly couple and their son in a remote English village. Once Greta arrives at the rural English mansion, it becomes apparent that things aren't what they seem. Instead of caring for an actual child, it's revealed the job will be to take care of a life-sized doll. Greta begins to feel unnerved when she realises that the elderly couple treats this doll as if it's a real kid. As strange things start to happen, Greta starts to believe that maybe this doll is actually alive.







After almost eight months of release. I finally got to witness The Boy. When I initially watched the trailer for the movie, I was slightly intrigued to see the finished product. The trailer was somewhat eerie and had an atmosphere surrounding it. While this was no Chucky in terms of a killer doll, I was surprised I was excited about it. As this film came and went, I missed my chance to see it on the big screen. After finally getting a chance to watch it. I wasn't the biggest fan on my first viewing. On my second view, I warmed up to it a little more if I still found issues with it.

The boy starts off quite well. The film had me going for the first twenty-five minutes or so. The first introduction of Brahms and the serious reactions from the old married couple to the confused looks on Greta's face gave the movie some humour and light-heartedness. These scenes are clearly quite an uncomfortable situation for any young woman to be in. I was enjoying the early scenes involving the rules of how to care for Brahm. These moments were the eeriest moments in The Boy.

Once all the strange things begin to start happening with Brahm and the scenes that require the film to start delivering suspense, tension and the inevitable jump scares. This is where the film really lost me. This is probably due to the fact that pretty much every creepy scene was shown in the trailers, nothing really came as that much of a surprise. I sat there hoping to be shocked or surprised by these scenes, and they all fell pretty flat. I was slightly gutted when I sat through the next fifty minutes and nothing really happened.

From the twenty-five minute mark up until the last twenty minutes, The Boy was a cliched mess. As stated above, none of the scares landed, the suspense was basically non-existent, and there really wasn't all that much going on. We have a rather weak flirtatious love story subplot that wasn't working for me, the dullest suicide pact that suddenly happens but you haven't warmed to the characters yet. It's never explained to our main protagonist that they kill themselves until the final reveal of the movie's twist and don't even get me started on the abusive boyfriend who suddenly shows up out of nowhere.

Now onto that twist. I love a good twist in my films. Some films have managed to land a twist so shocking that it stays with me for days. Others have tried to drop a twist, and it falls flat due to predictability. The Boy, unfortunately, falls into the latter. With early hints in the first twenty-five minutes of the rules of Brahms scenes and a questionable farewell, it becomes clear what's causing odd things to happen within this old mansion. It's a twist that I've seen happen in a few horror movies. So when the big reveal happens, I wasn't at all surprised. It's a bit of a let down in all honesty.

The final showdown in the film is left to take place in the last ten minutes of the film. So it's all wrapped up quickly after a short chase which lacks the suspense as it was over and done within a matter of minutes. Let's not get started on the most overused final reveal shot in horror movies. [SPOILERS]: The killer apparently didn't die from that one stab wound to his stomach and guess what, he's still alive. I could've done without that last moment. I think we'll be getting The Boy: Part II sometime soon?

What The Boy does right is cast Lauren Cohan from AMC's The Walking Dead. She is the central star of this film and for the vast majority of it's running time, we are stuck in her shoes. From the first moments up until that final reveal, I found her enjoyable to watch in a leading role. She has apparently honed her screaming and acting scared skills on The Walking Dead as it pays off in this part. The best moments are when she starts to think she's losing her mind. Going off the deep end is where she delivers her most crazed moments.

Lastly, William Brent Bell's direction must get a shout out as well. I found that most of the film looked really well made concerning tracking shots, cinematography and those scenes inside the mansion and outside within the woods. As the movie is kept indoors for most of it's running time, I found he used the space of this giant old mansion very well. He's certainly no Guillermo Del Toro when it comes to creating intense and eerie stories inside a mansion, but that could be put down to the difference in budgets.







DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A suicide by rocks in the pockets and drowning.
- A few dead and bloody rats.
- Porcelain is used to stab someone in the throat.
- A woman is thrown at a wall with superhuman strength.
- A few hits in the head with a metal fire-poker.

The Boy is a movie that I wanted to see for the last eight months. After finishing the film, I was left extremely disappointed. The story lacks any real tension, suspense or scares and the final twist is extremely predictable. The movie, does, however, have a standout in Lauren Cohen's central performance and the film looked fantastic from a technical point of view. The rest of this movie though feels pretty by the numbers. On a second viewing of The Boy, I had warmed up to the film a bit more but still found the same sort of issues I had the first time around.


Friday, November 18, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Dan Trachtenberg

WRITERS:

Josh Campbell
Matthew Stuecken
Damien Chazelle

CAST:

John Goodman
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Gallagher Jr.
Bradley Cooper
Suzanne Cryer

PLOT:

Michelle suddenly up and leaves her fiance and entire life behind. While driving alone at night, she is rammed off of the road by another driver. After surviving the accident, Michelle wakes up chained in an underground bunker with two guys that she's never met. When she is warned that the world outside has been devastated by a large-scale chemical attack. Unsure of who she can trust, she is uncertain if she has been saved by the two men from an apocalyptic event or if she is being held against her will.







In 2008, I can still remember the mysterious and intelligent promotional campaign for Cloverfield. The movie was shrouded in secrecy, and all we were given as an audience was the fact that it was a found footage monster movie. At that time, I was intrigued by the hype, and when I walked out of the cinema, I was left incredibly disappointed by what I had witnessed. I was one of the few that didn't like the film. I still haven't watched it since because of the bad taste that the original movie left in my mouth.

Eight years later and coming out of basically nowhere, a Cloverfield sequel is dropped on moviegoers by doing another pretty secretive and smart viral campaign. The first film being a large-scale found footage monster movie, the sequel now appeared to be a low budget survival 'held captive' thriller. I was initially worried about the sequel as I really wasn't a big fan of the original and thought I may have a bad experience with the sequel. Luckily after watching it twice now, it still holds up on the second viewing and is much more entertaining than the first film.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a much smaller film compared to the original. The scale of this sequel by comparison to the original is minuscule. I think some people will come out of this disappointed if they go in expecting a giant monster movie like the first film. The majority of the running time has this movie confined to only a small bunker. With the film set in such a confined location, it makes the movie much more claustrophobic and intense compared to the original movie. I felt similarities regarding plot between this film and Xavier Gen's disturbing and brutal apocalyptic bunker movie The Divide.

I found this film to be quite an intense film from the moment Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up in the bunker. What I believe the story does well is that it keeps you on the edge of your seat for the majority of it's running time. I found myself feeling seriously unnerved by how unpredictable and creepy John Goodman's character is throughout. The plot also works well in adding a sense of mystery and uneasiness as we are never confident whether or not the chemical attack outside is real or our main protagonist is being held against her will.

I think another big win for 10 Cloverfield Lane is the performances. The acting is top notch in this film. John Goodman delivers one of the best performances of his career. Here he plays the villain of sorts, but you are always questioning his motives during the film and wonder if he's just a lonely guy. I love seeing him in darker material. He plays the bad guy really well, and I think he should do it more often. He really does make you feel sorry for this guy at times and that's a testament to how great an actor John Goodman is here.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as our protagonist is in fine form as well. She delivers a performance where we are rooting for her character and feel for her in the situations she goes through in this film. John Gallagher Jr. as the sweet, funny guy also does well in his role. I loved him playing off Mary Elizabeth Winstead and think they had great chemistry. When shit hits the fan in this film and believe me, it does, you end up really feeling sorry for these two characters.

Visually, I think 10 Cloverfield Lane is incredibly well done. For a film that is set in an underground bunker for the majority of the film, it still looks pretty slick. We have a few larger scale set pieces at the beginning and end of the film. We have a neat car crash that opens the film, we also have a few intense survival scenes in the bunker and a pretty action-packed final few minutes. I think for such a small sequel, they did well with the visuals in the film.

Finally, we come to the negative part of the review. My biggest issue that I had with this movie was the ending. [SPOILERS] Once we escape the bunker and it's revealed that aliens have taken over the planet and it's not a chemical attack, it feels like the ending is an entirely different story. Everything that the first hour and twenty minutes have built falls apart right at the end. Some will absolutely love the alien aspect of the film, I, however, thought it felt like an ending that was written into a separate movie to try and cash in on the Cloverfield name. For me, it didn't feel authentic and while not a massive issue, it loses the film points.







DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A couple of rotting pigs.
- A glass bottle is smashed into someone's head.
- Someone repeatedly smashes their head into a window.
- An open wound is shown (Later stitched up).
- Someone is shot in the head (Blood splatter showed).
- Face and arm melted by acid.







10 Cloverfield Lane has the honour of being a sequel that far surpasses the original. The movie is a taut and claustrophobic science fiction, thriller that brings things back to a smaller scale compared to the original and contains some fantastic performances. John Goodman delivers one of the best performances of his career as does the great Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Even with an ending that feels tacked on in later stages of development, the movie is still an entertaining ride.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cabin Fever (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Travis Zariwny

WRITERS:

Eli Roth
Randy Pearlstein

CAST:

Samuel Davis
Nadine Crocker
Gage Golightly
Matthew Daddario
Dustin Ingram
Randy Schulman
Louise Linton
Aaron Trainor

PLOT:

Five friends head to a remote cabin for a week-long getaway of fun, sex, and much-needed relaxation. Unknown to the five friends, the body of water that the cabin sits on is contaminated with a flesh-eating virus. When one of the friends unknowingly contracts the virus, the infection spreads quickly, which grabs the attention of the local redneck townsfolk and the local deputy who finally want to put an end to the virus once and for all.







When it comes to the supposedly dreaded remake, I'm not someone to dismiss them immediately. I have found that over the years, I have quite enjoyed my fair share of remakes. Many of which are based on some of my all-time favourite horror movies. I've found that I enjoy them immensely and even in some of these cases, the remake manages to best the original. So as I stated above, not all remakes are horrible, and I want to make that extremely clear before I get into my review of the dreadful Cabin Fever remake.

Let's go back to 1998 when Gus Vant Sant decided to direct a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's groundbreaking masterpiece PSYCHO. One of the most influential slashers in cinematic history. The end result was not even close to being okay. Most found the remake to be a waste of celluloid and an exercise in pointlessness. For the writers and director to not even try and add something new to the remake was it's biggest downfall. So when I heard that Cabin Fever was using the same script as the 2002 remake, I was worried. Cabin Fever is no Psycho, but it was a fun cabin in the woods horror movie and introduced us to director Eli Roth.

After watching the Cabin Fever remake for the second time, I didn't hate it as much as I did the first time I witnessed it. When I first saw the remake back when it was released, I would have given the finished product a zero had I had my blog up and running at that time. I hated every single second of it. Watching it now, I still didn't like it for the simple fact it's an almost shot for shot remake that uses the same script with only slicker cinematography and buckets more gore but on second viewing I was less harsh coming out of the film.

The comparisons on where this remake manages to beat out the original are that this film has much slicker cinematography. The shots of scenery are stunning. The film is clearly a grander production, and you can tell immediately that they've had more to work with on this film. The other moments where the movie improves on the original is the gore. Cabin Fever was already incredibly violent and gruesome, but the remake takes it about five steps further and gives us some mean-spirited set-pieces. The film really sets out to be nasty and gooey, and it works in its favour.

This is where the positives end for the remake. The acting is a lot worse in this film. This, in turn, makes the characters all the more dislikable. I remember feeling sorry for some of the characters in the original, here I was relishing in the fact that these characters were rotting away and being killed off in horrendous ways. Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello, Joey Kern and Guiseppe Andrews were all so strong in their performances in the original that the actors in this remake fell short. Just nowhere near as good as the original cast.

Another element that is sorely missed from the remake is Eli Roth's sense of humour. While they used the exact same script as the original, they decided to leave all the dark humour from that film on the cutting room floor. The frat boy humour from the original is gone out of this remake, and it's felt all throughout the remake. The film tries to take the darker approach which I'm all for, but here, I felt like it was needed to lighten the absolute absurdity of some of the gorier and over the top scenes. In removing the comedy, it just becomes mean-spirited.

Other moments where this remake goes wrong is changing up our deputy from party dude to party chick. Instead of the weird and quirky Guiseppe Andrews who likes to party, he's been replaced with one of the most uncomfortable and sexually suggestive deputies on the force. Her need to party with people just comes across as incredibly creepy. We also have another odd and awkward character in the weed smoking hiker who was played by Eli Roth in the original. Here his jokes fall flat at every moment.

Lastly, like the Psycho remake, the Cabin Fever remake feels like a massive, what the hell is the point in remaking this movie if you're going to give us a film that feels like it hits beat for beat with the original? By the film's end, it all just feels like a movie that we've seen before. While the film has a few alterations, it's all still feels rather pointless. One movie that has me still scratching my head with its laziness at not even trying to be different or give us something new in the process.







DEATH TOLL:
 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is set on fire and burnt alive.
- A pig is gutted.
- A dog explodes blood after it's infected. Organs and guts are shown.
- A few bloody bites.
- A guitar is smashed into someone's face.
- Someone is fingered, but it turns out to be an infected wound.
- Lots of fleshy and rotting corpses.
- Someone shaves their skin off. A nipple also falls off.
- Someone drowns.
- Three people are mowed down by an assault rifle.
- A dog is shot after tearing someone into pieces.
- A shovel is used to sever someone's head from the mouth up.







While the original Cabin Fever wasn't exactly a groundbreaking film, it was still a fun debut from the new kid on the horror block at the time, Eli Roth. The film was violent, at times darkly funny and had a somewhat enjoyable premise with a little twist on the cabin in the woods subgenre of horror. When the news dropped that the remake was happening and that it would be using the exact same script, I was worried. All fears were realised and the results while not Psycho bad, this still felt like a waste of time. Just watch the original Cabin Fever as you won't be missing much with this retread.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trash Fire (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Richard Bates Jr.

WRITER: Richard Bates Jr.

CAST:

Adrian Grenier
Angela Trimbur
Fionnula Flanagan
AnnaLynne McCord
Sally Kirkland
Matthew Gray Gubler
Ezra Buzzington
Molly McCook
Ray Santiago
Ronnie Gene Blevins

PLOT:

Owen is at a pretty weird stage in his life. The guy is currently visiting a therapist, he also suffers from bulimia, he is prone to having fits, and his relationship is now on the rocks. When his girlfriend tells him that she's pregnant, he is immediately opposed to keeping the baby. When he comes around to the idea, his girlfriend Isabel gives him a few terms and conditions and wants him to confront his past. This will bring together Owen, his disfigured sister, Pearl and his evil grandmother Violet.







I remember hearing some positive word of mouth about Trash Fire out of Sundance Film Festival back in January of last year. I remember hearing folks talking about it being somewhat disturbing and dark. I didn't hear much else about the project after that. It wasn't until I listened to a recent Podcast that my interest was again spiked with the film. They talked about how the movie goes to some very dark places. As soon as I heard that, I had to seek it out and watch it.

Going into the movie, I wasn't aware that the film was directed by Richard Bates Jr. A few years back, he released his feature film debut with Excision. A pitch-black, grim, and a twisted little movie starring AnnaLynne McCord. The movie stuck with me long after watching it. So when I realised that this was the latest film from Richard Bates Jr., I was pretty excited to see where he'd go with his most recent effort. I'm happy to learn that his twisted sensibilities haven't faded over the years.

I'll start with the tone of Trash Fire. The film plays like a black comedy in the first and second acts of the film. It slowly descends into darker territory towards the third act, and things get pretty bloody. Straight away, the movie opens on a slightly funny note. Adrian Grenier is in a therapy session, and his therapist is fast asleep as he's pouring out his heart. His response is to tell her that she should retire because she's old and compares her situation to those of older drivers not being allowed to drive after that certain age as it's not safe for everyone around them.

This opening scene will give you a pretty good indication of how the rest of the film will be on a tonal level. The movie, for the most part, is successful in delivering the weirdness and jet-black comedy in equal doses. What makes all of the tonal shifts enormously successful is that every actor plays these moments completely serious. The dialogue is said with such seriousness that even the more outlandish and brash comments had me sold. I was shocked that a couple talked to each in this way. I've had my fair share of relationships that went sour, and I wouldn't even say some of the things that Adrian Grenier's character says in this film.

This story starts to shift gears once our main couple Owen and Isabel get to Owen's Grandma's house. His deformed sister Pearl also lives in this house. Pearl suffered third-degree burns to eighty percent of her body in a house fire that Owen caused which also killed his parents. His Grandma is an extremely rude and religious zealot who has no problems telling Isabel that she is a slut. Pearl is much nicer but doesn't come out of her room because she fears people will ridicule her looks. This is where things start to get uncomfortable.

To give much more away would ruin the film. I'll just say things becoming increasing more dark and sinister, and the movie ends on a slightly grisly, downbeat note. While I enjoyed the build-up, the ending is the movie's biggest downfall. I think I personally thought things were going to get much worse than they actually did, so when Trash Fire suddenly ends, I felt a little let down by the ending. I guess I wanted more Pearl and more craziness. Still, it doesn't completely ruin the rest of this odd and twisted little movie.

Now onto the acting. I'm not a big fan of Adrian Grenier. Never liked much of his stuff minus James Toback's Harvard Man with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I think Trash Fire is his best performance to date. He is a complete arsehole in Trash Fire, and it really suits him very well. Angela Trimbur runs circles around Adrian Grenier. She is excellent as his girlfriend who puts up with his shit. I loved her in this film. The women of Trash Fire are the standouts in this movie. Every single one of the women in his life deliver fantastic performances.

Owen's Grandma is played by Fionnula Flanagan. She is evil and venomous. Both those words are an understatement. I don't think I've seen a matriarch so evil since Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. What can I say about AnnaLynne McCord? She deserves more recognition. She's worked with Richard Bates Jr. on Excision and Trash Fire now. If these performances are anything to go off, she is suited as his muse. Her final scene as Pearl had me cheering even if I wanted more. All three woman deliver the goods.

Don't go into Trash Fire expecting a scary movie as you'll be sorely disappointed. This is more of a dark comedy than a horror film. The movie does go to some dark places, but the movie is void of any real suspense or jump scares. Don't go into this one and expect a straight up scare-fest as this feels razor sharp and pitch-black. Trash Fire is more of an uncomfortable experience than an unnerving or intense one. Just go into this for the fantastic performances and twistedness of the story, and you should have a good time with this story.
 







DEATH TOLL:
 2

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A woman is seen bleeding and burning alive in a vision.
- A guy has a fit while having sex and drools over a woman's face.
- A man is shown burning alive in a vision.
- An old lady has a vision of her family with their eyes removed.
- An old lady is seen masturbating on a couch.
- A snake has its head ripped off.
- A man and woman are shot with a shotgun.








Trash Fire starts off as a dark comedy and slowly descends into utter madness. The film is very well acted from all involved, it successfully mixes both dark humour with violence, and I cared for the majority of the characters here. Where I had problems with the film was the ending. I expected things to go much further than they actually did and when it suddenly ends, I was left a little disappointed with the ending. Still, this is an enjoyably twisted little film. Like Pet, this was a movie that really surprised me more than disappointing me.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Holidays (2016)








DIRECTORS:


Kevin Smith
Gary Shore
Anthony Scott Burns
Kevin Kolsch
Adam Egypt Mortimer
Nicholas McCarthy
Ellen Reid
Sarah Adina Smith
Scott Stewart
Dennis Widmyer

WRITERS:


Kevin Smith

Gary Shore
Anthony Scott Burns
Kevin Kolsch
Nicholas McCarthy
Sarah Adina Smith
Scott Stewart
Dennis Widmyer

CAST:


Seth Green
Lorenza Izzo
Harley Quinn Smith
Jocelin Donahue
Ruth Bradley
Clare Grant
Aleska Palladino
Michael Gross
Andrew Bowen
Ashley Greene
Savannah Kennick
Sophie Traub
Madeleine Caghlan
Harley Morenstein
Shelby Kemper
Rick Peters

PLOT:

Holidays is an anthology movie that features eight horror inspired short films that are dedicated to some of the most celebrated and beloved holidays of the year. The story features segments that are devoted to Father's Day, Mother's Day, Christmas, Easter, St. Patricks Day, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and New Year's Eve and all eight short films contain a unique and twisted vision on the holidays we love and cherish.







I love myself a good anthology horror film. Over the last few years, we've seen the V/H/S and ABC's Of Death films add an entertaining and twisted new perspective into the anthology sub-genre of horror cinema. Ten directors have been brought in to add their own twisted perspectives on some of our most beloved holidays, and while some of the short films fall short, I found myself really enjoying this latest film Holidays.


Each short film will be given a paragraph and be reviewed from WORST To BEST:

FATHER'S DAY:


My least favourite short film comes in the form of Father's Day. Father's Day has all the makings of the perfect horror short. It's filled with an overall sense of dread and has a sombre tone. This also makes it the most depressing and slowest entry in the anthology. When compared to the other seven short films, it lacks the weirdness, the colourfulness, and violence of the other shorts. It actually feels sort of out of place. What the short does get right is a solid leading performance from Jocelin Donahue, and the short film is incredibly slick on a visual level.

MOTHER'S DAY:

Mother's Day is one of the weirdest entries in this anthology. It's not really complex regarding the story, but the coven of witches doing a ritual that will see our female protagonist give birth is one of the most fun payoffs in the entire film. The last few frames will leave people shocked. A solid moment that is entirely unexpected. The naked ritual dance also had me thoroughly creeped out. The short is very well shot and another solid performance from lead actress Sophie Traub.

EASTER:

I found Easter to be the most unsettling short film when it came to giving us a nasty monster. This Easter Bunny will go down in cinematic history as one of the creepiest rabbits ever put on film. This bunny looks like a mix of Gary Oldman's Mason Verger character from Hannibal and a half human, demonic rabbit. The short is dark, twisted and the metaphors around religion are incredibly well done. A very creepy short from beginning to end.

HALLOWEEN:

With Halloween, you can tell immediately that you're about to witness a Kevin Smith short film. Straight off the bat, we are dealing with overtly sexual themes, porn and a villain who is some fat slob talking about pussy. What this short does so well is that it turns everything on its head in its final minute and becomes a story of revenge and girl power. It's bloody and at times somewhat hilarious. All involved put in top-notch performances.

VALENTINE'S DAY:

Valentine's Day gives us our first short film in the movie itself and comes out of the gate with a retro looking and quirky story of obsession, bullying, and bloody revenge. The short also adds the taboo element of the obsession being based around a young teenage girl and her coach. The short is colourful, well-acted, and visually polished. The performances from Rick Peters, Madeleine Coghlan, and Savannah Kennick are fantastic. The payoff at the end is excellent.

NEW YEAR'S EVE:

New Year's Eve is one of my favourite shorts based on the simple fact that it is easily the most brutal and gory of the short films. It's build-up and twist is also very clever. Lorenza Izzo gives us the crazed performance to match her one in Knock, Knock and Andrew Bowen gives us one that is full of gross, stomach-churning accuracy. The last segment is also one of the most fun once the payoff is revealed. A great way to end Holidays.

CHRISTMAS:

There was an underrated horror film that came out in the nineties called Brainscan. It starred the once great Edward Furlong. It was about of a new game that when played would come true. Any murder committed in the game becomes real. Christmas feels very similar to that movie. What you watch in virtual reality shows who you really are and it includes murder. I loved Brainscan and enjoyed the hell out of Christmas. It's quirky and Seth Green and Clare Grant who play an onscreen couple as well as being married in real life fantastic in this short.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY:

My favourite short film is St. Patrick's Day. The short is the second that deals with pregnancy. This short is also the most utterly bizarre. The ending is what I'd expect from someone like Alejandro Jodorowsky with a touch of Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man. It's cultish and odd yet has a sense of real humour about it. The final scene needs to be seen to be believed. The lead performance from Ruth Bradley is also a standout in the anthology.

Finally, Father's Day is probably the only short film that I didn't really enjoy. But in saying that, I still found things that I enjoyed about it. The other seven short films all range from good to excellent. I think all short films used their themes rather well. The performances in each short film are solid with slick direction. I have to mention each short films segue into each new short was also pretty creative. I loved the use of the cards being opened with a little picture and message.







DEATH TOLL:
 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is hit in the head with a brick.
- A girl has her heart removed.
- A woman gives birth to a snake.
- The creepiest mutated easter bunny ever.
- A full-grown arm emerges from a woman's uterus.
- Someone is smacked in the head with a toaster.
- Someone has a vibrator inserted into their anus and superglued shut.
- A man gives himself vaginoplasty.
- A guy has a heart attack.
- Death by electric meat carver.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- Jars full of eyeballs.
- Body parts are found in a bathtub.
- Foot sliced off with an axe.
- An axe to the head.

 





Holiday's is an extremely entertaining horror anthology. Out of the eight short films, I found myself enjoying seven of the eight segments. Even with the segment that I did not enjoy, I still found elements that I quite liked about the short. The segments all range from the strange to the creepy. The acting in each short is above average, and all the short films looked slick with a polished production. One of the more enjoyable anthology films to come out in recent years.