Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Frankenstein (1910)








DIRECTOR: J. Searle Dawley

WRITER: J. Searle Dawley

CAST:

Augustus Phillips
Charles Ogle
Mary Fuller

PLOT:

Frankenstein is a young student who discovers that he can create life. With science, he plans to build the perfect human being that the world has ever seen. It's when his creation turns out the be a hideous monster that he returns home defeated. When he returns home to his sweetheart, his monstrous creation follows him and turns out to be jealous of anyone else who tries to get close to Frankenstein.








I'll be the first to admit that I've never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It wasn't a requirement for us to read during English class when I was in school. We were stuck reading The Outsiders and Romeo And Juliet. So I've never really been that interested in the whole story and legend behind Victor Frankenstein. With my sudden interest in delving into the early short films of the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds. I decided to tackle my first film adaptation of the classic story.

As the short began, I was immediately pulled in. The film while silent had a score and title cards to get us from one scene to the next. Up until this point, none of the other short films had done that. At fourteen minutes, this is also the longest short film that I've reviewed to date. I was entirely into the way this short was structured. It felt like it was the first glimpse that I was getting into what would eventually become the way that Hollywood now makes movies. It felt like a proper scene and act.

The standout moment of this short is the creation of Frankenstein's monster. A scene that is both dazzling and horrific. I'm so used to the scene featuring electricity being the element that revives his monster. This is something else entirely. His creation is created in a cauldron. The body goes from ash and over a few minutes, regenerates from nothing to flesh and bone. It's a haunting visual that had even me wondering how they created this in the early nineteen hundreds.

Frankenstein is drenched in a golden hue. This wasn't in black and white like the four previous short films that I had reviewed on the blog. I'm not sure if the version that I watched was a newly restored version of the short or this is how it initially played to audiences. It almost looks like the film stock had been exposed to the sunlight and it caused the film to be ruined nearly. While grainy regarding quality. I thought that the orange tinge of the film gave the film a visual that set it apart from the other short movies that I've watched.

The score that was created for the short film is fantastic. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was especially effective during the creation of Frankenstein's Monster. I also liked it during the scenes where his monstrous creation followed him home. I thought it was a genuinely well-done score. It really does show how much music can change a scene in a movie. Without it, the fourteen minutes may have played entirely differently. This could have been a completely different experience without this excellent soundtrack.







DEATH TOLL: 0


BLOOD AND GORE:

- A body is seen of fire and regenerating from bone to flesh.







It's hard not to appreciate the creativity in the first-ever film adaptation of the classic, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The score is fantastic, the title card and use of letters to propel the silent story forward is neat, and we have some truly haunting visuals in the infamous Frankenstein's Monster creation sequence. This is worth a watch, just to say that you've witnessed where it all begun for Frankenstein on a visual level.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

You Get Me (2017)








DIRECTOR: Brent Bonacorso

WRITER: Ben Epstein

CAST:

Bella Thorne
Halston Sage
Taylor John Smith
Nash Grier
Anna Akana
Rhys Wakefield
Brigid Brannagh
Kathryn Morris
Garcelle Beauvais

PLOT:

Alison and Tyler are a young teenage couple. While at a party, Tyler is told by a fellow partygoer that he once slept with his girlfriend. Tyler is upset as he believes he would be her first. They call it quits, and Tyler meets Holly, a free-spirited and fun loving girl who he spends the night with. Once Tyler leaves Holly that night, he and Alison decide to get back together. His life is soon thrown into chaos when Holly shows up at school and infiltrates his friend's circle. Her obsession will turn his life upside down.








Growing up, some of my all-time favourite genre films were the 'Obsession' thrillers. Going into You Get Me, I was excited just for the simple fact that I've always enjoyed a movie where a woman or man turns obsessive and decides to turn someone's life upside down. I don't know why I gravitate towards these sleazy and sordid sorts of movies, but I do. So I was all settled in and got myself ready for some Single White Female type of carnage.

Does You Get Me add anything even remotely new to the 'Obsession' thriller? No. This movie pretty much follows a lot of the best and most well-known obsession thrillers in their very footsteps. When it comes to being beat for beat, this movie stays extremely close, uncomfortably so. You Get Me really does stick to all the tropes that you come to expect from this type of movie. You know what though, while I can't justify giving this a positive review. I still revelled in some of the craziness.

What You Get Me does right is that things escalate very quickly. When the shit hits the fan, and things start to go south, it's very quick. There is no waiting an hour for things to get juicy. Holly and Tyler hook up within minutes of the movie starting, and her obsessive nature kicks in immediately. What this does for You Get Me is it makes the entire hour and a half go by very quickly. This is fast-paced and brisk. I was never once bored, and for that, it deserves a point.

Being that this was a Netflix original, I was hoping that things would get really dark and brutal as the situation escalated. Sadly, this feels like the director was conflicted about his vision or how far he wanted to take some of the events in this film. So one of Holly's first lines in the film is that if Tyler swallows an Ecstasy pill, she will swallow his load. This line caught me off guard. I immediately thought that if he's as willing to give us that dialogue, gore and violence should be no problem. I was wrong.

This feels like our director wasn't scared of being sexual with dialogue or some of the teen based love scenes, but when it came to the violence, he shied away from going to some gruesome places with the violence. While there is death and violence here, this feels very light and PG-rated. You won't see much blood at all, and I was really hoping that we would be given at least a bunny being boiled or a German Shepard head being tossed through a doggy-door. When Fear, a 90's teen movie which was about obsession has a decapitated dog, and this can only muster up a suffocation, you know this is marketed for teenagers.

When it comes to the acting, Bella Thorne is the standout. While she could've gone to even more extreme places as a woman scorned, who wants revenge and to ruin a life. It's like she is only half of the way there with her performance. That doesn't say much for the rest of a cast who are all very pretty but don't really have much else to do in their roles. I didn't expect Bella Thorne to give us the depths of someone like Glenn Close or Mark Wahlberg when playing it crazy but this feels almost sedated. Still, the best of a bad bunch.

I have to admit that my music taste is pretty varied when it comes to the spectrum. I love a bit of every genre. You Get Me is catering to that tropical house crowd. Every single cut into a new scene greets the audience with a huge club banger. After that second song, it all just sounded the same to me. If you told me tomorrow that Kygo or Avicii scored the film, I wouldn't second-guess it. Another chance to impress the MTV crowd with current, club-ready tracks.

Lastly, I have to mention the set up for this movie and how frustrating it is to watch everything fall apart when a simple bit of honesty could've saved everyone the time. Tyler is given a chance to tell Alison that he slept with another girl after she broke up with him. If he had, she had no right as she also wasn't honest with him. Instead, he lies, and it throws into motion some pretty terrible events. Also, all of the lying makes their characters completely unlikeable. I ended feeling mostly sorry for Bella Thorne who is meant to be the villain. I don't think that was the intent.







DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is seen bleeding from the mouth after being knocked over.
- A woman suffocates her step-mother with a plastic bag.
- A girl is strung up and bleeding from a head wound.
- A man is shot in the shoulder.
- A woman is stabbed in the side with a fire poker.
- A girl is poisoned and bleeds from the nose while having an allergy attack.








When it comes to the 'Obsession' thriller, I have a huge soft spot for them. Going into You Get Me, I was expecting to eat up all the sleaziness and sordid events that were depicted in the movie. Sadly, You Get Me, like many of these films, doesn't offer up anything new. This feels like a watered-down version of the many better thrillers out there. A club heavy soundtrack, some vacant performances from everyone but Bella Thorne and some pretty silly situations drag this rather briskly paced thriller down.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

WTF! (2017)








DIRECTOR: Peter Herro

WRITERS:

Peter Herro
Adam Buchalter
Christopher Lawrence Centanni

CAST:

Callie Ott
Nicholas James Reilly
Andrea Hunt
Benjamin Norris
Sarah Agor
Adam Foster
Johnny James Fiore
Perez Hilton
Chloe Berman

PLOT:

Rachel is a young woman who was the sole survivor of a gruesome murder spree that took place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Now that she has moved on with her life and on from the horrific events of her past, her new group of friends convinces her to come away for a weekend of partying, drinking, sun, and fun. When they arrive at the cabin, they begin being brutally murdered, one by one, by a hooded killer.








I went into WTF! pretty excited to watch the movie. I had witnessed the uncut poster with the naked woman who is holding her breast, screaming, covered in cuts, slashes, and blood. It looked like a bloody, good time. Also, I couldn't really pass up a chance to watch a movie with a title like WTF: What The Fuck. I had expected a blood-soaked slasher. Something that may possibly be a hell of a lot of fun. A great title and poster, sadly do not make a great movie.

The movie opens with quick glimpses and shots of people being maimed in a secluded cabin in the woods. We witness a woman defending herself while stabbing a bloke to death. I was with it for all of about two seconds. That was until we cut to present day and see the camera open up on Perez Hilton who I assume is meant to be throwing a frat pool party and playing a frat boy himself. The man has aged like a withered boot. The first big mistake is having the audience believe that Perez Hilton is a gay frat boy.

We are quickly subjected to the group of soon-to-be victims. All of the familiar horror movie stereotypes of the young woman who is uptight, the slutty one, the rich snobby bitch, the stoner, the jock, and the nerd. Sadly, not one of these monsters is likeable. Luckily for us, Perez Hilton is made scarce after he admits to the rich bitch that he is keen to bang her so he can get his straight-v card. The movie is bloody and gory and the only time I wanted to throw up in my mouth was listening to Perez Hilton mention him wanting to go straight for the night. Us, the gay community don't want him. I'm sure as shit the straight community doesn't either.

Once our group of douche-canoes gets to the cabin, we just sit around watching them strip off and get naked, go skinny-dipping, talk about rooting each other, witness the two hot girls make out, drink, and do drugs. While the entire cast is gorgeous to look at, in and out of their clothes, they are all so insipid. The dialogue is hideous. That's to be expected when you have three guys writing the words of college kids. I'm sure they sat around trying to come up with naughty phrases for vocal-fried, valley girls and himbo jocks. In all honesty, though, I didn't expect Shakespeare.

What does WTF! get right? Well, the movie has some solid death scenes, blood, and gore. We see people's heads get set on fire, appendages are chopped off, throats are slashed, and we see someone have their intestines pulled out. When the movie finally decides to start killing off the cast, I thought that the carnage wasn't half bad. I found myself relishing in the pain and misery of these characters. As I didn't connect to any of them, it was enjoyable to watch them suffer. At least they got the violence right.

WTF! also has one of the most beautiful looking and luxurious cabins that I think I've seen in a horror movie ever. I'm not sure if I'd consider this more of a holiday house as it comes with a pool and all the amenities but I loved this place. This may be the first time that I've ever used my love of architecture as a positive aspect of a movie that ended up being a disappointment to me. It's just that this film doesn't have all that much going for it and the things that I enjoyed are far and few between.

One of the most significant issues that I think people will have with this flick is that ending twist. The film reveals the killer, and it isn't at all that surprising. You spend the movie seeing flashbacks of this sole survivor being interviewed by the police and then she's now at a second cabin, and people start getting murdered again. It's not a shock to find out who the killer is and where this plot was going to end up. I think the biggest issue with the twist is that they throw in a second 'imaginary' character who was never there all along and it's just poorly executed.

Lastly, we come to the acting, and I can't give it much praise. The characters are so poorly written that the acting is only as good as the writing allows it to be. All of the characters are obnoxious, and they aren't at all likeable. So their acting comes across as the same. I think this screenplay has a lot to do with how bad the dialogue is but watching the actors try and spit out this dreck was painful to watch. I'm sure if these actors were given a better script to work with, they might have been able to deliver better performances.







DEATH TOLL: 8

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A guy is stabbed and has his penis cut off.
- A woman is hit in the back with a tomahawk.
- A man is repeatedly stabbed and has his intestines pulled out.
- A woman is seen with a massive gash on her face.
- A man's throat is slashed.
- An old man is stabbed and punched in the face.
- A woman with her throat cut is shown.
- A bloodied woman is stabbed in the back.
- A victim is stabbed offscreen.
- A woman steps on a nail.
- A man is stabbed in the back.
- A body is seen with its eyeballs ripped out.
- A woman's face is burnt off with a lighter and can of hairspray.
- A woman is kicked in the face.
- A woman has her head repeatedly smashed on the ground.








WTF! has a pretty awesome poster and a pretty cool title. The movie also contains some solid gore and bloodshed, but that's where it ends for this cabin in the woods inspired slasher film. The movie is filled with obnoxious characters, terrible dialogue, a predictable killer reveal, and a second twist that has been done in other movies and a lot better. If you're looking for something original, you'll be sorely disappointed. Go and check out the uncut poster as it's much more impressive than the final film.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

200 Degrees (2017)








DIRECTOR: Giorgio Serafini

WRITER: Garry Charles

CAST:

Eric Balfour
Kristin Cochell
LaDon Drummond
Chris Palin
Larry Wade Carrell
Johnny Sinclair
Joe Grisaffi

PLOT:

Ryan Hinds wakes up to find himself locked in a sealed industrial kiln. As Ryan comes to it, a voice appears over the intercom. The voice begins to tell Ryan that he has two hours to transfer a million dollars to a specified bank account. Every several minutes that he doesn't receive the money, the temperature will rise by three degrees. It will be a race against time to come up with the money. If he doesn't secure the requested amount, he must just end up getting cooked.








As I sat down to watch 200 Degrees. I knew this was going to be one of those films that was set in one location and it would basically be an hour and a half of one man being tortured under a set of heat lamps. I hadn't watched the trailer before sitting down to witness the movie, in hopes that I would be surprised but just going off the poster. I knew exactly what I was in for with this movie but still held out hope that this would deliver some solid shocks.

With a movie then spends an hour and a half with one actor and in one location. You have to cast an actor that can carry a film. Eric Balfour is a solid actor in my eyes. He will be most well known to people for being Jessica Biel's unlucky boyfriend in 2003's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. He also does drama and action very well. He had reoccurring roles in Six Feet Under, 24 and Haven. He even bared all in the very graphic and sexual drama film Lie With Me. This guy is talented, so I expected to be drawn in by his performance.

For the first act of 200 Degrees. I was right there with Eric Balfour's Ryan. I actually felt sorry for the guy. He spends the first act pleading for his life. We see him slowly adapt to the nightmarish situation he has been thrust into and I was totally onboard and on his side. So for that first act, we are just getting to know the demands of the unknown and unseen voice and a terrified Ryan. The first act is where the film is the most interesting and most intense. After that, things fall apart.

The second act of the film shows Ryan trying to do anything possible to save his own life. He also breaks the rules several times. He makes calls to his police officer brother who tries to track his cell phone to no avail. He begs his parents for cash that he gave them. During the second act is where I caught onto the inevitable twist and eventual reveal. The movie only has a couple of characters who are unseen. You can see that Ryan is a man who has wronged or disappointed everyone he loves. It's not hard to guess. I'm shocked there is no curveball here. It all feels too easy.

Another problem with 200 Degrees is that as the film slogs along. We come to realise that Ryan isn't a very likable character. He steals money from his client, he takes back the money that he has given to his mother that pays for his sick father's care, and he also cheats on his wife who he has a child with. So everything they've built in making us want to see this character get out of this situation alive is thrown out the window immediately. I no longer cared for his character or if he got out of this situation. I couldn't care if he burned to death.

Once we get to the third act of the film and the twist is finally revealed. I knew who it was as I mentioned above. So there was no shock or surprise here. When the reason behind why the villain(s) have done this to Ryan, it is just so ludicrous. The motive is ridiculous. I almost laughed when they were trying to tell Ryan why they have done this to him. The movie also tries to then lay another twist down on top of the already silly twist that shows Ryan getting the upper hand and I was done at this point. I was just happy to see this film end.

Sadly, 200 Degrees isn't very intense. A movie where the only possible way of dying is being boiled and cooked to death. It really doesn't offer much else in terms of it delivering many original ways to hurt Ryan. I think this movie loses steam after the first act. Once we see the temperature rising, it becomes rather boring watching him race against time over and over again and seeing the villain try to scare him. After the first or second time, it really doesn't pack much of a punch after that.

Lastly, the film on a visual level is rather dull. There really isn't much of a visual flair here. This is one location that features a rusted and metal industrial kiln with lots of heat lamps. This movie just looks boring. This is a lot of browns and reds, and they don't do much with the location. Minus a few split screens or a camera angle in the corner of the kiln. This movie is nothing to write home about in terms of creativity. In saying that though, this could be due to being lower budget, and for that, I can't be too hard on the filmmaker.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- We hear someone burn to death on the other end of a phone call.
- Someone is shot in the stomach.
- Someone is shot in the head.








200 Degrees is a movie that has a decent leading performance from Eric Balfour. The first act of the film is pretty interesting, and I was on board. After the first act, it sort of loses steam. The premise feels repetitive. The twist is also predictable. Where the movie also loses points is that it builds us up to feel sorry for a character and throws it all away then try to redeem him and it all feels a little too little, too late. The one location premise has been done more successfully. Watch Phone Booth, Saw or Tape.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sam Was Here (2017)








DIRECTOR:
 Christophe Deroo


WRITERS:

Christophe Deroo
Clement Tuffreau

CAST:

Rusty Joiner
Rhoda Pell
Sigrid La Chapelle
Hassan Galedary

PLOT:

Set in 1998, Sam is a door to door salesman. While travelling through the Californian Mojave Desert, he is on the lookout for new clients. Everywhere seems to be void of human life. When he starts to receive threatening messages and hears on the radio that a child killer is on the loose named Sam, he begins to start coming into contact with people who are trying to kill him. Is he really the killer or is he losing his grip on reality?







What caught my eye about Sam Was Here was the poster for this movie. The poster art doesn't give much away at all. The poster features a car with its brake lights on that is pulled into a darkened and desolate motel. Looking at the poster for the film I was seriously under the pretence that I was about to watch a movie in the same vein as Vacancy and Identity. These are a couple of films that I really enjoyed and still do to this day. I was excited to see what this film would deliver.

Sam Was Here runs at a very short seventy-five minutes. For a movie that short, I was hoping for a tight and taut little horror flick. I was hoping for a film that would wrap itself up in a neat little package. Sadly, this is a movie with a lot of problems. The first being the running time. Had the plot been fleshed out more, maybe twenty minutes longer or even had the script had more attention paid to it, I may have had an actual film that was a lot clearer in vision.

The movie starts out pretty strong as well as strange. We get a man who is alone in the desert. He is going door to door of trailer homes to old petrol stations, trying to find clients. These early desolate scenes are beautifully shot and very eerie. I found myself quite intrigued with where this story was heading. This movie has this sense of dread quite early on. Once things start to spiral out of control, this is where the film starts to go off the rails.

Once the movie has our door to door salesman on the receiving end of a sniper rifle, this is where the movie really loses its way. The story descends into a very odd little cat and mouse game. Our character is introduced to a range of people wearing masks who are on the hunt and trying to kill him. The movie gives us little hints as to why these people may be on the hunt for him, but it's never really explained. The story goes from a man alone to a man being hunted and never once is it laid out for the audience. This is left up to us to interpret what is taking place.

If you are looking for a movie that gives you answers, you are looking at the wrong film. This plays out, and nothing makes sense in the end. This is trying to be weird with a story that doesn't spell anything out for you. I'm usually down for a film that plays with the audience. A movie that doesn't hand you an easy answer on a silver platter. Sadly, I think the filmmaker and writer also don't get what Sam Was Here is about. I think they had an idea somewhere in there, yet they just couldn't execute it as it just sort of spirals out of control, and I was left scratching my head.

Where this movie also has issues is that it tries to introduce an almost alien or sci-fi type twist to the story. Several times throughout, we see a glowing red light descend from the sky, and again, it's never explained as to why it's there. Had this film done away with the red light and possible UFO-like themes, and was instead a straight up cat and mouse game of a father who may have killed his own child and is on the run and now has a group of weird people who are chasing him down at the behest of a mother who wants revenge. I think while more simple in story, it may have played more smoothly. This entire thing is messy.


When it comes to the cinematography in this film, I cannot recommend this enough. Director Christophe Deroo has turned in a gorgeously shot little thriller. The wide and open landscape shots of the Mojave Desert are stunning. This entire production while making no sense, I simply cannot fault this on an aesthetic level. It deserves to be seen just for the camera work. The film also starts off strongly when delivering the suspense. Sadly by the end of the film, all intensity is lost when the film tries to go weird but is a swing and a miss.

Lastly, the acting in the film all hangs on the shoulders of actor Rusty Joiner. While there are other actors in this movie, most are wearing creepy masks. This is the sort of story that puts our leading man through his paces and for the most part, he really delivers. He is shot, beaten up, slashed and a range of other things. As a once model turned actor, I think he delivers a solid performance. For most of this film, he is on the verge of a breakdown, and I felt for his character.








DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is shot in the shoulder.
- Someone is slashed in the face with a knife.
- A woman knocks boiling water onto her own face.
- Someone is shot in the stomach by a shotgun.
- Someone is strangled to death with a phone cord.







Sam Was Here is something of a misfire. The film starts out pretty well, and I found myself quite intrigued with where things were heading in the story. What starts as an eerie and at times creepy cat and mouse game throws in what appears to be an alien-like subplot that goes off the rails. The biggest blunder that this film makes is that it just ends without explaining any of the seventy-five minutes that happens before it. You can interpret this as a man in his own personal Hell for the murder of a child. I just felt that it wasn't executed well. Some great cinematography and a solid lead performance can't save this psychological thriller.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Another Evil (2017)








DIRECTOR: Carson Mell

WRITER: Carson Mell

CAST:

Steve Zissis
Mark Proksch
Jennifer Irwin
Dax Flame
Steve Little
Dan Bakkedahl

PLOT:

When an artist and his family are staying at their vacation home and witness a ghost, they end up hiring an exorcist who is recommended to them by a friend. He is said to be an assassin of the paranormal. Soon after he arrives, the family soon realises that the spirits may not be the only things to fear in their house. As they begin to remove the ghosts, their new exorcist may be harder to get rid of than the actual spectres.







When I first finished Another Evil, I had wondered to myself am I too hard to please? I pondered this because not once during an hour and a half did I find this movie even remotely funny or enjoyable. The movie is a comedy horror film. For me, they are one of the hardest types of films to pull off because they need to get that balance right to be successful in both genres. If one outweighs the other, it could end up disappointing both horror fans and fans of comedy horrors.

Another Evil starts off rather well. As a horror film, it's actually effective during these early scenes. The movie opens with our family hearing sounds upstairs while they are downstairs in the living room playing a game. The father goes upstairs to investigate to find a chair overturned and some paintbrushes arranged in a triangle. Things only escalate from this point on and for the first ten minutes of the movie, I genuinely got chills during the night scenes where the family hear and start seeing ghosts.

For the next hour and fifteen minutes, the movie just sort of flatlines for me. Once we are introduced to the exorcist, who is a paranormal assassin. This flick turns from this somewhat chillingly creepy horror movie into a quirky exchange of words between its two lead characters. This is where the movie tended to try for comedy but didn't work for me. One is a family man and an artist that is growing increasingly frustrated with the exorcist. The exorcist is a weird loner who you don't know whether he is actually really gifted or a complete fraud.

I find comedy to be the hardest genre to enjoy. I think getting someone to laugh is a lot harder to do than any other feeling or emotion. I also think horror is as equally as hard. It's hard to create tension, suspense, and to craft a well-built scare. I think that the comedy in this movie for me felt like that awkward 'The Office' type comedy just without the characters ever looking at the cameras. It just wasn't funny for me. So I spent an hour and a half being bored more than anything. After the first ten minutes, it lacked both horror and comedy.

The movie in the final few minutes reverts back to being a pretty dark horror movie. This is where I thought the movie began to get some life again. It's just too little, too late by this point. I spent close to eighty-five percent of the movie being utterly bored by both the characters, their dynamic and the comedy that the little bursts of horror weren't enough for me to find much at all to enjoy this film. I think that critics, on the other hand, will find a lot to enjoy as this seems just quirky and odd enough from the other films this year that it might stand out as an indie hit.

When it comes to the suspense and tension. I think the first ten minutes and the last several minutes of the movie are actually pretty effective as a horror movie. There is a scene early on when the teenage son wakes up, and we hear this horrific moan in the dark hallway that sent chills up my spine. There is also a nice little ghost on the staircase scene that felt like a homage to The Grudge. The ending is also pretty dark. I didn't see where this movie was heading early on, but I think I enjoyed the horror elements more than the comedy.

What I would have liked to see in the movie is a little more backstory on the ghosts. We see a range of paranormal entities during the course of the movie, and we believe that the exorcist is also aware that they are there, but we never find out why they are stuck or how they came to die. So we get these pretty scary looking ghosts but never get any explanation. I get that they have left things unanswered, but the scene where we see a ghost with a tentacle coming out of its vagina is almost alien-like in nature. I would have liked to see more of the backstory.

Lastly, we come to the acting in the movie. I think the acting is hit and miss for me. I didn't connect or like basically any of the main characters here, so it was pretty hard to enjoy their performances. I think the standout here is Steve Zissis as the artist and family man. I think he played his role well enough that come to the end of the film, I wanted to see him survive for the most part. Mark Proksch as our exorcist is the one I couldn't deal with here. He is so annoying and over the top that his performance felt grating to me. I didn't care for the character at all or his influence over the others.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:


- A demon is seen crawling up the stairs with blood on its face.
- A ghost with a tentacle coming out of its vagina is shown.
- A man is hit in the face with a bowl.
- Two men fight in the desert.
- A man is shown with a bloody face.








Another Evil is a movie that I think will be a hit with the critics and indie horror fans. The movie has this quirky character dynamic to it all. For me, the movie sadly misses the mark. The movie is light on horror and laughs. The comedy is probably this films biggest weakness. It's all played fairly deadpan, and I simply wasn't a fan of it. It's also not helped that the villain is not likeable in any sense of the word. The first ten minutes of actual suspense and solid tension and a dark ending can't save this movie from being lifeless. Another Evil is a miss for me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Unforgettable (2017)








DIRECTOR: Denise Di Novi

WRITER: Christina Hodson

CAST:

Rosario Dawson
Katherine Heigl
Geoff Stults
Isabella Kai Rice
Cheryl Ladd
Alex Quijano
Sarah Burns
Whitney Cummings
Robert Wisdom

PLOT:

Julia Banks has had a bad run of things. Her previous boyfriend was abusive, and she managed to escape with her life. She is now off of all social media and keeping low in hopes that her ex-boyfriend never finds her. Julia is happy in a new relationship, and she believes that she has met the man of her dreams and plans on marrying, David. The only problem is that he has a daughter with his ex-wife Tessa. Tessa is not over David and plans on ruining Julia's life in hopes that she can win David back and have their family reconnected.







It's been established that I have a thing for thrillers that deal with obsession. I don't care if it's a crazy ex-boyfriend or a one night stand gone wrong. I really just revel in the uncomfortableness of watching someone being watched and stalked, having their entire life turned upside down and then that inevitable final showdown. These movies really do follow a pretty tired formula that I've seen a million times already, but I still can't help myself, I enjoy watching these obsession based thrillers.

Going into Unforgettable, I was well aware of what to expect from this movie. Here I was hoping that having Rosario Dawson in the lead and Katherine Heigl as the villain that I'd get to witness some campy enjoyment from these two actresses. At least one or two glaringly bitchy stares and a nice violent showdown towards the final. For the most part, we get exactly that. But Unforgettable plays like some Lifetime television movie and not a film that feels very cinematic.

What Unforgettable does right is that it gets to the uncomfortable stuff pretty quickly. This movie wastes no time in building up characters or giving us much backstory for the two ladies. We are dropped right into the middle of their drama. We can see that Rosario Dawson is covered in bruises, blood, and scratches. We quickly learn that she has apparently been sending provocative photos to her abusive ex-boyfriend. This is given to the audience right away, and we know that Katherine Heigl is really messing with Rosario and we haven't even been introduced to her yet.

The movie takes us back into the past. I assume it's a few months at most. We see that Katherine Heigl is immediately unhappy that her ex-husband has found love with another woman. We see that her character Tessa is very elegant, dresses well, and is also very strict and controlling. She puts up a front that shows she is very strong. She has a dark side though. We watch as she quickly tries to destroy Julia. Creating her a Facebook profile, stealing her mobile, sending photos to an abusive ex-boyfriend, and even undermining Julia at every step of the way when she is around Tessa's daughter. This all happens very quickly.

The best element of the movie is that it never really stops or slows down. The entire movie feels very brisk in terms of these two women coming to blows. In saying that, though. The movie rarely gives us anything new or surprising. If you've watched any movie that deals with obsession, you have seen this film beat for beat. It builds up to the final showdown, and while we get one of those, it all feels very quickly resolved. It is over and done with as soon as it starts. The final showdown is all of two minutes of these two woman meeting one last time. It's all very anticlimactic.

The biggest upset in this movie that will likely anger a lot of viewers is probably that ending. The film has a child in the middle of these two warring women. The ending is one that leaves a daughter without a mother, but she now has a stepmother. We are meant to take away that because one woman was strict and wanted to see her young daughter succeed that her death was easier to forget? It ends abruptly, and we are all meant to assume this young girl is okay with not having her real mother because she was tough on her. This didn't sit right with me. They quickly try to build that Julia the stepmother is nicer, so all is forgotten. Not buying it.

When it comes to being a thriller, Unforgettable is not very thrilling. The film is barren when it comes to suspense and tension. While briskly paced, which is a plus, the film is not at all great as a thriller. There never feels like any danger. There isn't any real shocks or surprises. Minus the ending, this feels very light. For a theatrical release, I am surprised they didn't take this into a darker territory or give us something more bloody. This would have been perfect for Lifetime. Any soap actress could have done this film and tackled these underwritten characters.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Rosario Dawson is a solid actress. You can witness that from dozens of movies in her lengthy career. Here she is upstaged by a much darker Katherine Heigl. This is her show. If you've ever read the press and how they love to slander Katherine Heigl and label her a bitch. She is giving it to them here in her role as Tessa. She was the most enjoyable element of this film. Cheryl Ladd is underused here, and Geoff Stults is given nothing to really do here. He is probably the weakest character in the film. He's pretty but given nothing to do in the movie.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is seen with bruises and scratches all over her face.
- A woman pulls herself onto a knife.
- A woman is punched in the face.
- A woman has her face smashed into a glass picture.
- A man is stabbed in the leg and heart.
- A man is hit in the head with a fire poker.







Unforgettable joins the long line of 'obsession' based thrillers. Sadly, it offers nothing new to the subgenre. Minus a questionable ending that is sure to upset some mothers out there. This is all pretty straightforward when it comes to its premise. If you have ever seen one of these types of films, you will know what's coming beat for beat. The standout in the film here is Katherine Heigl who seems to be relishing her chance to deliver a darker role and move away from those cheesy romantic comedies she has been now associated with. Only watch if you enjoy obsession movies like I do and make up your own mind about it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monolith (2017)








DIRECTOR: Ivan Silvestrini

WRITERS:

Elena Bucaccio
Robert Recchioni
Stefano Sardo
Ivan Silverstrini
Mauro Uzzeo

CAST:

Katrina Bowden
Jay Hayden
Brandon W. Jones
Ashley Madekwe
Katherine Kelly Lang
Damon Dayoub
Justine Wachsberger
Andrea Ellsworth
Krew Hodges
Nixon Hodges

PLOT:

A young pop star who is taking her baby on a road trip to their grandmother's house decides to take a detour when she believes that her husband may be cheating on her. She is also driving the world's newest and safest vehicle. This automobile is the panic room on wheels. On the detour in the remote desert, she hits a deer. When she gets out of the car to inspect the damage, she is locked out of the car. She now must fight to gain access to the vehicle as temperatures rise and save her young son. 








Monolith which is also known as Locked In in the UK and had the great working title of Trapped Child is part Science Fiction part Thriller part Survival Horror. The film is a simple one. A woman takes a detour through the desert in the world's safest car. The car is basically impenetrable. When she ends up getting locked out, she must try and get her son out as the temperatures soar inside the car. It's a fight to save her child's life, but she must also try and survive herself. A race against time.

Reading about Monolith and some of the reviews on IMDb, I was disheartened, to say the least. Going off the reviews on the website, people were not kind. The movie had some of the harshest and most negative critiques I had seen in recent memory. Only two of the reviews that I read were positive. The rest had absolutely slammed it and gave it a one out of ten. I was a little put-off but decided to give it a watch anyway. After watching Monolith, I'm glad that I gave this one a chance as there are things to enjoy about it. It's far from perfect, but a one out of ten just feels unjustified.

For a movie that played at Frightfest and was chucked on the Lifetime channel. I feel that a lot of the reviews pointed out the fact that this was slapped with the 'Lifetime' movie banner. So it's common knowledge that a Lifetime movie has a sort of stigma about it. They are known for doing really terrible biopics, women in danger films and sappy romance pictures. While this is about a mother fighting for survival, this has to be the most gorgeous and visual effects heavy 'Lifetime' movie ever made if you're gonna lump it into that group.

I think the film will sadly always be classed as that now. A movie that was probably made to be a video on demand title or the director had aspirations of releasing it in cinemas. I think Lifetime got the chance to show it and the film is now tarnished as this Lifetime movie. This is just my thoughts because a vast majority of the negative reviews point it out. Even one going as far as to call it the worst Lifetime movie ever made. I don't agree with that for one single second. This has elements that I really enjoyed and some elements that are sure to cause outrage as seen on IMDb.

I will start by saying that the cinematography in this movie is stunning. It is probably the best that I've seen so far in 2017. The camera sweeping over the gorgeous desert and terrain of Utah looked like a promotional tourism video that is trying to show you how wondrous Utah looks. I cannot stress the point enough that I was mesmerised by just how epic these helicopter shots were. When we aren't confined to the ground, we are being shown the rock formations and multicoloured land, and all I wanted to do was jump on a plane and fly off to Utah for a visit.

When it comes to the visual effects, they are hit and miss for me. But I will say that for an apparent Lifetime movie, this has to be the most effects-heavy of the lot. You can see that the director has used visual effects and CGI on a lot of the stuff in the desert. Like a huge fire so someone can hopefully see or come rescue her, and the all-terrain car up the hill final scene was actually cringe-worthy. Easily some of the worst effects that I've seen outside of an Asylum production but at least the director tried, and I'm sure this had budget constraints.

The big issue that Monolith faces and where it loses points are for the silly character decisions. I'm not a mother or father and don't have children, so a lot of the choices made by the mother are probably warranted for a woman being in a frantic state. I can't know for sure. Pushing an unpenetrable car over a cliff with your child inside to get the doors open seems like a really dumb decision. As does lighting a fire right in front of the car while your kid sits inside. She does it to get the car to think there is a fire outside but doesn't think that maybe once you try to smoke out the car to get the doors unlocked, your child inside might die from smoke inhalation? She also chats to a good-looking guy in the gas station while three hipster chicks take your child right past you and outside into their car. This just seems like bad mothering.

We also have a scene where the mother doesn't really think and gives her kid her mobile which contains the app that controls the car. Hence the child locking the car when the mother gets out to inspect the damage of a deer being hit. How about the world's smartest car not being able to take the voice command of the owner who is having a smoke in the car with the window down but it takes it as a fire inside the car yet can sense boulders as it speeds towards them. Why would an intelligent car take a woman through the desert terrain and off-road just because of an accident on the highway? Wouldn't the world's smartest car be able to determine the issues if she were to break down and not have enough fuel while off the highway?

Another issue that had me questioning this movie was the subplot with the mother's best friend. The whole event is set into motion when our main character believes her partner is cheating on her with her best friend. This never gets confirmed. The movie just ends and yet we are left wondering was her douchebag husband cheating on her with her best mate? Also, if you were outside grandma's house with the child and you plan on confronting a possible cheating husband, why wouldn't you just leave the kid with the grandmother in case he was cheating, and things got physical if you caught him out? Another situation that seemed like bad parenting.

I'll end this review on mentioning Katrina Bowden's performance. I really dig her as an actress. She was great in 30 Rock, Nurse 3D, and Tucker And Dale vs Evil. I think she delivers quite a frantic performance. I felt sorry for her character at times even if I thought she made the wrong choices when it came to trying to get her kid out of the car. I think she manages to hold the entire film on just her shoulders and shows that she can be a solid lead. The material might not be the best, but she tackled the role head on and deserves some praise for that.







DEATH TOLL: 0

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A deer is hit by a car.
- A woman hits a feral dog in the head with a wrench.
- A woman is bitten on the ankle by a feral dog.
- A deer's intestines are shown.








Monolith isn't what I would class as a straight up horror film. This tries for more of an intense thriller approach with elements of sci-fi due to the AI inside of the vehicle. It's a movie that lacks scares and suspense, intelligent character decisions, a subplot that gets left by the wayside and some very questionable CGI. Monolith does have some of the best cinematography that I've seen all year and a great central performance from Katrina Bowden. If you want to throw this into the Lifetime film group, this has to be their most ambitious production to date. Just watch for all of the gorgeous sweeping camera angles and picturesque shots of the Utah desert.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Black Butterfly (2017)








DIRECTOR: Brian Goodman

WRITERS:

Marc Frydman
Justin Stanley

CAST:

Antonio Banderas
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Piper Perabo
Abel Ferrara
Nicholas Aaron
Vincent Riotta
Randall Paul
Katie McGovern

PLOT:

While a small mountain town is grappling with a series of abductions and murders. Paul is a reclusive writer and recovering alcoholic. After the death of his wife, he is holding up in this rural cabin in hopes of writing a screenplay that will put his career back on track. When a drifter helps him during an altercation at a roadside diner, he offers to give him a place to stay and help around the cabin. Soon things start getting strange when the drifter shows signs of paranoia.







I went into Black Butterfly completely blind. The only thing about the movie that had caught my eye was the poster art for the film. Going off the poster, I was aware that Antonio Banderas was headlining the film and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also starring in the movie. The poster also felt very reminiscent of Mike Flanagan's moody, familial, supernatural fable, Before I Wake. The use of the entire butterfly motif and the blood had me very intrigued to give this one a watch.

After watching Black Butterfly, I was torn on my viewing experience. I waited almost a week to write my review for the film because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Right after the movie had wrapped up, I was on the fence still. As the week had gone on, I decided an above average review for the film felt acceptable. While this movie has its fair share of problems. I think the third acts first twist alone, pushes it just over the line and into positive territory.

Early on in Black Butterfly, I thought I was pretty on the ball with where this movie was heading. While watching the movie, I even had one of those moments where I shouted at the television and stated that I knew exactly what the twist was going to be in the movie. It turns out that I was actually right for once. I did end up guessing exactly what the twist was going to be. But here is where I have to give the movie a few points. I had guessed the third of three reveals in the final act.

The movie contains a really solid second reveal that completely blindsided me. I was so wrapped up in what would come to be the third twist that I didn't see the second one coming. It's a twist that I don't ever remember seeing in another movie. Here it felt entirely fresh and original. While the most solid twist in the film is book-ended by two twists that have been done before. I was still completely blown away by it. This for me was enough to win me over after sitting on the film for a week.

The rest of Black Butterfly sits somewhere between a hostage/captive film and a slow burn psychological thriller. The movie doesn't really start to pick up the pace until we see Jonathan Rhys Meyers character start to descend into this paranoid drifter who I believed may be responsible for all the abductions and murders. Once we get to his character starting to show signs of a darker nature, this is where I thought the movie really picked up speed. The first act of the film is rather slow. Once we get past the earlier scenes, the film is pretty fun.

The entire time that I was watching this movie. I kept thinking to myself how closely this resembled the Stephen King film adaptation Secret Window. A lot of the stuff in this movie felt very similar to that film. Sadly, just not as well acted as that movie. I thought the rural cabin, the reclusive writer who is trying to write his next novel or screenplay. Even one of the twists here felt very similar to Secret Window. It's also the twist that sort of diminishes the impact of the first and second twist in the film. It's a case of seen it all before.

When it comes to the thrills in this movie. I didn't find Black Butterfly all that thrilling. A lot of times in the movie when they try to build suspense. It feels like they go and ruin it with lots of silly character decisions. This clearly falls back on the screenplay. It just seems redundant to build up the suspense and throw in characters being run off the road or tripping over while they are trying to make an escape. They kill it as fast as they try to build it. Doing this also seems to hurt the final twist which makes me wonder how bad of a writer Antonio Banderas character is in the film.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Antonio Banderas is fine in his role. He does losing his mind well enough. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is his usual self. The guy always looks really creepy in movies. Like, serial killer creepy. He has a habit of not blinking, and it works for his character in Black Butterfly. Piper Perabo is completely wasted in this film. She is barely in it. She comes back towards the third act, but I felt that she was seriously underused here. This is the Antonio and Jonathan show, so it's understandable, but I'd have like to see more of her as she's a pretty fun actress to watch.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is taken and presumed murders while on a picnic.
- A man is smacked in the face with a rifle handle.
- A man is stabbed in the back with scissors.
- A woman is seen lying on the floor while bleeding from her head.







Black Butterfly all hangs on the three twists, and for me, it worked well enough. The second of three twists knocked me for a six. I didn't see it coming at all, and for that, I think it deserves a couple of points. While not thrilling or psychologically damaging, I still think once we start to see cracks in Jonathan Rhys Meyers drifter, it's where the movie picks up the pace. The acting, for the most part, is great and while similar to Secret Window, I think this movie is worth a once off watch.