Friday, June 30, 2017

Little Evil (2017)








DIRECTOR: Eli Craig

WRITER: Eli Craig

CAST:

Evangeline Lilly
Adam Scott
Owen Atlas
Bridget Everett
Sally Field
Clancy Brown
Donald Faison
Chris D'Elia
Marcus Terrell Smith

PLOT:

Gary has recently married the woman of his dreams, Samantha. Samantha comes with some baggage and has a young son named Lucas. Lucas is quiet and reserved. Now that she is married to Gary, she is hoping that Gary and Lucas will get along as he's now his stepfather. When strange things begin happening around Lucas, Gary believes that his new stepson may, in fact, be the antichrist.







From the director of the critically acclaimed and much-beloved comedy horror Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, comes his second film Little Evil. When the poster art was originally released by Netflix, I immediately got the impression we were looking at a parody of the classic horror film The Omen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work that much out. I've always been a fan of the original Omen, but unlike a lot of other horror fans, I wasn't a huge fan of his first film. I find comedy horror to be a dime a dozen, and I just didn't get it. Maybe, in time it'll grow on me.

I won't beat around the bush. Because I didn't find Tucker and Dale vs. Evil the laugh riot that everybody else had, I was a tad bit worried about Little Evil. I'd assumed the comedy would be in the same sort of style as his first feature film. I was hoping that if I didn't enjoy it, I'd at least like the gore because I thought Tucker and Dale at least delivered on that front. I hate having expectations about a film before seeing it, but it is a fact of watching a movie. Anyone who says they go into a film with an open mind one-hundred percent of the time is a liar.

After finishing Little Evil, I was left somewhat disappointed with the final film. I have brought it up countless times that I have a hard time with the comedy horror genre. It's comedy in general. It's probably the hardest genre to impress me. These sort of films need to ride that fine line and get the balance right, or otherwise, they end up feeling uneven, or they feel more like one than the other. It's a balancing act, and I think this sadly saw the comedy outweigh the horror. It wasn't by a little bit; this is jokes every minute and more than not, they didn't land for me.

What I think Little Evil gets right is that this has a lot of heart. Going into a film that is a send-up of The Omen. You think this will lack heart like the film it parodies. The Omen was dark. It saw a lot of dark themes explored. The ending is also a complete bummer. So I went in expecting this to take the piss, be mean-spirited, and that was the end of that. What I wasn't prepared for was the emotion and sentiment involved. I found myself invested in the family dynamic. I didn't want to see this kid die like I did with Damien Thorn. This kid just needed that male figure to get through to him. He needed that evil heart thawed out. For the most part, this is pretty cute.

The acting was solid for the most part. I have always enjoyed Evangeline Lilly since first seeing her in Lost. I think she holds her own against Adam Scott. I found myself connecting more to her character Samantha. I thought she had a lot of the best jokes between her and Adam Scott. She plays coy and nonchalant as her tyke is clearly the one behind these gruesome murders, accidents, and acts of God. I also enjoyed Owen Atlas as Lucas. For his first feature film, he does a solid job of playing the creepy, evil kid. I hope he continues to work as I'd like to see what he does next.

The supporting cast is also great here. Bridget Everett steals the show as the butch lesbian work mate of Adam Scott. She really does get all of the best one-liners here, and if I was laughing out loud at all, it was her performance. Sally Field comes in for a minute in a surprising guest turn as a child protection agent named Miss Shaylock. A nice little nod to Mrs Baylock from the original Omen. I thought the highlight of the film in terms of comedy comes from the therapy scene where a bunch of stepfathers talk about their evil children. A funny take on the AA meeting idea.

Visually, I found the film to be very reminiscent of Edgar Wright's work. A lot of the camera work, editing, and transitions into new scenes felt almost identical. I don't know if Eli Craig is inspired by Edgar Wright, but it had him written all over the way this thing was shot. It has the quick action montages, the fast-paced editing into new scenes. I was honesting expecting to see a cameo scene from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost walking out of a pub or something. That's how similar the film felt on a visual level. I hope he wrote Edgar Wright a cheque.

Lastly, we come to the gore and violence. I think the original The Omen is far more bloody and violent than this movie. There are scenes where people die, but a lot of them are quickly cut or all aftermath shots. I think had this ramped up the gore and bloodshed; we may have seen this lend itself a little more to the horror and balance out the comedy. I do sort of admire that they at least tried to provide us with a few death scenes that gave a nod to the original Omen. Still, sue me for wanting a ton more of the red stuff.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is pulled off of a spiked fence.
- A clown at a party catches on fire.
- A man is sucked up into a tornado.
- A man repeatedly whips his back with a Cat o' Nine Tails.
- Earthworms pour out of a man's nose.
- A priest is punched in the face and falls into the pits of hell.
- It begins raining blood.
- A man falls back and hits his head on the side of a bathtub.
- A dwarf is impaled on a piece of wood.








While Little Evil is endearing more than it is evil, it still fell short for me. A hilarious supporting turn from Bridget Everett, some great chemistry between the three lead actors, and a great therapy session scene aren't enough to save this comedy horror film. Light on the horror, minimal on the laughs. I think I'd prefer to just stick on the original Omen than watch Little Evil again. I'm sure this will find it's audience but it wasn't for me. Keep an eye out for a supporting turn from the great Sally Field. Worth streaming on Netflix for that alone.
 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Clinical (2017)








DIRECTOR: Alistair Legrand

WRITERS:

Alistair Legrand
Luke Harvis

CAST:

Vinessa Shaw
Aaron Stanford
Kevin Rahm
India Eisley
Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Nestor Serrano
Wilmer Calderon
Dion Basco
Adrian Flowers
William Atherton

PLOT:

Dr Jane Mathis is a psychiatrist who specialises in trauma. She has her own speciality methods and ways of trying to help her patients. When a young teenage girl who she is trying to treat ends up violently attacking her and almost committing suicide, Jane decides to go into therapy and tries and gets her life back on track. She swears she'll never treat another trauma patient until one ends up calling her out of the blue. She decides to try and help this new patient who has his own horrific past.







Going into a 'Netflix Original' film, it still hasn't grown old for me yet. I still get very excited when I heard that Netflix has produced a new genre film. The two films that I had seen so far, Mercy and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House have been pretty interesting. Both earned a six out of ten in my previous reviews. Even movies that I've watched such as Beasts Of No Nation knocked it out of the park. So going into Clinical, I was actually pretty excited.

The opening scene of Clinical immediately had me hooked. The movie opens with this brutal little scene involving our psychiatrist and her young patient. After a violent and nasty attack involving a shard of glass, we see this tormented young patient slash her throat. The results are bloody, and it sets the tone for the rest of this movie. This is a film that from the very first moments, it has this sense of deep depression and dread throughout the film. It's a movie that has no real levity.

Over the next hour, the film introduces us to Dr Jane Mathis and her latest patient, Alex. She is trying to piece her life together after a violent attack, we see that she is also in therapy and she is addicted to medication that helps her sleep. Her patient is a man who is suffering after being horribly disfigured in a car crash. This is where the film starts to build on its mystery. We spend quite a lot of time with these two who are trying to remember the night of the accident. The mystery is finding out where this patient's trauma stems from. I found myself really enjoying their dynamic and the way they were helping each other heal.

Once we discover what has caused the trauma, we get the one moment in the movie that had our two characters connecting more than ever. This felt like a breakthrough in the film. I was still pretty involved in the story. I found myself really caring for both of the characters. It's not long after the reveal of the trauma where everything finally clicked for me. I had this sort of lightbulb moment go off for me. It was at this point with roughly forty minutes to go that I started to lose interest as I kept thinking that the one little scene where everything came together for me, and I still had a while to go and had pretty much guessed what eventually would be the twist in the film.

Where Clinical continued its decline for me came at an hour and fifteen minutes. We have this reveal that completely switches things up in the story. It's a psychological twist that throws out the age-old shocker where the main character is now accused and insane. Cue the flashback scenes that show what actually happened. It sort of falls apart at this point. This isn't even a twist that I guessed was coming because Clinical doesn't have one reveal in store for the audience but two and the second is the connection of both patients that I had seen coming from a mile away. Once it happens, it all becomes predictable and formulaic. The second twist and connection may disturb some people.

During it's running time. Clinical also has this subplot that involves sleep paralysis. We get two scenes of our psychiatrist being in this state, but nothing ever comes of it. Early on, a lot of the creepier scenes in the movie made it almost appear that things were going to go in a supernatural direction and while it doesn't, I thought the sleep paralysis and few early scenes of our main character seeing her former patient would connect on a supernatural level. We also have a subplot involving Vinessa Shaw and Aaron Stanford as a budding romance that also goes nowhere. The best thing about seeing these two together is that it felt like a Hills Have Eyes reunion.

The acting is solid in this movie. I've been watching Vinessa Shaw ever since Hocus Pocus. She was part of my childhood, and I love seeing her act. She is so incredibly underrated. Aaron Stanford is in this movie for all of five minutes if you add all his scenes up. It's nice seeing him playing a hardened police officer. Kevin Rahm who is unrecognisable in this role is the standout. Under all that horrible makeup, I still felt for his character early on, and that's a testament to his performance. India Eisley as our young female patient is also great. She is also incredibly creepy in a few scenes. I felt for her character.

Lastly, Clinical is pretty creepy. We have a couple of set pieces that had my skin crawling. I've discovered that those scenes that reveal an open door and we see a person standing outside that suddenly charges at you and into the house to chase you is extremely unnerving. First, The Wailing and now Clinical. The two scariest scenes in both films. I think I actually found myself creeped out on more than one occasion in Clinical which is rare these days. For that, I think it deserves a point.







DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A teenage girl cuts her hand open with glass.
- A teenage girl slices her own throat with glass.
- A woman is attacked and slashed with glass.
- A bloody car crash.
- A bed is soaked in blood.
- A young girl is killed in a car crash.
- A man is shown dead and bloodied in bed.
- Someone's face is ripped off.
- Someone is stabbed in the neck.
- Someone is stabbed in the temple with a corkscrew.
- A woman is strangled.
- A teenage girl scratches her wrists until they bleed.
- A man is horribly disfigured after a car accident.
- A woman's face is sliced open with a scalpel.







Clinical is a movie that has me torn. For the first hour of the film, I was completely hooked. I was really enjoying the dynamic of the characters and this bond that had formed. It is also very well acted and has a few very creepy scenes with some solid bloodletting. Once I guessed one of the two twists with forty minutes to go, the film sort of fell apart for me. The movie becomes formulaic and predictable, and we have a couple of supporting characters and subplots which sadly don't get enough camera time. It's worth a watch, but I think the second half will either make or break the film for a lot of people.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Darkness Rising (2017)








DIRECTOR: Austin Reading

WRITER: Vikram Weet

CAST:

Tara Holt
Bryce Johnson
Katrina Law
Heather Mazur
Ted Raimi
Myk Watford
Daisy Sklar
Christian Ganiere

PLOT:

Madison, her boyfriend Jake, and her best friend Izzy decide to break into Madison's childhood home. Madison has decided to return to her childhood home as she wants to grab some of her possessions that were left behind after her mother had become mentally unstable and tried to murder her as a baby. The house is being demolished, and her return will soon awaken the house trapping the three of them inside of it.







Where do you begin with a movie like Darkness Rising? Looking at the poster for the film, I thought I was in for an absolute mind melt. The poster has elements of Stairs by M.C. Escher, the vastness of space and time, a forest, and a woman with murky black eyes. It genuinely looked bizarre. I expected something special. I didn't watch any trailers before going into the movie as I didn't want to spoil anything about this film. I hoped for something that would break the mould.

Darkness Rising is nothing like I thought it would be, it's sadly littered with problems. This is a movie that has some intriguing ideas at its centre but can't execute a single one of them. After I finished watching the film. I thought, to myself, what the hell did I just watch. If this was a film that a studio released. It would be the sort of film that studios would drop into a January time slot with no critic screening and pray to god that they make their money back opening weekend.

I'll start with the first problem that I had with Darkness Rising. The film is bookended by two scenes that are connected but make no sense by the time that the end of the movie rolls around. They involve a little girl and her father who is played by the great Ted Raimi. The opening scene see's them frolicking through the woods, and they both end up witnessing something horrible. While it eventually reveals a connection to the main character at the end and what they observe. It feels like it makes absolutely no sense. This happens a lot throughout the film.

Another glaring plot hole that is never explained comes down to the childhood home and entire setting of the movie. The house is clearly its own entity. It makes people see their greatest fears. It also makes people kill and torture themselves. However, when all three of our main characters break in after they return to the house, it's all boarded up. Yet, it's in pristine condition when they enter it. There is no explanation as to why the house hasn't had homeless living in it. Why haven't burglars broken in and stolen the contents? It seems very unlikely.

The film introduces many different elements but never explains a single one of them. We have a dog that guards the house. It can reanimate and come back from the dead when killed and can transport to any part of the grounds outside the house when our three main characters try to escape. The house is also surrounded by a forcefield. We have the number five introduced as the number that an ancient evil needs to bring on something evil, but all of these elements amount to nothing in the end. You'll be left scratching your head instead of getting answers.

The acting is pretty hit and miss in Darkness Rising. The worst example of this is our leading actress Tara Holt. She is gorgeous and leading actress material, but her entire performance is all over the place. At times, I was wondering if they were watching the dailies. Did the director do multiple takes or just went with the first one every time. It was uncomfortable to watch. She is lucky she had Bryce Johnson and Katrina Law as her companions as they both seemed a lot better in their respective roles. Not even Ted Raimi can save this film. His scenes feel like an afterthought.

Now we come to all the gore, violence, scares, and tension. I thought that Darkness Rising sadly lacked in those departments as well. The gore itself has a few moments that will likely gross people out who have a weak stomach for lots of eye trauma. The blacked out eyes on the poster are clearly a hint of things to come. When it comes to the scares, the movie at least tries to deliver the jump scares and suspense. While it's not very successful at executing them, I still can't hate it for at least trying.

Lastly, I think the film is well directed. For a lower budget horror film, I thought that director Austin Reading tried to add a bit of flair to a movie that is set in one location. The camera pans up through floorboards, spins and spirals up staircases, speeds up and slows down throughout the house and film. I thought that they at least tried to work in as much visual trickery with the cinematography. It's not a bad looking film. I think there is talent there from the director. He just needs a more coherent story to work with, in the near future.







DEATH TOLL: 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A babies crib is found empty and covered in blood.
- A woman pulls a shard of glass out of her leg.
- A man slams his hand down on a nail.
- A man is attacked by a dog.
- A dog is hit and killed by a fire poker.
- A man is seen hanging from a railing.
- A woman is stabbed in the eye with a key.
- A woman is smacked in the head with a vase.
- A woman pours bleach all over her face.
- A dead rotting child is found in a bathtub.
- A man is stabbed in the stomach.
- A man is impaled through the eyeball, and his eyeball falls out.
- A doll is seen bleeding from the eyes.
- A girl dies from her injuries sustained in a haunted house.








Darkness Rising is a film that has a pretty interesting poster and tries for some out there themes. We have time lapses, alternate realities, a supernatural death house, and forcefields. Sadly, the writer is unable to coherently connect a single thing in the story. By the time that the credits roll around, the movie ends up leaving the entire audience with more questions than answers. It's a mess of a movie. Some gruesome gore and great use of cinematography can't save this movie from being a pretty wildly uneven story. Look elsewhere for supernatural chills.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Camera Obscura (2017)








DIRECTOR: Aaron B. Koontz

WRITERS:

Cameron Burns
Aaron B. Koontz

CAST:

Christopher Denham
Nadja Bobyleva
Catherine Curtain
Chase Williamson
Noah Segan
Jeremy King
Andrew Sensenig
David Jensen
Gretchen Lodge

PLOT:

Jack Zeller is a veteran war photographer who is still suffering from PTSD. When he is gifted an old camera, by his wife. She has purchased it for him in hopes that he'll take up photography again. When he starts shooting photos again, he soon discovers that the images show the imminent death of the person in the photo. It's when his wife's death is shown in a picture; Jack goes on a murder spree in hopes that killing those who were also in the photos prolong and prevent his wife's death.








Camera Obscura has the benefit of having a very enjoyable premise. Has it been done before? Sure it has. It has even been done on more than one occasion. We have films such as Shutter, Polaroid, and Click. There is also a Goosebumps book aptly titled Say Cheese and Die! that uses the very narrative of an old camera that can see how folks will die. This isn't exactly an original or new concept, but I am somebody that enjoys the art of photography, so a killer camera always sparks my horror interest.

As I was watching Camera Obscura, my partner leaned over and whispered in my ear that the movie was ultimately Final Destination with a camera. I can see why he had come to that conclusion as the film is about premonition and death. It's also about a guy who tries to race against to clock to prevent those he loves from falling victim to death's design. Only, this movie throws a spanner in the works halfway through and delivers a nasty and mean-spirited little film.

Being mean-spirited and nasty isn't exactly a compliment here. While I love a movie that is cold and bleak from time to time. I thought where this film decides to go just felt pretty cruel. I see why the writer and director took the story in this direction but when you make your protagonist start killing innocent victims. You begin to alienate your core audience. I began to feel that I didn't care for this character or his cause by the time the film had wrapped up.

To have your central character start as a veteran war photographer, a man who is now suffering from PTSD, and to turn him slowly insane with an evil camera. I thought the story really lacked a chance to delve deeper into his past. An opportunity to highlight the effects of PTSD. While we get shots of blood-soaked children of war and witness him start to lose his grip on reality, we never get the exposition of his past. I thought it was a missed opportunity. It may have given a little weight to the character once he turned into a killer.

We also get the minimal backstory on the killer camera. I would have loved to see the plot dive deeper into the history of the camera. We get a few exposition scenes on the camera which is all done through dialogue. I think with a bigger budget and an extra couple of minutes showing us the devastation this camera has caused throughout its history would have made things a little more sinister. The camera should be its own character as it's the thing that drives our protagonist insane. It feels underdeveloped.

The acting is hit and miss for me, and I think it falls back on the uneven tone and at times cheesy dialogue. I think the leading actor, Christopher Denham is okay in the role. His slow descent into madness is the best performance in the film. Noah Segan who is a regular in the genre is great in his supporting turn. Sadly, the performance by Nadia Bobyleva who plays his wife is all over the place. We are meant to care for her character, but their minimal chemistry sadly shows throughout the film.

When it comes to delivering the red stuff, the movie doesn't disappoint. The film has some pretty inventive kills. Several innocent people are brutally murdered, and it is effective. A scene that involves a weight bench is the highlight of the movie. We also have a sad scene where a prostitute is killed, and her body is propped up to look like a murder in an empty rental property. I found this incredibly sad. You hear stories of serial killers murdering these women while trying to make a living and I thought it was a pretty emotionally heavy scene even if it's played for laughs.

Lastly, we come to the tonal shifts in Camera Obscura. The movie feels very uneven. Early on the film plays a lot of the first act completely straight. As the movie goes on, things become more comedic. We have a bizarre and prolonged fight scene in a huge empty rental property. Fight choreography and all is added, and it just comes off as utterly strange. A lot of the dialogue has jokes and comedy injected into it which just throws off the dark themes of PTSD and darker serial killer elements. It feels like it wanted to be two different films.







DEATH TOLL: 13

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A photo of a boy with a broken neck is shown.
- A construction worker falls to his death.
- A little boy is seen bleeding and foaming at the mouth.
- A homeless man is shot in the throat and falls to his death.
- We see a man pulls his teeth out.
- A prostitute is killed in a bathtub, and her head is almost completely decapitated.
- A woman is shot in the head.
- A woman is found dead in a convenience store.
- A man is kicked off a balcony and impaled with a piece of wood.
- A man is stabbed in the stomach.
- We witness a female real estate agent being strangled to death.
- A little boy who is covered in blood peels off someone's flesh.
- An elderly woman is killed in a house fire.
- A photo of a little boy who has drowned in a pool is shown.
- The skeletal remains of a child are found in a drawer.
- A woman commits suicide by shooting herself in the head.
- A woman is seen with blood squirting out of her neck.
- A man is hit by a car, tied to a weight bench and repeatedly stabbed.
- A man's head is bashed in with a weight.
- A couple is seen having sex while covered in blood.
- A man is hit in the head with a vase and a hammer.







Camera Obscura is an odd one. There is a great idea in here, somewhere. While not entirely original regarding premise, the movie could have been a lot better. The film deals with some heavy themes of PTSD but doesn't really utilise them. Some decent gore and bloodshed with a solid central performance can't save it from suffering from an uneven tone, a mean-spirited second and third act, some hit and miss acting and cheesy dialogue. Camera Obscura feels like a missed opportunity.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Gracefield Incident (2017)








DIRECTOR: Mathieu Ratthe

WRITER: Mathieu Ratthe

CAST:

Mathieu Ratthe
Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles
Kimberly Laferriere
Juliette Gosselin
Laurence Dauphinais
Alex C. Nachi
Camille Loyer

PLOT:

When three couples decide to head to Gracefield to spend a long weekend away in a luxurious cabin in the woods, the group is suddenly interrupted during a house party when a meteorite flies over the cabin and crashes in the nearby woods. As they begin to investigate the woods, something extraterrestrial from within the falling meteorite has been unleashed upon the group of friends. They must fight for survival before it's too late and they are abducted.







When The Gracefield Incident begins, we see our happy couple driving along. She is pregnant and recording her husband. Cue the couple that needs to film every waking second of their lives. They are sickly sweet and lovey-dovey. To the point, it's almost a welcome relief when we get the inevitable car pulling out into an intersection shot and a speeding car slams into the side of them, killing their baby and almost blinding our leading character.

Skip to ten months later. The couple is all but happy again. The death of their unborn child is a distant memory. Being the first feature film written and directed by Mathieu Ratthe, I think it really shows. After the scene of our couple losing their child, we get an opening credit sequence featuring an upbeat pop song. It's like every single scene change feels uneven. We have no time to grieve for this couple. While I'm glad that they didn't spend half of the movie moping around and arguing, It still feels like he hasn't grasped the concept of a transition period.

When our three couples start to make their way to the cabin in the woods, It's quickly revealed that the cabin is owned by our lead characters boss. His boss built the cabin as he has a fascination with finding and capturing evidence of a bigfoot. Immediately, I was hooked by the story. I thought we were getting a movie about a bigfoot. I didn't even care that the gimmick was the overused found footage genre. I was just excited that we were getting something relating to Bigfoot.

Once the three couples get to the cabin, this is where the movie falls apart. Soon we head into a more extraterrestrial territory, and I lost complete interest. For the rest of the movie, it's filled with ridiculous character decisions and a lot of loose ends. Once that meteorite flies over the cabin, all hell breaks loose, and it's just repeated scenes of our characters going out into the woods to try and locate their missing friends. One after the other, they disappear. It becomes tiring and repetitive.

As the movie heads into the third act and we witness this huge alien running around a forest and grabbing people on the head as shown on the poster. I expected this huge revelation. Nope, we get nothing. The movie builds to the entire cast being abducted, and suddenly, we have all five of our missing characters returned to Earth naked, and it ends. So the aliens wanted to abduct people, but it's never explained why they do it. We never see the kidnapped victims being probed for information. The aliens just decided for a routine trip to Earth to kidnap and return them all to Earth after a few hours. It makes no sense.

The only new element that feels fresh in this found-footage movie is that the footage that is constantly being recorded is from our lead characters glass eye. While a lot of the movie is also filmed with handheld cameras from other characters, we also see a first-person perspective from the glass eye. I thought this offered a slightly fresh take on just the found camera footage. It's just a shame that the movie falls into so many tropes of the found-footage genre. It's hard to find anything that feels original.

The acting in the film is a little all over the place. I think the best performance in the movie is actor/writer/director Mathieu Ratthe. He is working overtime right here. I think had the film had a more well-known cast, things may have felt more authentic and better acted. This feels like Mathieu has hired his friends to make a movie. So a lot of the performances feel like a student film. It's not entirely bad as it makes the found-footage feel more real, but the performances feel uneven.

Lastly, we come to the horror elements. How does this movie hold up with its scare factor? This is all about the jump scares. Quick pans and cuts to suddenly reveal a giant alien is running at the screen. If you've ever watched any found-footage film, it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect. I found that the movie felt very inspired by M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. Right down to the cornfields, crop-circles, and the shots of the aliens. The alien pulling its foot into the field is lifted right from Signs.







DEATH TOLL: 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A guy loses his eye in a car crash.
- A couple loses their baby in a car crash.
- A woman is dragged up into the sky.
- The clothes of two people are found torn on the road.
- Several people are grabbed on the head by an alien.

(Note: There is very minimal bloodshed)








The Gracefield Incident is another found-footage film that joins a long line of alien and extraterrestrial based sci-fi horror. Sadly, it adds nothing original or new to the sub-genre. Filled with silly character decisions, a heap of loose ends, and a third act that doesn't explain a single thing that came before it. I think has to be one of worst found-footage movies yet. The writer and director sadly couldn't even provide some gore or scares. I don't plan on visiting Gracefield anytime soon.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Shimmer Lake (2017)








DIRECTOR: Oren Uziel

WRITER: Oren Uziel

CAST:

Benjamin Walker
Rainn Wilson
Wyatt Russell
Ron Livingston
Stephanie Sigman
John Michael Higgins
Rob Corddry
Adam Pally
Matt Landry

PLOT:

When a bank heist goes wrong, the three criminals that are believed to be attached to the crime are hunted down by the local sheriff and his deputy. Also on the trail of the three criminals are two agents who also want to bring the offenders to justice. One of the criminals who is on the run is the brother of the local sheriff. He will try and bring his brother to justice before it ends badly.







For several months, I passed over Shimmer Lake when it debuted on Netflix. I wasn't sure what to make of the movie. It looked like it fell somewhere between a homespun murder mystery that the Coen Brothers would cook up with elements of a pitch-black comedy. I decided to finally give it a shot when the movie was talked about on several horror podcasts that I listen to regularly. Not exactly a horror movie but fit the criteria to be discussed, so I finally caved in and gave it a watch.

We'll start with the positives of Shimmer Lake. First up, I really enjoyed the way that the story unfolded. It's not every day that you witness a movie that tells the story in reverse. We begin at the end after a bank heist has already taken place and all three criminals are currently on the run. The movie is shown in a day to day format. So we start on Friday and make our way back in days. Each day uncovers more twists and turns in the story. Some more successful than others.

The acting, for the most part, is excellent. I found myself really enjoying most of the cast here. Rainn Wilson as one of the criminals who is on the run is at his most mean. He is actually pretty unlikeable here. It serves his character well. His sheriff bother is played by Benjamin Walker who I'm aware of from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. His probably the only likeable person in the story. With each reveal, it gives us more and more characters who we don't care about or if they live or die.

The supporting cast is filled with talented comedic actors. We have Adam Pally as our deputy who only manages to get the backseat every time he jumps in the squad car. Rob Corddry and Ron Livingston as our two bumbling FBI agents are there for a bit of comic relief and John Michael Higgins is great in his small role as a married judge who has a thing for meth-addicted rent boys. Each actor brings their talents to all of their respective roles. It's just a shame they are all written to be utterly unpleasant.

Now, onto the issues that I had with Shimmer Lake. I found the tone of the movie to be really uneven. At times the film is a crime thriller with moments of bloodshed, and the very next scene has the script injecting comedy into it. I think a black comedy or a comedy horror has to have the right balance for it to work. I don't think Shimmer Lake is quite there for me. I think the thriller element outweighed the comedic stuff. The comedy didn't land quite as much as the shocks with the twist and turns.

During the film, I think I laughed maybe two or three times during the entire movie. One just happened to be a moment where a kid tells a deputy to 'sit his fat fucking ass' in the back of a cop car because she is riding up front. I also thought the entire meth-addicted rent boy scene was hilarious. Just as quick as I'd start to laugh, the movie would deliver blood and violence. It felt almost wrong or like not enough time had passed for it to feel warranted. This is indeed no Fargo.

The final reveal towards the end of the movie didn't hit as hard as the director/writer had hoped it would. It leads up to this big reveal as to why two of the three major characters who have survived the ordeal have this big secret and a revenge plot in mind. The person they seek revenge on is so unlikeable that his comeuppance feels warranted. It's not a moment that feels like it adds anything to the story. This feels incredibly light on plot. If it wasn't for the backwards storytelling device, this might have seemed even less impactful.

Lastly, I just wanted to bring up the character development. A lot of the smaller parts in the film feel like they aren't given enough exposition. Characters come and go, are there one second and murdered the next. In saying that, though. When a well-known cast member is killed off suddenly, it provides some decent shocks. The ones that you expect to stay around don't. I think with little to no building on any of the supporting characters, a lot of them don't feel important.








DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is seen lying on the floor, covered in blood.
- A man is gunned down.
- Someone is shot in the stomach and head.
- A man is shot in the head, and his brains are exposed at the back.
- A guy is blown away with a machine gun.







Shimmer Lake joins a long list of smalltown homespun murder mysteries. While not the worst of the bunch. This falls just short. While it feels like it tries to capture the same spirit as movies like Fargo, it sadly doesn't come close to the brilliance of that film. Underwritten and unlikeable characters, a plot that amounts to nothing, and an uneven tone can't be saved by the talented cast and backwards storytelling device.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Awaken The Shadowman (2017)








DIRECTOR: J.S. Wilson

WRITERS:


Skyler Caleb
Woodrow Wilson Hancock III
James Zimbardi

CAST:

James Zimbardi
Skyler Caleb
Jean Smart
Emily Somers
Andrea Hunt
Grace Van Dien
Casey Kramer
Sophie Labelle
Raam Weinfeld

PLOT:

When Adam receives an emergency call from his estranged brother Jake. He is told to return home as soon as possible as their widowed mother has suddenly disappeared. Without delay, Adam brings along his wife and their new baby for support. Once they arrive, he meets his mother's new bereavement support group who aren't at all what they appear. As he starts to unravel the mystery, he will soon learn that the cult-like group have other plans in store for his family.







Looking at the poster for Awaken The Shadowman, I was under the impression that I would be watching another found-footage movie about a woman who has given birth to the antichrist. I couldn't have been more wrong with this film. The film opens with a woman running through a dimly-lit basement while holding a baby. She is suddenly come upon by a group of hooded men. The movie cuts to black. It was clear that we were going to be taking a different route this time. A welcome relief for me.

Awaken The Shadowman has several elements going for it, but I sadly think the first time writers and director haven't crafted a coherent story. When put to film, it really doesn't make all that much sense by the time the movie has abruptly ended. There are little moments of exposition sprinkled into the story, but the film moves incredibly quick, from one scene to the next. There is never any easing into each new scene. I think with a longer running time and some more in fleshing out the story, this may have been something special.

What works in the movie is the mood. This is a very sombre story. The film from the very first scene is steeped in dread. I think these guys at least get that element right. We get glimpses of the Shadowman throughout, and I think the director has taken his queues from James Wan and Insidious. While the Insidious franchise has several very well-placed jump scares, this is much more restrained. This is all handled in the way of entering rooms, and the Shadowman is watching in the corner or standing behind our main characters. I liked the build-up of tension.

The movie also has some gorgeous cinematography. This movie looks incredibly well made regarding the scenic shots that play over the opening credits and all throughout the film. Not sure if the budget had allowed for shots using a helicopter or drone, but passing through the treetops of forests, over the roofs of cars as they travel through mountain ranges or the use of time-lapse to pass the days and nights. This isn't a bad looking film for what I assume had a relatively lower budget. Had this been released by a studio, it may have even been better in pulling off a lot more of the visual flair.

The first significant problem is that there is little to no exposition on any of the main or supporting characters. We are aware that a fire in the town killed several members of the community. Some people lost their family members. It's never really brought up again. Gateways, the mysterious cult are clearly the villains and come into play in the third act, but the one minute of linking them to previous tragedies on newspaper clippings and baby snatching doesn't feel like enough plot. The cult gets less than ten minutes of screentime. A baby is taken, and that's it.

The leader of the cult is said to be a monster by the harbinger of doom. We never get any clarification if he is, in fact, the Shadowman. The harbinger of doom is seen only twice. She's the one to let the main character know important details on the cult, and it's young, mysterious leader. We even have our brothers go to talk to their mother's ex-boyfriend in this weird exchange at a junkyard. It felt cheesy. These characters are odd, but nothing ever becomes of them. It doesn't provide any concrete answers for the audience, so everything feels really messy.

We also have this moment at the end where it feels like it was tacked on. Our main character is on this crusade to find his missing baby daughter who was taken by the Shadowman. We see him all shaven, wearing a hoodie, and looking like he no longer sleeps. We have no idea on what happened to his wife and the cult. We assume he's now on the run. But it feels like they've set up a sequel if this was ever successful or anyone wants to finance it. It just feels out of place and an afterthought.

Lastly, we come to the acting and performances, it's a bit hit and miss. I thought our two leading actors James Zimbardi and Skyler Caleb were both fine in their roles. I even liked their wives played by Andrea Hunt and Emily Somers. Jean Smart is the most well known and established actor in the cast and is excellent in her small role. Casey Kramer as the neighbour is also great who has the most emotional role in the film. It's a shame that all of the other supporting cast feel like they are reading off cue cards. Not very professional.







DEATH TOLL: 2

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Black blood is seen dripping on popcorn.
- A man is smacked in the head with a plank of wood.
- A charred corpse is found under a sheet.
- A baby is taken by a demon.

(There is no blood in the film)







At one time, there was probably a longer screenplay that had much more exposition and character development. I think this is a case of a director and writers having to make do with a smaller budget and minimal time which in turn had them having to reel in their vision. The movie while having the foundations for a solidly scary movie are let down by rushing everything. In rushing the story, they have a film that feels all over the place and answers nothing as it explains nothing. Some fine acting, great cinematography, and incredibly effective mood can't save this film.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Evil Within (2017)








DIRECTOR: Andrew Getty

WRITER: Andrew Getty

CAST:

Frederick Koehler
Sean Patrick Flanery
Brianna Brown
Dina Meyer
Michael Berryman
Kim Darby
Tim Bagley
Francis Guinan
Matthew McGrory

PLOT:

Dennis is a thirty-year-old mentally disabled man. He lives with his brother John. It's when John decides to redecorate Dennis's room by putting in an antique mirror that problems arise. Soon Dennis begins having horrific nightmares and visions. He see's his evil reflection, and the evil side of himself starts telling him to do things. Dennis begins going on a murderous rampage and killing all those closest to him. Dennis is quickly becoming a serial killer.







The production of The Evil Within is as bizarre and depressing as the finished movie itself. Director Andrew Getty first went into production on the movie in 2002. Back in the early stages, the movie was called The Storyteller. He conceived the idea behind the movie from when he was a child as he used to have horrible nightmares. Filming began in 2002, and the film was filmed inside the director's mansion. Sounds like the movie got off to a great start right? Wrong. Things only got worse for the production.

The movie itself would stop and start production over the next decade. These issues would range from funding problems to the director having clashes and conflicts with the cast. A lawsuit from a studio assistant would cause significant setbacks. The cast and crew had many changes during the lengthy production. Both Michael Berryman and Matt McGrory also had health problems. The movie seemed to be doomed from the very start. This wouldn't be the last of the obstacles.

From the time the film went into production in 2002. Director Andrew Getty worked on perfecting the film. He created the special effects and was editing it. In 2015, he sadly died due to intestinal bleeding caused by his methamphetamine use and heart disease being contributing factors. It would take a further two years for the movie to finish post-production and finally get released. Sad to know that the director spent close to thirteen years on this film and wouldn't get to see it finally get a release. It automatically has a sense of sadness surrounding it.

When I first saw the poster for The Evil Within. I brushed this off as another micro-budget horror film that deals with the supernatural. The poster didn't do anything for me. I judged it solely based on the terribly cheap poster. It took me six months to get up the courage to finally sit down and watch it after two of my favourite podcasts said that the movie was an interesting one. Both of them gave it positive reviews. All I can say is that looks can be deceiving, that's for sure. Don't judge a book by its cover.

The Evil Within feels like a movie lost in time. A time capsule if you will. This is a cast of once famous and up and coming actors who are all at the forefront. We have Sean Patrick Flanery, and Dina Meyer who had both had some solid movies come out in the late nineties and early noughties. The entire vibe and look of the film feel very dated, and this would be because the film was filmed back in 2002. Just about everything in this film felt weird and odd. At times I was left with my jaw on the floor in amazement to being left utterly mindfucked as to what I was witnessing on screen.

The visuals and imagery of The Evil Within must be praised. I haven't seen anything like this in years. I think because the movie took fifteen years to see the light of day. Today's audiences won't know what hit them when they witness this oddity. The film really is like nothing else that's out in today's current horror climate. This movie falls somewhere between early David Lynch and the early music videos of Michel Gondry. Weird stop-motion puppetry with trippy glitchy images are all over this film, and it is truly nightmare fuel.

The problems that I had with the film are all story related. The story is actually pretty simplistic. While I loved the narrative. We essentially have a descent into madness. A man is driven to kill, but things aren't always executed well or very clearly. Dialogue is also cringe-worthy at times. The movie stands on its own because all of the visual effects are so twisted and macabre. Because it doesn't look or feel like anything else, it feels entirely original and a unique vision.

Lastly, we have the acting and performances. I found the entire cast to be incredibly strong. While Frederick Koehler as Dennis is sometimes grating as he spends a lot of the movie complaining, I thought he did a great job when he was playing his evil self. Sean Patrick Flanery is fantastic here, as was Dina Meyer. I loved both of their roles in the film. It's a shame these two actors aren't in bigger movies as both can hold their own and have shown their versatility in other movies. Michael Berryman also looks incredibly creepy in the film as well.







DEATH TOLL: 8

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is zippered open, and a demon climbs inside him.
- Three children are murdered and thrown in a freezer.
- A woman is decapitated with shears.
- A man shoots himself in the head.
- A man breaks in half at the torso.
- A woman is drilled through the head.
- A man is stabbed in the head.
- A woman is hit and killed by a car.
- The body of a dead dog is seen being put into an esky.
- A rat is caught in a rat trap.
- A giant spider drains the blood out of a man till he's a hollow shell.
- A cat is killed.
- A man's throat is slashed.
- A demon chews off its fingers down to the bone.








It's sad that The Evil Within will have this darkness shrouded around its production. It will always be known for the lengthy and troubled production history. I initially judged the film based on it's less than impressive poster art. I recommend giving this twisted little bit of nightmare fuel a watch just to see a movie trapped in time. This is a movie like nothing else out this year or in recent memory. The visual effects are some of the creepiest and the film will surely mind-fuck some people. It deserves to be seen even if the movie isn't perfect.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Get The Girl (2017)








DIRECTOR: Eric England

WRITERS:

Eric England
Graham Denman

CAST:

Justin Dobies
Elizabeth Whitson
Noah Segan
Scout Taylor-Compton
Jerry Purpdrank
James Landry Herbert
Adi Shankar
Daniel Quinn

PLOT:

Clarence is a wealthy young man. He is also in love with the barmaid at his local club. When she still doesn't notice him after years of attending the club. He pays a man to help him get the girl. The suggestion in winning her over is to kidnap her and play the hero. So with their plan set into motion, one of the kidnappers is killed in the process, throwing the entire idea into chaos. He must now try and actually save her life while not letting it slip that this was all a ruse.







While Get The Girl is described as a Crime Comedy on IMDb. I believe the movie also lends itself to being considered a mean-spirited, macabre, and violent suspense flick. The movie has many moments that play up the absolute absurdity of the situation at hand for laughs, but you can't help but laugh as things continue to escalate towards a conclusion where the red stuff is thrown about by the bucket load. I think Get The Girl comes close to riding that line of horror when it comes to the bloodshed on display.

Going into this movie, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was worried that I'd watch this and get halfway through the film and realise that I couldn't even review it on the blog as it didn't fit my horror, thriller, and sci-fi horror movie criteria. Lucky for me, this is a pretty nasty little film. While the comedic element always takes the front seat. We, the horror movie audience get just enough carnage candy to keep our gruesome little hearts satisfied.

The movie takes roughly twenty minutes to get the ball rolling. These twenty minutes of the movie are there to lay out the exposition about the plan. It's also there to show us what a chump our leading actor is. As our villain and head kidnapper states, you're rich, and you can't get laid? We learn that he's just a genuinely nice guy who believes in love. His love just happens to be directed at the barmaid, and she is going through a rough patch with her ex-boyfriend.

Once the kidnapping happens, and we get the troubled barmaid back to the enormous luxurious mansion. This is where things start getting really fun. After our hostage first manages to escape, one of the men is killed when she tries to defend herself against him. It's a gruesome moment where I realised that we are indeed in for a wild, bloody ride. From this moment on, the film becomes a bloodbath as our kidnappers who are all in on the plan with the hero are trying to keep control of things while not letting our victim know he's apart of it all.

There is a twist that comes into play during the third act that I didn't see coming. It's one of the reasons why I gave Get The Girl a fresh rating. It manages to push the film just over the line for me. The twist while not precisely groundbreaking was still a gut punch. I thought it was an enjoyable way to tie everything and everyone together at the end. It was one of those a-ha moments. I'm sure smarter people will get the twist immediately, but for us less intelligent folks, it was a smart twist to me.

Now we come to the movie's issues. One of my biggest problems that I had with the film was that most of the kidnappers minus our lead kidnapper are all disposable and annoying. Only Noah Segan as Patrick was likeable or remotely charismatic out of the group of bad guys. The rest of them spend the entire movie fighting or bitching at or about each other. It's a surprise that they managed to get the plan off of the ground with how many problems the characters had between them all.

Don't even get me started on how terribly the kidnappers are written. They have been written to be bumbling morons. Within five minutes of getting to the mansion, we see our victim escape. This happens several more times during the course of the film. We have our kidnappers shooting themselves in the face, and we have them not tying or taping the victim up. It becomes tiring when you see how many times they end up making these mistakes. Just poorly written characters.

Lastly, we come to the acting. Justin Dobies has a pretty unfortunate last name but is luckily a solid actor and charming lead. I think he carries the film along with Elizabeth Whitson. I think even if the last few minutes between the actors is a bit on the cheesy side, they both deliver during the film. I've come to know Noah Segan as a man who plays the weird bad boys, and this is no exception. I think he's great as the movie's villain. The only real issue I had was with the supporting cast. Shocker! Scout Taylor-Compton whinges and cries through the entire film. I just don't get it. I'm not a fan.







DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man's fingers are slammed in a van door.
- A police officer is shot in the cheek.
- A man is shot in the head.
- A man is shot in the stomach.
- Someone is stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors.
- A woman is shot in the throat.
- A man is shot in the arm.
- A man is shot in the stomach.
- A woman is shot in the leg.

- Someone lands throat first onto a piece of glass.
- A man falls down stairs and repeatedly shoots himself in the face.








Get The Girl falls somewhere between a pitch black comedy and a thriller. The kidnap and hostage movie with buckets of the blood. More often than not successfully blends the two genres. The movie isn't without its faults. We have terribly written as well as annoying characters and the decisions they make. What drags this film just over the line at the end is the pretty clever twist. You could do worse than much Get The Girl. It's fast-paced and bloody. Most horror fans should find something to enjoy here.