Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

blair-witch-2016-trailer-poster

Directed By: Adam Wingard 

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Synopsis: James Donohue ventures into the woods to look for his sister, Heather, who was one of the three missing from the original Blair Witch Project.

Thoughts:

I experienced the first Blair Witch movie back in 1999 in the theatre. I went in knowing nothing, not even having seen a trailer for it. A friend called me and told me to go see it, but not to read anything about it beforehand. I found it to be one of the scariest experiences I had ever had in a theatre. The climax literally had me on the edge of my seat and I think I just about ripped the arm of the chair off.

Fast forward to Comic Con this year and I hear news of Adam Wingard’s (You’re Next) upcoming movie titled The Woods is actually titled Blair Witch! I’m a big fan of Wingard, so was eager to see his take on what I think is one of the best found footage movies out there. I elected to follow a similar route and not check out any trailers, read any articles and do my best to avoid discussions on social media about Blair Witch. I was successful (for the most part) having only seen a portion of the trailer (the tunnel scene). Going in, I didn’t know if it was a remake, sequel or just another chapter in the mythology.

It turns out that it is a direct sequel to the original, with James going into the woods to try and find Heather, his sister and lead in the original. He takes some friends with him, as well as some locals that know the mythology. Without going into details, the events are similar to the first movie, but amped up tenfold. I found this entry to be much scarier than the first. I’m sure some of that is due to an increased budget, allowing for some special effects and one particularly brutal onscreen death.

Another improvement is the cast and script. In rewatching the original, the initial scenes and build up are pretty boring. Blair Witch has a similar build up, but I found the characters much more interesting. There was some humor weaved into dialogue as well, and I thought that really worked, especially the interaction between Peter and Lane.

Once things start getting crazy in the woods, it’s nonstop. A major difference is that you actually see the Blair Witch. I’m not sure how I feel about her onscreen appearance. It was a bold move by Wingard and writer Simon Barett. I’m hoping that when it makes its home video release there are some special features around the design and look of the Blair Witch. I have my suspicions on influence for her design, but would like to hear from Wingard about it.

If you’re a fan of the original, I think this is a can’t miss movie. If you don’t like the original, or found footage movies in general, then don’t waste your time. Blair Witch doesn’t bring anything new to the subgenre, it’s just a well-made movie that builds on the original mythology.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr

10 Cloverfield Lane came out of nowhere earlier this year, with no advance news that a “sequel” was being made to the hit monster movie that came out in 2008. It was almost the antithesis of the marketing blitz that surrounded the original movie, which makes a lot of sense after you watch the movie.

The majority of 10 Cloverfield Lane takes place in an underground bunker, so it really relies on its cast and script to pull you in. The script is tight, and keeps you guessing about what is really going on, both in the bunker, and in the world outside. John Goodman absolutely chews scenery every time he is on the camera. I can’t recall ever seeing him portray someone so unnerving. I’d love to see him get some awards recognition, but we all know that’s very difficult to achieve in this genre. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also masterful in her role, but overshadowed by Goodman.

If there is a weak spot to 10 Cloverfield Lane, it’s the climax. Without going into too much detail, this is where the movie is tied into the franchise, at least loosely. On one hand it feels a bit “bolted on” but it also sets the movie apart from other thrillers. I’m reserving ultimate judgment until I get a chance to watch the movie again. For now, it doesn’t deter me from thinking this will be one of the top genre movies of 2016.

 

Pyramid

Directed By: Gregory Levasseur

Starring: Ashley Hinsaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Christa-Marie Nicola, Amir K

Synopsis: Archeologists uncover a pyramid in Egypt and find that it is not empty.

Thoughts: Found footage has been overdone for quite a while now, but it really is a viable medium, especially when done right. The Pyramid uses a hybrid approach to found footage, using it at times as there is a videographer with the team, filming a documentary, but also pulling back quite often to tell the story. I found it to very effective, but it’s not for everyone. I have read of some people complaining about the format.

The cast is largely unknown, but there is one familiar faces, Denis O’Hare, who played Russell Edgington in True Blood and is also a regular contributor to American Horror Story. Here he plays one of the archeologists exploring the ruins. The cast performs well, but many of the characters don’t leave a lasting impact outside of the movie’s runtime.

The real star of The Pyramid is the setting and the creatures. I’ve always found the history and mythology of Egypt to be fascinating. Their customs and beliefs really fuel some great stories, and this is no exception. I won’t go into too much detail about what the team finds in the pyramid, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Overall, this is a good watch. I enjoyed it, but it probably won’t be something I revisit often. If you’ve got a distaste for any sort of first person camera work, you’ll likely want to avoid this one, but I thought it had a great mix.

Bees

 

Directed By: Alfredo Zacarias

Starring: John Saxon, John Carradine, Angel Tompkins, Claudio Brook

Synopsis: Africanized killer bees threaten mankind, or is it the other way around?

Thoughts:
Man versus nature. It’s a common theme in many horror movies. Some of the best, even. The Bees is not one of the best, but for some reason, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Honestly, I can’t put my finger on it, because it’s pretty formulaic and overly preachy at times. Maybe it’s John Saxon and John Carradine, because both are awesome. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve got a soft spot for Vinegar Syndrome, because they too, are awesome. I love that they release movies that just about no other company will touch. Whatever it was, I was happy to pick this one up.

The gist of the movie is that killer bees are making their way up from South America, doing what you would expect killer bees to do. Mankind, in all of their wisdom, uses science to figure out how to combat the bees in an attempt to save the day. Of course, we jack it up, pissing off the bees, and causing them to mutate into an intelligent colony with a message to mankind; “Stop fucking up the planet, or we will end you.” Although this pushes an environmental message, it is very interesting how far ahead of its time it is. It’s no secret that our species isn’t real careful with our planet, but it’s also interesting that bees happen to be one of the creatures that are suffering the most.

The Bees stars two of the genres long-standing workhorses in Saxon and Carradine, which makes a significant difference in the quality of this movie. Without them, I think this would have fallen even more to the wayside. Although they are the heavyweights, the acting is pretty solid throughout. I laughed my ass off at the Jimmy Carter impersonator, but Gerald Ford is actually in the movie (although a stock clip from a parade).

If you’re a fan of creature flicks or B movies, you should check this out, and if you don’t support Vinegar Syndrome, you should. What they do is important. They don’t release blockbusters or even genre headliners, but they give releases to titles that would likely be lost without them, including horror, exploitation, and even some good old 70s and 80s porn. Hit them up at vinegarsyndrome.com or at your local horror convention.

Destroyer

Directed By: Robert Kirk

Starring: Lyle Alzado, Anthony Perkins, Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Tobias Anderson, Jim Turner, Pat Mahoney

Synopsis:
Serial Killer Ivan Moser is being executed via the electric chair, but a prison riot breaks out during the execution and Moser disappears. Years later, the abandoned prison is being used as a movie set. Carnage ensues.

Thoughts:
I’m not sure what was going on during the late 80s, but in less than a three year span, there were four horror movies released that all centered around a convict being sent to the electric chair and coming back for revenge in one form or another. We had Prison, Shocker, The Horror Show and this little gem, Destroyer. Interestingly enough, all have been released by Scream Factory, so the theme is just begging for a marathon at your local home theater!

Of the four, Destroyer is probably towards the bottom of the totem pole, but I still found it enjoyable, mostly because of the over the top performance of former NFL madman Lyle Alzado, who played the killer and Anthony Perkins as the Director of the exploitation movie being filmed at the prison. It’s a women-in-prison flick, and there is even the requisite shower scene being filmed, so I thought that was a great nod to the genre. Destroyer is rife with ridiculous lines and not great acting, but it is throwback to the heydays of 1980s VHS, and who doesn’t love that.

Destroyer is part of a Scream Factory Double Feature with Edge of Sanity, both featuring Anthony Perkins, but as I mentioned before, this pairs perfectly with a couple of other movies. I used its release as an excuse to revisit Prison, one of the first VHS horror movies I remember watching. It’s by no means perfect, but it features a couple of cool deaths, especially the jackhammer scene and some over the top 80s style action. Alzado should have done more movies, maybe even teaming up with Bosworth in something (a guy can dream I guess).

Destroyer is a must see for 80s slasher fans, and is a worthy entry into the Scream Factory canon. I really enjoy their double features, allowing movies that might not support a full blown release to make their way onto Blu, and into my collection.

Childs Play

Directed By: Tom Holland

Starring: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Raymond Oliver

Synopsis: A doll possessed by a serial killer makes his way into the home of Karen Barclay and her son, Andy.

Thoughts: Everyone knows Chucky as the foul-mouthed, wise cracking killer doll, but in the first movie, he was a pretty dark character. Sure, he swore like a sailor, but he was actually pretty frightening. The original Child’s Play was steeped in Voodoo and possession, making it much darker than the rest of the series.

Chucky was one of the later slasher icons to join the party in the 80’s, following in the familiar path that Michael, Jason and Freddy all started in years prior. Chucky’s look, along with the eerie voice of Brad Dourif, all but guaranteed that we would see much more of Chucky after the first movie. On top of an iconic killer, the cast was great as well. Cathering Hicks, who played Karen Barclay, the mother, played the downtrodden mother who would do anything for her son very well. Her character reminded me of someone you would see in something more dramatic. Andy was played by Alex Vincent, who convincing, if not a little annoying at times, although most kids that age can be pretty annoying. I suppose he gets a pass for being stalked by a voodoo created killer doll stalking him. Last, but not least, Chris Sarandon plays the Detective that not only killed Charles Lee Ray prior to him possessing Chucky, but also is the one to investigate the first murder at the Barclay home. Sarandon is no stranger to the genre, having played the antagonist in Fright Night, as well as a handful of other roles through the years.

Tom Holland is a man that loves the horror genre. He is active in social media and helps promote the movies we all love. In addition to Child’s Play, he’s directed the first two Fright Night movies and Stephen King’s Thinner. He wrote and directed in the Tales from the Crypt series over the years, as well as helmed a Masters of Horror episode. He’s also comfortable in front of the camera, appearing in The Stand and The Langoliers, as well as a couple of Adam Green features (Hatchet II and Digging up the Marrow). It’s people like Tom Holland that keep this genre alive.

It had been a while since I sat down to watch Child’s Play and actually pay attention to it. It’s been on in the background over the years, but it’s not a movie that I watch often. I forgot that the first movie does have some pretty scary parts. I can’t say the same for the rest of the franchise, but this movie is a classic and must see and own for horror fans.

Scouts Guide

Directed By: Christopher Landon

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Patrick Shwarzenegger

Synopsis: A zombie outbreak can only be stopped by a group of Boy Scouts and a cocktail waitress from a strip club. Yes, hilarity ensues.

Thoughts:
Zombies are everywhere. They have been for a few years now. I blame The Walking Dead, but that really is irrelevant. The truth is that they have infiltrated the mainstream and are everywhere. This has led to a lot of really bad and mediocre zombie flicks. It’s also made it tougher to find the few good zombie movies that have come out. For some reason, Scouts Guide caught my eye when I saw the trailer.

Scouts Guide takes a recently popular approach to the genre by playing up the laughs and the gross out factor instead of social commentary and scares. It’s been a popular approach, with some of the more successful entries including Shaun of the Dead, Zombie Land and Dead Snow. Scouts Guide succeeds in its approach, although not quite well enough to be included in the aforementioned list.

The cast is adequate, but probably one of the weaker points of the film for me. Most of the actors are ultimately forgettable. When you look at the most successful horror-comedy hybrids, the characters make the difference. I could easily see most of the actors in a horror movie without the comedy, as they fall into stereotypical roles and don’t bring the needed charisma to make an impression. I felt Logan Miller (Carter) overplayed his role quote a bit and some of his scenes felt fake as a result.

Christopher Landon isn’t a household name, even in the horror genre, but he has been the screenwriter of several well-known horror movies, including Disturbia and Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4. His directorial debut was Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and this was his follow-up. I can see him becoming a pretty popular director in the genre. He also happens to be the son of Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven).

The FX are pretty solid as well. The zombies are reminiscent of the infected from The Crazies remake from a few years ago, mixed with some more classic zombie looks (such as the zombie missing his bottom jaw). Where Scouts Guide differentiates itself are with some of the gross out gags. You see gratuitous zombie tits, more than once even, you see an extended scene with an “old guy” zombie’s dick and you also see a zombie go down on a girl (ode to Re-Animator maybe). The jokes are pretty run of the mill, but there are a few laughs.

Overall, I had a pretty good time watching this, but it isn’t likely to land a spot in my collection (although it is much better than a lot of movies I own). To me, this is an excellent movie to catch on Netflix or Redbox, and maybe a good movie to buy if you are a big zombie (or comedy) fan. I recommend checking it out, but keep your expectations tempered. That way, you should enjoy it.