Friday, April 24, 2015

It Follows Movie Review – Don't Have Sex With Random Strangers

Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: March 27, 2015
Rating: R
Director: David Robert Mitchell

Just in case we needed another reason not to have sex with people we just met, here comes It Follows.

A young woman runs out of her house clad only in panties, a tank, and heels. After a neighbor asks if she's okay, her father comes and yells for her. Running back to her house, she runs off and eventually finds her way to the beach, where she spends the night shaking in fear. The following morning, we find her dead on the beach.

It Follows then introduces us to Jay, a pretty blond teenager with a crush on a boy named Hugh. While playing a game in the movie theater, Hugh points out a woman in the back. When Jay doesn't see her, he freaks out and pulls her out of the theater. On their second date, they have sex before he chloroforms her and takes her to an abandoned building. Once there, he tells her that she now has "it" and that "it" will follow her. He shows her a naked woman stalking them and explains that it can take on many different forms and once it kills her, it will come for him. Hugh also warns her to have sex quickly to pass it on to someone else.

After Hugh leaves her partially naked on the road in front of her house, her family rushes her to the hospital. Jay sinks into a deep depression and keeps noticing the weird people that seem to follow her. Though she tries to explain what happened to her sister and friends, no one really seems to believe her until the attacks begin happening. They track down Hugh's former apartment and discover that he rented it under a fake name before actually finding him, but he offers little in the way of help. Jay and her friends finally go away together while she copes with deciding what to do next while it keeps following her.

I have mixed feelings about It Follows. On the one hand, I liked it when I first saw it, though I do wonder if I would have liked it less had I not seen it immediately after Unfriended. On the other hand, there wasn't much memorable about it, and I have to admit that I have a hard time remembering a lot about the movie, even though I just saw it last night.

So many people compare it to classic Hollywood horror films like Halloween, but I actually found the homages a little distracting. It literally seems like the director couldn't decide which decade he wanted the movie set in. Everyone, except for a few people, seem to drive really old cars, no one ever has or uses a cell phone, and the interior of homes seem really outdated, which makes it seem like a 70s or 80s movie. But, one of the characters uses a tablet shaped like a clam shell, which tends to bring it into the modern era. It probably wouldn't bug too many people, but it bothered me for some reason.

It Follows did have some good moments though. Some of the forms that it takes were particularly disturbing. I'm not too crazy about seeing a giant, a deformed kid, or a woman with one breast hanging out turning up in my house. The director also created a great atmosphere with those forms showing up just behind Jay or off to the side of the camera. Unfortunately, I think he took it just a little too far. It literally got to the point where it seemed like there was a "fake it" behind Jay in every scene.

Like I said, I'm a little on the fence about this one. It was a lot better than Unfriended, but I'm not sure if I really liked it as much as I would have, had I watched it on its own.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Animal Movie Review – Seriously, Never Ever Go Into the Woods

Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Brett Simmons

Alissa, her stepbrother, their significant others, and their mutual friend drive to the middle of nowhere for a daytime hike. Jeff, the stepbrother, is something of a man's man. Not only does he come fully prepared, but he keeps pushing them to go a little further. He and Alissa once took the same trail often with his father when they were younger.

Jeff's girlfriend Mandy wants to turn around and go back, and Alissa agrees. Though she rightly points out that it's getting dark and that they don't want to be out in the middle of nowhere at night, he keeps arguing, which leads to the two fighting. Alissa then accidentally stumbles upon what's left of a dead body.

As a large monster/animal hybrid jumps out of the woods, everyone runs for cover. They eventually find themselves running into an isolated cabin in the woods. A random man uncovers the door, lets them inside, and barricades the door behind them. The man, Carl, and his wife Vicky were on a business trip when their car broke down. After wandering through the woods, they found their way to the house. Upstairs, is a man named Douglas who briefly popped up at the beginning of the film after his own run in with the same animal.

The ragtag group of survivors lock themselves inside the old house in the hopes of making it through the night. One manages to get cell phone service long enough to call for help. Rangers promise to track their cell to the nearest tower and send help, and both Alissa and Jeff's parents promise to send their own friends in the area out to look for them. As the night grows on and the animal gets closer, it becomes clear that they might not make it until the morning.

Animal is another movie I randomly stumbled across on Netflix and one that I watched without expecting much. It starts out as one of those classic horror flicks with all the typical stereotypes. There is naturally a girl who has to stop and put on her makeup before going into the woods, the gay friend who is so effeminate that it made my gay friend keep cringing and bringing it up, and the guy is so butch and masculine that he makes everyone else look bad. As the movie unfolds though, we find out there is more to the eye. The girl with all the makeup is just worried about losing her boyfriend, and Mr. Butchy McButch might not be as butch as he looks.

You also have to love any movie that features Joey Lauren Adams. Here, she plays Vicky and does an adequate job, but her role is a little one dimensional. She pretty much just serves as the wife of a guy tasked with leading a group of survivors. While she does eventually get her own story line, the movie is almost over by that point.

The director did do a pretty damn good job of showing the animal, and I want to give it up for the special effects team. With its gruesome teeth, the saliva dripping off its fangs, and the way it just shot out of the woods when I least expected it, I couldn't wait to see a little more. Animal is currently on Netflix, if you want to give it a go.

Unfriended Movie Review – Reminds Me Why I Dislike Most Teens

Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Levan Gabriadze

Unfriended opens with a short, very short, description of what happened to a teenage girl named Laura. After getting drunk at a party, someone filmed the aftermath and posted it online, which led to her getting brutally teased and taunted by others online. Unable to cope with their bars, she shot herself in the head, which was also filmed and posted online.

Blaire was one of Laura's closest friends and is chatting with her boyfriend Mitch online on the one year anniversary of her friends suicide. Their talk turns dirty just as their friends start calling. Adam, Ken, and Jess interrupt their Skype call without their permission and notice an unknown person in their call. Despite hanging up and calling each other separately, the person, who has no avatar or photograph, remains on the line.

Assuming it's their friend Val, they call her and put her in the conversation too. Blaire keeps trying to talk with Mitch who doesn't respond. When he finally does, he tells her that someone hacked Laura's account, which leads to her getting a message from her dead friend too. Though she attempts to unfriend the account, the button goes dark and prevents her. She eventually memorializes the account to put an end to the messages.

After typical teenage chitchat, the unknown person in their conversation finally rears its head. Hacking into Jess's Facebook account, the person posts a number of pictures of a drunk Val, which leads to random people telling her to kill herself and taunting her in the same way people once did Laura. Blaming Jess, Val logs out of their conversation. As the night goes on, the person finally reveals her identity and makes it clear that she's out for revenge. Each of the teenagers must slowly reveal some of their own secrets that they hoped would remain hidden.

We sat down and watched an episode of Modern Family a few weeks ago that took place entirely on computer and phone screens. Though it was an interesting premise, it grew tired about halfway through. Take the same idea, multiply it by 2.5, and you'll have Unfriended.

When I found out our local drive in planned to show two horror movies back to back, I knew where I would be that Friday night. Sadly for me, this was the first movie they showed. Despite a supposed run time of 82 minutes, the movie was actually just over an hour long, somewhere around 70 minutes or so. The person next to us screamed that he wanted his money back, and we came across multiple other people who absolutely hated it.

I think the problem was with the way the film plays and not the plot itself. Imagine sitting in a room trapped with five teenagers chatting online. That should give you some idea of this movie. It's literally a group of teens on Skype, sending instant messages, playing music, and talking on their cell phones. I can see why it might appeal to teens, but I think I'm outside its target demographic.

The sad thing is that Unfriended actually had some good scenes. I've never seen someone suffocated to death with a curling iron down the throat, and there was a scene where a camera randomly shows up just behind one of the characters. Those scenes left me wishing the movie had more of those moments. I'm still not even sure if the second movie was that good or if it just looked good in comparison.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Intruders Movie Review – Another Reason Not to Buy a House Without Looking at its History

Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Rating: PG-13
Director: Adam Massey

Rose had a partial breakdown while studying at Standford. Her father, Jerry, worries that she suffers from the same emotional and mental problems that led to her mother's death not that long ago. As the university asked her to take some time off, Jerry decides to move them into a new home far removed from their old home to give his daughter a new start.

Not long after moving in, Rose meets her next door neighbor Leila. Leila expresses disgust at her for living in that home after what happened, but before she can explain further, her father pulls her back inside. Rose also meets Noah, a handyman helping a team of contractors fix up the house and a guy who conveniently seems to be around every time something bad happens.

Rose quickly learns that a young woman named Rachel went missing from that house the year before and that Leila's dad was originally the prime suspect. The woman who owned the house, Cheri, acted a little suspicious before disappearing herself. Most people in town thought she was a pillar of the community for the work she did with her church. After discovering the story, Rachel finds that there is something just plain wrong with her house.

She finds the head of a doll in one of her desk drawers and later sees the same head popping up in other places in the house. After venturing into the basement, she finds a tiny closet with a lock on the outside and the words "Rachel Was Here" carved on the rock wall inside. Rose then hears weird noises and starts running, only to trip and fall down the stairs and see the shadowy figure of a man standing over her. Her dad begins questioning if she actually saw anything or if everything she fears is only in her head, especially after learning that someone stole the majority of his prescription pain pills...

I never heard of The Intruders until I saw the trailer for it on another movie. As a fan of Donal Logue, I added it to my mental list. He turns up as Rose's father, but he doesn't play a very likeable character, and he occasionally seems a little bored. Miranda Cosgrove does a much better job as Rose.

Both the director and Cosgrove did a good job of leaving us wondering if everything that happened in the film occurred only in her mind or in real life. When she led her dad to the basement and showed him the writing on the wall, it suddenly looked faded and barely legible, which only added to the idea that maybe she made up everything. Though the film does make it clear what happened in the end, it also ends on one of those notes that makes you wonder if maybe Rose really is more like her mother than she thinks.

I also want to give a shout out to Tom Sizemore. Given the problems he had in the past, it was nice to see him back to doing a fairly good job. As the father of the next door neighbor, he does a pretty good job of walking the line between creepy and possible killer/kidnapper and a guy just looking out for his daughter.

The Intruders got some horrible reviews, but I have to say that I actually liked it. While the reveal was a little hokey and something we've all seen dozens of times, I would probably watch it again, which is something I almost never say.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life After Beth – Better After Some Thought

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Jeff Baena

Zach doesn't know quite what to do with himself after learning that his girlfriend Beth died. While trying to cope with her passing, he starts spending a lot of time with her parents Maury and Geenie. They play games, talk about Beth, and generally just try to be there for each other. When he goes over to their house one day, he finds the door locked and they won't answer it even though he can see them. After gaining access to their home, he discovers that Beth is alive again.

Instead of her parents faking her death, he learns that Beth actually came back from the dead. Unfortunately, Beth thinks everything is fine and has no idea that she died, nor does she know that they actually broke up before her death. Zach tries to pretend that everything is fine between them, even as Beth goes off the deep end. She constantly tries to have sex with him, breaks through walls and exhibits other types of super strength, and even sets fire to a lifeguard stand at one time. Since he can't tell anyone that she's back from the dead, he has to find a way to play nice with his dead girlfriend at the same time that his own parents attempt to set him up with the pretty girl next door.

Life After Beth is a good movie, but only after you step back and give it some thought. When we first watched it, we all sat there for awhile with our WTF faces on. None of us were particularly fond of it, which was odd because we all love Aubrey Plaza. I turned all my friends onto Parks and Recreation, and I think I'm the only person who actually enjoyed the first season. After a few weeks though, we realized that we were constantly quoting the movie and bringing up scenes to make each other laugh.

The sad thing is that this is definitely a Plaza movie, but Plaza really isn't that funny in this one. The exception are the scenes at the very end when she's strapped to an oven and trying to walk, but you can see those moments in the trailer. The real standouts are all the background characters.

Molly Shannon is hysterical as Beth's mom, especially towards the end when she has no clue what is going on around here. John C. Reilly is also pretty damn funny as Beth's dad. Then you have Cheryl Hines and Paul Resier as Zach's parents. It's always nice to see Reiser pop up in something and actually get a few good lines.

I was also a big fan of Matthew Gray Gubler. He plays Zach's older brother who is obsessed with following the laws and keeping people safe. When he joins the local group tasked with stopping the zombie invasion, I couldn't stop laughing. Plus we get a fun little cameo from Gary Marshall when he comes back from the dead. Even Anna Kendrick turns up as the girl dating Zach. One of the best moments comes when Zach is trying to talk about Beth and she gets super confused because she thought his girlfriend was dead.

Life After Beth is a smart comedy/horror film, and I think it's the type of movie that requires multiple viewings.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Town That Dreaded Sundown – Damn You, Leonard!

Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Jami and Corey are two hot kids at the local drive-in to see The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which in a meta twist was based on an actual series of murders that happened in their town. After making it clear that she isn't into horror movies, he drives her out to the old lovers lane. Before they can get too far into it, a man in a sack mask who looks just like the original killer, shows up. He drags them both out of the car, makes Jami turn away, and kills Corey. She runs into the woods, and while he finds her, he lets her go after giving her a warning to pass on.

A few days pass before the killer strikes again. It's just enough time for Corey's funeral and for her grandmother to deny that she remembers the original murders. It's also enough time for Jami to start her own investigation. The killer next targets a young woman and her military boyfriend home on leave. After decapitating the boyfriend and slamming his head against the hotel room window, he chases her outside and brutally kills her in her own car. The killer continues on his spree all the while coming back to urge Jami to make others remember what happened in the past.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a movie that I actually enjoyed. I love that they did the meta thing. Not only do they set it up that this was the town where the original was filmed, but they also keep showing scenes from the original and harkening back to the original. I think I squealed when the killer brought out the trombone for one scene, but the friends I watched it with had no clue what was going on. I also liked seeing Dennis O'Hare. He's been so good in the past seasons of American Horror Story, especially the first season, that I loved seeing him here. He plays the son of the original director and is just the perfect character. He's a little strange, suspicious, and kind of loveable all at the same time.

Speaking of people I loved seeing, this movie was a who is who. Addison Timlin, who was so great as Stormy in Odd Thomas, plays Jami. Gary Cole pops up as the chief of the small town police department and has one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film. I don't want to give it away, but something a little unusual happens while he's getting a blow job. Edward Herrmann, who I admittedly only know as the grandfather on Gilmore Girls, turns up as the local pastor who thinks the killer came back because the town is full of sin. We even get Anthony Anderson as a Texas Ranger who rolls into town to solve the mystery. Did I mention Josh Leonard from The Blair Witch Project is in it too? It's nice to see him in a horror movie rather than that piece of crap If I Stay I was forced to sit through a few months ago.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is my favorite horror movie of the month and maybe the last few months. The acting was good, and it had some great death scenes too. There's the two young gay men who get attacked before they get to their good stuff, a body left chopped into pieces on the railroad tracks, and a poor little old lady stabbed/slashed in the throat. What more could you ask for?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jessabelle Movie Review -From the Writer of Hell Baby

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Director: Kevin Greutert

Jessie has everything she could want, including a hot fiance helping her move into his house. Not long after leaving her old apartment, a truck comes out of nowhere and hits her side of the car. She wakes up in the hospital to learn that she lost both her fiance and her baby and that she broke her legs so severely that she won't be able to walk for a few months.

A few months later, she learns that she needs serious help. Her mother died, she has no friends, and the only person who might help is her father. When she was a baby, her mom died of cancer and her father gave her to her aunt to raise. She makes the call, and he surprisingly comes to get her and moves her into his home in the bayou, even letting her stay in her mother's old room.

While going through her mom's dresser, she finds videotapes that her mother left for her. The first tape shows her mom reading a set of tarot cards to determine her future. She suddenly gets worried and says that Jessie isn't alone in the house. The second tape is fairly similar, but in the middle, her father comes in and sees her. He flips out and breaks the tape before grabbing her wheelchair and throwing it in the swamp.

After catching her with yet another tape, her father takes the remaining tapes outside and screams at her that her mother had brain tumors and didn't know what she was talking about. As she's stuck in her wheelchair, she can only watch as he tosses the tapes in a barrel and starts to light the tapes on fire. Unable to get a fire going, he rushes into his shed, only to see the door slam and lock behind him as the shed goes up in flames. Jessie can only watch and listen as her father burns to death.

At his funeral, she encounters her old high school boyfriend Preston. Before they can form much of a connection, she sees a black man with a burn on his face, which causes her to pass out. She wakes up back in her father's home with Preston watching over her. He offers to get the tapes for her, but once she watches them, she and Preston both realize that there is something more unusual happening in her old family home.

Jessabelle looked good from the trailer, started off with a bang, and ended with one of those scenes that left us all with a WTF face firmly in place. The ending was so confusing that I had to go to Wikipedia in the hopes of it making some sense in my mind. It turns out that the ending involved something that I never saw in the film. I don't know if it was a cut scene or a scene that I somehow missed, but once I read it, it totally made sense.

The ending really was the worst thing about Jessabelle. The film had some really strong moments. A girl trapped in a wheelchair stuck in a house in the middle of the Louisiana bayou, how could that not be creepy? Add in some scenes of creaking noises upstairs, where she can't go, and a hand trying to reach through a curtain to touch her face, and I'm on the edge of my seat. I just wish the ending made more sense.