Thursday, October 20, 2016

Submerged Movie Review – Not for the Claustrophobic

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Steven C. Miller

You could put Tim Daly in anything and the odds are good that I would probably watch it. In fact, he's the sole reason I watched Private Practice. While I only watched Submerged because of him, it turns out that it wasn't that bad.

The movie follows a young girl, not that young though like college, and her friends. Jessie sneaks away from her dad to spend the weekend with her friends at a lake house. Hank, her father played by the super yummy Tim Daly, sends his best man Matt to pick her up. Matt is both a driver and a bodyguard and played by Jonathon Bennett. I find it strange that most of his know him from Mean Girls but that a whole new generation knows him as a host on Food Network. Odd.

Anyway, it turns out that Hank is worth a lot of money and that there are people willing to do anything to get that money. We know that because people show up in a dark car and attempt to kidnap Jessie. All they actually do though is hit the car hard enough that it crashes over the side of a bridge. When the kids try to escape, our bad guys shoot at them. With Matt in the front seat and the other characters in the back, they need to find a way to work together and hopefully escape before time runs out.

Review for Submerged were absolutely terrible, which I find strange because it was actually pretty entertaining. Yes, most of the characters were those classic stereotypes. We have the poor little rich girl who has everything handed to her on a silver platter and still isn't happy, the douchy frat boy you want to punch in the face, and the girl who cares more about hooking up than anything else. When they actually land in the water though, you'll find yourself caring about what happens to them and even wincing when the bad guys thwart their escape attempts.

Like I said up top, this is not for the claustrophobic. Some of the scenes in this film reminded me of The Descent, especially in regards to Matt. The kids in the backseat actually have room to spread out and move, but he's stuck in the front seat of a limo with a bum leg and almost no space to move. It left me feeling really unsettled and wondering what I would do in a similar situation.

And okay, the movie isn't fantastic. Bennett really doesn't come across as the type of guy you would hire to protect your kids. Even when he's doing ass kicking stuff, you still want to giggle because he looks like a huge dork. And Mario Van Peebles, who yes, is also in this flick, looks like he showed up to make $20 bucks and decided to only do $20 worth of work. Even Daly isn't his usually sparkling best. The end also felt so much like a TV movie that I had to look it up to see if this aired on television first.

So while it did have some flaws, I actually enjoyed it. Submerged may just make you wonder what you would do if trapped in a car with the water rising all around you...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Dead Room Movie Review – Too Long and Yet Not Long

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Rating: NR?
Director: Jason Sutter

Similar to The Amityville Horror, The Dead Room deals with a haunted house that was so terrifying it forced a family to take up and leave in the middle of the night. In the hopes of finding out what actually happened, three investigators arrive and decide to spend a few days filming the house and looking for signs of ghosts.

Liam is the lead investigator and the one who most doubts the family's stories. After investigating dozens of other cases, he's heard it all and is incredibly cynical. Many of the things they said remind him of things he heard before. Scott is his right hand man and equally doubtful. He even reminds Liam of cases they worked on in the past that people faked. Also along for the ride is Holly who apparently really is psychic. She finds their stories sad and wonders if they ever found any real proof of the paranormal.

On their first day there, they find nothing in the way of evidence. Holly can't sense any presences in the home, nothing shows up on their cameras, and their other feeds detect nothing. Though they do catch some movement on one camera in the middle of the night, Scott convinces them that it was just the wind. They later capture a rocking chair moving on its own, and Holly sees a shadowy figure that no one else can see. In the hopes of finding more evidence, they decide to spend more time there, which causes the paranormal activity to worsen. As furniture flies through the air and the spirit chases them through the house, they must decide if capturing evidence is as important as their own lives.

The Dead Room had a few things going for it, but most notably, the characters. Liam is the type of character who we need more of in horror films. There are so many movies like this that feature characters dead set on the idea that ghosts exist and willing to go overboard to prove it. Liam is much more mellow and pretty much a skeptic. Even when faced with real evidence, he's willing to find other explanations for what he saw. Holly was fairly interesting too, especially when she actually began detecting the presence, and Scott at least kept things entertaining.

If you think I liked the film because I liked the characters, think again. I put it on Netflix the other day to have something to watch while waiting for a food delivery and kept thinking about fast forwarding. It's a slow movie, and not the type of slow burn that I usually like. So much doesn't happening in the first half that you start wondering if there's an actual ghost or if this is one of those movies that ends with someone living in the basement. It was just too slow for me.

The end to The Dead Room was really good and had a nice twist. I just wish that some of those action sequences occurred early on. By the time we learn what's really going on, I was ready to turn it off. The Dead Room just didn't do it for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Last House on Cemetery Lane Movie Review – Crazy, Crazy Writers

Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Andrew Jones

Despite being only 82 minutes long, The Last House on Cemetery Lane felt much, much, much longer to me.

John Davies is a successful screenwriter living in London who grows tired of the hustle and bustle of the city. Remembering the fun times he had in the English countryside as a child, he decides to take a break and move back. He finds the perfect home for rent through a local real estate agent. It overlooks the water, has a large property surrounding it, and comes with two full floors. During their meeting though, he learns that there is actually a tenant on the second floor. As she's blind and never leaves, he doesn't need to worry about her. Though he isn't fond of sharing “his home” with someone else, he agrees to rent it.

On one of his first days, he looks outside and sees a beautiful woman playing on the swingset nearby. After chatting with her, he learns that her name is Cassie and that she lives in the neighborhood. Cassie seems a little nervous about being around the house and reluctantly admits that she heard stories about it before. Though interested in the tales, he's even more interested in her.

The longer that John stays in the house, the more unsettled he feels. It starts out slowly. He thinks he feels someone watching him, he finds things missing, he realizes that things moved to new locations, and he hears noises inside the wall. Like most of us, he blames some of it on the upstairs neighbor. She refuses to answer the door or even talk to him, but the real estate agent assures him that Agnes is harmless. Once John starts researching the house and learning about what happened there over the years, he realizes that there might be an underlying reason for all his weird experiences.

Not to be a downer, but this movie really sucked. It was one of those that made me keep grabbing the remote and checking to see how much time was left and feeling disappointed that I had so much time left to go. It's hard to explain, but it felt more like a movie that told us a story instead of one that showed us a story. It was like: here's John, John writes movies, here's this girl, John likes this girl, here's something strange happening, etc. It felt super disjointed and occasionally seemed like the actors didn't even want to be there, which definitely pulled me out of the story.

As a low budget movie, the special effects were particularly bad. The director should have just skipped the idea of adding special effects and tried to give the film an unsettling feel with things like creaky footsteps in the hallway or dark shadows over his shoulder. It lacked anything really new or even different.

As someone with friends in the industry, I know that you can do a lot with a very limited budget. It seems like the director of this one didn't learn that. I kept waiting for something interesting or entertaining to happen, but it felt more like a play that grudgingly walked us through the story...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Movie Review: Lights Out – Keep the Lights On

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: David F. Sandberg

While it isn't really terrifying, I highly recommend watching this one with all the lights out if possible.

A woman working in a mannequin warehouse sees what looks like the shadow of a woman standing in the back room. When she turns the lights off, the woman disappears. She warns her boss, Paul, before leaving for the night. Though Paul doesn't believe her, he sees the woman for himself. She gets closer and closer as the lights go out. Despite trying to make it back to his lit office, the shadowy figure kills him.

We then meet Rebecca and her friends with benefits Bret. Though Bret clearly wants more, she keeps blowing him off because she doesn't believe in forming attachments to other people. We learn why when she gets a call that her half-brother Martin keeps falling asleep in school. It turns out that their mother Sophie suffers from mental illness. When she's on her meds, she's fine, but Rebecca learns that her mom stopped taking her meds and keeps talking about her friend Diana. Every time she stops her meds, she sees Diana. We also find out that Paul was Martin's father and Diana's second husband. Rebecca's father took off when she was a kid and never came back.

After stopping by the house and finding light bulbs missing and lights turned off, Rebecca decides to take her brother home with her. Despite him finally getting a solid night's sleep, a social worker comes to see her and claims that her mother wants him back and that she' fine. Rebecca begins remembering when she saw Diana herself as a child and wonders if the woman really does exist. With the help of Bret, she goes through her stepfather's things to find proof of who Diana was and to uncover a mystery to help both her mother and her brother.

Lights Out really was a pretty good flick. I saw it at the drive-in with both my boyfriend and my roommate, both of whom like horror movies. All three of us had moments where we started laughing nervously and tried to hold a conversation because it meant looking away from the screen. The roommate even took out his phone to suddenly look up something he had to know right then instead of watching it. The people in the next car over actually screamed a few times too.

Let's get it out of the way: Diana is fucking terrifying. She's this shadowy creature that seemingly stands feet above everyone else at times, had long dark hair that hides her face, and can move as quick as a bunny in the dark. Whether it was her running across the floor on her hands and knees or slowly creeping up in the background behind someone, I was about to jump out of my seat.

While the ending is a little cheesy and the explanation of who she is came out of nowhere, I really liked Lights Out because it actually made me a little scared to turn off the lights after watching it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Movie Review – Read the Book!

Runtime: 108 minutes
Release Date: February 5, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: Burr Steers

Anyone who ever took a woman's literature class in college or a course on British literature probably read Pride and Prejudice before. While adding zombies to the story should make things more interesting (and keep me from nodding off), the film version was pretty meh.

Just in case you don't know the story, the writer literally took the original book and added new scenes that involve the Bennett sisters hunting zombies while trying to find husbands and spend time together as a family. All the iconic characters are here, including Mr. Darcy, who actually does do the jump into the pond while fully dressed that so many women love. It's basically a classic British story with elements of love and scenes of zombies thrown in the middle.

The first time I saw a trailer for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, my jaw literally dropped. Though I remember reading the book in college, I also remember finding it so boring that I skipped entire sections and skimmed over pages just to get to the end. Throwing in action sequences and letting the ladies fight zombies at the same time seemed like a great idea. I should also admit here that I absolutely loved Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and got a kick out of the film version. As much as I wanted to like this movie, it just didn't do it for me.

The problem is that it felt like such a departure from the book itself. I kept waiting for scenes that I would recognize from the book, but it felt like the screenwriter and directed wanted to make a movie that focused more on the zombie elements than on the original story. Instead of getting scenes of the girls talking about love, we get scenes of them talking about weapons or sharpening their weapons. There were very few scenes that seemingly came from the book, which leaves me suspicious that the film only features the new elements added to the book.

You can't think about Pride and Prejudice without thinking about Elizabeth and Darcy. Despite the two of them having their share of ups and downs, you know that they'll wind up together in the end. The film spent so much time keeping them apart that I didn't even pick up on a romance vibe. It probably didn't help that the two had absolutely no chemistry together. Darcy came across as just some random guy who happens to kill zombies instead of a romantic lead.

After reading reviews that talked about how funny the film was, I kept waiting for a scene that would make me laugh. Being a huge fan of Monty Python and Hot Fuzz type films, it really didn't deliver any laughs, not even “dead” pan laughs.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was just plain boring and something I can't imagine myself ever watching again.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Darkness Movie Review – No Bruce, No!

Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: Greg McLean

I had the chance to see this movie at the drive in earlier this year but was feeling sick and skipped it. I'm kind of glad I only paid a few bucks to rent it.

The Darkenss takes a family of four to the Grand Canyon. There's workaholic Peter, his recovering alcoholic wife Bronny, their typical teenage daughter, and their autistic son Mikey. As they have fun with their friends, the friends' teenage son takes the other two on a hike. Left alone, Mikey stumbles, falls through a hole in the ground, and lands in an underground cavern. He finds weird black rocks that have white symbols across the front and decides to take them home without telling anyone.

This naturally sets off a massive shit storm. Bronny gets irritated at Mikey for constantly leaving the kitchen faucet on, but he tells her that it was his new friend Jenny. He also makes comments about the people on the ceiling. Stephanie, the daughter, sees dark handprints on her bedroom walls, which she assumes is her brother being a pest. Bronny experiences some strange things of her own, including finding her son in the attic and him claiming that Jenny showed him a short cut. They also discover small fires around the house that they believe Mikey set.

As the ghostly activity amps up, everyone starts acting differently. Bronny finds that Stephanie started throwing up everything she ate and keeps jugs of her vomit under the bed. We learn that Peter had an affair, which makes his interactions with the new hot girl at the office a little disturbing. Bronny finally breaks down and has a drink, which leads to her full on falling off the wagon. After talking about their problems with Peter's boss, Peter finally snaps and reveals that he knew she started drinking again and that he just wants her to shut up. With the help of the boss's wife though, they may finally find a solution to their ghostly problems.

The cast of The Darkness is really the best part about the film. Not only do we get Kevin Bacon as Peter and Radha Mitchell as Bronny, but we also get the hillarious Matt Walsh and gorgeous Jennifer Morrison as their best friends at the beginning. Who doesn't love seeing Morrison and Bacon together again after Stir of Echoes? Paul Reiser and Ming-na then turn up as Peter's boss and the boss's wife.

Sadly, the rest of the movie is just eh. The only scene that really got me came when Stephanie was in the kitchen late at night and thought she head something. You expect to see something pop up behind her when she closes the refrigerator door, but it's actually just a flash of something in the microwave as she walks through the room. That scene was done so well that I wonder why the rest was so bad.

And, don't get me started on the ending! It was like someone watched Poltergeist, started writing a movie, and then gave up at the end. It's literally a healing that causes Mikey to go through a ghostly portal as his dad does everything to save him. The very-very end was even worse and felt like some random TV movie ending.

Though The Darkness wasn't the worst film, it felt like a retread of a movie I've seen many, many, many times before.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Conjuring 2 – Oh God, Not Another One

Runtime: 134 minutes
Release Date: June 10, 2016
Rating: R
Director: James Wan

Nothing will make me believe a “true story” less than a film that starts out with an investigation of the Amityville case. The Conjuring 2 takes us to New York as Ed and Lorraine investigate the “haunted” house. They then do a television interview that causes Ed to lash out at man who doesn't believe in him or his wife. When the man makes a comment about how Lorraine never met a house that wasn't haunted, I laughed my ass off. Ed recently started having visions of a demon, and when Lorraine reveals that she “saw” the same creature kill him, they agree to take a break from ghost hunting.

Too bad that there is another case about to bring them back to the fold. Over in England, a young girl named Janet gets in trouble for smoking on school grounds. Even though she was just holding her friend's cigarette, her mom doesn't want to hear it. Peggy is a single mother of four kids living in a council house and just trying to hold things together since her husband knocked up a woman around the corner and took off. Janet brings home a spirit board that she made with her friend, which seemingly sets off something sinister in the house.

Janet “levitates” in the air at several points. They hear knocking inside the walls, and furniture moves on its own. Janet then begins speaking in a demonic voice. A police officer even sees the furniture move. The family moves in with a friend and calls the church for help. The church then invites the Warrens to spend a weekend in England. Based on what they find, the church will decide what to do next.

Though the Warrens enter with no idea of what to expect, they quickly find that there is something sinister happening in the house. Of course. Despite evidence that Janet and her sister faked a good portion of the poltergeist activity, Ed becomes convinced that he must save the poor family. Lorraine has to keep a watchful eye on him and hope the demon doesn't return.

I have absolutely no belief whatsoever in anything the Warrens ever did. Hearing all the evidence about the Amityville case, it really pisses me off that she still swears it all happened. She's even given interviews and talked about things that others proved didn't happen but still says it did. Reading up on the case about the “true” story in this movie only pissed me off more. Those kids admitted that they made stuff up, people caught them faking stuff on camera, and don't even get me started on the bull shit “levitation” thing. Other also spoke out and claimed that the two only spent a single day in England, but the film version has us believing that Ed swept in like an action hero and saved them all. Gag me.

Despite really not liking The Conjuring, I disliked The Conjuring 2 even more. There was maybe one scene in the film that had me freaking out, which was when the demon nun came at Lorraine through a picture frame. Everything else had the sense of something I saw before. As much as I like James Wan, I wish he would just abandon this franchise and move on.