Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Exorcism Files Haunted Boy Review

Runtime: 88 minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Rating: NR
Director: Christopher Saint Booth, Philip Adrian Booth

This documentary is the perfect example of why you should never read the description on Redbox without finding out more about a film. Described as a documentary about the true story of The Exorcist, Redbox described it more as a found footage movie that deals with that story. I didn't really get either thing.

The Exorcism Files: Haunted Boy is a documentary from The Booth Brothers that should have been more interesting than it was. The author of the book drew inspiration from a case he read about in the local paper. Hoping to keep the identity of "Robbie Doe," as he was known at the time, William Peter Blatty agreed to change the character in his book into that of a little girl.

While researching an idea for a book, I wrote about a local college that is supposedly haunted because some of the artifacts used in the actual exorcism were stored there. Writing that article led to more research into the true story and some info on both the book and film. All that information was fresh in my head when I sat down to watch this movie, which might have tainted my experience a little.

The original boy is still alive, but he naturally doesn't want to talk about his experiences. The filmmakers then went to one of his relatives to get an idea about what he went through. They also tracked down archival footage from priests involved in the case and some who knew the original priests. That gave the documentary a "he said, she said" sense that left me wondering what was true. I can tell you what so and so said to me on camera, but does that mean I'm telling the truth?

They also try way too hard to make a connection between the actual case and the hauntings in the area. The former hospital where Doe once stayed was torn down. They talk to men who saw or moved some of the furniture that he used, and they all claim that they felt weird things and saw strange shit. They also talk to some of the people involved with the demolition of the hospital, who also say his former room was haunted. Plus, we get to see a big crack in the parking lot, which is supposedly the same spot where his former room was.

Even more ridiculous is the in-depth exploration of the house where Doe once lived. The owner of the house bought it because it was "the exorcist house," so you know anything he experienced there is tainted. It doesn't help that he basically cleaned out Doe's former room and doesn't use it for anything. A completely empty room in the middle of a big house? Yup, that wouldn't seem creepy at all.

At one point, my roommate checked, saw there was still 40+ minutes left, and threatened to live the room if I made him watch anymore. Sadly, we stuck it out. I would recommend it for those interested in learning more about the true story, but that explains my roommate and he barely made it through.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Antisocial Movie Review

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Rating: NR?
Director: Cody Calahan

Sam is just like any other college student except that she's in love with a total tool. After talking with her boyfriend, who seems anything but a good boyfriend, via video chat, she tells him that they need to talk about something. Sensing that she wants to break up, he decides to pull the plug on their relationship and end things completely. Upset, she turns to RedRoom, the Facebookesque site everyone on campus uses to keep in touch, where she learns that he spent the night with another chick the night before.

Luckily, she has her best friend and the much cuter Mark by her side. As it's New Year's Eve, he suggests that she come over to his house for a party. Though she isn't really in the mood to party, she agrees to stop by, which was probably a huge mistake.

See, there's a virus sweeping the country that seemingly uses RedRoom to spread. Kaitlin wants nothing more than to party and have fun with her boyfriend Steve, while Jed seems more interested in video chatting with one of his friends online. While Kaitlin does a strip tease for Steve upstairs, Jed's friend warns them of the upcoming danger.

A knock on the door reveals that one of their friends from earlier in the night came back. Jed warns them that he's infected and showing some of the more common symptoms, and they agree to send him away. Sam throws up in the kitchen sink, but no worries, she's not infected. She's actually pregnant, which is what she wanted to tell her boyfriend about earlier.

After checking out RedRoom on his phone, Steve becomes infected. It doesn't take long before he starts showing symptoms, so you know Kaitlin is infected too. Sadly, the whole group is stuck inside a house that they locked down and barricaded from the world, so who knows who will make it out alive? Well, I know, but if you want to know, you need to just watch the movie.

I first heard about Antisocial a few months ago while checking out trailers on XBOX Live. It looked really interesting and made me tell my roommate about it, but I promptly forgot about it. Picked it up at Redbox the other night, and I'm glad I did. Antisocial was a refreshing change of pace from the Hollywood hack films that came out lately.

It's hard to explain what the movie is because it tends to jump around. It's definitely a plague/virus film, but it later turns into something of a zombie flick. We've all seen too many bad zombie films lately, so it's nice that this one offers something a little different. We all use Facebook or some form of social networking nearly every day, and this one might make you think twice before you log on the next time.

Antisocial does a good job of setting up the plot early in the film. Sam, while still chatting with her boyfriend, sees a man seizing on campus, who later turns out to be one of the first victims. We also see some video clips from two young girls on their blog as they succumb to the virus. When the movie jumps into an explanation of what happened and how the virus spread, I started to lose focus. When it jumped to a cure for the virus, I was all in.

I know I’ve said this a few times lately, but Antisocial is one of my top horror picks for the year. It had characters I cared about, some nice acting, and a strong story that hooked me in and made me keep watching.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Birth of the Living Dead – The Start of Romero

Runtime: 76 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Rob Kuhns

You know how you sometimes watch the "making of" and special features on DVDs and just kind of roll your eyes because all the information documented is something you've seen before. That's pretty much how I felt about Birth of the Living Dead.

I've watched a number of documentary films on Netflix, and I have a tendency to love the ones that cover B movies, cheesy films, and horror movies. When this one popped up as a recommendation for me, I added it to my queue and sat down to watch it when I had a few minutes. I assumed it would be something like The Elm Street Legacy, but it came across as a been there, done there kind of film.

When I discovered that this has a fairly high rating, I was shocked. Do people really enjoy it that much, or is just a case of giving it a high rating because it involves George Romero. I kept waiting for it to touch on something new or at least give me some inside stories that I never heard before, but it just felt like a rehash of information I can find dozens of other places.

Maybe it's because I’ve owned and watched DVDs on everything from Night of the Living Dead to Survival of the Dead, but it felt more like an ode to Romero than a documentary that would actually cover the making of the film. Oh, Romero lost the rights to the film and now every one and his brother can sell copies? Gee, that must explain why it turns up on EVER horror movie compilation of all time. Oh, he didn't mean to make a statement when he cast a black man in the lead role? Where have I heard that before? Oh that's right, on every single interview he ever gave in his life.

If you're looking for something basic that gives you a brief introduction on the original Night of the Living Dead, head on over to Netflix. If you want an in-depth documentary on the actual making of that film, keep looking.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Frogs Movie Review: If you're squeamish, don't worry

Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: March 10, 1972
Rating: PG
Director: George McCowan

Pickett Smith, who I absolutely did not realize was Sam Elliott, is a photographer working on taking pictures of animals and nature. While working in a canoe in the swamp, siblings Clint and Karen speed by in their boat, which causes his canoe to tip over. After snapping at them about losing his work, Clint offers to replace all his damaged equipment. They take Pickett back to their family home, which is the Crockett Estate on an island nearby.

There, he meets the head of the family. Jason is stuck in a wheelchair and doesn't seem too happy. Though he wants to celebrate the Fourth of July and encourages Pickett to remain for the festivities, he can't stop complaining about the snakes and frogs living near the house. He sends one of his workers out to use some pesticides to kill the animals. Pickett finds the man's dead body and notices that he's covered in snake bites, but despite learning of the problem, Jason decides to push forward.

You know exactly where this is going. As they start planning for the holiday, amphibians keep flocking to the island and killing everyone in new and not so interesting ways.

Frogs is a film that I added to my Netflix queue when I went through a "killer animals" phase last year. There's a good chance that the movie's been in there since I had an account 6-7 years ago too. When I noticed some of those older movies expiring, I decided to take some time to watch some of the older horror movies before they disappeared too. Frogs was the first one on my list, and if it's any indication of what might come, it's probably time to weed out my queue.

Frogs is easily one of the worst movies I've seen. It wasn't one of those "so bad it's funny movies" either. My roommate and I giggled once or twice, but for the most part, we just kept checking how much time was left. At one point, he even begged me to just shut off the movie or move on to something else. I persevered and got through the movie but it's probably not something I should brag about.

This came out at a time when directors mixed existing footage with new footage to make a film. While that sometimes works in the right way or the funny way, it didn't work here. You get multiple scenes of frogs, snakes, and crocodiles moving through the wild before seeing someone thrashing around on the ground and screaming in pain or mock horror.

The one funny moment came when a man was attacked by a crocodile. The way he was rolling around in the water made us laugh and contemplate whether he was fighting or playing with it. This was one of the smaller crocodiles, and the way he kept looping his arm around it and dragging it around make it look like the poor thing just wanted to escape the bad movie.

If there's one reason to see the movie, it's for Joan Van Ark. Given the frightening way she looks today, it was kind of fun to see her back when she looked normal and even pretty.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

Runtime: 240 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Rating: NR
Director: Daniel Farrands, Andrew Kasch

Confession time: I actually own two copies of the original series and three copies of the first A Nightmare on Elm Street. I bought the original boxed set when it first came out and watched it multiple times. When I was in the mood to watch the films last summer and couldn't find my set, I bought the newer releases that stuck 4-5 movies in each set. I later found the original set in my garage, boxed up with some other movies from our move...three years ago. And I own the remastered version of the original that came with a bunch of special features. Um, and I may, may (may) still have the set on video too. Needless to say, I love me some Freddy. BTW, if you haven't read Englund's book yet, go buy a copy today. It's way better that Bruce Campbell's book, which I also love.

According to IMDB, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy came out in 2010. I don't know how I missed it, but when I saw it on Netflix, it took me 0.5 seconds to add it to my queue. When I saw its runtime, I figured the odds of me actually sitting down and watching it were slim to none. I decided to take my time and watch an hour or so at a time and later found myself watching the entire thing one Friday night. Hey, give me a break! I'm a single gal still nursing wounds after a bad break up. What do you expect me to do? LOL!

Never Sleep Again is probably the most in-depth documentary that we will ever get about the Nightmare franchise. It starts with the first film in the series and goes straight through until Freddy vs. Jason. While it doesn't mention the remake of the first film, it would be interesting for the filmmakers to go back and update the film with some info about that one. That said, this is incredibly interesting and far better than I expected.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic horror movie, but far too many people say that their fans and haven't seen the movie in years. This documentary starts with Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, Bob Shaye, and everyone else from that film talking. It delves into the arguments that went on behind the scenes between Craven and Shaye that led to Craven leaving the series, and it gives Langenkamp the chance to talk about how the film changed her life.

Each film gets a good portion of the documentary, and the stars of most of those films do come back. Patricia Arquette and Johnny Depp are probably the two most notable stars that didn't participate, but did you really expect them to come back? It's entertaining to hear Tuesday Knight talk about taking over the role from Arquette and hearing what others thought about coming back for the later films even though they knew they would die in the story.

The biggest surprise was listening to Lin Shaye talk about her role in the first one and how she only got the role because of her brother. She's such a funny woman and such a great actress, but she doesn't shy away from putting some of the blame on Bob for Wes leaving the series. It's also nice to see Wes on camera talking about why he later came back and how happy he was with the first film.

I also loved the section of the documentary dedicated to the second film and whether the director tried to make a gay movie. It was hilarious to hear them talk about how they just wanted to make a horror movie and never considered the gay implications while some of the more talked about scenes play.

My only complaint is that the documentary focuses way too much on Langenkamp. While she was in three of the films, she also spent a large portion of her career trying to get out from underneath the series and get her fans to focus on her other work. I think it's funny that after she had problems finding work, she finally decided to go back to the franchise and accept that most people will know her as Nancy.

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy bills itself as "The Ultimate Nightmare Documentary." After watching it, I have to agree. I don't think we'll ever see a documentary that delves so deeply into a horror franchise.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucky Movie Review: If I Had a Million Dollars...

Runtime: 103 minutes
Release Date: July 15, 2011
Rating: R
Director: Gil Cates Jr.

Lucky opens with a pretty blonde woman buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store. After the clerk attempts to flirt with her badly, she grabs her ticket and leaves. Noticing that she left behind her license, the clerk runs after her and finds her gone.

We then get to meet Lucy and Ben. Old friends, the two now work at the same office but rarely talk. Ben is your typically nebbish guy who lives with his mom and doesn't really have any friends. Lucy is a super happy and peppy woman who is in love with her coworker Steve. Steve ends their affair at lunch, which leads to Lucy telling his clients during an important meeting that they were lovers and basically quitting her job.

Ben's mom calls and asks him to come home because of an emergency. When he rushes home, he finds the local news waiting to congratulate him for winning $36 million in the lottery. Ben heads downstairs, watches the news, and hears about a new missing girl. He then goes to his closet and sees the dead body of the girl from the store and lets her know that her ticket was a winner.

When Lucy finds out about his win, she decides to finally give him a chance. This leads to her frequently turning up wherever he is and kind of throwing herself at him. They start dating and eventually marry. Lucy seems to bring out the bad side of Ben, convincing him that as a millionaire, he can now do whatever he wants. On their honeymoon in Hawaii, Ben kills a hotel maid after imaging that she's Lucy. She oversees the murder and thinks about calling the police before finally deciding to stick with him. When they get back home, Lucy realizes that this wasn't a first time thing and that her new husband is a serial killer with an interest in women who look just like her.

I heard a lot about Lucky before I sat down to watch it, but as much as I like both Colin Hanks and Ari Graynor, this film didn't do either of them justice. Lucy is such an annoying character that you can't possibly root for her. She goes from loving a random man at work to deciding that she needs to win Ben, even though she never cared for him before. All she cares about now is his money, which she makes clear when he runs out on their honeymoon.

Everything that she does in the film is because she just wants his money. There was one point in the film where I thought she might actually care about him. After finding three bodies buried on their property, she digs them up and moves them. Turns out that she's just worried that if someone finds them, she might lose out on her gravy train.

I loved Hanks in Band of Brothers, Orange County and on Roswell, but there is nothing to love about him here. Not only is his character incredibly boring, but he isn't even a very good serial killer. The movie tries to make his scenes funny or light but it fails completely. After murdering the maid, he sets up the room to make it look like she slipped on a banana peel and hit her head. Instead of making me laugh, it made me groan.

Lucky was in my Netflix queue forever, but now I think I understand why I waited so long to watch it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy – Exactly What We Wanted from the First One

Runtime: 103 minutes
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Rating: R
Director: James DeMonaco

The main problem that myself and a large number of other people had with The Purge is that it was too much of a condensed story. Once a year, everything you can imagine is legal. People roam the streets, attacking, raping, pillaging, and murdering anyone who gets in their way. Instead of showing us that violence, we got a story about one family stuck in a house for the night. The Purge: Anarchy finally gives us what we wanted to see.

Eva is a single mom working as a waitress to support her daughter Cali and her father. On the night of the Purge, she stops by the pharmacy to get her dad his medication. He lectures her about spending money on things they don't need and mentions that the medication doesn't do anything and that he doesn't have much time left. After he tells them he wants to take a nap, he leaves a note on his pillow and sneaks away.

Shane and Liz (Kiele Sanchez, "30 Days of Night: Dark Days") are a married couple on the way to Shane's sister's house. The two are in the middle of separating, and she wants to tell his sister, while he wants to keep it a secret until after the Purge. When they leave a grocery store, a man jumps on the the car (and literally made me jump in my seat) just as a reminder of what's to come. On the way into the city, their car breaks down, and just minutes before the Purge starts, they find themselves stranded and alone.

Sergeant (Frank Grillo, "Mother's Day") is a man mourning the loss of his son one year ago. His ex-wife stops by to check on him and sees pictures of the man who killed his son on the wall. Realizing that he plans to go out, she tries to change his mind, but he tells her to go back to her new husband and leave him alone. He then reveals a souped up car that he made bulletproof just for the night.

Eva and Cali find the note from Papa, which says that he sold himself to a wealthy family for the night. She explains to her daughter that the rich by people to purge for themselves and that they mainly choose those who are sick or desperately in need of money. When a man breaks into their apartment with plans to rape them both, they try to fight back. A large semi pulls up outside and a group of military-looking people climb out.

As the man comes at them, a series of shots ring out and come straight through the walls and windows. Though they try hiding in the closet, two of the military men find them and drag them outside, claiming that they picked them especially for an unknown figure. Sergeant comes down the street at the same time, and though he promises himself not to get involved, he winds up saving the two women. Shane and Cali manage to hide in the backseat of his car, and despite his best wishes, the five decide to work together to get through the night.

I went to the drive-in this weekend to see Lucy and The Purge: Anarchy. While Lucy was fairly blah in my mind, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen for this one. Frank Grillo has leading man written all over him, and while I fondly recall him from his days on the soap Guiding Light, it's nice to see him on the big screen. The role of Sergeant almost seems written for him. Though he doesn't talk much, he conveys everything he needs to say with his eyes and facial features.

The movie does a smart job of introducing just enough characters to keep the film moving without bringing in so many stories that we struggle to keep up. Papa, the father of Eva and grandfather of Cali, is probably the only throwaway in the film. He's really only there for us to understand what the rich do during the annual Purge, but after a few lines, he's gone and never mentioned again.

The film delves deeply into the dichotomy between the rich and the poor. The poor find themselves stuck in the city slums with barely any hopes for living through the night, while the rich throw elaborate parties and spend money to kill people, while turning it into a fun event. I won't get into the political side of the film, but trust me, it's there. All I will say is that there's a group on the fringes who believe that the Purge is wrong and they create a viral campaign around bringing an end to the annual event.

My only minor issue with the film is that The Stranger from the first movie makes an appearance in this one. He turns up as one of the fringe fighters and helps our unlucky heroes, and while he makes it clear that he doesn't agree with the Purge because of what he went through before, he's really just a throwaway character. If they wanted to bring him back, they should have given him more than two scenes and a few lines.

The Purge: Anarchy was exactly what most of wanted from the first film. It takes the action outside of one setting and lets us see what happens to people living deep in the city. We see people hiding in the subways, the rich spending their money to kill and maim people just for kicks, the middle class kicking back with wine and music, and how people go to great lengths to make money during the Purge. If you wanted to see more action in The Purge, you'll want to see this one.