Tuesday, February 24, 2015

VHS Viral (V/H/S: Viral) Movie Review

Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2014
Rating: R
Director: A whole bunch of peeps

A guy and girl introduce us to the world of VHS Viral. They aren't that interesting but serve as the wraparound for the movie. He's obsessed with filming something that will go viral and sees his chance when a police chase happens right outside his apartment. When his girlfriend follows him, he spends most of the movie trying to chase her down.

Dante the Great is our first major story. Dante is something of a white trash loser when he finds a magic cape that turns him into a famous magician. Unfortunately, the cape is also home to a monster that needs fed hot young girls to survive. When his assistant discovers his secret, will she help him or turn the tables on him?

Parallel Monsters is the second story and the one that made me scream. Alfonso is working in his basement when his hot wife shows up and asks him to come upstairs. Though he agrees, he waits until she leaves before revealing his experiment, which is a portal into another world. Turns out that the man on the other side is his exact double, but when the two switch places, one will quickly find that the other world is nothing like what he expected.

Last up is Bonestorm, which is almost more annoying than the wraparound story. A group of what looks like spoiled rich kids with too much time on their hands spend way too long filming themselves skateboarding and acting like thugs before deciding to take a little trip to TJ. Once there, they find themselves stalked by a weird cult that they wind up attacking head on.

The VHS movies are a little hit or miss with me. Some of the stories stick with me, but others are pretty forgettable. After watching VHS Viral, I'm not sure I'll really remember any of these stories. Parallel Monsters was the most entertaining and had the most WTF ending of all of the stories, but I probably liked Dante the Great the most. Bonestorm lost me from the very beginning and had a hard time keeping my attention once it got going.

Vicious Circles, which is the wraparound story felt a little pointless when compared to the wraparound stories in the other movies. Instead of giving us a story and introducing us to actual videotapes, we got a guy racing around town on a motorcycle and using his cell phone to see footage. There was one gruesome scene where a guy got stuck on a runaway vehicle and had his feet drug along the ground that made me wince, and made my roommate, a guy I might add who studies nursing, to actually turn away from the television. The rest of the story was just kind of "eh" and I wasn't too crazy about the ending.

I get what the filmmakers wanted to do. They wanted to update the concept of VHS and make it fit more with the modern age. How many people really have a VCR in their homes now? More and more people now use YouTube and watch movies online, which fits with the theme of the movie. Unfortunately, it kind of felt to me like this was a movie trying too hard to appeal to teens and younger audiences, which wound up alienating me a little. I might not be a teen, but I still love my horror movies!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Damned – AKA Gallows Hill

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Victor Garcia

The Damned is the perfect example of a film that fails to deliver on the promises of the trailer.

David takes his fiance with him to Spain to see his daughter Jill. The two rarely talked since her mother/his wife died, but he wants her to spend some time with his soon to be new wife. After calling her multiple times without getting a response, he simply heads to a cafe where he knows she'll be and meets up with her and her aunt Gina. Gina is something of a free spirit. She doesn't mind Jill smoking or spending a lot of time with Ramon, who is Gina's cameraman (she works as a reporter) and Jill's new boyfriend.

The five of them head off but quickly encounter a police officer. He warns them that a bad storm is coming and that they need to turn around. Just as they do, their SUV gets stuck in the mud and then a wave of water hits them and knocks the car over. Though all get out, Jill has a slight injury, which leads them to run off in the hopes of finding shelter.

They eventually come across an abandoned hotel seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The innkeeper initially refuses to let them in until learning that David just wants to help his daughter. Once he lets them in, he tells them that his phone doesn't work. He then sees Jill's rosary, which was a gift from her mother, and warns her that it won't protect her. Though she tells her dad what he said, no one can make sense of it.

After nosing around the hotel, they learn that no one has ever checked in since the late 1970s, meaning that the hotel was empty for almost 30 years. The more they investigate, the more something seems off about the place. It gets even worse when they discover a hidden room in the basement and find a young girl locked inside.

Against the warnings of the older man, they let the girl out. This turns out to be a huge mistake when the little girl seems to have a dark side. She seems to know all their dark and dirty secrets, and she isn't above letting those secrets be known as she makes her way through the group one by one.

The Damned had one of those trailers that left me on the edge of my seat and with my WTF face on firmly in place. I even made a little note in my phone just so I would remember the name of the movie. Once I finally saw it though, I wondered why I even bothered.

One thing that annoys me is subtitles. I'm fine with subtitles if I know the movie has them, but this move had no indication of that going into it. Turns out that Gina, Ramon, and a few characters who pop up later in the film speak primarily in Spanish. I'm the type of person who usually does a few different things while watching a movie, which is impossible to do with subtitles.

The movie also seemed to try too hard to appeal to teenagers. Jill is such an annoying little brat that she reminded me a lot of the girl from the last Transformers movie. All she cares about is herself and whatever she wants, but we're supposed to root for her dad to protect her. I'd love to see a movie with a teen girl who actually cares about her family as much as she does herself.

The Damned is definitely one of those movies that I'll barely remember in a few weeks.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sanatorium – Same Old, Same Old

Runtime: ?
Release Date: December 23, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Brant Sersen

I remember a time in the not so distant past when After Dark had a history of picking really good movies for its festival. Then After Dark decided to produce and distribute its own films, which left us with options like Sanatorium.

Sanatorium is one of those films where the characters are so dull and stereotypical that I didn't even bother learning their names. They're a group of annoying people who somehow host and produce their own ghost hunters show. There's the hot blond who is secretly pregnant and not yet ready to tell her slightly geeky boyfriend, the guy who acts like a jock/douche bag right out of high school, another hot girl, you get the drift.

The group heads to an abandoned TB sanatorium for a new investigation on New Year's Eve. Legend says that a patient when crazy from the disease, found his way to the children's ward, and killed three kids.

They arrive the day before the investigation starts to meet with the caretaker. We get several minutes of filler where he keeps telling them that they can look around but they can't go in until the next day. There's even a moment where he catches them trying to get in and says something about how if they go in early, he'll lose his job and chases them away.

Once they finally do get inside the sanatorium, it turns into one of those typically haunted hospital flicks. Instead of staying together, they go off in small groups of two or three to look for signs of paranormal things. Naturally, they start disappearing one by one and no one seems to notice. It's all pretty much the same thing you would expect for a movie like this...except for one scene.

The pretty girl is wandering through the children's ward when she sees a ball roll across the floor. It was right at that moment when I rolled my eyes about how this is something that pops up in all movies like this. Before I could open my mouth though, the douche bag character jumps out from behind a door and starts laughing at her for falling for something so lame. Not only did I get a little jump from his jump, but it made me laugh knowing that the director was in on the joke. If there were more scenes like that in the movie, I would probably give it a glowing review. Instead, the director seemed to forget about bringing something new to the table.

Sanatorium was a blind rental. The roommate saw the cover and liked it so much that he rented it. Halfway through the movie, he made an excuse and went to bed. Myself and another friend finished it. Having watched a lot of movies like this in the past, we pretty much both felt that it seemed like something we'd seen before. He started playing a game on his phone the last few minutes, and I got stuck flipping through a catalog that came in the mail. I was hoping that this might bring something new to the hold haunted hospital genre, but it was just the same old, same old.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ouija Movie Review – Get the Board

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Director: Stiles White

Laine and Debbie are best friends who loved playing with a Ouija board when they were kids. Once they got older, Laine stopped playing. Cut to the present day and Debbie playing with one of the boards by herself. After getting a message she doesn't like, she tosses it in the fireplace and goes outside to see Laine. Though Laine wants to hang out, Debbie convinces her to leave. When she goes back inside, she sees the same board on her bed. After picking up the planchette and looking through it, her eyes turn completely white. Debbie picks up a row of twinkle lights and hangs herself from the chandelier in her home.

Laine naturally isn't happy with this turn of events. She goes from planning a camping trip with her boyfriend Trevor to her best friend's funeral. While cleaning out her friend's room and checking on the house for the girl's parents, she finds the Ouija board. Hoping to talk with Debbie one last time, she convinces Trevor, her sister Sarah, Debbie's boyfriend Pete, and their friend Isabelle to come back to the house and use the board.

It doesn't take long before the board moves to the letter D, which convinces Laine that Debbie wants to make contact. The board also spells out, "hi friend," which freaks them out to the point where they all leave the house. Over the next few days, they all find the "hi friend" message left for them. Trevor finds in a tunnel, Pete sees it carved in his desk, etc. Isabelle has the worst experience, when she sees it written in the frost on her car window before a hand in the car reaches out for her.

When the group heads back to the house for another séance, Laine realizes that the spirit they contacted is not Debbie. After looking through the planchette, she sees the disturbing ghost of a little girl with her mouth stitched up urging her to look in the opposite direction. Laine turns and sees an older woman running at her. Though no one is sure what is going on, it's clear that there is something dark and deadly in their former friend's home.

Last summer we saw a trailer for Ouija back at the drive in theater. Since then, both myself and my roommate wanted to see it. Now that I have, I'm definitely glad that I never bothered to see it in the theater. This is one of those generic horror films that has little going for it with the exception of Lin Shaye. Shaye pops up as a woman who spent some of her early years living in Debbie's house. I don't want to give it away, but she does a pretty good job of playing a woman who is sweet and a little crazy with a sinister side.

The rest of the cast is fairly meh. Olivia Cooke, who does a damn good job on Bates Motel, is just another pretty girl in a standard horror flick. I kept waiting for a moment that would make me jump or some type of scare, but nothing ever came.

The sad thing is that there were so many moments that could have been scary. There's the guy walking through a tunnel with no one around for miles, the pretty girl walking to her car alone late at night. The intensity could have built to a big scare, but instead, nothing happened. I wish I could recommend Ouija for at least one viewing, but even me, who loves bad horror flicks from the 90s, can't do it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

No Good Deed – Never Let a Good Looking Stranger Into Your Home

Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: September 12, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Director: Sam Miller

Colin is a serial killer stuck in prison and denied parole. Unhappy with the board's decision, he escapes from prison and goes back to see his ex-girlfriend. After taunting her a bit, he reveals that he knows she had a new boyfriend and that he isn't happy. He brutally kills her before taking off again.

Terry is a former lawyer who defended women against their boyfriends and husbands before settling down with her husband Jeffrey and becoming a stay at home mom of two kids. Though the two once had a good marriage, they've had problems recently. She shares some of her troubles with her best friend Meg, who makes it clear that she doesn't approve of her friend's husband.

Though Terry urges Jeffrey to stay home for the weekend, he plans to go away with his dad and promises that the two will go away together soon. After Jeffrey leaves and Meg makes plans to come back later that night. Terry makes dinner and tries to go on with her life. In the middle of a bad storm, she hears a knock on the door and finds Colin on the other side.

Claiming that he lives a few streets over and had a car accident, he asks to use her phone and offers to wait outside. Terry, feeling bad for him, brings him the phone and then lets him into the house. So desperate for companionship, she offers him a drink, gives him a clean shirt to wear, and cleans his wounds. As the two grow closer throughout the night, Colin slowly begins to reveal his dark side and reveals what made him show up on her doorstep.

The trailers for No Good Deed made it look like one of those taunt thrillers, but the film itself is barely a step above a Lifetime television movie. As someone who has seen so many of those movies, I'm actually pretty shocked that Idris Elba even agreed to do it after reading the script.

Terry starts out as just another bored and frustrated housewife. Once Colin arrives and she begins telling him about her past, it's almost laughable. She goes on and on about how she helped all these women and how she hates abusive men. It eventually reaches the point where you want to just scream at the television about why she doesn't realize the same type of guy is right in front of her.

Since this is a PG-13 movie, there's really no violence either. It's one of those movies where you see him pick up a girl by the throat, the camera pans away, and then she's dead. There is a scene where someone gets a shovel to the head that made me jump slightly, but then it's right back to a lack of horror or gore.

Elba is pretty good in the movie, but let's face it, that man is good in everything he does. Sadly for him, he just can't carry this movie all by himself or make it better than the script. The only way I would recommend it is if you're a big Elba fan or you love movie of the week/women in peril television movies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Removed – AKA After Effect

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Rating: UR
Director: David McElroy

Lacie is a college student down on her luck and in desperate need of cash. Not so desperate that she's ready to hit the pole but desperate enough that she needs to make some extra cash if she hopes to stay in school. After running into an old friend, she learns that he makes extra money doing research projects. He gives her a number to call if she wants to take part in the next study. When she calls, a voice tells her when to show up and what to bring.

Once she arrives, she finds out that the building looks like a hospital on the outside but a military base on the inside. She also runs into her friend who also signed up for the study. Then we get to meet a few other random characters. There is the super lovey dovey couple who can't stand to be away from each other for more than a few minutes, a random hot girl, and of course a sassy black girl.

After the group has fun eating together and partying, they wake to find out that the study started. They all have to sit together in one room and go in one by one to meet with the scientists. Lacie gets taken to a dark room and left alone for a few minutes. Scared, she starts screaming before a weird gas starts filling the room. She passes out and later wakes back in her room.

That annoying lovey dovey couple stars making out, ripping their clothes off, and going at it. Suddenly, the girlfriend freaks out and starts attacking her boyfriend. It doesn't take long before other members of the group start following suit. What the poor college students don't know is that the study is actually part of a military experiment designed to create the perfect killing machines. Led by an unscrupulous senator, the students must find a way to get out of the facility alive.

When I tried finding information about a movie I saw called After Effect, I learned that it was originally released under the name The Removed. I'm really not sure why because it really doesn't have anything to do with that title and After Effect makes more sense given that the majority of the movie takes place after they experience the effects of some random gas.

The hands down best part of the movie is seeing Daniel Baldwin as Senator Davis. He's only in a few scenes, but he does his best to chew the scenery. It's almost like he read the script, realized he was in a crappy horror movie, and decided to just roll with it. There are literally moments where it seems like he isn't even acting! He just strolls in with an angry face and starts snapping at people. It might not seem like much to some, but it was worth it for me.

All in all, After Effect/The Returned really wasn't that bad of a flick. The scenes where the couple turn on each other were some of the best in the movie. While I wasn't a fan of the stereotypical characters or the sometimes forced love connection between two of the other characters, it really wasn't too bad. It kept me from reaching for a book or heading to Reddit, which is more than I can say for a lot of recent horror films.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Annabelle Movie Review – Be Careful Who Your Neighbors Are

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: October 3, 2014
Rating: R
Director: John R. Leonetti

Remember in The Conjuring how the Warrens talked briefly about, and the film briefly showed, them dealing with a haunted doll? Well, just in case you've never seen Chucky before, you can watch Annabelle and see a haunted doll movie.

First, we meet two young women and a young man talking about a haunted doll that one of the girl's mom gave to her. We then jump to the past. Mia and John are a young couple living in a small bungalow. He's a new doctor, and she stays at home because that's what pregnant woman did in the 1960s. John brings home a truly ugly doll, but it's okay because it turns out that it's one Mia's been looking for.

One night a few days later, Mia wakes after hearing a strange noise next door. We briefly see the neighbors being killed before she wakes John. John rushes over and comes back covered in blood, urging her to call for help immediately. When Mia goes back in the house, she finds a man and a woman waiting for her. The two start to attack her, and she gets stabbed right before the police arrive. The woman locks herself in the nursery and kills herself, letting her blood drain into the doll.

John gets a new job, and since Mia has a brain, she refuses to go back to their former home. They move into a new apartment. They also learn that the murderers were the daughter of the neighbors and her boyfriend. Though she asked him to throw the doll away and he did, the doll turns up in one of their boxes. Mia then makes the unfortunate mistake of letting the doll stay in their new apartment.

Before long, she realizes that there is something wrong with the doll. She keeps hearing noises and footsteps when no one is there and discovers that someone keeps watching over her baby girl. The weird activity eventually leads her to turn to Evelyn, the owner of a local bookstore, for help in bringing an end to the paranormal activity.

As someone who didn't enjoy The Conjuring, I was surprised at how much I wanted to see Annabelle. Not only do I love horror movies, but I'm also a big fan of ghost stories. Unfortunately, Annabelle came across as just a bland and somewhat generic, maybe even formulaic, horror movie.

Part of it may be because I have very little faith in the Warren family, and part of it might be because I've read a little about the original doll. Rather than being this monstrosity, which you have to admit is weird to give to a pregnant woman, the original doll was a Raggedy Anne doll. I don't know about you, but experiencing all this weird stuff with a typical doll would scare me a lot more than something that looks like it's possessed would.

On the plus side, I'm a fan of mid-century modern things, and I loved seeing the cars, furniture, and decorations in this movie. Sadly, that is about the only thing I'll take away from it because I thought the movie was pretty forgettable.