Friday, May 27, 2016

The Forest – Seriously, Do Not Go in the Woods!

Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: Jason Zada

Sara lives in America with her fiance and worries about her twin sister Jess. Jess moved to Japan to work as a teacher but recently stopped answering her phone. When Sara gets a call from the police that they believe her sister killed herself, she decides to fly to Japan herself to investigate. It turns out that the last time anyone saw Jess, the woman was going to the suicide forest by herself.

Though she refuses to believe her sister committed suicide, she learns that her sister supervised a field trip the forest in the past. She also finds some prescription anxiety medication that her sister left behind. While having a drink at a bar, she meets an Australian reporter who speaks Japanese. Aiden agrees to help her find a guide who will take her into the forest to search for her sister.

Michi, the guide, gives her information about the forest. They actually encounter a man sitting outside of a tent, which is a sign that the man isn't sure he wants to kill himself. Apparently, people will sometimes take tents with them and spend hours or days deciding what to do. He also shows them how people will leave behind trails to help others find their bodies. Though they find Jess's tent, Michi recommends they leave and come back the next day. When Sara refuses and plans to stay the night, Aiden agrees to stay with her while Michi promises to come back for them the next morning.

Almost as soon as the sun sets, Sara starts seeing and hearing things. She keeps thinking she hears her sister's voice and even sees her twin, but then she discovers the ghost of a suicide victim in the woods. The more the night drags on, the more she begins suspecting that Aiden had something to do with her sister's disappearance. Sara then starts having flashbacks to the death of her parents and wonders if she'll ever find her twin or even get out of the forest alive.

The Forest is a damn good horror flick. Natalie Dormer carries the film as both Jess and Sara and does a super job of differentiating between the two characters. Taylor Kinney is equally great as Aiden because he plays the role of ambiguously. He does a superb job of leaving you wondering if he really had something to do with what happened to Jess or if he's just an innocent victim.

I also want to give it up for the director. The Forest is one of those flicks that has a ton of twists and turns. Almost from the moment Sara enters the woods, you have no idea what she actually sees and what is a hallucination brought on by the forest itself. While the ending wasn't that great and had a twist that wasn't really a twist – if you pay even the slightest attention to the beginning, you'll see it coming – I have to recommend it. Ignore all the negative reviews posted online. The Forest has lots of twists, some great acting, and scenes that will stick with you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Deep Into the Darkness – There's Something Weird in Those Hills

Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Colin Theys

Michael Cayle is a doctor who makes the mistake of buying a home and a medical practice in a small town. The widow of the old doctor sells the property to him and makes a cryptic comment about how she'll still be around because she can't imagine ever leaving. He later shows up with his young daughter and his wife Cristine. They soon meet their new neighbor Phil and his grandson, who he and his wife took in after their daughter died.

While enjoying lunch with their neighbors, Phil tells Michael how to get to the bathroom, but the directions instead send him into a private bedroom. Phil's wife has what looks like claw marks on her face and tells him that he cannot help her. His wife tries to calm him down by encouraging him to open up his new practice and focus more on their future than a single person. Phil also recommends that they come to a special event at the church. They meet a woman related to the founders of the town who almost instantly takes a shine to his wife and integrates her into the church's club for women.

On the same day that he opens his office, he meets a young woman who makes it clear that she wants more from him than just a physical exam. The women tells him that he can help protect her before running away, but he finds himself dreaming about having sex with her. Phil then comes by for a visit and takes him on a walk through the woods. When they reach an odd pasture in the woods, Phil tells him that he it's the place for the town's ritual sacrifices.

See, years ago, back when the town was first founded, there were a group of ancient people living in the woods. The white settlers made an agreement to provide that race with ritualistic sacrifices on a regular basis in exchange for the people leaving the town alone. Those who refuse to follow the practice wind up dead, including the former doctor. Though Michael refuses to believe him at first, when those people suddenly show up at his doorstep and need help delivering a baby, he learns that those who move in this small town never move out.

Deep in the Darkness really wasn't a terrible movie. Sean Patrick Thomas does an admirable job as a city doctor moving to a small town to keep his family safe only to find an even greater threat nearby. Though I do question why he has random vials of mass viruses like ebola and the plague sent to his office. He even manages to do a better job than you might expect when those ancient people show up and drag him off. I can't imagine many actors who could make you believe that he was actually willing to help a bunch of crazy people to save his family.

It was actually a lot better than I expected from a movie made by Chiller. It's kind of hard to explain, but the people living in the woods don't speak English and will do whatever it takes to ensure that no one ever leaves town. They actually leave a man his wife's eyeballs, which they rip from her head, on his bed before murdering her to ensure that he'll do what they want. It was a lot more gruesome than I anticipated.

Netflix recently added Deep in the Darkness, and I recommend giving it a chance. I can't wait to read the book the movie was based on!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Before I Go to Sleep – Tight and Entertaining Nicole Kidman Thriller


Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: October 31, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Rowan Joffe

Christine (Nicole Kidman) is a woman with a serious problem. Every morning, she wakes up with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Ben (Colin Firth) explains to her that he is her husband. Several years prior, she was in a car accident that left her with serious brain damage and a rare form of amnesia. She learns that they have the same conversation every morning and that she never remembers who he is or his connection to her.

Later in the day, she gets a phone call from Dr. Nash. He tells her that she started coming to him for treatment and that he believed they were close to a breakthrough. The doctor also encourages her to check in her wardrobe for a camera that she hid away. After watching the camera, she learns that she's been recording messages to herself for a long time. Though watching the messages every day does not help her memory, it does let her start working through everything that happened to her in the past.

As she works through her problems, she begins having flashes of what happened. She learns that it wasn't a car accident that caused her brain damage but rather an attack that happened in a hotel. It turns out that the man who attacked her was the same man she was cheating on Ben with and that Ben stayed with her after the affair. As Christine uncovers more information, including the fact that she no longer talks to her best friend and that she had a son, she realizes that there is more going on than she ever realized and that both Ben and Dr. Nash may have a deeper connection to her past than she assumed.

Before I Go to Sleep may not be your typical horror movie, but it's the kind of movie that makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation. How could you possibly cope with waking up every morning with no memories and finding that you're married and living with someone who is basically a complete stranger to you? By the same token, how could you ever live with someone you spent years living with and loving when she has no clue who you are?

Nicole Kidman is pretty good as Christine, but it's starting to become clear that she's had a little too much work done. There are literally moments in the film where her face and eyes do two different things. While her eyes look shocked and even scared, her face appears so frozen that you might wonder, like I did, if she can even move her eyebrows anymore. Colin Firth more than makes up for her though. He's amazing because he essentially plays two completely different characters. While he's her sweet and loving husband who stood by her and supported her for so many years, he later develops this dark and chilling persona that makes you wonder if there's something more going on or something he isn't telling her.

I occasionally like to take a break from straight horror films and throw something like a thriller or a natural disaster flick into the mix. Before I Go was a nice break from my ordinary viewing habits.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Night of the Wild – Dogs Be Crazy


Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Eric Red

Rosalyn is one of those stereotypical teenage characters that you see in made for television movies. She lives with her dad Dave, her stepmother Sara, and her little sister. Meteors struck the earth the night before, but no one seems to act like this is much of a deal. Rosalyn only cares about going on a camping trip with her two best friends and taking her blind and deaf older dog because she worries that if she leaves the dog behind, Sara will get rid of it just like she did everything else that belonged to her mom.

While on their way to the woods, they almost hit a dog. The dog flips out and attacks her older dog, but she manages to pull them apart. Once they get to the woods though, her friends keep talking about her behind her back and acting like typical teen girls. When one of the friends gets attacked by a wild dog, the other runs off in fear. Rosalyn gets her friend to relative safety, only to get attacked by yet another dog.

This mimics the exact same thing happening all over their small town. Dave just barely manages to save one of the woman picking fruit in the orchard where he works, and Sara sees a seeing eye dog attack his owner. It seems like there is something about the meteors that made all the dogs go crazy. Rosalyn, still dragging her poor unaffected dog around with her, suddenly realizes that her stepmother isn't actually that terrible and decides to find her and her sister while her father and stepmom are on the hunt for their families too.

Between watching Northern Exposure as a kid and watching the entire run of Numbers on Netflix, I'm not sure that there is anything Rob Morrow is in that I won't watch. After seeing that he received top billing in this one, I kept waiting for him to show up, but he's really only in a few key scenes and then randomly shows up again towards the end. It also has Kelly Rutherford in it, who I still love from the old Melrose Place days.

There were a few things that drove me nuts about this movie. The first is Shep, the poor old dog. The dog's first scene shows him running around like crazy and acting like a puppy. Five seconds later she starts talking about how he's old, can barely see, and can hardly hear. Yet somehow this dog who is near death's door and supposedly may die by the end of the night has no problem following her around and coming whenever she calls its name.

Then we have the issue with her mom. Rosalyn keeps acting like her mom died but then says that she can ask her mother for help paying for college. Which is it, is she dead or just a deadbeat who apparently never talks to her daughter?

As for special effects, it's about what you would expect for a made for television movie on SyFy. We get a lot of moments where a dog runs towards a person, the camera pans away, and then it goes back to show someone laying mangled on the floor or the ground. I do have to give it up though for the mean spirited neighbor getting eaten by his tiny little yappy dog while old Shep makes it through to the very end. Though I have a fondness for bad made for TV movies, Night of the Wild was almost too bad for me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mine Games – Don't Go in Abandoned Mines!


Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating: ?
Director: Richard Gray

Michael, his girlfriend Lyla, and five of their friends head off for a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods that a friend owns. While on the way there, someone rushes out of the woods, and while they avoid hitting the person, they can't find the individual and learn that the van is broken. After a long walk, they finally find the cabin and discover a note inside addressed to half the group to wait there.

Lyla is worried about Michael because he takes anti-psychotic meds and left his pills in the van. He goes to bed early with a promise that he'll pick them up the next day. While the rest of the group parties, the two friends they planned to meet there find themselves attacked by an unknown person and brutally murdered. TJ, one of the group, grabs the whole gang the next morning and takes them out to an abandoned mine he found earlier. He and Guy, original name by the way, think it's funny to lock Michael in one of the rooms, but he freaks out so much that they let him go.

The rest of the group includes Rose, who believes that she has psychic abilities, Lex, and his girlfriend Claire. TJ and Lex head back into the mine and find a dead body that looks just like TJ before finding one that looks like Lex. They later find a woman trapped in a room within the mine who looks exactly like Claire. The girl cries, screams, and begs them to help her before claiming that Michael locked her in there. TJ, who made the mistake of giving Rose hallucinogenic mushrooms, seems fairly calm about everything, but Rose suddenly starts seeing visions of her friends dead. The longer they stay in the cabin, the more it becomes clear that they aren't just imaging things and that someone or something wants them all dead.

Mine Games was a pretty entertaining movie. Though I didn't read any reviews, I did notice its low rating on Netflix and then later read some horrible reviews. I actually thought it was pretty damn interesting and entertaining enough that I dropped my phone to focus on the action. A lot of the negative reviews pointed out that its plot was too similar to other movies, seriously? By that assessment, everyone should hate Annabelle because we already have movies about haunted dolls.

One of the top moments occurs when TJ and Lex stumble across the dead bodies in the mine. The looks on their faces actually makes you believe that they just found themselves dead. I also give props to the actress who plays Claire. When they discover her trapped in a random room in the mine, you really will believe that she's been stuck in there for hours and that she really thought she might die.

I highly recommend that you watch Mine Games without reading any spoilers or even its Wikipedia page. Many reviews give away the ending of the movie and even list the movie in a way that tells you what happens at the end. I recommend that you just watch the movie and try to figure out the ending all on your own.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Krampus – Not a Christmas Classic


Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2015
Rating: PG-13
Director: Michael Dougherty

Max is a young boy getting ready to celebrate Christmas with his mom, dad, older sister, grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. His parents are fairly well off, which means that his mom cares more about how they look to others than anyone else. His dad's mom is the only one who seems to put his interests first. That becomes abundantly clear when the rest of their family arrives in town. His cousins treat him like crap and make fun of him for still believing in Santa, especially after they find the letter he wrote the jolly guy. Max gets so upset that he rips the letter into pieces and runs off to cry.

When the group wakes the next day, they discover a literal blizzard outside. The power goes out, leaving them to spend much of the day huddled around the fire and wondering what happened. Only Omi, Max's grandmother, is calm, which may be because she's the only one who knows what actually happened. When his sister goes to check on her boyfriend, she comes face to face with an evil demon named Krampus who murders her on the street.

Though his father Tom and uncle Howard go out looking for his sister, all they find is strange stuff. They discover a plow truck stuck in the middle of the street and what looks like a gas explosion in a neighboring house. By the time they get back to the house to talk about what they see and to explain how Howard ended up with a major bite on his leg, Omi finally tells them that they're dealing with Krampus. As a young girl, she came face to face with the demon herself after giving up on the Christmas spirit. When Max gave up too, Krampus and his minions came to their neighborhood. As time goes by, it suddenly seems like there may not be hope for any of them.

After watching the straight to DVD Krampus film that came out last year, I figured the real version had to be a lot better. While it was better, it wasn't actually better by much. I'm not sure what it is about Krampus. It has some cute moments, some heart, some scary moments and jump scenes, and the type of family scenes that make you grateful for the family that you have. I think that it actually felt like it tried too hard. It almost seemed like the director and writers wanted to appeal to every type of horror movie fan, which resulted in them shoving so much into the story that it came across as forced.

Does that mean it was a terrible movie? Not at all. How can you not like a movie that features gingerbread men coming to live and trying to attack people, especially when they have a nail gun on their side? Those gingerbread men were much better than the one used in The Gingerdead Man movies. Those tiny little guys were easily the highlight of the film. With the exception of those little guys, Krampus just felt bland. The horror elements weren't horror-y enough, and the comedy moments weren't funny enough. As much as I would love to see a great horror movie for the holidays, Krampus wasn't it.

Instead of watching Krampus next year, I think I'll pop in my Blu-Ray copy of Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Babadook – Beware of Random Books That Show Up in Your Home


Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Jennifer Kent

Amelia is a single mother with a troubled back story and an even more troubled son. On the day that she went into labor with her son, her husband was killed in an accident while rushing her to the hospital. Sam, her son, suddenly starts acting out and behaving in unusual ways. He has a hard time sleeping through the night, keeps talking about seeing monsters, and generally acts like a tool. It gets so bad that her own sister refuses to come around. Her sister claims that she can't control her son and that she never really got over the death of her husband.

Things come to a head when she takes her son to her niece's birthday party. When her niece taunts Sam about not having a dad and how she doesn't want him there, he retaliates by pushing her out of her tree house. After truly finding herself alone after the incident, Amelia finds a book that she never saw before, which is the story of the Babadook. Sam seems to enjoy the story, but she finds it so dark and disturbing that she throws it away.

Sam keeps acting out only now he keeps saying that he sees the Babadook in their house. Amelia takes him to a doctor, but when the doctor finds nothing wrong with him, she begs the doctor to prescribe him sedatives. Sam also gets thrown out of school, and she winds up stuck at home caring for him and calling off work. Things keep heating up the point where she begins wondering if she's possessed by the spirit because she can't control her own actions. Unless Amelia can figure out what's happening and how to stop it, she may lose both her son and her own life.

As a frequent Reddit user, I can't count the number of people who recommended The Babadook over the last year or so. It sat in my Netflix queue for so long that it became one of those movies I thought I would never get around to watching it. After starting and stopping it at least twice, I finally managed to get through the whole movie but I'm not sure how.

First off, let me say that I get why people would like The Babadook. It's got a few unsettling moments, there are some jump scares that almost come out of nowhere, and that book is hella creepy. That said, I didn't like it. The problem is with the character of Sam. It's one thing to make a child character who comes across as realistic, but it's another thing to make a young character is so annoying that you feel no empathy at all for him. There are multiple scenes early in the film that feature him shrieking and screaming in this high pitch shrill that hurt my ears so much that I wound up fast forwarding through multiple scenes. Since those moments served as the main introduction to the character, those scenes made me dislike him with a strong passion, which I never got over.

The Babadook could have been a good movie, but I just can't get over the way Sam acted earlier in the movie. He was just a little too realistic for me, though I will say that I'd love to get my hands on a copy of the book from the movie.