Friday, March 7, 2014
Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Director: Swammy M. Kandan
Rachel is a journalist interested in studying ergot poisoning in a small Massachusetts town. Having grown up in a similar town, she often studied the Salem Witch Trials and knows that historians think it was caused by ergot poisoning. After doing some research, she learns that another town suffers from a similar outbreak every few years.
Not long after arriving, she finds that the woman she rented the house from also rented it to a young writer. Greg wants to write a new play, but he doesn't know what topic to choose. Rachel meets a local man named Paul, who agrees to help her with her research. After gathering some documents for her, she stops by his house and finds him dead. The more she delves into the story of the town, the more the locals make it clear that they don't want her there.
I really don't know what to say about The Secret Village. My roommate and I actually rented it a few weeks ago, but I didn't get a chance to watch it before it was due back. He pointed it out the other night when we were in the store, and we decided to go ahead and grab it. I made the mistake of checking the IMDB page for something and saw its low rating, but I thought there was no way it was actually that bad. Guess what? It was.
It was actually so bad that he and I were both struggling to keep our eyes open. We thought it was almost over, check the time, and it still had 45 minutes left. I started watching the rest of the movie the next day, and he actually decided to go up to his room and watch Netflix instead. I made it all the way through the movie but just barely.
The Secret Village is one of those movies that's actually a little hard to follow. Let's use one scene with Rachel as an example. She's walking into a restaurant, sees a creepy man following her, and runs inside. When she turns around, Greg is in front of her and the creepy guy is in the lobby. A few scenes later, she recalls the same event again, only this time, the creepy guy is in front of her and Greg is the one in the lobby. The director also does this thing where he uses the same scene but with different angles. Oh look, they're kissing...Now they're kissing again from a different angle...now they're kissing again...oh look, they're kissing again from yet another angle. Had he cut those moments out, the movie would have been a lot shorter.
I'm all for giving smaller films a chance, and I actually love some of the more independent movies. The Secret Village? It just made me sad that I watched Haunter last so I would have good memories of the night.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Runtime: 105 minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Director: Scott Walker
Jack Halcombe (Nicholas Cage) is a police detective tasked with bringing down a violent serial killer preying on women in Anchorage, Alaska. Robert Hansen (John Cusack, Identity) is that serial killer he wants to find. After abducting a teenage girl, Cindy, who works as a stripper and prostitute, Hansen makes the mistake of not fighting hard enough when she escapes. Cindy goes directly to the police and agrees to help Halcombe find the man who took her captive.
I am a true crime junky. I've seen hundreds of movies about serial killers, I own every book Ann Rule ever wrote, my tablet is full of true crime books from other authors I bought with my Christmas gift cards, and I considered going to graduate school to study forensic psychology. That said, The Frozen Ground is one of those films that, to quote Peter Griffin, really grinds my gears.
The film attempts to follow the true story, but for some reason, decided to rename Glenn Flothe to Jack Halcombe. Given the stories about Cage, maybe he just didn't like the name because it didn't sound like a superhero. Who knows? It also does a poor job of delving into the actual story. Yes, we hear about Cindy, but we don't really hear about anything else. It almost seems like they just want us to care about one person and not all of his other victims.
And, caring about that one victim is almost impossible when they decided to cast Vanessa Hudgens in the role. Hudgens, who I most recently saw in that awful Spring Breakers movie, is hard to root for. She works as a stripper, does large amounts of drugs, and is just generally not a nice character. I don't want anyone to think that I don't give a crap about some people, but I don't give a crap about Hudgens. She's so unlikeable that I found myself wishing her scenes were shorter.
No one really does a solid job in this flick. I like Nicholas Cage, but this seems like yet another one of those movies that he only took because the script landed on his desk. I don't know how anyone could believe him as a police officer, let alone a detective who cares so much about bringing down a serial killer that he will do anything it takes to stop him.
That brings us to John Cusack. As a woman, I have a crush on Cusack. It started with Say Anything, but flicks like Identity, Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity, and 1408 only helped sustain my crush. Seeing him in The Frozen Ground made me wonder what the heck he was thinking. Though he could portray a serial killer with one arm tied behind his back, he did a poor job in this one. Putting a pair of glasses on a guy won't make him look like a killer.
All in all, I wish that I had skipped The Frozen Ground. I grabbed it one night from the video store and only paid a buck something to rent it, but I wish I had just skipped it and watched Say Anything instead.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Director: Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon
Heavily pregnant and soon to pop Vanessa and her husband Jack move into a new house known around the neighborhood as the House of Blood. They learn the nickname when F'resnel, one of the guys in the neighborhood, pop up on their first night there. On the same day that they move in, the camera pans up to show a scary naked woman standing in the window.
Since Hell Baby is a spoof, the film kind of combines elements of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and other horror flicks. Vanessa suddenly starts eating raw meat, washing her hands until they bleed, and practically speaking in tongues, while Jack finds himself woken early one morning to the naked and toothless scary woman from the beginning going down on him in bed. Once the Vatican learns of the problem, they send Father Sebastian (Robert Ben Garant) and Father Padrigo (Thomas Lennon) to investigate.
Hell Baby got some really bad reviews, but it seems like more horror spoofs get bad reviews. A lot of people hated on Scary Movie 5 and complained that it wasn't as good as the first few, but I liked it. Then again, even the other Scary Movie films got bad reviews. I first heard about Hell Baby when Microsoft offer a free rental a few weeks ago, but I didn't get the chance to watch it thanks to some personal issues going on at the time. When I saw it in stock at Redbox and had a free coupon code, I decided what the heck and grabbed it.
It's hard for me to review Hell Baby because I both liked it and didn't like it at the same time. I laughed multiple times, but I have a girl crush on Leslie Bibb (Vanessa) from her Popular days, and I thought Rob Corddy was the highlight of Hot Tub Time Machine. (Yes, I do sometimes watch films other than horror movies, including a recent viewing of Blue Jasmine, which I loved.) I thought that maybe I just wanted to like it because I liked them, but my roommate found it pretty funny too.
It probably helps that I loved Reno 911 and love both Garant and Lennon. I can't see Lennon anymore without thinking about his small roles in We're The Millers and the Harold and Kumar Christmas movie or recently discovering he had scenes deleted from The Internship.
While I thought the movie was funny, it got a little grating towards the end. I found myself laughing less and less as the movie progressed, and I probably only cracked a few smiles in the last 30 minutes. It almost felt like the movie was pushing itself to remain as funny at the end as it was at the beginning. By the time Vanessa gave birth, I was just relieved that the ending was right around the corner. Though Hell Baby was only 98 minutes long, the last 30 minutes or so felt like an eternity. I wish it was just as funny throughout its entire runtime.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: BJ McDonnell
Marybeth (Dannelle Harris) is a real bad ass. Hatchet III starts right after the second film ends, which means that she just took down Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Since this is a Hatchet film, nothing can really stop Crowley, not even Marybeth and her chainsaw, which she uses to cut him in half. Completing her work, she heads back into town, where Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) captures her. Not believing her story, which he thinks is just an urban legend, he arrests her for murder.
Fowler then makes the mistake of taking a team of men deep into the swamp to discover what really happened. His ex-wife, who just so happens to be an investigative reporter, heads to the jail and interviews Marybeth. Though Amanda doesn't really believe her story is 100% true, she does agree to take her and another cop to investigate her claims. As Amanda's father was one of the ones who originally helped kill Crowley, she thinks that she knows the answers to why Crowley keeps coming back.
I really, really loved Hatchet. I watched in once, took it back to the video store, and immediately bought a copy and watched it again. It's one of those movies that I recommend to people who love horror movies and those who don't really love horror. Everyone I ever recommended it to loved the movie too. When I heard it was a trilogy, I couldn't wait to see the rest of the films. The way I feel about Hatchet 3 is the same way I felt about Hatchet 2: meh.
On their own, the sequels are fairly good films, but when compared to the first one, they are definitely lacking. I absolutely love Parry Shen, and I love that they find a way to bring him back after his character died. He's incredibly funny and easily the highlight of the movie. The rest of the characters are just kind of meh.
Seeing Zach Galligan, who I absolutely loved in Waxwork and Gremlins, was fun, but once the fun and excitement wears off, he's pretty much a one-dimensional character like most of the actors and characters in the movie. It was a treat to see Sid Haig, but he's unfortunately not in the movie for very long.
One of the problems I had with the sequels is the replacement of Marybeth. I really enjoyed the original actress and thought she brought a lot to the movie, but I don't feel the same way about Harris. Casting her in a horror film at this point almost feels like stunt casting. It was one of those wink and nod moments to horror fans when she showed up in Urban Legend, but now she's appears in what seems like every horror movie ever made. While some horror fans love her, I liked the original actress better.
Hatchet 3 was an okay movie, but it wasn't nearly as good as the first one and it didn't really feel like it added much to the franchise.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Runtime: 77 minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2011
Director: Martin Kemp
Paula is a best selling write struggling with her next book. After the urging of her publicist/agent Sara, she decides to spend some time in her old family home. Everyone thinks that getting her away from it all for some time will help her focus and get her to buckle down and write. Not long after arriving, she meets the housekeeper who will take care of the home and her needs.
Things change when Paula meets Linda. As her new personal assistant, Linda promises to do whatever it takes to help her write, but it quickly becomes clear that Linda has some darker ideas in mind. Between a sudden injury that never seems to go away to the fact that Linda always seems to be popping up out of nowhere, Paula finds that getting away from it all might be the biggest mistake that she ever made.
I'll confess something here: this movie was hard to follow. I sat down to watch it with my roommate after watching Hell Baby (review is coming soon!), but a lot of the time, we watch movies while chatting about other stuff and playing online. This time, we were both watching the movie the whole time. At one point, he looked over and asked me if I had any idea what was going on, and I had to admit that I wasn't sure.
The problem is that Stalker tends to jump around a lot. One minute we're watching a scene of Paula and Linda having a conversation, then someone else will appear, it will jump to a scene of Sara talking to Paula's doctor, then a conversation between two completely different people, and then back to Paula. Given the ending of the film, the jumping around makes sense. The director wants to keep you on your toes and unsure of what's happening, but it just made the movie hard for me to follow.
Despite the jumping around, it's easy for anyone to predict the ending. My roommate very casually said, "I bet X, Y, and Z" at one point in the movie, I agreed, and damn if that isn't exactly what happened. If the director hoped that the ending would surprise anyone, he probably shouldn't have used so much foreshadowing in the earlier parts of the film. It left me unsatisfied and feeling like I just watched a made for television movie.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Runtime: 97 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013
Director: Sebastian Silver
Alicia and her best friend/cousin Sara (Emily Browning, The Uninvited) decide to visit a remote area of South America for their vacation. Sara looks forward to the trip and introducing her cousin to her boyfriend Augustin and his sister Barbara. When they arrive, they find that the duo brought along their new foreign exchange student friend Brink (Michael Cera), who clearly seems unhinged from the very beginning.
Sara receives a phone call about some problems with her school, and she leaves for what should be a short period of time. Left alone with a group of people she barely knows, Alicia slowly starts coming apart at the scenes. Brink seems especially interested in her and willing to do whatever it takes to make her his, while the other characters are mainly there to make Alicia more unsettled. As the film progresses, more weird things happen that make the viewers wonder if these things actually happen or are just a part of her mind.
After watching Magic Magic, I wished that I hadn't wasted an entire $1.20 to rent it from Redbox. I really did think it was that bad. It was one of those films that I finished watching and didn't say anything because I wasn't sure how anyone else felt. My roommate looked at me and said, "What was that shit?" and my other friend's reaction was, "Why did you make us watch this?"
That was why I was so surprised when I saw that it had such good reviews online. Did we all watch the same movie? Magic Magic was just plain bad. There was literally nothing about this movie that I enjoyed. Everyone in the film seemed cast for the wrong parts, and the movie itself was just plain confusing. I get that some films want to make you question reality and consider whether what you saw was real, but this one just left me scratching my head. It's literally the only time that I wanted to take a movie back and demand a refund from Redbox.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Runtime: 97 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Lisa (Abigail Breslin, The Call) is an ordinary teenage girl. On the day before her sixteenth birthday, she wakes and finds that fog rolled in through town, making it impossible to go for a bike ride or even leave her house. After watching her brother Robbie play an Atari game and talk to his imaginary friend Edgar, she notices that something seems strange about her house. The next day, she wakes, and it's the same day all over again.
Her mother lectures her on the clothes missing from the washer, while her father seems overly upset and angry about the car that needs repaired. After experiencing the same day several times, Lisa comes to the startling realization that her family is dead. They keep reliving the last day they spent together. She also realizes that The Pale Man (Stephen McHattie, Pontypool), who suddenly appears from out of nowhere, has a connection to her home.
Things become even more complicated when Lisa runs into the ghost of Frances, a young woman murdered in the house, and when she suddenly finds herself seeing flashes of the future. After waking in the body of Olive, a young woman from modern times, she realizes that whatever happened to her family will just keep happening again and again. She sees Olive's father shouting about his car, her parents fighting to the point that the father throws things, and the Olive's sister upset and crying. Lisa must find a way to end the ghostly cycle that keeps taking over her home.
I know I haven't been that positive about most of the horror films I viewed recently, but Haunter changed my mind. Just when I thought that my streak of bad luck would continue, I randomly stumbled across this little gem in Family Video. The cover caught my eye, but it was the film that kept my attention.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that I liked about the film. It's fairly predictable and anyone who doesn't see the twists coming probably wasn't paying attention, but I actually liked that. You have the one "twist," which is that Lisa and her family is dead, but that was something the film set up early on. You then get the twist about The Pale Man, and then you get a completely different twist when the film jumps into the future.
The acting in Haunter was much better than I expected too. Breslin isn't an actress that I particularly like, and when I saw The Cell, I actually found her pretty annoying. She's still a tad annoying her, but I think it's just because of the way the writer wrote her character.
The real standout is Peter DaCunha, who plays her little brother Robbie. There's a scene, where Lisa sees him wearing glasses for the first time and asks him when he started wearing glasses. When he looks up at her and tells her that he never wore them because he wore them the night the bad stuff happened, I got chills. Seeing a little boy afraid to wear his glasses because he knows he wore them when he died was pretty intense.
I try not to read too much about movies before I see them, and I literally heard nothing about Haunter until after I watched it. I'm glad I did because it didn't get such great reviews, but I really liked it.