Monday, July 21, 2014

Shrooms – Another Reason Not to go in the Woods

Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: November 23, 2007
Rating: NR
Director: Paddy Breathnach

The first time I saw Shrooms was when I had Netflix the first time, which was probably around 2008 or maybe 2009. I liked it so much that I gave it a four star rating and maybe even a five star rating. Every time I came across it somewhere else, I would stop and point out that I liked the film. While I still liked it after watching it recently, I didn't like it as fondly as I did in my mind.

Tara and some of her friends arrive in Ireland to hang out with their friend Jake. Jake previously studied at their college and had some kind of relationship with Tara. Though we never find out exactly what happened between them, it's clear that she still has a crush on him. They plan on camping in the woods by a former children's home and spending the weekends tripping on shrooms.

Jake gives them a quick primer on what to look for and what to avoid, warning them about the black deathcap mushrooms found in the woods. When the group splits off, Tara finds one of the deathcap shrooms and eats it. Though they find her and get her back to the camp, she has a major seizure and sees what will happen to them over the course of the weekend.

Later that night, Jake tells the group about the ghost stories that locals tell about the old children's home. Though everyone laughs it off, they also seem a little worried about spending the whole weekend away from civilization. It doesn't help that Jake takes all their phones and locks them in his glovebox to prevent them from freaking out on the shrooms and calling the cops. After one of the friends has a fight with his girlfriend, he drinks some of the tea made from the mushrooms, has a trip, imagines himself running into a man in a robe, and dies at the other man's hands. The remaining group members later find themselves running from a mysterious killer, but as they all drank the tea, there's no way of knowing what really happened and what is part of their trip.

Shrooms is never going to win a ton of awards or probably even acclaim from horror movie fans, but damn if it still isn't entertaining. One of the best moments occurs when Bluto, one of the jocks from the groups, hallucinates a talking cow in the middle of the woods. Not only does the cow warn him about going off on his own, but it gets the best line in the movie. When Bluto points out that the cow can talk, the cow responds in a deadpan voice, "that's cause you're outta your mind." How can you not love a horror movie that includes a talking cow?

On the second viewing, it took me about halfway through the movie before I remembered what happened in the end, which I consider a success. Far too many horror movies today are so one dimensional and predictable that you can almost guess the ending in the first few minutes. Shrooms just kind of pulled me into the movie and let me focus on the story and characters before I thought about the ending. That led to me making some weird, "oooh" sound and my roommate yelling at me not to ruin it for him.

Shrooms is a fun little movie that offers some nice distractions and a fun story. If you haven't seen it yet, jump on Netflix.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blood Widow Movie Review – The Dangers of Owning Your Own Home

Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Jeremiah Buckhalt

Laurie and her boyfriend Hugh recently bought a new home in the country, which they hope will help them grow closer together. Hugh is still something of a party animal and a little immature, while Laurie hopes that buying a house together will make him think about the future and settle down. Her hopes disappear when Hugh informs her that he invited some of their friends out to the house to help them celebrate.

Not long after moving in, they discover an old boarding school located right next door. Though hidden in the woods, their group of friends quickly find the old crumbling building and decide to check it out for themselves. They manage to make it back all in one piece just in time for hundreds of other people to arrive for the big party.

When one of their friends has the urge to partake in a little recreational party, she makes the mistake of heading back to the boarding house. A figure dressed in black with a white mask covering its face pops up and makes the girl wish she just said no. The following morning, Laurie realizes that her friend is missing and no one knows what happened to her. Her car is still there, but the others convince her that she probably just got a ride back to the city with someone else.

Cut to the former owners of the house giving them a call to warn them about hanging out in the boarding school. Apparently, the school closed down after one girl went a little psycho and murdered all of the students in the school. She later disappeared into the night, and no one seems to know what happened to her. Well, except for just, because we can see her running loose through the old school and stalking the people in the house. I don't know about you, but that seems like something that should come up during closing. Naturally, the Blood Widow comes after the people in the house and starts killing them off one by one.

I'm always willing to give new horror writers and directors a chance, but the only good thing about Blood Widow is the ending. It's the type of ending that you both love and hate at the same time. While you want the killer to get his or her comeuppance, you also want the hero of the film to survive. This has one of those endings that leaves you feeling satisfied but also leaves you feeling bad for the characters in the film.

Danielle Lilley, who plays Laurie, is the standout of the movie. She previously appeared in Five Across the Eyes, which I know that I've seen and know that I have a copy of somewhere, so I need to track it down and give it another watch. Laurie is the hero/heroine of the film, and Lilley does a pretty good job of making you feel for her. If you've ever been in a relationship with someone you loved but worried about what would happen in the future or thought the person didn't really give a crap about you, you'll understand where Laurie comes from. That's what makes the ending of the movie so much harder. I'm trying not to spoil it for you, but let's just say that if you aren't a fan of her character, you'll love the ending.

Blood Widow, while not a great film, does have a few elements that show what both the writers and director can do. Hopefully they get some more money and time for their next films.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wolf Creek 2 Movie Review: A Pale Imitator

Runtime: 106 minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Greg Mclean

Two police officers working in the wilds of Australia want to catch a speeder and get some action. After noticing a truck driving a little too fast, they decide to pull him over. The driver, Mick Taylor, acts like he's surprised they stopped him and attempts to leave before they reveal that they're serious. Mick gleefully kills them both, shooting one and decapitating him before tying up the other officer and setting him and the car on fire.

Cut to two German tourists backpacking through the wilds. After heading to Wolfe Creek, they try to get a ride back to civilization but find themselves stuck. They decide to camp overnight and try to find a ride the following morning. While fooling around in their tent, they see a bright light outside. Mick steps out, warns them that it's illegal to camp in a national park, and offers to drive them to the nearest town. The man feels a little uncomfortable and denies his request, which leads to Mick stabbing him in the back.

Instead of running, the female tourist goes into shock and literally cannot function. Mick grabs her, forces her to the ground, and attempts to rape her, but her boyfriend pops up and smacks him over the head. This is the point where my nurse roommate went off about how the guy should be dead. As they fight, the girl continues to basically lay on the ground and cry. Katarina, the girl, later wakes and sees Mick chopping her boyfriend into small pieces.

This is the point where she realizes that she should probably get her ass in drive. While he's distracted, she runs off into the wilderness and manages to hide from him. Katarina gets to the road, flags down a car, and jumps inside. The driver, Paul, is a surfer visiting from Britain, and while he can't necessarily understand her, he does offer to help. Mick chases them down the road and manages to fire off a shot, which kills Katarina on the spot. It then becomes a cat and mouse game between Mick and Paul, and once Mick catches him, all bets are off.

Wolf Creek was a great movie. When Blockbuster went out of business, every store around here somehow had dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of copies in stock, and I ended up buying a replacement for my missing copy. Most of the horror movie fans I know were undecided on the film, but I liked it. As soon as I heard there was a sequel that featured the same guy and the same director, I couldn't wait to see it. That said, I wasn't crazy about Wolf Creek 2.

This is the classic example of a sequel showing way too much of a villain. I was a big fan of Vacancy 2 just because that movie set up the characters from the original and showed why they did what they did. This one seemed like it wanted us to learn even more about Mick, but I don't really need to know that much about him. Do I care that he hates the British? Not really. It would make sense if the film revealed some big reason why he would hate tourists and go after them, but it seems more like he just doesn't like people.

Wolf Creek 2 occasionally felt more like a remake than a sequel. While the opening moments were amazing, we then get stuck following two annoying tourists. The scenes of them backpacking together, talking with other tourists, getting rides, and basically sightseeing left me checking my watch and wondering where this was all going. Then, as soon as we finally get invested and want to see Katarina survive, she's dead. We then need to invest in an entirely new character, and in the end, the movie pretty much ends in the same way the first one did.

Though Wolf Creek 2 got some good reviews, I'll stick with the original.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Afflicted Movie Review – Beware of Strange Women in Bars

Runtime: 85 minutes
Release Date: April 4, 2014 (US)
Rating: R
Director: Clif Prowse, Derek Lee

Clif and Derek are long time best friends. Clif always dreamed of being a filmmaker and often cast his friend in his short films. Derek eventually found a stable IT job and decided to settle down. When Derek learns that he's dying and only has a short period of time left, the two decide to take a year off and travel the world together. They start out in Paris, where they hang out with two of their friends who are in a band and make plans to meet back up one year later when the band returns.

While out at a bar, Derek meets a gorgeous woman named Audrey and brings her back to the hotel. The other guys decide to play a prank on him, but instead find Derek in bed by himself covered in scratches and bruises. He has no memory of what happened when they got back to the room or what happened to Audrey, but they do find her clothing, purse, and phone left behind.

After Derek and Clif leave for Italy, Derek begins exhibiting some weird behavior. He passes out in bed and has problems being in the light, and when they go out to lunch, he vomits all over the restaurant after trying to eat normal food. He also breaks out in intense hives and blisters when exposed to sunlight. When the two friends get into a fight, Derek punches straight through a solid rock wall.

While all this happens, Clif documents the drama and experiences on a website the two started about their trip. Friends and family warn Derek to come home and for Clif to get him to the hospital, but Derek eventually embraces his new found powers and strengths. When the two attempt to rob a blood bank and get Derek the only thing that makes him feel better, they find Interpool on their tails.

There is a lot about Afflicted that I'd like to write about but those moments feel like spoilers. The synopsis above really only covers the first half of the film if that. We then focus on Derek and his quest to find Audrey in the hopes of uncovering why she turned him and what he can do to cure himself. Through it all, we get an inside look at the action through the cameras the duo brought to document their trip.

Afflicted looked like an interesting movie and had a great trailer, but I don't know how I felt about it. It's kind of a vampire movie with a twist, but the twist has nothing to do with the vampires themselves; it just so happens to be a found footage film that focuses on vampires. There are some great scenes in the movie. One involves Derek trying to take his life with a shotgun blast to the head, while another involves him attempting to see how the sunlight will affect his skin.

One of the biggest debates online is about the Audrey and Derek relationship. She mentions that she never turned anyone before, and when he asks why she chose him, she tells him that he was already dying and that she felt pity for him. I'm on the side that believes she deliberately turned him because she felt sorry for him, but there's a large group of people who think she accidentally turned him.

Speaking of death, the film lets us know that Derek doesn't have long in the first few minutes, but it's completely easy to forget about that later on. I kept waiting for a scene where Derek would wonder if living life as some crazy vampire was better than dying, but that scene never came. You would think that he would bring it up at least once, but it never happens. He goes from barely having the ability to walk and act like a human to being a crazed madman trying to track down the person who infected him so fast that I kept wondering what flipped that switch in his mind.

The found footage genre, which is admittedly pretty bad at this point, actually works in this film. Clif spends most of his time behind the camera, but you get used to the sound of his voice and actually believe that he has a close relationship with Derek. The YouTube type site where they post their videos gets responses that seem pretty realistic. I'm not sure I would keep watching after my friend vomited bright orange sludge all across a restaurant, and it's a little funny to read posts from people that basically say, "get him to the hospital" or "that's not right."

Afflicted wasn't a terrible movie, but I wasn't as crazy about it as I thought. There was something about the film that just didn't do it for me, and I had problems paying attention. I'm sure many people will love it, but it wasn't one of my favorites.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Joy Ride 3 Movie Review: This is Not Rusty Nail

Runtime:96 minutes
Release Date:June 17, 2004
Director:Declan O'Brien

I almost didn't even want to write this review because the movie is so bad but I'll do my best.

Joy Ride 3 opens with a girl clearly strung out on either meth or crack fooling around with a guy in bed. Literally three minutes after the movie stars, they're having some rough and tumble sex, but she stops him when she realizes they're out of drugs. He comes up with an idea to talk to a truck driver, lure him into the room, and rob him because all drivers carry large amounts of drugs. She makes the mistake of hitting on good old Rusty and inviting him to their room.

When Rusty learns of their scheme, which he apparently does before he gets there, he attacks them both. He then straps them to the front of his truck and gives them a chance. If they can hold on for a certain amount of time, he'll let them live. If they let go, the chains holding them down will drag them under the truck. The girl lets go, and they both die. It's a great way to open the movie but it just goes downhill from there.

There are a bunch of highly annoying twenty somethings planning to enter some random race. As a NASCAR fan, I have my questions about what level they're racing at and what's going on. I also didn't bother to learn any names because most of the characters seem fairly interchangeable. There's the douchy guy, the slightly less douchy guy, the annoying female girlfriend, the other annoying gal, etc..

After stopping along the way for some food, they decide to take the race car, which is very expensive buy the way, out of the trailer and drive it the rest of the way to the race, which is a very stupid thing to do because those cars aren't decide for regular roads. They naturally come across Rusty, piss him off, and he decides to kill them all.

Joy Ride is one of those hidden gem movies that I found by accident. Featuring the too cute for his own good and gone too soon Paul Walker and the adorable and hilarious Steve Zahn, a bought a copy back in the days when I would buy new movies that looked interesting without knowing anything about the plot. I love it so much that I recommended it to all of my friends. Sadly, Joy Ride 3 makes me wish they had stopped with the first film.

One of the things, okay the thing, that made that movie so great was Ted Levine. His voice has that deep and throaty quality that makes you want to look under your bed and check your closets before going to sleep at night. Instead of letting us actually see the psychopathic Rusty, we only saw him in profile and heard his voice. Our imaginations let us figure out what he looked like.

Joy Ride 3 apparently decided that we need to see the killer. Just as I finished telling my roommate that we never saw Rusty's face, the film cut to a scene of his face as he stared down at a victim, and trust me, he's nothing to make you check under the bed. He looks like some random guy off the street, and seeing his face really takes away from the horror. They show Rusty full on so many times that it seems like just another generic slasher movie. I'd skip this one and reach for the original instead.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Neverlake Movie Review – Beware of Weird Fathers

Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: December 13, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Riccardo Paoletti

On the same night that we rented Afflicated (look for that review soon!), we also snagged Neverlake from Redbox. The roommate decided to head up to bed and leave me alone to watch this one, and I have to say that he missed out. As excited as I was to finally see Afflicted, this was the movie that made me go, "now that's fucked up!"

Jenny is a young woman born in Italy but sent to her grandmother at an early age after her mother died. Her father is some type of doctor, but he also spends a lot of time holed up in his "studio" and working on a project. After introducing her to his maid/housekeeper/cook Olga, he promises to take her to the lake the next morning but then disappears before she gets up.

Though Olga asks her to stop and eat breakfast or stick close to home, she decides to take a walk by herself instead. While down by the lake, she meets a younger girl with bandages covering her eyes. The little girl asks for help getting home and later introduces Jenny to the other kids living in the same run down hospital type place with her. One of them cryptically warns her to watch out for adults because they're bad before she goes home.

Dr. Brook, AKA Jenny's dad, suggests they take a trip into the city the following day. Though he promises to take her to a great cafe, he leaves her on the street and makes a trip to a local store. There, he hands over a drawing to a man and asks him to make him "another one." The man confirms that he wants one just like the others before sending him on his way. Meanwhile, Jenny wanders into an antique toy store, sees a doll that looks familiar to her, and picks it up. That causes her to have a flashback, and she watches in horror as the doll's limbs all fall off.

The more Jenny spends at her father's house, the more weird things start happening. Paul, the oldest of the children she met before, reveals that he has a special connection to the people of the lake when he touches the water and brings up the silhouettes of people on the opposite side. The kids tell her that they want their statues back, which her father stole. When the kids reveal an odd knowledge of her father's home, Jenny realizes that there's something darker and sinister going on.

Neverlake might be one of those films that I watch once and completely forget, but I highly doubt it because this movie was really good and much better than I thought it would be. I complain a lot about movies that have multiple stories going on, but this one actually manages to tie everything together.

It starts out with a young girl moving to a huge country estate right on the water in Italy. You see those scenes and immediately think that it's just another classic ghost story. Then it throws in some historic mythology with the statues and people in the water, which makes you wonder where it's going next. You then hear several stories about Jenny's mother and see scenes of a woman dying next to the water and think it's a ghost story again. Throw in some scenes of Olga lurking in the background, her father outright lying to her, and what might just be someone locked in a hidden room, and you might feel like your head is spinning.

This is one of the few times when I actually want to reveal how the movie ends because I thought it was pretty surprising. I'm sure that people will say that they figured out the ending ahead of time, but Neverlake had one of those endings that literally made me say, "that's fucked up." Granted there was no one else in the room or around at the time, but I'm sure that I'll make my roommate watch this later.

Neverlake is available at most Redbox machines. Watch it without reading a lot about the movie and see what you think. Hopefully you'll like it as much as I did!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Are You in the House Alone – Dennis, You've Come So Far

Runtime: 96 minutes
Release Date: September 20, 1978
Rating: NR
Director: Walter Grauman

Are You in the House Alone opens with a teenage girl laying on the floor in her living room. After being rushed to the hospital, she bursts into tears and claims that she was raped. The doctors and her mother ask her who did that to her, but she cries again and says that no one will ever believe her.

We then go back in time to when Gail was still a fairly new girl in town. Her best friend Alison introduces her to a guy named Steve, and the two go on a double date with Alison and her boyfriend Phil (played by the ever hunky Dennis Quaid). Not long after that double date, Gail and Steve decide to go steady, but she then receives a series of notes warning her that someone is watching her. Though her mother and best friend think she's overreacting, Gail can't help but think that someone is stalking her.

Oh my god, this movie was bad even for a television movie from the 1970s. Every scene that involves her "stalker" comes from someone following behind her with a camera. We also get a number of shots of someone sneaking through the halls and staring at her every time she moves. Despite the fact that she knows someone is following her, she doesn't seem to notice someone standing just over her shoulder.

The said thing is that my roommate watched half the movie, went upstairs to take a shower, and made a phone call. When he came back downstairs, he couldn't believe that the movie was still on. While Netflix classifies Are You in the House Alone? as a horror movie, don't believe the hype. If you want to skip the film and still know how it ends, check out my TV movie blog recaphere.