Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life After Beth – Better After Some Thought

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Jeff Baena

Zach doesn't know quite what to do with himself after learning that his girlfriend Beth died. While trying to cope with her passing, he starts spending a lot of time with her parents Maury and Geenie. They play games, talk about Beth, and generally just try to be there for each other. When he goes over to their house one day, he finds the door locked and they won't answer it even though he can see them. After gaining access to their home, he discovers that Beth is alive again.

Instead of her parents faking her death, he learns that Beth actually came back from the dead. Unfortunately, Beth thinks everything is fine and has no idea that she died, nor does she know that they actually broke up before her death. Zach tries to pretend that everything is fine between them, even as Beth goes off the deep end. She constantly tries to have sex with him, breaks through walls and exhibits other types of super strength, and even sets fire to a lifeguard stand at one time. Since he can't tell anyone that she's back from the dead, he has to find a way to play nice with his dead girlfriend at the same time that his own parents attempt to set him up with the pretty girl next door.

Life After Beth is a good movie, but only after you step back and give it some thought. When we first watched it, we all sat there for awhile with our WTF faces on. None of us were particularly fond of it, which was odd because we all love Aubrey Plaza. I turned all my friends onto Parks and Recreation, and I think I'm the only person who actually enjoyed the first season. After a few weeks though, we realized that we were constantly quoting the movie and bringing up scenes to make each other laugh.

The sad thing is that this is definitely a Plaza movie, but Plaza really isn't that funny in this one. The exception are the scenes at the very end when she's strapped to an oven and trying to walk, but you can see those moments in the trailer. The real standouts are all the background characters.

Molly Shannon is hysterical as Beth's mom, especially towards the end when she has no clue what is going on around here. John C. Reilly is also pretty damn funny as Beth's dad. Then you have Cheryl Hines and Paul Resier as Zach's parents. It's always nice to see Reiser pop up in something and actually get a few good lines.

I was also a big fan of Matthew Gray Gubler. He plays Zach's older brother who is obsessed with following the laws and keeping people safe. When he joins the local group tasked with stopping the zombie invasion, I couldn't stop laughing. Plus we get a fun little cameo from Gary Marshall when he comes back from the dead. Even Anna Kendrick turns up as the girl dating Zach. One of the best moments comes when Zach is trying to talk about Beth and she gets super confused because she thought his girlfriend was dead.

Life After Beth is a smart comedy/horror film, and I think it's the type of movie that requires multiple viewings.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Town That Dreaded Sundown – Damn You, Leonard!

Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Jami and Corey are two hot kids at the local drive-in to see The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which in a meta twist was based on an actual series of murders that happened in their town. After making it clear that she isn't into horror movies, he drives her out to the old lovers lane. Before they can get too far into it, a man in a sack mask who looks just like the original killer, shows up. He drags them both out of the car, makes Jami turn away, and kills Corey. She runs into the woods, and while he finds her, he lets her go after giving her a warning to pass on.

A few days pass before the killer strikes again. It's just enough time for Corey's funeral and for her grandmother to deny that she remembers the original murders. It's also enough time for Jami to start her own investigation. The killer next targets a young woman and her military boyfriend home on leave. After decapitating the boyfriend and slamming his head against the hotel room window, he chases her outside and brutally kills her in her own car. The killer continues on his spree all the while coming back to urge Jami to make others remember what happened in the past.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a movie that I actually enjoyed. I love that they did the meta thing. Not only do they set it up that this was the town where the original was filmed, but they also keep showing scenes from the original and harkening back to the original. I think I squealed when the killer brought out the trombone for one scene, but the friends I watched it with had no clue what was going on. I also liked seeing Dennis O'Hare. He's been so good in the past seasons of American Horror Story, especially the first season, that I loved seeing him here. He plays the son of the original director and is just the perfect character. He's a little strange, suspicious, and kind of loveable all at the same time.

Speaking of people I loved seeing, this movie was a who is who. Addison Timlin, who was so great as Stormy in Odd Thomas, plays Jami. Gary Cole pops up as the chief of the small town police department and has one of the most memorable scenes in the entire film. I don't want to give it away, but something a little unusual happens while he's getting a blow job. Edward Herrmann, who I admittedly only know as the grandfather on Gilmore Girls, turns up as the local pastor who thinks the killer came back because the town is full of sin. We even get Anthony Anderson as a Texas Ranger who rolls into town to solve the mystery. Did I mention Josh Leonard from The Blair Witch Project is in it too? It's nice to see him in a horror movie rather than that piece of crap If I Stay I was forced to sit through a few months ago.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is my favorite horror movie of the month and maybe the last few months. The acting was good, and it had some great death scenes too. There's the two young gay men who get attacked before they get to their good stuff, a body left chopped into pieces on the railroad tracks, and a poor little old lady stabbed/slashed in the throat. What more could you ask for?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Jessabelle Movie Review -From the Writer of Hell Baby

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Director: Kevin Greutert

Jessie has everything she could want, including a hot fiance helping her move into his house. Not long after leaving her old apartment, a truck comes out of nowhere and hits her side of the car. She wakes up in the hospital to learn that she lost both her fiance and her baby and that she broke her legs so severely that she won't be able to walk for a few months.

A few months later, she learns that she needs serious help. Her mother died, she has no friends, and the only person who might help is her father. When she was a baby, her mom died of cancer and her father gave her to her aunt to raise. She makes the call, and he surprisingly comes to get her and moves her into his home in the bayou, even letting her stay in her mother's old room.

While going through her mom's dresser, she finds videotapes that her mother left for her. The first tape shows her mom reading a set of tarot cards to determine her future. She suddenly gets worried and says that Jessie isn't alone in the house. The second tape is fairly similar, but in the middle, her father comes in and sees her. He flips out and breaks the tape before grabbing her wheelchair and throwing it in the swamp.

After catching her with yet another tape, her father takes the remaining tapes outside and screams at her that her mother had brain tumors and didn't know what she was talking about. As she's stuck in her wheelchair, she can only watch as he tosses the tapes in a barrel and starts to light the tapes on fire. Unable to get a fire going, he rushes into his shed, only to see the door slam and lock behind him as the shed goes up in flames. Jessie can only watch and listen as her father burns to death.

At his funeral, she encounters her old high school boyfriend Preston. Before they can form much of a connection, she sees a black man with a burn on his face, which causes her to pass out. She wakes up back in her father's home with Preston watching over her. He offers to get the tapes for her, but once she watches them, she and Preston both realize that there is something more unusual happening in her old family home.

Jessabelle looked good from the trailer, started off with a bang, and ended with one of those scenes that left us all with a WTF face firmly in place. The ending was so confusing that I had to go to Wikipedia in the hopes of it making some sense in my mind. It turns out that the ending involved something that I never saw in the film. I don't know if it was a cut scene or a scene that I somehow missed, but once I read it, it totally made sense.

The ending really was the worst thing about Jessabelle. The film had some really strong moments. A girl trapped in a wheelchair stuck in a house in the middle of the Louisiana bayou, how could that not be creepy? Add in some scenes of creaking noises upstairs, where she can't go, and a hand trying to reach through a curtain to touch her face, and I'm on the edge of my seat. I just wish the ending made more sense.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Come Back to Me Movie Review

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Paul Leyden

Dale is just a poor young guy when his father brutally murders his mother at the beginning of the film as he holds his rabbit and listens to her screams. When the police show up, they swear that his mother is dead, but when Dale goes into see her, she suddenly starts moving again.

Cut to Sarah and Josh, a young married couple living in Las Vegas. Sarah is a graduate student and Josh works in a casino. Though she recently survived a serious car accident and has no source of income, Sarah really wants to have a baby, but Josh wants her to focus on her recovery. He also wants them to meet their new neighbor, who turns out to be a now adult Dale who doesn't seem too thrilled that they brought him store bought cookies.

Not long after, Sarah begins experiencing vivid and realistic dreams that always seem to end in her death or the death of her husband. Unable to cope with the dreams and frightened of falling asleep, Sarah turns to her best friend Leslie. Leslie convinces her that the dreams are simply night terrors and something many people go through, but she can't explain why an old scar Sarah had suddenly disappeared. Though willing to accept her explanation, Sarah doesn't know what to do once she finds bloody clothing and other things that indicate her dreams aren't just dreams.

Come Back to Me is one of those movies that after it ended, I was left with my WTF face firmly in place. It was also one of those films that I really wanted to talk about with someone, but unfortunately, no one watched it with me. It was so strange that I know it will stick with me for a long time.

Katie Walder, who I only know from Rules of Engagement and How I Met Your Mother, was a good choice as Sarah, though I do have to say that she occasionally overreaches a bit. Matt Passmore from The Glades and Nathan Keyes also did well in their roles as Josh and Dale. Keyes is equally parts creepy and normal, which leaves the audience wondering what connection he has to the current story, if any, and how the beginning of the story connects to the rest of the film.

As a former fan of As the World Turns, it was nice seeing Maura West again too. Though she's barely in the film, she turns up towards the end in a pivotal role. She has one of those scenes that left me shouting at the television. Fans of the old soap opera may also get a kick out of knowing that director Paul Leyden previously appeared on the show as Simon.

It's hard to say much about Come Back to Me without giving away too much of the film, but I really did enjoy it. I ended up recapping the entire movie to my roommates in the car later that night and then encouraging them to go home and watch it. Though it occasionally came across as a little like a Lifetime movie, it was interesting, creepy, strange, and a little weird.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dead on Appraisal – Definitely Unique

Runtime: ?
Release Date: March 1, 2014
Rating: UR
Director: Sean Caufield, Scott Dawson, David Sherbrook

In light of the fact that I reviewed a number of movies lately that I wasn't too crazy about, I thought it was time to post something I really did enjoy.

John Dante just wants to sell a house. Unfortunately, he's stuck with a house that has a horrible reputation. Thanks to a series of bad events that happened over the years, no one in hell would ever buy the place. We then get to see a few of the stories of the weird occurrences.

In one story, a group of friends have a massive party and wake up the following morning to discover that something a little hinky is going on. In the second story, a band moves into the house and tries to live with their random bandmate Freddie. Freddie is a little unusual and a little crazy, which unfolds throughout the story. In the last story, a young man comes home from war to live with his dad only for them both to realize that something isn't right.

If my short summaries of those stories lack any descriptions, it's because I'd rather you just watch the movie and not live through my summaries. Trust me when I say that the Freddie and the Goblins segment is a little disgusting and a little funny at the same time and that this one does a good and smart job of combining humor and horror.

I have a soft spot in my heart for horror movies made on a small budget. A close friend of mine was involved in the genre for a long time before passing away a few years ago. After watching Dead on Appraisal, all I could do was smile, shake my head, and think about how much he would have liked this movie.

If you're the type of person who loves mass produced Hollywood horror movies, you will not like this one at all. If you're the type of person willing to go with the flow and don't need big budgets to enjoy a film, I highly recommend it, if only for the very end.

Dead on Appraisal features a few "outtakes" and behind the scenes filming at the very end of the credits. The roomie and I were literally rolling on the floor and laughing our asses off while watching those scenes. I found my copy in Family Video of all places, but I'm sure that other rental places have it too. If you haven't heard of it before, give it a try.

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.