Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Area 51 – Aliens and Found Footage, All in One Package!

Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Oren Peli

Given that I grew up near and still live close to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, one of the bases at the center of the alien stories in America, I have a fascination with all things extraterrestrial. It only took one watching of the Area 51 trailer to know that I had to add it to my watch list.

As Area 51 is a found footage style movie, it picks up with someone interviewing a group of people regarding the disappearances of three people. Reid, Darren, and Ben were three best friends who always spent a lot of time together before they up and disappeared. Those interviewed mention that something happened in the recent past that made Reid begin acting weird.

The film then jumps to the three friends on their way to a party. After having some fun, Reid loses consciousness and disappears. They later find him standing in the middle of the road. Though he says he's fine, he can't remember what happened to him and really doesn't seem fine. Reid then becomes obsessed with the idea of extraterrestrial life and that there are aliens out there.

He eventually reveals that he believes aliens abducted him that night and that there are others who experienced similar things. Reid convinces his friends that they should go to the base and investigate things for themselves. They first meet up with a friend he met online. Jelena tells them that her dad once worked there and was fired for being too curious, but her father gave her all his secret files and just enough information that they think they can break into the base. Once they finally make it to Area 51, it becomes clear why the military and government moved the base underground.

Did you guess by my synopsis that this was an action packed movie with lots of aliens? You would guess wrong. While there are some strange things that happen and some aliens, it takes a long time to really get going. I understand the importance of setting up the backstory and explaining what happened to Reid, but it really did feel like half the movie or more was just backstory with nothing really happening. Even after they got to Nevada, it was more exposition. They had to meet Jelena, find someone who worked at the base, gather up everything they needed, check out the base, come back to the base, and so on.

The trailer for Area 51 made it seem like it was a movie about people breaking into the base and finding proof of alien beings. While that eventually happened, it took a long time to get there. More of the movie dealt with why Reid started acting weird and what they needed to do to get in the base. I would have preferred if the film started with them actually in the base and flashed back to all the other stuff later on. By the time Area 51 finally hit me with the scenes from the trailer, I had pretty much given up on it already.

The Lake on Clinton Road – Based on an Urban Legend, Kind Of

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Rating: NR?
Director: DeShon Hardy

What happens when you take one of the most famous urban legends/haunted tales in the country and base a horror movie kind of/sort of around that legend? You get The Lake on Clinton Road.

Rather than basing the film on any of the stories told about Clinton Road, the screenwriter decided to do a story about six “friends” who take a trip together to a house somewhere on that road that is next to a possibly haunted lake. The one name I managed to remember from the movie was Stacey, but only because Stacey was a major bitch. She gave up the chance to go to the beach with her friends to go on a trip with her boyfriend and his friends. Stacey makes it clear from the very beginning that she doesn't want to be there and that a lake doesn't count as a body of water or some crap.

We also learn that a woman was arrested early on for drowning her son in the lake. That story eventually catches up to the rest of the movie.

After having a little too much to drink, our crew of six head to the lake. One of the group decides that she wants to actually get in the water, and I can't blame her. Her oh so macho and oh so strong-going to be a professional football player boyfriend immediately flips out and demands she get out of the water. After practically dragging her out by her hair, he screams at her about how they're all drunk and it's dangerous. She then starts acting weird and eventually people start dying.

You can blame my renting of The House on Clinton Road of wanting to watch a few horror movies and waiting until Saturday night to hit Redbox. Though it actually started out fairly interesting, it didn't take long before things fell apart. I have no idea why they set up the movie the way they did, but there were so many continuity errors that it started ticking me off.

When they first arrive, no one can find the lake. They later go walking around and find the lake but no beach. Even later, they go out to stand on the deck and have a clear view of the lake, which is literally right behind the house. There are also a few scenes that show them walking around the house to the lake. They then see someone on the opposite side of the lake and somehow get there in seconds, even though shots of the lake show that it wraps around the entire house and that there's no way to get across it. It got to the point where my and the BF just started laughing every time someone mentioned how far away the lake was or how they would get there.

Does The House on Clinton Road have any real scares? Eh. Honestly, I did jump out of my seat when the little dead boy would pop up, especially when he made an appearance in a closet followed by his mother jumping out and grabbing him. It also had a decent jump scene at the end, though you expect it's coming. And, if you love hearing teens be whiny and bitchy, make sure you watch through the credits for a “true encounter” on Clinton Road.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Extraterrestrial Movie Review – Don't Go in the Woods, Seriously, Just Don't

Runtime: 101 minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Colin Minihan

Extraterrestrial opens with an unnamed woman sobbing and running through the streets to reach a phone booth. Just as she gets inside, she disappears without a trace.

Cut to April, your stereotypical girl who is about to leave the small town and her small town boyfriend behind for life in the big city. The boyfriend, Kyle, decided to surprise her in a terrible way by turning their weekend cabin getaway into a miniature party with their friends Seth, Lex, and Melanie. Before they even get there, a local cop pulls them over because Seth tried to launch fireworks out of the car.

Things get even worse when they get to the cabin. Kyle takes the opportunity to propose to her and seems heartbroken when she turns him down, though honestly, it kind of seems like she isn't even sure why she turned him down. After seeing something in the woods, they realize it's a UFO and rush back to barricade themselves inside the cabin.

The small town cop, who is actually the sheriff, then arrives. Though his deputy doesn't believe their story and points out all the alcohol and drugs littering the cabin, the sheriff believes them because he thinks aliens abducted his wife, who is still missing. Before they can do anything, one of the aliens appears and makes the sheriff shoot both his deputy and himself. Even as they try to save themselves, it quickly becomes clear that no one escapes from these aliens.

What do you say about a movie that features Michael Ironside as a pothead? He plays Travis, a local man who grows and sells his own weed. April and her friend uncover his stash and almost wind up with bullets in their brains until Travis recognizes her from when she was a kid. He's also the only person who believes them. It's a little confusing though. Given everything that likely happened out there in the woods, why did the aliens never attack or take him before?

There were a few things I really liked about Extraterrestrial. If you haven't seen the movie and don't want to see it, just stop reading now.

One thing I liked is when they actually got on the ship. Seth's death scene made my roommate wince so much that I thought he might actually get up and leave the room. The director and set designers also did a good job of decorating and designing a space that actually felt like a spaceship. However, I'm not a big fan of April and Kyle finding each other, the aliens letting them go for no explained reason, and them just dying, nor did I like how they had to have her put the ring on before she died. Yup, because their love meet nothing until she agreed to marry him. On the other hand, how can you not like a science fiction film that includes a blatant reference to the Cigarette Smoking Man at the end?

Extraterrestrial got some extremely poor reviews when it came out, but I definitely liked it. It's currently on Netflix for those interested.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Jack Frost Movie Review - “It ain't Fucking Frosty!”

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: November 18, 1997
Rating: R
Director: Michael Cooney

Once upon a time in a not so far away land, I lived in my parents' house with my older brother. As we both loved horror movies, we would often head to Blockbuster to surprise each other with bad horror movies and watch them together. Jack Frost is one of the movies that I remember watching with him, but watching it now, I'm not entirely sure how we ever got through it!

I could give you a whole big plot synopsis, but do you really need one? Jack Frost, who had the poor misfortune of actually growing up with that name, killed multiple people before a small town sheriff captured him. Cut to police later transporting him to another prison for his execution because I guess they somehow let a serial killer roam free at a minimum security prison or something. While on the way, a truck filled with toxic acid hits them. Jack winds up getting hit full on with the toxic waste, which leads to him melting away into the snow. He then comes back as a living snowman to murder anyone who gets in his way.

With a plot like that, how could this movie ever be bad? Toss in Shannon Elizabeth in one of her first movie roles as a stereotypical dumb hot girl, and this movie should be gold. Did I mention that the sheriff who captured Jack is now living in the same town and has a daughter? Seriously, this should be cheesy gold. Note how I kept using the word should?

There are a few moments in the movie worth mentioning. At one point, Jack somehow manages to wed his massive snowman body into a police car, which results in him running through the streets of town in the car. Sadly, he only gets to mow down one person. I'd love to see him chasing people Twisted Metal style through the streets.

We also get a great scene with Shannon Elizabeth. While lounging her slutty self in the tub, she feels something in the water with her and naturally assumes that it's her boyfriend, so she encourages him to keep going. Just as she's really getting into it, she finally opens her eyes and sees Jack Frost. Before he kills her, he finishes what he started. Hey! The guy was in minimum security prison for like two whole hours, what did you expect him to do?

There are also a few funny moments with the sheriff and his crew trying to hunt Jack down and kill him. You would think killing a snowman would be easy but apparently not. They try shooting him, which is probably how they take down other serial killers, but it just goes right through him. The best is when they decide to just melt him with a bunch of hairdryers. I guess they couldn't find heaters in a town filled with snow.

Sigh. I think this is a case of seeing a movie years ago and thinking it was all in good cheesy fun only to later find that it's just awful. Watching Jack Frost now makes we wonder how that horrible movie Uncle Sam will hold up...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Evidence Movie Review – Never Trust Hot Girls

Runtime: 94 minutes
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Rating: NR?
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Detective Reese (Stephen Moyer, True Blood) and Detective Burquez (Radha Mitchell, Silent Hill) are two detectives tasked with going over the brutal footage left behind after a murderous slaying in New Mexico. Through video footage we meet Rachel, an aspiring filmmaker who can't seem to put down her camera long enough to see what's happening in front of her. She films her best friend Leann as Leann's boyfriend proposing to her and as she turns him down.

Later footage reveals that while Tyler was heartbroken at her rejection, he reluctantly agreed to go with the two girls to Las Vegas on a trip they planned beforehand. They make friends with the others on the bus, including a teenage runaway, a stripper (excuse me, dancer), and a woman who seems way too worried about the bag she brought with her.

The driver takes them off the main roads and onto dirt roads, claiming that it's the way he always goes. After driving over something left in the road, the bus flips over and crashes. Everyone manages to escape relatively unharmed and finds their way back to a seemingly abandoned little town they passed earlier. As the sun sets, the group finds themselves stalked and killed by a menacing figure with a blow torch, leaving the two detectives to discover exactly what happened that night.

My main problem with found footage movies is that the found footage element gets to be too much at times. That it why I'm glad the director set this movie up the way he did. It jumps back and forth between the detectives in the present day with the footage filmed by the people on the bus. I thought it might be a little jarring, but it actually plays well.

I've always had a fear of drowning, but after watching this movie, I turned to my roommate and told him that I had a new worst way to die. There is a scene where the figure in the mask with the blow torch attacks a woman and literally cuts her arm off with the torch before setting her on fire. The way he kind of just stands back and watches her burn for a few second before walking away was actually chilling.

It seems like a lot of movies have to showcase stereotypes, but Evidence did a smart job of not falling back too much on those stereotypes. We naturally have the slightly dorky teenager who somehow knows magic tricks and the guy pining over the girl he loves, but the movie jumps between the characters enough that no one person takes center stage and no one stereotype takes over the movie.

While the scenes set in the abandoned town were pretty intense, the same can't be said of the scenes set in the present day. There are literally scenes where Moyer will say one line to Mitchell, she'll nod her head, and then they both go back to watching the footage they have. It felt like too much exposition or as if the director wasn't sure we would pick up on something that happened, so he had to take that moment to let us in on what they found. Thanks, but I watched that scene and I get it.

Other than that, I'd recommend Evidence. It's currently playing on Netflix.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Zombeavers Movie Review - We cannot turn against each other right now. That's exactly what the beavers would want.

Runtime: 85 minutes
Release Date: March 20 2015
Rating: R
Director: Jordan Rubin

Two truck drivers (including one played by John Mayer who I did not recognize until the very end) are driving down the road and not paying attention, which causes them to hit a deer and drop a barrel of toxic waste into the local water supply where beavers live.

Cut to Mary, Zoe, and Jenn arriving at a cabin owned by Mary's cousin for a girls' weekend getaway. Zoey is the stereotypical slut who freaks out because she can't use her phone and takes off her top within 10 minutes. Mary is the "smart" girl, and you know she's smart because she wears glasses and talks about school. Jenn is just upset because her boyfriend Sam was tagged on Facebook getting down with another girl.

While hanging out by the lake, they see a bear, but luckily, a random hunter named Smyth pops up and fires his gun to scare it away. He then warns them about dressing like whores before wandering off. Later that night, the guys show up. Tommy is Mary's boyfriend, Buck is with Zoey, and Sam came to talk to Jenn. After kissing him and kneeing him in the balls, Jenn settles down a bit. Jenn goes crazy after finding a crazy beaver in the bathroom. They attack and kill the beaver before leaving it outside, but when they go to the water the next day, the beaver is gone. Once crazy zombeavers attack Buck in the water, our group kind of/sort of figures out what's going on.

Can I just say that I now have a new favorite guilty pleasure movie? Zombeavers was so insane and over the top that you can't help but like it. It made me feel the way other people did the first time they saw Sharknado. I didn't get it when I saw that movie, but I get it now. It was clearly done by someone who loved bad and cheesy horror movies because everything about Zombeavers seems like something I've seen in a bad 80s horror flick.

Not only do we get the classic stereotypical characters, but we get that moment where the main character suddenly becomes a human-beaver-zombie hybrid and allows a second character to take the lead. We even have that plot "twist" that anyone can see coming. Hint: it turns out that the girl Sam had the fling with isn't a random stranger.

And oh my god, the beavers! They were so fucked up and crazy looking that I want like six of them for Halloween to hang out in my front yard with a few zombie flamingos and one I can leave sitting in my living room year round. My only one minor complaint is how often the characters mention that they're in Indiana given that the background looks absolutely nothing like Indiana. I loved Zombeavers so much that I think I might go watch it again, right now.

Oh, and if you're a fan of The Office or a Parks and Recreation fan like me (save for the last season), keep your eyes peeled. The actors who played JJ on Parks and Recreation and Bill Vance from The Office are both in very minor/almost cameo roles.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Honeymoon Movie Review – I Just Want Us to Be Us

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: September 14, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Leigh Janiak

Honeymoon starts out with footage recorded at the wedding of Bea and Paul. Bea talks about how he proposed to her after setting up a tent on top of their bed, and Paul talks about how he got sick on their first date and spent the rest of the night on her bedroom floor. It then cuts to the two of them arriving at a cabin owned by Bea's family for their honeymoon. After giving him a short tour, they spend time making love in every room and on nearly every surface they can find.

When they take a boat out on the lake, Bea contemplates jumping in before discovering that the water is ice cold. She also takes him to the only restaurant in the rural community, which turns out to be closed according to the man working there. He reveals himself as Will, a friend of Bea's from her childhood, and introduces them to his wife Annie. Annie almost instantly tells them to get out and warns them about staying. When Will attempts to calm her down, Paul grows worried because he thinks the man is abusive.

One night, Paul wakes and discovers that Bea is missing. He finds her outside in the middle of the woods completely naked. She claims she has no idea how she got there or what happened earlier that night. When Bea begins making excuses as to why she doesn't want to sleep with her new husband and Paul finds her bloody and ripped nightgown in the woods, he tries to find a reason behind her new attitude. Once Bea begins bleeding from a spot I won't mention, he realizes that there is something darker happening to his new bride.

Honeymoon confused the hell out of me. A few weeks ago, my roommate and I saw a trailer for it, I said something about how we saw it before, and he looked super confused. When I sat down to watch it, I realized we really never had seen it. I know I saw a movie with a similar premise. Husband and wife go on their honeymoon to a cabin in the woods, wife disappears in the middle of the night and then starts acting weird. I just can't remember the name or even the ending. If anyone knows what the hell that movie was, please let me know.

I personally thought Honeymoon was a lot better than most of the reviews say. There is a great dynamic between the actors playing Bea and Paul, and the director does a great job of setting up their relationship before any of the odd stuff starts happening. There are all these little nods that go back to the beginning of the film to let you know something weird happened, like Bea not remembering where they went on their first date or how she can barely remember how or when he proposed.

It also has that vibe that you expect from a movie like this and some great music too. When Paul goes into the woods, the music intensifies and the lights dim as he gets closer to the nightgown. I also want to give some props to the writer for making Paul a completely believable character. Instead of instantly thinking it's aliens or some creature in the woods, he naturally assumes that Will attacked his wife and that she's now in shock. Plus, don't get me started on her bleeding scenes. It sent me back to the first time I watched Cabin Fever and left one of my roommates briefly wondering if he would ever have sex with a woman again. While I wasn't crazy about the reason for her actions or the very end, Honeymoon was definitely one I'll watch again.