Friday, August 31, 2012

“Absentia” Movie Review

Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: NR
Release Date: March 3, 2011

Callie (Katie Parker) arrives in town to help her sister Tricia (Courtney Bell) pack up her home. Tricia’s husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) disappeared just over seven years ago, and she’s about to have him declared dead. Though Tricia claims that there isn’t anyone special in her life, she is clearly pregnant.

After going through some letters, Callie finds a notice saying that the house is about to get foreclosed on and decides to help her sister find a new place. Tricia makes a few cryptic comments about her younger sister, which let the audience know that she left nearly five years ago and just recently came back and that she experiments with drugs.

Despite her past history, Callie loves jogging. On her first trip out in the city, she passes through a long tunnel. On her way back, she sees a homeless man in the tunnel who looks dead. When the man opens his eyes, he seems shocked that she can see him and offers her some jewelry in exchange for help. Callie rushes off, but later returns to bring him food and finds that he’s gone.

When she goes home, she finds the jewelry sitting on her front steps. After taking it back to the tunnel, she sees a younger men who warns her not to leave it there, but she does anyway. That night, she finds the jewelry under her pillow and calls the cops. Tricia seems particularly close to Detective Mallory (Dave Levine) who apparently handles both B&E cases and missing persons’ cases.

The two women talk, and Callie encourages her sister to date the other man. On their first date, they walk out of the house and find Daniel standing in the street. The hospital workers treat him for malnutrition and dehydration, the police realize that he’s wearing the same clothing he wore when he disappeared. As Tricia struggles with having her husband back, Callie struggles with a dark force inside the tunnel that might want both women.

I watched “Absentia” with my roommate who also loves horror movies, and we both watched the first half of the movie with our hands practically covering our eyes. The first 45 minutes or so leading up to the return of Daniel are some of the creepiest moments I’ve seen on film in a long time. At one point, I even asked my friend why other independent filmmakers can’t make something this good.

The creepest part is Brown who does an amazing job in the first part of the movie. Tricia keeps seeing visions of her “dead” husband, finding him watching her from the corner of the bedroom when she’s trying to sleep and at other times of the day. Every time a door closes, I kept waiting for him to pop up.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie isn’t nearly as scary. Brown does a poor job playing the actual Daniel who jumps at the slightest sound and walks around with bug eyes for the rest of the movie. It literally feels like this is two movies in one: a great ghost story in the beginning and a boring creature movie in the end. I wish “Absentia” kept the strong beginning going for the rest of the film.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Snow Beast Movie Review

Director: Brian Brough
Runtime: 88 minutes
Release Date: 2011
Rating: PG-13

“Snow Beast” is the type of movie that you randomly stumble across on SyFy and can’t look away. I know, because that’s exactly what happened to me. I was sitting around the house, waiting for the boyfriend to get off work and flipping through the channels because I couldn’t handle the thought of Netflix again. Suddenly, there it was and I couldn’t look away. Unfortunately, the boyfriend showed up not long after, but I did manage to sit through the whole thing on Netflix.

Jim (John Schneider, The Dukes of Hazard, Smallville) is a single dad working on a special project for a local college. He and his group study the lynx in a small Canadian town and they need to head up there to check things out. Since his daughter Emmy (Danielle Churchan, “The Cat in the Hat”) is a teenager, he clearly can’t leave her at home and brings her along with his team. Neither Rob (Paul D. Hunt, “Elizabeth’s Gift” nor Marci (Kari Hawker, “Christmas Angel”) are happy, but they go along anyway.

Just before they arrive, a local kid goes missing. Most people in town assume that he just wandered off for a few days, though one cop claims that he probably skipped town to get away from his debts. The head cop Barry (Jason London, “The Rage: Carrie 2”) doesn’t buy that story, so he launches his own investigation.

Naturally Jim’s group get up there and discover that the lynx population is seriously down. They setup all their cameras, and notice that they almost never capture footage of any of the wild cats. It’s almost like something is eating them! They still think there’s a reasonable explanation until they run into the snow beast. The site of a man in a rubber suit makes it clear that there’s no reasonable explanation for this movie.

“Snow Beast” is so bad that we were laughing through the whole movie, even though it’s supposed to be a serious movie. Schneider and London should know better to do something like this. For god’s sake, London was in “Dazed and Confused” one of my favorite all-time movies!

Oddly enough, for a movie set in Canada, not a single person speaks with the slightest bit of an accent. The snow beast itself is so ridiculous that my best friend is convinced that he saw a zipper on the back in one scene. The creature looks like a cross between a yeti and a creature from “Planet of the Apes.”

“Snow Beast” is the type of movie that I usually get a kick out of watching. We have a few laughs and walk away with a few memorable quotes that we can sprinkle into our everyday conversations. With this one, I just wanted it to end.

Some of the scenes are incredibly ridiculous. Emmy hides under a tarp in the back of the truck and practically dry humps a skier before anyone catches her. Why the hell would you take your teenager daughter less than 10 minutes from a popular ski resort and not let her go there at least once? Plus, the snow beast manages to break through a window and drag a woman out of her vehicle by her hair, but is easily shocked by a flare gun.

I wish I could recommend it, since I didn’t pay a dime to watch it, but “Snow Beast” is one of those movies that I would rather just forget.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Movie Review: ATM

Director: David Brooks
Release Date: April 8, 2012
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: R

I love it when a movie is so much better than you expected, and that is exactly what I got from “ATM.”

The movie opens with a mysterious stranger planning something sinister in a dark room before jumping to an office building. David (Brian Geraghty, “When A Stranger Calls”) is obsessed with his co-worker Emily (Alice Eve, “The Raven”). He talks about her so much that his friends and co-workers want him to just make a move already. When he learns that she recently quit for another job, he realizes that he needs to make a move right away. He tried before, but never managed to get the job done.

He decides that the office Christmas party is his best bet. When he sees her leave, he runs after her and offers her a ride home. The only thing standing in the way is his friend Corey (Josh Peck, “Drake & Josh). Corey claims that David is his ride home and basically forces his way into the car. Corey immediately starts talking about how hungry he is and how he wants to make a stop.

Since he has no money, he makes David stop at an ATM, which is in its own small building. All three head into the ATM, but they can’t leave because they notice a mysterious man in a hooded jacket standing outside. The man cannot get inside because you need an ATM card to gain access. When the man kills an innocent guy out walking his dog, the trio realize that they need to do something. They all conveniently left their cell phones in the car, so it becomes a game of cat and mouse as to who will come out on top.

“ATM” is the type of movie that I could watch multiple times without skipping a beat. Okay, so maybe I would need a break of a few weeks in-between screenings, but I would watch it multiple times. I love horror movies that can do a lot with just a few characters because it shows that you don’t need a ton of money or sets. Much of the film takes place in either the ATM building or the parking lot.

This is the kind of movie that makes you think after you watch it. What would you do if you were stuck in a terminal with a killer outside? Would you run off and leave your friends, or stay and fight? There’s also some great chemistry between the two leads who make you believe that they have a relationship. I know King mainly from “She’s Out of My League” so she was a nice surprise in this one.

Granted there are a few missteps here. Every time that you think something good might happen, the director rips it from underneath you. Plus, “ATM” does not have a happy ending for anyone involved in the movie. If that doesn’t deter you, I highly recommend the finished product.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Movie Review: “Silent House”

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: March 9, 2012
Rating: R

It takes a hell of an actress to pull off a movie where she’s pretty much the only actor, but Elizabeth Olsen can do it. I wanted to see “Silent House” from the moment I saw the first trailer, and it actually came pretty close to meeting my expectations.

Sarah (Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) is helping clean out her family’s lakehouse before they sell it. It’s just her, her dad (Adam Trese), and her mother’s brother Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens). The two men barely get along, and her dad seems frustrated that she’s not moving fast enough cleaning out the bedroom she once shared with her cousins.

A knock on the door introduces us to Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross). Sophia hugs Sarah and reminds her of all the time they spent playing together as kids. Though Sarah doesn’t remember her, she does agree to meet up with her later that night to hang out. After a fight with her dad, Peter leaves and heads into town for some tools.

Sarah locks the door behind him because the door only locks with an old-fashioned key on the inside. She helps herself to a beer and finally starts cleaning out the house. When she hears a noise upstairs, she rushes to her dad’s side and he investigates. He comes across a series of photographs and stuffs them in his pocket, telling her that it’s insurance stuff. When they get back to work, she hears a second noise and discovers her dad injured on the floor.

“Silent House” then evolves into a dark and twisted movie about the dangers of family and things that go bump in the night. As Sarah begins seeing mysterious visitors in the home, she uncovers a twisted story that relates to her family and in particular her father.

The first half of “Silent House” is exactly what I was hoping for in a horror movie. Delinquents broke out the windows in the house, and Peter covered the broken glass with plywood. The inside of the house is almost completely dark, illuminated only by candles and lanterns that the characters carry with them. That dark setting adds a dramatic atmosphere to the film, making it hard to see what’s coming.

As much as I enjoyed the first part of the movie, the second half gets bogged down by details and unrealistic elements. When Sarah manages to escape the house, she lets her uncle take her back and actually goes inside the house. I made a joke about the ending of the movie, which turned out to be the actual ending, and I really hate when that happens.

The last part of the movie almost feels like a letdown because you know what you want to happen and what you think might happen, and you will likely end up disappointed. “Silent House” is the kind of movie that I would want to watch again, but only for the tight and exciting first half.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Movie Review: Messages Deleted

Director: Rob Cowan
Release Date:
Runtime: 92 minutes
Rating: 2009

What do you get when you cross “Phone Booth” with “Cellular”? I’ll give you a hint: despite what the cover/poster says, it’s not “Messages Deleted.”

Joel Brandt (Matthew Lillard, “Scream”) is your typical washed-up screenwriter who made nothing of himself so he now teaches a college class. Actually, he had one script that sold to a major studio, but it kind of disappeared. All of his female students are hot pieces of ass who want nothing more than to listen to him talk. Are we sure this isn’t Lillard’s fantasy? The hottest of the girls is Millie (Gina Holden, “Saw 3D,” “Final Destination 3”. She brings him coffee, constantly touches him, and keeps turning up in his life, which he doesn’t find the slightest bit odd.

Joel also has an extremely hot girlfriend Claire (Chiara Zanni) who is a struggling actress working as a waitress in his favorite coffee shop. One night, he goes home and hears a message on a machine from a guy crying. Thinking that it’s a joke, Joel deletes the message and stops by the coffee shop. After watching her while trying to write, he decides to tell her that it’s time to pull the plug on their relationship.

Before Claire can say much, a guy literally drops from the building to the table between them. Joel hears Detective Lavery (Deborah Kara Unger, “Silent Hill”) and Detective Breedlove (Serge Houde, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”) mention the man’s name, and it’s the same name that he heard on his machine. Joel tells them what happened and they basically pat him on the head and send him away.

Not long after, he gets a second phone call and rushes to stop the killer, only to find the woman dead. The cops interview him and stop by his apartment, finding a fortune cookie inside, and the woman just happened to be Asian. Joel turns to his best friend Adam (Michael Eklund, “The Divide”), hoping he can shed some light on the situation.

The two realize that what’s happening is exactly like what happened in Joel’s script, which was about a killer who went after a group of seemingly unrelated people. Knowing that he doesn’t know where the killer might strike next, Joel starts working on a way to trap the killer, even though he suspects everyone around him.

Okay, first things first. I watched this with my roommate who absolutely loves horror movies and he didn’t know Matt Lillard. It took him 10 minutes to even remember that he was in “Scream,” which made watching the movie a little more fun. Lillard is so unbelievable as a college professor that it was actually hard to watch the movie. I buy him as a stoner, a slacker, and even a serial killer but not a college professor.

The ending to “Messages Deleted” was something I saw coming a mile away. I even made a joke about the serial killer and no one believed me. Of course, the reason why that person even started killing is ridiculous and something that two characters spend far too much time explaining.

That’s not to say the movie is terrible. Eklund is the perfect combination of comedic relief and swarthy lothario, making it easy to buy him as both the man who hits on everything that moves and a potential serial killer. Houde is a lot of fun to watch too, especially when he slams Lillard into a parked car. Unger tries her best, but she comes across as too wooden and too unbelievable. All in all, “Messages Deleted” is the type of movie that you watch when you have nothing else to do.