Monday, December 31, 2012

“Halloween: Resurrection” Movie Review

Runtime: 94 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: July 12, 2002
Director: Rick Rosenthal

What happens when you mix current (at the time technology) and an “urban vibe” with a classic Michael Myers tale? That would be “Halloween: Resurrection.”

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) escaped the last film by killing her brother, but when she learned that she actually killed a paramedic, she went crazy and landed in the mental hospital. As the nurses gossip about her, she stuffs her pills in a secret compartment in her favorite doll, revealing that she's totally sane and actually waiting for her brother to come back. He does and despite a massive battle between the two, Michael finally gets the job done and kills his sister before taking off for his hometown.

Jen (Katee Sackhoff, “White Noise 2: The Light”) tells her best friend Sara that the two were picked for an Internet reality show taking place in the former Myers' house. Along for the ride is their friend Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas, “Dracula 2000”), Donna, Jim, and Bill. When they get to the house and start investigating, Sara realizes that much of the house is rigged to scare them. They find Michael's old highchair with fake leg irons added to it and other items designed to show that he was a crazy child.

Sara recently launched an online relationship with Deckard (Ryan Merriman, “Final Destination 3”), which she uses to her advantage. Though she doesn't know it, he's actually a teenage boy, stuck watching the show from a party that his friend dragged him to that same night. When Michael starts randomly killing people in his former home, she turns to Deckard for help.

Halloween Resurrection” usually gets picked as the worst film in the franchise, which is sad because I actually dig it. I remember seeing an early work print of the film with the original ending, and then seeing it as it was released and being surprised that they changed the ending. That probably only made sense in my head, but I will let the statement stand.

Most people remember this one as the movie with Busta Rhymes. Yes he is here, and yes he is pretty good. It's almost like he knows that people will make fun of him, so he goes overboard. Whether he's karate kicking to tempt Michael or flirting badly with Tyra Banks, he's a gem. Just before I wrote my review, I checked the details and was surprised that this is rated R. There is a little nudity, but the movie doesn't have nearly enough violence to warrant that rating.

It's also a little fun to check out the high-tech and cutting edge technology of the time. When Sara pulls out her PDA (multiple times) to communicated with Deckard, I had to laugh. I had to laugh again when they showed the headset cameras the characters wear throughout the movie. “Halloween: Resurrection” tried so hard to be on top of the times that it definitely comes across as dated today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

“Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” Movie Review

Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: October 27, 2000
Director: Joe Berlinger

A random group of people show up in Burketsville to create their own documentary about the Blair Witch. Tristen, who is pregnant, and her boyfriend Stephen want to write a book about the witch, while Kim is a psychic and goth girl and Erica (Erica Leerhsen, “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End”) kind of seems to just go along for kicks. They're lead by Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan, “Hindsight”) who claims that he had thousands of satisfied customers leading tours of the areas associated with the previous film, though it turns out he just meant people who bought crap from his website.

They head out on a tour of the woods, eventually settling in the ruins of an old house for the night. After a night of partying, they wake to discover their belongings trashed. The group ventures back to Jeff's house to go over the footage they shot, and things turn even weirder.

Here is where I lose any bit of horror street cred that I have: I actually liked this film. I saw “The Blair Witch Project” in the theater with a friend who also loved horror films, and we were both pissed by the time it ended. I have never seen the movie again, and I have no interest in seeing it. I bought a used copy of this movie from a store here in Dayton, and the cashier tried to upsell me to the two-disc set for $1 more, which included a copy of the first film, and I completely shot him down.

I frequently tried to tell people that “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” was a good movie and way better than the first one. I still maintain that it's far superior to the last film, but after watching it recently, I don't know why the hell I once liked it so much. Granted, Donovan is creepily hot in the movie, and it has an interesting ending but that's about it.

The problem is that there is just something a little too slick about the film. If you haven't read about the problems between the director and the studio, go read about it. It's like the studio decided that everything original about the previous film wasnt't good enough for a sequel, so they decided to make a traditional horror film. After watching it again, I think it probably would have been better to make this as a stand-alone film with no connection to the Blair Witch.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movie Review: “The Raven”

Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: R
Director: James McTeigue
Release Date: April 27, 2012

Baltimore, Maryland police officers are on hand when the body of a dead woman turns up in her apartment. After some investigation, they discover that the murder is similar to one from an Edgar Allan Poe story. Poe (John Cusack) falls in love with a beautiful young woman, but her father forbids her from seeing him. When he goes to talk to the father, the man suggests that he offer his services helping the police investigate a series of murders that seem to draw inspiration from his stories.

Fantastic set dressings? Check. Killer costumes? Check. Amazing performances from top-notch actors? Check. With all those things going for it, “The Raven” had the chance to be a strong film, unfortunately it just didn't deliver. As a Cusack fan, I've had the opportunity to sit through some terrible shlock over the years, and I hate to say it but this one will probably make the short list of my least favorite films.

There's something missing from the movie that I just can't put my finger on. I watched it with several people, and they all enjoyed it but I found my mind wandering. This is one of those films that I ended up watching while flipping through a magazine because I couldn't get into the story. It kind of seems like one of those movies that you have to be in the right mood for, and I'm not sure that I'll ever be in the right one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

“The Loved Ones” Movie Review

Runtime: 84 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Sean Byrne
Release Date: June 1, 2012

Brent is an ordinary guy who gets into a car accident with his father. A few months later, we learn that his dad died in the accident and that he's about ready to go to prom with his girlfriend Holly. He also uses pot and mutilation to get through the bad times, and he recently turned down an offer by this girl Lola to go to the prom with him.

While at the prom, he gets knocked out when something hits him from behind. He wakes up to find himself tied to a chair in Lola's house with her dad and another woman. The woman clearly had a lobotomy and now has a vacant look on her face, and the dad seems willing to do anything that Lola wants him to do.

I have seen a lot of horror movies over the years, and Lola is one of the most fucked up characters of all time. Among the acts that she commits on Brent are:

-She throws salt on wounds that she inflicts
-She and her father nail Brent's feet to the floor
-She gives him an injection of bleach so he can't talk or cry
-She drills a hole in his head to give him a lobotomy

“The Loved Ones” is so wicked that I made enough “agh” and “ack” sounds that my roommate came in, watched five minutes, and decided that he had to watch it over again from the very beginning. The first ¾ of the film are easily the best. It keeps you on your toes, wondering what could possibly happen next. The ending is slightly predictable, and it falters a little when Holly suddenly pops back up in the film, but it definitely makes you wonder why foreign countries have such better horror films than we do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Movie Review: “The Terror Experiment”

Length: 82 minutes
Rating: UR
Director: George Mendeluk
Release Date: April 1, 2010

Oh how the mighty have fallen. “The Terror Experiment,” also known as “Fight or Flight” proves that horror films sunk quite a bit in recent years, and that some beloved stars really can't catch a break in Hollywood. First though, let's get the plot out of the way.

“The Terror Experiment” is what happens when the government lets private citizens with ulterior motives run loose on secret projects. There's this random guy who decides to release the newest form of toxic gas loose on the world by sneaking into the Federal Building and placing it in the ventilation system. Naturally, the gas turns people into mindless zombies and there are a small band of people in the building that must work together to escape.

I love C. Thomas Howell. I don't care how old or creepy he looks, I still love him. I actually squealed when I saw him turn up in the newest Spider-Man film. Maybe it's because I watched “The Hitcher” approximately 700 times, but I am absolutely crazy about the guy. As soon as I saw his name on the box, I knew this was one that would make its way into my home.

Howell isn't the only famous face popping up in this one. There's also Jason London, Judd Nelson, Robert Carradine, and even Lochlyn Munro of dozens of straight-to-DVD horror films. Sadly, this movie is a piece of garbage. I can usually find some redeeming features, but “The Terror Experiment” is something I saw once and almost immediately forgot about.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Back From Hell” Movie Review

Length: 95 minutes
Rating: NR
Director: Leonardo Araneo
Release Date: 2011

“Back From Hell” tells the story of a group of friends who decide to escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a relaxing vacation in the country. Everyone seems to have a few problems. There's the couple expecting a baby who don't seem happy together. She wants him to grow up and act like a father, while he just wants to have fun with his friends.

All that changes when one of the friends starts acting a little odd. He goes from acting strange to seemingly talking in tongues and just acting like a crazy person. A random priest pops up every now and then, warning them about the weird things going on around them. He seems to have something important that he wants to tell him, but he has a bad habit of starting to talk and then rushing off.

Did I mention that this is one of those found footage films? To keep track of everything that happens, the group decides to film themselves throughout the trip. That might be interesting, but this film just goes to show that not everything needs that type of plot. If your best friend jumped out of a window on the second floor and dashed through the woods, would you really take the time to grab your camera to follow him?

“Back From Hell” also has the kind of ending that will leave viewers wondering what the hell just happened. It pretty much gives the audience a huge middle finger by saying that everything you thought was happening wasn't real. There are two possible explanations for the ending: either the director wanted one film all along and stuck with his original ending, or he really just stopped caring and tacked it on. Either way, I was just glad when it ended. The sad thing is that I watched it with friends while cooking for Thanksgiving dinner and despite doing multiple things at once, I paid more attention to the film than those who were actually watching it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

“Silent Night” Movie Review

Runtime: 94 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: November 30, 2012
Director: Steven C. Miller

Silent Night” opens with a young man strapped to a chair with Christmas lights and a murderous Santa standing nearby. As he begs the man to let him go, we quickly learn that he was having an affair with a married woman and that Santa does not like cheaters. Once he electrocutes the man, which leads to his eyeballs popping out, I quickly get over my crush on Brendan Fehr (“Christina's House”) and Santa moves on to his next victim.

Sheriff James Cooper (Malcolm McDowell, “Halloween”) hates everything about his small town, which hosts a massive Christmas celebration. His deputy Audrey (Jaime King, “My Bloody Valentine”) lost her husband a year ago and isn't too happy about celebrating, but she frequently gets annoyed when the sheriff takes over for her. He's just excited that he finally gets to do something.

Since the town hosts one of the biggest Santa costume contests in the world, our killer gets to roam around town and no one takes a second look. Audrey and Cooper discover that Santa is killing people who made his naughty list, and they target Jim Epstein (Donal Logue, “Shark Night”), a traveling Santa who delights in telling kids the truth. Despite bringing him in for questioning, the real Santa is still out there.

I was one of those annoying people who got up in arms when they announced plans to remake “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” Luckily, this film has almost nothing in common with the original. Is it the worst horror movie ever made? No. Is it the best horror film ever made? Not at all.

While it isn't a fantastic movie, it's far better than some of the other remakes that we've seen in recent years. The top star of the film, no matter what the poster says, is Logue. I have loved him since “The Tao of Steve” and “Grounded for Life,” and I love him even more after “Silent Night.” He only appears in a few scenes, but those scenes are worth every penny. When he told one kid that he would bring him everything on his list and if they weren't there on Christmas Day, it meant that his parents sold the gifts on eBay, I almost bust a gut.

Then there are the kill scenes, which are much better than most horror movies. One particularly bratty tween tells her mother, “fuck Christmas,” which leads to Santa pulling a hammer from his bag of treats. Then there's the naked woman tossed in a wood chipper and the daughter of the mayor and her boyfriend who Santa interrupts in the bedroom.

My main problem in the film is King. I know that some people really like her, but I find her a pretty terrible actress. She almost always has a vacant look in her eyes, and when she needs to take a stand, it seems unbelievable. McDowell is far better, playing every scene like he's in an Oscar-nominated movie. One of my favorite movie lines is now, “don't put avocado on the burger,” which is why he tells Audrey when explaining that the simplest explanation is usually the best. “Silent Night” probably won't make any top 10 lists at the end of the year, but it might just become one of those films I pull out during the holidays.

Movie Review: “Rec 3: Genesis”

Runtime: 80 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: September 7, 2012
Director: Paco Plaza

“Rec 3: Genesis” opens with the traditional slideshow presentation that everyone secretly hates from weddings. Through two cameras, we learn that Koldo and Clara are the lucky young couple. After exchanging vows and doing a truly lame rehearsed dance at the reception, Koldo's uncle Adrian interrupts with what he claims is a dog bite. Naturally, the dog bite turns out to be a bite from an infected person.

Once he bites a few people, everyone in the party starts running for the hills. Koldo winds up with a group that includes a little girl from the wedding party, his cousin, the wedding videographer, and oddly enough, a man who shows up at wedding receptions to see what songs the band plays so he can make sure musicians get their royalties. Clara heads off with the priest and eventually finds herself with the best man Rafa.

“Rec 3: Genesis” is essentially a love story that takes place in the middle of a zombie attack. Clara and Koldo basically do anything that it takes to find their way back to each other, even if it means donning medieval garb like Koldo does, or taking a chainsaw to her wedding dress like Clara does. The film also has a nifty little ending that is just as bleak and unhappy as the ending to the other films.

What I particularly liked about this one is that it introduced some humorous elements. There's the children's performer hired for the reception who goes by the name of SpongeJohn because of his generic SpongeBob costume, and Rafa who is more concerned about getting lucky than he is about the potential outbreak. Clara has a few great moments too, like when she puts the heel of her shoe through the eye of one zombie, and she later takes out two more with a chainsaw through the head. Oh, and that outfit on the poster? She actually makes it herself by sawing through her dress with the same chainsaw.

What I didn't like about the film is that it relies more on slick camera work than the handheld cameras that permeated the earlier films. While some might applaud the fact that “Rec 3: Genesis” uses better cameras, I have to say that I miss the “found footage” elements from the other films. I appreciate that it uses those elements early on, but when it jumps to the newer cameras, it feels a little jarring.

The relationship between Klodo and Clara is a little unbelievable at times too. They have their funny moments, like when she announces over the loudspeaker that she's pregnant, but then tells her family that it wasn't a shotgun wedding. It seems like she's more willing to save him than he is to save her. In one scene, she climbs a ladder from a tunnel under the building because he's standing over a grate above her. He tells her to climb back down, knowing that there are infected people there, to retrieve a screwdriver that his group lost earlier in the movie. Really Klodo, you couldn't find a butter knife or something in there to unscrew the grate yourself?

I'm also not a big fan of the religious aspects of the movie. If the infected can be stopped by quoting the Bible, why did no one ever try this before? Despite that, it gets two big thumbs up from me. The kill scenes kept me entertained and the humor kept me laughing. As one of my friends said after the credits rolled, “why can't we make horror movies like that?”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Review: Cursed

Runtime: 97 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: February 25, 2005
Director: Wes Craven

Jenny (Mya) and Becky (Shannon Elizabeth) stop by a fortune teller one night for kicks. The fortune teller looks at Jenny’s hand and sees a dark future, but the two think she’s full of it and walk away.

Cut to Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg, Camp Hell) driving with his older sister Elle (Christina Ricci, Sleepy Hollow). Elle swerves to avoid an animal in the road and crashes into another car, sending it off the street. When they rush to help the driver, they find Becky inside. She immediately starts complaining, and as they try to pull her out, an animal grabs her. The animals slashes the two leads before disappearing with the woman.

Jimmy naturally decides that he must be a werewolf because he thinks the creature that scratched them was one. Elle thinks he’s crazy, and grabs a silver picture frame to show that nothing is wrong. Even though she denies his claims, she notices weird things happening like smelling fresh blood from across the office. Jimmy has troubles of his own because he can’t get close to his crush due to the school bully Bo (Milo Ventimiglia, Stay Alive).

Elle starts ignoring her brother to focus on her career working on a late night talk show. She also manages to squeeze in some time with her boyfriend Jake (Joshua Jackson, Shutter) even though he seems like an ass and has a little too many past relationships. As the movie continues, the two realize that someone they know might have a connection to the animal that attacked them.

Cursed is one of those films that I can’t quite get a handle on because it does have some moments, but those moments are few and far between. I saw it when it originally came out and thought it was far better than the reviews, but I didn’t like it nearly as much upon further viewing. I actually picked up one of those horror sets because it had two films I liked and I thought I could at least use the rest for the blog. This was one of the films I thought I liked.

Writer Kevin Williamson likes to mix comedy and horror, but he did it a lot better in other films. It almost feels like it tries too hard to be funny. Like, oh, the werewolf gave the cops the finger, hardy-har-har. Or, Becky’s first comment in the middle of a car accident is that she hopes they have insurance.

The werewolf action is several lacking in the film too. When the boyfriend saw the first werewolf, he said, “that is an…interesting take on the werewolf.” We really don’t see the wolf itself until the movie is almost over, and by then, do we really care?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dracula 2000 Movie Review

Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: December 22, 2000
Director: Patrick Lussier

Matthew Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer, Possessed) runs a large antique company in England with his assistant Simon (Johnny Lee Miller, Mindhunters). A group of men break into his vault one night, and it turns out they were led by his employee Solina (Jennifer Esposito). She has a romantic relationship with the leader Marcus (Omar Epps, Scream 2), but he’s unhappy because they find almost nothing of value in the vault.

The men eventually discover an ornate coffin, and while trying to get some jewels off the top, a sensor goes off, killing two of the men. They manage to get the coffin onto a plane bound for America. Nightshade (Danny Masterson) gets the lid off the coffin and discovers a body inside covered with religion iconography and leeches. The figure in the coffin suddenly comes to life, killing Nightshade and attacking the others.

While all of this is going on, a young woman named Mary (Justine Waddell, Three) begins having visions of Dracula (Gerard Butler, Reign of Fire). She talks to her roommate about it as well as a priest (Nathan Fillion, Slither), but no one seems to have any answers. When the plane crashes in New Orleans and Dracula gets loose in the streets, all of the stories come together as the characters race to stop the vampire.

I loved Dracula 2000 so much when it first came out that I actually saw it twice on the same day. Yes, I paid to see this two times in one day, and in fact, it was the day the movie opened. I started watching it a few weeks ago, and my roommate watched it with me because I kept gushing about it. After watching it though, I had to wonder why I once loved it so much. My boyfriend watched it the other day, and I actually got up and did some dishes instead of watching the last 30 minutes.

This is easily one of those horror films that does not age well. Everything about it seems a little dated, including the special effects and even the actors. Johnny Lee Miller seemingly never ages, but Gerard Butler looks like a teenager here compared to how he looks now. Then again, I will watch almost anything if it involves Shane West, even in a small cameo.

There are still a few good moments in the movie though. One comes when a reporter gets attacked by Dracula. We see the attack through the lens of the cameraman, and since vampires do not show up on film, it looks like an invisible figure is attacking. When West gets the same treatment though, it basically looks like he’s trying to strangle himself.

Due to the inclusion of Dracula 2000 on multiple compilation DVDs this season, I am now the proud owner of at least three copies. Here’s hoping that I discover I love it the next time around.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We Are the Night Movie Review

Runtime: 96 minutes
Rating: NR
Release Date: May 20, 2011
Director: Dennis Gansel

Three women are on a plane where the entire flight crew is dead and bleeding. One of the woman discovers a living flight attendant and breaks her neck before they jump out of the plane. The movie then jumps to a young woman named Lena. After stealing a man’s wallet, she rushes off with a cop chasing her. She quickly changes clothes and runs into the cop again. Though she has a connection with Tom, he tries to arrest her and she hits him and takes off.

Lena joins a long line outside a hip nightclub. The three women from earlier watch the line via hidden camera, and select Lena. We meet the leader Louise, who dances with Lena and bites her. Though Lena runs away, she discovers that her life has changed when she wakes up the next day and cannot stand the sunlight. After confronting the group, Louise forces Lena to become a prostitute. Her pimp attacks her and she kills him. As all hell breaks loose, the other girls come to her rescue. With Tom hot on their trail, Lena discovers that she’s trapped between her former life and what they made her.

I added We Are the Night to my Netflix queue when I originally had it. I let my membership lapse but went back a few months ago, and it was one of the only titles still in my original queue. I kept putting off watching it and when I finally did, I could kind of see why. I know the movie got a lot of good reviews, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea.

This is like a vampire movie that doesn’t want to admit that it’s a vampire movie. No one in the film ever says the v-word, but it’s pretty clear that’s what the women are. Sometimes it wants to be an action movie, sometimes it wants to be a thriller, and sometimes it wants to be a romance movie. It all winds up being a little too confusing.