Friday, June 28, 2013

13 Eerie Film Review – Kind of Like "Mindhunters"

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: April 2, 1013
Rating: R
Director: Lowell Dean

Professor Tompkins (Michael Shanks, "Red Riding Hood") invites his students to Eerie Straits for the weekend. Since his class is apparently super small, only six people actually head out there on the bus. Eerie Straits is actually a former prison island that the school staged with different death scenes in the hopes of teaching students what they need to land a job on CSI.

The group includes Daniel (Brendan Fehr, "Silent Night"), Patrick (Jesse Moss, "Final Destination 3"), Megan (Katherine Isabelle, "Ginger Snaps"), Katie, Rob, and Josh. After breaking the kids into different groups, the bus driver warns the only two girls, who naturally must work together, that they'll probably find a corpse not on their list.

Each group gets a small amount of work done before things go haywire. The corpse one group looks at seems to disappear, and the girls find that one of their corpses actually gets up and starts walking around. Even though they all have walkie-talkies, they take way too long to actually attempt any type of communication. By the time they do, the corpses are rising all over the island, leaving them trapped.

When "13 Eerie" started, I couldn't help comparing it to "Mindhunters." In fact, I was a little surprised when I read a review from someone who couldn't believe no one used this setup before. A group of students investigating forensics? Check. Students left with little supervision in a deserted area? Check. The only thing really missing was Val Kilmer and to a lesser extent, Christian Slater.

Once it finally started though, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. You probably already know that I have the hots for Brendan Fehr, blame my college years and the television series "Roswell." While he's one of the main characters, I actually found myself rooting for some of the other characters. Poor Megan probably gets the worst of it. She gets stuck in a cabin after finding that one of the zombies attacked a friend, who is now a zombie too. I might hate "Ginger Snaps," but Isabelle does a strong job in this film.

The real surprise is the zombie storyline. You go into "13 Eerie" thinking that it's just another random story about people stuck in a remote place, and then the movie surprises you. It's actually fairly believable, especially once it delves into what happened to the prisoners, though you have to wonder if no one ever visited this place in years. Still, it didn't make me pick up a magazine while watching it, which is more than I can say for some of my more recent choices.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Riddle Movie Review – What Happened Kilmer?

Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: January 10, 2013
Rating: PG-13
Director: John O. Hartman & Nicholas Mross

The town of Riddle is a sad state, and not just because William Sadler ("Demon Knight" and Val motherfucking Kilmer seem to run the town. No, see Riddle once had a big ass psychiatric institution, but something really bad happened one night. A bunch of people in town set fire to the institution and pretty much just let it burn. Oh, and Kilmer just sat there and watched! And, he was the sheriff at the time! Bad Iceman, bad.

Holly (Elisabeth Harnois, "Point Pleasant") is a young woman who constantly worries about her brother Nathan. When two classic assholes offer the mental challenged young man a ride, he hops in without a second thought. After driving like mad men, they finally let him out at a gas station, but when they go to check on him, he's gone.

Years later, Holly's back in the same area at a farmers market after leaving college. She swears that she sees her brother and hops in her car to give chase, but naturally the car disappears before she can get close. She does find herself back in the town of Riddle, where everyone treats her weird. Sadler warns her to leave, and Kilmer acts like she's crazy before warning his daughter Amber (Diora Bird, "30 Days of Night: Dark Days) to avoid the crazy girl.

Amber instead decides to approach Holly and talk to her because they weren't at all close in high school. Holly tells her the whole story, and Amber offers to help, which in her world means introducing Holly to the two guys who kidnapped her brother in the first place. Yup, turns out that only one out of every 100 people in Riddle every leave, and Holly was one of the lucky ones.

Even though she hates these guys for good reason, she still decides to accept their help. This involves breaking into the records area of town hall, where they discover that Holly and her brother were both adopted after their biological father killed their mother or vice-versa or something like that. This is all just a set up for one of the guys to explain about the big fire.

If I made it sound like I didn't like "Riddle," I apologize. It actually wasn't a terrible movie. Bird is probably my favorite, and as a straight woman, I have no problem admitting that she is incredibly hot. This just isn't the type of movie that you can take seriously. There are so many issues that I don't even know where to start.

How about the fact that Holly only recognizes her brother because of his shoes? Because someone would still have the same shoes years after being kidnapped? Or, how about the fact that one of the guys notices a picture of the truck that Holly saw her brother "in" earlier in the film, even though she never mentioned if it was a truck or what it looked like. Not to mention the fact that we see one character walk over a mile with a bear trap attached to her leg.

"Riddle" is still worth watching if only because of Sadler and Kilmer. How can you not love William Sadler? I'm still upset that from what I've heard, the next Bill and Ted film won't have him in it. What's wrong with those people? Plus, you have Kilmer! How can you not love Kilmer? Lately, it seems like he's following the Nicholas Cage school of acting: take any job someone offers. He acts so cheesy and over the top that it seems like he wants his fans to know that he doesn't take it seriously anymore, which might explain why he came across as my favorite character in the film.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hollow Movie Review – Beware of Trees

Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: 2012
Rating: R
Director: Michael Axelgaard

You know those movies that make you want to never travel again? Well, "Hollow" probably isn't one of those films but it does have its entertaining moments.

"Hollow" is a found footage film that follows two couples on a weekend vacation. After Emma's grandfather dies, she asks her fiance Scott, her close friend James, and his girlfriend Lynn to go with her to his former home to clean things up and get the house ready to sell. Along the way, they pass by a huge old tree, which Emma vaguely remembers hearing stories about.

As they start exploring the ruins of an old monastery that surrounds the tree, she begins remembering some of the stories. It turns out that a large number of people killed themselves at that very tree, but some of the locals think that there's something more to the story. Of course there really is more to the story, which Emma learns while going through her grandfather's papers. When the four find themselves lost in the dark ruins, they quickly learn that some of the stories might be right.

"Hollow" is the type of film that irritates me because when it's good, it's damn good, but when it's bad, I wanted to reach for the remote and turn the damn thing off. Maybe it's the actors, but I think it's more of the story. Naturally, James must have long unresolved feelings for Emma, and naturally, Lynn should throw herself at Scott multiple times. It just left me wondering why these four would even spend any time together. If you knew your best friend was in love with you, would you really invite him to spend the weekend with you and the man you're about to marry?

It doesn't help that the found footage genre is a little overplayed at this point. There are only so many times that you can see people screaming at the camera and running away without actually seeing anything before you want to scream. Oh, did you think that this film would have some great horror scenes? Think again.

A lot of good horror films use elements that let you use your imagination, but what makes those films so good is that the directors also show you enough that you can imagine what might happen. "Hollow" pretty much just gives us a story and expects us to decide what's happening. We might see a character walking through the ruins and look over his shoulder before he screams and runs away. By the time it finally ended, I was just ready to move on to the next film.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

After Dark Originals: Dark Circles – Please, tell me that isn't a fetus.

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: ?
Rating: R

"Dark Circles" starts with new mom Penny at home alone with her baby. After hearing a noise in the hallway, she peers outside and sees nothing. When she opens the door though, she finds a young woman in desperate need of help. Penny brings her in, and when she turns her back, the woman removes a dead dog from underneath her dress and disappears. When she reached under her dress, I literally screamed, "please, don't let that be a fetus!" Penny later finds her hovering over the baby, and the woman runs at her screaming before she wakes and discovers it was all a dream.

Penny and her husband Alex (Jonathon Schaech, "Prom Night") decide that now is the perfect time to escape life in the city for life in the suburbs. Though she doesn't seem to have a job and he gives up his job in a band, they have money to buy a huge house in the country. The only problem is that the house seems a little off. They find a charred baby doll in the grill, and Alex later finds some random junk arranged in different areas in his practice space plus a larger number of images that seem to show the same girl in different places.

If you decided to avoid "Dark Circles" because of its affiliation with After Dark, don't be afraid. And, if you think that it's just another tale of a couple moving to the country and haunted by a random ghost, think again. "Dark Circles" has so many different stories going on that your head might spin.

This film does a good job of letting viewers think that one thing is happening before revealing another twist on top of another twist. Alex and Penny quickly discover that having a new baby is harder work than they thought. After their child reverse cycles, they find that they can't sleep at night because the baby doesn't sleep at night. When the baby can't sleep at all, the two have problems carrying on with their lives.

"Dark Circles" leaves you wondering if the house is truly haunted, if the couple are just sleep deprived, or if there is something even darker going on. Alex eventually grows so desperate to get even the smallest amount of sleep that he hires a cashier at the local grocery store to watch their child for the night. After something unusual happens, they think the woman simply disappeared into the night, but the viewer knows a little different.

It's hard to talk about "Dark Circles" without giving away the ending, which is something I don't want to do. Schaech is at his best in this horror flick. While he has a tendency to play some darker characters, he really comes across here as a new father who just can't cope with giving up his old life, finding a balance between what he wants and what he has, and handling the issues of living in the suburbs. If you haven't seen it yet, go rent it now.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dark Skies Movie Review – Fear the Dark

Length: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: February 22, 2013
Director: Scott Stewart

Daniel is quite possibly the worst husband of all time. He and his wife Lacy (Keri Russell) are struggling with bills because he lost his job. Though he goes on a few interviews, nothing happens, and he lies to his wife, telling her that he thinks he landed a job. Lacy tries to overlook things and focuses on selling homes as a real estate agent.

One night, she finds food sitting in the kitchen floor and the refrigerator door open. She finds more odd things like furniture rearranged, food stacked up again, and the alarm going off in their home. They talk to the police, who never find anything and insinuate that it's her son Jesse causing the problems. Their youngest son Sammy starts acting out too, screaming in front of his friends and wetting his pants, which he hasn't done in years. After Lacy passes out in the middle of a house showing and a group of birds attack their house, she begins investigating the possibility that something dark is following her family.

I was so excited to see "Dark Skies," and I was lucky that our drive-in theater got it after it left the regular theaters around Dayton. Instead of being a slightly dark and entertaining film, it was the type of movie that left me checking my watch and wondering how much time was left, which is especially sad given its short length.

It's hard to explain exactly what the problem is, but it did feel like the film was short on action. Something big would happen, and the film would then spend 20 minutes explaining it or showing the parents fighting. It got to the point where I just wanted to scream at the screen and tell her to leave his ass already. There was so much backstory about his lack of a job and how it affected the family that I assumed there would be some sort of payout later but that never happened. The end of the movie just kind of showed them downsizing and moving on.

It didn't help that they brought it the great and talented J.K. Simmons. Simmons plays a man who knows all about "The Grays" and has experience with them. Lacy convinces her husband to talk to him, they do, and her husband then wants to just storm off instead of listening to him. He gets one scene and pops up for a few seconds later and that's it.

As a big fan of Russell, I can't believe that she did this film. I also can't believe the interviews she gave where she discussed how scary the movie was and how her kids probably wouldn't see it. If "Dark Skies" is scary, I'm the Queen of England.