Monday, August 12, 2013

"Escapee" Movie Review – He's Out and Can't Be Stopped

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2011
Rating: R
Director: Campion Murphy

Abby is a psychology major who feels uncomfortable when her college class takes a field trip to an institution. Despite reassurances that the students won't get anywhere near the patients, Jaxson finds a way to get close to her. After the orderlies drag him off, she feels a little shaken and just wants to go home.

She and her two roommates settle down for the night, and Abby starts to forget about what happened, but Jaxson can't forget about her. He manages to escape from the institution, and he heads off in the hopes of tracking down Abby. At the same time, several police officers are hot on his trail including one who has a connection to both Abby and Jaxson.

The best thing about "Escapee" is seeing the number of actors who pop up in a few scenes. Dominic Purcell plays Jaxson, while Danny Nucci shows up as a police officer. Kadeem Hardison also turns up as a cop, and Faith Ford is the one cop who seems to actually give a damn about an escaped inmate.

Once you get past seeing the different actors and wondering what you know them from, the story seems to falter. Purcell is a great psychopath, but his character becomes grating at times. There are only so many scenes that you can handle of someone talking gibberish about a random girl he just met before you want to scream. Scott Elrod does an adequate job playing yet another police officer, but after he keeps popping up to warn the girls of any problems, you start to wonder why he isn't out there looking for the escapee.

"Escapee" is one of those films that you watch once and forget. I'm sure that I'll come across it in a few months and flip it over to read the back before realizing that I already saw it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

"When A Stranger Calls" Movie Review – Have You Checked the Children?

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2006
Rating: PG-13
Director: Simon West

Jill is a typical high school student with a boyfriend and a high cell phone bill. Her dad is so upset over her most recent bill that he grounds her and takes away her phone, and he arranges for her to take a babysitting job for a couple she never met before. As the kids recently were sick, the mother recommends that she just let him sleep, leaving Jill to rummage through the house and watch television all night.

A stranger calls her on the phone, makes some vague comments, and hangs up. When he calls back, she calls the police and asks for help. They can't really do anything, but let her know they might be able to help if he calls back again. Her best friend Tiffany randomly shows up, and when Jill makes her leave, the killer dispatches of her friend. Throughout the night, he keeps calling back until he finally begins asking about the children, leaving Jill to wonder what he really wants.

The original "When A Stranger Calls" is one of my favorite campy films, but the remake is a close second. I know a lot of people hated this film, but I didn't have a problem with it, and I think it holds up well. The mid-2000s saw a number of PG and PG-13 rated horror films hitting the theater, and horror films complained. I saw this in the theater, bought a copy when it came out, and I've probably watched it once a year ever since then. There is just something campy about the movie that I really like.

Camilla Belle manages to carry almost the entire film on her shoulders. For a good portion of the movie, she only interacts with a voice on the phone. She does a great job of playing a teenager who doesn't know what she should do. She doesn't want to call her dad and make him think she's a kid, but she also doesn't want to stay in the house alone.

Speaking of the house, this is easily one of the coolest films I ever saw in any film let alone a horror movie. The house is unbelievably cool and creepy at the same time. If you haven't watched "When A Stranger Calls" because of the bad reviews, just give it a shot.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Warm Bodies" Movie Review – A Zombie Film for Hipsters

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Rating: PG-13
Director: Jonathon Levine

R is a zombie, but the film skips over what happened that turned people into zombies. Since he can't remember his name, he just calls himself R. Unlike other zombies, the ones in this film form close relationships and connections with each other, and they hunt in packs. R heads off with a group one day after leaving the airport where they live, and they encounter a group of very much alive humans.

After killing a guy named Perry, R absorbs some of his memories, which leads him to grabbing Perry's girlfriend Julie. He keeps remembering moments that the two shared, and he decides that he must save her. He takes her back to the airport, and the more time they spend together, the more he starts to remember about humanity. When Julie leaves him for the comfort of her own people, he and a group of outsider zombies must find her to save the world.

Before "Warm Bodies" came out, I decided to read the book, and it was probably a mistake. The further I read into the book, the more I wanted to roll my eyes. The book is clearly a zombie story written for hipsters, and the movie version plays like a zombie movie for hipsters. This is a movie where the main character wears Beiber-style haircut and a red hoodie for the entire film, and he woos a woman by playing her music that he other people already know, but hipsters decided was cool again.

The entire time I watched the movie, I kept rolling my eyes. Oddly enough, the two guys I watched it with actually liked it a lot better than I did. After reading the reviews, I couldn't understand why so many people loved it. Then I started reading all the little teenagers comparing it to "Twilight," and it suddenly made sense. Adding to it was probably a blurb I read about the author of the book. It mentioned how he wrote several other books before making it big, and made it seem like it was such a struggle for him. Big deal. I've been working as a freelance writer for over five years now, and even though Hollywood hasn't knocked down my door, I still manage to make a good living and feel successful.

I fully admit that I went into the movie with preconceived notions, but "Warm Bodies" didn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. While the two leads had some chemistry, their relationship didn't make sense. The book actually did a better job of setting things up between them, while the film had them spend a few days together and fall crazy in love. It also didn't seem like Julie had any real feelings for him, but we were still supposed to root for them as a couple.

I also missed seeing any explanation for the outbreak. R just tells us that he doesn't remember what happened, so we don't know why people became zombies, if they turn other people into zombies, or how some humans managed to survive. The lack of background and the poor excuse for a love story just left me feeling cold.

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Asylum Blackout" Movie Review – When the Lights go Out, the Inmates Will Rise

Runtime: 85 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Rating: NR
Director: Alexandre Courtes

It's almost impossible to make a living as a musician, which is why the three main characters in "Asylum Blackout" work at a local mental institution in Washington. They don't think it's odd in the slightest because they work behind locked doors and they rarely come into contact with any of the inmates. That all changes when a storm knocks out the power.

Something like this should have a simple resolution. The guards working should know how to round up the inmates, take them back to their cells, and lock them in safely. Instead, the guards don't really know how to do their jobs, making it clear that the asylum, which is again in Washington where it always rains, never thought it might lose power. Those guards demand that the three men help them take care of the inmates. You probably know what happens next. The inmates revolt, kill several guards, and all hell breaks loose.

"Asylum Blackout" shows that not all modern day horror films suck. The lead actors occasionally leave something to be desired especially the actor playing George. At the beginning of the film, he makes it clear that all he cares about is his music. He doesn't work late because he has to practice, and he even turns down his hot girlfriend's offer of sex because he wants to hit the studio. While it makes it believable that he would want to help the guards so he can get home, it doesn't explain why he doesn't really seem to care until the film is almost over.

Some of the scenes in the film are incredibly dark, and there is a fair amount of gore too. I read somewhere that during a screening, two people passed out because of the violence. I don't know if that's true or not, but I also don't think the film is quite that gory. It's better than a number of films made with larger budgets, and it does a good job of showing what filmmakers can do without using CGI.