Friday, February 28, 2014

Hell Baby - I think you're safer here than in any of the murder-free places we've ever lived at.

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon

Heavily pregnant and soon to pop Vanessa and her husband Jack move into a new house known around the neighborhood as the House of Blood. They learn the nickname when F'resnel, one of the guys in the neighborhood, pop up on their first night there. On the same day that they move in, the camera pans up to show a scary naked woman standing in the window.

Since Hell Baby is a spoof, the film kind of combines elements of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and other horror flicks. Vanessa suddenly starts eating raw meat, washing her hands until they bleed, and practically speaking in tongues, while Jack finds himself woken early one morning to the naked and toothless scary woman from the beginning going down on him in bed. Once the Vatican learns of the problem, they send Father Sebastian (Robert Ben Garant) and Father Padrigo (Thomas Lennon) to investigate.

Hell Baby got some really bad reviews, but it seems like more horror spoofs get bad reviews. A lot of people hated on Scary Movie 5 and complained that it wasn't as good as the first few, but I liked it. Then again, even the other Scary Movie films got bad reviews. I first heard about Hell Baby when Microsoft offer a free rental a few weeks ago, but I didn't get the chance to watch it thanks to some personal issues going on at the time. When I saw it in stock at Redbox and had a free coupon code, I decided what the heck and grabbed it.

It's hard for me to review Hell Baby because I both liked it and didn't like it at the same time. I laughed multiple times, but I have a girl crush on Leslie Bibb (Vanessa) from her Popular days, and I thought Rob Corddy was the highlight of Hot Tub Time Machine. (Yes, I do sometimes watch films other than horror movies, including a recent viewing of Blue Jasmine, which I loved.) I thought that maybe I just wanted to like it because I liked them, but my roommate found it pretty funny too.

It probably helps that I loved Reno 911 and love both Garant and Lennon. I can't see Lennon anymore without thinking about his small roles in We're The Millers and the Harold and Kumar Christmas movie or recently discovering he had scenes deleted from The Internship.

While I thought the movie was funny, it got a little grating towards the end. I found myself laughing less and less as the movie progressed, and I probably only cracked a few smiles in the last 30 minutes. It almost felt like the movie was pushing itself to remain as funny at the end as it was at the beginning. By the time Vanessa gave birth, I was just relieved that the ending was right around the corner. Though Hell Baby was only 98 minutes long, the last 30 minutes or so felt like an eternity. I wish it was just as funny throughout its entire runtime.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hatchet III – The Legend Never Dies

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Rating: R
Director: BJ McDonnell

Marybeth (Dannelle Harris) is a real bad ass. Hatchet III starts right after the second film ends, which means that she just took down Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Since this is a Hatchet film, nothing can really stop Crowley, not even Marybeth and her chainsaw, which she uses to cut him in half. Completing her work, she heads back into town, where Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) captures her. Not believing her story, which he thinks is just an urban legend, he arrests her for murder.

Fowler then makes the mistake of taking a team of men deep into the swamp to discover what really happened. His ex-wife, who just so happens to be an investigative reporter, heads to the jail and interviews Marybeth. Though Amanda doesn't really believe her story is 100% true, she does agree to take her and another cop to investigate her claims. As Amanda's father was one of the ones who originally helped kill Crowley, she thinks that she knows the answers to why Crowley keeps coming back.

I really, really loved Hatchet. I watched in once, took it back to the video store, and immediately bought a copy and watched it again. It's one of those movies that I recommend to people who love horror movies and those who don't really love horror. Everyone I ever recommended it to loved the movie too. When I heard it was a trilogy, I couldn't wait to see the rest of the films. The way I feel about Hatchet 3 is the same way I felt about Hatchet 2: meh.

On their own, the sequels are fairly good films, but when compared to the first one, they are definitely lacking. I absolutely love Parry Shen, and I love that they find a way to bring him back after his character died. He's incredibly funny and easily the highlight of the movie. The rest of the characters are just kind of meh.

Seeing Zach Galligan, who I absolutely loved in Waxwork and Gremlins, was fun, but once the fun and excitement wears off, he's pretty much a one-dimensional character like most of the actors and characters in the movie. It was a treat to see Sid Haig, but he's unfortunately not in the movie for very long.

One of the problems I had with the sequels is the replacement of Marybeth. I really enjoyed the original actress and thought she brought a lot to the movie, but I don't feel the same way about Harris. Casting her in a horror film at this point almost feels like stunt casting. It was one of those wink and nod moments to horror fans when she showed up in Urban Legend, but now she's appears in what seems like every horror movie ever made. While some horror fans love her, I liked the original actress better.

Hatchet 3 was an okay movie, but it wasn't nearly as good as the first one and it didn't really feel like it added much to the franchise.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stalker Movie Review – Nightmares Don't End When You Wake Up

Runtime: 77 minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2011
Rating: R/NR?
Director: Martin Kemp

Paula is a best selling write struggling with her next book. After the urging of her publicist/agent Sara, she decides to spend some time in her old family home. Everyone thinks that getting her away from it all for some time will help her focus and get her to buckle down and write. Not long after arriving, she meets the housekeeper who will take care of the home and her needs.

Things change when Paula meets Linda. As her new personal assistant, Linda promises to do whatever it takes to help her write, but it quickly becomes clear that Linda has some darker ideas in mind. Between a sudden injury that never seems to go away to the fact that Linda always seems to be popping up out of nowhere, Paula finds that getting away from it all might be the biggest mistake that she ever made.

I'll confess something here: this movie was hard to follow. I sat down to watch it with my roommate after watching Hell Baby (review is coming soon!), but a lot of the time, we watch movies while chatting about other stuff and playing online. This time, we were both watching the movie the whole time. At one point, he looked over and asked me if I had any idea what was going on, and I had to admit that I wasn't sure.

The problem is that Stalker tends to jump around a lot. One minute we're watching a scene of Paula and Linda having a conversation, then someone else will appear, it will jump to a scene of Sara talking to Paula's doctor, then a conversation between two completely different people, and then back to Paula. Given the ending of the film, the jumping around makes sense. The director wants to keep you on your toes and unsure of what's happening, but it just made the movie hard for me to follow.

Despite the jumping around, it's easy for anyone to predict the ending. My roommate very casually said, "I bet X, Y, and Z" at one point in the movie, I agreed, and damn if that isn't exactly what happened. If the director hoped that the ending would surprise anyone, he probably shouldn't have used so much foreshadowing in the earlier parts of the film. It left me unsatisfied and feeling like I just watched a made for television movie.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Magic Magic – Bad, Bad, and Bad Again

Runtime: 97 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Sebastian Silver

Alicia and her best friend/cousin Sara (Emily Browning, The Uninvited) decide to visit a remote area of South America for their vacation. Sara looks forward to the trip and introducing her cousin to her boyfriend Augustin and his sister Barbara. When they arrive, they find that the duo brought along their new foreign exchange student friend Brink (Michael Cera), who clearly seems unhinged from the very beginning.

Sara receives a phone call about some problems with her school, and she leaves for what should be a short period of time. Left alone with a group of people she barely knows, Alicia slowly starts coming apart at the scenes. Brink seems especially interested in her and willing to do whatever it takes to make her his, while the other characters are mainly there to make Alicia more unsettled. As the film progresses, more weird things happen that make the viewers wonder if these things actually happen or are just a part of her mind.

After watching Magic Magic, I wished that I hadn't wasted an entire $1.20 to rent it from Redbox. I really did think it was that bad. It was one of those films that I finished watching and didn't say anything because I wasn't sure how anyone else felt. My roommate looked at me and said, "What was that shit?" and my other friend's reaction was, "Why did you make us watch this?"

That was why I was so surprised when I saw that it had such good reviews online. Did we all watch the same movie? Magic Magic was just plain bad. There was literally nothing about this movie that I enjoyed. Everyone in the film seemed cast for the wrong parts, and the movie itself was just plain confusing. I get that some films want to make you question reality and consider whether what you saw was real, but this one just left me scratching my head. It's literally the only time that I wanted to take a movie back and demand a refund from Redbox.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Haunter Movie Review – Things Aren't Always What They Appear

Runtime: 97 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Vincenzo Natali

Lisa (Abigail Breslin, The Call) is an ordinary teenage girl. On the day before her sixteenth birthday, she wakes and finds that fog rolled in through town, making it impossible to go for a bike ride or even leave her house. After watching her brother Robbie play an Atari game and talk to his imaginary friend Edgar, she notices that something seems strange about her house. The next day, she wakes, and it's the same day all over again.

Her mother lectures her on the clothes missing from the washer, while her father seems overly upset and angry about the car that needs repaired. After experiencing the same day several times, Lisa comes to the startling realization that her family is dead. They keep reliving the last day they spent together. She also realizes that The Pale Man (Stephen McHattie, Pontypool), who suddenly appears from out of nowhere, has a connection to her home.

Things become even more complicated when Lisa runs into the ghost of Frances, a young woman murdered in the house, and when she suddenly finds herself seeing flashes of the future. After waking in the body of Olive, a young woman from modern times, she realizes that whatever happened to her family will just keep happening again and again. She sees Olive's father shouting about his car, her parents fighting to the point that the father throws things, and the Olive's sister upset and crying. Lisa must find a way to end the ghostly cycle that keeps taking over her home.

I know I haven't been that positive about most of the horror films I viewed recently, but Haunter changed my mind. Just when I thought that my streak of bad luck would continue, I randomly stumbled across this little gem in Family Video. The cover caught my eye, but it was the film that kept my attention.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that I liked about the film. It's fairly predictable and anyone who doesn't see the twists coming probably wasn't paying attention, but I actually liked that. You have the one "twist," which is that Lisa and her family is dead, but that was something the film set up early on. You then get the twist about The Pale Man, and then you get a completely different twist when the film jumps into the future.

The acting in Haunter was much better than I expected too. Breslin isn't an actress that I particularly like, and when I saw The Cell, I actually found her pretty annoying. She's still a tad annoying her, but I think it's just because of the way the writer wrote her character.

The real standout is Peter DaCunha, who plays her little brother Robbie. There's a scene, where Lisa sees him wearing glasses for the first time and asks him when he started wearing glasses. When he looks up at her and tells her that he never wore them because he wore them the night the bad stuff happened, I got chills. Seeing a little boy afraid to wear his glasses because he knows he wore them when he died was pretty intense.

I try not to read too much about movies before I see them, and I literally heard nothing about Haunter until after I watched it. I'm glad I did because it didn't get such great reviews, but I really liked it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An American Ghost Story – AKA Revenant

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Rating: NR?
Director: Derek Cole

Paul is a writer who convinces his girlfriend Stella to move into a haunted house. Though Stella agrees, she quickly realizes that living in the house is a little creepier than she expected. It doesn't help when Paul tells her the story behind its haunting. The father of the family murdered his children and wife before killing himself. Though some people think that it was the result of a home invasion, he determines through his research that the killer was the father and that no one else was involved.

One night, the door to their bedroom slowly comes open, which freaks Stella out and doesn't really bother Paul. While in the house alone, one of the kitchen drawers slides open. Though she's scared, she tries to keep moving on, but then sees all the doors start opening and closing at once and finds the furniture stacked on top of each other. She is so upset over what happens that she breaks up with him and moves out. Left alone in the house, the paranormal activity heats up and directs itself at Paul.

I have mixed feelings about An American Ghost Story. Halfway through the movie, I looked at my roommate and said, "So this is like a cheap version of Paranormal Activity?" and he pretty much agreed. It's the type of film where you keep waiting and waiting for something to happen, and once something finally does happen, it's nowhere near what you expected. When the bedroom door moved, I literally giggled.

After the first half of the movie, it actually does get better. It almost seems like the character of Stella drags down the film. The director could have cut out her scenes and made the movie entirely about a single man who moves into a haunted house and I wouldn't even realize it. She's really just there to complain about not wanting to live in a haunted house and the house freaking her out. If it bothers you that much, don't live there? Granted, Paul doesn't reveal all the details until they are there, but she still willingly agreed to move into a haunted house.

The one thing that An American Ghost Story has going for it that other films doesn't is that it actually manages to introduce a few jumps. I've seen enough films that I'm usually not jumping off the wall, but there were a few scenes that left me squirming in my seat just because I wasn't sure what to expect. It also had a strong ending. It's the type of ending that wraps up the film and makes you feel satisfied but still gives you that one last jump. Though it got some poor reviews, An American Ghost Story was better than I expected and better than some of the mainstream films released in recent years.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Bates Haunting – No Connection to What You're Thinking

Runtime: 76 minutes
Release Date: 2013?
Rating: R/NR?
Director: Byron Turk

The Bates Haunting opens with Agnes and her best friend Lily. Lily is the more adventurous and outspoken of the two, and she recently earned an acting job working for The Bates Haunting, a local haunted attraction that is only open for a short period in the fall. Though Agnes doesn't want to even visit, Lily begs her to come and go through on her opening night to see her in action. Something goes wrong, and Lily catches on fire. Most people laugh and cheer because they think it's part of the show, but Lily dies in the fire.

Cut to one year later. Agnes is now working in a fast food restaurant, but she quits her job. Needing to find work, her father manages to get her a job working in the same haunted attraction. Though the last thing she wants to do is work in the same place where her friend died, her father and friends convince her that it will be good for her. Not long after starting her new job, some of her coworkers die. As more bodies pile up, it becomes clear that something dark and sinister is going on here and that someone wants Agnes dead.

The Bates Haunting is one of those films that you see at the video store (if you still have those) or at Redbox and think that it looks interesting. Despite how the box looks, this movie has nothing to do with Psycho or anything related to the Bates Motel. This is a straight up horror film that takes place at a haunted attraction that just so happens to have the same name as a popular horror franchise and somehow manages to escape being sued.

This film has its share of good moments and bad moments. On the one hand, it offers a fairly interesting look at what happens behind the scenes of a haunted attraction. Maybe everybody doesn't hang out after hours, drink, and hook up, but I like to think that they do. It also has some pretty good acting for a straight to DVD flick. I've heard comments about how Jean Louise O'Sullivan (Agnes) was a terrible actress, but I actually liked her performance. For someone with just a handful of credits to her name, she does a pretty good job. My now ex-boyfriend particularly loved seeing Ryan Dunn turn up in the beginning of the film. I'm not entirely sure, but I'm guessing that this was one of his last performances.

On the other hand, this is just your stereotypical straight to DVD horror flick. There really isn't anything new or different that it offers to the genre. Most of the death scenes seem a little lacking, and many of the actors appear to just sleepwalk through their roles. While I don't think I'll add The Bates Haunting to my want list anytime soon, it was interesting enough to keep me watching and worth the rental price.