Monday, June 30, 2014

Are You in the House Alone – Dennis, You've Come So Far

Runtime: 96 minutes
Release Date: September 20, 1978
Rating: NR
Director: Walter Grauman

Are You in the House Alone opens with a teenage girl laying on the floor in her living room. After being rushed to the hospital, she bursts into tears and claims that she was raped. The doctors and her mother ask her who did that to her, but she cries again and says that no one will ever believe her.

We then go back in time to when Gail was still a fairly new girl in town. Her best friend Alison introduces her to a guy named Steve, and the two go on a double date with Alison and her boyfriend Phil (played by the ever hunky Dennis Quaid). Not long after that double date, Gail and Steve decide to go steady, but she then receives a series of notes warning her that someone is watching her. Though her mother and best friend think she's overreacting, Gail can't help but think that someone is stalking her.

Oh my god, this movie was bad even for a television movie from the 1970s. Every scene that involves her "stalker" comes from someone following behind her with a camera. We also get a number of shots of someone sneaking through the halls and staring at her every time she moves. Despite the fact that she knows someone is following her, she doesn't seem to notice someone standing just over her shoulder.

The said thing is that my roommate watched half the movie, went upstairs to take a shower, and made a phone call. When he came back downstairs, he couldn't believe that the movie was still on. While Netflix classifies Are You in the House Alone? as a horror movie, don't believe the hype. If you want to skip the film and still know how it ends, check out my TV movie blog recaphere.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Devil's Pass Movie Review

Runtime: 100 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Renny Harlin

Holly and Jensen are two college students looking for their next project decide to tackle the Dyatlov Pass incident. As one of the Internet's most favorite unsolved mysteries, thousands of people over the years attempted to discover what happened to a group of hikers who died under mysterious circumstances. The two convince three others to join them on a hike through the same area to film a documentary.

From the moment they arrive in Russia, they face opposition from all sides. The only person attached to the original group is in a mental hospital and unable to talk to them, and everyone else seems suspicious or downright angry about them being there. Some people act hostile towards them, while others outright tell them to leave. Once they finally begin their trek up the mountain, they learn that they might await the same fate as those on the original expedition.

I first heard about the true story on Cracked, and thanks to Reddit, I now know more about the story than I ever planned. As soon as I heard there was a horror movie based on the story, I knew that I had to see it. After learning that director Renny Harlin also had an interest in the story and did some research of his own, I knew that I really wanted to see it.

The problem with creating a film on such a popular story is that it's impossible to please everyone. Harlin decided to create a story that would offer a possible explanation on what happened to those involved in the original case, but it actually doesn't answer any questions. Instead of focusing on the true story, he decides to add some elements, including two people who were mysteriously never mentioned in any transcripts and make a story based on those people. While it does add some interesting moments, it really takes away from the real story.

How could you take a story about people found in various states of undress, with cuts all over their bodies, and with possible traces of radiation and turn it into a (spoiler alert) time traveling story gone wrong? I wish Harlin had just stuck with the real facts and based a horror movie around that.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Mooring – Too Many Teenage Girls!

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Glenn Withrow

The Mooring opens on a family camping in the woods. A man suddenly emerges from the forest, grabs the teenage daughter of the family, and drags her away without anyone noticing. He then tosses her in a cabinet on his boat and seemingly takes off.

Ten years later, a woman named Nancy leads a retreat for teenage girls addicted to technology. One of the girls ran up a $2,000+ cell phone bill because of her texting, while another girl caused a six car accident because she was talking on her phone. Nancy wants them to learn that they can lead healthy lives without involving technology. After the girls sneak into her office and use the computer, she decides to take them on a retreat into the woods.

While giving them activities to do on the boat, she notices that there's something wrong with the engine but she keeps it a secret from the girls. Once they arrive on a secluded island, they spend some more time talking and having fun together before another boat arrives. They hear a couple talking, and when one of the girls yells at him, he calls her a bitch and flashes his spotlight at them. Nancy diffuses the situation and puts the girls to bed.

The next day, she decides to take the boat back herself for repairs and come back for them later. Smart, right? Before she can do anything, Mickey, the female half of the couple comes over for a talk. She apologizes for the night before, asks if they have coffee, and then abruptly leaves when her boyfriend calls for her.

Nancy finally sets off in the boat, but only after she makes sure that Mickey and the other boat left. She doesn't get very far before the engine dies, but Mickey and her boyfriend Richard are right behind her. Mickey offers to tow the boat to shore, and Nancy reluctantly agrees. As the girls attempt to have fun without her, the other boat shows up. Richard shows them that he has Nancy and that he tied an anchor to her feet and duct taped her hands and mouth. He then tosses her in the water before letting them know that he's coming after them next.

The Mooring is the film that made my roommate and I agree that if we are ever in a life or death situation, it's perfectly okay to leave the other one behind. Seriously, half the incidents in the movie could have been avoided had the girls focused on saving their own skins. Oh, you finally made it to the boat and can sail away to safety but your one friend who hid in the woods and wouldn't come out when you called her name suddenly needs help? Yeah, leave her ass behind. Oh, one of your friends is unconscious and in a good hiding spot in the woods? Yeah, you better waste time picking her up and dragging her through the woods with a killer stalking you.

The one smart thing the film did is explain who no one has cell phones. I'd guess that in a desolate spot like an island in the middle of a lake wouldn't have cell phone reception anyway, but it does explain that Nancy takes their phones before the trip. They don't explain why Nancy, who is supposedly so responsible, would leave the girls behind though. If I found out that the person I paid a large amount of money too left my daughter on a desolate island after knowing some weird dude was out there, I wouldn't be too happy.

The Mooring perfectly pegs the mind of a teenage girl, which is probably because a teenage girl helped write the screenplay. The problem is that the only people who probably care about the mind of a teenage girl is another teenage girl or possibly a teenage boy. I can see why teens might like the film, but as an adult, it just made me annoyed at how teens act.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – AKA Paranormal Activity 5

Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: January 3, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Christopher Landon

After getting a new camera as a graduation present, teenage Jesse decides to use the camera to document the things that he and his friends do. Not long into the film, we learn that his downstairs neighbor Anna tends to keep to herself and people think she's a witch. Late one night, he and his friends see a neighborhood man named Oscar running from Anna's apartment, and the police later find her dead body.

Jesse and his best friend Hector gain access to the apartment and plan to look for evidence. They find a bunch of photographs, including one of Jesse as a child, and they also find some videotapes that show Kristi and Katie from the previous films. After sneaking some girls into the apartment, Jesse rushes off to find a condom, and his date discovers a trapdoor hidden in the floor. When she opens it, Oscar pops up and attacks her before running away. At the same time that all this happens, Jesse discovers that he can do things that he could never do before. In order to uncover the reason for his new abilities, he needs to find out how he's connected to Anna and the women from the earlier films.

Is it bad that I didn't know this film even existed until it was already in theaters for a few weeks? Is it bad that I completely forgot that it even came out until I saw it at Redbox a few weeks ago? It's not that I necessarily hate the Paranormal Activity movies. In fact, I hated the first one, but I've come around and actually found them fairly enjoyable. It's just that it didn't look very entertaining.

According to the producers of the film, this isn't a reboot or a sequel to the earlier films but a cousin to those films. That's fine and dandy except that it clearly connects its story to the other films by bringing in the Katie and Kristi videos, showcasing a character from the last film, and then actually bringing back Katie herself. What is odd is that this is the fifth film in the series but a Paranormal Activity 5 comes out later this year.

Despite getting some favorable reviews, I wasn't happy with the movie. It honestly felt like the producers and directors aimed this film at a younger generation and not necessarily the same people who made the original films such a hit. Sure it's nice when the boy who gets picked on gains superpowers that let him fight back against his bullies, but we've all seen Spiderman before. The scenes that should have made my jaw drop seemed more like something I might catch on YouTube. It just felt like it didn't bring anything new to the franchise.

Though Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones wasn't my favorite, it made more than $80 million at the box office and there are plans for several more in the series.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Patrick Movie Review – Evil Awakens, Kind Of

Runtime: 96 minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2014
Rating: PG?
Director: Mark Hartley

Kathy (Sharni Vinson, "Bait," "You're Next") accepts a job working as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. Though the nights are long, she loves having the chance to escape from her former life. As she tells her newest friend, she just ended a bad relationship and wants the chance to move on without him standing in the shadows. Not long after she begins her new job, she meets Patrick.

Patrick is a patient living in a coma with supposedly no awareness of what happens around him. The more time that she spends working in the hospital, the more she becomes fascinated with her patient. One night, she discovers that he can hear her and respond to her questions. Let's skip over the part where she begins sliding her hands down his pants, shall we? Kathy does whatever it takes to help Patrick, even going against the orders of the head doctor. She quickly learns that forming a relationship with Patrick was a bad idea when he begins interacting with her and disrupting her personal life.

Let's get this out of the way right upfront, I didn't like Patrick. I've never seen the original and sorry, but I didn't even know this was a remake until a few days ago. I saw a trailer for it on another movie, thought it looked interesting, and when I realized that Vinson, who is my new favorite horror movie actress was in it, I mentally added it to my wish list. Now that I've seen it, I don't get what the fuss is about.

Patrick plays like a few different films combined into one. The dark settings, shadows bouncing off the walls, and desolate setting makes you think that it's set in a previous era. The nurses even wear old-fashioned uniforms that no hospital in the world would make them wear today. It's not until you see cell phones and computers that you realize this is set in the modern world.

The movie then seems to jump back and forth between an atmospheric ghost story to a mad scientist film to a love story gone wrong. It tries to heighten the tension a few times, but the results were so bad that I just shook my head and laughed. At one point, Patrick somehow learns how to control electrical devices and begins sending Kathy threatening text messages. Really?

It doesn't help that the story gives her two different love interests, a new man she meets and her previous boyfriend. Of course things go badly for her new love interest, but her old guy is there to help her pick up the pieces. Suddenly it doesn't matter that she moved and changed jobs to get away from him, now he's a good guy again. Ugh. I watched it once and thankfully, I don't need to watch Patrick again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hazmat Movie Review – When Reality Shows Go Wrong

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: August 16, 2013
Rating: R
Director: Lou Simon

Hazmat opens with two young woman trapped in an old abandoned hotel. They reach the only exit only to find that it's locked, and a killer approaches them from behind. One of the women struggles with the man over a gun. He stabs her before getting shot. Just as the other one flips out, they reveal that it's all a set up for the reality television show Scary Encounters, which is pretty much that show from SyFy.

We then meet three new people planning a prank on their friend Jacob. His father once worked for a chemical plant in town and claimed that it was haunted. After his dad died, he went a little crazy and started believing his old man's stories. They decide to play a prank on him, bring him into the plant, and make him think it's haunted. What could possibly go wrong?

Things go well at first. The camera crew lock themselves in the former office and place hidden cameras all around the building. There's David AKA Scary David the host of the show, his girlfriend Brenda, and two camera guys. Adam, who set up Jacob, and their friends Melanie and Carla show up with Jacob. They convince him to sneak inside and see if it really is haunted.

David told the girls to hide and just try to stay out of the way and helped Adam pretend that the ghost killed him. Instead of hiding, the two girls wander around and spend far too much time talking about their problems, including how Carla apparently becomes a clone of the men she dates. Isn't it funny what random crap you can remember from movies? Jacob finds an old hazmat suit, which Adam recommends he ignore, and after slipping it on, he goes a little crazy.

It doesn't take long for Jacob to go from shaking and holding himself to going on a murderous rampage. He kills the actor who typically plays the killer on the show before attacking and killing his best friend. The camera crew watching from behind the scenes realizes what's going on long before the other characters do, but as they're locked in a room and aren't sure where Jacob is, they don't know what to do.

Hazmat does something really smart in the beginning. David tells everyone to leave their cell phones outside to focus on the show. You know how you watch films and wonder why no one doesn't just call the cops? At least in this one, you know why they can't call for help. The director also makes it clear that the reception on their walkie talkies is bad too, which explains why they can't get in touch with workers outside the building.

Unfortunately, other moments in the film don't make nearly as much sense. At one point, Jacob is tracking Melanie through the building and she manages to make it to the locked office. The other characters spend several minutes talking about whether they should let her end while he's at the complete other end of the building. By the time they finally do decide to let her in, Jacob is practically behind her.

They also never take the time to explain what made Jacob snap. The film crew thinks that he spotted the cameras and decided to enact revenge on those who set him up. We never learn what happened though. He puts on the suit and just goes cray-cray. Maybe it's a possessed suit, maybe he's possessed by some vengeful spirit. Who knows?

Let's not forget the so-called "hidden" cameras. One of those cameras is actually a rotating security camera that sits right near the entrance to the building. Jacob literally spots it a few minutes after they get there. The film plays it off like he thinks it's just a security camera, but why would an abandoned building have a security camera or an entire system?

The one thing I did enjoy about the film was the acting of Norbert Velez and Todd Bruno. Bruno plays Scary David and did an admirable job. When first introduced, he seemed like just another sleazy television producer, but he later becomes the hero of the film tasked with saving his girlfriend and friends. Velez takes on the role of Jacob, the formerly normal man who becomes a serial killer. Both men did a great job, and I look forward to seeing them in other films.

Hazmat could have been a good film, but other than some good acting, it came across like something I've seen before.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cottage Country – Family Comes Second to Girlfriends

Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2013
Rating: Peter Wellington
Director: NR?

While her boyfriend Todd (Tyler Labine, "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil") is at work, Cammie decides to pack his bag for their weekend trip to his family's cabin/lake house, which leads to her finding an engagement ring. Knowing that he plans to propose, she wants the weekend to go perfectly. Not long after arriving, Todd's brother Salinger unexpectedly shows up with his girlfriend Masha. Masha is a little quirky, and Salinger is just a pain in the ass. Cammie agrees to go for a hike in the woods as long as Todd convinces his brother to leave.

Instead of having the peaceful conversation he hopes for, Todd ends up throwing his brother's expensive headphones in the lake. That leads to a fight, which ends with Todd knocking him out and tossing him out of the house. After packing his brother's stuff, Salinger attacks him from behind, and Todd grabs an ax and swings it at his brother, accidentally killing him. Todd hides his body and makes up a story when the girls come back, but he realizes that he has to tell Cammie the truth.

Though he attempts to prose to her, she stops him because it isn't the right time. When he reveals what happened, she decides that they need to take care of Masha and then they can take a trip to a nearby island in the lake and get engaged. The two trick Masha into coming into the kitchen, Todd wusses out before killing her with a knife, and Cammie does the job for him. They cut the bodies into smaller pieces, place the pieces in garbage bags, and dump them in the lake. Unfortunately for them, they arrive home just in time to find that Salinger invited a bunch of friends to the lake house for a party and many of them want to know what happened to their friend...

Cottage Country popped up as a recommendation after watching Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and since I've been a fan of Labine since his Dead Last days, I had to watch it. Don't worry if you don't remember that show. I think The WB only ran six episodes or less before canceling it. Unfortunately, the movie wasn't nearly as funny as I hoped.

The problem is that Labine goes against type and it just doesn't work. Instead of playing the funny guy, he tries to play the straight guy. He's the guy who spends long hours at work, is afraid to stand up to his boss, and basically does whatever his girlfriend tells him. For god's sake, they even wear matching clothes at one point! It seems really odd, and given that this is supposed to be a horror/comedy, it's sad that the director didn't use his talents.

Lucy Punch, who plays Masha, is the funniest person in the movie but that isn't saying much. She tends to slur her words to the point where you either need to listen far too closely, turn your television up way too loud, or wait for one of the other characters to translate for her. She does have a fairly funny scene in the woods, where she talks about how her mother ended up in prison and pretends to kill herself with poisonous mushrooms, but her character is gone a few scenes later.

There's also an incredibly odd character named Dov in the field. He's supposed to be an Orthodox Jew, but when I first saw him, I swore he was just a hipster. He keeps talking about his studies and being a "good man" while drinking and smoking pot. He also constantly asks about Salinger, to the point where you want to just smack him. The only good part about his character was the way he left the film. Seriously, they make it out like Salinger does crazy stuff all the time, but Dov swears that he would never invite people over for a party and just disappear. That actually sounds exactly like something he would do.

Cottage Country failed on a number of different levels, and it was quite the come down after watching a movie I love right before it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Movie Review – "College kids, we got you're friend."

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: January 22, 2010
Rating: R
Director: Eli Craig

A group of college kids head into the woods for a weekend of camping and crazy hijinks. Alison (Katrina Bowden, "The Shortcut," "Piranha 3DD") catches the eye of a hillbilly redneck before her friends act like he's a complete loser. Enter Tucker and his best friend Dale (Tyler Labine, "Cottage Country"). Tucker just bought a cabin in the woods, and the two plan to go up and work on the cabin and do a little fishing.

Cut back to the college kids. Chad (Jesse Moss, "Final Destination 3," "Ginger Snaps") recounts the story of what happened to a previous group of college kids. A group of hillbilly rednecks murdered the group, and only one person survived: his mother. She told him all about the night that the murders occurred and how his father died on that night. While goofing around later that night and skinny dipping in the lake, Alison catches sight of Tucker and Dale fishing. She's so startled that she falls and hits her head, which knocks her unconscious.

Tucker and Dale pull her out of the water, and Tucker lets the group know that they're their friend. They, thinking that he's a murderous redneck, run away in fear. Tucker and Dale take her back to their cabin until she wakes up. While Dale tends to her needs the next day, Tucker spends time working outside and getting his cabin in order. When the college kids come back for their friend, all hell breaks loose.

I have an account on the DVD Talk Forums, and I saw someone mention Tucker & Dale vs. Evil when it came out on DVD. There was a whole discussion about how it was a terrible movie and not worth a single watch. Last year, I was scrolling through Netflix and gave it a short because I love Tyler Labine. It quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. This is one of those movies that you constantly quote to your friends.

The first time I watched it, my roommate and my then boyfriend were in the kitchen cooking together, and they came in to see what made me burst out laughing so many times. When I mentioned wanting to watch it again (for the fourth time), my roommate rolled his eyes. After quoting the college kids line, he gave it and gladly sat down for another view.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is absolutely hands down one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Tucker and Dale are just two normal guys hoping to have a weekend of fishing when everything goes wrong all at once. As Tucker tells the officer coming to investigate the college kids' claims, "There we were minding our own business, just doing chores around the house, when kids started killing themselves all over my property."

All of the death scenes occur in fun and funny ways. There's the kid who accidentally impales himself on a tree branch after he sees Tucker whipping a chainsaw around and running from a wasp/bee nest, and the kid who throws himself into a wood chipper while trying to attack Tucker from behind. Nearly every death gets better from there.

The one downside is that the film lags towards the end. Once one of the college kids goes a little crazy and Dale needs to venture off on his own to save Alison, the movie isn't as strong. We really need to see the two characters together and not working separately. Luckily, Dale only gets 15 minutes or so by himself before we get back to our hapless duo. I'm sure most people have seen it by now, but if you haven't, go watch Tucker and Dale vs. Evil now!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

6 Minutes of Death Movie Review – Waste of Time

Runtime: 70-ish minutes, felt like hours
Release Date: May 17, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Joseph Ciminera

I usually give a brief or not so brief plot outline before talking about what I thought about a movie, but I'll skip all that this time. I'd love to explain the plot in depth, but to be honest, I have no idea what was going on in this movie. My roommate and I were so bored and so confused that we kept checking to see how much time was left. At one point, my DVD player said there was 7 minutes left, but I swear that it took an hour to get through that last 7 minutes.

When 6 Minutes of Death opens, we see a woman covered in marks and bleeding on the ground. A man standing over her whines about her sins and actions before threatening her with some weird metal whip thing. After yelling at her some poor, he hits her one last time and she presumably dies, though we don't see her face or reaction to that last hit.

The movie then jumps to a small town that reminded me a lot of Amish country. All the women wear long dresses and/or bonnets, and the men wear simple white shirts and black pants. The only thing that makes me wonder when this movie is set is when it shows a fairly modern looking woman leading their religious services. A boy in town comes down with some type of virus, which spreads to other people.

We then meet a little girl who catches the same disease from him. As it spread throughout their town, she gets sicker and sicker until she eventually dies. This leads to her winding up in some random other world where she meets a slightly older man. He tells her that she now has a second chance at life and asks her what she would like to do if she could do anything. She tells him that she wants to be a teacher in China, and he tells her that he can make that happen.

The man then goes off to find her a book on China, which after she reads will let her transition into a new life. While he's gone, she hears someone who sounds like her mom calling her name, so she gets up with a different book to look for her. A random doorway opens, and she walks through it with the book. This sets off some weird thing where the people with the books, who work in the library, must find her and bring her back before those working for the side of evil can find her and steal her book, which would bring horrible things to the library and the side of good. I can't even...I'm just really glad that it ended.