Friday, May 29, 2015

Now on Netflix: The Sacrament Movie Review

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: May 1, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Ti West

I am probably one of Netflix's favorite customer types because I never run out of things to watch. My queue (I refuse to call it my list) currently has 496 titles in it, and every time I dip below 490, I wind up adding another 5-7 titles. Since my queue has a number of horror movies in it, I thought I would do a new feature where I try to review a horror movie now available on Netflix every few weeks or so. First up? The Sacrament.

Patrick is your average normal guy who just so happens to have a recovering addict for a sister. When Caroline invites him to come visit her in the middle of nowhere at the retreat where she lives called Eden Parish, he isn't too keen on the idea. That all changes when he finds out more about the mysterious history of the place and how it now has guards watching over it 24/7. When he tells his friends about it, they decide to go with him and make a documentary about the place. Along for the ride Sam, a reporter, and Jake, the cameraman.

Once they get there, the helicopter pilot they hired to take them informs them that if they aren't ready to leave when he comes back the next day, he'll leave without them. They then find a large group of guards with big guns watching over the entrance who initially refuse to let them through. They finally get inside and briefly consider leaving before Caroline appears and tells them lots of stories about her new life. Though they receive free rein to wander through the compound, it doesn't take long for them to realize they made a huge mistake.

The Sacrament is easily one of the most unsettling horror movies I've seen in awhile. It wasn't that long ago that I watched a documentary on the Jonestown Massacre, and with all that fresh in my mind, The Sacrament had me squirming in my seat.

One of the more unsettling moments occurred early in the film when Sam has the chance to sit and talk with Father, the leader of their group on camera. Though initially promised that he would answer any questions, they later learn that he will only answer general questions about specific topics. He then demands that the interview take place in a public forum right before some big party. The way Father turns the tables on Sam and the way the people just stared at him with shiny eyes made me truly uncomfortable.

Then there's the woman and her young daughter who clearly have some problems. The guys learn that the little girl is mute but that there might be a reason why she no longer talks. They then find themselves surrounded by a group of people who want nothing more than to get the hell out of the compound and that they would rather leave with these strangers than spend one more day with Father.

Oh, and did I mention how a wholesome and innocent looking nurse tells them about how all their followers sold off everything they owned and gave the money to Father before they could even move in?

The ending left me feeling fairly empty and left me watching 3rd Rock From the Sun for the rest of the night. The Sacrament is definitely one of those movies that will leave you feeling unsettled and out of sorts after you watch it. While it might not be a horror movie in the larger sense of the word, it's definitely a disturbing movie that will make you think about what you would do in the same situation.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Pyramid

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: December 5, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Gregory Levasseur

A group of archaeologists are working in Egypt when they uncover an odd pyramid with three sides. Among those working on the dig are Dr. Holden and his daughter Nora, who is also a doctor in archeology. Though they manage to access the pyramid and find a tunnel that leads deep inside, as soon as they gain access, some weird gas comes out and kills a ton of people.

Not long after, they receive word that they must leave for their safety. Another riot occurred nearby and the area is no longer safe for the doctors and their researchers. In the hopes of getting some information quickly, they send in a robot to capture some video and photos. The robot suddenly goes dark after being attacked by something they can barely see. Instead of getting the hell out like normal people, a group of five, led by the father daughter doctor team, decide to go in and check things out.

It doesn't take long before they find themselves hopelessly lost inside the pyramid and its many tunnels with no hopes of escape. When a section of the roof collapses and pins one of the group beneath, they make the decision to leave him behind and go in even deeper to possibly find a way out. The rest of the movie plays out just the way you might expect with the exception of some killer thousands old Egyptian cats.

In a long ago and far off place, namely my living room about a month ago, we saw a trailer for a new horror movie that looked great. The movie showed a small group of people trapped inside a pyramid with unseen creatures following them. Think The Descent but in a pyramid instead of a cave. Instead of getting that movie, we got The Pyramid.

The main problem with The Pyramid is that it didn't feel unsettling. How can you have five, then four, etc. people trapped inside a pyramid without it feeling unsettling? It actually rarely felt like they were in any type of danger. They would spend 10-20 minutes walking around without anything really happening. We would get one shot of them in danger, then it would end too quickly, and it was back to the same old, same old. Not to mention the fact that we lost two of our main characters in what felt like five minutes.

We had Nora constantly worrying about the guy they left behind, and we had the doctor constantly worrying about his daughter. And can I just say that Nora is extremely annoying? Just once I would like to see a horror movie with a father and daughter where I actually gave a damn about the relationship they had. Nora was so bad at times that I was literally yelling at the television and begging him to leave her behind.

The one good thing The Pyramid had going for it were the cannibalistic Egyptian cats. The first time these cats came out of nowhere, I did a little half jump in my seat. They popped up just enough times to get your heart going without being too annoying. As I had a small gray Egyptian looking cat curled up on the floor next to me, it did give me pause. Sadly, my little cat is scarier than this movie was.

Monday, May 4, 2015

From the Dark Movie Review – Two People, One Monster

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Conor McMahon

Sarah and Mark are a couple heading off on vacation together in the country. Though they followed the directions perfectly, they make a few wrong turns and wind up lost in the countryside. Though Sarah wants to call her father for help, Mark makes her put down the phone and volunteers to go for help himself, claiming there must be a home nearby.

After following the road, Mark finds a home in the middle of nowhere. As no one answers the door, he lets himself in and shouts for help. Instead of finding help, he's tasked with providing help after the owner of the home stumbles in bleeding profusely from his neck. Waiting back at the car, Sarah begins wondering if she made the right decision believing in her boyfriend until Mark pops back up and demands that she come back to the house with him to help its owner. They get there just in time to find that the man transformed into a monster and that he's looking for his next victim.

I cannot believe that more people aren't talking about this film and that it didn't get better reviews. It was one of those movies I watched with no expectations and ended up liking it so much that I keep recommending it to others.

The director does a good job of setting up the tension between the two very early on. Sarah continually makes fun of his new hair cut, which seems to irritate him, and he confesses to her on the car ride that he will probably never get married. By the time they separate and he goes for help, it's easy to understand why she would rather call someone for help than trust him to actually find help.

Conor MacMahon, the director, also added some intense atmosphere to the scenes where Sarah is on her own. There is a moment where she's leaning on the car and smoking a cigarette. The background gets a little fuzzy, which makes it hard to see what's happening behind her, until you realize that there is someone standing in the woods and watching her. Another intense scene occurs when she bends over to do something and a hand comes out of nowhere and moves right past her face.

The first half of the movie is really good, but the second half drops off a bit. The two attempt to escape through the woods and wind up running back to the house, which lets the monster stalk them and leads to them hiding in a bathroom with the door locked. Once Sarah finally goes off on a search for help by herself, it really gets going again.

Despite some ups and downs, I would probably rank From the Dark one of the best horror flicks I've seen this year. It has some great acting, a few intense moments, and just enough tension to leave you on edge.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Houses October Built – Go Behind the Scenes

Runtime: 91 minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2014
Rating: UR
Director: Bobby Roe

Zack, Jeff, Brandy, Bobby, and Mikey are a group of friends who decide to make a documentary about what really happens behind the scenes of haunted houses and other attractions. Armed with a motorhome and a camera, they hit the road to film some of the top haunted houses and talk with the people who work in those houses.

Despite getting some good footage, they can't help noticing that they keep coming across the same places. It seems like every spot they hit has the same scares and even the same type of people working there. Though Jeff keeps promising them that they'll find something better at the next stop, the creepiest thing they see is a little girl in a porcelain mask with no hair who seems to show up at every stop.

That leads to one of the creepiest and weirdest scenes in the movie, where that same costumed character follows them back to the motorhome. Despite asking her if she needs help and trying to talk to her, she just sits down and starts making strange noises before eventually screaming and running away.

At one of their later stops, Jeff comes across two guys who claim they know how to get to the Blue Skeleton, one of the hottest and scariest attractions in the country. Often considered an urban legend, the location changes every year and visitation is by invite only. After finding the first clue to its location, they discover that someone or something is stalking them. They find a bloody heart in their refrigerator, footage of them sleeping on their camera, and blue skull masks left on the front of the RV that reveals a group spent hours watching them the night before. Even before they find the last clue, they realize that finding the Blue Skeleton might not be all they thought.

The Houses October Built actually comes across like two different films, and both are pretty damn good. The first is a documentary of what happens behind the scenes at haunted attractions. We see interviews with costumed workers and hear some stories about people who actually died in those attractions. The second film is a found footage documentary about what happened to a group of friends who went down the rabbit hole. Mixing the documentary footage with the character footage was a smart choice. We get a little break from those characters and learn more about what might motivate them to go on a hunt like this.

As many of the actors have little to no experience, I went in not expecting a whole lot and was pretty surprised. Zack Andres as Zack and Jeff Larson as Jeff were the two real standouts. All of the actors though did a great job of making me believe they were actually friends and that they really would take a random road trip together.

And can I just say that the porcelain doll character was just plain creepy? Since she kept randomly popping up, you never really knew when she might appear next. It got to the point where anytime the characters went down a dark street or opened a door, I expected her to be standing there staring at them. Add to that a scene with two rednecks accosting Brandy in the bathroom of a grungy bar, and I was all in.

Though it got some poor/bad reviews, I enjoyed The Houses October built. It's currently on Netflix for those who want to give it a try.