Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Martyrs Remake – Completely Unnecessary

Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: January 22, 2016
Rating: NR
Director: Kevin and Michael Goetz

Martyrs opens with Lucie, a young girl who escapes from an unnamed person and runs for help. The police follow her directions back to a warehouse but find no evidence of anyone there. Lucie then goes to a Catholic orphanage and eventually becomes friends with Anna. Anna is the one she turns to after having a series of nightmares about what she saw during her ordeal. The police later bring in Anna and reveal that they believe Lucie made up the whole thing.

Years later, Lucie is a young woman with a mission. She knocks on the door of a seemingly normal house and blows away the man who answers with a shotgun. Lucie then shoots his wife, asks his son if he knows what they did to him, and kills him too before chasing the man's teenage daughter upstairs and killing her too. Once done, she calls Anna, tells her that she found them, and confesses what she did.

Anna quickly rushes to the house. Though Lucie told her that she found the people who did something bad to her, she thought they would go the police together. What she finds instead are a series of dead bodies that Lucie asks her to help get rid of to make “her” finally stop. Anna discovers that the wife is still alive and tries to help her escape, but Lucie catches them and brutally murders the woman. 

Though Anna doesn't necessarily believe the whole story, she's forced to change her mind after uncovering a hidden series of rooms behind a locked door in the basement. Not only does she find a series of locked rooms, but she also finds a young woman with a similar story to Lucie. Though she promises to help the little girl escape, things change when Eleanor arrives with a group of men who drag the girls back inside. After revealing that Lucie was their martyr years ago, she tells Anna that they want to find someone who will tell them what life is like on the other side. As they begin experimenting on both women, Anna discovers that her friend was telling the truth all along.

When I saw the original Martyrs, I spent most of the movie trying not to look at the screen and squirming because it was so disgusting and disturbing. When we sat down to watch the remake, I warned the boyfriend of that film. Needless to say, neither of us found many scenes in the Martyrs remake very disturbing.

It literally felt like someone tool the original script, decided to dumb it down, took out everything that made that film so unsettling, and then made a remake. That scene where the doctor skins her alive? Yup, it's now a small section of her back removed. Oh, and remember how Lucie kills herself in the original because she can't take her life anymore? Now she survives to the very end with Anna, and the only weird thing that happens to Anna is that they give her electroshock.

This movie was an insult to the original and a movie that didn't need made. It was so different and completely unlike the original that I actually expected to see the cops swoop in, shoot everyone, and save the day in the last scene. Do yourself a favor, skip this one and watch the original.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Veil – A Fictionalized and Disturbing Cult Tale

Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Phil Joanou

Heaven's Veil was a religious cult along the lines of the People's Temple. Their leader – Jim Jacobs – convinced them all to kill themselves because the end of the world was coming. The only survivor was a young girl named Sarah. Maggie and her brother Christian are the children of the FBI agent who investigated the event and they have evidence that was never made public. They convince Sarah to go back to the cult grounds to film a documentary about what really happened there.

Things go about as well as you might expect. Sarah is so overwhelmed with being back there that she passes out a few times, which is odd since she keeps saying that she doesn't have any real memories. They camp outside in tents, but on the first night, one of the crew members goes missing. They later find a tape made by a former member of the cult where she mentions Sarah and talks about how she has no control over herself. Turns out the woman is actually Sarah's mother and that she was the only member never found, though they do eventually find her body.

After wandering around and investigating the property, they find a hidden room and a series of tapes Jim made. Sarah has some memories of the room though she can't recall exactly what they did there. The tapes show Jim talking about how he uncovered the secret to everlasting life. He claimed to find a drug that would make the spirit leave the body and then return, which he demonstrated on tape. As more unusual things happen, the group wonders if the property is haunted or if, perhaps, there is more to the story than they ever expected.

You can't talk about The Veil without singling out Lily Rabe. Best know now for her performances on American Horror Story, she does an excellent job of playing Sarah. You never know quite what's going on in her mind, whether she remembers everything that happened there, or if she really is just a confused woman with a horrible tragedy.

As great at Rabe was in the movie, I think Thomas Jane did an even better job. Jim Jones was so charismatic that watching footage today makes you get why so many people agreed to follow him. It's like someone gave Jane a script and told him to play Jones even more over the top. He does such a great job of channeling that man that it took me 30 minutes to realize it was him. He's done a lot of bad movies lately, but he's really at his best here. Some might say that he is too over the top, but I think he did a great job.

The ending of The Veil was a little cheesy, but given the rest of the movie, I think it worked. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure there was a better way to end it. While it isn't the strongest horror movie out there, it just might make you wonder what else Jim Jones had up his sleeve...

The Veil is currently streaming on Netflix.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Contracted: Phase II – So It Continues

Length: 78 minutes
Release Date: September 4, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Josh Forbes

When I saw Contracted originally, I thought I would never have sex again. Luckily for my boyfriend, that didn't last long. When I heard there was a sequel, I went in expecting to see the same kind of gore and unsettling scenes from the first film.

Despite having a completely new director, Contracted: Phase II picks up exactly where the first one ended. Samantha climbs out of her car completely infected and freaks out. We then cut to Riley, her poor unfortunate lover from the first film. After what happened between the two of them, he wisely decided to get checked out. The doctor takes some samples and tells him that STDs don't typically affect men in the same way they do women. He then heads home where he lives with his grandmother and drinks from her glass without thinking.

Throughout the film, he flashes back to the events from the previous movie. We learn that after finding his close friend's (Alice's) dead body, Alice came back to life, tried to attack him, and he killed her. He also flashes back to the sex he had with Samantha and reveals that he actually saw her having sex with BJ, the man who infected her, that night outside the party. Though he does meet someone new, he's hesitant to start anything up with her until the doctor calls and tells him he has a clean bill of health. We all know this is wrong.

At the same time, Crystal Young joins the cast as the detective in charge of figuring out what the hell is happening. Young is a little suspicious of Riley but believes his story that he's just an innocent bystander. Despite us learning that the cops caught BJ in the last film, we now learn that he's still alive and still “hunting” others, which eventually leads to Riley trying to track down the man too in the hopes of stopping the infection and saving himself.

Don't get me wrong, Contracted: Phase II has some – excuse the pun – killer parts. You cannot possibly watch Riley in the doctor's office trying to squeeze puss out of the scratches that Samantha left on his back without wincing. The same holds true of a few key scenes between him and his new lover after he infects her and with what happens to his poor grandmother. When I think of the first film though, my stomach literally turns. There are moments from that film, like with fingernails, that make me want to look at pictures of cute puppies and kittens online. Contracted: Phase II doesn't have quite the same effect, which I why I can't understand how it has a higher rating online right now.

I will give props to Matt Mercer though. His Riley in the first film was more of a background character than anything else. He was that sad and mopey guy we all know who has a crush on some chick he'll never land. Mercer's Riley in the second film really comes into his own. We see that while he might be a little pathetic, he generally is a good guy and cares about the people in his life, though he doesn't necessarily go about things in the right way.

When Contracted: Phase II ended, the roommate – my boyfriend refuses to watch either film because of our descriptions – looked at me and said he liked the first one better. While I have to agree, it does have some good moments. Even if you aren't a fan of the film, the ending makes it all worthwhile. Here's hoping we get some resolution in another sequel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Intruders Movie Review – Beware When You Break Into Someone's Home

Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Adam Schindler

Anna (Beth Riesgraf) suffers from acrophobia and lives alone in her family home with her dying brother Conrad. One night, he asks her to spend some time with him outside, but she can't get over her fears to take even one step outside. Just before he dies, she learns that he set it up so that she can keep the house and will have enough money to survive. Though she dreams of leaving, she knows that will never happen. She does, however, offer Dan, the man who brings them food every day, a large bag of money so that he might get away from their small town.

Though Anna wants to go to his funeral, she can't make it out the front door. Three men, hearing about the money in the house and assuming that she'll be gone, break into the house. One of the men, Perry, seems more dangerous than the rest. When he learns about her phobia, he throws her outside and then later murders her pet bird. While running through the house to get away from the men, Anna accidentally kills the one who attacks her with her own hair pin.

The men originally assume that they'll kill her and take all her money, things turn when they realize that Anna isn't just a normal woman. After killing their friend, she tricks them into the basement, races upstairs, and turns a switch that causes the basement stairs to recede into the wall. Anna the makes it clear that she and her brother had a dark side, which is a side that all those men will discover for themselves.

Every so often, I flip on my XBOX One and watch a bunch of trailers to see new films coming out. That was where I first saw the trailer for Intruders and first realized that it was a movie I had to see. Riesgraf is absolutely amazing as Anna. The only thing I knew her from previously was the television show Leverage, but she's a completely different person here. She kept me interested and entertained, and I couldn't wait to find out more about her deep secret. Martin Starr, who many might know from the under appreciated Freaks and Geeks, is spine tingling as Perry. When he grabs her bird by the neck and grabs a hammer with the other, don't be surprised if you want to shout at him to stop. Rory Culkin also does a pretty good job as Dan and will leave you wondering what connection he has to the other men and whether he'll help those guys or Anna.

The first half of Intruders was so good that I kept shushing my boyfriend and actually told him to leave the room if he couldn't be quiet. That first half does a great job of setting up the rest of the film and has a dark and somewhat unsettling tone. We see just what it looks like for Anna when she tries to leave her house, and we get why she would beg them to let her back inside, even if it means they might kill her.

As good as that first half was, the second half faltered a bit. We learn what happened to Anna and Conrad and why they have a little girl's bedroom set up in the basement with microphones and video feeds capturing everything that happens. It seemingly comes out of let field and might leave you suspending disbelief a little more than you should. I also feel like the film didn't come full circle enough. It doesn't seem like Anna went through enough to get the ending that she did. I really liked Intruders, but I liked the first half a lot more than the second half.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Visions Movie Review – Blood Will Stain the Land

Length: 82 minutes
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Kevin Greutert

Visions opens with a woman named Eveleigh going through the aftermath of a car accident. As they move her gurney through the hospital, she repeatedly asks about the other woman and the baby who were involved in the accident. Some time later, she and her husband David move to a new home to start a winery. Eveleigh reveals that she was on antidepressants after the accident but that she stopped taking the medication after learning she was pregnant with their first child. We also learn that the baby in the other car passed away, which led to Eveleigh suffering from PTSD and blaming herself, even though she was cleared of causing the accident.

David throws an elaborate party as a way to get to know the new neighbors. They hear a speech from the owner of the area's largest and oldest vineyard that nothing ever grows on the land and that basically it's a huge struggle. This plants a seed of doubt in her mind as to whether they made the right choice. She later encounters Helena – the leading wine reviewer – standing over their bed and stuck in some kind of trance. When Helena comes out of it, she plays the whole thing off like nothing happened but makes a quick exit.

Eveleigh is still trying to deal with her stress, so her doctor recommends a prenatal yoga class. There, she meets Sadie, a young pregnant woman who is more like her and less like the stuck up moms in the group. The two become quick friends and immediately begin spending more time together. As David urges her to go back on her medication, Sadie is there to tell her that she should do what she wants.

When Eveleigh begins seeing things, it's Sadie who helps her through it and believes in her. At one point, she sees a bottle of wine shatter, a gun on the floor, and a bloody hand print on the wall. By the time that David gets there, everything is back to normal. The more she freaks out over the weird things happening in their new home, the less supportive David becomes. While she believes the house is haunted, she has to learn the connection she has to the house if she hopes to save herself and her unborn child.

Visions is probably my favorite horror movie that I've seen recently, which has nothing to do with my girl crush on Isla Fisher who plays Eveleigh. It's the kind of movie with so many twists and turns that you can't help trying to guess what might happen. Just when you think you know what's going on, something else happens that makes you second guess yourself and come up with a whole new theory. While I did guess the ending early on, I decided I was wrong and kept coming up with new theories.

Though it isn't a creepy movie, it is pretty unsettling. There are scenes where Eveleigh sees what looks like her neighbor carrying out a dead body or a man just standing in the field and watching them that makes you want to look away.

The only problem is that the movie occasionally has too many characters. Do we really need to see Jim Parsons in something like three scenes as her doctor? Do we need to meet Sadie's husband just once before he pops up again? The worst is probably Eva Longoria as Eileen, Eveleigh's best friend from back in the city. She shows up for the party, calls her later to say she'll be in Paris for a few months, and then randomly shows up for an intervention David stages. I get that Eileen is her connection to the city and her old life, but the character really isn't needed.

Despite too many characters, I really enjoyed Visions. It's one of the best I've seen recently.

Friday, March 18, 2016

10.0 Earthquake – Not Even a Guilty Pleasure

Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: October 15, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: David Gidali

Gladstone is a seriously crazy scientist, even more crazy than Jeffrey Jones who plays him. Seriously, if you don't know what happened to the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, now is not the time to look him up. He finds evidence that a massive earthquake will hit Los Angeles, but because he's a lunatic, no one believes him. Cut to the basic plot of San Andreas.

Jack is a divorced guy who works in fracking and loves to talk about how it's not dangerous to the environment. He and his daughter had plans for the night, but when he stops to pick her up from his ex-wife's house, he finds that she already made plans to spend the next few days camping with her friends. I don't know about you, but there is no way my parents would have let my 16 year old self go to a national forest with two random guys and another girl for an unsupervised camping trip. Upset at being left out and for his daughter not caring, Jack goes back to work.

Emily is a brand new environmental scientist sent to work in Los Angeles. She arrives just in time to wind that the organization has a lack of funding and basically just one other person working there. When the first tremors hit, she rushes to find Gladstone after hearing that he has a theory about what's going on. Cue the two of them rushing around Los Angeles to try and help as no one believes them.

Jack's daughter, who I literally cannot remember the name of – nor the names of any of her friends, goes off camping. We have the stereotypical nerdy guy who actually wants to talk to her dad about fracking and the environment. That naturally makes him the butt of every joke and makes me wonder why he bothered going on the trip and why they even invited him. We also have the jock guy who goes for the daughter and winds up screwing her best friend when he gets rejected, the whiny best friend character, and some other random douche bag. When they get trapped because of the quakes, Jack and his ex-wife reunite to save her.

I've seen a lot of bad movies and can usually find some redeeming qualities, but 10,0 Earthquake is just another forgettable film. As much as I love natural disaster movies, this one takes a little too much inspiration from San Andreas, which is one of my guilty pleasure movies. Seriously, I bought a copy during the Black Friday sale at Target and have watched it like three times since then. The only differences are that San Andreas had a way bigger budget and no crazy geologist or environmental scientists.

Henry Ian Cusick is one of the few redeeming features though. As someone who recently watched the entire first four seasons of Scandal, it's nice to see him back on screen, even if it's in something like this. Cameron Richardson, who I loved on the underrated Harper's Island, doesn't do nearly as well with her Emily. She's pretty much just there, and I'm a little surprised that I even remembered her name. If you're in the mood for a guilty pleasure earthquake movie, pop in San Andreas instead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Curve Movie Review – Don't Pick up Strangers

Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Iain Softley

Mallory is a not so happy young woman about to be married. She borrowed her boyfriend's Bronco to take a road trip back to Denver for their wedding and to give herself time to think things over. After a call to her sister where she does a bad job of claiming that she's happy and ready to take the plunge, she hops on a deserted stretch of highway to continue her journey. When the car breaks down and she can't get a signal to call for help, she worries about what will happen.

That all changes when a handsome stranger arrives. Christian makes small talk before checking over the engine and getting the car running again. Though she makes up an excuse for leaving him behind, she changes her mind and decides to give him a short ride. He claims there's a nice little hotel nearby where he wants to stay the night and get some food. Still unsure of her future, Mallory suggests that she might stay the night too, which brings out Christian's dark side.

After talking about her sucking his cock and other lewd things, she tries to make him get out, which leads to him pulling a knife on her. He points out that the road is deserted and that the motel they are going to is empty too. Mallory speeds up the car and tries to push him out, but when he grabs the wheel, the car crashes. She wakes upside down with her leg trapped. Christian returns, warns her about fate, and tells her that she must find a way out for herself. The longer they stay on that deserted stretch of road, the darker and more sinister her traveling companion goes and the more she must learn how to fight for herself.

Curve is actually a pretty damn good movie and that's coming from someone who isn't a fan of Julianne Hough. The film does a good job of setting up why she might give some random stranger a ride. We hear the false cheer in her voice when talking to her sister about her fiance, and we see the frustration she feels when she finds random fliers from escort services and strip clubs in his car. It's natural that she might have second thoughts about the wedding and why a handsome stranger might appeal to her.

Speaking of handsome, Teddy Sears is perfectly cast in the Christian role. When he walks up on the side of the road to save her, I don't think there is a woman alive who wouldn't beg for his help. He plays the perfect charming stranger, but he does equally well as a creepy predator. It's like someone flipped a switch in his head that made him go from lovable to terrifying in a split second. There's a glint in his eye that makes you want to take a step back and get away from the situation.

Hough does a better job in this role than in any other film I can name off the top of my head. Though she doesn't seem like the type of woman who would drive a Bronco or even drive herself, you do believe her struggles and actually want to root for her. She even gets a disturbing scene where she has to kill and eat a rat just to survive.

While my description might make you think that Curve takes place entirely on the highway, it doesn't. We have to deal with scenes of Christian being bad in another setting, him kidnapping some random people, and of course, the big fight scene at the end. The addition of a new setting and some new characters actually detracts from the film. After spending so long getting to know Christian and Mallory, we don't care about anyone else who might be in peril because we only care about Mallory. I wish the big resolution came on the same highway we spent 60+ minutes on.

Though I wasn't a huge fan of the last 20 minutes or so of Curved, I thought the first ¾ of the film was interesting enough to recommend it to others.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dream House – As Bad As I Remembered

Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2011
Rating: PG-13
Director: Jim Sheridan

Will and Libby decide to buy a house in the country and move with their two girls to get away from life in the big city. Though things initially go well, as they always do in these kinds of films, it doesn't take long before weird things begin happening. His daughters hear a story that someone was killed in their home, and it's coming up on the anniversary of that tragedy too. It doesn't help that people in town all keep acting a little funny around him, especially his divorced neighbor Ann.

Will eventually learns that a man named Peter Ward once lived in their home. After a fight with his wife, he shot their children. His wife managed to shoot him before dying of her own gunshot wound. This leads Will on a chase where he discovers that Peter was never charged because he had no memories of the night but was committed to a psychiatric ward. The closer he gets to uncovering the mystery of what happened that night and what's going on in his home, the more he learns that some things should remain hidden.

I originally saw Dream House when it first landed on DVD and wasn't a big fan. While going through my Netflix list the other night, I noticed that I added it and decided to just give it another try. I'm not above watching a horror film more than once, especially if I didn't like it the first time. That's part of why I became a fan of Insidious long after everyone else decided they hated it again. Sadly, Dream House is just as bad the second time around.

Dream House plays like one of those classic Victorian horror movies. You half expect to see it take place in some gorgeous mansion with the kids wearing long dresses and fog rolling across the moors. It moves the setting to a typical suburb, which seems like an attempt to make you realize that this kind of thing could happen anywhere. All it does is make me wonder why it took so long for people to actually notice Will was there.

If you never watched Dream House before or can't figure out the “spoiler” based on my short plot description, then feel free to skip this review. It turns out that Will is actually Peter, which he only learns after visiting the head doctor at the institute. The doctor reveals that he spent the last five years in treatment, can't remember what happened that night, and created an alternate personality to deal with his “guilt” and/or grief. He then walks away from a halfway house where he was staying, went back to his former home, and started thinking the ghosts of his wife and kids were real.

Here's the thing though, if you thought your neighbor murdered his whole family and then saw him coming in and out of the house all the time, wouldn't you do something about it? Ann's excuse is that they knew each other for a long time and just wanted to be his friend. It later turns out the house was condemned and he gets tossed out again. There's also a whole subplot about Ann's ex-husband and how he hired someone to kill her but the man screwed up and murdered the wrong family, so it turns out that Will/Peter was innocent all along. By the time it gets to its final unrealistic scene of him having wrote a best selling book about his experiences in the house, I just didn't care anymore. Dream House is far from a dream horror movie.