Monday, April 24, 2017

Satanic Movie Review: What Not To Do in LA

Runtime: 85 minutes
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

Chloe and David are the type of hipster young couple you just love to hate. Elise, Chloe's cousin, and Elise's boyfriend, Seth, agree to go with them to Coachella provided that they can stop and take a tour of murder places in LA on the way. They go to a hotel and check in for the night, specifically choosing to stay in a room where a woman killed herself. The two then take them to the Manson house and some other “special” places before stopping by an occult shop.

The manager of the shop makes it clear that he doesn't want them around. Seth keeps asking to buy stuff that he shouldn't and being a pain, which leads to the guy pulling a knife and chasing them out of the store. They then make the mistake of following him that night and stumbling upon a random sacrifice. Chloe flips out when they see a woman about to be killed and cause a disturbance, which lets them all escape. When they take the young woman, Alice, back to their hotel room, all hell breaks loose.

Let me admit that I probably would not have watched Satanic if I hadn't seen the cover first. I was like, “hey, that looks like Sarah Hyland from Modern Family,” but then it was more, “oh, what the hell would she be doing in some random low budget horror film?” Needless to say, it really is Hyland in the film. After seeing her as the airhead daughter on Modern Family, it wasn't too hard to buy her as a girl on a road trip with friends who just wanted to go to a music festival.

The issue I had with Satanic is that it's one of those horror movies that seems to cater to a much younger audience. Now that I'm in my soon to be late 30s, I'm noticing that a lot of horror flicks, even those with an R rating, are designed for teenagers and college students instead of those of us who grew up on the best generation of horror movies. I could care less about Coachella and in fact, looked up the line up for this year and realized that I only heard of like three bands playing.

It might seem like Elise and Seth are the two that we should root for, but they're extremely annoying. They're the type of rich kids who listen to true crime podcasts and wear black, which somehow make them experts. They're also the ones who refuse to let the other two, including David who literally drove them there in his van, do whatever they want or even go to the festival because they want to run around doing dumb shit in LA.

Speaking of dumb shit in LA, who the fuck thinks it's appropriate to follow some random stranger because he chased you out of his store for being dick heads? If a guy pulled a knife on me, I'm pretty sure I would just leave and never look back. I'm also not entirely sure I would take a random girl I just met back to my hotel room without finding out more than just her first name.

Satanic was an okay flick but definitely not one designed for people my age.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mercy Movie Review: Kind of a Netflix Original

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: November 22, 016
Rating: NR
Director: Chris Sparling

Mercy tells the story of an older woman who is near death. Her husband sits with her for awhile one day before doing downstairs after hearing a knock on the door. Though a man waits there with a medical bag, the husband makes it clear that they will not be giving his wife what is in the bag. The man gives him the bag anyway as a back up before leaving. We also meet three of the woman's sons, all who have a different reason for coming home.

Brad comes home with his girlfriend, Melissa, to see his mom. He tells her that his mom's husband is actually his step-dad, which makes the two of the other men his step-brothers. Though he introduces his mom to his girlfriend, it's pretty clear that his mom doesn't really understand anything going on around her. There is a slight argument over “the cure” or whatever is in the bag. Melissa doesn't understand why they can't just give it to his mom if it will end her suffering, but he tells her that she just wouldn't get it.

It doesn't take long before we learn that many of the boys came home in the hopes of getting an inheritance. It has something to do with Brad's father and what happened to him. Mom's husband sits his own sons down to explain that the money is now in a trust in his name only and that no one will get a dime until his own death.

When Brad learns of this, he assumes his step-brothers aren't happy. He and his girlfriend see some strange things that night that end with two men outside of the house, and Brad assumes that it's his step-brothers. Brad's brother agrees to sneak outside and go for help, and while I don't want to ruin it for anyone, this does not go as plan. As more and more people come out of nowhere and descend on the house, Brand needs to make a decision to give his mother what is in the case or possibly lose his own life.

You know how you sometimes watch a horror movie and see someone sacrifice their own lives to save a friend while you scream in the background to just get the fuck out? There is a scene in this movie that goes in the completely opposite direction when someone leaves a main character in the hope of saving his own skin. It's actually a little unexpected, especially given the relationship between the two.

Mercy is really somewhat of a shocking film because it has so many twists and turns that you're never quite sure where it might go. It starts out as a film about kids saying goodbye to their mother, then becomes a home invasion film, then transitions into a film about crazy people, and in the end will leave you wondering what the hell you just watched.

As a Netflix “Original” (i.e. a film Netflix just distributed), it's much darker than you might think. After watching the whole thing, I had to pause for a few minutes just to digest it and give it some more thought. It's not the kind of film you watch on date night, unless you're on a date with me, but it's definitely thought provoking.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dementia Movie Review: Like a Really Good Book You Can't Wait to Finish

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Mike Testin

Dementia opens with a war scene that shows a young man in the midst of battle before jumping to the present day. George is an older man who enjoys living on his own and playing chess over the phone with his friend Sam. When he hears a commotion outside, he looks out and sees two guys picking on a kid on a bike. He grabs his gun, fires it into the air, scares the bullies off, and then talks with the kid they bullied. The only odd thing is that he mistakenly refers to the kid as his own son.

After suffering a stroke, George also learns that he has dementia. His son, Jerry, and his granddaughter, Shelby, come to stay with him and decide what to do. Though Shelby is interested in learning more about her grandfather, Jerry just wants to put him in a home and move on with his life. He explains that his dad was mean and abusive and that after one particularly bad fight, his mom packed him up and took off. George built the house he lives in with his own two hands in the hopes that they would come back.

Michelle shows up on the doorstep and claims that the hospital sent her to check on George. Jerry then hires her to stay and look after George. It doesn't take long before Michelle begins telling George about things he did that he cannot remember. She claims that he started sleepwalking and leaving the house at night as well as making messes and picking fights with her for no reason. When George tries to fight back, she drugs him and tells his family that he's just exhibiting symptoms of dementia.

One night, George wakes up covered in blood and finds his cat mutilated. Michelle claims that he did it during a fit in the middle of the night, even though he loved that cat. Jerry things it's a little strange, but Shelby thinks it's suspicious and doesn't trust Michelle. When Michelle refuses to let friends visit and even stops Shelby from seeing him, the granddaughter decides to follow her and learn her secrets. George slowly begins having flashbacks to his time in the war and wondering what is real and what is a symptom of his dementia.

I don't say this a lot, but this was an extremely good film. Dementia is kind of like that mystery book that you start reading and have to keep telling yourself not to jump to the end and ruin it for you. I literally wanted to go online and see what happened because I was starting to doubt myself and doubt George too. The director does a really good job of setting things up in a way that makes you wonder if George is actually a reformed bad guy or whether he's still a bad guy at heart and whether Michelle is actually crazy or if she's just trying to help him. It puts you in the head of someone suffering from dementia because you don't know what is real or who you can trust.

Though Dementia got some surprisingly bad reviews online, it is a solid horror movie. The end to this film actually left me with my mouth hanging open as I tried to process everything. You'll never look at older people the same way after watching this one.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Den: Unfriended Before Unfriended

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Zachary Donahue

Elizabeth is a young woman in college or graduate school, we never learn which, who uses the social networking site The Den to meet people. She presents an idea to a group of people and learns that she received a grant that will let her study the habits of people using the site. Though she does spend a lot of time on The Den, she also makes time to talk with her boyfriend, her sister, and some other people online too.

While celebrating with her best friend, they hop online and use like the site. Like Chatroulette (which I'm sure I spelled wrong), you use your webcam to talk to people and can skip those you don't like. Her friend comes across a woman using the chat feature with a photo of herself, thinks the girl is boring, and skips her. Elizabeth later comes across the woman on her own and has a short conversation with her that ends with the woman asking if they can be friends.

After going to sleep one night, she wakes to find her webcam on and her logged into the site, which she thinks is odd. When her boyfriend comes over to spend the night before heading off on a work trip, her camera records him going down on her and sends it out to everyone on her email list, which leads to her losing her grant. While in the middle of a chat with her boyfriend on his trip, the camera goes fuzzy and he disappears, though we can see that someone actually grabbed him from behind.

Elizabeth comes across the same woman as before, but this time, the woman's webcam comes on. It shows her tied to a chair with duct tape on her mouth. As she watches, a man grabs the woman, pushes her down onto a table, and slits her neck. Elizabeth immediately calls the police, who believe it looks real but are helpless to do anything. As someone keeps cyber stalking her and attacking her friends, Elizabeth must attempt to figure out who is behind everything.

When I wrote a review of Unfriended, I think I said something along the lines of how surprised I was that no one did that before. Guess I was wrong because it seems like The Den came out first. The Den takes place entirely online and only lets us see what happens on computer screens. It's actually pretty interesting to see her talk with someone riding his bike around NYC and making friends with people just hanging out, like you would in real life.

As I watched the film though, I kept thinking that it had to be a prank. As in, Elizabeth would get through everything and find out that her guy friend or her boyfriend did it all to poke fun at the fact that she spent all her time online. Needless to say, that did not happen. The ending of The Den is far from the happy ending that you might want to expect, especially after getting to know Elizabeth so well.

I actually enjoyed The Den quite a bit and found that it was more interesting and entertaining than Unfriended and did a better job of telling a story through computer cameras.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Firstborn Movie Review: Not That Exciting

Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: April 13, 2017
Rating: NR?
Director: Nirpal Bhogal

Charlie and James are a young couple in love and living together. Right before heading out for a night of partying, Charlie takes a pregnancy test and learns that she's pregnant. After hitting the pub, they head home and start getting intimate until she begins violently throwing up, which leads to her confessing that not only is she pregnant but that she doesn't want to have the baby. James sweet talks her about how great it would be to have a little “them,” and despite the fact that they clearly cannot take care of themselves, they decide to have the baby anyway.

The first sign we get that something is wrong is when James get upset in the hospital upon learning that Charlie asked his dad to come. He also meets a strange older woman in the hallway who seems to know a little too much about them. When they bring home their baby, Thea, things almost immediately go wrong. James's dad agrees to help them because, as it turns out, he's an expert in the occult. He hints that similar things happened when James was a baby and helps them rid their home of evil spirits. James makes it clear that he doesn't necessarily believe in the supernatural though. One thing made clear to them is that they cannot give Thea toys with faces, including dolls or stuffed animals, because that will invite the evil spirits back.

Things seemingly go pretty well for awhile. Thea does these random little prayer things, and her parents actually take good care of her. All that changes when Thea brings home a doll, which Charlie finds and throws away. Thea is so upset though that Charlie later brings home a different wall. That same night, cups shake in the kitchen, something grabs Charlie in her daughter's room, and James gets attacked. When they turn to James's father again, he recommends that they take Thea to a woman he knows, who is not only the only one who can help them but conveniently the same woman James spoke to in the hospital. Once they meet her though, it becomes clear that she has something else in mind.

Firstborn is definitely not one of the better horror flicks that I've seen lately. Neither Charlie nor James are particularly likable, even at the very beginning. They remind me of those white trash couples who can't be bothered to use condoms and then expect someone else to take care of their kids. While we later see that they're good parents, I can't get past how terrible they were early on.

One of the Firstborn reviews I read said that the film was uneven, which is something I definitely agree with after watching it. The beginning sets up the pregnancy, then we get to see all the strange stuff happening, but once James's dad leaves, the film takes too long to get us back to the weird stuff and spends a little too long introducing us to the now older Thea. The end of the film was a little dull too.

With the description of Firstborn, this should be the type of flick that makes you rethink wanting to have kids some day, but it would up just being another forgettable film.

Firstborn is currently streaming on Netflix.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Don't Breathe Movie Review – Think Twice Before Robbing Someone

Runtime: 88 minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Fede Alvarez

Rocky wants nothing more than to escape the horrors of Detroit and take her little sister to California. As someone with no job and no real goals though, that's pretty hard to do. Luckily, she has her friends Alex and Money. Alex's dad owns a security system, and they steal from some of those clients and fence the goods to make extra cash. When the buyer starts offering them less than they think they deserve, they decide to do one last major haul.

Norman, referred to as the Blind Man, is a veteran and a widow. He lost his daughter after a woman accidentally killed her in a car accident. The Blind Man received a settlement of $300,000 that he supposedly keeps in his house and never uses. With Alex's tech devices, they think they can get in, grab the money, and get out before the old man ever notices they're inside.

Things almost instantly go wrong. Not only does the Blind Man have almost supernatural hearing, but he manages to kill – or nearly kill – one of the three within a few minutes of them entering his house. The other two soldier on in the hopes of finding money only to discover that he kidnapped the woman responsible for his daughter's death and keeps her locked in his basement. When he flips off the power to the house, the two “heroes” must find a way to compete with the Blind Man on his own turf.

Don't Breathe suffers from the same fate as any horror film released during a poor or boring season. It gets such great reviews off the bat that unless you see it within weeks of its opening, there's almost no point in ever seeing it. The hype builds up so much that you expect it to be the best horror film ever. The same thing happened with Insidious and with the more recent It Follows.

The film does have some terrifying moments and some disgusting moments too. When you learn why the Blind Man captured the woman and what he plans to do with Rocky, anyone with a vagina is the audience will wince and maybe even whimper. The scenes set in the basement and other parts of the house when the lights go out are also a little disturbing because you cannot necessarily see the action and because you have no way of knowing what might come next.

My problem might be that Rocky reminds me a little too much of those stereotypical kids that come from a bad home. Though she wants to change her life, she only wants to take the easy way out. Instead of maybe moving away from Detroit with her sister and getting a job, she just wants to rob people and save up the cash to move. Alex isn't any better. His dad seemingly has one of the only good jobs left in the city, but he's perfectly willing to steal from his dad's clients and maybe even ruin his business to help himself.

Worried that maybe I built up Don't Breathe too much in my head, I looked at my boyfriend at the end to get his opinion. “That was weird, not bad, but kind of weird and not that great.” As someone who frequently says similar things about flicks with a budget the size of a high school musical, that's not exactly high praise...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Red State, Good. Tusk, Bad. Yoga Hosers, Middle of the Road.

Runtime: 88 minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: Kevin Smith

You know those smug teens that walk around and act like they're hot shit because their daddies just bought them a brand new Mercedes or Range Rover? Apparently the Hollywood equivalent of a brand new car is the chance to star in your own flick. That is the only reason I can imagine anyone casting these two young ladies in starring roles.

Yoga Hosers follows the “adventures” of Colleen M. and Colleen C., two best friends who work in a convenience store owned by Colleen C's dad. They do things like leave stupid notes on the front door about having heavy periods or a UTI to spend more time rehearsing in the stockroom with their 35-year-old drummer. As with most teens, they're also addicted to their phones and never seem to put the devices down, and Colleen M. has a massive crush on Hunter, the heart throb of their school.

After Hunter invites them to his cool party and they get stuck working, they tell him to bring the party to them. He shows up with his best friend and tries to kill Colleen M. because, hey why not make him a random serial killer? Before he can kill her though, a strange little create pops out and kills him. The “Bratzis” as the flick calls them are a combination bratwurst and Nazi bred by a former Nazi to try and take over the world but let out too early. It's up to the two Colleens to defeat the Bratzis with their dope yoga skills.

I'm on the fence about whether Yoga Hosers is just as bad as Tusk or a small step up. At least Tusk had some talented actors. This one has the daughters of Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp playing spoiled teenagers and seemingly struggling with those roles. Neither one is that great of an actor, and it doesn't help that Smith lets them sing multiple times throughout the film. It's distracting and just plain annoying.

Yoga Hosers is the kind of film that will appear really dated in the next few years. It almost felt like Smith wanted to make a “hip” or “cool” film because so many scenes practically shouted, “Hey! Look at me! I understand current slang.” If I heard the word basic one more time, I thought I might scream. There is one scene where they must say it a dozen times or more in just a few minutes.

I'm honestly shocked that people in Canada didn't hate this film. The Canadian jokes never start out subtly. All the jokes are right there in your face and seem more bullying than friendly. From the way they throw in “bout” and “eh” references to the fact that almost every character loves hockey, it's just a little too much.

The only reasons to watch it are for the performances by Tony Hale and Natasha Lyonne. Hale plays Bob, the owner of the shop and Colleen C's dad, while Lyonne is his manager and girlfriend. The two are so funny together that I want to either see a spin off film or a Netflix original show that stars the two of them. They're definitely the highlights of the flick.

As someone who became a huge Kevin Smith fan after seeing Chasing Amy, I'm so disappointed by his last two horror movies. Here's hoping that he does a better job with Moose Jaws, his third and thankfully last film in the Canadian horror trilogy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Slasher Season 1 Wrap Up

Slasher is one of those shows that wound up in my Netflix queue because it sounded fairly interesting. While similar to the Scream series, Slasher is a so-so take on a similar theme.

The series starts out on Halloween Night in 1988. A man opens the door to a man dressed as an executioner who he assumes is his best friend. When his friend shows up though, both wonder about the other man. After slashing the friend, the executioner brutally kills both the man and his pregnant wife.

Years later, the baby that the executioner actually cut out from the woman, returns to town. Sarah moves back with her husband Dylan to start fresh. Dylan quickly gets to work as the new editor of the local paper, while Sarah makes friends and opens a gallery to display her artwork. We learn that a young woman went missing five years ago and that her mother once owned the space the gallery now occupies.

It doesn't take long before the executioner returns, or at least a reasonable facsimile of him. The executioner starts offing people based on the seven deadly sins. He takes down a nosy neighbor, who it turns out, murdered her husband after learning that he was involved in a pornography ring that included Sarah's mother. He takes out some other not so nice people, including the wife of Sarah's best friend and her partner, who she had an affair with, because they saw the missing girl the night she went missing and did nothing to help her, despite seeing that she was clearly drunk.

Of all the deaths, the best death is a tie between Brenda, Sarah's grandmother, and Justin, the partner/husband of her new gay best friend. Justin does cocaine laced with rat poison and literally convulses and bleeds from every orifice in the middle of a charity fundraiser before dying. Poor Brenda gets a cinder block tied to her ankle and pushed into the water. Well, they were all kind of evil, so I guess they deserved it?

The problem with Slasher is that the creator admittedly drew too much inspiration from American Horror Story. Anyone who watched a full season, let alone all the seasons, knows that Ryan Murphy doesn't know how to edit himself. Slasher suffers from the same problem. There are just too many stories going on at the same time.

Slasher starts out as a show about a girl returning home to the house where her parents both die. She then learns that her mom was an amateur porn star who slept with almost every man in town and that her biological father was the original executioner. We then find out that Dylan was obsessed with the story of her parents before they met and actually sought her out because of her connection to that story.

There's also the missing girl, who it turns out was abducted by a cop in town. Straight out of Room, he kept her locked in his basement with his mentally impaired wife upstairs while he had sex with her and eventually got her pregnant. To make things even worse, Dean McDermott, aka Mr. Tori Spelling, plays the cop.

I really liked the first few episodes of Slasher and looked forward to finding out who the new executioner was and the back stories of each person he murdered. As more stuff came my way though, I started losing interest. Here's hoping if it gets a second season that it focuses on just one story.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Good Neighbor Movie Review

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: March 13, 2016
Rating: NR
Director: Kasra Farahani

Sean and Ethan are two typical high school students who decide to play a “prank” on their elderly neighbor, Harold. According to Ethan, Harold is a horrible man that formerly beat his wife and eventually killed the poor woman. As the more tech-savvy of the two, Sean agrees to help Ethan set up cameras around Harold's house and to do random things that make it look like the old man's house is haunted.

Though some of their friends are less than thrilled about their plans, Ethan in particular points out that Harold deserves it, if only for what he did to his poor wife. They do things like make the lights in his house turn on and off and the television suddenly come to life. When Harold seems defensive about his basement, the boys even call the cops and report that they heard a woman screaming. The cops investigate and find nothing.

As they ramp up their hauntings, Harold seems to slowly lose his mind. Not only is he defensive of his basement, but he particularly freaks out when he hears a bell ringing. Harold ignores an older woman who shows at his doorstep to see him, and he stops leaving the house like he did in the past.

While all this happens, The Good Neighbor inter-cuts a few scenes of a courtroom battle. We see Ethan's mother, the cop who came to the house, and others. They talk about the body found in the house and whether someone is to blame. It isn't until the last few minutes that we learn who they found in the house as well as the fates of both our main characters.

The Good Neighbor is an interesting film, but it's hard for me to say if I actually liked it that much. James Caan is perfectly cast as Harold the neighbor. It's sometimes hard to believe that the man is as old as he is, so seeing him here was definitely eye-opening. If you ever watched ER, you'll notice one of the main characters from that show popping up as his former wife in flashbacks.

Without ruining anything for those who haven't seen it, this film does a good job of setting up Harold's backstory. Instead of just showing the whole story at once, the director smartly reveals just a little at a time such as his wife crying frequently, why the sound of the bell sets him off, and even how and why he got the cat that the guys see on their cameras.

The most realistic thing about this flick is the teenagers themselves. Far too many films have teenagers talking and acting the way the adult writers expect, but Sean and Ethan, as well as all their friends, actually seem like teenagers. You can believe that the two, especially Sean, would do something this mean and stupid just to have a little fun.

While the courtroom scenes are distracting at times, those scenes add to the overall plot of the film and will keep you invested and wanting to know what happens in the end. Once you learn the connection between Harold and one of the teens, the last scene in the film and some of the other plot details will suddenly make a lot more sense.

The Good Neighbor is currently streaming on Netflix.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tales of Halloween Movie Review – Anthology at its Best

Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: October 16,2015
Rating: R
Director: Lots!

Tales of Halloween is an anthology flick that weaves together 10 different stories that take place over the course of Halloween. Packed with cameos from writers, directors, and actors featured in other horror films, it's entertaining for those who love 70s and 80s slasher and horror films.

Adrienne Barbeau, who any horror fan will remember from films like The Fog, plays a DJ at the beginning of the film. She does a great job of introducing each segment and wrapping up the movie in the end. Her smooth and sultry voice definitely creates a setting that will make you feel like you're back in the glory days of the drive through watching all your favorites.

On first glance, Tales of Halloween seems like one of those movies that only has one or two good stories. When describing it to my roommate, it started telling him about my favorite anthology story, then remembered another one I liked, then another, and wound up telling him to just watch the damn thing. While some stories are definitely stronger than others, there really aren't a lot of bad stories.

The best might be The Ransom of Rusty Rex. Two men decide to kidnap the child of a rich man, one of who is played by Sam Witwer of Being Human, as he goes trick or treating by himself. When they call his father, played by the amazing John Landis, he laughs and tells them to keep the kid. They quickly learn that this little boy is actually a demon and that once he latches on, he never lets go.

Friday the 31st is a close second. This story opens with a girl dressed as Dorothy running for her life through the woods with a deformed slasher, a la Jason, on her tails. After he catches and kills her though, a space ship appears in the sky, and drops an adorable little claymation alien on the ground. When he denies the alien's wish to trick or treat, the alien takes over the woman's body and chases the killer around. While it may not sound like much, it got the most laughs out of me, especially when the slasher wound up losing his arm and later his head because of his own tools of death.

Trick is probably the one that has the best ending, though it takes awhile to get going. Two couples kick back on Halloween night as they have a few drinks and smoke. A girl dressed up as a witch shows up to trick or treat and then brutally murders the man who answers the front door. Several other kids then show up and chase the adults through the house, killing them one by one. In the end, we learn that the adults had a little fun of their own mutilating and killing children.

I was also a fan of The Night Billy Raised Hell. Billy is stuck trick or treating with his slutty teenage sister and her boyfriend. The boyfriend convinces poor Billy to play a prank on a man living in one specific house. It turns out that the man is actually the Devil, played by the awesome Barry Bostwick, who promises to show Billy some new tricks. They then set out on a night of mischief filled with robbing convenience stores and murdering people. When the cops show up to arrest poor Billy though, it turns out that the Devil left him tied up and stole his costume for one of his minions, leaving Billy to take the wrap.

Keep your eyes peeled for cameos from Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton, John Savage, and Joe Dante just to name a few. Tales of Halloween is currently streaming on Netflix and is more than a fun way to waste 93 minutes.