Posts Tagged ‘scary movies’

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Halloween (2018)

October 26, 2018

Director: David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak

My goodness I loved it. I had to watch it twice to be sure, but yes, it was great. Exactly what I want from a Halloween movie.

For those that don’t already know, this Halloween is a sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 film only. It has nothing to do with the ten other sequels and remakes in the franchise – not even the ones with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as ultimate final girl Laurie Strode.

There’s no Thorn Cult garbage here. Laurie is not Michael Myers’ sister. Michael has never had his eyes shot out, burned to death, been riddled with bullets by a vigilante firing squad, or had his head axed clean off.

He has, however, been stabbed in the eye and neck and shot six times before falling off a second story balcony.

I think. We definitely see scars of the eye and neck injuries, but there’s a cop introduced in this new movie that “stopped Dr. Loomis from killing Michael.”

I’m not really sure what that means because Loomis shot Michael six times, he fell backwards and suddenly he is gone and that is how the original film ends.

There’s no stopping Loomis. There’s no other cop interfering. Michael is shot multiple times and he survives and the supernatural mystique of a human being that kills people begins.

So I don’t know if this film is trying to revise that finale or not, but either way, Michael is in captivity in 2018 and this movie opens with some podcasters visiting him in the psyche ward and trying to get a rise out of him by flashing his old mask around. It’s a cool scene that re-establishes Michael as a human with irregular focus and total disregard for anyone around him.

He hasn’t spoke a word in 55 years. What a scary dude.

Of course the powers that be decide to transfer Michael from a psyche ward he’s been at for 50+ years and transfer him by bus on the eve of Halloween and it can be easy to nitpick some of these plot points.

Why does Laurie watch the bus pass through the gate and leave the institution but not follow it to its destination? When you meet Laurie in this film it’s clear she has spent the last 40 years preparing for the possibility of Michael’s escape and return to Haddonfield. I can’t imagine that person not making sure that bus gets exactly where it’s going.

And why did she spend all that money tricking out her house and buying guns when she could have just moved to Hawaii or something?

But I’m glad she didn’t because once Michael is loose, the magic really starts.

Michael might be over 60 years old, but he has the strength of a silverback gorilla… on steroids.

I’m okay with that. The kills in this movie (when we see them) are fun and brutal.

And Michael is scary again. The mask looks amazing. The mask has definitely had its down moments over the years, so when it is done right, it makes a big difference. I think it’s a big reason why Michael Myers works so well as a horror villain. He’s supposed to be some normal kid that just snaps for no reason and becomes pure evil. But he’s a regular dude. He could be anyone. Until he puts on the mask. And then he becomes something a bit more… unnatural.

John Carpenter returns to do the film’s score and it hits all the right notes and drastically raises the tension. The music during the scene when Laurie’s granddaughter first encounters Michael is nothing short of epic. It really elevates the moment. I was practically giggling to myself with glee during that sequence.

Director David Gordon Green also gives us a wonderful single take shot that follows Michael on the streets then through a couple of houses, as he acquires different weapons and murders multiple people before finally cutting away. It’s a phenomenal sequence and it’s easy to overlook its brilliance if you’re not paying close attention.

Jamie Lee Curtis is of course wonderful as Laurie, giving her all in a role she’s played five times in 40 years in a franchise that has really seen some low points. But she returns here to give a serious performance in a mostly serious film, putting the affects of PTSD on full display.

The rest of the cast is solid but unremarkable, but I will say I loved the duo of Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers. They nailed it. Even when Michael is unmasked, he is seriously intimidating and ruthless. You know… like most men in their 60s.

I thought this was a great Halloween movie, but it should be noted I am a horror film fan boy. It pays tribute to the original, gives subtle nods to the other sequels it otherwise ignores, and really understands how to create an atmosphere that makes Michael Myers work. The duo of David Gordon Green and Danny McBride clearly understand what makes the franchise tick and what fans of the original movie would want to see.

The ending of the movie was cool, if not entirely satisfying, and I liked Halloween enough that I’d like to see everyone come back for another one. More more MORE please!

Michael Myers done right is a thing of beauty. Halloween is a must watch for fans of the franchise and I give it a strong recommendation in general.

Replay Value: I liked it more the second time and I’m kind of itching to see it again.

Sequel Potential: Evil never dies.

Oscar Potential: None.

Dina Meter: She had fun watching it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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The Endless (2018)

October 21, 2018


Director: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson (Spring, Resolution)
Starring: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Callie Hernandez

This is a pretty bizarre movie from the guys that made Spring and Resolution – neither of which I have seen. Both directors also star as brothers that revisit a death cult they escaped/left when they were younger. The movie is definitely intriguing, as watching the brothers unravel the mysteries of their old stomping grounds is both enthralling and slightly chilling. The Endless is largely a slow burn thriller with elements of horror and sci-fi/fantasy sprinkled in, while still managing to seem grounded in reality. I was certainly drawn into this world and highly invested in seeing what was going to happen. The movie is seeped in mystique and looks fantastic. The filmmaking duo made me enough of a fan that I want to check out their previous films. The Endless is weird and features no famous actors, so general audiences might balk at it, but I thought it was very solid.

Replay Value: Not a must rewatch, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting this again.

Sequel Potential: I’ve heard this is set in the same movie universe as Resolution. I don’t know if that makes it a sequel or if it indicates that more movies could occur in this universe, but the story of these two brothers is probably over.

Oscar Potential: The Endless got some film festival love, but no Oscar attention. It’s been making the rounds since spring of 2017, but technically wasn’t released in the U.S. until a year later. I’m not sure what calendar year it would be in Oscar contention, but I’m sure it will be overlooked, even though the Visual Effects were quite awesome.

Dina Meter: I would expect Dina to be done with this movie in less than 20 minutes.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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A Quiet Place (2018)

April 11, 2018


Director: John Krasinski (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men)
Starring: John Krasinksi, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

We have a new favorite for best film of 2018 through the first 14 weeks of the year!

I wouldn’t have guessed that Jim from “The Office” would be a good candidate to direct a horror thriller, but much like Jordan Peele and Get Out last year, we have an actor known for comedy directing a horror movie to perfection. Not only does Krasinski craft one of the most tense films I’ve seen in recent memory, but he also gives a solid performance in a lead role that requires very little humor and comes across very heroic.

The premise of A Quiet Place is that the human population of earth has been wiped out by some sort of monster/alien creature that can’t see but hunts by sound only. We are introduced to a family with Krasinski and Emily Blunt as mom and dad, respectively, and their three kids, and follow their story of survival, as they live life within the confines of never being able to make a sound and the film wastes no time in letting the audience know that their lives are genuinely at stake. The opening scene creates an incredibly tense atmosphere that doesn’t let up until the end credits and will keep audiences on their toes for 90 minutes straight.

You have to wonder… at what age does a child fully grasp how vulnerable they really are and what is at stake every waking moment of their lives? And who would bring a newborn into this world? Not just because it seems impossible for a baby to survive in a world where you can’t make a sound, but why would anyone purposely procreate in a world where your lives are at stake every second of every day? I have to admit that I was surprised and perturbed when I saw that Emily Blunt’s character was pregnant, but SPOILER ALERT the scene in which she gives birth is truly incredible. I suppose it’s best not to question the how of her pregnancy, but conceiving in this environment seems like an incredibly risky task! I do think that Krasinksi and his team of writers (and movie mom and dad) handled the complications of having a newborn quite delicately and managed to raise the stakes without raising more questions or getting into unbelievable territory.

I was very impressed with A Quiet Place. It was scary and tense all the way through. The monsters looked amazing! Both Krasinski and Blunt were terrific and the kids also gave strong performances, particularly the daughter. This is probably the most satisfying 2018 film I’ve seen so far this year and I’d consider it a must watch for any fan of the horror or thriller genres, but A Quiet Place is more than a scary movie; it’s also a film about family and survival and forgiveness. Unless you absolutely can’t stand scary movies, I think this is another must see movie for 2018.

Note: First off, anyone that brings a baby to a movie is pretty selfish and kind of an idiot. Find a sitter or stay home. But someone that brings a baby to a movie called A Quiet Place is just a straight up asshole. It’s right in the title and in the trailer that this movie is going to be very quiet and sounds from the audience are going to be very unwanted. I felt guilty eating popcorn! I’m not confrontational at all, but I really had to contain myself from saying something to these morons. Perhaps it’s because the baby wasn’t that bad; for the most part, it was pretty quiet and only had short bouts of crying throughout the film and only one really bad stretch, but it was still very distracting and in a movie that is almost entirely built around suspense and a taut atmosphere, distractions from the audience are unforgivable. What jerks. Thank you, baby, for being mostly tolerable.

Replay Value: This would be fun to watch again.

Sequel Potential: There is definitely potential here, especially since there was zero explanation about the creatures. Where they came from, what they are, etc. On the other hand, this is a movie about the family, not the monsters, so I don’t think it was made with sequels in mind… but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood before.

Oscar Potential: A Quiet Place lacks the social and political commentary that made Get Out an Oscar contender, so I suspect this movie won’t get much attention next awards season, but it’s my top film of the year so far, so maybe? The monsters are definitely worthy of Visual Effects consideration.

Dina Meter: Dina hates scary movies, but sometimes I force her to watch the really good ones and A Quiet Place will be no exception. I suspect she will hate the experience but will appreciate the movie. I’m just going to tell her it stars Jim from “The Office” and looks really funny.

8/10 (Must See)

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Coco (2017), Gerald’s Game (2017)

December 13, 2017

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2)

Bottom Line: I loved it. What a feel good movie about family, passion, music, love, loss, memory, and, of course, death. Coco is a return to form for Pixar, combining absolutely beautiful CG animation with memorable characters and an enriching, funny story that pulls at the heart strings. Bring your Kleenex! This is Pixar’s best original film since Up in 2009.

Replay Value: Pretty close to a must own. I would definitely enjoy watching this multiple times.
Sequel Potential: Hit animated films always have sequel potential, but I think this would work best as a standalone film.
Oscar Potential: Best Animated Film nomination is a lock. There is potential for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Possibly Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Grade: 8/10 (Must See)

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hush)

Bottom Line: Gerald’s Game is a taut psychological thriller based on a short, overlooked Stephen King novel about a woman that goes on a remote cabin getaway with her husband in the hopes of rekindling their marriage. He cuffs her to the bed, she hates it, implores him to let her free, but… he has a heart attack and falls off the bed, wounding himself fatally. So she’s stuck there, handcuffed to the bed, with no food, and no company except a hungry, stray dog that wanders into the house and the figments of her deteriorating psychosis. Gerald’s Game is a surprisingly deep and emotional film considering the vast majority of it takes place on a bed with a woman that can barely move. Carla Gugino gives a phenomenal performance. This movie is streaming on Netflix and I definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys psychological thrillers and doesn’t mind the claustrophobic circumstances.

Replay Value: Not a great candidate for multiple viewings, but it’s something you could revisit many years later.
Sequel Potential: Zero.
Oscar Potential: Carla Gugino is fantastic in this. Not sure how a Netflix movie plays into the Oscar races, but I’ll guess she doesn’t get much consideration.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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So Many Horror Movies!

November 29, 2017

So last month I went to Reno, Nevada for Jason Sommerville’s Run It Up Reno (and maybe I’ll blog about that someday – it’s been on my list for a month now) but before heading to Reno, my friends and I made a stop in Hollywood to check out Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.

For those that don’t know, Halloween Horror Nights is an event that Universal does every October where they create a bunch of haunted houses based on famous horror movie properties and these things are amazing. I think the experience is an absolute must for fans of the genre and I have gone the past two years and feel like it should be an annual tradition. Who doesn’t want authentic looking Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger jumping out at them?

Anyways, in preparation for the event this year, I watched a bunch of horror movies and I’m going to bust out some very quick reviews for them right now:

Saw (2004) – The world is introduced to The Jigsaw Killer and it’s a pretty fun ride. This movie is still great today and I can still remember how blown away I was by the ending the first time I saw it. I love the scene where the dude from “Lost” is in the closet and you can only see his eye. The lack of budget shows a bit now and some of the acting, particularly from the two leads, is pretty laughable. Still, even with these flaws, this is the best film in the series by a wide margin.

8/10 (Must See)

Saw II (2005) – The Saw sequels were really forgettable to me the first time I watched them. I have much better recollection now having seen most of them twice, but I remembered very little from my first viewings. The traps are the coolest thing about this series after the original movie. They can be really gross and incredibly creative. While Jigsaw coerced someone to help him in the first film, this is where we start to see that his death traps can actually inspire real life changes to their survivors – and potential apprentices for his cause.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Saw III (2006) – Jigsaw captures a doctor to perform medical procedures on him and keep him alive while his protege runs her own death trap game. In Saw everything is connected and nothing is coincidence. I think I liked this movie more than its predecessor.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw IV (2007) – Spoiler alert! Jigsaw is dead. Can you imagine if the Halloween series killed off Michael Myers in the third film and then made five more movies? I can. That movie is called Halloween III: Season of the Witch and it’s one of the all-time worst horror sequels ever made. I’m not really comparing the Saw franchise to that movie, but it does seem like a weird choice to kill off your prime villain when you have a horror franchise cash cow going. I think Saw makes it work though. With flashbacks of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw orchestrating things and a somewhat believable following helping carry on his legacy, the movies manage to stay fun and interesting without straying too much.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw V (2008) – Detective Hoffman is now the primary Jigsaw killer and becomes the suspect of an FBI agent. The series continues to keep things interesting and relevant with flashbacks and backstory.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw VI (2009) – More of the same.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw VII (2010) – The wheels have officially fallen off. Right from the opening scene this movie feels different – and not in a good way. I do like the idea of someone posing as a Jigsaw survivor as a claim to fame and then being put through the death trap mazes, but man… this one was brutal. This is easily the worst entry of the initial run and it was bad enough to put the franchise to sleep for seven years. There’s a big reveal at the end that could have been cool in a better installment.

2/10 (Horrible)

Jigsaw (2017) – I have to admit I was curious how they could possibly reinvent the franchise. Even fans of the series probably won’t really like this movie. It’s cool to see Tobin Bell back as The Jigsaw Killer, but one has to wonder how that is even possible. The answer will likely disappoint or infuriate you. It wouldn’t be a Saw movie without the patented surprise ending and, well, it’s pretty bad. This is a completely unnecessary sequel and a poor attempt at rebooting the series.

2/10 (Horrible)

Insidious (2010) – The first jump scare in this movie is one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. The movie itself was somewhat intriguing and the concept of The Further is pretty cool, but it was a bit slow and my friend I was watching it with was totally uninterested.

5/10 (Watchable)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) – This sequel is better than the first and is a really good compliment to the original – so much so, that it makes the first movie better. We get a better idea of how The Further operates and some things that were unexplained in the first movie have pretty cool reveals here.

6/10 (Recommended)

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) – A decent prequel that shows how psychic Elise got into the paranormal activity business and met her future associates Tucker and Specs.

5/10 (Watchable)

Sinister (2012) – A hidden gem. This movie was truly thrilling and actually quite scary. I kind of loved it. This is a must watch for fans of horror.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Teeth (2007) – This movie is utterly ridiculous. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a movie about a girl that has teeth in her, uh, female parts. So naturally she is the subject of multiple unwanted male sexual advances and we are rewarded with more than one severed genitalia. I think this movie is meant to be part comedy, part parody, part horror and with that in mind I guess it works fairly well. Jess Weixler actually gives a pretty great performance in the lead role and I’m surprised she hasn’t seen more success in her career.

5/10 (Watchable)

The Babysitter (2017) – If you saw this on Netflix and dismissed it, you made a mistake. I very much liked this horror comedy about a kid that catches his babysitter and her friends performing a ritual sacrifice and finds himself fighting for his life. Judah Lewis gives what should be a breakout performance and is very funny in his role as the kid in this movie. Fast-paced and funny, but not particularly scary, The Babysitter was a fun, light horror flick.

6/10 (Recommended)

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Happy Death Day (2017)

November 14, 2017

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard
Director: Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones)

Bottom Line: Hip-hop legend Nas once made a song titled “No Idea’s Original” and Happy Death Day is born from that notion, essentially stealing its entire concept from the 1993 classic comedy Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character keeps reliving the same day over and over. Happy Death Day is Groundhog Day with a horror twist – the protagonist keeps waking up on the same day that she is murdered by a masked killer and has to solve the mystery in order to escape the time loop.

I was so close to loving this movie. Oh so close. And then a questionable ending brought it down a notch.

Jessica Rothe does a great job as Tree, an ungrateful and selfish sorority sister that undergoes an impressive transformation as the repeated experience makes her realize what a bad person she is. It’s quite the star-making turn as Rothe is a very convincing jerk before becoming unbelievably charming. I really enjoyed watching this character’s growth and Rothe embodies the role perfectly. She reminds me of a cross between Blake Lively and Emma Roberts, but I’ve never seen either of those actresses do as fine a job as Rothe does here.

The writing in this movie was very good. Tree reacts very believably to her situation and watching her try to solve her murder and go through the different emotional phases of her plight – from confusion to scared to gung ho to exasperation – is really a delight. The script is also very funny and the humor really helps the flow of the film.

Happy Death Day isn’t very scary, but it’s definitely enjoyable, funny, and was overall satisfying, even if the ending sort of let me down a little. It was very close to being a must watch for horror fans, but I’ll just give it a strong recommendation instead.

Replay Value: I would happily watch this again. Knowing the answer to “who is the killer?” question would make a second viewing pretty fun.
Sequel Potential: It really doesn’t seem like there could or should be a sequel, but apparently the director has been quoted as saying he has plans for a second movie. That seems like a bad idea to me.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 7 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Cult of Chucky (2017)

October 10, 2017

Starring: Fiona Dourif, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif (voice of Chucky)
Director: Don Mancini (Curse of Chucky, Seed of Chucky)

Bottom Line: It seems unlikely that the most relevant classic horror franchise in the mid-2010s is Child’s Play, but with A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday the 13th both failing to reboot and 8 years since the last Halloween entry, Chucky’s second straight-to-video appearance in the past five years has the Don Mancini killer doll as the freshest old school slasher icon.

I’m definitely a fan of the series and I even went on to call 2013’s The Curse of Chucky possibly “the best Chucky film to date,” but having revisited that film this past year, I think I may have overrated it. I do have to give credit to director/writer – and creator of the series – Mancini for continually finding new and entertaining directions to take the franchise.

Cult of Chucky continues this trend of reinventing the series while keeping it familiar. Cult picks up where Curse left off, with paraplegic Nica taking the blame for all the murders of the previous film and finding herself in an asylum that will soon be infiltrated by Chucky. It’s a bit weird, however, because the post credit scene for Curse showed the killer doll sending himself to the home of original nemesis Andy Barclay and getting his head blown off. In this film, Andy keeps Chucky’s head in a safe, where it remains sentient and brings it out periodically to talk to it and occasionally take a blow torch to Chucky’s face. Meanwhile, patients at the asylum are dying and Nica continues to be blamed for the deaths, while insisting that “Chucky did it.” And while we can see that the doll is present, one has to wonder if Nica’s hallucinating and causing the deaths herself, or if Chucky actually can be present while his head is mounted in Andy’s safe. Hmmmmm….?

I honestly had mixed feelings about Cult of Chucky. On one hand, I appreciated Mancini’s ability to take things in a new direction all while bringing back familiar characters and delivering the gore and comedy we expect in a Chucky movie – and really, the gore in this movie was truly spectacular. The film has some of the franchise’s best kills. On the other hand, I found the asylum setting to be a little grating. Between the creepy lead therapist that doesn’t believe anything anyone says and one of the patients “mothering” and breast-feeding Chucky, I was kind of like “uhhhh.” Also, the return of Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay is a cool idea and his first appearance in this movie is fantastic, but when he becomes immersed in the main story again at the asylum, the payoff is a bit disappointing.

Brad Dourif is always great as the voice of Chucky and he gets some screen time as Charles Lee Ray here as well. Dourif’s daughter Fiona plays Nica and while her performance in the last two movies has mostly been average, she does get to steal some scenes towards the end of this film.

Cult of Chucky is obviously a must watch for fans of the series and fans of horror, but I wasn’t blown away by any means. Cult has received pretty favorable early reviews from critics and while I enjoyed it myself, much like with The Seed of Chucky, I can’t really say I get the accolades. Maybe I will learn to appreciate it more if I ever watch it again, but for now all I can say it is another solid entry in this long-running franchise that always manages to stay inventive instead of regurgitating the same old tropes every time out.

Replay Value: I wouldn’t mind revisiting all the films starting with Bride of Chucky at some point in the near future. I’d watch this again.
Sequel Potential: These things never seem to die and this film has a post credit scene that suggests another movie in the future.
Oscar Potential: none.

Grade: 5.5/10 (Watchable)