Tag Archives: horror movie

Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and Beer: Alice in Murderland and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

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Like before, let’s start off with my review of the beer, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. I smell cinnamon.  I taste cinnamon.  This is a cinnamon beer. There’s not much in the way of pumpkins here. I’m not sure what cinnamon has to do with pumpkins aside from pumpin pie, but, at least in the eyes of brewers, pumpkin flavor has become irrevocably linked with cinnamon. This is not as watery as some other beers that rely so heavily on cinnamon and is a pretty solid beer through and through. It’s just disappointing that they rely so heavily on a spice that is only tangentially related to pumpkins.

Alice in Murderland is a movie I started off hating and ended up liking because of its plucky charm. It’s one of those low budget horror movies that relies heavily on treading that fine line between black comedy and horror. It tries to be funny and it tries to be sca2ry and, in all honesty, it doesn’t do either one very well. It’s not scary or gorey enough to count as horror. The kill scenes are lackluster and most everything happens off camera. And it’s just not that funny, though there are moments that are humorous.

There are a few moments where the acting rises above what it should; Malerie Grady, Kelly Kula and Heath Butler all manage to make the most of it and the ending was what it was because Miss Grady just went balls to the walls crazy with her laughter. Kula brought home some truly intense moments of sadism and Butler was poignantly ditzy and actually provoked an emotion in me beyond wry cynicism.  Those three managed to bring enough to the table to ensure that I wouldn’t just write off Murderland.

Also, what event is Alice in Murderland supposed to be based on? I don’t really want to research it. Someone just tell me.

The beer and the movie were perfectly matched here. It’s time for our third and final filmbrew.

I can’t wait.

-D-

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Movie Review: V/H/S/2

V/H/S was an interesting, albeit flawed, horror movie anthology. It featured six short films, all of which were found footage with an overarching frame. There were one or two strong entries, but, for the most part, they were average horror stories that didn’t really make full use of the found footage genre.

Still, I have a soft spot for found footage. But, like all horror, it must abide by very specific rules in order to be scary. Found footage is about convincing the audience that what they’re seeing is real. It’s not a slasher film or a monster movie, it’s something that really happened and we somehow stumbled across this missing tape. To that end, any found footage horror film must follow these rules:

1. No big name actors or people you’d recognize. It pulls you out of the narrative the very moment you see Robert Englund or Kane Hodder onscreen

2. No digital effects. Unless it’s used in a very minor way to enhance a practical effect, digital effects are immediately obvious. No matter how good they are, no matter how real they appear to be, you still say to yourself, “Oh, that’s some cool CGI.” and it’s ruined.

3. The more supernatural or sci-fi or unrealistic the plot is, the harder it will be to keep the audience invested in the idea that the movie really took place in our world and we’re just viewing a dark and strange corner of it. That’s not to say that they must avoid the supernatural at all costs, just that it’s harder to pull off.

With all of this said, they’re just about to release the sequel to V/H/S, creatively titled V/H/S/2. Let’s see how it fairs by my draconian rules.

Like in the first movie, there is a framing story. Two private detectives are on trying to track down a missing college student. They break into his house and come across a familiar set-up for anyone who has seen the first movie.

TVs

 

When breaking and entering into someone’s house and confronted with dozens of TVs that were on when you arrived, there is really only one thing that you can do….

InfrontofTVYou start watching the tapes.

Instead of the six shorter vignettes that were in the first V/H/S, the sequel only features four stories this time, which is a shame. I preferred the shorter, quicker films of the original film. No matter. Away we go.

Tape 1

Our protagonist has had his damaged eye replaced with a bad-ass looking cybernetic eye that works just as well as any other eye, but the doctor warns that there may be…glitches (ominous foreshadowing). Everything that the character sees will be recorded. What’s odd is that his eye also records sound which…doesn’t make a lot of sense. Possibly there’s an upgrade package for cybernetic eyeballs that lets them capture sound as well.

CameraEyeAfter seeing a couple of bloody people roaming around his apartment he freaks out, meets someone with similar problems and all hell breaks loose in rather rapid fashion. All told, it’s nothing special, but still entertaining. A couple of jump scares, twitchy acting and some gruesome scenes and then it’s all over. All told, this ranked dead middle for me out of the four shorts.

It did win a lot of points by not pandering too much to the audience. Through some context clues, you realize why the guy is being haunted. It’s not extremely subtle, but they never once say it out loud, which is impressive in this day and age where every motivation apparently needs to be loudly explained with a couple of exclamation points to boot.

Tape 2

This one, this was my favorite one. It’s about zombies, which made me groan and nearly turn it off, but then it turns into a zombie movie that I had never seen before.

It’s a zombie movie from the point of view of the zombie.

It’s one of the few entries that could only have been done effectively as found footage and makes good use of the genre. Tere’s not much else to say about it since the concept really says it all.

Great, bloody, gory and my favorite out of all the shorts in V/H/S or V/H/S/2.

Tape 3

Right after the cozy little nastiness that was Tape 2, we hit the worst of the four. This one breaks pretty much all of the rules I laid out, except for the first one. It’s about a cult in Indonesia that’s being investigated by some young people with cameras.

And there are subtitles. In a found footage movie, there are subtitles. While these can be explained away, it stills pulled me right out the narrative and wrecked any chance of me immersing myself in the thing.

There is also some pretty bad and obvious CGI. It’s not even always good CGI. Even if this had just been run as a regular old horror movie, it wouldn’t have been very scary and was wracked with spooky cult cliches.

Except for this guy:

CreepiestDudeEverThis guy creeped me right the fuck out.

Tape 4

While their parents are out of town, a brother and sister prank each other mercilessly while recording the results and then they’re attacked by….somethings.

This one, like the first, is average. There are some creepy moments and great visuals. There is CGI, but it’s better done than in the third video. It’s very frantic and hectic and blazes through.

In a lot of ways, I think it most accurately reflects what it would be like to suffer this kind of attack. It was pure chaos, lights and sounds flashing and blaring out in a confusing cacophony. It’s good, basic horror except there’s a crying dog throughout most of it and I don’t like dogs being hurt, so I was just sad instead of scared.

F–

Summary

All in all, I think V/H/S/2 suffers by having fewer shorts than its predecessor. V/H/S had one or two clunkers, but, for the most part, it was pretty entertaining and if you didn’t enjoy one short, it would be over soon. V/H/S/2, on the other hand, limits itself. The Cult Story just never seemed to end and went on interminably merely because I wasn’t digging the story. By the time it had ended, I had checked out mentally. More films and shorter films, I think, is the way to go with this style of filmmaking.

In the end, V/H/S/2 was a disappointing follow-up. I wanted more variety and more stories and more chances to delve into a subgenre I love.

I give it Two Tracking Errors, One Rewind Snarl and A Betamax.

V/H/S/2 comes out in theaters on July 12, but is available for rental now through various providers, like Amazon.

-D-

 

 

 

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Movie Review: Evil Dead (Remake)

Last night, I went to see the Evil Dead remake and I was less than impressed.

For those that don’t know, the original The Evil Dead is a horror cult classic that exists in its own realm of awesome. It is a frantic, kinetic, slapstick gore-tastic explosion of excess. The sequels that followed are less innovative, but far more fun and added more to the sub-layers of pop culture than the first. The first was a horror movie that was as much informed by the Three Stooges as it was by George Romero and drive-in horror flicks.

The remake was, in a lot of ways, going to fail before it even got out of the gate. You cannot, absolutely cannot, remake the magic that makes a cult movie a cult movie. And nor do you want to. A cult movie is popular with only a small portion of the movie-going audience, hence the name. The studio is not going to go out of their way to try and please a very cranky, persnickety cluster of fans.

So the remake was far less frantic, more reserved and more by-the-numbers, more tailored for the average Friday night ticket holder. It followed closely along in the footsteps of the original movie and every “cabin in the woods” formula movie that followed.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to consider the idea that the remake was, in a sly way, tapping into the same ideas that the first The Evil Dead did. It was violent. Ridiculously so. Almost Black Knight violent. It even made me wince once or thrice. Much in the way the first The Evil Dead reveled in the gooshy red stuff, the remake over-indulged as well, but catered to an audience that has been emotionally stunted on a steady diet of Saw and Hostel movies.

And as it progressed, Evil Dead became steadily more over the top and more absurd. At the time, when I saw duct tape routinely used as the cure-all for injuries, including, but not limited to, a severed arm, I thought that there was a very desperate or very ignorant screenwriter at play. But now, in retrospect, I think there were just screenwriters at play, trying to tread a very careful line between the goofy, over-the-top slapstick violence of every horror movie from the 80’s and the grim, ultra real, ultra gritty torture horror that has come to, disturbingly, dominate the market in the last ten years.

I hesitate to call Evil Dead a good movie, but I am willing to give it more credit than I initially gave it. If you’re a fan of the original or of 80’s horror in general (Hello Re-Aimator fans), give it a spin, keep an open mind and see it as an amalgam of the now and then.

I give it one, over-amorous tree.

-D-

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Movie Review: The Baby’s Room

Article first published as Movie Review: The Baby’s Room on Blogcritics.

Sonia (Leonor Watling) and Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) are a young couple with a baby. They’ve just moved into that house: the one that needs a lot of work, has had five different owners in as many years and is probably infested with helldemons. Then, the unexpected happens and strange noises and creepy figures start menacing the family. It’s up to Juan and his video camera to discover what’s trying to kill them.

The Baby’s Room (La habitación del niño) is a Spanish made-for-TV movie, part of the Films to Keep You Awake series (Películas para no dormer). It’s similar to the Masters of Horror series of Showtime, in that there’s blood and nudity and an astonishing amount of cursing en español.

It’s a strange mix of quirky humor and gritty, stomach dropping creepiness. It has a very similar tone to Poltergeist, where there were those funny moments right before the audience is dropped into a pit of horror. Things will be hunky-dory, with Juan joking around with Sonia and then two scenes later, there’s a dead body slithering across the floor. All the scenes with Juan and his camera in hand are stomach clenchingly creepy. The camera can see what he can’t and he wanders through his rambling house witnessing terrible things.

For all the creepiness, there are problems. The Baby’s Room is a brutally quick 79 minutes. As a result, the pacing feels rushed. Juan believes he’s in a haunted house without even pausing to consider other alternatives. Juan’s wife runs out the door at the first sign of trouble and their marriage goes from idyllic to broken in the space of a day. Character development is hinted at, but there’s never any follow through. At one point halfway into the movie, the boss tells the Juan that all they ever talk about is soccer. This is funny, because up until this point, they’ve never mentioned soccer. There’s just not enough time to develop the plot, so it all feels condensed and forced.

The music is also unnecessarily bombastic. It kind of ruins the tension when violins and drums suddenly barge their way through the scene. What’s worse is the music is so generic. I know I’ve heard this scary music before in other movies. Sometimes, scary music hurts a horror movie more than it helps and this is one of those cases.

Overall, The Baby’s Room succeeds in being a creepy little movie, but bad pacing, a lackluster soundtrack and odd character moments keeps this from being more than an average thriller.

Dylan Charles

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