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HM22: John Dies at the End (2012)

Written by Don Coscarelli and David Wong. Directed by Don Coscarelli. Stars Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes and Paul Giamatti.

SYNOPSIS:

Er… okay… Well, I’m not sure how I can properly explain this movie. Two young men take a drug called “soy sauce” which gives them space/time-altering powers, mind reading and other quirks. They use them to fight a living computer from an alternate dimension.

REVIEW:

What a weird movie. I know it’s based on the comics, though a bit loosely (I read the plot of the comics after the movie, on Wikipedia). Some of the comics actually explained some of the scenes that I can only assume were nods to fans. But even without knowing about the source material, this movie is weird by itself.

The story is really, really incoherent. Things happen that are never really explained (or barely). The whole introduction is a nod to the comics that the movie never explains. All of that together, you would think I would hate the movie. But… no. The movie is quite all right. I think that because of how the story is played, this mish-mash of weird stuff actually helps the movie in some way. Think 12 Monkeys or other Terry Gilliam nonsense. Mix that with some Joss Whedon. Imagine what that would look like. So yeah, it works.

The acting is good, the effect are okay for the kind of movie it is. The movie definitely doesn’t take itself seriously. I assume that this is supposed to be the first of many, as we’ve barely explored the material in this installment and the ending shows hints at future adventures of the two slackers with the demonic drug.

I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone and especially not to people who like a structured story with a good pay off (it felt a bit weak, compared to how it started) but it’s still worth a watch.

SCORE:

♥♥♥

 

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HM21: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter (2012)

Written by Riyad Barmania and Ryan Andrews. Directed by Ryan Andrews. Stars Jaime Winstone, Aneurin Barnard and Rupert Evans.

SYNOPSIS:

A thirty year old playing a stoner teenager decides to bother the new neighbors until (gasp) it’s revealed they’re actually cannibals.

REVIEW:

What a waste of time. Whoever made this movie had no passion for anything, that much is obvious. Needless scenes drag on without a hint of excitement. Scenes just… happen. Here’s Elfie, someone too old to play a teenager, getting stoned. Here’s her and her Harry Potter-lookalike friend… getting stoned again. They want to investigate the new neighbors because Elfie’s mother died in a hunting accident (but Elfie thinks it’s murder).

Is that ever resolved? No. Do they have any investigative skills? Not seemingly, although Harry Potter-esque guy suddenly can hack police networks for information. All they do is:

1) get stoned
2) ask a lot of annoying questions
3) call the cops without proof

When Elfie finally guesses what the neighbors do, it’s in a bout of racism disguised as investigative know-how: they learn the Gammons have lived in Papua New Guinea and what do you have there? Cannibals, of course. Therefore, the Gammons are cannibals. But it’s not until the Gammons ACTUALLY taunt Elfie with a severed arm that we know she was right (I don’t know what’s more racist here: that she assumed all New Guineans were cannibals or that the movie proved them to be ultimately right).

The only redeeming part is the ending and only because of how fast things degenerate. After congratulating Elfie on her skills (they SHOWED HER THE ARM, SHE INVESTIGATED NOTHING), they decide to kill absolutely everyone. Why everyone and not just Elfie? Your guess is as good as mine.

So that’s it. I’d say that the visuals are pretty but I was too distracted by the loud, obnoxious dramatic music playing over everything. It’s so loud and drab, it made me wish movies were like video games and you could turn off music. Avoid this movie.

SCORE:

Nothing. Waste of time. I’m not giving it anything.

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HM20: The Tunnel (2011)

Written by Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey. Directed by Carlo Ledesma. Stars Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda and Steve Davis.

SYNOPSIS:

After a project to withdraw untapped water from old train tunnels goes silent, a journalist and her crew are determined to find out why.

REVIEW:

I was told to watch this by a friend, following my review of Skinwalker Ranch. I was told it was one of the good examples of found footage movies. Was it? On a technical side, sure. It’s well crafted. Story-wise? No.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. This was a crowd-funded project way before Kickstarter and the story is original in that the protagonists are exploring disused subway stations rather than old farms and ruined castles and so on. That part is fresh. The “big bad” going after them is also fresh enough; is it a human being? Is it the product of generations of homeless people inbreeding in the sewers? Who knows; we never really get a clear shot at it. It’s humanoid. It knows how to use cameras (it briefly steals one and zooms in on the characters). At any rate, it appears to be human-level intelligent, so not a beast but not a rational slasher villain either.

What really killed the mood for me was the protagonists. You normally have to root for them to survive; if you can’t connect to the survivors, what’s the point of watching? Here, Natasha (the journalist) is so unlikeable, I started raging. She shouts when she should stay quiet. Her producer will tell everyone to be quiet and she’ll talk. She will scream when trying to elude the predator. I get that it’s the point the movie is trying to make; it’s shot like a “Primetime TV interview” of the survivors and the conclusion rests with Natasha understanding she caused all of this by being the reckless journalist that she is (though claiming she doesn’t think it’s her fault…)

I get that. But as a movie viewer, I don’t care for it. I wanted to root for her; instead, I was hoping she would die, knowing that because she is being interviewed after the event, she survived. That, more than anything, pissed me off.

So there you have it. Decent movie for such a little budget. Good baddie, good shots. Fresh location. Horrible characters.

SCORE:

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HM19: Skinwalker Ranch (2013)

Written by Steve Berg, Ken Bretschneider, Devin McGinn, Murphy Michaels and Adam Ohler. Directed by Devin McGinn and Steve Berg. Stars Britani Bateman, Taylor Bateman and Steve Berg.

SYNOPSIS:

After a ranch owner sees his son disappear, a private investigation company sets camp and tries to find out what has happened.

REVIEW:

I had so much hope for this movie. I don’t know why I keep subjecting myself to found footage movies but this time I assumed it would be different; aliens instead of ghosts. Refreshing, right? If it had been well made, sure. But again, we’re witness to the glaring errors of the found footage genre and yet again, we’re subject to style over substance.

Granted, a big private investigation company would have top notch cameras, so you can almost forgive the fact that all of their handycams and security cameras are of professional quality. Almost. It still doesn’t fit the genre and it still doesn’t excuse how everyone seems to have mics on them, no matter how far from the camera they might be. I know, I’m nitpicking but damnit, it breaks realism.

However, that’s not the main problem with Skinwalker Ranch. The problem lies in the fact that if you actually recap the story plot, none of it makes sense. We’re to believe that everything we see (SPOILER HERE) are from the same entity. This means that the werewolves, the invisible dog-killer, the kid with telekinetic/telepathic powers and the ghost of Cody are all the same alien, who shape-shifts. Hence the title, Skinwalker Ranch (it walks the skins of others). Fine. The question one has to ask oneself, however, is why?

Why go through all that trouble? It’s never explained why aliens visit that particular ranch (for thousands of years, if the cave paintings are to be believed). Why is that one alien (I’ll name him Bob) going through all the trouble of kidnapping people, disguising himself as them to haunt survivors, turning into werewolves for shits and giggles and then just barge in one day and attack everyone he finds? The simple answer is that there is no reason; the writers wanted to have a movie without an answer. And while this works for stuff like the golden light emanating from the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, it doesn’t work when the whole point of the movie is to show you why things happen. I assume the writers believed people would come out of the theater wondering what could be really happening. Instead, people come out feeling insulted. I know I was. You can’t just throw a bunch of shit at the screen and then not explain any of it.

See, with ghost found footage, the back story is ingrained in our collective knowledge of folklore and superstition: ghosts are here because they have unfinished business, or they’re malevolent spirits bent on winning points for Satan. You understand that people are in danger because they have the soul stuff that the lord of darkness craves. Or they’re interfering with the ghost’s business. Here? We don’t know, because we don’t know why aliens are here in the first place. I went ahead and assumed that these aliens have their variation of Halloween that lasts 4000 years and this is their version of putting burning bags of dog shit on someone’s porch. Yes, Bob is an immature teenage alien pranking humans. That’s the only way this movie made sense to me.

Which is a shame, because the tension isn’t bad and the effects are pretty clever. Sure, the glitching camera trick for annoying after a while but scenes — like the MDE van showing up every night, and then having what seems to be a car’s lights pull up, separate and fly over the pasture — were pretty clever. I liked those scenes. Sadly, you can have all the pretty scenes you want but if the plot sucks, the movie bombs.

SCORE:

 

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HM18: Antisocial (2013)

Written by Chad Archibald and Cory Calahan. Directed by Cody Calahan. Stars Michelle Mylett, Cody Ray Thompson and Adam Christie.

SYNOPSIS:

Shy girl find out through a webchat with her boyfriend that he’s dumping her. In retaliation, she deletes the movie’s facebook ripoff, The Social Redroom. That night, people start attacking each other. Guess who’s to blame?

REVIEW:

Ah yes, the anti-technology Jack Chick-esque movies. A popular movement in the late nineties when everyone was scare that the internet was turning people into perverts and thieves, it seems to slowly be resurfacing as apps like Snapchat, Instagram and Skype become mainstream. This movie capitalizes on the fear of a Facebook society, by exaggerating everything teenagers do with it.

In Antisocial, no one calls one another anymore. They all carry their laptops and Skype each other. Seriously: they all have their laptops with them. And the movie makes sure you realize how evil Fac…The Social Redroom is at addicting people, because it shows you about everyone constantly being on their phones. Shit going down, people trying to break in? Show a scene with two people in the same room, checking in to the website, instead of talking to one another. Okay. And then, the reveal… which is so stupid it almost made me stop watching.

Social networks are evil, y’all. Literally evil.

The only good thing about it happens towards the end and involved a power drill. That scene was pretty good. The rest of the movie? Cringe-inducing.

SCORE:

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HM17: The Devil’s Rock (2011)

Written by Paul Finch, Paul Campion and Brett Ihaka. Directed by Paul Campion. Stars Craig Hall, Matthew SUnderland and Gina Varela.

SYNOPSIS:

Two Kiwi commandos infiltrate an island to bomb a Nazi super cannon. Instead, they find a dark fortress, murdered nazi soldiers and female screams echoing through its dark corridors.

REVIEW:

Reading review quotes from this movie’s box art is hella confusing. “The best Kiwi horror movie since Braindead“, says one. “Saw with swastikas” says another one. It’s a shame, since it’s comparable to neither movies. It’s actually a lot closer to a Lovecraftian story than it is to either Braindead (which is a comedy) or Saw (which is torture porn). More than that; it’s closer to Tarantino “one location” scenes, like the famous bar scene in Inglourious Basterds. Is this movie as good?

Well no. Tarantino is miles above. What this is, however, is a movie made with only four characters, in relatively one location (two rooms, to be fair). And it’s a horror movie not because of what it shows but what it implies; most of the horror has already happened before the two Kiwi commandos even arrive and the rest comes in late. What it does instead is capitalize on what’s happened, and dialogs with the charming Colonel Klaus Meyer, to build up tension. And it’s successful at that. Even though the dark forces behind what’s happening are christian-based, the story archetype behind it is definitely Lovecraft-inspired, which if anything was the master at building tension and fear.

Which is a shame when the last act starts and you see the source of that evil for what it is. Everything up to that point was so meticulously crafted and the gore so well designed to induce fear (what the hell could have cause this? or that?!) that when you see the source of all that carnage, you can’t help but laugh. I did. It was Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky bad. Latex and body paint. A shame because it cheezed what was a considerably serious and dark movie.

Still, I think it’s worth watching. With such a little cast and not much to exploit as far as locations and props are concerned, it delivered a better product than most horror production companies lately.

Just one thing, though: if you’re creating a prop and it’s a French spell book, make sure that:
1) It’s actually in French (and not French/Italian/Latin
2) The special page that you’re putting on camera isn’t translated via Babelfish.

Because French speakers (like me, hello) will laugh out loud at an otherwise tense moment.

SCORE:

♥♥♥1/2

Two Ave Romeros and Three Spatter Noster for your delicious sins!

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