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Entries Tagged 'Horror' ↓

Paranormal Activity

The marketing campaign behind this movie was genius.  It wasn’t as smart as the viral “true” story that was launched months beforehand for “The Blair Witch Project” but this was all about word-of-mouth.  They released this only in big college towns first hoping to get word on the Internet to spread like wildfire.  Then once interest was peaked they would only release it in your city if you went online and demanded it.  Luckily Sacramento was one of those cities and we got it…at one theater…that only had one showing…at midnight!  Smart!  The plot is simple: a couple buys a camera in hopes to capture some ghostly goings-on that the girlfriend has been claiming.  To know anymore about this story might water it down.  The cast consists of the couple, who are newcomers named Michah Sloat and Katie Featherston.  There’s a physic and a best friend that appear in the movie twice but only briefly.  Even though the movie is a first-person shot of a handheld camera, it won’t make you motion sick like “Cloverfield” and “Quarantine” did for some.  It’s important to note that this entire movie was made for only $11,000!  You heard me right!  That’s so impressive since and a bigger budget would’ve only made the movie worse.  The director, another newcomer Oren Peli, basically sets up a house (the entire movie takes place in one house) full of cheap parlor tricks to scare us and his actors.  There are many times during the movie where the unafraid and manly Michah yells out “Shhhhh” to his girlfriend while they’re frightened.  He’s not really yelling that at her, he’s yelling that at the audience.  Some of the more terrifying things that happen are so slight and subtle that you’ll miss them because you’re still screaming from what just happened.  But don’t think this is your typical scary movie.  This movie gives a new definition to “creepy.”  It never once frightens you into jumping because that’s too easy to do.  “Paranormal Activity” is just a collection of scenes filled with tension-mounting sounds and sights that make the goosebumps appear and you have to look away because you’ve been creeped out too much!  My only complaint with it is that when the final 5 over-boiled minutes of the film happen, the climax is absolutely terrifying, more could’ve been done with it.  That being said I am writing this review at 2:30 AM.  We got back from the movie and I was too scared to go to bed.  Be warned that what the movie “Psycho” did for taking showers, “Paranormal Activity” has done to simply falling asleep in a bed!  The feeling of being trapped in this house with this couple is conveyed perfectly.  When either of the other two cast members appear you feel perfectly safe but when they leave you feel like they abandon you and are responsible for the frights to continue!  Every time night falls and the couple attempts to go to sleep, the audience (totally sold out show) groaned with fear of what they knew was coming and when it does, even being surrounded by 600 people in a big-ass theater wasn’t enough to make us all feel like we were alone in that room with them.
Paranormal Activity (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A

Sorority Row

From the very first opening scene of this movie you know right away that it’s gonna be complete trash.  It’s the typical Hollywood college party that shows beautiful people swilling copious amounts of alcohol while getting naked and having sex all over the extremely large mansion that is decorated with millions of dollars of finely crafted furniture and expensive fixtures.  That’s one thing about cinema that I’ve never understood and never enjoyed – the bloated, false caricature of what “college parties” are like.  However, the good news is that after that, the movie is shockingly not bad.  It’s a classic horror mystery that is so much fun to watch.  It’s one of the sub-genres of horror that I really enjoy.  It’s the gore and fun of a slasher movie mixed with the whodunit story of a murder mystery.  Unfortunately the best movie to ever pull this off was the Wes Craven masterpiece “Scream.”  The whole time I was watching this I was thinking that it was done better when “Scream” did it.  See, even though the movie isn’t bad it’s really predictable and very formulaic.  But as I noticed at the reaction of my fiancee, it still does the trick with the building tension till the inevitable scare.  But the script is pretty much awful.  You can tell it was written by two men and directed by another.  It has no insight at all as to how girls interact or talk to each other.  The characters are drawn as stereotypically as you can and as far as a thrilling climax, clever killer reveal or even major loose ends to be tied up by the end…you won’t find that here.  The acting is far from varsity level but considering it stars a bunch of new actresses, such as Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis (and yes Audrina from “The Hills” for a whole 5 minutes), I wasn’t expecting Oscar performances.  (Especially from you Rumer.  You’re not hot enough or good enough to be in movies so that must mean Mommy (Demi Moore) and Daddy (Bruce Willis) helped you out there…sorry she annoys me.) But if you plan on plopping down $10 in hopes you see some blood, boobs and booze, you won’t be disappointed.  You’ll jump, laugh and scream but still leave the movie theater not remembering one thing about the movie you just saw.
Sorority Row (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C+

Halloween 2

If there is one consistent problem with a Rob Zombie movie (and there always is) it’s that he makes movies for a very small and very specific type of audience.  If you’re not in that group than you shouldn’t even waste your time because you’re not only gonna hate the movie but you’ll be so revolted by it that you’ll want to leave.  Luckily for him, I fall into that small group.  When his first movie “House of a 1,000 Corpses” came out, I thought it was funny, disturbing, and a fresh take on the grindhouse films of the ’70s.  Although it went in a completely separate direction, the sequel “The Devil’s Rejects” was possibly even better.  After that, came the original remake of “Halloween.”  Zombie wanted to tell HIS version of the classic John Carpenter horror.  I thought he did a good job with it.  He gave depth to the Michael Myers character by adding a 45-minute-long backstory as to why is the psychotic killer that he is and in-turn gave him a soul.  But the problem was that it was a success.  The movie made over a hundred million when it was all said and done and pressure was put on Zombie by the studio to make a sequel.  Rob Zombie movies are not made to be mainstream or box office success.  I’m not saying this out of an elitist want to keep him indie.  I’m saying this because “Halloween 2” was made to be mainstream and it simply did not work.  It turned into exactly what is wrong with the horror genre today, whereas the entire movie is made up of the same scene done over and over again with no story ever developing.  I’m glad that he got the cast to return which includes the always impressive Malcom McDowell and Scout Taylor-Compton, but it wasn’t enough.  (It wasn’t enough for me to have Danielle Harris return since I’ve had a huge crush on her since I saw her in “The Last Boy Scout” when I was 13.)  Zombie is getting much more confident as a director.  He uses color and lighting in ways that most directors would consider to be too ridiculous or theatric.  But that’s becoming one of his staples.  He also used soundtrack in this film in quite innovative ways.  I’m not talking about the music though; I’m talking about the FX.  Besides the torturous sounds of knives sawing through muscle and bone and stabbing through limbs, he has sounds that make no sense in the scene playing so prominently that it’s almost distracting.  One suspenseful scene in particular has no sound at all except for a record skipping…awesome!  But again, it’s not enough.  The script is awful, the story was non-existent and the pacing of the movie was just confusing.  I await Zombie’s next movie in hopes that it’s another box office failure, which might make it a success to me.
Halloween 2 (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D+

Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-

The trailer for this movie proudly announced “Sam Raimi’s triumphant return to Horror” and boy they couldn’t be more right.  Director Sam Raimi, who you probably know from the Spiderman movies, is a cult hero of mine and many other fans of film because of some of his earliest movies which are The Evil Dead triology.  These movies are a mix of slapstick comedy, gross out effects and scary, scary stories and images.  “Drag Me to Hell” is not only following in that same line, but has kicked it up a notch.  When I saw this, there were a bunch of idiot teenagers sitting in the back of the theater talking loudly and screaming at the screen.  My girlfriend, Stacy, was getting more and more annoyed, but I told her that if you’re going to see any movie with a rowdy theater, Sam Raimi movies are the ones to see.  You know, it’s no easy task to not only make a movie that is hilarious and terrifying with equal parts yet still maintain a purely fun movie going experience.  His use of color and sound amazes me in this film.  100% of the suspense is created purely by the sound effects and the amazing music score.  The special effects are decent enough for what it was aiming for.  I frankly would be a little bummed if the King of the B Movies suddenly got a $100 million budget dropped in his lap to make a horror film.  There aren’t any big names or even famous faces in this except for maybe Justin Long (who, at the very least, you’ll recognize as the Mac guy.)  But stealing the show is Alison Lohman, who I last saw in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.”  For being an adorable, angel-faced doe, she really holds her own as the star of this VERY physical role that’s very much like the Bruce Campbell role in The Evil Dead films.  Please don’t see this film expecting the types of horror that we’ve only had to chew on for the past few years.  This is a rare breed of horror that doesn’t come along very often and when it does it’s meant to be enjoyed for exactly the only reason it was made…to have fun.

Last House on the Left

Last House on the Left (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C

Prior to seeing this movie, I saw the reviews of some other critics.  Wow, did they hate it!  The #1 reason for most of their hate was the fact that it was “unflinching” or “savage” or “disgustingly brutal.”  Does it make me a horrible person when I say that it wasn’t savage or brutal enough for me?  I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the original 1972 movie, but I do like it and think it’s a good example of horror.  The original, although it was extremely low budget, was ten times worse!  The slug line on the poster was “To avoid fainting, keep telling yourself that it’s only a movie.”  Don’t worry, you’re in no danger of fainting with this version.  Yes, there is a terrible rape scene.  Yes, there is heaps of violence.  But it’s almost like the watered-down version of what the story was.  In the original there was disemboweling, carving of names into the skin and even the biting off of male genitals.  All of that was taken out of this newer, sleeker, and more expensive version. So again, does it make me sick to be disappointed that they took that out?  This remake was even Produced by the original writer and director, Wes Craven.  You’d think he’d veto some of the changes.  He also oversaw the remake of another old movie of his “The Hills Have Eyes.”  That was a huge improvement over the original and it made me excited for this.  I was sadly letdown.  But that’s not to say that there weren’t some improvements.  For one, the acting is much better in this than it was in 1972.  The casting of Monica Potter (Saw, Patch Adams) and Tony Goldwin (Ghost, voice of Tarzan) was great.  I thought they did a great job of making you feel their hurt and pain when finding out what happened to their daughter.  The director is a guy named Dennis Iliadis, and to my knowledge he hasn’t done much of anything else before.  Not bad for a first attempt, but that might have been the problem.  You give the reigns of a movie like this to a fledgling director and you’re gonna get exactly what it was; high on production value but low on intensity.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: F

I like horror movies! I truly do!  Not only am I fan of horror movies, but I’m even a fan of re-making horror movies.  I think that the classic horrors can always use a touch-up and a sprucing in the story department.  However, the re-make of “Friday the 13th” was simply a reminder of why this franchise was always my least favorite.  Jason, in comparison with the other big ones (ie: Leatherface, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers) always seemed so stilted in his folklore.  I never even really understood it.  Is he alive, dead, a demon…what?  And considering that they marketed this as a re-make, they didn’t do anything to help explain that.  In fact it’s not much of a re-make at all.  If anything it just felt like another terrible sequel; almost like one last attempt to kick-start a dead franchise.  But in the movie’s defense, that’s all any of these re-makes are.  “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Halloween” were all trying to squeeze more cash from them, but they all brought something new to the table.  “Friday the 13th” not only doesn’t bring anything new, they don’t even bring anything old.  Sure there’s still the violence, sex and startles, but it’s executed in such a piss-poor manner that it screams “zero effort.”  It’s like they knew this was gonna make them some money, so all they did was hire gorgeous (subpar) actors, whip up a mindless script and then throw lots of money at it to see if it works.  Well, it didn’t.  It didn’t scare.  It didn’t make me laugh.  It didn’t make me jump.  The only thing it did was make me wish that the forthcoming re-makes of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Hellraiser” and “Last House on the Left” don’t follow suit.