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All reviews - Movies (78) - TV Shows (1)

Sleepaway Camp review

Posted : 50 minutes, 36 seconds ago on 7 May 2021 03:26 (A review of Sleepaway Camp)

This film's reputation as a cult classic has withstood, if only thanks to it's incredibly brief twist-ending. Now, that's not to say that "Sleepaway Camp" is a completely terrible film, but it's far from being a good one. There's no argument that it's enjoyable as the nonsensical cheese-fest that it is, but many withhold that this is not just a camp-classic, but a great horror film. But save for those final few minutes, there isn't one thing the least bit memorable about the entire endeavor. Rest assured, if not for that infamous scene, this flick would only be remembered by the most committed of retro horror fanatics.

Many of the best films in the 80's slasher boom overcame their lack of originality with creative kills, genuine suspense and creepy atmosphere. "Sleepaway Camp" has none of these things going for it. For the majority of it's runtime, it's a by the numbers summer camp slasher, whose kills are shockingly dull and mostly bloodless. The only noticeable thing happening for much of the time is the surreal characterization. Everyone in the film seems to be completely deranged. There's a pedophile camp cook, a paranoid camp director, who comes to believe that a child is responsible for the killings and attempts to murder him, for no good reason, and an aunt whose shrieking, sing-song performance borders on caricature. Most of the acting is stunted at best, excruciatingly bad at worst, and the entire film is pervaded by a sense of sleaze, but not the fun sort. As I've said, the only, even remotely memorable moment is the ending shot. Those few brief seconds, out of an hour and half long film, are all anyone seems to remember. And that shocking moment will certainly be remembered by anyone that sees it, but it's a testament to how crumby a film it really is, that that is all they seem to recall.

It frankly, irks me that this hammy shlock seems to be more widely remembered than many underrated slashers of it's time period, that contain more suspense, creative bloodshed and atmosphere in their entire run-times than this film does. But nostalgia is one hell of a drug, and horror fans will continue to recommend this film, if only for it's infamous denouement. For anyone expecting a cult-gem, they should be prepared for disappointment.

My Rating:  4/10

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The Fury review

Posted : 5 hours, 22 minutes ago on 7 May 2021 10:54 (A review of The Fury)

This is easily one of Brian DePalma's most underrated efforts. A film that combines elements of horror, action, comedy and adventure into one epic experience. Most films have a hard time being one thing, let alone excelling at four different genres at the same time. DePalma's direction is rounding out here, to the smoother style he would become known for. And the cast is simply magnificent, with Kirk Douglas giving one of the most badass performances a senior actor has ever given, and Amy Irving, whom starred in DePalma's "Carrie', this time playing a teen with telekinetic powers, herself. These two give it their best, at all times, and the supporting cast is mostly amazing as well. 

The film deftly juggles it's multiple genres, with the scenes in which Douglas steals the screen being a perfect mix of action and laughs, with witty dialogue. The closer the film gets to the end, however, the more the gory horror scenes begin to ratchet up, until the whole thing ends with an effects sequence that belongs in the annals of horror history. This film deserves to be held up with DePalma's classics, as it surely is one of his finest films. And a great film no matter what angle you look at it from.

My Rating:  9/10

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The Stepford Wives review

Posted : 5 hours, 43 minutes ago on 7 May 2021 10:33 (A review of The Stepford Wives)

This is, perhaps, one of the first "feminist" horror films. Even for those who have not seen it, the term "Stepford Wife" is ingrained in pop culture, to the point that you most likely already know the twist ending. I imagine if it were released nowadays it would draw particular ire from the reactionary crowd as a "man-hating" film, but luckily it came out in the 70's, and has remained a cult curiosity. However, despite it's good intentions and decent direction, I just wasn't blown away by it.

The pace is rather glacial, and the film does a horrible job of making it's brainwashed townsfolk seem creepy. Luckily, a fantastic cast, especially the hilarious and relatable duo of Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss, keep things moving, even when not much is happening. The film does ramp up some decent suspense very close to the end, but it's defused rather quickly. Despite all this, the picture is effective, most of the time not even feeling like a horror film, but more of a satirical lambasting of misogyny. It's implications are still worth pondering today, and it's themes more timely than ever. It's just not very effective as a horror or a thriller film.

My Rating:  6/10

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Jigsaw review

Posted : 19 hours, 52 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 08:24 (A review of Jigsaw)

It was inevitable that a franchise as profitable as "Saw" would eventually resurface again. Whether that be through a sequel, a reboot or a remake, we all knew it was bound to happen eventually. 7 years after "Saw 3D" was supposed to end the series, we were given "Jigsaw". And while the marketing kept folks guessing as to whether or not it would be a reboot or remake, it quickly becomes clear that this is simply yet another sequel, in fact, almost a prequel, to the original films. Sadly, after 7 years, I can't say it was worth the wait. This might not be the worst film in the franchise, but it's certainly one of the weakest, and just a downright strange film to begin with.

I had hopes, mostly thanks to the direction of The Spierig Brothers. The Australian duo have an unconventional style that has spawned inventive and underrated genre cult-classics such as "Daybreakers" and "Predestination", so I was hoping that they could inject new life into an exhausted franchise. Instead, this turns out to be a rather routine Saw flick when all is said and done. The problem is, it tries it's hardest to convince you it won't be. The film has a much more polished, big-budget look than it's indie predecessors. And while the cinematography is handsome, the lack of the series' signature look leaves it feeling like it's just not a "Saw" film. Furthermore, the narrative is incredibly predictable and frankly, quite boring. The film's "game" is incredibly simplistic, and though there's a reason for this, that reason just doesn't sit right. Half of the film functions as a present-day sequel, while the twist is, that the "game" takes place before the first "Saw" film itself. This truly adds nothing to the plot, especially because the present-day storyline never interacts with or affects the past one in any meaningful way. It all feels so pointless.

The traps are mostly un-inventive and rudimentary, and the characters themselves are either unappealing or simply boring. The detective characters are even more faceless, and one has trouble even keeping their names or relations to each other straight. At many intervals, the film just seems to drag along. There are a couple of slightly memorable moments, such as the "cyclone" and "laser collar" traps, but everything else is squarely mediocre. The most glaring fault is how inconsequential the entire film is. It adds nothing to the mythos nor does it do anything to advance the series. It's completely insignificant.

My Rating:  5/10

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Saw 3D review

Posted : 21 hours, 26 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 06:50 (A review of Saw 3D)

The Saw franchise momentarily seemed to regain it's footing with the surprisingly good "Saw VI", only to be followed by what is, without a doubt, the absolute worst film in the entire series. Other installments had been mediocre at worst, but none had been truly awful. It's even more insulting when taking into account that "Saw 3D" was supposed to be the final chapter of the franchise. What was once a creative, intelligent film-series is reduced to cheesy, incoherent exploitation, in atrociously cheap 3D, no less. As the closing chapter, this should've been a truly shocking, respectful final installment. Instead, it's a travesty.

I'm not even sure where to begin. The list of issues is seemingly un-ending. Chief among them is that, for the end of a long-reaching franchise, the plot of this film is completely inconsequential. Jigsaw's final target is Bobby Dagen, a supposed "survivor" of Jigsaw's games that operates as a self-help guru for other surviving victims. But his story is fabricated, and now he'll pay the price. There really is nothing more to it. Even more disappointing, is that the traps present are easily the worst in the series. Some of them are so simplistic that they're insulting to watch, while others are so elaborate that it becomes laughable. There's no middle ground. Furthermore, there are a few segments spread throughout in which completely random groups of people are tested, that have nothing to do with the plot of the film itself. It's all about the bloodshed, which can't even be enjoyed. That's thanks to an abundance of CGI gore and purple-tinted blood that looks laughable.

Perhaps most insulting is the inconsistency of the pivotal game itself, with Jigsaw's once coherent moral system. Here, a completely innocent woman is ultimately incinerated in a giant oven because of her husband's lies. There's no cruel justice here. Just a team of poor writers defecating on the corpse of a once-great franchise. The cherry on the crap-sundae is the "twist" ending, supposedly so "shocking", that merely inspires indifference. It's not some jaw-dropping revelation. It doesn't bring anything meaningful to the rest of the films. In fact, it punches them full of gigantic plot-holes instead. There's nothing to enjoy here. Only the most baseline, passable direction, and some merely decent acting. The rest is insulting garbage.

My Rating:  4/10

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Saw VI review

Posted : 21 hours, 59 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 06:17 (A review of Saw VI)

After two disappointing installments, both of which further complicated the already complex plotline of the franchise, I never would've expected this series could make a return to form. Let alone in it's sixth chapter. Yet "Saw VI" is easily the best film since number II, and ends up being one of the best films in a long line. This is no small feat, considering how off the path of the original films IV and V took us. There are tons of loose plot threads left to be tied up here, and many characters and plot developments in action that fans were not all that fond of. Yet this film managed to smooth all of these details out, and actually return some genuine suspense and intensity to the franchise.

First of all, Tobin Bell returns to a more substantial role in the film, in flashbacks of course. But his mere presence improves everything around him, and the piece of his story that this film details is actually quite profound and meaningful. After floundering to find worthy victims in the last 2 films, this one is reinvigorated by taking aim at the healthcare industry itself. It provides some surprisingly effective social commentary as a manipulative health insurance business-man is forced to grapple with his crimes and the tragedies that his manipulative policies have caused. This cleverly ties into John's story by making said business-man a focal point in denying Kramer his healthcare and ultimately killing him. The traps here are much more clever, and most importantly, carry incredible emotional weight. The carousel scene is especially ingenious, and will not be forgotten by anyone who witnesses it. This plot-line ends up carrying a strong moral message as well, and the acting is quite good. Ultimately restoring what fans expect from the series.

Meanwhile, though I'm no fan of Hoffman's character arc, even the bits of the film dealing with his story are suspenseful here. Most of the time he's frantically attempting to keep his identity from being discovered, and the constant tension becomes rather suffocating. The whole thing ends up closing with a chaotic, moving and shocking ending, in the classic Saw tradition. And though it's not quite on par with the first two films, it comes damn close to nailing the formula that made them so special. I'd honestly prefer to believe that the franchise ends here, and that Hoffman bleeds out from his injury at the end. Because, sadly, the worst was just around the corner for the series. However, this remains a film more than worth watching for fans of the original trilogy.

My Rating:  8/10

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Saw V review

Posted : 22 hours, 21 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 05:55 (A review of Saw V)

"Saw V" is easily one of the series' lowest points, although not quite at the bottom of the barrel yet. IV at least set up a new plot thread for this film to explore, so it doesn't feel quite as pointless as the last. But by the end, all of this is wiped away and one is left with a very mediocre experience. The director's reigns have been handed over to David Hackl, whose direction is so pedestrian that it leaves the film feeling and looking like a made for TV production at times, besides all of the gore. The acting is massively downgraded here as well. While Scott Patterson is decent fodder for a new leading man, Costas Mandlyor, despite his imposing looks is not convincing as the new villain. Especially because he was barely present in the last 4 films. The worst acting comes from the new gang of test subjects, several of whom are almost unbearably amateurish. Their characters are also not the least bit likeable, nor is the game they partake in that engaging.

In fact, even the traps here begin to feel by the numbers and far less creative. Perhaps the most damning aspect is that the film never even becomes suspenseful. Somehow, this franchise went from being one of the most intense horror franchises ever made, to this predictable tosh. It's easy to see exactly where the game is headed from the beginning, which only makes the insufferably stupid characters even more unbearable. Meanwhile the cat and mouse game between Strahm and Hoffman is lethargic and uninvolving. There's not even any flashback scenes with Tobin Bell to add more to the Jigsaw mythos, which may have been the only bright spot. Yet, the film never feels classically "bad". It's simply, infuriatingly mediocre. Even the signature "twist" ending has become unsurprising and lacks the impact of the originals. It's sad to see how far a franchise with such potential can fall.

My Rating:  5/10

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Saw IV review

Posted : 23 hours, 5 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 05:11 (A review of Saw IV)

"Saw IV" is where the franchise truly begins to crumble. Though the film can still be enjoyed by fans of the franchise for it's fiendish traps and a few of the loose ends it ties up, it's undone by a series of unnecessary choices and a general lack of purpose. This was the first film not written by series creator Leigh Whannell, and it shows. While "Saw III" ended the original trilogy quite messily, this one struggles to find plot threads left to hang onto. The only surviving characters are actors who played bit parts in the first three films, and who can't seem to carry the film on their own. The entire thing reeks of a quick cash-in by the studio, and it doesn't find much new ground to cover with it's narrative. Whereas the other films told surprisingly layered stories and taught fairly commendable moral lessons, this one's logic is incredibly faulty and it's plot feels like a re-hash.

The lead character of Briggs simply doesn't have a strong enough connection to the events of the series to build a convincing story thread with, and in the end, his game seems rather pointless. There truly doesn't seem to be much of a reason for Jigsaw to have tested, let alone punished him. And this is a problem that the film continues to have. Jigsaw's philosophy has never exactly been morally sound, but he was at least consistent before now. Yet, there are moments here that are simply unfair. For instance, an abused wife is bound to her abusive husband, and must remove from her body the stakes pinning them together. She is supposedly punished for failing to have the backbone to leave him, but this is simply barbaric and not in line with Kramer's moral system. Many of the traps are also rather outlandish, needlessly complex and begin to develop logical issues when scrutinized for just a few seconds.

Some of the only bright spots come in the form of more backstory for Jigsaw himself. Bell's performance continues to be as breathtaking as it always was, and even in flashbacks, he remains the most fascinating part of the franchise. The pieces of his story further elaborated on here are genuinely captivating and heartbreaking, and those moments cause one to wish that the rest of the film was as thoughtful and purposeful. But alas, the entire enterprise is beginning to feel cheap and exploitative, rather than clever and inventive. It's not atrociously awful stuff, but incredibly disappointing and not all that entertaining to watch.

My Rating:  5/10

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Saw III review

Posted : 23 hours, 8 minutes ago on 6 May 2021 05:08 (A review of Saw III)

I really want to like "Saw III" more than I do. As a great fan of the first 2 films, I held high expectations for it. And while it's certainly not a bad film, it's not entirely satisfying as what was meant to be the end of a trilogy. First of all, there are plenty of good things still in it's favor. The most fascinating part of the series continues to be Tobin Bell's portrayal of Jigsaw. Here he is quite literally on his deathbed, but still commands the screen each time he is present. The story of Jeff, emotionally portrayed by Angus Macfadyen is also captivating and tragic. There is still a lesson to be learned in his perilous "test", just as in the other films, and it's worth hearing out. The traps also continue to be fiendishly creative and some of the most iconic and squirm-inducing moments in the franchise take place here. Some of the traps may initially seem unfair, and out of line with Jigsaw's philosophy, but rest assured, there is a reason for this.

But therein lies the film's most glaring issue. It's simply far too complex, and Darren Lynn Bousman was still far too inexperienced a director at the time to carry such a daunting film. His hectic editing style works against him and the film here, rendering the plot almost incomprehensible at times. Whereas Wan juggled competing plot-threads with grace in the original film, Bousman can't seem to keep up. Especially towards the end, things become such a mess that it's genuinely dizzying trying to keep tabs on the film's structure. Far too many revelations and twists are dumped all at once, with Leigh Whannell's scripting becoming uncommonly unruly, and the whole thing ends so abruptly that it feels like a slap in the face. Whereas the Saws I & II introduced their ending twists in an iconic, mind-blowing manner, this one is just a sloppy exposition dump. It leaves no time for the incredible emotional impact and story threads to settle and come together. And considering the complexity of what happens, the ending shot doesn't feel satisfactory. There are still plot-threads untied, and the declining quality of the sequels does nothing to assuage these.

As I said, there is still good here for fans of the franchise. Some flashes and moments of the brilliance that made us Saw fans in the first place. But if Whannell wasn't capable of keeping the series together, the studio should've realized that Jigsaw's legacy should conclude here. Unfortunately, things were only to become more complicated, convoluted and pointless. This remains a decent film, worth seeing for those who enjoyed the first two, though I can't help but be disappointed that it didn't really move me in the same way.

My Rating:  6/10

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Saw II review

Posted : 1 day ago on 6 May 2021 04:10 (A review of Saw II)

Although the concept of the "Saw" sequels has become tired and cliched by now, "Saw II" was quite exciting when it first released. The concept of a sequel that centered directly on one of Jigsaw's "games" as it unfolds was fresh, compared to the first film, which was told from a different angle. And this one remains the best of the many installments that have been produced since, not only because it was the first to focus on the "traps", but because it's a quality horror film as well. There are several key differences between this and the original film, that add to it's distinct personality. Chief among them being that we see and explore the character of Jigsaw himself much more deeply here. The true center of the film is Tobin Bell, who manages to make the enigmatic character both ghoulish and incredibly sympathetic. Almost admirable in a twisted sense. This is a senior citizen serial killer, if he can even be called that, but his modus operandi and flickering humanity make him a fascinating character study. Bell's performance is captivating, and he's accompanied by a surprisingly good Danny Whalberg, who plays the hot-headed cop opposite of him. Whalberg's character is complex, not easily likeable, but we identify with his struggle to find his missing and endangered son. These two play off one and other brilliantly.

Meanwhile, the "game" itself is ingenious. This was before the films' signature traps became too convoluted, and were still stunningly creative. Call it "torture porn" if you must, but the detail and craftsmanship put into these devices of death is admirable, and the film is never bereft of innovative and genuinely suspenseful manners to off it's characters. The gore is offset by the emotional stakes, that keep the film from feeling like cheap exploitation at most times. The motley group of sinners, junkies and convicts ranges in the acting quality of the thespians portraying them, but they're mostly good. Shawnee Smith is especially remarkable as a returning victim. And the unraveling story remains almost as complex as in the original film. There are some clever twists, and the writing continues to be more concerned with uncomfortable morality plays than one might expect.

Darren Lynn Bousman takes over directing duties from James Wan, and though his frantic style would grow wearing as he continued to direct further installments, it was fresh and effective here. He ends up giving the series it's signature look. Awash in a sickening color palate, with chaotic editing that lends a feeling of intensity to the more horrific moments. Bousman proves adept at directing the actors in the more emotional scenes as well. All together, this ends up being a suspenseful, clever and surprisingly intelligent film with gore to spare. Though the franchise would decline from here, the first two films remain classics.

My Rating:  9/10

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