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All reviews - Movies (63) - TV Shows (1)

Hunter Hunter review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:32 (A review of Hunter Hunter)

This little film took me by surprise, and managed to be quite gripping from the start. It begins with an atmosphere that strikes a perfect blend of survival thriller and American gothic, while slowly ratcheting up the tension. The plot is simple, but quite unique, and the acting is very good. Devon Sawa has always been an underrated actor, and he steals the screen here, playing a grizzled character that is quite uncommon for him, but doing so in instantly believable fashion. Meanwhile, Camille Sullivan is equally good as his wife, and displays a wide range of talent. It's easy to predict that the film won't be a simple survivalist thriller, and that the plot about a wolf terrorizing this naturalist family won't be the main focal point, and the film shifts gears towards the middle of it's runtime. The twists are introduced quite ingeniously, and the film manages to sustain an intense atmosphere throughout most of the runtime. But it's towards the end that things begin to fall apart.

There were so many directions in which to take this story, but things collapse into predictability, and the easier it becomes to guess what's coming next, the more plot holes line up. I have the feeling that the filmmakers were more interested in framing the entire story around the gruesome effects shot they end the film with, and it's a brutal, somewhat unexpected ending. But in order for the film to close in this manner, the characters have to make some monumentally stupid choices, which are all the more unbelievable because the film has been trying to convince the audience of their adept survival skills. As I said, there were plenty of other directions for the story to take, many of them potentially more thrilling than what we end up with. In fact, the ending is so out of character with the rest of the film, that it almost feels like two halves. I for one, was far more interested in the suspenseful, quiet horror of the first half, than the brutality of the denouement. Still, there's plenty worth seeing here. Great acting, tactful direction, plenty of tension, and despite my reservations, the ending is certainly memorable. I just can't help but feel that it could've been more. But what is, certainly isn't bad.

My Rating:  6/10

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Willy's Wonderland review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:31 (A review of Willy's Wonderland)

If you enter "Willy's Wonderland" expecting a straight-faced horror film that places great emphasis on story and sense, you only have yourself to blame. This is a film about Nicolas Cage beating the crap out of murderous demonic animatronics. If that premise sounds like it could offer you some popcorn fun, then this is the film for you. If you find yourself rolling your eyes and heaving a sigh, move along, and maybe learn to lighten up a bit. Now, that's not to say "Willy's Wonderland" is perfect, even as the brainless, bonkers kind of genre offering it's trying to be. But if you're the target audience, it certainly has it's charms. Chief among them actually being Cage himself.

This is the exact sort of film that Cage is known for at this point in his career, the kind where he can lose his mind completely. The icing on the cake is that in this case, there are no cringey one-liners for him to spout. The script smartly portrays him as a silent, OCD-riddled badass. This is a man who stares demonic Chuck-E Cheese's props in the face, beats the battery acid out of them, and then continues mopping and playing pinball, as if this is just another day for him. It's a simultaneously hilarious, and badass performance full of energy, that plays up to Cage's strengths as an action star and and absurdist. Even when the effects and gore are in full swing, watching him silently go nuts is still the most enjoyable aspect of the production.

While his character is never given much backstory, the film itself has a surprisingly thought-out mythos. It's nothing more than the usual "urban legend" type stuff, but it's easy to swallow because the film doesn't take itself too seriously. The effects are quite good, and the animatronic critters are imposing, creepy characters, though not quite as inspired as the "Five Nights At Freddy's" characters that so clearly inspire the film's premise. Direction is choppy as well. The film has a bit of a cheap look, but it does employ some stylistic flourishes that make it feel like a gonzo comic book at times. It's greatest downfall is that during the fight scenes, the cinematography devolves into sloppy shaky-cam style. You'd think by now action film directors would have learned that audiences prefer articulate direction that actually allows you to see the punches landing, but this feels like "Crank" on acid.

The fight scenes are still enjoyable thanks to Cage, but they can become numbing at moments. Meanwhile, whilst acting is decent, Cage is the only one that stands out. The group of teenagers does add weight to the plot, but when focusing on them, the film is much less interesting. All together, I don't quite think it has the chops to be a cult classic, but it's a fun, frantic one-time viewing for those with an appreciation for midnight madness style horror flicks. While not entirely successful, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a giddy smile on my face watching Nic decapitate, curb-stomp and disembowel some foul-mouthed animatronics. The film doesn't take itself seriously, so as long as you don't either, you'll have some good old, dumb fun with it.

My Rating:  6/10

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The Empty Man review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:31 (A review of The Empty Man)

This film quite literally came out of nowhere, and disappeared almost as quickly. After being shelved for a few years, it was dumped into theaters during the very middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost as if distributors didn't have enough faith in the film other than to use it as anything but a guinea pig, to test how many theater seats they could fill with the pandemic still ongoing. This may cause one to be skeptical of the film's quality, and while I normally would be under these circumstances, I urge you not to be. For those who appreciate slow-burning, atmosphere fueled, mind-bending horror films, this one is just for you. I'm honestly quite shocked by the general public's initial reaction to it. Being a long-time horror fanatic and especially an admirer of cosmic, Lovecraftian horror, there wasn't anything the least bit confusing or muddled about this film. There aren't enough cosmic horrors being made these days, and perhaps that's why modern audiences are not susceptible to the influences this picture wears on it's sleeves.

This is not to say that it isn't a mysterious, complex film that requires attention and thought. In fact, it requires much more concentration than the jump-scare riddled horror films that usually receive releases this wide. But the film's slowing unfurling atmosphere of dread and existential anxiety make it easy to be drawn in. It's a very hypnotic experience if one just allows themselves to be enveloped by the creepiness and mystery. The filmmaking is top notch, with gorgeous, yet melancholy cinematography, and a plot that unravels piece by piece, like a thick but engrossing novel. Best of all, there are almost no clumsy, predictable jumps or atrocious CGI. There's only one "gotcha" moment in the entire film, and it is very well earned. Instead, this is a film that seeks to unnerve it's audience through the horror of the things it suggests, the concepts it explores. It's like an existential crisis laid out on screen, the unraveling of a man's perception of the world as he knows it. These things are pivotal elements of Lovecraftian/cosmic horror, and this film knows how to deliver them. Moments and lines of dialogue will burrow themselves into your sub-conscious, and it's the sort of film that you'll be thinking on for days afterwards, regardless of whether you want to or not. There are elements that speak to the human condition of wondering and dreading our place in the universe, that I haven't seen a big studio film probe in a long time.

The acting is quite good, with James Badge Dale making for a likeable leading man. There may seem to be a lack of character development, but trust me when I say that there is a very good reason for this vagary. The twist ending is very shocking, and quite brilliant, if you allow yourself to accept an ending so jarring and upsetting. It's not easy to accept, and that's the very point of the film. To make you uncomfortable in your own head, to turn your perception of what you're watching upside down and rattle you to the bones. Hopefully, this film will become something of a cult hit over the years. It already has the makings, what with the IMDB rating steadily climbing with more viewers discovering this little gem, and in time it will find it's audience. Lovers of cosmic and psychological horror like myself have already embraced it, and it honestly deserves much more respect and praise. Don't be fooled by the tacky marketing, avoid the trailers and the generic title that paint this as a goofy, "urban legend", teen horror film. It's not any of those things. Approach it with an open mind, a patient mind, and be ready to be spooked.

My Rating:  8/10

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Anything for Jackson review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:30 (A review of Anything for Jackson)

There's been a decent buzz around the horror community for this little indie film, and at first glance all is well. Whilst the plot isn't the most original, it combines enough elements from different sub-genres of horror to stand out, and the cast is quite good. But all together, the film is simply a mess. The tone is constantly switching back and forth between a very somber and creepy mood that is effective, and a goofiness and dark humor, which is not so much. In fact, it's not even clear as to whether or not the humorous moments are even intended to be as such. Regardless, the concept of a "satanic church" group meeting for coffee and snacks at the local library is hilarious, it's just that the film doesn't acknowledge the absurdity. During it's more serious moments, the atmosphere becomes quite dark, and there are certainly a few scenes that are appropriately freaky and shocking.

As mentioned, the cast is a strong suit. Especially Julian Richings and Shelia McCarthy as the satanist couple. They're both talented actors that manage to imbue their characters with a strange likability, despite the awful things they are committing. The direction is a bit clunky, and the low budget is certainly apparent in the look of the film. Despite this, the visual effects are good. But whilst the tone is shifting back and forth in a jarring manner, the film becomes increasingly muddled by the end, cultivating in a chaotic denouement that doesn't satisfyingly tie up any of the plot threads. It almost feels as though the filmmakers simply ran out of ideas, and decided to throw everything possible into the pot. There was a glimpse of something special here, but the inconsistent tone and far too busy plotline leave the film a bit of a wreck. It's worth a look for horror fans, but not what it could've been.

My Rating:  5/10

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Come Play review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:30 (A review of Come Play)

"Come Play" is the very definition of mediocracy in modern horror. While independent films have been happy to tread new ground, and reinvigorate classic sub-genres, big-studio horror has become a game of predictable jump-scares, clunky CGI and paper-thin scripting. And this film is no different. It does attempt to address some more thematic elements, such as overreliance on technology and raising mentally unstable children, but never really says anything meaningful. Worst of all, it's central premise serves as nothing but a conduit for cliched jump-scares. Each time a character notices flickering lights, and holds up a smart device to scan the room, we know we'll catch a glimpse of the film's boogeyman "Larry". The trick is repeated so many times that it simply becomes grating, and quickly obvious that the filmmaker's have absolutely no imagination. Furthermore, "Larry" doesn't make for a particularly memorable or imposing antagonist. His appearance is a cliched mash-up of "Slender Man" and "The Rake", and the CGI used to bring him to life is unconvincing.

That's not to say that the writing is any better. The film tries to be a morality play, but it ends up amounting to nothing more than "technology bad". What's funny is that the film clearly shows that our autistic main character Oliver, is not secluded by his smartphone, but by his own over-bearing mother. Somehow we're supposed to blame the technological devices he uses to communicate with those around him, rather than his inept parents. The characters are completely lacking in logic as well, with the adult characters making such imbecilic decisions that it quickly becomes ridiculous. Most of this is because the script is too barebones for the plot to advance without characters intentionally doing the stupidest things possible. And strangely, the child actors outclass the small adult cast, who simply phone in their lines, while the kiddos seem much more sincere in their roles. In the end, it's another film to add to the batch of wide release horror flicks in which CGI ghoulies repetitiously jump out at characters with the collective IQ level of a thumbtack. The direction and cinematography are decent, but all other things, acting, plot, writing and logic are completely void.

My Rating:  5/10

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Spell review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:30 (A review of Spell)

If there's one thing that's clear long before one even begins watching "Spell", it's the films complete lack of originality. All it requires is to skim a plot summary to realize that this is nothing more than a riff on "Misery" with some old-fashioned voodoo thrown in. Even those aspects of the plot are highly generic, and the entire thing ends up feeling like a crude smash-up of "The Skeleton Key" and the previously mentioned King classic. This still could've been a fun, suspenseful little flick, if not the least bit clever, but it can't even manage that somehow. The direction and cinematography are stylish, but beyond the polish and glean, there isn't the least bit of tension, let alone a coherent script. The characters are the most rudimentary clichés, and while the film does attempt to comment on the class divide in the black community, it never really grapples with those themes in any meaningful way. Our main character is given a more complex history, but he never grows or develops as the film moves along, nor does the script tie together any of these narrative strings. It simply gives up trying to be anything more than a basic horror film halfway through, despite spending plenty of time trying to be more.

The cast is quite bad as well. The film overwhelmingly focuses on it's two leads, Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine. Hardwick is decent, but Devine is horribly miscast as the evil voodoo priestess. She plays the character with an overflowing sense of camp, every line delivered in an exaggerated cackle or shout. Her giggling and shrieking quickly becomes grating, and rather than coming off as menacing, you just want her to be killed off as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the plot is punched full of holes large enough to drive a truck through, leaving our protagonist with multiple chances of escape that he simply fuddles, amongst even more logic and narrative issues. By the end, the whole thing has become a tedious, laughable mess. There are a few moments of twisted gore, but nothing all that shocking or memorable. And as stated, the film never sustains an element of tension or suspense. It's just a chore to sit through. We could always do with more voodoo themed horror films, but this is not how it's done.

My Rating:  4/10

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Bad Hair review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:29 (A review of Bad Hair)

Strangely enough, the concept of a film about killer hair is nothing new. This ground was already tread in 1993 in a segment of the anthology film "Body Parts", by John Carpenter no less, and again in "Exte: Hair Extensions", a 2007 Japanese flick. However, this film promised to give it's own spin on the concept, by using killer weaves to examine racism in the 1980's black entertainment industry. It only achieves this end to a certain extent, and it's jumbled themes and tone end up dulling it's message, but it's socio-political elements are certainly the most successful part of the picture. It very successfully re-creates the culture of the "black 80's", and it's usage of slave mythology is welcome. There are many interesting cultural avenues yet to be explored in horror, and African American mythology is a rich, and relevant source. At times the film also makes some affecting observations on how black people are forced to sell, and dumb down their own culture to compete in capitalist society.

But sadly, it's when the film is trying to be a horror that it begins to fall apart. The effects for the killer hair are quite clunky, though a few scenes provide some creepy visuals. The horror plotline just never fully meshes with the political aspects in any meaningful way. There's also, obviously an undercurrent of dark humor lining the entire film, but it never really becomes funny. The absurdity of hair attacking and killing people quickly wears off, and there's never really any sense of fear or suspense. The cinematography is nice, and effectively captures the grainy look of a lost 80's film. Meanwhile the cast is quite good, especially leading lady Elle Lorraine, who is very impressive for an actress with so few roles. Those are the only bright spots in a messy film that can't decide whether it wants to be funny, intelligent or just odd, and whose director doesn't have the ability to juggle all three.

My Rating:  5/10

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Ghosts of War review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:29 (A review of Ghosts of War)

The concept of tying together a classic ghost story, with a WWII film is quite a genius one. And there were more than enough good components here to make this a worthwhile film. The direction and writing of Eric Bress, responsible for the cult favorite "The Butterfly Effect", and a cast of talented young actors, both suggested good things. Sadly, the film is lesser than the sum of it's parts, and a prime example of how a visionary director's reach can extend their grasp. Simply put, the film just isn't that good.

It starts off well enough, and while the initial plotline of a haunted mansion is cliched, the setting makes it unique enough to keep one's interest. The cinematography and style of the film is handsome, and the characters are likeable enough. But the scares are all been there, done that jumps, easy to see coming from a mile away. Couple that with some clunky, often laughable CGI effects for the ghosts, and the horror aspect of the film is already on shaky feet. If it had opted for a more old-school feel, reliant more on plot and atmosphere than loud jump-scares, this could've been something special. But the film hasn't even begun to fall apart all the way, not until the incredible misfire of an ending.

Bress obviously meant for the film to be much more than the simple horror flick it seems at the outset. During the twist, he tries to probe some interesting themes related to modern warfare, but at this point, the film has become all too busy. It dumps a huge amount of exposition in a mere 10 minutes, mixing together science fiction, supernatural horror and social commentary into an unholy mess. There are certainly impactful moments in these last few minutes, but the film is juggling between too many competing strands of plot for them to come together. In attempting to say something meaningful, but using such a messy, ill-advised script to do so, it simply becomes silly. There are two vastly different, potentially interesting films smashed into one here. The ghost story, and the science fiction plots would make fascinating films on their own. But together, they only drag each other down. And at the end of the day, Bress simply doesn't seem to have the chops to pull of a horror film. It's a shame.

My Rating:  5/10

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The Dark and the Wicked review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:29 (A review of The Dark and the Wicked)

I truly wasn't expecting this little indie film to be one of my favorite horror releases of 2020, but it slowly and surely won me over in the end. Director Bryan Bertino is an unpredictable filmmaker, who has stuck to the horror genre in his work, but whose style and thematical approach is never confined to one kind of horror. He covered home invasion in "The Strangers" and monster movies with "The Monster", but here he explores supernatural horror. Much like his 2016 film; "The Monster", this one also focuses greatly emotion and drama. As much as it's supernatural, it's also a human horror story. Bertino takes cues from the recent trend of "elevated horror", employing slow-burning tension, and using horror as a metaphor for emotion and mental illness. I much prefer these sorts of artful, suspenseful horror films that get under your skin, and inside your head.

"The Dark And The Wicked" namely explores the terror of loneliness. The grief and depression that isolation can inflict upon an individual. It's titular entity seems to feed on the depression and suicidality it instills in it's victims, as it slowly isolates them and convinces them there is no hope. The nameless thing almost seems to be hopelessness incarnate. It causes hallucinations and tricks it's prey into either isolating themselves, or believing they are alone, seemingly the only way it can devour them. Many viewers seem irked by the lack of a name, or face given to it's intangible terror, but it's easy to see what the entity wants from it's victims, and what it drives them to. We need not know exactly what, or who it is, the horror is in what it wants, and what it does.

The direction and cinematography are low-key, atmospheric and tinged with greyish-hues, blanketed by darkness. The film looks, and feels as bleak and melancholy as it's characters feel. It builds up slow, subtle horror, before presenting it's viewers with disquieting, uncomfortable visuals and well earned jumps. Even the sound design will have you awaiting the sound of invisible footsteps, creaking floorboards and raspy breaths. It's truly a frightening experience. The acting is good, with purposefully under-stated performances from the small cast. They don't over-act during the more emotional moments, which makes the tour de force ending more effective.

There isn't much character development, and though this is easily seen as a stylistic choice, a bit more backstory wouldn't have hurt. Still, we glean enough from conversation to know that this family is estranged, and how they are such perfect prey. This isn't in your face horror. It doesn't have a tight story. It's all about the feeling, the atmosphere, the dread and isolation. It is nothing more than the tale of a demon, a thing, that feeds on the lonely, the hopeless and the ill. There is a meaning to be understood, if one is willing to allow themselves to be led to it. This is horror for those who can appreciate slow burns, psychological scares and strong atmosphere.

My Rating:  8/10

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The Mortuary Collection review

Posted : 2 weeks ago on 8 April 2021 01:28 (A review of The Mortuary Collection)

Director and writer Ryan Spindell is obviously a huge horror fanatic. His debut feature film is a twisted love letter to the genre, combining elements from various decades of horror into one big, fun, surprisingly intelligent celebration of fear. The film harkens back to "Tales From The Crypt", with a dash of influence from the old Amicus anthology films, combining gross out humor and gore with classic morality plays. Most anthology films feature at least one disappointing segment, but this is the rare film of it's kind in which each story is as good as the last. All 3 tales are clever, blackly humorous and well directed by Spindell. The entire film a sheen of dark, yet colorful cinematography, and the set designs shift back and forth, between believable recreations of different time periods.

Best of all, right when you expect the ending to fall back on clichés, it delivers a final twist that will leave retro horror fans feeling giddy. The abundance of practical effects is more than welcome, and are of excellent quality for a lower-budget film. And the wrap-around is equally engaging as the stories themselves, thanks in large part to Clancy Brown's excellent performance as the mortician. Acting is good across the board, in most of the segments as well. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's been some time since we've had an anthology film of this quality, or with this much love placed into it's making. If you're a bona-fide horror fan, you can't afford to miss it.

My Rating:  8/10

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