Poltergeist (1982)

This House …………………………… is Clean

One of the final movies of the October Horror-thon will be a movie that I vaguely believe my roommate Richard suggested I review. I remember him mentioning it but it may not have been an official request. Whatever, I’m doin’ it! Today’s movie will be the classic horror movie, Poltergeist, directed by Tobe Hooper, presented to us by Steven Spielberg, and starring Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Dominique Dunne, Zelda Rubinstein, Beatrice Straight, and Richard Lawson.

Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams) Freeling live a fairly uneventful life with their three children, Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Steven is a realtor and Diane is a stay at home wife, Dana and Robbie are kids, and Carol Anne talks to TVs. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. One night, while Carol Anne is having a riveting chat with her friends the “TV People”, a ghostly hand comes out of the TV and jumps into the wall, waking her family. Carol Anne informs them, famously, that “They’re here.” The crazy times begin to occur with a greater degree of frequency. Drinking glasses break, chairs movie and spontaneously stack themselves, all that normal stuff. It begins to get a little big troublesome when the ugly, old tree in their backyard breaks a window and tries to eat Robbie. While Steven and Diane try to rescue him, Carol Anne is sucked into the closet and she disappears. If this girl was gay, her eventual escape from her closet domain would set up a great joke. Instead, they can just have conversations with her through the TV. With the help of some paranormal investigators and a fat, midget, female Elvis, the family must try to rescue their daughter from the TV.

This is a fairly older movie, but it stands up on a lot of levels. There are a couple of things that don’t really hold up, but I feel it’s just because of either the budget, the time, or both. We’ll get into that as it comes. The story still works and I feel like the movie could have a pretty awesome remake if they wanted, as long as they didn’t screw that up. Of course, the whole premise that the movie starts with, that a TV, if left on long enough, will play some pro-America thing and then go to static would be lost on today’s youth. The little girl would have to try to talk to the TV through commercials about making your penis bigger. But I always approve of a good ghost movie, so I’m willing to accept that. I wouldn’t say this horror movie was that scary by today’s standards. I don’t know that it would have been back when it came out because the only thing I thought was scary at the time was the prospect of not being the first sperm to the egg. But they did some cool scary things and had some things that were more goofy. The chairs moving and stuff was just there. The tree trying to eat the boy and the coffins sprouting out of the ground were the closest they got to scares. The Incredible Hulk riding a floating horse toy around the bedroom could possibly qualify as goofy. That actually happened, by the way. I wish I could make that up.

The effects are the things that don’t always hold up in this movie. Some of them still work great, but some of them are laughably bad. The ghosts, for instance, are awesome. They’re a lot like the ghosts from Ghostbusters. You can see through them, but not the look nor the lighting of the room around them give a clue to the fact that it was probably superimposed. They look really good. The part where the steak is crawling across the counter is kind of funny, but the effect holds up, and it quickly turns gross. I’m not sure what the story was with the afterbirth that covered the things that came out of the ceiling portal after being thrown into the closet, but it still worked. Also, this movie did a thing similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street when the poltergeist grabs JoBeth Williams and drags her up the wall like she’s in a Jamiroquai video, which only serves to make me MORE angry at A Nightmare on Elm Street because one of the few cool things they did in their movie was stolen from a much better movie. By the way, I am proud to admit that I totally spelled Jamiroquai correctly on the first try. The biggest thing that does not hold up at all is the part where one of the investigators is made to hallucinate that he’s tearing his own face off. It starts off with him looking at a fairly well done scar on his face, cuts to the sink, and cuts back to the most obviously and laughably fake head I’ve seen in recent memory. I know this movie is older than I am so I give it a pass, but it’s what makes me think they should remake it. They could totally make that brutal and terrifying today.

The acting was definitely solid, especially for a movie with so many kids in it. Generally speaking, I don’t expect a kid to be able to act unless it’s last name is Fanning, but these ones all did fairly well. Dominique Dunne was inexplicably absent for a good part of the movie. She was apparently on a date when the family was trying to save Carol Anne and wasn’t present for most of the rest of the movie. Heather O’Rourke was ridiculously adorable and even a little bit creepy. I liked her performance. On the other hand, that little boy pissed me off. He had gigantic buck teeth and whined in the most irritating way when he first heard Carol Anne’s voice coming from the TV that I knew I would’ve choked him out if I were there. SAY IT WITH YOUR WORDS, YOU BUCK TOOTHED PIECE OF … okay, I may have overreacted … Oh no, he’s not breathing. Both of the parents did a fine job. Craig T. Nelson is pretty charming for the first part of the movie and seemingly turns into a sleep-deprived alcoholic overnight when Carol Anne goes missing. Certainly the breakthrough performance of this movie was fat, midget, female Elvis, Zelda Rubinstein. For more than just sharing a name with a great video game series, I liked her. That is, of course, assuming her purpose was to make me laugh by just being there. But what was up with those construction workers that were putting the pool in their backyard? Were they the only construction guys in town or something? ‘Cause these dudes didn’t seem to do much work, made lewd gestures at their underage daughter as her mother watched, and leaned into the kitchen to grub on their food right out of the pot and put that saliva drenched spoon back into the chili pot. How are they still working?

Also, it turned out it was a bad idea to click through on Wikipedia to the life stories of the three kids from this movie. All three of their careers are dead but that’s mostly because the two girls are FULLY dead. The youngest, Heather O’Rourke, died at 12 from cardiac arrest brought on by the flu, and the oldest, Dominique Dunne, was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend in front of her house. Dude only served 4 years. I would recommend that you do no such research on the movie, but I’ve already done it for you. Instead, I’ll just recommend that you watch Poltergeist. There are a couple of things that don’t hold up in this movie, but not enough to keep it from being a good watch. I’ll give this movie “This house has many hearts” out of “Go to the light!”

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What Lies Beneath (2000)

You Stole the Dead Woman’s Shoe?

With October Horror-thon coming to a close, I picked an odd movie that I now feel barely qualifies as a horror movie.  It has a ghost thing going on, but not a super strong one.  But it was on the top of the pile I pulled of horror movies and so it’s happening.  The movie is called What Lies Beneath, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Amber Valletta, Miranda Otto, James Remar, Diana Scarwid, and Joe Morton.

Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her husband Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) send their daughter off to college, leaving Claire all mopey about it.  One night, the Spencers hear their new neighbors, Mary (Miranda Otto) and Warren (James Remar) Feur, have a big argument.  Claire decides to get all Rear Window about it and spies on them through binoculars.  One night, she sees Warren dragging a big bag into the trunk of his car.  Being that there is no other, logical explanation, Claire decides Warren killed Mary.  Claire starts having some strange occurrences that lead her to believe that Mary is haunting her.  Claire has a seance to contact Mary and the Ouija board starts to move from M to F.  Obviously, this means it’s Mary.  She goes to her husband at work and gets all worked up when he tries to tell her that she’s overreacting.  To show just how much she’s not overreacting, she accuses Warren to his face until Mary joins in on the conversation.  Claire temporarily lets the situation go until she finds a newspaper clipping about a missing girl named Madison Elizabeth Frank.  She performs a ritual with a braid of Madison’s hair she steals from Madison’s mother that causes Claire to be temporarily possessed by Madison.  Claire must find out what the connection is between Madison and her family and why she’s been haunting them.

As I said in the prologue, I wasn’t really feeling like this movie would qualify as a horror movie through the first part of it, but it kind of brought it home in the end.  It did pull off some good startles and some suspense as well, but without any gore or confirmed supernatural occurrences, I became worried that I would have to watch ANOTHER movie before going to bed because this one wouldn’t count towards the arbitrary rule I set on myself for doing all horror movies.  I thought that Pfeiffer was only imagining ghosts because she had been in a car accident that caused her to forget certain things she saw before the accident and the “ghost” thing was just the way her memories were returning, but thankfully, near the end of the movie, things were revealed that actually had ghosts so it justified it.

I do actually kind of dig this movie.  It pulls off the suspense it goes after for the most part.  I feel like part of my enjoyment might have been because it was Robert Zemeckis, who I will eternally love for Back to the Future, but I didn’t know it was him until I started writing the review.  The movie is a little slow to start and it does feel like the whole misdirection thing involving their neighbors was a waste of time, but it was still pretty entertaining, and that’s all I really require out of a movie when push comes to shove.  I hadn’t thought about it until just now, but since the ghost had nothing to do with the neighbors, that was probably 45 minutes of unnecessary stuff in the movie.  But it turns out in the end that the ghost’s problem isn’t even with Pfeiffer, so what the hell?  Why’re you haunting her when one could assume you have the power to go after the person you actually have the problem with just as easily?

The acting is pretty good.  Pfeiffer had to pull off two distinct performances at times in this movie.  When she was Claire her stress levels were slowly climbing to a boiling point as the movie progressed, took a bit of a lull in the lower half of the movie, and then popped right back up to where they were pretty quickly.  Then she also played the much more confident, pushy, and seductive ghost-possessed Claire and the performance really showed a range for Pfeiffer.  Not a range that I didn’t already know she had though.  She did the same kind of thing in Batman Returns, technically.  Selina Kyle starts off nerdy and timid until she gets thrown out of a window by Christopher Walken.  Then Catwoman comes in all sexy and sassy.  Same principle, less leather.  Harrison Ford had an interesting performance as well.  For the first 2/3 of the movie, he really doesn’t make much of an impression, but shows up in the last third.  He’s technically present for it, but it’s more about Pfeiffer at that point.  When it’s his turn and the back story is being revealed, you kind of feel bad for him for a while.  He messed up, but he seems to deeply regret it.  And by the very end of the movie, you don’t feel as bad for him anymore.  There were very few other people in this movie so I don’t really know what else to say about their performances.  It was mainly Catwoman and Han Solo.

The movie only barely manages to qualify as a horror movie, so I would avoid going into it expecting one.  Instead, go in expecting a suspense movie with a bit of a slow start but some solid performances and you should say this movie is thoroughly okay.  And that’s what I have done.  I have decided it is okay, but thoroughly so!  And I will give this movie “Claire’s hearing things” out of “Forbidden fruit.”

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Stephen King’s It (1990)

There’s Something Terribly Wrong Here In Derry

It has been a long time since I watched It, and it’s been a long time since I started It. October Horror-thon continues with a movie that I had no idea was actually BOTH sides of the disc it came on. I went in thinking I would rewatch a movie that was only an hour and a half, but it turned out to be double that. But Stephen King movies can tend to be pretty long. I’m pretty sure I’ve sat through The Stand too. This isn’t nearly as long as that, but it is surely an investment. Today’s movie is the classic Stephen King movie (that is apparently a 2-part TV movie turned one long movie), It, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, written by Stephen King, and starring Tim Curry, John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson, Tim Reid, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, and Michael Cole, and the 1960’s versions of the same characters being played by Tim Curry again, Brandon Crane, Emily Perkins, Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Marlon Taylor, Adam Faraizl, Ben Heller, and Jarred Blancard. Thems is some cast.

In the beginning, a young girl is riding a tricycle until her mother tells her to come inside. As she’s heading inside, she sees a clown in her mother’s hanging laundry. By the way, does anyone use laundry lines anymore? Probably just the deep south. Well anyways, when the mother comes back outside, the girl is apparently dead. We don’t see it, so we can hardly be sure. Mike Hanlon (1990 = Tim Reid, 1960 – Marlon Taylor) finds out about the murder and realizes that something he and his friends dealt with in their past has returned and is killing kids, so they have to deal with it because they promised each other 30 years earlier. These friends were a bunch of misfits that came together to form what they called “The Losers Club” (which is a much worse name than the Breakfast Club) and was comprised of Bill (1990 = Richard Thomas, 1960 = Jonathan Brandis), Beverly (1990 = Annette O’Toole, 1960 = Emily Perkins), Richie (1990 = Harry Anderson, 1960 = Seth Green), Eddie (1990 = Dennis Christopher, 1960 = Adam Faraizl), Ben (1990 = John Ritter, 1960 = Brandon Crane), Stan (1990 = Richard Masur, 1960 = Ben Heller), and Mike. And I am so happy that I got having to type all of those names out of the way. The remainder of the movie is told jumping back and forth between 1990 and 1960, so I will do my best to summarize.

As Mike calls each of his friend, we catch a piece of what brought them together and what brought them to the problem they must return for. The fat kid is bullied and has no friends until he comes across the stutterer and the asthmatic and they resolve to build a dam for some reason. (By the way, I’ve lost interest in trying to find what their names are, so this is how I will refer to them from now on). The fat kid gets a crush on the girl and introduces her to the group, then they are joined by the comedian (which I say because “the funny one” would indicate that his comedy was funny) and the boyscout. Later on the black one joins. Each one of the Losers encounter a monster that usually comes in the shape of a clown that introduces itself as Pennywise (Tim Curry), but they call It (I will call it Pennywise because It may get confusing). Pennywise kills the stutterer’s little brother and a couple other kids around town. After each of the Losers has encountered Pennywise on their own, they resolve they must destroy it. They manage to damage Pennywise before he escapes, and the group file that under “Good Enough”, but promise to return if it should ever return. They then forget all about the situation until the grown up black one calls them about Pennywise’s return. The group must reunite to take out Pennywise once and for all … except for the boyscout. He kills himself instead.

Oh my Odin! Has any one movie caused me to write so much description before I get to the review? Because it took me so long, I’ll just say “fuck this movie” and call that a review …

…You still here? Okay, I’ll review it. Disregard the “fuck this movie”. It was said out of frustration and I didn’t mean it. This movie is solid, but it has certainly lost something with the combination of time and the fact that I didn’t realize it was a made for tv movie so I expected more for the budget. Best I can tell, this movie is about fear and not letting it run your life. When they’re kids, their fear is in their imagination and no one can see the effects Pennywise has except the kids. That same fear haunts them still into adulthood and has left them not at their best. The fat kid is an alcoholic, the girl is in an abusive relationship, the asthmatic is still a virgin, the boyscout kills himself at the mere mention of Pennywise, the black one is still black, and the stutterer has basically turned into Stephen King. The comedian, however, is way more successful than the quality of his humor should justify. Once they conquer their fear, their lives take a turn for the better. I would say that the resolution could have been better, though. You would assume that conquering their fears would just involve them deciding they are no longer afraid and Pennywise no longer has any power over them, and then simply fades away. Instead, conquering their fears takes the form of beating the shit out of a giant, fake-y spider with their bare hands and feet. I guess the message still remains.

This movie had it’s fair share of cliche’s though. The fat kid who is new to school gets picked on by the most classic greaser gang I’ve ever seen since Indiana Jones 4 (and, just as cliched, the fat kid manages to find the ability to beat up his bully). And what’s that little greaser shit’s problem? When fatty first shows up, he openly mocks the kid in class. Fatty just sits down and does nothing to him, but the greaser gets all mad at fatty when the teacher punishes him. Fatty ain’t done nothing to you. You should’ve waited until there wasn’t a teacher directly in front of you to mock him if you didn’t want to get in trouble so bad. This greaser was also a racist, so of course they pick on the black kid as well. It made me laugh when they were chasing him, though. You honkeys can’t catch the black man. That’s just genetics. Man, I am going to convince the world that I’m a racist in this one review, aren’t I? They also have a building montage when the kids make their little dam, and not much is more cliched than a montage. Also, is every visiting businessman Japanese? How many times has a business person had to deal with a group of visiting businessmen in movies and almost every time they’re Japanese. I’m sure other places have businesses. They did do one thing that broke from norms when they all tested each other to see who was the best shot with the slingshot and the girl won, probably because all of the boys couldn’t see and/or count. When they were shooting at the bottles, they said she got 10 out of 10, but I’m pretty sure I counted 6. I understand the need to have a girl in the group so as not to seem sexist, but this chick is stringing along the fat one while having a crush on the stutterer, though she will openly kiss any of the other ones right on the mouth. These boys probably ran a train on this girl in the college years. Except for the asthmatic. VIRGIN!

There were a lot of things to this movie that didn’t work for me. For instance, should the person that stutters really be trying to finish people’s sentences so much? You can’t even finish your own! When the girl has had enough of her abusive boyfriend, she starts throwing things from her counter at him. She hits him with heavy glass items, metal items, but what takes him down? The plastic cream container. And when Pennywise is trying to lure fatty into the sewers by turning into fatty’s deceased father, why would he turn back to the creepy clown instead of staying in the form of his dad until he got into the sewers? Didn’t think that one out, did ya Pennywise? The giant creature that Pennywise has turned into at the end of the movie is really obviously superimposed, but when I found out this was a made for TV movie from 1990, I had to give it a pass. What I refuse to give a pass is the gigantic problems with these kid’s imaginary problems. I swear it took me until the second disc – one and a half hours in – to realize that only the kids could see the blood coming out of the sink, or the balloons that burst and sprayed blood, or the blood coming out of the photo album of the stutterer’s little brother. I assumed that it was a Freddy Krueger type thing where the parents acted like nothing was happening because it would go away if you ignored it. And, when I had finally figured out that only the kids could see it, they did the scene in the library where the blood-filled balloons burst in people’s faces but they all obviously flinched.

Then we come to the performances. The only thing I liked about most of the performances was getting to see Seth Green from way back when and getting to remember who Jonathan Brandis was. That guy was the biggest thing back in the day. Whatever happened to him. …Oh. Hanged himself? Pennywise must’ve come back… Um…Seth Green, everybody! I love Robot Chicken! Most of the performances of the kids were solid. I don’t expect much from child actors, generally. I don’t think all of them need to be a Fanning or something. I did have problems with the adults though. At least in the first disc, most of the adult characters were needlessly hamming it up. Except Ritter. Ritter was the fuckin’ BOSS! I miss that dude… Damnit, Robert! Stop with the deaths and sadness! Ritter was very good though. Harry Anderson’s comedian character got on my nerves. As a kid, I accepted it. That was either because I like Seth Green or because kids think they’re funny but they’re not. His humor didn’t really evolve much into adulthood and he just served to grate on my nerves. Tim Curry kind of hammed it up as well, but he was playing a clown, so I called it appropriate. And, of course, he was pretty damned unsettling as well, but when ISN’T Tim Curry unsettling. I figure Pennywise is the reason some people are afraid of clowns. On the negative side, the character occasionally reminded me of Freddy Krueger in that he was a killer that made lots of lame jokes while trying to be scary, and I don’t appreciate being forced to remember Freddy.

Damn. That review was almost as long as the movie. I feel like I should throw in right now that I would not consider myself a racist or a sexist, so if you could take those comments above with a grain of salt, it would be appreciated. I can’t really filter something I think is funny. As for the movie, it’s really long and just barely worth the time. The story is alright, the meaning is good, most of the performances are tedious, and a lot of things don’t make sense. It’s not horrible, but there are better ways to spend almost 3 hours. I’ll give this movie “They all float down here” out of “Want a balloon?”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

The More You Pay Attention To It, The Better It Gets

I managed to get a current movie into the October Horror-thon before I ran out of time.  As you may have been able to tell from my previous review, I was skeptical going into this movie.  After I lost a bit of love for it because of the second movie, I assumed it would only get worse for the third part.  Let’s see if it did in my review of Paranormal Activity 3, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, and starring Lauren Bittner, Christopher Nicholas Smith, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, and briefly bringing back Katie Featherston and Sprague Grayden.

We first briefly cut to scenes of Katie Featherston bringing some tapes to her pregnant sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden).  Then we cut to the scene where Kristi and her husband Dan (Brian Boland) are looking through their recently trashed house to see if anything was stolen, finding only that the box of tapes from their childhood were stolen.  Now we jump into those tapes.  We’re back in 1988 where young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) live with their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith).  They’re a normal family except for the fact that Kristi has an “imaginary” friend named Toby, though he prefers to be called Kunta Kinte.  Well that’s actually not that unusual for a kid, I hear.  The weird thing is that Dennis noticed that, ever since Toby came into the equation, strange things have been happening around the house.  Dennis, who works as a wedding photographer/video taper, decides he wants to set up a camera in the house to catch it on tape.  One night, he convinces Julie to make a very awkward sex tape, but they’re interrupted by an earthquake.  While reviewing the film later, Dennis realizes that some dust that fell from the ceiling landed on an invisible figure and stayed there until the figure disappeared in a puff of dust.  Dennis amps up the surveillance, placing three cameras around the house.  One goes in their room, one goes in the loft at the top of the stairs that they claim is a bedroom for their daughters, and the other one goes on a disassembled fan that moves the camera from side to side.  As in the other movies, these camera catch many strange events that slowly amp up in scariness until they reach a crescendo that may not mean good things for the family.

I am prepared to offer this movie the title of “Best of the Three Paranormal Activity movies”.  It obviously has a lot in common with the other movies, from the found-footage style of filming to the premise of the movie, and even the characters.  What this one does on top of that is show that the filmmakers imagination and ability in regards to cool, creepy ghost occurrences has improved drastically, and it also brings us back story that helps us understand the first two movies as well.  The part where the dust falls on the ghost figure is really well done and pretty spooky.  Later on, the kid’s babysitter tells the kids a ghost story by putting a bed sheet over herself.  Later, as she’s downstairs doing homework, the sentry fan-cam catches a glimpse of someone the kid’s height under the bed sheet in the corner, then goes back to her, then back to the corner where it’s gone, then back to her where the sheet-covered figure is standing behind the babysitter.  As the camera turns back the other way, the figure dissolves and the sheet plops to the ground.  Very well done.  It’s like a David Copperfield trick, but scary.  Shortly after an attempt to play “Bloody Mary” seemingly pisses Toby off, Katie is chasing Kristi through their room where she runs into an invisible figure and is then hoisted into the air by her hair by it.  That’s what you get!  Bloody Mary ain’t a game!  And when the family picks up and goes to Julie’s mother’s house, the tension builds on itself very drastically until bringing us to a big release at the very end that was nowhere near as disappointing to me as the endings of the other two movies.  There are plenty more creepy occurrences, to be sure, but I don’t want to ruin them for you.  Check them out, you probably won’t be disappointed.

Now, one problem I had was that continuity seemed to be up for grab in this movie in comparison to the other movies.  Having just watched all three in the same day, I’m still thinking that they did not work out all of the problems with it.  This movie does show us where the picture that debuts in the first movie was taken, and I thought that was cool, but other things didn’t match up.  One that I got wrong was that I thought throughout this movie was that I thought it was Katie who was haunted, but after watching the other two I remembered that Kristi was chronologically haunted first and then that Mexican maid bitch and her douche nozzle husband had it sent over to Katie.  But in the first movie she says that the demon has never been so violent before after she was dragged out of the room by it, apparently having forgotten the fact that she was dragged around by the demon in this movie as well as hoisted by her hair.  And if you want to argue that she forgot it because of how long ago it was then I ask you how she remembered so damned much about that picture.  There’s another big one that I’m still not sure how they make it work out, but I don’t want to ruin it so I must leave it off.

Let’s talk performances.  They give us the same quality of performances in this movie as in the other ones.  All of the characters (and even the kids) give really realistic performances and all seem like real people, which again adds to the movie’s ability to draw us in to believing this really happened.  I do have problems with the characters that is the fault of the writers though.  For instance, in the very beginning when Katie brings the tapes to the pregnant Kristi, Kristi’s husband Dan is filming his pregnant wife standing on a ladder and painting Hunter’s room.  Really, dude?  You are making a very hard run at father/husband of the year.  I did wonder how the women of this family always seem to attract men who love video editing though.  Julie, Katie, and Kristi all brought Dennis, Micah, and Dan into their nonsense and all of these guys have a major hard on for filming everything in their world.  Which brings us into the next problem: Incredulity.  Every one of these movies could’ve ended on a much happier note if not for Micah, Dan, and Julie being so incredulous when it comes to these hauntings.  Micah started believing pretty quickly into the movie, but both Dan and Julie went nearly the entire movie acting like none of these strange things were happening and, like Katie, blaming the person who was filming it.  Katie (possibly correctly) believes that Micah’s filming is just agitating the demon, Dan gets angry about Kristi and Ali believing in this stuff, and Julie flat out says that the girls are freaking out about a ghost because of Dennis.  Really, bitch?  You wanna see the video evidence I have that your daughter was just lifted in the air by her hair by a ghost?  She didn’t even see that stuff because she was busy irrationally blaming him for it.  Let this be a lesson to all of you: If your loved one tells you numerous times that you have a haunting, go ahead and have a priest come out for a second opinion or risk having your neck broken in a very laughable way.

I definitely think you guys should hit up your local theaters and check out this movie.  I had mild continuity issues (some of which are still unresolved) and I admittedly got a little bored in the middle of the movie, the end of the movie and the cool new spookiness definitely puts it ahead of both other Paranormal Activity installments.  We still have unresolved issues with this family that I hope will be tied up in at least one other movie, but I also hope they don’t run out of good ideas by then.  I’ll give this movie “Toby” out of “Kunta Kinte.”

Hey, peeps.  Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh?  And tell your friends!  Let’s make me famous!

Paranormal Activity (2007) and Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

I Don’t Know If The House Is Haunted, But I Hope It Is.

I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to see the October Horror-thon come to a conclusion, but we’re nearly there. Today, I decided I’d go see the third of the Paranormal Activity series in theaters, but that review comes tomorrow. Today, I will slam Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 together in one review so we can be up to date with PA before I bring you the third. Paranormal Activity was written and directed by Oren Peli and stars Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, and Ashley Palmer, and Paranormal Activity 2 is directed by Tod Williams and stars mostly the same people, but adds Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, and Vivis Colombetti. Prepare yourself for spoilers.

Paranormal Activity

Katie Featherston comes home to find that her boyfriend, Micah Sloat, has purchased a brand new camera in order to attempt to capture signs of ghostly activity that Katie claims has haunted her since her youth. After playing around with his camera as any good Technophile would, they retire for the evening and leave the camera running just beyond the foot of their bed, looking down the hallway. Prepare to see a lot of this camera angle. At first, the activity is fairly uneventful, catching mostly the sound of footsteps and lights turning on and off by themselves. Then, it escalates drastically to Katie’s keys being found on the floor! So they hire a psychic named Dr. Mark Fredrichs, who decides that they are not haunted by a ghost, but by a demon. He gives them the phone number of a demonologist named Dr. Johann Averies and advises them to contact him. Katie wants to, but Micah is an idiot. He thinks he can handle this ghost problem with a Ouiji board and a punch to the mouth of that ghost if he steps out of line. The activity slowly escalates night by night. It goes to a door moving by itself, Katie hears voices that rouse her from her sleep, and finally a load roar and a thud from downstairs, prompted by Micah’s taunts. Katie begins to get super creepy by waking up and standing next to the bed staring at the sleeping Micah for hours before walking downstairs. Micah finds her sitting in a swing outside and refusing to come back inside. When he tries to get a blanket for her, she appears in the doorway and goes back to bed. The next morning, she doesn’t remember any of it. Micah goes against the wishes of the Doc and Katie and brings home a Ouiji board and tries to get Katie to use it with him before they go out for the evening. She doesn’t take it well. She storms out and he follows. Shortly after, footsteps can be heard walking downstairs, then the planchette starts to move on it’s own and then the board catches fire. Micah decides to sprinkle talcum powder in the hallway to see the footsteps and that produces 3-toed footprints from the attic into the bedroom. Investigating the attic, Micah discovers a photo of Katie that cannot possibly exist because it should have been lost in a fire from her youth. After a picture of the couple is smashed during the day, they try to call Dr. Averies. He’s not there, so they call Dr. Fredrichs again, but he says he can’t help them. That night, Katie is dragged out of bed and bitten on the back. They decide to go to a hotel, but Katie changes her mind. That night, Katie wakes, creepy-stands next to Micah, then goes downstairs and screams. Micah investigates only to get the shit killed out of him and have himself thrown into the camera by possessed Katie. Micah’s body is discovered by the police, Katie remains at large.

There’s also a couple of different endings to this. On the BluRay, you can also watch an ending that is similar, but in this ending – instead of walking in, sniffing Micah’s corpse, and attacking the camera – Katie walks in covered in blood and clutching a butcher knife, seemingly having killed Micah downstairs. Then she slits her throat. This particular ending would put quite the damper on sequels so it didn’t get used. There was also an ending I never saw where Katie kills Micah downstairs and comes upstairs with the butcher knife, sits on the bed, and rocks back and forth. The camera indicates that days begin to pass until Katie’s friend Amber comes over and discovers Micah, screams, and leaves. Later the police come to find Micah. There’s also one I saw on YouTube where the same thing happens but the police come upstairs and find Katie, she snaps out of her daze and waddles towards the police holding her knife and completely confused. Then they shoot her.

Paranormal Activity 2

We backpedal a bit to a couple of months before the events of the first movie. A different couple named Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan Rey (Brian Boland), return home with their newborn son, Hunter. The tape of that joyous occasion is then recorded over with a tape of the couple filming their trashed house after a supposed break in. Every room in the house has been trashed except for Hunter’s room and nothing has been stolen. Dan reacts by having security cameras installed all over the house, thankfully giving us a bit of change to the camera angles. Shortly after, something spooks the family’s beloved maid Martine (Vivis Colombetti), inspiring her to spread sage all over the house to ward off evil spirits. Dan fires her, probably saying “How dare you try to protect my family?!” Later, Kristi’s sister, Katie (yes, that Katie), comes over and Dan and Micah mock Kristi and Katie for believing in ghosts. Dan’s daughter from a previous marriage, Ali (Molly Ephraim), is also quite skeptical, until something happens to her. At home alone with Hunter, Ali’s boyfriend comes over and they decide to bust out a Ouiji. Ali asks the spirit what it wants and it first says “Pussy”. Okay, that was her douche nozzle boyfriend. But then it starts spelling out “H … U … N … T” but then the camera cuts away to Hunter’s room so I have no idea what it was trying to say. Ali doesn’t notice. Later, she naps and a shadow comes over her, waking her up. A knock at the door inspires her to go outside to investigate and she’s locked out of the house, getting her into trouble with her parents. Just as in the first movie, things begin to escalate to creepier and creepier occurrences, coming to a head when the family dog, Abby, is attacked violently off-camera. Dan and Ali take the dog to the vet, leaving Kristi at home alone. She goes to check on Hunter and has her legs swept out from under her by an invisible force and she is dragged downstairs into the basement. She stays there for several hours until she walks calmly out of the basement. The next day, Dan leaves Ali alone with Kristi and Kristi is acting weird, spazzing out whenever Ali goes near Hunter. Ali also discovers scratches and writing on the inside of the basement door. She calls her dad home to show her the surveillance footage of Kristi being dragged downstairs and Dan calls Martine. Dan is an asshole, so he decides he’s perfectly comfortable expelling the demon, even knowing that it will immediately go over to Katie. It works and all is well … until Katie returns to the house after the events of the first movie and kills the family, abducting Hunter never to be seen again.

Wow. That’s a lot of typing to get to this point, but let’s review these bitches. I like both of these movies, as should be expected from my revelation about loving ghost movies. I like so much about these movies beyond the movie themselves, and then I like the movie. For instance, I like the “found footage” idea. Obviously I’m not dense enough to believe this movie was real, just like the Blair Witch, but I do allow myself to believe it for the time while I’m watching the movie. I feel like it gets you more involved in the movie if you allow it to. But don’t be dumb enough to think it was a real movie. Another thing I like about them is that they make so much money and cost relatively little to make. And, even though they cost so little to make, they still do a lot of stuff that is fascinating and cool. Obviously they save a lot of money on casting by having a super small cast of unknowns and only needing one or two locations per movie and that could allow them to do cool stuff in the movie. Things like the demon footprints, the cabinets exploding open, and getting dragged by nothing are the kind of things that I can’t figure out how they pull off without cutting away. They hide their tricks very well and I like that. In PA2, I also like the way they set up things for later in the movie. Small things falling in the kitchen before all the cabinets bust open later in the movie and the dog messing with the basement door because something is down there. It’s things you may not pay any mind to the first time but notice on the second viewing. The story isn’t really what I’d call a story, but that’s not saying they’re bad movies. Most of the interactions seem improvised and so I wouldn’t say there’s much story involved to the movie, but that’s what they were going for. I did, however, think some of their demon information was glossed over or incorrect. Or maybe the people were just supposed to be kind of dumb. Micah decides at one point to burn the picture of Katie to show that demon what’s what. You think that one picture was what allowed him to manifest himself? I did, however, prefer one of the 4 endings that was not determined to be the real one more than this one. The one of her sitting on the bed rocking back and forth would’ve been much better. Then you could’ve made her run or disappear when the police arrived. I think that’s way more unsettling. And one other thing that bothers me every time I watch this: How do they get mad at Ali when she gets locked out? If there was ever any dispute about something in the house after it was completely covered in cameras, it would be as simple as “Let’s check the tapes.” Then you see the shadow, the knock, the door closing on it’s own, and Hunter being lifted up and out of his crib by a ghost and you maybe don’t get your asses killed by the end of the movie.

I’d say you’d have to give the acting a round of applause in these movies. All of the characters in the movies seem very real and make the situations suck you in more. If the lines are improvised, then you can extend that applause for a little longer. Their performances were almost enough to make me believe that this really was found footage, so that’s a compliment to the actors. If I might insult some of the actors though, I didn’t like looking at Katie in this movie. She has the look of someone that borders on looking good but hit the Haagen Daas a little too hard. And the movie scared me by having Micah try to get Katie nude on camera a few times. I’m not looking for that, man. I can expect it from Micah though, because he seemed to be either a douche nozzle or a moron through most of the movie. He did the exact opposite of what Katie requested and then seemed to get all innocent and play dumb when she got mad at him. Really, dude? And for him to be dumb enough to KNOW there is ghostly activity in his house but turn down the help of a professional because he’s so macho he thinks he can handle this shit by himself is retarded. I understand turning down a psychic because you don’t believe in this stuff, but if you’ve seen it many times, take the man’s word for it. You could still be alive. I was happy when Sprague Grayden entered as Kristi because she was actually good looking. As was Molly Ephraim … maybe. Depends on how old she is. I also liked the little kids that played Hunter. I don’t know if it was intentional, but to have the kid staring at something that isn’t there from the moment they bring him into the house is a nice touch. I would’ve liked it if they either made the Mexican maid speak English or subtitled her, though. I am not fixing to learn Spanish to get possible inside scoops on this movie.

So I kind of like both movies here, but let’s compare the two. Most people liked PA a lot, but most people did not like PA2. I’d call it a bit harsh to say I DIDN’T like PA2, but it was definitely the worst of the 3. Even though there are a lot of things that are almost exactly the same between the two movies, I feel as though the second movie gets docked a little bit because it wasn’t the one that started it. Kind of like Bioshock 1 and 2. The second one wasn’t a bad game and had the same feel and atmosphere as the first, but it didn’t start it. It just recreated it. I did like that PA2 gave us more than the one camera angle while simultaneously making the footage we’re watching more believable. I doubt Micah would take that camera every single place he went during the course of the movie and I’m sure Katie wouldn’t have allowed it, but when you make it surveillance cameras you can believe that the footage was caught. I would say both of the movies start pretty slow, but both also build the tension by just shoveling it on top of us over and over until the movie ends. The biggest problem, PA ends in a cool crescendo, PA2 instantly deflated me with the goofiest neck snap delivered by Katie to Dan that I’ve ever seen. It bummed me out so much that it was really goofy and unrealistic. You could’ve done so much better. Either something supernatural or even just having Katie come up behind him and stab him or slit his throat. That neck break took me down quite a bit on my enjoyment of PA2.

I’d say I’ve gone on long enough, eh? Come back tomorrow for my review of the prequel, Paranormal Activity 3. I promise it will be shorter. Both movies are good, but PA is far superior to PA 2. I say watch them both and then you can find out tomorrow if I think you should watch all three. I’ll give Paranormal Activity “What it probably wants is Katie” out of “That’s a thing of beauty.” Paranormal Activity can have “We just can’t let this affect us that much” out of “Who left the front door open?”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

White Noise (2005)

The Spirits Don’t Want You Here

You know what this is.  It’s the October Horror-thon.  We’re coming to a close on both October and the Horror-thon, so one might assume I’d be picking only my favorite horror movies to finish ‘er up.  Not the case, it turns out.  Not to say I hate today’s movie, but I also wouldn’t call it my favorite.  This movie is White Noise, directed by Geoffrey Sax, and starring Michael Keaton, Ian McNeice, Deborah Kara Unger, and Chandra West.

Jonathan Rivers (Michael “I’m Batman” Keaton) is a successful architect who lives with his wife Anna (Chandra West), at least until she stops with the living.  Shortly into the movie we get Jon back into the dating game by having his wife go missing and then be found dead by a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER.  I don’t know if there was a van, but it seems like she slipped on some rocks and died.  Jon does not take it very well.  In the middle of his grieving period, a big fat dude by the name of Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) waddles over to him and tells him that he’s been in contact with his dead wife.  Jon tells him to fuck off, but Raymond gives him a card in case he changes his mind.  He does and Raymond introduces Jon to the wonders of Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP.  EVP also apparently means being able to see people in fuzzy TV screens like watching porn back in the day.  Shortly after that, Raymond is found dead, but strangely not from a heart attack or choking on a watermelon.  Raymond invests an ungodly amount of money into lots of EVP monitoring technology and starts receiving messages that he finds can lead him to people that will die soon and not people that have already dead.  He believes that Anna is trying to help him save people and will most likely never find out that he was mistaken in a violent and goofy way.

I actually kind of like this movie.  I say it that way because it has about a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I think that’s a bit harsh.  While probably not making it within my top 20 horror movies, I think there’s a lot to like about this movie.  Since it’s October Horror-thon time, let’s talk scares.  I think this movie has a good couple.  It’s vaguely creepy but mostly relies on startles for it’s thrills.  And though I generally don’t like that kind of nonsense, I give this movie a pass.  I’m beginning to think that my affections towards horror movies is not so much about how it gets it’s scares, but the subject matter.  I can face it: I like ghosts.  I’ve also come to realize that this is completely irrational because it’s far more likely that I’ll get killed by a serial killer than a ghost.  But it is what it is.  The story of this movie is also pretty good.  It’s basically just a movie to introduce the general public to the EVP stuff, though it completely misinforms them simultaneously by having that include video in something with the word “voice” in it.  But I also feel that the movie is a good message about letting go.  Jon wouldn’t have gotten himself into such trouble if he had not been able to let go of his wife after she died.  Just to hear her voice again, he bought TV’s, computers, audio devices, a total nerd paradise of a room that he wasted on snowstorms and white noise.  On the other hand, he saved a couple lives with his obsession, so it’s hard to say if the message was worth getting.  I would, however, say that the ending did not sit right by me.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  He gets killed by 3 ghosts that had been telling a serial killer to kill random women, such as Jon’s wife.  Making the 3 ghosts suddenly able to kill people seemed to me like they wrote themselves into a corner and just threw it together to finish the movie off.  ::END SPOILER::

I also kind of liked the performances in this movie.  Michael Keaton had a much more emotional performance than I’ve ever seen him deliver, but since I had only seen him play Batman and Beetlejuice, I guess that makes sense.  But he did play the grieving widower very well.  Chandra West died pretty quickly, so not much to say about her.  Deborah Kara Unger didn’t really make much of an impression on me in this movie for some reason, and Ian McNeice only made an impression on the couch … ’cause he’s fat.  Actually he was decent, but I couldn’t deny a fat joke.  I almost feel bad.

My diagnosis?  Eh, I admit you can probably skip the movie.  But I like ghosts, so I dug on it.  If you like ghosts, check it out.  I won’t promise you’ll like it, but I will promise you’ll be an hour and a half older afterwards.  And Michael Keaton does put on a good performance that deserves to be seen.  I gives this movie “I’m Batman!” out of “Oops, wrong movie.”

Hey, peeps.  Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh?  And tell your friends!  Lets make me famous!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Whatever You Do, Don’t Fall Asleep

Today’s contribution to the last days of the October Horror-thon is a super overrated movie that a friend of mine told me I needed to buy because of how amazing it was.  Also, Loni can pay attention ’cause Johnny Depp is in this movie as well.  This movie is the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong.  I don’t see what everybody’s all on about with this movie, but let’s get to my review and you can see where I went wrong.  A Nightmare on Elm Street stars Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Amanda Wyss, and (for the second day in a row) Lin Shaye, and directed by Wes Craven.

This is probably a fairly familiar story to most people.  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) did some bad things to children, but he’s dead now.  But Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) is having dreams where a severely burned man is chasing her through a boiler room in his red and green striped shirt, fedora hat, and razor glove.  The next day at school, Tina’s friend, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) confesses that she had a similar dream.  Nancy and her boyfriend Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) decide to spend the night with Tina because she’s afraid.  Tina’s boyfriend, Rod Lane (Nick Corri), shows up to bang the bejesus out of her.  While she sleeps afterwards, Freddy reappears in her dream and proceeds to mutilate her as Rod watches, unable to do anything.  Rod runs as Nancy and Glen find Tina’s dead body, but shortly after, Nancy’s father, police lieutenant Donald Thompson (John Saxon) catches Rod and puts him in jail, suspecting he killed Tina.  Freddy starts going after Nancy in her dreams and also kills Rod in jail.  Nancy tries to stay awake as long as she can.  Her mother, Marge (Ronee Blakley), confesses that Freddy Krueger had gotten away with the bad things he did to children a while back and so she and the other parents burned him alive in a boiler room, and now he’s come back in their dreams for revenge.

Alright, let’s break this thing down piece by piece.  The premise of this movie is actually pretty solid.  The whole set up to Freddy as being a child killer and/or pedophile that was killed by the parents is a good thing, though I do wonder if pedophiles took that as a sign that this may happen to them.  “Sure, I’d get burned alive, but I would come back with super powers!”  The premise of being able to kill someone in their dreams is probably universally scary.  As I watched this movie, I kept thinking about what you would do in this situation, and there’s really nothing that can be done.  You can only stay awake for so long before you would either die or pass out without you being able to stop it, and then Freddy’s got you.  And the land of dreams is his territory, so I assume I wouldn’t be able to fight him very well or escape him.  And I know for a fact I’m not good at waking up, so I’d be a dead man.  Many horror movies since this have taken this path.  Basically you just look for something that people do and make it a way you could die in an awful way.  The Ring took watching a video and made it fatal, there were a couple movies about being able to die via cell phone, all sorts of movies use this method for scares.  Conversely, the dialog is nothing special and some of the writing is bad or cliche.  For instance, Tina’s boyfriend is the classic over the top douche that, of course, gets the girl.  And at least one of the cops is a complete moron because it prolongs the suspense.  Nancy is screaming out of windows that she’s breaking to get the cop from across the street to get her dad and he just watches her saying “I wonder if I should get the lieutenant…”

The visuals are kind of hit and miss in this movie.  There are some that are really cool and some that are just awful.  The classic scene of Freddy’s face and hands trying to push through the wall that warps out like rubber (probably because it was) and the light hits the top of it just looks awesome.  Shortly after that, Freddy’s walking awkwardly in a dream with pointlessly long arms, and that looks awful.  When he starts attacking Tina and cuts appear out of nowhere on her chest, the chest is horribly fake looking.  It’s not the same skin color – in fact it’s closer to gray – and you can see the little wrinkles in the rubber.  A similarly bad fake body comes up later when Freddy cuts into his chest, exposing green blood and maggots.  I realize this was 1984, but if you could see how good something looks to put it in the movie, you can see how bad something is and have them do it right.  Also, what the hell is it with Wes Craven and his deadly Home Alone pranks obsession?  He does that shit in here just like he did in Last House on the Left.  All sorts of things like gun powder on a light bulb, wire to trip over, hanging sledgehammer, etc.  It’s goofy, not scary.

The acting here is either nothing special or bad.  John Saxon probably tops it off with “nothing special”, Johnny Depp comes up slightly below that, and everyone else is pretty uninspiring.  The worst of them will be mentioned in the next paragraph.  The worst of these people was probably the guy that played Rod.  He was mediocre and annoying throughout the movie, playing the douche nozzle that shows up while his girlfriend is having a bad day to bang the sorrow out of her.  The worst part of him was when Tina was getting killed as he watched.  She was being dragged up to the ceiling by an invisible force while bleeding profusely from the stomach and chest, and the big hero here sat in the corner furthest away from her with his arm outstretched yelling “Tina!”  I feel like you could have burnt a few calories and got up and at least stood on the bed and swatted at her.  Lin Shaye was also in this movie, which I only noticed because she was in the movie I reviewed yesterday, Insidious, and it was interesting to see her.

Alright, here it comes … Freddy Krueger was the worst part of this movie.  Yeah, I said it.  I have talked about it a little already when I reviewed Freddy vs. Jason, but I do not get the appeal of this character.  He’s not scary.  He’s either goofy or annoying, and I imagine that’s not what you want out of your horror villain.  If he’s not spitting out stupid, vaguely threatening jokes, he’s randomly inflicting damage to himself, and that’s supposed to scare his victims.  One of the first things he does is say to Tina “Watch this” and proceeds to cut his own fingers off and laugh about it.  Later, for Nancy, he slices into his own chest for some reason.  Why don’t you shut up and get to killing, Krueger?  Now, to be fair, I don’t blame Robert Englund for this.  He didn’t write it, and I don’t imagine he was improvising.  It’s the fault of the writers.  And the fault of the 95% of people on Rotten Tomatoes that like this.

I’m happy to join the lower 5% on this movie.  Not a good movie.  Everyone ragged so hard on the remake with the dude from Watchmen, but that one was way better.  Jackie Earle Haley made a few jokey comments as Freddy, but mostly just got to the business of killing.  Not great, but better.  I say you can skip this movie, but statistically you have probably seen it and liked it.  Even so, I give this movie “I take back every bit of energy I gave you” out of “I’ll kill you slow!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.

Insidious (2011)

Words Are Worth a Thousand Words

Today’s addition to the October Horror-thon is a movie that I had gone to the theater earlier in the year by myself to see and, once I had, I could not wait to own it on DVD.  Instead, I bought it on BluRay and decided to review it along with the rest of the horror movies.  This movie is Insidious, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Angus Sampson, and Leigh Whannell.

Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) have just moved into a new house with their kids.  One night, their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is exploring in the attic when one of the ladder rungs breaks and he falls down.  When the parents investigate he seems fine, but the next morning he won’t wake up.  Doctors tell them that Dalton is in a coma but they don’t know why.  They move Dalton back into the house for them to take care of and paranormal events start to take place while Renai is home, but Josh is skeptical.  When it finally reaches a boil, Josh agrees to move the family to a new house.  But the problem follows them to their new house so Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), Josh’s mother, contacts an old friend of hers named Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye), who firsts sends her two assistants, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).  When they confirm that there is a ghost problem, Elise is brought in.  But she tells them that it is not the house that is haunted, it is their son.

I really dug most aspects of this movie.  The story of the movie is totally solid in most places.  The only place it kind of lost me was with all “The Further” nonsense, but it didn’t bother me enough to dampen my affection for the movie.  I found this movie to be totally scary and (surprise surprise) it had no real blood or gore to speak of!  How does that happen, 90% of all other “scary” movies?  It’s because they set a mood with almost every part of the production that made it more and more creepy.  As I said, I saw this movie alone in the theaters on the recommendation of my friend Jordan.  In the theater, I made the poor decision to sit with the theater entrance hall directly behind me.  The movie kept me so on edge through the movie that I was constantly looking behind me, not for ghosts or anything, but just in case some random stranger would walk up behind me and startle me.  Granted, that never happened, but that’s a major compliment to a movie to make me so paranoid like that.  And what makes it best for me is that this movie was scary without blood or gore even though the director started a series that exemplifies the movies that offer no scares and mostly just buckets of gore: Saw.  James Wan made the original Saw movie and started the whole mess of these crappy movies.  Now, I grant you that I liked the first Saw movie – the one he took part in – but he started the world onto that path that robbed me of more than a few dollars.  That being said, he did an exceptional job with this movie.

This movie uses a lot of stuff to keep you on edge.  The opening credits are a series of black and white photos, and most of them have something small and paranormal happen in them; small things like a chair moving or a man in the mirror.  And then … BAM! … the title of the movie pops out and startles you.  Now, generally I’m not a fan of people calling a startle a scare, but this movie didn’t do it very much.  It seemed to offer that one as a warning.  But most of the scary things happened subtly and shortly after hit you with a scary startling noise.  The part with the baby monitor was a startle (but it still got me even though Jordan had told me about that) and then later the part with the baby’s cradle happened, let you find out what was wrong, and then hit you with the creepy violin music.  And it had a lot of that creepy violin music, although it sounded more like a violin being raped with a power drill.  Not a criticism though, it created a lot of tension similar to the same kind of music used in the Dark Knight every time the Joker was on screen.  They also used something I like that I think Bioshock started and that is using really old music (like from the 50’s or something) in a creepy movie that just makes it creepier.  And this happened in a scene where they had a ghost appearance but made no attempt to tell the viewers about it.  I missed it the first time I saw it, but when Rose Byrne is walking down the hall in her new house, she walks right by the little boy ghost that appears proper shortly after, but she doesn’t see it, the camera doesn’t move towards it, and nothing happens to draw you to it.  It’s like an Easter Egg.  And I don’t usually catch that stuff, so I can assume there are more in other parts that I missed.

The performances were all great, as far as I’m concerned (though I suppose “as far as I’m concerned” doesn’t need to be added as these ARE my reviews).  Rose Byrne was great here and I had previously not seen her do a dramatic role.  She’s in a state of being distraught starting shortly after the movie starts and it just gets worse and worse for her as the movie goes along.  Her kid’s in a coma and she’s getting haunted and her husband won’t believe her and it’s just shoveling more and more on top of her situation.  Patrick Wilson has a different dramatic role, but almost as impressive.  He’s still distraught over his kid’s coma, but he also doesn’t know how to deal with the situation.  He wants to help his wife but also thinks she’s kind of crazy because he doesn’t believe what’s happening.  Lin Shaye was a pretty nice performance too because she seemed like a kindly older lady and really nice and sweet, but then she gets really serious and has a complete turn, but then goes right back to nice.  I also thought her assistants, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, were really amusing.  They were such total nerds and completely out of their element.  I liked seeing Barbara Hershey because one of the horror movies I had seen before this one was The Entity, which she stars in and is basically getting raped by a ghost for the whole movie.  I liked her performance in both movies, but the story of The Entity and some of the ways they told it were just goofy.

I recommend you go check out this movie while the Halloween time is right.  I bought this on BluRay, but I’ve also seen it available at many RedBox stands so you can get it there.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  I give this movie a “I’m scared, Mom” out of “Follow my voice, Dalton!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.

Scream 4 (2011)

What’s Your Favorite Mediocre Scary Movie?

Let’s get recent with today’s October Horror-thon, eh?  Today’s review is of the fourth part of a very popular horror film series that I had little to no interest in.  I saw the first one and probably the second, maybe even the third, but they all kind of blurred together into a large pile of blah.  But they remain popular and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Except, perhaps, to bad mouth them on the internet.  I can do that.  I’m talking about Scream 4, or Scre4m if you fancy, directed by horror legend Wes Craven, starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, and Alison Brie, with notable cameos by Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Adam Brody, Anthony Anderson, and Heather Graham.

This movie starts with two teen girls alone in a house, they get a famous call and get killed.  PSYCH!  It’s actually two girls (Kristen Bell and Anna Paquin) watching THAT movie, and then Kristen Bell kills Anna Paquin.  PSYCH!  That’s a movie two.  This goes on for 4 and a half hours and then they decide to stop dicking around and start their movie.  And it starts with someone getting a call and getting killed.  Sigh.  Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) has decided to return to Woodsboro to promote her book; numerous near-death experiences and lost loved ones be damned!  It’s probably to be blamed on her publicist, Rebecca Walters (Alison Brie).  Sidney is instantly a suspect because logic was not supplied to this movie.  Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friend Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) also get a call from deceased member of the Wutang Clan, Ghostface Killa.  Okay, it’s a different Ghostface, but he also ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.  Jill and Kirby are taken to the police station and questioned by Dewey Riley (David Arquette), now a sheriff, and one of his deputies, Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton).  Dewey’s wife, Gale (Courtney Cox), decides to take up the case behind his back.  A lot of people die, convoluted story, yada yada yada, the end.

Okay, some might have grasped from the manner I’m typing in that I had some problems with this movie.  It was nowhere near as bad as I expected, but I also could have done without.  And what’s worse is that I would’ve liked the movie better if they didn’t go with the opening they went with.  There were seriously about 4 false starts on this movie.  That part was not a joke.  They literally did that similar scene over and over and over again, so much so that, by the time they had actually started their movie, I didn’t believe it was happening and therefore had no problem with the girls getting killed.  It was so bad that I thought I had accidentally RedBox’d Scary Movie 5 or something.  And this opening annoyed me so much that the rest of the movie had to struggle to make a slow climb back up to me calling it mediocre.  You probably shouldn’t make such a point of trying to be “meta” by making your characters in your movie talk about how not scary movies are when they go with gore and startles instead of scares because (guess what?), they’re right!  And now you’ve made me think about it and made me aware of what I’m in store for.  After that, as I mentioned, the movie got a little better and brought itself back to mediocre with some decent dialogue, good kills, and hot Hayden Panettiere.  And then they kind of ruined it for me with the ending, which I thought was farfetched even for a horror movie.  And there was a death by defibrillator in this movie!  That was pretty much just laughable and – let’s say – poorly placed.  And they also went with the death by garage door in this one, which they either have done in Scream before, had done in Scary Movie, or both.  I definitely remember it in Scary Movie.  This is problematic because it was a repeat, but also problematic because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a garage door that didn’t feature a sensor that would’ve stopped that from happening.  Also, if I may offer a humble recommendation, you probably should not show the people in your movie watching a far superior movie so that the audience can compare your movie to it and have yours fail.  They had some characters watching Shaun of the Dead and it just made me think “Wow, that movie was way better than this one.”

The performances were various shades of okay.  I would say everyone did fine and the only people that stood out were Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, and Alison Brie for their respective hotnesses.  Neve Campbell offered a fair performance in this movie, but there was a part where she ran into a house after the killer completely alone and unarmed.  Did you learn nothing from the last 3 times this happened?  If I lived through a murderer even once I would feel justified in carrying a gun on me at all times.  I typically find Anthony Anderson funny in the movies I see him in, but he was pretty reserved in this movie and didn’t offer very much funny.  And I did not understand his last line of “Fuck Bruce Willis” at all.  I don’t know if that’s a joke I was meant to understand or if it was intended to be a non sequitur, but I didn’t get it.  And the chick in the yellow shirt had a pretty bad death scene performance in one of the 87 opening false-start movies.  That’s all that really comes out of the performances in this movie for me.

So that’s Scream 4 for you.  It’s far from a great movie, and I’d say far from a great movie series, but this one is probably the second best of the series, at least as far as I can remember.  It’s watchable as long as you mentally prepare yourself for the jackassery that opens the movie.  I’ll give this movie “Don’t fuck with the original” out of “Clear!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Watch Your Heads

October Horror-thon continues, as does my pleas to get my friend Loni back into my reviews, with the Tim Burton movie Sleepy Hollow. I wasn’t really sure if this movie was actually intended to be a horror movie when I pulled it out of my collection, but I feel like it holds up. Plus, Johnny Depp is in it, so Loni should be in. Sleepy Hollow is directed by Tim Burton, and stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lee, and Ian McDiarmid, as well as some stunt work by Ray Park, so I get to reuse so many people that have been in my reviews before and will be again when I lay down some Harry Potter goodness.

1799, New York City, constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a strange character and investigator of murders. His superiors do not agree of his scientific autopsy techniques, but they dispatch him to Sleepy Hollow to investigate some recent murders. Those murders involve the decapitation of 5 people, with their heads going missing. He gets there to investigate and is greeted by the cleavage of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). At first, his scientific mind leads him to believe that a mortal serial killer is using the towns mythos to hide his crimes, taking this movie dangerously close to the other Johnny Depp joint, From Hell. But Crane soon finds out that the killer is actually the mythological creature called the Headless Horseman (at this point, Ray Park). Crane is told that the Horseman was once a brutal and sadistic Hessian mercenary (Christopher Walken, when his head is on) who was beheaded for his brutality and has come back to life because someone stole his noggin and is using it to control him. Crane then systematically suspects everybody in the town until they come up dead and he starts suspecting the next person he sees.

This movie is pretty thoroughly meh, if I might scare Loni off again. There are lots of things that work and a couple things that don’t. The story itself is pretty solid but I found myself drifting out of it from time to time. Tim Burton, as he seems to like doing, has taken a classic story and made it more dark and twisted. This time, he took an older story from the 1800s or so that was then made into a Disney movie. I pretty much only knew about it from the Disney movie, and I don’t even remember that very well because I didn’t like it that much. But this is a story that works as a darker, gory version. Unfortunately, he also felt the need to add in things about how Crane wanted to use science and autopsies in a time where that was frowned upon and things about conspiracies in the small town. I had always heard the story that the Horseman took heads because he lost his and wanted a new one (and who wouldn’t want Johnny Depp’s head, am I right, Loni?), and that story would work on it’s own. And, according to Wikipedia, the Horseman was more than likely Van Tassel’s other suitor, Brom (Casper Van Dien), who killed Crane to get Christina Ricci (which I would totally do as well). Both of those stories work on their own, we don’t need back story about autopsies and conspiracy and some confusing thing about Ichabod’s mother. That stuff was boring. But the Horseman parts were pretty sweet.

As with most Tim Burton movies, the look and atmosphere trump all else. Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding area seem to be practically devoid of sunlight and are constantly drenched in fog and spooky looking trees. The coolest things were surrounding the gore. The decapitated heads were very realistic. I know 1999 isn’t THAT old, but I’ve seen big budget movies that have come out recently that have worse looking heads than this one does. All of those gory effects worked very well. And when Depp starts hacking into the tree that sits over the Horseman’s body, and the tree seems to bleed and have flesh underneath it, that was very well done and creepy as well. The costumes were nice looking as well. I especially loved the cleavage. Also, I wanna get one of them jackets like Johnny wears in this. I like those old style jackets and I need to find one that isn’t ridiculously priced.

The performances are mostly bland or hammed up. And this movie (I think) was going for a horror movie vibe, but had no scares. It had gore, so it could be a slasher film, but most of the main actors seemed to go more for an odd quirky comedy performance, and I didn’t think it fit. I didn’t really get the character Johnny Depp was going for. He was a constable, so you’d assume he’s seen death pretty frequently, and he was a big proponent for autopsies, but he gets squeamish looking at gore. Well, sometimes. Other times he dove right in. Christina Ricci made no real impact on me beyond her hotness. I got really sad when I recognized Dead Dumbledore was in this ’cause he dead now, but he did a fine job at his smaller part. But there were a lot of big actors with smaller parts in this movie. Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) was in this, Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson), Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), the dude from Starship Troopers (Casper Van Dien), Spike from Stay Tuned (Jeffrey Jones), Sarumon (Christopher Lee), and Alfred (Michael Gough) were all in this, but all had pretty small parts. Christopher Walken was creepy, but kinda hammed it up as the Horseman. But that explains the greater majority of Christopher Walken performances. Creepy, weird, and a little hammed up.

That’ll do for this review. It’s a decent enough watch with a hit or miss story and matching performances, but you can’t deny the appeal of Tim Burton’s style. I’ll go ahead (get it? a head!) and give this movie “You are bewitched by reason” out of “He was dead to begin with.”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.