Chernobyl Diaries (2012)


Have You Heard of Extreme Tourism?

My decision to watch today’s movie started when it was in theaters. The producer and writer of this movie has made a few things I enjoyed in the past, and this movie seemed to be a similar style in a more interesting setting. All that being said, I didn’t find myself interested enough to commit to seeing it in the theaters. But I knew I still wanted to see it eventually. It finally hit the shelves of my local electronics store, and seeing it every time I went there nagged at me until I finally needed to see it, especially if I could fit it into my October Horrorthon. So here it is, Chernobyl Diaries, written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke, directed by Bradley Parker, and starring Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, and Nathan Phillips.

A group of young people – Chris (Jesse McCartney), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and their friend Amanda (Devin Kelley) – are travelling across Europe on a vacation. They reach Kiev, Ukraine and stop in to visit Chris’s brother, Paul (Jonathan Sadowski). Wanting to make their vacation extra special, Paul sets the group up on a tour of the restricted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They get together with their guide, Yuri (Dimitri Diatchenko), as well as two other tourists, Norwegian Zoe (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and Australian Michael (Nathan Phillips), and head out to Chernobyl. After taking a detour around a security checkpoint, they get out of their van to explore some abandoned apartment buildings. They see some mutated fish, almost get mauled by a bear, and generally have a swell time. When they return to the van, they find that the wires have been chewed in the car and it will no longer start. Yuri tries in vain to radio for help, so they decide they will set out the next morning. In the night, they hear noises and Yuri goes to investigate with Chris, but only Chris returns. They are not alone in Chernobyl.

Chernobyl Diaries was a fine movie. There were some parts of it that I liked and found very effective and other parts that I found disappointing, but I’d say that I was overall satisfied with the movie. It’s certainly not an uncommon tale to see some people go someplace they shouldn’t, get stuck there, and die because of it, but I would say that it was made more interesting to me by the fact that they were in Chernobyl; a place I know next to nothing about, but find interesting nonetheless. I mean, there was a place in the movie that I had been before … in a game. I remember distinctly trying to hold out against enemy forces as I was waiting for EVAC around a Ferris wheel in Chernobyl in one of the Modern Warfare games, and there was a place they went in the movie that brought that memory back to the surface. On the other hand, I’m sure the greater majority of people can’t relate to being chased by mutated animals through Chernobyl, so we’re probably not relating to the characters that much. Either way, it works out fairly well through most of the movie. I liked a lot of the dialogue in the early goings of the movie. It was somewhat clever and funny at times without seeming rehearsed. Once the danger starts, they become much less clever. First, they start getting all angry about Yuri having a gun with him. What the hell?! You guys saw a live bear about 5 minutes ago and you think this guy should go around unarmed? Plus, he’s not just some random nut. They made a point to make sure we knew that he was in the Special Forces for a time. I’ll trust him with a firearm. The ending of the movie was the most disappointing thing to me. It wasn’t just the fact that it wasn’t a happy ending; it was also that it seemed to completely lose focus on the enemy that we were used to and threw a new enemy into it. What about a satisfying conclusion to the mutant problem they had through the entire movie, instead of just making your ending a really quick government cover up thing? The look of the movie mostly worked fine. I thought it was going to be another handheld camera, found footage thing, but that’s not really what they went for. It was filmed as if it was handheld, but they weren’t trying to make us think they were filming it themselves. The only problem I had with the look is that they had action happen through the foggy windows of the van a few times. I understand they didn’t want us to see the mutants at first to build suspense, but what I’m seeing while I’m watching it is that they’re making me stare at blurry images with muzzle fire happening on the other side. Also, would it have killed you to translate the things being said in Russian? I don’t want to have to spend a couple hundred dollars on Rosetta Stone so that I can understand part of the dialogue in your movie.

I took no issues with the performances in the movie, but I had a few with the characters. Most of the men in this movie were not great examples of masculinity. I doubt that I would risk my life to save someone either, but I would certainly feel shitty leaving one of the girls alone in the room with a mutant as the other dude and I ran through a door like bitches. Also, they are not great with firearms. I understand that these people weren’t supposed to have military training, but neither do I and I know better than to unload extremely rare bullets from my gun into the darkness at an enemy I can’t see. Wait till you have a target, asshole! The only character I had specific problems with was Jesse McCartney’s character, Chris. He turned into a dick to his brother at the very first sign of danger, basically letting his whole life of pent up aggression at his brother out right before he could possibly die and never have the chance to take that shit back, leaving his brother to deal with it for the rest of his life (assuming he has much more of a life ahead of him). Yes, it was Paul’s idea to go on the trip, but he did it to make your vacation better. How about blaming the tour guide who got them stuck there? Or everyone else for wanting to go on the tour as well? Or yourself for deciding to go out and investigate the mysterious noise when you were otherwise comfortable in your van?

I liked a good enough portion of Chernobyl Diaries to feel like I didn’t waste my time watching it. It was interesting and achieved enough creepiness and startles, and actually had some funny and clever dialogue in the beginning, but the movie starts to unspool in the middle, and the ending was not good. Otherwise it was a fine enough watch. I would say this movie isn’t really worth going out of your way to find, but if you come across it, it’s worth a watch. Chernobyl Diaries gets “It’s a hazard to have you as my brother!” out of “Tell me if you see something moving in the water.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Dark Shadows (2012)


Reveal Yourself, Tiny Songstress!

Today’s movie was requested by my roommate Richurd. When he requested it, I suggested that he may have to wait until November for me to review it since it didn’t really feel like a horror movie. “It has vampires, witches, and werewolves in it!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to beat me savagely. Once I awoke, I relented and agreed to review the movie as part of the October Horrorthon. The movie itself was one I knew about when it came to theaters, but had exactly zero desire to watch it. I didn’t know the source material and every commercial for the movie I saw fell flat on its face by way of comedy as far as I was concerned. But it’s a request and so I bring to you my review of Dark Shadows, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Bella Heathcote, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloë Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath, Christopher Lee, and Alice Cooper.

In 1760, the Collins family moves from Liverpool to Maine to set up a fishing industry, naming the town Collinsport. They make lots of money and all is going well … until their son Barnabas (Johnny Depp) seduces the maid Angelique (Eva Green). She confesses that she loves him, but he does not feel the same. Also, she’s a witch. She takes it out on his family, getting them killed by a falling statue. Barnabas eventually falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote), but the jealous Angelique bewitches her and makes her leap from a cliff. Barnabas tries to follow her, but finds that Angelique has turned him into a vampire. She then gets a mob to lock him in a coffin for 212 years. That’s when a group of construction workers inadvertently frees Barnabas, allowing him to return to his family – matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz), Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath), David’s psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), and the manor’s caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) – just in time to greet David’s newly-hired caretaker Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote), who is Josette’s reincarnation. But Barnabas will soon find that Angelique is still very much alive, and still very much scorned.

The best thing I could say about this movie is that it lived up to my expectations. The worst thing I could do is define those expectations. But I’ll do it anyway. I can’t say that Dark Shadows was a bad movie, but it’s very far from a good one. If its intentions were to be a horror movie, it was too goofy. If it wanted to be an action movie, it was too boring. If it was to be a mystery & suspense movie as Rotten Tomatoes claims it to be, then I probably shouldn’t have been able to go into the movie knowing exactly how it would turn out. Sadly, I think it wanted to be a comedy, but it also wasn’t funny. It tries to go for a lot of wordplay and dry wit that I’m sure made the British version of this stuff popular (assuming that it ever was, which I have not looked into), but the jokes used in this movie were too dry and lacked wit … or were just stupid. A lot of the movie after Barnabas returns to the 70’s just feels like the pitch for the movie was, “What if Austin Powers … wait for it … were a vampire!” Oh look at him as he doesn’t understand things because he’s been away for a long time! He thinks Alice Cooper is a lady! HILARIOUS! And on top of all that, the movie just wasn’t interesting. The family wasn’t likeable until the very end when they finally became more interesting, but I was long lost by then. All that being said, this is a Tim Burton movie, so the look of the movie is generally worth notation. It has a cool, creepy, dark look to the whole movie, but at a certain point I’m going to require more out of Tim than that. Also, I don’t know if it was intentional because they wanted to pay homage to the British version, but Johnny Depp looked goofy the entire movie. I was not buying that look.

The cast in this movie was filled with amazing names … who didn’t seem to want to try that hard. This is not a surprising performance for Johnny Depp. It’s a little bit like Captain Jack Sparrow without a drinking problem. Michelle Pfeiffer did not seem altogether invested in the movie. Eva Green was a little over the top, but so was her hotness. Chloë Grace Moretz was never interesting to me until the very end where she turned into something interesting … and then did nothing with it. Jackie Earle Haley came close to being funny a few times. I also didn’t like Gulliver McGrath, but more for the way he was written. How the hell is a kid going to see ghosts for his entire life, but freak out when he finds out the guy that’s been living with his family for a few months while being perfectly nice to him is a vampire?

I kind of feel like I wasted a bit of my time by watching Dark Shadows, but hopefully you don’t feel that you wasted time reading my review. This movie was not funny and not interesting, the actors didn’t seem into it, and I wasn’t either. I had/have no interest in the source material, so I have no idea if it holds up, but I do know that there’s not a lot of reason to watch this movie. It’s not an awful movie, but there are better ways to spend your time. Dark Shadows gets “It is with sincere regret that I must now kill all of you” out of “They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Christine (1983)


Okay … Show Me.

I feel sad as the October Horrorthon is coming to a close.  There are so many more movies I wish I had reviewed!  Well, I did what I could.  And we still have a couple more for you, or at least as many as I can within October.  Today’s movie is both a classic movie and a request from my friend Christie Mallomarchipotle.  It’s also a movie that I’ve never gotten around to seeing even though I’ve heard so much about it.  But, unlike other movies like that, I’ve never heard so much about this movie that it would ruin the ending.  It’s exciting, I know.  All I really know about this movie is that it’s about a car that kills people, and that Christie is an egomaniac for requesting a movie that shares her name.  That movie is Christine, based on a book by Stephen King, written for the screen by Bill Phillips, directed by John Carpenter, and starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, William Ostrander, Robert Prosky, Christine Belford, Harry Dean Stanton, and Roberts Blossom.

Arnold “Arnie” Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is the nerdy friend of popular jock Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell).  His parents are douche nozzles and he is also bullied by another high schooler who is way too buff and old looking to be a high school student named Buddy Repperton (William Ostrander).  On their way home one day, Arnie and Dennis come across a beat up 1958 Plymouth Fury belonging to George LeBay (Roberts Blossom).  Arnie falls in love with the car despite Dennis’ disgust in its condition and he buys the car for $250.  Arnie starts to get obsessed with the car (that he finds is called “Christine”), and spends all his time fixing it.  It even starts to affect him as a person, making him quicker to anger with his friends and family and turning him into Peter Parker from Spiderman 3.  Dennis gets concerned for his friend so he goes to talk to George and he finds out that George’s brother, Roland, died in the car from carbon monoxide poisoning after his young daughter had died in the car.  Maybe there’s more to this car than there seems to be…

Finally!  A classic horror movie that lives up to the expectations I barely had for it!  I kind of dug Christine.  It’s not the most spellbinding story ever, but it’s imaginative.  I don’t think I’ve seen very many movies about a car that tries to kill people.  Just that one episode of Futurama.  The biggest qualm I had with the story of the movie is that it never really bothered to explain what made Christine supernatural.  Are we to believe that what made it evil is that it was the only red car in its production line?  Apparently, the book blames it on the death of Roland LeBay, but the movie makes the car evil before it has even left the assembly line, crushing a dude’s hand and killing a guy that sits in it with no explanation about how that happened.  After that, the only other thing that confused me was in the fight with the bully in the beginning of the movie.  During the fight, one of Buddy’s goons participates in the fight by grabbing a heaping handful of Dennis’ dick.  Was that considered a thing back in the day?  ‘Cause if I lost a fight like that, I would be calling that kid a queer.  “I wouldn’t say I lost a fight so much as I turned down your request for a date, bro.  That’s a little aggressive for me.”

I’d say what kept me going with the movie was mostly the direction.  John Carpenter makes some cool movies, and this is another one.  A lot of the things that the car did were pretty cool ways to kill people with a car.  They actually didn’t do much for the easy technique of running someone over, or if they did, they amped it up.  When they did run someone over, it was after Christine just pushed another car into one guy, got completely doused with gasoline, and chased the guy down while completely on fire.  Otherwise, they were all pretty interesting ways to do it.  The one that I took the most issue with was the lame look of killing the shopkeeper by pressing the chair too hard against the steering wheel.  That was more goofy than anything else.  I also liked how well they did the look of making a broken down Christine put herself back together, making the dents pop out like someone was blowing into her tailpipe.  …That sounds dirty.  I meant like a balloon.  The music was a bit of a problem for me, but it usually is in 80’s movies.  The basic score of the movie was just music that sounded like the same music Carpenter used in Escape from New York, so I didn’t really have a problem with that.  The music I did take issue with was the music that Christine would play.  It felt like they could’ve put a little more effort behind picking the songs that Christine would play on the radio to indicate what Christine was trying to say.  There were a couple of occasions where it made sense to me, like when Dennis was trying to break into Christine and she started playing “Keep A-Knockin’ (but You Can’t Come in)”, but I really don’t understand playing “Little Bitty Pretty One” while Christine was trying to run down the fat kid.

None of the performances really impressed in any significant way, but none of them really did poorly either.  Keith Gordon’s character in this movie was definitely what Tobey McGuire based that abortion that he portrayed while walking down the street in Spiderman 3.  He starts off nerdy and nice, but turns into an overly cocky swaggering prick pretty quickly when Christine gets involved.  And he was putting the stupid car over his hot girlfriend that was dying to give him the pussy, but felt neglected because he paid more attention to the car.  That is crazy to me.  Maybe she’d feel less intimidated by it if you would start referring to it just as “your car” and “it” rather than “Christine” and “she”.  And why did he never find it strange that his car got jealous and he had to sweet talk the thing to get it to start?  That would put a little question mark over my head, to be sure.

I was happy to find that Christine was a good movie.  I’ve been underwhelmed by so many classic horror movies lately that it was good to have one live up to my expectations.  The story was imaginative though not mind-blowing, but it was interesting throughout because John Carpenter brings it.  He made the movie visually interesting, and actually found mostly interesting ways to have a car kill people.  The performances bordered on over the top on occasion, but mostly were fine.  I recommend Christine for a watch, especially if you haven’t already seen it.  It holds up, and it’s a movie that’s talked about enough that everyone should know it.  Christine gets “That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy” out of “Good!  Now, get the hell out of here.  We’re closed.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)


All The Activity Has Led to This … Or One of the Next Three Movies …

I saw Sinister in theaters at the request of a friend. I didn’t really have any drive to see the movie myself without that request. Today’s movie is a different story. I’ve already reviewed the first three movies in this series and I’ve been overall pleased with the franchise so much that I was definitely going to find my way to the theater to see it, especially if I could get it in within my October Horrorthon. The thing that I’m getting worried about with this franchise is the danger of beating the dead horse. They’ve already put out four movies and they’ve already announced a fifth one. Is it going to be too much of a good thing? We’ll find out as I review Paranormal Activity 4, written by Christopher Landon and Chad Feehan, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, and starring Kathryn Newton, Aiden Lovekamp, Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, Matt Shively, Alexondra Lee, and Stephen Dunham.

When his mother gets sick, Robbie (Brady Allen) goes to stay with the family across the street, the Nelsons – mother Holly (Alexondra Lee), father Doug (Stephen Dunham), daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton), and son Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) – until his mother has returned. As soon as Robbie comes to the house, Alex and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Shively) start to notice strange things happening in the house. They start off mostly as noises, talks of imaginary friends, and blurry figures caught on camera. Alex asks Ben to help her use a constantly running webchat on all of the computers in the house to watch for any strange occurrences.

Do I think Paranormal Activity is beating a dead horse? No. Not yet. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that I recommend this movie to everyone though. It seems that the series is a pretty polarizing one, and this movie will not change your opinion. It’s roughly as good as the rest of the series. It starts slow, is filled with logic loopholes, but it finishes strong. The ending of this movie was just rad. From Alex’s badass garage problem and solution to the cell phone in the bedroom and all the way up to the credits, I thought the ending was the best in the series so far. The after credit sequence was confusing and disappointing, but I don’t really count that amongst the movie proper.

The gaps in logic had become the majority of my concern through the movie. And I’m not just talking about the ghost stuff. The first one that struck me was Alex’s reaction to Robbie climbing into bed with her while she was asleep. Their immediate reaction to it was that it was really creepy? Come on! That little kid was like 7. I thought it was more cute than anything else until they started talking about it like it was a sexual thing. Kids don’t know anything about sex at that age! Next up was their super sweaty way to introduce the surveillance to this movie. They use everyone’s laptops, connect it to some sort of webchat, and record everything with that. First off, I don’t know of any program that lets you do that because it’s illegal to record someone without their consent. Second, how do these people not realize that a webchat program is open on one of the numerous occasions when they actually use their laptops? You wouldn’t see the window recording you if a webchat was open? And where are you saving these things? Do you know how much memory it would take to constantly record for an entire day? My 60 gigabyte camcorder can only record 14 hours. That’s around 120 GB for one day, and you bitches were recording that nonstop for at least a week. I know there are laptops with hard drives in the terabyte range, but we are straining credulity here! Plus, you can access that stuff all from one computer, so I guess the Cloud is being super generous in giving you a few terabytes of storage space when they only give the rest of us 5 gigabytes. Am I the only one nerdy enough to have been focusing on this the entire movie? Apparently Alex isn’t because she would’ve been able to show her parents her video evidence if she would just remember the simple instructions her boyfriend gave her to access their 100 terabyte Cloud storage. How about the fact that the mom is so ballah that she keeps a laptop in the kitchen that she only uses for recipes? They put those into books that you can get for about 1,000 dollars less than any MacBook. That’s financially irresponsible, but she is also parentally irresponsible because she lets her son take his laptop in the bathroom while he’s taking a bath because who’s ever seen someone drop something electrical in a bathtub? And how does the ghost/demon thing manage to shut off the movie on the laptop without shutting off the camera? If the mother fucker can point and click on a laptop, and he doesn’t like them filming him, then he could certainly close all the webchats and save the family thousands of dollars in online storage! Okay, most of these things were technology-based gripes, but they really got on my nerves as I was watching the movie. It wasn’t until after the movie that the MST3K mantra of, “If you’re wondering how he eats and breaths and other science facts, just repeat to yourself, ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax’,” came to my mind.

I came to realize while watching this movie that I was constantly looking around each set piece to see which ghostly gimmicks they were setting up. And it did not seem that hard to predict either. When I saw the sandbox at the bottom of the fort in the backyard, I knew something would eventually show up in them. I thought it would be footprints. It wasn’t, but I was pretty close. There were a couple of places where I thought they would do something but they didn’t, like the bead closet door. I don’t consider that me being wrong as much as their lack of imagination. They did show some imagination in that they incorporated the Kinect into this movie, but I thought of a problem with that as well. The big problem with using the Kinect with an infrared camera is that it seems like total bullshit that the Kinect works by spraying the room with dots that you can’t see with the naked eye. I own a Kinect and I was certain that it was bullshit. That’s why I took it upon myself to find out if it was real or not … and it is! I couldn’t take a very good picture of it because I was just using a pair of cheap infrared goggles that came with Modern Warfare 2 and I had to try to fit my camera into one of the lenses to take a picture, but that shit is real! The problem comes when most people aren’t able to test this for themselves because they don’t own a Kinect, infrared goggles, or both, and you need both to be able to find out for yourself. But it was an interesting idea, and they used it pretty well throughout the movie. The only real problem I had with it is that I don’t know of an Xbox that you could leave on constantly that wouldn’t have burnt itself out already. I also got to wondering about the next movie’s filming techniques. They’ve done a regular video camera (set up specifically for paranormal occurrences), they did security cameras, they did webcams, and they even did cameras duct taped to an oscillating fan. I wonder what their big idea is for their next movie. They seem to feel the need to change filming styles with each movie, so what do they have left? My guess? A prequel from way before the events of PA3, filmed with a hand-cranked camera and looking like the Zapruder film. Let’s see if we can get an audience to watch that for an hour and a half! But the webcam style of this worked out okay beyond the silliness of all of the strategically placed computers working like a surveillance system. There was one part where Alex was carrying her laptop that was almost reminiscent of the Blair Witch, so take that for what it’s worth. There was one part that got on my nerves though. I won’t spoil anything, but it involves someone’s feet being seen from the kitchen when they’re in the living room. The problem with it is that we know there’s a camera in the living room with a better angle on the scene. If we’re to believe that someone found all of this footage and edited it together to show the world, then I assume they would’ve shown us a better camera angle instead of trying to get artsy with it.

I can’t generally think of that much to say about the performances in a movie like this. Most of what’s required of them is to scream and be scared a lot. Everyone in this movie does that well. Kathryn Newton does scared well, and I get the feeling that three years from now I’ll be saying that she’s hot. Matt Shively’s character made me mad, but only because of how the Paranormal Activity movies portray young males. Every male teen is a skeevy perv in these movies. The boyfriend in PA2 tried to turn everything into sex and Matt Shively does that in this movie, but thankfully it’s only in the early bits. He chills out after that. I was able to have conversations with women that I didn’t try to turn into sex when I was that age! I guess it’s statistically accurate though. Plus, it may have done Alex a favor. When he jokes with her that taking her virginity would obviously make her less of an interest for the cult that needs a virgin, that’s just good logic. You’re gonna lose it eventually, but only if you live long enough for it! Katie Featherston was back in this movie, and she does what she’s done in the other movies again, and it still works for me. Plus, she seems to be losing weight, and I actually found her attractive in parts of this movie. I didn’t think too much of the two boys in the movie. They did fine, but didn’t do much. There was one part where Alex was berating Wyatt for not telling her that he was going to wander across the street, saying that he could’ve been hit by a car or kidnapped, and his argument was, “We live in a good neighborhood!” I liked that logic. The parents got on my nerves too. Whenever the kids are experiencing the stuff in this franchise, the parents completely disregard anything they say. Hell, the dad in this movie had a knife fall from the sky and hit the counter in front of him, but they never showed anything of him getting on board with what the daughter was talking about.

I guess what I’m saying is that these movies are beginning to lose me, but have not lost me yet. The story of the movie was mostly irrelevant to me, leaving me to spend my time picking out loopholes that showed a lack of understanding of the technology they were using, as well as seeing where gimmicks would show up in the various rooms, but the movie has enough startles to keep me interested throughout. Plus, this movie has the best ending in the series. I would say Paranormal Activity 4 is probably near the middle of the franchise in quality. If you like the series, then this is worth a watch. If you don’t like the series, don’t bother because it’s not good enough to change your mind. Paranormal Activity 4 gets “Not quite as awesome as a 100 terabyte Cloud storage, but good enough” out of “He does not like you.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)


They Never Should’ve Let You Out.

I felt that this had to happen, even if I really didn’t want it to. When I review a movie, it seems empty until I’ve reviewed its sequels, even if the sequel is well-renowned as complete garbage. And most people didn’t even like the original, so that makes this even harder. Although I was fond of the first movie (that I reviewed last week), I remember being really disappointed by today’s sequel. And that’s about the entirety of what I remember about it. But my OCD could not let me half review a series. That’s why I bring you my review of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, written by Dick Beebe, Daniel Myrick, and Eduardo Sánchez, co-written and directed by Joe Berlinger, and starring Jeffrey Donovan, Tristine Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner, Erica Leerhsen, Kim Director, Lanny Flaherty, and Kennen Sisco.

In a world where the first Blair Witch movie actually happened, the people of Burkittsville react to the movie in different ways. Some people resent the movie for the unwanted tourism, but some people – like Jeffrey Patterson (Jeffrey Donovan) – take advantage of it by starting the Blair Witch Hunt, a tour group that ventures to the big locations of the Blair Witch lore. His inaugural group includes Stephen (Stephen Barker Turner) and his pregnant wife Tristen (Tristine Skyler) who are working on a book, a Wiccan named Erica (Erica Leerhsen), and a Goth psychic named Kim (Kim Director). Their first stop is the ruins of Rustin Parr’s house, where they set up cameras and start to get drunk. They also run into another Blair Witch group. After getting drunk, they wake up to find that all of their cameras are smashed, their tapes were hidden, and their research was shredded. Also, Tristen is having a miscarriage. After they deal with that, they set upon figuring out what happened to their stuff while they were drunk with the tapes they recovered, and what they find is not what they expected.

No one’s surprised that this movie sucked. The people that hated the first movie assumed this movie sucked and didn’t have to sit through it to figure it out. We people that kind of liked the first movie had to come in and get the extra sadness that comes with the disappointment. This movie is so obviously a cash grab to try to capitalize on the success of the first movie that it’s not even funny. The way they still cling so desperately to the idea the entire world gave up on years earlier about how the first movie was real is so sweaty. They have Kurt Loder talking about the movie, for crying out loud! What’s even more sweaty is how bluntly they hit us over the head with the exposition and backstory of the characters. They’re all in the car and the guy decides to break the ice by getting on the PA system and flat out randomly announcing everyone’s backstory. There was not a lot of quality writing in this movie. At one point, Tristen has a miscarriage. I know that is sad and all, but you were just out in the wilderness for an entire night, unprotected and not even bothering with a sleeping bag, and you were also drinking and smoking weed until you blacked out. It was probably better for the baby that you accidentally killed it. It would probably have had an arm growing out of its forehead. They try to play the rest of the movie like a bit of a psychological mystery, but I doubt anyone in the audience was that intrigued, and the mystery was not mysterious. I don’t know if it was because I saw the movie before, but I pretty much predicted the entire movie and every twist and turn as I was watching it. I don’t think it was just memory because I didn’t really remember anything going in. It unfolds pretty quickly when they start watching the tapes. But it didn’t even make sense that they had the tapes to me. They eventually find out that Tristen buried the tapes, but they find out by watching one of the tapes. Where did THIS tape come from? Eventually, the “mystery” unfolds and you realize that they managed to top the first movie … in lame endings.

The blessing and the curse of the first movie was that it didn’t show us anything. The curse, of course, is that it’s relentlessly boring. The blessing is that it lets the imagination of the audience take over for what they’re not showing us. The closest thing to gore they showed in the first one was some teeth and blood wrapped up in a piece of the hippie guy’s shirt. This movie threw that right out the window in the opening credits, if for no other reason than to tell people that this movie was going to be the run of the mill horror crap. It starts with a friggin’ Marilyn Manson song and flashes of people being stabbed and disemboweled! Subtle! The rest of the movie was standard and typical. The Blair Witch, if nothing else, will probably be talked about long after its time for bringing the found footage genre to the mainstream. Book of Shadows is … another movie. Also, when they finally unlock the secret of the video, it’s meant to be disturbing but winds up being only goofy.

I’m going to be honest with you: I watched this movie a few days ago and I’m having trouble remembering anything about any of the performances in the movie. I really should type faster, or at least actually attempt to write the reviews. Either way, I don’t think that’s a good sign for the performances in the movie. They were just there. No one really blew my mind or disappointed. I guess the redhead Erica Leerhsen blew my mind a little because she got naked a lot. And Kim Director’s character disappointed a little because she generally seemed to be trying way too hard to be goth, throwing up the devil horns and throwing out her tongue every time someone was filming her, but I also have seen goth people that are exactly like that. They were also not at all subtle with her psychic abilities. Every 10 minutes on the dot it seemed that they needed her to go up to someone and say something that there was no way she could have known just so the audience wouldn’t forget that she was supposed to be a psychic.

The amount of surprises in this review equals those in Book of Shadow: Blair Witch 2. There were none. This is not a good movie and I think we’re all aware of that. The story feels like nothing more than a desperate attempt to wring some more money out of a popular movie, it held nothing by way of surprises, and it lost anything that was special about the first movie. Skip this movie. That is all. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 gets “The gene pool is a little shallow here” out of “I feel better.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Carrie (1976)


I Can See Your Dirty Pillows.

The impetus for today’s movie was almost entirely based on Netflix.  I knew I was looking for another classic horror movie and I came across this movie while looking through the horror movies in the instant section.  I knew I needed to review this movie in my Horrorthon.  Then I reached a problem: I was not looking at the right movie.  I was apparently looking at the 2002 made for TV version of the movie I was thinking of.  And the movie I was thinking of was not one that could be streamed.  But I already had my mind set to review it.  It took some doing, but I finally found the movie Carrie, based on a novel by Stephen King, written for the screen by Lawrence D. Cohen, directed by Brian De Palma, and starring Sissy Spacek, Nancy Allen, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Betty Buckley, and PJ Soles.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy weirdo that gets abused by her schoolmates for not understanding what’s happening when she gets her first period in the shower.  To top that off, her mother (Piper Laurie) abuses her as well because she thinks Jesus gave her a period as punishments for her sins or some such nonsense.  But Carrie starts to realize that she’s not just an ordinary creepy girl.  She starts to realize that she can do things with her mind, a phenomenon she finds is called “telekinesis.”  But, more important than that (if you’re a high school girl), is that Tommy Ross (William Katt) asked her to the prom!  Sure, he asked her at the behest of his girlfriend, Sue Snell (Amy Irving), because they felt sorry for Carrie.  But Carrie still has a problem: Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen).  Chris is the head of the bully girls that pick on Carrie, and she resents Carrie because picking on her got her punished and banned from the prom.  And that’s just good logic right there.  Chris devises a plan with her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) to make Carrie pay for the punishment that she brought on herself.

I was pretty surprised to find that I didn’t care for this movie at all.  It’s so well-regarded, but I was not into it at all.  It was mainly the story that turned me off too.  This wasn’t a horror movie; it was whiny high school drama with a ham-fisted telekinesis subplot.  I was equal parts bored and irritated.  The high school type stuff I just found really boring because we’ve all seen that stuff before, and done much better.  And it didn’t seem realistic too, but it’s hard for me to tell.  I haven’t been a girl in high school in many years, but I don’t think girls would just mock a girl for getting her period.  You bitches all do it too!  And that’s why you’re gross.  I’m also sure there are girls in high school so devoid of logic that they would blame Carrie for their troubles like Chris did, even though she clearly brought it all on herself.  And then there’s the trouble at home that comes with her way over the top crazy mom who takes a natural (albeit icky) thing like menstruation and takes it as a sign from God that Carrie is a sinner.  Those people I just like to believe don’t exist.  And how the fuck do her religious beliefs work anyway?  Getting your period is evil, but trying to murder your child later in the movie is alright in God’s book?  And the way they introduced Carrie’s powers was ham-fisted and irritating.  Each time something happened because of them was displayed with a short, sharp noise that felt like I was being stabbed in the ear with the fact that Stephen King just found out what telekinesis was and decided to base a book on that.  And the way she used them was pretty shitty too.  Sure, the prom scene is super memorable and kind of nifty, but I was mainly struck by the fact that she didn’t seem to punish any of the people that deserved it.  People that had tried to help her died and the people that started everything escaped through the front door.  Granted, some of them got what was coming to them later, but it was just shitty.  I also thought a lot of the dialogue was pretty bad.  Someone actually says, “Get ‘er done,” in this movie!  It made me lose all the respect I had for Larry the Cable guy.  The worst dialogue in my opinion is any conversation between Nancy Allen and John Travolta.  That was abysmal.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this Brian De Palma fella, but I would still have to confess that I was unimpressed with the look of this movie.  I know I’m not a director or anything, but I got to thinking that some of the shots were just rudimentary and distracting.  I first started thinking this when they were in class and Carrie says Tommy’s poem was “beautiful.”  It was a close up on his face with her in the background.  Then there was also a scene where they seemed to try to do a split focus on it – the likes of which were talked about in great length in Citizen Kane for some reason – but this movie did it poorly.  You could see a giant, blurry seam down the center of the frame!  If I had to say one good thing about the direction of this movie it would have to be that the opening credits were chock full of titties.

I suppose I would be comfortable giving credit to some of the performances in this movie.  Sissy Spacek did a formidable job being mostly quiet and reserved, but occasionally manic and at least one occasion scary.  Also, she got her boobs out.  …I think I’d bang it out on Sissy Spacek in this movie.  I’m not gonna lie to you people.  I didn’t really find that many other people in this movie altogether noteworthy.  Some of them did fine jobs, some were underwhelming.  I did get annoyed at the principal in the movie though.  I understand not remembering someone’s name.  I do it all the time.  But if someone corrects me once, I would either remember or not attempt their name again.  This dude seems to go out of his way to get her name wrong, even when it was an awkward placement to even say her name.  I know what they were trying to do, but it was another location where it seemed a little ham-fisted, as if the movie was just trying too hard.

I may be alone in this, but I didn’t like Carrie.  The story took turns being either boring or annoying and it seemed to me to be poorly directed, even though it was Brian De Palma.  I’m too lazy to look it up, but I am under the impression that he’s a good director.  I didn’t see that here.  I’m disappointed in both Stephen King and Brian De Palma for this movie, but I am good with what Sissy Spacek brought to the table.  It may have been amazing when it came out somehow, but I’m not down with it today.  It’s probably a movie you should watch because it’s a classic, but it’s my opinion that you can skip it.  Carrie gets “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” out of “I hate Carrie White.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Sinister (2012)


Don’t Worry, Daddy … I’ll Make You Famous Again.

I actually found myself in a position that I could fulfill a couple of things all at the same time by reviewing one movie.  It’s a horror movie so it goes into the October Horrorthon, it was a request that I could take care of from my friend Kori, and it was also a movie in theaters now and I had not been to the cinema in a while.  The problem that I had was that the movie she requested was one I had never heard of, and I typically won’t honor a request made for a movie in theaters until it comes out on DVD because theaters are too expensive to see things I don’t give a shit about.  At least until I get famous in a couple of months and they start paying to get me to see their movies.  But I talked with my friend Jordan about this request and he said the trailer looked pretty good.  I checked it out and it did actually pique my interest.  Not enough to pay full price for the ticket, but I could certainly be inspired to check it out for $5 at my local theater.  And that’s how I ended up watching Sinister, co-written by C. Robert Cargill, co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson, and starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario, James Ransone, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Fred Thompson.

The Oswalt family – father Ellison (Ethan Hawke), mother Tracy (Juliet Rylance), daughter Ashley (Clare Foley), and potentially-other-daughter-that-they-claim-is-a-son-but-I’m-not-convinced Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) – move into a house that will supposedly help Ellison finish his next novel.  He’s a true-crime novelist who hasn’t had a hit since his first book and has made the creepy and dangerous decision to move into the actual house where the murders his book are about took place, unbeknownst to his family.  Turns out that four members of a family were hanged from a tree in the backyard and the remaining daughter went missing.  Ellison finds a box in the attic that contains several reels of Super 8 footage that start innocently enough but turn into murders.  There’s “Pool Party” where the family plays in the pool and then cut to them tied to deck chairs and being drowned, “BBQ” which starts as a barbecue that cuts to the family being immolated, “Sleepy Time” which is the family tied to the beds and then getting their throats cut, and “Family Hanging Out” which is of the hanging murders.  Inside these videos, Ellison sees a dark figure that is either a demon or a Juggalo, and with that he starts having strange and scary occurrences around the house.

I didn’t build up any sort of expectation for this movie going in, and it met them.  It’s good.  Not great, just good.  It’s not entirely unlike the movies that they put on their poster because they share the same producer (Paranormal Activity and Insidious).  In fact, it’s got a lot of elements that can be found in Insidious.  The evil thing’s whole goal is to lure kids into the spirit world through their dreams, and that is exactly what happened in Insidious.  But I wouldn’t say these movies were too alike.  I guess these kinds of movies are always going to share a few similar themes.  What I did take issue with was that it really didn’t scare, at least not in any way I respect.  I don’t like movies startling me.  It doesn’t take a quality filmmaker to startle someone.  All you really need to do is be really quiet for a little while and then have something pop out.  It generally feels cheap in a movie, even if it is sometimes effective.  They do create tension pretty well to lead up to those moments, but the actual “scary” thing was usually just something popping out or a goofy scene of dead kid ghosts running around a house.  The story of the movie was fine, but certainly not innovative.  It’s all about something evil that kills people for watching a movie.  But this time the evil thing was named Mr. Magoo (Wikipedia says it’s Bughuul, but I know what I heard) and not Samara from The Ring.  And they also spent an awful lot of time on the other part of the story: Ellison wanting to write a new hit book.  But that part of the story got me annoyed right from the start.  First, why would you ever intentionally move into a place where you know people were murdered?  I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I also don’t believe in finding out the hard way.  And his whole idea of moving there to help him write his story about it seems like bullshit.  I’m writing this review about the movie, but I didn’t have to move into a haunted house to do it because I can just use my imagination.  And this whole thing started to ruin his family life, but I didn’t feel like he was that interested in that even though he acted like he was because I think he was trying to kill his son/daughter, Trevor.  Early on in the movie (and it’s actually one of the scarier parts) he finds his kid in a box that he didn’t know how he got in because the kid has night terrors (that also have nothing to do with the movie).  Later, when he hears a noise upstairs, Ellison starts vigorously looking through boxes with a knife trying to find the source of the noise.  If your kid was pulling the same nonsense, you would’ve stabbed him in the face.  And I wouldn’t really have minded.

The look of the movie was a little hit or miss for me.  I appreciated the movie because the amount of time they relied on gore for scares was nearly non-existent, but the product placement was really starting to bug me.  Apple either fully funded this movie or the people making it are just fully in love with it.  Ellison spent 90% of the movie either on his Mac or using his iPhone.  I liked when he used his iPhone though because I could totally relate to it.  Instead of having an actual flashlight for one scene, he used the flashlight app on his phone.  I do that all the time.  I have flashlights all over the place in my house too, but they’re not on me 24/7 like my phone is.  But the Apple stuff actually leads to a plot hole that I found.  When Ellison is trying to wipe his hands of the whole situation, he deletes the stuff off of his Mac.  You know Time Machine won’t let you actually delete stuff!  Apple thinks you’re retarded!  Another thing that really worked my nerves in this movie was that they felt the need to show us how everything was being activated with a series of quick cut montage edits that seemed straight out of Hot Fuzz, except Hot Fuzz knew they were doing it out of comedy.  I started to get the feeling that the filmmakers really wanted me to know how to use a Super 8 projector because they had to show us exactly how the film was spooled in, then the lens clicks into place, then you spool it through the bottom reel, and then you flip the switch to turn it on.  How do I know that even though I’ve never seen a reel to reel projector in real life?  ‘Cause this movie wouldn’t accept me leaving without that knowledge.  And then they started doing it with the coffee machine too.

I can’t say I had any problem with any of the performances in the movie.  They were all either fine or good.  Ethan Hawke was not a likeable character, but he did a good job at the character.  He spent most of the movie being terrified by stuff, but he did a good job of it.  I just didn’t like that his character kept watching old video of him saying that he values the justice his books bring so much over the fame, but then would risk his family’s life to get another hit.  I guess that’s just making the character more human though.  Juliet Rylance tended to get on my nerves, but I think I take a negative stance on any lady in a movie that is a buzz kill.  If he listened to you, there wouldn’t be a movie.  So shut up and get to dying.  Though his part in the movie was not that big, I liked James Ransone as the Deputy.  He was funny and vaguely dimwitted, but not so much so that it was unrealistic.

Sinister was a bit of a risk for me, going in with completely no idea what I was in for, but I would say it was not without its charms.  I just don’t know if I’m confident saying those charms were enough to recommend seeing it in theaters.  The story seemed to take a lot from other horror movies like The Ring and Paranormal Activity, but the comparisons were not so overwhelming that I’d say it was the same movies.  The performances were also good.  I guess the biggest problem was that the scares were mostly cheap and not much more than startles.  I don’t regret seeing this movie in theaters, but I also would’ve been completely comfortable waiting to RedBox it.  Sinister gets “Children exposed to these images were especially vulnerable to Magoo’s abductions” out of “That symbol is associated with a Pagan deity named Magoo.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.