Annabelle (2014)


There are Things Happening that I Can’t Explain.

Annabelle (2014)Today’s October Horrorthon movie snuck up on me. I had no awareness of its existence until I started seeing people talking about seeing it all over Facebook and started wondering what it was. Then I looked into it and realized it was a prequel to a movie I had reviewed more than a year ago and had found acceptable. It seemed only right that I take the time to review this movie as well. Especially since my friend Reechurd suggested we see it, and I had nothing better to do. So let’s talk about Annabelle, based on the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, written by Gary Dauberman, directed by John R. Leonetti, produced by James Wan, and starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard, Kerry O’Malley, Brian Howe, Eric Laden, and Tree O’Toole.

Two people go to Ed and Lorraine Warren because they thing their doll is haunted. We then jump back to the 60’s, where John Form (Ward Horton) gives a doll that Satan’s niece outgrew to his pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis). Then Charlie Manson calls for Helter Skelter and Mia hears her neighbors being murdered. Not satisfied, the murders then head to the Form house where the woman and the man stab Mia before John can intervene. The police arrive and shoot the man and find that the woman killed herself while holding Mia’s doll and drew a weird symbol on the wall in her blood. While recuperating from the attack, Mia sees on the news that the female stabber was the daughter of the neighbors that she killed. She also starts seeing weird things happening around the house like things moving, seeing people that disappear, popcorn tries to burn her house down. Y’know, the usual.

Can my entire review for a movie be the word “meh?” Probably not, but I will still use it in this review. I was a bit surprised because of all the talk I had heard about this movie that it just turned out to be okay. It had its moments, but there just wasn’t much significant about it. It progressed like almost every other haunting movie but this time there was a doll. A doll that no one realized was evil till it was possessed by a dead lady even though it looked like it would give the Devil nightmares before it was officially evil. But at least the setup for how the doll became evil was somewhat interesting with the whole devil worship, Helter Skelter thing.

The story doesn’t make much difference in these movies to be honest. What really matters in a movie like this are the spooks. They actually do fairly well with this. The scares are pretty well done and some are fairly clever. It was pretty interesting when Mia was finding the kid-drawn pictures of a garbage truck approaching her baby, even though the final one had the baby dead before the truck had technically hit the baby. But then when it actually happened it turned out to be a dream or something, and it turns out that stole that stroller moving on its own thing from Ghostbusters 2. I also thought it was really well done when that little girl ran down the hall and turned into the older Annabelle. That spooked me somethin’ fierce. It was also pretty effective when the pastor guy was knocked back from the door at the church, and it just made me wonder why the church wouldn’t just sanctify the entire plot of land the church was on. You can only do the building but can’t be bothered to spray some holy water on the sidewalk? They weren’t always that well hidden though, like the whole thing with the sewing machine. I got uncomfortable every time Mia was using it and they got a close up on her fingers, practically telling the audience that eventually some shit was going down with this sewing machine. When it eventually happened, I was disappointed that they seemed to build it up so much just to have her get a minor boo-boo on her finger. So the spooks were fairly good and clever when they happened, but it also shined a light on all the in-between times that were pretty slow and not very interesting.

I suppose I had no problems with the performances in the movie, but I generally have problems with the characters. Like Mia was a terrible person. She seemed fine through most of the movie, but then we find out that when she falls when she’s pregnant, she tries to break that fall with her pregnant belly. It’s a wonder that baby Lea was born and seemed normal, and even more amazing that the baby grows up to be the princess of Alderaan. And besides Ward Horton being delightfully Aryan and Tony Amendola making me believe he was Salieri from Amadeus, I have nothing to say about anyone else in the cast. They were good and didn’t do too many stupid things.

Annabelle wasn’t a bad movie; I just have no idea why people were bothering to talk about it. The Conjuring was just okay, so seeing a prequel to it certainly wasn’t inspiring to me. And the fact that it was about a haunted doll wasn’t doing it for me. And after seeing the movie, I still don’t really know why it’s being talked about. The story is okay, some of the scares are clever and well done, but it’s overall just nothing special. I’d say the movie is fine for a rental eventually, but it really doesn’t have anything that inspires me to say you should see it now. Annabelle gets “May God have mercy on your soul” out of “I like your dolls.”

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)


This is Nothing Like Being Dead.  I Know.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)When I saw the movie that preceded today’s movie, I remember it building so much tension that I was constantly checking behind me in the movie theater.  Not because I thought there might be ghosts or demons behind me, but because I was so on edge that if any person in the theater decided to be a jerk and poke me, I would probably piss myself.  And then murder him to death to avoid my embarrassment being exposed.  When I saw they were making a sequel, I was confused.  The movie didn’t really seem to need a sequel, nor did the movie seem to leave itself open to a logical jump to one.  But I liked the original, so I decided to give it a shot.  Today I’m reviewing Insidious: Chapter 2, written by Leigh Whannell, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson, Garrett Ryan, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Lindsay Seim, Danielle Bisutti, Tom Fitzpatrick, Tyler Griffin, Barbara Hershey, Jocelin Donahue, Steve Coulter, Hank Harris, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Michael Beach.

Medium Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) lies dead, strangled to death by a malevolent spirit inhabiting the body of Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson).  Still no status update on Small or Large Elise.  …Thank you.  No one is able to prove that he did it, but his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) is suspicious.  And with Elise dead, she has no one to turn to until she meets another medium named Carl (Steve Coulter) who has worked with Elise before when they made Josh forget about his ability to leave his body while he slept.  He uses Yahtzee to communicate with spirits and gets information from Elise’s spirit about where to go to figure out what’s happening to Josh before something happens to him or his family.

I liked this movie, but I didn’t find it nearly as effective as the previous movie.  I base that almost entirely on the fact that I wasn’t suspicious of random strangers sneaking up on me and using my delicate state against me.  It didn’t build the suspense nearly as successfully as the first movie, but it still did a pretty good job.  I had some problems with the story, but it worked altogether.  One main problem I had was that they let Josh go home.  First, he was suspected of murdering Elise.  Even if they didn’t have the forensics back yet, do they let suspected murderers return home to potentially murder his family and some more people while they wait for the lab to get back to them?  And going off of that, how does forensics NOT make Josh as the murderer when he strangled this old woman to death with his bare hands?  Being inhabited by an evil spirit might be a convenient excuse, but it doesn’t explain how your fingerprints have changed.  I mean, I was wondering how they would rectify the problem of wanting to keep Patrick Wilson involved in the movie even though he murdered someone at the end of the last movie, but that explanation seems to strain credulity.  I do understand Josh trying to make Renai stop thinking about the ghosts, but I don’t understand how he can had not even finished his sentence about ignoring them before going downstairs to investigate some noises.  It also doesn’t really make sense that someone would grab a baseball bat to confront a ghost.  And if you’ve already determined that it’s Josh that’s haunted and not the house, how is there ever a scenario that you would leave him alone with the kids?  But there were definitely some interesting things that happened in the story of the movie.  I like how they tied in the events of this movie with the events of the first movie, and I also liked the reveal about the identity of the Black Bride.

The ghost stuff didn’t always work for me too.  When the haunting started, the first thing the movie used with the intention to scare us was the fact that the piano was playing with no one in the room.  That COULD indicate that there’s a ghost in there … it could also indicate that it’s a Player Piano.  You’re going to need to explain to us that it’s not capable of playing by itself without spirits before I jump to that conclusion.  I did appreciate that they were able to get started with the ghosts stuff because they had already gone through the explanation and stuff in the first movie, allowing them to dive right in for this movie.  Paranormal Activity never does that.  Each movie starts with the ghost being as shy as he was in the first movie, playing annoying tricks until he eventually gets up the nerves to snap someone in half.  Of course, it was a little overt for the ghost to jump right into showing Rose Byrne how strong her pimp hand was.  Most ghosts do more frightening to build up energy so that they can move a penny up a wall, not just diving right into Ike Turner mode.  And then the movie turns into an episode of Ghost Adventures when they arrive at the hospital because most of the movie is seen through their handheld cameras.  I half expected them to run into Zak, Nick, and Aaron.  Of course, the Ghost Adventures Crew don’t get anywhere near this lucky with their investigations, so that worked in favor of the movie.

The cast all did a great job.  Patrick Wilson got to be pretty versatile in the movie since it seemed he was occupied by two different people.  But he was very successful at playing a normal (albeit a bit on edge) guy, and then a somewhat crazy guy.  But someone should probably tell him that, if he wants to have his “Here’s Johnny!” moment, a baseball bat is a pretty clumsy way to accomplish that.  Barbara Hershey’s character annoyed me at one point.  Why the hell would you take your young son into a room with a patient that had just castrated himself, thus indicating a potential flaw in his mental stability?  And what’s more, would you even be able to?  It seems like nurses might have rules against such things.  I found Ty Simpkins annoying through most of the movie, but I can’t tell if that was him or just my natural hatred of most children.  Either way, I got on board with him again when he clocked someone with a baseball bat.  That was badass, little dude.  Kind of lost me again shortly afterwards when he somehow fell asleep at will.  Maybe that’s just jealousy.  I can never fall asleep that quickly!  I’m sure it’s what she was going for, but Danielle Bisutti was a little over the top as the Mother of Parker Crane.  She reminded me of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, except that wire hangers were exchanged for her kid’s gender and name.  But I’ll give her a pass since she was supposed to be portraying someone that was insane.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is a solid movie that couldn’t reach the high bar set by its predecessor.  The story was alright and even did some cool and innovative things, and the performances were strong, but they did not build nearly as much tension as the first movie and thus couldn’t keep me on edge.  It’s good, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check it out in theaters, but you could also wait for a rental.  Insidious: Chapter 2 gets “In my line of work things tend to happen when it gets dark” out of “Look what you did!”

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The Conjuring (2013)


There’s a Lady in a Dirty Nightgown That I See in My Dreams.

The Conjuring (2013)I had just gotten myself all prepared to see The Wolverine when I realized that I had made an appointment to get my air conditioning unit looked at right when the movie was going to start.  I didn’t even need it anymore!  It had taken so long for them to come out that the temperature had just cooled down naturally!  Oh well.  Instead, I had made plans with Friendboss Josh and his lady friend the Whitneybird and, even though I of course wanted to see The Wolverine more, I am a man of my word.  Josh is practically brought to the point of suicide every time he’s not in my presence, and I’d hate to see how he’d react if I had plans with him and changed them for Hugh Jackman.  Being the fantastic person I am, I decided to keep my word and go see The Conjuring with him, written by Chad and Carey Hayes, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, and Joseph Bishara.

The Perron Family – father Roger (Ron Livingston), mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and daughters Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), April (Kyla Deaver), and Evita I think – move into a peaceful and isolated house in the country, complete with a creepy black tree in the back and an inexplicably hidden cellar.  Even though nothing bad could possibly happen here, it does.  Paranormal events start occurring all over the house.  They’re tame at first, but then they amp up to the point where Andrea is attacked by what appears to be the spirit of an elderly woman.  In order to save their family, they call in Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), an acclaimed demonologist, and his wife Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), a clairvoyant, to help.  Also, there’s an Asian guy (Shannon Kook) and a cop (John Brotherton).

Though I did like this movie, I don’t credit much of it to the writing.  As I was typing the recap of the story, I started to think that I could probably create a template for reviewing ghost movies that would save me a lot of time.  *BLANK* moves into a house.  At first it’s peaceful, but then strange things start happening.  Harmless at first, but then they amp up until *BLANK*.  They call in experts, shit gets real for a little while, then either happy or sad ending.  The end.  I would also say that not too much credit could be given to the story because this movie was said to be based on the actual investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  That being the case, I couldn’t give this movie much more credit than I could give the Amityville Horror movies, which were also based on the Warren’s investigations, and I suspect followed a similar pattern.  Perhaps I’ll be able to use this template if I ever review those movies.  I also took issues with a few things in the story of the movie, although I suppose I also can’t take that much issue with it because it could have happened in real life for all I know.  The death of the dog early on, for instance.  Josh pointed out to me that dog made a huge error in judgment by deciding not to come into the house.  I know they were trying to indicate that the dog sensed something and was too afraid to enter the house, but the dog got killed outside anyway.  Lot of good that did you.  At some point in the movie, someone also remarks that the spirit hasn’t done anything violent.  Really?  You obviously mean it hasn’t done anything violent EXCEPT for attacking Andrea and pushing the mom down the stairs.  Besides that, it’s completely tame.  But the biggest error in judgment is that they leave the kids alone with the mother just moments after announcing that she’s possessed.  I don’t even have a joke about that!  It’s just dumb!

Though I was underwhelmed by the story of the movie, I would still give the movie credit for being pretty effective in its delivery.  It built suspense very well and did pretty well with the startling moments.  It was pretty suspenseful on the two occasions that the parents investigated the cellar with only a box of matches, but it made me curious because I was pretty sure they had invented flashlights by the 1970s.  When they later actually used flashlights, it confirmed my suspicions that it was dumb for them to not decide to use one.  Later in the movie, it was pretty damned startling when the sheet blew off and stopped on a ghostly figure.  It reminded me of the scene in one of the Paranormal Activity movies when dust fell on a ghostly figure.  There wasn’t much gore in this movie (which I appreciate), but when they used it, they used it well.  When they had the birds flying into things and breaking their necks, they were really convincing.  I guess the most gore they got was around the climax of the movie, but they never went overboard.  They also used the sound pretty effectively.  There was a point in the movie where the bass was so low that it shook my seat like I don’t ever recall happening in a movie before.  Maybe the theater is more to blame for that though.

I felt like the performances were pretty effective in this movie.  I feel like I haven’t seen Ron Livingston since Office Space, so I was happy to see him here.  He didn’t really do anything to blow my mind in this movie, but he was good.  Lili Taylor did pretty well.  She was kind of a non-entity when she was just normal as the mother, but when she was inhabited by another entity, she did a complete turn.  Excellent performance.  Of course, her performance as a mother left a little something to be desired, and not just because she tried to kill the children at one point.  I also mean the fact that she not only let the kids play a game of blindfolded hide and seek in a house with stairs, but she also participated.  I didn’t think much of anything of any of the children in the family.  The only thing I kept thinking was why there were so gundamned many of them, and why were they all girls?  I suppose it’s a real thing that could happen, but it also should’ve been a reason not to move to the country.  I mean, if all of those chicks in the household get their periods all synced up then demons will be the least of their worries when their house is surrounded by bears.  Also, there were so many girls that I couldn’t really tell them apart.  None of them really did much to stand out except the youngest one that liked talking to a music box.  Beyond those people, the only thought I had was about Shannon Kook, but only because it was so stereotypical that the Asian dude would always be so ready with a camera.

The Conjuring didn’t really do much for me by way of story, but I don’t think anyone really cares that much about the story of a horror movie.  It’s really more about how effectively the movie can creep you out, build your anxiety, and make you jump in your seat.  This movie did that pretty well.  And the performances were all pretty good as well.  I would still say that it leaves me a bit on the fence when it comes to a recommendation.  It’s definitely not a bad movie, but it didn’t feel like it was good enough for me to say you need to go see it in a theater right away.  You could wait to rent it.  I guess I would say you should get to the theater if you have a hankering for a scary movie, because you probably won’t have a better opportunity until around October.  The Conjuring gets “The devil exists.  God exists.  And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow” out of “There is something horrible happening in my house.”

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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.