Hush (2016)

I was skeptical when I saw the Blumhouse signature, but I have to say that this movie surprised me. Blumhouse typically churns out Friday-night teen horror flicks ridden with jump scares and cheap tricks, but Hush (2016) actually broke out of the typical mold I’m so used to seeing with Jason Blum.

The director, Mike Flanagan, has also worked on 2013’s Oculus – a personal favorite of mine that I think is a masterpiece (and I just learned it evolved out of a 2006 short film!!!) – and 2011’s Absentia, which I also quite enjoyed.

The tension in this film was fabulous. I think the comparison a Bloody Good Horror reviewer made recently (a mixture of The Strangers and You’re Next) is a pretty accurate description of what this movie is. The motive is the same (assumed – it’s really never discussed) as in The Strangers. And, well, let’s be honest – I see a crossbow and I immediately think of You’re Next, though it doesn’t include an all-star cast including Barbara Crampton (I may be biased).

The most masterful part of this film was their use of sound. Being that the protagonist is both deaf and mute, playing with those facts added to the tension. We get to watch while Maddie cooks dinner – silently. We also get to watch as sounds occur and she remains completely unaware – her phone ringing, or the tragic moment when her friend is pounding on her door, begging to be let in. I enjoyed these moments.

 

The killer was not exactly what I would describe as “refined.” He was off the hinges a bit – in a bad way. He was messy.

An issue I had with him was the mask. Why even wear one if you’re simply going to take it off early into the movie? It made no sense… In fact, I liked the mask. I found it to be more terrifying than seeing the guy’s actual face. I’m not sure what purpose taking it off served.

There were moments I felt were unnecessary. The inclusion of Craig (Maddie’s ex?) was never brought up again. Not quite sure why that was added. I figured they would pull that back in, but nope.

Maddie playing through the possible endings was a clever addition that this horror fan highly appreciated. It wasn’t cheesy or overdone – it worked.

Overall, I have to say that Hush left me pleasantly surprised and satisfied. It certainly wasn’t a film that’s going to change the genre, but dare I say it may signal a change of content coming from Blumhouse? I sure hope so…

Vhs: Viral – US Release today!

Today’s the day. VHS: Viral (which is basically VHS 3) comes out tonight!

The first two gave found footage a reason to continue its existence, in my opinion. Though many people compare them to ABCs of Death, I find the VHS series to be much, much better than that. (I hate ABCs of Death with a passion because it was HORRIBLE. Such great potential thrown away on fart jokes and furries.)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is below for your watching pleasure:

I’m gonna try to catch this movie tonight, so hopefully I’ll have some time to pop back in and write a review!

My Review of Mockingbird (2014)

imagesAnd I Fell In Love Instantly: I was browsing the DVD section at Walmart the other day when I noticed this film. I picked it up and noticed two things – 1) It was created by Blumhouse. 2) It was also a collaboration with the people who made The Strangers. The Strangers is my favorite horror film. Naturally, I was interested, but I waited for it to be released on Netflix. I eagerly turned on the movie and got settled.

Background: Okay, so the basic premise of the movie is that there are several different people who experience the same thing. They receive a video camera in a big red box tied up with a white bow on their doorstep. Naturally, they are excited about the expensive gift and begin recording. Here’s the catch: if you stop recording, you die. Or at least that’s what they are eventually told through a video tape that mysteriously appears at their doorstep. The victims are tormented, the phone lines are cut, blah blah blah. Eventually, the mystery has to be solved and the victims are given instructions on where to go and what to do next.

Characters: One character, instead of being tormented, is given makeup and a clown suit. He then has to perform tasks (almost like a scavenger hunt) in order to supposedly win a monetary prize. He does so happily. His situation at home is that he owes his mother money and so must live with her. From her interactions with him, it becomes clear that she is a horrible mother. The actor really portrays the son realistically, so kudos to him.

The family is cute, but really not that special. The woman seemed nice, but all I knew was that she lived in the guest house on someone’s else’s property. I didn’t get to know them like I did the clown guy. That was my issue with the film – the characters’ stories were touched upon, but not really elaborated. The only character I felt strongly for was the clown. The others were basically strangers to me, so I didn’t have a strong connection to them. That was a major weak point of the film for me.

Favorite Scene: The balloon scene near the end. It was a very unique visual, and I really enjoyed the red tint it threw on everything in the setting.

The Ending: This was the reason I was disappointed with Mockingbird. The ending was horrible; it didn’t work and it felt extremely sloppy, like it was thrown together at the last minute, like Lost. It didn’t make any sense. It was not explained. There were no questions answered. It almost felt like a practice exercise for Sinister, except without the well-crafted storytelling. There was all this build-up, and then… nothing. It’s fine to leave some questions unanswered, but this isn’t The Strangers; we needed an explanation. Anyone can craft some messed up scenario and throw an ending on it like this one. It was as if the director was saying, “OHHH! LOOK AT THIS TWIST! OOH SO SCARY! BE IMPRESSED!” As if the impact of the twist alone would be a good end to a movie. Wrong. Excuse me, but yes, it does need to make sense – in this case, at least. I was so excited to figure out what was going on and that’s what kept me so interested in this movie. The ending was a complete letdown.

The Good: Character development of the clown guy, great build-up, kept my interest, the balloon scene

The Bad: Not enough character development for a character-centric film, horrible/sloppy/too easy ending, too many unanswered questions

Rating: 2 out of 5 – The film had great potential, but the ending destroyed it.

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My Review of Annabelle (2014)

THE CONJURING

I’m going to start with the obvious: Why did they change the doll? Yes; this is based on a true story, which you can read about here. You can see the ACTUAL doll below:

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How different are these dolls? EXTREMELY. I see intense commercialization here, and I’m not happy about it. Yeah, the doll they chose is really creepy looking, but, at least for me, I think that keeping the doll as it actually looked would have a more profound impact on viewers.

At first glance, the doll (which is the once-popular Raggedy Ann doll) is just cute. And that’s why it works! Here’s why: At first glance of the other doll, you’re already freaked out. This one looks completely innocent; that’s why it’s so powerful. For those that scoff, it’s true; the unexpected can be terrifying. Don’t we always whine about the predictability of horror movies? Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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The aforementioned phenomenon has been used in the past, specifically in The Shining. Kids are creepy, let’s just admit it.

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Anyway, the fact that the doll was different made the movie lose a few points. It was a nice horror flick, though. There were some great moments. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will just point them out in a vague way.

1- The coloring pages: See? Kids are terrifying. Case in point.

2- The elevator/stairway scene: The pure panic and terror in the elevator scene combined with the horror in the stairway scene was just PERFECT. Kudos.

3- The truck scene: We all saw it coming, but the little gasp that came out when you know what happened was spectacular. It was a big surprise that pretty much flustered everyone in the audience.

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It was interesting to see a husband that actually believed the wife this time; that doesn’t happen a lot. There’s always a doubter that eventually has to get slapped in the face to realize the truth. He was a supportive husband. It was nice.

I also enjoyed how they started with the ending. It was a great setup for a sequel.

All in all, a great little horror flick. By no means would this film ever triumph over the incredibly successful Chucky series, but it’s got its place in the horror realm. It topped the box office right along with Gone Girl.

Overall, I give this movie 4 out of 5 hearts.

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The Good: Some really awesome moments that are very well crafted. Great actors. Good atmosphere.

The Bad: They changed the doll. A bit too short.

Gore Rating: Low. Some violence and blood, but nothing Saw-esque.

 

My Review of Rosewood Lane (2011)

Planet Terror actress Rose McGowan stars as Dr. Sonny Blake, a successful radio show host who moves back to her hometown after the death of her alcoholic father. She moves in to his old house, saying that it had been on the market, but “an elephant would be easier to sell these days.”

Her neighbor, Mr. Crumb, advises her to avoid Cam, the paperboy with creepy black eyes, who she soon discovers is quite a nuisance.

After a strange phone call at the station, Blake returns home to find that some of her things have been moved. Panicked, she calls her boyfriend (Barrett, played by Sonny Marinelli) to come over and insists it must have been Cam. Skeptical of her theory, Barrett waves it off as stress from the move.

Blake’s theory, however, is soon confirmed as she discovers Cam in her basement soon after. The kid is pushy and she has no clue how he got in. She ends up chasing him down the street with a baseball bat, along with several neighborhood dogs.

After discussing her situation with the cops, she learns that the paperboy’s real name is Derek Barber, a kid with a medical condition known as aniridia. This disorder is characterized by a colorless iris; the iris hue never develops and remains black like the pupil.

As time goes on, Blake’s encounters with the paperboy become more and more horrifying. He becomes even more dangerous and lands Barrett in the hospital with a concussion and a leg cast.

The paperboy is quite elusive. And just when you think they’ve got him, he strikes again somewhere else.

Derek was a character I loved to hate. His sociopathic tendencies were quite obvious to me and though the aniridia was not necessary, it did add that element of “the unknown” at least in a way; the neighborhood residents didn’t understand the condition and assumed his eyes were black because he was not human. It added to the mystery.

There were times when I was screaming at the screen, frustrated with Blake’s confusion and lack of movement. I don’t think she was stupid by any means, but there were certain moments she did not take advantage of.

This film’s ending left me feeling just like the other characters: confused, afraid, and angry. Barely any questions were answered, although perhaps it was better that way.

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I give this film 4 out of 5 hearts.

The Good: Great characters. Fabulous interweaving with small details and background information. Loved to hate the paperboy.

The Bad: Too many unanswered questions. Left it very open-ended.

Gore Rating: Low. Dead bodies, blood, and some violence.

Lights Out Challenge: I watched the entire thing with the lights off, but I can’t deny the fact that the paperboy gave me the creeps.

IMDB Rating: 4.6 out of 10

Rotten Tomatoes has not yet rated this film, but the avg user rating was 2.3 out of 5.

Here’s some more reviews from IMDB that you might find helpful: click here to read the reviews.

My Review of The People Under the Stairs (1991)

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Good ol’ Wes Craven has done it again. His name lit up when it hit the screen. I knew I was in for a good time. Supposedly a cult classic, The People Under the Stairs is a dead-on 80s horror flick complete with mystery, a time-appropriate soundtrack, and just the right dose of humorous absurdity.

The plot follows a young African American boy named Fool on the day of his thirteenth birthday. His family is having some troubles (cancer, money issues, eviction and possible homelessness) and two men (Leroy and Spenser) suggest he learn how to burgle homes in order to keep his family afloat.

Fool reluctantly agrees. Leroy takes him to the house of his family’s evil rich landlords, who are the reason his family is unable to afford rent. During the burglary, Fool becomes trapped inside the house and discovers the dark secret the family keeps hidden in their cellar – the people under the stairs.

I won’t give it all away, but I will tell you that the moment I queried out loud what their purpose was, it was answered. This movie is not slow. It gives answers in all the right places and leaves just enough mystery to keep you wanting more.

McGill and Robie are grade A psychopaths. They played their parts quite well. It was clear that Robie was definitely the one in charge. Their nicknames – Daddy and Mommy – were sickeningly creepy. They were clearly mad. McGill’s facial expressions just rammed in that notion and really made the character fun to watch.

The entire film was quite demented and I think that is the key to its success – not the scariness of the movie, but the idea of what the antagonists are doing. The humor makes it easier to swallow (I really don’t think this movie would have worked as a drama), and the antagonists are quite wacky with their dark-humored slapstick and crazy outbursts.

The feel-good ending was fabulous and not exactly what I expected. Though you would think the neighbors would have done this a long time ago, it felt like the right time. They had had enough. It was the last straw.

The sociopolitical undertones were present, but not pushed over the edge. Craven utilized it to tell the story, not to make a political point. It was effective and I felt it was necessary. More so, it established the idea that economic class and status does not a good person make. Success does not equate to goodness, as made evident by McGill and Robie’s characters. The true monsters might not be who you think; everyone has secrets.

Overall, it was a fun flick sprinkled with dark slapstick comedy that left me feeling great at the end, but it wasn’t Craven’s best.

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I give this film 3 out of 5 hearts.

The Good: Fun. Great characters. Good pacing.

The Bad: The gore was excessive. It felt like it didn’t fit.

Gore Rating: Medium. Body parts, blood, and weapon violence.

DISCLAIMER: Some adult language (F word) and gore. Viewer discretion encouraged.

Lights Out Challenge: I watched the entire thing with the lights off. Not very scary. More shocking than terrifying.

IMDB Rating: 6.3 out of 10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 58%

Here’s some more reviews from IMDB that you might find helpful: click here to read the reviews.

Here is a NY Times review of the film by Vincent Canby: click here to read the review.

My Review of David Sanders’s “Lights Out” Horror Short

My Review of David Sanders’s “Lights Out” Horror Short

I’m a big horror fan, so naturally I was ecstatic to find the entries for the Who’s There Film Challenge 2013 on YouTube. The challenge requires entrants to create short films, specifically in the horror genre. Though this one did not win first place (it only won Best Director, which I really cannot disagree with), it scared me so bad that I was unable to sleep with the lights off for a week! Sanders, in my opinion, truly masters the concept of fear and the power of the unknown to to inflict such fear with this short.

Read my review and watch the short! Let me know what you think in the comments section. You can open the article by clicking on the title of this post.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all of your support!

-Samantha

My Review of The Act of Killing (2012)

“In a country where killers are celebrated as heroes, the filmmakers challenge unrepentant death squad leaders to dramatize their role in genocide. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.”

If you haven’t heard of this movie, it’s a documentary that focuses on the 1965-1966 massacres of alleged Communists in Indonesia. For more information on that, check out this link on the movie’s website. It’s the best documentary I have ever seen hands down. It made me angry. It made me sad. It made me scared. These are real people. It can be so hard to grasp that, but it’s true. Real people that died. Real people that tortured and murdered them. Real people who are celebrated as heroes because of the massacres they contributed to.

And it’s simply horrifying.

The creators of this documentary did something many wouldn’t expect. Instead of contacting the families of those who went through the horrible trauma or knew those that did, director Joshua Oppenheimer went to the ones who were responsible for the killings – men like Anwar Congo, who had his beginnings as a movie ticket scalper.

Not only does Oppenheimer interview them, but he also convinces the gangsters to agree to re-enact the horrific events in a movie.

“But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary:,” Oppenheimer said. “They want to star in the kind of films they most love from their days scalping tickets at the cinemas. We seize this opportunity to expose how a regime that was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable, would project itself into history.”

What follows is an incredibly terrifyingly honest look into Indonesian history and culture.

One of the first scenes stuck out most to me. During a search for actors and actresses on the streets, Paramilitary Leader Herman Koto begins to show a group of people how to act a scene. Koto demonstrates by acting as if he were scared and pleading with someone to not hurt his family.

“Mother, they burned our house down!” You can see the look in the mother’s eyes as Koto screams this and grabs one of the children in the crowd. As the group laughs around him, you can see the woman nervously join in, but stop pretty quickly.

These emotions – this fear, anger, guilt – are made more evident by their silence.

Oppenheimer allows the viewer to see both sides. He doesn’t butt in very much; the gangsters really speak the majority of the time.

Anwar Congo, a former executioner in the sixties, seems to be the main focus in the film.

Seeing the joy in his face as he makes his children watch a scene of him being tortured is chilling.

And Congo seems to be highly affected by his deeds. They give him nightmares, he says.

Oppenheimer truly paints a fascinating, haunting picture of life in Indonesia with this documentary. Not only was it eye-opening, but scary as well.

A quote taken from the film describes this feeling well: “The Geneva Conventions may be today’s morality, but tomorrow – we’ll have the Jakarta Conventions and dump the Geneva Conventions. ‘War crimes’ are defined by the winners. I’m a winner. So I can make my own definition.”

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I give this film 5 out of 5 hearts.

The Good: Eye-opening, honest, interesting point of view, fabulous progression

The Bad: Only has English subtitles (may have to watch twice to get the full effect)

Gore Rating: Low. Very mild since it is all done with makeup and fake re-enactments of violence.

DISCLAIMER: Very shocking, not a movie for children.

IMDB Rating: 8.2 out of 10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

Here’s another review by Kim Voynar of Movie City News: click here for the review.

My Review of Carrie (2013) and (1976)

First of all, before I proceed, I must remind you that this movie is a remake of the 1976 classic Stephen King flick by the same name. I am in fact a King fan, and I did watch the original prior to seeing this version.

To make this review a bit easier, I’m going to just compare/contrast the remake and the original.

CARRIE WHITE

2013: Moretz played a good Carrie. She’s a star, but she’s not one of those big-name stars like Daniel Radcliffe where you see them and go, “Oh hey! That’s Harry Potter.” She’s someone you can un-see. That being said, I didn’t see Hit Girl throughout the film; she was Carrie White. Conflicted between her love for her mother and her desire to fit in at school, Carrie’s struggles are made quite clear. She seems like more of a modern teenager in this one. In the pig blood scene, however, I felt that Moretz was not at her best. Instead of looking terrifying, she looked like she was turned on. It was more of a sensual look about her than a sinister one. Also, as a character, this Carrie was more forgiving. She didn’t kill everyone in the gym, which honestly disappointed me. If she had reached her breaking point, then why would she have mercy? The only way for her to tell who had done it was the pair of sunglasses up above her, a very small detail that didn’t really give her much to go on. Anyway, the kill scene at the end was much too drawn out. I was waiting for the explosion and it took much too long.

1976: Sissy Spacek was simply incredible as Carrie White. She could flip from awkward and sweet to sinister in a millisecond – something people didn’t expect. The pig blood scene was phenomenal. She made that switch almost instantaneously and it was glorious. She had absolutely no mercy. Spacek truly reached her breaking point in this one and massacred everyone. Her walking out of that flame-filled auditorium was so chilling and creepy. It was absolutely perfect. I think that Spacek truly captured the essence of King’s Carrie, and she is the best one, in my opinion.

MARGARET WHITE

2013: Julianne Moore surprised the hell out of me. I thought that she wouldn’t be any good, but she was fabulous. Her biting tone only made it better (for instance when she is helping out a fellow student’s mother at the shop). Her scenes showed just how insane she really was. The scratching worked well, and she operated as more of the town kook than anything else. Everyone knew she was crazy, but no one knew just how crazy. Moore did a wonderful job as Mrs. White.

1976: Piper Laurie was a different kind of crazy. It was more of a conflicted fundamentalism than a full-on madness. I think she meant well, but didn’t know how to handle raising a child. Indoctrination didn’t work so she lost her mind (as if she hadn’t already – pfft).

THE GYM COACH

2013: I liked the gym teacher a lot more in the remake. She was nicer to Carrie. Why they changed her name from Mrs. Collins to Ms. Desjardin I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter. I felt that Judy Greer did a great job at being a sympathetic character, but the slap – nah uh – something like that would not fly in a modern-day school. She would have been arrested for assaulting a child. Anyway, Greer did a good job of being a safe place for Carrie and I was pleased with her performance. She was believable.

1976: Buckley, it seems to me, sympathized with Carrie out of the obligation to do her job and be a good teacher. She seemed frustrated that Carrie was experiencing these issues most of the time, so I didn’t trust her from the start. As time went on though, she showed that she truly had a soft spot for Carrie but it took some time for me to really believe that.

OVERALL RATING

I’d give the remake 3 out of 5 hearts. It’s a good movie in terms of entertainment value and it explains things a lot better than the old one did (I had to watch the old one twice to fully understand everything), so if you’re looking for a watered-down, easy watch, go for this remake. If you want the REAL DEAL, pick up a copy of the 1976 original. It’ll leave you shaking in your boots.

The Good: Judy Greer’s performance, plot progression, character development, Julianne Moore’s performance

The Bad: Moretz’s kill face, Carrie’s updated character, the ending

Gore Rating: Light. Mostly action sequences. Not a lot of blood (except for the pig blood).

PS – If you were wondering, there’s a breakdown of which did it better below!

The better Carrie: 1976 Sissy Spacek

The better Margaret: It’s a tie.

The better Gym Coach: 2013 Judy Greer

The better ending: 1976 original movie (I love it when her hand just pops out of the ground. That was glorious. The 2013 gravestone cracking just didn’t do it for me – it wasn’t enough of a punch.)

My Review of Maniac (2012)

Maniac

FIRST SCENE

I had NO IDEA that we were looking at the girls from the stalker’s POV until he spoke. That was fabulous. I want some questions answered. Who is this guy? Why is he following Judy? Does she know him and if so, how? It’s obvious that she is freaked out by his car following her… but I can’t tell if she knows who the guy is.

“Don’t scream. You’re so beautiful.” And then he cuts off (literally) her scream shortly after it begins. The fact that he stroked her face was so chilling and reminded me of a Browning poem I read in college called Porphyria’s Lover (go read it – you won’t regret it).

AND ONWARD

I love how we haven’t even seen the guy’s face yet. It’s all shown from his POV, which is fantastic and really enforces just how messed up he is. We couldn’t imagine ourselves in his shoes yet here we are, often sympathizing with him. Not with his actions, mind you, but with his circumstances. The audience is left cringing at every move, knowing that what’s to come isn’t going to be good.

Being a victim of a violent crime (abusive relationship), I’m no stranger to the art of manipulation. Watching the killer type messages to RedLucie86 makes me cringe, because there are so many red flags in his messages – first of all, no picture. Secondly, the way he says, “I think you might be too daring for me.” He manipulates her into wanting to see him even more. So basically he turns it around and tries to get HER to convince HIM to meet her – AKA if asked, it will be her fault and on her insistence that they met. Clever, eh?

  • “You know, it was really sweet of you to drive me home.” “I’m happy to do it.” OHHHHHHH, I BET YOU ARE.
  • Sidenote: He doesn’t say much.
  • Jesus. That choking scene came on quick. It was like it was suddenly nothing for him. I loved how I could only hear how her breathing changed at first. It was subtle, but noticeable.
  • Zoom-in on the red spots on her neck where his hands were – that was perfect.
  • The fact that he puked right after scalping her was interesting. I wonder how many times he has killed before…
  • Back of the van scene: THAT. WAS. AWESOME. No spoilers from me – you’ll have to watch it yourself – but it made me grin.
  • 1:19:07 elicited a loud YEAH from me and immediately after, a loud OH SHIT.

OVERALL RATING

I enjoyed this film. I’d say 4 out of 5 hearts. It had everything I want from a horror movie: mystery, a psychopath, gore, lots of idiots, and one smart character. What made it unique was its first person POV, which I love and only is deviated from twice, and the line of work Frank was in. I’ve never seen a horror movie with mannequins as the main focal point (other than one of the monsters from Silent Hill), so it was fresh. It was Jack the ripper-esque for sure, but he was different enough to keep me interested. It was more than a kill – in fact these weren’t even kills to him; I’m not even quite sure what to call them. Though he would probably refer to them as restorations – he wanted to “keep” them. Back on track, the movie was a bit slow at points, but there was nothing really that felt out of place to me. The ending was a bit of a stretch, but it worked. I can’t hate zombie mannequins. I really can’t. So, to sum it all up, I give this movie 4 hearts out of 5, due to the low sound quality and the often slow nature of the movie. Otherwise, it was entertaining and shockingly intriguing and I suggest that you watch it!

The Good: Elijah Wood’s creepy performance, first person POV, the ending

The Bad: Horrible sound quality, sometimes slow

Gore Rating: Heavy. Lots of blood and guts. Not for weak stomachs.

DISCLAIMER: Some nudity, several sex scenes.

If you were curious, it got a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and (as aforementioned) mixed reviews. Here’s Simon Miraudo’s review: click here for the Quickflix review.