Friday, November 21, 2014

Film Review: Gallows Hill (aka The Damned) (2013)

Gallows Hill (aka The Damned) (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"The characters are especially poisonous for this film."

After a car accident, a family finds refuge in a desolate inn, where they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil...

Gallows Hill continues to follow this family after their accident. They find refuge in a seemingly out-of-business inn ran by an old man. Eventually, the daughter of the family, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), wanders around the home, which she's told not to do, in search of a restroom when she hears a girl cry. So, the family releases the girl, despite several warnings from the inn's owner. The girl turns out to be possessed, and the family tries to survive and unravel the mystery. I didn't like the ending.

In fact, I didn't like most of the film. The most glaring issues for the film: the unbelievably stupid characters and the consequently contrived story. Really, these are very stupid, ignorant, and arrogant characters. It must have been Opposite Day on the day this film took place, these characters do the exact opposite of what they're told. "Let's drive through this intense storm, even though the police officer told us not to." "He told us not to, but let's leave and explore the house." "Oh, this girl is dangerous and we shouldn't release her? Let's do it, anyway." I was shaking my head throughout the entire first half of the film.

Not only that, but these characters were also annoying. Jill was so self-righteous, she really ruined the ending. The same goes for Gina (Carolina Guerra), Jill's aunt and the journalist who has to get the scoop; furthermore, she makes the stupidest choice in the movie. The other characters were at least tolerable when it came to personality. (I think most of them make at least one stupid decision, though.) The characters ultimately spoiled the film, though.

The film gets a little better during the latter half, when the characters make less decisions, but it's not enough. I suppose, it's too little, too late. I enjoyed some of the scenes, but they weren't enough to redeem the first half of the film. That's very disappointing. I really enjoyed the setting, the inn has a really ominous mood and it almost has a personality for itself. It could've been very atmospheric and creepy. The keyword being: could've.

The acting was all-in-all mediocre. I don't fault it too much, though, most of it is tolerable by horror standards. However, I thought Nathalia Ramos was especially mediocre. Maybe it was dialogue, but her performance sounded very insincere, almost like she was reading directly off a script. Come to think of it, a lot of dialogue seemed insincere, it lacked a human flow -- for lack of a better term. The film is shot well, though. Like I said, the inn looks great and occasionally feels ominous. Director Víctor García almost redeems himself during the second half, but the flaws during the first half are too severe. I liked the concept and some of the horror elements during the final act, but the characters were simply too dreadful for the film.

Overall, I didn't like Gallows Hill. It has some decent horror elements, especially during the second half, as well as a decent concept, but it is too flawed to begin with. The characters are especially poisonous for this film. The plot contrivances are also too blatant, and the entire plot relies on the stupidity of its characters. The writing comes off as lazy, despite the cool concept. Stream it if you're still interested, but I can't recommend it.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief nudity.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Film Review: Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall (Review)
United States/1990
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a magnificent action-thrill ride with a wonderfully-crafted world."

In 2084, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker on Earth who has dreams of Mars. One day, Quaid visits "Rekall", a company that provides implanted memories of vacations. Before the memory is implanted, though, Quaid has a surge of his own memories...

Total Recall continues to follow Quaid as he remembers himself as a secret agent. Rekall sedates him and tries to wipe his memory, but the damage has been done. Soon, Quaid finds his world flipped upside-down as he's chased by pursuers he can't seem to recognize. Eventually, he finds messages his old self left him, and he spirals into a complicated ride filled with twists and turns. That's as far as I'll go for my synopsis -- this is a film where the less you know, the better. I will say: I thoroughly enjoyed the entire plot, and the ending, albeit abrupt, was great.

Total Recall is a fantastic film. First and foremost, the world is amazing. I was instantly immersed into this futuristic setting. The world was mesmerizing on Earth and Mars. The plot kept me hooked from beginning to end. This is a story that always stays on its feet, consequently delivering a turbo-paced film. There's barely any time to breath thanks to the ridiculously fast pace. When the plot isn't twisting or turning, the film is hitting you with breathtaking chase scenes, a violent shootouts, brutal fights, or its effective black humor. Whatever its hitting you with: it works and it works well.

In this case, though, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, I didn't mind, I love action-hero Arnie, but it's worth noting for those expecting some groundbreaking acting. Fortunately, the rest of the cast and their characters are filled with personality. The world is beautifully captured through the cinematography. The action is effective captured through the engaging camerawork, too. The music stood out most, though. It's a classic SciFi soundtrack that helped build the immersion factor of the film. Actually, scratch that, I think the special effects and makeup stood out the most. The makeup in this film is unforgettable. I first watched this film in the 90s as a child, and I still can't forget it. Director Paul Verhoeven masterfully crafts a wonderfully immersive world, and delivers a fast-paced, action-thrill ride.

Overall, Total Recall is a magnificent action-thrill ride with a wonderfully-crafted world. Whether your looking for action or SciFi, this film delivers tenfold. Love music and special effect/makeup? This film delivers. Want a twisted and engaging plot? This film delivers. It's a ridiculously fun time -- this is how you make a SciFi blockbuster. I can't recommend this film enough. If you haven't seen it yet, you're over 20 years late.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Film Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Review)
United States/1976
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...when it works, it really works."

Loosely based on real events, this is the story of the Phantom Killer, an unidentified serial killer who tormented the town of Texarkana, Texas.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown has a straightforward plot. The story follows the police officers tracking the Phantom killer. It mainly follows Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson), a well-known lead investigator, as he heads the case. Meanwhile, the Phantom killer attacks people every 21 days or so, particularly during the night. The town becomes nervous and begin to dread sundown, and the stakes are raised as the victims pile in. That's pretty much it -- not much investigative work going on. The ending of the film is great, though.

I didn't really have a problem with the simplicity of The Town That Dreaded Sundown. In fact, I thought it was often an attractive simplicity. The main issue with this film was the inconsistent mood. Separately, the elements work. When it's dark and ominous, it is exactly that. When it's aiming for a laugh, it's actually humorous. But, these two elements fail to blend seamlessly. It was almost like watching two different films: a cheesy b-movie horror/comedy and a serious crime thriller. The conflicting mood made it much less effective. The pacing was also an issue on occasion, especially during some of the uneventful parts of the film.

However, like I said, when it works, it really works. Parts of the film reminded me of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- which is a good thing for me since I love that film. The actual serial killer aspects of the film, like the killings and (minimal) investigations, are chilling and creepy. There are some very ominous and unsettling scenes here and there. Some great suspense and tension, too. I laughed out loud at least a handful of times during the film. On the other hand, though, I think this film would have been tighter and more consistent without the comedy.

The acting was good from the main cast. The role wasn't very demanding, but Ben Johnson delivered a strong performance. Some of the supporting cast was terrible. For example, one of the early attacks on this film had an actress screaming hysterically; instead of feeling her fear and hoping she got away, I wanted her to get caught so the screeching could stop! (I'm a bad person.)  The film looks great, though; the high definition print allows this film to shine. Director Charles B. Pierce does well in developing the ominous mood and delivering chilling scenes -- at certain times. On the other hand, the mood changes so often and inconsistently, it makes the film less effective and less focused.

Overall, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a good film. It's not a superb film or a classic, but it's also far from terrible or bad. I couldn't fully immerse myself into the film due to the constant mood swings, but I did enjoy a bulk of the film -- especially the horror/crime scenes. The humor worked, too, but it didn't fit. If you have an hour and half to kill and enjoy the genre, this is at least worth a rental or stream.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Film Review: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Night of the Creeps (Review)
United States/1986
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a horror-comedy treat."

While trying to get into a frat, friends Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) unwittingly unleash an alien experiment...

Night of the Creeps follows Chris and J.C., as well as detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), while an alien rummages through their college town. Of course, they have no idea what they unleashed, but they have all heard or seen similar reports: the dead are walking. So, while this alien species spreads its seed, the students prepare for their big dance. A purposefully familiar cast of characters bring life to this fantastic world! Plenty of humor, suspense, and gore blend together for an entertaining plot. It also builds up to a great climax. The ending was good, too.

Night of the Creeps is a fairly simple zombie/alien horror b-movie. Fortunately, it has plenty of heart to make up for its simplicity. And, really, I thought the simplicity was attractive. The humor was great. There are many laugh-out-loud moments thanks to the lively set of characters. There is also some great suspense and tension -- more than expected considering the abundant humor. The gore, which is most prominent during the final act, was superb -- I love practical effects, and this film delivers. I did feel like there was a little too much buildup in this film, though. It had some moments where it felt like it might not reach its climax efficiently. Otherwise, it's a horror-comedy treat.

The acting was great. This cast captured the b-movie charm perfectly. Jason Lively is good, Steve Marshall is even better. But, Tom Atkins steals the show; Tom Atkins delivers a very memorable character through his cheeky performance. The film is shot very well; I really enjoyed the cinematography and camerawork. The music was also good -- I really liked the choice in soundtrack and editing, especially during the 60s segment. The special effects and makeup were superb; they were a little off during the introduction, but they are perfect afterward. Writer and director Fred Dekker delivers a hilarious and entertaining homage; the direction is stylish and effective, and the writing is humorous and accurate (for a b-movie homage). There was a little too much buildup, though, and some minor pacing issues.

Overall, Night of the Creeps is a very entertaining and enjoyable b-movie horror film. It offers some genuine humor, great suspense, and superb special effects -- especially for fans of practical effects. If you're a fan of the genre, this is definitely worth checking out.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some nudity.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Film Review: Deepstar Six (1989)

Deepstar Six (Review)
United States/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...kept me locked and seated until the end."

The crew of the Deepstar Six, a deep-sea colony, struggle to survive against a vicious sea monster.

Deepstar Six begins by following the routine procedure of this crew. This crew works on the Deepstar Six, a deep-sea colony funded by the Navy, so the crew consists of military and civilian personnel. Eventually, as the crew sets up the nuclear missile storage above a deep cavern, they awaken a large and fast sea creature. So, it becomes a fight for survival. The ending was a bit bizarre, but I enjoyed it. Ultimately, it's a fairly simple creature feature, though.

It doesn't really become a creature feature until halfway through, actually. The first and second act are used to mostly buildup the character and setting. I definitely appreciated that. However, I thought this segment was longwinded. If you're looking for a creature, it doesn't appear until the second half. Furthermore, it's not built up well, either. There's some suspense here and there, but it simply didn't feel engaging. The final act becomes the actual fight for survival, and I enjoyed it. Great suspense, action, and death sequences. In fact, this film has an instant-favorite death. (that sounds bizarre, but it's true.)

I also loved the setting for this film. It reminded me of Alien, but obviously underwater. Regardless, the setting was immersive. In fact, it was more immersive and engaging than the plot during the first two acts. I often found myself looking at every inch of the setting, sometimes looking at the setting more than the characters. If you're a fan of settings, this is for you. The creature is also great. It's design is definitely different, but memorable. I only wish we could have seen more of it.

The acting was good. Nothing special, but nothing terrible, either. It's more than competent, though. Miguel Ferrer stood out, though, I really enjoyed his performance. The music is great, too, I can see myself listening to this soundtrack without the film. The film is shot very well. The cinematography and camerawork capture the wonderful setting perfectly. This is worth watching in high definition, the film stands the test of time. Although it's not as engaging during the first half, director Sean S. Cunningham does a wonderful job in creating an immersive atmosphere and a redeeming second half. He also pulls solid performances from his cast.

Overall, Deepstar Six is a good SciFi horror film. It reminded me of films like Relic and Deep Rising, which I really enjoyed. However, this film really excels when it comes to the setting and atmosphere. The story may have flaws, but the setting really hooked me. It kept me locked and seated until the end. If you're a fan of creature features, this is definitely worth a stream or rental.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, and some partial nudity. (wet t-shirt contest!)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Review)
United States/1978
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a must-watch for fans the genre."

Matthew (Donald Sutherland), a San Francisco health inspector, and his colleague Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) begin believe people are being perfectly duplicated by aliens...

Invasion of the Body Snatchers begins with some very strong yet subtle buildup, and I love it. It takes its time to introduce the characters and the concept, which creates an overall more effective experience. Slowly but surely, Elizabeth convinces Matthew about people not being the same, like her boyfriend who suddenly becomes emotionless. So, Matthew and Elizabeth, along with some select friends, find themselves searching for answers and trying to survive. Who can they trust? The third act has a few flaws, particularly with one character, but the ending is great -- I actually really love the ending.

In fact, I really enjoyed most of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The first act is wonderful in buildup and character. It takes its time -- not too much, though -- to really create that effective slow-burning sensation. It continues with this sensation for the bulk of the film; in fact, there are some very tense and suspenseful scenes here. Also, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is wonderful in creating a subtle sense of paranoia. The onscreen characters don't bicker and question each other, but I was sitting wondering "is he a duplicate? What about her?" I love when a film hooks you like this, and this film obviously succeeded for me.

There are a few issues, though. There are a couple of pacing issues. I know, I know, I just praised the slow-burn pace, but there is such a thing as burning too slow. Consequently, there are a handful of scenes that feel longwinded. This film probably could have been cut down 5-10 minutes, and be just as effective. Furthermore, there is one character that suddenly becomes incompetent during the final act. This character is great during the first half of the film, but suddenly makes several "mistakes." Really, this character became more of a plot contrivance.

The acting is great, though. Donald Sutherland delivers a strong performance, and Brooke Adams is oozing with charisma. Jeff Goldblum also offers a great supporting performance. The film looks great. I loved the cinematography, and I especially loved the camerawork. (You should seek the High Definition print of this film, it definitely stands the test of time.) The music works very well with the film and the genre. The practical special effects are superb, by the way. Aside from a few pacing issues and a somewhat contrived final act, director Philip Kaufman is fantastic in creating suspense and paranoia; he has crafted a very immersive and atmospheric SciFi thriller.

Overall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a great film. If you love slow-burn film with atmosphere and immersion, I think you'll love this film. I think you'll especially love this film if you're a fan of movies from the 70s. From its atmosphere to its suspense and from its (once) creative concept to its paranoia, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a must-watch for fans the genre. Be warned of the slow-pace, though.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some nudity.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Film Review: The Possession of Michael King (2014)

The Possession of Michael King (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant Video (Rental)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Do you like possession films? And, do you like loud-noise jump scares?"

After his wife passes away, filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson) sets out to disprove God and the Devil by documenting his supernatural experiments...

The Possession of Michael King is a fairly simple film. The story follows Michael as he documents his experiments with the supernatural, particularly black magic and such. Michael interviews people with experience on the subject and participates in some of the experiments. Particularly, Michael attempts to summon a demon using several bizarre methods. Eventually, Michael begins to question his sanity as he witnesses the unexplainable and begins to lose control of himself. It becomes hectic during the climax, but it oddly felt like it was wandering; it was aimlessly shooting for any ending. The story is very familiar but more than competent. I liked it.

Now, I think the horror will be the most polarizing aspect of the film. It boils down to two questions: Do you like possession films? And, do you like loud-noise jump scares? As long as you don't hate either of these, I think you'll find some enjoyment in this film. Otherwise, this film may not be your cup of Joe. You see, Michael King is very reliant on sudden jump-scares. In fact, most of the "horror" in this film is jump-scares. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially for a single viewing, but it becomes detrimental when the buildup is nonexistent. Some of these jump-scares come from out of nowhere. There's no suspense or buildup, just a sudden loud-noise.

Like I said, though, if that's your preferred method of horror, you'll enjoy this film. Although I'm not the biggest fan of jump-scares, I did enjoy some of these. I won't lose any sleep at night, but I had fun. I suppose that's the best way to describe this type of horror: fun. It won't be so fun if you watch it again immediately after because you'll know when to expect the jump-scares, but it's fun for the time being. (i.e. Not bad for a rental.) As for other types of horror, there were two or three genuinely creepy scenes and some interesting possession scenes.

The acting was all-around good. Shane Johnson does very well as the lead. The supporting cast also offer great performances. I had no complaints for the acting. The film is shot well, especially for a found-footage/mockumentary film. This is one of the rare found-footage films that avoids the disastrous shaky-cam most of the time. (Thank you!) I liked the audio distortion the film occasionally uses, it worked well for some scares. This is directed and written for the screen by David Jung, and it serves as his debut. Aside from the over-reliance on jump-scares, this film was enjoyable. It's not a technically flawed film per se, but it is somewhat disappointing and it falls the one-trick-pony category. In other words, I'd like to see more from David Jung, especially if he expands his palette.

Overall, The Possession of Michael King is a good horror film. It may not have a lot of atmosphere or suspense, but it has plenty of jump-scares and some decent possession elements. It's definitely better than The Devil Inside, which shares a similar plot and style. Ultimately, if you enjoy possession films and don't mind jump-scares, this is definitely worth a rental. (I rented it for $0.99 from Amazon and I don't regret it.)

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Film Review: The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (2) (Review)
United States/1985
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"... a 'so bad, it's good'-type film."

Eight years after the events of the original, Rachel unwittingly leads a team of bikers into the same location of the original massacre.

The Hills Have Eyes Part II follows Rachel and her team, who have created super fuel for their bikes, as they enter the desert for a race. The group decide to take a shortcut, but run out of gas on their way. Soon, they fall prey to a pair of cannibals named Pluto and The Reaper -- sound like some wrestlers' names. That's practically all that happens in the film. Also, the plot is contrived. There are also plenty of flashbacks to fill you in on the vastly superior original film; in fact, there's even a dog has a flashback! The ending is predictable and cheesy, but enjoyable.

Well, as enjoyable as a cheesy film can get. This isn't a good horror film. In fact, this film isn't particularly scary -- at all. It's one of those cheesy horror B-movies that feels phoned in for a sequel. You know, like a studio or director was in need of cash, so they rushed out a sequel. Fortunately, it's also a charming film. It's kind of like Piranha and The Incredible Melting Man. They're bad films by most standards -- well, at least the latter is -- but they're wildly entertaining, regardless.

So, if you go into this with the proper expectations, or none at all, you may find some enjoyment in this film. There some mild suspense here and there. Nothing unbearable or impressive, but some decent tension. There are some surprisingly impressive death sequences, like some bone crushing and a wicked slit throat. The humor falls flat most of the time. But -- and this is a massive but -- you'll likely have a good laugh at the "so bad, it's good" aspects of the film.

Such as: the mediocre acting. Some of the actors may try to be funny, but their hilariously mediocre performances steal their thunder. It's as robotic as many of the other 70/80s horror movies. I could barely remember the music, to be honest; it sounded like a typical horror soundtrack from the era, though. The film looks decent at times; during others, it's often too difficult to see, especially during some of its dark/nighttime sequences. This is written and directed by Wes Craven, who also wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, like his work on Pulse and My Soul to Take, this film feels uninspired, often dull, and not scary. This is one of those moments where a legendary filmmaker delivers a "so bad, it's good"-type film.

Overall, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a decent film. Sure, it failed to frighten, the plot was contrived and somewhat forgettable (I'll never forget that dog flashback, though), and the acting was mediocre, but the film is enjoyable. It's the same type of enjoyment I found in The Incredible Melting Man. If you don't like B-movies, especially the so-bad-it's-good kind, then you'll likely dislike this film. If you watched the superior original or the remake, there isn't much of a reason to watch this film, unless you're open-minded or drunk -- or both.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief nudity and sex.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Film Review: Mercy (2014)

Mercy (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...not necessarily a bad film, but it is definitely a disappointing film."

When her mental health begins to deteriorate, a single mother takes her two sons to help take care of their grandmother.

Mercy mainly follows George (Chandler Riggs), who has a very close relationship with his grandmother, Mercy (Shirley Knight). George, his brother, and their mother move into Mercy's home to take care of her as she nears death. All is seemingly normal -- or, at least as normal as it can get in this situation -- until George starts digging into his grandmother's past and finds that she's not exactly what she seems. The story becomes hectic and cliché during the final act, but it was a much needed boost for the film. The ending was okay -- a little cliché and cheesy, though.

I really wanted to like this film. In fact, I liked quite a bit about the film, so let me cover that first. The music is great, I liked the introduction thanks to the music. The plot is interesting. I always appreciate films that become more than "just another supernatural" movie. There are quite a few creepy scenes, too. Honestly, there were some very chilling scenes here involving Mercy, and I was impressed. If you're a fan of jump-scares, the final act packs in plenty. The short runtime is also attractive, it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time.

Okay, so let's go over the bad. The buildup is mostly ineffective. The "close" relationship between George and Mercy only has one scene of development, which was very disappointing. Other than the character, the plot doesn't buildup well, either. It's slow-paced, but without the necessary burn. So, there wasn't much suspense or tension, either. Furthermore, it's a bit on the uneventful side, which is odd considering the very short runtime for the film. In fact, most of the story unravels during the latter half, which makes the first half feel like a chore. I didn't really like any of the characters, either.

The acting was also hit-or-miss. Shirley Knight hits with a creepy performance, but her screen time is limited. Chandler Riggs misses with his performance, he has very little range, which was disappointing. The supporting cast barely have any time to shine, but they're at least decent. The music, which I genuinely enjoyed during the intro, was great -- during the intro. The rest of the runtime, I didn't actually notice a strong music presence, which was also disappointing. This film is adapted from a Stephen King story I haven't read, but it seems like the filmmakers either cut too much out of the story or stretched the story too thin -- this is based on a short story, after all. Director Peter Cornwell is decent. I think he captures the atmosphere well and creates some genuinely creepy scenes here and there, but the story feels disjointed and uneventful, the buildup is ineffective, and the lead actor is a dud.

Overall, Mercy is a mediocre film. It's not necessarily a bad film, but it is definitely a disappointing film. I applaud the film for being more than another jump-scare ghost story, but it unfortunately offers less horror than some of those very same films. If you have the hour and 15 minutes to kill and you're a fan of either Stephen King or Blumhouse Productions, this is at least worth a stream.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Film Review: Death Wish (1974)

Death Wish (Review)
United States/1974
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...more than enjoyable for fans of the genre."

When his family is brutally attacked by muggers, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) becomes an armed vigilante...

Death Wish is a very simple vigilante/revenge film. The story quickly introduces and develops the relationship between Paul and his wife – probably less than 5 minutes. Rather early in the film, Paul's wife and daughter are brutally attacked. Paul and his son-in-law deal with the police and eventually – after some long buildup – Paul becomes a vigilante. The rest of the film follows Paul as he deals his own breed of justice to the despicable muggers plaguing his city and as the police attempt to stop him. The ending is odd, but decent.

I liked the simplicity of the story, but I found it to be mostly ineffective. I'm a big fan of buildup in film, especially slow-burn buildup. And, like I said, this film has plenty of buildup. However, I think the buildup is poorly balanced. The attack happens so early in the film, it's almost impossible to have any connection to these characters; consequently, the attack, as disturbing as it may be, feels less effective than it should have. Instead, this film opts to buildup Paul's decision to become a vigilante. It would feel much more natural and effective if it had spend an equal amount of time on each, but instead it feels a bit dull and, well, ineffective. Furthermore, the story does feel a tad bit on the repetitious side during the latter half of the film – bait a mugger, kill a mugger, police investigation, and repeat.

Otherwise, the story kept my attention and I was fairly entertained. There are some suspenseful and tense scenes here and there. And, the story does a decent job in representing the issues with self-defense and gun control. Even more fortunate, the film does not preach. It has its discussions about guns and self-defense, and so on, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. I suppose the best way to describe this film is as a standard vigilante film. Sure, it's practically the pioneer of the genre, but it doesn't pack many surprise – and not that should have to.

The acting is good. If you watch a lot of films, it's what you would expect from a typical 70s film. I enjoyed Charles Bronson as the lead, though, he's great. The film looks good; the cinematography doesn't really pop, but it's more than competent. The music is great; I like these old-school soundtracks, and this soundtrack is good – however, it occasionally feels out of place. On the technical side, it doesn't really stand out, but it's also far from bad. Director Michael Winner is good, he pulls decent performances from the cast and has a decent flow for the film; however, the film does suffer from some dull moments, some bad balancing, and some poor pacing.

Overall, Death Wish is a good film. I know bashed it quite a bit, but it is more than competent and more than enjoyable for fans of the genre. It suffers from its mediocre buildup and balancing, as well as the repetitive latter half, but it ultimately works as a vigilante crime thriller. Death Wish simply has not aged well, or at least as well as many other 70s films – like The Exorcist or Invasion of the Body Snatchers – and I suppose that's one of its bigger disappointments.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and brief nudity, including a sexual battery.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Film Review: The Reeds (2010)

The Reeds (Review)
United Kingdom/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...unbearably slow -- and this is coming from a hardcore slow-burn fan."

A group of young friends go boating, but find themselves surrounded by a mysterious presence hidden in the reeds.

The Reeds is an interesting film. It begins with the typical friends-going-on-vacation-and-drinking "character development" and eventually evolves into more of a mystery-horror film. Strange things begin to occur as they maneuver the reeds, and it eventually leads to bloody consequences. Is it in their heads? Are they prey for a vicious creature? Or a supernatural presence? Unfortunately, it never feels all-too engaging, and I don't think there is a climax. The ending is ambiguous, but not rightfully so; it's one of those endings where if it had ended a few minutes earlier, it would have been at least decent.

Despite its interesting concept, The Reeds miserably fails at execution. I think the worst part about it is the unbearably slow pace. Occasionally it feels like a slow-burn with some mild suspense, but most of the time The Reeds is slow-paced for the sake of being slow-paced! A slow-pace with little engagement or immersion leads to pure boredom. And, that's what The Reeds really is: boredom. There were even a few moments where I dozed off for a bit.

However, there were also a few moments with the aforementioned mild suspense. Every once and a while, The Reeds would deliver a tense or suspenseful scene, and an occasional blood-fest. Not nearly enough to redeem the entire film, but worth noting. I like how the film plays with several possibilities, but I think the execution is flawed. It also feels very messy and convoluted during the end. Speaking of convoluted, the film is also contrived and cliché (words that start with c.)

The acting is okay -- nothing amazing and nothing terrible, simply okay. The cinematography does well in capturing the beautiful setting and scenery -- not bad, at all. I think the setting was one of the best parts of the film; unfortunately, I think it was severely underutilized. The music, now that I think about it, is forgettable; I actually can't even remember if there was any music in this film. Director Nick Cohen has a lot of ideas in his hands, but fails to execute them efficiently; consequently, the film is mostly ineffective, most disappointingly in the horror department.

Overall, The Reeds is a bad horror movie. It has an interesting concept, and a few scenes with decent suspense and gore, but the execution is mediocre. Worst of all, the film's pace is unbearably slow -- and this is coming from a hardcore slow-burn fan. The dreadfully slow pace, the messy story, and the inefficient direction make this a boring and difficult film to get through.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including some gore, some brief nudity (a brief skinny dipping scene.)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Film Review: Mockingbird (2014)

Mockingbird (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...wants to be so much more, but it ultimately reverts to home invasion clichés."

A couple, a woman, and a man are given cameras and instructions they must follow or suffer the consequences...

After a shocking introduction, Mockingbird continues to follow this group of characters as they play along with this little game. Each character received a camera and instructions in the beginning of the film. For most of the film, the couple and the woman are tormented by unwanted visitors. (think: home invasion film) Meanwhile, the man dresses up as a clown and films himself as he completes several tasks around town. That's basically the entire film, without spoilers, of course. A big part of the ending can be seen a mile away, while the other part of the ending was too farfetched to be enjoyable. In other words, the ending was mediocre

The premise of the film was interesting enough to keep me hooked until the end, though. I genuinely enjoyed the idea. (really, I gave it a shot because it wasn't another supernatural found-footage film.) However, the execution feels flawed. The first act of the film feels like it dragged on far too long, the second act is too repetitive, and the finale was disappointing. I suppose that's the best way to explain the plot: disappointing. It looks like it wants to be so much more, but it ultimately reverts to home invasion clichés.

It's not all bad, though. I may not have loved the story, but some of the horror is surprisingly good. There's some decent tension and suspense here and there, as well as some good jump-scares. Not many, but a few. I also liked the used of subtle imagery, although also underused. Like seeing something subtle in the background without the loud noise... I really like that. There are also a few creepy scenes. If you read my review of The Taking of Deborah Logan, you know I love the creepy and spooky. Speaking frankly, though, it's basically everything you've seen in the typical home invasion film, but in found-footage form. (this could be a nightmare if you dislike the subgenre and the style.) So, the horror was good enough to satisfy my appetite but, like the plot, it fails to experiment in the slightest.

The acting was surprisingly great, though. I had absolutely no complaints when it came to the cast. I don't even have any complaints when it comes to the characters! (there are no douchebags in this one, believe it or not.) The use of classical music during some scenes was great. It helped create a creepy vibe, at least momentarily. The film is found-footage, as I previously stated, so expect similar cinematography and camerawork. Aside from a few scenes, Mockingbird wasn't so nauseating. Writer and director Brian Bertino finds some succeess in the horror department, despite some repetitive scenes, but disappoints with the story. It genuinely feels like it wants to be more, but ultimately ends up with more of the same.

Overall, Mockingbird is barely decent film. If you watched the trailer, this might seem like something new, but it's really the same ol' same ol'. That's really the most disappointing part of the film. Fortunately, despite also being more of the same ol' same ol', the horror is good and the acting is great. If you're not tired of the home invasion genre and found-footage style, this might be worth your time. The short runtime also makes the film a bit more attractive and easier to recommend. Hey, at least it won't waste your entire night if it's a dud for you...

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Film Review: Filth (2013)

Filth (Review)
United Kingdom/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...an uproarious comedy with cheeky writing, fantastic acting and superb direction."

Arrogant and irreverent detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) seizes the opportunity for a promotion when a murder case arises.

Filth is a fairly simple plot on the surface. The film follows Bruce as he strives for the promotion the only way he knows how – by playing “the games.” Essentially, Bruce schemes his way through his co-workers by manipulating them in the worst way possible. All while his own character deteriorates from his self-contained demons. This, of course, includes the occasional indulgence of drugs and alcohol, as well as some bizarre hallucinations. The plot gains some traction during the final act where it starts to come full circle. The ending, like most of the film, is very black yet humorous – I think they call it “black humor.”

Personally, and I'm not someone in the know for all of the technical terms so I may be wrong, this film felt more like a character-study. The investigation for the murder takes the backseat as the full focus is on Bruce Robertson. In fact, there isn't much investigation or crime going on, except for that of Bruce Robertson. And, I'm completely fine with this. It's very interesting to watch the character deteriorate over time, especially considering his character was rotten from the beginning. It takes you into some very unexpected territory, and I genuinely enjoyed it. The latter half of the film really becomes more of a psychological drama/comedy – and a very effective one, at that.

The humor is definitely not for everyone. It's very black, irreverent, and occasionally juvenile. In my case, I loved it. I laughed a lot. It's a genuinely humorous film, especially for those who love black comedies. Of course, some of it may be too dark, but it's funny. I felt a little guilty at times, but I couldn't help it – a guilty pleasure, I suppose. Some of the humor didn't land for me, but I thought most of it was funny. I think that's a great accomplishment. If you're looking for something black, raunchy and offensive, as well as bizarre and trippy, this is definitely for you. It took me a while to get comfortable with the dialect, though. That's more of a personal issue, but an issue, regardless. It was occasionally difficult to understand, in other words.

James McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance as the lead. This is one of my favorite McAvoy performances, so versatile and funny. The supporting cast was also very strong. The film is shot very well, too. The music stood out. The choice of music for the soundtrack was splendid. However, due to the strong use of music, some of the scenes in the film actually felt more like music videos than actual plot points – again, not a major issue, but worth noting. Director Jon S. Baird crafts a hilarious comedy with wonderful performances and superb pacing; the film felt like it was over before I knew it, likely due to the great pacing, great story, and amazing amount of entertainment value.

Overall, Filth is a filthy crime-comedy – and I absolutely loved it. It's very raunchy and even offensive, but unusually attractive, too. I couldn't keep my eyes of the screen. It's an uproarious comedy with cheeky writing, fantastic acting and superb direction. There are a few issue in the story and one technical issue – which will be very subjective – but not nearly enough to hurt the film significantly. If you're looking for pure entertainment, this is for you.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, graphic sex and nudity.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (2014)

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"If you're looking for some gory fun, this may be for you."

A group of douchebags friends go to a deserted island for a bachelor party, but find a deadly flesh-eating disease instead.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero follows this group of friends as they party at this deserted island. Eventually, they get sick and look for help in a seemingly abandoned facility. In the meantime, scientists try to create a vaccine by performing experiments on patient zero of the disease, Porter (Zach Galifianakis sorry, Sean Astin). But, Porter is tired of being a lab rat and causes the facility to lockdown. It's a fairly simple plot. The ending is decent, but it was unusually B-movie, more than the rest of the film.

You shouldn't expect much from Cabin Fever: Patient Zero. In fact, it would be better if you go in with zero expectations. (you get it? Patient zero?) It's a very cliche, run-of-the-mill horror film with unusual changes in tone. But, first, I'll get on with the good. Patient Zero is fast paced. It has some mild suspense here and there. And, it has plenty of blood and gore -- plenty. The suspense didn't do much for me, but the gore was ridiculous. It was interesting, for lack of a better word, to watch this disease deteriorate a person. It's even a little creepy to think about these types of diseases. So, if you're looking for some gory fun, a la Hatchet 3, this is for you.

But, if you're looking for something more original and creative, and actually frightening, this might not be for you. So, let's get to the bad. First, the humor is very hit-or-miss. I think there were two or three scenes that actually got a chuckle, the rest of the "jokes" were duds. Furthermore, the humor creates an odd and inconsistent tone. There was one scene with a catfight between two infected that seemed so forced and out-of-place, I forgot to laugh. (I did like the gore in that scene, though.) The film also suffers from its plot contrivances and stupid characters. It gets very lazy during the last act -- two of the characters suddenly become ridiculously gullible, I actually laughed. I laughed more at that than I laughed at some of the humor in this film!

The acting is okay. Some of the actors were bad, but most stayed at the decent-mediocre line. Sean Astin, who has a striking resemblance to Zach Galifianakis with that beard, is probably the best actor in this film. The music is forgettable -- honestly, I can't even remember if this film had any music at all. The cinematography was decent, at times, but some scenes are poorly lit -- I know they're supposed to be dark, but you should be able to see a bit more. There was one scene that looked like it had mediocre computer effects, but most tread in the surprisingly good practical effects territory. I mean, if you want to see gore, you can see plenty here. Director Kaare Andrews delivers a fast-paced and generally entertaining gorefest. However, the film suffers from flat humor, cardboard cutout characters, and an inconsistent mood.

Overall, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero is a decent film. Like Hatchet 3, this is some good ol' gory fun. Unfortunately, some of this fun is hindered by the aforementioned flaws, such as inconsistent mood,
mediocre humor and acting, and some technical issues. It doesn't take itself seriously, though, and neither should the audience. If you're looking for some gory fun, this may be for you. Who knows, you may even like this film's humor...

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some sex and nudity.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Film Review: Torment (2013)

Torment (Review)
Canada/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...another film that mistakes silence and slow-motion for suspense."

Recently married Sarah (Katharine Isabelle) and Cory (Robin Dunne) vacation in their second home, and take Cory's son, Liam, with them to bond. Progress halts as they are invaded by an insane family...

Torment is a run-of-the-mill home invasion horror-thriller. The begins as a family drama where Sarah tries to bond with her step-son, Liam. They have some issues, but there is some progress. Eventually, during their first night in this vacation home, they are targeted by intruders. Liam goes missing, and Sarah and Cory race to rescue him. There some psychological elements here and there, and the story does pick up towards the end, but Torment's main plot is thin. I didn't like the ending, either.

Torment is mainly hindered by the generic story and clichés. I mean, how many times is a household going to be invaded by a group of intruders wearing "creepy" masks? You know, those intruders who always walk in slow-motion, and move their heads in interests when spoken to, like a dog trying to understand its master. I'm starting to believe every home invasion film takes place in the same universe, and it's literally the same intruders -- that's the only reason I can think of for using the same style for each home invasion film.

Other than its unbelievably generic approach, Torment also suffers from some inconsistent pacing and some dull moments. This is another film that mistakes silence and slow-motion for suspense. It doesn't reach ridiculous levels of boredom like Home Sweet Home (another generic home invasion thriller), but it suffers from this flaw a handful of times. Otherwise, the film has some genuinely suspenseful moments, a couple of creepy scenes, and some decent psychological moments. I think there were at least two scenes that really gave me chills. (hint: I'm afraid of plastic bags.)

The acting is occasionally decent, but mostly mediocre. Katharine Isabelle overacts for most of the film; I had a great laugh every time she screamed and jumped. Robin Dunne is decent. The film looks okay; the film is often unnecessarily dominated by darkness, though, so it's hard to see what's going on at times. The music fit the tone of the film, but it's mostly forgettable. Director Jordan Barker builds some mild suspense and delivers some creepy scenes, but lacks consistent pacing; the film suffers more from its clichés than Baker's direction.

Overall, Torment is a mediocre film. For the most part, it's another been-there-done-that home invasion film. Even so, most of its original ideas are half-baked, as well. It's not a terrible film, like Home Sweet Home, but it's not a great film, either. It has its moments, but not enough of them, though. You won't lose any sleep if you watch it or miss it, so flip a coin. However, if you're tired of the subgenre, I'd avoid it until, well, you're not tired of it.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief sex.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Film Review: The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

The Taking of Deborah Logan (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the creepiness of the film was most effective."

A student, Mia (Michelle Ang), leads a crew in filming the vicious process of Alzheimer's from the view of Deborah Logan (Jill Larson).

The Taking of Deborah Logan follows this film crew, Deborah, and Deborah's daughter, Sarah (Anne Ramsay), as the filming occurs. It begins as expected with a few interviews and monologues about the disease and its effects, as well as a few odd occurrences. Those odd occurrences soon become more frequent and unexplainable, though, such as a window opening by itself. Eventually, Deborah becomes more aggressive. This leads Sarah and Mia to hunt for answers that can't be found in medicine. The final act becomes a bit too hectic, but it delivers some great scenes and a decent ending.

In fact, The Taking of Deborah Logan is a great film. First, the story is very effective and interesting. Although it ends up in a familiar place, the concept and buildup is somewhat unique. So, I liked the story -- simple as that. Second, the horror is very effective and even versatile. There is some genuine tension and suspense, and quite a few jolting jump-scares. But, I thought the creepiness of the film was most effective. Deborah's death stares are spine-tingling eerie! In a sense, the film reminded me strongly of The Exorcist, but with less character and buildup. In some cases, this might be preferable. (I personally love the buildup in The Exorcist, but I know some people who find it boring. Crazy, right?)

On that point, the characters were disappointing. They weren't as annoying as many of the characters we find in horror, especially found-footage films like Crowsnest, but they were still bland and somewhat annoying. I think it was the douchey humor the film tries to add. You know, when a character always has to add some sort of smart-alec comment to everything. Yeah, I really don't like that. Otherwise, the film has some plot contrivances here and there, too; they weren't too bad, though, so I don't fault it harshly for this. The hectic ending is kind of hit-and-miss. Like I said, I liked some of its unexpected elements, but it almost feels like a different movie all together.

The acting is also sort of hit-and-miss. Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay are great, they make the film so much more effective with their splendid acting. On the other hand, Michelle Ang and the supporting cast barely leave a mark -- their performances were boring and safe! None of the acting was bad per se, but disappointing compared to Larson and Ramsay. The found-footage/mockumentary style works well for the film; it uses the cone-vision to its advantage and saves itself from the notorious shaky-cam. Director and co-writer Adam Robitel lost me a bit during the ending, but delivers a very good horror movie. Robitel develops a genuine sense of terror through eerie suspense, disturbing visuals, shocking jump scares and a whole lot of creepiness.

Overall, The Taking of Deborah Logan is a very good horror film. It's very entertaining and frightening. Although not revolutionary, it uses the found-footage style as a vessel instead of a cheap gimmick. Despite some character and story flaws, the film's main purpose is to scare -- in my case, it succeeded. If you're looking for a good horror film to kill a night, take Deborah out for a spin.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, some nudity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Film Review: Rampage: Capital Punishment (2014)

Rampage: Capital Punishment (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...Boll uses this film as a platform more to preach than to entertain."

Mass murderer Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher) reemerges years after his last atrocity and hijacks a TV station.

Rampage: Capital Punishment continues the story of Bill Williamson, who successfully escaped punishment from his last vicious crime and has become an internet celebrity to some. The first act of the film is a little repetitious, and it rehashes much of the original. Anyway, Bill eventually enters a TV station and holds the staff hostage. He uses the city's number one news anchor to deliver his message. His message: rich people are the cause of all problems, and kill rich people. The ending is okay -- it was kind of expected, though, even knowing it would lack logic.

Rampage: Capital Punishment is a decent film. It has some good tension and suspense, some decent action, and it moves at a fast pace. The action consists of some stylized shootings and some explosions; not a traditional action movie, not at all. Although some of the dialogue occasionally felt odd and out of place, most of the dialogue is delivered with conviction. This, in turn, makes the film feel like an action movie at all times, even when there is no literal action on screen. This is also why the film moved at such a fast and attractive pace.

However, this very same dialogue is flawed in another sense. You see, this is a film with strong political themes. The antihero, Billy, has a strong vendetta against politicians and rich people. And his message clearly shows it. I felt like that was problem, though, because the film ultimately felt like it preached. Regardless of any validity these statements had, they ultimately felt too preachy -- I felt like I was being hit over the head over and over with the same message told in a slightly different sentence. It always boils down to the rich do this, the rich do that, and I'm a loser with a child's education because I don't see it. A little subtlety would've have been appreciated. Otherwise, the plot also suffers from a few glaring plot contrivances and many peculiar holes in logic.

Fortunately, Brendan Fletcher delivers a very strong performance as the lead; he oozes with the antihero charisma. Unfortunately, much of the supporting cast, including Uwe Boll, are mediocre. It's unfortunate, it could have otherwise been a very effective film. The film looks and sounds decent. The swaying camerawork is a little annoying, though, especially considering this isn't a found-footage film. It's also a little over-edited. Writer and director Uwe Boll delivers an engaging, interesting, and even contemplative thriller -- a film, like a few of his recent, that is much better than his video game adaptation beginnings. However, in this case, much like Assault on Wall Street, Boll uses this film as a platform more to preach than to entertain.

Overall, Rampage: Capital Punishment is a good film. It's a film with strong statements and some strong tension. The story takes one too many shortcuts, such as the plot contrivances, but it ultimately works in continuing Bill's crusade. It also works in continuing Boll's crusade against the rich. I'm not someone who openly discusses politics or religion, especially when it comes to film, so I am immensely disappointed in the severe lack of subtlety. If you liked the original Rampage or share the same sentiments about the rich as Boll, this film is for you. If you can care less about the preaching, you might also enjoy this film.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Film Review: Hours (2013)

Hours (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...simple yet effective."

A father (Paul Walker) struggles to keep his newborn baby alive in a hospital during Hurricane Katrina...

Hours follows Nolan Hayes after his wife passes during childbirth. His child survives via an incubator. Aside from the untimely death of his wife, Nolan finds some solace in his newborn baby. Unfortunately, the power goes out and the building is evacuated. The incubator isn't portable and the only power available is through a crank -- a crank that must be used every 3 minutes to keep the power going. So, Nolan stays in the hospital and attempts to keep his daughter alive until rescue. A simple yet suspenseful story. I liked the ending, too; a certain element can be seen from the beginning, but it was decent.

Hours is simple yet effective. The bulk of the story is confined to the hospital and to a single character: Nolan. This simplicity allows this specific character to shine, as well as the actual struggle. I felt like it made it more suspenseful. This is one of those cases were the simplicity is genuinely attractive; one of those films you can pick-up-and-play without any background information, then be surprised by its effectiveness. The tension and suspense is great, and the emotion is genuine, at least during the hospital scenes.

You see, this film also incorporates a handful of flashbacks. Flashbacks that are unnecessary and ineffective. These flashbacks attempt to buildup Nolan's character and his relationship with his wife. Unfortunately, this relationship is so cliché and cheesy, it feels like a waste of time. The relationship is like something from a teen romance novel -- something a teenage girl would tell you is the "perfect" relationship. I actually cringed a bit during some of the dialogue when the pair first met. Aside from these mediocre segments, the film only suffers from a few other plot contrivances. Not many, but worth noting.

Paul Walker delivers a very strong performance, except for the flashback scenes. A very emotional performance from Walker, with some surprising subtlety at times. The supporting cast is decent -- nothing great and nothing terrible, simply decent. The music is good in building emotion and suspense. The film is shot well, too; some of the great lighting really stood out during a few sequences. Writer and director Eric Heisserer makes a suspenseful and emotional film out of a simple plot and I am impressed; the flashbacks were mediocre and unnecessary, but the direction is otherwise strong and consistent.

Overall, Hours is a very good film. Like I've said many times, it is very simple and very effective. It has a lot of great suspense and genuine emotion, and some contrived suspense and fabricated emotion. However, the good easily outweighs the bad. This is the perfect time-killer, especially for those looking for a strong drama-thriller hybrid.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Film Review: The Colony (2013)

The Colony (Review)
Canada/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...an effective time-killer."

In the near future, man-made weather machines are built to control the climate. One day, it started snowing and never stopped, wiping out most of mankind...

The Colony follows a group of humans who have found shelter in an underground bunker named Colony 7. The group soon receive a SOS distress signal from the neighboring Colony 5, with whom they have a pact. Leader Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) takes Sam (Kevin Zegers) and another to respond. They find a glimmer of hope amongst a bloody massacre. The story treads very familiar territory for the most part, so you shouldn't expect much else from the latter half of the film. The climax is exciting, though. And, as cliché and predictable as it may be, I did enjoy the ending.

The Colony also lacks sufficient buildup and use of its setting. I love films with expansive and lively universes, such as Snowpiercer, so this film was automatically attractive to me. However, despite some small details and some quick background, we are never fully immersed into the settings. We know it's forever snowing and we have a slight idea as to why, but the setting is missing something. It feels more like a background than a character, and I suppose that's the most disappointing part of The Colony.

Otherwise, it's an effective time-killer. Aside from some slow moments, most of the film moves at a face pace and it keeps this momentum for the bulk of the film. In fact, I didn't check the runtime once. It has plenty of thrills and some satisfying action. It also has some cheesy elements, which give this film a sort of B-movie vibe; the "villain" for example, screams b-movie to me, and the dialogue is also occasionally cheesy -- I didn't mind. There was only one surprising factor in this film: the surprising amount of violence. Again, I didn't mind. The violence kinda added to the B-movie charm of the film, anyway.

The acting is more hit-or-miss, though. Laurence Fishburne is great. Kevin Zegers lacks the screen presence of a leading man -- far from bad, but could have been better. Some of the supporting cast deliver bad performances, though; they sound very unnatural and, well, bad. The music was also good and bad; sometimes it fit well for some thrilling moments, while it felt out of place during the moments. The special effects were good, though, better than most low-budget SciFi films. Director Jeff Renfroe does well in the action and thrills departments, but lacks a certain immersion factor -- it simply didn't hook me into this world. The acting was also flawed at times.

Overall, The Colony is a good film. It's much better than I expected considering the abysmal Rotten Tomatoes rating. If you don't mind some bland characters and a disappointing world, The Colony offers enough gory action and satisfying thrills to warrant at least a rental -- maybe even a purchase for fans of the genre or cast.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

31 Days of Halloween 2014 Review Recap!

We made it through another year of our annual 31 Days of Halloween celebration! That's 31 reviews in 31 days! It was a lot of work, but I am very proud. I've also been very entertained. Some classics, a few my favorites, plenty of zombies, and a handful of foreign horror gems... what more could you ask for? Anyway, let's check out the reviews and tally up an average for this year. (click the title to visit the review page)

10/01: Absentia (2011) - 7/10
10/02: Almost Human (2013) - 5/10
10/03: Apartment 143 (2011) - 6/10
10/04: Black Christmas (2006) - 4/10
10/05: The Blair Witch Project (1999) - 6/10
10/06: Contracted (2013) - 3/10
10/07: Dead Silence (2007) - 7/10
10/08: The Den (2013) - 6/10
10/09: Grave Encounters (2011) - 6/10
10/10: Halloween: Resurrection (2004) - 4/10
10/11: Hatchet 3 (2013) - 6/10
10/12: The Ward (2010) - 7/10
10/13: Day of the Dead (1985) - 7/10
10/14: Day of the Dead (2008) - 3/10
10/15: Dead Snow (2009) - 7/10
10/16: Night of the Living Dead (1990) - 8/10
10/17: Nightmare City (1980) - 4/10
10/18: [Rec] (2007) - 10/10
10/19: [Rec] 2 (2009) - 9/10
10/20: [Rec] 3: Genesis (2013) - 7/10
10/21: The Booth (2005) - 8/10
10/22: House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (2004) - 5/10
10/23: Ju-on: White Ghost (2009) - 8/10
10/24: Ju-on: Black Ghost (2009) - 7/10
10/25: Martyrs (2008) - 9/10
10/26: Omnivores (2013) - 7/10
10/27: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990) - 8/10
10/28: The Sacrament (2013) - 8/10
10/29: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) - 8/10
10/30: V/H/S (2012) - 8/10
10/31: V/H/S 2 (2013) - 9/10

Average Score 207/310: 6.6/10 (give or take, I might've lost count while adding.)

We didn't watch as many masterpieces this year, but we didn't watch as many duds, either. So, the score evened out to about the same as last year, which is decent. Check out 2013's recap here!