Friday, April 15, 2016

Hush – review

Hush is a horror movie from director Mike Flanagan. The thrills are genuine and the acting is fantastic. The film takes home invasion genre and pushes new life into it with the addition of a character that is deaf and mute. Like Oculus and Absentia, it creates elements of unease and terror that will impress even the most cynical critic.

Maddie Young, played by Kate Siegel, is a young deaf writer living in an isolated cottage in the woods. As she works on her latest novel a masked killer attacks her neighbor. Unable to hear the screams, she attracts the attention of the killer who attempts to break into the house and kill Maddie.  Maddie must find a way to successfully hide, run, or fight back.

Kate Siegel does amazing work as Maddie. She is personable and charismatic so you really want her to live through this frightening ordeal. There is very little dialogue so the movie relies a lot on her physical performance and it pays off. The atmosphere and the unnerving factor of Maddie’s handicap make the character very unique.

The movie is not shy on violence. The gore comes off as very realistic and appropriate to the mood of the story. We never find out the killer’s motivation, which makes it all the more terrifying. Maddie is not written as a typical damsel and her vulnerability makes the performance very realistic and human. The killer is scary and does not fall into the cliché of the mindless slasher or the smart mouthed witty murder. The movie is a living chess game between killer and victim and as the audience we are watching the wheels turn in both their heads and hoping that Maddie will survive.

The movie takes the slasher genre in a bold new direction and is absolutely worth seeing. The acting and direction come together perfectly to make a movie that is sure to become a horror classic. This movie is a must see for any horror fan or anyone who wants to see a movie that is truly thrilling and interesting to behold.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Deadly Famous – review

Deadly Famous is a 2014 documentary style horror movie. The acting is borderline insane and the story is non-existent.  While the story is ludicrous, there are some funny moments that come out of nowhere.  These moments are not enough to save the film from being fairly forgettable.

The movie begins as if it is a documentary about Alan Miller. Alan is a former child star that has a penchant for killing young women. Living in Hollywood he has a plethora of possible victims. We see Alan’s footage as he frequently uses his camera during his murders. He finds a young woman that becomes his roommate. She becomes famous and finds love on the set of a Soap Opera, which enrages Alan.

The funny thing about Alan is that people do not seem notice that he is clearly psychotic. He finds girls from Craig’s List and, instead of being put off by the fact that he films everything, he picks up girls from the street too.  He is a clearly unhinged character and anyone with a functioning brain would avoid this raving, manic nut.  At the very least, a normal person would have called the police after being harassed by him.

There are a few aspects that are impressive about this movie. The photography is beautiful. There are scenes where the background views from the Hollywood hills are the highpoint. The tone shifts are sometimes awkward. For example, there is a scene of Alan and his friend at the Santa Monica boardwalk and it is filmed beautifully. It then cuts to a shot of Alan masturbating furiously.

The beginning credits sequence is a lot like the ones from the film Se7en but with photos of real victims of serial killers like the Black Dahlia. Many other scenes like the masturbation ones can take the audience out of the film. It is difficult to imagine that people would feel the need to film themselves awkwardly masturbating or that killing people would have be filmed in multiple angels from the same camera.  The cameo performance of Eric Roberts was a delight and sadly not utilized fully. Roberts plays a caricature of himself where he spends a great deal of his screen time high on cocaine.

The story is a bit perplexing. There is nothing that is keeping it in the documentary style and the movie only uses that framework at the beginning and end of the film. One scene is a couple at the pond looking for their dog. It makes me wonder what couple goes looking for their dog at the pound and feel the compulsion to film it. There are a number of victims that escape Alan and it makes me wonder how he has not been caught yet.

The effects are not really well done. The blood comes off looking a lot more like Kool-Aid and the makeup seemed comically unreal. In one scene a girl is supposed to look like she has had half of her face scarred with cuts. Instead it looks like a latex mess. The blood stains on the wall look like a little child threw their cup of V-8 on the wall.

Alan is not a compelling protagonist. Even as killer he is racist, abrasive, and creepy. He just roams Hollywood, looking slouchy and creepily watching women. Only the dumbest girls fall for his trap and basically let him kill them.  They go against all the smart things that people do to keep themselves safe. They get in his car, come to his house, and even let him touch them without leaving immediately.

Deadly Famous is not something I can recommend to people.  It lacks a basic plot and the main character is very dislikable. Still, if you are an Eric Roberts fan you might glean some enjoyment out the film. Considering the strange tone of the film it might have been better had it been written as an irreverent comedy or a satirical movie mocking the genre. There are many other serial killer movies that are much more memorable.

Dementia – review

Dementia is a 2015 psychological horror movie that showcases some great acting. The story is okay but contains characters that are both interesting and flawed. The story occasionally requires some suspension of disbelief to make it function for the viewer. There were also a few technical aspects that made the film difficult to watch, but despite the minor flaws, it is a good movie that shows talent of all the individuals involved.

George Lockhart, played by Gene Jones, is an elderly Vietnam vet. One day he suffers a stroke and is told by doctors that he suffers from dementia. A nurse visits his home while George is recovering and George’s son and granddaughter hire her to stay and assist. The nurse is a young woman named Michelle, played by Kristina Klebe, who takes advantage of George’s health problems to exact a sinister revenge plot. George’s granddaughter, played Hassie Harrison, thinks something is amiss and investigates.

The acting for this movie is really well done. Gene Jones, Kristina Klebe, and Hassie Harrison give standout performances. Gene Jones is great at displaying his range from sad and vulnerable to enraged and sinister.  Kristina Klebe goes from sweet and caring to sinister and menacing in a very believable fashion. Hassie Harrison’s character has the most obvious character arc, going from uncaring to caring and then disillusioned. The casting is great and other characters really fit well into their roles, making the central figures to the story seem better rounded. The film seems to have elements of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with twists that make it subtly unique.

There are a few technical aspects that made this film difficult to watch. The night shots are almost too dark at times making the movie difficult to see. The soundtrack is eerie but is also so loud at times that the dialogue is difficult to make out what is being said. The rest of the film is really well made and shows a great deal of skill in making some of the nightmarish qualities come together perfectly.

The story seemed like it could have been developed in more detail. I am not a fan of killing an animal character to make the antagonist seem truly evil. The movie carries the plot in a natural flow but the revelations at the conclusion make it feel a bit rushed. It also felt like the conclusion felt hollow. This was due to the fact that throughout the film we are watching the granddaughter and George become closer through their ordeal and then it is essentially destroyed when you find out the dark secret that ties Michelle to George. On the plus side, the revelation is subtle and there are clues all over to point to it so it does not come off something completely out of left field. The actors at least seemed to take their roles seriously and their range of skills is put to the test.

A person being tormented by their caretaker is not a particularly new plot development. Dementia at least takes this aspect and adds enough unique qualities that the movie does not come off as rote. Most of the characters seem to have a solid arc that make the movie thrilling at times.  The revenge motivation is a bit muddled but it fits enough that it does not come off like a M. Night Shyamalan style twist. The bottom line is that the story seems to say that all people pay the price for their misdeeds in the end.

Dementia is worth looking into if you are looking for something different. The solid acting is entertaining and very real given the rough trip the story takes you on. It is a dark movie about a dark subject matter and the mood is appropriate to the tone of the film. The aspects to this move that are flawed are fairly minimal and the high points of the acting really make this movie stick out.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Bride – review

The Bride is a 2016, low-budget, horror movie. While I’m sure it was made with love, it adds nothing new to the genre. The production and acting could use some fine-tuning, but with a bigger budget this movie could’ve have worked. If this movie were a comedy, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. The underlying idea of the plot is entertaining, but the execution comes off as confusing attempt to make a story that has already been told. The most memorable performance is hidden and is not utilized to its full entertaining potential.

The Bride begins with a scrolling text crawl about a legend of an Apache woman that was raped and killed on her wedding day and rose from the grave to get bloody vengeance. Flash-forward several decades and we meet Kira and Marco, a couple about to get married. In a bungled kidnapping plot Marco is killed and Kira is raped and murdered. The spirit of the Apache woman that got her revenge allows Kira to rise from her grave to exact revenge on her killers.

The story is very clichéd borrowing heavily from elements of The Crow and I Spit on Your Grave. The text crawl at the beginning seemed like it would have been a much more entertaining movie by itself. The characters of Kira and Marco have no chemistry and between them arguing over which one of them is “cray-cray” and trying to decipher their accents, it becomes arduous to figure out if they are worth investing in emotionally. As soon as Kira witnesses the death of Marco she shows no emotion to the loss until she rises up from the grave.

At one point Marco gives Kira a set of dog tags in an attempt to be romantic. One of them says, “Fuck it on a bucket” the other says, “you are the air that I want to breathe for the rest of my life.” The exposition dump is painfully awkward and the overall plan of the kidnappers is ludicrous.  Even the kidnappers themselves are just stereotypes played to a wildly exaggerated way. The ending is baffling making it a very frustrating film.

The effects and the production quality are worse than local commercials. The sound is generally muffled and there is obvious dubbing of the dialogue. The guns don’t sound like guns and fire off cartoonish bullets and release painfully fake muzzle flashes that make this production rank right up with amateur high school student movies. There is even a moment when they attempt to show a guy on FaceTime but it is clearly a superimposed video in a static image of a hand holding a smart phone. The ghost of the Apache girl is less realistic than Obi Wan Kenobi’s ghost in The Empire Strikes Back.

The costumes look like the cast raided a Halloween outlet store. The kills are pretty lackluster despite the gore and some of the scenes seem like they might be tongue in cheek but the tone does not indicate humor.  For example when ghoulish avenger Kira gets stabbed by a machete she just takes a tampon, crams it in the wound, then seals the wound in duct tape.

The characters often stumble their lines as if they are just barely off-book, this matches the awkwardness of the unnatural dialogue. Despite the many flaws to this movie, the character playing Harrison is at least entertaining. Lane Townsend chews the scenery like a champ and really falls into the role of a comic book style villain.  It is not particularly thrilling as a horror movie but the action can be pretty amusing.

I cannot recommend this movie since it was not my taste. The story is nothing new but there can easily be an audience for this as a possible cult film. There are a lot of elements of The Crow and I Spit on Your Grave, so if you are interested in the rape-revenge genre I suggest you watch those films first. It is not a particularly well-made movie but it does have the potential to entertain. Give it a try at your peril.