Sunday, December 1, 2013

Some Guy Who Kills People (2011) Some Pleasant Surprises

I had heard a little bit about this small film called Some Guy Who Kills People, and with that title alone, I knew I had to take a look.  It smacks of horror-comedy with a wink and a nod which, when done right, is usually a good time at the movies.  I didn't get that, but what I got was definitely a nice surprise.  Yeah, sure, the wink and nod were there, but what I didn't expect was how much heart the movie had.  While fitting firmly in the horror genre, it also owes a lot to the whodunnit as events unfold.

Written by Ryan A. Levin and directed by Jack Perez, Some Guy Who Kills People is the story of hapless Kevin Boyd (Kevin Corrigan), a man just coming off a stay at a local mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown and overwhelming depression.  He lives with his mom (Karen Black), works in an ice cream shop with his one friend Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick), and has sad memories of a group of bullies literally torturing him.  One of those bullies, now older and fatter, suddenly turns up dead with a hand axe buried in his forehead.  Sheriff Fuller (Barry Bostwick) attempts to solve the crime, which turns plural when another of the former bullies shows up dead (and headless) - all the while wooing Kevin's mom.  What Kevin refuses to realize is that he has more going for him than he thinks:  he's caught the eye of a young British woman named Stephanie (Lucy Davis), he's a fantastic artist, and he finally meets his 11-year-old daughter, Amy (Ariel Gade), the product of a one-night stand years before.  Amy is a breath of fresh air in his life, even if he doesn't want to breathe.  She's brilliant and straightforward, and also has problems he can relate to.  But there's that pesky issue of former bullies turning up dead.  Everything sets on a collision course in Act 3 that I just won't spoil here.

I really like it when I set out to see a movie, expecting it to be pretty good, and discovering it to be really, really good.  That was the case with Some Guy Who Kills People.  It's deftly written and directly, and the acting is tremendous.  Corrigan, who played a mysterious information broker on the great sci-fi series Fringe, is perfect as Kevin.  He comes across as awkward, nervous, unsure of himself yet harboring dark secrets.  He doesn't say much at first, and when he does, it's in short bursts.  Gade is amazing as Kevin's daughter, Amy.  Whip-smart and outgoing, she's the complete opposite of her father, and she is comfortable and natural in the role.  Bostwick is also outstanding as the town sheriff, equal parts dim bulb and brilliant detective.  He commands every scene he's in, and offers some of the movie's best lines of dialogue.  He's funny, and you often wish he'd use his brain a little more, but man, is he likable.  Really, everyone has shining moments in this film, supporting and main characters.  Davis is sweet and awkward, and the late Karen Black plays the mother as complex and often mean, but ultimately she's a mother who loves her son.

Pleasant surprises are always welcome when I'm watching a movie, and Some Guy Who Kills People brought some heart and soul to a familiar pair of genres.  Just good stuff from beginning to end.  Great way to cap off the holiday weekend!

Until next time, dear readers, here's the trailer:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baggage (2013) Including Interviews With Rob Dimension and Jeremiah Kipp

I love a good short film, and I especially love a good short horror film.  Trying to cram quality thrills and chills into a shorter time frame is a challenge and a chance to show off some really great creative chops.

So when my friend, director Jeremiah Kipp, made me aware of a short film he'd made with another friend, actor/writer Rob Dimension, I jumped at the chance.  I've reviewed two of Jeremiah's other films, Contact and Crestfallen, so I knew I was going to be in for something really good.  And I was not disappointed.

Baggage is a short black and white film written and starring Dimension, and directed by Kipp.  Believe me, I'm not going to reveal one single spoiler about this movie because even hinting at it would ruin the surprise.  I can tell you that the film centers on a put-upon office worker trying to make it through his day, then simply trying to have a drink at a local tavern.  When a couple of ne'er-do-wells try to accost him and steal his duffel bag, it escalates into something...well, you'd just have to see.  I'm not spoiling it.

The film unveils itself like a puzzle, with things falling into place as the story reveals more and more.  Dimension is great as the mousy, tentative office worker who is a magnet for jeers and pitying glances.  His character is so intriguing simply from body language and posture, as well as his hushed, unoffensive tones when he speaks.  Pulling double-duty as the screenwriter, Dimension's script melds perfectly with Kipp's direction, and Kipp is no stranger to bringing visceral and emotional images to the screen, no matter what those emotions may be.  I've long been a fan of Kipp's work, and now you can add Dimension to the list of quickly-rising filmmakers who I will be following - and touting - for years to come.

I also had a chance to ask both guys some questions about Baggage - let's start with the film's writer and star, Rob Dimension:

What inspired the story?  Do you have any literary and film inspirations that directly influenced this film?

First, thank you for watching Baggage...I appreciate it. Baggage was a story that started as a talk a few years ago, between myself and a friend of mine, Sal Valente. We were eating lunch and started to discuss how you never know who you are sitting next to in a restaurant or even who you live next to. The world is a crazy place...people are crazy. So, after finishing No Clowning Around and having some mild success, I was thinking of a new film to write and Baggage evolved from that. After I was finished writing, I sent Sal the script and he says, "I can't believe you've taken one discussion and made all of this."

Typically, I've noticed my writing is influenced by the my current movie or television watching. I was on a kick of watching a lot of Hitchcock and Twilight Zone episodes. I really was in love with the black and white look and the use of shadows. I also was at a point where I was thinking about camera movement and how it can affect emotions and uneasiness. I was just in a classic state of mind, I guess.

How did you and Jeremiah Kipp get together for this production?

I had seen a short film titled Crestfallen and absolutely fell in love with the movie. The atmosphere, the visuals, just loved the look. At the time I was hosting a small Horror Club and we were showing independent films, so I messaged the people behind the film and one of then was Jeremiah Kipp. Fast forward about a year or so...No Clowning Around gets accepted at a film festival and Jeremiah was going to attend, so I shot him a message and we ended up meeting. The crazy thing is I basically just pitch him an outline about Baggage and he looks at me and says, "I'm in!" I was flattered and extremely excited and we've become great friends since. It was really just me taking a chance to reach out to someone who I respected and it worked out.

How was the process of making the film?  Smooth, challenging...any funny stories?
The process is long but always fulfilling, I mean that. I wanted Jeffrey Gould and his partner Steve Adams (who will be co-directing my newest film - Quackers in 2014) to handle the cinematography and these guys killed it. Jeremiah is a solid director...he pulls no punches, he is intense and is extremely professional. Every person involved was ready for the challenge and they all delivered. We filmed for five days and about 60 hours, plus on the fourth day, we filmed for nearly 24 hours. 

We were scheduled to film a chase and mugging scene outside but the weather decided to be uncooperative...which I feel added to the film and made it better, but we needed to scramble for a different location. In Baggage, you see Benjamin at the train station and while filming, we came across a small subway tunnel that got you to the other platform. I mentioned to Jeremiah that the tunnel would be a good and we committed to making that the spot for this scene. 

The next day we start filming and we leave some of our belongings on top of the platform, so my wife, Kim, continues to check on our stuff. She occasionally pops her head up and checks to make sure everything is still there. The next thing we know, we have police there with guns out. The tunnel has two sides and we had cops on each entrance and we had to explain we were filming. They had three more police cars on the way...they thought we were terrorists. It made for an interesting moment of panic. The good thing was we had a permit and were completely legal to be there...but it was scary for a moment.

What do you hope happens with the film?  Festivals, distribution, more film?

Well, people can purchase the DVD at and Baggage has been accepted to several film festivals as well is being shown in a few spots for Halloween. Baggage also was shown at Monster-Mania convention in August, which was a massive thrill. 

People can see my first film No Clowning Around online for a short time also on my site. I just finished the script for our next film titled Quackers. Quackers was a concept pitched to me by Buz Hasson from the Living Corpse comic series and I just got busy writing and elaborating on the concept. The Living Corpse team of Buz, Ken and Blair will be working on original artwork for the film also. Jeffrey Gould and Steve Adams will be co-directing the film and handling the cinematography...I'm super excited. I think I have an extremely talented team. I honestly think this is my best screenplay and story yet. People can read more about it and stay up on things at or follow me on Twitter at @RobDimension.

How was the transition from one form of entertainment (wrestling) to another (film)?  Similarities and differences?

I was involved with professional wrestling for almost 15 years. Wrestling taught me so many taught me performance and working in front of large crowds. It taught me to drop my inhibitions and be a character and not be scared of the camera. It also gave me an outlet for writing, as I wrote storylines and even wrote for live TV. It also is the harshest reality check about business and people. It really makes you become your own biggest, promoter. I'm fortunate and love to talk, so I think that has also helped make the transition easier.

Most of my wrestling career I was a villain, so I guess playing an over the top villain in movies is like a lateral move...haha!  I've always loved horror I just decided to get off my ass and decided to make what I wanted to see. I encourage anyone who is sitting, debating to create something...go do it. It's the greatest reward when it's finished. When I got the final cut of No Clowning Around, I remember sitting on my sofa and just crying...I felt accomplished.
And here's director Jeremiah Kipp with more insight:
How was it working with Rob?  Do you see more collaboration in the future?

Rob is an intense and charismatic guy, with a wicked self-deprecating sense of humor.  What I loved about our work together was his sheer willingness to push himself as far as he needed to go.  He was playing a troubled character, and he’s so committed that I think in many ways he took the work home with him.  But on set, you knew the material had strength to it.  I’d work with him again in a second; we’ve talked about it and have been making plans.

What drew you to the story?

There was a slow building dread in the narrative that built to an operatic peak moment at the end.  After doing an incredibly phantasmagoric experimental film called The Days God Slept, I was intrigued by the possibility of locking into a plot-driven thriller which was all about building a mood of tension.  Rob told me the story in person, and even before he asked me to direct it, I found myself drawn into his macabre tale. It felt like a modern variation of Edgar Allan Poe.

What kind of visual influence played a part in how Baggage looked and felt?

The director of photography Jeffrey Scott Gould shares a tremendous enthusiasm for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.  We took the classical black and white 1960s retro feel and pushed that into areas of the grotesque.

Will we see Baggage at any festivals or screenings?

It has been having a strong festival life so far, playing at Monster Mania, New Jersey HorrorFest, Macabre Faire Film Festival and DOA Blood Bath Entertainment’s Blood Bath V Film Festival. We’re happy to be able to present the film to audiences, and hope they enjoy.

Were there any funny behind-the-scenes stories?

There must have been, but when I lock into making a movie it’s all about the execution.  It’s not that I don’t like to have a good time; it’s just that I place all of my thought into making what’s happening in the frame as expressive as possible.  I remember doing crazy stuff like making the actors jump up and down until they were exhausted; I made Rob sprint across city blocks for half a day, we put actors through some grueling special effects makeup. And yet I remember having a really good time making this movie, and had the sense that we were surrounded by generous friends who were excited about the work. That’s what I probably remember best; working with people I love and trust as well as making new friends.  There was that one moment we were filming a scene where the local police surrounded us because what we were doing seemed criminal, but we were able to laugh about it later…

What's coming up on your schedule in terms of filmmaking?

Right now, I’m going into production on a new scary movie called The Minions.  It’s a dark urban fable about a man’s walk home one autumn night, and he decides to walk down The Witch’s Path. He almost makes it past safely, but then two drunken girls appear…and they’re the minions. What happens next is not very nice…  Find out more at:

I want to thank both Rob Dimension and Jeremiah Kipp for taking the time to answer my questions and especially for their (and their crew's) hard work on Baggage.  I highly recommend getting your hands on it, dear readers.  You really won't be disappointed.  

Be sure to keep an eye out for more from Rob and Jeremiah, and you'll see more coverage here!

Until next time, dear survivors, see you on Halloween! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Lords of Salem (2012) Little Taste of the 70s

Somewhere in him, Rob Zombie has the most amazing horror film.  He's got a singular vision, a unique eye for detail, and a deep knowledge of all genres of horror.  I'm not saying his present movies are bad.  For me, they're "almost there."  He's got the perfect horror movie waiting in the wings, and he's almost there.

Written and directed by Zombie, The Lords of Salem edges ever so closer to being the definitive Rob Zombie film.  It has that grindhouse look, with a 70s-style title card and aesthetic, even though it's set in modern times.  With his versions of the Halloween movies, he still had to conform to a certain mold.  But with The Lords of Salem, we see him going back to his "I'll do it my way, thanks" style.  While Lords didn't totally grab me, there is a certain flair to it that intrigues me.  It's that closer step to that defining movie.

The plot is straight out of 70s witch exploitation movies, and that's not really a bad thing.  Sherri Moon Zombie plays Heidi, a successful Salem, Massachusetts, nighttime DJ along with her co-stars Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree).  One night, she receives a mysterious album from a group called The Lords.  Upon playing the record, the strange, archaic music causes her to feel strange and have weird visions of witches.  She gets to know a researcher, Francis Mattias (Bruce Davison), who investigates the record and The Lords, and finds some horrifying connections.  Meanwhile, Heidi's landlord (Judy Geeson) and her two overly-nice friends (Dee Wallace and Rocky Horror Picture Show's Patricia Quinn) take a strong interest in Heidi and her role in the increasing weirdness surrounding The Lords' upcoming concert in Salem.  Heidi's hallucinations increase as she fights the terrible implications they offer and her own personal demons, as she is a former drug abuser.

The visual aesthetic is what struck me the most.  There is a rich palette of colors in certain scenes, especially the dream sequences.  Everyday life looks like...every day life.  But, yeah, those dream sequences.  I saw it written somewhere else that Zombie had channeled Ken Russell in this film, and I'd say that's pretty accurate.  Russell always had the most oddball, foreboding, and twisted hallucinogenic sequences in film, and you see it echoed in the work of David Lynch and Lars von Trier.  Zombie goes for it here as well, and for the most part, it's not bad.  I didn't like the movie as much as I liked his insane House of 1000 Corpses or the twisted buddy-road sequel The Devil's Rejects, but I definitely didn't dislike it.  It fell somewhere in the middle for me, with the hints of something possibly greater waiting in the wings in future films.

Oh, yeah, lest I forget:  this movie features the creepiest Meg Foster performance in years, possibly her most intense role as the ancient head of an evil coven.  If you've seen They Live, you know who Meg Foster is.  Oh, yes, if you're a fan of hers, I think you'll enjoy her scene-stealing moments in this movie.

Until next time - which will be in a couple days, actually, as I have a great interview with two independent filmmakers coming up - here's the trailer:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back In The Chopper With Some Capsule Reviews

You just witnessed one of my "oh, yeah, I should probably write a blog entry today...hey, look, a shiny object" phases.  I didn't slow down watching horror/suspense films, I just didn't commit to sitting down and getting some writing done.  Plus, other writing endeavors took center stage.  But, hey, let's get down to business.  I took in quite a few movies, but wanted to highlight a few here with some capsule reviews, a few stray thoughts about a few flicks.

All Superheroes Must Die (2011) - Wait, a superhero movie in a horror blog?  Here's the thing, see:  it's a horror/suspense movie with superheroes as protagonists.  Also, I don't like making this blog too restrictive.  Anyway, this low-budget offering plants a group of de-powered superheroes in a desperate situation:  win unwinnable challenges put forth by a fed-up arch-nemesis (Dexter's James Remar).  It plays out like a Saw episode, with the heroes having to solve their own issues as well.  It wasn't bad, and I can't help but think how much better it would have been if the characters were slightly more well-defined.

John Dies At The End (2012) - Whenever you get a film from Don Coscarelli, you just know it's going to be tons of fun.  And this film doesn't disappoint.  Freaky, trippy, and playing the rules of space and time as well as throwing a few buckets of blood and guts at you, this film flies loose and fast and it's a thrill.  Poor David needs to convince a reporter (Paul Giamatti) of an incredible story involving insane elements like strange demons, a powerful drug, portals between dimensions, and a kick-ass dog named Bark Lee.  It's bizarre and has a film swagger that makes it incredibly charming.

Evil Dead (2013) - In a remake of sorts (there's apparently more than meets the eye), Sam Raimi's innovative 1981 low-budget screamer gets a modern makeover as a group of old friends gathers at the infamous cabin to stage an intervention for one of their own.  Unfortunately, they discover a few grisly secrets about the cabin, including that old chestnut, The Necromonicon.  Demonic possession galore and buckets of blood everywhere should please many fans.  It was actually a decent effort that had a touch of uniqueness about it.  Oh, yeah, and wait until the credits are done.

The ABC's of Death (2012) - This ambitious collection of 26 short films - each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet and created by 26 different directors - saw a lot of support and derision in the film community.  I could see reasons for both opinions.  Definitely a challenge to create, it obviously moves quickly.  Most of the entries are in the "OK" range, while there are some that are better left not talked about.  Some I really liked, including A is for Apocalypse, which leaves a little to the imagination as to why a woman is trying to kill a bedridden man; C is for Cycle, offering an odd little loop of time; D is for Dogfight, a wordless short about an actual dog fight with interesting changes in perspective and a good ending; R is for Removed, a strange bit about a man's skin being removed to be used as film and his escape from the hospital in a surreal world; and V is for Vagitus (The Cry of A Newborn Baby) in which it's illegal to have unregistered babies in a futuristic world and where one police unit finds more than it bargained for with one group of rebels.  It's interesting to see what these established and aspiring filmmakers came up with for their respective letters, and there is something here for all tastes - both good and bad.

Devil's Pass (2013) - Inspired by an actual mysterious incident in 1959 in which several experienced Russian hikers died on their way through Dyatlov Pass, Renny Harlin's 2013 film sees a group of college students filming a documentary retracing the same path.  Filmed in first-person, it shows the students discovering strange followed by disturbing followed by terrifying things that make escape look more and more unlikely.  What I thought might be a throwaway film turned out to be somewhat good and with an ending that makes sense.  It ran off the rails towards the end, but unlike other films that go crazy, it got right back on the tracks and said "See, that's what I'm talking about." 

V/H/S/2 (2013) - The sequel to the original first-person anthology, the framework is much the same, but this film - to me, anyway - delivered a more solid group of short films with a stronger surrounding narrative. A pair of investigators break into a home to find out what happened to a young man who disappeared.  While their own story unfolds, they watch various tapes the student has lying around.  The videos show stories about a man with a "camera-eye" seeing things he doesn't want, a biker in a park experiencing the beginning stages of a zombie apocalypse, a news team investigating a strange cult leader predicting the coming of a deity in Indonesia, and an alien invasion of a family's slumber party.  I found the zombie and cult leader stories to be the strongest and most intriguing, but the entire film was quite good and a step up from the original.

The Conspiracy (2012) - More of a thriller than a horror film, there are plenty of creeps in this neat little flick.  Two guys making a documentary about conspiracy theorists go from the frying pan into the fire when the subject of their documentary disappears and they decide to track down the elusive Tarsus Club to find out what happened.  You definitely know what will happen as everything unfolds, but that doesn't take away from a fine, suspenseful "mockumentary" that leaves you thinking about the consequences.

Well, dear readers, this old helicopter is back in the sky.  I'll try to keep up better, and expand the blog to include more "adjacent" genres to the horror field.  Hey, even more comedy.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011) Better Than It Should Be

By all rights, I shouldn't have enjoyed Quarantine 2:  Terminal.

It's a sequel to a remake that was virtually shot-for-shot like the original.  While I thought Quarantine was OK - it starred the phenomenal Jennifer Carpenter, after all - it weakened itself by not going with the original's ([REC]) premise of an evil force and instead going with a "super rabies" disease infection.  A sequel, by all rights, shouldn't have been good.

But it was, and I really did enjoy it.  Every so often, dear readers, the movie planets align and a sequel that shouldn't exist, not only does but does it pretty well.

Written and directed by John Pogue, the film takes place a short time after the events of the first film, in which a Los Angeles apartment building is sealed off when an infection runs rampant inside.  A variety of passengers board a plane on its way to Memphis.  After being bitten by a rat in a teacher's carry-on, one of the passengers begins to exhibit signs of infection.  When he nearly bites off an attendant's nose, it's safe to say he's on the sick side.  Making an emergency landing in Las Vegas, the survivors make it into the terminal, but it's soon quarantined (see what I did there?) and that's when the fun starts.  They not only have to evade infected staff, they have to deal with infections to each other, and a betrayal from within.  One of the survivors is not what they seem.

There's a great string of tension running through the movie, even as the sequences run toward the formulaic.  I've always said that sometimes formulaic works because the formula might be good.  You know something will happen at certain times, but in this case it's OK because it falls into place.  The added mystery that ties it to the first movie provides the underlying threat, the insinuation that no matter what happens to this motley group of survivors, the story really won't be over.

Quarantine 2:  Terminal was a pleasant surprise, and it's nice to have one of those every so often.  I'm not sure if the good luck would extend to a sequel, but hey, I'll take this one.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Devil Inside (2012) How Not To End A Film

I was warned.

People told me not to see last year's The Devil Inside.  "You'll be mad," they said.  "You'll hate the ending," they cautioned.  Did I listen?  Nope.  I was reckless.  I laughed in the face of movie-time-wasting and put the pedal to the metal.

Ah, yes, I was warned.

Let me say this right off the bat:  if you replace the very last moment of The Devil Inside with a good, solid ending - hey, even an ambiguous one - you'd have an honest-to-goodness decent film.  I wasn't angry at the film.  No, I don't get angry at films.  Unless they're Hardly Working.  Not angry, but disappointed.  The movie had my interest, then snatched it away like Charlie Brown's football.

Directed and co-written by William Brent Bell, The Devil Inside begins with a 911 recording and news footage of the aftermath of a triple homicide that involved the local clergy.  A dazed woman, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) - the one who called 911 and admitted to the murders - is led out and eventually locked away in an asylum in Italy.  Years later, her daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), enlists a documentary crew to help her reconnect with her mother and investigate allegations of demonic possession.

She meets two young priests, Father Ben (Simon Quarterman) and Father David (Evan Helmuth), who perform exorcisms on the side, and they promise to help her with her mother's little problem of too many tenants in her soul's apartment.  Needless to say, things don't really go as planned.  The entity inside of Maria is immensely powerful and doesn't stay confined to just one little place.  It's a real go-getter.  Well, there's a climactic scene at a hospital then in a car and then...

The ending.

I usually have a no-spoiler thing here but I don't think at this point I'm spoiling anything.  The movie ends by telling you to go to a website to find out more.

That's right.  Go to a website.  To find out more.

It's been called one of the worst endings ever.  Like I said, it's not that the movie itself - to me - was bad.  I was actually enjoying it, and that's where the disappointment lies.  The movie ends with the website and just walks out the door.

Ah, well.  You can't win 'em all.

Still, it was no Hardly Working.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sinister (2012) Films In The Attic

You know that idiom about curiosity and what it does to cats?  Yeah, well, if you ever happen to stumble across an old box of Super 8 film reels in your attic, it's probably best that you smile politely, say "well-played," then pack up the family and get the hell out of there, speed limits be damned.

If Ethan Hawke's character in 2012's fine horror offering, Sinister, had heeded my advice, things would have been a whole lot easier.  Then again, we wouldn't have this surprisingly good and creepy movie to give us a cautionary tale about leaving some things alone.

Written by C. Robert Cargill and director Scott Derrickson, Sinister sort caught me by surprise like that old friend you accidentally run into on a sidewalk after eating a delicious pizza.  A pleasant surprise, and you feel pretty good about it.  The movie kicks right off with a disturbing mystery seen through the lens of a Super 8 film camera.  Four hooded figures - a family, one would rightly presume - slowly hung in a tree as a falling branch hoists them up.  Scratchy, off-putting ambient music plays as we get an unflinching view of their demise, and it's a mystery as to who they are and why it happened.  Months later, true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Hawke) and his family move into the very house where the murders occurred so Oswald can produce his next blockbuster, which he sorely needs.  Things aren't easy though:  he "forgets" to tell his family about the house's history and the townspeople, like the sheriff (former senator Fred Thompson), don't exactly like his sensationalism in their mourning town.

Going through the house one night, Oswald finds a box of old Super 8 film canisters labeled with such innocent titles as "Pool Party '66" and "Sleepy Time '98."  As he watches them, the sweet scenes turn into horrific ones, as each family is brutally murdered - all but one, as with each tragic event, one child in the family goes missing.  At first, the murders don't seem connected, but Oswald becomes obsessed and he's no slouch in the detective department.  Much like in The Shining, Oswald becomes more involved with his book and the investigation than his family, who is not adjusting well to the new digs.  His daughter wants to go back to their old house and his son's night terrors increase in intensity.

Oswald sees a mysterious figure in one, then all of the videos, presiding over all of the murders.  He also uncovers an occult symbol and enlists Professor Jonas (Vincent D'Onofrio) to help decipher it.  When he discovers the truth, he pretty much wishes he hadn't asked in the first place.  With the help of a local deputy, Oswald puts most of the pieces together and it isn't exactly a yellow brick road from that point onward.  Yep, that's right...not gonna spoil it.

I had heard that Sinister was pretty good, and those rumblings were correct.  It has a familiar plot - mystery with a family in possibly supernatural danger - but the way in which it's presented delivered for me.  The Super 8 shots provide just enough "found footage" that it fills in certain blanks and makes your skin crawl.  The ambient sound and music, especially during those scenes, was a highlight.  There's a mythology, but the movie didn't get lost in it.  It gives you just enough information without going too far with it.  Ethan Hawke is quite good as the burned-out writer looking for his comeback, balancing between being excited for juicy new secrets and being horrified by what he sees on the films.  It's a creepy film, eschewing the "pretty people" formula of most mainstream horror flicks.  I just realized how "hipster" that made me sound, but it's true.  It's honestly a step in the right direction.  There were a couple moments of "jump scares" that made me utter a slightly disappointed "bah" sound, but other than those, it was very, very effective.

So, hey, moving into a new house?  Kids drawing strange pictures on the walls?  Find a box of old films in the attic?

Yeah, you might want to get out now.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) Might As Well Finish It Out

I always have some high hopes for stories that play out a mythology.  But with those high hopes comes a caveat:  if you're building a mythology, you best back it up.

I've been mostly pleasantly surprised by the Paranormal Activity franchise, and I can certainly appreciate telling captivating stories on a shoestring budget.  But there's a little matter of running out of steam, reaching that point where the story strains to be told instead of simply falling into place.  As much as I hoped Paranormal Activity 4 would wrap up the mythology of the demon-plagued sisters, it sort of just peeked in to show what happened to one loose thread while not really answering much of anything else.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schuman (who did Paranormal Activity 3 and Catfish) and written by Christopher Landon based on a story by Chad Feehan, Paranormal 4 intends to wrap up the story began with poor, possessed Katie (Katie Featherston).  We know that she's disappeared along with her nephew, Hunter, leaving a trail of bodies and mystery in her wake.  In this fourth installment, a strange young boy named Robbie (Brady Allen) wanders over to the featured family's house after his mother goes to the hospital.  He's an odd duck, making the daughter Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her best friend Ben (Matt Shively) suspicious, especially since he takes an interest in Alex's adopted younger brother, Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp).  Robbie stays with the family for a while, and of course, strange things begin to happen.  Weird gatherings happen at the house across the street and the family's computers - which Ben has rigged to record video 24/7 - pick up some really bizarre things.  Most aren't too frightening, to be honest, but I really, really liked the use of the night vision camera along with the Xbox Kinect, which casts a sea of small dots over everything in the room.  There is a sequence late in the film where that really looks tremendous.  Things get really crazy when Robbie's mom re-appears, and they mythology gets tied together somewhat.  It hurtles toward a weird, tragic ending that frankly left me wanting a little more story.

That's not to say there wasn't anything to like.  Newton and Shively were natural, believable,and likable as the amateur detectives.  They both hit home runs in terms of creating characters with whom a viewer could identify.  A couple instances during the climactic chase at the end were really nice, and as I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the use of the Kinect as a new visual device.  Maybe others got more out of the film than I did, and I hope that's the case.  For me, personally, I wanted more in the way of what the demon's endgame was.  I assume it wants the world, or does it just want to be a nasty little menace?  I don't always need to be led around by the nose, but I would've enjoyed more direction in the mythology.

It wasn't altogether horrible, but when compared to the other films in the series - which I enjoyed - it fell a bit short.  But hey, not every franchise can be perfect.

And now I'm going to go play some Kinect with my invisible friend, who always wins at Fruit Ninja...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let's Get 2013 Rolling Here

You know, one of my New Year's resolutions was to pay more attention this poor blog and to my other blog about comics, Born In The Silver Age.

Now - 15 whole days after 2013 starts - I finally get around to writing my annual year-end entry.  Ah, well.  Guess I'll have to practice being a little more timely.

First and foremost:  thank you to all of you who read, enjoy, are entertained, and don't steal my words.  I write this blog for fun and to keep the writing wheels juiced and I hope you get some fun out of it as well.

I had the pleasure of watching some really crazy, really insane, and in some cases, really great horror films in 2012.  Every year, I like to make a list of the ten movies I enjoyed reviewing.  They don't have to be films that were made that year, just ones that I reviewed. during the year.  I also like to throw in some classics and short films as extras just to spread the love.

But hey, let's get to my list.  Here they are, in no particular order, the horror films I enjoyed reviewing the most in 2012:

The Inkeepers - Atmospheric to the point where the setting is a character in itself, a Ti West specialty.  A great little closed-door haunted mystery with some solid acting and chills.  It's a quiet, slow burn that leaves you clues to how you see the ending.

The Cabin In The Woods - The horror movie equivalent to riding a rollercoaster backward after drinking five Red Bulls and staying up all night. Like I say in my review, I can't begin to get into this utterly insane, madcap love letter to the horror genre without revealing a lot, so just see it and try to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

Behind The Mask:  The Rise of Leslie Vernon - Another in the "insane" category, this leaps from fake documentary to get-out-of-the-house classic horror with expert delicacy.  You really can't take your eyes off this story of an up-and-comer in a world where all the classic slasher villains exist as inspiration to young Leslie.  Funny, clever, and scary, just like Mr. Vernon.

The Pact - I'm a huge fan of atmosphere and, if you want to get technical, the use of space in the frame of the movie screen.  The Pact delivers on those in a big way.  Twists and turns, and a stellar performance by Caity Lotz (and a really good showing from Casper Van Dien), made this quiet little film a favorite among some of us humble horror folk.

[REC]3: Genesis - As well as being a fan of atmosphere, I love a little insanity, as you can tell.  A real departure from the other installments in one of my favorite franchises, this chapter leans more of the wacky as we're privy to what happens when the disease ravages a wedding party and what the lovers will do to reunite.

The Loved Ones - Probably one of my favorites this past year was this Australian gem.  Utterly outstanding performances and a plot that dances like that slick kid that wasn't from your school but knew all the "big city" moves.  I haven't cheered this hard for a horror protagonist in ages, and that speaks to the cast and crew of this wild flick.

Vampires - I'm not huge on vampires, but this Belgian horror-comedy about a dysfunctional vampire family trying to maintain its status among the elite of its neighborhood really grew on me.  Another fake documentary, it had interesting characters who forge their own paths through an odd and sometimes goofy dynamic laced with real scenes of horror.

Kill List - Oh, this one had both of those things I mentioned:  atmosphere and copious amounts of crazy, albeit on a more "slow burn" level.  And then some.  What starts as a "hitman out for one final job" road picture turns into something entirely different.  By the end, you're saying "What.  The.  Hell?"  A great buildup of tension leads to that "did I just see that?" ending.

Lovely Molly - Gretchen Lodge is so good in this movie, you're then surprised to learn how little acting she had done before it.  She carries this movie like a Heisman Trophy winner as a young woman left to her own devices in her childhood home, haunted by memories and...something else?  Very strange, with that performance by Lodge making one hope she gets more roles.

Rare Imports: A Christmas Tale - The last movie I reviewed in 2012 turned out to be a real treat.  An import from Finland, it explores a more pagan Santa Claus myth with gorgeous scenery and one of the smartest and bravest kids ever in a horror film.  The movie is strange and spooky, but with a nod and a wink...just like old Saint Nick.

And one classic film that I must mention:

The Thing (1982) - It was about time that I reviewed this wonderful John Carpenter film.   Claustrophobic, stark, and utterly terrifying, it's got so many levels and stories within stories.  It bears repeat viewings.  And honestly, I didn't dislike the prequel of the same name.

And one short film:

Exit 7A - What a simple, straightforward, entertaining short in the same vein as Twilight Zone and with a kind of ongoing story potential that could sustain a series based on the premise and certain characters.  I like being sent short films that I really enjoy, and this was definitely one of them.

And one so-incredibly-bad-it's-incredibly tremendous-film:

Troll 2 - Yep, I finally saw  It is EVERYTHING I wanted it to be and more.  It's something that truly must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.  It also led to one of my favorite reviews to write.

Some honorable mentions: Absentia, The Woman In Black, We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Caller, and V/H/S.

Again, I thank everyone for reading as this little blog heads towards its fourth year.  Hopefully, I'll have some new things to spice up the old place and provide some more of my words and thoughts.

Happy New Year!