Burning Bright In Unique Spins, But Not So Much In Terms Of Scares/Story

Brightburn Poster

            Horror, the genre that takes on many forms, disguises, and approaches to try and shock, disturb, and outright scare us to our core.  IN a genre overfilled with gimmicks and cliché approaches though, the saturation level these films have taken.  So seeing this next film I review puts me at a little bit of unease, and yet hope at an attempt to once again take a different approach in hopes of opening up a new potential to wow us.  Here we go, as Robbie K is back with another review in hopes of once again helping you with your movie choosing pleasures.  Let’s get started as we hit:

 

Movie:

 

Brightburn (2019)

 

Director:

David Yarovesky

Writers:

Brian GunnMark Gunn

Stars:

Elizabeth BanksDavid DenmanJackson A. Dunn

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Acting
  • New Twist
  • Fast Pace
  • Creepy Parts That Are Worthy of Genre
  • Decent Plot

 

DISLIKES:

  • Simplistic
  • Unexplained/Lackluster Story components
  • Character Development is Okay
  • Gruesome At Times
  • Predictable/Anticlimactic

 

People who like these may like this Movie:

 

  • The Omen
  • Sinister
  • Comic Books With One Sided Arcs

Summary:

 

Brightburn is a movie that the trailers have given much information, but there are some things that I appreciate the movie attempting to do to spruce up the Horror genre. First off is the acting!  While not Oscar Worthy material or the most groundbreaking steps in acting, I give the actors props for working with the limited material.  Banks in particular manages to breathe some drama into the very linear characters, while Jackson Dunn is getting a nice start at playing creepy with his presentation and delivery of lines.  They sort of sell the film, alongside the extras who can act terrified at a whim’s pace.  Yet, the high selling points are the fact of a new twist and fast pace to provide the modernized entertainment the world loves these days.  Brightburn does not take long to begin getting into the creepy aspects, quickly evolving the plot into this dark, comic book like adventure that tries to be thrilling and suspenseful. As such, the movie moves at a decent pace and before you know it, you’ll be nearing the end.  Thus, short attention spans should be pleased with this movie.  Fortunately, there should be plenty of creepy moments, primarily due to two components: Creepy looks from the kid and Setting of isolation.  The latter in particular sort of robs you of your safety, the open land and woods making a setting where so many things can happen from so many angles.  That component is the most terrifying, while the rest go with the dark comic theme that provides the entertainment value.  All of this is put into a story that is simplistic, but ties all the chaos together into a nice package.

Yet, the movie has some areas that while entertaining are not the most ground breaking in terms of storytelling.  For one thing, the movie is very simplistic, doing little to build upon its characters or even suspense that would have been satisfying to see in the story department.  When it does start trying to build up some of the aspects, we get stuck with a lackluster story components that do-little explanation outside of some momentary dialogue to explain his “origins”.  Outside of that, it is just a simple gruesome tale that while fitting for the genre, soon becomes just a public display of power going wrong and dragging out some torturous finishes.  Brightburn seems to relish in the dark dealings of the genre more than the story. For the fan that loves this, the film is perfect, but for those looking for a little more, this tale is going to not be the crown jewel as thanks to the trailers and the concept, you can probably guess what the ending will be.  And when the full extent is unleashed there is little excitement in regards to just watching things unfold, so don’t get too excited about an epic finale. 

So what’s the verdict?  Brightburn gets points for putting a new face, or in this case mask, on the genre.  It’s that comic component that sort of sells this film, providing the entertaining, destructive force of the dark instead of developing the story.  Thus, despite the predictability, if you are looking for that ambiguous tale that merely focuses on the gimmicks this category of film’s thrives in… you’ve got your popcorn munching visit planned.  However, if you are hoping for something more to your tale, looking for that story that holds both creeps and purpose than hold out for something else.  Thus, this movie is more recommended for home viewing rather than theater in my opinion. 

 

My scores are:

Horror/Sci-Fi:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

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Hannah’s Tale To Scale

The Possession of Hannah Grace Poster

            Wrapping up the month of November, comes a movie one might not expect with the holiday season.  Despite the season of giving, joy and family, Hollywood is ready to scare the pants off you with another shot at the horror ladder.  Under the guise of not a typical exorcist movie, tonight’s review is hoping that the unique twist will live up to the hype of the advertisements. Robbie K back with another film review as I take on:

 

Film:  The Possession Of Hannah Grace (2018)

Director:

Diederik Van Rooijen

Writer:

Brian Sieve

Stars:

Shay MitchellGrey DamonKirby Johnson

 

 

Likes:

 

Time Length:  A movie that can get the job done in fewer than 90-minutes gets my vote for bonus points.  Hanna grace’s story is done within 80 minutes, at a pace that does little to divert from the scares.

 

The Acting: For a film limited to practically one cast member, Hannah Grace’s film isn’t half bad. Mtichell dives full force into the character, managing to portray the multi-tiered roll quite well, in a balanced manner that was engaging to watch.  Her other cast members gets points for their respective roles, though there is little to springboard off of given the limited development.  Nevertheless, the acting works.

 

Special Effects/Make-up: To get the scares you’ve got to sometimes have a look to base your central character around.  In this film, the effects departments gets high fives for their work.  Grace’s body is crushing to the soul, an amalgam of twisted limbs, horrifying scars , and look that penetrates through the layers of your being, unwilling to give you any relief as her eyes follow you across the screen.  As more twists and turns occur appear, Grace’s movements become bone crunching bashes of disturbing symphonies that make one squirm in their seats. It’s creepy, it’s uncomforting… and it works well as the central scare tactic of the movie.

 

The Variety of Scares: Hannah Grace has decided to deploy all the scare types into the mix, managing to bring together jump scares, creepiness, and deadly all wrapped into one.  Utilization of these three leave one ready to be moved in so many ways, that one can’t help but get immersed into if you are a horror fan.

 

The Setting:  By far the most blood curdling components is the setting of this film.  A morgue is no place to play, and the worst part about this is… it’s real.  Unlike the films that have characters stupidly trekking into lands they should never find, Hannah Grace is about working in a morgue where the dead go to meet their end.  Very similar to the great horror films, they use this setting well, keeping things in the shadows and a sense of only revealing so much to allow your imagination to fill in the gap.  The setting of this film is certainly the biggest element that gave me the willies and proof that simplicity can go a long way in invoking nightmares.

 

 

Dislikes:

 

The Predictability:  While there are plenty of scare tactics utilize in this film, the problem with this film is how predictable they become.  Perhaps this is just me and my desensitization, but the film gave way too much to keep the scare factor going.  The stale presentation got a little old and by the midway mark I was searching for different means to get Hannah’s wrath out. If you are one that jumps at everything, this won’t be the case for you, but otherwise, get set for some lackluster tactics.

 

The Characters:  Outside of Megan (Shay Mitchell), the rest of the crew were there, characters that started introducing themselves, only to later not have much gusto behind them.  Possession of Hannah Grace had the opportunity to flesh out more of their characters to help extend out the players in this deadly game of whatever it is. It’s not the worst case I’ve seen, but there was room for improvement to give the movie a little more dimension.

 

The Story:  I get it, most people aren’t about a tale when it comes to a scary film, instead craving the scare you until you wet your pants moment. Still, the best horror movies utilize a story well to draw the suspense out, give purpose to the scares, and give you the investment into the film.  Hannah Grace’s tale had all the scraps of a story there, enough to culminate into a plot, but there is so much more needed to help improve upon the dislikes mentioned above.  Without the strong story, the movie soon becomes a desperate struggle to stay afloat as it crams as much of the scariness into the film to try to distract from the shallow film. Many subplots are dropped or reduced to hasty tie ups, others are simplistic dialogue that adds little to the film other than time. This brings me to the biggest dislike

 

The Ending:  Perhaps the studio ran out of money, perhaps it was always the plan, but the momentum Hannah Grace had at the beginning was lost for me. The opening did the role it sought out, which was to creep you out, get you on edge and show what the antagonist was capable of.  Then somewhere around the fifty-minute mark… the feel suddenly changed.  No longer the creepy, suspense building trek through the dark, the latter half soon became a very mashed together display of power, with stale scare tactics, grandiose roaring, and hasty wrapped up plots.  The big finale felt a little forced and the rushed plots did little to add much other than an over the top roar fest.  Outside of the cheese factor, it was fine and held some moral filled monologues to boot, but compared to the theme of the opening acts… it just doesn’t quite settle with me.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Possession of Hannah Grace held potential and it delivered on some of it with that opening act.  It’s creepy, it’s disturbing and it works on levels to give you the fear factor you want at the end.  Yet, the movie has a long way to go to get to the great level others have achieved, utilizing that incredible make up and special effects to great heights and having a story to support it.  That ending was rushed and perhaps better planning and coordination may craft a film that we have been waiting some time for.  Still, not the worst movie and certainly worth checking out on streaming in the future.

 

 

My Scores Are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.0

Movie Overall; 5.5

Praying For This Film to Be Good? Read My Thoughts ON it

The Nun Poster

 

We have various universes we emerge ourselves in when it comes to the cinema world.  Star Wars, Marvel, Lord of the Rings are all series that have a massive following, so why not make an interconnected horror franchise to do the same. Enter the Conjuring who after a very successful opening, the paranormal world has roped many creatures in for its steady story presentation.  Tonight, the latest entry comes in full force,, hoping to bring many bucks in and continue the series.  Praying for a good movie?  Robbie K here to drop the next review in and get you set up for the weekend movie visits.

 

Movie:  The Nun (2018)

 

Director:

Corin Hardy

Writers:

Gary Dauberman (screenplay by), James Wan (story by)

Stars:

Demián BichirTaissa FarmigaJonas Bloquet

 

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Story:  The movie accomplishes the first goal of essentially setting up the main demon from Conjuring 2’s inclusion into the universe. Fans of the series will be pulled into the lore further with the Nun’s origins, learning more about how the demon emerged into our world, his goal for inhabiting our spiritual plane, and what his powers involves.  It’s got multiple layers, a few twists and turns, and some character development to go along with it, but all in focus of connecting the stories.

 

The Setting:  It’s an abbey, even more it’s a medieval abbey that has plenty of secrets in the shadows of the stone hallways.  The Nun utilizes these aspects so well, and that adds creepiness to the entire scene.  Most of the scares for me came from the unseen or passing glimpses in the shadows, while other moments come from the desolate feeling of isolation the hallowed halls provide.  It’s a great use of setting and imagination to deliver the thrills in very conservative ways.

 

The Makeup:  I give props to the department for being able to craft some awesome pieces to bring their imaginations to reality.  The Nun’s team craft a horrifying demon, utilizing a blend of computer, paint, prosthetics, and various other crafts to bring Valak to life.  Even the various forms of the demon’s tricks have a wonderful design to them, each holding that special blend of terror that it wants.

 

The Pace:  A movie like this needs to make sure to put a good pace to keep things going, and this film succeeds on that account.  It’s quick, engaging, and lacks slow parts, which is a plus for the horror series veterans who want scares. Speaking of which.

 

The Scares:  Nun’s tactics are very fitting of the franchise, a blend of jump scares with creeps to try and get you to jump in your seats. Mostly going for jump scares, the film holds plenty of the former, working hard to use loud sounds and sudden appearances to capitalize on the small cast that they have.  It works very well for fans of this tactic, and in this universe will continue to rope you into the nightmare inducing visuals at hand.

 

The Acting:  A limited cast means that the actors have more weight on their shoulders to make the story stay on point and come to life. The Nun’s three leads are successful in this endeavor, each having some overall contribution to piece this tale together.  Demian Bichir is the hard natured priest with the dark past, acting as the pillar to ground the suspense on.  Taissa Farmiga follows in her sister’s footsteps and brings more of the story driven component and doing a fine job adjusting to each situation at hand.  As for Jonas Bloquet, he’s the comedic relief, which is utilized quite well to not offset the horror tone they were going for.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Story…at points: The movie fits well into the craft, but there are parts that are eye rolling.  While I did expect the movie to go down the path to some extent, some of the plot points were a bit too much of a stretch to fit well into the horror tone. A bit too convenient at times, these sorts of plot points are okay at best, but they detracted from the story a bit for me and weren’t quite as fitting as the other solutions of previous films.  In addition, the back story of the three characters is not the strongest either, leaving only half finished characters to grapple on to.

 

The Speeches: Grandiose at times, the speeches sometimes go down the preachy route in some attempt to inspire and enlighten amidst the dark.  While words of wisdom and faith are well received, the delivery of some of these dialogues is more cheesy than effective for me, the sudden pauses in trekking down the demon just to get some morale boosting going.  The presentation is just off compared to other movies, and like the plot components felt out of place in this universe for me.

 

Valak’s powers:  The demon is strong, of this we have no doubt, and the soulless stare that it holds in the dark is bone chilling indeed. Yet, Valak’s powers were surprisingly limited and boring at times, resorting more to pushing telekinetically than anything else.  I guess I would have liked a little more variety in the monster, but the battle between creature and man is not the most impressive thing to creep in.

 

The Predictable Scares; Sadly, the edge of the movie was cut out by the mistakes made above, yet the worst is the predictable scare tactics. The Nun had little surprise to its scares, the camera work laying obvious groundwork for what was about to happen.  Having the music turn off is also a dead giveaway and as such I wasn’t too scared for when things were executed.  This installment doesn’t quite pack the punch of the first movie into the universe, and sadly they are starting to grow stale in their abilities to scare.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Nun is a fitting entry into the Conjuring universe that helps place more pieces into the puzzle and sets up to answer all the questions thrown in by the other films.  It’s story works on most levels, and will get the fans connected with the universe that has taken years to build.  In addition, all the special effects, setting, acting, and scares themselves grant you the familiarity of the series that will have you hooked. However, it doesn’t live up to other installments in the films, with predictable scares and underwhelming powers not painting the scariest creature from this universe.  Yet It’s the weaker plot moments and predictable scares that are acting as the true exorcism to quality.  It needs a little wrapping up and tightening to give it the full strength, but this movie still is a welcome addition to the Conjuring series.  Worth a trip to theater?  Hmm, I can say yes, but it’s not the biggest bang for your buck to be honest.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

Little Stranger Presentation: Artistic and Elegant, But Not Exciting

The Little Stranger Poster

            Horror movies are difficult to balance story with scares, but nevertheless the monster madness reigns strong in all its forms. Tonight, one of those movies wants to try and break the mold of the milieu in hopes that it will remain a pleasant surprise in the flood of summer films.  Robbie K here, ready to bring another review and help you with your viewing pleasures as we cover:

 

The Little Stranger (2018)

 

Director:

Lenny Abrahamson

Writers:

Lucinda CoxonSarah Waters (novel)

Stars:

Domhnall GleesonRuth WilsonJosh Dylan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Thought Provoking:  Little Strangers is a very smart, elegant horror movie that uses a lot of unseen techniques to try and terrify you.  This psychological thriller drops lots of clues, leaving you scratching your head as they try to figure out what in the world is going on in this film.  This smart approach will engage conversation and have you constantly reviewing every scene to piece everything together.  Symbolism and artistic minds rejoice you have found your movie.

 

The Setting:  An 18thcentury mansion with wide echoing halls, dark rooms that house secrets, and silent halls that creak for no reason. This is the setting of the scares of this movie, the realistic mansion bringing that creepy edge that is sure to give one the creeps.  But outside of scares, Little Stranger brings the past back to the present, immersing you in the classic culture that was 20thcentury Europe. Throwing all of this together… one gets a chance to really immerse yourself in the adventure at hand.

 

The Acting;  A very character centric film, Little Strangers depends heavily on the cast to bring the psychological thriller to the forefront. Domhnall Gleesonhas much of the dialogue, a creepy sensation that does not feel directly threatening, but is cold, obsessive, and perhaps calculating enough to make you think twice. Ruth Wilsonis also a bit of enigma, more dynamic than the other characters, Wilson brings the sanity vs. experience to a great balance, continuing to have you question the truth of what she is experiencing.  As for the rest of the crew, they warrant a nod for their skills of bringing the culture to life, there was just more needed.

 

Short Run Time:  It’s only about 1 hour and 40 minutes and based on the dislikes below you can understand why I’m happy for the shorter time frame.

 

The Dance Scene:  It’s not the biggest, boldest, display of dance, but it at least breaks up the movie a bit to help potentially direct the film towards a new lead.  Might not be much, but I give them props for the cute display of etiquette and dancing.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Vague:  To thoroughly enjoy this movie, you have to be wanting a more symbolic vague ending than an actual conclusion.  Little Strangers will fulfill those symbolic loving fans, as it tries to keep you guessing.  I don’t mind thought provoking, but I’d like a little more closure than what I got, though I guess that is the topic discussion starter.  Still, the open-ended nature of the film didn’t quite work for me as well as they had hoped.

 

Not Scary:  A horror movie that isn’t thrilling or scary is hard for me to swallow.  The Little Stranger feels more like a political play or psycho thriller than true horror. As such, those looking for the popular, movie magic infused scares are going to be strongly disappointed at the grounded approach they took.

 

More Character Involvement: All the time they invested into this film, with all the characters placed in the little board of psycho/horror, they would have dived more into the psyche of them as well.  The movie strongly favored Faraday, dipping back to his past to hint at what is brewing in that quiet demeanor.  For the other denizens though, the backstories of them are reduced to dry dialogue and vague stories that one must pay massive attention to or miss a big clue.  Why the characters weren’t further elaborated, I don’t know, but perhaps their involvement could have gone to the next level.

 

Boring:  The movie is slowly paced, and without the novelty scares and creepiness, the articulated dialogue and elegant presentation are not the most engaging.  Outside of solving the mystery and vague symbolism, there was not enough to keep my attention or energy invested in the movie.  As such, it was difficult to concentrate and truly embrace what the movie had to offer.

 

Unnecessary Scenes: The movie has a number of scenes that are bloated displays of dialogue and dryer banter that is only semi-pertinent. I’ll stomach these moments designed for time all day, but unnecessary details (primarily those that strike my pet peeves) are not things I enjoy seeing.  One particular scene crosses into the heartless territory, with its inclusion reduced to only a few lines to explain why it all happened.  With the vague approach and symbolism though, I was ready to walk out once this detailed moment occurred.  Unnecessary and almost impractical moments like these, can stay buried in the minds of the authors and writers.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            The Little Strangers feels much like a book into movie format, really focusing on the psyche and internal mind rather than the horror aspect.  I’ll admit, it’s artistic, more unique and better acted than many horror movies, but it lacks that hook to keep me invested in the movie.  It’s not scary, it’s not fun, and really has some editing and toning needed to give the answers and closure I wanted.  So, don’t go in there expecting a regular horror and you may just enjoy it, but otherwise, I didn’t feel this movie had all the elements it needed to warrant a trip to theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Dram/Horror/Mystery: 4.0

Movie Overall: 3.0

 

Summer Thrills Dive Into Real: Sequel Is An Upgrade, But Still Needs Updating

Unfriended: Dark Web Poster

            It’s the age of the internet and cyber security is never more important to prevent your entire life from falling victim to the elite hackers.  Yet, for many, we have no idea what threats lay hidden in the shadows of the dark web and those who use it for evil.  So of course, it would be the perfect medium to make another horror movie with, after a few of the other films have had mixed success.  Thus, the focus of my next review is the sequel to a horror movie with a similar theme, but a different story.  Robbie K back in action to present his latest review on:

 

Movie:  Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

 

Director:

Stephen Susco

Writer:

Stephen Susco

Stars:

Rebecca Rittenhouse,  Betty Gabriel,  Chelsea Alden

 

 

LIKES:

 

Unique perspective: Like the first installment, Unfriended: Dark Web takes the unique perspective of found footage through the computer.  One gets to see everything happening through the virtual eyes of technology and become immersed into the experience at hand.  As our “heroes” look through all the insane stuff in this film, you’ll feel pulled into the journey and potentially get the feeling all this stuff is happening to you.  It’s unique, it’s dynamic, and it’s very engaging to watch.

 

Freaky Realism:  The movie’s core of scares is not so much the jumping at you moments, or a large monster, but more so how realistic this scenario can be.  Dark Web isn’t that farfetched a concept when you think about it and it instills a deep fear and paranoia that settles uncomfortably in your mind.  If you’re like me you might want to rethink how to clean up your digital foot print, and perhaps invest in some lessons on privacy.  In all seriousness though, the movie’s scenario will certainly keep you grounded into the suspense because the setting isn’t so grandiose.

 

The Build-Up:  Using the two previous likes, the director was able to build up some major suspense in this tale.   The developers utilized solid techniques of helping uncover the mystery and white lies at the bottom of the digital rabbit hole.  It provides just enough information to linger on before drawing out the thrills a little longer.  This gradual balance continues to keep the suspense up and potentially lead to an exciting conclusion to come. Nice work.

 

The Pace:  Horror movies can be slow sometimes, but for this movie that wasn’t the case.  Dark Web doesn’t suffer from this limitation, leading to a decently paced movie that doesn’t linger too long.

 

The Twists:  The movie is pretty linear and predictable, but the story team managed to bring a few surprises with it as well.  While some twists can be misguided, the movie succeeded to utilize these twists to help “justify” all that happened and sort of curb for the stupidity of the characters.  It’s not the best thing in the world, but it worked for me.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable:  The way this series continues to promote the darker themes, one can guess a lot of what is going to happen.  Much of this comes from the trailers giving things away, but some of it comes from copying the first film’s tactics for scares.  As such, you won’t be too surprised when all is said and done.

 

The Lacking Characters: I understand a horror movie seldom doesn’t focus on stories and more on superficial scares and thrills.  Still this reviewer would have appreciated characters that weren’t so carbon copy of the teenage summer movie.  Almost all of the group is rather stereotypical, and in truth not so likeable when you see how much they kind of overstep their boundaries.  Sure, there are some exceptions, but the main character in particular brought much of this on himself.  Even worse, much of their stories are pretty boring or missing altogether, with most attempts falling flat on its face.  Perhaps more expansive stories could have helped add some more layers to the mix and give us better characters.

 

The Opening Sequence: It’s about logging into a “new” computer and as such requires the character to try multiple attempts to breach the security.  I’m not complaining because it really does capture the reality of the situation, however did we need nearly 10 minutes of this prolonged sequence?  I don’t think so, and while 10 minutes doesn’t seem like much…it is in a movie barely pushing 80 minutes.  Cool to be immersed, but the time could have been spent better in plot development or anything else.

 

Two Endings?: Yes, you heard me right, there are two finales to this movie, but it’s not dependent on show times, but rather theaters.  It’s worthy of applause for trying to get some rewatching on this movie in regards to making the most bucks.  To the fans though, having to go to two different theaters is not my idea of good marketing, especially if one of the endings is super intense and the other is a hasty wrap up.  Director’s cuts or reddit will be your friend on this dislike guys.

 

Final 25 minutes:  I already stated that the first part of this movie does a nice job building things up for what will hopefully be an intense second act.  True, the end is intense, but it’s also very hastily rushed, compacted, and kind of skimmed over very quickly.  If you are like me, a movie like this is better when your characters are challenged and potentially hurt throughout the movie, and not just the final act.  Dark Web failed on this aspect and tried to finish its tale a little too quickly in the end.  No amount of twists can offset this for me, but it may not be too bad for others.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Unfriended 2 was better than its horror counterpart.  The plot components made more sense, the setting grounded back into realism, and it once again told a familiar story through a more immersive medium than most others. In addition, the suspense and twists keep this relatively simple film entertaining up until the end.  The problems come more from some presentation flaws, such as a dragged-out opening, trying to put two endings together, and of course rushing at the end.  Throw in some non-engaging characters and it wraps up this movie pretty well.  The movie is okay overall, but it’s going to be reserved for young adults and teens looking for a quick thrill for the summer. Still, it turned out better than I was expecting so there is a victory there. Nevertheless, I recommend holding out for home on this one.

 

My Scores:

 

Horror:  6.0-6.5

Movie Overall: 4.5-5.0

 

For the “Win”chester?

Winchester

 

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” such a truthful phrase in this modern-day world.  Well take this phrase, combine it with legendary house, and some events that occurred in the past and this mixture results in the plot of our next movie.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review, and tonight I’ll be posting on the latest horror movie entitled Winchester.  This interesting spectacle holds some wonder to it, but does it have the goods to deliver, especially with sensation Helen Mirren leading the charge?  I’m here to answer that question for you, so let’s get going.

 

LIKES:

The Setting: One of the coolest things about horror movies is the potential to craft new, dark, incredible settings that bring life, or in this case death, to the screen.  The movie has one of the most interesting settings I’ve seen in a while, a glamorized mansion modeled after the Winchester estate.  This jigsaw puzzle like house is not the friendliest on the eyes, but it works to craft a twisted chamber that plays games on the mind.  It holds great potential for a lot of scares with the uncertainty that lies around every corner and angled stair case.  And once the lights go down and only the candles flicker, that is when the true craziness of the house is unleashed.

 

The Character Development:  Scary movies are mostly about scares, and in much of the modern-day media that’s all they care about.  Fortunately, Winchester goes a different route and brings focus back to the characters walking the hallowed halls.  Both Mirren’s character and Jason Clarke have some decent plot arcs to tie them to the central story contained within Winchester’s elaborate walls.  Their journey through their struggles has some potent emotion behind, specifically Clarke’s whose path to enlightenment takes a few dramatic twists that are impressive.  I liked the personalization of the characters, even the big bad spirit, that had a little more backbone to it than simply being dead.  And how all these characters mesh into this story, helps give a purpose to all the scares that are at hand. 

 

The Twist:  The story itself is not too unique, but it is stronger than most horror movies hold.  While character development certainly has a hand in it, and a fairly linear story to tag on to, the movie really shines in the twist that awaits those brave viewers.  The director and cinema crew were able to hide the truth quite well, using subtle camera work, dialogue, and timing to really draw your attention away.  And when it finally all comes to a draw, you applaud at the integration to the plot it holds and transforms into the final act of the movie.  Certainly not the creepiest of the characters, but also held some impressive makeup to help seal the deal.

 

DISLIKES:

Minor Scare Factor: I’ll admit, one scene got my flinching, but Winchester didn’t have the scares the initial trailer laid down for us.  They rely on the same scare tactics throughout the 90-minute film, jump scares galore that rely on the sound suddenly dropping and something popping out.  While diverse in the things that come out in the dark, the tactics stay pretty much the same and eventually lose the edge they wanted to keep.  Even the exciting climax was nonchalant because it had crossed into the overdramatic and away from the scares.  A little more creepiness, might have helped this factor out, but maybe the implied sequel will come in.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  The movie is primarily about Mirren and Clarke’s characters. The other characters, they unfortunately are reduced to secondary roles that are semi-significant, but still lacking that needed edge that could have helped them stand out.  Henry and his mom, and John the head carpenter, they were specifically mentioned, and then…they quickly faded into the background until their hasty conclusions.  Again, not the worst use of characters, but some finesse and better integration could have been the key.

 

The Story/Other Ghosts:  I mentioned that the story was a big improvement over much of the horror movies I have seen, but I also said there was room for improvement.  Winchester’s story has some depth to it, but there were some plot points that were built up and then fizzled out.  Mirren’s family tragedy, the trauma young Henry and his mom truly faced, and even the ghost’s master plan all kind of dropped short of the details I had hoped to see.  Had these stories been taken a little farther, not only would the story have improved, but it also would have given the story a little more edge and allowed for other ghosts to enter the mix.  Speaking of ghosts, I believe the trailer promised many spirits trolling the halls and torturing our heroes.  And once again this movie failed to deliver.  Plenty of spirits fell victim to the Winchester rifles, but only one of them had the guts to have any bite to the story.  The rest had a few jump moments, but their stories were lost to the background, contained in the books that line the wall of the main room.  And those hidden in the bolted rooms, most of them didn’t even bother to make an appearance, or any meaningful one at that.  No, Winchester needed to conduct a séance to recruit more spirits to its cavalcade.

 

The VERDICT: 

 

            Winchester wasn’t the scariest movie to haunt the theaters, but it is a better piece of storytelling than most horror movies have these days.  Solid character development and a twist help bring this twisted setting to life, and provide a semi-entertaining movie to the audience.  The film still needs some amplification to boost things along.  Primarily in the story and integration of the characters, Winchester fails to capitalize on the ghosts of the manor to provide all those scares, and falls victim to failed scare tactics. And had they integrated and dived further in all the characters stories, perhaps this too could have soared to higher quality.  Not the worst movie in the world, but this one can be saved until the Redbox picks it up. 

 

My scores:

Biography/Fantasy/Horror: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0

“Let’s Play A Game” Again. Piecing the Story In Place Of the Gore-Y

Jigsaw

 

“Let’s Play A Game”, those simple words haunted the theaters for years, signaling the start of yet another slasher movie in the Saw series.  What started out as a unique twist to the serial killer saga was only the start to a face cringing, spine tingling, sometimes nauseating saga that hooked people in until around the sixth-seventh iteration when it finally ended.  That was until this year, where the saga was to be reanimated in hopes of bringing more bucks to the theaters.  Will this eighth installment have the ability to defy death like it’s protagonist antihero, or is it dead like the poor victims of his games.  Only one way to find out and that is read my friends, so let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Fast-Pace:  With all the slow movies I have been seeing, I give props to the Saw series maintaining their consistent pace.  From start to finish, the tale keeps moving, sparing no second for unnecessary details or attempts at prolonged character development. The mystery of figuring out the identity of the game master, mixed with the spread-out trials that promise a messy end are well-balanced to keep things going.

 

Decent Characters: A horror movie often has many brain-dead characters begging to be chainsaw fodder.  Fortunately, Saw movies continue to choose players who have a little more complexity and skills than many of the Spring Break teens favored. The tradition lives on, as each player has a little more buried within, still having a few obviously destined corpses, but others who have a shot at making it out.  And for those not in the game, but trying to solve the mystery, they too have some layers to them that may or may not be pertinent to the story.  It’s those engaging elements that are crafted in the story, making them more engaging to follow.

 

The Presentation:  Another component I still like is the presentation of the movie.  Many go for the kills, but the better component for me is how they separate the story into two settings.  One is still the players trying to escape the closes thing to hell’s torture chamber, while the other are the outside characters hunting down the “maniac” that continues to weave his traps. The ability to entangle these two components, balancing their timing to provide clues and hints to the story all while keeping you invested in the game.  Such a dynamic presentation provides those checks and balances necessary for a slasher movie, and keeping things as fresh as possible.

 

Twist:  As many of you know, Saw movies are all about the ability to throw that last wrench into the gears to blow your mind.  Despite my experience with predicting endings, this one got me.  The questions I asked were on the right path, but they were able to drop enough interfering factors to throw me off the trail.  Jigsaw once again impresses me with their storytelling, and their mastery of presentation.  I can’t say much more, but ask the right questions and you might get the answers.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Lazy Deaths:  Those first few movies were convoluted in their traps. They had designed devices that were an impressive display of imagination, horror, and engineering that gave everyone a kick in terms of design.  While Jigsaw still has the impressive connections and storytelling, it unfortunately fails in the terms of the traps themselves.  They are surprisingly simple for the most part, and a little more reserved than I expected in this modern era. Yes, there is still plenty of blood in this battle for moral consequences, but they didn’t involve quite as much skin crawling madness.

 

Acting a little cheesy:  Despite the engaging characters, there are times when there are a few inconsistencies in the character’s intelligence, or often the case their acting.  While decent for the most part, the writers hit some blocks in terms of dialogue or direction they wanted the characters to go.  There are those moments the “tension” overwhelms them into hysterical messes that are cheesy rather than believable. In addition, the dialogue sometimes gets lazy, just going into expletives than conducive dialog.  A weak dislike yes, but I’m drawing on straws.

 

The potential for a series:  Like the original series, I had hoped for an ending, but then this movie showed up.  While I did enjoy it, I am worried that the way this movie ends sets up the potential for a new series to start.  Sure, this means more Saw goodness, but it also means the potential to dilute this movie into another run of the mill series that will become a product of lazy producing.  Hopefully that won’t happen, but these days series are the prize most companies seek.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Jigsaw is the piece of the puzzle that brings quality back to the lovely massacre series. Going back to the roots, the writers were able to bring back a brilliant presentation and characters you can follow.  All the nostalgic qualities rush in with the deadly traps, bringing that fast-pace, twisting tale that captivated us all those years ago.  While still not the first movie, especially in terms of death design and potential to revive the series, it was a welcome addition to the series.  So, if you are looking for the horror movie of the month, Jigsaw is your answer for the theater my friends. 

 

My scores:

 

Crime/Horror/Mystery:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.0