Scary Stories To See In The Theater

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Poster

 

Growing up in the 90s, there were plenty of tales designed for kids to try and scare us without crossing the line.  Are you Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps, Tales from the Crypt (both cartoon and regular), and even the Sci-Fi Channel held their own in bringing the horror to the modern-day audience.  As such, a good scary story in any form can really leave an impact that stays with someone for much of their lives.  Enter today’s review, where the theme is the impact that stories can have on us and a little extreme case involving bringing your darkest nightmares to life. Robbie K is back with the third review of the week and we bring you a look at:

 

Movie: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

 

Director:

André Øvredal

Writers:

Dan Hageman (screenplay by), Kevin Hageman(screenplay by)

Stars:

Zoe Margaret CollettiMichael GarzaGabriel Rush

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Pace

The Comedy

The Creature Design

The Suspense At Times

The Acting

The Narrative Approach

 

DISLIKES:

Not Scary

Predictable

The Disturbing Moments At Times

Throw Away Characters

 

 

SUMMARY

 

With the flood of horror movies that come into the theaters, sometimes you find pacing and content issues replaced with gimmicks. Scary stories manages to take the anthology book and bind them together into a decent film, with a pace that feels very much like the classic shows that is fun, adventurous, and semi-engaging to craft a decent film.  It comes from a better balance, finding ways to integrate multiple entertainment qualities while always keeping its finger on the pulse of horror.  The comedy is corny, but natural, as it relieves some of the tension that is building up primarily from the character Chuck (Austin Zajur).  In regards to creature design, Scary Tales again adds some variety to their mix, picking new media to torture our main characters, which adds variety and doesn’t over utilize a gimmick (like the original Alien did).  Suspense is well placed in the movie, managing to make peaks and valleys of excitement the way an exercise program works.  By taking this approach it avoids the burnout some of these horror movies experience and manages to miss the mark of hasty finishes these films sometimes take.  As for the acting, well I’m good with it too. The kids do just fine playing scared students stumbling in to a new world and facing the consequences.  Like a weirder version of Stranger Things, the portrayal of weird, concern, and scared/terrified is a well-balanced performance that did not quite annoy me as some of them do.  Overall, these elements point to one thing, a narrative approach that feels like those kids books I loved, creepy and shocking, but never sacrificing the connecting spine to link all the sequences and creeps together.

 

Yet the movies does suffer a few things for this reviewer, but remember the volume of horror movies I see had desensitized me so I’ll do my best to factor that in.  First of all, the Scary Stories do not quite fit the originality bill in terms of story overall.  Originality is tough, but the movies formulaic approach and obvious foreshadowing would have been nice to break given the other walls it broke to focusing on plot then just gimmicks.  A second factor would have been to put more scare factor into it, treading closer to the R line could have brought the PG-13 film to the next level had they managed to craft some scarier moments.  The disturbing, creepy atmosphere and moments help, but they got lost to small gimmicks and cheesy CGI at times that diluted the scare factors. A few of my friends found the scare factor to be a little more than I did, so if you aren’t desensitized like me, you may find this dislike not the same.  Finally, a few characters held much potential, but many of them were throw away characters, merely sacrificial pawns to be sacrificed to the curse of horror movies.  Build up at the beginning held promise, but I would have liked to see these characters developed and battling a little more to actually care and connect instead of being left unfazed.  In addition, the story tie in could again have been developed more, primarily for the ghost they are chasing and the weird approach they took to tell her story, but hey more on that for the potential sequel to come.

 

Let’s finish this up.  Summarizing the review, Scary Stories certainly is a tale to tell in the dark, or the theater in this case.  It’s a good tale that tributes back to the 90s horror decade, with a narrative that binds so many things together to make you laugh and potentially jump.  I liked the balance a lot and the diversity of the creatures and means to which our “heroes” are trying to solve the legendary mystery.  Yet, the film still does not have quite the bite and scare factor for this reviewer (remember desensitized) and I would have liked a little more of it and the narrative put in and finding a way to break the mold on the predictability. Nevertheless, this is one of the better horror tales that I have seen in a long time, and as I said give it a shot in the theater.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

Coming Home To New Scares and Stories

Annabelle Comes Home Poster

 

Another week, another chance to impress us with a horror movie.  This week, the Conjuring Universe continues its ride to the box office bucks in as much style as it can before the big films come.  Yet, like many extended universe movies, you have no idea whether the next installment will succeed, or just make your wallet bleed.  Welcome to another Robbie’s Movie Review and tonight we see if the latest spooky film will ride the ghost train to the bank.  As always, happy to share some opinions so let’s get out there and get it done!

 

Movie:  Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Director:

Gary Dauberman

Writers:

James Wan (story by), Gary Dauberman

Stars:

Vera FarmigaPatrick WilsonMckenna Grace

 

LIKES:

 

  • Acting
  • Creepy
  • New Types of Ghosts
  • More Looks Into The Haunted Room
  • Decent Pace
  • Some Surprising Story Elements

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Predictability
  • Story Is A Little Fractured
  • The Boyfriend Arc
  • Not As Scary As I Had Hoped
  • A Little Anticlimactic

 

SUMMARY:

 

The latest movie in the conjuring universe starts to go back to its roots and polish up things.  Annabelle’s latest story brings the creepy nature of the movies back to the home and that adds the realistic notion of scares that make fans like me love the series. In the sanctity of the home, one hopes to be harbored from ghosts, but Annabelle’s minions prove that not even the familiarity of a home can save you. Nevertheless, the movie manages to bring new types of ghosts and scares that potentially will become movies of their own as the forbidden treasures of the Warrens surface and hint at the secrets in store.  Surprisingly, the movie still manages to find some storytelling elements in it as well, but this time through the eyes of a new cast, whose younger members accomplish the goals of terror filled teenagers and adolescents trying to cover up their mistakes.  The backstory and character development can be touching, but never quite engulfs the main goal of scaring.

 

Sadly, the movie suffers from the usual horror trade of imbalance and predictability.  The use of foreshadowing, the same tactics for trying to build scares, and the trailers have spoiled much of the suspenseful parts for me and given the rushed component this sometimes blew through the scary parts too quickly to allow the audience to stew in the intensity of the moment.  In addition, the movie held too much in terms of story lines, primarily in the number of artifacts they tried to use.  Ambitious as it was to brings many guests to the party, Annabelle’s focus on all the spirits led a fractured story component that did not quite have the majesty of the origin story we got a few years back.  Ghosts aside, the story of the humans with more of a pulse did not come fully together, falling into some simplistic stories that did not quite have the bite I was hoping, especially in regards to the boyfriend arc, which while funny was not entirely necessary to the film.  As you can probably guess the movie as a whole not quite that climactic in its finish.

 

            Yet despite all the imbalances, Annabelle’s latest trek is about the middle runner for this reviewer.  With enough creeps in the realistic setting, one may find themselves afraid of what lies in the dark, becoming quite sensitive to sounds.  With new ghosts, some new tricks, and a few new spins on the formula it works for those looking for a good ghost story.  Yet, the movie sort of strayed from the story/scare balance of the first one and the characters don’t quite have the same drive some of the stronger series installments (Conjuring and Annabelle Creation) has in terms of characters to latch onto or a story to ground it all. Still, it’s got enough special effects to garnish a theater run, but only barely.  Instead, this one may be better reserved for home, where the setting can help add some horror in itself.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Intruding On New Takes Of Old Tales

 

 

The Intruder Poster

 

Dramas/Thrillers, the lifeblood of the very world of entertainment.  It’s within this genre that one finds some of the darkest tales, plunging into the fathoms of imagination that most dread to step into.  Yet, this genre sometimes gets a little too broad in spectrum, and tends to go to extremes that leaves the plots a little grandiose and run of the mill.  Hi Robbie K back with another review on the latest movie to hit the silver screen, hoping to shed some light and help you pick your movie poison.  I take a look at:

 

Movie: The Intruder (2019)

 

Director:

Deon Taylor

Writer:

David Loughery

Stars:

Meagan GoodDennis QuaidMichael Ealy

 

LIKES:

 

Soundtrack

Good Acting

Creepy Character Development

Beautiful Setting in many ways

Decent Evolution of Suspense

Character Centric Story:

 

Summary:

 

The soundtrack might be a rough way to open the review, but The Intruder is all about bringing cultures to the tale and part of that is music.  A fantastic selection of modern-day styles that represent the culture, the movie integrates the tracks into key scenes that sort of add ambience to the typical genre shots (making love and driving cars).  This added layer though is only a glazing to the acting that brings the characters to life on hand.  Meagan Good is well good at her work taking a common role and in some ways refreshing it to make it interesting, engaging and compassionate that you feel for the character. Michael Ealy dives a little more into the extreme role of hotheaded decisions and emotional moments that makes fans love the genre. Yet it’s Dennis Quaid who I think gets the nod for his performance in this movie.  His character is creepy, and he executes all the mannerisms and delivery needed to craft a thriller villain.  The smile that shows innocence yet insanity, the subtle laughs that get under your skin as they denote the edge about to be reached, and even more the temper that comes when these people do not get their way. It’s fantastic development that greatly spans the movie, taking months to achieve instead of days and seeing that evolution.  That is the making of a good casting for this genre for me.

But the characters need a setting to play in and The Intruder’s playground is one that is both aesthetically beautiful and haunting at the same time.  Again representing the themes of old vs. new, the house known as Foxglove holds stunning engineering work that ropes the modern society in, primarily for stunning view, gorgeous décor, and the atmosphere it brings.  Yet, the open floors, beautiful antiquated halls, and the multilevel house offers many shadows, sounds and ambiguity to get the tension going and drop the comfort level way down. In utilizing the characters, spreading the development over the story and utilizing such a playground, the Intruder is able to make an engaging level of suspense that keeps you into the series, much like a mini-series does.  Throw in the focus on characters and not scares, and again you begin to see a tale that finds its pace and keeps you interested in characters who extend past the one-dimensional outlook these characters often have.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable

Trailers ruin much

So Much More Potential

Some Character balancing

Not the Most Intense ending

Still Idiotic Decisions

 

SUMMARY:  Despite the good this movie accomplished, it still falls victim to some of the trademarks that come with the Soap Opera like approach. It’s predictable, with many of the “surprising” components deduced a mile away based on the cliché plot points they love to tell.  In regards to this movie, the two trailers I have seen give away much of the film and in seeing that you can piece together much of what will happen way before you get to the scene.  This predictability is a shame because the potential they were building was set to be a potential memorable moment in the drama/thriller history, primarily in some more tactics Quaid’s character could do and in the climactic chase to be had. But again this movie failed to deliver on that promise by sort of short sighting the ending.  Instead of thrilling games of survival in the very house they chose, the last bout is a bit more boasting and brutish combat that ends rather quickly and unimpressively.  That simplicity is emotionally fulfilling in the sense of justice, but given how they were building on two of the characters, I had hoped for a little more fulfillment in this final scene.  The other component that would have been nice, as agreed by at least two of my audience members comments, the smart characters we were seeing were quite idiotic in their approach.  Despite all the things available at their hands, the “stress” of the moment appeared to have robbed them of their brains to achieve the goal they were looking for. It won’t bother many, but for this reviewer it takes away from the character work they had done in this story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Better than I had anticipated, the Intruder manages to turn back the drama/thriller to an age of character focus instead of scares. Quaid in particular manages to take a simple role and craft it into a villain that you get hooked on watching, while his “prey” are characters with more dimensions and personality proving they aren’t just meant for knife and ax fodder.  Utilizing the setting and characters well, it’s the drama that comes closer to balance than many of the films I review.  Yet, the full potential of the characters was not quite reached for this reviewer, falling victim to predictable plots, time restraints, and an ending that again is cliché and more attuned to those wanting to lead with their hearts than heads.  Still all in all, it’s a movie that at least shows potential for future movies of this category to have a chance at story telling.  Worth a trip to the theater?  My opinion is no, as this is still a Lifetime film pumped up on budget, but check it out at home viewing.

 

My scores:

Drama/Horror/Mystery: 7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Cursed To Mediocrity

The Curse of La Llorona Poster

 

Horror movies, they seem to come a dime a dozen these days, following a carbon copy formula that does not shy away from trying to appease the die-hard fans.  With the establishment of universe trends, various film franchises continue to work their hardest to match the success Marvel’s comic universe is currently pulling. And tonight’s review is a movie that barely finds a way into one of these universes, but still tries to make a claim on its own.  Yes, tonight yours truly takes a look at the haunted cries of:

 

The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

 

Director:

Michael Chaves

Writers:

Mikki DaughtryTobias Iaconis

Stars:

Linda CardelliniRaymond CruzPatricia Velasquez

 

LIKES:

  • Jumps into scares
  • Good Run Time
  • Good Use of Shadows
  • Decent Acting
  • Comedic Relief
  • Good Make Up

Summary:  A horror movie has to keep the speed going and get to the darker thrills that this genre brings.  The weeping woman’s journey does not hesitate to give its audience the chills it wants, hopping into the jumps and creepy tone within minutes of it starting. As such, the pace of the movie is very brisk, keeping in time to present as much of the scare fest as they could in the 90-minute run time. For yours truly, the jump scares don’t quite get me, but instead the creepy atmosphere is there to settle into the crevices of your mind La Llorona is all about utilizing the shadows to stoke the embers of your imagination to craft unspeakable horrors.  It’s those slight sounds and eerie music that were the scariest components for me and it worked well.  I’ll hand it to the cast in this film, for they sold the terror of the movie, as if they were being haunted.  From the kids to the adults, each one did a wonderful job with the limited roles they had in this film.  My favorite was Raymond Cruz, not because he was the star of the film but more so the comedic relief used in his role. Despite all the bone chilling screams, and various telekinetic pulls, the rogue priest makes for some laughs without it being too forced.  Finally, in regards to haunted make ups, La Llorona does a nice job of the pale pallor, dark lipstick, and gory liquids to satisfy most make up fans.  Nice execution, with some haunting special effects makes for an interesting antagonist.

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Simplistic
  • Story Is Okay
  • Jump Scares not So much
  • Flat Characters
  • Trailers Revealed Much
  • Unoriginal Makeup
  • Not The Best Connection To The Universe

 

SUMMARY:  While scaring is the name of the game in these types of movies, the fact they are pumped out rapidly leads to some quality drops for this reviewer.  The simplistic nature of this film is a limitation for me, the potential decreased by just the simple presentation that they pulled out.  No twists, no original edge, and a story that held a lot of promise were all just mediocre for me and led to a story that was hard to grip onto for me.  Even the characters were only semi-there, flat one-dimensional people that weren’t the most engaging for me to hook onto.  Perhaps the scares would get you, but seasoned horror people like me won’t find much in originality from scares, nor the most suspenseful climax. 

Now part of this was due to me finding tricks of avoiding jumping, and others due to the trailers showing much of these scenes in their brief life on the television.  Yes, La Llorona falls victim to the trailer revealing too much, giving you much of the premise in the short two-minute commercials. And while I said the makeup was executed well, this universe is having trouble coming up with unique make ups that don’t follow the same template.  Because of this, the weeping woman may look good, but she’s another pale figure with black lines to emphasize death.  And finally, the connection to the Conjuring Universe is like a derivative line touching the main curve.  A brief exchange from a shared character it the only opening to the universe and without a teaser or much else to connect, the story telling continues to be lackluster at best. 

 

The VERDICT:

In truth, the movie about the legendary figure is okay for me.  It fills the void of a scary movie for the month, and has some of the traditional means to generate a few jumps.  Your best source of entertainment will be to bring those who scare easily to the film and watching them react.  Yet in terms of the movie, it’s just not the same dark magic that the Conjuring wielded a long time ago.  It’s got the superficial “charm” to it, and uses shadows well to terrorize the actors they have casted/  Fortunately, despite the limitations, the movie has a low run time, meaning you won’t be in the theater that long in case it’s not your particular cup of tea. Worth a trip to the theater?  Kind of, but I’d say this one leans more towards the home viewing in this reviewer’s opinion.  My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 6.5

Movie Overall 6.0

New Loop, New Twist: Happy Character Development 2u

Happy Death Day 2U Poster

            Sequels often get a bad rep because of never living up to the expectations of the original, and sometimes insulting the name of the franchise. Often a sequel is not needed, an obvious cash grab to try and extend the franchise just a little longer in hopes of keeping interest.  So tonight’s review is one of those cases where a sequel was not really needed, but nevertheless exists.  I’m talking about the sequel to last year’s campy slasher/comedy Happy Death Day, a film that surprised me in how much fun I had.  Will the second fill follow suit, or are we stuck in sequel limbo?  Robbie K back with another review on:

 

Movie: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Director:

Christopher Landon

Writers:

Christopher LandonScott Lobdell (characters)

Stars:

Jessica RotheIsrael BroussardPhi Vu

 

 

LIKES:

  • Jessica Rothe
  • Character Development
  • New Twist
  • Funny
  • Emotional

 

Summary:  Happy Death Day was all about Tree’s journey to being a better person and the sequel is no exception as it dives more into the former sorority girl’s life.  Rothe’s performance continues to amaze me as she brings Tree to life, expanding upon the character, as a good sequel does, and really bringing emotional twist to the mix. The second dive surprisingly brought some emotional punches into the fray and was very heartwarming (potentially tear jerking) in unexpected ways.  Secondary characters get a little more time to develop as well, moving past the superficial stereotypes and somehow remaining relative and pertinent to the story.

Yet the movie isn’t just about the lovely Tree going on a soul-searching journey of … death, but rather trying to find ways to bring a new twist to and outdated genre and still keep to its rules.  In regards to the story, Happy Death Day 2U manages to add a science fiction twist to the mix, that helps establish a new goal, story element, and connection to first film.  While not quite the slasher tale, the added dimension helps the movie stand out and avoid feeling like a carbon copy of the original that was only a year or so ago.  In addition, the comedy remains true to its gimmick of making you laugh as actors and writing blend together to become well-timed comedic antics.  It works beautifully and adds a fun pace to the film that energizes it all over again to reinvigorate the series.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not as suspenseful
  • The beginning gimmick
  • Comedy a little overdone

 

Summary: The sequel’s two areas of improvement for me are going a little too far into the gimmick at the beginning and the overdone comedy.  The new twist works, but at first it didn’t impress me in the odd presentation/rule bending it did.  Fortunately, they were able to get a handle on it, but at the beginning the odd transition didn’t work outside of a messy transition.  The other component that did not quite work for me, was a few moments where the comedy was forced on the audience, a little too drawn out or grandiose for my liking.  They were minor ones, but limitations that took away from me.

I think the biggest limitation was how the suspense was taken away for me like the first one had.  The slasher component is mostly gone alongside the mystery, leaving it a fun adventure but missing that darker edge that the film was famous for.  Sure the humor got a little darker than anticipated, leading to some rather disturbing scenes, though these carried the attitude of the film.  Yet, the prolonged bouts, the squeezed in extra obstacles, and the hasty wrap up led to some shortcuts being taken and decisions to put the movie more in a comedy sort of mood.

 

 

The verdict: Regardless of the twists, the movie still has the fun adventure that makes it one of my favorite comedies of the last few years.  Rothe leads much of the fun, but the new twists, energy, and true to its roots presentation also help to make it a decent sequel that expands on the first film. Yes, it got a little carried away with the science fiction and comedy elements, leading to a diluted suspense factor. Still, it’s worth a check out into the theater for the fun movie of the weekend.  Definitely check this one out in the near future.

 

My scores are:

Horror/Mystery/Thriller: 7.5

Comedy/Sci-Fi/Mystery:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

 

 

Breaking The Glass Ceiling Of The Mind?

Glass Poster

 

The track record for many directors is paved with bumps and potholes before hitting the paved payload.  Some certainly have become more famous due to their stinkers than their successes, and tonight one of those directors tries again to make a win in his library.  Hitting the surprise third film of the expanded universe, yours truly hits the latest thriller to get some points into the beginning of the year.  My review tonight is on the epic finish to the movie made in 2000, as I feature:

 

Director:

  1. Night Shyamalan

Writers:

  1. Night ShyamalanM. Night Shyamalan(characters)

Stars:

Anya Taylor-JoyJames McAvoySarah Paulson

 

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • Consistent With Universe
  • Same Atmosphere
  • Decent Fight Scenes
  • Writing
  • Acting

 

Summary: A trilogy sometimes loses the feeling established by its predecessors. Glass though, keeps in theme with the universe, going back to its roots and making sure to incorporate the past into the present.  In doing so, the story sticks to its themes, accounts for the changes, and provides an atmosphere that feels much like Unbreakable film, at least in terms of the darker tones. As such, fans of the series can at least get into the promised psychological premise the film had to offer. A concern I had was cheesy fighting that we glimpsed into the trailers, but again surprised that Glass had fight scenes that again agreed with the tone of the film.  Not too grandiose, but also not lame to not be needed.

  Yet, while the atmosphere and tone of the universe was welcomed, the writing surprised me in terms of the dialogue.  Glass has enough psychological mind games, mastermind planning, and comedy integration to please a variety of people.  Balancing the comedy into the field and not forcing it led to some well time guffaws, that were quickly drowned by further dives into the dark world of battle of the minds. 

Yet, the lines are really brought out by the acting.  The leaders for this round are McAvoy and Paulson.  The former transitions into his personalities beautifully, and sells the D.I.D presentation to the letter in all its grandiosity and humor.  Paulson on the other hand sort of brings her creepy, intensity to the world, adding a little mystery to the plot at hand.  As for Willis and Jackson, they play their roles well, but the tyrants of the first installment didn’t quite have the same presence as they once did, with the exception of a few scenes.  The verdict is they play their parts well, but not quite as integrated as I wanted.

 

DISLIKES:

 

  • Pace
  • Losing the Heroic Feel
  • A Little More Suspense Needed
  • Integration Of The Characters
  • Some Editing

 

 

Summary:  Glass may keep much of the atmosphere of the first film, but it kept the pace for me as well.  Much like many of Shyamalan’s works, Glass sort of slogs along after the first twenty minutes to open up to a lot of talking and a little less survival aspect. As stated, it’s a little more down they psychological tunnel, and this does not open up to the most engaging premise if you aren’t willing to pay attention.  As such, the movie is missing some of the suspense and intensity both films had prior to it.  By missing the suspense, the over 2 hour run time feels a little boring, a few moments open to editing to lighten the load and assist with getting to the more exciting components.

In addition, I do agree that the film missed that heroic component that the first installment had.  Certainly a different take based on Elijah’s goals, Glass finishes the trilogy in the style worthy of the mad genius’ name.  While I think it works well, the film fails to do the Unbreakable character justice, and by missing that heroic qualm I felt missed an opportunity to cover the major motion spectrum.  Still I do give props to the twist ending.

    In regards to my biggest area to improve on, it’s the character utilization.  As stated in the acting section for my likes, Glass managed to do well with some of the characters, but the kings of the 2000 film I don’t think had quite the sting we were waiting for.  I was hoping for all three of the commercial characters to remain equally integrated, a bout of cat and mouse as the wits go against the strengths of the duo. Even the, non-super characters needed a little more incorporating to feel integrated, with the ending sort of giving them the justice they deserve, but again not used in the way I was expecting him to go.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Glass is a movie that still holds the psychological thriller the last two have held in their presentations. Shyamalan has  once again managed to write an installment fitting the universe, and did a nice job incorporating the mindset of the infamous of Mr. Glass. Yet, the pace doesn’t quite match the intensity of Split, and without that it feels a little slow and off put compared to those that came before.  In addition, the characters were inconsistent for me and given the direction the film took, not the conclusion I expected though still somewhat satisfying.    I’d say worth a trip to the theater, but not quite the film to shatter the glass ceiling like it was promoted.

My Scores are:

 

Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi: 7.5

Movie overall: 6.5

Escaping The Horror Formula! An Escape Room Review

Escape Room Poster

            The age of horror took a major turn when the Saw series unleashed its gory thrills to the Hollywood industry.  Sadly, the very edge and gimmicks it brought grew stale, as sequel after sequel appeared to dilute the quality and originality.  Soon carbon copies came in, eventually flooding the market with mediocre films that didn’t do much to progress the genre.  Still, there are always those hopes that some quality still lurks in the chaotic slew that is this genre.  Hi, Robbie K here with his first review of the year on the latest Horror movie entitled:

 

Movie: Escape Room (2019)

 

Director:

Adam Robitel

Writers:

Bragi F. Schut (screenplay by) (as Bragi Schut), Maria Melnik (screenplay by)

Stars:

Deborah Ann WollTaylor RussellTyler Labine

 

LIKES:

  • New Twist
  • Attention To Detail/Creativity
  • Good Acting
  • Character Development
  • Story
  • Stuck To Gimmick
  • Suspenseful Energy
  • Short Run Time

 

SUMMARY:  These types of films fall victim to stale presentations and lack of originality.  As such, the Escape Room approach was a nice twist on this film bringing with it a new creativity and approach that was refreshing.  Each of the rooms had extraordinary detail, planned out to feel like the intense game of survival, filled with snares, baits, and clues to spur the threats on. Such design brought with it new arenas to engage your mind and held much more sustenance.

What further advanced the story were the characters, contenders who for once had more dimension than simple, snobbish, cannon fodder that often take center stage.  These players held backstories, opportunities to learn, and personalities that evolved with each passing minute.  As such, I found myself rooting for the team to succeed instead of rooting for a timely demise to end their flawed personalities.  The actors had more room to use their talents to cross the spectrum and do a surprising job expanding upon what was once simple roles.

Tying all of this together those, was an engaging story that managed to combine all the backstories, gimmicks, and flair into an engaging cinematic piece that delivered on its promise, but remained interesting on many levels.  Uncovering the mysteries, solving the clues, and keeping the energy flowing through the film with a presentation that was filled with anticipation and excitement. Given that they balanced the gimmick with a story it gets bonus points, even more so keeping it in the short run time leads to even more bonus points.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Cliché
  • A few stretches
  • Wanting More Backstory for some characters
  • Ruined by Trailers

 

SUMMARY: Sadly, all the planning and details laid out still haven’t escaped the cliché and unoriginality that follows these types of films.  Escape Room falls into these own sets of traps, but fortunately the spin, ingenuity, and suspense are able to divert the blunt of this area of improvement.  One of those that is a bit eye rolling, is that the rooms takes some stretches of the imagination and ignoring reality to get on board.  While most of it is acceptable, there are some times I had to turn my brain off extra to get over the unrealistic hurdle.

In addition, there was a little bit of adjusting the story order I would have liked to see, placing all the character stories closer to the beginning where their lives were explained in more detail.  Had they done this, I feel some of the parts rushed over for me would have been improved, but this minor detail is nothing compared to my big limitation.  That much of the story, twists, and fates have been revealed in the trailers to great detail.  If you’ve got a good memory, and watch the trailer with enough focus, you’ll get about 60-75% of the movie revealed.  So avoid the trailers enough and you will be okay, but otherwise look forward to the last 25% to really give you the last tidbits.

 

The VERDICT:

 

         This genre is what you pay for, but fortunately Escape Room renews the potential for greatness in this type of movie.  With a focus on detail, character designs, and story integration this addition to the group was fantastic for me.  It’s engaging pace and suspenseful energy will offset most of the film’s limitations.  Given all the visuals and fun I had, the movie is well worth a trip to the theater and certainly one of the better horror movies to show up in a while, at least in terms of thriller/slasher.  I certainly enjoyed this film and look forward to this direction for future installments if possible.  My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

 

 

Mulling Over the Mule

The Mule Poster

 

At one time a legendary Western star, the famous Clint Eastwood set his sights on directing and writing more realistic dramas that were meant to appeal to his dedicated fans.  The result have been some rather dark, gritty movies that star the legend himself.  So this weekend, the next film in his arsenal came out, looking to copy his formula and bring with it another dark tale that could potentially be just as formulaic as the next film.  Going in with low expectations, I was not too excited to hit this film.  What was the verdict?  As always Robbie K, is here to share his opinions as he reviews:

 

Film: The Mule (2018)

 

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Writers:

Sam Dolnick (inspired by the New York Times Magazine Article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Drug Mule” by), Nick Schenk

Stars:

Clint EastwoodBradley CooperTaissa Farmiga

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  It’s Clint Eastwood, so you know what you are getting with the man when it comes to his style.  Taking his usual gritty tone with gruff presentation, edgy words, and a blunt approach that lacks any filter Eastwood will still appeal to his tried and true ways. Yet, this film sees him adding a little more lightness to his role, bringing some comedy to the mix that feels natural and no longer forced.  In regards to the rest of the crew, they hit their usual stride in regards to this kind of character with Cooper having the single-minded focus of tracking down the bad guy in that smoldering manner he does, Michael Peña, being that quirky side kick that is again okay, but not quite displaying his full talents. As for the cartel members, nice displays of stereotypical roles, but not fully diving into the members given the theme of this film. This is definitely an Eastwood focused film, so he’ll do most of the lifting.

 

The Story/Character Development:  Stereotypical and predictable, but still a deep dive into character development, The Mule accomplishes what many films strive to do.  It takes the central character and begins to mold them into something new, no matter where they start. The realistic journey over the course of Earl’s journey shows him gradually seeing the light and adjusting life based on the new needs, sometimes hitting blocks, but never so much ignoring everything in the journey to start from square one.  It works quite well, especially in the small integration of other characters, helping to display the lesson of teaching others as they teach you, aka the passing of the torch to future generations.  This rich focus will appeal to the key demographic, and may also impress some others that have the open mid to give Eastwood’s drama a try.

 

The Pace:  As I said before, Eastwood’s dramas are a little too slow for my taste, especially given the dark tones they take.  Yet this film somehow managed to take a detour down the freeway it seems, because it moved quite well for me given the facets of the plot. Despite the look of the trailers, the team did a job of adding some joys of life to the mix, embedding some natural comedy to lighten the tones, and establish an adventure as Earl goes up and down the U.S.A. roads.  The integration of these components makes for a better adventure than I could have imagined, and helps bring more people into this particular tale.  The new momentum it brought was much more entertaining for me and definitely a plus.

 

The Realism:  My final like is the fact that the movie is still keeping in touch with the realistic side of things.  The Mule does have its share of soap opera dynamics, but it doesn’t plunge so far in that it steers away from the realistic component. As such, it’s a relatable tale that is appealing to follow and potentially learn from.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Secondary Characters Flat: It’s tough to balance all the plates of characters in a film like The Mule.  Nevertheless, there was some ground to still cover when it came to the secondary characters. Some of the cartel members that were important to the plot felt very flat, the richer stories and relationships deep down in their sulking forms.  Why they didn’t focus better on the relationships, boggles me when that dynamic would have been an enjoyment to watch.  In regards to the DEA story, it serves it’s purpose as well, helping to establish the chase component of the film that a drama like this needs.  Yet, this component still could have had some better integration as well, helping to actually feel like a mystery instead of these checkpoints serving to remind us there was another story going.  I didn’t so much enjoy this parallel plot approach, but then again it could have been worse.

 

More Suspense:  An Eastwood film is known for some edgy experiences to keep you on the edge of your seat, or perhaps make you sweat just a little. The Mule sadly didn’t hit that mark for me despite its best attempts.  Perhaps it is the lighter aspects that diluted the normal rough and gruff edge he is known for.  It could be how predictable the plot is, meaning fewer surprises for me when you see them coming.  Or maybe it was the fact that the secondary characters weren’t so integrated to give the thriller it wanted as mentioned above.  Whatever the reason, the lack of suspense still made the film a little duller than intended.

 

The Ending:  Does the finale make sense and fit into the plot? Yes.  However, while I appreciate the direction in regards to the character development and the tale wrapping up, it completely derailed the momentum the majority of the film established.  The last 20-25 minutes completely changed the course of the film, once again dulling my interest and mood as they turned the corner.  At this point, the wrap up was mercifully approached, but not before dragging everything through the mud and leaving me feeling extremely low.  Not my favorite conclusion, but I’ll acknowledge their direction from story telling aspect.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Mule is one of my top films of the Eastwood legacy of thrillers.  It has character and a realistic portrayal of someone looking for changing even in the late stage of life that will appeal to much of the target audience.  Acting wise it’s solid, presentation is straight and to the point, and the new atmosphere of adding light touches of comedy and happiness, make for the more entertaining of the bunch. Still a lack of suspense and use of the other characters takes away from the complete story and suspense that we wanted.  Overall a solid film though, and worth seeing in the theater if you are looking to take an Eastwood fan to the movies, but otherwise stay the course for home viewing for this one. 

 

My scores are:

 

Crime/Drama/Mystery: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

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

A Royale Mystery/Thriller With Big Characters

Bad Times at the El Royale Poster

 

Dark movies offer the potential for a fantastic story, filled with twists, turns, and elements that you didn’t see coming.  My second review of the week is one such movie, with a trailer that teases one into taking a dive down another distorted rabbit hole to find a land of wonder and shock that will have you talking for days. With a cavalcade of stars and the hints of secrets, this drama looks to be the next big discussion to come.  Does it deliver?  Hi, Robbie K here with another review, this time on:

 

Movie: Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

 

Director:

Drew Goddard

Writer:

Drew Goddard

Stars:

Jeff BridgesCynthia ErivoDakota Johnson

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Central Pillar on this one, Bad Times At The El Royale relies heavily on the cast to bring the characters to life. Diving into the gritty roles is tough, but they nail their execution of complicate characters with plenty to hide.  Their chemistry is solid, their conveying of emotions on point, and in regards to becoming one with the characters, I think they succeeded in this endeavor.  One will find their involvement in these characters super.

 

The Details:  A movie that is character centric like this one requires a lot of detail to get you invested in their lives.  Mission Accomplished, because the El Royale is super focused on the background information and doing its best to describe the situations leading up to their pilgrimage to the infamous hotel.  You want those dram infused plots and over the top issues, look no further my friends, because it has it all densely packed into bite sized pieces to easily digest.

 

The Tension:  Not suspenseful, but somehow still tense, El Royale is like those exciting moments in a soap opera where a lot of things happen in a short amount of time.  As a result, the tension gradually increases until the final act where it finally snaps and things really start to amp up, a great use of this technique, which when combined with the next like helps keep you into the film.

 

The Mystery:  The trailers promised dirty, little secrets and that mystery of what is hiding in the closets of everyone also keeps you into the film.  Each person has that slight little layer and it is the act of piecing this together that adds a little fun to this rather dense film.

 

The Twists/Turns:  An even more impressive move, making some movies to really surprise me.  While I didn’t necessarily jump, this movie came close to startling me a few times with the twists that it decided to take.  In addition to adding a little spice to the movie, these twists helped push the story to new dynamics, further strengthening the character dynamics and keeping you on your toes.  So get ready for a little bit of gasping at the decisions they make.

 

The Music:  Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack and El Royale’s juke box and guests contain some fun lyrics that represent the times and mood. Funk, Jazz, Soul, and a little Rock and Roll are there to tease your ears with a delightful melody that is cleverly infused into the mix.  Not the high point I know, but what a great soundtrack nonetheless.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Imbalance of Characters: It’s seven detailed characters and you want them all on screen.  El Royale has done this quite well with most, but there are at least two of the cast that were rather lackluster in their full involvement compared to others.  The director and story team seemed to have one group to base most of the story around, and while interesting, was a little disappointing to not get more into the characters than what we got. I guess that’s where book formulations come in huh?

 

The Underwhelming Secret: While the individual secrets are engaging and interesting, the big secret of the hotel wasn’t quite as impressive. Perhaps it is the presentation, or maybe it is just how it gets semi lost in the characters themselves, but the big secret is only marginal in terms of surprise.  I think a little more scene development or at least get some dialogue that stands out a little more in this already heavy dialogue movie.

 

More Suspense than Tension: Again, the tension was welcomed, but a little substitution of suspense to speed up the pace would have been my preference. A little more chasing and close calls in the pursuit of truth could have added some of the spice I think the movie needed to bring the full, mind blowing revelations to life.

 

The Pace:  By far the movie’s big limitation for me is the length meeting the pace.  You have to be ready to invest in characters, and almost like reading a book, be ready to focus more on the details and theatrics instead of the special effects and action that Hollywood loves.  While I appreciate this, the movie dragged a little too much for me and sometimes got too in depth to keep me awake.  In addition, there are times it crawled for me and the ending of shoving in those last bits of detail wasn’t the best the ordering for me to be super impressed. As such, I would have liked to have more excitement or thirty minutes cut from the overall time to find that happy medium.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The secret to this movie is, that the El Royale has a fantastic set of players to move around it’s weird, classic halls.  With a character centric plot filled with tension, mystery and twists, the El Royale is a very close book in movie form I’ve seen. Yet, for those looking for a little more excitement and pizazz this movie is going to be tough to watch late at night because it slow and missing a little bit of flare I think it needed. So if you can handle 2.5 hours of heavy dialogue and drama, you’ve got the movie of the weekend for you, but if you need a little more Hollywood magic… you need to sit this one out. 

 

 

My scores are:

 

Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0