A Genetic Twist To Horror That Is Semi-Gripping Until the End

Hereditary Poster

 

Robbie K here, ready to try and do another movie justice in his reviews and observations.  Tonight’s focus is on a horror movie that looked very disturbing, chilling to the bone, and potentially containing a high creep factor to really make you squirm in your seats.  Yes, assuming you read the title of the movie on your way into this review I’m giving you my thoughts and observations on…

 

Hereditary (2018)

 

Director:

Ari Aster

Writer:

Ari Aster

Stars:

Toni Collette,  Milly Shapiro,  Gabriel Byrne

 

LIKES:

Creepy:  The trailers didn’t lie, Hereditary is creepy as heck and not afraid to flaunt it in so many forms.  While not loaded with jump scares that many love, Hereditary is all about using shadows and the edge of your vision to make you see things. It uses subtle sounds to keep you on the edge, and reveals just enough to keep you further engrossed in the thrills. Hereditary also is not afraid to cross the line to really get a reaction going, sometimes to the point of intensely disturbing visuals that one does not expect to see.  Yet, my friends and I all agreed that the true creep factor comes from how realistic this movie is, at least at the beginning.  The questions of how much is true and how much potential psychosis is helps depict some of the more extreme cases of mental illness and how dangerous and intense this disease can be. 

 

The Setting:  A creepy movie requires a setting to bring it to life and this movie has got that going on for it too.  The house is classic, semi isolated from town, with enough nooks and crannies to generate shadows that hide in the light.  It’s not these random temples or abandoned houses, but an actual lived in home that brings that realism to light and immerses you into the movie.  And if you don’t care about the creepy shadows and lights the movie holds, then just enjoy the beauty of the house, especially if you were dragged to the movie to begin with.

 

 

Dynamic Story Changes: A fancy way of saying twisting transition, Hereditary’s writer certainly new how to adjust the script to bring a different atmosphere with the movie.  At first more of a psycho thriller with some potential horror elements, the movie manages to gradually fluctuate into other genres.  It evolves into different types of horrors, and with it brings more levels of disturbing twists to begin to connect semi-vague pieces together. It certainly a bit haphazard and mashed like a play, but I give props for a writer willing to switch gears from time to time. In addition, some of the lengths they go to shake things up are certainly risky, but with it generating some reaction you weren’t quite expecting. 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Long:  Heritage certainly does the job of tying up loose ends and making sure everything is explained (which of course is a like). Sadly, it takes a little too long to get to that point and in a very complex manner that is almost like going around your elbow to get to your thumb. The second act, and partially the third act, were very drawn out, boring to the point of trying to make these connections in a mask of coping mechanisms.  Again, it’s realism and portrayal are awesome, but as the direction of the movie starts to change, these weird transitions start to feel a bit too odd and not worth your time.

 

The Goofy Faces:  Some of the movie tried to bring some torturous reactions in the non-verbal acting.  Poor Toni Collette came off with some rather goofy, perhaps unintentional, faces that were funny and looked more like being stoned or maybe getting brain freeze. Her son Peter (Alex Wolff) didn’t turn out much better, as his own facial dynamics were, well goofy as well, primarily in that buck toothed, stoned look that was meant to be exhaustion.

 

The Acting:  Don’t get me wrong, the acting was mostly decent, if not good, primarily in the portrayal of mental illness and fear.  Yet there were times where hysterical crying, yelling, and blubbering were again a little too much and went down the wrong path.  I’m not trying to pick on Wolff, but his hysterical crying was a little too forced for me and seemed incredibly fake compared to the rest of his performance.  Why this gimmick was done more than once, not really known, but I can’t say that it was a direction I would have taken.

 

The Tongue Clicking: Not quite an as annoying as the trailers made it out, the use of the tongue clicking was decent at times, but a little over used.  Whether it was the amplification by the speakers, or maybe just the excessive/random moments, this device started to grow annoyingly humorous and needed to stop.  Thank goodness they got light of it and didn’t bombard us too much with it.

 

The Complexity:  A complex plot makes you think, makes you question, and more importantly keeps you engaged.  This movie accomplished those goals, but when the ending finally came through and the final transition happened, the complexity felt stupid and unneeded.  Again, it supports the ending, but because of how much I didn’t like the ending, this complexity just didn’t feel the right direction to me outside of extending the film. Complexity can be good with a real good finish, (which some may like), but for this reviewer the ends didn’t justify the means.

 

The Ending:  You saw this coming, but Hereditary’s ending wasn’t the one I had in mind from the trailers.  A surprise can be good, but to quote my friends, the ending had completely leaped over the gap to another movie altogether that didn’t quite fit all the way with the direction the first act did.  It was almost like two screenwriters wrote the two halves, came together and tried to paste them together (even though there was supposedly only one writer).  While the broad transitions will grip more people in, the movie’s grand finale wasn’t my cup of tea, though it may explain the disturbing steps this writer planned. And some of the end game decisions, rushed, pointless, and really not pleasant to look at (fans who see the movie will know what I’m talking about).

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The other reviews are right, this movie keeps you guessing, has a number of twists, is creepy and hard to stomach, and not afraid to go down the dark abyss to bring you shock.  So, bravo in thinking outside the box and crafting a rather original tale with a dynamic component to it.  Yet, this movie’s tinkering with the plot was unnecessarily complex, with a few gimmicks/deliveries not really keeping in tone with the genre and the ends not justifying the lengthy journey I took to get there.  If you like the Lords of Salem, you are going to enjoy the approach this movie takes, as it feels very similar in a lot of components. Yet, if you want a more linear, straightforward movie, hold your horses for later this year when other films are supposed to grace the silver screen.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery: 8.0

 

Movie Overall:  7.0

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Check Out This Upgrade

Upgrade Poster

 

Robbie K back with yet another review this time on a movie that looks to be interesting to say the least. With one of the weaker advertising campaigns to hit in a while, this movie didn’t reveal much in regards to its contents, so I went in wondering what was in store.  After seeing it, yours truly has plenty of things to report his thoughts as I review:

 

Movie: Upgrade

 

 

Director:

Leigh Whannell

Writer:

Leigh Whannell

Stars:

Logan Marshall-Green,  Richard Anastasios,  Rosco Campbell

 

 

LIKES:

 

Sci-Fi Plot:  The movie genre says Action/Comedy/Horror, but this reviewer felt it was more a science fiction piece than anything else. The piece is a culmination of various Sci-Fi hits that include things like: The Fugitive, Bladerunner, Matrix, and even HardCore Henry.  Such a ragtag collection really worked in this case, and brought with it an engaging story that addresses the issues of technology and how the world can potentially abuse them.  It’s a thrilling adventure that for the most part kept my attention, and helped dive deeper down the rabbit hole.

 

Decent Character Development:  You may remember the movie of Her where man and machine entered a complex relationship that was odd and inappropriate.  Upgrade takes that foundation and updates it to something much better, creating an interface between man and machine that isn’t love, but practically survival. While this relationship is multi-faceted, I was impressed with the amount of development both key characters got. STEM in particular had loads of development, despite only being a disembodied voice that was set for survival. As the movie progresses, the level of complexity between the two further expands, and creates one of the more engaging relationships I’ve seen in a while.

 

Decent Editing:  For a movie with a complex tale and a lot of pathways to connect, it surprisingly felt complete in such a short time limit. At around 90 minutes, Upgrade meets all its goals of action, storytelling, and motif exploring and keeping most of the footage tight and relevant to the film. This weekend is surprisingly meeting this goal, and I’m thrilled to see this art hasn’t been completely lost.

 

Action Scene:  For an action genre tag, Upgrade manages to accomplish this goal quite well and bring about one of the more intense scenes I have experienced in a long time.  Grey and his cyber buddy go through the motions from standard fist fight to kung fu fury and given the rock music infusion with a very active camera, the scenes only get more exciting.  Sure, some of the action scenes were simplistic stunts given other examples, but what’s impressive is that the action is always pertinent to the film. In addition, the style of fighting maintains the dark edge of the movie, leading to further amplification of the suspense and thrills this movie brings.

 

Realism:  Sci-Fi often gets a bad rap for being unbelievable, but Upgraded is one of those films that will shatter that fantasy glass ceiling. Set in the not so far future, the movie manages to bring the future technology to the “modern” world, skipping the grandiose futuristic cities and creatures, for a much more grounded approach. As such, the added realism, brings the horror element out and is scarier than what most horror movies can cook up.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character underutilization: The movie relies a lot on two characters to make up the story, the secondary characters are semi important, but most of them get the shaft.  I would have liked better integration of these characters, especially the cop, who could have opened up more of the movie’s edge had she been given the chance. Perhaps future installment can help out with this, but for this movie…it was okay.

 

Gorey At Times:  There are some things one does not like to see and some of the finishing moves in this movie are examples of this. Upgraded doesn’t go overboard in bloody chaos, but it also is not afraid to show off the savagery of enhanced biomechanics.  Those of the faint of heart or squeamish are now warned, because some members of the cast will have some heavy hitting injuries to deal with in the 90 minutes. 

 

Rushed Ending:  The movie had so much going for it, but the ending while complete, dark, and fitting, seemed a bit rushed to get there. Sure, much of the rabbit hole was predictable to me, with only a slight layer escaping my theories, but when it came to boil things move a lot faster than they had.  I had hoped for a little more engagement, a little more obstruction, and definitely a full-on finish instead of a cliffhanger to indicate a potential series to come.  Breaking the pace, I had started to thoroughly enjoy so late in the game wasn’t my favorite decision of this movie. 

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Upgrade is definitely not the typical movie to grace the screen, but this darker film crafts an adventure that will pull many of the Sci-Fi genre into the mix.  The dynamic duo of man and machine is a keystone in supporting the film, and with energetic action, a realistic setting, and good editing, one will surely become immersed in the new matrix.  It still has some rough edges to smooth out, primarily in integrating all the character and not breaking the pace in the final minutes of the film.  Yet, the hinted series to come can address this, potentially leading to a plummet into a new Wonderland of androids vs. humans.  Worth a trip to the theater?  You bet, but be warned for the violence and be warned of the very loud sound effects that can be hard on the ears.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Comedy/Horror: 7.0

Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

A Samaritan To The Crime Drama Formula

Bad Samaritan

 

With the success of the Avengers last weekend, it is hard for other movies to try and take follow such an impressive record. Still, another week comes with movies that are going to try and fight for their place in the silver screen.  My first movie of the week is the latest Horror/Thriller to try and keep you on edge.  Robbie K here with another round of writing to help you guys with your movie choices.  Sit back and read on as I review:

 

Movie:  Bad Samaritan

 

Director:

Dean Devlin

Writer:

Brandon Boyce (screenplay)

Stars:

Kerry Condon,  David Tennant,  Robert Sheehan

 

 

LIKES:

 

Decent Pacing:  If you’ve read my work, you know I like movies that movie, which Bad Samaritan does.  I’ll admit it takes a while to lift off in an attempt to set the stage, but as the robbery goes bad and the thrills start, things start to pick up.  From then on, it seems to move, only hitting rough patches of diverging slowness for small amounts before looping back to the story. 

 

Acting:  Another plus here, the cast has quite an art to helping keeps the audience invested in the story with performances that are quite believable and well developed.  The secondary characters are fine for their limited appearances, but the two leads are by far the pillars of strength keeping this movie up.  Sheehan as the protagonist plays the man at wits end quite well, a nice force of morale integrity with a drive to make changes his world needs.  It’s a nice puzzle of emotion and he was able to bring all the pieces together to make a protagonist you want to get behind.  Yet it’s David Tennant who will most likely grab your attention.  The former Barty Crouch Junior has taken his insanity up a level, still having that strategic genius of a serial killer, but this time being much louder and less subtle Seeing how deep his madness goes is probably the only mystery at hand, as one tries to figure out what caused such devoted madness.  The rivalry between these two is the relationship that drives the whole film, and certainly the thrilling component of the movie.

 

Thrilling at Times: The movie has a dark edge to it, and dark often brings thrills and suspense to the screen.  Bad Samaritan has those moments that are real on the seat sequences that you crime show lovers enjoy.  All of them attempt to make you jump and potentially look suspiciously over at your fellow audience member, but most of these moments are short lived. What does bring suspense though, is that feeling of unknown as to what Tennant’s character will do next.  That uneasiness is truly the source of the thrills in the movie and perhaps one of the more realistic scares of the year in movies.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Predictable: What drowns the movie’s suspense is how linear and predictable this film is.  Bad Samaritan holds few surprises in this regard, much of the plot can be seen from a mile away and seldom surprising me outside of how short some of the suspense moments are.  It’s much of the same story that crime shows love to take full advantage of in their relentless need for repeats.

 

Lacking Villain Development: The extent of his madness is visible in this film, his back story, not so much.  Bad Samaritan’s villain is just shown as crazy, with only fleeting memories of animal torture (another thing I hate) to give you any sort of understanding. Eventually, the bomb is dropped into the incident that developed his psychopathic tendencies arose, but it’s only in the form of a three-sentence part to wrap it all up.  This lack of details and impasses to uncover his history means one thing… boring.  Part of the fun of a thriller is getting more insight to the monster at hand and it just didn’t deliver in this movie.

 

Underutilization of secondary characters:  Sigh, the protagonist had so many connections set up at the beginning, each an important cog to Sheehan’s character’s life, but also a valuable pawn in the killer’s game of chess.  Unfortunately, these pieces are super underdeveloped, dropped in for only small time talk before quickly being used for more life altering madness.  Most of these stints are just flown over, but a couple do try to bring that nasty bite to get you feeling the pain they want you to.  Had more of these guys been brought into the game, Bad Samaritan may have again developed the edge it needed.

 

The Stupidity/Mistakes: Bad Samaritan falls into the usual trepidations of characters making stupid decisions and paying heavily for it. These bad decisions are essentially the core of the movie, and while a few could be appreciated, some of these moments were sheer displays of how dumb the writing was at times.  How did this master of seduction/schmoozing screw up so much for this kid to best him?  Why would they be so stupid to leave obvious clues?  Why were the cops so ruthlessly dumb/ignorant?  It’s just those background noises they want you to annoy, but in this movie that is hard to do given the set up they make.  The inconsistencies are a tad annoying to me at times.

 

The Ending: Sigh, another movie that is left to tease and feel unfinished.  Bad Samaritan’s final moments are rushed display of mistakes, coincidental serendipity, and a sudden cut to black worthy of the Sopranos.  It opens the possibilities for another installment yet could provide lackluster closure to those who want it. Nevertheless, this film didn’t quite end as strongly as one would hope, leaving many questions unanswered, and many ties still unknotted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Bad Samaritan is an okay movie, capable of finding ways to make you jump and trying to keep you engaged in this manhunt. With good acting and a good pace, the movie certainly feels like a crime show that has a film worthy budget.  Yet, the movie still holds some rather big deficits that rob it of the thriller aspect it wanted to bring.  More character development and suspense are going to be needed for further installments, but it at least sets the stage. Worth a trip to the movies?  Can’t say it is for me but give it a shot at home to not worry about being robbed of your money for an anticlimactic ending.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.5

Do You Dare See This Film

Truth Or Dare

 

Another weekend, another horror movie to arise in the dim lights of the theater.  This weekend, the big advertised thriller of young age adults versus the paranormal has reared its superficial prettiness in hopes of generating big bucks.  While the trailers have painted a very skeptical picture, but you never know what lies beneath the snippets edited in the trailers.  Robbie K here with the third review of the weekend, bringing some thoughts and observations on the latest films to hit the silver screen.  Let’s get started with this review of:

 

Film: Truth or Dare

 

Director:

Jeff Wadlow

 

Writers:

Jillian Jacobs (screenplay by),  Michael Reisz (screenplay by)

 

Stars:

Lucy Hale,  Tyler Posey,  Violett Beane

 

 

LIKES:

Good Pace:  Horror movies are a mixed bag of either being too slow or too fast.  Truth or Dare is fortunately one of those that seems to hit just the right speed to allow for everything to pan out as it should be.  This reviewer appreciated the brisk pace brought about by the pressure of the game, adding some slight edge and mystery as to when the next challenge would arise in a rather predictable plot.  Yet, the movie still took the time to allow their characters to semi-flesh out their issues and dive a little deeper than their superficial looks.  A nice balance is always nice to see.

 

Pretty Cast:  Pretty faces go a long way in this business, and Truth or Dare is chock full of attractive puppets set to potentially meet their doom.  This Abercrombie and Fitch models will be pleasing to many eyes, which does a lot of heavy lifting in the beginning to accommodate the typical montage.  And even throughout the drama, the looks will garnish more attention than the acting itself.  Still, the costume and casting get two thumbs up for fashioning a target audience relatable ensemble.

 

Decent Acting:  While the looks are certainly a big picture, the acting is still semi-decent alongside the directing.  Most of the cast actually deserves some props for fashioning characters that didn’t make me cringe or wish they would dieHale in particular was my favorite, using her talents to craft a very versatile character capable of being relatable to. Once more a portrayal of morals vs self-preservation, the lovely young woman more than delivered a stellar performance that evolved as her character adapted.

 

A Unique Concept:  The Truth or Dare game that is deadly might seem cheesy, but it wins points for originality in my book.  A simple child’s game (that can get out of control sometimes) as a device of death opened up creative avenues of potential fatality that kept things interesting.  While a little over the top at times, (though not as bad as Final Destination), it was cool to see this dynamic stay consistent and the strategy for how to get around the traps set forth.

 

DISLIKES:

Character Development:  The movie had a good start and a device to drive growth, but sadly that growth was fairly diluted for much of the characters.  Most of the cast were still shallow teens with drama that did nothing more than paint massive targets on their backs, falling into the slasher formula that many seem to enjoy.  While the game did drive some things to change for the two leads, the movie could have benefitted from a little more branching out.

Story Takes Some Dives:  The story actually held some gold nuggets in terms of quality, but that quickly dulled into fool’s gold as the plot elements dippedThe twist behind the games lethal forces, the other players who had the more sinister characteristics, and even the solutions were hinted at times only to be dropped.  More suspense and thrills could have been accomplished had they expanded on this category.  They started to clean it up at the end with the solution to the problem and the tension that came with it, leading to a rather engaging ending, but the middle of the movie could have used this treatment.

Rushed Deaths:  Some of the kills in this movie are intense bouts of our “heroes” racing against the clock to stop the game’s effects.  These kills are the more engaging, changing the odds to a more even split on their survival.  Others, are merely cheap wrap ups that the teenage group seem to drink up, which is a little disappointing at not delivering on the potential that was there.  Perhaps for the shorter attention span of the modern age, but still could have been better than what was presented.

Idiot Syndrome: Where A Quiet Place held realism, fear, and logic, Truth or Dare sadly falls victim to the famous idiot syndrome where the characters brains are absent after the first scene.  While this isn’t true for all characters, many of them seem to have their logic components absent during much of the film.  Why this annoying trait can’t be teased out a little more makes no sense to me, but the old stick continues to make for an annoying component that takes away from the characters, degrading them to MTV reality status.

 

The VERDICT:

            Truth or Dare falls victim to the cliché of teenage horror syndrome, in that is a gimmicky display of airheads going up against an unstoppable supernatural force.  True, it does have an original medium to terrorize our actors through, pretty cast with decent acting, and a good pace to entertain, it falls shy of being an epic horror.  It’s good for the teenage and young adults target audience, but for an audience as a whole this movie is better left for renting than anything else. If only the MTV syndrome could have been avoided, because this quality is what dilutes an otherwise engaging premise.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

Can’t Keep Quiet About This Great Horror Film

A queit place

 

Horror Movies continue to flood the theaters, each one hoping to stake its claim in the Hollywood world and actually get a decent rating.  One such candidate comes out this weekend, with a well-received preshowing, and a festival to support it, this movie holds high potential to accomplish the goal of a good horror movie.  Tonight, my second review hopes to bring good news on this movie and promote it for being a horror film that will leave you reeling.  Robbie K back again, as he reviews:

 

Title: A Quiet Place

Director:

John Krasinski

 

Writers:

Bryan Woods (screenplay by),  Scott Beck

 

Stars:

Emily Blunt,  John Krasinski,  Millicent Simmonds

 

 

LIKES:

Editing:  Horror movies miss the mark quite often in this category, usually adding unneeded details to increase the length of the movie.  A Quiet Place manages to really tighten this element up, with almost 100% of the movie holding pertinence to the movie’s storytelling.  The result, is an immersive horror tale that doesn’t dive too far down the hokey realm and instead towards the quality thriller tale we’ve been seeking.

 

Acting:  For a movie with few words, the small cast was able to maximize their screen time with their nonverbal acting.  Blunt and Krasinski (the actual married couple) play their roles to the T, unleashing all that primitive rage of protecting their offspring from the elements.  There is love, passion, and fear all rolled up into the mannerisms and facial acting.  As for the kids, again impressive openings as they portray kids stuck in a dangerous wilderness where life hangs in the very balance.  The family dynamic reigns strong in this small cast, including all the interpersonal dynamics and drama that comes with a close knit group.

 

Creepy:  The movie wins points in the scare department for being a realistic fear factory that delivered on two levels.  One is of course the good use of jump scares that had a number of people jumping in their seats, not over utilizing it as many films in this genre doHowever, the real chills come from the creepy atmosphere contained within the deadly frontier our world becomes in this reality.  The creatures themselves are horrific, mutated abominations that are the stuff of nightmares as these alpha predators hunt our heroes.  Even creepier though, is the feeling of isolation and being watch (or heard in this case) by the threat looming out there.  That delicate balance brings with it an inherent suspense that will keep you locked up until its all released in one giant flinch/scream depending on the audience member.  This energy carries on throughout the whole movie and is more than a welcome factor this genre needed.

 

DISLIKES:

A Few Unnecessary Scenes:  A small dislike, but there are a few scenes/ideas that didn’t pan out for me in the film.  Some of these scenes seem to be nothing but an opening for a death or to provide a passing glance of the creatures (which they tease for a lot in the first half of the film).  Others, I think try to add a little more tension to the scenario (such as an injured foot), only to not prove pertinent in the long run.

 

The Pregnancy/Baby Dynamic: On the one hand I liked this component because it helped add more to the family dynamic/character building this genre often fails at.  Past this symbolism of hope though, the whole dynamic adds a slight cheesy flavor to the tension more so at the speed, ridiculousness, and semi-cringe worthy handling of this factor.  I can’t say much without ruining the story, but the direction took a steep drop in believability for me when this gravid plot line came into play.

 

Trailers:  Given the only 90 minute run time, the other factor that provides enough glimpses to ruin the surprise are the trailers. Depending on how many times you have seen the trailers, you can see the twists have been ruined and the movie become predictable.  So be prepared my friends, because the more you watch advertising, the more you have revealed before the movie starts.

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Quiet Place has accomplished the goal of good storytelling meeting the thrills of a pending game of cat and mouse.  The movie has heart, character development and a number of the positives, but nothing is more important is how well the movie manages to ring in terms of tis advertising and how focused they were for a 90 minute scare fest.  While those who have seen the trailers a lot may be at risk of a so-so movie, A Quiet Place reigns high in my horror genre and is worth a viewing in the theater if you are looking for a movie to really drop you back in the creepy level.  If not, definitely check this one out in rentals

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Thriller:  8.5

Movie Overall:  8.5

Thrills Are The Hunters, but Story Is The Prey

Strangers.jpg

 

The horror genre continues to try and limp its way back into the limelight, and outside of the promise of a cheap gimmick, they continue to barely hold a place in Hollywood.  Yet the dark stories they try to sell us are often enough to hook many in tackling the potential scares to see how the cast will do against the supernatural odds.  Strangers: Prey At Night is going to attempt to bait many to come into the theaters this weekend and yours truly is back with another review to help you determine is this the movie for you.  Let’s get this started, shall we?

 

LIKES:

 

Thrilling Pace

-Quick Run Time

-Creepy atmosphere

-The 80’s soundtrack

-Wraps Up, kind of

 

The Strangers doesn’t pull any punches in regards to getting the horror themes started.  A looming threat of death keeps the movie at a good pace, almost like the most dangerous game coming to life with a soap opera twist.  As the “heroes” try to move amidst the maze of trailers, the ever-looming dread lurking in the shadows of the Strangers hunting their prey.  This fast pace keeps the film moving, and due to a wise decision to not get too ingrained in the horror elements, the movie is over pretty quickly.

Is it scary?  The answer to that is surprisingly yes, but more so in how creepy the movie is.  The realism of how people can go crazy and take pleasure in death to set such an elaborate trap gets to me, the chills that such sickness exists to this manner is the biggest element.  As the feeling of being stranded sets in, the movie does a nice job throwing some jump scares into the mix to try and keep you on edge.  So yeah, it has factors that scary.

As for the rest of the movie quirks, well the little gimmick of the soundtrack is entertaining not only in hearing legendary songs rock the theater walls, but also in how the songs match up with the mood of that scene. It makes for an interesting spin, and I liked the cheesy element adding a little class.  And I always do enjoy horror movies that do an ending right and The Strangers wrap up nicely, while leaving a little mystery, shock, and suspense to sweeten the deal for those who don’t want a fairy tale ending.

 

DISLIKES:

Crappy Character Development

-Lazy Writing

-Unrealistic Response

-Unnecessary Drawn Out

 

The Strangers has plenty of things to improve on from the scary base it tries to establish.  For one thing, I like a horror movie where I get to actually know the characters that are potentially going to diet, you know with a backstory and development.  Not the case with this movie, the Strangers both hunters and hunted, are almost one-dimensional with little to no backstory.  Therefore, you are just seeing strange people running around at night and potentially dying…great job guys.

The character development also isn’t the only lazy thing about this movie.  The Strangers has no heart behind it, with so much of it being simplistic, gory thrills and little wit to the adventure at hand.  There were too many coincidences happening from the strangers mysteriously finding them to a clever tool laying nearby.  In addition, the characters were a little too stupid as well, resulting in unrealistic situations that extended the adventure, but were eye rolling more than anything.  When it came to giving motives and more sinister methods, again they failed to elaborate on this, with the only answer being “Why Not”.  Clever guys.  In addition, the prey seemed to be demi-gods, able to not only survive pretty debilitating injuries, but somehow inconsistently respond to those wounds depending on how long they have to run.

And given all the drawn out torture, cutting, and destruction of ligaments in this movie, you would think the rest of their bodies would fail, but nope…they were just fine.  And as for the torture, sometimes it was a little too spread out for me at times, and when given the realistic twist, was a direction I didn’t want to go down.  Oh well, got to love deranged directing right?

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The Strangers attempted to pay homage to a genre that has undergone many face lifts to keep up with the modern era, but it is grossly imbalanced to fully deliver on the promised nightmares it wanted to induce. Sure, there is suspense, a quick pace, and some creepy factors to get under your skin alongside the bloody carnage of torture.  Yet, the Strangers was just lazy on so many levels, relying on too many well-timed gimmicks, one-dimensional characters, and unrealistic responses that just didn’t sell the movie.  So those looking to enjoy a ridiculous man hunt with gore filled torture should go all in for this movie.  However, I recommend skipping this one and rewatching the 2008 version of it instead. 

 

My scores are:

Horror:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

Groundhog Day Meets Massacre: Death Day Is Fun Halloween Movie

Death Day

            Halloween weekends are certainly a bag of tricks and treats themselves.  A variety of genres try to compete for the number one spot on the box office, and horror movies continue to try to prove their worth. My weekend reviews start with another film in the slasher collection that looks interesting to say the least.  Like all horror films, the truth behind the vague trailers can take a number of forms and levels of quality, so I wasn’t sure what I would get on this viewing.  What is the verdict?  As always read on to find out!

 

LIKES:

 

Surprisingly Deep Character:  Most slasher films fail in terms of a gripping character to follow the journey with, in order to provide fodder for our demented killer.  Surprisingly, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has depth hidden within her superficial looks and sorority attitude. Seeing her character evolve over the film changed my attitudes towards her, especially as her sorrows began to emerge onto the field. And even more impressive is how balanced her multiple aspects were balanced into the story, to maintain the development that was so nicely done.

 

Censored:  There are those slasher movies that go over the top to maximize the vomit inducing kills and dismemberments. Happy Death Day, fortunately, is not one of those movies.  For a movie about repeating the same day over with a “deadly” conclusion, it keeps things rather clean and to the point, avoiding the mind scarring scenes that will be famous on YouTube. The PG-13 rating should assure you that this is a rather mild horror and won’t leave you sleepless like some other films can.

 

The Mystery:  If you have seen the trailers, you have probably been allured/intrigued as to who is behind that freaky baby like mask.  That aspect carries on into the film as you try to piece the puzzle together and solve the Scooby Doo like case.  It was the adventure of seeking those answers that kept me invested in the movie, searching for any slight hint to give away the surprise. Keep your eyes open, your minds active, and your thoughts running and you’ll get it within 25 minutes, but otherwise enjoy the ride the director created.

 

It’s fun: Movies that involve repeating the same day over and over again gets stale fast, because of cheap editing tricks to make the scene seem fresh.  Fortunately, Death Day keeps things fun and fairly fresh in the 1.5 hour run time.  This movie has plenty of chuckles thrown into the mix, many poking fun at the horror movie genre.  Tree’s dialogue itself has that aggressive, sorority girl element to it, filled with passive-aggressive compliments and sarcasm that are well-timed.  Throw in some well-developed secondary comedy from secondary characters, and the fun just keeps on rolling with each passing day.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Not Scary:  My friend and I both agreed that this movie lacked any real bite in terms of the scare factor.  Oh sure, a creepy, knife wielding, baby face mascot wearing killer would have anyone afraid to walk a dark corridor in the real world.  With the silver screen barrier though, the movie’s horror element doesn’t do much to build suspense or make you shrivel in your seats. Aside from a few jump scare moments, the comedy aspect of the movie will take over more than the scare component.  Sorry you fear feeding fans, no dice on this one.

 

Little Over the Top:  Ridiculous factors are all in good fun when they are timed well and not overdone.  Happy Death Day sometimes lost its regulation with the overly ridiculous moments, leading to these eye-rolling proportions that were just eating up time.  Some of the death scenes themselves fall in this category, alongside a few repeat sequences of Tree’s journey across the quad.  The running jokes themselves also get a little stale, especially when it comes to the rival sorority sister who was directed to be a little too aggressive my taste to take seriously.  Oh well, got to love those superficial characters that are meant for comedy alone right.

 

Some unfinished story elements:  While I’m surprised with how much of a story this movie had, no matter how cliché it was, there were still some underdeveloped aspects to the tale.  One was a few of Tree’s character development arcs, that started to blossom, only to die out like her character does.  A few of these could have further expanded her character, bringing in other characters to help draw it out and adding that dynamic element I like to see.  In addition, a few other plot elements were squeezed into the film in a rushed manner, sometimes feeling out of place until they were able to draw it back in with a well-placed plot element.  Had the scares been better…this element would sting less, but the story element is a big part and could have used some fine tuning.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Happy Death Day is one of the more fun slasher films I have seen in a long time.  It’s a movie that will appeal to many with its fun pace, decent comedy, intriguing mystery, and character that keeps you invested in their life.  While this was much better than my expectations, the movie still suffers some from imbalanced comedy gestures, unfinished story elements, and most importantly lack of scares.  Therefore, go in there expecting a drama/comedy with a slasher twist and you’ve got the right approach to this movie.  Yet, if you are looking for the next psycho thriller… hold your horses for a Redbox rent to capitalize on your investment.

 

My scores:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0