You Might Be the Killer
Here we have what turned out to be a happy accident, as this review was originally to be something that I couldn't end up finding. Therefore, some last-minute research on something to replace it lead me to this title that actually turned out to be right up my alley. I will say that it's not exactly the best of its kind. But it does take a different sort of turn with the typical "camp counsellors in the woods" scenario in its overall execution. It's not what I'd call entirely original, but it seems to borrow from all the right things to make it all work.
The film kicks off with the lead camp counsellor for Camp Clear Vista, Sam (Fran Kranz) running away from something, panicked, sweaty and covered in blood. He uses his cell to contact his friend, Charlotte, better known through the film as "Chuck" (Alyson Hannigan). Chuck is a hardcore horror fan who works at a comic book store called "Rings of Saturn". Sam explains that a killer is on the loose at camp, and begins recounting the events to her in an effort to get her advice on the situation. It's not long, however, before the obvious is stated, and the walkthrough Chuck gives Sam becomes a little more than she bargained for.
One thing I picked up on, whether it was on purpose or not, was the names of a lot of these counsellors. One by one, we had Carol (Olivia Jaye Brown), Ted (Jesse Gallegos), Steve the "Kayak King" (Bryan Price), Drew (Sara Catherine Bellamy), Alice (Clara Chong), Heather (Carol Jean Wells), Freddie (Jack Murillo), Nancy (Savannah DesOrmeaux), Brad (Patrick Walker), Jamie (Jenna Harvey), and Sam's last summer fling he's still in love with, Imani (Brittany S. Hall). I won't go super detailed on some of the character names here, but I will note that a lot of it feels like nods to horror icons - namely 'Elm Street' characters (at least some of them).
Back to the film itself, I thought the dark comedy worked really well here. I appreciated Hannigan's sort of casual take on the whole situation, and a lot of her delivery is pretty funny. There she is, chatting on her phone in the middle of her store talking about murder, blood, killers etc. Therefore, we get a LOT of hilarious customer reactions, as they are all hearing it out of context. I might suggest that side of it is the highlight of the film, as everything else is more or less pretty typical stuff - the only difference being that we're following who might be the killer as opposed to the teenage movie meat waiting to happen. They also used this scenario with two of my favourite horror comedies, 'Behind the Mask' and 'Tucker and Dale vs Evil'. So I think I've found that I definitely have a thing for a good horror/comedy feature that's more about the killer and not so much the innocent victims.
I feel like I should also bring up the quality of the kills in the movie. I'm not gonna sit here and say it's amazing, but there's a lot of that old school 'Friday the 13th' spirit put into this where it's more about something quick and brutal to make the audience go "OOooh!" I've never been one for the torturous aspect of the kill, so this is what I personally prefer. Kills in a movie are like a cup of coffee; everyone has their formula for a good cup. Anyway, for whatever reason, I found it almost refreshing to see kills like this. That sounds really awful, I know, but all I mean is that this felt like it took it back to the old school style that movies like 'Halloween' and, again, 'Friday the 13th' perfected. Of course, maybe I've just been under a rock and missing out on a bunch of solid titles that have gone over my head.
This is a title that can be found on Shudder right now, and I'm not altogether sure where else, so watching it could be a bit tricky. That said, this isn't quite as up there as something like 'Tucker and Dale' where I wanna drag horror fans in by the ear to watch it. But it is something I'd recommend to horror fans to check out, if they can, nonetheless. It strikes me as one of those "throw on any old time" movies that don't make it onto anyone's "favourites" list, but it's enough that you could be in the mood for it every once in a while. I think if nothing else, a horror fan can have some fun with it. I know I did.
This one has been on my to-see list for a while now, so I was pretty excited to finally get into it after so long. One part of me expected the same old typical ghost story, but another part of me was focused on the imagery along with the concept. It seemed to be a film meant to make one scared of the dark again. I can't say it succeeded in that for me, but I also can't deny that I still enjoyed it.
A young woman named Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is called to her half-brother, Martin's (Gabriel Bateman) school due to him constantly falling asleep in class. His lack of sleep is due to his and Rebecca's shared mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who stays awake talking to someone invisible; her friend; resident ghoul, Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). Unlike the way things like this would normally go down, Martin talks to Rebecca about Diana, which causes a flood of horrible memories from Rebecca's childhood to come back. Evidently, she has been in his shoes. All the while, they are aided by Rebecca's boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia) who, thankfully, instead of brushing the half-siblings off as nuts, supports and helps them through this.
As Rebecca digs deeper into research on Diana, she soon uncovers a dark history, and a tie to her mother that not only explains her behavior, but shines a light on who the spirit haunting them really is. This Diana character comes as a sort of tormentor for this particular family, taking out anyone who may be in the way. She's fairly reminiscent of Samara from 'The Ring' in that she not only looks fairly similar (a little more ghouled up) but also has the ability to physically harm the living. Interestingly enough, there's a scene where Sophie says that Diana isn't a ghost - however, at the same time, she can't explain what she is. She's not a demon, per se, either. Just a strange entity who likes to scratch things.
Although it doesn't come without a few horror cliches, and I wouldn't call it perfect, I did have a lot of fun with it. Running at only an hour and twenty minutes, this manages to be a sort of campfire ghost story brought to life on screen. And that's honestly what I did enjoy about it - its simplicity. The filmmakers are here to tell a quick ghost story, and avoid certain stereotypes through role reversal. The Mom is the one talking to imaginary friends as opposed to the kid. The boyfriend listens to his partner and helps instead of thinking she's just out of her mind. You've got to appreciate details like that, because that simple move makes things new and different to some extent.
Personally, I thought it was fun, and I didn't feel like it was anything that was taking itself seriously. Like I said, this is a campfire story come to life. It's not without a fair share of decent scares, but it's another one that uses its atmosphere to increase the tension, and that's something I always enjoy. Nothing gets cranked to eleven, mind you, but it's a fun ride with a somewhat interesting ending to say the least. If you're on the lookout for a good, quick scare, I could recommend this. It's haunting, twisted, creepy, performances are decent, and it doesn't get too deep with things. It's a funhouse ride with some disturbing imagery and a nasty ghoul who just might make you afraid of the dark one more time.
Stir of Echoes
Here's another entry into the long list of late 90s/early 2000s ghost movies that fell under the radar. I find that if I bring it up in conversation, not many people are familiar with it. This is one I tend to find a little more interesting than most in its overall execution, though. The fact of the matter is that this is much more of a mystery than a movie featuring a terrifying spirit. Yes, there's a haunting situation in this, but it's less about the scares and more about unravelling the secrets of a neighborhood.
A phone lineman named Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) lives in Chicago with his newly pregnant wife, Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and son, Jake (Zachary David Cope). It's evident from the get-go that Jake has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead. Instead of being freaked out by it, like in 'Sixth Sense', things run almost a little too smoothly for this kid. Jake reacts more like he's talking to an imaginary friend than a spirit. Anyway, Tom finds him talking to an unseen person while in his bath, but doesn't think much of it and goes about his evening, attending a neighboring party with Maggie while keeping a monitor on hand in order to keep check on Jake. It is here at this party that Tom challenges Maggie's sister, Lisa (Illeana Douglas) to hypnotize him.
The hypnosis is a complete success, but Lisa manages to implant the idea that Tom's mind will now be an open door to what he can't comprehend. Soon, Tom begins to experience hallucinations that refer to a girl named Samantha Kozac (Jennifer Morrison), who has been missing for six months. As one strange experience occurs after another, and Tom seemingly begins to lose his grip on reality, he stumbles down a rabbit hole having to do with a missing girl he had never heard of before - at least not until his son started talking to her. As he quite literally digs for answers, he manages to uncover certain truths about Samantha that are downright disturbing, and even hard to watch.
This is another one of those films I meet pretty much in the middle. On one hand, I can't help but admire the idea that hypnosis gone wrong is what leads Tom down this crazy path of seeing ghosts, and as the mystery unravels, it does carry a certain intensity with it. I'm also a fan of the ghost being very much in the background, much like in 'What Lies Beneath'. That said, in both cases, the film is much more about figuring out what happened to the dead rather than the more popular spookhouse movies of this day and age. I could definitely see an audience trying these movies out and not being fans simply because not a lot really happens. Just the odd, mild scare here and there.
The similarities between this and 'What Lies Beneath' are actually many. They both involve delving into the cause of a mysterious death, both involve the idea of a spouse losing their minds, both essentially ghost movies, both even involve sex in the storyline in some uncomfortable way. The fact that these and many others came out around the same time like them sort of explains why some of these have been swept under the rug a little. You could Google a list of ghost movies, but if you look in the range of around '97-'02, there seem to be quite a few familiar but forgotten titles. This is just one of those titles, and it's pretty decent. But once again, one might get much more of a thrill with something a little more fresh.
What Lies Beneath
Have you ever realized that mainstream ghost/haunting/supernatural movies seem to come and go in phases? One of the longest lineups of them seemed to exist in the late 90s and early 2000s before 'Paranormal Activity' resurrected the obsession in 2009. But this was part of that ghost phase that existed beforehand when none of it was great, but there was a creepy fun factor to them and we'd now watch them as "average at best" nostalgic films. Lucky for me, I can still get a kick out of some of these earlier works, but I can't deny that we've come so far that this era simply isn't scary anymore.
The film takes place one year following a bad car accident, where a former cellist named Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer), and her husband, Norman (Harrison Ford), send their daughter, Caitlin (Katharine Towne) off to college. Caitlin's absence seems to strain the couple's relationship, and matters are made worse when Claire suspects their neighbor Warren (James Remar) of murdering his wife, Mary (Miranda Otto). Strange, supernatural occurrences further her suspicions, as so many signs point to the house potentially being haunted by Mary's ghost. However, when Mary is revealed to be alive, the paranormal activity continues, and Claire continues to dig until she finds the eventual, disturbing truth behind the spirit lurking in their house.
I think that for its respective time, in the year 2000, this really isn't bad. But I will say that to watch it now, it seems pretty typical and even predictable with its twist ending. It's also not a haunting movie in nearly the same sense as more of the modern stuff. Really, this is a little more of a mystery with a paranormal element to it, fueled by the two leads' names. Back in 2000, Pfeiffer and Ford were well-known in the industry, so they certainly add some pizzazz to the whole deal. That said, I have to say that nowadays the film would probably work better as a straight-to-Netflix miniseries or something along those lines. Ghost-related movies have come a very long way since this, and there's simply no scare factor here anymore. I'd even call it kind of dull, if I'm honest, which sucks because I remember enjoying this when it was initially released.
I placed this one "Under the Radar", despite it being fairly well-known, because no one ever talks about it anymore. I wanted to revisit it in order to ponder why that might be. My conclusion is that I think it's one of those movies where once the ending was out, the "spoiler twist" just wasn't "twisty" enough. Bear in mind that this was released a year after 'The Sixth Sense' as well, which pretty well set the bar for a good twist ending to a ghost movie. This plain and simply didn't quite meet the bar, partly due to predictability, and party due to it having very little impact. It's mildly interesting anymore at best, at least as part of the late 90s/early 2000s supernatural craze. It's even parodied in 'Scary Movie 2', which set its focus on the same craze.
I guess if you can find it, and you're looking for something creepy but simple, it could be worth checking out. It's certainly not without its moments, but it is relatively slow-moving and I wouldn't say things really truly pick up with any sort of intensity until about three quarters of the way through. The climax to this is quite well done, but it's a long way to get there - like having to walk a few miles for a pint of cold beer, but it's local beer and nothing fancy. I don't consider this a bad movie like many seem to, but it's still just average at best, and some of the technology dates it horribly. You should get a load of their car phone. Anyway, check it out if your curious to see a ghost movie before they got terrifying. Otherwise, it's perfectly skippable, and its stars shine better elsewhere.
Every now and then, I want to dip my toes into the realm of the supernatural. Whether things like ghosts are real or not doesn't take away from the ideas they fill your imagination with. I'll be the first to admit that nowadays, I think the ghost thing is a bit played out, but we do keep coming back for more, don't we? Myself included. It's almost like it has become a "comfort zone" of horror in the same way 'The Simpsons' is a "comfort zone" for the general TV-viewing public.
Ghost movies are tricky for me to maneuver on a critical level. I do like a good ghost story, and a good scare every now and then. However, the film has to do something more or less original for me to appreciate it. The only thing I might compare this to as far as its execution goes is probably 'The Haunting of Hill House'. It's an unfolding mystery story as well as a ghost story, taking place during two different times - past and present. In this case, the past is eleven years prior, and the plot unfolds using flashbacks (along with some pretty well-done transition scenes, I might add).
We are introduced to two siblings; Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who is seemingly obsessed with an antique mirror found at an auction, and Tim (Brenton Thwaites), just recently released from a psychiatric hospital. After picking him up from the hospital, Kaylie mentions to Tim that she found a mirror they once owned called the "Lasser Glass". According to Kaylie, this antique mirror was supposedly responsible for the death of their parents, Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie (Katee Sackhoff). However, having just been released from the psych hospital, Tim has other more real-world ideas. Apparently, however, the mirror has a long, drawn-out history of tragedy befalling its owners, including them. Can the siblings work together to uncover the truth behind their parents demise? Or will the mirror beat them at their own game?
By the end, I'd have to say that I was mildly entertained, but a touch disappointed. It sounds weird, but I was kind of hoping this was going to be something that would get under my skin, as I do have a mild phobia of mirrors in a dark room. I can tolerate it, but I don't like it at all. The whole time it's like a stranger's hand resting on your shoulder - The longer it lingers the more uncomfortable you feel. But honestly, so much of the imagery here doesn't even seem to involve the mirror. Maybe the mirror is causing it, and there's the odd reflection of something creepy, but most of this is fake-out horror; one terrifying and/or gross thing will end up being something very mild and normal in real life. That's fine for some, but I kind of wanted it to leave me anxious about looking in the mirror... and not because I'm chubby.
All that said, it seems I'm the odd one out on this title. For me, it's just another spook house movie with a decent touch of mystery surrounding the characters' past. It's totally passable, but I'm not looking to press play on it again anytime soon - not due to fear, but to it feeling a touch bland. Rotten Tomatoes averages it around 64%, so it's considered pretty decent at least. This is one you simply have to watch and judge for yourself though. I do like a decent ghost story, and this was a decent ghost story, but that's exactly it. I sat at the campfire I call my computer screen, it told the story, it was fun, and I went about my business afterwards.
Just a heads up, you're probably about to get into a review that isn't me at my best. The reason being, I don't know how I feel about this movie. It gets such critical praise, but damned if I don't see it as anything particularly special. Which is not to say it's bad, but do I daresay, perhaps a little overrated for what it is? Perhaps it's a timing thing on my part though. Some things are brilliant for their time, and this was a revenge film far before the 'John Wick' series (in my humble opinion, the epitome of revenge films).
To be fair, I didn't fully know what I was getting into either. It's classified so often as an action movie that I was expecting something a bit more wild. In actuality, the violence in this tends to lean a little more towards torture porn, but tolerable torture porn. For my money, the most cringe-worthy thing that happens is the ripping out of someone's teeth, so I've seen worse. However, I'll cut this some slack, being that it's a Korean film and my mind is perhaps a little too set on North American thrillers. In other words, maybe I just don't quite get it, and that's on me for perhaps not paying enough attention.
The film opens in a grungy city, in the late 80s. A man named Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is arrested for being drunk in public, and misses his daughter's birthday. He's bailed out by his friend Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji), but while the two are on the phone with Dae-su's family, Dae-su is kidnapped offscreen, waking in a sealed-shut hotel room. He is fed through a trap door, and has a TV to watch, which sadly delivers the news one day that his wife has been murdered, and he is apparently the prime suspect. He gets revenge on the mind, and spends day after day, year after year for 15 years plotting a revenge, digging an escape tunnel and shadowboxing a lot for exercise. Then just as soon as he's about to escape, the movie gets confusing (at least for me).
Skipping through a few odd things, Dae-su finds himself on a mysterious, grassy rooftop, and soon enough his revenge seeking begins. This is not before he runs into a girl named Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang), who takes him in out of pity. There's a whole sex thing going on there where she wants to succumb to his now animalistic appetite, but after she gets to know him better. For me, this is a little crow-barred in there, but if I give things like this enough though, I can come up with a reason for it being there. Like I say, I don't think it's so much the movie as me.
For the most part, I think that the film is trying very hard to put you into Dae-su's shoes. As the film continues to unfold, there's more and more to empathize with him about. Unlike John Wick, he's only really skilled in his 15 years of shadowboxing in his enclosed hotel room. There's something a little more real about this movie, and it's very cool that they make Dae-su perfectly human. He hurts himself when he throws punches, he doesn't always win at what he's doing, he's fallible. If I had to guess why everyone sees this as such a solid film, it likely has something to do with all of that. We're not empathizing with a superhero, we're empathizing with just some guy.
It's not for the squeamish. There's quite a bit of closeup, cringe-worthy kinda stuff. Again, I have seen worse, but it doesn't mean it isn't there. I think my final opinion on it is that of a "dirty movie", but not in the sense that it's pornographic. It's that kind of movie you wanna watch once, then take a shower afterwards and maybe not return to it until you're ready for it to be brand new again. I can appreciate fans of this movie, and I wouldn't argue with them for a second that this is bad. I just don't think I can really count myself among them. Plain and simply, it's not really for me, but it has my respect.
As Above, So Below
This one taught me a little something about the 'Harry Potter' series that I had no idea about. Weird place to start, I know, but the truth is that this one starts off with mentions of Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone. Just when I was ready to write this off as an unnecessary rip off of 'Harry Potter', I kinda figured that would have been a little too "on the nose". I Googled the name, and it finally clicked that Flamel was the only non-fictional character in the 'Potter' series. Though the idea of the Philosopher's Stone is something of a Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant, lost in history and lore.
Anyway, I guess I missed what may have been obvious to many, but it was fascinating to me that there was some element of realism in the 'Potter' series. But of course, we're not here to talk about Harry Potter and his adventures, so much as we're here to talk about an enthusiastic archaeologist named Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) who is seeking the Philosophers' Stone, herself. On her search, she finds a series of clues that lead her into the catacombs underneath Paris, France.
She assembles a team consisting of her cameraman, Benji (Edwin Hodge), he former boyfriend, George (Ben Feldman), and guide who knows a few underground shortcuts named Papillon (François Civil) along with his team; his girlfriend, Souxie (Marion Lambert) and their friend Zed (Ali Marhyar). Together, they enter an area of the catacombs that is barred from the public, but soon find themselves trapped.
As the film continues, more and more strange occurrences emerge, and the film pretty much acts like a spook house, wherein every twist and turn involves some kind of scary imagery. For the most part, the imagery they unveil has a lot to do with their sins in life, and eventually the group finds themselves in what is almost certainly a real Hell. The catch - the only way to get out is to keep going further down.
Being that this is a found footage movie, the scariest aspect of it is probably the overall claustrophobia that sticks with you on the ride you take - especially when these guys have no way out but down, further and further. There's an uneasy sense of helplessness that comes with it, and I can say with enthusiasm that this one did the trick for me. Again, it's very much a spook house of a film, but instead of just having things jump out and say "boo", there's also a lot of unsettling imagery, and even a really cool kill or two - the car on fire stands out, particularly, but no spoilers. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.
So, for found footage horror enthusiasts, I can honestly recommend this one pretty highly. I've seen much worse, and it's not quite as formulaic as one might assume. I won't spoil anything, once again, but the ending to this kinda left me in a sort of awe, and I give it credit for not following what practically every other found footage horror film tends to do. But with that said, I can also honestly point out that this one does not get very positive ratings, and admittedly, it's not without its flaws.
At times, the camera action is just plain weird, and I'm not just talking about a lot of shaky-cam moments. Often, what you see being filmed doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, like one scene where our lead might as well think she's gonna die horribly, but is still carrying a camera around, getting shots of her facial expressions. On top of that, I can see this being very basic stuff for the average horror fan. There's not a lot of new here, but what I enjoyed was the execution of it. If you're looking for something creepy and claustrophobic, it's really not a bad one to check out, in my opinion. I'm have to admit, I'm very against the grain on this one.
Recommended as one of the creepiest and overall strangest straight-to-video horrors out there. While it is most certainly that, the film is also among the most unnecessarily uncomfortable horror movies I've ever seen. For those who know me well, my taste in horror is very specific, and this stands as a good example of something I really DON'T like.
Loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft story 'The Outsider', 'Castle Freak' tells the story of a man named John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs) who inherits a 12th century castle that once belonged to a famous Dutchess.
John, his wife, Susan (Barbara Crampton) and his blind daughter, Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide) travel to Italy to visit the castle, but unbeknownst to them all, a boy named Giorgio (Jonathan Fuller) has been held captive for years, being tortured and malnourished to the point of becoming a "monster" of sorts. He breaks free from his shackles (pretty grotesquely) upon realizing there's a pretty girl there now. Much of the rest of the film plays on the insecurity of Rebecca. Not only does she have this perverse oddity stalking her, but she also has to deal with her parents not believing her that there's someone else wandering the castle.
And yeah, Giorgio is one of those ultimately uncomfortable and perverse creatures who plays more on the intimidation of perverse, creepy guys in general and just how we see them. Now, imagine Jabba the Hutt's gross tongue, licking his chops at Leia in her slave outfit and multiply that by about 50. There are some brutal scenes in here, all of which just make you wonder what the hell the writers were thinking. Let's just say Giorgio enjoys eating certain things, and it provides us with that unnecessary shock horror I despise so much. It becomes a simple matter of making the audience squirm.
In reality, however, the overall concept is actually pretty clever. One could still make a perfectly uncomfortable movie that plays on the same themes without the amount of gore that gets dished out. I thought it had promise, but I was mostly just dreading what gross-out horror I was gonna have to see next. I always have and always will hate torture porn in horror, and this plays on that quite a bit.
All the while there's also a mistrust between Susan and John, as John got the family into a car accident (typical) while drunk, killing their 5-year-old son, and causing Rebecca's blindness. So why they're still together and struggling though their marriage is a bit of a mystery, but much like 'The Shining', the film also uses John's weaknesses to help fuel events.
The real bother of this, however, is the idea of it being loosely based on 'The Outsider', which is a far better story altogether. In that, the "castle freak" is a sympathetic creature, much more like Frankenstein. If you have the opportunity, it's probably well-worth the read (I had to Google it, but feel like I want to read it now). This film is just something made to gross us out, and while it's effective, the type of horror here is something I find incredibly cheap. Between that, and butchering a story by Lovecraft, I don't have much respect for this one. It's simply uncomfortable grossness.
I'd be lying if I said I was gonna miss this month's theme all too much. The 90's was this weird era for horror where it didn't really know what it should do. It tried to resurrect the slasher era with more human characters as opposed to supernatural, but let's face it, it's still just more of the same formula over and over again. 'Cherry Falls' is certainly no exception. In fact, I'd say this movie is one big, bad horror trope.
This review won't be a long one 'cause there's just so little to say about it. Other than the film's idea, it's really just an unoriginal slasher-fest, full of teenage victims and basic, uncreative kills, sexual tension with teenage hormones for an easy-sell, and it's honestly just plain forgettable.
In Cherry Falls, Virginia, a mysterious, long-haired killer, dressed in black, is murdering the virgins of the local high school one by one... yeah, that's the big twist here. The victims are the virgins for once, flipping that particular horror trope around. But even saying that's entirely original is a stretch. It's just a change of scenery, really. Otherwise, again, it's a very typical teen slasher.
The story centers on Jody Marken (Brittany Murphy), daughter of the town's sheriff, Brent (Michael Biehn). Brent has been put in charge of the investigation behind these murders, and keeping his daughter safe is also his top priority (which leads to a really messed up conversation). Keeping her out of it, however, leads her to do a little investigating of her own, and your typical slasher horror movie carries on as you might expect, with very little surprise.
It's not so much that the movie's horrible, it's just extremely weak. I've seen many slashers very similar to this that manage to actually tell a better story, of have you care for some of the characters involved. This one is kinda just weird, and it didn't feel I got anything out of it whatsoever. If horror was some sort of theme park, this movie would represent the merry-go-round. Very plain, simple, typical, everyone has seen and done it, and it's not really all that exciting. All in all, a throw-away for yours truly.
Yet another title from '98 (this is three in a row, now), 'Disturbing Behavior rode largely on the success of 'Dawson's Creek' star, Katie Holmes, who was a real up-and-comer at the time, pre-Cruise. At the time, she was pretty much a sex symbol for the average teenager, and it's probably safe to say, a lot of the reason anyone went to see this movie.
The Clark family decides to move to Cradle Bay Island, Washington, after the death of their son, Allen (Ethan Embry). The parents, Nathan and Cynthia (Terry David Mulligan and Susan Hogan, respectively) and daughter, Lindsay (Katherine Isabelle) are adapting to new life in their own way. Meanwhile, the son, Steve (James Marsden), runs into a particularly interesting group of new friends at school.
Enter Gavin (Nick Stahl), his right hand man, UV (Chad Donella), and the one we all came to see, Rachel (Katie Holmes). The group is all different levels of strange, and often times, even a bit irritating as they try so hard to be cool (except Holmes, she's kinda just a Goth kid). Gavin holds an absurd theory that there's some kind of sinister force that has transformed a group of seemingly perfect students named the "Blue Ribbons" into supreme goody-goodies. He also claims to have proof of it, and we clearly see him witness a crazy event in the opening scene, so the audience is well-aware that he's right, right from the get-go.
As one might guess, the rest of the world doesn't exactly believe in Gavin, passing him off as some kind of spaz. But when something extra disturbing happens, the group decides that it's finally time to investigate things, and get down to the route of what's making people act so strangely perfect.
At the end of the day, this is really just a kind of 'Body Snatchers' idea, re-imagined, and it could be said that this was 'The Faculty's "parallel" movie. You see, "parallel movies" were all the rage in the late 90s, usually having to do with some sort of disaster. 'Armageddon' parallelled 'Deep Impact', 'Volcano' parallelled 'Dante's Peak', the list goes on. This one also took place largely at a high school, and took some 'Body Snatchers' concepts, blending them with bits of 'Scream' (just about any horror at the time drew from 'Scream', really).
I kinda just took this one for what it was. It was interesting enough, but not exactly good, and not exactly original. Although they tried coining a phrase or two that just didn't stick ("sounds razor" - never heard anyone say that). However, somehow I got more from this than 'Urban Legend'. That may be because I prefer the idea of not knowing who to trust rather than just some random slasher character.
I didn't hate this movie, but it's still recognizably pretty bad, and as I said, it's mostly Katie Holmes at the time who managed to put butts in seats. Marsden wasn't known yet as Cyclops, and Stahl wasn't... almost known as John Connor (once) yet. I mean, let's face it, the only real John Connor was Edward Furlong. But I digress. This film boils down to a low rating. It's one that I didn't terribly mind sitting through, but one that I don't feel I need to check out again to try to get more out of it. The director moved on to bigger and better, including nine episode of 'Game of Thrones' among other things, so by now, this is just about a throw-away.
1998 seemed to be a sort of peak year for these teen slasher horror flicks. While 'Scream' was a large influence on so many of them, some others seemed to just sort of copy the whole idea. 'Urban Legend' happens to be one of these films. Replace movies with urban legends, a similar twist ending, and even similar dialogue, and one can easily see why this one didn't exactly do so well.
Here we have an insanely simple plot. Someone is going around, picking off college students one by one. The killer's pattern follows a series of urban legends that most people out there know pretty well - at least in some form.
As with typical teen horror of this era, the cast is lead by an obvious "survivor girl" named Natalie (Alicia Witt), who gets the help of best friend Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart), school reporter, Paul (Jared Leto) among others to try to figure out who this killer is. Of course one by one, would-be victims get theirs in pretty unoriginal ways, and it all just kinda turns into a throw-away for me.
This was a weird one for me. I've seen worse, but I know I've seen a whole lot better. For a very typical teen slasher movie, it's not exactly terrible. But that's just as long as you've come here for a lot of horror tropes. In a way, being that the kills are based on urban legends, I think even that's kinda cheap. Sure, films like 'Seven' did something similar with the sins, but 'Seven' was very unique and disturbing with what it did. This is just some killer slashing people with little to no "wow" factor. Most of these urban legends end up with some slasher scenario, as well. The kills are narrow-minded 'cause they follow a very particular path. Going back to the 'Seven' comparison, you can be very open with what you do with the concept of sin.
There is, however, a sort of guilty pleasure to this film if you're any sort of horror buff. Some of the cameos in here are better known as classic horror villains - namely, Robert Englund ('Elm Street'), playing a sort of creepy professor, Danielle Harris ('Halloween') playing Natalie's goth roommate, and Brad Dourif ('Child's Play') as a gas station attendant. I have to admit that it was kinda cool seeing these faces pop up, supposedly passing a torch to a new generation. However, it's just not enough to save the overall quality of things here.
It's all pretty predictable (at least as far as the victim list goes), badly written, and seemingly just some names slapped together to put butts in seats for a genre that was burning bright at the time. Other big teen names of the time like Tara Reid, Joshua Jackson show up as well, just to draw an audience (again, for it's time). The whole thing feels lazily put together, and a simple money grab, to me. I can honestly say I've seen worse, but I'm definitely not a fan of this one.
Dear God, almighty, I just dunno what the hell to say after this experience. Good way to start a review, eh? Here we have something by writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait. Yes, the same Bobcat Goldthwait with the goofy weird signature voice in the 'Police Academy' movies. That's kinda what peaked my interest in the first place because there's something to be said about comedic actors creating horror, especially lately with the cases of 'Get Out' and 'A Quiet Place'. And this... well, it certainly has a place, but it's one of those only halfway well done movies. Think something like 'Titanic' where the second half is what you should jump to to have a good time with it (although, I confess I kinda dig 'Titanic').
This time around, we have a couple who set out to a place called Willow Creek, home of the famous Patterson-Gimlin sighting of Bigfoot (the one that I'm pretty sure has since been proven a hoax where Bigfoot just kinda wanders by). Their hope is to get into the thick of the woods and find Bigfoot for themselves. The first 45 minutes or so is just them touring the area, interviewing people, and a bit of poking their noses in where they don't belong. But, like with most horror, they are defiant about that last bit, and go for it anyway. The last half hour is pretty much just a test of the audiences tension (or patience, depending on how you see this).
You see, the last half hour is both the most boring and most exciting part of the movie, where it's mostly silence, but punctuated by strange sounds and a whole lot of suspense. You wait and wait and wait for a jump scare that never seems to come, and it's effective if you have the mind for it. I did end up feeling a bit of tension in the pit of my stomach, but almost had to ask myself why 'cause nothing was happening. That, to me, is clever on Goldthwait's part. He understands how intensity building can be so much more effective in horror. The thing is, I think he just kept us holding on for too long.
This is just one of those movies where you'll either get the intensity aspect of it or find the intensity too boring and dragging to the point where it's just not intense at all. Again, it all depends on your mind set going into it. It reminded me a lot of 'Blair Witch' in that sense, but I personally found 'Blair Witch' less intense whereas this, I watched home alone in the dark at night, and it was a bit more effective for what it was trying to do. That said, please note that most of the general audience seems to be on the flip-side of that and like 'Blair Witch' more, if only because it was what started it all.
This isn't a movie I'd just throw out there as a recommendation to anyone who's a fan of found footage. It's rather a movie I'd recommend to someone who appreciates suspense in the same way I do, where it's the most effective part of the horror rather than the physical imagery of the thing. Oh, by the way, I should note, it's ALL sound, pretty much no visual - again, much like 'Blair Witch'. I'm glad I watched it, but it's not something I'd be rushing to throw on again or show other people either. It comes in on the very low end of this rating, but I can't help but admire some of the choices made despite how bad I found a lot of it.
Here we have a relatively unique found footage film that still plays with the idea of the paranormal but actually attempts to expand it. This one is about the process of turning into a vampire, and all that comes with it.
One thing I'd like to bring up about this movie that makes it stand out pretty well among others are the two men behind it. This one is written by, directed by, and stars Derek Lee and Clif Prowse as themselves. While some could see this as about as egotistical and self-indulgent as something like 'The Room', I just find another brilliant found footage loophole. Simply put, if it's supposed to be found footage, it makes sense that they try to keep it as real as possible behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera.
This starts off as an online vlog, featuring Derek and Clif as they set off on their year-long trip around the world. Right from the get-go, Derek has a few health concerns, but he trusts that Clif has his back to help him see the trip through. However after a one night stand, Derek's health takes a scary but intriguing turn. While it seems very convincing that he's incredibly sick, he also starts showing signs of various heightened abilities. Then, eventually, the somewhat obvious comes to light as to what exactly happened.
All that said, I personally found it most interesting to see the twists and turns this movie took. There are at least a couple of moments through this where it sort of just pulls the rug out from under you. Otherwise, one would like this for the same reasons one would like 'Chronicle' (my personal favorite found footage film). It's kind of about superpowers and the somewhat realistic directions we might go with them. I always found it to be an awesome concept for found footage that's so unexplored. And yeah, we have movies that fit this concept already, but how many of these found footage movies are about ghosts and/or demons? I mean, I guess this is pretty damn close to demonic possession, but still.
I'm not sure if this one would necessarily make my Top 10 when it comes to found footage films, but it has a damn good shot at it. It's not really what would would call a straight up horror movie, but it's got a bunch of creepy moments, surprising moments, humorous moments, and I can't help but recommend it to anyone looking for a new sort of found footage movie. It can remain within that comfort zone of the supernatural, but strays away just enough. I really liked it, and I'm glad I added it to my list for this month.
Unfortunately, I have to start this one off by saying my overall experience with this one wasn't as great as I had expected. For starters, I had to watch it on YouTube with a pretty terrible English dub (the film is Spanish, under the title 'Los Cronocrímenes') making it sound as though it's playing out like any "good-bad" movie you've ever seen. To make it worse, the sound was premature by a couple of seconds, so you always heard if something was gonna happen, thus providing no tension. That said, this film may very well be redeemable if watched in proper Spanish with subtitles, 'cause it's otherwise a neat idea.
This guy named Héctor (Karra Elejalde) is bored or something, so starts looking into his backyard forest, only to find a lovely young woman taking off her shirt. When his wife leads, he goes to investigate and finds her lying on the ground, unconscious. He is attacked, and flees to this nearby building to hide. Finding a walkie, he contacts someone to help hide him, and he ends up taking a time machine back about an hour and a half. As events unfold, he finds himself in a very strange time loop, and it becomes a cautionary tale of cause and effect through time travel.
There's a few things that will throw you off throughout it, but again, the idea when it's all over is pretty solid, and often surprisingly unexplored with time travel movies. A lot of the time, you'll consider Héctor to be creepy, weird, even kinda dumb with all he questions about time travel. But as he's put through these events he grows as a character, and by the ends, you're even a bit mindblown by everything he comes up with. And what's funny is as soon as you think to yourself "that was unnecessary", you start to look for ways to make sense out of it. To my surprise, I was almost always able to, except I think there's one of those gaping time travel paradoxes as well in the style of "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" If you watch it, you'll get what I mean.
Again, this one is hard to find as far as a good copy is concerned, but it IS out there. It ends up on a lot of "unknown time travel movie" lists out there as well, so I'm not the only one who manages to see the redeeming qualities of it. Still, at the end of the day, it's certainly not my favorite time travel movie, and couldn't hold a candle to some others I've reviewed this month. But I will say that if you have the means, it's worth checking out.
Starting off kinda slow and confusing, it does eventually get a little intense, and it keeps your brain nice and busy. But it's NOT the thinker 'Primer' was (seriously, I dunno if I'll ever get over how much that movie broke my brain). In fact, there's some similarities to this and 'Primer', but this ones more for those who can't follow ALL the technical jargon. In fact, it breaks it down as if it's explaining it to a kid, which isn't bad, but perhaps a tad condescending to those of us who already get time travel movies.
Well, the Oscars have come and gone, and the awards have been given out, and it's only a matter of time before Facebook and Twitter explode with what's unfair about what, but I'm choosing to take a bit more of a positive spin on things here. For the next four weeks, my 'Under the Radar' reviews will be based on movies that passed a lot of audiences by, featuring all four of the "Best Actors" who won this year, starting with Supporting Actor, Sam Rockwell.
Here we have 'Moon', starring Rockwell and almost no one else. The film takes place in the near future where the moon has been discovered to be a cost-effective renewable source of energy. Sam Bell (Rockwell) spends three years on the moon, alone, with fairly moderate communication with Earth, taking care of the equipment that allows the moon's energy to flow to Earth. However, nearing the end of his three-year stint, he discovers an unsettling truth about both the operation and himself.
For those who may not be into such things, fair warning that this is very much a bottle movie. Sam's accompanied by his faithful computer, GERTY (Kevin Spacey), but little else. Of course, this is what makes the movie so captivating. You totally get the sense of desperate loneliness this guy is facing. But nothing illustrates this more than Rockwell's incredible performance.
I haven't seen the guy in a lot, but anything I have seen that he's in seems to make him deserving of some kind of award. 'Moon' was a particular performance of his that stood out among the rest to me, and that's even speaking of his roles in movies like 'The Green Mile' and 'Seven Psychopaths'. In all honesty, this was a 2009 performance I felt that was ignored too easily from the Academy and the Globes alike. But at least BAFTA paid attention and gave director Duncan Jones his.
Aside from acting and directorial skills, however, this film does a great job at setting up atmosphere, and making the audience empathize with the lead character. GERTY is just as interesting, because one can very easily assume that he's a HAL waiting to happen. What the film does with it, however, is keep you guessing about it all the way through. There are moments you don't trust GERTY with anything, but there are moments you'd put your life in his hands.
This is one of those rare cases of "Man vs Himself" that is done in such an interesting way, i can't help but give the film the credit it deserves. Albeit, a little slow at times, if you like a movie that makes you think, this is a pretty great title to check out.
Going back to a time before Donald Glover was known as Childish Gambino, and even before the days of 'Community', he seems to have been in a variety of comedy shorts. He was part of a comedy group called "Derrick Comedy"; an internet sketch group hailing from NYU who became an apparent viral sensation through a skit called "Bro Rape". Eventually, they made a film together, and that film is 'Mystery Team'.
The film centers on three main guys; Jason, "The Master of Disguise" (Donald Glover), Duncan, "Boy Genius" (DC Pierson), and Charlie, "The Strongest Kid in Town" (Dominic Dierkes). Together, as children, they formed the Mystery Team, and went around the neighborhood, solving mysteries having to do with things such as missing cats, or stolen bikes. Now, a little more grown up, they remain as naive as ever, and haven't really broken free from acting like a bunch of kids. As a result, the community doesn't really take them seriously anymore.
Eventually, a young girl named Briana (Daphne Ciccarelle) comes along and hires the Mystery Team in order to figure out why her parents got killed in a double homicide. The team takes the case in order to prove to the neighborhood that they are, in fact, serious about their business.
I feel it only fair to forewarn everyone that it's gonna take a certain sense of humor to get through this one. It does get pretty messy in its gross-out humor, so you'll need to be able to accept a few of those nasty sight gags. I tend to think of gross-out humor as pretty cheap, myself, so there were even moments I wasn't too big on here. Actually, three, specifically stick out in my mind. So be prepared to look away for a couple of seconds here and there if you get queasy easily. With that said, however, a lot of it is actually made up for with simple dialogue and sight gags (that aren't gross). I found myself laughing genuinely quite a bit at just random unexpected moments all throughout the movie.
Joining the cast is Aubrey Plaza as Briana's older sister, Kelly, who pretty much plays the love interest for Jason. She's pretty funny in it too, playing her kinda typical Aubrey Plaza role where you kinda think she's being sarcastic and bitchy, but at the same time she's still really attractive for some reason?... There really is something about her, isn't there? But I digress. She does a good job here in playing the straight character, while the Team plays off her quite well, especially Jason.
Perhaps the most fun about this movie is that it's a pretty dark murder mystery, but it practically plays out like a kid's movie. It kinda makes me think of something like 'Dennis the Menace', but if the kids were actually in their late teens, and solving murders instead of just messing with Mr. Wilson... But then, one might even take the 'Dennis' kids a bit more seriously than these guys.
It's hard to say exactly who I would recommend this to, but I'd imagine it would be a hit for anyone who can at least stomach some of the gross-out humor. I'm telling you, there are a couple of moments I felt like I could turn it off. Beware the Strip Club scene, that's the big warning. But even if you have that urge, I'd urge you further to just wait it out 'cause something actually hilarious is probably right around the corner.
'Mystery Team' is currently available on Netflix, so if you're on the lookout for that next hilarious low-brow comedy (hey, they have an audience, what can I say?) then I'd recommend tuning in! Just maybe don't be eating any food when you do.