From July 2015

Jack Bauer v. Supernatural Forces in MIRRORS

Mirrors. 2008. Directed by Alexandre Aja. Screenplay by Alexandre Aja & Grégory Levasseur; based on the film Into the Mirror by Sung-ho Kim.
Starring Keifer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Mary Beth Peil, John Shrapnel, Jason Flemyng, Julian Glover, and Ezra Buzzington. New Regency Pictures.
Rated 18A. 110 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★
Mise en page 1 (Page 1) For starters, I’ve been an Alexandre Aja fan for a long while now. Ever since I first saw Haute Tension (English titles: High Tension & Switchblade Romance) I thought that Aja had a sense of old school horror in him.
I continue to feel that way. While some people really might not agree, I think even his lesser films have things worth enjoying, worth taking away – sometimes that may just be the effects, parts of the script, or the story. Regardless I think that Aja carries with him some old school horror movie sensibilities in terms of his use of practical effects (though at times he does opt for some shitty CGI I must admit), as well as the stories he chooses to film.

Mirrors is the most supernatural horror that Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur have written together. It still has a bit of a realistic feel because of where the story goes eventually, however, there’s always that strong supernatural vibe going on from start to finish. In this way, it’s a little different from almost anything else that Aja himself has directed (of course since then he’s also done the fantastic Horns).
While it is not particularly great, I think the movie has merit mostly because of a creepy and weird story, and at times amongst some bad CGI effects we’re treated to a handful of really awesome practical make-up effects shots courtesy of Howard Berger, Gregory Nicotero, and some other wizards from KNB.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.55.32 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.55.56 PMBen Carson (Keifer Sutherland) is a former NYPD detective. He killed a man in a shooting some time ago after falling into a downward spiral of alcoholism; disgraced, he retired from the force. He’s cut off from his children most of the time, as his ex-wife Wife (Paula Patton) has custody of them both.
To try and make ends meet, Ben works as a security guard. Now he has a new job as the nightwatchman for the Mayflower Department Store which had been partly wrecked with fire years before. There, he begins to experience strange phenomena. Worse is the fact the last nightwatchman cut his own throat with a piece of glass from a mirror in a subway station bathroom.
Eventually Ben starts to feel as if the mirrors aren’t being looked into – they are looking out. And he does not like what they’ve started to project, as it slowly begins working its way out of the Mayflower Department Store, into him, into his life. Things get worse, until soon enough the things in the mirrors are following Ben home, to the home of his ex-wife and children. Unfortunately for Ben, at first nobody believes him because of the medication he takes while trying to stay off the booze. That all changes once the things in the mirrors reveal themselves to everyone else around him. Then, nobody is safe.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.57.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.58.18 PMI really do love the opening sequence. An unwritten horror movie rule is that you need one of those opening scenes that POPS, usually a murder – maybe even the murder that begins the whole story. Doesn’t have to be that, but you know what I mean. There are many variants, yet a ton of horror movies all start out that way with a scene that’s meant to get our adrenaline going, getting the terror started. Mirrors does a fine and bloody job of starting things out. A worthy opening scene to the many that have come before it.

Throughout the movie there are definitely a few instances of terrible looking CGI shots. I think that’s overall one of my biggest problems. When you’re doing a supernatural film, especially, you really need to either do practical effects the whole way through, or you’ve got to be able to put up some quality CGI that doesn’t make things feel so fake and awkward.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.56.58 PMOne of the worst, to me, is when Ben Carson (Sutherland) thinks he’s on fire, looking in the mirror; he drops and rolls around, the fire consuming him all over the length of his body. Though, he is not on fire it’s meant to look and seem very real. In opposition to that, it doesn’t look any bit real. I’m not saying you’ve got to put someone in danger by lighting them on fire to get the shot, but does the alternative have to be awful effects? Either do it right or forego doing it at all. It was like watching Keifer Sutherland wriggle around in a green-screen blanket or something. Really rough to watch.
I don’t want to lay any blame for this scene on Grégory Levasseur especially. Unfortunately for him, Aja had to leave set to be with his wife who’d prematurely gone into labour, so Levasseur took over duties on this scene. I guess ultimately he didn’t have either control or say over the special effects in that scene, but either way he could’ve been part of the problem. He only recently directed The Pyramid, which I enjoyed yet was not great, so at this point in 2008 he probably didn’t have too much experience behind the camera as a director.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.57.44 PMWith that being said, I’ve got to commend the really well-executed make-up effects on the part of Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, as well as other artists from the KNB EFX shop. These guys have done so many films and shows, everything from The Walking Dead to Day of the DeadMiseryEvil Dead IIPhantasm II, and so many more between them all.
A great and classic horror movie death happens in this film. BRIEF SPOILERS AHEAD!
Angela Carson (Amy Smart) dies while in the bathtub: her reflection grabs the top and bottom of her own jaw, starts ripping, tearing it open, upward until the whole thing just starts hanging loose, tongue out, bloody and gore everywhere. The water is full of blood. One of those real gory horror scenes that is enough to satisfy a lot of gorehounds out there! The effects in the beginning as she starts tearing involve a slight drop of CGI, however, the after effects and midway through the process are all practical; looks amazing. I thought so, anyways. Some true gore.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.58.32 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.58.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.59.41 PM
Not a huge fan of the acting, I must say. Mostly it’s only Sutherland who impresses me, and even he doesn’t exactly swing for the fences in a full-fledged, honest effort. I’m not saying he’s bad, at all, I just think that at times he’s a bit too flat. He plays that broken down guy well, there’s no doubt. But it feels like he doesn’t go from one place to another, there’s always this stagnant feeling to the Ben Carson character. Neither is he meant to go and turn into some new person, I just feel like there’s not much range here in Sutherland. Maybe that isn’t his fault, either. Could just be the script from Aja and Levasseur didn’t give Carson enough life on the page. Because I certainly think Sutherland is a good actor – not a fan of his Jack Bauer turn but I love him in Stand by MeFreewayA Time to Kill, and more. So he’s capable of range, I just don’t see much of it in the character itself, therefore we don’t see much out of Sutherland. Though, what he is given he plays well. As I said, I buy him as that sort of broken down, washed up/disgraced former cop figure. With that bit, he does what he can.
Otherwise, as I said, no one else truly grabbed me other than a couple of the supporting actors with creepy parts to play. Paula Patton certainly did not do anything for me; I find her bland and could take her or leave her, preferably she’d be left.
Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.03.37 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.04.05 AMBy far, my favourite part about Mirrors is the backstory of what’s going on inside the Mayflower Department Store. Once the film gets to the 1 hour 20 minute mark and Ben Carson is starting to unravel the Esseker mystery, this is where things get fairly creepy and unsettling. Not that it’s like blow your socks off scary, I just enjoy the mystery, the creepy moments when Carson goes to see the nun, tracking down information, it’s all pretty disturbing. I dig that whole final half hour. It’s by no means perfect, but it has that macabre backwoods element which I really love. To tell you the truth, I could’ve gone for a prequel where Aja explored the origin story in fuller detail, showing the Esseker girl and the lead-up to everything, her ‘possession’ or what not and that whole angle. The execution leaves something to be desired, all the same I thought Aja and Levasseur did a decent job with the story as opposed to the lacklustre work they did with dialogue and character development.
Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.03.24 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.04.44 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.05.36 AMIn the end, I’ll give Mirrors a 3 out of 5 stars. It’s not the worst of what Alexandre Aja has to offer, however, I also can’t say it’s one of his best. A mid-range effort on his part. Mostly, it’s the CGI and nonsense in the plot that throws me off, coupled with not a whole lot of stellar acting. The writing could’ve been done much better. There’s not only bad dialogue, there is a major lack of character development, as well as just some parts that didn’t feel to make a whole lot of sense even when it comes to the movie’s own internal logic. The finale was my favourite part, yet even some points there I said to myself “Hmm what?” and didn’t exactly feel like things went where they needed to go ultimately.
Also the ending sets things up for a sequel. I hate that. You can go for a downbeat, horrific ending that doesn’t have to be a lead-in to a sequel, which it feels like here. This would’ve worked with a haunting, open end but instead it’s like Aja just wanted to set it up so that someone else could spin this into another film.
Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 12.06.51 AMAside from those points that I thought were lacking, or were downright bad, I do enjoy the backstory of the film. There’s a lot of creepy things going on in that story and even if they were not represented as accurately and effectively as possible to maximize the horror/terror in the final product, I still think Aja did a decent job at trying to draw out some of the creepiness that was there. All in all, this is not something I’ll probably watch again, though, I did enjoy it enough to seek it out to review it and then watch it for a second time. This will be my last. I much prefer Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven classic The Hills Have Eyes, his French gore horror masterpiece High Tension and his film adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel Horns, and still there are a good deal who think the latter of those two is garbage; maybe some even don’t like the first. But me, I love Aja, and even though this is far from a great horror, I still give him credit for trying to instil a bit of old school-ness into his films, whether it be classic style supernatural ghost story stuff or the presence of some wild practical make-up effects.
Just search elsewhere to find his best work, you aren’t going to find it in this film.

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Hannibal – Season 3, Episode 9: “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.19.25 AMNBC’s Hannibal
Season 3, Episode 9: “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”
Directed by John Dahl (RoundersJoy RideBreaking BadDexter)
Written by Bryan Fuller/Steve Lightfoot/Helen Shang/Jeff Vlaming

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Great Red Dragon” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.23.30 AMWill Graham (Hugh Dancy) has become distanced from Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) since three years ago, when they were still sickly close to one another, tit for tatting with arterial spray all over the place. Now they’re no longer on a first name basis, as Will seems to completely refuse calling him by name – always doctor, or Dr. Lecter. Evidence of Will truly wanting to have a life separate from their odd connection that once was, and still is – deep, beneath the skin, down in the heart. As always, Hannibal mines for details trying hard to uncover all he can about Will’s personal life: his new life, without Hannibal. It’s intriguing and sad all at once.

We’re served up a flashback from events in the very first season with Hannibal and Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), as he prepares the crime scene he concocted which framed Will for a time.

Basically we are seeing Hannibal, jealous of Will’s new life/fatherhood, looking back at the closest he’ll ever come to that sort of life – the family life. Abigail became like the child of Hannibal and Will. Hannibal reverts back to moments with Abigail, to both capture that feeling Will has which he is missing out on and also to feel close with Will; like a divorced parent remembering the good times with his child that helps him simultaneously remember the good days with his ex-partner.
You accepted your father. Would it be so difficult to accept me?” Hannibal asks.
I don’t know if it would be smart,” replies Abigail.
We don’t get wiser as we get older, Abigail. But, we do learn to avoid or raise a certain amount of Hell. Depending on which we prefer.
I’ll need to collect some flesh,” says Hannibal. “Not a pound, only a piece.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.19.50 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.20.01 AMIncredible exchange here as they play on the phrase of “The King is dead – long live the King“…
Hannibal: “Abigail Hobbs is dead.
Abigail: “Long live Abigail Hobbs.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.26.27 AMPoor Will is being reluctantly sucked back into the entirety of his old life, working with the FBI and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne). Also there is Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) who has brought a Verger baby into the world herself, a true son of her own with Margot Verger (Katharine Isabelle).
But it’s Will who is in the most danger. Everyone else seems sort of sectioned off and encased in their own new worlds, yet Will is always in that danger, the peril of slipping back into the arms of Hannibal.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.26.32 AMHannibal: “This is a very shy boy, Will. I’d love to meet him.
As they work together, Will and Hannibal inhabit the Memory Palace. It goes to show how Will and Hannibal are so intricately linked in their psyches now that the Memory Palace where they go together is something of their simultaneous creation; they are partners, in so many senses of the word. They have rooms in their Memory Palace which are identical, perhaps even meant solely for the two of them and no one else. It’s a great visual representation that doesn’t have to do a big ton of exposition to get the point across.
Furthermore, Hannibal and Will walk around in the crime scene together. A testament to both of their powers to empathize, their twisted minds much alike, and also that connection constantly running strong. It’s as if they hadn’t skipped a beat in those years apart, each living other lives yet yearning to be together in some way.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.23.40 AMHave you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.
A great image of Will standing like Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) did in the previous episode, painted in the black blood of his victims and naked in the moonlight.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.23.51 AMBack again is Freddy Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), the awful and immoral tabloid reporter. Snooping around, watching Will Graham. Naughty, naughty. Tsk. How rude, Ms. Lounds!

Will: “You called us Murder Husbands.” – CLASSIC LINE! I fucking loved that.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.26.40 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.24.02 AMI like the new dynamic between Dr. Bloom and Dr. Lecter. Very interesting. They’ve crossed so many borders in their relationship. Especially when Alana let him go at Muskrat Farm when she could’ve just as easily let Mason Verger (Joe Anderson) eat him, torture him kill him. So it’s fun to see scenes between them both now. Once lovers, now enemies, at odds with one another. Furthermore, Hannibal is in a different position from before. He is uneasy now because of being trapped in that big cell, that fish tank, that observatory – like some bug, there to be studied. And Alana is there, poking, prodding. We also find out that the reason Lecter has cushy surroundings is due to Alana getting some of that Verger cash from the new male heir she gave birth to along with Margot, so that’s how he has been afforded some luxuries. It’s also a way for Alana to existentially torture him, I suppose.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.24.56 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.25.12 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.25.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.26.10 AMMore Francis Dolarhyde moments bring us deeper into the psyche of Mr. Tooth Fairy himself. INCREDIBLE MOMENT = as Dolarhyde squirms and groans in his becoming there slithers a dragon’s tail back beyond the projector – amazing little shot thrown in there.
What interests me here is we’re seeing Dolarhyde trying to come to grips with who he is – he does not know, he thinks he’s becoming and he’s undergoing a transformation – meanwhile, Will is trying to get inside this guy’s head. It’s an almost impossible task; surely why Will feels the need to go back to Hannibal. However, it’s still an excellent duality where we’re seeing Will fall apart again, at least slightly, while trying to figure out who this man is: a man who does not even know himself.
There’s some amazing yet brief shots giving bits of insight into the past of Dolarhyde. I’ve included a couple screenshots that show a wonderful scene that goes so quick you can almost miss it. Includes some stuff from the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon in a real intense, fast moment.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.24.26 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.24.33 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.24.45 AMI cannot get enough of Richard Armitage as Dolarhyde. I mean, it’s incredible. His physicality, the way he embodies the character and truly becomes him; it’s the essence of the character. Plus, he has several episodes to flesh out that performance. Perfect actor to have chosen for this role. Armitage rules – I am now a believer!
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.27.12 AMHere in this episode, “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”, Dolarhyde meets his blind love interest. A perfect fit I always thought, for a man who has truly disturbing issues surrounding his own physical appearance. Rutina Wesley plays Reba McClane, previously a role inhabited by both Joan Allen and Emily Watson – so I’m interested to see Wesley’s take on it and see how well she handles it. From what we get to see in this episode, she will do great! She has a nice presence and tons of charisma.
I find the relationship between her and Dolarhyde so ripe for tension. It just fits so perfectly. Incredible adaptation here of Harris’ work. However, the original characters in the Harris novel are just amazing as is; what a writer.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.27.18 AMAgain, again – love the visuals!
While the conversation between Will and his wife Molly (Nina Arianda) happens, Will uses his Memory Palace to imagine the two of them on the bed together, sitting, in love. It’s an awesome little use of the imagery we so often get on Hannibal. Plus, a nice scene between Will and his loving wife; she is good for him, even if he’s beginning to tear at the seams of his being. The dreams are starting to reappear, he’s sweating: harkens us back to the first two seasons when he descended into madness and instability.
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.27.27 AMJack: “We’re all in this stew together, Dr. Lecter.
Such a fitting line for Jack to say. It describes everything so perfectly, almost literally at times as Hannibal has made plenty of stews/other dishes out of people, ones they’ve known, and at the same time they’re all just boiling in one big pot together with their hatreds and their grudges and ill feelings towards one another – Hannibal, Jack, Will, Alana, Bedelia – like a giant circle, swirling in that pot, they all curl around each other. We’re constantly wondering: who’s the next to die, to be eaten, to feel the full length of the horror?
Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.27.40 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.27.48 AMThe end of the episode is excellent. We get another great flashback involving Hannibal and Abigail; right after Will called Hannibal in the Season Two finale. There’s lots of good things here, giving us more and more insight into the “sensitive” side, if you will, of Hannibal Lecter; if there truly can be one.
Then of course we see another relationship budding – a new one for Hannibal onto which he can latch (because for all he is Lecter is a parasyte). Francis Dolarhyde reaches him by phone, posing as Lecter’s attorney.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 3.28.04 AMDolarhyde: “The important thing is what I am becoming.
This moment with Hannibal and Francis on the phone at the end is a creepy bit. There’s a duality again between Hannibal and Francis, just as there exists one between Hannibal/Will and Will/Francis. So much going on, like a twisted and scary love triangle of the worst kind.
Gets really tense especially after Lecter asks him what he’s becoming, to which Dolarhyde replies, in an awful tone: “The Great Red Dragon
We’re building more and more to see a huge confrontation between Will and Francis Dolarhyde, ultimately another game initiated by Hannibal. This time, I think it’s also a confused bit of revenge/an attempt at bringing Will Graham back into his world on Hannibal’s part. Either way, there are so many things happening and I can’t wait to see how Dolarhyde is slowly going to go further mad and twist things up.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, directed by Guillermo Navarro, titled “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun”

I hate that this is cancelled, shame once more NBC! I say it again. Such great horror. I hope this will somehow help mainstream horror television, maybe, maybe not. Wish there was some way to #SaveHannibal – alas, it looks as if it is dead. Hannibal, we hardly knew ye.

MEGAN IS MISSING Illustrates Youth at Risk

Megan Is Missing. 2011. Directed & Written by Michael Goi.
Starring Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn, Dean Waite, Jael Elizabeth Steinmeyer, Kara Wang, Brittany Hingle, Carolina Sabate, April Stewart, and John K. Frazier. Trio Pictures.
Unrated. 85 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Horror


MV5BMTU0NzYxNjIzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU0NDM1Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_There are a ton of different found footage horror movies hitting the market in the past 5-10 years. Especially now since Paranormal Activity absolutely ran its premise dry with a bunch of sequels and spin-offs and whatever.
Sometimes it’s hard to wade through the ocean of shit that comes out from independent filmmakers trying to break into the business with a cheap, effective little horror that draws on realism to make things scary.
Problem is, there are certain filmmakers who end up just crossing over from realism into exploitation. They take a subject that could be effective if they were to do it as a normal film, and instead create something that crosses the borders of where it needs to go and where it really ends up going.
Megan Is Missing most definitely is one of the films that becomes exploitative instead of being properly scary. There’s no real suspense or tension here, it feels like everything is just being milked for all its worth – especially the sexualization of these teen characters. Supposedly based on a true story, Michael Goi takes on the guise of trying “warn of the dangers on the internet”, as if that needs to be harped on any more than we’ve already seen before. What bothers me is that part about being based on/inspired by a true story. There is very little here based on the true story; I won’t waste my time explaining, but search out the case of Ward Weaver III who murdered two young girls. They met a similar fate to the girls in this film. Apart from that tiny detail, mostly at the end of the movie, there’s nothing else resembling the two. So much of what Goi does is a desperate attempt to make the story found footage, which is never good because the whole concept is forced in and this whole thing could’ve been much more interesting crime-drama/thriller than a sub-genre horror film.
megan-is-missing-2011-amy555157_175542802599135_1293421673_nMost of this movie revolves around a fear of internet predators. Now, don’t get me wrong – they are out there. By the hundreds of thousands, even. Maybe more. I just feel like Goi, as a writer/director, has exploited that whole angle of things. I mean, linking this to a ‘real story’ feels to me a desperate plea in order to involve people in the supposed realism of this found footage film.
There are scenes where girls are at a party, making out, there’s a blowjob performed by Megan (Rachel Quinn). Then in another scene, Megan recounts in great detail how she gave her first one at the age of ten, to a camp counsellor; she and her friend Amy (Amber Perkins) giggle and Amy asks questions. I mean, I’m not saying movies can’t be made about teenage sexual issues. Not at all. I just feel like this is totally making the essence of the film seeing how these girls, mostly the character of Megan, are young, sexual women ahead of their time. It focuses so much on the sexuality of these girls that I’m actually disgusted. Again, not saying these types of people don’t exist. It’s just ridiculous how much of a focus Goi hones in on the aspects of her sexuality.
Worst example: even as Megan is on the news reported missing, one of the photos onscreen is of her, tongue out, licking a butter knife full of peanut butter. I mean – really, Goi? Why even include that one? Constantly painting the character of Megan as “slutty”. It’s like a bit slut shaming the whole time. Then, it’s as if her friend Amy is a victim of her own friend’s perceived “sluttiness”. I couldn’t handle it. I thought the way Goi wrote/handled the material as director was just so bad and shameful.
15There’s absolutely a way that Megan Is Missing could have been an effective horror. Or even as I said, this could’ve played out just as well/way better if it were filmed as a normal movie, not found footage, and played as a crime-drama with thriller elements. I mean, it could’ve even had a Gone Girl-esque vibe in terms of the whole disappearance in Fincher’s film – there could be built, with a tweaked script, a solid movie out of what Goi had in mind.
Unfortunately somewhere along the line Goi’s intentions were mixed and the lines crossed. It’s like he wanted to make this as a part of wanting to add commentary to a found footage horror. Instead, he began to focus too much on the overt sexuality of the character Megan, he pushes too much then – especially in the final 20 minutes or so – to make things totally exploitative. There could’ve easily been culled a good deal of tension, lots of suspense and dread, however, there’s none of that.
vlcsnap-2012-09-21-12h11m05s255_zpsa8390b76All we get in terms of horror is a shocking finale. Really, it’s just too much. I’ve seen plenty of disturbing movies. This is not one of those that works in an effective sense. Just a load of flashy shock horror trying to lull us into calling this some sort of good horror movie. It isn’t.
I can only give this movie about 1 star. There are elements to this which I thought worked, but only a couple. For instance, I think Amber Perkins did a swell job acting the part of Megan’s friend Amy Herman. It was a tough role and she did what she could with it; not a great script, or dialogue, yet she pulls off the little part of the film she could. Other than that, nothing worth seeing. The barrel shock sort of got me, it’s disturbing, but ultimately there is no substance at all. No style either.
A forgettable, rotten movie that I’ll never ever watch again.

The Realism of Murder & HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER

This John McNaughton classic is pure terror, diving into the semi-real life of a prolific serial killer(/liar).

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EVIL DEAD Gets Remade with Plenty Blood & Guts & Demonic Possession

Evil Dead. 2013. Written & Directed by Fede Alvarez; based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, and Rupert Degas.
TriStar Pictures.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
evil-dead-poster So, to start, I want to just say that I love the original Evil Dead. I don’t think the remake is better, not at all. However, I think that as far as remakes go this one does a pretty good job at updating things and changing perspective just enough so that it isn’t a carbon copy of the original from Sam Raimi.
Of course there are obvious similarities and there are things which feel identical, but Fede Alvarez has really brought a script that tweaks Raimi’s original to make it his own while simultaneously remaining a remake of the beloved horror classic.
While this Evil Dead is stripped of the comedic element Raimi infused the film with – or should I say the man, the one and only Bruce Campbell really executed that aspect – this incarnation has replaced the comedy with absolute fear.
Now, before we go any further – this is how I feel about being scared by a horror movie.
When I say that a horror creeps me out, that it’s disturbing or scary, unsettling, any of these descriptors, I don’t mean that I’m sitting there in the dark cowering, that I can’t sleep at night. I’ve not been that scared in a long, long time. But I’m still scared by things in horror films. For me, there’s disturbing and creepy things going on in Evil Dead and it doesn’t mean that I’m up all night, terrified to turn out the lights; just means I’m unsettled by certain elements.
So when I say that this film replaces that comedic essence of the original with an air of terror, don’t try and say that I don’t understand what is scary or what is not. We all have our things. This remake comes with a lot of heart, good performances, and a ton of big fat horror balls.
mola-monster-macabro-a-dual-review-of-the-evil-dead-2013-remake-002Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake begins with David (Shiloh Fernandez) meeting with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) at a cabin in the woods. Their friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are also there. Everyone’s gathered to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) do a homemade rehab, like a willing intervention or the second half of one anyways; she is a recovering heroin addict. Unfortunately, for more than one reason this won’t be near as easy as they’d imagined it would be.
A smell keeps bothering Mia, as if something is dead. Eventually they discover a door in the floor, leading to a room full of strange artifacts, dead animals, and other weird things. One of which is Necronomicon.
In a terrible decision, Eric keeps picking at the book, determined to look inside and read things he’s found. He releases something from its vile and wicked pages. Soon enough, the things Mia does to try and get out of her rehabilitation become more and more violent, more heinous, as if she’s not only jonesing for heroin: she is possessed.
But the possession doesn’t stop there. It won’t stop. Not until they’ve all been deal with.
Evli-Dead-movie-photos-5I’m not exactly a huge fan of remakes. There are some I do enjoy – Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, that’s one I’m a particular fan of, and even though some hate it I thought Rob Zombie did a fun and disturbing job with Halloween. However, a lot of the remakes we get are sad, glossy jobs, then again much of those are the Michael Bay produced trashjobs like the jeans commercial that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel’s ass, the pitiful Friday the 13th reboot, as well as the downright shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But to my mind, I think that the Evil Dead remake does justice to the original. It isn’t better, though, I can’t say that it’s any less fun. To me, anyways.
Because the premise of the film is the same – people get possessed and terrorized by a host of demonic presences at a cabin in the woods. Still, Fede Alvarez changes things a little. Now we’ve got a new reason for these people being in the woods; not a massive game-changing move, but it’s enough in the script to make this his own, a remake yet fresh in a way. Evil Dead was awesome the first time around. This time, we get a bit of a different spin. Because even as things get creepy for the friends, before it all gets out of hand, there’s still an element in their minds which says “Mia is just tripping and getting crazy from withdrawals”. Of course, that changes, and then some! I just thought it was a good twist. Alvarez could’ve simply just updated things enough to feel like the 2010s, but he chose to bring something different and make the characters a little less similar to the first movie.
We get lots of awesome reminders to harken back to the original, I just feel that Alvarez did a nice job with adapting things and switching some stuff up. That’s what a remake should do. Yet people still want to trash it and say it’s garbage, yadda yadda. Whatever, man.
bigEvilDead33-evil-dead-redband-trailer-2Love how the little electric meat cutter is first seen slicing up some quite raw – pork, I think it is. Can’t be sure. Either way, I thought it was great when you can juxtapose how viciously the electric kitchen accessory comes into play later. Not that this is anything super innovative concerning horror movies, I just love when a film does that in an effective manner. Alvarez could’ve just used the thing as a gimmick, thrown it in there wildly, but instead he takes the time to set this up early on so that you either remember it and enjoy seeing it come back into the movie in such a brutish way, or you’re just surprised; that works, too. I like that Alvarez makes specific use of the tool early within 15-20 minutes, especially watching it cut through some meat. Later, as it does some real cutting, it’s that much better.
There are some great effects all around – the face slicing, that whole part, I really loved. Even when Eric tries to back away, he slips and cranks his back on the toilet seat. That was just perfect. I love when horror doesn’t try to be perfect with its choreography; in horrific, terrifying moments there would definitely be so much clumsiness and ineffective escape. This was a classic moment like that.

A favourite line of mine from the movie I thought was darkly comedic yet a good piece of writing – the script recognizes horror movie tropes and how characters often don’t question each other enough. David is trying to rationalize what has been happening, saying it could be a virus, to which Eric replies:
What kind of virus makes someone cut off their face with a piece of glass?
XGoQCqgOpcdgucLvhlIu0m75kl0I thought that Jane Levy was superb as Mia. From start to finish. There’s one scene particularly, the look in her eyes as she talks with her brother David – right after the forest has come alive and raped her – it is classic horror cinema acting, right there. If you say different, fine, but you’re blind. I liked Levy in the first season of Shameless, after which she was replaced/left. Here, I got to see her do some excellent work. Once she becomes Abomination Mia, it is really something.
What I love most about the Mia character is once the Abomination has hold of her, the make-up effects are beyond incredible. Excellent, gruesome stuff. Plus, the voice is creepy as all hell. I love when a film can go for great practical effects. Sure, there are pieces of CGI mixed in there no doubt, but so much is done practically with make-up special effects.
That part with the electric meat cutter is savage! I thought that was just pure gritty gore horror. So much in this movie, definitely once the last half hour starts to roll, is balls-to-the-wall gory horror fun. It is supremely nasty at times, in the best sense of the word when it comes to scary movies.
And I mean, the original Evil Dead was meant to be a wild horror. A bit of comedy mixed in, but mainly horror. That’s what we get here: in droves. It keeps coming and coming, over, over, until the last scene finishes. There’s a ton of blood, lots of pain and torture and death. It is what horror is all about, in the end. If people disagree, I understand. Well – I don’t. I’ll just agree to disagree.
485929_276672722465628_547675212_nI loved this remake. It’s one of those I’ll put on the list of remakes I truly enjoy because it deserves to be on there. For me, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I think a lot of diehard fans of the original are big time upset because Bruce Campbell isn’t Ash and Ash isn’t the big hero – instead we get a female hero, a recovering drug addict who overcomes the insanity of the demons pressing down on her, her friends, and that cabin out in the woods.
There are for sure a couple points I didn’t like, mainly those had to do with dialogue; some of it certainly could’ve been tweaked. Yet overall, I love the script because I thought Fede Alvarez did a wonderful bit of work adapting Sam Raimi’s original into something a little more today and a bit different. Because if a movie being remade simply goes for everything the original did – same story and effects and twists and characters – what is the point then? Why even do it? I’ve never understood shot-by-shot remakes, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (even though I dig it simply because it’s an update with new actors while most hate it and I love Van Sant regardless). At the end of the day, it’s useless to remake something that way, even if it’s enjoyable; you’re not bringing anything new to the table. Even enjoying something like Van Sant’s exact duplicate of Alfred Hitchcock, I can’t say it’s a good movie because Hitchcock did it already, exactly the same.
So basically, Alvarez here with Evil Dead impressed me by not having to copy everything completely identical, even if so much of it is familiar and obviously derivative of the first. It doesn’t matter that it’s a remake because Alvarez has given it enough heart and effort to say that this is a worthy effort. One of my favourite remakes out there, and will continue to be, no matter what other reviews might try and have me believe. This is a lot of fun, a LOT of gore to the point of absolute savagery at times, and a solid central performance from Jane Levy.
Groovy.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY Further Envisions POTUS Trump’s Domestic Policies on Crime

The Purge: Anarchy. 2014. Directed & Written by James DeMonaco.
Starring Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel Gugliemi, Castulo Guerra, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Edwin Hodge. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 103 minutes.
Action/Horror/Thriller

★★★★purge_anarchy_xlgMy favourite thing about the fact The Purge: Anarchy exists is that there is room for exploration within the speculative universe that the film/its predecessor inhabits.
There are a lot of social issues in both these films, especially the sequel. Because what we’re seeing in Anarchy here is a group of stories which represent the wide reach of social consequences that enacting an event such as The Purge might cause. It would mean so many different things to so many different people, of all kinds, of all mindsets and sensibilities, of all mental states.
People want to continually try and say that The Purge as a concept would never happen, a government would not allow it. THESE FILMS TAKE PLACE IN A WORLD WHERE AMERICA HAS BECOME A FULL-FLEDGED TOTALITARIAN REGIME! If you don’t understand that and you can’t recognize what that means, then you probably shouldn’t be judging the film because you think “This would never happen”, and you might not want to keep talking about it. Because this is not meant to happen in our reality, this is speculative fiction, it’s a horror-thriller within a fictional near future in America.
So strap in, have some fun. Stop being so serious all the time….
RELEASE. THE. BEAST.the-purge-anarchy-review-16-1500x844The Purge: Anarchy takes place on the verge of the annual Purge event, March 21st in 2023.
Several stories are happening at once. Everyone counts down to Purge time.
On one end of town, Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali Sanchez (Zoë Soul) lived with Eva’s sick father, Rico (John Beasley).
Then there are Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a couple who’ve clearly hit rough times, and they end up stranded with car trouble just as the event begins to come down upon the city.
All the while, Leo “Sarge” Barnes (Frank Grillo) has a personal tragedy which drives him. He has all kinds of weaponry, a car made to sustain damage throughout The Purge, and there’s obviously someone, or some people, that he seems to be looking for; his bedroom wall has pictures plastered over it.
Once the murder on the streets begins, including the viciously callous Big Daddy (Jack Conley), Sarge and the others end up coming together as the violence escalates to epic proportions, and they’re all forced to trust one another. At least for a little while.purge-anarchy-macheteSPOILERS AHEAD.
SURPRISE, MOTHAFUCKA.
The part of the plot that scares me most is the angle with Papa Rico (John Beasley) because it speaks to social consequences of a different kind than just simply racially motivated, and now sanctioned one night a year in March, murder. Here, we have a man selling himself to a bunch of sick white folk who want to have their Purge in a perceived civilized, more quaint and special manner, and above SAFELY because they’re true cowards who want the thrill without the risk; a celebratory bit of Purging, if you will, dressed to the nines with champagne on-hand.
It’s sick, and it is also something you can imagine happening – brave, brave people sacrificing themselves in such a manner in order to afford better lives for their family members, offering themselves up on the one night a year murder is legal just to help out with the bills and the rent, all because they’re old, or they’re sick, or they just simply don’t want to live in a sick America that has descended into madness.
Great, effective part to the plot that I find highly disturbing in its own right.The-Purge-Anarchy-13Then you’ve got Sarge (Frank Grillo) whose motivation to Purge is not like so many of the other maniacs out looking for a sick thrill every March 21st. No, Sarge heads out in the dark of night for the Purge because he has a vendetta, he needs revenge. He isn’t looking for innocents to kill, or perceived ‘scum of society’ (as the fresh young whites in the first film were out doing). He’s got a score to settle. Plus, he’s got the gear and the firepower to make sure the job gets done, and gets done damn well.
I think Grillo is a talented actor. He might not have the extreme range of some others, but he has a lot of heart. I really do think he’s good in this role. Also, the character itself I dig because it shows a whole other angle to the entire Purge that we didn’t get to see in the first film. So to have a guy like Grillo play Sarge worked; he didn’t need to act to any Shakespearean level, he just had to give it some guts, which panned out perfectly. Grillo is a physical dude and that helped for this performance.the-purge-anarchy-frank-grilloThere’s a genuinely good level of action in this one that the first doesn’t reach. Not to say that’s a problem for the original, but I like that there’s some more excitement here. The premise of The Purge here is bigger in scope, involving more of the city, more people, instead of the more confined location in the first film.
Not only that, I found things truly terrifying. I mean, in The Purge there’s a degree of safety for awhile until things get going and people start to break into James Sandin’s home. Here, there’s just chaos and madness in the streets. Seeing some of the masked people in the streets wandering about with machetes, guns, all sorts of weapons – it’s chilling at times. Imagine getting caught trying to get home and then The Purge comes down on you; what would you do? Run like fucking hell. I like the tension involved in trying to imagine what it would be like on that one night out in those streets. It’d be like a nightmare come to life.purge-anarchy-mob-fireThere’s some appropriately twisted stuff in this movie.
One part that disturbed me was while Sarge (Frank Grillo) leads his rag-tag group around, they come across that woman with a megaphone just screaming absolute nonsense and firing off an assault rifle; corpses are littered across the street down below. Cracking scene that shows little glimpses into the world of others in this world of The Purge and the New Founding Fathers.
There are some excellent scenes like this, which take us further into the universe started in the first film, a creepily crazed vision of America from writer/director James DeMonaco.
A great bit is where a Wall Street banker type is strung up with a sign on him, bloodied, chains around his wrists and ankles – he robbed someone’s pensions, put some people in the poorhouse. You can see how so many would eventually start using The Purge to exact their brand of social justice, whatever flavour it might come in.
It’s funny – I see some complains about how Sarge was being prompted to reveal more about himself. What’s the problem there? Even while these people are willing to follow the man because he obviously can handle himself, don’t you think you’d want to know why this guy was out on the night of The Purge? I would. Might not keep pressing too much, yet still, he could’ve been leading them anywhere. I think it’s only natural someone would push to try and figure out who the hell this guy is, or was – because clearly he’s a changed man from who he’d been.
Plus, I mean… character development? I’m not saying The Purge: Anarchy is a perfect film, by any definition of the term. I just think people want to give it too hard of a time when it’s got a lot to offer.the-purge-anarchy-movie-picture-6I love what this sequel brings to the table; it ups the ante, it makes things more wide and completes The Purge universe where the New Founding Fathers have taken control of society, wiping out the poor essentially. There are some not-so-great things here – usually I’m a fan of Michael K. Williams, but I don’t like this role. I thought the film could’ve done without that part. Perhaps it could’ve waited for the third film, round out a trilogy with a story centred on groups trying to eliminate The Purge and the totalitarian regime headed by the New Founding Fathers. Here, this was a plot that sort of gets lost in the mix. Good stuff, just didn’t work fully here.
There are great scenes here, some of action, some of horror with viciousness and that thriller element. Fits in with some good modern horror movies. I can’t say everything works the way it should, but I feel there’s enough here to make The Purge: Anarchy a worthy sequel to a nice little surprisingly fun film. Judge on your own. I do think there are social issues this movie explores, along with its predecessor. People will continue to pass these off as silly movies, though, they are much more than that. Even better, they’re fun, they’re entertainment, and if you let yourself you can enjoy them a good deal.