Tagged 2014

Another: Road to Nowhere with Satanic Nonsense

Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch. 2014. Directed & Written by Jason Bognacki.
Starring Paulie Redding, David Landry, Lillian Pennypacker, Maria Olsen, Michael St. Michaels, & Nancy Wolfe. Full Frame Features.
Not Rated. 80 minutes.
Fantasy/Horror


POSTERGenerally, I’m an internet critic whose standards aren’t overly picky. If you’ve ready more than a handful of my reviews you’ll probably notice I’ve given out more 5-star reviews than others might in their own. But I don’t necessarily mean a 5-star film is always perfect; part of my judgement, as any of our judgement is, comes from a subjective place. You can never get rid of subjectivity. However, even while I try to give certain films a break for little nitpicky things there is a limit to my understanding. I’m not going to give a shit film a great rating. I just try to cut filmmakers some slack; it isn’t easy to make a great movie.
When it comes to movies like Another, there’s only so far my sympathies extend. I’m a sucker for possession movies, or anything to do with Satan (mainly because I don’t believe in any deities or any of that stuff and I can just enjoy the darkness for what it is). There are plenty movies out there tackling demonic possession. A good many retread the same trodden area as the last, too many doing home to or straight copying from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. The great horrors about supposed possessed people, and the entities possessing them, are few and far between. Another simply tries to mash too many things together, including too many changes in style, changes in tone, and the massive overuse of particular techniques that drive home the message that everything in this film tries too damn hard, paying off with nothing more than a couple fleeting moments worth watching.
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A baby is carried by figures in black hoods and robes. A dark ceremony commences.
Cut to 18 years later. Jordyn (Paulie Redding) is celebrating her birthday with friends. Although, her Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) is being creepy. She brings up the fact Jordyn’s mother was at the same age as the daughter when she passed. Then Ruth goes ahead and stabs herself, screaming that “its time.”
From that moment on, Jordyn finds her life changing. She spirals into a terrifying word of demonic possession, strange desire, and so much. Soon, Jordyn becomes aware that she may just be a relation of the devil himself.
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The most grating thing about this movie is the fact half of it, at least, is filmed in slow-motion. Honestly, it is crazy. Never have I seen a technique so brutally beaten over the head of the viewer. At first before the slo-motion kicked in, I actually enjoyed the dark, sort of washed out look. But then it starts, and scene after scene is slowed down ridiculously, offering no sort of evidence it’s even used for a particular reason. Simply put, writer-director Jason Bognacki obviously couldn’t figure out a way to make it look unique, so he piled on the slow-motion. I hate to rag on a director so badly for something. It’s a really poor choice, though. The entire film drags on because of its overuse, and the repetition will just dull you to tears.
Even worse, there’s no practical work (re: effects) worth talking about. And I’m sorry to the filmmakers out there who may feel otherwise, but if you do a horror film especially and you have no practical makeup effects, instead opting to CGI things to death, then there’s no way I’m going to enjoy it. At least not to the point I’ll want to watch it again. Even if it’s half-and-half, I can dig that. In opposition to all that, Another goes for about 90% CGI and maybe, MAYBE, 10% practical. And those practical bits are so minute, I’m probably overselling it by saying there’s ten percent worth. Either way, even the CGI’d stuff looks bogus, including a terrible little showdown between two old women that could’ve been great yet comes off like some of the worst stuff from the 1980’s.
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With a bunch of awful performances, a ton of terrible effects, as well as a story that meanders from one place to another trying to cram several sub-genres into one, Another a.k.a Mark of the Witch is one of the most unforgettable movies I’ve seen in ages. There was nothing I could find here worth the time it took to watch this dud. I’ve given it 1 single star, simply because I liked the beginning, the very end, and there’s a tiny scene after the credits which looks good. Other than that this is truly dreadful horror cinema. I never like to shit all over a film, but this one isn’t worth talking up in any sort of sense. Jason Bognacki tries his best, however, it’s almost as if he tried too hard, in too many different directions. Never does the film come together properly, which is a shame. As I said, I do love a good possession horror, or anything with the devil, witches, et cetera. This simply comes with nothing much for me to be impressed by, so I can’t push myself to try praising Bognacki, or anyone involved with the film. Want a better Mark of the Witch? Try the Mark of the Devil. Not at all the same, but whatever – better than wasting your time trying to slog through this unpolished bit of horror rubbish.

Lucy: Half-Assed Besson

Lucy. 2014. Directed & Written by Luc Besson.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pilou Asbaek, Analeigh Tipton, Jan Oliver Schroder, and Nicolas Phongpheth. Ciné+/Canal+/EuropaCorp/TF1 Films Production. Rated 14A. 89 minutes.
Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller

★★★
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I’m a fan of Luc Besson. His first feature film, La dernier combat, is a tour-de-force in thinking outside the box and innovative storytelling. Afterwards, he put out other wonderful pieces of filmmaking such as The Big Blue, NikitaLéon: The ProfessionalThe Fifth Element and more. While he tackles an array of subjects throughout his filmography as a director, as well as a writer, Besson usually does impressive work when it comes to science fiction and contract killing. Let’s face it: this is his niche. Nothing wrong with it either.
All that being said, Lucy is not one of his best films. It isn’t trash, though. It just doesn’t measure up to some of the aforementioned efforts with which he hit, in my mind, grand slams. Where Lucy falls short is mostly in the writing, not the execution. The premise of the movie is amazing, but plays on a well-debunked myth that humans only use 10% of their brain. If Besson had whittled away a few bits of his screenplay, there may have been a chance for his ambitious story to fit well with his style of filmmaking. As it stands, this is a decent enough action thriller, albeit one that doesn’t use much of its own brain power. Still, the adrenaline flows from beginning to end in classic Besson style.
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Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is American. She is 25, living in Taiwan. Succumbing to a dark request forced upon her by a recent boyfriend, Lucy is handcuffed to a briefcase full of drugs and made to deliver it for a villainous man named Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik).
Only after meeting Jang, things turn into a terrifying nightmare. Lucy, along with several other unsuspecting individuals, has her abdomen cut open, and inside is placed hundreds of grams of a new experimental drug called CPH4, tucked in a plastic bag. Life gets even worse once Lucy ends up in a cell, chained to a wall. After being beaten by a guard and kicked in the stomach, the bag inside her breaks, leaking the CPH4 into her bloodstream. The drug is meant to expand the brain function of a human being from the supposed 10% we use regularly, to a whopping 100%.
On a rampage to both save her own life, as well as discover what’s happening to her, Lucy tracks down Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) whose studies happen to involve the expansion of the human brain’s functions. Along the way she is tested, both mentally and physically. But most of all, Lucy is becoming – something new, something extraordinary, and something very, very dangerous.
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At the start of the film, we’re introduced to an ape. Shortly afterwards, through dialogue, we discover it is Lucy – the first ever woman. This sets up an idea about evolution, biology, of science and the ways of the world. Although, most of this never really goes anywhere. It does, and it does not all the same. Part of what I mean is that it’s heavy handed. So much animal imagery in the first little while, and it was not needed. Whatsoever. I saw someone talk about this Besson film in the right way recently: it breaks too much a big rule of cinema, in that it tells us too much. Instead of showing things, letting the audience suss out the meaning, almost every aspect in the film’s initial quarter comes to us spelled out in great detail.
Something I did like, in that regard, is how Besson continually gave us the 10%, 20%, 30%, and so on. Not that we didn’t understand her brain power and function was increasing, it was simply an extra way for him to up the intensity. After each percentage update, you can almost feel your own adrenaline pumping, ready for the next big event, awaiting some kind of excitement about to drop on us.
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I can’t exactly say this movie is filled with good performances. Not to say Scarlett Johansson or anyone else in the picture does a bad job with their role. But here there is Johansson, Morgan Freeman, and a favourite of mine Min-sik Choi (his turns in films like Sympathy for Lady VengeanceOldboyI Saw the Devil and others are fantastic). Between them, there is incredible acting power. Except none of that really makes it across here. Especially Freeman who is vastly underused for the majority of the film, as well as Choi whose charisma and idiosyncrasies are not used appropriately either. Particularly, I love Johansson and she does not do much at all in this film. Contrasted with a recent film like the unbelievably incredible Under the Skin, the almost phoned-in performance here makes Johansson look bad – simply because I KNOW SHE CAN DO BETTER. With such an interesting script and characters you’d think these actors might knock this one out of the park, at least as far as their jobs go. Unfortunately, we’re not given any such performances and it’s a large part of why this movie doesn’t do any better than mediocre.
Even the action elements of Lucy don’t end up making things pay off. As opposed to Besson work like The Fifth Element and Léon: The Professional, this one doesn’t pack as much oomph. There are moments of action and adventure. There are pieces of exciting fights. Ultimately, though, Besson opts to go more for telekinesis style fighting, shootouts, and flashy special effects work which does nothing for me. He claims wanting to make the first part similar to Léon: The Professional, the second akin to Inception, and the final act he hoped would draw parallels with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ambitious? Sure. Yet there’s not enough action and choreographed fight sequences in the entire film, at least not proper ones, for the whole premise to be fully realized. The trailer promised an almost non-stop thrill ride along with the titular character, but what we really get is a bit of action and lots of science fiction musing (misguided at that). Worst of all, the finale is packed with a huge gunfight, even a bazooka being fired. And wrapped up in there is a lackluster ending, leaving us with more questions than answers, as well as wondering how all the potential was squandered.
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I can give this a 3 star rating without feeling bad about it either way. Luc Besson is a fantastic filmmaker and, at times, he can truly be a visionary from his technique to the way in which he writes his stories. With all the hopefulness of its premise, Lucy just cannot deliver the appropriate goods. Boasting an impressive cast, a fun idea and the visual flair of Besson, this should have been more interesting than how it turned out. While not every last bit of the movie was bad, obviously, there are too many misfires for it to be anything better than average. Here’s to hoping Luc pulls up the bootstraps and hauls out something better next time.

Kristy: Lower V. Upper Class Horror

Kristy. 2014. Directed by Oliver Blackburn. Screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski.
Starring Haley Bennett, Ashley Greene, Lucas Till, Chris Coy, Mike Seal, Lucius Falick, Erica Ash, James Ransone, Mathew St. Patrick, and Al Vicente. David Kirschner Productions/La Sienega Productions/Electric City Entertainment.
Rated R. 86 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
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There’s nothing absolutely unique to Kristy. I can’t say there’s anything I’d call overly innovative, honestly. Yet something about the film draws me in. I’ve seen it three times in total now. There’s nothing to dissect, nothing to unpack and pick apart, nothing to examine. But each time I viewed Kristy, something lingered in me about this horror movie I could never fully shake. At least not for a couple days.
People look at the movie and see it as cliche-ridden, predictable horror with situations we’ve seen a million times before. I’m not saying director Oliver Blackburn reinvented the wheel on the genre. Nor am I trying to claim Anthony Jaswinski’s script is revolutionary, it doesn’t take horror and turn a mirror in on itself or bring new light to the tropes of the genre, anything in that sense. Simply put, I find Kristy just a good old fashioned horror movie. The difference which makes me think it’s better than the rest? A kick ass lead character, who is female and who doesn’t merely survive on instinct, she wills her survival into existence. Then takes some more.

At college trying to live her own life, Justine (Haley Bennett) works scrubbing dishes while studying her ass off to get good grades. During Thanksgiving, her boyfriend Aaron (Lucas Till) heads off to spend time with his obviously rich family, as does her roommate Nicole (Erica Ash) at the very last minute when her father suddenly gets time off from a political campaign.
Virtually alone – except for the groundskeeper, a young man named Scott (James Ransone), and sparse security including the friendly Wayne (Mathew St. Patrick) – Justine finds herself walking the halls, listening to music, studying, and generally passing away time. Though, Nicole left behind her BMW offering it to Justine in case she needs to get away from campus.
When Justine takes the car out for a drive and stops at a convenience store, one nice gesture towards a girl named Violet (Ashley Greene), who rudely declines, turns into a night of absolute terror and a horrifyingly tense struggle for survival.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.46.40 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.41.59 AMAn immediate thing I noticed, then saw again more the next two times I saw the film, is how at the beginning of Kristy, the college campus has this beautiful, bright visual sense about it. Even while Justine finds herself alone across the entire college, there’s still this brightness everywhere she goes. Blackburn chooses to film much of everything in the first 15-20 minutes in this way, making the college and Justine’s life seem pretty relaxed. Along with that, there’s a pretty good little montage sequence where Justine goes through the motions, passing time swimming and bouncing around the lonely, empty halls with her headphones playing “Pumpin’ Blood” by NONONO as it bleeds out into the film’s soundtrack itself.
Then once Blackburn moves further into the screenplay, we start to get a mood shifter in terms of visuals. We see Justine go out at night, then things figuratively and literally get foggy. She drives through fog, almost like a barrier as she leaves the enclosed safety of the college campus gates into the real, terrifying world. You can almost look at it in the metaphorical sense: once you leave college/university, real life is there, real will fucking get you.
Because this is where Justine’s life changes, at the convenience store. This is also where the tone of Kristy links back to its grim opening sequence. Real life outside of the college campus clashes hard with Justine. Worst of all is the fact Justine herself is not the “Kristy” the antagonists are searching out to taunt, torture, and kill. She is not the rich type girl, but only drives her friend’s car (most likely a car her friend got from her parents). Funny enough, Nicole, the roommate with the BMW, is more the type Violet (Greene) and her crew are trying to find. There’s a tragic and scary irony in that. Especially considering the fact Justine even tries to befriend Violet by paying for the latter’s items at the store.
Passing through this point, the land of no return. Things get legitimately suspenseful, tense, and downright frightening at times moving forward. I love the interaction at the convenience store/gas station with Justine and Violet, then the clerk is thrown into the mix, as well. There’s great tension in that scene, which I found thick enough to bite. Great stuff and a well-written scene. This is the setup leading into the film’s real meaty bits.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.42.16 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.42.45 AMA notably unsettling scene happens when Justine goes back to the dorm rooms at one point; as she goes by the wall of one room, unbeknownst to her, has all the pictures scratched up, specifically the eyes. I thought it was a brief and real eerie shot. This slowly ratcheted up the tension, adding to Justine’s fear without her even knowing.
In conjunction with creepy scenes like this one, I love the score composed by François-Eudes Chanfrault; his excellent work has included Alexandre Aja’s High TensionInside, and Vinyan. The amazing music goes along SO WELL in certain scenes that it’s hard to deny its effects. Moments when Justine finds her life threatened, when the danger is most real, the music swells and sort of throbs at you. In quieter moments the score lulls you in and captures you, the emotions onscreen jump into your head and into your chest. Chanfrault has a knack for incredible music and I think he is a definite asset here.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.43.41 AMWhat really does it for me throughout Kristy‘s meagre 86 minute runtime (including the credits/post-credits scene) is the central performance of Haley Bennett as Justine. Not only her performance, I think Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay has a great character in Justine. She’s a vulnerable, scared young woman in the beginning whose lonely Thanksgiving on campus turns into a nightmare. By the end of this psychologically daunting horror movie, I found myself almost fist pumping because of how kick-ass this woman had become; she had inside her, just like the intellectual side of herself coming out through class and study, this venomous and visceral side which was required in order to cast out these predators. They hunt her down, thinking she’s someone she is not, and she also becomes – in a sense – someone she is not in order to overcome their savagery. I think an important part of Kristy – not just why I like it – is the fact Justine starts off in a position of weakness, but really takes charge and becomes a tougher, stronger person after coming out the other side of a bloody, haunting situation. Justine reminds me of the Erin character from Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett’s You’re Next, yet without the same background, and in a sense a bit cooler.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.44.07 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.44.55 AMThis leads me to the fact I love the finale of the film, so incredibly much. Again, nothing innovative or absolutely fresh, I simply find it hits all the right notes and really becomes this visceral experience. With Justine, we walk through this hell-like evening, or more like run and fight, until she essentially snaps and becomes the hunter instead of prey. She takes on these murderous masked psychopaths and there’s this awesome quality to her redemptive scenes I find really powerful, in terms of horror. I think some might fin the first 40 minutes a little slow pace, which I personally don’t mind. To those viewers I say: hold in there. The next 44 minutes are pretty spectacular, in my opinion. This portion of Kristy truly grips me, as the action and horror get more and more intense, barreling towards a nice finish.
And make sure you check out the scene after the credits.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.43.18 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.46.28 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 1.46.54 AMWith some real amazing horror moments and a strong female lead in Haley Bennett, Kristy is a 4 out of 5 star film in my books. Tons of modern horror aims to be scary yet doesn’t hit the mark, as well as the fact we don’t often see a lot of horror movies where the lead female characters are anything but simple survivors, based on the merit/lost lives of others or a lot of lucky; Kristy is at times terrifying and always sees the character of Justine as someone who is willing to fight, to work, to really strive towards conquering the fear and obstacles surrounding her.
Check this out. Honestly, I think it’s worth the time, even if only for the final half hour. Plus I find the ending/post-credits scene intriguing with the idea from the beginning – of an online type of cult, people killing these “Kristy” substitutes in order to “kill god” as they put it. Very wild and weird and horror-ish fun.
There’s some great character in the screenplay, as well as genuine moments of horror and terror, in equal amounts. Maybe this is not for everyone. For me, it’s a movie I can watch over and over again obviously. Hopefully it might strike others in a similar way, chilling and thrilling to the end.
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Carpenter, Cults, & Cruel Hauntings in Last Shift

Last Shift. 2015. Directed by Anthony DiBlasi. Screenplay by Anthony DiBlasi & Scott Poiley.
Starring Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel, J. LaRose, Natalie Victoria, Sarah Sculco, Kathryn Kilger, and Mary Lankford Poiley. Skyra Entertainment.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★1/2
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Marketing has dubbed Last Shift as a cross between Satanic style horror and John Carpenter’s amazingly tense/low key thriller Assault on Precinct 13. Now it’s not a copy, regardless of how the trailer might have you feeling. Absolutely the setup to this film is directly mirroring Carpenter, but that’s about where the similarities end. The premise itself stands as something lifted from that movie. After all the initial bits of the story stand in place, the foundation of what’s to come, things change and drive further into horror than Assault on Precinct 13, which was savage in its own right but more in the vein of nasty thrillers.
As far as Anthony DiBlasi goes, I’ve personally enjoyed some of his previous work. At least what I’ve seen. I absolutely LOVE his screenplay adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story “Dread”, the film as a whole is chilling and effective. Furthermore, I thought Cassadaga was an equally nasty follow-up; not without faults, but an interesting horror movie. Having not seen his other films, such as Missionary and the segment “Mother May I” from The Profane Exhibit, I can’t say I’ve been a fan of all his work. However, I think he’s a decent hand in the modern horror game. Not at the top, though, he’s certainly got a lot of strengths as a horror filmmaker.
Last Shift has flaws, the writing is not as good as it could be, nor is the acting from Juliana Harkavy or Joshua Mikel always at the level of emotionality and range it needs to attain in order to match the horror aspect’s intensity. Either way, this is a solidly unsettling horror movie that wears its bloody entrails on its sleeve, and even when the swings for the fences strike out, I think DiBlasi does a real good job crafting a unique film. Part homage, part haunted house film, Last Shift might get to you at times.
If you let it.

A rookie cop, Officer Jessica Loren (Juliana Harkavy) is left on duty at a police station overnight. It’s closing time for this cop shop, the one already ready for operations. By herself, Loren needs to wait for a pick-up by the Hazmat team; they’re coming to take something out of the station’s armoury.
What Officer Loren does not know about is that the station is haunted. A year before, cult leader John Michael Paymon (Joshua Mikel) and a couple of his followers killed themselves – a year to the day. Loren is forced to confront the terrifying presences at work in the station, all by herself on the last shift.
lastshift_10One thing I’m always harping on about in my reviews is atmosphere, mood, tone. I’m a big fan of all these things; some might say atmosphere is mood and tone, I think they’re different things. Regardless, Last Shift does an excellent job from the start in terms of atmosphere – even in the first scenes between Loren and the sergeant, I thought there was this spookiness about everything, a sort of sterile look to the station and just this lingering air of dread about these moments. This continues on, as some of the things we see starting out are shots of Officer Loren walking the halls of the station alone, the cold and lifeless halls around her – very quiet and subtle bits.
A great eerie scene comes quick before we’re even 20 minutes in. Loren finds herself in the locker room of the station. First, she picks up a picture of her and her father in a locker, she ends up placing it back behind the shelf. But secondly, as she turns, Loren almost smacks into an open locker door right next to it… only to discover every locker door is open in the whole room. It’s a really easy scene, yet I found the quietness of it all chilling. The way Loren sort of pauses, looking around, the moment lands and sets under the skin. Also, it’s not played as a jump scare, like it may have typically been done under direction of another filmmaker, or in another script. Instead it’s a nice little thud in the chest. Afterwards Loren has to go on about her night, but both she and the audience can feel the tone of the film really setting in with these creepy build-ups.
lastshift_9Lots of people have their opinions on what’s scary or what’s not. Personally I don’t get jumpy when terrified, no movie has ever lifted me out of the seat I’m in. However, I’ve walked away from plenty films (and I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of horror movies) feeling like I really want to check behind the shower curtain, or make sure my doors are locked, windows are shut, and so on. I’ve crept around with a knife once or twice from being so unsettled by horror. Not afraid to admit that. If you’ve never been affected that way, at least ONCE, then you may be dead. Seriously: check your pulse.
What Last Night does effectively is use the atmosphere of dread DiBlasi conjures up and levels you at times with legitimately eerie imagery. At times the dialogue lags, as does the plot, but I think just about every solitary second of horror comes across as vicious. It’s excellent, most definitely my favourite part of the entire movie.
Like the moment when Officer Loren realizes SPOILER AHEAD BIG TIME Officer Price (Matt Doman) is dead, a hole through the back of his head. END SPOILER!
I found that one real top notch moment. Mostly because I honestly didn’t expect it. There was a genuine moment between Loren and Price, as if they were bonding like two real police officers over the job, its duties, the daunting tasks it requires often. Yet it took a whole other turn, which was well done.
After this the horror imagery continues in large doses. This is probably the ultimate turning point in the film, where the screenplay takes things down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Officer Loren basically descends into a hellish place after her meeting with Officer Price. A sound of voices leads her down the hall to where a group of women sing together, sitting in a half circle wearing strange bloody masks made of white sheet. But a second later… they’ve disappeared. From there things get progressively more horrific for Loren.
lastshift_13What’s so fun, to me, about this movie as a whole is that it takes the beginning of Assault on Precinct 13, subtracts a blood oath from a relentless street gang and adds in a Charles Manson rip-off cult, a dash of Satanism, and makes it into a haunted house styled horror movie; set, of course, in a police station. So the station is like our everyday haunted house, Officer Loren the unfortunate soul who has to “spend a night inside”. This is obvious to everyone, but it’s still one of the major aspects of Last Shift which appeals to me.
55fb8baca5357The screenplay could have been better, as well as the acting overall. Still, I think Last Shift deserves 3.5 out of 5 stars. It has definite claws, and I found myself unsettled at times. If only the acting and the characterization were a little better, I think this could’ve been an amazing horror movie. There’s no doubt either way, but I wish Anthony DiBlasi worked out some of the dialogue better, as well as added a bit more character to Officer Loren; she wasn’t a helpless female archetype, however, I thought with her being a police officer and all she might have been a bit more tough of a character than she ended up being. Not saying you can’t have a weak police officer, I just think at times it would’ve been more interesting to have her be tough, hard headed, and not falling so much prey to the ghosts and the horrifying images haunting her.
Ton of nasty, excellent horror here! Despite any reservations about the script and the acting, and they’re only slight, Last Shift proves to be a solid horror film with savagely effective makeup effects, nice atmospheric mood and tone throughout, and some disturbing psychological thrills set inside a claustrophobic location used to the director’s advantage.

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.

THE PYRAMID’s Filled with Terror & Poor CGI

The Pyramid. 2014. Directed by Grégory Levasseur. Screenplay by Daniel Meersand & Nick Simon.
Starring Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O’Hare, James Buckley, Christa Nicola, Amir K, and Faycal Attougui. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★1/2
the_pyramid_poster_a_p
There’s no way that I can honestly say The Pyramid is a great horror – most of the CGI alone warrants enough criticism to put it out of the running.
However, what I can say for my personal take on Grégory Levasseur’s film is that I enjoyed it simply because it’s fun.

A movie does not need to be perfect to be enjoyable. You don’t have to either love or hate a movie; not in the real world. It’s silly to think that movies have to be flawless in order to be enjoyed.
By the same token, you can both criticize a film for its flaws while simultaneously you’re still able enjoy what you’re watching.
The Pyramid is enjoyable for me because it’s fun. It isn’t the same old found footage movie of people going out into the woods, or a tv show presented and his crew get trapped inside a haunted building. At the very least, we’re treated to a location and situation that isn’t often touched on through found footage (the only similar film is another one I enjoyed though plenty seem to hate: As Above So Below).

The Pyramid takes place during 2013 as the protests in Egypt against President Mohamed Morsi were heating up big time.
Father-daughter archaeology team, Dr. Miles Holden (Denis O’Hare – of whom I was a big fan already but especially since his genius turns on FX’s American Horror Story) and Dr. Nora Holden (Ashley Hinshaw) are on a dig where a pyramid with only three sides, as opposed to the four contained on the pyramids in Giza. Once the structure is unearthed, a robot is sent in – as soon as the pyramid was opened, toxic air inside killed a man in a near instant. After the robot goes offline, the Holdens, as well as their team – along with Sunni Marsh (Christa Nicola), a documentary host, and her cameraman Terry “Fitzie” Fitzsimmons – all head inside, geared up, ready to discover what they can.
Unfortunately, the area is being cleared out due to the protesting in Giza and surrounding areas. Quickly the team enters the pyramid quickly as possible without alerting any of the authorities.
Inside there are dark and dangerous things lurking amongst the shadows, things that have spent centuries feeding, and waiting for the arrival of fresh meat.
the-pyramid-2014Stop being an archaeologist for a second and start being a human being” – I keep seeing people cite bad dialogue, using this as a source. I mean, why? What makes that such a bad line? Denis O’Hare’s character was just saying he didn’t want to destroy a wall because it had been put there, however long ago, by people who’d built that pyramid, so much historical hard work. Instead of wanting to get out of that place, he was more concerned with preserving things for historical and archaeological purposes. So I don’t understand how that line comes off as poorly written dialogue. Someone please explain to me why that line written on paper is bad because I don’t see it. Maybe the delivery isn’t perfect? Either way, this is not, to me, an example of bad writing. You don’t think someone would ever say those words? Try being trapped in an ancient, underground pyramid with a guy who’d rather just suffocate alive than bust up any of the old artifacts down there. Then perhaps the line might feel more ‘natural’.
gallery-thepyramid4-gallery-imageNow, I’m not saying that The Pyramid avoids all the tropes of the found footage genre, or that it’s perfect – as I said starting out, it’s far from a perfect horror.
Typically there are always the arguments of “You lead us here”, et cetera. This moment comes, of course, after things start to get really hairy and one of the members, MIchael (Amir K) on the expedition is killed. Sunni flips on Miles and blames him for leading them down there, but as he points out she has to take responsibility because nobody forced her into the pyramid. I guess you can’t really avoid these types of arguments in found footage, as usually there is a ring leader. Most often, though, it’s usually the person insisting on keeping things filming – SO THAT THE WORLD WILL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! If anything, at least they don’t go for that exact scenario. There’s a reason to keep filming here, as just being in the pyramid alone is a pretty amazing feat. I’m just glad there isn’t the same series of arguments over “Get that camera out of my face” and “Stop asking me questions – what is wrong with you?”, and so on. Might not be all fresh, but it does still avoid some of the familiar nonsense of the sub-genre.
6_zpsbcexgskw.jpg~originalThere’s no part of me that will deny the CGI throughout The Pyramid is pretty bad. Almost all of it, honestly.
I guess when it comes to certain stories, characters, et cetera, in horror films there’s only so much you’ll be able to accomplish with practical effects beyond the blood and the murders. That being said, there’s no reason CGI has to look atrocious. I think, had the filmmakers somehow come up with a way to costume an actor instead of draping them in CGI, the Anubis creature could’ve been much more frightening.
Problem is that when bad CGI dominates the screen, there’s a real smack in the face for an audience. You go from seeing these big sets, this giant pyramid and all these hieroglyphics around, statues, to this hulking presence of bulbous CGI pushing through the frame. It’s too much of a contrast from the real look of everything else to the fake look of Anubis, as well as the other little creatures and things. I liken it to looking a nice painting then throwing a bunch of cartoon cutouts on top and acting out a scene. There’s already suspension of disbelief with a horror like this, but that doesn’t mean things need to look fake and silly looking. I’m sure it’s easier said than done to balance the budget of a huge film, especially when there are so many costs. However, with Alexandre Aja (director of such films as the fantastically gruesome High Tension, the stellar remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and another I enjoyed which others hated – adapted from Joe Hill’s novel, Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe) backing this project, you’d think there would be some way to make sure the CGI came out looking much better. Really dropped the ball on this aspect, which is one of the reasons so many people did not enjoy the film overall, I think.

SPOILER ALERT – HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
One effect I did like, or at least the second half of it, is when Dr. Miles Holden gets his heart ripped out. The first part looked a bit cheese-filled, but when the hand is sticking out, Miles is staring wide-eyed at it, and then it pulls back out of him, I thought that piece of the effect went really well. Because it didn’t look completely CGI built, it had at least a fraction of practical effects. Another bit I liked was the first night vision bit with Fitzie where he sees Dr. Holden get his face melted off – Anubis is all CGI, but the face melting still looks pretty damn gnarly!
For me, I love the practical make-up effects instead of big nonsense computerized junk – any day of the week. Most horrors will at least get a star or two alone from me if there’s an effort on the part of practicality. If not, I find it hard to engage with. Some horror does have pretty good CGI, but the good ones in that arena are those that don’t overuse it either – they know when to employ it, sparse, and they recognize all the other times where there’s no need of it at all. So, if The Pyramid was able to include more effects of a practical nature there might have been a better visceral reaction to all the other.
The Pyramid 2014 HD WallpapersI can’t recommend The Pyramid in that way I would recommend other horror movies I’ve enjoyed. Simply because I don’t think this is a great movie.
But like I said in the beginning – you don’t have to think a movie is perfect to have a good time watching. There are fun bits in The Pyramid. While the CGI is far from anything I thought worked, there’s adventure to this horror-thriller. We don’t have to watch a bunch of young people running around in the woods, constantly screaming – both in terror and at one another – there’s actually a different story here than the same old tripe with which we’re presented.
The Pyramid does not need to be perfect. Sure, I would’ve loved to see a lot of changes because this could’ve been an absolutely excellent horror movie if there were better practical effects and not so much reliance on the bad CGI. Especially the final 10 minutes – Anubis looked the worst when the red flare lighting was glowing and you could seem him terribly clear. Before, he skulked around in the dark, so there were times it didn’t look as glaringly bad.
So there is plenty of room for improvement. I don’t deny that at all.
What I’m saying is, just because a movie doesn’t work as a 5-star film does not mean it has to be without merits. There is at least some decent acting, a halfway sensible script (despite what others might say), and an intriguing location/plot to work around in. See this for a bit of fun – don’t expect something on the level of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, but don’t expect a complete piece of trash like some reviews might have you believe.

Enjoy – or don’t! That’s up to yourself.

THE PACT II Lets Down its Predecessor

The Pact II. 2014. Directed/Written by Dallas Richard Hallam & Patrick Horvath.
Starring Caity Lotz, Camilla Luddington, Scott Michael Foster, PAtrick Fischler, Amy Pietz, Haley Hudson, Market Steger, Nick Micheaux, Brad Gunberg, and Suziey Block. Campfire.
Unrated. 96 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★
the-pact-ii

The Pact came out of nowhere for me, and despite what others have said about the film I thought it was a creepy, effective little horror. There’s a great hybrid of supernatural and serial killer horror that makes for an interesting effect. Not every single bit of it worked, but it was still a good horror movie.

Then, there was a decision to move forward with a sequel. When I first saw this announced, even as a fan of the first, I didn’t exactly jump for joy at the chance to see filmmakers try and extend the success of the original. My biggest problem is that the idea was complex, but it also remained a small, contained type of story that played out well on that scale.
With The Pact II, I feel like they tried to widen the story too far, encompass too much, and instead of sticking with what worked there’s just too little well written in the script to make up for its downfalls. I actually think that, had it been treated better, there could have been something useful made out of this sequel; there were several good, interesting ideas in the script, but I don’t feel as if they were appropriately played out. What might have been, in another universe, a decent flick ends up as a whole lot of junk, and The Pact II is relegated to the land of abysmal horror sequels.
imageAfter the events of The Pact, we catch up with June Abbott (Camilla Luddington). She is a cleaner who takes care of crime scenes after police and investigation units have finished. Soon, June begins to have visions of the now deceased Judas Killer, Charles Barlow (Mark Steger). She tries hiding it from her police officer boyfriend Daniel (Scott Michael Foster). However, copycat murders mimicking the Judas Killer’s M.O begin. June’s visions become worse and worse, she sees herself committing the murders, as if she were the murderer herself, right in his shoes.
Eventually, June sees fit to track down Annie Barlow (Caity Lotz) to try and figure out what’s happening to her. They also try reaching out to Stevie (Haley Hudson), the medium, but she cannot seem to offer much help.
Through twists and turns, June comes to figure out who the copycat killer truly is, and experiences firsthand the revival of the Judas Killer’s murders.
pact-2-movie-740x493For the most part what I thought didn’t work about this film is not that the script is poorly written, it’s the fact that this feels like too much an attempt to extend the first movie for no reason. I mean, the logic just doesn’t seem to be there. The script is well-written in the sense that the dialogue is not bad, nor are the characters; I actually thought June Abbott (Camilla Luddington) worked as a character, and she had history, a personality, flaws. So it isn’t the characters and the dialogue. What does not seem to work, at all, is how The Pact very much had a purpose for the supernatural/serial killer mash-up: Annie’s mother was so distraught over the pact she’d made with her brother Charles, the things he’d done, that her soul and spirit could not leave the house until Charles was dealt with, killed, whatever. So I thought that was spot on.
In opposition, The Pact II seems to want to extend the supernatural elements beyond what they were reaching for in the first place. I just don’t see the point in bringing out a copycat when there’s no great, only tenuous, links to the first film’s plot; this is just an excuse to try and cash in on a good indie horror picture.
Of course, it isn’t the first sequel to try and stretch out a premise from the film which it followed, but I just find that this one did not work in the slightest. There were creepy parts, no doubt. I found the first half hour of the movie half decent. But once everything sets in, then certainly after the tension ratchets up and the climax hits – you just realize how misguided the whole film is, truly.
H2jnI5kSPOILER ALERT – TURN BACK OR FOREVER SHALL YOU BE SPOILED!
The Pact II is also guilty of using terrible tropes. I mean, how many times have we seen the whole ‘the cop is the killer’. I’m not saying that someone out there can’t reinvent that whole trope and turn it around, maybe freshen it up somehow. But this movie uses it and there is nothing fresh about it. They even go for the ole bait-and-switch, using two different law enforcement officers, a cop and an FBI agent (how original), to try and throw us off the trail. Tricky, tricky.
What makes me sad about this is that the screenwriters/directors of this movie, Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, did an awesome little indie called Entrance, which I could not get enough of! Still can’t, I watch it frequently. A lot of people couldn’t stand it because it’s the slowburn to end all slowburn horrors. Honestly, even as a fan, I can admit that so much of the first half of Entrance is extremely snail-paced, and there’s not much going on. Yet underneath it all, the terror lurks. I’ll have to review it myself because it’s worth the watch. Stephen King also raved about it; I totally agreed with his review.
But anyways, it just saddens me to see Hallam and Horvath, who I thought were going to be somewhat different than most writer/directors in the horror genre, came out with a truly poor idea. The writing itself is not bad, it’s just the whole premise of what they wanted to do, it really does not work. For all the decent dialogue (though not all is good – some is certainly bad), the few scares, a dash or two of creepy atmosphere, Hallam and Horvath cannot break away from the dull stupidity of The Pact II‘s original premise. They should have left well enough alone and not done a sequel, honestly, but I suppose the original made enough of a splash producers wanted to milk this one. Too bad they brought in Hallam and Horvath, hope those two move on to something much better.
mv5bmjewota3otkyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnju1odg2mje-_v1__sx1217_sy887_For all its crappy qualities, there are at least a couple decent performances in this movie.
Camilla Luddington does a good job with the character of June Abbott. I did actually like her as a character, even within the bad plot. Particularly, I thought it was neat how they had her cleaning up crime scenes; this sort of played into her personality, as well as the later story. I’ve never seen Luddington before, but I enjoyed her performance. Just came across the fact she does the motion capture and voice for the newest incarnation of Tomb Raider, which is pretty awesome.
Surprisingly, Caity Lotz returned as Annie. She isn’t in the entire film, but seeing her here was actually nice. The movie has beyond just a few faults, however, having Annie’s character back sort of rooted things a little more than I expected. Either way, Lotz is a good actor. She is subtle and not one of the Scream Queen types, which I personally dig. Too bad the plot of this movie is garbage, otherwise having Lotz return would’ve worked even better had they been able to come up with something more interesting and sensible.
The-Pact-II-02Ultimately, I can’t give The Pact II any more than 2 stars without kicking myself. It just isn’t worth a higher rating.
There are a couple creepy moments. One that really creeped me out involves the picture above; Charles Barlow, now a ghost himself (dumb dumb dumb), walks up slowly behind June and caresses her as she learns the truth about what has really been going on. That’s definitely a memorable scene, and it came off real weird/unsettling.
Other than that, there isn’t much else. A few decent scenes, plus the anchor performance of Camilla Luddington + the brief time we get Annie (Caity Lotz) back, but otherwise this is a complete dud. It’s too bad, I really loved the first one, this just does it no justice. I honestly hope that Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath come out with something much better and more interesting than this on their next effort.