Halloween Scene: The Shortcut (2009)

the shortcutLast week had one of my favorite days of the year: a Friday the 13th! As it happened, my mom took the kids over to their place for most of the day which meant that, even though I had a lot of things to get done around the house, I could watch whatever I wanted.

First, I checked out Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse on my computer while getting my work done. I’ve had a copy of this movie for a while, acquired sometime after I watched it for the first time in 2009. I wish I’d read my review from back then because this movie is mostly boring and creepy in ways that don’t make it enjoyable (the brother-sister Psycho homage in the beginning, the truck driver affectionately caressing the boy’s face right in front of his parents who could care less). Unnerving scenes usually help build tension in a film, but since these have nothing to do with the actual threat of the piece, they just feel awkward, pointless and make me want to turn the movie off. I didn’t, but I did basically stop paying attention. That one will not be sticking around.

I had a much better time with a movie called The Shortcut that my buddy Rickey passed me a year or two back. All he told me was that it was directed by Nicholaus Goossen who did the excellent Grandma’s Boy (in fact, those are his only feature credits). Had I paid a little more attention to what I had, I probably would have watched this movie sooner because it stars national treasure Dave Franco, 30 Rock‘s Katrina Bowden and Raising Hope‘s Shannon Woodward, all actors whose work I’ve enjoyed at one time or another.

The plot revolves around Drew Seeley’s character and his investigationin to the weird guy living in the woods who terrorizes anyone who takes a shortcut near the school in a small town. Since he and his family just moved in, they’re not familiar with the rumors about the crazy old man who lives there. Soon enough, a group of high school kids take it upon themselves to investigate what’s really going on in a creepy old farmhouse.

I don’t want to get too much into the actual plot points because I enjoyed going into this movie completely blind and having a pretty good time with it. In addition to a talented cast and a script with just the right amount of twists and turns (or possibly one too many), I really dug this movie because it reminded me of the kinds of creepy stories we’d tell each other as kids. Where I grew up there were two consistent rumors that scared all of us, yet compelled us to tell all our friends. I don’t remember many details, but one was called the CK Killer (or possibly the KC Killer?) the other Dirty Mitch.

The former either supposedly killed or kidnapped a bunch of kids at my grade school and the other was a weirdo who lived near the park across the street from my house. I even remember kids pointing out a particular house on the bus route that he lived in. At one point the two myths collided, making them partners in crime. I just did a few Google searches for both names and nothing came up, so I guess they were complete fiction. Still, those stories — or at least the names and vague recollections of them — have stuck with me to this day and The Shortcut works with a lot of those same feelings in a way I haven’t quite seen before (or at least in a long time).

Okay, so I guess I lied above when I mentioned that I don’t want to talk about plot points too much. This paragraph features heavy end-of-movie SPOILERS, so why don’t you stop here if you don’t want the finale ruined. I can’t tell if I like or hate the end of this movie where it’s revealed that the main kid’s younger brother is also a crazy murderer, like the main villain of the piece. On one hand, it feels way too coincidental that these two pairs of brothers come into contact. On the other, it’s kind of an interesting. Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch the movie again to see if the seeds for this reveal are planted ahead of time or if it comes out of nowhere.

 

Halloween Scene: Fright Night (2011)

I know a lot of people love the original Fright Night, I’m just not one of them. I don’t hate the movie and know I’ve seen it a time or two, but the last time I tried watching it on Netflix Instant however long ago, I turned it off because I was bored. I can’t remember now why I was bored, but I just wasn’t interested and dipped out. So, when I heard the news that it was getting remake, I didn’t really care and not just because I think people who get all bent out of shape about remakes need something real in their lives to worry about instead of movies.

Anyway, I was curious. I heard good things and the cast  is pretty stacked with Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant. So, I bumped it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue when October hit. And, man, did I have a good time watching this movie.

The story is kind of a sped up combination of Lost Boys and Rear Window as Yelchin’s character comes to terms with the very real truth that his neighbor Jerry is actually a vampire. His buddy Mintz-Plasse tries to tell him and the he tries to convince his mom (Collette) and girlfriend (the wonderful Imogen Poots) to varying degrees of success until the truth can no longer be denied. You’ve also got Tennant playing an occult loving Vegas magician in the vein of Criss Angel.

Like I said, I don’t remember much about the original flick, but I seem to remember the structure of this film being pretty similar. But, this time around things move FAST. I wasn’t watching the clock, but I want to say by the 30 minute mark we knew Farrell was a vampire, a few people had been killed/turned and Yelchin has learned about Farrell by sneaking into his house. I don’t know if this flick would work as well for a novice horror fan, but for one who’s seen a lot of these movies, it moves along at a great clip. For that alone I’d dig this flick, but you add in a stellar cast, some mostly good effects (friggin’ CGI blood splatter needs to go away forever) and a solid budget and I’m all in for this movie.