Dastardly Double Feature Episode 5 – The Invitation & The Sacrament

ddf-logoAfter more of a delay than planned, Mr. Dastardly came over to my place to watch The Invitation and The Sacrament. Watch the movies, then listen to it here, if you dare and check out the trailers below…also if you dare.

In the episode I mentioned Killer POV and Shock Waves. You can listen to Karyn Kusama talk about The Invitation here while Ti West discussed all of his films in this episode.

 

Halloween Scene Movie Roundup: The New Style

creep posterLike I said in my previous post, I was pretty busy with horror-related work leading up to this most glorious of holidays. I was actually able to reverse-engineer a binge on new horror movies into some lists which made the whole thing feel a lot more productive. Continue reading Halloween Scene Movie Roundup: The New Style

Halloween Scene: V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S 2 (2013)

vhs poster While on my journey to watch new horror movies from this decade, I very quickly came across the anthology film V/H/S. It and its follow-up both share the same basic concept: a group of people in a framing sequence stumble across a house filled with video tapes and start watching. As they begin, we start seeing short segments directed by different up-and-comers from all kinds of horror subgenres, but each featuring a character holding or carrying a camera of some kind.

I wasn’t so sure if I was down with this concept. Like just about everyone I know and listen to, I’m pretty much done with found footage on all levels, but much like Europa Report, the majority of these segments offer clever reasons for the character(s) to carry a video recording device.

And yet, I still almost turned the first one off. After the fact, I realized that I was not down with the overly “bro” nature of the guys in the framing sequence who run up on women, lift their shirts up and record it and the ones in David Bruckner’s kick-off segment called “Amateur Night” who pick up a woman who is far more dangerous than she seems at first. All of that grossness combined together to taint my opinion of the movie, but after that it got a lot better.

First off, the framing sequence is actually pretty creepy. I wasn’t expecting much from that because, hey, this is a horror anthology and that part is almost always padding, but this one helmed my Adam Wingard (You’re Next) offered its own unique scares. Aside from “Amateur Night,” though, I thought the rest were really well done. Ti West’s “Second Honeymoon” worked super well as a short — and also starred the great A.J. Bowen — Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday the 17th” did something really fun and unique with the slasher genre while also making the camera’s presence an integral part of the action. I’ll admit, I had to look up “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies) because I did not catch what happened at the end. Finally, Radio Silence’s “10/31/98” featured my favorite incorporation of the camera — the guy is dressed as a teddy bear nanny cam, which is pretty ingenious — and also a rapid fire short that rockets somewhere pretty crazy, pretty quickly.

V-H-S-2_PosterWhile I definitely had my problems with the first V/H/S, I was interested enough to check out the follow-up which, like I said, kept the same basic premise while upping the game when it came to story diversity and special effects. This time around, Simon Barrett, who wrote You’re Next, directed the framing sequence which finds a pair of PIs breaking into a house trying to find a kid who was obsessed with the same kind of tapes seen in the first film. Though it features the same kinds of scares seen in its predecessor, they’re still effective.

Wingard returned for another super clever use of the format called “Phase I Clinical Trials” which saw a guy with a robot eye plagued by ghosts who meets up with a woman with a hearing implant. This one had a super deep mythology that was presented very succinctly and also included a few definite scares that worked well. After that Blair Witch Project vets Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale did a nice little zombie thing I dug called “A Ride In The Park” that’s probably my favorite zombie thing since Dance Of The Dead.

The last two segments, The Raid‘s Gareth Evans’ “Safe Haven” and the Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) directed “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” were stellar shorts that had me going and absorbed from the jump. Huge kudos to both of those for being interesting, fun, scary and all-around fantastic. While so different, both of these parts felt perfectly executed and written for this kind of film.

Overall, I liked the stories in V/H/S 2 better than the original, but I will say that I had more problems with the actual set-up of the films. If you’re buying into the conceit, these videos were shot and then distributed amongst collectors like the people inhabiting the houses in both framing sequences. And yet, in the zombie bit you’ve got multiple sources incorporated (the Go Pro mainly, but then the camera held by parents at a kid’s birthday party). It gets even crazier in “Safe Haven” where you get a mix of the documentary crew’s raw footage (complete with levels and whatnot), plus compound security footage AND subtitles to boot. These elements kind of ruin the suspension of disbelief I had with people trading these simple tapes by putting a lot of editing into the process. On their own, they’re not a big deal, but I kept finding myself ripped out of the story itself with thoughts like “Hey, who subtitled that? Why didn’t they remove the levels and whatnot?” Maybe I over-thought them, but it seems like a pretty simple thing to fix in order to make these movies make sense within the world that’s set up.

Finally, how crazy is the world presented in these two movies? Everything from demon women and zombies to aliens and cults take place all in the same world with only these tapes as proof. I haven’t seen V/H/S Viral yet, but I would love it if that one dug a little deeper into the overall mythology instead of just presenting more cool bits and pieces of short horror.

Halloween Scene: New Movie Roundup

p9523329_p_v8_aaAs I mentioned in my first post in what felt like forever, I was awful busy looking at Halloween related material for work throughout September and October, which resulted in a lack of posts here on the site, a first if I’m not mistaken. Sure, Halloween season is technically over, but I wanted to write a bit more about a few of the newer movies I saw on Netflix in preparation for two Spinoff lists: 5 Recent Indie Supernatural Horror Movies Worth Watching and 5 Recent Slasher Flicks to Take a Stab at For Halloween.

First off a little background that I mentioned in those posts, but didn’t get fully into. While looking around for horror movies on Netflix Instant back in September, I realized that a lot of movies I’d heard good things about on Killer POV (my favorite horror podcast) were on there. I tend to avoid new horror movies out of a kind of fear, not necessarily a fear of being frightened by them, but a fear of being subjected to awful depravity. Let’s face it, that was the subgenre du jour for a while there. It seemed like every new movie I watched was just filled with torture. Not my bag.

john dies at the endBut after hearing about so many quality movies that had come out — many of which don’t work for everyone, which is fine my me — I decided to focus my viewing efforts this season on new movies from this decade. With only four years to choose from, I was a little worried about slim pickings, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the results. In fact, I think I enjoyed everything I watched (at least on some level).

Alright, let’s start with the Supernatural list. I covered them pretty well, but to take things a few steps further Don Coscarelli’s John Diest At The End and Resolution are two of my favorite scary movies in a long time. I loved The Innkeepers. Like I said in the review, between the on-screen scares and my anticipation of scares based on lesser films, I was pretty wiped by the end of that viewing experience. I thought about watching Ti West’s Sacrament, but wussed out.

rites of springI’d seen Odd Thomas on Netflix several times, wasn’t sure about it, but finally watched it and really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of Brick, but with less melodrama and more death-monsters. I liked it so much, I’m actually reading Dean Koontz’s Odd Hours from the library. It has the same feel as the movie. I’d like to see Anton Yelchin star in a series of films or, better yet, a TV show based on the character. I still can’t tell if All Cheerleader’s Die is a super clever film or I’m just reading too far into it, but it was definitely worth the watch.

Over to the slashers, this was another pleasantly surprising batch of films. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed Curse Of Chucky as that’s not exactly a series I’m in love with. I also wasn’t sure if Maniac would be my bag because I’ve never seen the original or its fellow real-killer-in-NYC ilk, but I found it chilling and Elijah Wood captivating in the lead role. I actually felt super creepy walking anywhere near a woman when I was going from the hotel to the bar during NYCC because of that viewing experience. Stage Fright was so much fun, but that might be solely because of my experience in high school musical theater. It’s goofy and weird, but I’m okay with that.

The-Innkeepers-PosterI’ll be honest, I didn’t actually watch Hatchet II again, but those films are still some of the best slasher flicks I’ve ever laid eyes on from any decade. I didn’t really think about it until I wrote that list, but it’s difficult to think of any other series with that much consecutive quality. Finally, I really liked the look and mash-up feel of Rites Of Spring. It’s on the shortlist of movies I watched this year that had a distinct color pallet and style. I found myself wondering if the Stranger was actually satiating a kind of crop god or just a crazy person throwing blood down on a man in a weird mask for decades. It would have been nice to get some of those answers, but I didn’t think they were necessary.

I also watched American Mary. I’ve got a blog post written that I’ll throw up this week. Here’s a preview, I thought it was pretty damn unique, but I’ll probably never watch it again. I still really dig the You’re Next viewing experience and do think I’ll return to that one at some point. Speaking of repeated viewings, that was the focus of my late-October horror movie schedule which will make up another post!

Halloween Scene: Cabin Fever 2 (2009)

I am a big fan of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. It’s a great, zoomed-in film about a spreading plague in it’s earliest stages and how a small group of people deal with it. As you might expect, being such a fan, I was looking forward to seeing this straight-to-DVD sequel, though I wasn’t really hoping for much of anything, even though the original ended with such great possibility for a sequel that would really raise the stakes.

Instead, we get a slightly bigger setting, a younger cast of characters to see succumb to the ever-spreading skin disease that inevitably leads to death and a few characters from the original (where was Rider Strong in this thing?). The movie picks up right where the last one left off, we even get to see the fate of one of the characters from the previous flick and what exactly happens to that truck full of infected water (apparently it only went to a high school which just so happens to be having prom). So instead of getting a huge, widespread story of infected bottled water, things just get slightly upgraded in scope which is kind of a dissapointment. Though, once again, the ending implies more impending doom and another sequel.

Also disappointing is the fact that the flick feels A LOT like the far superior Dance Of The Dead with its prom setting, plot focusing on a geeky guy getting the girl of his dreams and a ton of crazy shit happening with happenstance making sure the leads don’t succumb to badness for a period of time.

I will give the movie credit for this, though, they do a good job of continuing from the original movie while also carving their own niche. This isn’t like seeing a Friday The 13th sequel where yet another group of campers are being chased by Jason. In fact, considering there’s not much of an actual villain this time around, the movie feels kind of plotless. Yeah, the main kid and the girl are trying to help his friend and avoid the disease which was spread through the punch at the dance, but it’s not until some nameless guys in SUVs with bright lights and guns show up that they actually have someone to run away from. In the original, the virus was a bad guy, as were the friends as they became more and more worried about their own survival and less likely to help their friends.

The casting department also did a bang-up job. Noah Segan carries the movie as our lovable loser who doesn’t come across as an ubergeek and does a good job of giving the right people the right amount of shit. His friend is played spectacularly by Rusty Kelley who expertly walks that thin tightrope of overbearing fat friend that Jonah Hill sometimes stumbles with in movies like Superbad and the fat kid on RJ Berger completely fails at. Kelley’s dissatisfied and mouthy without demanding a facepunch every time he opens his mouth. The special effects should also get their due props because the sores look pretty gross as do other effects.

In the end though, the movie just feels kind of pointless, like it could have been a news report in a bigger and better sequel (“After some trouble in the woods and an outbreak at a local high school, the skin disease spread to the wider public, causing a pandemic.”) Sure we get more screen time for the cop from the original (assisted by Judah Friedlander and Mark Borchardt of American Movie fame at various points in the film) but the whole movie feels like a lot of build up with no release. There’s no real ending to the cop’s story nor does he really do anything in his investigation of the tainted water. Then there’s our lead who goes to great lengths to Ash himself up for the finale only to get tackled and never seen again at the end in favor or an animated sequence about how much further the virus has spread thanks to a stripper who gave a kid a blowjob in the bathroom at school(?!).

It’s pretty telling that Ti West (who also directed the, in my opinion, lackluster House Of The Devil) asked to have his name taken off this movie because of too much editing and executive involvement on Lionsgate’s part, yet they kept it on because he wasn’t in the Director’s Guild (according to the IMDb trivia page for the movie). I’d probably check out a director’s cut of the movie if one ever came out, but I’d give it a little time because, while the movie was okay, there weren’t many hints of a better movie in there that I wanted to see. I’d rather watch Dance Of The Dead or a bigger and better sequel, though that doesn’t seem likely.

Halloween Scene: The House Of The Devil (2009)

So, a lot of people dig this movie. I started hearing about it some time last year, that it was a great, slow burn movie that looked like it was straight out the 80s even though it was filmed in 2009. Well, I can agree with that, at least. It does look authentic. From the cars to the old school Walkman and even the local news kicking it over to the local horror movie show (I think they’re showing Night Of The Living Dead). I guess it also feels slow, boring and confusing like a lot of 80s movies too.

As if you couldn’t tell, I’m not a fan of House Of The Devil. See, the idea behind the movie is that this girl Samantha has just gotten a great deal on renting a house, but has no money (kind of makes you wonder why she decided to take on this financial burden, eh?). She sees a flier for a babysitting job and ends up getting it, but there’s a twist. Let’s call the rest of the review SPOILER TERRITORY just for safety’s sake. The twist is that there’s no baby, but the ultra-creepy couple has an old lady who won’t bother the girl. After upping the pay, Samantha takes it. Her friend, who dropped her off, leaves (the house is out in the middle of nowhere Last House On The Left-style), so she spends most of the movie getting freaked out by sounds and what not. But it’s not even that interesting. There’s a freaking dance scene with her listening to her Walkman and knocking over a vase. Really? Has this ever happened to any living person?

Eventually, she gets drugged and knocked out. Then the mom and dad are back and the grandma’s a monster and she’s tied up and then she struggles enough to get out (I guess the other victims didn’t struggle to get out) and then she runs UP THE STAIRS. It goes from being boring to kind of crazy for a second to being just plain stupid and then ending with a bit of a shocker (followed by a huh moment when it turns out she’s still alive).

All in all, I wanted to like this movie, but an 80s aesthetic wasn’t enough to get me involved in the movie and my attentions soon wandered. Also, I liked the actress who played Samantha, but I wish the much more interesting Megan had been the main character.