Go See Prey at Night

“The Strangers: Prey At Night” is a well-crafted sequel in the
John Carpenter tradition, but what’s really interesting about it is
the way it reflects contemporary concerns and anxieties. The
“Strangers” films play on fear of The Other. What is the Other?
Anything that will come, motivated or not, and destroy a couple (in
“The Strangers”) or a family (the new film). You can see these
anxieties also in “The Purge” films (the fourth of which is coming
this summer) and the new “Death Wish” remake. The basic thrust of all
these films is that not only will the government not protect you, but
also that they will force you to take matters into your own hands.

Even though crime has supposedly been falling the last few years,
paranoia is up and people don’t feel safe. The message of these
movies is simple: kill or be killed. You can certainly argue with
this message, but you can’t argue that these films bluntly and
effectively present it. Horror films like these show us what we fear
and also how little we can do to avoid crime. “The Strangers: Prey at
Night” is a terrifying mirror of where we are right now, and as such
is more illuminating than exploitative. It’s unfortunate that horror
films are reflecting current problems, but don’t blame the messenger
for the message. The second installment of “The Strangers” is
recommended and don’t go alone!

Quiet Place Terrifies

This past weekend something extraordinary happened. A cheap
monster horror film which is really an experimental art film brought
in $50 million at the American box office. How did this happen?
Somebody, possibly producer Michael Bay, sensed that audiences were
tired of generic blockbusters like “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” Somebody
saw potential in an odd, bleak script with very little dialogue and
somehow sensed that actor/co-writer John Krasinski (from “The Office”)
could pull everything together and direct a good film out of it, one
that people would want to see. Paramount Pictures released the film
on a weekend with no new big budget films coming out and made sure all
the critics saw it. A new smash hit was born!

“A Quiet Place” is about a family trying to survive in a grim
future where gigantic monsters are decimating mankind. The only way
to survive this situation is not to make any loud noises. This is
easier said than done, but the family (led by John Krasinski and Emily
Blunt) has a leg up because the daughter is deaf so they all know sign
language. Fatefully, the mother becomes pregnant. The film plays
largely without dialogue as the family struggles to survive.

The filmmakers behind “A Quiet Place” realize that the
audience not only wants an exciting, edge-of-your-seat experience but
also something that is unlike anything they’ve seen before. The result
will please fans of M. Night Shamalayan (sic) as well as monster movie
film buffs. The film is exciting, well-acted, original, and often
terrifying, yet subtle enough to get a PG-13. By the end of the film,
I felt that I had seen something worth going out of my way to see; the
audience was enraptured with the film and many applauded at the end.
If you see one horror film this year, make it “A Quiet Place.”

Chainsaw Still Makes the Cut

A new “Chainsaw” called “Leatherface” has quietly snuck onto Blu-ray, DVD, and Direct TV. It claims to tell the real story of how Leatherface came to be. We begin at the Sawyer house, where Lili Taylor holds sway over the degenerate Sawyer family and young Jeb is being encouraged to kill. He refuses, so the family kills for him. The family makes the mistake of killing the sheriff’s (played by Stephen Dorff) daughter, and as punishment he sends Jed, the only innocent man in the family, to an institution filled with violent inmates. Ten years later, Jed (whose name has changed so the audience doesn’t know his identity) breaks out with the other inmates and a killing spree ensues.

Basically, this is the goriest movie of the year. It has stabbings, a head explosion, necrophilia, and, of course, chainsaw deaths. It is the last film of executive producer and GROIN Hall of Famer Tobe Hooper, one of the greatest horror directors who ever lived. It is refreshing to see such a politically incorrect film in this day and age, and the cast throws themselves into their roles with heedless abandon. Is this a great movie? No. Is it a lot of fun? Hell yeah! The “Texas Chainsaw” series rules, and this is the best one in a long time.Be sure to catch it before the commies take it off the shelves!

I love this series. In this new PC touchy feely age, sometimes society needs a bit of savage realism to knock some sense into it. At a time where half the country is upset about having their hiney touched thirty years ago, I choose to spend my time watching films about those people getting chopped in half because they made a wrong turn in the country-side and ran out of gas. Too bad they couldn’t have cast Judge Roy Moore in a cameo as the cannibal dad.

New Amityville Flick

The new Amityville flick, The Awakening, hit Blu-ray this month. We picked up a copy, and were happy to get to see it, since the Weinstein scandal prevented its wide release. Amityville showed in only a handful of theatres, and grossed a total of 800 bucks. My underground metal albums made almost that much last year. So I feel good!

The question regarding any Amityville flick is always, “How do you make a decent 90 minute movie about some guy wasting his family with a shotgun?” In reality wasting everyone probably took five minutes and wasn’t that interesting. Normally the answer is to have a bunch of gratuitous dead kid ghosts, as well as boring family scenes to build a sense of (boring) characters. And there is some of that in this film. However, what made this film interesting  is the neurologically impaired crippled character who is getting possessed by the house to kill his family. This all happened because the (stupid!) mom has moved the family to that house specifically to harness evil powers to heal his ass, since God failed. This backfires (obviously). The crippled character is played by Cameron Monaghan, and he does a splendid job in the role. I had a client with a similar condition to his when I was a caregiver, and this character he portrayed was unusually believable. The house heals him so he can kill his family. When he does have control of himself , he uses the power-chair wheel imprints in the mud to put a protective voodoo circle around the house. Isn’t that heartwarming?

Bella Thorne, famous from God knows what, also excels in her role as the dumb teen girl who moves with her family to this Godforsaken house. Normally I don’t like those super skinny white girls, but this girls hot, and she does a great job of prancing around in her underwear throughout the film. In light of the Weinstein sex scandal I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but if she is over 18 and had shown her tits (small tits have their fans too!) I would add a whole star .  And her acting isn’t half bad.

976 Evil (Horror Hotline Flick)

What is even scarier than being groped?  One of the most exciting yet under-the radar Blu-ray releases of the year is “976-EVIL,” a forgotten but very interesting 1988 horror film directed by Robert Englund. His tenure as Freddy Krueger in the “Elm Street” series serves him well here as he spins a ghoulish tale of sex, bullying and revenge. Stephen Geoffreys (Evil Ed in “Fright Night”) stars as Hoax, the most geeky, nerdy, creepy teenager since Carrie White. What a crazy actor. He was great in Fright Night. Did he overact in 976 evil? Yes!And he wound up not getting roles except as a gay porn bottom, which we will have to overlook in this review, and maybe takes this film down a half a star out of prejudice.

Loathed by his classmates, he idolizes his cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan). Spike has been using the creepy phone number that gives the movie its title and it has been helping him get what he wants. In the end, however, he decides the whole thing is too creepy and throws it away. Unfortunately, Hoax finds the phone number and starts using it to get revenge on his creepy, religious mother (Sandy Dennis), on Spike’s girlfriend, and on Spike’s card playing buddies. At the end of the film, he turns into a demon, and only Spike and a private investigator (Jim Meltzer) stand in the way of hell on earth.

This movie is very interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everyone in the movie is evil on one way or another. With no “good” characters we are left wondering how things will turn out. Secondly, this is a very gruesome movie with some memorable kills and one-liners. Director Englund is presumably responsible for that. Thirdly, this is an early screenplay by Brian Helgeland (who went on to win an Oscar for “L.A. Confidential.” Lastly, Geoffreys is simply the man as Hoax; he owns the movie.

You gotta watch it for the line “can I enter this hand with two hearts?” while throwing two beating human hearts onto the poker table. And the line, “Can I give you a hand with that?”, while severing someone’s arm. This film has no redeeming value except for entertainment. It seems to relish in Satanism and depravity. Truly it is an evil film, that lives up to its title.

The new Blu-ray features an amazing high-definition transfer of the theatrical version of the film as well as a “retro VHS” transfer that is 12 minutes longer.  There is also a commentary track with Robert Englund and his wife.  If you’re looking for a scary good time, look no further than the new Blu-ray of “976-EVIL”!

Other Side of the Door: B+

If you think you would enjoy a cross between “Pet Sematary” and “The Changeling,” you’re in luck because “The Other Side of the Door” is a spooky flick! It’s about an American family living in India who lose their youngest child in a tragic accident. Devastated by the loss of the child, the mother learns of a way she can talk to her son one last time. It involves digging up his body, cremating it, and taking the ashes to a creepy temple. The mother can talk to her son there but there’s a catch: don’t open the temple door! As you can probably guess, the mother opens the door, and the terror begins! This is a very well-acted and directed movie and it is unique that it is set in India. The director made the recent “47 Meters Down” and is someone to watch. While not a masterpiece, “The Other Side of the Door” works very well and recommended to horror fanatics everywhere! And remember: don’t open the door!

Friend Request OK Despite Cliche’

Sometimes you learn valuable lessons from schlock horror films. In the case of “Friend Request,” it’s this: don’t friend people on Facebook who you don’t know. The film is a German production in English and similar to 2014’s “Unfriended.” The film combines real internet fears with spooky “Omen” style death scenes. The pacing is fierce and the body count high as the ghost of an unpopular internet girl kills off our unlucky protagonist’s friends one by one, making them look like suicides. The film gives us the opportunity to reflect that maybe we should concentrate on real-world friends as opposed to internet ones. If you’re looking for a scary time and have already seen “It,” you could do worse.

Anabelle Sucks

 

OK, so the original “Annabelle” sucked pond water, but “Annabelle: Creation” got good reviews, so I decided to check out. It fucking sucks too! With a lame poster like this, who could go wrong:

They could not think of a better cliché , so instead the opening scenes were the only good scenes in the picture, as they detail the sad (and based on fact) story of a family that has a tragic accident involving a little girl named Annabelle. Where have I seen this before? Well like a thousand other movies (because its supposedly based on a true thing!). Well -so far, so good. But then we get this “Little Orphan Annie” bullshit about the bereaved family letting an orphanage of little Catholoc girls shack up in their luxurious (and creepy) estate which makes no sense. We also get a plot that exploits the disability (polio) of a little girl, including a creepy lift to the upstairs of the house. The little girl unlocks a door she’s not supposed to and soon the jump scares and “Exorcist” and “Conjuring” rip-offs begin. At no point is the orphanage, led by a nun who’s not very bright, ready to pack up and leave despite many terrible things happening. Geez. What’s wrong with the nuns these days??

If you’ve been following this review, you’ll notice that this film is not content with putting little girls in jeopardy, but has decided to double down and put a little disabled girl in jeopardy. Its a movie about whatever it will take to fill seats and sell popcorn basically. After a while, it becomes simply a succession of jump scares. You can go take a leak at any point in this film and you won’t miss anything. Go refill that $7 soda. When this happened, the packed audience became more entertaining than the movie. Dozens of cries of “aw hell no!” as well as predictions of what was going to happen provided the entertainment the film itself was lacking. It was one of those crowds where there is a really low IQ going on, and you have to duck and hide on the way out.

So although the film is slightly better than the first “Annabelle,” it still comes down on pandering to the audience rather than telling a good story. Its like sex with a fat chick, not very good!

Horror fans are advised to skip it and wait for “Stephen King’s It,” which generated more creepiness and atmosphere in a two-minute clip before the film than both “Annabelle” films combined. I have no idea why the crowd applauded loudly at the end. My cash would have been better spent at the racetrack frankly.

Re: Autopsy of Jane Doe

If you’re disheartened by the overly commercial movies being put out by Hollywood and you like horror, I’ve got a movie for you. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe,” starring Emile Hirsch and Brian (Hannibal Lector in “Manhunter”) Cox, is a small-scale but very frightening experience. It is about a farther (Cox) and son (Hirsch) who work at a mortuary, and their new patron, “Jane Doe,” has died a very unusual death, and they can’t figure out what killed her. Is she even dead

This film has two things going for it: great acting and an incredible sense of mystery, atmosphere, and dread. Brian Cox delivers his best performance in years as the father, a decent man with dark secrets. The director, who made “Trollhunter,” has a field day with the possibly haunted mortuary. Not only do we get jump scares galore, but also some truly disgusting and disturbing scenes. It all builds to a satisfying, dark conclusion.

In short, “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is a good sleeper horror film. Rent or stream it and turn off all the lights. You will definitely be scared!

Night of the Demons / Nightmare at Noon

Tired of big Hollywood stinkers like “Assassin’s Creed” and “Beauty and the Beast”? Ready for some serious B-movie fun? Prepare yourself for two movies out on DVD that are way more entertaining than that “Boss Baby” crap.

First up is the 2009 remake of “Night of the Demons,” which stars Shannon Elizabeth (from “American Pie”), Monica Keena (from “Freddy Vs. Jason”) and Edward Furlong (no introduction needed). This film follows the basic plot and features many of the same exploitative elements (read: boobs) that made the 1988 movie with Linnea Quigley (who cameos here) so much fun. In short, a bunch of dorky college kids plus a drug dealer (Furlong) get together at an old New Orleans manor to celebrate Halloween. Soon they discover that the house is a conduit for demons who want to possess seven of them and take over the world. Can Edward Furlong and company stop taking heroin and playing spin the bottle long enough to save the world?

This is a $10 million film that went straight to video, probably because the original film is not nearly as famous as classics like “The Omen” and “Halloween.” The story is acceptable and the special effects, makeup effects, and other technical attributes are really good. The only actor to make an impression is Furlong, who plays his part convincingly and with pathos. He deserves a chance at a comeback. Overall, the film is about as good as the original, which means it’s undistinguished but tons of fun. Readers are advised to rent it on Netflix.

Second up is 1988’s “Nightmare at Noon,”(aka “Death Street U.S.A.”) a truly whacko ripoff of “The Crazies” about a mute albino (played by Brion James) who starts a government experiment by contaminating the water of a small town, turning those unfortunate people who drink it into crazed killers. Meanwhile, a scummy lawyer (played by Wings Hauser) and his wife pick up a hitchhiker (Bo Hopkins) on their way into this town while the sheriff (played by George Kennedy) and his daughter try to figure out what’s going on.

Basically this starts as a zombie film, turns into sort of a western (“High Noon” is playing at the town drive-in.), and then it turns into a high-concept “Blue Thunder” kind of thing. It’s completely crazy and absolutely never dull. George Kennedy is great, the technical credits are good and the music by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer are very effective. Bo Hopkins and Wings Hauser are quite the team, having also starred together in “Mutant,” In short, this is a crazy killer B film that is worth seeking out.

I should note, in closing, that I had never heard of either of these two films before picking them up. As a result, they were much better than expected. Check out “Night of the Demons” (2009) and “Nightmare at Noon” if you want good old-fashioned B-movie fun! –CoolAC