Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

This demon is just getting more and more creepy.

This demon is just getting more and more creepy.

Directed by: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Schulman directed the “is it or is it not real” documentary Catfish)

Written by: Christopher Landon, based off of Chad Feehan’s story

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Dunham, Brady Allen, Aiden Lovekamp and Katie Featherston.

What it’s about: continuing the Paranormal Activity franchise with another found footage film

What I liked: Well I am a fan of the franchise, though I do think it has run its course.  However, the story continues and I keep getting more intrigued by what may or may not be the final reveal.  See, I thought last year’s Paranormal Activity 3 was the big revelation and now it just keeps going.  I have this weird feeling that it is somehow going to end up tied to The Blair Witch Project and if there is a way for that to happen, it may or may not be the most brilliant reveal ever.  That’s just speculation on my part, though.  I like seeing Katie Featherston, I just wish she’d get more screen time in these films.

What I disliked: The premise is beginning to run a bit thin.  Hopefully the franchise takes a cue from this final season of “The Office” and reveals who is putting together all this found footage and for what purpose because right now, it is getting both cheesy and reeking of nothing other than an easy cash grab.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Only if they are a fan of the franchise.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Doesn't this make you want to watch the movie?

Doesn’t this make you want to watch the movie?

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directed by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez (they’ve really done nothing noteworthy aside from this movie)

Written by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez

Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams

What it’s about: the first super popular “found footage” movie, which shows what happened to three filmmakers when they went missing during a camping trip for their documentary about the local legend, The Blair Witch

B-Movie Alternate Title: Lurking In the Woods

Movie Mash Up: Paranormal ActivityDeliveranceThe Children

What I liked: I love this movie.  It is one of my favourite horror movies of all time.  I love everything about it.  Everything that most everyone else hates about it, I love.  It’s one film that truly benefits from watching with the commentary on a second time.  You gain a greater appreciation for everything that went into it.  And fuck anyone that tells you it isn’t scary.  I just watched this in the dark by myself.  If someone would have knocked on my door while I was watching it, I would have screamed.  And how is it that this movie looks better than 28 Days Later… did?  This is an older DVD, based off of film stock.  Blows my mind.  I love that there is no way this movie would seem plausible now, not even 15 years later.  I love that the documentary actors seemed so real.

What I disliked: That I usually end up watching this movie by myself.  Only time I watched it with someone, it was a first date.  Strangely enough, I got laid that night.  It’s 79 minutes long, and the pacing and acting and everything is perfect for the type of movie it is.  Which is to say that you have to suspend disbelief to believe that it truly did happen.  Which is perfectly fine, since we do it for every other movie anyways, but nooooo people want stupid scares.  This is why we can’t have nice things, people.

Would I recommend this to anyone?: No.  At the risk of coming across as a pretentious critic, this movie isn’t for everyone.  It is fucking excellent, but most people won’t see that, won’t be able to make that suspension jump or will get bogged down in the shaky camerawork or some other mundane detail.

Rating: 5 / 5

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov (only other film of his I’ve seen was Wanted and holy fuck, did THAT suck)

Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith adapted his own novel for the screen

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson and Alan Tudyk

What it’s about: one of the most self-explanatory movie titles ever, it’s right there

B-Movie Alternate Title: Tim Burton presents Abe Lincoln!

Movie Mash Up: (Buffy the Vampire Slayer300Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) – anything really clever or fun.

What I liked: Well it’s a fairly stylistic movie, but much like every Zack Snyder movie, there requires more to a movie than just flash to make it good.  At least this movie has a slight bit more substance to it than the stuff that Snyder shits out.  I thought the acting was fair to middling, nothing exceptional at all, but it’s not really the kind of movie you’re going to watch for acting tips.

What I disliked: I hate how writers keep coming up with new wrinkles to make their version of vampires fresher or “better”.  Sorry, but silver is used for werewolves, not vampires.  And as soon as you allow vampires to be out in the sun, you’re into Stephanie Meyer territory.  Stick with the Joss Whedon mythos and you’ll automatically make a better movie.  Again, mostly all flashy action set pieces, little to no real meaningful entertainment.  It’s a rote, average movie that looks very pretty.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Not really.  If you go your whole life without watching it, your life will not have been better or worse for it.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

The Mist (2007)

Directed by: Frank Darabont (obviously, watch The Shawshank Redemption and he was mostly responsible for the tone of the first season of “The Walking Dead”)

Written by: Darabont adapted Stephen King’s novella for the screen

Starring: Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, Alexa Davalos, Chris Owen, Melissa McBride, and Sam Witwer.  If you’ve watched “The Walking Dead” at all, you’ll recognise a lot of their faces, but probably not their names.

What it’s about: a freak storm occurs and the next day, a township is enveloped with a strange mist containing Things, leaving many townspeople trapped inside a supermarket

B-Movie Alternate Title: it doesn’t get much more B-movieier than The Mist unless you added “The Things Inside” to the beginning of the title

Movie Mash Up: The Fog + some of the cast of The Shawshank Redemption + the creatures of Land of the Lost, I dunno, it’s kind of a pulp B-movie, so fans of the genre would probably be able to pick more appropriate films

What I liked: oh man, that ending.  Wow.  Even in 2007, I couldn’t believe a movie would be greenlit by a studio with THAT ending.  Great ensemble cast, decent enough special effects, totally embraces its B-movieness but with weight, this is no Troma film.  It is at least the equal of the novella it was adapted from.

What I disliked: well you’re supposed to absolutely hate Marcia Gay Harden’s character, and I did, so that’s a complimentary dislike.  Even though they were just regular citizens, some of the actions of theirs just seemed beyond belief stupid.  Yes, lights attract things… THINGS too.  The ending is awesome, but having watched it multiple times it borders on overload, like Darth Vader’s “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo” in Revenge of the Sith.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Yes, although it is a dark and – at some points – deeply troubling film, everyone should watch it to see that ending, just so maybe – just mmmmmmaybe – they could open themselves up to being shocked by the conclusion of a movie again.

Rating: 4 / 5

Slither (2006)

Directed by: James Gunn (do check out his super uh… Super movie, and hold on to your horses, will be directing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy coming up in 2014)

Written by: also Gunn, paying tribute to the Troma films that he oh so loves

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Jenna Fischer

What it’s about: a meteorite carrying worm/slug-like parasites crashes nearby a small town, leading to the townspeople being taken over by the hive mind-type dealie

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Slithering Dead

Movie Mash Up: Invasion of the Body Snatchers + what I imagine Slugs is about, maybe add some of The Blob into that, mix with the comedic sensibilities of The Evil Dead Trilogy

What I liked: dude Nathan Fillion I mean COME ON, he’s so great!  The writing (or ad-libbing) is sharp, it’s a genuinely creepifying premise, Michael Rooker is spectacularly greasy, stellar scene stealing by Gregg Henry, and Tania Saulnier’s brief nudity.  Also, EW GROSS SLUGS, well done, GROSS.

What I disliked: hard to rag on the special effects since it is a b-movie at heart, but they’re not terribly great at some points.  Again with the b-movie stereotype, the acting isn’t all around great, but the performances fit the type of movie, which isn’t usually a genre of movie I like, but HELL I will watch anything Nathan Fillion appears in.

Would I recommend it to everyone?: No, it’s a very specific type of horror movie, and some audiences can’t really figure out that a horror movie can be both funny and scary.

Rating: 4 / 5

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The only way it would be possible for me to love him more would be if Joss Whedon were a woman.  The man can do absolutely no wrong in my eyes, and hopefully with his writing The Cabin in the Woods and the amazing success of The Avengers, the man can breathe a lot easier everyday knowing he doesn’t ever have to worry about mainstream acceptance ever again.  Not that I thought something like that would keep him up at night.

The Cabin in the Woods is pretty much what the original Scream movie was all about: revitalizing the horror movie genre from the sad, pathetic state it had lumbered into.  Cabin doesn’t have cartoonishly stupid antagonists, and the heroes of the movie aren’t dumb either.  To a point, they’re super aware of exactly what’s going on in the movie, and don’t make all the dumb horror movie mistakes.  Except when they do, and that’s mostly because they’re being manipulated by Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Bradley Whitford), two um.. scientists? that have put this operation together for A Reason.  The less I explain about the premise, the better, trust me.

The writing is excellent, the characters are in some cases tropes, but wonderfully so.  This is a “smart” horror movie, and I don’t generally like horror movies.  Seriously, The Hills Have Eyes,  the Hostel franchise, I Spit On Your Grave, etc. etc. they’re all garbage.  They’re offensively terrible, torture porn at their most flattering description.  The fact that there’s a thriving market for garbage movies like those is proof enough that there are alien races out there just waiting for our eventual self-destruction so they can come to our planet and harvest our resources.  You can believe in your gods without proof, I can believe in those aliens.

It’s a near perfect movie, never mind it being one of the greatest horror movies I’ve ever seen.  Director Drew Goddard gets great performances out of the cast, the gore and tone is never disturbing, and it’s a near satire of the genre.  I rarely recommend horror movies, and those that I do recommend, well most people dismiss that because they’re “boring” and not “scary”.  Bullshit.  Psychological terror is far more potent than any stupid hillbilly chainsaw murderer.  I’m off topic here.  Watch this movie, it is great.

4.5 / 5

The Thing (2011)

It was only last year that I saw John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing, and I enjoyed it enough as a tense psychological survival horror movie.  And much like last year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie serves as a prequel to Carpenter’s movie, but skirting so close to the original that it’s very nearly a remake.  Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and writer Eric Heisserer attempt to fill in the details on what happened at the Norwegian camp in Antarctica and well, they achieve middling results.

The action begins when some Norwegians in Antarctica accidentally discover something frozen in the ice.  Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) recruits a paleontologist from America, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), to help him discover exactly what that something might be.  Then stuff happens that echo the ’82 version, complete with the paranoia and fire.  The humans get picked off one by one, heightening the tension and ending a lot less ambiguously than the original did.  I will recommend that you pay attention during the end credits, because those perfectly tie the two movies together.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s nothing spectacular either, especially if you’ve seen the original.  I’d like to ask fans of the original how they felt about it, as apparently Heijningen and Heisserer were painstakingly faithful to the details of the Norwegian camp discovered in the ’82 version.  I enjoy seeing Winstead in pretty much everything, and it’s also great anytime Joel Edgerton gets work as well, as they’re both talented actors that occasionally elevate movies.  I wonder what I would have given The Thing without those two in it?

2.5 / 5

A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

Sometimes Oftentimes a movie poster or DVD package will come out that will make you interested in the movie, and have very little to do with the movie itself.  Yes, that is the gorgeous Melissa George in mountain climbing equipment at the height of a summit, and based on that and the title I thought it was going to be some sort of cross between North Face and 127 Hours. She falls down and it’s a tortured psychological terror of a movie as we wait for her to die.  Hell, there’s a few other movies I could throw into that mash-up: Buried, Frozen, even a bit of Wrecked.  Nope, it’s a mash-up, but more like 10 minutes of North Face with New Town Killers and a bit of Ransom thrown in.

Alison (George) is an experienced mountain climber, going spelunking with a group of friends on a weekend or something.  On their way to start up a mountain, they hear a voice screaming from a half-buried pipe.  Upon digging up the location, they discover Anna (Holly Boyd), a young Serbian girl who was buried in the compartment.  They concoct a plan to get the emaciated girl some help as soon as possible, but end up getting picked off one by one by Anna’s kidnappers.

Firstly, it’s a gorgeously-shot movie, with epic mountain vistas and nature shots all about.  Hey, I know, let’s throw some of The River Wild into the mash-up as well, because a good portion of the movie involves a wild river.  There’s some pretty big plot holes and suspensions of disbelief to get around, and if you think about them too much (like I did), they’ll affect your enjoyment of the movie.  It’s fairly fast-paced and violent, and y’know, I’m just going to say it belongs in the survival horror genre.  Not a typical representation, but the elements are all there.  It’s alright, better than average with decent acting for the genre, but it’s nothing I’m ever going to watch again.

3 / 5

Apollo 18 (2011)

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’m kind of a fan of those “found-footage” type films.  For a lot of audiences, they’re generally too boring, little goes on in them, etc.  Perhaps that genre of films ask too much of today’s audiences, who are all about bigger, better, faster, more in 3D.  Watching any film, there’s a certain degree of suspension of disbelief that is required (hopefully not documentaries though!), and with the “found-footage” movies, they ask you to actually suspend your suspension of disbelief and accept that what you’re seeing on the screen actually happened.  A lot of people can’t put their mindset there, and whatever, I’m not talking down about them, but don’t talk smack about the “found-footage” movies I like, okay?  Otherwise, I might call you dumb.

The premise behind Apollo 18 is that even though NASA cancelled all the lunar missions after Apollo 17, the eighteenth mission was reactivated and three men went up to the moon.  And somehow the footage presented in the movie was found, even though the men never came back.  That’s the hardest part to believe, is that footage from space was somehow found, and it nearly ruins the movie for me.  Pretty much every five minutes I was thinking about watching the excellent Moon afterwards and wondering how the hell the footage was retrieved by someone on Earth.  The footage isn’t all located in the same camera either, so it’s even more maddening of a plot detail.

The problem with it being a “found-footage” film is that, well, it’s like when M. Night Shyamalan was making good movies and every movie he released the question was “WHAT IS GOING TO BE THE TWIST?”  It was his thing, even though twist endings had been around since at least Citizen Kane.  So when you’re expecting a twist, it dulls the surprise, and that dulling affects everything that is presented in Apollo 18.  You know there’s going to be something weird, and oh there it is.  Not “OH THERE IT IS!”  We’ve all become desensitized and you’re super lucky if you’re not.

I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but I don’t think it’s a shining example of the genre.  I also don’t think it deserves the scorn that has been heaped upon it.

3 / 5

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

I don’t pretend to know everything about the movie industry, but there is no reason an awesome horror comedy film such as T&DvE (as I’m forever abbreviating it) should be shelved for two months, let alone two freaking years.  Apparently it was filmed in the area around my hometown of Calgary (other noteworthy movies filmed thereabouts are Unforgiven, Brokeback Mountain and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), which means I missed out on… well nothing, I’m kind of a homebody so it’s not like I would have gone out and stalked Alan Tudyk or anything.

Anyways, the movie centres around Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two sorta hillbilly types that a pack of college kids judge to be creepy freaks.  A misunderstanding happens, and when T & D save the life of Allison (Katrina Bowden), the idiot college kids mistakenly believe that T & D have abducted Allison.  AND THEN CRAZY THINGS START HAPPENING.

It’s a very sitcom-y, misunderstanding leading to hilarity high concept movie, but you couldn’t have asked for two finer actors than Tudyk and Labine to pull it off.  It is wonderful, and I’m not a gory horror fan, but there’s plenty of that too.  You know what I’d like?  A movie starring Tudyk, Paul Rudd and Nathan Fillion, probably produced by Judd Apatow and maybe have Isla Fisher or Amy Adams or both of them in it.  Call it Conquest of the Reds or something and just let them play it out.  I don’t even have a script idea yet, but call me!

4 / 5