31 Frightful Films – #9 Dark Skies

We stumbled across this one flipping through Netflix. So many, many, horror films, and so few with scores above one or two stars. Dark Skies not only had a decent rating, but it had actors I recognize, including JK Simmons who is a favorite in our house since Whiplash.

DARK-SKIESHere’s the premise. Suburban couple has two sons, money woes, (Dad’s out of work), and mysterious nighttime visitors. What begins as prankish becomes steadily more sinister and the family finds themselves more and more isolated as the events are more unbelievable.

Christa’s Review

Okay, I hadn’t heard a peep about this 2013 film, but this is the first one this year that really scared me. I cowered under the Afghan of Doom, I whimpered “I hate this movie!” and yes, I even had nightmares.

darl skies drawing

I appreciate that it seems set in a real believable world, not crazy horror world, where if you run next door fleeing evil spirits the neighbors are quickly convinced that evil is afoot. In Dark Skies, the neighbors, friends, and local cops are just like your real life community. If they see strange marks on a child their mind does not immediately assume it’s a demon or alien. Their train of thought goes exactly where yours or mind would go…which of course makes the parents situation even more desperate. I recommend Dark Skies and give it Full Afghan!

Holy shit this is scary! I don't want to look, but I have to. But only through a tiny hole in the Afghan of Doom.

Holy shit this is scary! I don’t want to look, but I have to. But only through a tiny hole in the Afghan of Doom.

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31 Frightful Films – #3 Exeter

The third scary film I watched this October was Exeter. I saw it on Netflix. It stars no one you’ve heard of and its selling point (according to the poster) is the horror cred of the producers and director. The premise: There’s this institution for fucked-up children and over the years a crap-ton of kids died inside it/because of it. It was finally shut down in the 1970s (that is an important point to remember) because of the abuses that went on inside. In the present day a Catholic priest, Father somebody, wants to renovate the place and has hired a strapping young man to help him. Well, his friends and friends of friends hear that there’s this big creepy place and that sounds like a great place for a big party. Does capital e Evil enjoy being woken up by screaming teens and their shitty music? It decidedly does not.exeter-2015-poster

Meanwhile, a cliche squad of after-partiers linger after the crowds break up and –of course– get trapped inside the institute. Let me introduce you to the crew. Dudebro 1 and Dudebro 2. Both handsome lugs with dark hair. One is Father Somebody’s protege and the other is rather dumb and sexist (it’s the only way to tell them apart). Then we have Fat One with Glasses, The Stoner, The Tagalong Kid Brother, and then oh yes two girls: The Blonde Slut and The Brunette Gothy Smart Girl. They each behave exactly as you would predict because you’ve seen these characters over and over your entire life.

Christa’s Review

Well. Look, if you want something mindless, dark, and gory, please by all means smoke a bowl and enjoy. It’s got some of the grossest shit I have ever seen on film (and I just watched a Chinese woman chop up and cook human fetuses!) The cinematography is good, the special effects are good. The whole thing LOOKS okay, if you don’t think about it too much. I understand many people don’t care if a horror movie “makes sense” or if people behave in a believable way. I mean, we’re talking about demonic possession which I’d wager most people in Western society anyway don’t encounter in their day-to-day lives. And with films we always expect to suspend disbelief in some ways like the often-cited “Go toward the scary sound instead of running the fuck away” trope. These characters and this story though…I could never lose myself in the film because I was repeatedly pulled out of it by things that make no sense. And I don’t mean an evil spirit being passed from teenager to teenager like a particularly virulent case of chlamydia. I mean…Dudebro 1 and Goth Girl find video cassettes of the patients/inmates. Which they watch on a VCR. Which wasn’t invented until after the institute closed. In a place without electricity. By the by, the institute didn’t lock the brain trust in from the get-go. It’s only after two deaths and one possession that that happens. Why don’t they run the fuck away? Because they’ve been doing drugs. And just in case you’re thinking…no one calls for help? I bet the capital e Evil made all their cellphones break. Or they all ran out of charge. NOPE. Every member of the Derp Squad has a iPhone. Fat Boy has a damn tablet! They look up how to perform an excorcism and watch videos but no one calls the cops, receives a “Where the fuck are you” text from Mom, or even posts anything to social media. And that, in 2015, is where I draw the line. If you’re going to give your characters phones and access to the internet then that is the film world you have chosen and you must abide by the rules of that world.

exeter_still

For all the horror experience on the film making roster here, you’d think the pacing would be better. There are very simple ways to create and sustain fear. You build it slowly, you have a surprise scare here, a creeping horror there, then a moment of humor or character development to let the audience catch their breath and then WHAM! you get ’em again. You do this over and over and you use the musical score to aid you in this. In Exeter…well it just doesn’t work. There’s just a relentless parade of violence and after twenty “attacks” they no longer surprised or scared me. It was boring. And I rarely ever notice a movie score so if I know something was off, it had to be pretty bad.

Having said all that, there is a twist that came completely as a surprise to me and it was a good one. Don’t ponder it at all though because the math doesn’t add up in any way without invoking time travel or worm holes. So…just enjoy it and don’t think about it.

Bottom line, if you like gore/special makeup effects and don’t want to think too hard, kick back with a cocktail or five and enjoy. Otherwise, skip Exeter. I give it half an Afghan of Doom for the gore and the twist.

When Dudebro gets out the scythe...

When Dudebro gets out the scythe…

31 Frightful Films – #30 The Frighteners

After the trauma of the eyeball-dryingly scary Deborah Logan movie last night, we were ready for something lighter. And to be honest, we’re both pretty damn weary of scary movies at this point. So, we watched a film we considered early on and eliminated because we didn’t want any comedy in the mix. The film was The Frighteners, a 1996 horror/comedy starring Alex P. Keaton. The premise: There’s a series of unexplained deaths in a small town. Enter Frank Bannister, a psychic investigator. For a price he will clear your home of poltergeists, restless spirits, whatever. Here’s his game: He’s actually got a trio of ghosts who do his bidding. They fuck shit up so the people pay Frank. Of course, Frank gets mixed up in the string of deaths and there’s a pretty widow and a dumb sheriff and a creepy FBI dude.

frighteners_poster_01

Christa’s review

Afghan of Doom fell asleep.

Afghan of Doom fell asleep.

It’s an interesting idea, certainly. The ghost effects are pretty dated, though and the whole thing came across more as a kids movie. But on the other hand there are bad words and some stuff is kinda spooky. I wouldn’t let my kid watch it, but it didn’t quite feel like it was for grownups, either. The only funny bits are with the indentured ghosts, and Michael J. Fox is not really his likable charming self in this. Afghan of Doom was not impressed.

Dana’s review

I’d heard about this one but don’t recall ever watching it. Interesting take on a scary movie, more inline with something like Beetlejuice than Nightmare on Elmstreet. No real scary moments, and no real gore, but it did have it’s humorous moments. I actually would love to see this movie remade with today’s technology and some actual scares in it. That could be interesting. If looking for a more lighthearted movie with little scare, but ghosts in it, then this would be worth the watch. But if looking for that classic, scary movie, then give this a pass.

31 Frightful Films – #25 Grave Encounters

I admit passing over this one several times on Netflix because the name seemed stupid. Now that I know the title of the movie is that of the TV show that is the premise, I don’t find it so bad. Grave Encounters is a 2011 film by The Vicious Brothers. Here’s the premise: A reality show featuring ghost-hunters or paranormal investigators sets out to make their sixth episode in an abandoned Maryland insane asylum. This is the footage that was left behind. A frightened-looking producer tells us it has only been edited for time.

grave_encounters

Christa’s review

All the way scared.

All the way scared.

I’m SO glad we watched this in daylight. It was scary as fuck. It had just the right pacing with the joking and cynicism of a film crew and then the slow burn as they are locked in by the caretaker. A couple weird things happen, and then it all goes to shit. Part of the genius of this is that there is no electricity in this abandoned building so all light comes from the crew and a lot of it is night-vision. Like the best unsettling films the things you don’t see are far worse than those you do. This one offers up scares both mind-fucky (time becomes fluid as in Oculus) and jump-out-at-you startling. This is a must-see if you want a good scare.

Dana’s review

Holy balls sweat! I’m glad this was a day time encounter because if it had been dark, I would of had to change my underwear. And probably got rid of the couch. This is a great example of a slow burn as you are waiting for things to happen. And as the movie progresses, you start to see little things that hint to much bigger things afoot than what you are actually seeing. Fantastically done and loved it. The gore is nonexistent but the suspense is fantastic. Definitely one to add to your list of movies to watch for Halloween, or anytime for that matter.

31 Frightful Films – #24 Playback

We were a little leary of this because of the debacle that was V/H/S, but we gave Playback a chance. It’s from 2012 and stars a bunch of teenagers (or young-looking actors) plus Christian Slater. Yes, that Christian Slater. The idea of this film is that evil can be transferred through images (not completely dissimilar to Sinister, which you may remember is our reigning butt-puckeringly scary favorite). So here’s the deal: Fifteen years ago, a terrible mass murder happened in this town and a family was wiped out. Now, in present day, a high school student is doing a film project on “The Diehl Murders” for a school project. Local grownups discourage him from digging up bad memories, but he perseveres with the help of his girlfriend and friends in researching and reenacting the crime on video.He gets a guy who works as an archivist at the local TV news station to dig up the real footage of the crime and that’s when the evil is released.

playback

Dana’s review

This movie reminded me a little of The Ring with it’s use of video as a transfer device for evil. Not an exceptionally scary movie, but then again, we watched it with the lights on in the middle of the day, so that had something to do with it, I’m sure. I did like the story on how a picture captures a potion of the persons soul, so a motion picture actually captures a bit of them, and the history of the motion picture that was included in the film. Overall, very watchable. Not over the top scary or gory.

Christa’s review

up to noseThis was pretty good. I would have been more scared if we’d watched it at night with the lights off, so I take responsibility for some of the unscariness. Although the film plays with ideas that have been explored before–heck, how many times have we heard the trope about photographs capturing the soul?–it did so in a unique way that also explored ideas of inherited evil. Slater as a corrupt and perverted cop was surprising, but I found myself wondering more about his career choices than really buying into his portrayal. Again, that may be my own personal baggage. This film delivered some good scares. I saw the twist coming, but that didn’t negatively effect my enjoyment. I give this half an Afghan of Doom with the caveat that it probably would be an eyeball-peeker if I’d watched under proper conditions.

 

 

31 Frightful Films – #7 Sinister

Last night we watched Sinister, a 2012 film starring 90’s anti-hero Ethan “What’s my glitch?” Hawke. He plays a writer of fiction that no one reads, textbooks that pay the bills, and one true crime book that gave him 15 minutes of fame. Hoping to reclaim that level of success, he moves his family to a new town to research another true crime book. What he doesn’t tell his family is that he’s moved them to a crime scene: the house where a family was murdered and one of the children went missing. He finds a box of Super8 film labeled “home movies.” Shit starts to happen.

 

Fuck you, Sinister.

Fuck you, Sinister.

Christa’s review

All the way scared.

All the way scared.

Well. I’ve met my match. This movie scared the shit out of me. It starts slowly, with scene after scene of Ethan Hawke sitting in the dark drinking whisky on the rocks and watching horrors unfold on the sheet he’s pinned to the wall. Here’s the thing about Sinister though. There’s no slow burn of typical haunted house films. No, “huh, didn’t I turn that light off?” or “who moved my book?” that might be attributed to playful poltergeists. Once things go bad in this house, they go all the way bad, and fast. The ending is a jaw-dropper. Afghan of Doom is exhausted from being cowered under and clutched in desperation. At one point I may have whispered “turn it off, turn it off, I hate this.” Yeah, and every time I woke up during the night, I thought about that face. UGH! If you like to be scared, Sinister is fantastic.

Dana’s review

OK, now THIS is what I was expecting going in to this with Christa. A good scary movie that puckers the sphincter, but not before empting your bowels. The story was slow as snail snot at the beginning, just teasing you on what you thought it was going to be. But then, it dropped the clutch and went full bore into it at the end, twisting and turning along the way. Turn off the lights, but away the cell phones, turn off the tablets, and give this movie a watch! It leaves you with a “did you hear that” feeling once it ends, and that’s a good thing. That lasting impression is what makes it possible to scare the brown clown out of your wife once it is over, for even more entertainment value. But be warned, your “werewolves” may become a target.

31 Frightful Films – #6 Cursed

Last night we watched Cursed a 2005 Wes Craven film starring Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, and Joshua Jackson. The premise: a werewolf is roaming the Hollywood Hills.

cursed

Christa’s Review

First of all, it was a huge relief to watch a film with real actors and good production values. This was billed as a horror/comedy, but it wasn’t a spoof. It was a werewolf flick with a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that scary (though I startled a couple of times) or that funny. Watching Wednesday Addams and Mark Zuckerberg try to deal with getting infected with lycanthropism (is that what you’d call it?) is sort of amusing. The special effects make-up of Rick Baker were supposed to be a selling point, but honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. Of course, this film is almost 10 years old, but on the other hand I thought his transformation scenes in American Werewolf in London were better. If you see that this one is on TV, go ahead and give it a whirl, but don’t expect to be scared. Afghan of Doom says it’s too scary for little kids, but barely pulse-raising for adults.

Meh.

Meh.

Dana’s Review

Hey! It’s a movie with people I recognize! It’s got Nadia from American Pie, the guy from Dawson’s Creek that wasn’t Dawson, Wednesday Addams, Zuckerberg, and Ron from Parks and Rec. Not really a scary movies or a funny movie, but it at least kept my interest and entertained me. If this movie would have had some real suspense and scare in it, it would have been a real food horror flick. As it is, it is a good popcorn flick.

31 Frightful Films – #5 The Sacrament

Last night, after dining at a fancy steak house for Gunny’s birthday, we were full and sleepy and not really in the mood for a scary movie. So we just sort of put on the first thing tagged horror we found that neither of us had watched before. This turned out to be The Sacrament. Written and directed by Ti West and starring no one you’ve ever heard of. The premise is that a a hard-hitting investigative TV news team goes off to some remote country to fetch the photographer’s sister, who has gotten involved with some sort of hippie commune.

The Sacrament

Dana’s Review

What matter of feces did I just watch? Stumbled upon this movie while flipping through Netflix, saw it was listed as horror, so screw it, let’s watch this one. Bad decision. Film crew travels to another country to see the sister of one of their crew who went to a rehab commune. Greeted by guns. The Jonestown Massacre happens. The end. There is no horror, no scares , no suspense. This movie so boring that I fell asleep at one point and missed nothing but some bad acting and horrible script. I still can’t get over the stupidity of the helicopter pilot. When they were dropped off via helicopter, the pilot said he would be back tomorrow and would only wait for an hour before leaving. Fast forward to the next day when one of the crew members “gets to the choppa” for help, and the pilot gets shot. Not dead shot, but wounded shot mind you. The crew member explains what is happening at the camp, and the pilot says he will wait while he goes back to the camp. The same guy who said he would only wait an hour, gets shot, and decided that he will now wait around longer. AFTER GETTING FUCKING SHOT! This movie sucks. The only reason to watch this movie is to screw with your friends and make them waste 90 minutes of their life.

Christa’s Review

It’s Jonestown. This film is neither interesting nor scary. A better title would be: The Excrement.

Afghan of Doom fell asleep.

Afghan of Doom fell asleep.

31 Frightful Films – #4 The Woman in Black

Last night we sort of had to force ourselves to watch something. We’d been up early for a 5k and it had been a long day. We choose The Woman in Black, a 2012 film starring Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe based on the book by Susan Hill. The premise is that a down-on-his-luck widower is dispatched by his law firm to clean up the papers of a dead client. In a creepy-ass house in a creepy-ass village full of creepy-ass people.

Do not go alone.

Do not go alone.

Dana’s review

Oh Boy! I get to go first this week! It must be my birthday! I missed yesterday’s movie due to me going and playing poker with some friends and taking their money, but this movie more than made up for it. Screw you with your randomly disappearing/reappearing creepy old woman face! This movie had me making noises under my blanket that sounded like Peter Griffin having sex for the first time in anticipation of what was assuredly going to be the next scare. Unfortunately, the only thing that kept me going was the waiting for the next scare just so I could swear at it again. Harry Potter could have been playing Pinocchio for how wooden his performance was, and I really have no idea what the story was about because it just didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me and was just uninteresting in general. I had no attachment to Harry Potter’s character and was wishing that he would just die so the movie would end. Scare factor is the best we have seen yet, but otherwise, a shitty movie.

Christa’s review

Ack! Make it stop, Mommy!

Ack! Make it stop, Mommy!

I read the book by Susan Hill a couple of years ago and it scared the vajazzle out of me. Like almost too scared to turn the page kind of terror. So, honestly, I’d been avoiding watching the movie. How can a film be simultaneously boring and sphincter-puckeringly frightening? It must be some sort of wizardry. The film differs from the book in significant ways, but captured the atmosphere of Eel Marsh House perfectly. One thing that I thought was better accomplished in the book was the sense of how desperate the guy’s financial situation was and how much he needed to hang on to his job. It’s the only way his refusal to get the hell out of that mind-fuck of a house makes any sort of sense. Was it scary? Jesus fuckballs it was scary. Not only did I cower under the Afghan of Doom, I also put my fingers over my eyes and squinted, so I could only see a blurred slit of the horrors onscreen. He probably didn’t mention it in his review, but Dana was still scared when we went to bed, thinking he saw the Woman in Black in the corner of the room. My big bad Marine told me “I hate you for making me watch that.” I have to agree with him on that.

 

31 Frightful Films – #3 The Eye

Last night Gunny was playing poker with the dudes, so once Allison was abed, I watched a scary movie  with my older daughter Callahan (18). Hardly anything scares her. She’s by far the most unflappable family member. My son (22) would argue that honor belongs to him, but he’d be wrong. Uh, anyway, it’s just me reviewing today. The film was The Eye from 2008 and starring Jessica Alba.

TheEyePoster

The fingers never happened. Maybe it would have helped…

The premise of this movie is cellular memory. The idea that a donated organ can come with unforeseen side-effects. For example, a life-long non-smoker receives the kidney or liver of a stranger and suddenly really wants a cigarette. The organ donor, of course, was a smoker. In The Eye, Jessica Alba receives corneal transplants and immediately begins to see weird shit. Shit that isn’t there. (Minor quibble: why not The Eyes? She got two corneas…). Jessica Alba is all kinds of eye candy, and Parker Posey plays her sister, but this movie is pretty lame. Just…not scary. It felt a little bit like Constantine and a little bit like Ghost. And, doy, a lot like Eyes of Laura Mars. I think the main problem is that the creepy shadow creatures that come to collect the dead look sort of like rejects from the Blue Man Group. Not that they’re blue, but…

Anyway. Not scary. This is me giving this film side-eye. And a courtesy afghan-lift.

Side eye with Afghan