31 Frightful Films – #13 The Final Girls

Final Girls posterI’m falling woefully behind. But I will soldier on! This brand-new film is available to watch in theaters, but you can also rent and stream it right now! The Final Girls is a meta-horror film in the vein of Cabin in the Woods. The premise is this: Violet from the first season of American Horror Story’s mom (Laurie Jupiter from Watchmen) was in a classic 1980’s slasher flick called Camp Bloodbath. On an anniversary of the film’s release, she’s invited to a screening as the daughter of the now-dead actress. A fire starts during the film and Violet (shit, what was her name in the movie?!) and her friends Maebe, Viking guy, Adderall Bitch (who’s also in some vampire TV show), and Shaggy (Silicon Valley dude) escape the flames through the screen on which the movie is showing and find themselves INSIDE the film. The title refers to the genre trope that it is the last female character (who has remained chaste throughout the film) will be the one to kill the bad guy at the end of the film.

Maebe, Adderally, Violet, and Viking Guy.

Maebe, Adderally, Violet, and Viking Guy.

Christa’s Review

I love what this movie tried to do, and it IS entertaining. It’s got plenty of humor. Bumpers is hilarious and so is another camp counselor (The Slutty One, who was also Cleopatra in the Epic Rap Battle against Marilyn Monroe). Silk Spectre II plays it all completely straight and she along with Violet are the heart of the film. The Final Girls does some cool things with the idea of films existing as mini-worlds untouched by time. I would totally watch this again. However, it falls short of really turning the genre on its head. Let me explain. Cabin in the Woods (and Scream long ago) were able to both make fun of horror movies, explain the rules while breaking them, while still maintaining suspense and yes, horror. Even when you see the men in the control room manipulate the temperature and fog effects and pheromone levels in the Thor-and-whatserface-get-it-on-in-the-forest scene, it’s STILL scary. This is the missing element in The Final Girls. I enjoyed watching it, but I was never, ever, scared. I’m still giving it a bit of Afghan for being funny and interesting though.

When Dudebro gets out the scythe...

Not scared, but interested.

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31 Frightful Films – #12 Lake Mungo

lake_mungo_ver2_xlgLake Mungo is a 2008 Australian film. I rented it on Amazon Instant Video. It’s about the accidental drowning death of a 16 year old girl and the experiences of her parents and brother afterward. After Alice’s tragic death, strange things start happening in the family home. Sounds in the night, a sense that someone is standing at the end of the bed. Alice’s brother Matthew is an amateur photographer and on close examination of his photos it appears that Alice may not really be dead. Or she’s come back. It’s done in a documentary style with interviews with family, friends, local law enforcement, and a psychic the mother hires. Little by little theories of what is going on are discussed. Evidence examined. And Alice’s secrets revealed.

lakemungo2

Christa’s Review

Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound scary. My daughter watched with me and when she discovered the documentary format she asked “How is this going to be scary?” But it WAS. It’s not jump-out-and-startle scary, it’s a creeping dread scary. Because you don’t feel like you’re in a supernatural world where crazy shit is just…normal. It’s got video footage from the police, and local news reports and everything is presented like..a 60 Minutes segment or something. So the creepy shit is extra creepy. I was super freaked out and whimpered “I hate this movie.” They showed more creepy shit during the credits and I made my daughter turn it off. “REALLY, Mom?!”  Really. I couldn’t stop thinking about this film. I definitely recommend Lake Mungo.

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.

31 Frightful Films – #11 All Cheerleaders Die

ALL-CHEERLEADERS-DIE-40BF15EWe chose this film because it looked like something goofy we could watch during dinner. I mean, All Cheerleaders Die–who can take that seriously? The premise of this 2013 film is this: One cheerleader dies during practice (nothing insidious…she falls on her head and it’s game over). Her best friend takes her place on the squad a year later with a hidden motive. To lay this out would sort of spoil the reveal, but what follows is a bunch of hot girls in tight outfits, jerky football players, death, undeath, humor, mistaken identity, witchcraft, and lesbian romance.

cheerleaders die glowing stones

Christa’s Review

All Cheerleaders Die was better than I expected. It had a bunch of stuff that is weird and gory and seems at first like just not-very-serious filmmaking, but then plot lines sort of come together and things make more sense. It’s some good, gory, fun. It didn’t scare me, but it’s worth a watch. Apparently there is a sequel that takes up immediately where the first film ends.

When Dudebro gets out the scythe...

Not scary, but gory.

31 Frightful Films – #10 Unfriended

I paid six bucks on Amazon Video to rent Unfriended. It’s a film that takes place 100% on a computer. The premise is this: one year ago, high school girl Laura Barns committed suicide at school; a direct result of the cyberbullying she experienced after someone posted a humiliating video of her. Now, on the anniversary of her death, a group of friends are group-chatting via Skype when a stranger joins them. At the same time, someone claiming to be the dead girl starts messaging them on Facebook. It seems that Laura–or someone who’s hacked her accounts–is back, and she’s ready to get revenge. She takes control of all the kids’ computers and phones and forces them to play a game designed to turn them against one another and reveal their part in what happened to her a year ago. One by one, people die.

Unfriended poster

Christa’s Review

This worked for me. It really did. I didn’t get super scared, but it was compelling. The closed system of the computer screen (and we see the entire film through what Blaire sees on her screen) creates a claustrophobic environment that is unique but works like an isolated cabin in the words or a haunted house, abandoned mental hospital, creepy basement…whatever.

Unfriended stillYou can’t escape, and you have limited vision and knowledge. In a classic horror film, you can only see as far as the flashlight beam, or the next turn in the corridor. In Unfriended, you’re limited to the messages Blaire receives and the web cam feeds from her friends’ computers. This incomplete information is…scary. From the camera’s limited range to glitchy video that cuts in and out, you’re never really sure what exactly is happening to Blaire’s friends…but you know it’s bad.

This was good. I’d recommend it. It might be disorienting for people who don’t spend much time online, but do you know anyone like that? I give this a three-quarter Afghan of Doom. It didn’t terrify me, but it was well worth the six bucks.

up to nose

31 Frightful Films – #6 Insidious: Chapter 2

Hey, I finally got to watch a scary movie with Gunny! Between his work schedule, the early bedtime he needs to maintain it, and our six-year-old daughter it’s difficult to find a time we can watch something together that is unsuitable for children. So, hooray for our first joint review! We chose Insidious Chapter 2 because we’d seen the first one and it was good and scary. The premise is that, immediately after the events of the first film, the family runs to Grandma’s house followed by the spirit that has been giving them shit and that they thought they were rid of. It’s Poltergeisty, and I mean that in a good way.

Insidious_Chapter_2_1
Christa’s Review

Here’s the first thing: You really should watch the first film before doing the sequel. There isn’t a “last time on Insidious” catch-up, so you have to try to remember what the deal is. Overall this is a good film. Shit holds together well, it’s creepy and pretty scary, and kept me guessing. Two things bugged me: 1) The wife and the mother look way too similar. They have exactly the same hairdo, so from down the hall or across the room you may not know who you’re watching. 2) I’m weary of the horror movie cliche of an abandoned hospital/mental institution/prison that still has all the furniture, fixtures, and patient records. Lame. Oh, which leads me to 3) the fake cobwebs were not convincing. Despite those small things that irked me, I will absolutely recommend this scary movie, with the caveat that you should watch Chapter 1 first.

I think last year I would have given this a higher scare score. Perhaps I'm getting jaded?

I think last year I would have given this a higher scare score. Perhaps I’m getting jaded?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dana’s Review

After watching this film, I am unsure if I ever saw the original in the first place. Lucky for me, between the first 10 minutes of the movie and Christa, I was able to get a fairly good idea of what happened in the movie, at least enough to enjoy this movie. Note to casting agents. Please don’t cast actors with similar features in a film with involves different time periods in the film. Both Christa and I got a little confused with the Mother in the first scene looking too similar to the Mother in the present day scenes, and took us more time than it should have to figure out what was going on. With some good suspenseful moments that kept you guessing about where the movie was going, and how it was going to wrap up, it was very enjoyable. I loved that way they “Back to the Futured” the original movie as well, which I felt was a fresh take of the usual sequel of retelling the original story with just more gore and fright. And guess what? There is a Chapter 3 out there to watch as well. Just enough scare for me to not make me have to change my shorts, and with a story that kept my interest through the entire film, this is a good watch for the Halloween season.

 

 

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 – #29 The Taking Of Deborah Logan

Although this film came out this year, we’ve heard nothing about it. It sounded depressing, but we decided to give it a shot. What the hell, right? We’re in the home stretch. The Taking of Deborah Logan is about a medical student named Mia who is working on a film about Alzheimer’s patients and their caretakers. She and her crew arrive at the home of Deborah Logan who is suffering from the early stages of the disease. Her adult daughter, Sarah, is her primary caretaker. Alzheimer’s is heartbreakingly sad of course, but Deborah’s disease seems to be progressing faster than expected and she goes from a charming and gracious–if forgetful–woman to…something else over the course of just a few weeks. Mia and Sarah begin to suspect that the disease is not the only thing going on and begin to investigate.

Taking of Debra Logan poster

Christa’s review

All the way scared.

All the way scared.

Wow, this was an unexpected treat. Scary as hell, this one has everything: the non-supernatural horror of Alzheimer’s, creeping doom, spooky shit captured on cameras in the middle of the night, nocturnal wandering, violence, mystery, crime. What more could you ask for? A cast of strong female characters? Check. I didn’t actually notice–and that’s good!–until I sat down to type this that all the main roles, the action roles, are women. Deborah and her daughter of course, then the med student making the film, Deborah’s physician, and even (gasp!) the county sheriff. I dug that. But more importantly, this is just a great scary movie (at one point, Gunny was basically sitting in my lap) with genuinely frightening shit, a solid plot, and a satisfying ending.

Dana’s review

Just flipping though Netflix and noticed this little gem and decided, looks like it might scare me, so lets give it a shot, shall we. At first, I thought that the fact I recognized some of the cast might take me out of the movie, that didn’t last long as I quickly got sucked in to this disturbing take on demonic possession. It takes the all too real and very scary disease of Alzheimer and winds itself into a twisted tale of demonic possession. It dares to do things other movies never do and it does a great job with it. If this isn’t on your watch list, it should be.

31 Frightful Films – #1 Dark Mountain

We’re watching a scary movie every day in October. Well, technically we’re watching 31 scary movies in October because we’ll be on vacation for 5 of the days.

There are two rules:

  • We can only watch movies that neither of us have seen before.
  • No torture/gore flicks in the Saw, Human Centipede, Hostel vein.

We began our search on Netflix and were quite surprised to find they don’t have a Halloween channel set up yet. Missed opportunity, guys. Amazon has a Horror listing, but it’s all stuff that requires rental and there were several mis-filed films that should not be under horror.

Dark MountainAnyway, we ended up watching Dark Mountain, a “found footage” movie from 2013 starring Sage Howard, Andrew Simpson, and Shelby Stehlin. The premise is that they journey to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona to search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. Weird shit ensues. It’s Blair Witch in the desert, basically. One of the characters even jokes about the Blair Witch. I believe that is called “lampshading.”

Christa’s review:

up to noseIt was a complete ripoff of The Blair Witch Project, including the casting of one strong female who owns the documentary project and two doofy guys along for the ride. The woman’s mistakes/hubris lead the group into trouble (and isn’t that actually the oldest story EVER?), and bickering, arrogance, sobbing, and wandering follow. Instead of the intermittent black and white footage that the Blair Witch Project employed, this film used ‘phone cam’ footage that apparently had a grainy 70s Instagram filter. The usual shit happened, and no answers were given. At least in the BWP, you knew who the bad guy was: the goddamn witch. In Dark Mountain, it is never clear if the unseen heavy is the ghost of the Dutchman, aliens, crazed locals protecting a gold claim or something else. BUT having said all that, this movie did scare me a bit. The BWP scared the shit out of me back in the day, and those familiar techniques worked again. It’s not awful by any means. Maybe if you think of it as a reboot of BWP instead of a copycat it will feel fresh and fabulous. Bottom line: I didn’t have to cover my face with the Afghan of Doom and peek through the eyeholes, but I did pull it up to my nose a couple times.

Dana’s review:

It definitely did carry a Blair Witch Project feel to it, from the “Based on real events” to the “found footage” used to create the movie. I’m unsure if the bad guy was supposed to be the Native America spirits, aliens, time vortex’s, or crazy Dutchman mine hunters. All of these played a part in the scare, but with nothing ever being explained. I know they don’t have to explain these things, but it felt like they took the rest of the Scooby-Doo mysteries and made them all be the bad guys. And while it did generate a little scare in me, it was done through the familiar “it’s dark with little light and a jumpy camera and then something jumps out” that would startle almost anybody. Overall, it was an ok movie, but not something I would really recommend to anybody.