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 – #7 Housebound

Scrolling through Netflix’s horror genre, it is a sea of one and two star shit-shows. We spotted one with four stars and jumped on it. Housebound is a 2014 film from New Zealand. What this means to American audiences is that the characters speak with accents and drive on the wrong side of the road. The premise: A young woman named Kylie commits a crime and is sentenced to 8 months of house arrest…with her mother and step-father in the house she grew up in. She’s surly and rude, but things get interesting when she overhears her mother confess that she thinks the house is haunted. With the help of the security guy that monitors her ankle bracelet compliance, she discovers that her home was once a halfway house for fucked up kids and that a 16 year old girl was murdered there. There are weird sounds and a super-fucked-up Teddy Ruxpin-ish bear. Meanwhile a creepy neighbor looms and Kylie’s mom babbles non-stop. Is it a ghost? A demon? Or is something of flesh and blood hiding in the house?
HB POSTER FINAL_BLEED_3

 

Christa’s Review

Though the film is not meant to be a spoof (I don’t think…who can tell with kiwis?), Housebound manages to be both funny and quite scary. I think this would have scared me much more if I’d watched in the dark instead of at noon while eating a turkey sandwich. I have no complaints about this, nor saw any errors. I agree with Dana that the actress playing Kylie seemed too old for the part, but she was very good. Brave though frightened, she was a real heroine. Don’t be misled by my Afghan rating. It’s very good. Just not butt-puckeringly scary.

up to nose

 

 

 

 

 

Dana’s Review

We found this movie by just flicking through Netflix to see what we could find, and this just happened to be the movie we decided on. I thought it was a stretch to place the lead actor on house arrest for the crime she committed , especially given the age of the character. Well, the supposed age of the character, because we never really know, but it seemed that the actress was stretching to play the age of the character. But once through that, it was a fairly enjoyable movie to watch. Not a lot of horror or gore, with just a little bit of suspense, but with some mystery thrown in that has you constantly guessing what is really going on. Overall, a good movie to watch for those wanting a good movie, without being a typical, all out horror movie.

 

 

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 – #4 Twixt

  I chose the film Twixt for three reasons: It was directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning, and the hero is a struggling writer on a book signing tour. Said writer stops in Swann Valley, a small town with two distinguishing features: a mass murder occurred there and the town belfry features seven clock faces-none of which show the same time. Hall Baltimore is this author’s name and he is promoting the latest in a series of novels about witches. “How does it feel to be the bargain basement Stephen King?” asks the town sheriff played by Bruce Dern. Hall Baltimore drinks too much, has lost his daughter in an accident and his wife yells at him via Skype about how broke they are and threatens to sell his precious first edition Walt Whitman. The wife is played by Kilmer’s real life ex-wife Joanne Whalley.

  Okay, so Drunk Writer discovers that Edgar Allen Poe once stayed at a coal hotel which is now boarded up. When he passes out from drinking that night he dreams of Elle Fanning. She’s ghostly and sad. Kilmer dreams in black and white with splotches of over saturated color (like Schindler’s List). He also meets Poe in his dreams and between the long-dead author and the girl in white they give him clues about the murder. Meanwhile, in awake land the sheriff wants to collaborate on a book about the murders and Kilmer/Baltimore sells his agent on the idea. From then on he seeks answers in his dreams. He’s sick of writing the witch books but he’s unable to write anything else. Little by little things are revealed but no one is trustworthy. There’s also some business with bad kids that live across the lake and they drink and drug and fuck and they might even be vampires. 

Christa’s Review

Here are the good things about Twixt. It’s got some goodies for lit nerds like myself. F’rinstance, in a newspaper article about the murders a witness named Pym is quoted. Pym is a famous Poe character. Stuff like that. Cool, but not enough to save the film. Other decent stuff: All the actors are turning in good performances–no one is half-assing it (Would you even dare with FFC?), there’s a funny but where Kilmer/Baltimore is trying to write an outline and he’s doing silly voices and one is Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, and finally it’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking. If you sat back and watched it with the sound off and didn’t try to make sense of it, it would serve as a feast for the eyes but in a very overwrought, saturated style…sort of similar to Sin City. 

The best I can say about this is it’s “interesting.” But it’s not at all frightening or tense or compelling. I give Twixt zero Afghan of Doom. unloved afghan

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 – #2 Dumplings

Dumplings is a Hong Kong film in Chinese with English subtitles. It’s available on Amazon Prime. The premise: A beautiful former actress (Miriam Yeung) in her mid-thirties feels her rich husband’s (Tony Leung) attentions waning. She seeks youthful rejuvenation in Aunt Mei’s (Bai Ling) famous black market dumplings. Since you find out in the opening scene, I will tell you what’s in the dumplings: aborted human fetuses. First trimester fetuses are very nutritious, but the most powerful rejuvenation powers come with second-trimester babies. These are, however, more difficult to acquire. Icky shit ensues.

Dumplings movie poster

Christa’s Review

What makes a horror movie? I asked myself this question a few times as I watched this film. Several times I found myself thinking “This isn’t scaring me.” But does a horror film need to scare you? Or just horrify you? Because I wasn’t scared but I was definitely horrified. This film is gory as fuck. You will see shit you never wanted to see and may never forget. But, this film is not about abortion, really. It’s about an imbalance of power between men and women. About how far a woman will go to hang on to her meal ticket. Does Mrs. Li really love Mr. Li? Or is she just afraid of being cast aside for a 20-year-old? As Aunt Mei says “Every man wants to fuck a 20-year-old body.” What depths will Mrs. Li sink to, what crimes will she command and commit to regain her youth? None of these characters are even a tiny bit likeable. This film was disgusting but compelling, but one aspect that felt forced was the sex scenes. I get that the filmmaker (Fruit Chan. I’m sorry, I laughed every time I saw it) was equating sex with youth/vitality, but it was sort of unnecessary. And though Tony Leung was crazy-hot in The Lover in 1992, now he has white hair and is not so bangable. But maybe that’s the point. Men stay attractive forever? Or money makes them fuckable? Mr Li basically fucks everyone in this film…as if he’s the only man in Hong Kong. I don’t know, maybe he’s the George Clooney of Hong Kong film. Anyway, this film is worth a watch if you can stomach fetal remains…so to speak.

Not scary, but disturbing.

Not scary, but disturbing.

31 Frightful Films – #1 The Visit

The Visit is an M. Night Shyamalan film. Which either fills you with anticipation or dread. Perhaps a bit of both. You’ve probably seen the trailers… two kids visit their grandparents. The grandparents are a bit “off.” The trailer shows Granny asking her teenage granddaughter to clean the oven from the inside. “Just a bit further…get all the way inside…” which immediately conjures up memories of a certain gingerbread house. So that’s the premise of the film. Kids in a house with strange old people. Grandpa tells them it would probably be best if they didn’t come out of their rooms after 9:30.

The_Visit_(2015_film)_poster

Christa’s Review

I saw this in the theater with my daughter and a friend and I think everyone in the theater hated me. I squeaked, I squealed, I hollered “What the fuuuuck?!” I also skootched way way down in my seat…I was almost on the floor. If I’d had the Afghan of Doom with me I would have been underneath it a good part of the time. As it was, I had to make do with my hoodie. This is a good Shyamalan film. I did not see the twist coming. Or, I knew SOME twist had to be coming, but did not guess correctly. AT ALL. So cheers to you M. Night. You got me, sir. And while I’ve got your ear…welcome back to my good graces. Here are the two things that made The Visit work so well for me:

1) The kids are likeable and believable. They aren’t small actors saying grown up lines. They act like young people. Not precocious TV-sitcom kids, but actual living and breathing kids. They have quirks (the sister is making a documentary of the visit and she exibits all the silly yet sincere pretentions of film students. The brother is a “rapper.” His rhymes are not very good, but inventive and funny in a dorky way.) and treat their grandparents with respect…no sulking or backtalk. They genuinely like and care for one another and want their mother’s parents to like them.

The Visit still

2) The film plays on our fear of old people. Don’t shake your head at me….you know it’s true. The elderly are frightening because they forget stuff and they smell weird and they can be an odd mix of fragile and ferocious and it’s hard to know what to do with them. They are also terrifying because we will all face aging with our own loved ones and then personally (should we be lucky enough to live long enough to fall apart). Is Grandma doing that odd thing because that’s her personality or because she’s old? Is she sick? Does she have dementia? Did Grandpa just shit his pants? And am I supposed to pretend it didn’t happen? These issues are compounded by the fact that the kids have never met their grandparents before and are trying to mend a rift in the family. They are doubly incented to just play nice and go along with whatever is happening in the house at night.

Was it scary? Yes. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. Did it haunt me and give me bad dreams? No. I give The Visit a three-quarter-afghan. up to nose

 

A note about the ratings. I watch horror films with the Afghan of Doom (if I’m at home), and rate the scariness of the film on how much of my time I spent under the afghan and how much of myself had to stay under for protection.

 

unloved afghan

Film was not scary, or was boring or terrible. Poor Afghan of Doom is abandoned on the sofa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m thinking about maybe hiding under the Afghan of Doom, but I’m not sure. Almost scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, this is scary. I need the Afghan's protection, but I'm not too scared to watch.

Okay, this is scary. I need the Afghan’s protection, but I’m not too scared to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the way scared. I can't even. Save me, Afghan of Doom!!!

All the way scared. I can’t even. Save me, Afghan of Doom!!!