Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Chris and Rose are a young couple heading to the countryside to spend a weekend with Rose’s parents. Along the way, their car is struck by a deer and creating an awkward encounter with the local police. After getting to the house, Rose’s father appears open and a little too comfortable with Chris’s race. Rose’s family clearly lives a life of leisure, but it strikes him that the groundskeeper and the housekeeper are both black. He also gets surprised by the planned garden party the day after their arrival and starts to notice something significantly wrong with his situation.

Definitely Not Post-Racial:¬†Starting in the first scene at the apartment, there was a sense that the mixed race relationship was going to be a theme of the film. Though it was a brief setup, the scene with the officer dove¬†just a bit deeper into the conversation. While Chris chose to not pick a fight and just follow orders, Rose took it upon herself to push the officer near a breaking point. They both got to walk away with a warning about fixing the headlight, but the result could have been different if he had spoken up. This theme continued when they got to the house with the appropriation of black culture and questioning of Chris’s natural qualities.

More of a Thriller than a Horror Film: While this can easily be classified as a horror movie, there was more mystery and suspense rather than gore and jump scares. The care staff had creepy elements to them and there were a few moments with strategic sound effects or eerie music, but I spent more time trying to figure out what the twist about the Armitage family actually was and why the flash from a camera would cause a person to break like Andrew King.

Surprising Acting and Storytelling: While there is a tendency for horror films to be either one-dimensional or focused specifically on the twist, this one dabbled in discussions of race and privilege while blending those themes into the more classic horror/thriller elements. The lighting kept things dark and ominous at times, but Chris broke most horror tropes reserved for black characters and found a way to see through the smoke and mirrors and fight back at the right moments.

Final Verdict: Get Out is one of the best horror films in years. It has a small bit of the comedy from other films like The Cabin in the Woods with some much more depth and intensity than the rest of the crowd. Plus, Rod the TSA stole every scene he was in.

Dan’s Rating:¬†4.5/5

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The Purge (2016): Election Year

Posted: July 9, 2016 in Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
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After years of accepting the Purge as a necessary evil, Senator Charlie Roan finally has enough momentum to strike a blow against the New Founding Fathers of America. Fearing the potential loss against the upstart politician, NFFA changes the game and eliminates the immunity previously provided to politicians on Purge night. Leo Barnes accepts a job on Roan’s security detail and works to ensure that her home is safe. When the security fails and the home is infiltrated, Leo rushes out of the house with the senator and takes off to find new refuge. Safety may be short-lived, but the pair find another group of survivors trying to outlast the night.

Election Year Themes:¬†While the story focused on the election going on in the fictional US, there were a number of themes directly connected to the real election of 2016. One of the most prominent elements was the slogan, “Keep America Great.” There are also a number of religious-political associations with Christianity being used as a distorted weapon of cleansing through sacrifice and atonement. The Purge supporters used the night as a way to get their bloodlust out of their system, eliminate their enemies, and move on with life as usual the following day.

The Worst of Humanity: Tied to many of the real-world themes we see in social politics and the political world was this intense desire to lash out against ideologies and individuals who are different from you. Whether the snobby girl stealing from the convenience store or the civil rights leader looking to eliminate a threat, violence seemed to be the only expression these people could find to manage their dissonance. The Purge was a scapegoat for allowing people to subvert to their baser instincts and destroy that which they disagree or detest.

Graphic Detail but Lack of Depth: While there were some intelligent connections made to current issues, the film was not much more than an excuse to exhibit craziness, violence, and unusual ways to harm others. One of the quick flashes included an alleyway with a guillotine, but more significant was the moment where the Purge supporters purged their sins through the sacrificing of one they deemed unworthy of life. While some of the violence was not much more graphic than the bulk of similar films out there, the overall theme made some of the events feel a bit more intense.

Final Verdict:¬†This is not a very quality film and misses an opportunity to dive deeper into its themes. Violence was obviously the most significant element of the film, but political tensions, honesty, and humanity’s struggle between base survival and higher living were only surface level inclusions.

Dan’s Rating:¬†2.0/5

Searching for perfect beach her mother always talked about, she finds herself in a place seeming like paradise. Getting out into the water, she meets a couple of other surfers. While hesitant about hanging out with them, she ends up surfing the entire day together. They decide to head back in while she stays out in the water to catch one more wave. Getting distracted for just a few moments, she is surprised when a great white shark attacks her out of nowhere. Finding the closest refuge possible, she looks in the distance and can see the shore but no way to get through the terror lurking in the water.

Strength & Resiliency:¬†While there are scenes toward the beginning of the film that show off the beauty of Blake Lively, it was undeniable that she made for an extremely willful and focused survivor. Story elements provided some background into her medical school experience and history working through her mother’s cancer treatments, but her on-the-fly thinking truly served her character well while she fought off her predator and her numerous injuries.

Decency & Retribution: As Nancy was stuck out in the water during low tide, there were several opportunities she had to signal for help. While some fell on deaf ears, others caught the attention of her potential saviors. The drunk man on the beach was clearly a big question mark. While Nancy was not sure he was able to understand what she wanted him to do, she was hopeful when he ended up by her belongings and her phone. The other surfers missed her when she initially realized she was stuck, but they saw her when they returned the next day. The only person to truly try to help her was the young boy who found the GoPro on the beach. The others were compensated for their failure to help her.

Sexism & Internet Trolls: One of the challenging pieces of the release of this film has been the online criticism about the image of Lively in a bikini and projecting that this is a film lacking in actual substance. First of all, it is film about survival in the midst of enjoying a surfing experience. Bikinis are part of beachwear. Regardless of the clothing and the fitness of Lively, only a small portion of the film even gives a sense of that sexuality. The focus is on survival and resiliency. It is on outwitting a giant predator. While it may not be the most original or innovative story, it is extremely engaging nonetheless.

Final Verdict:¬†Survival was the name of the game. Facing off against an enormous beast created a significant conflict and engaging fight for one’s life. The shark may feel a little less than realistic, but the injuries Nancy experiences looked lifelike.

Dan’s Rating:¬†3.0/5

antiviral_ver4The following of celebrities has reached a new low. Obsessed with wanting to experience what celebrities experience, people have begun to want celebrity illnesses and are willing to pay high price tags to get them. While Syd March is one of these people, he also works for the company that develops and sells these illnesses. Sneaking around and injecting himself with different viruses, he transports many of these to piracy groups for a price. He is originally obsessed with Aria Noble but turns his attention toward Hannah Geist when the opportunity presents itself. Injecting himself with her blood, he quickly feels the effects of her virus but is shocked when he learns that she is close to death. Being one of the last people to see her alive, he must fend off the piracy groups and protect himself so he can survive the illness and find a cure.

Starring: Caleb Landry Jones (Syd March), Sarah Gadon (Hannah Geist), Lisa Berry (Lucas Clinic Receptionist), Douglas Smith (Edward Porris), Nenna Abuwa (Aria Noble), Salvatore Antonio (Topp), Matt Watts (Mercer), Dawn Greenhalgh (Jane), Katie Bergin (Talk Show Host), Nicholas Campbell (Dorian), Lara Jean Chorostecki (Michelle), Reid Morgan (Derek Lessing), Elitsa Bako (Vera)

The overall tone of the film was rather bleak and depressing, and the acting definitely mirrors that tone. Jones was a bit of a confusing character. While his character’s obsession was clear from his performance, it was rather unbelievable that he would be able to avoid suspicion as long as he did considering how deathlike he looked throughout the middle of the film. The other actors seemed to ignore that his illnesses were much more severe than a head cold or the sniffles. Everyone else was rather calm and unassuming, even the more aggressive characters.

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This film by Brandon Cronenberg was meant to serve as an intense and exaggerated representation of the obsession that many people have over celebrities. It was not enough for people to worship and idolize their favorite celebrities, but they had to experience even the horrible sides of their celebrities’ experiences. Illness was just one part of this obsession. Cannibalism seemed to be an additional accepted practice within this society. People would go to markets where people were growing steaks made of¬†artificially-growth biological material from celebrities’ cells. Syd was the focus of this film, but his experience was a more extreme version of the obsession of the rest of the population. He used his access to go deeper than anyone else could achieve while avoiding getting caught for a long time.

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This was a very challenging movie for its presentation and its premise. The point was clear but the way that it was conveyed was not very digestible. Graphically, the film was able to portray from extremely challenging material. The flesh and artificial tissue elements were lifelike and easy created a visceral reaction. The illnesses were also very well acted. The problem was that the tone was so sullen that it ruined the enjoyability of the story. Syd was not a likable protagonist, and everyone in the film was flawed and underdeveloped. While he was not the only one who was obsessed with celebrity illnesses, it was just presented as fact that this was the way of the world for these people and Syd lacked explanation for why he was more entangled than others. Cannibalism is reinforced throughout, and particularly at the end of the film, presenting a very scary extreme of the future of humanity.

The film lacked cohesion, likability of the characters, and any tone other than dystopian, so this would only be a film for a very select group of fans.

Dan’s Rating: 1.5/5

only_lovers_left_alive_ver7_xlgAlone and reclusive, ancient musician and vampire Adam relies on one zombie to maintain his connection with the outside world. With the blood of the human population being tainted, he has to pick up his supply from a doctor through significant payoffs. His¬†love, Eve, calls Adam and decides to travel from Tangier to Detroit, sensing that there is something wrong with him. Upon her arrival, they immediately improve both of their lives with a chance to reminisce and connect over his music. Their bliss is threatened when Ava, a girl Eve turned years ago, finds their Detroit home and crashes their party. Immediately demanding access to his blood supply, she disrupts Adam’s improvement and threatens his anonymity. Unable to tame her wild side, Ava convinces Adam and Eve to go out to a local club to listen to music and takes influence over Adam’s supplier in the process.

Starring: Tilda Swinton (Eve), Tom Hiddleston (Adam), Anton Yelchin (Ian), Mia Wasikowska (Ava), John Hurt (Marlowe), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Watson), Slimane Dazi (Bilal), Carter Logan (Scott), Aurelie Thepaut (Flight Attendant), Ali Amine (Taxi Driver)

The cast was definitely an all-star group but the overall tone of the film was extremely melancholy. Hiddleston promoted his lines in almost a soliloquy-style format, rambling off musical themes and appreciation for the macabre. Showing a little more life but many of the same themes, Swinton projected a tamed wildness through her role. Having the most comedic influence through his restrained and even-tempered performance, Jeffrey Wright was perfect for his role. Wasikowska definitely played the wild child, with a combination of innocence and deviousness.

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Jim Jarmusch produced a snapshot into the lives of two vampire lovers who are struggling to make it by in a harsh new world. Having disposed of the old ways of siring and drinking directly from humans, Adam and Eve had¬†to go through safe supply lines to maintain clean nourishment. The good blood had¬†almost a brief high after consumption. While living alone felt¬†like simply existing to both of them, they decided that they need to be together again. Eve’s arrival in Detroit brought Adam out of his funk and significantly changed his desire to shoot himself in the heart with a wooden bullet. He started to feel a little more inspired to produce new music as well. All of this would have been great except for Ava’s arrival and disruption to their happiness. Cutting Adam’s supply line off by drinking from Ian, they are forced to kick her out and return to Tangier to restart together.

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The experience of this film is a tale of two elements: the melancholy and the surreal. Vampire films have invariably been chained to brooding and macabre. This film takes that a bit to the extreme with dark environments and emotionally draining conversations. The majority of the film feels like a combination of musical interludes and long-winded conversations of either music, maintaining a quiet existence, or how to live in a dying society. There were a few elements that broke the mold a bit, particularly the scenes with Dr. Watson and the references to humans as living zombies. The surreal elements hovered between the existence of vampires and their interactions with humans. Adam admitted to the production of a lot of music over the years but trying to keep it out of the spotlight. When one of his songs reached a sense of popularity, his home started to attract humans believing to have found the source of the music. There were also only a few scenes that truly confirmed Adam, Eve, Ava, and Marlowe as vampires.

This film could have had much more potential if it did not take itself so seriously. It felt like the storytelling was stuck in neutral until Ava showed up and ended with something significantly less than a bang. The actors were phenomenal but the concept fell a bit short.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

collection_xlgHaving been captured by The Collector, Arkin finally gets his chance to escape while The Collector wreaks havoc on the another group of people. After the traps at the rave exterminate nearly everyone in attendance, partygoer Elena is captured alive and thrown in a trunk while Arkin dives out a window and heads for safety. While recovering in the hospital, Arkin is confronted by a band of mercenaries hired by Elena’s father to save her. Needing his help, Lucello keeps pushing Arkin to take them further into The Collector’s lair. With each step further into his dungeon, more and more traps spring out and cause the group to begin to dwindle. With The Collector’s attention diverted, Elena is able to escape the box and the room to search for her own way out.

Starring: Josh Stewart (Arkin), Emma Fitzpatrick (Elena), Christopher McDonald (Mr. Peters), Lee Tergesen (Lucello), Tim Griffin (Dre), Andre Royo (Wally), Randall Archer (The Collector), Shannon Kaene (Paz), Brandon Molale (Lin), Erin Way (Abby), Johana Braddy (Missy Solomon), Michael Nardelli (Josh)

While there was nothing really wrong with the cast, the feeling of the story really failed the ability of the actors to develop their characters. Besides the connections that were made between Mr. Peters, Elena and Lucello, each of the actors simply play to the basic themes of the film. Stewart was a man who struggled with him inability to act, and was still stunned by the events of the previous film. Fitzpatrick plays the role well of the frightened captive and McDonald appears to be appropriately frozen out of fear.

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Having experience with the¬†Saw¬†franchise, Marcus Dunstan followed up his 2009 film with a larger scale killing spree. The Collector decided to expand his reach and his efforts with more often and larger scale killings. The rave was a complete blood bath, but he was able to keep up his desire to capture one person alive. Arkin was resistent, but he became the hero once the chaos started in The Collector’s dungeon. Between coked out captives and traps at every turn, the mercenary team had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The Collector also let himself get a little in over his head when he took his time with each of the intruders and allowed for fail-safes with each trap.

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The film’s traps have a little less of the intricate¬†Saw¬†designs and are a little more crude and quick. Regardless of the gore factor, the story is truly lacking in a big way. The first film did not explain the motive behind The Collector’s purpose for trapping and torturing people. There is actually still no explanation as to why he went down this path. Arkin’s ease at the end of the film to seek out revenge seemed a little too big of a jump for a man who barely made it out alive from the rave and was close to death throughout the dungeon. The lack of story also meant that there was a lack of care for the characters.

The film tried to replicate the success of the Saw series without the sense of purpose and story. Not the best way to recreate the horror. On the bright side, there were some decent surprises and deviously disgusting traps.

Dan’s Rating: 1.5/5

World-War-Z-posterHaving left his dangerous job with the UN, Gerry Lane has been enjoying a quieter pace taking care of his daughters. On a seemingly normal day while sitting in traffic, a police officer goes speeding past and breaks Gerry’s side-view mirror. Getting out, he notices that traffic is at a standstill but people are getting a little aggravated. When accidents and panic ensues, he speeds away behind a garbage truck to get out of the chaos. People appear to be running away from something, which he then sees is a strange reaction causing normal people to become crazed, flesh-hunting maniacs. While they get out of the city, they find that the syndrome is spreading fast and nowhere is safe. During the chaos, an old friend from the UN is trying to get in touch with Gerry to find a way to help him but bring him into the fold of figuring out what to do about the pandemic.

Starring: Brad Pitt (Gerry Lane), Mireille Enos (Karin Lane), Sterling Jerins (Constance Lane), Abigail Hargrove (Rachel Lane), Fana Mokoena (Thierry Umutoni), James Badge Dale (Captain Speke), Daniella Kertesz (Segen), Ludi Boeken (Jurgen Warmbunn), Elyes Gabel (Andrew Fassbach)

This is not the average zombie film, which means that the presentation brings a different focus for the actors. Pitt had a less action-based role and had to find a way to be protective and courageous while exhibiting more of a sense of intelligence and cunning. Enos did not have the same level of impact but was clearly able to project a sense of fear and care for her children. The rest of the cast was strong in character, but the weakest element had to be the zombie actors. In the scenes that were not CGI’ed, some of the actors appeared welcome masked in the undead sense while others were a bit comical (which was not the intention of the director).

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Marc Forster’s horror survival film was a bit different from many others but there was much to be familiar in its presentation of a zombie apocalypse. While the books looked more at the “patient zero” story, the sheltering of Jerusalem and the continued war over 7 years, the focus on Gerry’s story alter the presentation of these elements. The film took more of a discovery focus, with the survivors trying to figure out what was going on and if there was any hope for them to continue their survival. Traveling to the projected site of “patient zero,” Gerry learned how difficult his mission was truly going to be. The film allowed for the travel to Jerusalem but it also tried to bring an arc to a conclusion with the possibility of a defense or sense of survival to be developed in a radical decision of life and death.

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The film’s presentation felt a little uneven and the fast-moving zombies are a little less desirable (and, as mentioned before, overly CGI’ed). The chaos at the start was extremely entertaining. It gave the feel that no one knew what was going on and it was all about trusting oneself to make the right decisions and survive. Once on the ship and the trip to the “patient zero” site both wound up being a little lacking in character connections and less exciting than other scenes. Once in Jerusalem, it was not clear why the city had not suffered an attack sooner with the pattern of saving people who make too much noise, but it was essentially chaos part two. Minus the jaw-snapping zombie in the final act, the tense environment redeemed some of the earlier presentation mistakes, but the newly introduced characters has no sense of connection.

The imbalance between the presentation, concept, acting and connectedness to the books helps and hinders this film’s success. There is potential for a sequel but something would need to be done to better develop character connections with the audience.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5