Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Invoking (2013)

Unfortunately, despite its just-at-feature-length 80 minutes, this was a real chore to sit through. Yet it's also one of those cases where--especially after watching the making-of documentary--I feel bad posting a negative review (but not bad enough, obviously). Making a movie is no easy task, which is contrary to the way big-budget films have conditioned the perception and expectations of audiences, and the zero-budget film The Invoking (AKA Sader Ridge) is no exception. In fact, it seems that the most notable thing about this film are its behind-the-scenes limitations and consequential efforts. This type of production is valuable in some cases, as we shall see--but in the case of an average viewer and horror fan like me, it just didn't work.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dark House (2014)

I feel cheated. The way I feel cheated when watching any Wes Craven movie besides Nightmare on Elm Street and The Last House on the Left (which still baffles me as a glaring outlier in a rather mediocre yet prolific career) or when watching any John Carpenter film besides Halloween and his Masters of Horror entry Cigarette Burns. I have this predisposition that the movie should be good while actively relegating strong contrary suspicions to the back of my mind, only to be left disappointed and perhaps a bit incredulous as to how anyone could take such a movie seriously (The Ward, My Soul to Take). Of the few defenders of duds from pros, you get defenses like "the movie was meant to be bonkers," but in the case of Dark House, the filmmaker interviews included on the DVD beg otherwise, leaving me even more floored as to the actual goals of this film.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)

Bear with me. I'm writing this nearly a week after watching the movie, which isn't typical for me; I try to at least braindump my thoughts into a rough outline no later than the day after. And not only has a week passed; in that week's time, I've quit one job, vacationed in New York City, and started a new job (yesterday). So, needless to say, the freshness of my thoughts has diminished a bit. What hasn't diminished, however, is the strong inclination to watch this unexpectedly good Paranormal Activity entry again! This could possibly be the first time since the Friday the 13th franchise that I found the fifth installment to be at least as good as the first.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In Fear (2014)

I think I'm going to stop reading the text on Netflix envelopes (the only exposure to a film I actually do allow myself before seeing it). In this case, we get the plot hook "they find themselves tormented by a shadowy force that exists inside their car," which led me to believe this was going to have a supernatural angle. I thought, perhaps this would be something in the vein of a Stephen King work, where the car itself is a conduit for evil (Christine, From a Buick 8). So, I spent the bulk of the film trying to figure out how they were setting up this "evil inside the car" business, only to find that, unless they are figuratively implying this entity, there is no supernatural "force" that haunts the car. There is, however, a nice disorienting, atmospheric element of the movie that brought back fond memories of watching Dead End.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Happy House (2013)

Coming out of the gross and dark (yet not completely devoid of lighthearted touches) Contracted and We Are What We Are, I needed something like a quirky indie horror-comedy, and à propos of this desire came this past Tuesday's Netflix DVD release of The Happy House, writer-director D. W. Young's first feature film. I had nearly zero expectations for this film, but I definitely wasn't prepared for its off-beat vibe on the first viewing (Tuesday night) and fell asleep within the first 30 minutes; so I had to re-watch it the next evening. I'd like to say I fell asleep because of a tiring day, but that's not exactly the whole truth. I was fairly well-rested and looking forward to the film. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the sluggish feel of each mini-scene and the (initially) awkward acting from Khan Baykal. Yet, the re-watch yielded a very enjoyable second half of the film (the 80-minute feature seems to find its footing around the 40-minute mark).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We Are What We Are (2013)

By now, you're probably well aware that this is yet another US remake of the original 2010 Mexican movie Somos Lo Que Hay (I'll save you the trouble and admit that my review of the original is just a placeholder, i.e. no need to click that link). Usually, I would beg that you at least watch the original first but still give the remake its shot (for e.g. La Casa Muda/The Silent House; Låt den rätte komma in/Let Me In), and in some cases skip the remake all together (every 80s slasher movie remake thus far). In this case, though, I'm experiencing an unorthodox bent toward suggesting to watch the remake first. If, like me, you've already seen the remake rather recently (within the past year), I suggest waiting another year or two to let its impression fade from memory. Not that one is strikingly better than the other, in this case; it's just that knowing the story and basic execution could cause extreme boredom for the first and much of the second acts.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Contracted (2013)

Allow me to introduce my first gross-out flick for the year. It seems to be an unwritten rule that, each year, a film that threatens the gag-reflex be produced. The first one of this stock that I watched and reviewed here on Horror Dose is Paul Solet's Grace, a movie with a tone and aesthetics strikingly similar to that of Contracted. Though the latter didn't push as far over the edge as the grotesque poster art would have you believe, it still had enough impact to confirm my decision to prepare and eat a turkey sandwich as a terrible idea.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here Comes the Devil (2013)

Jen Chaney's review on rogerebert.com decries Adrián García Bogliano's film for failing to pick a subgenre and stick to that subgenre's guidelines. If you ask me, however, this is part of the film's overall strength. It appears to me that Bogliano knows exactly what kind of horror movie he wants to make: one that plays on the myriad subgenres with which we're getting jaded and delivers something that arrests your attention to the very last frame. Sure, I could see someone without a lot of experience with horror movies not liking the film; they won't understand the liberties and effects the filmmaker is blending into the production for one thing. But for those of us who have seen 1,000+ horror movies (I hope one day to be able to have backfilled this site with reviews for all those I've seen), this is a treat.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Not sure how I let this movie pass me by, and it's unfortunate that I missed it as a candidate for last year's top picks, but it's better late than never, I suppose. Even if late means nearly 3 years late. It's been so long I've forgotten a lot of the first installment's story other than the basic elements (really, the only thing that stands out is that hulking ghost-dude pacing back and forth outside and then suddenly appearing inside the room!). In lieu of re-watching the first film, I decided to read the review I wrote--and, wow, I was pretty harsh. Judging by my words I was really put off by the film, which is interesting because I distinctly remember watching it again with a friend only to settle into its vibe and enjoy it. Fortunately, this second chapter chronologically (save for an opening exposition) picks up where the first left off, ties nicely back into its predecessor, and adds in some comedy, mostly courtesy of the paranormal-investigator duo Tucker (I can't recall any other horror movie where a character stands on someone's front porch eating a Hot Pocket!) and Specs.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Haunter (2013)

Not willing to come down from my recent high with the striking I Am a Ghost, I've been pining for more movies that take this fresh approach to the haunted-house plot. As it turns out, Haunter, which premiered at SXSW last year (a year after I Am a Ghost made its festival rounds), is very much the movie I was looking for--and here I've been skipping it on Netflix Instant for a while. It has the same premise and many similar parallels to Mendoza's film, but the execution is very different; and we get to see much more of the mystery surrounding the hooks of the opening act. I don't view Haunter as the superior film (others will), but it is definitely a welcome and effective effort that makes it stand out among the sea of dross out there.