Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Warm Bodies (2013)

A zombified Romeo and Juliet tale that gets high marks for originality in the subgenre.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pieta (2012)

I am a fan of Korean film, but this film had an edge that did not appeal to me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stoker (2013)

The execution of this story requires a special kind of viewer; I'm glad I'm that kind!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

As an homage/sequel to a cult classic, this was pretty effective.

(Full review forthcoming.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Storage 24 (2012)

If you have time to kill (I don't), finishing this movie could be an option.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home Sweet Home (2013)

More of a learn-by-example course in cinematography than a scary movie.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Love Sick Love (2012)

Mediocre, but you should watch this just to savor how twisted this broad is!  I haven't had such a good time being glad I wasn't in a woman's life since The Loved Ones!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mama (2013)

Another huge disappointment, but one I will attempt again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bag of Bones (2011)

A good effort compared to most SK adaptations, but ultimately skippable.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

V/H/S/ 2 (2013)

Not worth the $10 to watch in advance via iTunes download; but probably worth waiting for a standard Netflix shipment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cherry Tree Lane (2010)

This one actually really got under my skin and bothered me; I had to watch SpongeBob after to feel better.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Theater Bizarre (2011)

I recently said that anthology films are perfect for extreme ADD sufferers like myself.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Haunted House (2013)

Copied from my Netflix "review": You really need to watch Paranormal Activity before watching this movie, as it directly spoofs it (along with some others like The Devil Inside towards the end). Another reviewer panned this movie on grounds that there are only really two characters throughout. Well, so it is with PA, too. Haunted House hyperbolizes such absurdities as the big deal made over the keys on the kitchen floor in PA. I do concede that a lot of the humor is juvenile, but for the most part this should provide a fun time for people familiar with its target movie. To approach it as a standalone, true comedy and not a direct parody will probably not yield the best experience.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thale (2012)

What had all the makings of a facepalm-inducing barrel of mediocrity ended up being a decent effort that kept me entertained throughout.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The ABCs of Death (2012)

I've decided that the diversified-subgenre anthology is perfect for people with ADD, i.e. me!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Haunting in Connecticut 2 (2012)

I watched 10 minutes of this one: the first 5 were surprisingly strong; the subsequent 5 lame enough to signal a waste of time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

John Dies at the End (2012)

I've started and stopped the movie three times now, and the jury is still out.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Frankenstein Theory (2013)

This movie is marketed as atmospheric and scary, but what it really is is fun!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Collection (2012)

Every once in a while a movie comes around that takes audiences by surprise.

This is not one of them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bay (2012)

Providing a terrific entry in the world of ecological horror and sparking a fascination with Kether Donohue, I declare The Bay to be noteworthy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sinister (2012)

In trying the articulate my thoughts and feelings after watching Sinister, the best I can do is to equate it with my experience with Insidious.  I had been hearing inklings about how scary this was for months, while diligently awaiting the BluRay release and, as always, eschewing all trailers and reviews.  So when the Netflix-distributed disc finally arrived yesterday afternoon, I was thrown into a state of elated anticipation for the evening to come.  I thought, finally a movie that is supposed to be a nice classic scary horror movie.  But in the end, I walked away disappointed and wondering where all the praise is coming from.  Just like with my experience with Insidious, I feel like I missed something.

From what I remember of Insidious, the plot structure is similar: a family moves into a house with a harrowing history and a malevolent spirit begins attacking the child(ren), delivering scares via the parents.  I can say that the story is the strongest point of the movie.  There is a strong backstory, which eventually and creatively produces a nice little twist that strips away the safety of the most pragmatic decision I've ever seen a main character in a horror movie make (sorry to be so vague).  And everything concerning the malevolent spirit follows; that is, plot details aren't seemingly thrown together in hopes of producing a complex plot for the sake of winning the approval of audiences who decry horror movies as being shallow.

I think my disappointment came with the fact that Sinister repackages so many jump-scares and musical stings I've experienced before.  It's safe to say that my thrill receptors have already been blunted!  This is also what I found offputting about Insidious--though with Insidious, there were two out of the myriad scares that I loved.  To be more specific, I used to find ghost-children effective until around 2004's The Grudge.  Now it just makes the film unbelievable and silly.  And every single little scare had to be accompanied by an outrageously loud and grinding musical sting.  Like the makeup-plastered ghost-children, this damages the believability of the movie.  In real life, I wouldn't hear someone slamming their hands on piano keys during a scary situation!  And a lot of the scares are predictable: e.g. Ellison holding the picture up in front of his face while looking out the window--you know what's about to happen.  But, on the other hand, the found footage (literally, footage that the main character finds in the attic) was admittedly pretty creepy.  There is one scare that involves the "Yard Work" footage that really got me.  Though I think it would've been even creepier without the synthesized assistance.

In the end, I'm disappointed but not to the point of not liking the movie.  Of everything coming out recently, this is a strong release, especially for a mainstream release.  It just didn't have the scary factor that I'd been led to expect.  Then again, perhaps this just doesn't jibe with my tastes; I really find the subtle scares of Lovely Molly and Lake Mungo to be exceedingly more effective than the scares delivered in a movie like Sinister.  One thing is certain: I will be rewatching this at some point this year and giving it a reconsideration now that my expectations are properly set.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

House at the End of the Street (2012)

I was fully prepared for this to be tripe.  With its marketing and boasting of J Law, I was pretty sure this would fall in there with movies like The Possession: polished, safely PG-13, overproduced monotony.  But, lo, I found enough to like here to say that I quite enjoyed watching it.  No, I wouldn't watch it again by choice, but for the one shot that I did take with it, I have no regrets.

The plot is a bit unoriginal, despite what other reviewers are claiming (I've seen more than a few talk about throwing away what could have been an original idea).  One day we'll finally all agree that there are no original ideas; one can only hope for original depictions of known ideas.  But anyway, the last thing I should do is wax philosophical when I'm trying to quickly write up a below-average review of an average movie.  J Law and her mother move into a new house in a new town as a way to make a fresh start.  We begin to get the typical backstory and stressors as the plot unfolds: there were tensions between the mother and father; J Law is from the big city and misses her friends; the neighbors are weird; and, oh yeah, you guys live within sight of a house where a gruesome double-murder took place.  From there, we get some psychological twists that, on paper, would have worn out their welcome, but in execution I enjoyed.

Nothing worth reporting as far as cinematics or setting.  Pretty generic.

This is the first time I've ever experienced J Law.  I have not seen Hunger Games or that movie with Bradley Cooper.  My first impression was that she is very comfortable, casual, and she seemingly effortlessly succeeded at portraying her character without coming off as whiny and annoying.  This is the danger with the character setup we have in this movie.  The daughter character could easily be unlikable if she were to overplay the I'm-going-through-a-hard-time angle.  I realize this makes me sound insensitive, but this is a movie, after all, and it's how I feel.  I hardly ever empathize with characters on-screen; yet I empathize with characters all the time while reading.  In any case, there is great chemistry between J Law and Max Thieriot.  The mother, Elisabeth Shue, I did not care for, though I did enjoy her character in Piranha.

I seriously doubt this will end up on anyone's Best... list, unless it's some ironic list like Best Average Movies or Best Attempts at a Shock Ending, but it's still worth a watch all the same.  The ending doesn't obstreperously grope for a twist/shock/epiphany as desperately as Silent House, but it isn't just a dud either.  This is simply a movie that's worth a watch if you want to burn some time on a decent thriller.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Amber Alert (2012)

I had heard this was an utter flop, but I decided to give it a try anyway.  Usually I am pretty forgiving--especially when I already have low expectations--but I couldn't find anything to like here.  In fact, this may be the first film that has actually angered me (at one point I irritably asked the characters to shut up).  I've seen plenty of movies with characters that bicker and argue, but this one tops them all for its sheer annoyance.  I hate to completely write a movie off, because putting a feature together is hard work, but there is no need for this one to exist.

Rating: 0/5

Friday, February 1, 2013

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Well, that was a rather disappointing evening--let's hope this is the end of the franchise.  While others complained that PA2 and PA3 were simply more of the same, I forgave the films and found something to love, be it a character or an interesting tie-in to the plot.  But, having recently rewatched the third installment, I now find myself very put out with the constant reuse of swinging chandeliers, falling objects, and bickering domestic partners (though this is part of the plot, as tension exacerbates the violence of the entity).  And as if I weren't already begging for the runtime to elapse, the end proved to me that the filmmakers weren't interested in taking the opportunity to add a fourth installment seriously.

Let me now join the ranks of others who focus on the silly logistical liberties that drive found-footage and mockumentary movies.  Usually I can overlook the usually thin reason behind the continuous filming (as opposed to the character or characters dropping the stupid camera, getting a grip on reality, and taking sensible action), but this one is all over the place, with the spliced-together footage taken across all manner of Apple devices.  I couldn't help but be reminded that this was a movie because of all the necessary editing.  And again, yes, this is something that happens all over the previous two installments, as our characters setup multiple cameras, but this time there were jump-cuts edited in for scare tactics that wore out their welcome and killed the charm established by the original Paranormal Activity.

Putting aside my disdain for all the trademark PA antics, I will say that I quite enjoyed the two main characters, Kathryn Newton as Alex, and Matt Shively as Ben.  Finally, some teenagers in a horror movie that I am pulling for instead of against.  In fact, I actually came to like and care for these characters, even if the movie didn't pull me into the realm of feeling a sense of the fear they felt.  The chemistry between Alex and Ben was spot-on; I liked the on-the-cusp-of-friend-zone dynamic that drove their interactions.  The parents, however, were completely dismissible.  I know they were supposed to remain aloof and distracted from the goings-on in the house by all their domestic tensions, but their distractedness felt too forced.  Stephen Dunham may well have been sleepwalking through the movie.

The backstory that drives the movie is revealed in such as way as to produce hardly any effect at all.  It's just like, Oh, and guess who this really is?  DUM-DUM-DUUUUMMM!  And the very last frame is not only a complete copy of one of the previous PAs; it is completely ridiculous to boot.  I've made it clear that there are no new scares brought to the table here, but in retrospect I realize that the main scare was centered around a certain character's appearance.  And, for me, it actually worked.  I felt a nice little chill travel my spine.  But, sadly, this and the dynamic between Alex and Ben are the only things of worth I was left with.  I don't think I've been this excited and then disappointed since Alexandre Aja's Piranha.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Possession (2012)

The first dud of 2013!  I'll be honest: I turned this one off with about 10 minutes left; so unless anyone out there can convince me otherwise, I will not be watching the last 10 or any other minutes of this movie.  But don't take that as an embittered, angry disdain for the film--I'm not that emotional over it.  In fact, it's the opposite.  I am completely unmoved by it.  Writing a review of The Possession feels tantamount to writing a review of Coke (the drink).  I've had the drink a million times, and chances are you have too--what's to say?

Watching this one reaffirmed one of the major reasons why I loved The Last Exorcism, because the latter film took an exhausted genre and breathed some life back into it with some simple twists.  Having recently watched The Apparition, and being familiar with other Hollywood exorcist-genre retreads like The Haunting of Molly Hartley, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Unborn,  I knew going into this that it was going to be in a similar vein.  But I didn't realize just how unoriginal, formulaic it would be.  If one were teaching a class in genre formulas, this would be a great exemplar.

From the opening shot it neatly follows the rules: (a) use FX to show that there's something threatening about an object; (b) setup a backstory that puts a plausible strain on a young child (in this case, divorce); (c) quickly run through a montage of scenes that depict said child exhibiting increasingly aberrant behavior; (d) setup opposing forces: the father who knows something is wrong, and the mother who doesn't believe him; (e) show a research scene; (f) and, of course, the exorcism itself, which the filmmakers must know will not come close to the exorcism scene from 1973.

Typically I would talk about cinematography, acting, thrills that stood out, and so on, but I've got nothing further to share.  I'll give it one star for simply being a horror movie.

Rating: 1/5

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sleep Tight (2011)

The first horror movie of 2013!  And it wasn't too shabby at all.  In fact it's a pretty tight little thriller (I'm trying to limit the use of "taut thriller" in order to establish at least some sense of originality around here).  Hailing from Spain and helmed by Jaume Balagueró--one of the masterminds behind [REC] and [REC] 2--Sleep Tight is definitely worth a watch, but not a rewatch.  It's like a really great piece of gum.

The plot reminds me of something like Roman Polanski's Repulsion, with the psychological aberrations shifted from the woman to the man, from prey to stalker.  On the psychological side of things, we the audience aren't dragged down a rabbit-hole of mental breakdown in the usual fashion, but, rather, the psychological aspect remains simple: this guy César is unhappy and wants everyone to be unhappy, especially the vibrant, young, fresh, and (most importantly) eternally optimistic Clara.  So, he has resolved to bide his miserable time trying to make Happy Clara crack and become Unhappy Clara.

Again like Polanski (Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby), the setting is very limited.  Aside from a few scenes in a hospital (which help to give some depth and validity to the character's madness), every frame takes place at the apartment building.  While not as restrictive as, say, Buried, which takes place entirely inside a coffin, having so much of the film take place inside the apartment enhances the purpose of the film tremendously for the viewer.  You feel the banality and misery that César feels working there, doing the same things day in and day out.  You get a sense of suffocation and claustrophobia--that subtle feeling that comes from wanting to take a step outside for fresh air and not being allowed to.  And you don't get a lot of extraneous fluff (unnecessary characters and subplots or lengthy sequences for runtime padding)--the camera, the story sticks with the contrast of the two main characters.

The roles are simple and well fulfilled: Luis Tosar plays the perpetually unhappy César, and Marta Etura the carefree, beautiful Clara.  The contrast, especially with the use of English-language music, is well depicted.  The set design of César's flat versus Clara's flat; the drab gray coat César must wear for his job as a sort of concierge-super versus the fun, artsy attire Clara appears in.  The only acting-related irritation I experienced was the interaction between these two when their paths would cross in the lobby of the apartment building in the mornings.  The best I can explain my irritation is this: it seemed too obvious that Marta Etura was an actress in a movie and thus aware of the fact that she was supposed to act like she had no idea César was a creep who was "stalking" her.  But the good news is that these on-screen interactions didn't take up much of the film.

In the end, Sleep Tight was an above-average, though not extraordinary, thriller.  Since we get more focus on these two central characters, with limited exposition, the film gets creative with showing us how, exactly, this guy is acting on his obsession with making Clara unhappy.  And, really, they couldn't have picked a better opening scene, because I was really caught off guard and hooked into sticking around to figure out what's going on.  What ensues is a film that is well thought out by a writer who takes time thinking creatively about what can be done with very little.  This is one of those films where small seeds are planted in the beginning that grow and are intelligently used to bring the film to a close.  A great start to the new year!

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012: Top 10 DVD Releases

Once again, we have had a year in which there were only a handful of horror hits, and a mother lode of dreck (eventually prompting me to create a new "dud" label to quickly sort them all out and caution friends when asked which movies one can skip).  Even while creating this list, I selected the top 4 within seconds, but then spent about 20 minutes mulling over the bottom 6.  At one point I even contemplated publishing a Top 5 to make things easier on myself.  But it's tradition; so, I give you my Top 10 DVD Releases for 2012!

But before I get to the list (if you haven't spared yourself my dithering and scrolled down already), let me just say that, though I didn't get to spend as much time working with this blog as I would have liked, this does not signal the decline of the Horror Dose empire!  One of my new year's resolutions for 2013 is to amp up the action here at Horror Dose.  I'm a busy guy, but that's no excuse for skimping on the blog (I, too, loath seeing all the "Review forthcoming"s).  So, instead of overloading myself with trying to watch and blog about movie after movie, I'll go for quality over quantity.  This year I plan to stick with watching and properly reviewing and engaging in conversation about recent releases.  Sure, undoubtedly, I'll watch all kinds of films from all kinds of countries and decades; but as far as this blog is concerned, I'll focus more energy and attention on the latest releases.

Now--for real this time--I present to you my top picks from 2012.

 

The Candidates*

 

The Top 10 

#10. The Road

The Road is a little piece of horror fare from the Philippines that I took a chance on while surfing through the Netflix Instant catalog.  (Come to think of it, this list is comprised of DVDs, BluRay, and Netflix Instant, so I suppose the title "Top 10 DVD Releases" is a bit of a misnomer.)  This one barely made the list, competing fiercely with Absentia, The Pack, and Excision. But despite the overly convoluted weaving of storyline that bloats the film's plot, it has enough of the subtle thrills I enjoy to push it into my 2012 picks.



 

#9. The Tall Man

Even though I was extremely confused for most of the movie--(admittedly a self-induced confusion: I had thought it was another installment of the Phantasm franchise)--I found yet another enjoyable offering from Pascal Laugier, notorious mastermind behind the 2009 French film Martyrs.  This one is a psychological-mystery-thriller more than a straight horror movie, but the tension is often thick due to some skillful composition and audio engineering, and it boasts not one, not two, but three distinct plot twists that keep the film engaging from start to finish.



 

#8. The Innkeepers

Ah, my good friend Ti West.  The guy who gave me The House of the Devil, which I picked as #1 for the 2010 Top 10 Releases.  When I heard he was at work on The Innkeepers, I could barely focus on anything else.  And though I tried not to expect another House, I couldn't help but expect too much.  Yes, I admit, the first watch was a let-down.  But I watched the bonus features, including the film with commentary from Ti West and the two main characters; and in the end, I walked away with a strong appreciation for the work West is doing.  I think he will continue to be an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, and I continue to hold onto hope for the next feature-length release (yes, I am aware of and have watched the short piece of West's featured in V/H/S/).

 

#7. Chained

I did not expect to like this movie, but surprise-surprise it was highly enjoyable--as twisted as that sounds for a movie of this ilk.  I've heard it likened to Bereavement, and I think that's a pretty good comparison.  But despite having seen and enjoyed Stevan Mena's piece, I found Chained to be equally deserving of viewership, not a cheap knockoff or plot retread.  Some may deride it as highly implausible--but, hey, so are over half the movies in this genre we all love so much!  In the end, Chained has a lot of heart behind it--the same passion for horror films I found while watching Deadgirl.


 

#6. The Woman

I just mentioned Deadgirl at the end of my blurb for the preceding pick, and the memories of Deadgirl abounded while watching The Woman, based on a novel by Jack Ketchum (if you're familiar with his books Offspring and Off Season, you'll find this to be, I think, the prequel).  The Woman is a perfect balance of black comedy and vicious tension-building.  While not my usual cup of tea, I enjoyed The Woman enough for it to make the top of the bottom 10.




 

#5. Silent House

It's a rare thing for me to pick an American remake of a movie I thoroughly enjoyed (La Casa Muda) for my top 10 list, but this was a strong film with a strong lead.  Despite the film losing steam toward the end, and finally going to pieces with a desperate attempt to provide a twist, the first two thirds and the acting of Elizabeth Olsen must be seen by everyone--horror fan or not.  The tension of the first 30 minutes is some of the best I've ever seen from an American horror film.




 

#4. Juan of the Dead

Usually, I loath watching movies for the first time with other people around.  Especially with horror movies, I like to watch alone in silence to amplify the intended effect.  But I took a chance with this highly-anticipated Cuban zombie-comedy, and watched it for the first time with a group of horror-loving friends.  To my surprise, Juan was not only a hilarious social commentary of Cuban life, but also a film that screams to be watched with a crowd.




 

#3. Some Guy Who Kills People

Aside from Skew, this is the only movie I reviewed that rewarded me some communication from the director.  Unlike Skew, however, I loved Some Guy (that sentence sounds weird without seeing the punctuation!).  The black humor here is dead on, and who cares about any of the other aspects of the film.  If you like horror movies and you like to laugh, you can't go wrong with this one.





 

#2. The Cabin in the Woods

When I watched this I thought to myself, this will undoubtedly be #1 on my top 10 list.  But, of course, that was before I saw what is actually my #1.  In truth, my #2 and my #1 this year are neck-and-neck, but whenever I think about the two movies, I tend to favor the winner.  Be that as it may,  Cabin is the ultimate horror-movie lover's dream of a film.  Parodic, comedic, packed with references and allusions, and with a delightful, skillfully unfolding backstory.  The only people I've talked to who didn't like it, I no longer consider true fans of the genre (or possibly movies in general).



 

#1. Lovely Molly

Alas!  The #1 pick of 2012 goes to Lovely Molly.  Edouardo Sanchez (best known for The Blair Witch Project) nails it with this one.  A lot of people I've talked to think I'm crazy for giving this one a place so high on the list--let along the #1 spot--but I can't help it.  Molly won me over from start to finish.  It has everything I love in horror movies: solid acting (especially from first-timer Gretchen Lodge), subtlety, and taut pacing.  It's currently available on Netflix Instant, and I urge any self-respecting horror-movie lover to watch it immediately.





*Obviously, this list doesn't include all the releases of 2012.  If anything is missing that you feel should be brought to my attention, please leave a comment!