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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

You're Next (2011)

I tried to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to promotions for You're Next as much as possible, especially since I've been waiting for 3+ years for its release. This is actually my second stab at watching the movie since Netflix released it a month or so ago. The first time, it was too late and I was too tired, and I ended up falling asleep within the first act (not because its lengthy, by any means). Then, another long-awaited and much-anticipated movie popped into my queue (from the dreaded Saved queue, i.e. Netflix Purgatory), and I decided to send You're Next back so I could get the other movie before it went into the equally dreaded "Very Long Wait" status. Fast-foward. I revived Horror Dose about a week ago, which put new priority on 2014 releases. Ergo, I put this movie back at the top of my queue and reserved an early evening (last night) to watch it in its entirety.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Am a Ghost (2012)

Had it not been for a recent perusal of The Jaded Reviewer (in my usual fashion, however, I did not read the review before watching the movie; just sought out the title), there's no telling when I would've finally caught wind of I Am a Ghost. At first I was disappointed because it appeared too old to be a candidate for this year's top DVD releases, but then I saw that the non-film festival USA release date on IMDB says March 1, 2014, so I'm going with that data to justify this flick's 2014 candidacy (mostly because I loved the film and want it to appear on one of my end-of-year lists). Still, as technology progresses, my "DVD release" list is quickly becoming a bit of a misnomer, as I technically watched this on a VOD platform (VuDu). But I'll sort out semantics later. For now, allow me to share a few words about a film that seemed tailored for me, and urge you to check it out too.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cassadaga (2011)

Along with You're Next, Cassadaga is another 2011 flick just releasing on DVD (at least via Netflix, which is admittedly the last to get things) here in 2014. When this happens, I can't help but feel like it skews the candidates for my end-of-year top 10 releases. But unless the rest of the year's releases completely bomb, that's not going to be a problem with Cassadaga's candidacy--and I still need to rewatch and (more importantly) finish You're Next before I can make an assessment. It's not that Cassadaga is bad (I'm not adding the "dud" tag)--it's actually a decent effort--;it's just not striking in any way. Other than horror newcomer (Children of the Corn: Genesis is the only other credit) Kelen Coleman, that is. (Be sure to check out some of her funny and playful humor videos on YouTube!)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Among Friends (2012)

It's amazing how our minds can take a few details and fill in the blanks to create our own facts. Judging by the varied reviews from multiple sources (IMDB, Netflix, various blog, and so on), I wasn't the only one who suffered from flawed expectations, but, going against my own inclination to turn the movie off, I seem to be one of the few naysayers who watched the whole movie. And, admittedly, I was ready to write the movie off as an embarrassing failure for first-time director and beloved horror icon Danielle Harris. But something just didn't seem right with my assessment. I felt as though I had missed something, like everyone was in on a joke except me. So, I sought out the special features where, sure enough, there was an option for director commentary. If not for rewatching the film with commentary, this would've been a scathing review.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Texas Chainsaw (2013)

I didn't even know they had made a reboot of a sequel last year until it appeared in my Netflix suggestions. Granted, I've all but vanished from the horror scene for the past year, thus leaving me out of the know in terms of emerging flicks. My first reaction was eyerolling and complaining to the invisible empathizer beside me that these studios need to leave the classics alone and stop leaning on 3D as a crutch. (Of all the reboots of the classics within the last decade or so, only Evil Dead and Carrie have come somewhat close to being mentionable.) But my scoffing was silenced by a single name: Alexandra Daddario.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Baby (1973)

Like most off-the-wall movies (Hausu, for one), this gem of modern cinema came to my attention from one of the end-of-year awards posted on Horror Movie a Day--with the ridiculous wealth of dross BC has waded through over the years, I respect his opinion when he calls a movie bananas! But the first thing that struck me about the movie was its PG rating in the face of its disturbing premise: a grown man held captive as a baby in a house with lascivious sisters and a domineering mother. How could this stay within the bounds of PG without being a slapstick comedy? Well, aside from the incredulity one feels when approaching a movie with a plot like this (not to mention the unintended cheesiness of most 70s movies), the movie actually takes itself fairly seriously and delivers an entertaining and somewhat plausible psychological aspect.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2013: Top 10 DVD Releases

Despite last year's promise to revive Horror Dose, I slacked off even more than the year before, and, in my usual fashion, I've recently caught the bug again and found a renewed passion for blogging about my obsession. There are many reasons I've slacked off since starting the site in 2009: grad school, baby, new job, and so on--but my my passion for horror films has remained constant. Before posting new reviews here in 2014, however, tradition holds that I list my top 10 releases from last year.