The Beast Of XMoor – Review


Luke Hyams’ (no relation to Peter HyamsThe Beast of XMoor (X Moor) at first glance reminded me of Daniel Nettheim’s far superior The Hunter, which also revolves around the hunt for a cryptid (according to Wikipedia, an animal or plant who’s existence had been suggested but not discovered by the scientific community).

In the case of Nettheim’s movie the animal in question was a Tasmanian Wolf–which actually may still exist–while The Beast of XMoor‘s seek some sort of panther they suspect is hiding out on the moors.

The most immediate problem with the movie is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.  It begins as a search for an a cryptid, then makes a Wrong Turn, with two very rapey Scottish folk, then turns to a confusing serial killer story.

What’s worse–if that were possible–is that the killer is less a threat to the aspiring cryptozoologists than they are to each other.

The Beast of XMoor isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just very unfocused.  If it were just about a cryptid–an interesting subject in and of itself–then it would have probably been a much better movie.

If the director had jettisoned the whole cryptid storyline, and instead made a movie about a serial killer, then it might have been a much better movie.

Or if the cryptid and serial killer storyline were abandoned, and instead the story revolved about a bunch of mad Scots, then it would have probably been much better movie.

But all three?  It’s a bit too much.

Brave the moors of X Moor via Netflix, because otherwise there are too many ways to die.

Harbinger Down – Review

Harbinger Down movie poster

Harbinger Down isn’t a bad movie, though it mimics a much better one.”

Alec Gillis, besides being the director of Harbinger Down, runs StudioADI along with Tom Woodruff, so it goes without saying that practical special effects are in his blood.

And indisputably the greatest practical effect-based horror film is John Carpenter’s The Thing, so it’s logical that Gillis would use it as inspiration for his feature debut.

The problem is that Harbinger Down so slavishly mimics Carpenter’s movie that it only serves to show how Gillis would have probably been better served by a more original story, though even that would have not even been too big a hurdle for me to enjoy this movie if it were better written and cast because a lot of the dialog doesn’t ring particularly true, and isn’t helped when many characters pivotal to the plot are almost Asylum-quality (Lance Henriksen is an exception; though at least initially the editor of the movie seemed reluctant to let scenes breathe, which would have went a long way to help flesh characters out.  It’s also worth mentioning that the movie plays better the second time around).

And I know that I already mentioned that Harbinger Down apes Carpenter’s movie, though the opening is from Carpenter’s movie, which is a bit much (it’s actually not, but so close that the difference is almost negligible).

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The Visit – Review

The Visit movie posterThe Visit is possibly the best M. Night Shyamalan movie since The Sixth Sense.

I’m serious.  It’s that good, though why don’t I start at the beginning.

When I first saw the trailer for The Visit I died just a little bit inside.  M. Night Shyamalan with The Sixth Sense showed such promise that when I saw his other movies, like The Village, Signs, The Happening–oh my god, The Happening!–I’ve pretty much accepted that all that promise, all that potential, was done (The Village and Signs weren’t so much bad than predictable though The Happening?  i’m getting a migraine just thinking about it).

And I mean the stick a ‘fork in his ass’ type of done.

I could see it now…two kids go to visit their grandparents, add a twist; grandparents end up being monsters, zombies, whatever, and movie ends.

But Shyamalan does something brilliant here, and the trailer is a part of it.  He crafts a movie experience (I hate when people call sitting on your ass watching a movie an ‘experience.’) that ends up being the most meta movie that I have ever seen because it’s not only about what you see on the surface.  It’s about Shyamalan himself, and how he has come to know that his shtick was growing a bit tired, so he changes it up in a BIG way.

I mean it.  There are few movies that I have seen this year that I have enjoyed as much.  It initially looks like what l we’ve come to expect from him, with the addition of a found footage element (which isn’t a good thing.  See: Area 51).

But once the awesomeness that’s The Visit comes up and slaps you upside the head, there’s no way that you can call it anything else but remarkable.

The movie takes your expectations and tells you to go fuck youself, because it’s going to do whatever it wants, and you’re going to sit there and like it.

And you know what?  I think you will because I know I did.

It Follows – Review

It Follows movie poster

It Follows is a great idea in search of a better movie.”

Based on all the hype that accompanied It Follows theatrical release, you’d think that David Robert Mitchell was the heir apparent to John Carpenter.

And I’m here to tell you it’s just not the case because It Follows is an awesome idea surrounded by a decent movie.  It’s not terrible by any stretch, though its not “One of the most striking American horror films in years” either.

Though that concept…Wow.  The antagonist of the movie is essentially a curse, a sexually-transmitted demon.  Once contracted, the only way to hold off death is to pass it on to someone else, who will have a limited amount of time to do the same.

If you fail to pass it on, it kills you, and works its way down the list of people who have slept with you.

I told you it’s an awesome concept.  I also liked the idea that the movie wasn’t targeting anyone because of sexually promiscuity (in fact, it could be argued that the more people you sleep with, the better off you would be).

The movie takes place in the present day, though the effective soundtrack has a 70’s vibe to it that hightens suspense.

Though as I implied, the movie has problems, the biggest of which is that it too quickly abandons the mythology it’s built up whenever convenient (Quentin Tarantino was right).

For instance, the creature isn’t stupid, but it’s slow and has to walk to get around. This often serves to heighten suspense–like a zombie, there’s an inevitability to the creature that faster-moving terrors often lack–but there’s some oddness that accompanies the behavior that doesn’t serve the movie well.

For instance, the creature just appears in really odd places, and if it could just turn up anywhere it wanted to, it undermines the whole idea of it walking.  For instance, there’s a moment when it turns up on the roof of a house.  Did it climb the roof?  And if so, why?  And if it didn’t, that means it could pretty much appear wherever it wanted, which as I said, pretty much kills the suspense the movie spent valuable time building.

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Sinister 2 – Review

Sinister 2 movie poster

“The ideas behind Sinister 2 are a lot scarier than the movie itself.”

What bothered me most about Ciarán Foy’s Sinister 2 is pretty much exactly what bothered me about Scott Derrickson’s original film, namely that it takes an interestingly horrific idea–children committing heinous crimes–and virtually undermines it by looking at it from the perspective of an adult.

There’s a scene (one of many), when Dylan Collins (Robert Daniel Sloan) is being coerced into watching homemade snuff films made by the children, now disembodied ghosts, that killed their families for the demon, Bughuul (he of the hideously silly name, played by Nicholas King).

There’s an interesting addition to the mythology that indicates that when Dylan finishes watching the ghosts’ home movies, he would be compelled to murder his family, before being taken by the demon.

One horrific murder happens during Christmas, when one of the children kills his family and put the bodies in four graves (which I assume weren’t pre-dug) and buries them up to their necks.

Visually, it was pretty effective, though logically made no sense at all.

They died in their home, yet a young boy supposedly not only dragged four people (one of them probably weighing somewhere in the ballpark of 180-200 pounds) out of their home one at a time (no other way he could do so), then dug graves deep enough that when they lied down horizontally they could be easily buried?

Remember that I mentioned earlier that this happened during Christmas?  The reason it’s worth bringing back up is because earth. like anything else, freezes when cold, which makes it really hard to break.

And a little kid not only dug one shallow grave, but four others?   Extremely unlikely.

These overly elaborate murder scenarios–there’s another aptly titled ‘Fishing Trip’–took me out of the movie virtually every time they turned up, because while they may look horrific, they didn’t make any practical sense.

The movie between the frankly ridiculous ritual murders was pretty effective as we witnessed the ghosts trying to sway Dylan to their will, though there are few things less scary than children trying to look scary, when happens a lot in this movie.

Quibbles aside, Sinister 2 is worth catching because it’s genuinely atmospheric and Foy’s direction is effective, though as a movie it’s merely interesting, when it could have been terrifying.

And I would advise that you leave the theater three or four minutes before the movie finishes because the ending is just too dumb for such a smart director like Ciarán Foy.

Ejecta – Review

Ejecta movie poster

“The Darker Side of Close Encounters.”

Tony Burgess’ Ejecta is at heart a tale about hubris, the variety of which that says Man is the center of the universe, couched in a story about a conspiracy theorist, who’s niche is aliens.

William Cassidy (Julian Richings, a pretty well-known character actor) typically looks gaunt to the point of being skeletal, which makes his casting almost perfect.

What’s not so good is that Ejecta also, for the most part, relies on found-footage tropes to accomplish its purpose, which is not a good thing, especially when the movie would have been better served by a more traditional narrative.

In this instance it’s either the recollection of Cassidy–who essentially being tortured through the entire movie–or video monitors of a shadowy government agency in charge of alien retrieval.  The found-footage-like stuff almost immediately takes you out of the movie, though if that weren’t bad enough, a lot of it is done in shaky-cam, which is equal parts irritating and frustrating.

The government operatives from the beginning are played not only extremely unsympathetically, but sadistically so, which does the movie no favors because–as you’ll see later–the aliens and their tactics aren’t exactly E.T.-inspired.

And I have nothing against movies that depict humans being on the wrong side of the cosmic coin, but it shouldn’t necessarily be made it quite so obvious that that’s the case because you end up rooting for the aliens, which I am not quite sure was the intent of the filmmakers.

Another thing is that Ejecta is relatively low budget, which came to my attention mainly during scenes when the soldiers were movie through the complex, which looked suspiciously like an abandoned building.  All that would have been necessary to elevate the look would have been to slap a new coat of paint on the walls.

Ejecta is on Netflix but be warned, not only are we not alone, YOU are not alone.

American Mary – Review

“What I Imagine Bill Cosby’s Fantasies Are Like.”

I have to admit that I approached Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary with more than a little bit of reluctance.  Part of it was due to the reviews, which were mainly positive, though there was an implication that there was something more to it, a torture porn-ish aspect, which I find distasteful (truth is, most movies critics labelled as ‘torture porn’ that I have seen I don’t necessarily deserve the label, in that there’s a point to the violence).

And speaking of which, I don’t think that I have actually seen one movie that that label applies, and I have seen some particularly violent movies.

So I am saying that it doesn’t exist?  I have no idea, though I haven’t yet seen it.

So I avoided it (besides, most movies are more terrifying in my head than they ever could be in reality–in celluloid?).

Though good horror movies (on Netflix) are getting hard to find, so why the frak not.  That being said, I’m still avoiding The Human Centipede movies though; just don’t see the point)

But I gave American Mary a look, and was glad I did.  It’s pretty clever, and surprisingly more nuanced than I gave it credit for being.

And Katharine Isabelle, who plays Mary Mason, has real presence in a role that rides entirely on her shoulders.  She’s pretty reserved no matter what happens to her, which makes sense in the world that her character occupies (What’s also interesting is the contempt that some surgeons hold not only for each other, but for their patients.  I have no idea how accurate a portrayal that is, but it’s an interesting contrast to how they tend to portrayed–as saints–on most network television).

Mary Mason is fascinating, particularly the transition from optimism to a cynicism as extreme as any surgery she does in the movie.  And the Soska sisters understand that its not about the gore–it’s not terribly bloody, though there are moments–than the suggestion of gore.

American Mary is currently on Netflix, and it’s worth remembering that a woman scorned cuts deeper than any scalpel.