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.

The Living – Review

“The Ties The Bind Are Nurtured By Blood”

Jack Bryan‘s The Living is a pretty impressive thriller that revolves around a man, Teddy (a virtually unrecognizable Fran Kranz, Cabin in The Woods) who after a night of drinking beats his wife, Molly (Jocelin Donahue).

He had no memory of it happening, but Molly’s bruised and bloody face speaks for itself.

It’s not said explicitly, but it seems that this was not the first time that he had hit his wife.  So her mother, Angela (Joelle Carter), and brother, Gordon (Kenny Wormald), are fed-up, and respond in desperate and unexpected ways, setting in motions events that move rapidly beyond their control.

What works especially well is that the biggest names are Kranz (who’s nothing like the character he plays in Woods) and Chris Mulkey, neither of whom are exactly household names.  This is a benefit because, in such a small, almost intimate story there aren’t any stars big enough to pull viewers out of the movie, would which would probably be the case if we were watching Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron, for example.

If you’re looking for a taut, well-acted thriller you could certainly do worse than The Living.

The Living is currently on Netflix, because some people will do anything for family.

Sorority Row – Review

“There are worse ways to spend an hour and forty minutes.  Unfortunately for Sorority Row, there are also better ones.”

Stewart Hendler’s Sorority Row harkens back to (better) slasher movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, and makes as much sense as either though both of those movies at least had a bit of innovation going for them, and while the snark of Sorority Row is always welcome, it’s not enough of a differentiator to elevate the movie.

Though things begin interestingly enough, when the members of Phi Theta sorority pull a particularly mean-spirited prank on the brother of one of their members that ends in a very real death.

Soon the girls are being bumped off one by one, seemingly by the person who was the victim of their prank gone awry (mostly in visually interesting, though practically impossible, ways). Sounds familiar?  It should because it’s a plot device that been used every since Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, mainly because when it works, you don’t see any of the many moving parts that need to be in sync for it to work.

Which Sorority Row, for the most part, doesn’t.

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Cooties – Review

Cooties movie poster

Cooties is like Ebola, but funnier.”

Typically, horror movies don’t revolve around children–though there are exceptions, like Village of the Damned, The Brood, The Children, Children Of The Corn, Come Out and Play and Citadel come to mind–though they’re not typical.

And I get it.  Children are uniquely vulnerable in ways the average adult isn’t, and I can see how it’s almost the like a betrayal if we, as adults, are unable to protect them from the horrors of the world just outside the door.

Jonathan Milott and and Cary Murnion, the directors of Cooties, seem well aware of this and decide to leaven the horror with ample laughs, and for the most part it works because as messed up as the children come to be, the adults are in their way significantly worse.

There’s Clint (Elijah Wood) who’s returned home to Fort Chicken to work on his first novel about a possessed boat.  Wade (Rainn Wilson) is the PE teacher who’s dating Lucy (Alison Pill), whom Clint had a crush on long ago.

Special mention goes to Leigh Whannell (writer of Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2 and Chapter 3–with James WanDead Silence–with James Wan and Cooties–with Ian Brennan) who plays Doug, who apparently wrote some of the best lines for himself.

And speaking of the characters, they’re all a bit broad, though in line with the somewhat lighthearted tone of the movie.

If you want to see a movie with copious violence that doesn’t take itself too seriously, you could do worse than to catch a case of Cooties.

Cooties will soon spread to a theater near you, though be careful because this is like no infection you’ve ever experienced.

Southpaw – Review

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“A boxing movie that overcomes the limitations of the genre.”

If you’ve seen one sports movie–be the subject golf, basketball, football. boxing, etc–you’ve just about seen them all.

And that’s because, while the sport being played may change, they these types of movies follow a, by now, predictable version of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey,‘ where the main character reaches the pinnacle of their career, is brought low, which enables them to realize all that they have taking for granted, in the end making them better people and redeeming them in the eyes of the people that they love.

And there’s a reason things become formulaic:  When movies that use them work, they can be beautiful things to behold.

And Southpaw in all its brutal, bloody beauty, delivers big time.

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the light heavyweight champion, at the top of the world and his game, till an untimely death–which curiously the movie for the most part abandons once it serves its purpose of breaking down Hope, so he can rise again–sends him into a downward spiral that he spends most of the move coming out of. t

As I mentioned earlier, it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before, though the intensity that Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Miguel Gomez bring to the story manage to make the material seem almost fresh.

And considering how many times this story has been told, that’s quite an accomplishment.