Archive for the Exorcism Movies Category

THIS IS THE END (2013)

Posted in 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Bad Behavior, Comedies, Disaster Films, Exorcism Movies, James Franco, LL Soares Reviews, Possessed By Demons, Post-Apocalypse Movies, R-Rated Comedy, Stoner Comedies with tags , , , , , , , on June 14, 2013 by knifefighter

THIS IS THE END (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares

This-Is-The-End-PosterBack in the old days, director Roger Corman used to make “quickie” films over the course of a weekend between his regular features. Sometimes he would have the sets for a few more days or an actor might get done with a role early and have some availability (since they signed up for a certain amount of time), and Corman would take advantage of it to make a fast extra film while he still could. Sometimes this resulted in an incomprehensible flick like THE TERROR (1963), and sometimes it resulted in an accidental classic, like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960).

THIS IS THE END, the new movie by directors and screenwriting partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, was probably not made over the course of a weekend, but it has that kind of feel to it. Like a bunch of friends were sitting around one afternoon and decided “Let’s make a movie!” While it clearly had an actual budget, there’s an “of the moment” aesthetic to the whole thing, some of which works in its favor, and some of which doesn’t.  It’s based on a short film called “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse” (2007) which was written by Jason Stone, about actors and friends Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogan confronting the end of the world. Now, it’s been expanded into a feature-length movie.

It features a bunch of actors playing “themselves,” or a facsimile thereof, and what happens when they get caught in the middle of the “End Times.” They’re able to make this concept work because in the movie each person’s personality is well-defined enough so that they can play on that familiarity—even if they exaggerate things a bit—and we get sucked in because we feel that we know these people. Fans of the short-lived TV series FREAKS AND GEEKS (which only lasted one season, from 1999 to 2000) will especially find things to like in the movie. That was the show that put Judd Apatow on the map, as well as giving actors Seth Rogen and James Franco their first big break.

The movie begins with Rogen (KNOCKED UP, 2007 and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, 2008) meeting Jay Baruchel—who was in another Judd Apatow series, UNDECLARED (2001-2002), and had roles in movies like KNOCKED UP and TROPIC THUNDER, 2008) —at the airport. The two of them are long-time friends who haven’t seen each other in about a year, and they’re trying to kick-start their friendship again. This involves burgers from Carl’s Jr., smoking lots of pot, and playing video games on a new 3D TV. Then Rogen remembers that he was invited to James Franco’s (most recently in OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, earlier this year) house for a party. Baruchel isn’t too eager; he feels uncomfortable around Rogen’s newer “Hollywood” friends, but he agrees to go.

The party has its own pleasures, one of the biggest being Michael Cera (from SUPERBAD, 2007, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, 2010 and the cult TV series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) playing himself as a kind of coke-snorting, super-cocky lady’s man. Who knew? Cera is so obnoxious playing “himself,” that he had me laughing out loud several times. He is friggin hilarious. It’s only too bad he’s not in the movie longer. Also at the party are such familiar faces as actress Emma Watson from the HARRY POTTER movies, comic actress Mindy Kaling (from the American version of the TV show THE OFFICE and her new show, THE MINDY PROJECT), singer Rihanna, and, in smaller roles, other FREAKS AND GEEKS alumni, such as Jason Segel and Martin Starr.

While on a trip to a convenience store to pick up some cigarettes, Rogen and Baruchel find themselves in the middle of an earthquake. Or what they think is an earthquake. A bunch of stuff falls on Rogen, so he doesn’t see it, but Baruchel witnesses several customers in the store being zapped by blue beams of light from the sky and sucked up through the store’s ceiling. Back at the party, no one will believe him.

That is, until the next tremor. Then the earth opens up as the mother of all sinkholes suddenly appears in front of Franco’s house, sucking down most of the partygoers into the flaming pits of Hell.

ThisistheEnd1There’s lots of death and destruction, until just a handful of the gang are left to survive—insecure Rogen, grumpy Baruchel, pretentious Franco, as well as Jonah Hill (from everything from SUPERBAD to MONEYBALL, 2011) in full diva mode and Craig Robinson (who you might recognize from HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, 2010 and the TV series THE OFFICE.). And, once they all try to get some sleep, out of the bathroom comes the shambling form of Danny McBride, who crashed the party the night before and was passed out in the tub when all of the scary stuff went down.

How much you’ll like this movie has a lot to do with how much you like these actors. I for one have been a fan of some of these guys since the FREAKS AND GEEKS days, when they were just kids. I like all these guys, and it’s just funny to see them interact in light of the horrific situation they’re in.

For me, though, the biggest plus here is Danny McBride, who I just think is one of the best comic actors around today. From his debut in the indie comedy THE FOOT FIST WAY (2006) to his hilarious HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN, I am a total fan. Although my enthusiasm for the guy doesn’t mean I’m delusional enough to have thought 2011’s YOUR HIGHNESS (starring Franco and McBride) was a good movie. His completely obnoxious persona completes works in this one, though.

Not everything works in THIS IS THE END. Once we have our six men trapped in Franco’s house, trying to figure out what is going on, there are moments when it almost seems like they’re not sure what to do next, and there are a few parts that go on too long. It’s the downside of a movie that feels improvised; sometimes the improvisation can seem to run out of steam. There are parts where they seem like they’re making it up as they go along.

There are some special effects, mostly involving CGI monsters, which aren’t too bad. But most of the movie is just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking, and on that level it works. I thought it was a lot funnier than a majority of comedies I’ve seen lately. It’s got its flaws, but it’s also a lot of fun. It seems to go on a little long, but if you judge a comedy by the amount of laughs it gives you, then you’ll probably feel like you got your money’s worth as you leave the theater.

I thought the trailers for this one looked pretty hilarious, and the movie does have its share of big laughs. I know I was laughing a lot during its running time, but I was a little disappointed that it did not live up to my expectations all the way through. I will say that, whenever Danny McBride is onscreen (or Michael Cera earlier in the film), the laughs increase. Another big plus is the segment where Jonah Hill gets possessed by a demon, and the other guys try to perform an exorcism on him. Oh, and a scene where we find out what happened to James Franco’s neighbor, Channing Tatum, is pretty hilarious as well.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

The scenes with Danny McBride are some of my favorites in THIS IS THE END.

It has its flaws, but there’s a lot to like about THIS IS THE END. I like these guys a lot, and it’s kind of like hanging out at their house for a couple of hours. It seems like that would be fun, even if the world was ending outside.

I give it three out of five knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THIS IS THE END ~three  knives.

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (2013)

Posted in 2013, Demonic Possession, Devil Movies, Exorcism Movies, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Occult, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by knifefighter

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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Before sitting down to review this one, I went back and read my Cinema Knife Fight review (with Nick Cato) of the first LAST EXORCISM movie from 2010, and it refreshed a lot of the back story for me. Back then, I gave the first movie three knives, and it was based mostly on the performance of Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus. The movie started out like a documentary of Marcus and his vocation as a preacher and exorcist. The way Fabian played him was likeable and charismatic, and I really enjoyed the movie until the final scene. The funny thing is, looking back at it now, I really don’t mind the ending at all, and it’s grown on me.

Which brings us to this new movie, THE LAST EXORCISM PART II. Based on the trailer, I thought this was just another cynical attempt to cash in on a movie that did pretty well at the box office (and cost a small amount to make) by producing a quickie sequel. But I have to admit, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

In the second film, Cotton Marcus is nowhere to be seen, since he pretty much met his doom at the end of the first movie. This time around, the focus is on Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), who was also a standout in the first film. She was the girl Marcus went to exorcize, and she was convincing as a poor, lost innocent undergoing a terrifying ordeal at the “hands” of a demon.

Things begin not long after the events of the first film. As PART II opens, a couple find Nell (again played by Bell) in their house late at night (she gets into bed with the husband and even scratches him, when the wife gets up to go to the bathroom). The scene where they track her down to the kitchen, huddled up on a counter and looking deranged, is actually quite effective. She ends up in a mental hospital, and it’s explained that her family died during the night that ended the first film, when her father’s house caught on fire. She is scared, confused and clearly traumatized by what she has gone through. We also see that everyone is treating her as the victim of a cult, which makes sense, but it doesn’t address the fact that she was truly possessed by a demon in the first film. Something the medical community would avoid.

Not long after being admitted to the hospital, Nell is determined to be pretty harmless to herself and to others, and is released to a halfway house in New Orleans. The place is overseen by Frank Merle (Muse Watson), and Nell makes some new friends, including her roommate Gwen (Julia Garner), who at times seems to have a cruel streak, along with Daphne (Erica Michelle) and Mo (Sharice Angelle Williams). Nell gets a job as a maid at a motel, and even finds herself attracted to a boy who works at the motel, named Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). She’s a little strange, but the others seem to accept her, and Nell starts to slowly adapt to a fairly normal life, which is amazing, considering the events of the first film.

But, as we know going into the theater, a normal life is not really in the cards for Nell. The demon that possessed her in the first film, Abalom, soon makes its presence known, and makes it clear it wants her back. The weirdness happens slowly, with the odd passerby on the street saying something cryptic to her. A street performer (who pretends to be a statue in the park) following her during some festivities. When she goes into a church for refuge, even there a preacher seems to have a link to Abalom and tells her it is useless to resist, as strange figures appear in the church’s windows. Nell flees in a panic.

There are also times when her father, Louis (Louis Herthum, who also played the role in the first film) appears to speak to her. Once, late at night, she sees him sitting in the chair across from her bed, and he tells her he is trying to protect her. Is he real or just a figment of her tortured imagination? Other strange things happen when she’s asleep, like the fact that one of her hands often caresses her when she’s unconscious, as if it no longer belongs to her, and she levitates and twists into painful-looking shapes, without ever being aware of it.

One particularly uncomfortable moment involves the other girls finding a video on Youtube of her being exorcized by Reverend Marcus in the first film. She is twisting violently into unnatural shapes, and speaking in voices, and the other girls are both fascinated and scared by what they see. Nell comes into the room, and when she finds out what they’re watching, she screams at them to shut it off.

Some of the people around her aren’t what they seem to be, but not all of them are in league with the devil. A woman named Cecile (Tarra Riggs) has made it her mission to save Nell from the forces that want her, and she sets up a meeting with some like-minded friends. Can they save her from the forces of darkness? Well, you’ll have to see THE LAST EXORCISM PART II to find out.

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Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that not everyone is going to like this movie. First off, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen. It’s almost more of a character study than a horror movie, as we watch Nell slowly adapt to her new life and become a part of normal society, something she was never allowed to do when she lived on her father’s farm. We want her to find happiness with her new friends and with Chris. But we know it’s only a matter of time before the satanic being that once shared her skin comes back. The movie is not fast-paced. It takes its time, and there are long gaps between scares. And anyone looking for a roller coaster ride isn’t going to find it here.

Strangely, I didn’t mind the pacing or the lack of scares at all. Nell is so interesting that I really wanted to see more of her life. I found her struggle for normalcy to be touching, and believable. And even if it comes off more as a drama at times, I didn’t see that as a bad thing. Ashley Bell gives a terrific performance here as a girl who has endured great horrors and struggles to transcend them. It’s really a showcase for her as an actress (just like the first LAST EXORCISM film was a showcase for actor Patrick Fabian) and in that sense, I enjoyed it. I also thought her looks worked very well in defining her character. She has an odd face that sometimes looks almost like an old woman’s and other times seems rather pretty. This odd quality gives physical presence to the confusion and turmoil going on inside her. I was really impressed with Bell, and thought she did a great job as the lead in this film. In fact, watching PART II, I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with this character, and I would actually look forward to a PART III if the same filmmakers were involved.

One thing I didn’t like was that, in trying to present things almost as a drama, the filmmakers felt the need to pop in some “false scares” to keep the audience awake. Stuff like dogs suddenly barking loudly in the dark, or images in Nell’s mind (visions or dreams) suddenly popping up on screen and screaming. I thought these things were unnecessary, but I’m sure that the people involved thought it was a legitimate choice, since the movie is pretty quiet for the most part, and it was their way of reminding us this is a horror movie, even if it is an unusual one. And not all audience members would be as patient without a few jolts added here and there. For the most part, LAST EXORCISM PART II is actually a good example of “quiet horror,” which means it’s not  really inhibited by its normally dreadful PG-13 rating.

Also, the ending this time around was a little predictable, and almost had a CARRIE feel to it, but it still worked for me. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I see similarities between Nell’s story and Carrie White’s.

I also thought it was interesting that PART II is filmed in a much different way than the first one. The first film was presented as a fake documentary, focused mostly on Reverend Marcus, and it worked very well in that way. You would think PART II would adopt the same gimmick, but it doesn’t. I thought it would hurt this movie to be filmed in a more traditional, straightforward way, but it actually works pretty well here. To film it as another “found footage” film would defy logic (who would be filming this fragile girl struggling to stay sane?) and the gimmick would get in the way of the storytelling in this one. So it was a good decision to leave the gimmicks behind in PART II.

By the end of the film, it is quite clear that this is a horror movie. But leading up to there, it could almost be the story of a girl dealing with mental illness, trying to get better after painful events. As I watched it, it made me think of how very different the original THE EXORCIST (1973) is from its first sequel, the quieter and more thoughtful EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977). Both THE HERETIC and LAST EXORCISM PART II took risks by not being rehashes of the films that came before them, and I find that much more refreshing than seeing the same thing all over again.

LastExorcism_1Sht_Wall_FM1Aside from Bell and Herthum, this new movie has a completely different team involved. Daniel Stamm, who directed the first film, has now been now replaced by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Damien Chazelle. Gass-Donnelly’s previous work consists of several short films and two other features, THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY (2007) and SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS (2010), which also sound like small, quirky films, and I might just seek them out.

Eli Roth is one of the producers of this film (he also produced the first one), and I still think his name is associated with product that is a little more interesting than the standard fare.

Most fans of horror films probably won’t like this film, and will wonder what I see in it. But the truth is, the fact that this movie is so different from the first one, and takes risks that would alienate some theater-goers, endears itself to me all the more. I’m a fan of movies that take chances and confound expectations. And in that sense, THE LAST EXORICSM PART II is a success. I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE LAST EXORCISM PART II ~three knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for March 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Adult Fairy Tales, Body Horror, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Demons, Exorcism Movies, Fantasy, GIANTS!, Occult with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
MARCH 2013
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  The magical land of Oz, outside the Emerald City to be exact.  Munchkins are dancing and singing, good witches are flying about singing cheerful songs, and MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES stroll down the yellow brick road.)

L.L SOARES:  Being here brings back so many memories.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Like the day you met your cousins, the flying monkeys?

LS: That was a special day.  Teaching them how to be scary, and how to beat tin men over the head with clubs.  Ah, memories!  But I was actually talking about watching THE WIZARD OF OZ as a kid. Back in the days before videotape, it only played once on TV every year, and was a really big deal.

MA:  I’ve never liked THE WIZARD OF OZ.

LS:  What?  Was it too scary for you?

MA: I used to find it depressing.  I enjoyed Hammer Films much better.

GOOD WITCH:  Welcome, Cinema Knife Fighters!  Are you here to review OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL?

LS:  Not yet.  We’re here today for our MARCH COMING ATTRACTIONS column.

MA:  That column where we announce which movies we’ll be reviewing in the coming month, and we’re here in Oz, because OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is probably the month’s biggest movie.

LS:  But it doesn’t open until March 8, and so we have some other films to discuss first.

GOOD WITCH:  Carry on.

MA:  First up in March, we’ll be bringing you reviews of two movies.  I’ll be reviewing JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013), and L.L. will be reviewing THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 (2013).  Both these films open on March 1.

While no fan of the recent rage of fantasy fairy tale movies aimed at adults, films like HANSEL & GRETEL:  WITCH HUNTERS (2013) and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012), based on the trailers, I don’t think JACK THE GIANT SLAYER looks half bad.

LS: I think you’ve been eating too many magic beans!

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MA:  It looks like it might be taken seriously enough to be a successful movie.  I know the CGI effects in the previews look pretty good, and the giants look formidable.  Sure, it’ll probably be stupid, but I’m hoping it might have an edge to it, something along the lines of the movies Terry Gilliam used to make.

LS: You said the CGI effects look good and the giants look formidable? I’m not sure we saw the same trailer. The giants I saw looked pretty damn hokey. Incredibly fake-looking giants don’t tempt me to see this movie much.

MA: Nicholas Hoult is playing Jack, and we just saw Hoult in WARM BODIES (2013).  As much as I didn’t really like that movie, Hoult wasn’t bad in it, so hopefully he’ll be decent as Jack.

LS: Another reason I’m glad I’m not seeing it.

MA: The cast also includes Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Ian McShane, so there’s some pretty good talent involved here.

It’s directed by Bryan Singer, who directed X-MEN (2000) and X2 (2003) and SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006), a film you liked more than I did, but again, there’s talent involved in this movie, so it just might be good.

LS:  I like Singer, but nothing about the trailers for this one makes me want to see it. Then again, the trailer for THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 looks like it could be awful, too. This movie really didn’t need a sequel, but the reason why the first movie was so good was because the lead guy, the exorcist Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), made the story compelling. It looks like he’s not even in this second movie. So I don’t have high hopes for it. It just looks like the usual exorcism shenanigans.

I doubt either one of us will see something great, but at least we’ll get two solo reviews out of it.

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MA:  Yeah, THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2 looks like one of those movies that has no business being made.  Now, I liked the first movie a lot, but, like you said, the main reason for liking that one was the main character, the preacher Cotton Marcus, but this second movie isn’t about him, it’s about the young girl from the first movie, Nell (Ashley Bell) and her story just isn’t as interesting.

Plus the trailer for this one makes it look really silly.

LS:  On March 8 it’s the big release of the month, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.

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MA:  I have to admit, this one looks really good, but I can’t say I’m overly excited about it, since I’ve never been a fan of THE WIZARD OF OZ.  But it is Sam Raimi at the helm, and I do liked James Franco a lot, and Mila Kunis is nice to look at, so I probably will end up liking this one.

LS: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like THE WIZARD OF OZ before. You’re an odd gent.

MA: Really?  I know a lot of people who aren’t fans of THE WIZARD OF OZ. I can’t speak for them, but for me, when it was on TV each year when I was a kid, I used to watch it and like it, but eventually found myself sick of the story, especially the final scene where Dorothy’s relatives chuckle at her story about Oz, obviously dismissing her tale as a figment of her imagination.

LS:  What did you want them to do?  Believe her?  Tell me, is it possible this scene bothered you because when you were a child, people didn’t believe your stories?

MA:  Vampires are real and living in my basement!  (suddenly composing himself).  Sorry.  No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Anyway, on March 15 we’ll be reviewing the new thriller THE CALL (2013), starring Halle Berry as a 911 operator who becomes entangled with a serial killer.  Now, if you’ve seen the trailer for this one, you’ve probably seen the entire movie.  It’s pretty extensive, and I feel like I’ve seen the film already, so I’m really not that excited about it.

It also stars Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine herself.

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LS:  Oh boy! Maybe she’ll sing! But seriously, I am not looking forward to this one at all. It looks pretty awful, and you’re right, the trailer makes you feel like you already saw the movie. So why bother?

LS:  On March 22, we’ll be bringing you a DVD review of CELL COUNT.  This one is part of our up-and-coming filmmaker series, where we review new movies by directors who are trying to make a name for themselves. I hope it’s good.

MA:  I don’t know much about CELL COUNT, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.

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We finish the month with two reviews on the same weekend yet again.  I’ll be reviewing G.I. JOE:  RETALIATION (2013), and L.L. will be reviewing THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012).  Something tells me you’re getting the better end of this deal!

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION I’m sure will be absolutely stupid.  G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF THE COBRA, which I saw in 2009, was not only one of the worst movies I saw that year, but one of the worst movies I’ve seen period!  Ever!

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Yet, somehow, this one’s got a decent cast— actually more than decent— with the likes of Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Ray Stevenson, RZA, Arnold Vosloo, Byung-hun Lee from I SAW THE DEVIL (2010), and Jonathan Pryce.  So, who knows?  It might be good after all!

Plus, the screenplay was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the same guys who wrote ZOMBIELAND (2009).

LS:  Yeah, I can’t stand G.I. JOE movies, so I’m glad I’ll be missing this one.

MA:  I just don’t get why we even have G.I. JOE movies.  When I hear “G.I. Joe” I think of the popular toy action figure from years back, but is it even still around today?  I’m sure it is, but is it popular?  I don’t get it.

LS:  THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is a mystery starring Ryan Gosling, and it involves some kind of heist, based on the trailer. I’m eager to see this one.

MA:  Yeah, it features Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, two of my favorite actors, so I’d say this one sounds like a winner.

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And that wraps things up for our MARCH COMING ATTRACTIONS column.  We’ll see you next week with reviews of JACK THE GIANT SLAYER and THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2.

GOOD WITCH:  Remember to give OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL a positive review.

MA:  That depends on whether we like it or not, because if we don’t like it, then we can’t in good faith—.

(GOOD WITCH zaps MA with her wand and turns him into a frog.)

LS:  Wow. You’ll have to show me how to do that!  But what’s the idea of turning Michael into a frog?  I thought you were a good witch?

GOOD WITCH:  I am.  When it comes to casting magical spells, I’m good!

LS: I’d ask you to change him back, but that would be so unlike me.  Okay, folks, we’ll see you next weekend!  Don’t worry.  Michael will be back to his normal self in time to review JACK THE GIANT SLAYER.   I know this for a fact, because there’s no way I’m going to see it!

FROG:  Rib-bit!  Rib-bit!

—END—

A HAUNTED HOUSE (2012)

Posted in 2013, Comedies, Evil Spirits, Exorcism Movies, Faux Documentaries, Fun Stuff!, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, LL Soares Reviews, Parodies, Possessed By Demons, R-Rated Comedy, Spoofs with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by knifefighter

A HAUNTED HOUSE (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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While Michael was seeing GANGSTER SQUAD, I opted to check out this comedy starring Marlon Wayans instead, and I’m glad I did. A HAUNTED HOUSE, despite the lame, generic title, is actually a pretty good comedy, taking aim at all of the “found footage” horror films we’ve been subjected to lately, from the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, to THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) and last year’s THE DEVIL INSIDE.

The found footage genre is so prevalent in the movies these days, that it was only a matter of time before someone skewered them. So along comes actor/writer Marlon Wayans (who’s been in everything from the TV show IN LIVING COLOR, 1992 – 2001, to the first two SCARY MOVIEs and WHITE CHICKS, 2004), to do the skewering.

Marlon stars as Malcolm, a likeable guy who tells us early on that this is a big day, because his girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins), is finally moving into his house. Like the people in those PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, Malcolm is obsessed with filming everything that goes on in his house. Things start off on a bad foot when Kisha runs over his poor little dog pulling into the driveway, and they just get worse from there. When Kisha is upset that her keys are on the floor (How did they get there?!!), she immediately deduces that the house must be haunted and calls in a psychic named Chip (Nick Swardson), who seems a little too interested in Malcolm. When things get weirder, Malcolm calls in a security guy named Dan (David Koechner) to install cameras all over the inside and outside of his house, so that he can keep track of the “ghost.” An especially funny scene involves Malcolm’s cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) and his crew, a group of thugs who are determined to get to the bottom of the haunting, but find out it’s not that easy to intimidate a supernatural being.

When Malcolm and Kisha determine that it’s not a ghost at all, but a malicious demon (!), there’s a funny flashback to Kisha’s childhood with her callous Mom (Robin Thede) and Dad (the always hilarious J.B. Smoove), that delves into the origins of Kisha’s demon problem. Malcolm and Kisha do everything they can to get rid of their unwanted visitor, including getting stoned with the invisible creep (they all get mellow and engage ins some supernatural hijinks), and even having sex with the demon (while Kisha has a good time with this, Malcolm’s experience isn’t quite so pleasant).

Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) find themselves in A HAUNTED HOUSE.

Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) find themselves in A HAUNTED HOUSE.

When Kisha finally gets possessed by the demon (and we get into EXORCISM territory), Malcolm finally has to call in the big guns, which include psychic Chip, Dan and his cameraman sidekick, Bob (Dave Sheridan), who have their own paranormal TV show (on the Internet and cable access) and the local priest (and ex-con), Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer, who’s really good here). They chase the possessed Kisha all over the house, with funny results.

Directed by Michael Tiddes, and written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez, A HAUNTED HOUSE could easily be part of the SCARY MOVIE franchise, but those movies have been taken over by the Zucker Brothers (the guys behind the AIRPLANE and NAKED GUN movies). That said, A HAUNTED HOUSE seemed to be funnier than the usual SCARY MOVIE installment, with a higher ratio of laughs.

Marlon Wayans does a fine job as our “hero,” Malcolm. Essence Atkins is really funny as Kisha, and the entire cast is pretty solid. Other supporting players include Andrew Daly (who you might recognize from the HBO series EASTBOUND AND DOWN) and Alanna Ubach, as Steve and Jenny, a swinger couple who are friends with Malcolm and Kisha, and who are always trying to get them to swap partners (Malcolm is completely clueless to their intentions), and Marlene Forte as Malcolm’s maid, Rosa, who is up to some very surprising shenanigans when the couple is away.

If a comedy is judged by how much you laugh, then A HAUNTED HOUSE is a success. I laughed a lot, and so did the packed audience I saw it with. The gags in this one come fast and furious, and most of them work. It doesn’t hurt that the movies this one is spoofing have created their own list of clichés just waiting to be goofed on.

I give A HAUNTED HOUSE, three knives. But man, do I wish they had come up with a better title.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives A HAUNTED HOUSE ~three knives.

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THE WORST MOVIES OF 2012 by L.L. Soares

Posted in 2012, 2013, 3-D, Bad Acting, Bad Situations, Based on a Video Game, Exorcism Movies, Fantasy, Faux Documentaries, Just Plain Bad, LL Soares Reviews, Sequels, Worst-Of lists with tags , , , , on January 2, 2013 by knifefighter

THE WORST FILMS OF 2012
By L.L. Soares

Well, there were lots of really good movies in 2012, but, as usual, there were some dogs as well. I think the fact that it was a lot easier writing this list – and keeping it to 10- is a good sign. There were a lot more good movies than bad ones in 2012.

These are the worst movies I saw last year.

NUMBER ONE:
SILENT HOUSE

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I keep hearing the original 2010 film from Uruguay was better. That’s not hard to believe. The American remake of SILENT HOUSE was one of the worst movies I’ve had to sit through in a long time. Poor Elizabeth Olson, who was so great in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011) is completely wasted in this “thriller” about a woman terrorized in her summer home by an unseen intruder (well, unseen until the end). The big gimmick here is that it was supposedly filmed in real time, all in one take. If that’s so, then it was a lot of effort for nothing. It has a stupid twist ending, involving something that should have been traumatic, but is never made believable by the awful script. It was an idea that could have been done well, but the filmmakers involved completely blew it. Laughably bad.

NUMBER TWO:
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (IN 3D)

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The previous Resident Evil movie (RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, 2010) was at least dumb fun. I was starting to think this was one of the better film series based on a video game – at least the movies were entertaining. Then the new one (RETRIBUTION) comes out in 2012, and it’s just friggin dismal. It’s more of a place holder between the previous movie and the next one than a real movie of its own, with very little plot to distinguish it, and no attempt to tie up loose ends. I walked out of the theater feeling really cheated. If nothing else, this movie convinced me that it’s time to stop making RESIDENT EVIL movies.

NUMBER THREE:
DARK SHADOWS

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As a kid, I used to watch the original DARK SHADOWS TV show after school every day in the late 60s/early 70s. It was extremely low-budget, and sometimes laughably bad, but they always played it straight and tried to make it a decent show. Basically a soap opera with vampires and werewolves, the main plot involved the vampire Barnabas Collins and his struggle to reunite with the reincarnated version of his lost love, Josette.   It spawned two pretty good movies at the time, too (HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS in 1970 and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS in 1971), which were clearly horror films. Then Tim Burton decided to revive the old show as a new movie. Is it a bigger budget version of the old horror show? Nope. It’s a completely asinine comedy, involving Johnny Depp as Barnabas (the role was originally played by Jonathan Frid), rising from the dead in the 1970s and experiencing culture shock when confronted with hippies and bad fashion. Made with that “wink wink” style of comedy that I can’t stand, this is easily one of the most annoying films of 2012. What a wasted opportunity to make a movie version that was truly scary. Instead, we get a moronic exercise in tedium.

NUMBER FOUR:
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2

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You know something’s wrong when the latest TWILIGHT movie isn’t the worst movie of the year. The end of the “saga” – BREAKING DAWN – was broken into two films so the greedy studios could make more money. Meanwhile, we get more of the same crap we’ve been getting since the first film. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire and is still in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson). The bad guys are told a lie and instead of checking it out, just attack our heroes and their family, when everything could have been resolved in a few minutes. I want to say this movie was a relief, because I knew the series was finally over, but I bet you they find a way to keep it going. Just to keep the money coming in. I want the two hours of my life I wasted on this movie back.

NUMBER FIVE:
SILENT HILL – REVELATION 3D

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Not a good year for movies with “Silent” in their titles, I guess. And almost all of the 3D movies in 2012 were pretty lame, so this one has two strikes against it from the get go.

The original SILENT HILL movie from 2006 wasn’t great, but at least it had some interesting imagery and some strange scenes to keep it from being a complete snooze. About a journey to a surreal town/world where it’s always raining ashes and demons fight each other for power, it was actually one of the better video game-based movies. But as we learned with the RESIDENT EVIL franchise, these guys should stop while their ahead. It took six years to make this sequel, and they shouldn’t have bothered. It’s boring, incoherent, and just plain bad. Poor Pyramid Head, the strange-looking beastie from the series who deserved a better movie to appear in. Maybe it’s time to finally have a moratorium on movies based on video games.

NUMBER SIX:
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (IN 3D)

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The UNDERWORLD films aren’t based on a video game, but they might as well be. Kate Beckinsdale returns as an ass-kicking vampire who has to fight werewolves and humans in what has to be one of the most boring franchises around. I hate this series. I hate it even more because Beckinsdale is hot in that leather outfit and deserves to be in a horror movie franchise that doesn’t suck. The vampires here might not sparkle like in the TWILIGHT movies, but they’re not much better. Another boring series that needs to just stop already.

NUMBER SEVEN:
THE DEVIL INSIDE

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Another “found footage” horror movie – a genre I normally enjoy. And the first half of this exorcism movie is actually pretty good, until it falls apart. A woman is making a documentary about her mother, who has committed murder while being possessed by a demon. There are a few good scenes, but they’re not enough to save the movie. Overall, it’s just too predictable and doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before. And then there’s the fact that the movie doesn’t really have an ending. Instead,  it ends abruptly and we’re given a URL and told to go to the website for more. I’m sorry, I don’t pay for a movie ticket to be told to check out a website. Another movie where I left the theater more than a little pissed off. You would be much better off renting the 2010 movie THE LAST EXORCISM instead. It’s another “found footage” horror flick about an exorcism, but it’s actually really good and doesn’t waste your time.

NUMBER EIGHT:
THE INBETWEENERS

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The British series this movie was based on, about four socially inept teenagers who are desperate to finally lose their virginity, is supposed to be pretty funny. Or so I’m told. But, if that’s the case, I have no idea why the movie version is so unfunny. The characters are likable enough. There’s some heartfelt scenes where you actually care about the people involved. But there are hardly any laughs. This is supposed to be a comedy. A comedy without laughs isn’t much of a success. And the fact that this was a big hit in England is kind of depressing.

NUMBER NINE:
BATTLESHIP

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The idea of making a board game into a movie is kind of dumb. The people involved with this movie were given an almost impossible task – to take this concept and run with it – and they try. But it’s a failure. Another waste of film and actors and special effects – all for nothing. Poor Taylor Kitsch. After playing the lead in a really good movie (JOHN CARTER) that was unfairly maligned, he next starred in this cinematic garbage, and any buzz he had as an up-and-coming movie star pretty much vanished. Until SAVAGES, that is. But will SAVAGES be enough to keep his career from fizzling out? 2012 must have been a real rollercoaster for poor Mr. Kitsch. As for BATTLESHIP, I hope the poor box office for this one has sunk any chances of a sequel. But no matter how awful this movie was, it was still better than the eight movies I listed before it.

NUMBER TEN:
WRATH OF THE TITANS

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Despite their budgets and the high-tech special effects, the TITANS movies have left me cold. First there was CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) that was a remake of a 1981 Ray Harryhausen fantasy film with stop-motion monsters. In the new films, the monsters are CGI, but I don’t see them as much of an improvement. They’re kind of generic in a way. Sam Worthington plays Perseus as kind of a one-note character (and I know he’s capable of more than that – maybe he’s as bored as I am). Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are completely wasted as Zeus and Hades, respectively (but they’re the only characters in the movie with any real passion). Some of the monsters look cool, but overall, the movie is kind of boring. The story just isn’t that compelling….ZZZZZ… Oops, did I nod off there for a moment?

HONORABLE MENTION

PROJECT X – A faux documentary-style teen sex comedy about the craziest house party ever. It didn’t make my list because it was so forgettable that I…er…forgot about it until I saw it on Michael’s list. It mustn’t have annoyed me as much as it did him, but, frankly, it’s not worth talking about any further.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

V/H/S (2012)

Posted in 2012, Anthology Films, Demons, Evil Kids!, Exorcism Movies, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, Horror, Indie Horror, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Paranormal, Secrets, Thrillers, Twist Endings, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by knifefighter

V/H/S (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

V/H/S is a new anthology horror movie made up of five shorts and a wraparound story. There seem to be a lot of these kinds of movies around lately. The other ones that come to mind are CHILLERAMA (2011) and THE THEATRE BIZARRE (also 2011). Both were mixed bags. But the good thing about anthology movies is that if you don’t like one of the stories, there are more to come, if you just wait. Overall, I tend to enjoy these kinds of movies a lot.

V/H/S is above-average in this regard. For the most part, all of the stories are pretty good. Sure, some are better than others, but I didn’t feel there were any clunkers this time around.

The film starts off with the wraparound story, called “Tape 56.” This ongoing segment is directed by Adam Wingard, who also made POP SKULL (2007), A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE (2010) and YOU’RE NEXT (2011). Just a word of warning, if you start watching the movie, you might not care a lot for this one. But give it a chance. It just sets up the premise. But the characters involved are kind of despicable.

We are introduced to a bunch of guys led by Gary (Calvin Reeder) who are going around doing awful things and filming it for money. One of the things they do is follow couples and then attack them. The boyfriend is pulled aside and restrained, while the girlfriend is grabbed and her breasts are exposed for the camera. Gary says he gets $50 for each one of these he tapes, and he says he’s done about 25 of them so far. Needless to say, the characters who are supposed to be our point of view for this story start out being unlikable, which may put you off from the get-go.

The set-up is this: these guys are hired to go a house in the middle of the night and get a videotape. It has something to do with blackmail, and the guys say they plan to make copies of the tape, so they can make more money. What exactly is on the tape, we’ll never know. They don’t say (although one character does elude that it might be “a senator having sex on film”), but the job does pay big money—much more than they’re used to. So of course they jump at the chance.

They go to the designated house at the middle of the night, and we’re told there may be someone there, but it’s an old man and he won’t be any trouble. The guys get in, and search the place. They find two things. First of all, they find the old man, and he appears to be dead in a chair, in front of a wall full of television screens. There’s a VCR and a tape in it.

The second thing is that there are lots of videotapes in the house, and the guys aren’t really sure which one they’re supposed to retrieve. So they start looking through them, playing them one after another. And that is the theme of the movie.

The first short film we see is called “Amateur Night.” It is directed by David Bruckner, who also made THE SIGNAL (2007). And right off the bat, it might be my favorite of the bunch. It features more creeps. This time it’s three guys who plan to go to a bar, pick up some girls, and film themselves having sex with them. They’re Shane (Mike Donlan) Patrick (Joe Sykes) and Clint (Drew Sawyer). Clearly there’s a market for this kind of thing. Clint, a nerdy looking guy, wears a pair of glasses that have a camera and microphone built-in. They go to a bar and get sloshed, and find one girl who is willing to go back with them, named Lisa (Jas Sams). At the same time, a spooky girl with big eyes named Lily (Hannah Fierman) is sitting by herself, and Clint starts filming her. She gravitates toward him and keeps saying “I like you.” When they all go back to the hotel room (Lisa and Lily go back with the guys), things get decidedly weird. I have to admit, I wasn’t really surprised by what happened—I kind of saw it coming—but it was so well done, that I didn’t care. I really enjoyed this one. Featuring a great performance by Fierman.

A scary moment from V/H/S.

The second movie is “Second Honeymoon” by Ti West, who gave us HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) and THE INNKEEPERS (2011). It’s about a couple on a road trip—Stephanie (Sophia Takal) and Sam (Joe Swanberg), who are filming it as they go—who stop at a motel. Sometime during the night, someone is in the room with them, watching them sleep, and it goes from there. Not the best of the stories, but a solid little piece from West, who I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of. I actually think he’s feature films are overrated. This one was kind of predictable, but decent, and I liked it better than his feature films that I’ve seen.

Tuesday the 17th “ by Glenn McQuaid (who also directed 2008’s I SELL THE DEAD) is another one that seems by-the-numbers… at first. Four kids go out to the woods to spend some time in a secluded cabin. But once they get there, things go a little differently than expected. Once again, not something that will blow you away, but a solid little film.

The third one, “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She was Younger,” (great title, by the way!), was directed by “mumblecore” indie director Joe Swanberg (who also acted in Ti West’s installment), and it’s another of my favorites. It features two people talking on Skype. One is a girl named Emily (Helen Rogers) who lives in a haunted apartment. The other is her boyfriend, calling from medical school, where he’s studying. Whenever something weird happens, she calls him so he can be a witness, and at one point we see some ghosts. This is another one, however, where things go much differently than we expect. I liked the weird twist ending a lot.

Finally, we have “10/31/98”, by four guys who go by the name Radio Silence (they are directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella), three of the guys previously made a series of “interactive adventures” under the name Chad, Matt and Rob. This one is a really good one, too. Four guys jump in a car and go to a house for a Halloween party. They have a friend who always rents a house each Halloween and throws a lavish haunted house party. One guy is dressed as a nanny cam (a teddy bear with a camera), so he’s filming this one. They get there, to find the house empty. When they go exploring, they go up to the attic where they find a weird ceremony going on. They think it’s part of the fun, but it’s not. It’s a real exorcism. And things get scary from there.

The wraparound story pops in between the movies and at the end, as the guys in the house search for more tapes, the dead guy in the chair leaves at various points (we see this, but the guys don’t notice) and there’s a big, scary ending.

Another scary moment from V/H/S.

All in all, a great flick, and while there were three that really blew me away, the other two are pretty good, too. So no bad ones. I actually think V/H/S is pretty satisfying and the best of the new anthology horror films I’ve seen lately. It is currently on cable OnDemand in some areas and will get a limited theatrical release in early October.

This one is definitely worth checking out. I give it four knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives V/H/S ~ four knives.

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: SUPERSTITION (1985)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Exorcism Movies, Gore!, Grindhouse, Nick Cato Reviews, Slasher Movies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Supernatural, Witches with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2012 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Horror Hotel This Isn’t…
By Nick Cato
On a freezing cold Saturday night in January of 1985, I was still reeling from seeing my second Metallica gig at Brooklyn’s famous rock club, L’Amour (at the time no one had a clue they’d eventually become the biggest band in the world) and yet an ad I saw in my local paper a day earlier kept gnawing at my brain.  SUPERSTITION came out with no TV commercials and, as far as I recall, no mentions in any of the horror magazines or fanzines at the time.  And most alluring of all, it was released unrated.  So I attempted to get my hearing back as I entered the (now defunct) Fox Twin Cinema, one of Staten Island’s best venues for exploitation films.

I had to laugh during the opening sequence: a couple of teenagers attempted to pull a prank on a couple who are making out near some abandoned-looking house.  They both get deep sixed by an unseen killer, and I wondered why the film had a supernatural title if this was just another slasher flick.

Well, it isn’t a slasher flick per se. As we soon learn, this abandoned house—that’s actually being remodeled to house a minister and his family—had been cursed three hundred years earlier by a witch who used to live there.  In flashbacks, we learn the local priest discovered this witch was in league with Satan himself (I believe it’s even said she was Satan’s daughter), and, as punishment, drowns her in a pond behind the house.  Now being HORROR HOTEL (1960) is one of my all-time favorite horror films, I was already put-off by SUPERSTITION’s rip-off plot.  But what redeems this Canadian production is its kill scenes: I’m guessing even though the killer here is supernatural, the producers thought it would be smart to cater to the (then) popular slasher crowd and off victims in gory and inventive ways.  I still don’t think this film needed to be unrated, as there were many R-rated films released before this that were much more graphic (1980’s insanely brutal DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT and MOTHER’S DAY—both released with an R rating—make SUPERSTITION look like a kiddie show).  Go figure.

So, judging by some groans heard around the theater, it was apparent we were aware we weren’t in for a deep story.  There were several things brought up during the film that are never resolved, but when a working circular saw comes unhinged from its base and flies into a young minister’s chest, spinning so fast that it goes through him, as well as the chair he’s pinned to, everyone cheered, realizing we’d at least be in for a fun splatter-fest.

While there’s plenty of violence in SUPERSTITION, much of it takes place off camera and we see the aftermath.  Perhaps this is how the FX crew saved some money?  Either way, many of the kills are still effective, if not disappointing to a mainly teenaged, blood-hungry-crowd.

My favorite scenes are when a cute young girl kept showing up out of nowhere, dressed in a clean white dress, giving some kind of psychobabble warnings about the house to the Reverend.  It’s never explained who this girl is, and between some of the inventive kill scenes not many of us really cared.  Some other fun, splattery goodness includes some poor sap being cut in half by a falling window and a head exploding via microwave (those at the beginning of the film) and another unlucky lady gets a thick spike to the ol’ noggin.  Jason Vorhees himself would’ve been impressed with some of the stuff this old witch comes up with…

In one flashback sequence, there’s an exorcism performed on the witch by the accusing priest that’s quite convincing.  For a change, the witch’s deep-growl possessed voice doesn’t sound too goofy, and for whatever rare reason the scene didn’t remind me of THE EXORCIST (1973), and not just because it takes place three hundred years ago.

SUPERSTITION was a decent time at the movies, if nothing ground-breaking, and all these years later I have yet to revisit it on video.  I’m wondering if it holds up as a fun gore-fest?  Perhaps it’ll show up on cable one of these nights and I’ll see.  And if not, I’m happy enough with my one-time viewing, alongside a bunch of cheering, popcorn-throwing suburban grindhouse fanatics.   For 80s gore-hounds only.  All others, see HORROR HOTEL.

© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato

NOTHING good ever comes from sticking your head in a microwave…