Archive for the Possessed By Demons 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.

EVIL DEAD (2013)

Posted in 2013, Based on Classic Films, Chainsaws!, Cinema Knife Fights, Cult Movies, Demons, Evil Spirits, Gore!, Possessed By Demons, Remakes with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: EVIL DEAD (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Evil Dead poster #2

(The Scene: A cabin in the woods. L.L. SOARES is sitting at a desk, reading an ancient book. MICHAEL ARRUDA looks over his shoulder)

MA: You know you shouldn’t be doing that. It always ends badly.

LS: I know. But I feel compelled to do it.

MA: Whatever you do, don’t read aloud from it.

LS: ATA HEMPTO KEEPAP

MA: I told you not to read from it.

(The leprechaun from LUCKY CHARMS cereal appears)

LUCKY: You’ll be after me lucky charms!

MA:  I beg your pardon?  I don’t think so!

LS: We summoned you by accident.

LUCKY: Accident? And me in the middle of me breakfast.

LS: Go play with Toucan Sam or something.

(LUCKY turns MA into a monkey and disappears)

LS: Well, that’s an improvement.

(Monkey MA starts screeching and running around the cabin)

LS: I might as well start this week’s review.

(Monkey morphs back into MA)

MA: Nice try.  What?  Is the leprechaun on your payroll?  Don’t answer that. Just get on with the review.

LS:  EVIL DEAD is a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic (the difference in titles is that the original had a “THE” in front of it).  That was the movie that put Raimi on the map—and just look how his career turned out? Now he’s directing stuff like OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. But back then, Raimi was just some unknown kid trying to make it in the movie biz. Strangely, even though all this time has gone by, THE EVIL DEAD is still my favorite of Raimi’s movies.

MA:  Things work out that way sometimes.  Often the first thing an artist does—or at least the first hit—remains the best.

LS:  So when I heard they were giving it the remake treatment, I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t hopeful either. Raimi’s movie was low-budget, but incredibly resourceful. Despite the money limitations, the original EVIL DEAD introduced Raimi’s signature “stalking cam” where the camera shows the point of view of a creature running through the woods. Well, not exactly running. Sweeping through the woods at high speed is more the feel of it. And THE EVIL DEAD made a star of the very cool Bruce Campbell, who was Ash in the original and its sequels.

The trailer for the new version looked hopeful, and it started this ad campaign where it declared this to be “The most terrifying film you will ever experience!” Then the buzz started—a lot of it coming from the South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this year in Austin, Texas, where audiences loved this movie. So I started to get excited about it and really looked forward to seeing it.

Evil-Dead-Poster

But there was always the chance it could be a complete disappointment.

MA:  I don’t believe ad campaigns for one minute.  The most horrifying movie you will ever see? Yeah, right.  Anyway, like any ad, I didn’t give this one much credence, and I put it out of my mind since I didn’t want to have this movie hindered by too high expectations.

LS:  So let’s start off with the obvious question. Is this the most horrifying movie you will ever see? Nope. That’s a pretty big claim, and it’s just about guaranteed to fall short.

MA (laughing):  It sounds like an ad campaigns for a movie back in the 50s.  SEE the most terrifying monster ever to set foot on the earth!  An ungodly horror not meant for human eyes!  Too hideous!  Too horrifying!

Too much!

It’s a dumb add for a decent movie.

LS:  There was a lot of that kind of stuff in the 70s too. I remember MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) had the ad campaign “Positively the most horrifying film ever made.” And I’m sure there were plenty of ads that copied that one.

But I’ll give the new EVIL DEAD this much credit: it sure tries hard to live up to that tag line.

MA:  It gets an A for effort.

(LS again reads from the ancient book.)

LS: OOGIE TOOFIE LOOFIE

(This time CAPTAIN CRUNCH appears.)

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  Hey kids, how about helping your captain eat a healthy breakfast by—hey, wait a minute.  You two aren’t kids.

MA:  How observant you are.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH: Are there any kids around?

LS (rubs his stomach):  Not alive, anyway.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  In that case, how about helping this captain fill his flask, if you know what I mean?  (Holds out an empty flask).

LS (pointing):  The bar’s that way, in the next room. Fully stocked.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  Mrs. Crunch is going to have a good time tonight!  (Exits with a skip in his step.)

MA:  He always seemed so innocent on those TV commercials.

LS:  Maybe, but I never did trust that Crunchberry Beast.

Do you remember back when we were kids and Captain Crunch had an enemy in those cartoon commercials named Jean LaFoot?  There was this whole storyline going on. They just don’t make commercials like that anymore.

evil_dead_2013_by_myrmorko-d5jai2t

Anyway, back to the movie.  This one begins promisingly enough. A bunch of college-age kids meet at a cabin in the woods. In the original, it was more for a fun weekend. Here, it has a more serious motivation. Mia (Jane Levy, also the star of the current ABC comedy SUBURGATORY) is trying to get off drugs for the second time in her life, after a recent overdose that almost killed her (actually, we’re told, she did technically “die” for a moment during it). Her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), a cynical guy with long hair, and Olivia (the very stunning Jessica Lucas, who was also in CLOVERFIELD, 2008) are there, as well as the older brother Mia hasn’t seen in years, David (Shiloh Fernandez, who was also Peter in 2011’S RED RIDING HOOD) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). They’re all there to give Mia support during her attempt to kick drugs via the “cold turkey” approach. They’re there in that cabin in the middle of nowhere to see her through the rough times, keep her there, and make sure this time the “cure” takes.

MA:  I liked this premise a lot.  It really worked for me and made things more interesting in that these folks actually had a real reason not only for being there, but for staying there, in that they wanted to see things through to the end and truly help Mia kick her habit.

LS: Exactly. In these kinds of movies, there’s always a point where you say “Why the hell do they stay there? Why not leave?” It happens in this movie too—it’s inevitable in these kinds of horror movies—but for a little while there, everyone staying put actually makes sense. And that’s unusual.

Right away, Mia and David have issues. Mia is happy to see him, but also resents him for taking off on her when she was a kid, leaving her alone with their crazy mother, who died in a mental hospital a few years before this reunion. David clearly didn’t come back because he was trying to save his own sanity, but he’s trying to make up for his choices now, by giving Mia the support she needs.

So they go in the cabin, intent on seeing this through to the end. The friends make a pact to stay strong and not give in when Mia wants to leave. They’re going to make sure it works this time.

But the cabin has other plans.

MA:  I’ll say.

LS:  First off, they find a roomful of dead cats hanging from the ceiling in a secret room below the cabin (the reason the cats are there is explained in the creepy opening sequence of the film, which takes place in the past). They also find a book wrapped in barbed wire, which of course ends up upstairs with them, and of course one of them, namely Eric, has to cut the wires and open the book, and even read from it.

MA:  Gee, that sounds familiar.  (points his thumb at LS).

LS: As soon as he does that, he sets the demons in motion.

From here, EVIL DEAD takes on a relentless pace, as each member of the group takes turns being possessed by demonic forces. It begins with Mia, who has the main demon “attached” to her soul in the middle of the woods (with a special appearance by the ghost of the book’s previous victim), after trying to flee the cabin. When she goes back, Mia attacks the others, and then the fireworks begin.

I loved the pacing of this one. It doesn’t let up for a moment after the horror begins, and I really enjoyed that. There’s plenty of violence and gore and self-mutilation which is what you would expect from an EVIL DEAD movie. I am so glad they didn’t go the PG-13 route with this one. In fact, there are a couple of scenes that are downright amazing, including Mia using a razor to cut her tongue in half, the messy results of a shotgun blast, several people cutting off offending limbs in horrible ways, and an amazing “chainsaw to the head” moment that paints the entire screen red. So, if you happen to be a gorehound, this one is definitely for you.

In a lot of ways, this movie is almost perfect. It has a more serious tone than the first one —Raimi was famous for injecting funny moments to relieve tension, but this one is simply grim and vicious—which is in no way a bad thing. It’s also fairly faithful to the original, especially the key horrific/gross-out moments. Director Fede Alvarez (this is his first feature film, his previous movies were all short films) does a stunning job bringing this one to the screen. But there are a couple of minor gripes.

First off, the movie completely pushes its R-rating to the line, and past it, as far as the gore goes. This is not a movie for the squeamish. And yet it seemed to have a puritanical streak a mile long. From a character taking a shower in her clothes early on, to other key moments that would have had a lot more impact if there was some nudity involved. And I’m not talking gratuitous nudity—I’m talking logical stuff (do YOU take a shower with your clothes on?) This odd repression didn’t ruin the movie, but it did feel like it was holding back, and EVIL DEAD should be the kind of movie that is no-holds-barred. It just continues to amaze me that violence and gore is becoming more and more mainstream, but sex and nudity are still taboos that are to be avoided at all costs.

MA:  This didn’t bother me.  The movie’s pacing is so intense I didn’t have time to think about the fact that there wasn’t any nudity.  But something else bothered me about this one.

I agree with you that it pushes the envelope in the gore department, and I’ll even go so far to say that it’s nearly perfect with its handling of these horrific moments, in that in spite of the fact that it was in your face most of the time, it somehow didn’t go overboard.  Now, all this being said, for some reason, and this is the problem I had with it, it wasn’t all that scary.  I’m not sure why, because there were certainly scenes of suspense, and while I was enjoying these scenes, they really weren’t getting to me.  I think it’s because there was just a familiarity about the whole thing, as a reimagining of an old movie, that it somehow lacked freshness.

Also, and I’m not sure I can properly explain this, but it didn’t really hit me in the gut.  I was more entertained by this one than disturbed, which surprised me, because it is such a bloodbath throughout.  Another possibility I have to consider is perhaps the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, and I didn’t care as much if they had their arms lopped off.  I don’t know.  I enjoyed this one, but it didn’t really have me on the edge of my seat.

LS: I think it’s a mix of two things. First, we’re jaded old guys who have seen this kind of thing a thousand times before. Extreme gore just doesn’t shock us anymore. Secondly, because this is a remake, we’re familiar with the story for the most part, so there aren’t a lot of surprises—although, Alvarez does diverge from the original story a few times. Between these two things, it’s going to be pretty hard to scare us. But for some kid who never saw the original, this might really rock their world.

MA:  I guess that explains why the rest of the theater audience was screaming, while I wasn’t.  At least I wasn’t laughing, which says a lot for how good this one was.

(LS looks down at the Book of the Dead)

I just can’t help myself.  (Again reads from the evil book.  Toucan Sam appears.)

TOUCAN SAM:  I follow my nose.  Wherever it goes.

LS (points):  The bar’s that way.  (TOUCAN SAM exits.)

MA: What’s with all the breakfast cereal characters?  What is that you’re reading from, anyway?  The Book of Dead Breakfast Cereal Icons?

LS (his mouth full of cereal):  That’s a mouthful.

(CAPTAIN CRUNCH sticks his head back into the room.)

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  That’s what she said!  (He burps).

MA:  He’s bad.

LS:  He’s drunk.

CAPTAIN CRUNCH:  I dare say.  That’s a Peanut Butter Elephant standing by the bar!  (Hiccups and exits).

MA: This is weird.  Let’s get on with the review.

LS:  The acting is mostly good, especially Jane Levy as Mia and Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric.

MA:  I thought Jane Levy was excellent as Mia.  She nailed this role.  She made for a very strong lead, and I liked that she has to fight to overcome her drug addiction, a fight that strangely disappears at one point when she’s fighting the main demon face-to-face.  Could this be a case where she was—scared straight?

LS:  My one acting complaint, however, is Shiloh Fernandez as Mia’s brother David. He’s ostensibly the hero of this movie, and thus the equivalent of Bruce Campbell’s Ash in the original film. But let me tell you, David is no Ash. Not even close. Campbell may have given an over-the-top performance in the original, but it was riveting, and fun as hell. In comparison, Fernandez is kind of a dud. He’s kind of one-dimensional for most of the movie, and isn’t very interesting. He just reacts to everything that is thrown at him, but doesn’t have much of a personality of his own. I just thought his performance was a letdown for such a crucial role, and that someone with more charisma could have knocked this movie out of the park.

MA:  I thought he was okay.

LS: My point exactly. Bruce Campbell wasn’t just okay in the original movie. He kicked ass!

MA: You’re right.  He’s kind of low key, but he didn’t really bother me.  However, I do agree with you that the movie would have been better with someone more charismatic, although I’m not sure if that’s simply Fernandez’ fault or a lack of good writing. The way the story plays out, the character of David doesn’t turn out to be the most effective hero, and I didn’t really like this all that much.  I would have preferred a stronger hero.

LS: I also had a few issues with the ending. There’s a kind of loophole that provided a glimmer of hope toward the end of the film, that didn’t make complete sense to me. I don’t necessarily have a problem with glimmers of hope, but this one seemed forced, and that, again, goes against the whole “no-holds-barred” ethic of an EVIL DEAD movie.

Despite these complaints, I liked this movie a lot, and thought it was pretty amazing. It may not be the scariest movie ever made, but it was one of the best horror movies I have seen in a long time, and I completely recommend it to fans of the genre. You’re going to have a lot of fun with this one, even if the basic plot (guy reads book and summons demons) still seems a little silly (and, sadly, cliché, since so many people ripped Raimi off after the first EVIL DEAD).

I give it three and a half knives.

Also, if you stay until the very end (after the end credits), you’ll see a final “surprise” scene that is strictly for fans of the original film (kids with no knowledge of the original film may completely not get it). So stick around, hardcore fans.

MA:  I didn’t stick around to the end, so I missed the final surprise.  I liked this one a lot too, although not as much as you.  And while I thought it was a very good horror movie, I wouldn’t put it above other very good horror movies of recent years. For example, I thought last year’s CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) was about the same in quality.

LS: CABIN IN THE WOODS had a completely different agenda, and Joss Whedon’s script had a lot of fun with the tropes and clichés of the genre. It was smart and funny. The new EVIL DEAD is trying to do something completely different.

MA: But in terms of quality I thought they were about the same.  Both very good horror movies.

LS: By the way, the script here was by director Fede Alvarez, as well as Diablo Cody (who, you may remember, won an Oscar for her screenplay for 2005’s JUNO, and also wrote JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) and 2011’s YOUNG ADULT, the last one being a movie I liked a lot), and Rado Sayagues.

MA: I liked the acting, the pacing, and the intensity of the in-your-face gore, but something about this one lacked freshness, perhaps because it was a reimagining.  I also didn’t find the characters all that exciting or even likeable, with the exception of Jane Levy as Mia.  Horror fans will love it. Non-horror fans won’t.

I give it three knives.

LS: Just three? You must be smoking wacky tobacky or somethin’.

(MA looks around the cabin) I guess we’re done here.  So, just what is the connection between the book you’re reading and the breakfast cereal characters?

LS:  I dunno.  I just started reading it and the characters showed up.

MA:  Well, what’s the name of the book?

LS (looks at cover and reads):  THE BOOK OF THE DEAD: A REIMAGINING. BROUGHT TO YOU BY KELLOGG’S.

MA:  A reimagining?

(The door bursts open and CAPTAIN CRUNCH, TOUCAN SAM, THE LUCKY CHARMS LEPRECHAUN, TONY THE TIGER and SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP, and a bunch of other cereal characters stand there bloodied and crazed, holding knives, chainsaws, and various other brutal instruments.)

TOUCAN SAM:  We’ll cut off your nose!  Wherever blood flows!

MA:  I think breakfast is over.  Let’s get out of here.

LS:  I’m sticking to corn flakes from now on.

(TONY THE TIGER roars, his face full of blood,”THEEEEY”RE GREAT!”)

(MA & LS flee while the demented cereal characters pursue them through the woods.)

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives EVIL DEAD ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives EVIL DEAD ~three and a half knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for APRIL 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Aliens, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Demons, Horror, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by knifefighter

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

(The Scene:  A cabin in the woods.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are inside, looking at books.  LS is reading the Book of the Dead, while MA is reading the E-book version of the same.)

LS:  I had no idea the Book of the Dead is available as an E-book now.

MA:  It just came out.  It’s a sign of the times.  It even has this interactive menu.

LS:  Let me see that.  (MA hands the E-Reader to LS.)

MA:  I wouldn’t go clicking any icons if I were you.  It is the Book of the Dead, after all.  At least wait until after we finish this column.

LS:  You’re no fun.  And I’ll press buttons if I want to!  See, I just clicked on the “Kick my Ash” icon and nothing happened.

MA:  Will you stop!  We have a column to do!

LS:  Wimp!  But you’re right.  We do have a column to do.

Welcome to the COMING ATTRACTIONS column for April 2013, where we preview which movies we’ll be reviewing in the coming month.

Up first on April 5, it’s the remake/reimagining of THE EVIL DEAD (2013).  Most people reading this column are probably familiar with Sam Raimi’s 1981 original version. It’s the movie that put him on the map, as well as star Bruce Campbell. Based on the trailer for the new EVIL DEAD, it looks fairly faithful to the original story, but I’ll be surprised if it’s half as good. I’m a big fan of the original and I’m not expecting the remake to blow me away. But, as usual, I would love to be surprised and find out this is a really good version. So we’ll see.

evildead_Banner

MA:  Honestly, I haven’t seen the original EVIL DEAD (1981) in years, but I remember it fondly, as well as its sequels. That being said, I was never a big fan of the trilogy.  I liked them, but I didn’t love them.

I am looking forward to this remake or reimagining, or whatever the heck it is.  We just haven’t had a lot of horror movies out at the theaters of late, it seems, so it should be fun to finally have a major horror release on the big screen.

6-souls-banner

Also opening on April 5 is a new thriller 6 SOULS (2013).  I know very little about this one, other than that it stars Julianne Moore, who I like a lot.  If it opens near me, I’ll be seeing it and reviewing it.

LS:  Yeah, I don’t know much about this one. But if it does come out near us, you’ll be reviewing it solo.

MA:  On April 12, we’ll be reviewing SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013).  I had enough of this series after just the first movie.  The fact that we’re up to 5 is ludicrous.  All I can say about this one is ugh!

LS: I agree. I also saw the very similar HAUNTED HOUSE (2013), starring Marlon Wayans earlier this year (Wayans was one of the originators of the first few SCARY MOVIEs) and I enjoyed it. But SCARY MOVIE 5 seems to be covering a lot of the same territory, so the jokes may already be stale. I’m not expecting much from this one.

Lindsay_ScaryMovie5

MA: However, there are a couple of talented writers involved here, Pat Proft and David Zucker. .

Proft has a ton of writing credits.  He worked on the screenplays for the NAKED GUN movies, as well as a bunch of other parodies, including the previous two SCARY MOVIE movies.

David Zucker, of course, is one of the men behind AIRPLANE! (1980), which he co-wrote and co-directed.  He also co-wrote the NAKED GUN movies and directed SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003) and SCARY MOVIE 4 (2004).  So, maybe there’s hope.

Then again, the film stars Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

LS:  On April 19 we’ll be reviewing OBLIVION (2013) starring Tom Cruise.  This is going to be a big science fiction blockbuster starring Cruise as a guy doing cleanup on a destroyed Earth after an alien invasion. It looks like it could have potential, and Cruise is usually okay in these kinds of things.

Oblivion (2013)

MA:  I enjoyed Cruise’s previous movie JACK REACHER (2012) a lot, so I’m kinda looking forward to this one.  The trailers don’t make it look like anything great, but it’s science fiction, so I’m intrigued and hopeful.

It’s directed by Jospeh Kosinski, the guy who directed TRON: LEGACY (2010), which wasn’t too bad.  Kosinski also co-wrote the screenplay, along with a couple of other writers, including Michael Arndt, who wrote the screenplays for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) and TOY STORY 3 (2010).  Arndt is also on tap to write the screenplays for the upcoming HUNGER GAMES sequel and the next STAR WARS movie.

And in addition to Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, OBLIVION also features everyone’s favorite crazy mother, Melissa Leo.  Leo of course nailed that crazy mama persona in her Oscar winning performance in THE FIGHTER (2010).

The-Lords-of-Salem-1

LS:  While I think OBLIVION might be fun, I am much more excited about another movie coming out that weekend, Rob Zombie’s new film THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013).  If this one comes out near me, I’ll be reviewing it solo. It concerns some DJs in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts who get a mysterious vinyl record in the mail by a new band that may be steeped in witchcraft. I’ve been waiting for Rob Z to come out with a new original film ever since he made the last two HALLOWEEN films. He’s so much better working from his own original ideas, so I’m very hopeful that this one might put him back on track as an ambitious horror filmmaker again.

MA:  And we finish the month with a review of PAIN AND GAIN (2013),  a movie billed as a— and I’ll try to say this with a straight face— crime drama comedy about weightlifters caught up in a kidnapping scheme gone wrong, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, directed by Michael Bay.

That about says it all.

painandgainbanner

LS:  PAIN AND GAIN might be fun. Both Wahlberg and Johnson have been in good movies, and bad ones, so this one could go either way. But the trailer looks pretty good. It’s the Michael Bay thing that worries me.

MA: Exactly!  And I thought the trailer was all over the place.  I couldn’t tell if it was serious or a comedy, and it turns out it’s both, which is fine, but for some reason I thought it looked goofy.

And that wraps things up for April.  Can I have the E-reader back now?  (LS hands it back to MA).  Hey, what did you do to the screen?

(A giant vine shoots out from the E-Reader screen and wraps itself around MA and pulls him to the ground, where they wrestle violently.)

LS:  Wow, the 3D function really works!  And you don’t even need glasses!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

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

A-Haunted-House-poster

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.

haunted_house_ver2

THE POSSESSION (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Demonic Possession, Demons, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , , on September 3, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE POSSESSION (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A flea market spread out on a front lawn. L.L. SOARES and MICHAEL ARRUDA are among the many customers)

LS: Wow! Look at that. A velvet painting of Bela Lugosi.

MA: There’s a lot of neat stuff here.

LS (lifts up a large, rounded, green object): I wonder what this is.

FLEA MARKET MAN: That there is a toenail clipping from Godzilla himself.

MA: Wow. A jar that says “Abnormal Brain!”

LS: You better buy that before someone else does.

FLEA MARKET MAN: Pssst, you two look like knowledgeable gents. How about taking a look at this little beauty (takes out a large wooden box with ancient writing on it)

LS: That’s pretty fancy.

MA: How much is it?

FLEA MARKET GUY: For you guys, I’ll give it to you for ten bucks. You won’t find another one like it. It’s called a Dybbuk box and it’s home for an ancient Hebrew demon.

LS: That would make a great addition to my “demons of the world” collection.

MA: The other Knife Fighters will be so envious!

(LS hands over the money and the man gladly gives them the box)

FLEA MARKET GUY: Just remember, I don’t give refunds.

(LS and MA walk away with their load of loot)

LS: I can’t believe we got this cool demon box.

MA: It’s a Dybbuk box.

LS: Whatever.

MA: Now that we’ve got these goodies, how about we review the new movie for this weekend, THE POSSESSION?

LS: Sure. You want me to start this one?

MA: Be my guest.

LS: In some ways, THE POSSESSION is yet another bland August horror movie. It seems like a lot of these mediocre movies are locked away until the later weeks of summer. Last week, we saw the amazingly flavorless THE APPARITION, featuring a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY rip-off with no scares. This week, we get an EXORCIST rip-off with no scares. Lucky us!

However, to be honest, THE POSSESSION is slightly above average for these kinds of films.

MA:  And appropriately enough, we just talked about August turkeys in last week’s “Quick Cuts” column.

But I wouldn’t say this one had no scares.  It had some.  They just weren’t as intense as they needed to be, which is more that can be said for last week’s turkey, THE APPARITION.

LS: I’ll agree with you that THE POSSESSION is definitely better than THE APPARITION. At least THE POSSESSION tries to be a heartfelt take on the sadness of divorce…

MA:  Which I found detrimental to the story, since I’ve seen several horror movies in recent years with similar plots, the divorced family in a haunted house setting, where the children, vulnerable because of their parents’ separation, make easy targets for the ghosties, while the now separated parent, usually the dad, has to handle this all on his own, or at least mostly on his own.  Last year’s DON”T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK had a similar plot.

LS: Yep, nothing all that new here. But it’s well-done for the most part.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a high school basketball coach, is trying to deal with life after his divorce with Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). Not only does he have to deal with only seeing his two daughters, Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport), on the weekends, but he has to reconcile himself with the fact that his ex-wife has a new boyfriend, Brett (Grant Show – anyone remember him from the original Melrose Place?). During their visits, there’s a sadness that hovers over Clyde and the kids, who have clearly been affected by the split. Clyde’s life, meanwhile, is in flux, as he just bought a new house of his own, and is seriously considering a new job in North Carolina, which would involve moving yet again.

MA:  I have to admit, I did like these scenes.  They were well acted, and so the movie definitely drew me into liking its characters.

LS: Yes, the movie starts out pretty good.

One weekend, he brings the girls to a flea market, where Em finds a strange wooden box with Hebrew lettering engraved on it. Em asks if she can have it, and her father buys it for her. From then on, Em’s behavior gets stranger and stranger as her relationship with the box threatens to engulf her life. Turns out it’s a box holding a Jewish demon called a Dybbuk. The entity is slowly possessing Em, but it’s a long process that involves the girl going through continual changes, including her ingesting lots of living moths (!) and talking to a mysterious “woman” who no one can see.

When things start to get downright disturbing, Clyde goes to see a a Jewish mystic named Tzadok (the rapper Matisyahu) whose father is a revered rabbi in a Hasidic community. The rabbis won’t touch the box, but Tzadok agrees to go back with Clyde to see Em and try to remove the curse of the demon from her.

What follows are scenes in a hospital where an exorcism is attempted, involving Tzadok, Clyde, the two girls, and even Clyde’s ex-wife Stephanie. Will Em be saved from this evil being? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.

MA: And of course if you’ve seen your share of exorcism movies, you already know what happens.

(A priest runs in holding a Bible)

PRIEST:  The power of Christ compels you!

LS: Oh no, not that old chestnut again!

MA:  Actually, this is a Jewish demon, and so it’s rabbis doing the exorcising.

PRIEST:  Damn!— I mean, darn.  Sorry about that.  (Exits)

(Rabbi enters and begins lifting weights.)

MA:  Excuse me.  I said rabbis exorcising, not exercising!

RABBI:  What?  I can’t exercise just because I’m a rabbi?

MA:  No, it’s not that at all.  You can exercise all you want.  Just not here.

LS:  Yeah, we’re trying to review a movie here.

RABBI:  Well, I’m trying to exercise here.  (goes back to lifting weights)

MA:  Let’s just ignore him.

LS: Sure.  The idea of a Jewish demon is very interesting, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a movie about a Dybbuk. The last time we saw one of these critters was in 2009’s THE UNBORN, and this time around, I had the same problem as I had with that movie. The idea of a Dybbuk is interesting. But the movie, unfortunately, isn’t very good.

RABBI:  Dybbuk?  (runs away screaming).

LS:  I should have said that earlier!

MA:  But I did think that the story of the Dybbuk was a plus for this movie.  Sure, it’s not original, and you’re right, we saw it in THE UNBORN, but it’s still rather refreshing and a nice departure from the more traditional Catholic exorcism plots.

LS:  I didn’t mean to imply there were tons of movies about Dybbuks. It’s just interesting that there have been two in the past five years. It’s an interesting concept. It’s just too bad the movies about them aren’t better.

First off, the pacing in THE POSSESSION is just too slow. Things happen at a snail’s pace, and things don’t really get out of control until the very end, where it becomes a fairly standard exorcism film, which is a letdown.

MA: I didn’t mind the pacing.  As I said, I bought into the early scenes with Clyde trying to make things work with his daughters, and the scares, while subtle, were enough to satisfy me early on.

LS:  Scares?  What scares?  There are hardly any scares! A scene at the very beginning, where a woman is beaten by the invisible Dybbuk when she tries to nail the box shut (it’s her belongings that end up in that flea market) is scarier than most of what comes after it (and it’s not that scary).

MA:  True, but it’s better than anything we saw in last week’s THE APPARITION!  I also liked the scene where young Em is looking into her mouth in the mirror and sees the tiny fingers jut out of her throat.  It was quick, but it was cool.

LS: Too bad they gave that image away in the trailer. It would have been better if it had been a surprise.

MA: It also helped that I saw this one with a very wimpy audience.  They were screaming at everything!

LS: I had one of those audiences, too. The loud, outspoken kind, like when I go see a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie. Sometimes, these can be fun, but this time around, the audience didn’t really add much to the movie; they were just annoying.

MA:  My audience seemed to be made up of lots of high school and college age students on dates.  I guess it’s a good date movie.

LS:  Because THE POSSESSION isn’t that scary, the audience eventually just started laughing at “horror” scenes and making dumb jokes, which I could have done without.

But the slow pacing isn’t all bad. It actually gives the movie time to flesh out the characters. You do grow to know and care about this family, and Clyde is easy to sympathize with.

MA:  I agree.

LS:  You also care about the girls, especially Em, who starts out very sweet and clearly has no idea what’s happening to her. But this doesn’t make the movie any scarier.

MA:  I disagree.

LS: You disagree that you start to care about the kids?

MA: No, I disagree that caring about the characters makes the movie less scary.

First off, I have to say since we’re talking about Em, that hands down, I thought the best thing about THE POSSESSION was the performance by young Natasha Calis as Em.  This kid is amazing!  The expressions she made, the emotions she conveyed, it was like watching an adult.  I was really impressed by her.

LS: Yes, I agree with that, but…

MA: Getting back to the scary part, you’re right, Em starts out so sweet, but when things start happening to her, that’s when Calis’s performance really takes off, and I found her, this sweet little girl, creepy!  And I’m not talking about later on in the movie when she obviously is wearing scary make-up, but earlier, when she’s upset or angry, she’s got the best evil expressions.  I thought she was terrific.

LS: I agree with that, too, but…

MA: There’s also a scene early on where she’s talking to her older sister, and her sister notices she’s looking strange and asks if she’s all right, and she answers that she just doesn’t feel like herself.  The way she says that line, it’s simple, subtle, but very genuine, and just enough to get under your skin.

LS: Yeah, that scene worked. But then you have the scene where Em “attacks” Stephanie’s boyfriend, Brett, and there’s this sudden wind and she has weird make-up on, and she’s standing there with a strange expression. That’s one of the scenes the audience I was with starting laughing out loud at. It was just so cliché. So for everything good in this movie, there’s something else that ruins the mood.

MA: Yeah, that was a lousy scene.  No argument from me there.

For the most part, though, I thought THE POSESSION did “subtle” very well, which is a good thing, because it’s certainly not an in-your-face intense horror movie.  I read that it was originally going to be Rated R but was edited down to a PG-13 rating, no doubt because someone must have thought it would make the movie more profitable.  I’m not necessarily arguing for an R rating, but this movie would have benefited from some more intensity.

LS:  I actually would have preferred to see the uncut, R version.

The acting, overall, is pretty good. You might remember Jeffrey Dean Morgan as “The Comedian” from the exceptional superhero movie, WATCHMEN (2009). He was great in that movie, and he shows here that he can play the lead in a film, something Ashley Greene showed us in last week’s THE APPARITION—which got me thinking, maybe these movies are just glorified screen tests for potential lead actors.

MA:  Yep.  I enjoyed Morgan a lot here.

LS:  Kyra Sedgwick is a pro and is probably best known these days for her role as Deputy Chief of Police Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT channel series THE CLOSER. The kids are also very good, especially Natasha Calis as Em, as we mentioned, who makes the transformation her character is going through fairly believable.

MA:  I already said my piece about Calis.  She’s the best part of this movie, but I also enjoyed Madison Davenport as her older sister Hannah, and like you said, Sedgwick was also very good as the mom, Stephanie.  I did find her character annoying at first, but she grew on me as the movie went along.

LS:  I was also impressed with Matisyahu in his first role in a feature film.

MA:  I liked him, too. I thought he added some humor which the film needed.

LS:  Danish director Ole Bornedal does a decent job, but the script by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White just doesn’t generate much in the way of scares. These are interesting characters, and the concept of the Dybbuk is interesting. So why is the movie so mediocre? I’d have to point to the weak script for that one. It simply takes a good idea and drops the ball. I wanted to like this one more, but I just can’t muster up much in the way of enthusiasm for the overall film.

MA:  I liked it a tad more than you, and I also liked the script more than you did.

While hardly original, THE POSSESSION has enough going for it to make it work.  While it doesn’t have a “name” cast, it does have an excellent cast.  The four main leads in this movie, the parents and the two kids, are really good, and their performances help lift this movie to a level that at least makes it decent.  In other words, I wouldn’t include THE POSSESSION on a list of August turkeys, and the cast is a major reason why.

LS: Which is why I said this was better than the usual August release.

MA: On the other hand, I thought the movie faltered during its last act, as things seemed rushed near the end,  which unfortunately, is just another traditional exorcism sequence, albeit from a Jewish perspective, and even rips off a line “Take me!’ from THE EXORCIST.  It’s a lackluster conclusion that is several notches below what comes before it.

LS: I agree. If it had maintained the same level of quality throughout, and given the horror aspects as much care and development as the dramatic ones, this would have been a much better movie.

MA: Director Ole Bornedal does an okay job.  There are some neat scary images, like the aforementioned hand inside Em’s throat, and the CAT scan image of the demon inside Em’s body, but as you’ve been saying, he drops the ball when it comes to delivering the heavy hitting scares.

I thought the scenes where the teacher is murdered and where the boyfriend is attacked were both lame, and the scene where Clyde has to rescue Em from a room full of moths unconvincing.  The moths looked fake.

But I actually liked the script by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, up to a point anyway.  These are the same two writers who wrote the horrible movie BOOGEYMAN (2005), and THE POSESSION is a much better movie than BOOGEYMAN.

LS: It certainly is a step up.

MA: I liked the characters they created, and I thought they did a good job writing a story about characters I cared about.  I really felt for Clyde, and I felt his frustration about not being able to make things work with his daughters, even before the ghostly stuff started happening, and once it did, I thought the story got that much better.

But I agree with you that this movie would have been much better had it been scarier.  And that’s certainly one reason why I didn’t love this one.

Another reason is that there are a lot of loose ends in this story.  After Stephanie’s boyfriend is attacked, he drives away and then just disappears.  What happened to him?  Did he die?  And why doesn’t Stephanie seem to care?  She doesn’t mention him again.  Granted, all the exorcism stuff is happening at this point, but that’s what I mean by things being rushed near the end.  We don’t even hear one line about how Stephanie feels about this.

LS: Yeah, his disappearance after that scene is just sloppy. It’s like “We don’t need this character anymore, let’s just forget about him now.”

MA: And the scene in the hospital, where do all the doctors go?  After we see the shocking test results, the image of the demon inside Em, we see her family’s reaction, but what about the doctors?  Did they see it?  How do they explain it?  We don’t know because they just sort of disappear.

LS: Well, the family sneaks Em down to the basement where the physical therapy room is. So I guess they’d be undisturbed down there. But no one hears Em’s screaming at all? I wasn’t sure if I bought that. And yeah, we don’t get to see the doctors react to that crazy X-ray image of the demon inside Em, and we don’t find out what they think is going on.

MA: And no one notices them stealing Em away.  She’s obviously a patient there, and yet there’s no one around to even say “Hey, where are you taking that girl?”

LS: Well, they are purposely sneaking around to avoid detection…

MA: This sloppiness all happens towards the end, which is a major reason why I thought the ending wasn’t as good as the earlier bits.  Plus the exorcism scenes were nothing we haven’t seen before.  Too bad, because a stronger ending would have really helped this movie.

So, at the end of the day, I found THE POSSESSION to be an enjoyable little horror movie that does the subtle things well, but forgets to finish the job with the real scares.  I expected worse, would have liked better, but eventually found myself liking this one.  At the very least, I wouldn’t throw this one into the scrap heap with other August turkeys.

I give it two and a half knives.

LS: I give it two and a half knives as well. There were some good things in this movie, but not enough of them.

MA: So, let’s open the box and see what kind of a Dybbuk we got.

(LS & MA both eagerly begin the challenging work of opening the box, which does not appear to have any seams)

LS:  I hope it’s not one of those silly old lady Dybbuks!

MA:  Maybe it’ll be a Hammer Film Dybbuk!

LS:  What the hell is a Hammer Film Dybbuk?

MA:  Dunno, but I bet it would be cool!

LS:  It’s almost opened— I’m hoping for a bustin boob babe Dybbuk!

MA:  Or better, yet, a $100,000-buck!

(They open box, and they both groan.  LS lifts out a pair of 3D glasses.)

LS:  Give me a break!  Of all the haunted boxes in the world, we have to find a 3D Dybbuk!

MA (lifts note out of box):  What’s this say?  (reads)  Please deposit an additional $5.00, and don’t forget to recycle your 3D glasses when you’re done.”  (groans).

LS:  Rip-off!  (slams box shut) That damn Flear Market Guy!

Oh well, let’s grab some beers.

MA:  Now you’re talking.

(LS & MA exit, leaving box behind.)

VOICE FROM BOX: Hey, someone bring me back a cold one!…or else!!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE POSSESSION ~ two and a half knives!

LL Soares gives THE POSSESSION ~ two and a half knives!

Transmissions to Earth: DEMON WIND (1990)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 1990s Horror, 2012, Animated Corpses, Campy Movies, Demonic Possession, Demons, Devil Movies, Evil Spirits, LL Soares Reviews, Magic, Possessed By Demons, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH:
DEMON WIND (1990)
DVD Review by L.L. Soares

A house in the middle of nowhere with a horrifying past. A book of spells that maybe shouldn’t be read aloud. People who become possessed by demons. Sure, it’s been done before. Most famously in Sam Raimi’s classic EVIL DEAD (1981), as well as the cult classic, EQUINOX (1970). We even saw a new variation on the idea in this year’s THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  But there have been a lot of other movies with similar plots, and with varying degrees of success. 1990’s DEMON WIND is one of them.

The story begins in 1931. Outside of a farmhouse, there’ s a body burning on a cross and another dead body on the  ground. Inside the house, a woman uses a spell to keep the demonically possessed dead out (they’re banging on the door to get in). We can tell they’re possessed because they talk in a weird, demonic voice that is hard to understand. The woman turns to her husband, George, for help, but he suddenly starts puking up oatmeal. Oops, looks like he’s possessed, too! The woman raises a snow globe and says “If the crystal breaks, it’s the end of both of us.” By now, George has huge warts all over his face, tumors have grown on his body, and he has sharp teeth. I guess he’s a full-blown demon! He attacks her, she shatters the globe, and the house blows up.

DEMON WIND then fast forwards to the Present, where Cory (Eric Larson, who, when he was younger, was also in the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV series from 1979 – 1980) and his girlfriend Elaine (Francine Lapensee) are arguing as they drive along a road that looks like it’s in the middle of a desert. Since his dad died recently, Cory has been hearing voices telling him to go to his grandparents’ farm.

When they reach a gas station (the sign reads “Harcourt’s Café”), Cory feels like he’s been there before, and we get a look into one of his dreams, where he’s standing naked among the gas pumps and is greeted by his grandmother, covered in blood with her throat torn out.

Shaken up, Cory drives to the gas station, where the old guy who runs the place, Harcourt (Rufus Norris), seems nice until Cory asks how to get to the “Old Carter Place.” Then the guy gets angry (what, ANOTHER spooky gas station attendant? Are they required in every movie like this?!!). He threatens them, then later pleads with them not to go there.

But Cory and Elaine aren’t going alone. It turns out they invited a bunch of friends to tag along. First there’s Dell (Bobby Johnston) and his girlfriend, Terri (Lynn Clark). They’ve also brought along another couple, Jack and Bonnie (Mark David Fritsche and Sherry Bendorf). Dell is the brawny, blond frat boy of the group, and Jack is the brainy guy with glasses. Just when you think this is enough people for a house-warming party, along come Chuck (Stephen Quadros) who shows up in full magician  regalia, and his buddy Stacy (Jack Vogel). To complicate matters, Chuck used to date Terri and secretly wants her back, and Dell isn’t too happy about this.

The gang’s all here for DEMON WIND (Facing the camera, from l to r: Francine Lapensee, Sherry Bendorf, Eric Larson, Mark David Fritsche)

As they all drive away from the gas station/cafe, Harcourt says “Damn fools!”

When they get to the farmhouse — or rather, what’s left of it—the first thing they see is the skeleton on the cross in front of the ruins. Then, when Cory touches a skull half-buried in the ground, he gets some kind of a shock and sees visions of his uncle as a kid, running from demons back in 1931.

The ruins of his grandparents’ farm house look like just a façade and a bunch of pieces of wood, but if you go through the front door, you enter a house that is suddenly intact!!

The first time they enter the house, there’s writing on the walls and Bonnie reads something aloud. The house goes crazy, shaking like an earthquake hit it, and bottles and dishes explode. Even a big cooked turkey (without a trace of decay after all these years!) on the dining table explodes! They run out.

A skeleton is there to greet you, in DEMON WIND!

Their cars won’t start, so Cory and the gang leave the house and walk down the only road, intent on finding help. They walk and walk, and when they reach a certain point, they see a fog that blows over them (is this the demon wind of the title?) Suddenly, they’re back at the ruins of Cory’s grandparents’ house! The house won’t let them get away.

Little girls appear talking in demon voices and dressed in vintage dresses. They say “You can’t leave.” One grabs Bonnie and turns her into a porcelain doll. No one seems to be very upset when the doll explodes in flames (doesn’t anyone miss Bonnie??).

It’s getting dark, so Cory tells the others that it will be safe in the house. When they argue with him he says “It was just trying to warn us before. Don’t ask me how, I just know it.”

They explore the house, which has several rooms. Cory and Elaine find Cory’s grandmother’s old diary, which tells of weird, demonic goings-on and offers some helpful spells on how to deal with devils. There are also a couple of magical daggers, which seem to get wasted on minor demons as the movie goes on.

Then even more friends show up! This time it’s Willy (Richard Gabai, who went on to star in tons of movies in 90s like VIRGIN HIGH – 1991, DINOSAUR ISLAND – 1994, and VIRTUAL GIRL – 1998, and continues to work steadily today ) and his girlfriend Reena (Mia M. Ruiz).

They all board up the doors and windows,  and, when night falls,  angry dead people (no doubt possessed by demons) rise from their graves. One by one, the friends begin to get killed off. Of course, none of them stays dead, as their bodies get possessed and their evil corpses try to kill off more of them. We never do find out who the little girls are. And the house itself becomes more and more menacing, as does a formerly destroyed barn in back that is also suddenly rejuvenated.

The monsters eventually break into the house, but before they can kill Cory and Elaine, they’re called away by a preacher (who looks sort of like Harcourt with grease in his hair), who absorbs them and then turns into a Big Daddy Demon.

The big daddy of demons from DEMON WIND.

When the big demon comes for them, Cory and Elaine read a spell asking for the “Spirits of Goodness and Peace” to help them, and Cory turns into a big-headed monster who fights for the forces of good! He kind of looks like a dome-headed alien from the old OUTER LIMITS TV series. Super Cory goes up against the ugly, pustulant, evil demon. Some weird monster wrestling ensues.

Cory turns into a “good monster” to fight the king demon in DEMON WIND.

Will Cory and at least some of his friends survive and go home? You’ll have to see DEMON WIND to find out for yourself.

The effects are pretty cheesy for the most part, although some of the monsters look pretty good. The look and feel of this movie reminded me of late 80s/early 90s “scream queen” movies like SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA and NIGHTMARE SISTERS (both directed by David DeCouteau and both from 1988), but this one is played completely straight and even though not much in this movie makes logical sense, it still works at times, in some bizarre way. It was directed by Charles Philip Moore, who also gave us ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION (1994) and the 1995 remake of NOT OF THIS EARTH.

Eric Larson does a good job as the hero, Cory, but Francine Lapansee as Elaine is the best actor here. The rest of the cast is likable enough, considering they’re just so much demon fodder.

DEMON WIND is not a great movie by any stretch, but if you like this sort of thing, you might just enjoy yourself. I don’t think it was scary at all, but there were several scenes that made me chuckle, and a few that were almost effective.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

(Special thanks to Henry Snider for suggesting this one)

THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Demonic Possession, Demons, Exorcism Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Nick Cato Reviews, Paranormal, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE DEVIL INSIDE
By L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

(THE SCENE: After a delayed flight, L.L. SOARES and NICK CATO arrive in Rome, Italy, where they grab a taxi to the Centrino Mental Hospital, where much of this week’s film was shot.  They’re both slightly jet-lagged when they enter the lobby of the large, isolated facility).

LS: I don’t get it…you’re afraid of flying but you drag me all the way to Italy to review a movie? What the hell, man.

NC: I figured if we’re THIS CLOSE to where they filmed that great exorcism sequence, we’d be re-inspired to give this one a solid review.

LS: (Rolling his eyes).  Well, at least you paid for the plane tickets, and don’t forget you promised to treat me to some REAL Italian food while we’re here. And some good wine, too.

NC: My cousin Antonio is expecting us in two hours…everything has been taken care of, buddy!

(A security guard asks them who they’re here to see.  When Nick reveals they just want to use the lobby to write a film review, the burly guard chases them out.  Amazingly, our American horror freaks manage to sneak into the back yard of the facility, where they squat behind a row of hedges, listening to some of the patients babble and sing strange songs).

NC: We’d better get started before that goon realizes we made it back in.

LS: Good idea. You begin this one.

NC: This week we have the latest entry into the “found footage/mock documentary” horror subgenre titled THE DEVIL INSIDE, which is basically an EXORCIST (1973) version of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999).   I’m a sucker for exorcism films, and have seen almost every EXORCIST rip-off that’s come down the pike since the early 70s.  While most are unwatchably bad, 2010’s THE LAST EXORCISM was a rare treat (and told things from a Protestant viewpoint, for a change), and for the most part, I’ve been enjoying this recent spout of exorcism films.

LS: Well, THE EXORCIST remains the gold standard for this kind of thing. I haven’t been too impressed with most exorcism movies since. I did like THE LAST EXORCISM, though. But, as for this “recent spout,” I can’t say every movie is worth seeing. I still think THE RITE (2011) was pretty lame.

I must admit, though, that I’m really digging the whole “found footage” style of filmmaking. I know it’s starting to become a cliché just as much as any other subgenre, but so far, I’m enjoying most of these movies, which is funny, because I didn’t care for BLAIR WITCH all that much – but I can’t deny how friggin influential that film was.

NC: So, as THE DEVIL INSIDE begins, Isabella Rossi is making a documentary about her mother, Maria, who in 1989 murdered three members of the clergy who tried to perform an exorcism on her.  Since then, she’s been shifted to a couple of mental hospitals.  When a jury found her innocent by reason of insanity in 1991, she was transferred overseas to Italy to the Centrino Mental Hospital, on whose grounds we now stand.  Spooky, huh?

LS: Not really. But go on.

(A guy dressed up in a WINNIE THE POOH costume comes over to them)

WINNIE: Hey fellas, what are you doing in the bushes?

LS: We’re reviewing a movie. Now go away kid, you bother me.

WINNIE: No you’re not! You’re looking for honey! I know it! I know it! Well, you better share it with me if you find some.

NC: Seriously, we’re not looking for honey. We’re reviewing a movie.

LS: Yeah, get lost you simpleton!

WINNIE: You guys sure are mean! I hate you both! (he runs away, crying)

NC: Now look what you did. He’s probably going to go tell one of the guards.

LS: Then you better go on with the review, right?

NC: Along with her cameraman, Isabella gets to visit her mother for the first time in over ten years.  The head doctor of the hospital shows Isabella footage of her mother’s violent rages (all captured on security camera from her room)…

LS: I have to admit, I laughed out loud during this scene. Possessed people are pretty funny.

NC: …and yet, for some reason still allows Isabella and her cameraman to enter the room, warning them not to mention anything about God or religion.  If THE DEVIL INSIDE has one major problem, it’s the too “easy access;” there are a few sequences where the audience is asked to accept a bit too much, but for now we’ll let that slide.

Suzan Crowley is simply fantastic as the possessed mother, Maria, and in this first meeting creates a real tension-filled scene.

Isabella goes to an exorcism class at a Vatican-run school, and is impressed at the variety of people in attendance.  She is befriended by two rogue Catholic priests, who eventually reveal they perform exorcisms without the church’s permission, in an attempt to help people; apparently THEY can tell when certain people are genuinely possessed regardless of what the church says.  Part of what made THE DEVIL INSIDE work for me are these two priests, Ben and David.  They’re both flawed, yet seem to want to do the right thing.  Ben’s more aggravated with the church than David is, but they both compliment one another’s work, Ben taking a strictly religious angle, while David (who is also a licensed physician) also uses scientific methods during their exorcisms.

LS: Yeah, I liked Ben and David, too. In fact, I thought all the cast were really good here. The trick in these kinds of movies is to seem as natural as possible. This is supposed to be documentary footage (even if it really isn’t). And everyone does a fine job convincing us of their sincerity. I also like Isabella and her mother a lot, too.

NC: My favorite sequence is when Fathers Ben and David take Isabella (and her cameraman) to witness a real exorcism.  Possessed girl Rosa (played with grueling detail by real life contortionist Bonnie Morgan) delivers an insane performance as our two priests attempt to deliver her from a demon.  As far as possession films go, this scene is worth the price of admission.

LS: Yeah, that was a good scene. I didn’t know she was a contortionist, but that makes the scene all the more impressive. Nice that it wasn’t all special effects for once.

(A short guy in a uniform comes over to them. He has one hand inside his coat and thinks he’s NAPOLEON)

NAPOLEON: What are you doing zere in ze bushes?

LS: Not another nut. Can’t we review a movie in peace?

NAPOLEON: How dare you, sir. Napoleon Bonaparte is not, how you say, a “nut.” And I know what you are doing. You are spies lurking in ze bushes, spying on Napoleon, trying to discover ze plans I have to take over Europe. I dare you to deny it!

LS: I deny it.

NC: Me, too.

NAPOLEON: Liars! You will get ze guillotine for this! I will go find ze guards.

LS: We better wrap this up.

NC: When our priests manage to convince the head of the Centrino Mental Hospital to let them have a couple of hours alone with Isabella and her mother, he reluctantly agrees and we’re set for yet another intense exorcism scene, this time even more violent and revealing.  BUT, this was one of the film’s hard-to-accept moments—the one rule the doctor imposes on Isabella is that Maria is not supposed to be reminded of God or religion—but two priests are allowed to spend time alone with her?

LS: And it’s not like they’re there just to visit her. They perform an exorcism. Even if Maria is really mentally ill, isn’t this going to make her incredibly hostile?

NC: If not for another great (attempted) exorcism scene here, this would have been unforgiveable (pun intended).  And I’m betting most horror fans just won’t go for this idea.

LS: I don’t know. I didn’t think it was logical either, but the scene is so good, I got sucked into it anyway.

NC: (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT) Another scene that jades an otherwise intelligent possession film is when Father David almost commits murder during a baptism.  There is simply NO WAY he would ever have been able to leave the church, be it by the police or his fellow clergy holding him back.

LS: Not to mention angry family members.

NC: But he manages to return to his apartment as if nothing happened, and when Father Ben asks him why he did what he did, Isabella answers on his behalf with the goofiest piece of dialogue I’ve heard in years.  “Well, he’s been under a lot of stress lately.”  I will admit at this point that if this wasn’t about exorcism, I most likely would have been completely turned off to the rest of the film.  I don’t know how many others will be as forgiving (another pun!).

LS: Yeah, that was a pretty dumb thing for her to say. And enough with the puns!

(Another patient walks over to the hedges.  It’s a tall man wearing only a white bathrobe with sandals and black socks.  He says “Whooooo’s there?” like an owl then begins to jump up and down, singing the Tom Jones song, IT’S NOT UNUSUAL.)

NC: Looks like we’ve been spotted again.

LS: Damn, I hate these bushes. When you said we were going to Rome, I imagined seeing the Colliseum, not hiding in bushes.

NC: Well, despite all its flaws, I have to admit I was impressed with much of the early dialogue given in THE DEVIL INSIDE about exorcism, and I’m assuming this is part of what might turn off horror film fans who aren’t big on possession films; if this isn’t your thing, you’re not going to be interested, and hence will be less forgiving when the flaws come.

That said, THE DEVIL INSIDE has a fun time with its security footage, police file footage, and at-the-moment video footage, and does so in quite an entertaining manner.   Isabella (played by the very attractive Fernanda Andrade) delivers a fine performance, and while I’ve read some negative things about the priests, I thought they both did a fine job.

LS: I avoided any reviews of this, as I usually do, before I saw it. It helped that this one wasn’t screened for critics before it was released, so there weren’t a lot of reviews before the weekend.

NC: I never read reviews before seeing a film, either, but after the screening I attended I noticed the Internet was PACKED with negative reviews.

I must admit that I LOVED the ending.  I’ve heard most test audiences booed it, but to me, a horror film’s ending should be bleak and shocking.  The audience I saw this with was speechless.

****(Another SPOILER ALERT. However, it is impossible to discuss the main problem with this particular movie – and why audience members have been so angry – without discussing the ending)****

LS: I think you’re talking about the last scene, which I thought was fine. It is supposed to be “found footage,” after all. But the actual ending itself —if you really love how the movie ends—then we’re in complete disagreement. When I saw the movie, people were very pissed off with the ending, and I completely understood where they were coming from. I don’t usually discuss the ending of a film when reviewing it, but in this case, I’ll make an exception, mainly because THERE IS NO ENDING.

The movie has been doing a good job sucking you in. It was much better than I expected—especially since January is a notorious time to release the real stinkers that studios have in the vaults. This one was an exception to that rule. The audience was really getting into it and invested themselves in the story. And then the movie ends very abruptly at a key scene, and the URL for a website comes onscreen. We’re told this “found footage” was currently under investigation and to go to the website for more news. This ending elicits two reactions simultaneously:

On the one hand, if you’ve been enjoying the movie up to this point, the abrupt non-ending is going to leave you wanting more. This is presumably a good thing, especially if the filmmakers want to turn this movie into a franchise, like the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films.

On the other hand, this kind of ending is pretty cynical. First off, it has “sequel” written all over it. It wants you to pay more money to see more in the next movie. The URL pretty much is a stand-in here for the words “TO BE CONTINUED,” and after sitting through this movie and giving it your time, this kind of ending seems like a complete slap in the face. At least give us an ending that satisfies us! That makes us feel like this whole journey hasn’t been a complete waste of time and a grab for our wallets!

When I saw the movie, the theater was packed. So obviously, people are going out to see this one. At the end, everyone was angry and cursing at the screen and felt cheated. Not exactly the best way to generate word of mouth buzz about a movie. In fact, even though I liked the movie, I found the ending insulting and it kind of ruined it for me.

NC: Well, to me the ENDING was the final IMAGE on the screen.  However, I’m a bit mixed on what happens AFTER the ending. That website is given (therossifiles.com) for viewers to go to to learn more about the continuing Rossi case.  One of the biggest questions in the film (which asks what happened between Father Ben and his late uncle, who was his exorcist mentor) is answered on the website in a video confession.  I believe this confession could have been intercut with the film’s last scenes, and would have left more viewers satisfied.  Personally, I would have been happy if this was NEVER explained, as it gives the film a sense of mystery that added to the tension.

LS: Personally, I didn’t think that was one of the biggest questions of the film—and I don’t care if that was explained or not either. But I’ll tell you, for some reason I have no desire to go to the website— I paid my money. Everything important should have been on the damn screen! I shouldn’t have to go searching for answers that should have been provided in the film itself.

NC: THE DEVIL INSIDE—with its post-Internet participation—becomes a gimmick film that wasn’t advertised as one.  Pretty cool IMO, although, again, I can see viewers not getting into it.

LS: Cool? The gimmick actually lowered the rating on this one, for me. I thought the ending sucked enough to ruin an otherwise solid exorcism film.

NC: As someone who has seen about twenty EXORCIST-rip offs and a dozen more possession films, I give THE DEVIL INSIDE~two and a half knives.  The screenwriters should have thought a bit more about the couple of easily-avoidable flaws in their script.  It’s easy to understand why many people will not be happy with this film.  But if you can let these issues slide, there’s plenty of spooky fun to be had.

LS: I had a hard time rating this one. On the one hand, I was going to give it three knives, up until the ending. I guess I liked it even more than you did. But after the rip-off at the end, I was angry enough to give it just two knives. If I’m fair and split the difference, I guess I end up giving it two and a half knives, as well. But seriously, screw the gimmick of making us go to a website to find out more. Show it on the damn screen.  I bet this gimmick angered enough people to generate some negative buzz—not good for future box office, or possible sequels. People just don’t like feeling cheated, especially these days when ticket prices are so damn high. But I enjoyed this movie a lot until that point. So my advice to our readers is this—wait and rent it. You won’t be as pissed off spending $5 to rent it on DVD or streaming video when the dumbass non-ending occurs, than you would if you and your date had spent $20 to go see it in a theater.

NC: (Answers his cell phone) “Yes Antonio…we’re just about done here.  We’ll be over in a few minutes.”  L.L….get ready for some old school, home-made pasta…hopefully without a pea soup appetizer!

(NAPOLEON comes running back, escorted by two hospital guards dressed in white)

NAPOLEON: Zere are ze spies I told you about. They want to know what Napoleon has planned next. Well, you will never know, you evil spies!

GUARD 1: Hey, what are you guys doing in the bushes?

GUARD 2: Yeah! Aren’t you guys I just tossed out of the lobby?

(LS and NC jump out of the bushes and run away, being pursued by the guards, Napoleon and the guy dressed as Winnie The Pooh, while fast “Benny Hill” exit music plays)

LS: See you next time on Cinema Knife Fight!

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares and Nick Cato

L.L. Soares gives THE DEVIL INSIDE ~ two and a half knives!

Nick Cato gives THE DEVIL INSIDE~ two and a half knives