Archive for the Twist Endings Category

Transmissions to Earth: DEADLY FRIEND (1986)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Cyborgs, Family Secrets, LL Soares Reviews, Medical Experiments!, Morgue Hijinks, ROBOTS!, Trasmissions to Earth, Twist Endings, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH Presents:

zontar_sage_2
DEADLY FRIEND (1986)
Review by L.L. Soares
Deadly-Friend-movie-poster

It’s no secret that I’m not much of a fan of the SCREAM movies by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson. And I think their collaboration, CURSED (2005), is even worse. But I wasn’t always down of Craven’s films. There was a time when I was actually a fan. Just not lately.

He started out his career with one of the most intense and disturbing horror flicks ever made, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), which remains one of my favorite horror films ever. This one had a real edge to it that made it one of the high points of 1970s horror. And after that, Craven made some other solid movies, like the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), which isn’t perfect, but was, as we now know, influential as hell. It gave the world Freddy Krueger.

But once Craven drifted into the mid-to-late 1980s and the 90s, his output wasn’t that impressive. This was the time of movies like SHOCKER (1989), THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), and NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), which a lot of people thought reinvigorated the Freddy series, but which I didn’t care for, and then, of course SCREAM (1996) and its sequels.

I can’t say all of his output from this period was awful. I am a big fan of his 1988 voodoo movie THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. But for the most part, I just stopped being that interested in what Wes Craven was putting out anymore.

Somehow, I completely missed DEADLY FRIEND (1986), when it first came out. And rediscovering it now, so many years later, I find that it is pretty dated, especially since its plot has a lot to do with computers and robotics. And yet, it has a kind of creative spark and charm to it that is lacking in most of his later films.

Based on the novel “Friend” by Diana Henstell, DEADLY FRIEND is the story of computer nerd Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux, probably most famous before this as Albert Ingalls on the TV series LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE), who moves into a new neighborhood with his single mom, Jeannie (Anne Twomey). Even though he’s the age when he should be in high school, Paul is a genius who has skipped a bunch of grades and has just enrolled in the local Polytechnic Institute. And he has already built his first robot, a clunky, goofy bucket of bolts named BB, which he claims has the power to learn. He even calls it an “A.I.” which is pretty amazing, since he’s a kid who built a robot in his basement, and major experts in the field of computer science have not figured out how to give a computerized brain the ability to think on its own.

But hey, that just goes to show you how smart Paul is. Not only has he built a fully functioning robot – which is an achievement on its own – but his can think!

Loveable robot "BB" is fun, playful, and he has a fully functioning mind!

Loveable robot “BB” is fun, playful, and has a fully functioning brain!

Right away, moving into their new house, Paul makes a friend: the local paper boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett), who sees the robot and asks what it is. So much for computer nerds not being social. Paul and Tom hit it off right away, and Tom tells Paul all about the neighborhood he’s just moved into. Other local highlights include the spooky, gated house of the reclusive Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey, who also played Mama in THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, 1987) who clearly doesn’t want any visitors, and Samantha Pringle (Kristy Swanson, also in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, 1986), who goes by Sam, and who lives next door to Paul with her drunken, abusive father, Harry (Richard Marcus).

So Paul seems to fit in right off the bat. Not only does he immediately find a buddy, but he gets the pretty girl, too. Sam comes over with a housewarming gift of store-bought donuts (explaining that her father wouldn’t let her bake something), and you just know where that’s headed. Paul spends a lot of time with Tom and Sam, but it’s clearly Sam he’s most interested in, and who can blame him. She is the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992) after all. And Sam seems more than eager to spend a lot of time hanging out at Paul’s house, since it gets her away from her creepy dad, who’s always drinking and shouting, and who comes into her room late at night (we never really see him do anything to her, and she tells him to get out when she wakes to find him hovering over her bed, but, well…).

Then things start to go bad. It begins on Halloween night when they get BB to open the gate to Mrs. Parker’s house, so they can play a prank on her. She comes out with a shotgun and blasts poor BB to kingdom come. So much for Paul’s revolutionary robot. Maybe he should take better care of his toys! Especially if they are scientific marvels!

Then, during an especially drunken binge, Harry Pringle berates Sam for sneaking out of the house on Thanksgiving (imagine that! She would rather have a normal Thanksgiving dinner with Paul and his mom than cower in her room while Daddy drinks and shouts at the television!). He slaps her, and she falls down the stairs, hitting her head against a wall, and dies. Harry tells the police that she tripped.

Paul can’t accept that she’s dead. So when she is taken off of life support, he sneaks into the hospital and performs some quick surgery on her corpse, imbedding the memory chip from good old BB into her brain. He and Tom take her away and put her in the shed behind Tom’s house.

Sam comes back to “life,” but at first she’s little more than a zombie, with big circles around her eyes and limited responsiveness. She has to learn to sit up, stand, and walk around, all over again. Then she sees her father through the shed’s window and learns something new – the desire for revenge. It’s not long before people start turning up dead, starting with dear old Dad and moving on to that cranky old bitch, Mrs. Parker (the scene where Sam kills Elvira Parker by throwing a basketball at her head, and squashing it like a melon, has become a classic). The police are baffled as to who is doing these things, and Tom threatens to go to the cops (he can’t live with the knowledge anymore), but it’s not long after that that the secret is out, and the police are tracking down the resurrected Sam in a parking lot.

You can tell she's the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes.

You can tell she’s the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes… oh and the stiff robotic movements!

There’s a lot about this movie that is pretty goofy, from the robot BB in the beginning (it’s so cutesy-looking, it looks like a refugee from the movie SHORT CIRCUIT, 1986) to the fact that Sam’s abusive father, Harry, seems more quirky than scary. He almost seems like a comic relief character until you realize exactly what he’s doing to his daughter when the lights are off. Imagine how much more effective this movie could have been if his character was played by an actor who could actually make him as serious and disturbing as he should have been?  You think that maybe the filmmakers here were too uncomfortable to show Harry for what he really was – and then you realize – this is the guy who directed LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT!!

The science in this movie is pretty laughable, and the computer talk is outdated and just plain silly at this point. But somehow, the movie is still very watchable. The acting, for the most part, is pretty good in this one. Matthew Labyorteaux is goofy but likable as Paul, and he’s believable as some boy genius who’s emotionally stunted. Anne Towmey is equally likable as Paul’s mom, and Michael Sharrett is fine as Tom Toomey.

The real reason to see this one, though, for me anyway, is Kristy Swanson. I’ve always liked her, and her character Sam is extremely likable here, with an awkwardness that comes from constantly hiding family secrets from the outside world. When Paul first meets Sam, he notices a bruise on her arm, which immediately defines her for us, and I was actually bummed out that Sam and Paul never really get to go “all the way” before Sam’s untimely death. Their relationship maintains a kind of odd innocence throughout.

I just wish that the rest of the movie was up to the performances. The script by Bruce Joel Rubin (who also wrote the incredibly sentimental GHOST, and the much more interesting JACOB’S LADDER, both from 1990) is lighter and a bit sillier than it should have been. A little bit darker, and more serious, take on this this subject matter would have helped this become a much more substantial movie. And the light touch Wes Craven uses with the direction doesn’t help. You can tell that this was made during the same decade as THE GOONIES, 1986, and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL). By this point in time, too, you could already tell that Craven was much more interested in making easily-accessible commercial films than the hard-edged movies of his youth (that harder edge would have actually made DEADLY FRIEND much more effective).

I liked DEADLY FRIEND much more than I expected to, and I recommend that fans of 80s movies seek this one out, but I’m also disappointed that it wasn’t handled better. It just seems like a missed opportunity, which happened a lot in Wes Craven movies around this time (which makes THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW all the more fascinating, because it stands out so much from his other films of this period).

Oh, this one also has a “shock ending” which was pretty typical of horror movies from the 1980s. I almost hate to spoil it here, but it’s so damn silly, I have to mention it. After poor Sam dies a second time, Paul goes to find her in the morgue. He pulls out the drawer she’s in and looks down at her, and she grabs him. But it is then revealed that an evil version of the robot BB is underneath her skin and pops out.

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end...

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end…

What the hell?? There is absolutely no logical reason for this ending. I would say it was a crazy dream, but there is nothing to show us Paul is dreaming. How would imbedding a microchip into a corpse’s skull transform it into a complete robot underneath its human skin? This has to be one of the stupidest endings of all time.

But it sure did make me laugh out loud.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

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Horror-Mom’s Guide to Scary Movies Presents: THE GREEN MARKER SCARE (2012)

Posted in 2012, Animated Films, Horror, Horror-Mom's Guide to Scary Movies, Mystery, Sheri White Reviews, Teen Detectives, Twist Endings with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by knifefighter

HORROR-MOM’S GUIDE TO SCARY MOVIES PRESENTS:
THE GREEN MARKER SCARE (2012)
Film Review by Sheri White

 

When Graham Jones asked me to review his new online movie, he told me it was animated by children. So I thought it would be perfect for this column. Graham did tell me that although it was animated by kids, it was definitely not a movie for kids.

I was skeptical, because when I hear that, and then watch the movie, it’s usually pretty tame. And I thought that about THE GREEN MARKER SCARE for the first 45 minutes or so. Sure, it was a little creepy here and there, but nothing most kids couldn’t handle.

Noreen is a young girl whose father is killed in a car accident. His last words inspire her to investigate the crash, since it doesn’t really seem accidental. Her findings lead her to realize there is something evil going on in her small town, and her father knew all about it.

The entire movie is drawn in green marker. There isn’t a lot of movement in the characters, which is a little creepy in itself—most of the time, only the eyes move.

There is no sex at all in the movie, and no overt violence. The only violence is off-camera, but it’s still shocking.

So is this movie appropriate for children? That’s actually a difficult question to answer in regards to this movie, unlike if I were reviewing (something obvious like) THE EXORCIST (1973). The subject matter in THE GREEN MARKER SCARE is definitely not for little kids, but then again, little kids won’t really get what’s going on. This is not in-your-face horror, and most young children will be bored since a lot of the movie is dialogue.

Older kids probably won’t be phased by the subject matter, unless they scare easily or are brought up in a very religious household.

I think this is more of a movie for adults, not just because of its subject matter, but because it is so quiet and dialogue-driven. Most kids who watch horror movies like the loudness, the gore and splatter. But adults, and especially parents, will appreciate how the movie comes together to horrify the watcher.

This is an Irish movie and the characters have Irish brogues—it was a little difficult to understand some of the dialogue at times, but the movie was so well put together, that I was still able to follow the story.

Variety magazine calls Graham Jones  “a very talented director,” and after watching THE GREEN MARKER SCARE, I would have to agree.

I give it four knives.

To view the movie for yourself, go HERE.

NOTE: Although children drew this movie, they were unaware of the subject matter.

© Copyright 2012 by Sheri White

Sheri White  gives THE GREEN MARKER SCARE ~four (out of five) knives!

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adult Fairy Tales, Bad Acting, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Just Plain Bad, Melodrama, Twilight, Twist Endings, Vampire Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cemetery. L.L. SOARES has just finished filling up a grave. He rests on his shovel and looks at the tombstone with says “TWILIGHT.” MICHAEL ARRUDA arrives in a long black car and gets out.  He’s wearing a party hat and carrying balloons.  DRIVER of hearse steps out, appalled.)

DRIVER:  Balloons?  This is a funeral!  This is most inappropriate!

MA:  No it’s not.  This is a funeral for the TWILIGHT series.

LS (calling over):  Did you bring the vampire strippers?

MA (looks at Driver): And you think I’m inappropriate?

DRIVER:  I’m appalled!

MA: Don’t lose your shirt, Taylor Lautner.  (to LS) I didn’t bring any strippers.

LS: No strippers? Damn!

MA: We need to review a movie after all.  I didn’t think we needed the distraction.

LS:  Who asked you to think?

MA: Sorry.  Well, at least it’s over.

LS: You got that right.  We can finally put the damn TWILIGHT SAGA to rest. Best grave I ever dug. I made this one extra deep.

MA: All we have to do is to review BREAKING DAWN PART 2, then it will be over for good!

LS: True enough. (He is on the verge of tears). And then we’ll finally be done with this series. I thought this day would never come.

MA: Me, neither. I thought we’d be going to see these awful movies forever.

LS: If there’s a hell, then I’m sure someone is being forced to watch a never-ending marathon of these movies.

MA: So why don’t you give us a synopsis of this last movie.

LS: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 ended with the feisty, perpetually sneering heroine of the TWILIGHT series, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), finally getting what she’s been wishing for since the first movie — she finally got turned into a vampire like her beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson). We could tell because her eyes were bright red! Spooky!

As BREAKING DAWN PART 2 opens, Bella is trying to learn how to control her unquenchable thirst for blood. Edward takes his newly-vampiric bride into the deep woods so she can feast on a deer’s blood, but a mountain climber makes an unexpected appearance, and when he cuts himself, Bella goes nuts. Suddenly, that measly little deer doesn’t seem so filling.

MA: This series is so bad even “hunting” scenes like this are dull and boring, especially with Edward watching his new bride with that goofy grin on his face, as if we’re supposed to think, “Aww, isn’t she cute?  Bella’s hunting.”  Gag!

LS:  The big question was, would she be able to control herself and not bite a human, or would she just go nuts like a lot of “newbie” vampires do when they first get “turned.” Somehow, Bella is able to pass the test.

MA:  Because vampires in the TWILIGHT world would never feed on a human, or at least not vampires in the Cullen clan, the most mind-numbing vampire family you’ll ever meet.  Vampire family.  (Shaking his head)  That kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

LS: Speaking of which, Bella is then brought back to the home of the Cullens — the vampire clan that Edward belongs to, and now Bella does to — to meet her new baby, Renesmee. What kind of name is that anyway?

MA: An annoying one.

LS: Turns out everyone is afraid Bella will turn her newborn baby into dinner, since the girl is half human and has human blood running through her veins. If you remember from the previous movie, Bella got pregnant immediately after a wild bout of sex with Edward, and the baby threatened to kill her. Which is why Edward finally relented and turned her into a vampire— he pretty much killed her in order to save her life, if that makes any sense.

MA (mockingly nodding):  Of course it does.

(A couple of MOURNERS arrives, crying into their handkerchiefs)

MOURNER 1: Oh my God, it’s over! How will we ever go on with our lives?

MOURNER 2: This is just the saddest day ever. I don’t know if I want to live anymore!

MOURNER 1: I have an idea. Let’s make sure it never ends. Let’s go see BREAKING DAWN PART 2 again. And again. And then go back and read the books again and watch the DVDs again and then it will seem like the story goes on forever.

MOURNER 2: Oh my God, that sounds wonderful!

(LS suddenly raises his shovel and chops both of their heads off, with blood squirting everywhere)

LS: I’m sorry Michael, but I had to put those two poor, tortured souls out of their misery.

MA (grinning as blood spatters his suit): Totally understandable, although I was thinking more along the lines of a stern reprimand.

LS:  Anyway, in this new movie, the hateful Irina (Maggie Grace) spies Bella and her new baby and runs to tell the Voltari – those vampire overlords who act like the Vatican of bloodsuckers —because this is a big no-no in the tenants of vampire law. You see, in the past, babies and children who were turned into vampires were nothing but trouble, since they immediately stopped growing and stayed at their age (mentally and physically) forever. Suddenly, with a lust for blood and incredibly strength, they were huge threats to the human world (you don’t want to see a super-strong vampire baby have a tantrum!) and also threatened to expose the adult vampires who are always trying to stay a big secret to humankind. Thus, vampire babies are immediately destroyed. After Irana goes and finks on Bella (what a rat!), the Voltari are convinced that Renesmee is a baby turned into a vampire and the leaders of the group, especially big kahuna Aro (Michael Sheen), declare the child must be slain and those involved with her “creation” punished.

But, as we already know, they’re wrong, since Renesmee wasn’t “turned,” she was born a vampire/human hybrid because Bella was human during the child’s conception. Thus, the child is a rare creature and has started growing at an alarming rate. Like, she’s grown several years older in a matter of days!

The Voltari, however, have no interest in allowing a fair trial. If they could just talk it out, there would be no movie. Besides, Aro and his cohorts have had it in for the Cullens since the second TWILIGHT movie, NEW MOON (2009), and this is just the excuse they need to wipe out of the clan completely.

MA:  This is all so interesting.

LS:  I have to admit, it’s a little painful to remember all this stuff. I want to block it out of my mind.

The Cullens, in turn, find out about their impending doom when Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) has a vision that the Voltari are coming to get them. This puts a plan into motion where the Cullens travel the globe to gather friends and allies as “witnesses” to demand that the Voltari listen to reason. These same witnesses might also have to fight if the Voltari won’t listen to them.

Also along for the ride are Bella’s other love interest, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and his pack of werewolves. Jacob has sworn to protect Renesmee with his life, partly because he has “imprinted” himself on the child (something that happened in PART 1). It seems that werewolves automatically “imprint” a bond with someone when they have found their true soul mate. It’s completely out of their control. And the fact that Jacob has imprinted with a baby is kind of creepy, except when you realize that Renesmee will probably be a full-grown adult in a few months, based on how fast she’s growing.

MA:  Werewolves are really nannies.  Who knew?  Why didn’t someone tell Lon Chaney Jr.?  Larry Talbot would have made the perfect baby guardian. Look, it’s Uncle Larry!  Of course, when the moon was full, he’d have eaten the kid, but he would have been good for a little while, anyway.

Werewolves protecting little kids?  And people want to know what’s wrong with this series?  Sheesh!

LS:  And don’t forget the imprint thing. Sounds like a certain shirtless werewolf might end up on a sex offenders website if he isn’t careful. He better wait until she’s at least 18….er, days…old before he consummates their passion.

So the Voltari are coming to slaughter the Cullens. The Cullens have gathered allies to speak on their behalf, or fight for them if necessary, and the werewolves have pledged to help. And that’s the story in a nutshell.

MA:  In a nutshell?  It must belong to a coconut.  That’s one detailed synopsis.  Do we really need to know that much about this movie?

LS: Are you knocking my synopsis?

MA:  No, it’s a terrific synopsis.  It’s just making me relive some things I’d rather forget— like the entire plot.

LS:  You mean you weren’t intrigued by questions like: Will the Cullens survive? Will the Voltari listen to reason? Will Jacob take off his shirt? Well, I can answer the last question: Jacob will definitely take off his shirt! And simpletons in the audience will “ooh” and “ahh” like they always do.

I thought BREAKING DAWN PART 2 was very telling. I have now sat through five TWILIGHT movies, and you would think that, after all this time, I would have grown to care about these characters, and be concerned about what happens to them. But the truth is, I hate all of these characters just as much as I did before. BREAKING DAWN PART 2 is not going to win over any new fans.

MA:  That’s a good point.  These characters have been so annoying for so long throughout this series that I can barely stand to look at them, let alone watch a movie about them.  And I didn’t find the three lead characters to be quite as an annoying in this movie, yet, it didn’t matter.  Based upon the previous movies, I just didn’t care about these folks.

That’s pretty bad.   As you said, you’d expect characters in a series to grow on you, not grate on you.

LS:  Of course, that doesn’t really matter, because the fans of the series who already exist are more than enough. I actually got my ticket online before the showing, because the past few times a TWILIGHT movie has come out, all the showings on the first day sold out immediately. But even though I bought my ticket in advance this time, I still had to stand in a long line before they let us into the theater (even with tickets!) and the place was pretty packed. So this series has just as many—if not more— hardcore fans as ever.

But in all seriousness, I thought this movie was excruciating to sit through. We’ve seen worse movies this year—the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie comes to mind—but TWILIGHT is the only series that consistently bores the hell out of me every time I sit through another chapter. I still think Bella is irritating and I have no clue what Edward or Jacob see in her. I think Edward and Jacob are morons. I think the Cullen family is a snooze. And I really hate the Voltari—who are lame-ass villains—even though their number includes Dakota Fanning as Jane and Michael Sheen as Aro, two actors I normally like.

And there’s some new stuff this time around. It turns out a lot of these vampires have super powers. As if being a super-strong, blood-drinking vampire wasn’t enough! One guy can shoot fire from his hands. Another one can shoot out tendrils of darkness that can blind or suffocate someone. Other ones can foretell the future, create electric shocks or create shields around themselves.

Who knew these sparkly vampires were really THE X-MEN!

I actually found this “look at my cool powers!” aspect to be extra annoying, since there’s no logical reason for these extra powers.

(THE SCENE suddenly SHIFTS to a field of colorful wildflowers. BELLA and EDWARD are sitting in the flowers, snuggling and giggling)

BELLA: Oh God, I love you so much.

EDWARD: And I, you.

BELLA: I love you so much it hurts. I love love love you.

EDWARD: Oh, how I love the word Love.

BELLA: It’s is a lovely word, isn’t it? And it’s so wonderful to be this much in love.

(SHOT moves to JACOB and RENESMEE, sitting in a different part of the garden)

JACOB: And I love you, too, little Renesmee. You’re just a toddler now, but soon we’ll be lovers and I’ll sweep you up in my arms and we can have long-winded conversations about love, like Edward and Bella.

RENESSEE: Uncle Jacob, you’re really starting to creep me out, man. Besides, I hate the name Renesmee. It sounds stupid. I much prefer to be called HONEY BOO BOO.

JACOB: Anything you wish, oh love of my life. Oh joy of my jowls. Oops, I spilled some Kool-ade on my shirt. Would you mind if I take it off? This stain offends me so.

RENESMEE A BOO BOO: Oh boy. Do what you gotta do, buster.

(THE SCENE returns to the graveyard. LS is off to one side, vomiting)

MA: Ahem, the camera is back on us again.

LS: Oh, sorry (wipes his mouth)

I’m also sick of the exaggerated emotions and affectations of the main characters here. Everyone is in love in big CAPITAL LETTERS. The characters are pretentious, sappy, and stupid. At least Bella and Edward get to have some sex in the BREAKING DAWN movies. After three movies before that where the two of them were forever locked in torturous abstinence, it’s nice to at least see them go at it, even if it’s all very sanitized and romanticized. What a tasteful nibble of a neck. What a very safe interlocking of naked limbs with not a glimpse of any naughty bits…

The audience I saw it with was so emotionally invested in these dumb characters that it was embarrassing. They had reactions that were as exaggerated as the characters on the screen. And they laughed at everything – even things that weren’t funny. Like everything out of Bella (and Edward and Jacob)’s mouth was the most clever, witty dialogue ever written. Let me tell you a secret – it wasn’t. The only scene that struck me as even mildly amusing was one where Jacob takes  his clothes off in front of Bella’s father, Charlie (Billy Burke) to show him how he turns into a big CGI wolf, and Charlie looks very uncomfortable, wondering if he just stepped into a scene from MAGIC MIKE. But otherwise, it wasn’t as clever or as emotionally charged as the audience pretended it was.

MA:  Yes, that was a funny scene.  Hey, after five movies, they got a scene right!

LS:  I really, truly hate this series. And seeing the saga finally come to an end filled me with joy. I give this movie one knife for the fact that the story is finally over alone! Otherwise, there’s nothing here I can recommend. It’s complete crap.

What did you think, Michael?

MA:  Well, the best thing I can say for this movie is that it’s the first TWILIGHT movie that didn’t bore me to tears, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.  It means that for once, things actually happened in this movie.  They may have been stupid things — like lame vampire superheroes— but they were things.  See, usually, these movies are so dull I start chomping on my fingernails once the popcorn is gone.  My fingernails survived this installment.

Another positive is BREAKING DAWN PART 2 gets all of its whining out of the way early.  Bella whines at Jacob because he imprinted on her baby daughter.  Now, in past movies, we’d have to suffer through multiple scenes of Bella’s angst.  She’d talk about it with Edward.  She talk about it with Jacob.  She’d go back and talk to Edward some more.  Edward and Jacob would talk.  Blah, blah, blah.  But here in BREAKING DAWN PART 2, it’s one and done.  That’s a good thing.

They also got the boring “Bella talks to her dad” scenes out of the way early as well.

That’s because in this movie, there’s actually a plot and things actually happen.  There’s a build-up to a big battle showdown.  Did I enjoy this build up?  Not really. But somehow this one just wasn’t as painful.  And of course there’s a big bloodbath at the end— not really.  It’s a pretty lame battle.  You’ll find more intense stuff in a Disney movie.

The acting is what you’d expect, although I have to admit the three leads didn’t annoy me as much this time around.  I think it’s because they spoke less in this movie.  The closest thing I came to enjoying a performance was watching Michael Sheen ham it up as Aro.  His over-the-top performance is one of the movies few highlights.

LS: He actually has a couple of funny scenes this time. I can’t blame the guy for wanting a decent paycheck.

MA: Director Bill Condon could have easily filmed BREAKING DAWN as one movie as opposed to dragging it out into two parts.  PART 1, basically a wedding, could have been condensed in about 15 minutes of screen time.  PART 2 is definitely better, but again, this isn’t saying much.

Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay, and she wrote the screenplays for the entire series.  Not something I’d want on my resume.

LS: But I’m sure she’s happy it’s on hers. These movies made a shitload of money!

MA: It’s funny, here we have this paranormal romance, this love story, this love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob, but what is the series finale about?  Vampires with superpowers and the meddling Voltari.  The love triangle was resolved movies ago.

LS: And it was never much of a triangle. We always knew Bella had the hots for Edward. Her relationship with Jacob was always just an intense friendship. She never returned Jacob’s feelings like he wanted her to. So the triangle angle was almost kind of forced, don’t you think.

MA: Yep. To me, this just shows that this love story wasn’t much to begin with.  You’d think this series would be driven by a tale of unbelievable love, but it’s not, which just reinforces the ridiculousness of building a “saga” around these characters.

But, hey, at the end of the day, the TWILIGHT series will long be remembered for featuring the cutest werewolves ever!  One day, when Disney buys the franchise, we’ll see little Jacob-werewolf-nannies on the shelf next to Winnie the Pooh.

It goes without saying, but I am overjoyed that this series is finally over.  That being said, this last installment, TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART 2, didn’t torture me with mind-numbing boredom, and as you said at the outset, we’ve seen worse movies this year.

I give it two knives.

LS: Fair enough. You’re much more generous than me this time around. Maybe you’re just relieved it’s finally over…

Or maybe your heart has finally let the love in…

MA:  I don’t think so.

LS:  Of course, the way it ends, the storyline could always be continued. And there could be spin-offs…and you know the studios will seriously consider it…but for now, this moment in time, let’s pretend like TWILIGHT is really over. That we never have to see another TWILIGHT movie again. And, for the moment, let’s sparkle with happiness.

MA: Now let’s go somewhere and celebrate!

LS:  Sounds good.  (Looks at TWILIGHT tombstone.)  It’s hard to believe.  We’ve buried the TWILIGHT movies forever.

MA:  It’s about time.

LS:  That celebration is long overdue.  Let’s get out of here.

(MA & LS exit.  From behind a gravestone appear a young man and his hunchbacked assistant. The young man carries a shovel, the hunchback a camera. They dig up the grave.  The young man holds a TWILIGHT DVD in his hand.)

YOUNG MAN:  It’s just resting.  Waiting for a new life to come!

HUNCHBACK:  Yes, master.

YOUNG MAN:  We shall give it life again.  We shall re-make them!

(Loud groans and wails are heard off-camera):  Nooooooooooooooooo!!

—END—

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

Michael Arruda gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~one knife!

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.

THE TALL MAN (2012)

Posted in 2012, Controverisal Films, Family Secrets, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Mystery, Plot Twists, Scares!, Surprises!, Suspense, Twist Endings, Twisted with tags , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2012 by knifefighter

THE TALL MAN
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

When I first heard about the movie THE TALL MAN, I thought it was another sequel in the PHANTASM series. For those who aren’t fans, the Tall Man is the main villain of that franchise. But this new movie has nothing to do with PHANTASM. So I thought, based on the title and the movie poster (with star Jessica Biel prominently displayed), that this was a standard horror movie. I was wrong on both counts.

Then I found out that THE TALL MAN was directed by French filmmaker Pascal Laugier, who previously gave us the movie MARTYRS (2008), which I consider one of my all-time favorite horror films. It had the same kind of effect on me when it came out as Takashi Miike’s AUDITION did in 2000. Needless to say, I was psyched and immediately sought THE TALL MAN out. It was supposed to be in limited theatrical release, but it wasn’t playing anywhere near me. Luckily, however, it was playing on cable OnDemand, so I was able to see it for myself.

I’m really glad I did.

THE TALL MAN is a movie full of twists and turns that are going to keep you off balance throughout, as you try to figure out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and what everyone here is up to.

It begins in a poverty-stricken small town called Cold Rock, Washington. It used to be thriving once, but the coal mines, the main source of work there, shut down, all the other jobs dried up, and people started losing their homes. Oh yeah, there’s one other reason why Cold Rock is such a sad place. Over the years, there have been several child abductions, and the children have never been recovered. A few people swear they got a look at who took their children, a dark figure that has taken on mythic proportions in the town. Everyone refers to the child stealer as The Tall Man.

It’s here in Cold Rock that Julia Denning (Jessica Biel, who we most recently saw in this summer’s big budget remake of TOTAL RECALL) tries her best to help people get medical care. Her husband was the local doctor, but he’s gone now, and since she was his nurse, she’s able to provide some basic services to those in need. It’s clear however, that even though her husband was respected and loved in Cold Rock, Julia will never be completely accepted by everyone in town. There are some people here who trust her, however, like the mute teenager Jenny (Jodelle Ferland) who will become more important as the film goes on.

Since she’s a widow, Julia has her friend (sister?) Christine (Eve Harlow) babysit her son, David (Jakob Davies) when she’s out making her rounds. David seems to be sickly, but lights up when his mother comes home.

Life is rough in Cold Rock, but Julia does what she can, until the day comes when she returns home to find Christine beaten and tied up, and a hooded figure running away from the house, carrying David in its arms.

While trying to retrieve her son David, Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) falls into a pit of mud in THE TALL MAN.

Julia runs after them, down the street to a large truck that drives away. Determined not to let them get away, Julia grabs on to the back door of the truck, and hangs on for dear life. She tries desperately to retrieve her son in a nightmarish sequence involving the truck, a vicious dog, and an accident. But eventually, she loses the trail, and collapses in the middle of the street, where Lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie) finds her and brings her into his car. He drives her to the local diner where Sheriff Chestnut (William B. Davis) is, and tells him to get an ambulance, while Dodd goes back out trying to find the child stealer based on what Julia has told him.

It’s at this point that things get strange. While washing up and changing her clothes in the office of Trish (Janet Wright) who runs the diner, she hears the Sheriff and another man in a heated discussion, wondering what they should do next. It sounds like they mean to harm Julia. What’s going on here?

To give away any more of the plot would be unkind, but let’s say, at this point, THE TALL MAN stops being a typical horror movie and goes in a completely unexpected direction. This is business as usual for director Pascal Laugier, who is used to running us through a maze in his movies, MARTYRS being a perfect example.

The cast here is very good, especially Biel, who is turning into an actress you can count on to deliver a decent performance. She’s actually much better here than she is in TOTAL RECALL, partly because she’s the lead character, but also because THE TALL MAN is a more serious, intelligent film.

THE TALL MAN is out there.

M. Night Shyamalan might still have the reputation as the king of the twist endings – even if it’s no longer warranted and he’s become something of a joke. But Laugier proves here that he deserves the title more, and he delivers the scares along the way.

The other aspects of this film are finely tuned as well, including the score by Todd Bryanton, which compliments the film perfectly. I was very psyched when I found out that Barry Dejasu was interviewing Bryanton about his soundtrack for THE TALL MAN for his Scoring Horror column (this review is being posted as a companion piece to his interview).

THE TALL MAN is so different from the usual horror movies we keep getting, and is so much more ambitious in its storytelling, that it deserves a wider audience simply because it tries to do something different, and I was disappointed to see that this one has been getting such shoddy distribution. But if you look for it on cable, you would do yourself a favor to find it.

While I didn’t like THE TALL MAN as much as MARTYRS, which remains Laugier’s masterwork, I still thought it was head and shoulders above most of the horror movies Hollywood has been giving us lately. THE TALL MAN is in no way as visceral and nightmarish as MARTYRS, but it does deliver plenty of chills and it will surprise you.

One thing about THE TALL MAN, that you don’t normally get with horror films these days, is that you’ll be thinking about it long after it’s over.

I give it four knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE TALL MAN ~ four knives.

 

The French movie poster for THE TALL MAN calls it “The Secret” fittingly enough.

Pickin’ the Carcass: RED STATE (2011)

Posted in 2012, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Religious Cults, Twist Endings with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2012 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  RED STATE (2011)
By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to PICKIN’ THE CARCASS, that column where we catch up with recent horror releases missed the first time around.  Sadly, most of the time, there’s a good reason these films were missed the first time around.  They’re not very good.

However, today, good news!  At long last, I’ve found a CARCASS morsel well worth the wait, and that morsel is RED STATE (2011), the action thriller by writer director Kevin Smith.

RED STATE tells its story in three parts.  The first part follows three teenage boys (Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, and Nicholas Braun) as they answer a sex ad from a woman who promises to have sex with them.  This first segment is light and funny, and you almost get the feeling you’re being set up for a teen sex comedy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s because the woman drugs the boys, which leads to the second segment of the film, and this is where the horror sets in.  The boys awake to find themselves held hostage by an ultra-right wing church known as the Five Points Church.  This church, supposedly so far to the right that even neo-Nazi groups distance themselves from them, is led by the charismatic but crazy Abin Cooper (Michael Parks).  The boys witness Cooper and his congregation execute a gay man in the church.  Up next are the teens themselves.

Following a tip from the local sheriff, armed ATF agents led by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) surround the Five Points Church compound, which brings us to the third segment of the film, the armed confrontation between the ATF agents and the church members, who are sitting on an arsenal full of assault weapons.

Eventually, all hell breaks loose, and there is a massive shoot-out, which leads to a clever ending that for several moments will have you scratching your head wondering just what the hell is going on.  I won’t give anything away, but I will say the ending to the movie is somehow both depressing and satisfying.

RED STATE was written and directed by Kevin Smith, an actor, writer, and director mostly known for his comedies.  (ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO (2008) and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (2001), for example).  RED STATE is not a comedy, and I almost thought it was going to be played for laughs considering Smith’s involvement.  But it’s not funny, not in the least.

Far from it, RED STATE is a grim realistic tale that works because it is firmly rooted in truth.  The points this movie makes reflect disturbing trends in our society that, like it or not, exist.  And it’s scary because as outlandish and as exaggerated as things may seem, it’s still realistic.  A church congregation executes a gay man while singing hymns?  And this isn’t a black comedy?  No.  And the reason?  Sadly, horrifically, I could see this happening.  There are fringe groups out there that would do this.

RED STATE is scary without entering into any of the traditional horror movie tropes.  There’s nothing supernatural going on here.  The horror is in the people and what they do.

The movie enjoys a strong start.  The three teen characters are all believable, and the three actors who play them do an excellent job bringing these kids to life.  Kyle Gallner is especially memorable as the lead teen Jarod, and we saw him a few years back in THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009).

The dialogue here by Smith is also excellent.  It’s a hoot listening to these three guys, as they act and sound like real teens.  It sets the stage for the realism which permeates the entire film.

The second part of the film, where the boys are held hostage in the church, is also powerful.  The execution sequence is a riveting scene, and at this point, the sweaty palms meter was going full throttle.

The third act, where John Goodman’s Joseph Keenan leads an ATF raid against the compound is the least satisfying segment of the three, but it’s still very good.  It’s less effective because a standard action shoot-out just doesn’t pack the same wallop as scenes of teens being held hostage by maniac church members.

RED STATE features an outstanding cast.  In addition to Kyle Gallner’s fine performance as teen hostage Jarod, John Goodman also delivers a strong performance as ATF agent Joseph Keenan.  Goodman plays things realistically.  He’s not over the top, and as a result, he’s very believable.

Melissa Leo plays yet another crazy mother, this one a member of the Five Points Church.  Leo, you might remember, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a crazy obsessed mother in THE FIGHTER (2010).  Yeah, her role here is almost the same, but she’s so good at it!  You just want to slap her!

And Michael Parks absolutely steals the show as the creep preacher Abin Cooper.  The best part of his performance, and really, the whole movie, is that it’s not played over the top.  Parks doesn’t play Cooper like some psycho in the movies.  He plays him like a real preacher.  I believed this guy, and this is what made it so scary.

One of the reasons the movie works so well is the excellent script by Kevin Smith.  Not only does it tell a believable story, but it also takes some outlandish situations, dangles them in front of you, and makes you realize, you know what?  This isn’t as outlandish as you think!

Smith also adds some stylish direction.  The action scenes are well-handled, and the camerawork during some of the chase scenes where the teens try to escape from the church makes you feel like you’re running right alongside them.

The movie also manages to takes its time without seeming slow-paced.  There are long sequences of dialogue, which somehow result in making things more unsettling and suspenseful.  It’s like you’re listening to Cooper speaking, and he’s creeping you out, and he’s going on and on, and you just want to get away, and yet you can’t.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed RED STATE.  As long as you’re not expecting a happy night at the movies, you’ll want to check out RED STATE.

It’s non-supernatural  horror at its best.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

(NOTE: For a slightly different take on RED STATE, check out the 2011 review by L.L. Soares here)

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Fun Stuff!, Gore!, Hillbillies, Joss Whedon, Monsters, Supernatural, Surprises!, Twist Endings, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cabin in the middle of the woods. MICHAEL ARRUDA has just arrived, to find L.L. SOARES sitting in front the fire, reading a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories)

MA: Nice to see you’re so comfortable. It took me forever to find this place.

LS: I know, I’ve been here for three days now. Did you get lost or something?

MA: This place isn’t on any map or GPS that I know of. How did you get here anyway?

LS: I borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine.

MA: That explains why you didn’t need a map.  Whoa!  You borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine?

LS:  Clean that wax out of your ears, son, that’s what I said.

MA:  That didn’t work out so well for Seth Brundle.  There weren’t any flies in there with you, were there?

LS:  No.  But there was this tarantula, and a scorpion.  Is that bad?

MA:  Aren’t you worried that you’ve somehow all been jumbled together, and that now you might be sharing some of their DNA?

LS (burps):  Not really.

MA:  Are you telling me that you—?

LS:  Yep.  They’re just delicious when you add some of Stubbs’ barbecue sauce.  Anyway, do you want me to start the review while you’re getting settled?

MA: Sure.  Man, you must have a stomach made of iron.

LS: This week’s movie is THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and it’s the first movie directed by Drew Goddard, who mainly was a writer before this. He wrote CLOVERFIELD (2008), a movie we both liked a lot.

MA:  Yep, CLOVERFIELD was one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade.

LS:  CABIN is also written by Joss Whedon, who created shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL two shows that Goddard also wrote for. And Whedon will be directing THE AVENGERS movie next month, too!

MA:   Goddard co-wrote the screenplay with Whedon.  In addition to writing CLOVERFIELD, Goddard also wrote several episodes of the TV show LOST, and I thought there were parts of this movie that reminded me of LOST.

LS:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS starts out kind of strangely, as we see a group of scientists taking a lunch break before they go back to work. These are Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and they seem to be in charge of some strange experiment.

MA:  Strange is the operative word here.  The movie opens and I’m thinking, what an odd way to get this one started, but it caught my attention, and so I guess it worked!

LS:  Then the story shifts to five college kids who decide to take a weekend “off the grid,” kicking back at a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, which belongs to one of the kids’ cousin. They include  Jules (Anna Hutchison), a sexy, flirty co-ed who just dyed her hair blonde; her roommate Dana (Kristen Connolly), a slightly less outgoing, innocent-seeming redhead; Jules’ boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth—yes, THOR himself), a jock;  Curt’s friend Holden (Jesse Williams) who Jules and Curt are trying to fix up with Dana; and fifth wheel, Marty (Fran Kranz) who is smart and a smart aleck and he smokes a lot of weed, and I wasn’t really sure why he was going along with them, but he’s a welcome addition to the group, as far as I’m concerned.

MA: Yeah, he’s the most fun— and refreshing— character in the movie.

LS:  They take an RV out to the country, where they come upon your typical, cliché’ redneck gas station owner, Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) who sets the creepy mood, and you just know these kids are in for some trouble.

MA:  This is the scene where I almost groaned out loud.  I’ve seen so many scenes like this one; it’s almost painful to sit through any more, so when this movie took this scene and did something completely different with it later, it was that much more refreshing.

(There is a knock at the cabin door.  MA opens door to find a redneck gas station owner at the door, and behind him his redneck son, behind him another old man, and on and on the line goes.)

REDNECK MAN:  This is no place for strangers!

REDNECK SON:  My advice to you is to turn around and go back to where you came from.

OLD MAN:  Turn back before ye perish!

EVEN OLDER MAN: You’ll be sorrrrry!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

MA:  I think I’m going to throw up.  (Slams door in their faces.)

LS: Yeah, I’m sick to death of those guys, too. Get a life! And get some teeth!

Anyway, like I was saying, you know these kids are headed for trouble. The thing is, what kind of trouble is something a little bit different than what we usually see in these kinds of movies. You might go in expecting yet another retread of THE EVIL DEAD or something along the lines of Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER, but instead, we get something different than we’re expecting. This ties in to the fact that there are two smart, creative guys at the helm of this one, and they’re determined not to give us something we’ve seen before.

During a game of Truth or Dare, the kids find a doorway into a basement. When they go down to explore, they find lots of very strange artifacts, which will somehow decide their fate, depending on which one they choose. Dana picks up a diary of a girl who lived in the cabin back in 1908, and it’s rather disturbing. Meanwhile, outside, some strange figures start shuffling around, holding some vicious-looking weapons.

Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much, except that the kids in the cabin, the creatures stalking them, and the scientists back at the underground lab are closely linked, and that there really is a reason why all this is going on. A very cool reason. And I figured it out by the half-way mark, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this movie at all.

Not only is the directing and writing very good here, the acting isn’t too bad, either. I really enjoyed the interaction between Jenkins and Whitford as the scientists, who also involve their fellow employees in their activities. These are two good actors who turn in good performances.

MA:  I agree.  I thought veterans Richard Jenkins (who was in LET ME IN (2010), and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in THE VISITOR (2007), not too shabby), Bradley Whitford (who most people will recognize from TV’s THE WEST WING) were excellent and lent credibility to the proceedings.  They definitely help make the unbelievable seem believable.  Credit here also goes to the writing, which gives them plenty of lively lines to deliver.

LS:  The kids aren’t too bad, either. Hutchison as Jules is very sexy and Hemsworth is a muscular alpha male as Curt.

MA:  Yes, no doubt about it, Hutchison is hot.  The scene where she makes out with a stuffed wolf’s head in a game of truth or dare is worth the price of admission all by itself!

And I liked Hemsworth as Curt too.  Most jocks in these films are jerks.  Hemsworth makes Curt pretty likeable.

LS:  I wasn’t as impressed with Jesse Williams as Holden – he was okay, but nothing special. The two best performances here, however, are Kristen Connolly as the “virginal” Dana, who gets tough when she has to, and Kranz (who Whedon fans will recognize as Topher from the short-lived but really good series DOLLHOUSE). He pretty much steals every scene he’s in, and was my favorite character.

MA:  I agree with you wholeheartedly here.

LS:  Wholeheartedly?  That reminds me!  (Suddenly there is a bloody heart on LS’ plate next to a bottle of barbecue sauce.) Thanks, I didn’t want it to spoil.

MA: Where did that come from? That’s not yours, is it?

LS: Of course not! Mine isn’t this big. I had it in my pocket for a snack. And right about now, when you’re just about to go into a long rant, is as good a time as any for the munchies.

MA:  Long rant? I’ll save those for when I don’t like something!  Anyway, as I was saying, the two leads are excellent.   Kranz nearly steals the movie as Marty, a character who’s stoned most of the time.  Yet, this turns out to help him later in the story.  Hmm, a subtle plug for medical marijuana, perhaps?  (laughs) Kranz is funny, likeable, and best of all, refreshing.  He provides the film with its best moments.

LS: He was great on DOLLHOUSE, too. I’d love to see Kranz become a star because of his performance here.

MA: Kristen Connolly is also excellent as Dana.  She enjoys the best of both worlds in this movie, as she’s pretty hot herself, and yet she’s strong, capable, and more than holds her own when the going gets rough.  She’s also smart.

LS: Yeah, she is pretty hot, too. Gotta love a redhead. And I liked her character a lot.

MA: Nice job by both these actors. There’s also a surprise cameo appearance at the end that’s been generating some excitement.

LS: Yeah, except I didn’t find it very exciting. The person who shows up isn’t that big a deal, since he/she has been in these kinds of movies before. It certainly wasn’t as big a deal as Bill Murray’s appearance in ZOMBIELAND (2009). I don’t even know why we’re keeping it a secret.
MA: Yeah, I didn’t think it was a big deal, either.

LS:  The movie has its fair share of scares and laughs, and knows how to balance the two of them effectively. And the fact that there are some genuine surprises here means that CABIN is a movie you can really enjoy. It’s smarter than the usual Hollywood horror flick, and I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I give it three and a half knives!

What did you think of it, Michael?

MA:  I enjoyed it too, but I didn’t love it.

LS:  Of course you didn’t.  (starts eating the heart)

MA:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is definitely different.  As advertised, it offers a refreshing take on the usual tale of young people trapped in a haunted cabin in the middle of nowhere.  For that, I commend the filmmakers, and I really did like this movie.

It’s just that, I’m not sure that I bought it all.  What was going on behind the scenes, in those scenes with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, bordered a bit too much on fantasy for my tastes.  Now, I know you won’t like this comparison, but some of the stuff was reminiscent of MEN IN BLACK, only better.  MEN IN BLACK was science fiction and it was pure comedic fluff, while THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is horror and never strays down the road to goofiness.  That being said, I still had a hard time accepting some of the things that happen in this movie once the explanations start rolling in.

LS: MEN IN BLACK? Did you really need to go there?

MA: Sorry, but I think I did.

(There is a knock on the door, and when MA opens it, there is a brutish BIG ZOMBIE standing in the doorway)

BIG ZOMBIE (to LS): You gonna eat that heart?

LS (talks with his mouth full): Way ahead of you. And I’m not sharing!

BIG ZOMBIE: Dammit!

(BIG ZOMBIE growls and skulks away)

MA: I actually bought into THE HUNGER GAMES more.  That was a movie that I thought I was not going to believe, but that one, with its combination of strong acting, writing, and directing, convinced me that those deadly games were in fact real.  THE HUNGER GAMES had more of an edge, I think, than THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, which as much as I liked it, would have been better served had it had a jagged edge of its own.

But I really enjoyed THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s a really creative flick, and it would be difficult not to like this movie.

I said earlier it reminded me a bit of LOST, in that you have a group of characters stuck in a situation that they at first think they know about and have a handle on, but soon they realize there is so much more going on, and it’s way more complicated than what they first thought.  At one point, one of the characters remarks that they’re like puppets, manipulated by outside forces, which reminded me of the survivors on LOST when they were dealing with “the Others” early in that show.

LS: Yes, I see what you mean about the LOST comparison, although I thought the ending of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was more satisfying than the ending of LOST.

MA: And like CLOVERFIELD, which was also written by Drew Goddard, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS has well-written characters and fun, lively dialogue.

I thought the special effects were also very good.  I liked the monsters and creatures in this one and thought they looked genuinely scary for the most part. They were credible.

LS: I wish we’d gotten to see more of them!

MA: Not so credible is the plot.  Ultimately, did I really buy all that was happening?  And the answer to that question is no, I didn’t.  Because while the film never breaks out into a full-fledged spoof/comedy— it does get the humor right, and it’s smart in that the dark elements of the movie remain dark— it’s difficult to take the proceedings all that seriously once you learn the secret of what’s ultimately going on.

I liked THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for what it was— a wild, over the top, creative horror movie, but had it somehow been more believable, I would have loved it.

I give it three knives.

LS: Yeah, I liked this one a bit more than you did. But at least we can agree that it’s a lot of fun and that the folks out there should check this movie out.

MA:  Yes, it’s definitely worth checking out!

(There’s another knock at the door)

MA: I wonder who it is now.

(Outside the door, lots of REDNECKS and ZOMBIES are playing outside on the front lawn)

LS: What’s going on here?

REDNECK MAN: What does it look like?

REDNECK SON: We’re havin’ a picnic.

OLD MAN: Yeah, and we brought all the fixins’

EVEN OLDER MAN: We even brought the grill!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: I can’t wait to eat. I’m starvin’ right to death.

REDNECK MAN: Yep, my great great grandpa needs to put some meat on those bones.

MA: That’s all well and good, but it looks like you’ve forgotten the most important part.  The food!  There’s no meat on the grill.

LS: Yeah, what are we supposed to be eating?

REDNECK MAN: Well, you’re not going to be eatin’ anything.

BIG ZOMBIE: We’re gonna be eatin’ you!

(CLOSE-UP of a LITTLE BOY ZOMBIE licking his lips)

MA (to camera): Gotta go!

(MA and LS run away in fast motion as the ZOMBIES and REDNECKS look on in bewilderment)

-END-

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

Michael Arruda gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~three and a half knives.