REVIEW: It Follows (2014)


It Follows: A+

This is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time. Even if you have little problems with the bold styling of the film, you have to give it credit for keeping you in a constant state of dread from beginning to end. I am trying to remember the last time a film had me searching every detail in the frame as intensely as I did with this one.

Everyone wants to talk about is the soundtrack, so let’s do it: The soundtrack is killer. It’s virtually all synths that will immediately endear the movie to John Carpenter fans and any viewer with a soft spot for 70s-80s horror films. It’s a meticulous refurbishing of the same beloved sounds that were the backdrop for decades of horror movies. I still have the end credits’ song stuck in my head.

Strangely, the best moments in the soundtrack are the monotonous arpeggiating Carpenterian ones because they parallel the film’s monster, who can only walk very, very slowly in a straight line. It’s a shapeshifting ghost that is always walking in your direction. There is no origin story; if it catches you, it kills you in the worst way and no one knows why. The movie opens with a graphic demonstration of this and then shifts to a group of lazy suburban teens who get tangled up in the following. The only way to lose the curse is to “pay it forward” through sexual intercourse. Then the ghost follows whomever you banged. The ever-problematic horror movie teenage sex drive is now actually a relevant plot device instead of a thoughtlessly inserted slasher trope.

You can walk, run, or drive away, but the ghost will just steadily walk to wherever you are, disguised as a friend or family member, hungry to fuck you up. This is what had me searching every shot. Is that guy in the background walking slowly toward the protagonist? What about her? Is she acting weird? What was that little shadow in the back corner? I was so involved in the terror of the movie I completely forgot I was in the theater.

There are nods to 70’s and 80’s horror in ways I have never seen. The soundtrack is one thing, but the movie takes other horror totems and cleverly repackages them. The time period is ambiguous; maybe it’s in the 80’s, maybe not. There are some new cars, but no cell phones. It feels like the same era as Monster Squad and Lost Boys, but you know it isn’t. I mention these two movies because the terrorized teens in It Follows form a sort of fellowship where they try to analyze and defeat the ghost. There are boobietraps and everything.

The idea that teen sex is tied to horrific death is a tired convention of slasher flicks at this point. We all know that Jason is going to come eviscerate whichever teens are bragging the loudest about boning. But in It Follows, sex can literally be used to assign certain death to other characters and the protagonist is not a chaste bookworm who gets an advantage through abstinence. Now, she has an incentive to have the same thoughtless sex that was taboo for 50 years of horror movies. The thing we have been taught to dread takes on a new dimension.

I can’t say much more without giving up certain scenes/twists, but this is one you have to see…

REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

paranormal 2

Paranormal Activity 2: B

Have you checked out the trailer for that Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic World? Holy shit, man, they’re finally taking it to the next level! You don’t just have a theme park in the making, you have a functioning theme park with tons of visitors (read: more victims). You’ve got some big-ass prehistoric Hainosaurus (which is not technically a dinosaur, learn your paleontology, son). You’ve got some sort of genetically-altered super smartass dinosaur. You’ve also got tame velociraptors.

Yeah, I know, that might sound strange. How can you tame a velociraptor? Well, do you own a dog? Check this shit out: that motherfucker is really a wolf! I shit you not. Genetically speaking, it’s a direct cousin of that fuckin’ beast that ate up Little Red Riding Hood’s stupid bitch of a grandma. And you own it. And you pet it. And you pick up its shit.

Oh, but Richard, you’re saying, that took like, what, ten thousand years for wolves to become dogs! This new Jurassic Park movie doesn’t take place that far into the future! Well, asshole, maybe you might want to use the Google and read up on the domesticated silver fox. It was an experiment done in the former Soviet Union where they selectively bred foxes for tameness, and you basically went from vicious little beasts to pet foxes in just a few generations! Now apply that same shit to velociraptors. It’s been proven (in the first Jurassic Park movie) that those bastards can figure out how to open a door, and that’s when they’re at peak wildness. How many wolves do you know that can open doors? What, like maybe a few of them, at best? I believe I’ve made my point here.

By the time you’re reading this, the movie may have already come out and it might suck a dirty piece of ass. But that’s not my point. My point is that it did something different with the same concept.

Paranormal Activity 2 is basically the same movie as the first one, only it adds a little twist to the end. It’s not as impressive as having HD cameras in the 1980s like the third movie does, but if you liked the first, you’ll like this shit too. If you hated the first, nothing’s gonna change your mind. Me? I liked it. Wasn’t bored for a minute.

But I’m still craving for some kind of an interesting twist to the whole ghost/demon thing. Maybe in the (what are they on now?) next installment, we could learn that the demon is really the hero, and these stupid people have been doing all kinds of fucked up stuff when the cameras were off that we weren’t privy to in the first few movies. Like maybe they were screaming his name while masturbating, and when he’d show up to help them, they’d just laugh and continue to pleasure themselves.

REVIEW: Carrie (2013)


Carrie: F

Yes, Chloe Moretz is a good actress. There. I got that out of the way. Now you go ahead and tell me what else this movie has going for it because I am at a motherfucking loss.

I have never seen a more pointless remake. This is the same exact movie from 1976 with only very superficial “updates” for a modern audience.

For example, the scene where Carrie gets her period in the locker room: Totally the same; they even throw tampons and do that cunty chant. One of the Plug It Up Girls uses a smart phone to capture the incident and posts it to Youtube. Other than that the scene is an awkward facsimile of the original. Why even remake it if all you are adding to it is a fucking iphone?

Maybe some viewers were all “Wow! So clever! Video! It’s like Carrie, but for our generation, bro!” If that sort of scene is all it takes to impress you, someone might as well remake The Shining and be sure to include a scene where Wendy loses cell phone service. Or how about a Jaws remake where they try to track the shark with GPS?

“Aw man, it’s like they are trying to stop that shark, but it’s like, set in present day, bro!

The whole movie is like this. It’s almost a scene-by-scene reconstruction of the original film with a lame product-placement-feeling layer of the 21st century superimposed on top. The car still gets destroyed, but it is a 2013 Challenger. They dump pig’s blood on Carrie, but they play humiliating HD video clips on a projection screen behind her. The wardrobes are updated (fucking name-brand central) and they work cell phones into a few scenes.

At least they had Carrie conduct her telekinesis research at the library with actual books instead of having a montage of her Bing searches.

I’m not upset to see a movie resurrected in modern times(even though my gripes may make it sound that way), but the movie didn’t seem to have much of a point otherwise. That’s what pisses me off. Maybe I’m undermining the idea that the cruelty and alienation of adolescence holds up across generations, but a Carrie reboot was not an effective vehicle for this message. I get that that is what the filmmakers were probably going for, but I couldn’t help saying (out loud) “so fucking what?! I’ve already seen this movie!”

The acting was clunky. Tons of unnatural and forced dialogue from the teenage characters. You could tell some adults in LA wrote the screenplay. Julianne Moore was not creepy as Carrie’s mom, but I just think she is funny as a person, so maybe you will think she is scary when she is holding scissors and laugh-crying.



REVIEW: Absentia (2011)



Absentia:  C+

Low budget flicks like this are hard to gauge.  Should you give it credit for overcoming a shoestring budget?  Or should you note that its limitations don’t quite allow for a fully-formed film?

In this case, I went with the latter, but if you talked to me on a different day, I could be convinced to bump it up into the “B” range.  Ultimately, it falls in the category of “nice little film” that could’ve been a helluva lot better with a cash infusion.   It’s the kind of movie where you find yourself muttering, “Was this shit funded by Kickstarter?” and then you go and look it up, and sure enough, this shit was funded by Kickstarter.

What works: An intriguing plot about a woman living in the L.A. valley whose husband has gone missing.  No note, no body, no clues as to where he fucked off to.  Just…gone.  It’s been  seven years, so she’s having him declared legally dead “in absentia.”  This lady’s much hotter younger sister comes to stay with her to help her through the transition, but maybe she’s just there because she’s a druggie with no options.  Some good sister drama there.

The malevolence revolves around this pedestrian tunnel near their house.  Hot Younger Sister goes jogging through it an encounters an apparent homeless man in rough shape.  She stops to check on him, and he’s amazed that she can see him.  He cries “It must be asleep!” as she retreats the fuck  out of there.  Nice hook.  This, of course, makes Thing in the Tunnel suspect #1 in the whole “What happened to my husband?” mystery.  Complicating matters, the detective who’s been investigating the dude’s disappearance has impregnated the wife.  He’s also a woefully shitty actor.

Which brings us to what doesn’t work.  I can’t see any of these actors making a living doing this, with the possible exception of Hot Younger Sister.   It has one of those let’s-cast-our-friends-who’ll-work-for-snacks vibes.  Then there’s the problem of Thing in the Tunnel.  It’s apparently not confined to the tunnel, as there’s some creepy happenings inside the nearby house.  But you never really get a sense of what the thing is.  It’s always in the shadows, and the director employs all those quick cuts that you have to use when you don’t have the special effects budget to build something scary on camera.

You could do worse than checking this out on Netflix streaming, but you’ll probably be left with the same decent-but-not-great feeling I had at the end.   I was left wondering what the director (Mike Flanagan) could do with a bigger budget, but Bloodcrypt Keeper has your answer.  Maybe the bargain bin is where Flanagan should stay.


REVIEW: Split Second (1992)



Split Second: C+

London, 2008: Welcome to a future where Rutger Hauer is a motorcycle-riding, candy bar inhaling, chain smoking cop who plays by his own rules. He wasn’t always like this. Years ago, his partner was murdered and it pushed him over the edge to Lethal Weapon levels of maverick badass-ery. He chugs liters of coffee and the police chief gets pissed at him a lot. Yes, he wears sunglasses indoors and cracks one-liners while using gratuitous violence to subdue criminals. No, he doesn’t use the department-issue firearm; those things are for pussies.

The film has been criticized for it unoriginality since it blatantly tries to capitalize off of the popularity of other action/sci-fi movies of its time, most notably Blade Runner, Predator, and Lethal Weapon. The aforementioned maverick-cop clichés from Lethal Weapon are pretty clear. The movie looks just like Blade Runner; it’s set in London where rising sea levels and perpetual rain makes it look exactly like the grey, wet dystopia in which Harrison Ford hunted androids. The villain in Split Second is a hulking Predator-looking monster who obsesses over confronting Hauer in hand-to-hand combat, almost as if it adheres to the same code of honor as the Predators.

You could rename the movie “Lethal Predator Runner” and it would work.  

The movie is fun because it plagiarizes from other successful films and then turns the things it steals up to 11 all while (I think) being comically NOT self-aware of how transparent the theft is. Hauer has cartoonish levels of defiance and self-destruction. The weather is an unending monsoon that creates urban lakes and acres of obfuscating fog. The monster is a superhuman killing machine who looks like Venom and does shit like creep up and tap people on the shoulder before eviscerating them.

The carnage isn’t spectacular, but it’s there. The monster rips some dudes up and absorbs anything useful from their DNA. Gore-hounds, this is no splatter-fest. The monster (“ONE UGLY MOTHERFUCKER!”) almost suffers from a case of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers syndrome as there are a few shots of him lumbering around like an alcoholic in a rubber suit. He doesn’t look terrible but he doesn’t look scary.

This movie is the love-child of shitty action movies and shitty horror movies. If you like those two things, then see this movie. It combines the best parts of the two and executes them with an impressive air of shamelessness.


REVIEW: The Sacrament (2013)



The Sacrament: B

This is a found footage film that follows a couple of journalists who make their way into an isolated Jonestown-like settlement, triggering its implosion, red Kool-Aid and all. There are some chilling moments of cult fervor and some scenes that capture what some parts of Jonestown life must have been like with a sociopathic “Father” watching your every move with Orwellian enthusiasm.

The movie is produced by Eli Roth, but it is different from his other movies. This film isn’t the torture porn of Hostel or the splat-stick of Cabin Fever; the fear in this movie is psychological and it really builds up to a fucked up ending.

The cult leader is played by the gas station owner from No Country for Old Men who, for this film, impressively transforms from a cowardly redneck into a part-evangelist faith-healer, part-Kim Jung Il terrifying idol. The guy kills it. He dresses like a Florida retiree and he wears tan aviators that magnify his eyes to an almost amphibian golem-level.

The monologues are mesmerizing. “Father” has this fucked up delivery that is a mixture of southern drawl and game show host while he peers though his shades and quotes psalms to justify the way of life in his compound. You feel like he could start drooling at any second but that he also has a 250 IQ. He does these great shifts in and out of creepiness; one sentence will sound like your kindly old grandpa telling you a joke, and the next sentence sounds like Chairman Mao ordering your execution.

My biggest beef with the film is that is takes a little too long to get moving and the end takes overly-elaborate pains to insist that what you just witnessed was a documentary and not manufactured fictional “found footage”. They really lay the exposition on thick to make sure that you know you are headed into a Jonestown situation with seriously brain-washed people. And the montage of “found photos” at the end is fucking lame. After it gets rolling though, you won’t be able to look away.

There are some cool found footage tricks in this one. People drop the camera or have the camera taken away from them. Sometimes, the protagonist is filming. Other times, you get footage from the bad guys’ point of view. Actors sometimes set the camera down and you get these long takes that are framed really well. Sometimes there is ambiguity about whether or not someone is filming at all.

It was a fun watch and the best found footage flick I’ve seen in months.


REVIEW: Oculus (2013)


Oculus: C-

There’s this mirror that kills people. Ghosts also come out of the mirror and fuck with people. The mirror can also “possess” your reflection (which, I guess “possesses” your body too) and make you do bad things to yourself or others. It’s a lot like that movie Mirrors, which also focuses on mirrors that do the aforementioned mirror bullshit in almost the exact same manner.

The Oculus mirror can do a few tricks that the Mirrors mirrors can’t, including:

  • Inducing hallucinations
  • Playing stupid pranks on people
  • Fucking with space-time

Oculus switches between two stories and then squishes them together.

The past (10 years ago): One of the stoners from Dazed & Confused is married to Starbuck and their kids don’t like the new mirror in daddy’s office. There are ghosts and escalating scenes of confusion and terror culminating in the double murder of the parents.

The present: The kids are all grown up and have SOMEHOW tracked down the mirror, the supernatural potential of which they plan to assess. There are ghosts and escalating scenes of confusion and terror culminating in a predictable ending to a horror movie about a killer mirror.

The stories start overlapping and you see adult characters interacting with their child selves. Time and location become ambiguous. There are mirror ghosts everywhere.

The “research” one character does on the mirror is impressive. She single handedly traces the mirror’s ownership back centuries and manages to deduce all of its ghost-trick powers.

There’s this one scene where a character bites into an apple, which turns out to be a light bulb, which then turns out to actually be an apple. This sequence is the perfect embodiment of this movie; it’s one long dream within a dream within an “oh, it wasn’t a dream!” within a dream. And then someone wakes up. Within a dream. Times infinity. First there’s a ghost, then nope, it’s just a crazy person, BUT WAIT, a ghost that makes the person crazy, then a flashback, then characters displaced in time, then someone wakes up, then everyone is a ghost, then no one is… or are they? I swear this cluster-fuck was created by writers throwing darts at a board full of plot points.

Produced by WWE and yet there is not a single wrestler cameo. I was hoping Rowdy Roddy Piper would be a mirror salesman or Scott Hall would be someone’s stepdad or something. No one even gets hit with a folding chair. What a wasted opportunity.


REVIEW: Hannibal Rising (2007)


Hannibal Rising: D-

This movie will totally scare the shit out of you if you think that a killer who looks like Geroge McFly (from Back to the Future) wearing too much hair mousse is scary.

The film is rotten with ineffective storytelling (I hope you like flashbacks), ineffective characters (flat characters galore), and ineffective scares (unless you are scared by ominous smirking). However, it does one thing effectively: it sucks the life out of the Hannibal Lecter series [grotesque sucking sound, fava beans]. No surprise that Hopkins stayed away from this one.

Once upon a time, Hannibal was an ordinary un-demented 8 year old, and he was subjected to all this gruesome trauma: his loving parents are killed, his adorable sister is killed, he is terrorized by Nazis. There is cannibalism. There are even explosions!

He is a sad orphan who gets pushed around a lot and you have to watch about 30 minutes worth of it. Just start the movie like half way in; you won’t miss a thing.

40 minutes later (yes, 40), Hannibal is a McFly-ish looking 20-something and he finally kills someone! It’s not even cool either. He cuts a guy’s head off with a sword. There is no harrowing psychoanalysis or cannibalism involved. Sorry.

The rest of the movie is him hunting down the Nazis who killed his family. The end.

I don’t really get the “Rising” part of the title. What is he, a fucking soufflé? The character doesn’t “transcend” in any way. He doesn’t “rise above” any obstacles. I do have some suggestions for alternate titles based on what he does do:

  • “Hannibal Crying”
  • “Hannibal Leering”
  • “Hannibal Whining”
  • “Hannibal Using Too Much Hair Gel”

What a mess. The cover art for the film is a close-up of Hannibal wearing his famous muzzle. I think this was partially to hide the identity of the actor playing Hannibal in the movie; it’s a pretty big let-down when you realize Hopkins isn’t showing up and you are stuck with some George McFly looking asshole.