Monday, June 24, 2013

Death of a Ghost Hunter Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A skeptical ghost hunter is hired to investigate a house where brutal murders took place 20 years prior.

Review: I'm tired of saying it. You're tired of me writing it, but, yet again, so much wasted potential! This is becoming comical at this point, because it's almost as if filmmakers don't watch their own movies or lack the general understanding of how to make their film better. There were so many (like a shit load of) opportunities to make this movie not only good but outright scary. Just about every scene had a moment when they could have explored a creepy concept or made use of a setup that would have worked tremendously. I was honestly getting more scared of my vision of how this film could have been than the movie itself. Now while I may have a vivid imagination, I'd would have gladly contributed some tips to improve this bad boy into something respectable. Maybe I should work as some kind of consultant? While the potential to make a genuinely frightening film was there, I can't ignore that there were still so many bad elements hindering the chance to turn this into a decent flick.

Pretty much the moment the film begins, you will notice the shittier level of film quality, which I can mostly forgive, but fair warning. What I can't overlook so easily is the excruciatingly bad acting that plagues this film to no end. I know it can be hard to find quality actors on a low budget but come on; one of the actresses in particular is flat out unbearable. The only halfway decent actor is the main girl, Carter, and even then I think I just felt her narration of the film was what made her appear to have the slightest bit of conviction for her character. The effects are a range of acceptable to kind of good which at least showed they didn't skimp entirely where the film was meant to shine; still, it wouldn't have hurt to use some makeup effects to make the ghosts actually look scary. I also had a major gripe with the point of view/perspective and semi-documentary style presentation. Why show the movie as if it's a completed documentary when there is no cameraman filming? Then, why bounce back and fourth with a camera as if this whole movie is being filmed?! Plan this shit properly! Is this a documentary or is this a movie with narration? It's hard to explain this, but you'll notice the inconsistencies while viewing (if you chose to waste your time that is). As for the story, you'd think with a plot line as simplistic as this it would be more fleshed out, right? First, the main twist, if you will, was beyond predictable to the point of stupidity. So we see the initial murders that set the tone with the fate of a baby left undetermined. They idiotically chose to include the age of a "mysterious" character which pretty much tells us, hey, I'm the baby all grown up! Fuck. Don't even get me started on the asinine notion that the police believed the murders were not done by the mother! In fact, this plot aspect was so overlooked and nonsensical that even the film acts as if this revelation is unimportant since no one ever speculates about who the killer would have been. So you're telling me I can go on a rampage killing four people, and myself, leaving a shit ton of evidence in my wake, but because I write a note saying I don't know who did it, the police will believe me?! That's a good one, movie! And let's not forget this whole "Dexter" first cop on the scene adopt-a-baby routine. However, I did really love how the baby survived as it was clever--maybe too smart for this movie. Other details felt off like the whole deal with the guy hiring Carter was incomplete, the characters appear fake with no real background, and quite a few loose ends despite the ending's attempt to wrap things up in a nice, neat package. But more so, the ending was just plain stupid. The story should have been structured in such a way to reveal what really happened in the context of the film rather than an ambiguously possessed moron explaining everything after the film should have ended. Plus, what's with the tacked on scene of Carter dead? I was laughing at how contrived that scene was considering the fucking title itself already told us this would happen!

At this point I'd imagine you think this film must be pure shit, but hear me out for a second on why it's not pure garbage. The atmosphere would have been awesome had there been better cinematography. Too many brightly lit shots, bad angles, and a general amateurish feel to the look hurt badly to an otherwise solid setting. The house looks and feels foreboding with sheets blanketing the furniture, the picture frames turned backwards, and dim lamps seemingly the only source of light. I don't care if you used jump scares or not at this point because you can't let that kind of setup go to such a waste; absolutely none of this design plays a role or is incorporated in any shape or form to the story. You don't know how badly I wanted something to rise up from under the sheets, the sheets to move/disappear, to be in the outline of a person, or virtually any use plain and simple! Forget the subtle route of making these things background scares like having a sheet in the outline of a person, cut away, then normal...just give me anything! As for the portraits and such, I wanted them to either flip forward on their own or connect a plot twist to flipping the pictures forward and seeing something creepy. They kept zooming in on a photo of the mother that killed everyone so why not make the photo come to life or have someone/thing appear in the reflection of the photo...anything! The house was supposed to be dark, if not, pitch black, and yet it always appeared too bright. Tone it down! Have someone pop out from the shadows, have a shadow move in the background, have glowing eyes in the dark, have one of the child's toys emerge from the darkness, fuck, do something! Even at the end when the possessed idiot was lurking about, it was never scary or used properly. Damn it! Make the girl come from behind a door or under a bed if that's what it takes; you can't rip off this many movies and yet not mimic their scarier scenes! What few, barely scary, scenes they did include could have been phenomenal if done correctly with better direction; the ghost creeping out from behind the door wasn't even scary and that's as good as this film gets. Ugh, seriously, I could go on for hours about how everything could have been done differently, but, to this film's credit, at least I could feasibly do this; there are so many shitty movies out there that never have this kind of potential to blow.

Overall, this isn't a terrible movie, per se, but it's not good either. The acting sucks dick, the story is needlessly complicated when it's too dumb to be anything but straightforward, predictable, amateurish direction and presentation, and, most importantly, devoid of any scares. On the other hand, the setup and setting are good and even a little original, effects are decent, some good ideas, and a lot of potential. I don't know, supposedly the film was made in nine days so perhaps they tried to tackle more than they could handle? If this fact is true, I'll give them some credit for attempting such an undertaking, but this movie failed miserably as a result when it could have been a surprise hit in the vein of "Grave Encounters." I can't recommend this movie, but I would hope the creators learn from their mistakes and maintain the few things they did correctly. If for some reason you still feel inclined to give this one a shot, you better set your bar pretty low.

Notable Moment: Probably the scene featured on the cover with the little girl creeping out from a door. The funny thing is that they try and make it look much scarier than it really was in the movie.

Final Rating: 4/10

Thursday, June 13, 2013

V/H/S 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An anthology tale told through the eyes of private investigators watching strange videotapes.

Review: As a big fan of the first film, I had really high hopes for this followup, but, honestly, I think it was rushed out too fast and suffered due to this. The first film had an extra segment, a more focused sense of direction, better special effects, a realistic, almost, snuff film-esque vibe, and more interesting ideas. Most importantly, there was no learning from the previous mistakes. This is not to say this film is bad by any means, and, in fact, it's quite good, but it just wasn't as good as it could/should have been. With this kind of a premise, the possibilities should be limitless, yet the stories felt cliched and unoriginal for the most part. They are presented strongly enough, but they play off shock value rather than any attempts to be scary or intriguing like the first film managed to execute more successfully. However, I did really enjoy the creativity toward how to introduce individuals using cameras this time around.

The Wraparound: I should note that I greatly appreciate the attention to the wraparounds in this franchise since many anthology tales lack a guiding theme, but, eh, this was a mixed bag for me. While I loved the idea of private investigators looking into a missing kid and then stumble upon the videotape collection, there was just something amiss. Everything felt too similar to the first wraparound except minus the suspense. Not pursuing the mysterious angle set up from the last film was a mistake although there was a cameo of sorts referencing those guys. We never discovered what was the whole deal going on with the old man and tapes the last time, but here we have things play out more straightforward with a worried mom hiring the investigators. Why the kid had the tapes is not addressed nor is this ambiguous nature to what happens to an individual who watches them. Having a "person" lurking in the background in between segments was cool, but it didn't have me on edge as it easily could have; I guess because I already knew it would just be the kid they're looking for. The first film dropped the ball toward the end of their wraparound as well, but this entry decided to follow suit for whatever reason. So watching the tapes makes you a demon zombie or something? Lame. I know they could have come up with a better plot line than that. But, to be fair, closing out on the wraparound was smarter than ending it after a segment like part one did.

Segment 1: This one started off with a lot of promise and pulled off that edge of your seat approach. Unfortunately, it was not able to maintain that ambiance and veered off into stupid territory too fast. Basically, some guy receives a prototype eye prosthesis that has an internal camera. For some inexplicable reason, this prototype allows the man to see the dead around him. The early scares work well with a body outline under the covers and a little girl at the end of a hallway teleporting in front of the man. That sense of thrill dies down quickly as we are introduced to some chick that explains the same thing happened to her after she received a similar ear prosthesis and can hear ghosts. For some random reason, the two fuck pointlessly in order to not give the ghosts attention, which, apparently, fuels their ability to interact with you. Before you even have a chance to say "what the fuck" this girl is immediately killed off. Then the guy somehow gains the cojones to cut out his camera eye. However, the ghosts grab the eye and shove it down the guy's throat before the segment comes to an abrupt end. I'd say this story was trying to be subtle implying the ghosts were perhaps killed by the man in the same accident that caused him to lose his eye, but the ghosts look to be wearing seriously outdated clothes so...I don't understand the point to anything. Some decent chills, but otherwise forgettable and wasted potential.

Segment 2: It's hard to explain, but there was something so shallow about this story. Clearly they were hoping to be, somewhat, original, but it came off too comical while trying to be sentimental or something? Essentially, we are shown a zombie attack (outbreak-ish?) from the perspective of the zombies. Some guy goes biking when he stumbles across a sickly woman asking for help. After seeing some obvious zombies, he is predictably attacked by the woman and later turns into a zombie himself. All of this is great and the methodical transition from human to zombie was interesting. As I mentioned in other reviews for film's that experimented with this notion, we so rarely see the villain's perspective that it's refreshing and I applaud the attempt. The man turns others into zombies and they attack a kid's birthday party. This is where things get too comical with people trying to fight the zombies and wimping out by not killing any kids. Oh come on, I thought this franchise was supposed to be pushing the envelope?! Finally, the man sees himself as a zombie, contemplates what he has become and blows his own head off. Seriously, a sad zombie? You want to know how this should have really ended? The girlfriend he had been talking to earlier should have been at the party and it concludes with him eating her or her being forced to be the one to put him down after he munches on some kids! Don't bitch out on me here, take things up a notch! I'd say this was the weakest of the stories because it kind of goes nowhere while playing on a novelty that was not implemented to the greatest capability.

Segment 3: This is probably the best of the bunch with some really great ideas, but it tackled much more than it could handle in such a short period of time. Either more focus should have been applied to the plot, dropping the loose ends, or they should take these concepts and rework them into a full film that can explore the ideas in detail. So there is some weird cult in Indonesia that, admittedly, is as cliched as they come, but while the approach to the cult is nothing new, the presentation was key to bringing this tale to life successfully and believably. A documentary crew wants to film inside the cult's compound after speaking with their fanatical leader, but the documentary crew are wasted characters with too much drama for the 20 minute story to address thoroughly. At some point the cult members, quite literally, drink the kool-aid and poison themselves to death while others shoot those who don't follow through. The cult leader goes berserk and kills one of the documentary crew members without the others noticing because they are arguing over baby and "who's the dad" drama. We realize that this cult had been practicing some kind of satanic rituals with the implication of trying to create a demon baby since we glimpse one of the failures. The one girl that is conveniently pregnant somehow gives rise to a classical interpretation of the devil (goat head, wings, etc.) as all hell is breaking loose; the use of the air sirens was a nice touch even if overused. The dead cult members resurrect as the last documentary crew member seemingly escapes. At the end, this guy's van suddenly crashes as the devil creature crawls on the car and says "papa." The intrigue is well done with subtle hints as to what will come while not being too overt, and, overall, there's a lot going to keep the audience engaged in some way. However, the effects were a bit weak, especially on that fake ass devil, and the story would have benefitted from a tighter script.

Segment 4: The final story was another mixed bag of decent ideas that failed on the followthrough. Like the first segment, this one was great up until a certain point when everything went completely downhill in the most nonsensical of ways. The story starts off with a funny and realistic buildup from a bunch of kids hanging out at one family's home while the parents are away. The kids are having a sleepover while the oldest sister is trying to screw her boyfriend. All manner of antics and hijinks ensue as the kids play pranks on each other throughout the day and night with a lone, foreshadowing shot of a creature under the water while the kids are playing in the water. See, this slow tension with a quick glimpse at things to come works extremely well on an audience, unfortunately, that momentum goes bye bye all too soon. At one point, a camera is attached to the family's dog as we see a lot of the events from his (?) perspective; this should have been creative but in hindsight turns out to be stupid. So aliens begin to appear lurking at the doors and windows of the home as the kids all become really scared. But before any kind of genuine sense of fear or dread can be established, the kids are quickly abducted yet somehow find themselves escaping and out in the water. At first I thought maybe the abduction was over and the aliens dropped them back off but nope...somehow they merely escaped the slippery clutches of aliens with butterfingers. The aliens come off as so unbelievably stupid it is hard to fathom how a writer thought these events could transpire in any shape or form. Sometimes the aliens are crawling along trying to be creepy while other times roaming around easily being eluded by fucking children! I mean, at least two separate times the kids ditch the idiotic aliens! Through much shenanigans, the aliens finally get all the stupid kids and the film ends with them dropping the dog from the air as it obviously dies. I don't know about you, but I'm so fucking tired of pets dying off in horror movies. It's like if you even see a pet, you know it's a goner! Forget any horror cliche you think is played out, this is the most played out cliche! Stupid aliens plus sorry ass cliches equals big fat fail in my book; it's a shame too because the aliens did look pretty good and the kids felt realistic.

Okay, so the worst story in the first film was worse than all of these tales, but the best story from the original was significantly better than all of these. More so, the first film had a better balance with a blend of various supernatural, paranormal, and straightforward segments. In fact, the most memorable tale from the first one was about regular people and felt so disturbing because it genuinely appeared as though it could happen to anyone. This film lacked that kind of long lasting fear or pretty much any deeper insights left to be drawn. On the other hand, the stories are interesting and mostly entertaining while maintaining a good level of pacing, acting, and directing--good, but not great. I would love it if they continued on with this series since there's endless potential, but I would hope they take their time and try not to rush the next one or at least coordinate the stories better to keep things more well rounded; the quality definitely was not on par with the first film. Hell, if they want to have a little fun, make "The Ring" be one of the tapes in the third installment as like a split-second shot! Overall, this is good movie, but it is like the polar opposite from the kind of tales in the first film. For some, you might even enjoy this film more if these are the kind of stories more your style; so check it out since it was released a little early.

Notable Moment: During the alien abduction segment when the kids lock one of their friends in a dog cage and spray him with silly string. I liked the overall sense of comradery between the friends and it felt real which is not the easiest thing to portray in fiction.

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scream 4 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: 15 years after the original Woodsboro massacre, Sid returns home to promote a book when she is, yet again, targeted by a masked killer.

Review: When this movie was first announced, I was incredibly skeptical of what the quality would be like after all the time since three came out in 2000. What was worse was that the rumors at the time indicated that the story would have nothing to do with Sidney; this is ludicrous since the ghostface killer would still be there. Thankfully, through much prodding, the original cast of survivors, save for Patrick "Mcdreamy" Dempsey, returned to reprise their roles; that son of a bitch should have been the killer or at least killed off in the first scene or something! I don't understand why "Scream 4" was not very successful especially in comparison to the other entries. Not only is this film just as good as part two and three, but it was able to satirize the current wave of shitty horror remakes that have been coming out (of someone's ass) in recent years. "But Ryan, you say "The Ring" is one of the best horror movies ever." Yeah, well, there are exceptions to the rule, and it was one of the rare few to arguably succeed at it's purpose: surpass the original. Anyway, let's examine why audiences weren't interested any longer and why I feel they're wrong.

One of the biggest problems, right out the gate, is the fact that this film even exists; I seem to recall a certain conversation about this being a "trilogy." A lot of people did not care for "Scream 3" so I think they figured why waste their time with an unplanned fourth entry over a decade later. As an extension of this idea is the fact that the original fanbase of the franchise has "grown up" so to speak. This is a sequel for a new generation, as they advertise, that knows nothing about these beloved characters. It's kind of ironic because the age group this film is targeting doesn't have the working knowledge of the genre like '80s kids had regarding the tired slasher formula by the time the '90s rolled around. This is also the era of remakes, ripoffs, sequels, prequels, adaptations, based on (fake) real life, etc. so I think this film's statement was sorely missed because it falls into the same category of the films it's satirizing; this can be summed up poetically by Sid with the line, "Don't fuck with the original!" The other major gripe is in regards to the ending and the identity of the killers. For one, Sid, Gale and Dewey all surviving frustrates me to no end. Sid has really grown on me over the years, but for the love of god let Gale or Dewey finally die. I want to feel on edge again, and if no main character dies you don't feel as though the stakes are high. As for the two killers, Charlie and Jill, they come off as wannabes of the past killers. Charlie is part Mickey with a little Stu, and Jill is pretty much a straight Roman copy with a slight tweak to the motive with emphasis on fame rather than pure jealousy. While I can appreciate the degree of insanity Jill possessed, being, maybe, the craziest of all the killers, but I was expecting some kind of reasoning we wouldn't anticipate. Charlie is a complete waste because all we know about him is that he was manipulated by Jill as a makeshift love interest. Likewise, this whole notion of filming the killings to "make the movie" is not explored properly. It was a creative idea and the logical next step, but this story line seems to drift off to oblivion at some point. It's hard to explain, but there was a certain level of oomph missing from the final act. Lastly, this franchise has been known for its soundtracks that set the tone including the fan favorite song, "Red Right Hand," which was nowhere to be heard. Generic "scary" music doesn't quite cut it for a series that has billed itself as "hip and clever."

Okay, with all of that said, this film presents plenty of strong points that make it a worthy followup in this franchise. The opening scene is brilliant in its simplicity since it toys with the audience's expectations while delivering a unique experience. Joking that the "Stab" franchise was up to part 7 and involved time travel was a clever shot. As I addressed, the satire is actually more on par with the first "Scream" rather than the sequels because it really hammers in the depressing state of horror, especially in regards to slashers. It's not to say there aren't great horror movies still, but the mainstream shit has sucked for a long time now with rare glimpses of hope. To help express these themes thoroughly, we are introduced to some really fun and interesting new characters. I especially loved Kirby, played by the lovely Hayden Panettiere, who is a horror buff and a funny one on top of that. I like to believe Kirby survived since she was still alive when Charlie left her, but the reporters did express only Jill had lived. Robbie was another likable character with one of the more memorable deaths, and Judy makes for a strong red herring while simultaneously becoming a welcomed survivor. Although she was a throwaway victim, the buxom Alison Brie, as Sid's publicist, is always appreciated! The returning cast all do a great job showing us that they "still have it." Sid writing and promoting a book about her life while visiting Woodsboro was a creative way to bring all the characters together after such a long hiatus. Even some of ghostface's conversations were among the best in this series.

You know, it really sucks that this film wasn't a bigger hit because now I doubt we will ever see a part five; but you never know, a part four had been rumored since 2000 and look how long it took. As I mentioned with "Scream 2," the consistency in quality from this franchise is one of the strongest points to keep watching each entry. Everything that worked in the past installments worked well this time around while bringing some new aspects to the table; it stays true to the core story elements while approaching the genre's current shenanigans intelligently. While it's not perfect, this film is a highly satisfying update to a franchise that never fails to keep you engaged with the story and its characters. If you're a big fan of this franchise, especially from the beginning like me, then this one most definitely won't disappoint. Maybe have a movie-marathon one day and watch all four back to back for the best judgement of the films.

Notable Moment: Although the opening scene is a great contender, the best scene is probably when Kirby is trying to answer the killer's question about a horror remake and she runs through the ridiculous amount of remakes there have been in recent years. I know this scene can come off comical, if not, over the top, but it hits home with just how unoriginal ideas in Hollywood have been for a long time now.

Final Rating: 7/10

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Scream 3 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A new masked killer targets the cast of the upcoming "Stab 3" movie in an attempt to lure Sid out of seclusion.

Review: I have never understood the animosity against this entry except that people wanted more from, what they believed, was the final installment. I can understand those sentiments, but I think this film offered just as much as "Scream 2" while touching on new themes. It is worth mentioning that the creation of the first two entries in this franchise were mostly uneventful, but the production of "Scream 3" was plagued with all manner of problems. There was a major disconnect between the direction the studio wanted to take the film versus the writer's and director, Wes Craven's, vision of the concluding chapter. The script had been reworked at least once and completely overhauled at one point, the studio wanted to tone down the violence like little bitches, and they were ardently in favor of pushing a more conventional story style with heavy focus on the satire rather than the blend with violence of the past entries. With all these things, and more, considered, "Scream 3" gets a much worse wrap than it deserves while its positive aspects are severely overlooked.

Let's focus on what worked this time around. This was the only entry in the franchise that had any scene even remotely scary through the use of Sid's mom appearing as a ghost. While these scenes aren't exactly terrifying, the attempt was much appreciated. The use of Hollywood as the setting, while not the most original, was a welcomed transition of taking the characters farther each time; though, I can see why this may come off as over the top. Although this is technically a retread into the movie within a movie concept, "Scream 2" only loosely examined the idea while this film uses it as the central theme. It goes a step further satirizing the filming process, how studios, actors, and directors can be, and a general sense of how heartless and shallow Hollywood is; some of the best parts of this film are those that make light of Hollywood and the shenanigans accompanied to the genre. Also, the revelation that Gale was meant to be the killer in "Stab 3" was great! Unlike the first two films, this killer had a real plan and is more concise in following through with said plan. If you actually take a hard look at the deaths, the killer's only goal was to get to Sid, since she's in seclusion, and kill her rather than dicking around like the other killers all implemented. To explain it properly: he kills Cotton and his girlfriend because they won't reveal Sid's location. Realizing he can't find Sid's whereabouts, Sarah is killed to shut down the movie in order to gather everyone together. He only kills Stone because he won't stay in the house when he intends to blow everyone up at once. When the explosion fails to kill Dewey and Gale, he goes after them because he needs them dead to lure out Sid. Once Sid does take the bait, the killer once again concocts a plan to get them all together to kill everyone at once. The killer even intended to blame Sid, of all people, for the killings! Starting to get the idea here? Compare that to Billy and Stu killing randomly just to pass blame off on Sid's dad or Mrs. Loomis and her roundabout way of getting revenge on Sid! This calculated approach worked more realistically for me and they still managed to follow the same formula from the other films. Lastly, the backstory on Sid's mom worked as a way to approach this whole "trilogy" notion. The killer's motive was probably the best and most realistic of the bunch despite its haphazard presentation and asinine connection. The motive being personal also felt like a more satisfying note to end the franchise on rather than the intended ending to have Sid as the leader of a cult or some bullshit like that. You might have noticed I only refer to the killer as singular which was a decent twist since most were expecting there to be two, or even three, killers. Learning that this killer set everything into motion from the beginning brings the story full circle emphasizing this idea that it's personal and, as such, comes off more satisfying.

Okay, so now let's address where this movie went wrong. Obviously toning down the violence in favor of increased comedic moments is moronic and for such "pc" reasons at the time. Thankfully, the use of cameos by "Jay and Silent Bob" or mild jokes don't bother me as much as it apparently bothered quite a few fans. The opening, while still good, was not on par with the first two films and the death of Cotton hardly made me feel as though Gale, Dewey, or Sid were in any real danger. Now had it opened with Gale or Dewey dying, we might all be viewing this entry much differently. The killer being "superhuman" was dumb and contrived since this was emphasized too many times. Had he been shot once and it was revealed he had a bulletproof vest, that might have been fine, but it happened too many times. Plus, that's not how a bulletproof vest works but okay. The return of Randy through videotape was too contrived, forced, and stupid. I love Randy, don't get me wrong, but it felt so out of place and none of what he says has any relevance to the plot except as a means to get the characters to focus more on why the killer is doing what he's doing...which they should have already been doing! Speaking of which, Roman being revealed as the killer could have been done so much better. I know I just got done praising it, but it's not the motive that is the problem, it's just him being such a whiny bitch boy that felt lame. In fact, this idea that he's "directing" the killings and that he had no idea things would turn out the way they did was cool, but the sibling route felt like the kind of "I'm all outta ideas" approach that shit like Freddy, Jason, and "Halloween" all went in! Plus, Roman seemingly dying only to come back had already been done! Why on earth would you rely on the same trick twice? These idiotic choices are why I think so many people were left feeling disappointed with what should have been the best unmasking; I suppose at least the buildup was decent. Not killing off Sid, Gale, or Dewey by the end felt like a cheat as well since it felt as though one of them should have gone bye bye. And, finally, the last scene is embarrassingly stupid. So Sid's door opens on its own and she smiles and walks away?! What? That's not even a normal reaction.

Overall, I can see this being more of a mixed bag for people, but it feels just as good as part two for me. It suffered from its own set of problems that the other films didn't, but it presented plenty of ideas better than the other films. Roman was easily the smartest killer of the bunch and if we believe he influenced Billy, then it makes him even more of a mastermind. The other reason I liked Roman so much compared to the rest is because he acted alone unlike the others that needed help. The intrigue and mystery are good and the satire is nowhere near as comedic as some critics describe. This film makes for a worthy conclusion to the franchise, but, for better or worse, the franchise continues. So check it out, and, maybe if you're an individual who hated this entry, watch it with the commentary on to gain a better perspective.

Notable Moment: I liked the part when Sid is wandering around the "Stab 3" set, and, while reminiscing, she is attacked by the killer. The use of the stage designs were fun since Sid was trying to escape as if it were her real house.

Final Rating: 7/10

Scream 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: As Sid tries to move on with her life at college she finds herself being pursued once again by a masked killer.

Review: Taking place two years after the events of the first film (less than one year in reality), this entry offers pretty much everything that was good about the original, but there's just something about it that feels weaker. To be fair, the Randy character even remarks that "by definition alone, sequels are inferior films." It's tough to explain because there are moments that are better than the original and it applies the same formula that worked so spectacularly the first time around, but there are more contrivances, less mystery, and a lame twist that holds it down; my expectations may have been a little too high as well back in '97. It's definitely worth noting that the original script, while mostly identical to the theatrical version, was altered after leaks on the internet; this was something of a new concept in those days.

I'll start with what they did right and even the improvements. First, the opening, as classic as the original's was, is outdone by "Scream 2"'s death at the cinema sequence. The two victims, both black, serve as more satire of the genre with how black people often die first in horror films (which is a huge misconception by the way) and are not represented properly. The two characters do bring up some poignant facts and they are funny which enhanced the buildup to their deaths. At the same time, these two characters, Phil and Maureen, are watching a movie based on the events of the first film called "Stab," and we're shown an over the top exaggeration to how audiences behave while at the movie theater. In case you couldn't tell by now, I'm a sucker for the movie within a movie concept so this was a nice touch especially given the actors cast in "Stab;" there was a certain level of attention to detail that goes a long way for fans. Now at college, we are once again introduced to the returning survivors from part one and treated to each character's reaction to nearly being killed. Now Sid has caller-ID, Gale is more of a bitch, Dewey tries to be tougher, and Randy wants to pretend it never happened. Addressing the character interactions was a strong point and starting off with a debate on the quality of sequels was an interesting way to set the tone; in fact, debating the quality of sequels becomes a reoccurring theme throughout the film and this leads to some great introspection of film in general. The suspense and the intrigue regarding the killer's identity are increased as there are even more suspects and bigger red herrings. To the film's credit, I had even been convinced that some of the original survivors could still possibly be the killer (looking at you Gale!). Frequently, our expectations are toyed with to the point of playing off our understanding of the first film which makes sure things never get boring. Lastly, while I did not want Randy to die, you have to admit, it was shocking and placing this death at the midway point emphasizes the possibility that more main characters could die by the end; this was a highly successful means of building tension.

A big problem with this film is the increased amount of contrivances. "Scream" had its fair share, no doubt about that, but this time they were more glaringly obvious and annoying. Phil being killed in the bathroom starts off a chain of implausible moments that are extremely farfetched. Sid being attacked during the play rehearsal and the killer escaping? Sid going back to the stage at the end of the film? Gale not knowing what Mrs. Loomis looks like?! The events of the film feel too forced. Even some of the little details feel stupid such as Dewey having his own idiotic theme music and everyone using "bigger" words because it's college (just listen to the dialogue from people like Derek!). One important factor that I did not like was the blatant realization that there were two killers right from the start; this is apparent by the second killing (Cici), when we see the killer sneak into a sorority while he's still talking on the phone. Sure, it creates more speculation, but as the suspects are narrowed down, you pretty much knew who at least one killer was too early. Speaking of these two goofball killers, they're probably the most forgettable of the franchise. First we have Mickey with his motive to "blame the movies" during his trial as he plans to be intentionally caught. Then the lame twist that some background reporter is actually Billy's mom seeking revenge against Sid in the most ridiculous manner. If that weren't bad enough, Mickey dies so quick we hardly had a grasp on his character other than he's obsessed with movies. Mrs. Loomis, on the other hand, was weak, unbelievable, and her motive didn't jive with the tone of the film. In case you're wondering, the original killers were meant to be Derek and Hallie. Finally, the conclusion felt lackluster with Cotton receiving all the praise, Dewey miraculously surviving...again, and Sid casually walking off into the sunset.

I will say this, my view on the rest of the franchise is that they each remain consistently on par with this entry. They strive to be as good as the original, but they fall short for various reasons, and they are, by no means, bad movies. This entry brought great satire and addressed many issues with sequels and especially how they pertain to the horror genre. The acting, pacing, and story are good but not great. Had there been fewer contrivances and a better approach to the killers, this could have equalled or surpassed the original. As it stands, this film is a worthy followup and a great film in its own right. I know many believe this is the second best in the franchise, but eh. Definitely check this one out and you should be watching the whole franchise for that matter!

Notable Moment: When we see Tori Spelling playing Sid in "Stab" just as they joked in passing during the first film. Such hilarious attention to detail.

Final Rating: 7/10

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Scream Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A masked killer targets teens in a small town following the anniversary of a woman's brutal murder.

Review: There was actually a really shitty horror movie made in the '80s also called "Scream," but let's just pretend that one doesn't exist. Oh who am I kidding, nobody remembers that piece of shit! Let's talk about the "Scream" film and franchise we all know and love! By now, I think everyone has watched this movie directly or indirectly through the numerous parodies; still nowhere near "Paranormal Activity's" quantity of unfunny parodies though. I have often read many people criticizing the comedy elements of this franchise, but they seem to confuse comedy with satire. It's not that what the characters are saying or the events that transpire are inherently meant to be funny, but it's because the audience understood the cliches and tired formula horror films had been implementing up to that point. And damn it, by '96, the formula was, indeed, tired as all hell, the major franchises were all but dead, and new ideas were clearly running dry. Now, some have said this movie reinvigorated the horror genre and made it likable again, but I would only go as far to say it revitalized the slasher sub-genre substantially. Horror is still not where I would like it to be despite its vast improvements to acting, style, and direction. Sure, films like "The Ring" come along and give the genre a much needed boost of energy followed by many ripoffs in the same vein. But there has yet to be a film that truly represented horror and inspired new ideas rather than wannabes; that's what is really key here. The "Scream" franchise has always taken everything we thought we knew to expect from a slasher and flip it on its head while simultaneously toying with audience's expectations accompanied by subtle jokes, nuances, details, and homages that only more veteran horror fans will understand and appreciate.

Directed by Wes Craven, best known for the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street," you knew this film would bring something new to the table since Mr. Craven usually delivers something unique. The story is the ultimate sendup to '80s slashers while combining a, then, more modern outlook to incorporate what worked in the past while satirizing what didn't work and even occasionally including these elements in an ironic way. The movie begins with one of the most iconic and quoted scenes in horror history as Drew Barrymore's character discusses the horror genre elaborately in a creepy phone call; thus, was born the infamous line, "What's your favorite scary movie?" As it would turn out, Ms. Barrymore is killed off, along with her boyfriend, in the first 15 minutes or so by a masked killer who would later be referred to as "Ghostface." It doesn't seem as crazy now except as shock value, but back then this confused audiences, because, not only was Ms. Barrymore the biggest named actor in the film, but she was featured predominantly in advertisements leading many to believe she was the main character. Her death threw audiences off immediately setting a strong tone for the events that would unfold.

Our actual lead would turn out to be the notorious Sidney Prescott, played well by Neve Campbell. Sid's boyfriend, Billy, is introduced not long after and presented as the epitome of red herrings. As word of two murders spreads around the tiny town of Woodsboro, we are introduced to Sid's various friends otherwise known as the suspects. After all, half the fun of this kind of slasher is trying to figure out which character will be the killer, and this film succeeds well with creating speculation and suspicion. We also learn a reporter, named Gale Weathers, played by Courteney Cox, believes these killings are related to Sid's mother that was murdered a year earlier under mysterious circumstances. Later that night, Sid finds herself the next target of the masked killer as she narrowly escapes death only to stumble upon Billy looking extra suspicious. We are then introduced to Dewey, the dumbest cop in the world, played by David Arquette. For me, I always wanted Dewey to be the killer because he's even more suspicious than Billy! His motive could have been something like he was in love with Sid since he did know her for a long time. Oh well. With Billy cleared, and after some shenanigans, school is cancelled and a curfew is issued for Woodsboro. Because of this, one of Sid's friends, Stu, played awesomely by Mathew Lillard, decides to throw a party whereby they convince Sid she will be safer with friends as her dad is away on business. Another friend and fan favorite, Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, has a hilarious rant at a video store about why he believes Billy is the killer, followed by the infamous delivery of the "rules of a horror movie" during Stu's party; all of this is accentuated by the original "Halloween" playing in the background. After more people are "sliced and diced," Sid finds herself pursued by the killer after red herring Billy is seemingly killed. For some reason, Sid returns to Stu's house after narrowly escaping where she finds that Dewey and Gale are both seemingly dead. As it stands, the only people left are Sid, Randy, and Stu when Billy emerges very much alive. Having faked his injuries, Billy shoots Randy and as Sid runs, she is stopped by Stu who is working with Billy. This was one of the great moments of this franchise because not only does the red herring finally turn out to be the killer, but we are really thrown a curveball with a second killer. No one could have seen that coming, and if you swear you did, then you are a liar. The reason why Billy is killing everyone is to celebrate the anniversary of when the two killed Sid's mother because Sid's mom was sleeping with Billy's dad and broke up their family. Uh, okay, but why blame Sid? Stu, while hilarious, doesn't have much of a motive except that he's crazy and the two have watched too many scary movies. It did suck the motives were paper thin, but it was even dumber when Billy and Stu stab each other in preparation to blame Sid's dad for the killings and claim to have been left for dead. Gale, alive, attempts to shoot the two but does not know how to use a gun properly and is knocked out. Sid uses this opportunity to hide and taunt the killers. After a scuffle with Billy, she then fights Stu who is killed by a TV slammed on his head. Billy is about to kill Sid when Gale does manage to shoot him followed by Sid finishing Billy off with a shot to the head. The movie ends with the revelation that Dewey survived as well as Randy. Eh, the ending probably has the majority of my gripes for this film, but, as a whole, these are the best and most memorable killers in the franchise.

Needless to say, this was one of the most influential films to the horror genre in recent years. Hell, even I dressed up as ghostface for Halloween one year! This is a prime example of how experimenting with a new horror formula can produce cinema gold. The pacing, mystery and intrigue, music, imagery, story, and action were all superb. There are so many great moments it is no wonder they had sequels plotted almost immediately. This film embodies all that was endearing in the '80s while adding a clever update that resonated with the audience personally. This was more than merely another horror movie, it was a film that played specifically to the audience and understood what they'd be thinking and feeling during the progression of the story. It's not to say there weren't errors made along the way as there are some serious flaws with the killers' motives, some major contrivances, a few bouts of questionable acting, and virtually no scares to be had. With that said, this is about as successful as a slasher can ever hope to be and the creators should be proud. If for some strange reason you haven't watched this film, seriously, get off your ass and watch it even if for the sheer knowledge on pop culture references. Besides, everyone should be able to understand and answer the question, "What's your favorite scary movie?" even if your name isn't Sidney!

Notable Moment: Although the opening scene is iconic, I have to go with when the principal hears someone knocking on his door and goes out in the hallway cursing. This is followed by a quick shot of Wes Craven himself dressed up as Freddy Krueger and even the principal calls him "Fred." Let's also not forget that the principal is none other than the Fonz!

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Miracle Beach Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a guy loses his job, home, and girlfriend, he unwittingly comes across a genie's lamp which leads to the pursuit of the woman of his dreams.

Review: I'm well aware of how porno-riffic this film probably looks (could have worked as one too!), but it's much more innocent than it would seem. In actuality, it's a romantic comedy, of sorts, which is typically the last kind of film I'd watch, but I have a soft spot for this little film; also, I'm a sucker for genie-themed films and the fantasy elements work surprisingly well with a unique take on the lore. I should probably note my love for genie-themed movies is so great it led me to be one of the few people dumb enough to watch "Kazaam" at the cinema (not one of my prouder moments). Anyway, although this movie does have a decent amount of gratuitous nudity, the original VHS version had all of these scenes removed while one of the pay channels played the unedited version. I saw both when I was young, as it would turn out, but only recently discovered this film finally had been put out on a medium beyond VHS tape. I probably hadn't watched this movie in 15 years or so, but it held up about on the level I expected. My biggest concern was whether my image of the genie character, Jeannie, would live up to my memory of her since she was yet another one of my childhood crushes. I'm pleased to say that, not only does the actress, Ami Dolenz, look just as stunning as I remember, but she's even more beautiful than I recalled and oh so sexy! Plus, there's this scene when she's in a bikini! My goodness, she's my 90's dream girl right there! But to be fair, this movie is loaded with beach babes and scattered hotties galore although none can hold a candle to Ms. Dolenz.

As you might guess, the story is not all that complicated as it follows an average and carefree guy named Scotty who is down on his luck. When Scotty comes home early from work one day, he discovers his boss is banging his girlfriend who dumps him, followed by the boss firing him, and his landlord coming in with the commotion and evicting Scotty. At this precise moment, our beloved genie, Jeannie, finds herself under a new assignment to go to Earth. It is implied that all the imaginary beings of various, worldwide folklore exist in some different plane of existence and are told when to make appearances by some kind of elf guy. A lot of this is glossed over, so try not to think too hard about it. Jeannie is annoyed with humanity because she believes they're all selfish, but she is told she will be locked in her lamp forever if she screws this up. Scotty gathers his two goofball, beach bum friends, Soup and Lars, as they crash some random party. To Scotty's disbelief, the woman of his dreams, Dana, played by the sexy Felicity Waterman (the girl on the movie poster), who Scotty had seen in commercials is also at this party. Once she ditches Scotty, he finds himself drunk on the beach where he meets a homeless man, named Gus, played by Pat Morita of all people. Gus gives Scotty the lamp he had found on the beach earlier, and, in his drunken stupor, Scotty makes his first wish. Because this movie is ridiculous, Scotty immediately believes in the magic lamp after his first wish, to be in a nice bed with two chicks, comes true. As Jeannie emerges from her lamp, she explains to Scotty that she must grant his every wish which is much different than the "3 wishes" notion we're all familiar with but the typical rules remain intact; lucky for Scotty because his first two wishes sucked. It's never quite clear what is the point to this "assignment," but it's my own personal understanding that having infinite wishes was meant to see how long until Scotty would feel satisfied and stop making wishes and judge humanity's worthiness on Scotty's actions...or maybe I'm adding too much depth. Scotty conveniently sees Dana and uses a wish to try and impress her with volleyball skills which turns out to be the highlight scene of the film. I have to say though, no sane man is going to give two shits about Dana, no matter how hot, after a genie looking like Ms. Dolenz is hanging all over you! Jeannie is incredibly kind, sexy, and has this adorable innocence to her even if bordering on naivety. And she has powers to boot--oh come on dude! After allowing his friends to use Jeannie to grant their wishes, Scotty then hires Gus to work for him since Gus doesn't want any wishes. Scotty then dedicates all of his focus to wooing over Dana who is an obvious bitch. Even though it happens far too fast and easily, Jeannie begins to fall in love with Scotty due to his generosity in wishes and his pursuit not just for a hot chick but for real love, something Jeannie doesn't believe Dana will reciprocate. After all manner of asinine wishes that truly highlight the simplicity of the 90s, Jeannie tries to win Scotty over and even sabotages a moment when he and Dana try to have sex after Scotty has rejected Dana many times at Jeannie's behest. Eventually elf guy learns of Jeannie's misuse of power, and, after a fight with Scotty, it is decided she will be locked away in her lamp once the day ends at midnight. Attempting to give it another go with Dana, Scotty realizes he does, in fact, love Jeannie and learns she will be gone at midnight. With only seconds to spare, which is probably the single dumbest part of the film, Scotty does confess his love for Jeannie which, for some reason, turns her human and changes all of her wishes back to how things were before. It is revealed Gus really was elf guy as he watches Jeannie and Scotty walk off into the sunset in as cliched of an ending imaginable.

What works most for this film is the surprisingly well paced scenes, never focusing too much time on a joke while applying a more subtle approach, plenty of fan service with topless and scantily clad girls, decent effects, and, of course, Ms. Dolenz herself as the single best reason to watch. For the most part, I do really like this movie, but I can't ignore the lack of substance, shaky acting, cliched romance and plot elements, misguided direction, bad music, and general sense of pointlessness. At the same time, this was a made for video film during the heyday of rental stores, so you can't really expect too much, and, even then, the quality of the film, with somewhat recognizable actors, is respectable for the budget I'd imagine they were working with. I don't think modern audiences would enjoy this film, but if you're like me and saw this movie way back when or can appreciate the 1992 setting, then check this one out as maybe a date movie.

Notable Moment: When Scotty challenges a bunch of pretty boys (including Dean Cain in an early role) to a game of volleyball. The best part about it is that Scotty's partner is some hotdog vendor, while not exactly fit, contributes nicely to the victory once Scotty wishes to be the best player in the world.

Final Rating: 6/10

I couldn't find a good photo of Ms. Dolenz in her full genie outfit without someone else in the photo unfortunately.

But, to give you an idea just how smokin' hot Ms. Dolenz was, here she is out of the outfit!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Deadball Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A guy with an extraordinary ability for pitching is put in a juvenile detention center where he must fight for his life in a baseball game to the death.

Review: Let me preface by saying that this is a re-imagining/retelling of sorts to an earlier film named "Battlefield Baseball" by the same director, but I never saw that so I'll avoid comparisons. This is one of those comedic, over the top splatterfest films in a similar vein as "The Machine Girl" among many others. Typically I'm not that big of a fan of these types of films, but, while this film didn't have the ridiculously sexy Minase Yashiro to carry it, it has its own means to entice viewers. For me, the main draw was just how surprisingly funny it is. Considering how stupid this movie starts out, I had little hope or expectations, but I was really wrong. I was laughing out loud pretty hard by the end which is saying something from me. I also felt as though the action, violence, and turn of events were done well, and, of course, there are nine lovely ladies to enthrall the senses! Oh, they knew their target audience, that's for sure!

Like I said, the story starts off dumb with a father and his two sons playing catch. Our main character, Jubeh (played hilariously by Tak Sakaguchi), throws a powerful fastball that launches him into orbit and come down like a meteor inadvertently killing his father. This comes maybe two minutes into the movie, looks so terrible, and seriously lowered the bar on what to expect, but hang in there. Years later, Jubeh goes on a massive killing spree and yet still ends up at a juvenile detention center because he's underage. I should note that almost all the characters are meant to be teens but all the actors are in their 20s and 30s (obviously too) which enhances the outlandish nature of it all. Jubeh is a caricature of Japanese tough/cool guys right down to his wannabe gunslinger attire and his uncanny ability to pull cigarettes out of thin air. In the oddest of choices, Jubeh's roommate, Shinosuke, who is supposed to be a boy, is played by Mari Hoshino. I actually indirectly mentioned Ms. Hoshino in my review of "Infection" as one of the better looking nurses. Although you can tell it's a girl, they did a decent job downplaying her delicate features. The warden tells Jubeh that his brother, Musashi, had been an inmate there and died and so Jubeh should take his place amongst the baseball team. The warden quite proudly displays her nazi admiration since apparently her family were collaborators in WWII; it sounds worse than it is, but I can easily understand how this may turn off some viewers since this becomes an ongoing gag.

Reluctantly, Jubeh joins the baseball team, and we meet the humorous lineup of goofballs that comprise the teammates besides Shinosuke. Each teammate serves as a mockery of various pop culture icons like a guy named "Abatar" (might have a double meaning since I believe Japanese people have trouble saying the letter V) with his jersey number "3-D" or a guy with a baseball stuck in his head, appropriately named "Eyeball." I really loved this cast of idiots, and they run with their characters even if most are wasted. Once the warden sets the stage with her added crew of nazis, which I think are played by English actors (not too sure about that one), the team realizes that there's more to this than a friendly game. After an awesome introduction, Jubeh and crew are up against the Saint Black Dahlia High School for girls which is comprised of sexy murderers; they do not disappoint in their presentation that's for sure! Unfortunately, only two really get much screen time: the leader, Poison Ivy, and a girl nicknamed "Blind" but it's okay because they were the two best. Also, I have no clue what their real names are because the credits listed their names but not who played who! Anyway, the nazis make note of the whole "Japanese schoolgirl" notion as it has been played out endlessly (although you can't go wrong with the classics!). The banter between the two teams is one of the highlights like when Poison Ivy is trying to give Blind hand signals with no response and she says, "What's the blind bitch's problem?" Or how easily "Ratman" is dispensed with.

It goes without saying the violence is over the top bloody with increasingly unrealistic means to which each character is killed. After faking his death, Jubeh manages to take out most of the nazis and the warden's various henchmen. By the end, only Shinosuke is left standing from Jubeh's team as the warden unleashes her secret weapon, a robotic version of Musashi who is somewhat alive after all. Musashi makes swiss cheese out of my lovely ladies, the announcer, some parody version of J-pop idols, and the umpire as Jubeh finally kills the warden. Musashi's look is great because he's supposed to be some mechanical killing machine but then just has tiny human legs. Jubeh eventually unleashes his super pitch that he performed at the beginning of the film to destroy Musashi. Somehow Jubeh and Shinosuke end up in North Korea with a hilarious spoof of the country as Jubeh learns some gay governor set him up that we met at the beginning of the film. The ending is that Jubeh throws some crazy pitch that kills the governor and his crew of flunkies.

I was really surprised by how much I liked this movie. It's not as straightforward as "The Machine Girl" but nowhere near as convoluted as the likes of "Tokyo Gore Police." And unlike similar films, "Deadball" is much more comedic with genuine laughs with good gags and setpieces. If you liked either of those movies, or love this sub-genre in general, then you should enjoy this just the same. I definitely recommend this one, but if you hate these kind of movies, and especially if you couldn't appreciate the superior "The Machine Girl," then this should be an easy pass.

Notable Moment: There are a lot of funny parts like Shinosuke's rant about all their crimes, but I think all of those moments are overshadowed by the introduction of the Saint Black Dahlia High School team of psychotic and murderous girls. It would have benefitted from better lighting, but the ladies clearly stole the show.

Final Rating: 7/10

The sexy murderers of Saint Black Dahlia High School!

My favorite of the bunch and the leader, Poison Ivy:

House (aka Hausu) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl and her friends visit the girl's estranged aunt at a mysterious mansion only to encounter all manner of zany antics.

Review: This is not to be confused with that other horror movie named "House" from '86 or that show about a doctor. First off, wow! Second, this is one of those movies that is extremely difficult to explain and needs to be experienced to fully understand the hijinks involved. I've read many reviews that seem to think this film seems '80s-ish which is hard for me to fathom. Make no mistake, this is about as '70s as you can get with the colors, clothes, and the mindless oddity to the music. In fact, this is such a perfect example of the cliches and shenanigans that occurred often in '70s film making that it crosses into a self-mockery state of being. But to simply label this film as a byproduct of the '70s is not doing it enough justice as it has its own distinct style and the most unusual means of presenting said style. 

While you may find yourself wondering fairly early on what the hell is going on, the story is much less complicated than it appears. Basically, a rich girl, named Angel, had plans to stay with her father for the summer while her friends planned to hang out with some teacher they like. But Angel learns that her father remarried while he was away on business and wants Angel to spend more time with the stepmother. Because Angel wants to be a baby about it, she concocts a plan to spend the summer with her aunt that she only met once. Coincidentally enough, Angel's teacher's plans fall through as well leaving the girls with nothing else to do but to join Angel in her visit to the aunt; the aunt lives in the middle of nowhere in a reclusive mansion. I should mention the seven girls refer to each other by an easy to remember nickname that semi-describes the personality of the character simultaneously. The crew consists of: Angel, Fantasy, Kung-fu, Professor, Melody, Mac, and Sweetie; Kung-Fu is my favorite but Fantasy is the best looking! When the girls arrive, they are, at first, in awe of the home and how casual the aunt appears to be until members of their crew begin to disappear. Apparently the house is "eating" them in a way and as such gradually restores the youth and strength of the aunt. With most of the girls dead, Professor figures out, through use of the aunt's diary, that she is a ghost of sorts stuck in the house waiting for her fiance to return back from WWII even though he's dead. Also, the main thing grounding her in reality is apparently some cat which Kung-Fu destroys a painting of the little kitty seemingly saving the day. But before the magic can be broken, Professor is eaten, somehow restoring the aunt's power and the kitty. Finally, with all the girls dead, the stepmother shows up looking for Angel only to stumble upon the aunt who now looks like Angel. The film ends implying that the stepmother will be eaten last.

While I may have simplified things quite a bit, few words can properly address the insanity of how these events unfold. Scenes jump all over the place with various shitty special effects or sometimes kind of innovative visuals. The means in which the girls die is by inanimate objects of the house devouring the girls mostly offscreen. For example, Melody is eaten by a piano which is especially memorable as well as Sweetie being eaten by pillows. Every opportunity to create impossibly ridiculous scenarios is exploited here as with Kung-Fu having her own mini-theme music as she fights, a guy turning into a pile of bananas, the stepmother perpetually having her hair blow in the wind, obvious and repeated painted murals for backgrounds, crazy jump cuts, and a sort of offbeat humor that you will either appreciate or it will go right over your head. Even saying all of that, I've hardly scratched the surface; whatever expectations you have going into this film will hardly prepare you for what you will see. Lastly, there is a certain degree of misplaced nudity that only further emphasizes that '70s vibe.

Ugh, what a mess...but in a kind of entertaining way. I really could not go into the detail I'd like because there's too much and each scene would require too much setup. You really need to just watch this for yourself. But at the same time, the acting is bad, nothing makes much sense, and when I say it embodies a lot of the '70s, I don't mean the good aspects! So, it's kind of hard for me to recommend this except as a one time shot just to see what all the fuss is about. I'll say this, whether you like it or not, you won't easily forget this film that's for sure!

Notable Moment: When Melody is eaten by the piano in one of the most ridiculous sequences ever put to film.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Face (Korean 2004) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A facial reconstruction expert is haunted by a victim's ghost that wishes him to complete his work in catching a serial killer.

Review: I remember seeing the trailer for this film when it first came out and thinking it would be really scary. How wrong I was. The main problem is that this film is more of a crime thriller with light horror elements that could have been reworked properly into the story. It's hard to tell if the original script was independent of any horror elements and they were tacked on because it was the height of the "Ringu" ripoff era. Or, the twist ending was written first and a story was weakly built up around this ridiculous reveal; I find it hard to believe this film could have come into existence outside of those two scenarios. At the same time, the film is unable to create a competent crime/mystery nor deliver any scares which is a shame because the ghost did look pretty creepy. The story can get needlessly convoluted so I will try and simplify it to only focus on what's important. An expert on reconstructing the faces of unidentifiable murder victims, named Hyun-min, has decided to quit his job so he can focus on his ailing daughter and because his wife died recently and because he's a big bitch. Not making Hyun-min more interesting and not giving him a personality beyond worrisome father was a big mistake. What drives this guy, how did he get into this work, and why is he even in this field if he hardly seems to care about the victims? We never learn a thing about this guy even though he should be interesting as hell. But who cares, there is some serial killer soaking all his victims in acid leaving only the bones behind which is where Hyun-min comes into play. An amateur in the facial reconstruction vocation, Sun-young, delivers the most recent skull to Hyun-min and tries to encourage him regardless of his douchebag ways. Even though there were random scenes of Hyun-min's daughter being haunted by some ghost, it's not until the skull is delivered that Hyun-min finds himself seeing visions and having nightmares surrounding the ghost. Basically, we get the vibe, and so does Hyun-min, that he is being prodded to continue his work and bring closure to the murder victims. I can understand the ghost haunting Hyun-min somewhat, even though I'm sure there's other people that could do the job, but why would the ghost haunt the daughter when she's just a dying little girl? And why wouldn't you just haunt the damn killer?! The motives of this ghost are hazy mostly for contrivance's sake. It's as if they realized, hey, we haven't had a scary scene for a while, let's make the ghost pop up for no reason! We never even get a good look at the ghost which is connected to the nonsensical twist that also explains why the ghost haunts the daughter. The majority of the film there is only one suspect, the daughter's doctor, who does appear overly suspicious which means he's obviously not the killer! It doesn't take much to realize that the daughter had a heart transplant and received the organ from the ghost at the behest of the killer. So Sun-young helps Hyun-min finish the skull only for it to not connect to the plot of the movie?! I'm still trying to figure that one out. Let me say this now, so many of these stupid moments will be exasperated to infinity once I explain what's really going on because it's just so dumb. After pointlessly building an unrealistic love interest out of Sun-young, Hyun-min eventually has a vision of where the latest victim is buried and personally retrieves the skull. Since the makers knew explaining to the police how the hell Hyun-min knew the location of the body would make him look suspicious, they simply don't bother to address it! That red herring doctor is found dead and they realize he must have been working with someone to harvest the organs. There are lots of background characters introduced here and there that we see one time at best and one of them turns out to be the killer; his motive is some bull shit about his son died from this rare disease that Hyun-min's daughter has and so he's killing people to save others? Yeah, not the best of motives. Anyway, he's just some guy who took Sun-young's photo one time at a bar...but, wait, Sun-young knows the killer?! The film thinks it's clever showing us a shot of Sun-young about the be killed by the killer right at the moment Hyun-min finishes the last skull. Oh shit, the skull belongs to Sun-young! Oh my god, no, she's the ghost! Ahh, so shocking...oh wait, total bull shit! So the ghost has been Sun-young all along which is really, really fucking retarded and does not follow any sense of logic anyone could conceivably come up with. We see her interacting with the world on multiple occasions. Even if it were all in Hyun-min's head, why would she put on the charade of having an umbrella, knocking at the door, etc.? Where did she get the first skull from? Pulled that one out of her ass, and why didn't that damn skull have any connection to the movie?! Besides, if she can take a normal form and semi-romance Hyun-min, why the hell does she keep taking the form of a creepy ghost and freaking him and his daughter out practically giving the daughter a heart attack to boot?! And if she has this much power, why can't she just fuck with the killer?! AND how fucking convenient that in life she was trying to get into the same job as Hyun-min and gets killed by a killer that requires that exact job to solve the crime who coincidentally helped Hyun-min's daughter and both had the same rare disease! Oh god damn it! Like I said, almost every single aspect to the story relies on this reveal which makes no sense. Ugh, whatever, Hyun-min gets his candy ass caught by the killer, they fight, and right when Hyun-min is going to die, Sun-young's ghost (finally!) scares the killer allowing the police enough time to shoot him. The film ends with the daughter healthy now and Hyun-min hears some recording from Sun-young she left him...oh good lord, I give up. It's as if they said let's remove all the subtly from "The Sixth Sense" and combine it with the most generic serial killer imaginable. Okay, this film did get a few things right with decent acting, a scary ghost, Sun-young is cute, the facial reconstruction angle was creative, and the mystery is somewhat intriguing, but it is impossible to ignore the ending and the sheer shenanigans of the plot in retrospective. The production value was high but overall the film is mediocre with one of the worst twists I've ever watched. When this film first came out I wasn't as infuriated by the ending as I am now, but that's because this time I followed the plot specifically trying to piece this ending into the story and it just does not fucking fit! I'll be generous and say it's maybe worth a view, but don't re-watch it or only regret and frustration you will find.

Notable Moment: When the ghost is lurking in the daughter's closet. Although, why exactly is the ghost chilling out in a closet in the first place?

Final Rating: 5/10