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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Twilight Syndrome: Deadly Theme Park (aka Dead Go Round) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Gamers meet at an amusement park where they are forced to play games...to the death!

Review: Who did the marketing for these movies? Does that poster say "please buy me" to anyone?! As I mentioned in the review for "Dead Cruise," this is the other half of the promotional "Twilight Syndrome" movies, but it's much better in terms of story and taking place at an amusement park is a fun setting. In fact, this is a surprisingly good, little film with a few unexpected twists and moments that set it apart from the numerous Asian horror films that reuse the same routines. Unfortunately, they must have blown the majority of their budget on renting the amusement park and that cruise ship, because the effects here are horrendous! If you thought DC looked cheap at times, wait until you see virtually every death in this film. On top of that, the running time manages to be shorter than DC--making this film clock in at barely over an hour when not counting the credits. The ending also leaves something to be desired, but I'll get to that later.

The first thing you'll notice is the creepy carnival music that sounds like it should be in "Hellraiser;" this helps enhance the mood for me over the dullness in DC. We meet a guy who is clearly outlined to be the hero who suddenly finds himself at the appropriately titled "Twilight Park;" this aspect will come to be significant in a cool twist. Seven gamers who allegedly scored the highest in the last "Twilight Syndrome" game have been invited to a special event held by the game's creator; I have no idea if this is supposed to be the real life maker or not. The seven are mostly your typical geeks with the exception of one wannabe tough guy. The girls of the group are cute, especially the biggest dork, Mei, played by Moe Arai. Actually, let me get this out of the way regarding the ladies: one looks like a '60s housewife for some odd reason, one mindlessly tells a guy to stop looking up her skirt yet she's wearing shorts, and Ms. Arai looks like she's auditioning for "Men in Black." As the event is about to begin, one of the dorks is mysteriously called away as we are introduced to the movie's antagonist: a mildly creepy clown. They definitely wasted a chance here with the clown, because with the right lighting and angles he could have been downright disturbing. Oh well. The clown tells the group that the kid that was called away is out of the game for blabbing about the event on the internet. Next, the clown explains that the creator has developed an experimental new way to play games that he wants these kids to try out in the amusement park; at this point you learn all the extras that had been in the background are gone...but were they ever there? Hmm.

The group is then tasked to look around the park for balloons to find which ones have a game cartridge in them that plugs into each character's Nintendo DS; if you don't find one in time you're out of the game. At this point, the audience is given a chance to get to know the characters who appear as stereotypical bitches, at first, except hero man and Mei; if you can't figure things out on your own, the clown takes the time to skip exposition for us and sum up the characters' personalities with tacked on cheap shots against them like how one girl wants implants. When the time is almost up, everyone has a cartridge but wannabe tough guy, and, luckily for him, hero man gives him an extra one he found so they all make it to the next round. But the clown informs the group that one of them is not making it to the next round anyway. This is when the film ditches the cliches and takes things up a notch. After preparing an elaborate trap--a Ferris wheel cranking up a metal plank into a harpoon shot--you think wannabe tough guy is toast, but, instead, the guy set up to appear as the main character gets killed! I have to give them credit, they had me fooled. They spend about 20 minutes building this guy up, and even though you get the feeling Mei will be important, you don't suspect she will transition into the real main character. The only downside to this twist is the laughable effect of the guy dying...ugh so bad. Oh, and the reason hero man died was because the rules of the first task said you can only have one cartridge. Scared shitless, everyone takes off running out of the park when they realize they are trapped by a barrier. This is when upskirt girl dies since she unknowingly runs out of the barrier and is electrocuted to death. This should also clue the audience in on what's happening since the further the girl runs the more pixelated the background becomes. I should also note that poor upskirt girl is the only person who doesn't get a chance to redeem herself.

The clown shows up to tell them that the game is to the death, they can't leave unless they finish, and that the creator wanted to see how things would go without resets and continues; this is pretty much the opposite of DC's premise. Not taking too kindly to this revelation, wannabe tough guy goes berserk and beats the clown to death...only problem, there's another clown to take his place! The next task is to stop this man-eating balloon that chases the group around the park. I'm sure they imagined this to look cool in the script, but it looks so bad and makes baby noises for whatever reason. Wannabe tough guy ends up saving Mei before he is devoured by the balloon, and Mei is told she has to make up for this sacrifice by the '60s girl. Mei does this feat by luring the balloon at her when it somehow pops on her broken glasses. Now down to three people already, the kids are told the next task is to shoot crossbow bolts at balloons while the clown rides on a rail for one lap around the park. They also learn that the game will never end until there's only one survivor and even then that person must win whatever is the last challenge they're playing. When the clown begins to ride, they realize what became of the guy that was called away as his corpse is on this particular ride. The only character I haven't mentioned so far was the token fat geek, who was being the biggest bitch, but he finally redeems himself by helping '60s girl, who is injured, by carrying her on his back to chase the clown's ride. I really liked that the characters started off like cliches but gained some depth unlike DC. Eventually time is almost up and Mei tries to be a badass by taking her last shot from the roller coaster. Just when you think she will miss, fat geek and '60s girl kill the clown so that she will land her shot without interference.

This is probably the point where the plot gets a little sketchy with it suddenly becoming night and a shit ton of clowns emerge seeking out what they claim is an intruder to the game. Again, missed opportunity to make these clowns look freaky when the potential was right there. The three hide while brushing up on their archery skills, I suppose, since later they're all dead shots with those crossbows. The intruder turns out to be the actual game creator who explains they're in the matrix in a manner of speaking. The creator developed this virtual reality for the best gamers, but he somehow lost control with the clowns acting like agent Smiths. If you die in the game, you also die in reality so you're fucked. The only way to end things is to throw a special game cartridge into a magic vortex overlooking the amusement park. Uhh...okay. When they go to the escape portal the creator came through, fat geek gets killed pathetically. The creator is attacked by a clown and they try to turn him into an agent...I mean, clown, while Mei slips through the portal by herself. The makeup effects on the creator, turning into a clown, were pretty good and it makes me wonder why they didn't stick to this the whole time. Mei finds she is back at home and decides to return to the game in order to save '60s girl since now they've become friends. '60s girl gets captured by the clowns but Mei runs them over with a bumper car. The girls make it to this vortex the creator talked about and throw the cartridge in, thus, releasing them from the amusement park. Mei is happy she finally has a friend and wonders where she may be since all she knows is '60s girl's name. The film ends with a final shot of a vortex-looking thing in the sky. Soooo...she's still in the game? The real world is the matrix? A dream within a dream? Donnie Darko? You tell me?

Yes, this film is corny, but it has a lot of good things going for it. The characters are interesting and toy with your expectations of them, the twist regarding the main guy is fantastic, the use of the amusement park setting was fun and they utilized it properly, the girls are cute, and the story was engaging without ever feeling like a blatant advertisement (ala "The Wizard"). However, the effects are a serious, if not the primary, detriment to the movie in its entirety; there are a lot of ways they could have worked around this. The film felt too short considering it had a lot more to offer, I believe, and effort should have been put into expanding the ideas. And, of course, the ending leaves you hanging and the explanations for why everything was happening are questionable. Honestly, had they fixed these mistakes, polished up a few ideas, I think this could have easily been in the 7/10 territory for the originality and creativity alone. It's still a good movie that's highly entertaining and should come as a surprise treat, but it's hard to ignore the flaws. Overall, I think if you watch this along with "Dead Cruise" you will have the optimal enjoyment from these films as a double feature. But like I said before, if you must choose one, considering the rarity and price issues, get this one.

Notable Moment: When the first guy gets killed. This is notable for both looking like shit and coming as a big shock.

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Twilight Syndrome: Dead Cruise Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: High school friends reuniting aboard a cruise ship find themselves playing a video game come to life.

Review: Beware, try not to shudder at the appearance of "twilight" in the title. Apparently there is a video game franchise in Japan called "Twilight Syndrome," but I don't think the rest of the world saw much of these games. To celebrate and further promote the most recent game, in 2008, they made two separate films whose plots included the Nintendo DS; I should also mention I get the impression they didn't have Nintendo's approval. I'm not quite sure why they felt they needed two movies, seeing how they don't connect to one another, but I'm perfectly fine with it. Considering these movies are nothing more than marketing tie-ins, they aren't too bad. They feel original in a lot of ways and don't play on the typical Asian horror cliches. Although I prefer the other film, "Deadly Theme Park," this one is decent up until a mostly lackluster ending with nothing explained.

To get into the story, you kind of have to accept things at face value which, admittedly, sucks. A group of friends, or better yet, a group of people who are friends with the main girl, Haruka, gather aboard a cruise ship for whatever reason. The characters are mostly a collage of cliches, but I wasn't expecting groundbreaking character development. I did, however, especially love the stereotypical slut of the group, Michi, played by the luscious, Megumi Fukushita--damn, them short shorts! Anyway, Haruka runs across a little girl who gives Haruka the DS and asks for her to finish the game...whatever that means. After establishing that the friends don't get along very well, Haruka gives the DS to the geek of the group who tries to play it with the help of the token nice guy. This is when things get interesting as the geek inputs each of their names as players which takes them into the world of the game: Twilight Syndrome. The exact rules of the game world are inconsistent, but I'll try and lay them out. At any time, you can reset the game to the moment it started which will resurrect anyone who died and restart their position on the ship. You can choose to eliminate someone whereby a monster wearing a bib will come and rip you to pieces. You can manipulate matter, sort of, and create barriers. The DS also reveals everyone's locations which may come in handy. And the only other thing of note is the remaining passengers of the ship have transformed into zombies that look like KISS-rejects.

At first the group is surprised by what is happening, but they get used to it quickly...maybe a little too easily. Since the geek was terrorized by the group's bitch, Yuko, the geek chooses to eliminate her; this is the first instance of a character being killed. To be fair, the geek didn't know eliminating meant she'd die so they choose to reset the game to bring her back. This is when the real shenanigans commence, because the resurrected Yuko beats up the geek who later wants even more revenge as people get killed and then resurrected a few times. Haruka and the nice guy, who loves her, try to play the game's storyline in order to end the antics going on with the group's infighting. It would appear the goal of the game is to reunite that little girl from earlier with her super milfy mom. I don't really know how this works since the little girl was the one that gave them the game in reality yet is apart of the game? Whatever. The geek attempts to torment Yuko which has the unintended side effect of killing off Michi and the douche character at the hands of the bib monster; the douche is Yuko's boyfriend and he is cheating on her with Michi. An injured Yuko manages to stab the geek with her dying breath just as the batteries fade on the DS. I get that they can't keep resetting to bring themselves back, but if the world is created by the game, how does it keep going? After successfully finding the little girl, the nice guy bites the big one leaving Haruka to finish the game alone. When Haruka finally brings the little girl to the milf, bib monster intervenes just long enough to pad the film out a little longer. Haruka then manages to kill the bib monster and brings the little girl, once again, to the milf in order to end the game for good. After humorously receiving her score for playing, Haruka is taken back to the regular cruise ship except all her friends are missing. Haruka screams like a nutcase until one of the crew members, who took the group's photo earlier, says she was always alone and they check the photo to confirm this. The film simply ends with Haruka still screaming as everyone watches on awkwardly. Wait, what exactly was the point to any of this?

Okay, the flaws are clearly abundant which includes cheap effects, padded scenes in a film with an already short running time, the acting is weak, the ending makes no sense, and they wasted an opportunity to utilize a decent story. On the other hand, the plot did feel original despite the way it's presented, they didn't really pander considering it was meant to be an advertisement, the girls are cute, and the deaths were amusing to a degree. I think if they had focused on creating one film, rather than two, things might have turned out better for both. Overall, this film feels mediocre, but made slightly better by the creative ideas and the entertainment factor. I'd say this is another instance where watching the two movies together as a double feature will enhance the experience and make things feel better; unfortunately, they're kind of rare to get a hold of which makes this approach difficult. I should mention...if you can only pick one to watch/buy, choose "Deadly Theme Park" or "Dead Go Round" as it is alternatively called.

Notable Moment: When Yuko is folded into three pieces. It wasn't enough that the bib monster broke her spine in half, he had to fold her one more time for good luck.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, April 25, 2014

Slugs Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Mutated slugs terrorize a town as hilarity and zany antics ensue.

Review: I still remember seeing this as a kid, and I hated it then; needless to say, I hate it even more as an adult. However, if you ignore its monumental failure to be a horror film, you can alternatively view "Slugs" as comedic gold. And god damn, is there any creature on Earth that hasn't had a monster movie based around them yet? And this is a book adaptation to boot--can't wait to get my hands on that page-turner. This inspires me to write my own monster movie called "Panda-monium." A new fertilizer for bamboo has the unexpected side effect of creating giant, mutated pandas! China is so fucked (that's the tagline). Syfy channel...huh, what do you say?

To start things off we have a random dude getting pulled into the water by jaws or, I guess, the slugs. Now that that's out of the way, let's never talk about that guy again or the girl he was with ever say jackshit. You know this is going to be a sweet ass movie when the first major death is some old man laying on a sofa. Hey, it's his own fault for laying on the slugs who were trying to get comfy. Nice of him to lie there and take it without any struggle whatsoever so that the next day his body is in the exact position he originally laid in. Also convenient for the slugs to flee the crime scene without a single one being squished by the guy or lingering for shits and giggles. I mean, we can't have physical evidence this early on now can we? Well, don't worry, because we've got Mike Brady on the case...Mike Brady, eh? Maybe it's me, but this whole beginning feels like another god awful movie, "Squirm." Later, some sewer worker investigates a clogged pipe and when something pulls back inside a pipe and steals his crowbar-thingy, he walks away and never mentions it. Cool, what's next? Oh yes, you have to introduce the background fodder so I will care even less when they die. Speaking of which, here's an old couple! One of the slugs gets in the old man's glove and for some reason he doesn't feel it until it bites him. Apparently he feels it's better to cut off his hand rather than to get the slug off and pretty much kills himself with some next level "Final Destination" shit; through shenanigans he and grandma blow themselves up. Psh, that'll teach you to be old.

Who's next? Oh yeah, random couple we met earlier, what are they up to? Yummy slug dinner. Uh oh, somethings not right with the guy...we'll come back to him later. In the meantime, let the anticipation build. Here we go, the town ho and town douche are about to screw. The slugs get jealous that all the chicks in this film are as oogly as they are so they kill that ho and the douche kind of says, "fuck living," and lets himself get eaten. At this point Mike Brady is beginning to think there's more to this slug business which will become funny later on. That guy that had the slug dinner is feeling like shit and his face decides to burst out worms. I thought this movie was about slugs, fool? Apparently the slugs have worms in them that also became mutated. Well that explanation was sexy enough for me to accept. Finally that sewer worker thinks there's mutant slugs too, and Mike Brady does a 180 and doesn't believe it. Did they screw up the character dialogue in the script?! Thank god, we are introduced to the real villain of the film: some random town government douche. After trying his best to look like Leslie Nielsen, he scoffs at the notion of mutant slugs who hear this and decide to kill him out of principle. Okay, now we meet the real villain of the film: the mayor...who we never see again; well at least he was introduced, you have to admit that. Aww yes, it's Halloween night. I hate how some movies just arbitrarily throw around Halloween, but thankfully slugs made it crucial to the plot with the slugs trick'r'treating. Mike Brady gets his scientist friend to create a chemical that will kill the slugs and they get sewer man to help them out in finding the slug nest to disperse the chemical. Oh, I forgot to mention that the whole reason why this is happening is because there was a toxic waste dump that spilled into the sewers or something like that. Some bitch has the audacity to turn down a guy and not want to get raped. Unbelievable! Slugs...please kill her. Thank you! Back to Mike Brady, he and sewer man go through the tunnels and magically figure out where the nest is. Sewer man thinks he's a hero or something and falls into the nest like a fucking idiot. Mike Brady survives because he's Mike Brady, and they pour the chemical into the water and it seems like the whole town blows up. Who cares though, the slugs are in hell where they belong. But wait, one slug lived...and all the ones that wouldn't have been in the sewers...and the ones we clearly saw not using the sewers like in Mike's own garden...oh and the eggs we saw growing on plants...oh and the ones that must be in the food as shown by the guy who ate one. But you see, those don't matter, just that one matters.

Okay, in all fairness, the deaths weren't too bad and I was laughing a lot, but that's about the only thing going for this movie. The main detractors, off the top of my head, are: wannabe "Dark Shadows" music, pathetic voice dubbing, terrible acting, pointless side characters out of nowhere, monstrous women in lingerie, wasting Halloween as a tacked on plot device, inconsistencies, endless contrivances, showing a pizza box without showing the pizza, cliches, zany antics, stupidity, throwaway plotlines, script in a blender vibe, and not having the rest of the Brady Bunch. I can't lie, I was having fun watching this, but for all the wrong reasons. I guess this measured up to my memory as a kid. It's corny and lame, but I know many horror fans appreciate this.

Notable Moment: When the one kiss ass girl gets killed at the last minute. So unnecessary and inconsequential to the climax. Plus, you have to love the movie's morality...yeah, that'll teach you to try and avoid getting raped. You die, bitch!

Final Rating: 3.5/10 (8.5/10 for comedy)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The House of the Devil Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl thinks she is going to a typical babysitting gig only to discover much more than she bargained for.

Review: I've read a lot of negative reviews for this film which really baffles me, because I don't think I have ever watched another movie that so perfectly captured the tone, style, and look of classic '70s and '80s horror. From the moment you start this bad boy up it's like going back in time, and the first time I saw this I had to make sure of the date as I didn't know much about the film's background. Sadly, this homage has created a divide for those that appreciate it and those that find it slow and boring; it's a love it or hate it kind of situation with little wiggle room. I can see why the slow burn would upset the casual viewer, but reading so-called horror fans not even appreciate this facet is nonsensical. You can hate the story all you want, but how can you call yourself a horror fan and knock the film for implementing tried and true strategies from the past? Whatever, I think this movie is great and successfully pulls off the nostalgic presentation it was striving for down to the finest detail. My only gripe is with the abrupt and disappointing ending; there's such epic buildup and tension with terrible follow-through.

From the moment the movie gets rolling you immediately become sucked into the time period portrayed; it's tough to say the exact year of the setting, maybe 1983, but aesthetically everything feels more '70s-ish. The credits, the film quality, the camera techniques and choice of shots, and even the tiniest of details regarding the props get special attention for accuracy; the level of immersion is simply amazing in every regard. The story is relatively basic, but it takes its time to progress with little tidbits that keep the audience unsettled as they know the main girl, Samantha, is walking into a bad situation. I want to mention that Jocelin Donahue, who plays Samantha, does an incredible job and captures that girl next door vibe notorious from movies of the era. It doesn't hurt that she's cute as hell too, and I would hope with a bit role in "Insidious: Chapter 2" that will lead to us seeing more of her in the horror genre. Moving along...Samantha needs money fast, because she has arranged to rent a house to get away from her annoying dorm roommate, and this results in her calling a number listed on a job bulletin in regards to babysitting for the night. Samantha uses a payphone on her college campus, but somehow the guy she called is able to call back immediately; keep in mind this would have been highly unusual back in those days--weird even today. The guy says he wants to meet Samantha at the school but is a no show, thus, leading to a depressed Samantha hanging out with her friend, Megan, over pizza. PIZZA! Just the utterance of the word makes me want it!

Later on, Samantha learns that the babysitting guy called her dorm while she was out and is still interested in having her babysit and is offering $100! Damn, that's a shitload for back then...not too bad today either. Fuck, I could have bought the G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg with that money! Samantha gets Megan to drop her off at the house, but Megan reveals that the reason why Samantha probably got the call back was because she ripped down all the other flyers from the bulletin boards. This is probably a good time to mention that the film has a preface regarding the fear of satanism in the '80s and this night has a major eclipse, so you kind of suspect what shenanigans awaits Samantha. I found it interesting that they knew enough about the phenomenon to know that people claimed satanists would choose houses in close proximity to graveyards to make it easier to gather material for their rituals. Don't worry though, if satanism was ever too widespread you can count on Sam, Dean, and me to take care of things. From the moment Samantha and Megan arrive, you know things are not what they seem with the intimidating Tom Noonan playing the guy on the phone, Mr. Ulman. Mr. Ulman has a few caveats for the job: he wants Megan to leave claiming he doesn't have the money to pay both yet is willing to offer Samantha $400 for the night through haggling, and there is no kid but instead an old lady to watch. Megan does leave, but not before expressing how worried she is about Samantha given the lies already told and the too good to be true nature of the circumstances. Samantha doesn't drive too far, deciding to smoke a cigarette, when she is approached by a shady guy. The guy makes pointless small talk before asking if she's the babysitter. When she says no he shoots her in the head quite unexpectedly. Didn't your mom ever tell you not to talk to strangers...especially in a fucking graveyard at night?!

Back at the house we get a bigger impression of the creepiness that is Mr. Ulman as well as his wife. Both use selective dialogue with foreshadowing especially in regards to the eclipse. When they finally leave Mr. Ulman stresses to get pizza...pizza...pizza. This is when the slow burn really kicks in as Samantha wanders around the mansion-esque home. The tension and atmosphere are wonderful though as you never know if something will appear in the shadows or when the camera shifts; although, it would have been nice if at least once there was a shadowy figure. I can see why some may find this not scary and boring, but I liked the idea of not knowing if someone or thing was about to jump out. It's not as though there aren't suspicious items that catch Samantha's attention anyway like the clumps of hair in the tub or the photos of people that aren't the Ulmans. You also have the fact that the pizza guy is the same guy that killed Megan, you know the phones are being manipulated, and that there sure as hell is no granny chilling out upstairs which can be intense when Samantha hears the floor creaking. And best for last, you do see what became of, what would appear to be, the real family of the home; the parents are killed and the young son is carved up and posed in a satanic ritual. Oh no, what will become of our dear Samantha?

After finally realizing there's something strange happening, Samantha goes to check on that old lady when the lights go out. She notices the shadow of feet pacing back under the door, but Samantha passes out because the pizza was drugged or something. No, not the pizza! That's just a low blow. When Samantha awakens she has been stripped of most of her clothes and is clad in all white probably to emphasize that they want a young virgin for the ritual. There was mention of another girl that "didn't work out" so maybe there was another reason why they were determined to keep Samantha. Samantha is tied to the floor with satanic symbols and paraphernalia strewn about, and Mr. and Mrs. Ulman appear covered in black robes accompanied by the pizza guy and some freakish creature/person. This thing begins to draw symbols on Samantha with blood before cutting its own wrist and pouring blood into a ram's skull that Samantha is forced to drink. Since these are the worst satanists ever, Samantha easily gets free and starts kicking their asses. Okay, I'm not saying she turns into Neo or anything, but as each person tries to capture her she manages to kill them fairly easily. Eventually a wounded Mr. Ulman pursues Samantha into that graveyard nearby telling her there's nothing she can do to stop what they've done to her. It would seem the satanists have impregnated her with a demon, devil, antichrist, etc. For some reason Samantha decides she will shoot herself to prevent this. We then cut to Samantha magically alive in a hospital with a TV on explaining that the eclipse ended mysteriously faster than scientifically possible, and we see a nurse rub Samantha's stomach saying they "both" will be fine. Eh, I kind of understand that Samantha may have been depressed enough that she wouldn't hesitate with suicide the way most would, but, still, couldn't there have been more going on to lead into this scene? Likewise, it feels too fast when factoring in the considerable buildup to this moment. Oh well.

While I was disappointed with that ending, feeling as though a lot is left to be desired and the payoff isn't quite there, I can't ignore the overwhelming amount of cool aspects that compensate for this. I've watched countless films try to emulate the imagination of the '70s and '80s but most fail miserably. You can't just use the setting or try and use lingo you saw on "I love the 80s." There's so much more beyond those surface features that most overlook and "The House of the Devil" not only understood it but nailed it perfectly. More so, the general atmosphere is engaging and Samantha makes for a commendable lead who would have starred in this kind of film. Sure there could have been an added layer of depth, perhaps regarding the satanism, but the straightforward storytelling was true to the era. I do highly recommend this film, but it's definitely not for everyone as it's sort of an acquired taste even to horror veterans. I would say give it a chance with an open mind and hopefully you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I first saw it.

Notable Moment: When Megan's face goes bye bye. It comes out of nowhere and takes you completely off guard.

Final Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After Supergirl arrives on Earth she must adjust to a human life while drawing the attention of Darkseid. 

Review: That has got to be one of the most misleading titles out there. There is no apocalypse, nor a real threat of one, and Batman hardly does anything. They should have kept the original comic title of "The Supergirl from Krypton" since that is the character this movie is really about. I mean, yes, Superman is doing tons, and is the main character, but the heart of the story revolves around Supergirl. Batman mostly plays support while you also have Wonder Woman and Big Barda playing significant roles in the fights. I guess this will annoy Batman fans, but, honestly, he stands no chance in a fight against Darkseid who serves as the antagonist this time around. For the most part, this is a good action movie that showcases a fair amount of DC characters and what they're capable of, but the overall events feel pointless and rushed for some reason.

The story begins with Supergirl, referred to as Kara until the movie's end, landing on Earth in Gotham City where she wreaks all manner of havoc as her powers inexplicably manifest out of her control. Don't worry about the voices, it's still Tim Daly as Superman, Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman; the beautiful Summer Glau serves as the voice for Supergirl. Eventually Batman and Superman get Kara under control and help her learn the basics of living on Earth. Kara may come off a bit annoying since she is supposed to be a teenager, but she grows on you as she focuses and gets stronger. Since, apparently, Darkseid monitors Earth for whatever reason, he wants a new leader for his honor guard, dubbed "the furies," and sees potential in Kara. Annoyingly Darkseid is not voiced by Michael Ironside, but it's not a deal-breaker for me at least. When taking a stroll around Metropolis, in an attempt to show Kara the better aspects of living on Earth, they get into a fight with Wonder Woman and the amazons who, with Batman's approval, believe Kara needs better training and isolation until she's older and with a better understanding of her powers. Uhh, not sure how attacking Kara proves this since she reacted how most would. And are you trying to tell me collateral destruction would not be guaranteed if two people with godlike powers clashed? Regardless, Superman goes along with it as we cut to Kara training with the amazons on their magic island, Themyscira. Hmm, an island of nothing but beautiful, goddess-esque women...would that be heaven or hell?

No sooner has Kara grown accustomed to this life, they are attacked by Doomsday clones; this decision felt odd to me. We have to assume the clones are super weak versions or else, not only would they obliterate the amazons with ease, but, hell, they would have destroyed Darkseid and his whole planet. But if they're weak, why bother? Eh, I'm not going to pretend to understand the finer points of the DC universe. During the fray, Kara is captured and taken to Darkseid's world, Apokolips. For some reason, none of the heroes can get to Apokolips so they seek the help of Big Barda who used to lead the furies. Ready to roll, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Big Barda embark to Apokolips and immediately start to kick the ass of flunkies that try to stop them. The highlight is definitely when Wonder Woman and Big Barda take on the furies themselves. Superman heads for Darkseid personally, but he must contend with a brainwashed Kara looking pretty damn sexy. Kara's brainwashing was brushed over, but considering this film is kind of short we could have had more emphasis on how this process worked rather than making it sound easy. But because they had to make Batman feel relevant, he rigs Darkseid's planet to be destroyed if he doesn't let everyone go which Darkseid obliges; still not even sure how Batman survived this encounter--but then again he's Batman! With Kara back to normal, Superman decides to take her to Smallville where she can live a normal life. Well, you knew this movie wouldn't end without a real battle with Darkseid, and he is of course waiting for them at the Kent farm. I wonder how long Darkseid was just hanging out waiting? How did he even know they were coming? This is a pretty good fight, but Darkseid would get his ass handed to him by a Superman/Supergirl combo. It's actually Darkseid that appears to have the upper hand until they send him back to Apokolips before anyone can die. The film ends with Kara finally in the Supergirl outfit and being referred to as that name.

The thing I really liked about this film was that it felt like it could almost connect to the Superman animated series or "Justice League" even though those shows did have their own Supergirl. The animation looks good, the heroes have individual time to shine, there's a decent amount of DC characters presented, the action is entertaining and the fights are epic, and the voice acting was done well using the voice actors many prefer. On the other hand, I felt like there were moments wasted to expand the story given the short running time. The story is also jumpy as we go from one location to the next as if we're rushing to get to the next fight without enough setup. Nonetheless, this is one of the better DC films for me, but you need a certain working knowledge of the DC universe or you may be wondering what the hell is going on and who are certain people.

Notable Moment: When Wonder Woman and Big Barda fight Darkseid's "furies." An all female brawl? Sounds good to me and damn Wonder Woman is a badass.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jack Reacher Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An ex-military cop and a defense attorney must uncover whether a mass shooting was used to mask a calculated assassination.

Review: Well, Tommy boy, you've done it again. I don't care if Tom Cruise is secretly gay, in a cult, an alien, or some combination thereof, you have to admit he's one of the greatest actors of all time. As always, Mr. Cruise brings his A-game as the titular character and manages to successfully pull off a role he really shouldn't be playing. For those unaware, and god knows I hadn't a clue, Jack Reacher is the main character in a series of books, of which, this film is based around the ninth entry. I haven't read the book, but, based on the synopsis on trusty wikipedia, it would appear this was a faithful adaptation in light of some changes. Obviously the biggest change would be in Reacher's appearance that looks nothing like Mr. Cruise; Reacher is supposed to be a big and bulky brawler. This would probably bother me more if it weren't Tommy boy taking up the mantle. Setting that issue aside for a second, the movie as a whole is good with the right levels of intrigue, but the resolution feels rushed and lackluster; there was something missing that I can't quite describe.

The mystery of the film is that someone uses a sniper rifle to blow away five people, but unbeknownst to everyone is that the mass shooting is meant to hide the assassination of one of those individuals. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to make it hard to guess who the intended target really was, but it's not. The assassin then sets up a known lunatic, James Barr, for the fall who is conveniently put in a coma shortly after asking for Reacher to help him. It would turn out that Reacher, an ex-military police officer, and all around badass, had tried to prosecute Barr for a similar mass shooting while in the military but he got off due to a technicality. With the evidence overwhelmingly against Barr, it is only his defense attorney, Helen, that wants to know the truth. Reacher doesn't want to get involved, but of course he does anyway! I have to say, Reacher is a great character. Besides being really smart and tough, he lives the lifestyle befitting of a superhero--traveling as a vagrant across the USA. Sigh...my ideal life. The character appears as a faithful representation of the book, but I think they added this whole pretty boy angle that only Mr. Cruise could adequately portray; I don't know if that was one of Reacher's original traits. Thankfully they didn't have Reacher and Helen getting together even though you think they will; good to know they didn't cave in to Hollywood cliches. Anyway, it doesn't take too long for Reacher to realize another player was involved in the shooting due to the sheer ridiculous nature of the evidence being too perfect and the scenario being inconsistent to a marksman's strategy. Reacher is especially convinced Barr is a patsy when he ends up fighting a bunch of flunkies meant to look like a common bar brawl; this was by far the best moment of the film and funny as hell. Unfortunately the villain, simply known as Zec, is severely underdeveloped and his plotline goes nowhere. It's sad too because Zec's introduction makes him seem deadly and ruthless, and you expect more from him that is never delivered. The entire reason for the film's shenanigans is because Zec and his flunkies run a shady business and were mad that a local contractor wouldn't sell her company. Man, for this elaborate of a setup and assassination that's a weak excuse. And, although one of Zec's henchmen puts up a good fight, the rest die no problem and Zec puts up absolutely no fight at all before Reacher kills him. The film ends with Reacher going back to his vagrant ways while Barr's innocence is implied to be all but ensured.

I'm not going to lie, this movie surprised me with how entertaining it was; I thought this looked stupid by the trailers. The action is fantastic, the mystery is engaging, and of course Tommy boy makes it all work somehow with that smug smile. This is a solid action/thriller leaving me wanting more from Reacher. However, there are many aspects that hinder what could have been a must-see film. Like I mentioned, the villain's plan is overly complicated and over the top considering how little was meant to be accomplished; I mean, hell, he had a plant as the detective investigating Barr's case even! There were wasted opportunities and ideas that could have been implemented better. And finally the final battle leaves much to be desired with Zec giving up like a bitch. Regardless of these flaws, I do still recommend you check this one out since this seems like perfect rental material.

Notable Moment: When Reacher talks to Sandy and her "brothers." The banter is wonderful and Reacher beating the asses out of those bitches was a thing of beauty.

Final Rating: 7/10

Monday, April 21, 2014

Alter Ego (aka A School Conjuring) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Models and their crew are doing a photo shoot at a school when mysterious doppelgangers crash the party.

Review: You may be wondering how does a movie, from 2002, boasting to be made by "Ju-on" creator, Takashi Shimizu, have no rating on imdb and no wikipedia page? For one, Mr. Shimizu's involvement is questionable at best. For two, this film has been collecting dust in Japan for the last decade and has only recently been released to international audiences. Unfortunately, it should have been left collecting dust. At a glance, the production quality is extremely low, even for this time period in Japan, appearing to be from the '90s in both visuals and sound. But hey, there's more to a movie than that, how's the story? It's shit! It makes no sense and ends just as senselessly. To make matters worse, it's barely over an hour long with the credits, although, I'm sure some may see this as a relief. How do you not effectively make use of your time? Killing me here!

I'll try and explain the story the best I understood it. It starts off with a reporter hounding a girl for her version of the events of the movie. You may recognize this girl, as well as a few of the other actors, but that's about the most interesting thing going on. We cut to the past when the girl, Mizuki, and two others were modeling at a school for a photo shoot unlike any I could possibly imagine. I'm sorry, but these girls aren't model material; one is sort of cute in the right light I suppose. Anyway, one of the girls conveniently mentions some urban legend about putting two mirrors together and creating a third reflection, or whatever, and of course this becomes relevant to the plot. There's also a camera guy, an agent I think, a production assistant, and uhh...some other guy. I don't know. This other guy and the agent were creeping me out with implied talk of kiddie porn photos, and this also serves as a throwaway plot point. Early on you may notice the same character in multiple locations as everyone begins to realize something is not right. Sure enough, doppelgangers of each person appears in an attempt to kill their real self; the way this works is a bit shaky. If you kill the doppelganger it kills the real person anyway, so it's virtually impossible to stop them except by running. Besides this, there are, of course, shenanigans as the doppelgangers occasionally can separate individuals from the group without them realizing it.

There is a point when Mizuki figures out that a doppelganger doesn't like to look in the mirror and it reveals their true self. In other words, they discover some of the group is actually doppelgangers already. The effect of a doppelganger reacting to a mirror is horrendous--a weak image blur on the screen. I was also disappointed, because they could have played up the paranoia and toyed with the audience in a manner similar to "The Thing" where you aren't sure who's who. One of the girls, Maya, reveals the urban legend about the mirror is real, to a degree, and that when she saw the third reflection it granted her wish to get rid of people she hated. This included her stepfather that made her do the kiddie porn photos, but it would seem she's lost control of the power and it will kill anyone. Once Mizuki and Maya are the only ones left alive, they try and make a new wish with mirrors to end this as their doppelgangers close in. Mizuki sees an evil reflection, but the mirrors become smashed and now there appears to be a clone army. The emperor would be proud; this effect actually wasn't too bad thankfully. Maya then decides the only way to end everything is to kill herself which does destroy the clone army. As the only survivor, Mizuki walks off into the sunset as we cut back to the reporter from earlier. The reporter doesn't quite believe the story, but says he'll word it from her perspective. Apparently Mizuki doesn't like being called crazy, I guess, and sends a doppelganger to kill him. Oh no, she's evil now! The end thankfully.

Imagine this film as an edgier episode of "Goosebumps," if you will, with effects as flimsy as the story. If this were genuinely a part from a TV show it wouldn't feel as bad, but as an allegedly full-fledged film, it's terrible. I'm annoyed it's so short, because this DVD is kind of expensive for what little you get; this is either due to it being a recent release or limited supplies or it's a ripoff...you pick. While there were some interesting ideas, like not knowing who was a doppelganger, nothing stands out in any shape or form to make this memorable. Even the urban legend used to explain the events of the film is severely glossed over leaving the audience with little reason why any of this is possible or why it's happening. Hell, they could have said the school was haunted and it would have made more sense without any other explanation. I would highly advise anyone thinking about buying this to wait until the price comes down or find it free. This was a major letdown.

Notable Moment: When the girls are ridiculously comparing bust sizes only to be put to shame by the production assistant. Time to separate the girls from the women!

Final Rating: 4/10

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ring of Curse (aka Gomennasai) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A girl discovers her bullied classmate has the ability to kill those who read whatever she writes.

Review: This is another film brought to us by the ladies at "Hello! Project" which I've mentioned before as a music label's division for various, female J-pop singers. This time they feature the trio group, "Buono!," comprised of Airi Suzuki, from C-ute, and Miyabi Natsuyaki and Momoko Tsugunaga from Berryz Koubou; Ms. Suzuki is the main character, Yuka, Ms. Natsuyaki is the bullied student, Kurohane, and Ms. Tsugunaga is the class bitch, Sonoda. The girls are cute and they definitely gave it their all, but they look better in their music videos (makes me wish Maimi were in this movie). Anyway, the story feels all too similar to one of their other films, "Ousama Game," that I've already gone over, mixed heavily with "Death Note" concepts. There are interesting gimmicks that do make this film amusing, but the overall experience is boring with too much talking that eats up the time that could have been put toward implementing scares pertaining to the story. It sucks too because there were plenty of moments that could have been scary and aspects that could have been cut or told through flashbacks rather than being expressed by long scenes and elaborate setups.

We get an introduction from the "Buono!" girls at the start of the film claiming they're reenacting real events; this practice of making the audience think you're movie may be based in fact has become quite common recently as a lame marketing ploy, but I'm okay with it. From here, Yuka explains to us the tale of the troubled Kurohane and her cursed writing. Kurohane is kind of the class outcast, but she is the top student in most regards and has a reputation for writing; I really loved that the bullies jokingly refer to her as Sadako a few times. Yuka is mostly indifferent toward Kurohane, if not, slightly jealous of her talents, but she tries to be nice to Kurohane out of respect for said talents. At one point, the class nominates Kurohane to write a script for a school festival that is intended to somehow make her look stupid in the process. After noticing Kurohane taking the script seriously and feverishly writing, Yuka warns her of the bullies' intentions but Kurohane creepily reveals it is that exact reason why she is trying so hard. When one of the bullies takes Kurohane's notebook ahead of schedule, she has a strange reaction when reading it--slipping into a suffocating, heavy breathing state. The students later learn that the one bully died, and a teacher, eager to read the script, committed suicide after warning Yuka to never read it.

Yuka does not believe the deaths are coincidences, but wants to remain skeptical due to the sheer implausibility of the situations. After Yuka's friend reads a page and another bully reads the script, both turning up dead, Yuka becomes convinced that Kurohane has cursed her writing to kill whoever reads it. After blocking Kurohane from killing Sonoda, Yuka confronts her face to face where she learns that Kurohane is dying, and she tested her ability by killing her younger sister. This is probably the dumbest aspect of the film since it plays off a subjective idea and applies it to the supernatural. If that doesn't make sense to you, let me explain it as this: Kurohane claims that whatever she writes will kill the reader, but the time it takes to kill them is based on her skills as a writer. In essence, if her grammar and content sucks, it takes longer to kill the person. How on earth can a "curse" be that specific? So if she writes in net lingo and emoticons, you're saying it will take forever for the person to die? How does the curse know grammar and determine what accounts for good writing anyway?! It would have made more sense if they simply explained whatever she writes kills the reader, but the longer they read, the faster they die. At best, we could assume the effort put into the writing translates into increased will power, thus, enhancing the potency of the curse, but that's not how the movie explains it. As it stands, the more typos and amateur nature to the writing, the longer you can endure the curse.

Finding an alternate way to get to Sonoda with a deceptive email, Kurohane explains that her curse will become even stronger if she is killed and she will live on through the curse. So in case you started to feel sympathetic toward Kurohane, she has to go off the deep end and go cat-lady levels of crazy. Sonoda then pops up to stab Kurohane to death, with like a hundred strikes, before committing suicide as Yuka looks on. This scene is halfway into the movie, but it felt like it should have been much earlier on or this should be the time to really pick up the pacing. Nope. Yuka mysteriously receives Kurohane's diary and we spend seriously 20 minutes going into details that could have been explained faster, or not at all, and recapping scenes we already saw! That's almost unforgivable. With only twenty more minutes of action left in the movie, this is when they decide to finally tell a tale that should have been presented from the onset! Yuka regales new classmates of the Kurohane story and they decide to look at a text Kurohane had sent Yuka to...kill her...I guess. This leads to the girls all dying one after another as they try to seek a way to stop Kurohane's ongoing curse that can now kill even if you look at a single word. People do start to see Kurohane's ghost as well, but she looks like a regular person; wow, wait until the end of the movie for the ghost to appear and absolutely no makeup effects to boot?

When Yuka is the last one alive, she realizes the only way to live is to go all "Ringu" on everybody by treating the curse like a chain letter that needs to be passed on. Apparently Kurohane's ghost only has the power to kill one person at a time so, the more you spread the curse, the lower your chances of dying become. This leads to the best aspect of the film as we cut back to the girls of "Buono!" explaining that they passed the curse on to the audience in order to lower their chances of dying. The reason why the film was known as "gomennasai" was because that means "I'm sorry" as in sorry to pass this curse on to you. That's kind of clever, and I know that kind of plotline will screw with some anxious viewers. To make things even more amusing, there's a scene after the credits where they're pretending to interview Ms. Natsuyaki about playing her character, but she is interrupted by the other two girls arguing about how they're cursed and they've cursed their fans as well. I'm not going to lie, that was awesome.

I really want to like this film due to the cleverness of pretending the events were real and to, quite literally, involve the audience with the film. The girls are cute, and Ms. Suzuki is always great to see in action. There are moments of fantastic imagery and creativity, like a shot of Kurohane walking through mist under an overpass, that I wish comprised more of the movie as a whole. But, in the end, the film falters far too often than it succeeds. You can't have two people narrate events of the film that we see anyway--sometimes twice! This wastes a ton of time and makes it boring. Wouldn't it have made more sense to begin the movie with Yuka telling her new friends about Kurohane from her perspective? Then with creepy shit happening, Yuka flashes back to events that connect to the scenes of the girls trying to stop the curse. In the meantime, you could have shots of Kurohane lurking about with actual makeup effects to appear intimidating. I mean, Ms. Natsuyaki has too pretty of a face for me to be scared of her trying to be frightening. I hate to see this kind of potential wasted, but maybe they could do a sequel and take things up a notch. I would say that if you're a fan of the girls involved with this, be sure to check it out. As far as casual viewers, this is nothing you haven't seen before and done better, but it does have that wonderful ending that leaves you somewhat satisfied with a sense of inclusion. Eh, this movie played it too safe or wanted to save money on effects or something.

Notable Moment: When Yuka's friend discusses the logical conclusion that if curses were real the USA would have weaponized them by now. I find this statement funny and sadly true.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Ms. Suzuki as I prefer her:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Devil's Due Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After being lured to a strange party on their honeymoon, a recently married couple find themselves pregnant with a demonic baby.

Review: I had forgotten all about this movie until I saw an advertisement the other day, but I should have kept forgetting it. What a way to take a routine formula and add abso-fucking-lutely nothing to the table. If I asked you to tell me how you think this movie plays out I can guarantee that you will guess 90% of the plot without even trying; it seriously follows the found-footage handbook to the last detail. You want contrivances? You got 'em by the shitloads. You want cliches? They're all yours. You want predictability? You bet your sweet ass. It's like making a shitty stew: add a helping of "Rosemary's Baby," sprinkle in "Paranormal Activity," and finish it off with a dash of "The Omen."

The story starts off with lame, vague mysteries that are supposed to leave you guessing but will just annoy you to all fuck with a lack of originality and unanswered questions. The couple, Sam and Zach, are getting married, but they conveniently bring up that Sam's family died under questionable circumstances and she can't remember her childhood very well. Oh shit...I'm glad she said that to the camera though. When the couple go on their honeymoon, they are idiotically taken to some underground party by a shady taxi driver. Let me ask you this: if you were alone, lost, and in a shitty part of town in a foreign country, would you follow some random taxi driver to a secret party even further from safety?! He promises it's great though! Big fucking shock, everything seems okay until the couple passes out and a cult appears to put a demon, the devil, the antichrist, whatever the fuck, in Sam. This retardation will become even more painful to tolerate by the end, but we'll get to that later...just keep it in mind. Shortly after returning home we get a few more plot devices rolling and then learn Sam is pregnant. I 100% knew this film was written by a woman by Zach's reaction to this pregnancy revelation. For realzies, what young guy wants to hear the horrible news that his wife is already pregnant right after the honeymoon?! And they acknowledge they were trying NOT to get pregnant which only adds to the absurdity of this scene. Yeah, ladies you wish some dude would take that news like he won the lottery. Fuck...even Sam was disappointed! Okay, I need to calm down, but this scene was so fucking unbelievable to me that giving birth to the antichrist is more plausible!

Anyway, you can probably guess that so-called creepy things start to happen. If you watch the trailer for this movie you will see just about all of them by the way. Are you scared of a woman eating uncooked meat? Are you scared of lamaze classes gone awry? Are you scared of an alleged satanic symbol that looks strikingly similar to the euro? If so, then you're in luck, because the "Devil's Due" is the movie for you! At one point, the cult, or whatever they're supposed to be, moves across the street and puts cameras in the couple's house. Speaking of which, how the hell does this family have such an awesome house? Sam has no job and we never learn what the hell Zach does except that he's been taking a lot of time off conveniently. Blah blah blah, Sam starts to act crazier as Zach realizes people are stalking them and it could connect back to that taxi driver. There's something about Zach finally getting around to watching the honeymoon footage and seeing the supernatural impregnation. That's fortunate that watching your honeymoon video wasn't needed in the plot until months after the fact. Then magically the local priest knows everything that's going on but doesn't care to share except through ravings like a lunatic. Zach figures out those neighbors are the ones stalking them and oversees their activities, because they're ready to take the baby...I mean, after all, the title says you have to give the devil his due! Oh yeah, there was some bit about Sam killing some deer and teens earlier that is filler. Whatever, Sam goes apeshit, kills Zach's sister and pretty much destroys the house before stabbing herself with, what appears to be, a magic baby rattle--yeah, umm, I'm not making that up. I don't know what that's supposed to mean, but then the cult members collect the baby and disappear, because everyone knows shadowy cults can disappear without a trace. The cops arrest Zach and think everything is his fault, because, well, the mountains of evidence to the contrary don't mean shit. I especially love the part where they say the neighbor's house was empty and no one was living there...uhh, background characters are the ones that told Zach people were living there in the first place so that's validation to his story you fucks! Plus, the symbols, the wrecked house like it was hit by an earthquake, the hidden cameras, the dead teens, the eyewitnesses, and I'm sure a shitload of physical evidence. Oh yeah, totally an open and shut case against Zach. The movie ends with the taxi driver now in Paris picking up another couple. Remember how I said keep that shit in mind with the taxi driver? Well the ending implies that this cult conveniently plants these people to collect these demonic babies. Talk about one giant fucking contrivance! Factor in that the mother's are chosen probably because they were like Sam, "born from death," which makes it all the more impossible to plan this shit. Devil's due my ass!

So you may have gathered that this movie sucks, but, to be fair, the technical aspects are done well enough for me to stop the score from plummeting. The shots are clean and there isn't much shaky cam for this sort of film. The acting is decent and nowhere near as bad as others make it out to be. There is a degree of entertainment to the story, no matter how small, and it will probably appeal to those who don't watch a lot of these films or haven't watched the numerous movies it rips off. But for the horror fans, there's nothing to see here. The story is full of stupidity, but it's more the blandness to it all that makes it terrible. They could have worked with the material to attempt a hint at originality or to play with expectations. Like what if you found out the cult was trying to destroy the baby rather than protect it? Or you find out Sam was in on it all along? Anything would have been better. This is an easy pass to say the least.

Notable Moment: When Zach is all too happy to find out Sam is pregnant. Yeah fucking right. Don't bullshit a bullshitter!

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Updated Review #3: White: The Melody of the Curse


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A failing pop group discovers a forgotten music video in their new recording studio and unleashes the deadly curse that accompanies the song.

Review: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this is not only one of the most underrated Asian horror films, but it's one of the most underrated horror movies flat out. I still don't know why this film appears to have failed in Korea especially considering all the positives in its favor. The lead actress, Eun-jeong Ham, is a member of a popular K-pop group, T-ara, so that's a draw, and this is one of the highest quality Asian horror movies I've ever watched. On top of that, it's scary as hell and felt truly original in an ocean of ripoffs, remakes, reboots, adaptations, etc. Maybe the plot was too straightforward and conventional compared to the more bizarre tales K-horror is known for? Perhaps audiences did not like the negative portrayal of the K-pop industry at the moment it began to reach significant international popularity? Whatever the reason, I'm just glad "White" has found a new audience through Netflix (yeah, I'm finally praising them for once), and it's beginning to be noticed and receive the praise it rightfully deserves.

The story is excellent as we learn the mystery surrounding the titular song. Ms. Ham plays Eun-ju, the leader of the pitiful Pink Dolls pop group, who come across the song when setting up shop in a new recording studio. The song is seriously catchy and gets stuck in your head so they chose wisely in this regard. The Pink Dolls' other members are bitchy, competitive over success, and often look down on Eun-ju as they each vie for the lead position in the group. Unfortunately for the girls, the song carries with it the curse of a vengeful ghost that does not take too kindly to the group stealing her song for their use. As each girl has their chance at the lead position, they find themselves in freak accidents caused by the ghost. Realizing there is more to this song than meets the eye (or ears in this case), Eun-ju and her best friend try to uncover the mystery of what happened to the original singers considering they know there was a fire that left people dead. Although this kind of mystery and female ghost are nothing we haven't seen a thousand times before, this film works with the material in an interesting and creative way to keep things feeling new. Eventually Eun-ju thinks she learns the truth about the original singer whereby she was disfigured and bullied into committing suicide after she wrote the song. Finding a suicide note on the back of the original written lyrics, Eun-ju believes she has appeased the ghost and proceeds to represent herself as "White" and embody the song itself. Eun-ju starts to let the fame, and how hard she worked for it, go to her head right at the moment her friend realizes they were wrong about who they believe was the true writer of the song; apparently it was a backup dancer that committed suicide before the fire. At an important concert, the ghost appears to Eun-ju and ends up killing all the Pink Dolls, including Eun-ju, their agent, and their producer. The friend reflects on the loss of Eun-ju, but believes the plight is over with the Pink Dolls killed. The film ends with the friend at a karaoke bar when "White" comes up on the screen.

They just did everything right when it came to this film. The look of the ghost and the makeup effects were exceptional and she was genuinely scary to behold; the white hair and more freakish face felt different than your typical Kayako clone. If anything, my only gripe regarding the ghost would be that we never learned her true name and that she could have been used even more! Regardless, the main scare setups work surprisingly well and feel original. The background scares are wonderful, and I always wish more films would implement this technique; seriously, each time I rewatch this movie I notice another scene with "White" lurking in the shadows for a split second. Connected to this is the excellent cinematography and a high quality of film to bring out the beauty to each scene. As I already discussed, the main song is catchy, but the overall music for the movie is good and helps engage the audience. The acting is well done, and the ladies throughout the cast, main and side characters, are extremely beautiful especially Ms. Ham. I also need to give them credit for having the balls to flat out kill off Eun-ju rather than implying she dies in some final zinger. The mystery to the story does feel slightly predictable, but I liked the presentation of the events that led up to the current action and felt they have a lot of room to expand this tale beyond one film. The portrayal of the music industry's dark side felt natural and, more than likely, accurate as well. Half this film is arguably about demonstrating how rough fame can be and how you can lose yourself in the vain pursuit of it. This facet added a whole different level of depth to the plot to keep things interesting beyond the scares.

Although you have a general framework of Asian horror cliches, the material is presented in a refreshing way that keeps things interesting from start to finish. At the same time, this film is free of the typical nonsensical endings that plague K-horror specifically and will appeal to more casual viewers. Furthermore, the high quality to the production, attention to detail, catchy song, and beautiful ladies will more than keep you entertained in between scares. I think this is probably the best K-horror movie I've watched so far, and that's saying something; and in retrospect, it should have made my top 10 horror movie list or at least an honorary mention. Overall, this is a must watch for Asian horror fans and those looking for a good scare in general. Now, if only we could get this film a proper DVD release we'd be all set.

Notable Moment: At the final concert when "White" appears and torments Eun-ju. The scares were great and "White" charging at Eun-ju was disturbing as hell.

Final Rating: 8/10

The alluring Ms. Ham killing it in every scene:

Bonus: Seriously, this story needs to be expanded beyond a single film! I'll let you know my basic ideas, and, honestly, Korean studio executives or whoever, this is a freebie from me to you as long as you make the damned film! We go with the working title of simply "White 2" or "White: Composing the Curse" or whatever title can sound more musical. We set the story 15 years earlier with our lead, White, and she can have whatever name seems appropriate. White is a backup dancer and the voice-over singer for most of the vocals for the company's pop groups. White is ambitious and talented, but, like Eun-ju, she is too innocent for the industry. She's also getting too old to compete against up and coming 14-18 year old girls when she's already 23 and still not given a set gig. The agency bounces her from pop group to group using her only for support which leads into the story we know.

The elder Choi is your typical image of a sleazy producer and sees White as past her prime and not having what it takes to succeed in the spotlight, and, thus, is why she's in the position she's been in for years. The elder Choi has taken a liking to the group's newest and rising star, Ye-bin Jang, who is 16 years old and more aggressive toward success. The background characters that fill out the group's roster aren't necessary and can be worked into a script later. Anyway, Ye-bin starts off somewhat nice, with a hint of being a bitch as White takes her under her wing--helping her improve her vocals and dance skills in late night sessions without others around. The younger Choi, considered to be a failure in the eyes of the elder Choi, grows a liking toward White seeing a bit of himself in her as he feels their potential is being wasted by the elder Choi mutually. The two start a delicate romance, to the jealousy of the other girls, and especially Ye-bin, who resort to calling White a slut trying to sleep her way to the top as her only means to succeed.

Despite opposition, White, inspired by Choi's support, writes the titular song and works on the instrumental arrangements and dance. Finally, elder Choi takes notice of White seeing the song as a possible big hit. Elder Choi eventually forces White to have sex with him to the great anger of younger Choi who later blames White for the incident and seeks solace with Ye-bin. Ye-bin is reluctant at first, but jealous of White's new found attention, and the rumor they will make her the leader of the group, she deliberately sleeps with younger Choi to hurt White. With the final announcement that White will be the leader, the girls rally together and cut White's face that night after tricking her into meeting up with them. Younger Choi is present for this incident, but he cowers like a bitch, and because he thinks this will get back at his dad who he believes slept with White to hurt him specifically.

Disfigured, heartbroken, betrayed and losing everything that made her who she was, White is vulnerable and decides to commit suicide after writing her note on the back of the song's lyrics and drinking the bleach. Ye-bin looks on with satisfaction as she has become completely twisted by the industry. Eventually, the incident is covered up by elder Choi who sees a silver lining in that he can now use the song without giving any credit to White. At this point, throw in all manner of scares with White's ghost haunting the studio and while the girls try to record and make the music video. Also, I like the idea that people hear, almost as a whisper, White singing the song in the studio's corridors late at night.

With some of the staff injured, and other girls quitting due to mysterious circumstances, Ye-bin grows more paranoid as she sees White's ghost and believes she is causing the problems. This becomes most apparent when they film the music video and Ye-bin swears White is in the footage. Younger Choi washes his hands of the situation and ditches Ye-bin who appears crazy and obsessed with success. One night, elder Choi decides he needs to "break in" Ye-bin who is already on edge when the two see White's ghost. Through elaborate scares and a chase, elder Choi is killed by falling lights in the same manner we saw younger Choi die in the first movie. Ye-bin believes that White's spirit is contained within the song and tries to destroy any trace of it by smashing equipment and tapes as she is pursued by White's ghost. She suddenly remembers that the original lyrics were on White's suicide note and attempts to burn it when White interrupts her. This leads to the studio incidentally burning down and taking Ye-bin with it. Younger Choi, explains to the police that Ye-bin was going insane and would appear to have committed suicide due to the pressure. Likewise, the elder Choi's body appears to have been burned in the blaze naturally. With the agency now in the hands of younger Choi, he temporarily closes down the studio and never wishes to think about anyone involved again. We see a final shot of some staff members cleaning up and throwing the one remaining copy of the "White" music video into a closet that was found in the first movie.

So that's my basic run down of how a sequel/prequel could play out. I think we could infer certain ideas from the first movie like how suspicious younger Choi was and the vague death of the father. I'm open to any ideas. Hopefully you enjoyed reading at the very least!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gothic & Lolita Psycho Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After her mother is murdered, a girl seeks revenge against the group of misfits responsible.

Review: This is yet another movie recently removed from Netflix's streaming service. You're killing me here, Netflix, aren't you supposed to be adding movies not taking them away?! Anyway, this is one of those over the top splatterfest films in the vein of "The Machine Girl" and "Dead Ball." I think I was seriously spoiled by "The Machine Girl," because none of these movies have ever lived up to that film's awesomeness (still hoping for a sequel by the way!); I probably shouldn't keep comparing, but it's hard not to. While this is a decent entry, into whatever you want to call this sub-genre, it spends too much time parodying "Kill Bill" rather than trying to tell its own story.

There isn't much to the story as all you need to know is a group of hooded goons attacked a family, left the father and daughter for dead, but murdered the mother. The daughter, Yuki, is played well by Rina Akiyama, but she's no Minase Yashiro to say the least. We don't gain an understanding in regards to how Yuki is magically tough, how she knows how to fight all of a sudden, nor a reason why she dresses like the "gothic, lolita psycho." The dad has been crippled since the attack, but he makes umbrella weapons for Yuki to wield like she's the fucking Penguin or something; the umbrellas are actually kind of cool and they provide some interesting kills. I don't know how Yuki knows who the attackers were either, or how to always find them, but the movie is nothing but one fight after another against the five goons. There is a mystery as to why they chose to kill the mom, but it makes little sense by the end and you will never guess it. As I said, the movie is greatly reminiscent of "Kill Bill" with one of the killers even calling herself Elle and having an eye patch. I don't mind this, but it felt like a waste considering many of the background gimmicks could have tied into the plot more meaningfully like the non-Japanese gang, "Kamikaze," or the first villain, Sakie's, gambling den. Another downside is the lackluster defeat of most of the bad guys; one minute they're going strong, then they're dead two seconds later. In fact, one of them doesn't even fight and Elle was winning then drops dead out of nowhere. Eventually you learn the leader of the hooded goons targeted the mom because she was a devil of sorts, and he's some demon hunter. I really don't know how to explain it other than that. I don't get how the other killers are connected to this, since they appear oblivious, and why would the "villain" be the one hunting demons and the "hero" be the devil? I can back a story about the bad guys, but why the role reversal? Yuki also turns into a demon/devil herself to finally kill the main villain after he kills her dad. The final fight is creative, but once Yuki turns into the demon it ends way too fast like the rest. The movie simply ends with Yuki seemingly killing more demon hunters.

Although I'm disappointed with the direction they took the film, I can appreciate what they were going for regardless. The gags and jokes are mostly funny and the film doesn't take itself seriously; they definitely revel in the lameness of some of the effects. The fight scenes are pretty good with entire stunt teams contributing to the battles. The deaths are as bloody and gory as you would hope from this kind of film with interesting application of the umbrella. I enjoyed a lot of the randomness strewn about the film like the antics going on at that gambling den, the Kamikaze gang, and the one bad guy having psychic powers. On the other hand, the plot is paper thin and mostly a parody, most of the villain's die abruptly, and there are a shitload of contrivances. As I always say, if you already enjoy this sub-genre, this will probably amuse you, but I can't recommend this for non-fans or first-timers; stick to "The Machine Girl" to get you accustomed, and if that can't do it for you I doubt you will enjoy the more average films like this.

Notable Moment: When Sakie is dismembered by the umbrella blade. It looked pretty cool and set the tone for the movie well.

Final Rating: 6/10

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stage Fright (2014) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A musical camp puts on a play, that had previously ended in murder, and they incur the wrath of a masked killer.

Review: Be aware there are many films with this title, and other reviewers are wondering if this is a remake; as far as I know it's meant to be original. When I saw the trailer for this film I was very excited, because it looked like the throwback to '80s slashers that I've been waiting for. Upon seeing it, however, I feel it's a mixed bag of things done correctly and numerous mistakes and wasted opportunities. You can fill in any contrast you see fit (such as "Glee" meets "Sleepaway Camp"), but I felt this movie was mostly a cross between "Prom Night" and "Phantom of the Opera." Musical horror films are rare as hell so this aspect is refreshing, but the film falters in most other regards when it had a premise that should have been amazing.

To provide some context, I'll run down the plot quickly. The film opens ten years earlier with two siblings, brother, Buddy, and sister, Camilla, visiting their mom who is the star in a play called "The Haunting of the Opera" (an obvious play on "The Phantom of the Opera" and both having Minnie Driver). A masked killer murders the mom and then we skip to the present when the two are now working at a music camp under the watchful eye of the mom's producer...serving as their guardian or something. The music camp decides they will perform "The Haunting of the Opera" to reinvigorate interest in the failing camp's finances. Camilla feels compelled to star in the play, because it will be like picking up her mother's role. A lot of jealousy and competition emerges during the production of the play as well as the appearance of the masked killer. Oh no, who could it be?!

We'll go over what worked first, because I seem to prefer to build a film up and then pull the rug out from under it like a douchebag. Obviously they pulled off the '80s slasher vibe excellently, as I had hoped, and the tone is dead on. You've got the ridiculous camp setting where people die and no one goes home. My favorite was the abundance of red herrings, and they threw in every kind: creepy groundskeeper (trying to look like Filch), suspicious brother, bitter rival, guy with a crush, overbearing camp owner, or the out of left field character which there were aplenty. The characters are funny and likable, and the film, as a whole, doesn't entirely take itself seriously which I believe works in its favor; some of the ongoing gags making fun of the kids were great. The kills are good and bloody when they happen, but there weren't nearly enough of them to go around.

Okay, now for where the film went wrong. Most annoying of all, the killer's identity is beyond predictable. I'm dead serious, I guessed who it was in the first 3 minutes! In case you're wondering, the killer is Buddy and his motivation is questionable, at best, but it feels like "Prom Night." I feel like I'm Randy from "Scream" here. They do add that the producer was the one that actually killed their mom, but it felt so forced and nonsensical considering Buddy's scheme. Making matters worse, his identity is revealed with 20 more minutes left in the movie making it all the more of a letdown with the film dragging on too long. They also wasted the opportunity to make the events of the film occur alongside the play as it's being performed. Yeah, this happened to a degree, but after a certain point, the play is ongoing while the real action is happening elsewhere at the camp. They should have designed the climax to occur on stage in a way that would confuse the camp's audience, but make them think it's apart of the show; well, that's how I would have done things at least. As I already mentioned, there are not enough kills. Come on, this camp is ripe with victims and only a couple people die. Don't fucking wuss out on me when it comes to killing off kids! Pull a "Sleepaway Camp II" and end that shit with a massacre! As for the music, well, let's just say it sure as hell is no "Phantom of the Opera" in this regard. I know you can't expect stellar songs, but I didn't like any of them; I'll admit this is a nitpick, but I wanted more from a musical than this. Finally, while I praise the homage to '80s slashers, there wasn't enough follow-through in the climax to make this film memorable; honestly, things just kind of fall apart until the movie limps to the credits rolling.

With all this negativity said, let me reassert that there was still an exceptional degree of originality and creativity. The acting is good, and I can tell the makers had an attention to detail when it came to crafting an homage. The characters were solid, and I was genuinely laughing at multiple scenes with their antics; I wouldn't mind seeing these kids appear in another movie. But there was a serious need for more deaths, better songs, less predictability with the killer, and a great opportunity was squandered to make the ending unforgettable. Overall, I do recommend this for how rare a breed this kind of movie is, but I expected so much more--maybe my own expectations were too high. If there's ever a sequel, I would hope they focus on the weaknesses and maintain the current strengths.

Notable Moment: When the one kid keeps reassuring everyone he's not gay. It was an amusing ongoing gag.

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ticks (aka Infested) Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Teens staying in the woods find themselves tormented by giant, mutated ticks.

Review: I didn't expect much from a movie called "Ticks" and, well, it didn't deliver much either. Personally, I hate ticks a lot. Stupid fucking parasites...the worst kind of creature. The only reason why I wasted my time with this was to see my darling Ami Dolenz in action once more. Unfortunately for me, and fans of Ms. Dolenz, her role in this film is minor, only speaking a few lines of dialogue. It's stupid too, because her name is headlined in the opening credits and she's on the cover for the movie; you'd think she would be the main star, but you would be sorely mistaken. It's worse though, she's in the background looking smoking hot quite often, but we're never treated to a chance to bask in her glory. She's even in a bikini at one point and instead we get closeups of her dumb boyfriend. WHAT?! What a tease. Fuck this movie.

The story is about the level of ridiculousness you would expect from a direct to video movie about giant ticks. Random bad guys growing marijuana are using a home brew herbal steroid that has the unexpected side effect of mutating the ticks in the surrounding woodland. At the same time, random teens from the "inner city" are brought on some kind of character building camping trip? Hell if I know. Oh the '90s and the drama of tough city life. Besides my dear Ms. Dolenz, you have a few oddball appearances like Seth Green, as the main kid, and Alfonso "Carlton" Ribeiro as the only teen to die. That leads me to another problem, you set up these characters to die and then only one of them does?! In fact, only a handful of people die which includes the pointlessly added bad guys growing the weed. Yeah, believe it or not, the main threat of the movie turns out to be the bad guys more than the ticks. And how on earth have the ticks spread so fast anyway? It's like one minute there's one, then all of a sudden the entire forest is overrun. None of this even matters, because everyone is seemingly invincible. People get stabbed, shot, ran over, and they get right back up like it's a tiny scrape. For example, Carlton experiences exposure after spending all night outside, is infected by a tick that makes you hallucinate from a neurotoxin, is infested by a tick who somehow grows in his body, is beaten up profusely by the bad guys, shot with a shotgun in the stomach, and still manages to survive all day and night with these wounds before finally dying (apparently he took one steroid and this explains it all, right?). Hell, one of the bad guys is run over by a van that pushes him through a cabin wall and he gets up like you lightly pushed him. Mr. Green's character has spider-sense too or, I guess, tick-sense in this case, whereby he senses danger. One of the girls brings up casually out of the blue she was raped. There's father-daughter angst shit while the dad just wants nookie from his, uh, assistant or whatever she is. Clint Howard is playing Clint Howard...I mean, seriously, what the fuck is going on here? In case you're wondering, they take Alfred's advice from "The Dark Knight" and burn down the forest to beat the ticks. I really liked how the biggest tick somehow blew up out of nowhere too. And big shock, the movie ends with one tick egg making it back to the city...oh noooo! Isn't that like the default ending to a giant bug movie?

This movie is bad, no doubt about that, but it is kind of amusing in an over the top kind of way. The tick effects are surprisingly not bad, and there's ample blood and gore when something finally happens. There are actually real actors present, but I'm sure they would love to forget this point of their lives. Of course the best part for me is seeing Ms. Dolenz, but I would have enjoyed this thoroughly had she been the center of the action. As such, if you're seeking this out as a fan of Ms. Dolenz, don't bother since you will be missing out on nothing; stick to things like "Miracle Beach" and "Stepmonster" for unbridled Dolenz-action. Other than that, if you're interested in giant bug movies, I suppose you may enjoy this more than I.

Notable Moment: When the one bad guy just stands there and lets himself get run over by a van. I guess since he's a superhuman, who gets right back up like it was nothing at all, it doesn't even matter, huh?

Final Rating: 4/10

Not nearly enough Dolenz-action to keep me satisfied:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tales of Terror: The Haunted Apartments Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After moving into a new apartment, a girl and her father find themselves at the mercy of a ghost that traps them there.

Review: If you're wondering why the title has changed, according to a promotional website, they began to shorten the title allegedly because writing out the full title cursed the writer due to all the enraged ghosts portrayed in the series. I guess I'm fucked. This isn't "Macbeth," folks. The real reason why I think it was changed was because this isn't an anthology film like the other entries. Instead we see, what I will assume is, the concluding chapter to the Ai storyline established in volume 3 part 2. Or did this come first? I don't know! Well, you remember Ai, right? Played by the lovely Mei Kurokawa, Ai popped up in half the stories, and now she gets her own movie-length tale of terror. So let's take one final look at the exploits of Ai, apparently, fully named Aimi.

The story is that Aimi and her dad are moving to a new apartment after their mother died. They choose an old building that, I guess, is cheap considering the dad doesn't work as much being a freelance journalist. When Aimi and the dad bring their stuff to move in, we are introduced to the weirdos that live in the apartment complex. Unfortunately, we don't learn as much as we probably should about the other tenants considering they play a big part in padding out the film's running time. Immediately you know something is not right with Aimi seeing a phantom schoolgirl...that and the movie's title is a dead giveaway. Once Aimi is settled in, she notices that another family living in the apartment complex is moving out quite hurriedly. An older tenant, played by Isao Yatsu once more, warns Aimi and the father to make sure they are always home before midnight. Oh, and there's some lame love interest for Aimi who dies way too early for me to even classify him as such.

From here, we learn the rules regarding the apartment from the family that escaped. You have to be home by midnight or you die, you can't say the ghost's name, Ai, you can't move out unless you're the oldest tenant and someone new moves in to replace you, and the last thing is some bullshit about other ghosts magically appearing. Basically, the tenants are mogwai. If you're wondering how on earth anyone would figure these rules out, they weakly explain that it was through trial and error. Yeah...no, I'm calling bullshit on that. Plus, what time is it okay to go back out, huh? I would have burned down the entire complex or called in Sam and Dean, but that's me. According to the legends, Ai was the daughter of the apartments' owner and she disappeared one day; her lonely ghost haunts the building and doesn't want anyone to leave. I didn't like that they had the ghost's name as Ai, with Aimi sometimes being called Ai too, and factoring in we already know Ms. Kurokawa as Ai from the TV show!

One day, Aimi's little love interest and his family decide they will move out thinking the ghost could not reach them at a great distance and if they stay out in the open. I did like this part a lot, because it was a scene that you always wonder about when watching movies like "The Ring" and "The Grudge." Like, could Sadako/Samara come after you if you're hanging out around witnesses? Loverboy's family wait the night out at a restaurant with lots of people around, but then the power goes out and the family finds themselves separated and in the ghost's world. For some reason they chose to make Ai look normal usually and then turn into a monster rather than your typical Sadako/Kayako clone. However, the monster form looks lame, and I hated to see the infamous, pretend to spare someone only to kill them two seconds later, cliche. Once Ai has had her fun, the lights come back on in the restaurant and only moments have passed in the real world, and the family is now dead where they sat. By chance, Aimi's father happened to turn on a radio at the exact moment they announced the deaths the next day. This is probably a good time to mention the dad has drinking problems among other things...

A few other occurrences regarding the ghost happen, but, like I said, they feel like filler. For instance, the old man sees ghosts that haunt him and his wife each night. These ghosts were comrades of the old man in WWII and they blame him for their deaths. As revenge, they kill his wife and resurrect her each day. Umm, where the fuck did this come from? You can't go making up new rules! There's something about one couple being so poor they have to drink their own blood as sustenance. For one, that's not going to cut it, and for two, god damn I'll give you food if you're that desperate! Then there's this couple where the guy is a bum and the chick is an idiot, but they race to get home before midnight one time. You know, this has me thinking...wouldn't this have made for a better anthology tale? Like, you have the wraparound about Aimi, and we see the tales of each tenant and their experiences staying at the apartment. Wouldn't that have made more sense and fit the themes of the series? Oh well.

Toward the end, the dad decides to get his shit together and begins to write a column for his magazine about the haunted apartments. When the tenants learn of this, they're angry, because they fear no one will want to move in and they will be trapped forever. The pathetic tenants unite to fight against the dad and Aimi, but the dad single-handedly holds these wimps at bay. When Aimi and the dad can no longer hold them off, they light a fire and climb out a back window (and should have broken their legs); these events unfold close to midnight mind you. Aimi tells the dad to hide while she solves the 30 year old mystery of what happened to Ai since she's become a detective all of the sudden. Apparently Aimi was having visions of Ai and would wake up with a kind of sand by her bed which is supposedly drywall to Ai's apartment where she was buried in the wall. Believing the curse to be over, Aimi tells the dad to come home since he only has seconds to spare. Uhh, did you have to run that far off dude?

The dad leaps over what he believes is the line that determines whether you're safe or not and then lies there on the ground like an idiot. With the last second ticking away, Aimi reveals she moved the line up and that the dad is outside the apartment complex past midnight. We learn, out of nowhere, that Aimi was being molested by her dad and wanted revenge obviously; this same thing happened with Ai as the two girls shared a common bond. Honestly, there's only one scene that connects to this revelation and you'd have to be SERIOUSLY reading into things to guess that's what happened. But come on, if this were true, Aimi was sure acting casual afterward. Ai then turns into the stupid monster form and kills the dad before fading away, I guess. The movie ends with Aimi staying beside Ai's skeleton mentioning how everyone has moved out, but she will stay forever. Well, it's good to know no one thought it would be a good idea to call the police especially considering there was a dead body lying in the street. This little revelation is cool and everything, but it's major bullshit. If she wanted the dad to die, how could Aimi guarantee he would stop at the line? And since you couldn't be sure of that, why not simply leave him out there past midnight? Nice try but the ending needed more thought.

I get what they were going for here, but I would have preferred they maintained the anthology aspect. Regardless, there are good ideas and the story is actually quite original and interesting. The look, tone, and atmosphere are well done and Ms. Kurokawa carries the film effectively. The twist is surprising despite the borderline absurdity to it and the way it is presented. On the other hand, there was a lot of filler that hardly connects to the plot like the other random ghosts. Ai turning into a monster made no sense and looks terrible, and there are a few loose ends to the story by the end. Overall, this film is on par with the TV show, but I feel like the show is more fun due to its variety. Also, I wanted a better connection to the TV show--perhaps referencing some of those individual segments. There is creativity to this movie, but it is often overshadowed by standard J-horror cliches. If you've followed along thus far, and enjoyed everything, this should not disappoint. As a standalone entry, I think it works fine, but you miss out to a certain degree.

Notable Moment: When the family is killed in public. I've wanted other horror films, in this same vein, to touch on this subject for a while now.

Final Rating: 6/10

Ms. Kurokawa up to her old tricks:

Bonus: I have looked high and low to find "Kai-Kai: Tales of Terror From Tokyo," which is the last entry in this franchise, and I can't find it with English subtitles. I mean, I could watch it sub free and be completely lost, but then I wouldn't be able to give a fair review. And there's no way in hell I'm paying like $35 for a 50 minute movie. I don't care if Rika was in it, and that's saying something! For that much money, and so short of a film, it should come with a date with the star, Erina Mano, at the very least, or some way to edit myself into the movie saving the day! The point being, I will not be reviewing that final film any time soon unless it gets a general DVD release or someone uploads it on a free site.