Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dark Water (2005 Remake) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The completely useless remake of the original Japanese film.

Review: Other than a few decent effects, and the inclusion of Jennifer Connelly (not even looking dreamy), this remake is a complete failure and waste of time. Nothing about the original "Dark Water" really screamed Japanese-centric to begin with so I'm not sure why there needed to be a localized version to begin with. Sure, the cinematography is okay here, and a few drenched sets are cool too, but big deal. Nothing that matters was made better, and plenty of concepts were made significantly worse. For example, did we need a Samara-lite version of the ghost? She doesn't even have makeup effects either which is annoying! The original tried to give the audience one big scare with the ghost's true form and these imbeciles couldn't handle that.

My main criticisms about the original involved not being scary and not creating an emotionally moving drama. Welllll....not only are neither accomplished here too, but the filmmakers decided to play up story elements that are a total waste of time. Oh, yeah, sure, the whole time I was watching the original I was soooo wanting more action from the stupid fucking maintenance guy and building manager. Yup, that is crucial. What's that...more bullshit? Yes, please, give me a subplot with a lawyer, dumb teacher, and the husband potentially paying punk kids with pizza to cause trouble. Wait, scratch that...all joking aside, PLEASE give me more subplots about bribing people with pizza! I wasn't dreaming that part, right? They implied that the mom is either hallucinating or the dad was like buying slices of pizza and lighting the cigarette for some punks who never appear again. What is even happening in this movie?!

Blah blah blah, we get the same shtick with the ghost wanting a mom and her body being in the reservoir or whatever. Though, this time they leave it sorta vague about covering up the death. Dude, I don't know. There are so many plot tangents and useless filler it's hard to keep track of it all. At what point were the horror elements supposed to kick in? I did like how sleepy Ms. Connelly is--reminds me a bit of "Secret Window" in this regard. The ending is weaker than the original, because they try to make things happy or something when there's no way to really spin your mom's death. I already suggested how to fix the original to make it feel truly complete, yet, in this incarnation there is no way to salvage the mess.

Realistically, there is no conceivable reason to watch this remake. It's inferior in every regard. I'm pretty sure the original also had a dub so even if reading subtitles is such a huge challenge for an individual, they still have you covered. I think what could have made this remake worthwhile is if they cranked up the horror through the roof. Truly emphasize that the ghost's body was seeping into the water supply. Have a scene of the ghost emerging from the dark water in a makeup heavy effect--something impressive to remember. Keep the lighting extra dark, include a more paranoid tone, and depict the ghost potentially haunting the whole building. I mean, I could spitball ideas all day, but it's too late. This movie is weak as hell, but, I suppose, if you never saw the original, it leans more toward the mediocre side of things.

Notable Moment: When the ghost appears to the daughter at the school bathroom. I like the shot of the ghost appearing outside the glass--reminiscent of "The Ring 3"--but the lack of a makeup effect is a mindless decision.

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dark Water (Japanese Original) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: While going through a divorce, a mother and daughter move into a haunted apartment building.

Review: As with most of the so-called, Asian horror legends, "Dark Water" is good--great even--but it doesn't quite earn that legendary status given by critics. The cinematography is excellent, the music can be hypnotic, and the acting is commendable, however, the pacing is slow, the scares are few, and the ending is extremely lackluster. There is a classic ghost story at the heart of the film, yet, this aspect is often overshadowed by the mother/daughter drama that is also not explored to its fullest potential. Making up for these shortcomings are the beautiful, rainy scenery, the wettest of sets, and a haunting score from Kenji Kawai who provided ambient music for "Ring" and "Reincarnation" which you may recognize. Speaking of a familiar face...we have another appearance from Isao Yatsu who always plays some old man in half of J-horror.

First off, I want to acknowledge that the daughter, Ikuko, played by Rio Kanno, was surprisingly well acted. Usually I want to kill all these child actors in horror myself, but she felt believable and was likable; usually these kids are all bratty when dealing with a ghost plot line. Worth noting was that Ms. Kanno was the little girl in "Noroi: The Curse" so she has proven herself. Lastly, if the cute, grownup Ikuko looks familiar too that's because she's played by Asami Mizukawa who was in "The Locker" 1 and 2. So, yeah, it all comes full circle. I'm getting way off topic here...

What makes "Dark Water" work is that it keeps the story incredibly simple, with an intriguing mystery afoot, while simultaneously providing enough moody suspense to keep the audience fully engaged despite the slow pace. This is further reflected with a slow and deliberate buildup to the reveal with the ghost, Mitsuko. Once you realize Mitsuko's depressing fate, all the creepy events in the story come together like a camera panning back on a grotesque image. The grimy and soggy set designs truly enhance the gloomy atmosphere established and this growing sense of dread throughout the film. When the mom, Yoshimi, decides to stay with Mitsuko's ghost--going off to Kayako-land I suppose--this was especially moving with that haunting melody playing.

It's tough to adequately express, but the story is structured similarly to something you'd tell around a campfire. This is both good and bad for "Dark Water." Good in the sense that the events feel timeless and straightforward, however, the story is also hollow and lacking much needed details worthy of the medium itself. Meaning, we don't learn enough about the relationship between Yoshimi and Ikuko and why it's a strong bond in this instance. After all, Yoshimi is neglectful and clearly neurotic. Give us some specific scene that really sells the relationship. Furthermore, Mitsuko's circumstance is left annoyingly vague when there was no reason for this. Why would no one care about this poor girl?! I feel like a few throwaway lines could have gone a long way in offering up explanations. Finally, from a storyteller's perspective, having the film open from Yoshimi's perspective when she was a little girl was not handled properly. We should have had the grownup Ikuko, unbeknownst to the audience, watching a little girl waiting for her mom. Then cut to Yoshimi with the lawyers as normal. Let the audience assume the little girl was Yoshimi until the end of the film when you realize it's the adult Ikuko watching the first scene. This would have been awesome and made the ending less tacked on as a makeshift epilogue.

Overall, "Dark Water" is a nice, little ghost story that tries to provide an emotional resonance with the audience. It was among the first Asian horror films to garner international acclaim, and it's easy to see why. From the dimly lit scenes to the drenched sets, you will want to follow the bread crumbs to wherever the mystery leads you. Though the film does not fully deliver on the drama nor the scares, it does provide an entertaining tale. Had one of these facets been given better focus, whether it be the horror or drama, I think the film, as a whole, would come closer to the vision of a true Asian horror legend.

Notable Moment: When we finally see Mitsuko's ghostly form in the elevator. While it's a decent scare and makeup effect, the music at this part is especially powerful with Ikuko looking onward at this bizarre turn of events.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Sandlot: Heading Home Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After being hit by a baseball, a star player finds himself transported to the past where he reunites with the friends he made at the sandlot.

Review: Narrowly surviving the blight to cinema that was "The Sandlot 2," I had virtually zero expectations for a part 3. I mean, seriously?! However, if you can set aside the pitiful production quality, this was a surprisingly fun and charming movie. I will add the caveat that you need to stick with the story a bit--give it time to get going since the opening scenes are TERRIBLE with an embarrassing portrayal of a future Benny. Now, don't get me wrong, SL3 is far from good in a traditional sense, but it has heart and that means something to me. I'd even go as far as to say that, had they dropped everything related to the franchise and made this a stand alone kids movie, my rating would actually go up due to the removal of the franchise retcons that annoyed me.

Essentially, the premise is a combination of "Back to the Future" meets "Mr. Destiny" which, in turn, was a derivative of "It's a Wonderful Life" anyway. Luke Perry plays a cocky sellout, named Tommy, who is, admittedly, a baseball legend. When he's struck by a ball while being an asshole, his mind is inexplicably put into his childhood body back in 1976. They don't really play up the nostalgia factor in the way a serious drama would, and I'm okay with that I guess. Instead, Tommy uses his knowledge of the future to make better players out his friends who have inherited the sandlot from Benny's crew. Mercifully, everything with part 2 is completely ignored. Sure, you could try to argue its existence fitting into the timeline, somehow, but that would take a huge leap in logic. And let's be real, are there really any fans of part 2 out there?!

What I liked about this entry is that it's a return to form with emphasis, once again, returned to baseball and the love of the game. None of this Marcie from Peanuts and stupid fucking rockets. Oh hell no! We have a reappearance of Squints minus Wendy Peffercorn (womp womp), the fake Benny is tolerable I suppose, and the new characters were actually likable. The film is not subtle at all with its message about friendship and such, yet, I can understand the necessity of this level of cheese within the framework of a kids movie. Another fun aspect is that the stakes are intensified with the sandlot kids versing a little league team with the sandlot itself hanging in the balance. Many of the plot and character dynamics are significantly better than I would have imagined. Although the ending is painfully corny, with Tommy returning to his adult form except beloved and with all his friends, I am a sucker for these kind of endings. This kind of ending simply works and allows the film itself to become good, clean family fun.

Although I'm praising SL3 considerably, you must be well aware of the horrific production quality; shit, it looks like the worst episode of "Goosebumps" from the '90s. The actors are acceptable enough, but it's hard to ignore the general bouts of idiocy spread all over the story with numerous lame jokes and pathetic scenes. Then there are the retcons that annoy me with Benny seemingly washed up in the '70s despite his look at the end of part 1. Plus, Benny and Smalls had the tightest bond from what we saw. Mr. Mertle having a haunted house full of baseball traps? Uh no. Believe me, I'm going easy on the film in a lot of ways. Despite the massive shortcomings, I actually think SL3 is decent and would actually recommend checking it out for fans of the original. Obviously, avoid part 2 like the plague--(shudder) that was one of the worst movies I've ever watched which is saying something.

Notable Moment: While the entire sequence of breaking into Mr. Mertle's house was moronic in theory, I, for some reason, found it strangely amusing in its stupidity. What can I say, I'm a weirdo.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Sandlot 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A disgraceful "sequel" that doesn't deserve to exist.

Review:! Can't think straight. Must...destroy...every copy of "The Sandlot 2" in the world. My goodness gracious, who came up with this absolute garbage?! Everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--involved in this production should be completely ashamed of themselves. Rarely, if ever, have I had to say this: this movie is completely soulless. No one wanted this...this grotesque tumor attaching itself to the name and legacy of "The Sandlot." ARGH! Yeah, yeah, sure, movies like "Howling 7," "Severed," and "Asian School Girls" are worse--technically--but they weren't ruining childhood classics. The existence of this film 100% confirms we are in the worst timeline!

So what the fuck is happening here?! In essence, someone was triggered by the "you play ball like a girl" line and decided to retell the original's plot but with some female characters. NOICE! Oh Rika...give me strength to describe the plot. (Long sigh) Soooo, it's 10 years after the original and Smalls pulled a little brother out of his ass...also called Smalls in the film...and makes friends of his own at the sandlot. This moronic incarnation of Smalls talks like fucking Marcie from Peanuts so I'm going to refer to him by that name instead. Apparently, Marcie is really into rockets and somehow blows up the dugout of the sandlot which is repaired by some girls or something (it's kind of a blur in my mind at this point). The boys that play on the sandlot don't even seem like kids who'd play baseball and there are only 5 of them which makes the entire starting premise nonsensical. On top of that, no one talks about baseball nor appears to be very good at it despite the film's feeble attempts to claim otherwise. Anyway...Marcie and the girls team up with these boys to form a makeshift team so they can beat some little league. I don't know! Then they have to deal with the Beast's son who is pretty much the same damn doggie except with a coat change. Marcie accidentally launches an experimental space shuttle that lands on the other side of the fence with the godforsaken doggie. Shenanigans unfold as the kids try to get the shuttle back, resulting in a climactic chase between our wannabe Benny and the doggie. The films ends exactly as the original did except dumber. Pretty much everything in this film is a derivative of part 1's material but done in a disrespectful and insulting manner.

Needless to say, "The Sandlot 2" is tonally, thematically, and stylistically inferior at mimicking the original. There is no originality or moving forward of the story that would classify this as a legitimate sequel. Instead, story beats are simply recreated with entire lines of dialogue repeated in the exact same context as the original. They even had a wannabe Wendy Peffercorn kissing scene somehow forced into the story. As stated, the film lacks any soul with laughable acting and zero character development. Instead of cheering on the kids I just wanted to kill them, slowly, with my bare hands. Oh, wow, amazing, you added some chicks...big whoop. The original quite easily established the skill level of the cast by showing them in action and demonstrating that they lived and breathed baseball. These kids are simply stated to be amazing and yet never once would that make sense given how little focus there is on baseball. Honestly, I could list a thousand things wrong with this film and still not be done, but it's incredibly hard to focus when all you can think about is smashing everything around you just to vent the anger that this travesty to cinema induces. I knew I was going to hate this piece of shit when the one chick threw a ball so fast the wannabe Porter couldn't even see it. Yeaaaaah...okaaaaay. Ugh. I need to get back to the Berenstein universe...

Notable Moment: When we are suddenly introduced to an alien-looking kid nicknamed "the retriever." Sure, they showed the kid a few times, but his appearance and immediate disappearance is so far beyond moronic that it has created an entirely new classification of shitacular.

Final Rating: 2.5/10

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Sandlot Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The summer adventure of the new kid in town, the friends he makes through learning to play baseball, and the struggle to retrieve a lost ball from a giant dog.

Review: "The Sandlot" would probably be best described as "The Goonies" for the '90s--a quintessential kids movie that creates a strong and powerful resonance with the viewer. Between the combination of memorable characters, the nostalgia, and all around wholesome fun, the story easily captivates the viewer and takes you along for the ride. The story successfully presents an amusing tale told through the eyes of the children, with a certain degree of innocence, yet never becomes corny or unbelievable. The icing on the cake is the heartfelt ending that really hits home (hehe) for the adults--with all the kids growing up and moving away; it's certainly rare for a kids movies to reach a true sense of closure and in a meaningful way to boot.

I guess the movie will have more meaning to boys since we knew kids like this growing up. As a matter of fact, I knew a kid in like 7th grade who was a dead ringer for Squints. Then again...I kind of had a Squints look too! While baseball is the force that brings the kids together in this instance, most groups of friends have some equivalent to a sandlot in their childhoods or a hobby that brought everyone together. Of course, the best parts are the banter between the characters --which can be remarkably funny--and the hijinks that ensue as the summer unfolds; I thoroughly enjoy when Smalls is pathetically trying to learn to throw and catch a ball. Though the characters aren't as developed as they could have been, they're still memorable and each have a chance to shine at various moments. What really brings it all together is the subtle manner in which we see the perspective of the kids. The film does not overtly tell you when the kids are letting their imagination run simply depicts it as if it's reality. There are some great lines like "You're killing me, Smalls" and "FOR-EV-ER" which stick with you in the weirdest of ways afterward. More to the point, "The Sandlot" is loaded with charm, and it never lets up. Speaking of which, the pacing is great as various, zany antics blend together seamlessly in a way that actually does manage to make sense. Although these side-adventures have little bearing on the overall plot, they further help to endear the characters as the audience can recall the trouble they got into during their own youth. As everything in the story comes together, the ending is both sad and satisfying at the same time. Fitting, really. You want to see more of these characters interacting together yet we must let go.

There is so much I could say about "The Sandlot," and how great of a film it is, however, I would just begin to ramble endlessly about nostalgia and how people long to regain their childhood innocence in an almost instinctual reflex to the harshness of reality. Sparing you that tangent, suffice it to say that this film is one of the best kids movies out there and arguably the definitive offering from the 1990s. Sure, modern audiences might not enjoy it as thoroughly as those who initially saw it back in '93, but the '60s setting helps to keep the story timeless and free of mindless pop culture references. While this may also have the unintended side effect of making some situations unrelatable, I am fully confident in the sense of fun "The Sandlot" instills in the viewer. Now...if only they left well enough alone and never made sequels. Yup, you heard me right...sequels! Here we go again...

Notable Moment: While there are plenty of memorable scenes like Squints making out with Wendy "pedo" Peffercorn, I think I have to go with the mere revelation that all the efforts to get the ball back would have been avoided if they ignored Squints and went right to Mr. Mertle.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, July 7, 2017

Grief (2017) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After the death of his son, a man becomes increasingly unhinged as he attempts to commit suicide.

Review: Full disclosure: this review was requested, however, I will, of course, be totally honest in my opinion. As with "Wichita," this film is indie--so indie to the point that the lead actor, Kevin Renwick, also serves as writer and director. Now, I'll give credit where credit is due and commend Mr. Renwick's efforts. Unfortunately, I don't believe the story trying to be conveyed was achieved properly. The biggest problem is in regard to the tonal shifts that come out of nowhere. One minute there is an effort to put forth a thought-provoking look at depression, however, these scenes will suddenly shift, inexplicably, into outright zany antics. It's like making a romcom that cuts to random bouts of a gritty crime thriller without any real acknowledgement. It's a shame because I think the material could have been compelling if taken in a more philosophical direction.

Most of the cinematography is competent enough with a few decent tricks I can appreciate. Likewise, the actors turn in respectable performances. The aforementioned Mr. Renwick does carry the film, and he's believable enough in the role. When the story stays on topic, I can see it affecting some audiences in the way I believe the filmmakers intended; for me, I was stone cold the whole time--absolutely no emotional reaction, sad to report. With those positives said, it's extremely hard to ignore the negatives. Those tonal shifts completely take you out of the story and add nothing. If anything, they contradict the narrative at hand since we see a character go from low to high energy on a whim which is not how a depressed person would be moments before trying to kill themselves. More so, these scenes come off as filler to help transition between plot tangents which is not needed. Going a step further, the story fails to deliver in a satisfying way since the actual suicide is anticlimactic if you're trying to invoke a strong resonance with the audience. Those comedic scenes will end up endearing a viewer to the character and you'll want to see him recover and not die. Then we have this nonsensical subplot about a storage unit and its mysterious contents. Well keep guessing, because we never find out what that's all about. A better approach to the material would have been to create a scenario similar to "Falling Down" where these zany antics are building up to the suicide rather than making that the primary motivation for the events themselves.

All things considered, "Grief" is an okay film that is salvaged by a polished look and an admirable cast and crew. The core themes of the story are nothing original but held potential especially in regards to the nihilistic questioning of why are things the way they are. However, the tonality is a mess with sporadic, comedic scenes popping up out the blue. In turn, these scenes also become counter-intuitive to the subject matter, eating up an already short running time. A greater exploration of the themes of love, loss, depression, the meaning of life, etc. are completely overshadowed in the process and an unsatisfying conclusion does not help the final impression. I can't really recommend "Grief" for general entertainment purposes, but I could recommend it to other indie crews in how to create a solid looking film without Hollywood backing.

Notable Moment: Well, obviously, those comedic interludes stand out like a sore thumb. So...the most ridiculous would be when Kyle becomes high while trying to overdose. How am I supposed to take the material seriously--and the themes are intended to be heavy shit--when there are scenes like this?

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Wichita (2016) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The writer for a kid's show spirals into madness after going on a secluded retreat with his coworkers.

Review: Full disclosure: the review for this film and my next one were both requested, however, that doesn't mean I'll pull any punches. So, with that said, I wasn't sure what to expect from "Wichita." To be as succinct as possible, the core premise is original and interesting, but, unfortunately, the story falls to pieces at the climax and seemingly forgets to have an ending altogether. The disappointing aspect is that there were numerous great ideas interlaced into the background to establish a truly crazy main character yet these ideas are never realized. It's funny that I reviewed "Dahmer" prior to this since I think that movie merged with "Wichita" would have created something extraordinary in depicting a visceral, serial killer experience.

Starting with what works I have to address the main character, Jeb, who also serves as the antagonist. Trevor Peterson, playing Jeb, always has this creepy, Mr. Rogers-esque, artificial smile smeared across his face that works wonders in conveying a proper psycho. I also loved the tight shots on Jeb's face. Not sure if he was naturally bloodshot all the time, but Mr. Peterson's eyes were necessary to establish his deranged state. All in all, I was pleased with the acting for this character and the cinematography implemented to highlight his descent into insanity. Now, the other strong point in the film's favor is the general plot line about a group of writers for a kid's show. Of course, this premise is not fully capitalized upon, however, I can appreciate the degree of originality at hand and it's not something we see explored elsewhere. Lastly, the ambient music was really good at times when coupled with the closeups of Jeb staring, deep in thought.

Ironically, "Wichata's" strongest point is also its weakest point as well. While I applaud the effective depiction of Jeb's character, he is completely unbelievable with traits no single person would possess. I mean, the guy is every kind of crazy combined--you have the control freak, the socially awkward introvert, the manipulator, the workaholic, tortured as a child, misunderstood artist, ex-druggie, etc. all the while Jeb has all these different talents that don't mesh. I find it impossible to believe that someone who is an amazing writer and editor can also have expert skills with film and electrical wiring while doing drugs, obsessing over a girl, and jumping from one get-rich scheme to the next as implied by his mother. Jeb simply is not a focused character nor consistent--it was like they were throwing everything and the kitchen sink into making him a composite of every serial killer ever depicted. The sad part is that the best traits to his personality are lost due to going overboard. For example, everything with the kid's show is irrelevant and its meaning to his life is never explained. If writing and bringing the TV show to life was Jeb's passion, show us scenes of him playing with memorabilia from the show and his anger at losing his baby to greedy executives and a younger writer trying to ruin his creation. You gotta have focus...pick a motivation and run with it. If this weren't a big enough issue, Jeb's plan to kill the other writers and create his own murderous documentary fails since we never get to see the finished product. What was he mailing to all the TV stations? How was it all meant to play out with that final game of Russian roulette? The story builds up to this crescendo--as if everything will come full circle and his distorted vision will be realized--but then the credits just begin rolling and that's that?! Nope. Sorry. I actually would have bumped up the rating had they given us Jeb's final masterpiece that is alluded to all movie long with him filming everyone. Oh well.

Overall, "Wichita" is above average but pretty good as far as indie movies go especially on a technical front. The basic plot line is cool and holds all manner of potential with the kid's show angle. The main character is fun to see in action and is memorably insane which is commendable. Sadly, the filmmakers do not properly develop said main character in a realistic fashion despite decent cinematography used to enhance his scenes. The secondary cast is weak and their roles are not adequately fleshed out for us to care about whether they live or die. The buildup to an epic conclusion is firmly established yet the audience is left with an abrupt and unsatisfying finish that does not deliver on what should have been shown. With more polish and a clearer focus of the narrative at hand, "Wichita" could have been an indie gem.

Notable Moment: When the camera is zoomed in close to Jeb's bloodshot eyes and he keeps clicking his pen. This is the kind of coming off the rails I want to see depicted more often. It's the tiny details that add up and create a successfully unhinged character.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Seventh Moon Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A couple honeymooning in China find themselves in the middle of nowhere and pursued by strange creatures.

Review: This could have been a decent, East meets West kind of production, but what we get is a dizzying nightmare. The camerawork is fucking HORRENDOUS! Imagine mixing schizophrenic-chic editing with trying to watch a movie on a roller coaster while high on meth. Yeah. Your equilibrium will be turned to Swiss cheese long before the credits roll around. What the ducky were they thinking?! Other than that huge ass, glaring flaw that makes the film almost unwatchable--ya know, the important part--"Seventh Moon" takes a cool premise and does not even come close to delivering on the goods. Oh, wow, a bunch of a naked albino guys running around in high grass...scary stuff there. For creatures called "moon demons" they sure didn't put much effort in conveying something that represents that name.

Right off the bat they screwed up the story with the dynamic of the lead characters, Mel and Yul. I love the idea of a couple honeymooning in China during Ghost Month, but the actors have no chemistry and the characters are written too poorly. I like Amy Smart, but her character is especially annoying and completely unsupportive. Bitch is seriously whining about her injured, possibly dying, husband falling asleep?! Plus, they are supposed to be deeply in love to the point that Yul would sacrifice himself yet I don't feel that kind of bond whatsoever. In fact, they struck me more as a couple getting divorced within the first year! Meh, none of this matters when you're too dizzy to think clearly. When we do meet these "moon demons" we get absolutely no backstory since they're not really jiving with the beliefs surrounding Ghost Month's lore. Why do they hang out at this one village in a cave? They must be supernatural if they can disappear and turn someone into a "moon demon" through some kind of psychic praying (hell if I know). However, if they're supernatural why are they so damn weak and cowardly? We see no impressive feats that would imply any reason why the villagers can't kill these chumps. But somehow candles can keep them at bay and there's a weird voice on the radio? And Mel and Yul need to bang before getting sacrificed? I mean, sure, why not, but...whaaaaaaat? The movie just ends out of nowhere too with no resolution except Yul has now joined the ranks of naked albino men frolicking off in Kayako-land I suppose. Yippee.

I'm giving "Seventh Moon" a shit rating, but, even then, I feel as though it's generous. Seriously, for some this may be unwatchable due to the camerawork. In fairness, I thought the core premise held potential--though squandered--and there are cool ideas sprinkled throughout. Likewise, there were some non-idiotic decisions like using respectable makeup effects for the creatures in the fleeting milliseconds when the camera was steady. However, it's virtually impossible to ignore the nausea-inducing scenes, annoying characters, and general lack of plot details. Definitely avoid this film, but, if you intend to ignore my warning, just make sure you pack your barf bag.

Notable Moment: When one of the "moon demons" is charging at Mel yet is edited out existence. I guess that's one way to resolve a conflict.

Final Rating: 4/10

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dahmer Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A look inside the dark mind of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Review: I've mentioned before that "Dahmer" is probably the closest thing we have to a true, visceral glimpse inside the mind of a killer. Although this film takes certain liberties with its depiction of Dahmer, it never tries to justify his actions or make him sympathetic. Furthermore, the film does not glamorize his life either. Instead, the filmmakers opt to depict the unhinged nature of a man living an extremely mundane life and his homicidal tendencies. It's also important to note that Dahmer's cannibalism is completely left out of the film for whatever reason. It would have been nice if the narrative was structured more like a biography, but, instead, we get the events leading up to Dahmer's capture intermixed with various flashbacks demonstrating his complete descent into serial killer. Needless to say, the film is disturbing in numerous ways.

The main aspect that will engage the viewer is Jeremy Renner's unsettling performance. He appears at one with the "character," and this is the definitive role I imagine for him. Mr. Renner has that right level of charm and wickedness to properly bring Dahmer to life. However, the other aspect pulling this movie together is the dingy atmosphere and cinematography. The dimly lit rooms, various color filters, and odd closeups create a surreal perspective that we can extrapolate as Dahmer's view of the world. There is certainly a layer of pretentiousness to the production, but, for the most part, the film plays it straightforward with mere artistic decisions to enhance the scenes; that I can forgive and appreciate. Lastly, the score is quite simple in arrangement yet incredibly effective with establishing the mood. There are a few real songs, but the original soundtrack is that right level of dark ambiance I naturally envision for this kind of story.

What hurts the film is the general sense of aimlessness. I detect hesitation by the director in how to approach Dahmer's life. For example, setting the events toward Dahmer's capture works yet we do not actually see his capture. What is the point then? The flashbacks work perfectly fine and add a layer of depth to explore, however, why choose these moments specifically? Do they truly demonstrate Dahmer's nature? That remains to be seen. The scenes are strung together coherently enough, however, there is something amiss that is hard to explain. Better transition shots were needed perhaps? I still feel as though no film fully brings that evil of a serial killer to life. And maybe we shouldn't in an instance like this where filmmakers are using a real life person with real victims.

It's tough to recommend a movie like this since it's not fiction but it sort of is at the same time. I'd actually want to see a film in this style but with a fictional character to really take in a dark and disturbing direction. As it stands, "Dahmer" provides a tale that would be best described as intriguing. For a normal person to wrap their mind around the thinking of a serial killer is more difficult than you'd imagine. This film is probably the closest I've seen to bringing that darkness to life despite amending certain aspects to the real killer--for easier consumption on the viewer's behalf I'm assuming. If you're a fan of Jeremy Renner then this is a must-watch, however, be aware that this film is an acquired taste without a doubt. Now, bear in mind that I'm not insinuating that "Dahmer" is some kind of balls to walls splatterfest--far from it--I'm simply trying to explain that this is art house meets the mind of a killer with a super slow pace. If your interest is piqued then I think you'll be pleased, but if the subject matter rubs you wrong out the gate, then it's best to avoid outright.

Notable Moment: When Dahmer is roaming around the woods hitting everything in sight. It's simple yet effective in its manner of conveying the uncontrollable rage of a killer. Another tiny scene that strikes me is Dahmer just staring at a doorknob to a therapist's office while the camera zooms in. I like these kind of lingering shots since they typically say a lot more than dialogue can.

Final Rating: 6/10

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Guardians of the Galaxy return as Star-Lord meets his father and discovers his cosmic origin.

Review: Following up the first GotG film was going to be difficult, but part 2 mostly succeeds at being a worthy sequel. It's kind of a toss-up, because some plot elements are done better this time around while others are inferior. To be precise, a significant amount of action is reduced in order to play up the humor even more. As such, the humor doesn't feel the same, stylistically, as part 1. To me, the jokes felt dumber, dragged on longer, and were often so over the top that it's as if they were trying to steal some of "Deadpool's" thunder. On the other hand, part two was more emotional with the characters and their relationships further developing. Then we also have the inclusion of a new team member in the form of the sexy Mantis and, potentially, Nebula joining at some point. I will freely admit, depending on what you prioritize in these movies, you could easily make the argument that this is the better entry.

In regard to the humor...this entry makes part 1 look subtle in comparison. Sure, I found a lot of the gags amusing and was laughing quite a bit throughout, however, I'd rather they blend this in with action. This entry only has a few action sequences, and the only one even worth acknowledging was the final fight which was heavily contrived to boot. The filmmakers have been playing fast and loose with Marvel lore for years which is...okay...I guess, yet, it's still hard to believe a Celestial would struggle to kill the GotG. This is, of course, ignoring that Ego, Star-Lord's dad in the movie, is not really his dad nor a Celestial in the comics. Oh well. This is all beside the main concern is that the filmmakers couldn't go two seconds without a joke--to the point that it felt forced. Yes, the movie as a whole is funny but ease up a little.

On the other hand, plenty of story changes work better than they did originally in the comic. For example, exploring Nebula's character was epic. Understanding how much she has suffered at the hands of Thanos and her resentment for Gamora is palpable. But, of course, they include a joke during this moment that cheapens her story (though, it was a funny joke at that!). I'd definitely like to see Nebula return and join the team for real next time. Speaking of which, the introduction of Mantis was interesting, and she definitely fits into the goofy nature of the team. It was also kind of sweet how Drax fell for her despite his constant reminding of how ugly he finds her. Then we have Star-Lord and Gamora finally hooking up a bit which was nice. Yondu being completely redeemed and having a heartfelt death was surprisingly moving. It was scenes like this that heavily compensated for the lack of action going on. Something extremely impressive was how quick the film went by despite being longer than part 1; that's some tight pacing for sure.

I think my main disappointment was that part 2 should have connected more to the buildup of Thanos, and this story should have been saved for part 3 once Thanos is beaten (presumably) in "The Avengers" movies. Don't get me wrong, this is still a fun and great movie all around that adds more of what you love about the first GotG. The character relationships are expanded, we learn more about everyone, and there is a strong, emotional conclusion. However, the comedy is heavily increased with a slight tonal shift to that humor. In exchange, much of the action is reduced and made equally comedic, taking away from the stakes to a degree. If your tastes align more with the filmmakers than my own, then you will probably enjoy part 2 significantly more than part 1. Overall, this was an admirable sequel that falls short of the original but is still a good film unto itself.

Notable Moment: Although I laughed hard when Yondu said he was Mary Poppins, the coolest and funniest scene is when Star-Lord turns into a giant Pac-Man.

Final Rating: 7/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A group of criminal misfits put their differences aside in order to save the universe and become the guardians of the galaxy!

Review: I wouldn't go as far as calling this the modern day "Star Wars," but it is pretty damn close to it! And, well, let's be honest, modern day "Star Wars" isn't worthy of calling itself "Star Wars." What makes GotG such a surprise success is the great balance of humor, interesting characters, and fun action. Furthermore, after the slew of Marvel movies that all take place on Earth, GotG offered fans a glimpse of the wider universe at hand. However, what's truly impressive is the storytelling ability to introduce these new characters, settings, and plot elements while never overwhelming the viewer AND tying in with the Earth-based story line.

Starting with what works I have to begin with the comedic aspects. The jokes are a bit on the cornball side, however, their timing is what makes the humor enjoyable. More precisely, the film knew when to be serious and when to have its jokes. This is something the sequel did not fully understand, but we'll get to that. While GotG is not on "Deadpool's" level of over the top gags, the filmmakers understood the audience well enough to include your casual humor for the kiddies as well as things for the adults. Of course, presenting said jokes are the likable characters themselves. Despite being set up as criminals, and potentially killers, they are a band of goofballs you can't help but to root for; besides, they do redeem themselves one way or another. I think this degree of goofiness is important to understand since there's a major contrast between the GotG team and, say, the Avengers lineup. Another thing I want to note is how hot Zoey Saldana looks as Gamora--the hottest green chick in the galaxy! Oh, and then there are all those babes in the background on Xandar. Who are all those little chickadees?! Plus the pink girls and Nebula--who would have thought a bald, blue android-girl could be so damn sexy.

See...this is what I'm talking about. Gamora looking hot as we are treated to a random, sexy extra on Xandar. I'm serious, in the background of like every scene on that planet there is some vixen lurking.

It's not just amusing characters and situations that make this film work--GotG has fantastic action scenes and commendable pacing. What caught my attention was the variety to the action that was, again, reminiscent of "Star Wars." You get the opening fight, the awesome street brawl on Xandar, a prison escape, a space battle, and the final battle against Ronan and his minions which includes a heist-esque sensation. Factoring in the character banter between set pieces, the audience loses track of time and becomes completely engrossed with the events; that two hour running time is never felt. Not to be completely overshadowed, the settings for these action scenes are each unique and introduce world-building ideas for fans to pick up on. It's always cool to see aliens and the worlds they come from; there is just something about the imagination involved.

As much as I loved this film, I will acknowledge its faults. The general consensus is that Ronan was not properly developed as a villain, and I fully agree. The annoying part is that I think he was deliberately diluted as a character so as not to compete with Thanos in the mind of the viewer. You have to understand from the studio's perspective they automatically assume the general audience is retarded and treat them as such. To be honest, they aren't entirely wrong in this regard, but that's neither here nor there. So stupid Disney is going to assume that viewers will confuse Thanos and Ronan if they don't do something drastic to separate killing one off before we learn anything about him...just like Darth Maul. Hmmmm. What they should have done was make Ronan this relentless villain after the GotG. Take the time to explain why he's such an asshole and wants an infinity stone. More importantly, he should have survived the fight and retreated for a later moment. Have the final scene reveal that Ronan is nothing more than a crony for Thanos which would actually hype Thanos up even more since you'd establish Ronan as a huge badass only to discover he's afraid of Thanos. You'd actually develop two characters at once through this method rather than the moronic way it's presented. Hell, Thanos just looks like a lazy bitch in each movie sitting in the same chair staring off into oblivion. The general audience doesn't know how powerful Thanos have to show them. Argh.

Overall, GotG is an amazing movie that properly balances a lighthearted tone with solid, sci-fi action. The characters are likable in a snarky kind of way, and you become engaged by their coming together as a team; they are certainly the underdogs. The inclusion of a late '70s/early '80s garnish to the production, due to Star-Lord's obsession with the music, also creates an interesting dynamic within the film's structure and stylistic choices; you know I love that shit! Sure, there are a few shortcomings along the way, but GotG manages to be one of Marvel's best movies yet. There is essentially something for every audience to enjoy here.

Notable Moment: When Star-Lord tries to have a dance-off against Ronan. This scene is randomly stupid, yet, it's Gamora's reaction that really makes it funny.

Final Rating: 8/10

Friday, June 9, 2017

Deliver Us from Evil (2014) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A priest and a cop team up to stop a possessed man from spreading his evil throughout New York City.

Review: Supposedly this film is based on a true story, but I don't know, nor care, how accurate that statement may be. I'm more concerned with the overwhelming levels of mediocrity that weigh down, what starts off to be, a decent story. With a combination of low stakes, an overly long running time, and a general lack of creativity, "Deliver Us from Evil" instead delivered me to sleep on more than one night as I slogged my way through to the lackluster conclusion. My main problem was how cliched the possession plot line was accompanied by a ridiculously easy defeat to the demon despite the long ass buildup to that scene. Don't even get me started on the fucking fake New York accents...

Things go to shit about halfway in, however, the opening premise isn't bad at all. Some soldiers in Iraq stumble across, what looks to be, an ancient structure with sigil-esque writing that acts as a doorway to...hell...I guess. They don't even try to explain this important aspect, yet, we are to believe that somehow reading this writing can potentially allow someone to be possessed. Now, if it's this easy to possess someone you'd think the demon would have some kind of end goal...but you'd be wrong. The demon decides to open up a painting business and haunt a few houses for the lulz. Yeaaah...not exactly the most brilliant of schemes. This catches the attention of the main cop and a priest who must stop this possession shenanigans from spreading. There are some cool scenes like at the zoo and the initial haunted house, but every scene afterward drags and adds little to the central story. The drama of a cop and his family was also tiresome due to the absolute stereotypical presentation. By the way, did the cop murder a criminal and not get caught--still not sure how that subplot resolved itself magically! By the end, and shocking no one, the cop and priest exorcise the demon back to Kayako-land, or wherever, but it's so rushed when you'd think this would be the core of the movie. The demon puts up no resistance either which makes the whole story feel ultimately pointless with all things considered.

Honestly, I cannot emphasize the obscene degree of mediocrity any further. "Deliver Us from Evil" isn't bad, but it doesn't really have a reason to exist either--it's nothing more than an amalgamation of cliches and every other possession movie known to man. This could be overlooked if there were some other cool aspects to the story; unfortunately, there aren't. The actors are okay and are trying to work with the material yet there is only so much an actor can do. That two hour running time is painful and should have been edited severely. There are a ton of stupid things that could have been cut like that asshole doctor they introduce just to bolster the body count or the cop's daughter somehow being haunted and other similar zany antics. Most of the numerous subplots go nowhere except to waste time. But what's annoying is that that long running time didn't even take the opportunity to explain anything about the demon or how mere words could act as a dimensional portal. Ya know, the important shit?! Of course I do not recommend this film, however, I do want to reiterate that "Deliver Us from Evil" is not a truly bad film--it's simply boring, predictable, and cliched. I mostly just watched it to see Joel McHale.

Notable Moment: Including a cat jump scare should be a crime at this point. With that said, I think the director was at least partially self-aware and tried to make this moronic scene funny.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Split (2017) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities, intending the girls to become food for an emerging 24th personality.

Review: I'll be completely honest, when I initially saw the trailer for this movie I thought it looked un-fucking-believably stupid. I was like, "Oh, god, Night, are you back to the 'Lady in the Water' ideas?" And, wow, I was waaaay off with my vision of what "Split" would be. It sucks because revealing the twist of this film will hurt a viewer's surprise, yet, at the same time, explaining this reveal will probably greatly entice more people to watch the film. Such a dilemma. Oh well, you know how I operate around here! At a glance, the story seems like your typical, psychological thriller fare of a crazed killer who will get defeated by the cliched heroine at the last second. However, we come to learn that the whole movie is essentially an origin story for a villain in the fictional universe of "Unbreakable." Hell yes! Goddamn, people have been clamoring for a sequel to "Unbreakable" for years. And, thankfully, after the success of "Split," we will be getting one too!

Okay, so the connection to "Unbreakable" is fucking fantastic, but that doesn't mean "Split" is nothing without it. Far from that actually. The setup is a total ploy: young girls getting kidnapped by a deranged killer and having to outwit or overcome him somehow...nothing new there. The meat of the action actually involves the kidnapper, a man and his 23 personalities. The gist is that people with dissociative identity disorder are potentially bordering on the height of mind over matter in a supernatural sense. In other words, the personalities are so distinct, so real, that they can warp the body's biological chemistry in a way to bring their own imagination into existence. This translates in the film as the personalities changing the body in a physical way to take the shape they perceive themselves to be. In this instance, the villain has been convinced by his doctor that the personalities are extraordinary and believes in their limitless potential to such a degree that he created a personality specifically that is superhuman. Throughout the story, they build up the arrival of this newest personality, known as the beast, since it wants to eat the girls. You, as the audience, aren't sure how this will realistically unravel, however, Night surprisingly plays it completely straight and the final personality really is a superhuman monster capable of all manner of supernatural abilities. AND he really does eat the girls (well, two of them and a nibble of the third)! That shocked me since I thought they'd totally wimp out in that regard. Of course, once the villain runs off into the sunset to embrace his full power, we later see David Dunn, from "Unbreakable," sitting at a diner watching a news story about this villain while someone mentions the similarity to Mr. Glass.

A major reason why this film succeeds is due to James McAvoy's acting as the personalities. Sure, there are times where the presentation of the personalities are a bit too stupid for my taste, but I understand the effort of making each personality unique for the audience. Mr. McAvoy shows a lot of range between the personalities, and his ability to flip back and forth through them is admirable. Plus, that moment when the original personality, Kevin, finally emerges for mere seconds and just wants to die is perfect. That is the kind of subtlety to a character that impresses me most. In just that fleeting moment, seeing how tired Kevin is, our villain becomes a tragic figure due to his inability to stop himself. But, not to be entirely outdone, our protagonists put in a noble effort too. The main girl, Casey, played by the chick from "The Witch," Anya Taylor-Joy, is somewhat predictable as another tragic character, yet I'm okay with it given the kind of themes that should complement a tale from the "Unbreakable" universe. I mean, in retrospect it makes sense with her name being Casey Cooke and having David Dunn--comic book heroes usually have alliterative names. The way Casey survives also creates a kind of possible bond with the villain we might see in the sequel. Sadly, Casey's sexy friends simply ended up as beast-food! Lastly, I want to address the most unnecessary character: Night himself! Mother fucker, stop doing that shit! Hitchcock walked past the damn camera for a second, he didn't make himself a character in every fucking movie!

Even without the "Unbreakable" connection, this film was still awesome. Established as a straightforward thriller that unsuspectingly transitions into a supernatural horror in an original way--that does take some talent to execute. I love this notion of the personalities becoming so real that they can actually bend reality. As such, the beast personality does become a cool comic book-esque villain that, despite the supernatural context, is just plausible enough to appear possible in that same, reality-based depiction of powers established with "Unbreakable." James McAvoy really impressed me here and carries the story in an epic way; he deserves more credit than a lot of these cornball, pretentious dramas you find at the Oscars. Overall, this was a damn fine movie that is much more than meets the eye from the trailer. The only major detriments are the occasional, humorous depictions of a few personalities and Night's vanity of inserting himself in every project. Definitely check out "Split." Come for the "Unbreakable" connection but stay for the original and creative story along with James McAvoy's portrayal of a complex villain.

Notable Moment: When Casey calls out the full name, Kevin Wendell Crumb, and the primary personality emerges. Besides establishing the true, tortured nature of the character, Mr. McAvoy does an amazing job of bouncing between the different personalities in quick succession.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Silk (2006) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A special agent assists a group of researchers seeking to harness the energy of ghosts.

Review: The thing I always liked about this movie was that it tried to address horror tropes from a sci-fi perspective. Of course, the film does introduce a Kayako clone, but I don't think they were aiming for raw scares. If anything, "Silk" is more fixated on intrigue and trying to get the viewer thinking. There is certainly a sense of originality to the story, and I could never ignore the abundance of babes at every turn. However, the main problem that stops this film from entering classic status is that there is a sensation of hollowness to the experience. This isn't to say that the story unto itself is weak--it's more along the lines of watching a long episode of TV show. It's hard to explain, but the film does work as a standalone entry while simultaneously not...if that makes sense. The story is complete, yet, the narrative structure is not right for fleshing out the themes or characters. Realistically, "Silk" would have worked better as a side adventure of the main character, Tung. You'd have to see "Silk" for yourself to fully appreciate what I'm getting at, but, suffice it to say, Tung is designed to be something between a superhero and a Jason Bourne type.

So what works with "Silk" is the manner in which the story addresses how ghosts can exist and why. The researchers studying the main ghost--that is like our Toshio equivalent--explain to Tung such things as why most people don't become ghosts while others can become a Kayako and Toshio type. They deal with that notion of ghosts seeing what they want to see and why they can interact physically with the world on occasion. Essentially, all the things we've seen in horror movies, or generic ghost lore outright, is explained away through talk about infinite energy and energy tethers of a sort. I'm not saying it's perfect or everything makes sense, but it's a fun take on the subject matter and a great starting premise.

Since the ghosts cannot create sound conveniently, the researchers need help from Tung. Now, don't get me wrong, Tung is a cool character but he's presented as if we already know him. This would be fine if this were the latest installment in The Adventures of Tung, but that's not what this is. More or less, Tung is a super cop who can read lips and see things most wouldn't. On top of that, he's supposed to be a badass who doesn't bat an eye when blowing away a crazed terrorist and might be the first person to snipe a ghost. Unfortunately, Tung, as well as all the main characters, are not fleshed out despite the running time being adequately allotted. It's like the filmmakers had too many good ideas at once that they couldn't figure out what to prioritize. To their credit, they don't fuck it up...they simply create this vibe that we are walking into a story already long into motion. This is why I say it feels like a TV show episode. As if in the last couple episodes we already dealt with Tung's mom dying and his hesitation to marry his girlfriend.  I don't know, dude, but the narrative structure is improper somehow to say the least.

"Silk" does have thrilling moments, but I would say it leans closer to sci-fi than horror. If you're looking for scares you will mostly be disappointed; though, there are still creepy moments like the opening scene. Instead, what makes this film work is watching Tung try to deal with the mystery surrounding the ghost and seeing the events unfold in a satisfying way. The ending is a bit rushed and lacking full closure, however, it's not a situation where it hurts the final impression. There are shitty effects worth acknowledging yet there are many great effects too. Go figure. Overall, I do think "Silk" is worth checking out regardless of its shortcomings.

Notable Moment: When Tung's car flips. Ignoring that our Kayako clone should not have been subject to the car's momentum--oh god, what an atrocious effect. The director should have cut or faded to black and left the accident implied rather than inserting such an unusable shot.

Final Rating: 6/10

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sweet Home (1989) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A TV crew attempts to film at a deceased painter's mansion but inadvertently awakens the angry spirit of the painter's wife.

Review: The story behind this film is that it was meant to be a tie-in to a video game of the same name. This game would then, allegedly, become the basis for "Resident Evil." Over the years, this hype has created a certain expectation going into a viewing of "Sweet Home." Needless to say, this is not some action-packed adventure you'd expect when hearing "Resident Evil" nor is it a by-the-numbers Japanese ghost story. To me, this was a fucking mess. There are good ideas here and there, especially in regard to the special effects, however, the story is jumbled, the pacing is poor, and the tone is way off. I really couldn't believe how hard it was to slog my way through this. The characters simply made too many stupid decisions, and I was becoming bored out of my mind. If only the '80s charm had rubbed off on the production...

At first glance the general premise is promising enough: a haunted mansion being investigated by a TV crew while leaving room for some creepy paintings action. None of this is realized in a way that you'd hope. If anything the main points being emphasized are a lame family drama mixed with strange instances of comedy for no discernible reason. Because of these aspects, and factoring in that ridiculous, upbeat music, you have a film that has no idea what it wants to be. If that weren't enough, there are these, what I refer to as, break points where the plot kind of resets its theme out of the blue. It's kind of hard to adequately describe so I'll give some examples. At one point you have the dad who is all about saving his daughter and kind of taking on the lead role. Then we shift into his love interest becoming a motherly figure to rescue the daughter. Huh? Or when the old guy shows up with magic powers pulled from his asshole yet is suddenly killed. The flow of events gives off the vibe like the script is being written as the filmmakers shoot the scenes. Due to these lulls in the plot, you get bored with the events quickly as the story drags to pick up momentum. The only redeeming thing is that the payoff is, sorta, worth it when the climax finally comes.

Admittedly, the effects for the deaths are pretty cool. When the ghost finally appears in physical form as a giant monster was also a damn good effect worth acknowledgement; in fact, it's the highlight of the whole movie. Unfortunately, there isn't much else worth mentioning. The lore behind this film and its connection to "Resident Evil" are significantly more interesting than the film itself. On top of my other gripes, I simply feel like there was a lot of potential to waste. You have this backstory with the painter that is never capitalized on with easy opportunity to make a painting come to life or, at the very least, play a part in the story. Likewise, nothing with the cast being a part of a TV crew really contributed to the setup. These could have been people restoring the structure or stranded motorists, or what have you, and virtually nothing would change. I suppose some may be intrigued by "Sweet Home" regardless of the problems, however, you will definitely want to understand this is far from a basis for "Resident Evil" if that's what you're hoping for. I'll give it an average rating for having good ideas and effects which seems fair enough.

Notable Moment: When the wife's ghost takes on the giant monster form. Definitely an impressive creature design.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Whispering Corridors 5: A Blood Pledge Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: When four girls plan to commit suicide together, and only one follows through, dark secrets are revealed as the dead girl's ghost wants the others to join her.

Review: Well, we've come to the final entry (as of 2017), and, sadly, we do not end on a high note. Of course, the potential for a great movie was right there--all the "Whispering Corridors" films having creative premises. The problem with this entry is that it is edited together sloppily, and the story builds toward a laughably idiotic reveal that will have you rolling your eyes. Making matters worse is that the director, or someone on the set, really wanted this to be slasher-esque which does not mesh well with the style of this series. I don't know what went wrong, however, I can at least say "A Blood Pledge" was still better than part 2. So there's that.

In, somewhat, of an attempt to change things up, the girls are at a Catholic school this time around--not that this contributes any unique ideas. At first things start off intriguing with the girls making the titular blood pledge--that they will commit suicide together and that if anyone backs out they will be cursed to die afterward. Minutes later though...only one girl is shown to die, and the mystery of the film is figuring out why the other three backed out and what was the true motivation behind the blood pledge to begin with. Right out the gate, I feel like this was the mistake of the story. Rather than having only one die, there should have been only one survivor. Oh well. Moving along...rumors run rampant around the school about why the one girl committed suicide since the other students know nothing about the pact the girls made. This whole rumor mill plot point goes on too long and eats up a lot of the story unnecessarily. I get that the filmmakers want to convey this notion of petty gossip, but we've put up with this bullshit in every goddamn film thus far! Change shit up.

Unfortunately, the ghost in this entry is fucking stupid and annoying. Instead of going after the main cast, she spends time killing side characters pointlessly. Hell, there is one chick that appears to die, and we don't know who the fuck she even was. Is this really a tale in need of a high body count? Worse yet, the ghost is implied to be somewhat good, hence, making her random, side kills that much more baffling. Come to think of it, this one chick, while a total bitch, was kind of defending the dead girl and yet the ghost still killed her?! Okaaay. These zany antics bring me to another point: there are too many godforsaken background characters chewing up screen time. Who the fuck are any of these extras? And I'm not talking fun extras popping up for 30 seconds like part 4--I'm talking extras who get whole lines of dialogue and appear almost as the secondary cast. Then we have the main chick actually having a boyfriend (a first!) and his mom adding even more useless characters to the mix. It's too much. This shit needs to be consolidated. If this weren't enough, we get a dose of my favorite, schizophrenic-chic editing. We're talking the camera going apeshit, bizarre transitions, cuts to flashbacks out of nowhere, and all manner of shenanigans. My goodness.

And what is the big secret the girls have been keeping? What is the point to any of this? The group never wanted the fourth girl to come in the first place, and the original intention was just to let the main girl die; her motive being she's pregnant and...can't cope(?)...I guess. Wow, what a selfish bitch. Anyway, things went wrong with this fake suicide which leads to the group turning on each other once the ghost is after them. But why did they want the main chick to die? Arrrghhh...jealousy over that dumb boyfriend and the one chick wanting to have high grades. Yes, really! That is a pitiful payoff. The one bitch wanting everyone to die should have been the pregnant one which would have at least made her anger and jealousy believable. You know what, all of these characters are insufferable bitches. Fuck 'em! The only likable person is the ghost's sister who is also not presented properly with a wannabe possession subplot that goes to nowhere-land. Oh, and shocking no one, there is a moronic final zinger with the ghost going after that boyfriend but with a new haircut somehow. They have hairdressers in Korean hell?!

Seriously, what happened here? This started off with so much potential and could have been amazing. The core plot line is imaginative and opened up all manner of possibilities to take the mystery. Admittedly, the filmmakers do a good job of building up the hype to the reveal...but the payoff is unforgivably not worth it. The actors are okay I suppose, but the characters are unlikable and the ghost's presentation is nonsensical. The cast is too big and the background fodder getting killed is a poor substitute for creating legitimate scares. Of course, I can't forget the shit editing since it's an ever-present problem that persists during the entire running time. Overall, this is just a mediocre film that did little to stand out in this series. I think this is probably one of the big reasons why we may never get a part 6.

Notable Moment: When the boyfriend's mom randomly dies by head explosion. This was so randomly stupid and is never acknowledged again. What happened to her car or body? Why was nobody trying to find her as we see the boyfriend at the end, seemingly, oblivious to her death? Ugh. Shit writing.

Final Rating: 5/10

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whispering Corridors 4: Voice Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The spirit of a girl seeks the help of her best friend in order to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death.

Review: With part 4 they decided to change things up considerably and almost created the best entry. Instead of a plot set into motion surrounding a suicide, we finally get a murder and the mystery as to who was responsible and why. Adding to this much needed change in plot devices, we finally see a school that isn't completely full of hardass teachers and overworked students. It was nice to see students having fun and dealing with school in a normal way--the girls simply being teenagers as you'd imagine them to be. However, the most interesting change of pace is that we have a main character who is actually a ghost. With so much going for this entry, the potential appeared limitless. Unfortunately, everything comes crashing down with a horrendous twist and an ending that completely ruins the main character and the story as a whole. Wonderful.

So...this time around we are at yet another school that could have easily connected to the previous entries. Some maintenance guy mentions that the school is new but the piping and boiler room looks rotten. Precisely! Say that one of the old schools was demolished to make way for this new one but that the spirits of the former carried on. But, nope, let's just make standalone stories. Moving along...we meet the main chickadee, Young-eon, and her best friend, Sun-min, shortly before Young-eon is murdered. They imply immediately that the murderer is another ghost, however, I wish they kept it more vague so that the audience could suspect various classmates or staff. But, yes, there is a ghost already haunting the school that kills Young-eon, turning her into another ghost that is stuck haunting the school too. Due to their strong friendship, Sun-min is still able to hear Young-eon's ghost speaking but can't see her. Unable to figure out what happened, Young-eon and Sun-min proceed to unravel the mystery together. This aspect is the best part to the film, because it is reminiscent of the classic whodunnit style yet takes a unique spin on the genre. Later on, the most likely suspect, Young-eon's music teacher, is killed as well which only deepens the mystery.

The horror elements are not sacrificed either since the first ghost is still roaming the halls, seemingly possessing supernatural powers of sorts. This addition to the plot makes the events feel time sensitive--as if the mystery needs to be solved before the ghost can strike again. But just when things are really picking up, the cracks in the story emerge. First, it is proposed that Young-eon might only be remembering what she wants to remember. This plot element could work, however, they do not handle this material properly. We are introduced to another girl, Cho-ah, who can naturally sense ghosts, and she tells Sun-min to merely let everything go. I think some of these plot tangents probably made more sense in the script, with this idea of Sun-min suddenly not trusting Young-eon, but the direction in the film doesn't really convey this. Besides, it's only been a few days and best friends wouldn't turn on each other that quickly no matter what truth they discovered. Regardless, this brings me to the big twist and ridiculous ending. As it turns out, Young-eon is actually supposed to be evil...I guess...and forgot about this fact. We are shown that she drove her dying mother to suicide, tried to get the ghost to disappear from existence originally, and she was the one who killed the music teacher. Furthermore, it was this attempt to get rid of the ghost in the first place that caused that ghost to kill Young-eon. Finally, embracing her dark side once she remembers it, Young-eon kills Cho-ah and magically possesses Sun-min permanently. One problem: you can't establish all damn movie long how nice Young-eon was and how deep her friendship was with Sun-min! How the hell would that same girl be all sentimental with an old walkman, hide her evil side from Sun-min (since apparently third grade when they met), and do anything remotely thoughtful as we see from Sun-min's flashbacks of their friendship?! Argh...what a disappointment and a lame payoff. Hell, if Young-eon wanted to get rid of the ghost, hence, knowing of its existence, then why would she have been all scared when it appeared at the beginning of the movie?! What the fuck were they thinking?

If it weren't for the utter shit ending--and had the conclusion actually delivered something satisfying--I could have seen this eclipsing "Wishing Stairs." Instead, due to the complete betrayal to the audience, I want to say this entry is a tad weaker than part 1. For me, endings can fuck up the rating I give, so I do want to stress that others may actually appreciate this ending or prefer it. Taking the other film making aspects into account individually, then "Voice" is still a strong story with numerous, cool ideas worthy of respect. The mystery is quite intriguing, and the actresses are believable with the extras feeling realistic due to the little details they do. The scares, while few in number, are decent enough with plenty of instances of creative lighting and camerawork. Lastly, the friendship displayed was heartwarming (before being ruined), and the way that the story fixates on a character's voice and singing was presented remarkably well. I do still enjoy this installment a lot, but it's hard to recommend when I know how cheated people might feel once it's over. Oh well.

Notable Moment: When Young-eon and Sun-min seemingly go to elevator hell. It was a pretty creepy concept, although, I'm not really sure what they were trying to demonstrate? Is it supposed to be a vision of the afterlife or a kind of dimension that the ghosts reside in when not seen? Nevertheless, I loved that foreboding darkness and the way the filmmakers presented a vast sense of scope.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, May 15, 2017

Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Rumor has it that if you climb a certain staircase, counting the 28 steps aloud, then a 29th step will appear and your wish will be granted.

Review: Okay, I take it back, this was better than part 1; I must have been snorting coke and imagining parts from "Memento Mori" mixing with "Wishing Stairs." More or less, every aspect has been improved upon over part 1, and, it goes without saying, "Wishing Stairs" is leaps and bounds beyond part 2. Funnily enough, I noticed "Memento Mori" has the highest rating on IMDb of the five films. would. Anyway, "Wishing Stairs" brings us an original and creative premise combined with excellent cinematography and a dreary tone. The story can slip into bouts of incoherence, however, it never ceases to engage the audience. Keeping the characters limited, and the plot heavily focused, also helped elevate it over the nonsense with part 2. Likewise, the ending this time around is fitting--though, I would have liked a bigger payoff after an intense climax. I want to add that they still blew a chance to connect this to part 1. I mean, there is even a scene in the first entry where we see a stairwell similar to the one featured in this installment. Ugh.

This time around we have two best friends training to be ballerinas, So-hee and Jin-sung. When So-hee appears to be a shoo-in for a prestigious position at a Russian school, unspoken jealousy and rivalry emerges to pull the girls apart. I have read countless reviews ponder whether or not these two characters were also lesbians similarly to part 2, but I just don't see it. Look, I've seen my fair share of questionable Korean girls in films, but these two simply appear as good friends with absolutely no scenes of romantic tension or any ambiguous looks, dialogue, or interactions. If you want to see them as potential lesbians that's fine, but I think that's just a viewer seeing what they want to see. Moving along...while we see the jealousy growing with Jin-sung, a third character, Hye-ju, serves to introduce the audience to the wishing stairs urban legend: if you climb a particular stairwell, counting each of the 28 steps aloud, then a 29th step will appear and you will be able to have any wish granted. Apparently, as the only fat chick in the school, Hye-ju, tests the stairs and wishes to be thin. I love how no one is shocked that she lost the weight practically overnight! Realizing she stands no chance of beating So-hee, and seeing the power of the wishing stairs firsthand, Jin-sung climbs the stairs and wishes to win. The wish is granted by making So-hee become crippled during an accident involving Jin-sung, however, later, So-hee is driven to suicide as well. With So-hee now completely out of the picture, Jin-sung ends up winning that position with the Russian school.

Taking up the scares a notch, Hye-ju, obsessed with So-hee, wishes her back. Now as a vengeful ghost, So-hee semi-possesses Hye-ju and appears as a phantom to haunt Jin-sung. What works so well is that both So-hee and Jin-sung are likable in their own way. So-hee is an all around sweetheart--really cute too--and Jin-sung's envy is understandable. Jin-sung didn't realize the consequences of her wish, did not intentionally want harm to come to So-hee, and was genuinely regretful for the rest of the film. By the end, when Jin-sung tries to wish So-hee back to being dead and So-hee has her revenge, you feel bad for both of them. Enhancing this resolution were some impressive aspects to the cinematography. The entire picture has this dark and damp coating, establishing a moody tone that matches the characters' emotions. On top of that, there were basic set choices that looked good and added a layer of detail that is appreciated. Finally, I loved the idea behind the ghost's general concept despite the lack of usage. A ghostly ballerina is great, and something such as the shot of her bloody foot dancing through the hall with a piece of glass stuck in it--that works! It's just a shame they didn't further capitalize on everything they had going on here--like they were in a rush to get through the story or something. On the plus side, the pacing is slick for a story that is essentially building up to the ghost's appearance and revenge.

 Actually...she might be one of the cutest ghosts we've seen over the years.

The only major drawbacks tend to surround the Hye-ju character since it felt like the filmmakers weren't fully certain on how to make her relevant to the action. Furthermore, the story does go off the rails a few times as if momentarily dipping into psychological horror rather than the clear depiction of supernatural horror we are dealing with. Nevertheless, and in spite of the shortcomings, this was way better than I remembered; in fact, it was pretty damn good at times. Sure, this isn't exactly going to keep anyone up at night, but the scares were decent enough to get the job done and the ghost's design was somewhat original. The heart of the story is where the fun is at since you have a combination of rivalry, jealousy, and friendship colliding. Throw in an unsettling urban legend, a dab of wish-granting, and you've got a recipe for a solid sequel that easily stands by itself.

Notable Moment: When So-hee appears in that ghostly, ballerina form. A respectable makeup effect coupled with a creepy concept, and, yet, they only used this form for a couple of shots...? Huh? What a waste.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Whispering Corridors 2: Memento Mori Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Zany antics of the highest order unfold at an all-girls school after a student commits suicide.

Review: What the fuck they were thinking with this film? Not only is this the worst entry in the franchise, it hardly even qualifies as a horror movie. The story doesn't get going until around 35 minutes, and the closest thing to a horror element doesn't pop up until the damn 55 minute mark. Seriously, what the hell?! Essentially, this is an angsty teen drama, with heavy emphasis on being pretentious, and a few horror scenes chucked into the mix for the trailer's sake. Making matters worse, this poor decision to create sequels unconnected to one another was so monumentally stupid that it boggles my mind to no end. And the setup was right there--just set the story at the same school and make a few, tiny references to the previous movie or include one teacher back or something. But noooo, let's make a fucking drama about two attention-seeking lesbians who are completely unlikable along with an entire cast of insufferable bitches. Yes, brilliant.

So, I don't know what bullshit plot summary you may have read out there, but, chances are, it's nonsense meant to make this movie sound interesting. All we actually get is the main chick finds this diary that was shared by these lesbians; I guess this might have been a taboo subject matter at the time. While reading the diary, we get countless flashbacks that are meant to endear us to this relationship and these characters, but, instead, it comes off as unhealthy and the lovers are painfully annoying. They always discuss committing suicide, one cheats on the other--possibly getting pregnant--while the other is implied to have cheated as well, and the two are all too eager to betray and humiliate the other heartlessly. Once their relationship falls to pieces, one of them, seemingly, commits suicide only to later haunt the school. Two things about this suicide: one, why does the movie establish a mystery that hints the girl was murdered only to show us she wasn't and that there is no mystery whatsoever? And two, the editing is such utter shit that I can't tell if the events of the film are all in the same day the girl died or if some unknown passage of time has gone by. It really is that difficult to discern, because the characters act as if a lot of time has passed yet there are no transition scenes; the flow of events give the impression that the story all takes place in one day and night.

After spending the majority of the running time showing us these awful characters, we finally get the suicide girl coming back as a ghost that looks totally normal. Her haunting strategy makes little sense with her doing the most random of shit like locking a bathroom door, something with a little birdie flapping around, appearing as a giant face on the ceiling (pitiful effect by the way), and all around shenanigans. At this point in the film, the director was like, "I want more pretentiousness, goddamn it!" This leads to a dream sequence with a birthday party, slow motion, and the audacity to end the movie out of nowhere with no resolution. Oh, you want an actual ending? Too bad. Argh! You know, the funny thing is that this nonsense story line could have worked if they restructured the narrative. Instead of making all the events recent, the movie should have began with the main chick finding the diary long after the one chick committed suicide. Make finding the diary itself what awakens the ghost--which would fit the title better anyway(!)--and have the main chick slowly become haunted or possessed as she tries to read through the diary. Then you can cue the flashbacks in order for the audience to see this relationship spiral out of control all the while the ghost grows more restless between scenes. Once we reach the climax, maybe have the main chick possessed and used by the ghost to confront the living lover and bring final closure to everything. Lastly, and this is key, make the characters less angsty and pains in the ass; make them normal and likable. See...that wouldn't have been so hard.

I've always had a special hatred for this film for being a drama masquerading as a horror and for squandering the chance to make "Whispering Corridors" a franchise of true merit. The only redeeming qualities are a few decent actors, okay camerawork, and the handful of good ideas like the way the diary is designed. Unfortunately, the film fails completely as a horror, is not good as a drama, and is unforgivably boring and slow. Despite these tremendous flaws, I was still close to giving this an average rating until the "ending" came along; I must have blocked that dumbass decision out of my memory, because I could have sworn there was an actual conclusion. Overall, "Memento Mori" is absolute shit from start to finish. The only plus to each film standing alone is that it doesn't matter if you skip one...which is what I'd highly recommend doing here.

Notable Moment: Well, there are plenty of moronic scenes like just casually saying the lesbians can communicate through telepathy because who doesn't? However, I guess I'll go with the one time the film was sorta funny with the girls taking physicals. One chick was like don't tell them my chest size (that's a thing?) and the teacher yelled it. Another one kept trying to seem taller, and then we had the chick whose weight went up after a second measuring. I mean, if this really were a drama it would be an amusing interlude, but these are the scenes the director felt crucial to add to an, alleged, horror movie already ridiculously light on scares?!

Final Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Whispering Corridors Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After a teacher seemingly commits suicide, the students and staff at an all-girls school realize a vengeful spirit has been awakened.

Review: The best way to sum up this franchise: one, giant missed opportunity. Each entry focuses on an all-girls school, along with the ghostly shenanigans that ensue, yet they don't bother with any form of continuity, reuse of characters, or make any kind of references whatsoever. It's a shame too, because the groundwork for something amazing was laid out in this first "Whispering Corridors." In fact, this first installment is probably the best with all things considered (though, I do like part 4). You get a solid mystery, interesting characters, and a, mostly, satisfying, the main girls are all really good looking. You can't go wrong there! Unfortunately, like most of the entries in this series, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. And it's not a deliberate buildup of tension or anything--the directors just like dicking around with unnecessary drama in each installment. Now, before I start rattling on too much about the sequels, let's focus on the original.

What I like about this entry is that they get the ball rolling out the gate. We get an appearance by the ghost as she kills a teacher and makes it look like suicide. The last thing the teacher was doing was trying to make a connection with yearbooks which, in turn, makes the audience intrigued by where this is all going. Accentuating the mystery further is a plethora of red herring characters. Are they family members wanting revenge? Possessed? Or are things not as we believe them to be at all? Hmm! Though, these characters are not entirely handled in the best way--with numerous plot tangents amounting to nothing--I can appreciate the mystery unraveling in such a way that you are even questioning the main girl's involvement in all of this; that's impressive. Of course, the final twist is painfully predictable for a horror vet, but I still commend the buildup to the reveal. I want to further point out that the characters are well acted by our cast of beauties, however, surprisingly, a guy steals the show here. That one douche teacher was so over the top of an asshole that he became amusing; definitely a love to hate situation. Apparently teachers can just freely berate and beat the shit out of their students in Korea. Probably could use a lot of that in the USA to be honest.

While I appreciate the characters, the mystery, and the general premise, I can't deny that many of the negatives associated with this franchise began right here. Obviously you have the pacing issues I mentioned, but then there is the melodrama surrounding the girls. Take things down a notch, and put focus on your horror elements. I'm all for building up strong, believable characters, however, I don't want there to be only two moments that could be classified as horror before the climax rolls around; that is shenanigans I can't support. As for the final's utterly preposterous from a logistics perspective. You're telling me no one--neither staff nor student--noticed the same dead girl enrolling at school for almost a decade?! Besides, how does she get her paperwork through, and why would she even bother showing up for the yearbook photo knowing someone might put the pieces together? Believe me, the more you think about this ghost's scheme the more ludicrous it sounds. And don't get me started on the zinger since it makes even less sense and is clearly never continued with in any sequel. These kind of zany antics and questionable decisions will come back to haunt (hehe) each subsequent entry.

I have always wanted to like this series due to each entry's intriguing and original premise, but the filmmakers usually squander those great ideas. For the original "Whispering Corridors," I felt they mostly succeeded and kept things straightforward which is atypical for Korean horror. There may be some holes in the ghost's plan--and by some I mean a shit ton--but the mystery is considerably strong leading up to the final revelation. More so, the mystery is executed quite well with the assistance of many lovely ladies who do add some heart to their performances. The lull between each horror scene is, admittedly, too long, yet, the story is engaging enough to keep you entertained nonetheless. With some fine-tuning this could have been phenomenal and quite scary, but, instead we must settle for pretty good. "Whispering Corridors" is certainly worth a watch but, keep in mind, that it's the kind of scary you could easily watch alone, in the dark, at midnight in a haunted house with a crazed killer on the loose.

Notable Moment: When the classroom appears to rain blood out of nowhere. I suppose this is to signify that the ghost is gone, but then why was Ji-oh seeing a stain on the ceiling throughout the film?

Final Rating: 6/10