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Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #18 – The Babadook (2014)

Babadook posterJoin Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: The Babadook

Year: 2014

Director: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney

Netflix Rating: 3.5 stars

Seen it before: No! And OMG am I late to this party. I remember EVERYONE was going on about this movie when it came out. Everyone said it was terrifying, and it’s been on Netflix for ages, and it’s on my “to watch list” but I still haven’t seen it. So, no time like the present.

rsz_babadook_2First Impressions: How scared should I be? It has a decent rating and looks scary. Will I need to sleep with the lights on? Should I be watching this over lunch? (This is a bad habit…) Anyway, I hope it’s good and I hope it’s scary and I hope it holds together, and I’m excited a female director is helming it. So here we go! Or and one final observation, anything called the Babadook doesn’t sound scary. Because dookie….

The Verdict: Plot first. Stressed out single mom Amelia (Davis) has to deal with her needy, annoying, son Sam (Wiseman) who is a monster obsessed discipline problem. One night Sam picks out a bedtime story called The Babadook, the book has seemingly appeared from nowhere. This of course kicks off a series of escalating supernatural assaults. Amelia finally succumbs to the Babadook and almost murders her son. But, as annoying as Sam is he has some mad monster fighting skillz. So the worst outcome is avoided, but now Amelia is stuck with an evil supernatural house pet that lives in her basement, because, “You can never get rid of the Babadook”.

rsz_babadook_3OK. There is a lot to unpack about this movie. First off, the big lesson is never have children! LOL! But seriously, it does a great job examining the darker side of motherhood. The things people don’t like to talk about, like how sometimes kids are really hard to love. The scene where Amelia’s sister flat out tells her she doesn’t like her kid felt really true in ways that a lot of saccharine family dramas never do. It’s cold and brutal and a sharp moment that puts a nail in Amelia’s isolation.

The acting is phenomenal. Essie Davis’s performance drips with agony. She’s overworked, underpaid, and can’t get a moment’s sleep. As the film goes on she grows more haggard and disheveled. The young actor playing Sam turns out a fantastic performance. In the beginning Sam is needy, clingy, and screams and kicks, basically he’s the kid on the airplane everyone hates. His obsession with home-built weapons gets him kicked out of school which means he only clings harder to his mother. This clinginess comes from the tragic shared past of mother and son. Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while driving her to the hospital the night Sam was born. Amelia is constantly reminded of the tragedy by Sam’s very existence and she is by turns, cold and supportive, but unable to settle on one.

Babadook 1The actual Babadook itself remains off-screen, unless you count the creepy/cute illustrations in the picture book which evokes it. It appears as shadowy dream creature, and empty suit of clothes, and twice as Amelia’s dead husband. Even when Amelia “tames” it and id forced to keep it in the basement the audience STILL doesn’t get a good look. I’m not sure how effective this is. Personally I love a creature feature, but there is something to be said for keeping it vague. Mostly budgetary, but maybe the audience can conjure something scarier in their mind. I was just frustrated.

But I honestly liked just about everything in this film including the color palette of cool grays, blues and browns. Definitely worth watching, although probably everyone already has…

Rating: 8/10

Bethany (2017) Review

Bethany PosterBethany (2017)

Director: James Cullen Bressack

Starring: Stefanie Estes, Zak Ward, Shannon Doherty, Tom Green

“You’re not just some stinky zombie, honey.”

After Claire’s (Estes) mother dies, she and her husband Aaron (Ward) move into her childhood home. The couple is struggling both from financial issues, which makes the free rent attractive, and personal setbacks, their son was stillborn and Claire is recovering from a suicide attempt. As Aaron’s job future brightens, Claire seems to descend into a personal hell as old memories of her abusive mother surface amidst strange visions and supernatural phenomena.

Bethany is a solid thriller and twisty ghost story whose disparate threads come together at the very end, possibly too neatly. As well crafted as the film is, it handles some things much better than others. First, some of the good. The film is nicely shot, and while the budget wasn’t listed on IMDB it’s a safe bet that it wasn’t a lot. The cool twilight blue lighting and camera angles make the most of the limited setting. Most of the film takes place in Claire’s mother’s house. To that end the set/location was very important and Bethany makes the most of its real-estate. Much of the plot questions Claire’s sanity as memories of her abusive past intrude into her daily life and weird visions haunt her waking hours.

Bethany 1Claire’s mother Susan (Doherty), was a shallow, looks obsessed pageant mom, bent on turning Claire into the perfect little princess. To escape, Claire turned to her imaginary friend, Bethany, who may not have been as imaginary as Claire thought. There is a literal ghost, and a lot of misdirection. Which is fine, for awhile, not 90% of the film. It is not until the VERY end of the movie that Claire’s visions, past, and the haunting all come together with a series of deus ex machina coincidences that provide all the answers to the viewer. And while the last ten minutes or so are certainly the most enjoyable, as Aaron at last encounters the supernatural, freaks out, and then Claire solves the mystery of her past, it is very predictable. Except for one spectacular moment of wrap-up that is probably the best scene in the entire film and I cannot spoil for you.

The acting is very good. Though at times Estes falls into over-acting. Still, in a horror movie, better more than less. Zak Ward does a good job as the mostly supportive and loving Aaron. In the few marital fights that appear on screen, he is a real jerk and the attitude seems more a contrivance of the script, and doesn’t feel true to the character as established. Tom Green is surprisingly restrained as the couple’s web therapist who pays an ill fated visit to Claire and Aaron. Shannon Doherty practically has “wicked” stamped on her forehead and even when she phones it in, does a creditable job as Claire’s overbearing mother.

rsz_bethany_3After a bit of poking around on IMDB I found out that director Bressack has been called “horror’s new hope”  (StudioCity Patch – Mike Szymanski), among other accolades. He is young, and prolific, that’s for sure. But to live up to such a lofty critique I would expect far more from his work. Bethany is an okay movie , it’s entertaining but nothing that hasn’t been seen and done before in any number of films. It’s a good B-movie but nothing more.

Kudos for: Having a basement.

Lesson learned: Lime Jell-O will help you out of handcuffs.

6/10

Satanic (2016) Review

rsz_satanicSatanic (2016)

Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

Starring: Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Clara Mamet, Justin Chon, Sophie Dalah

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

“One devil shrine does not a douche-bag make.”

Satanic starts off promising, with good production values and a talented cast lead by Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Unfortunately it goes downhill pretty quickly, failing to deliver on the occult thrills promised by the title.

Chloe (Hyland), David (Krueger), Elise(Mamet)and Seth(Chon) are on their way to Coachella with a two day stop in Los Angeles for their own private murder tour. Chloe’s cousin Elise and her boyfriend Seth are little baby goths looking to hit some Satanic hotspots, like the Church of Satan LA chapter. They check into a dive hotel room where a woman named Laney Gore slit her own throat back in the 70s. The budding young Satanists, Elise and Seth try to contact the deceased while Chloe pouts nervously and her preppy boyfriend David makes snide remarks. That is everything you need to know about the characters, and as much depth as any of them truly have.

rsz_satanic_1Back to the plot. Elise and Seth are in charge of the LA itinerary while David complains constantly but drives them around anyway. After a rude reception at the Church of Satan Elise and Seth get booted out of a magic store at knifepoint. The group decides to follow the clerk after he leaves the store, to find out if he’s really a Satanist or just a jerk. Well, he turns out to be a Satanist and our intrepid Scooby Gang interrupts a ritual of some kind, and are driven off again, this time at gunpoint. Seth, who is definitely the Shaggy of the group, drops his phone at the site of the ritual. The next day they get a call from Alice, who may, or may not have been a ritual sacrifice. And then a bunch more stuff happens. The plot is honestly exhausting to try and describe because it accomplishes so very little in so very much time. There’s a lot going on but not much happening.

The acting is good. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic except for doe-eyed Chloe, who is sympathetic because she 1-has empathy and 2-has giant doe eyes that would emote with or without her. The other young actors all have impressive resumes and it’s the script that fails them, not their talents. They are given shallow characters with very little personality to work with, and even so they manage to act through trite dialogue and well worn horror clichés.

Satanic seems likes it’s trying to be a throwback to the 1970’s wave of occult inspired films. At the same time it doesn’t seem aware that those films exist and that they did it better. It’s a shallow satanic film as these things go, lacking the accoutrements and ambiance of older occult movies. There are some stock standard robes, a satanic alter… and not much else. Even the locales aren’t gothic.

rsz_satanic_3The actual interesting bits kick in about fifty minutes into the film, but by then it’s too little too late. And then the film STILL has to wander around doing not much of anything, except lots of screaming, for another twenty minutes. The majority of special effects are back loaded into the last half of the film as well, and none of them are worth much of a mention except that for most of the movie I wondered if there were even going to BE any special effects. I am almost sad that my question was answered. The ending is a boring mess

Kudos for: Hardcore, but not too hardcore Satanists.

Lesson learned: Just take the murder tour bus, it’ll save time.

4/10

Zombie Cats From Mars (2015) Review

Zombie Cats PosterZombie Cats From Mars (2015)

Director: Montetré

Starring: Bransen Sands Koehler, Benni Harper, Janae’ Werner

“Death is a cat from Mars”

For awhile now I have been riding high on a good run of micro-budget, self-aware, indie horror flicks. I had hoped that Zombie Cats From Mars would continue this run and be a worthy follow-up to personal classics like Attack of the Killer Shrews and First Man on Mars. Sadly the winning streak is over.

Zombie Cats From Mars is a tough one to sit through. Amateur in every way, shape and form. One IMDB member called it a “web series masquerading as a film”. Which it certainly could be. But I’m not going to try and find out, the movie doesn’t warrant the research.

The plot is simple. A cat from Mars lands on Earth and begins terrorizing a Portland (Oregon) neighborhood. The Martian cat somehow enlists–possibly through mind control– earth cats who join in the carnage. There is a whole absurd legend about a cat named Lord Sassafras and how humans banished him to Mars and now he’s come back for revenge and to rule the universe. Or something. Hard to tell. The legend is read out loud by one of the “actors” who read it too quickly and didn’t enunciate. Billy (Koehler), the main character, puts two and two together and comes up with cats. Well, he doesn’t so much as come up with the answer as read his grandfather’s book about the secret history of cats from Mars (written in ballpoint pen I would like to add). Billy decides he must fight the cats on his own using their weakness, Holy water.

rsz_zombie_cats_2Pretty much every single minute of Zombie Cats from Mars is painful to watch. Everything about it is bad, and not in a good way. The acting is terrible, it’s really a bunch of amateurs and their friends making a movie (or web series) in their back yard and the digital effects would embarrass even Ed Wood Jr. The dialogue has nothing to do with how human beings speak, and is actually bad enough to be distracting, making the viewer question WHY the character is spouting such nonsense every few lines. And it’s not just the dialogue which is bad, the poor writing extends to plotting, and character development, of which there is none. The camera work is also particularly heinous, shots are blurry until the camera can auto-focus. And it’s obvious the film was shot on a video camera. The sound is terrible, the dialogue is frequently soft and drowned out by background noises or echoes. The attacking cats were obvious plush toys which the actors (I hate even calling them that) had to pretend to wrestle with. The cat scratch make-up effects were actually not too terrible, but also incredibly simple and let me just say, mortician’s wax goes a long way.

The one and only laugh is when one of the zombie cats gets out a hacksaw and cuts the gas line. Shot entirely from the “cat’s” POV it’s amusing to watch kitty paws operate a hacksaw. There are several scenes from “kitty vision” with puppet cat paws performing various actions that are pretty funny. If the entire film had been done in “kitty vision” it might have had a gimmick that would have made it bearable to watch. Instead there are only a couple salvageable scenes lost in an abyss of clumping cat litter.

rsz_zombie_cats_3Kudos for: Any house cat that can inflict blunt force trauma

Lesson learned: Portland in NOT the new Hollywood

2/10

Ghosthunters (2016) Review

rsz_gh1Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Crystal Web.

Out now on UK DVD from High Fliers Films

“Ghost DNA.”

After Henry’s wife and daughter are murdered in an abandoned house used by a serial killer, he and his group of ghosthunters go back in to extract their souls. Henry (Stephen Manly) and his friends have been working on a machine to find and preserve ectoplasm. They were testing the machine at the site of the murders when everything went wrong. Now Henry and his cohorts face the angry victims of the serial killer. A serial killer who may not be done.

Well, it sounds okay in theory. And it’s certainly not the worst movie ever. It’s an Asylum film. So that right there should tell you a lot about Ghosthunters. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Ghosthunters manages to be a mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some fun special effects and creepy ghosts. The jump scares aren’t terribly effective, they pop up right about where expected, negating their effectiveness.

There is also a delightful amount of techno-babble the likes of which haven’t been heard since Star Trek went off the air. The techno-babble actually makes for a pretty hilarious scene of really terrible exposition about the ghost hunting machine. It’s basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Don’t give it too much thought.

rsz_gh2Aside from the mediocre plot there is also plenty of mediocre characters performed by so-so actors. The good news is that no one is stand-out terrible. The problem is they are also stuck with a pretty ridiculous script. The most weighty role is given to Manly who does pretty good as the grief stricken Henry but could have brought a lot more personality to the role. Especially since one of the major twists hangs on his. David O’Donnell plays Henry’s friend and confidant Neal who built the ghost trapping machine. Neal also brings along his reporter girlfriend Amy played by Francesca Santoro, who is arguably the main character, but nothing in the movie indicates that fact. Then there is computer programmer Jessica played by Liz Fenning. Crystal Web plays the sadly under-utilized psychic Devon. No one has much character development and nothing more is known about the characters at the end of the film as was known in the beginning.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities in Ghosthunters too. Devon brings a knowledge of the occult to the “science” of paranormal investigating, and in a good scene that goes nowhere, she tries to trap the ghosts in the house using salt. The combination of the occult and science would have been a really interesting development. But the script slogs along with paint-by-number predictably.

The best thing about the film are possibly the props. The best prop in the entire movie is a pair of steampunk styled ghost spotting goggles. Second runner-up is a steampunk styled plague doctor mask worn by the killer. Sadly the ghost trapping machine itself is a bland jumble of spare parts that look like they could be anything. The rest of the special effects are okay, but not great. There is some CGI enhancement of the ghosts, but it looks like most of the effects were achieved practically. It’s not a special effect heavy film, probably due to budget constraints, and it manages with what it has. Over all Ghosthunters is pretty skippable.

gh3Kudos for: The organ music.

Lesson Learned: Say ghost DNA often enough and it just sounds silly.

5/10

OMG, I’m A Robot (2015) Review

rsz_omg_robot_posterOMG!? I’m a Robot (2015)

Directors: Tal Goldberg and Gal Zelezniak

Starring: Yotam Ishay, Tzahi Grad, Hili Yalon, Inna Bakelman

“Love the hand and fear the hand.”

Danny (Ishay) is hopelessly in love with Noa (Yalon). He is super nerdy, super sensitive, and after one post movie cry too many Noa puts the breaks on their relationship. He keeps calling her for eight months with no replies and decides to end it all. But, suicide is hard when you’re an indestructible robot. In a fit of confidence Danny takes his new-found mojo out on the town. But he STILL can’t forget Noa. He decides to swing by her apartment in the hopes of getting a face-to-face. All Danny gets is a cold shoulder from Noa’s roommate Maya (Bakelman). On his way home Danny is attacked by robot ninjas (yes you read that right). Luckily he can shoot lasers out of his hand.

Once he takes out the robot ninjas he realizes more is going on than he ever suspected. It turns out Noa has been kidnapped and it’s up to Danny to rescue her. The search for his maybe ex-girlfriend leads Danny to join forces with his boss at Gold Hi-tech Mr. Goldschmidt (Grad), a Jewish robot that looks like a garbage can named Robot Joseph (voiced by Rob Schneider), uncover a conspiracy, discover his true nature, and stop the launch of a weaponized satellite.

rsz_omg_robot_2OMG!? I’m a Robot is OMG so cute! There is incredibly little to criticize. This sci-fi, action comedy delivers sly humor, nerd references (literally every single t-shirt Danny wears) and fight sequences that look like a live-action manga or anime. The plot holds together well and deftly handles mystery, humor and action. The plot weaves together the disparate elements into a coherent whole and leaves no thread dangling. The directors obviously took great delight in the absurd situation and knew all the right nerd buttons to push. The characters are also well developed and sympathetic, even the villains and all the actors are more than capable which makes for easy emotional investment in the outcome.

The film also offers up some good commentary on masculinity. Danny, a typical 98 pound weakling in glasses is of course an unlikely hero. It’s obvious that Noa dumps him in the beginning because he’s too sensitive, too weak. But the film diverts from the usual zero to hero. Despite Goldschmidt’s attempts to toughen up Danny it only half works. Danny does toughen up, but instead of turning into a Terminator, he never loses his heart and compassion. In the end its heart that triumphs. Even Danny’s confrontation with the film’s villain is laced with empathy and tea drinking.

rsz_omg_robot_3If the film has any fault at all, it’s just that the directors deserved more money to throw at the special effects. Though the cheap CGI effects actually make the movie look and feel a bit like a Power Rangers episode, which might satisfy fans more. A must watch for sci-fi nerds.

Kudos for: The menorah gun

Lesson learned: If you’re a transformer, make sure it’s something useful like an electric kettle

8/10

Beyond The Gates (2016) Review

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond the Gates (2016)

Director: Jackson Stewart

Starring: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton

Out now on UK DVD

“Most of this junk just blends together”

Estranged brothers Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson) reunite when they have to close up their father’s video rental store because their father has been missing for seven months. In the back office they find a VCR board game called Beyond the Gates. Gordon takes it back to his father’s house where he’s staying and along with his fiancé Margot (Grant) and John, they decide to play the game. Surprise, surprise, Beyond the Gates has them trapped in a deadly game. The stakes, no less than their lives.

A lot of movies, and a lot of horror movies in particular, set out with the premise of “a deadly game that must be played to completion”. It’s not exactly an original concept, and it has been done better in other films. Beyond the Gates has a few charms but they can’t make up for slow pacing a mediocre script and modest acting. The film rides high on the recent wave of nostalgia that is sweeping films and horror right now. This is the third or fourth attempt at an 80s throwback I’ve seen and it’s not the strongest entry. Beyond leans a little heavily on viewers fondly remembering the days of video rental stores and knowing what a VCR game is. The film then has to explain what a VCR game is because even if you grew up with a VCR, the games where a niche market. Maybe not the strongest premise for a movie, when it has to be explained even to people as old as I am.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_1Premise aside Beyond the Gates is a mixed bag. The pace is slow. The board game is played out over days instead of forcing the characters to play through all at once. The game itself is overly easy, the clues dull. A lot of time is wasted in conversation as the characters flip back and forth, alternately trying to quit the game and progress. The film feels a lot longer than its lean run time of 84 minutes. The build up to actually playing the game is long as well. First we have to meet Gordon and John, then Gordon’s fiancé Margot, then John’s gross redneck friend Hank (Justin Welborn), THEN we have to establish the relationships and antagonisms between all of these characters. THEN they start the game. THEN people start dying.

What the film was actually good at, was not the horror aspects, or the VCR game shtick. It was actually an interesting film about estranged brothers with a troubled past and uneasy relationship mending fences. I actually felt the same way watching Beyond the Gates as I did watching The Innkeepers, which was a great romantic comedy and a terrible horror movie. Beyond the Gates was a good family drama about reconciliation and a pretty mediocre horror film.

But, the horror wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of practical effects used for gruesome death scenes that were pretty entertaining. However that’s about the best that can be said for the horror side of things. Unfortunately amusing death scenes don’t make up for the slow pace.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_2Kudos for: Gordon’s nerdy hipster vibe

Lesson learned: It takes more than a synth soundtrack to cash in on nostalgia.

6/10

Havenhurst (2016) Review

Havenhurst posterHavenhurst (2016)

Director: Andrew C. Erin

Starring: Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Stamberg

Havenhurst is now available on Cable VOD and Digital HD platforms, including Charter Spectrum, Comcast, DirecTV Cinema, Dish, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more

“Clean slate. Fresh start. The rest is up to you.”

Genre darling Julie Benz stars in this entertaining thriller. She plays Jackie, an alcoholic fresh out of rehab who goes to stay in an apartment building that takes in various addicts and offer them a home, as long as they obey the rules. Her landlady Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan) offers a warm welcome with a side helping of veiled threats. Jackie is welcome to stay for as long she wants but she mustn’t return to her old habits or she’ll face eviction. Jackie agrees to the terms, but she has another motive for taking the apartment in Havenhurst. Jackie’s friend Danielle has recently disappeared from the building without notice and Jackie wants to find out what happened to her. Luckily she is the newest occupant of the apartment Danielle has just vacated. During her search, Jackie meets some of the other residents, including a young girl named Sarah (Shouse) who reminds Jackie of her tragic past.

rsz_havenhurst_3Havenhurst doesn’t exactly break new ground. And I was surprised that I guessed the nature of the apartment building so quickly. Not that the film tries for a big reveal, but literally, my first thought was correct. Still, that doesn’t matter so much with such enjoyable performances and a smoothly told story. Julie Benz is in good form and Fionnula Flanagan, despite the small part, shines brightly as the overbearing landlady with a very dark secret. Sadly, the villains don’t get much screen time. At least not as much as they rightly deserve. Especially given the slasher roots of Havenhurst. Shouse is a talented young actress and does a decent job as the quiet and traumatized Sarah.

There are a couple of gory scenes but there was certainly room for many more, and it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. I’m not generally fan of torture porn, but this movie could have used a bit more blood and guts. Though, there is at least one scene very heavy on the guts. The practical effects are also a welcome change of pace. No CGI that’s noticeable at least (which is always the best kind of CG). Not that there is great emphasis on special effects. Havenhurst depends more on suspense rather than effects.

There are few places where the movie falls flat. There are an unfortunate amount of jump scares that aren’t scary. The director would have been better off aiming for psychological thrills or, again, gore, instead. There are a lot of side characters who don’t get much, if any development. Jackie’s friend Tim (Josh Stamberg) is more plot device than character. He’s a cop. He’s her friend… and that’s it. There is nothing to indicate how they met, how they know each other, how long they’ve known each other. Same goes for the creepy building superintendant and Eleanor’s son Ezra (Matt Lasky)who could have had a much larger and more threatening part, but appears in only about three scenes. Both Tim and Ezra are wasted opportunities script-wise.

rsz_havenhurst_2While Havenhurst isn’t exactly an amazing film, it entertains and provides a coherent, well told story. Julie Benz fans in particular will enjoy her in this starring role. Just be sure to curb your expectations, and settle in for a decent little thriller with a nice kick at the end.
Kudos for: Julie Benz rocking the brunette dye job.

Lesson learned: Always read the lease agreement.

7/10

Che Gilson’s Netflix Roulette #17 – Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

rsz_tucker_and_dale_posterJoin Che as she plays Netflix Roulette and watches a randomly selected horror film. Will it be awesome? Will it be torture? What horrors await?? Find out every month with Netflix Roulette!

Title: Tucker and Dale VS. Evil

Year: 2010

Director: Eli Craig

Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tyduck, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

Netflix Rating: 4.5 stars

Seen it before: No

First Impressions: At first I thought I was in DEEP trouble judging by the dumb title. BUT then I saw who it was starring! Tyler Labine!!! He is a long time favorite of mine and tragically underrated. He’s a goddamn national treasure! Alan Tyduck is good too…So I felt assured by the stars and the rating that this will be good. It promises to be a horror comedy, let’s find out if it delivers. Fingers crossed.

The Verdict: Tucker and Dale VS Evil is a fun film that subverts the “killer hillbilly” trope so painfully common to horror films.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_3Tucker (Tyduk) and his friend Dale (Labine)are on their way to Tucker’s newly purchased dream vacation home. On the way they run into a group of college students who are on their way to get drunk in the woods over the weekend. Dale tries to talk to one of the college girls at a gas station stop but the college kinds, raised on a steady diet of Wrong Turn, flee. Dale and Tucker encounter the college kids again as they’re doing a little night fishing on the lake. One of the kids, Allison (Bowden) falls in the lake and hits her head. Dale jumps in to rescue her but all Allison’s friends see is a hillbilly taking away their friend. And so begins an epic case of misunderstanding and brutal accidental deaths, while a very confused Tucker and Dale think they are caught in a mass suicide pact of college kids.

The fun is both the college students falling into the assumption that any hillbilly must be a killer hillbilly, and Tucker and Dale’s reactions to all the death and mayhem happening around them. There are a number of great deaths, soured by an unfortunate amount of CGI. The CGI is very poor and very obvious. Most of the impalements are done digitally and there are quite a few impalements. The movie makes up for some of it’s worse effects with really good trauma make-up. Especially in the case of poor Tucker who takes most of the damage. But practical gore effects would have elevated the film and been a great parody of older horror hillbilly films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

rsz_tucker_and_dale_2Still, that is a small complaint. The acting is great. The comedic timing of Tyduck and Labine is perfectly on point. The actual villain of the film emerges in the form Chad (Jesse Moss) a preppy college kid who slowly becomes unhinged as his personal demons overtake him. The death scenes are hilarious and there is a lot of great repartee.

This is an older film, but if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. It’s not the goriest horror comedy, or maybe even the funniest, but it’s an original and subversive take on a classic trope and manages to breathe new life into one of the more obnoxious horror tropes.

Rating: 8/10

The Snare (2017) Review

rsz_1the_snare_posterThe Snare (2017)

Director: C.A. Cooper

Starring: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren

Please note the following review could contain spoilers , you have been warned !!

“Somewhere quiet. By the sea.”

Dark and moody from the outset. Ingrained with a deep sense of something wrong from the very first minute. Gross, disturbing, dark, unsettling and ultimately rather unsatisfying, The Snare comes close to becoming something really quite great, only to falter at the end. Still, if you can take a lot of up close shots of maggots, rape and incest, it’s actually a horrifying little film. If you are sincerely bothered by any of the latter than jump ship (and never watch this movie) as this review will discuss each one in turn.

Still there? All right, here we go.

The Snare is about three friends who become trapped in an empty vacation rental. Alice (Eaoifa Forward), her best friend Lizzy (Rachel Warren) and Lizzy’s creepy boyfriend Carl (Dan Paton) decide to get away for the weekend. Lizzy steals the keys to an empty vacation rental from her father and they take off. Everything is normal until the second day when the elevator won’t work, the stairs are locked and there is no phone service. Thus begins a tale of survival. The food they have goes rotten immediately, the water gets shut off and their sanity whittles away as they slowly starve and thirst to death. But there is a little more going on, the apartment is possibly, probably haunted and Alice is assailed with disturbing waking nightmares of past inhabitants, maybe. It’s hard to tell.

rsz_snare_1Alice is unquestionably the main character and ably played by Forward who has a “resting worried face” that somehow makes even the most mundane scenes fraught with tension. From the very beginning Alice’s dreary and awful life is established with painful clarity. She is obviously a victim of sexual abuse. In the opening scenes her father barges into her room right after she’s gotten out of the bathtub. He gives her only nominal privacy while she tries to get dressed to flee for the weekend getaway. He questions her about Lizzy’s boyfriend who he spies outside the window of her bedroom.

Once Alice has gotten away from her father the abuse continues as Carl starts in on the most disgusting ever game of “would you rather” on the car ride up to the seaside resort. He continually pushes into Alice’s personal space in a way that women will instantly recognize and revile. As the situation deteriorates so too does the mental state of the characters. Carl grows ever more restless and violent. Alice’s visions become all the more brutal, calling up abuse from her past and an uncertain vision of an old woman who might be the ghost keeping them trapped. A lot of horror directors shy away from giving concrete explanation for what’s happening in supernatural thrillers, but there is a fine line behind vague and confusing. The Snare leans into confusing and it’s up to viewers to craft their own explanation.

The film’s climax is a horrific rape scene when Carl finally loses his mind, which results in murder, and then cannibalism, because by then the food is long gone. It’s an awful and unrelenting sequence of scenes that are absolutely nauseating. But it’s an absolute gut punch that a lot of horror films don’t come close to accomplishing, so, good for them? In some ways, that is what horror strives for, to haunt and unsettle and in that much they succeeded admirably.

rsz_snare_2And, the maggots. Oh my fucking gawd, I haven’t seen this many maggots since the last Dario Argento movie I watched. The very first shot in the entire film is a close up of big fat maggots writhing in the guts of a dead rabbit. There is even some maggot eating when the food is low enough Carl has a go at a maggot riddled chicken leg, with predictable results. Which, for the record, was an almost funny scene, or in another movie would have been funny, in this too, The Snare succeeds in just making is horrible and I nearly threw up at the end.

The questions the plot raises is, is this a real haunting? Is it something, a mental state, or Alice’s personal demons that she has brought with her, magnified by the apartment? Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer. The ghosts are vague and it’s hard to tell if some of them are from Alice’s memories. The Old Woman ghost (Emma Cooper) seems to be the main ghost but it’s very confusing and the ending doesn’t clear anything up at.

For all of The Snare’s queasy merits it has a few flaws. For starters the character’s escape attempts are rather lame. Carl tried to bash open the door to the stairs with a chair, but his attempt begs the question, has Carl ever seen a police drama on TV? It also would have been perfectly possible for the characters to lower themselves from the balcony, and going, one balcony at a time, make it to the ground. There are plenty of clothes, and blankets, curtains and bed sheets, to make a rope. But, again, Carl’s one lame attempt at making a rope ends with it dropping uselessly off the side of the building. The other thing is that Carl and Lizzy are not well developed or nuanced characters. Carl is surly and grotesque and that is established at the outset and he never changes, or only changes for the worse. Lizzy is a fun party girl. But she disappears for huge chunks of film at a time. When she does show up she either complains or is sleeping.

rsz_snare_3C.A. Cooper is a director to keep an eye on. Hopefully he will be making more films of this ilk as he definitely has a knack. A brutally disturbing watch best recommended to those with an iron clad gag reflex. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrub my brain out and try not to dream about maggots (again).

Kudos for: Almost making me vomit?

Lesson learned: Stop watching horror films over lunch!

7/10