Archives for posts with tag: horror

Grade A

Based on the novel by Stephen King, “It” is a story of seven children who are considered outcasts in school, their everyday fears overshadowed by a creature that has awakened, taking the form of a clown (played by Bill Skarsgard).  Summer is supposed to be a time of fun for children.  Not so for the seven outcasts — calling themselves the Losers — who have to fight a war on two fronts: the terrors that most children face; and the supernatural entity that threatens to kill them one at a time unless the Losers Club bands together and takes the fight to the creature.

My most memorable, movie moment of “It” is the scene when the girl member of the Losers is attacked by her father who has been molesting her.  This scene alone makes the movie unfit for young children, and disturbing for most people to watch.

“It” should bring back many childhood memories of those who watch it.  The best of times (summer days of playing, hanging out with friends and teasing each other, first crush on a girl) and the troubling times (being a loner, feeling like a loser, the start of a girl’s period, being bullied, the mental/verbal/sexual abuse that some parents inflict on their children) are vividly and sometimes graphically exposed in “It.”  Although most of the lead actors are children, “It” is meant for adults, and adults will have a great time watching this movie that is horrifying, funny, and very, very well made.

— M

 

 

Advertisements

Grade B-

It’s a rare thing to have the sequel of a movie to be equal to or better than its predecessor.  “28 Weeks Later” is one of those rarities.

28 weeks after the outbreak of the “rage” virus that turns people into rabid, maniacal killers, an American led NATO force begins the clean up and reconstruction of England.  Displaced survivors are now filtering in to a large district controlled by the military.  But two children, a brother and sister, will enter the district and set forth a chain of events that will bring back infection, death and destruction.  Two U.S. soldiers (played by Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne) have the opportunity to minimize the effects of the new outbreak; but their chances are slim when they are going up against hundreds of infected and soldiers ordered to kill everyone on sight.

My most memorable, movie moment of “28 Weeks Later” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Renner gets out of a stalled car to push it — and those inside the car (Byrne and the two children) — to safety, while soldiers behind Renner are getting their flamethrowers ready to burn him and the car.

A few glaring shenanigans destroyed the A grade I wanted to give this movie.  1) a woman who is a carrier of the virus doesn’t have armed guards posted at her door 24 hours a day; 2) the lead infected has thinking abilities that are not present in any other infected, and the movie never explains why; and 3) a glorified janitor has access to the most sensitive areas of the military compound.  Still, “28 Weeks Later” is an above average horror movie.  Very good acting, direction and editing; a fast pace, numerous tense and horrifying scenes keeps the viewer entertained all the way to the last second.

— M

Grade A-

Four people desperate to survive a virus that turns people into maniacal, rabid killers make a desperate escape out of London.  With a taxicab full of food and plenty of hope, they gamble their lives on a place that offers food, weapons, and protection.  But what lies in wait for them may be a bigger nightmare than the hundreds of thousands of the infected.

My most memorable, movie moment of “28 Days Later” is the scene when Cillian Murphy (playing the lead role) is chased by the infected who were lying in a dormant state in a dark church.  To me, this was the scariest part of the movie, and it shows early on the skills director Danny Boyle has in creating a horrifying and suspenseful atmosphere.

As far as I know, “28 Days Later” is the first movie that has fast moving, non-zombie/infected/seriously angry people who can infect others within seconds, so it gets a special mention for that.  Although technically not a zombie flick, I put this movie in the same category as zombie movies, and it is one of the top 10, best zombie movies ever made.  Yes, it has some shenanigans such as: the taxicab able to ride over a heap of abandoned cars in a tunnel; and the bad guys unnecessarily moving someone miles away from their base to kill them, which leads to an escape (reminds me of those old, corny James Bond movies where Bond escapes because the bad guy wants to be too fancy with the way he wants to kill Bond).  But everything else works very well, and it was all done on a low budget, which makes this movie more deserving of praise.

— M

Grade C

A psychologist (played by Naomi Watts) caring for her catatonic teen, son (Charlie Heaton) who needs 24 hour care faces a snowstorm that can leave them cut off from the rest of the town for a few days.  That wouldn’t be so bad; but there is the possibility of a dead boy haunting Watts.  A boy whom she was treating for anger issues; a boy who may blame Watts for being sent away; a boy who may not have died.  As the storm approaches, Watts’ supernatural experiences become more terrifying (to the character, not so much to the audience).  Is she being tormented by the boy’s angry spirit, or is the boy still alive?  Or is Watts’ guilt over how she handled the boy’s case and how she treated Heaton prior to his accident finally overwhelmed her mind, causing her to lose her sanity a little at a time?

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Watts’ friend sees through the computer camera something that reveals what is really going on.

“Shut In” gets a low grade because the main character makes one stupid decision after another throughout most of the movie.  An example: she wants to get out of the house, but the doors and windows are nailed shut.  The windows are flimsy, so what would you do?  For Watts, instead of breaking a  window, she panics and runs around and decides to break a skylight.  If she’s not concerned with making all kinds of noise by breaking a skylight, why not just break one of the ground floor windows and get out in less than five seconds?

“Shut In” would have received a much, much lower grade had it not been for the twist in the third act.  I have to admit, the movie suckered me into thinking one way, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my thinking was erroneous.

My last criticisms of this movie are these: there were too many similarities to “The Shining” during the third act — if you watch this movie and have seen “The Shining,” you’ll see; and the creepiness factor of the bathroom scene (you’ll know which one) is so high it’ll make every woman cringe, unless you’re really, really kinky.

— M

Grade C –

Riding on the coattails of “The Conjuring” and cashing in on that horror movie, “Annabelle” succeeds when it comes to making money, but falls on its face as a horror movie.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…let’s start with the story.  A man buys a super creepy doll for his pregnant wife — she collects dolls, even ugly, creepy ones that would give Charles Manson nightmares — and then they get attacked by cultists.  A female cultist named Annabelle is killed by the police, and her body is found cradling the creepy doll.  Does the couple move out?  Nope.  Do they get rid of the doll that was cradled by the serial killer woman during her final moments?  Nope.  Do creepy, evil things start to happen soon after that?  Yup!

The clueless couple eventually accept that they are being haunted, and after befriending a woman (played by Alfre Woodard) who has some experience with the supernatural, they figure out what is haunting them, and why.  How to stop the powerful, malevolent force…well, that’s not so easy.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Annabelle” is the scene when Annabelle levitates, and the evil force that is making her rise is shown.

“Annabelle” is told with a leisurely pace — many would call it boring and slow, but I didn’t mind it too much because it revealed much of the mindset of the female half of the couple, and that mindset is crucial to the finale.  What I did have a problem with is that the scares were too few and far between; and the Woodard character did something at the end which I found to be out of character.  Although there was a scene in the second act that was supposed to set up what Woodard did at the end, it still made no sense after I analyzed Woodard’s words and actions.  It just completely took me out of the movie and my mind was screaming “Shenanigans!”

— M

 

 

Grade C –

Manny’s Movie Musings: Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a couple who stay in a secluded, vacation house who are terrorized by three masked strangers.  With their lines of communication and transportation destroyed, Tyler and Speedman are on their own and must find a way to survive the night.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Strangers” is the scene when Speedman finally locates a shotgun and shotshells, enough to kill an army of strangers.  But — and here is why this movie gets a low grade — Tyler and Speedman make one stupid move after another.  It’s as if they suddenly got stupid and decided to do everything wrong.  Were the characters that stupid, or was the writer/director not a very good screenwriter?  I choose the latter.  A few well set-up scares saved “The Strangers” from getting a much lower grade.  Yes, Maximus, I was entertained; but not as much as I would have if the director was a skilled screenwriter.

— M

Grade B +

Writer/Director/actor Leigh Whannell creates a surprisingly good horror movie with “Insidious: Chapter 3.”  Most horror series, once they are up to part 3, the truly horrifying thing about them is how badly they are made and how much they suck.  Not so with this third round of the “Insidious” movies, which makes it more of an abnormality…in a good way.

Stefanie Scott plays a teen who recently lost her mom to cancer, and now she is hearing things and believe it’s her mom trying to contact her.  But instead of letting the dead be dead, Scott tries to communicate with the entity she thinks is her mom — but it’s not her mom.  A terrible accident has Scott die for a few seconds, and when she comes to life, she will find that she has brought something very evil into her life…a spirit that she nor her family can fight off by themselves.

Coming to their rescue — maybe — is an elderly medium we have seen from the first two “Insidious” movies, played by Lin Shaye.  Although Shaye had many encounters with dark spirits in the past, giving her an insight and wisdom on what to do, Shaye is spiritually weakened by a personal tragedy and a direct threat to her life from The Bride In Black spirit.  To be successful in helping Scott and keeping herself alive, Shaye must deal with her fears, or else two good souls will be lost forever.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Insidious: Chapter 2” is the scene when Scott, possessed by a demon, breaks off her cast on both legs and starts walking.  As Scott walks, the bones in her legs can be heard breaking again!  This poor girl…even if she frees herself from the demon, she’s going to have one hell of a recovery period from those broken bones!

Fans of “Insidious” will be very satisfied with this third chapter — it’s almost as good as the first, and better than the second.  It has a few cheap scares, but most of the scares are set up well and play up to your fears of things that lurk in the shadows.

— M

 

Grade B –

“Insidious” left us with **SPOILER ALERT** the father, played by Patrick Wilson, having his body taken over by an evil spirit; and Wilson’s own spirit is in the spirit world through astral projection. “Insidious: Chapter 2” shows us a bit of the past to make sense of what we are about to see in the present, which is the matriarch of the afflicted family (played by Rose Byrne) trying to make sense of what happened in the final moments of the first movie; and her doubt as to who Wilson really is and how to keep herself and her children safe from all the spooks and her possessed hubby.  With the help of a medium and two bumbling ghostbusters, Byrne will be in the fight of her life as she and her family are attacked by evil spirits on two fronts: the spirit world, and the real world.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Insidious: Chapter 2” is the scene when we learn of the tragic origin of the “bride in black” spirit from the first movie.

“Insidious: Chapter 2” is a clever sequel that employs time shifting and spirits of the present visiting people and spirits of the past.   There are the usual cheap scares —  spooks jumping out accompanied by a loud noise — and the genuine scares that takes its time to develop and makes you wonder what the hell is going on.  Unfortunately, the bumbling ghostbusters (one of whom is Leigh Whannell, one of the writers) usually ruin the scary scenes with their comedy acts.  This is a movie that should be played straight, sans comedic, tension relievers.  Let the audience be tense, let them be at the edge of their seats; once you got them on the hook, leave them on the hook until the end.

— M

Grade C +

For those who are Roman numeral challenged, “Saw V” is the fifth movie of the “Saw” series.  Mostly this movie is about one of Jigsaw’s proteges and how this person came to be just that.  It’s a somewhat interesting origin story; and of course, “Saw V” has the traps (half of which are a bit boring compared to the previous “Saw” movies), the cruel and bloody choices the victims have to make to “redeem” themselves, the frenetic editing, the fast pacing, and the lean sets.  What we no longer get are the clever, non-linear story-telling that gives us several twists and surprises in the end.

The shenanigans are also amped up in “Saw V.”  Many traps are huge, set pieces that would take an army of MIT grads with lots of disposable cash to set up.  But we are to believe two or three people (including a near-death cancer patient) did all this.  There is a limit to suspension of disbelief.  Also, there’s a difference between suspension of disbelief, and suspension of b.s.  The former is fairly easy for moviegoers to do; the latter…not so much.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw V” is the scene when two victims put their arms in traps that have buzzsaws so that enough blood can be drawn to release the locks and set them free.   Gruesome, cringeworthy, and a bit funny because both victims were making faces that looked like they were having orgasms.

This fifth installment of the “Saw” series continues the downward slide — regarding the quality of the script — that was started in “Saw IV,” a strong sign that maybe it’s time to put this baby to bed.

— M

Grade D –

A modern, vampire tale: a man (played by Cristobal Tapia Montt) enters a small town looking for a woman.  Instead, he finds trouble: a young thug who does what he wants because of who his father is; and the thug’s father, a high-ranking police officer who will do anything to protect his son.  Father and son commit a heinous crime that they try to cover up, but “The Stranger” has terrible secrets of his own that will threaten to spill the blood of many who live in the town.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Stranger” was the start of the closing credits.  I was so happy that it ended and my suffering was over.  Why did I not stop the movie earlier?  Because I was watching it with three other people…otherwise this movie would have been stopped at the 20 minute mark.

A badly written script (almost every line has the word “fuck” or some variant of it, telling me that the writer/director doesn’t have the skill to create tense, gripping dialogue without the crutch of curse words; characters who do things that make no sense; pacing that is off), and acting that belongs in high school plays completely wreck a good story.  If you’re looking for a movie to watch while folding your laundry and playing with your phone and checking out the sale items on the local CVS flier, then this movie is for you!

— M

Grade B

Ten years after “Prometheus,” the crew of the colony ship, Covenant, experiences a serious malfunction of their ship.  Forced out of their expected 7 year cryo-sleep to make repairs, the crew’s focus switches from their destined planet to one that is much closer and supposedly more suited for humans.  Only Katherine Waterston, who plays the second in command, is hesitant to alter the plans; but the acting captain (played by Billy Crudup) and the rest of the crew are insistent on checking out the newly discovered planet, and off they go.

An exploratory team lands on the planet that turns out to be beautiful and teeming with plant life — but no animals or even insects can be seen or heard.  Despite this oddity, some of the crew are already planning on starting their new colony here…until two crewmen suddenly become sick and the horrifying, true nature of the planet is revealed.

Alien spore infestations/gestation/gory emergence, frenetic bursts of intense fights against aliens, impeccable cinematography, good and evil synthetic people (both played amazingly by Michael Fassbender), the mystery of what happened to the last two crew members of Prometheus, and claustrophobic bug hunts are all here.   There are moments where you — the “Alien” movies aficionado — will tell yourself “Oh, I’ve seen this before in previous ‘Alien’ movies,” but it shouldn’t be looked at negatively.  It’s simply director Ridley Scott giving fans what they want to see.  What should be treated negatively are the two, huge shenanigans in “Alien: Covenant” that, had they not been there, would have earned this movie a grade A.

Shenanigan #1: **SPOILER ALERT** Fassbender, as David, easily places his stolen spaceship above the city of “Engineers” and drops a crapload of bio-weapons on the Engineers below.  So these Engineers, with their highly advanced tech capability, had no way of knowing who was piloting their ship, and just let one of their own spacecraft hover above their city without any sort of vetting on who was actually inside the ship?  And where were the other space vessels of the Engineers throughout the city?  This highly advanced race looked like they forgot to pay the bills and all the good stuff were repossessed.  Shenanigan #2: Crudup, despite seeing the evil nature of Fassbender/David, lets himself fall into a trap that even a stoner whose brain is half-baked would’ve seen coming.

The fact that I gave this movie a B despite those two giant shenanigans tells you that I really enjoyed watching this.  Yes, I am a serious fan of “Alien” movies; but beyond that, “Alien: Covenant” is a good movie that combines old school elements with the new, and it definitely deserves to be part of the “Alien” lore.

And now, for my most memorable, movie moment of “Alien: Covenant”: the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Fassbender/David fights Fassbender/Walter.  For a brief moment, this sci/fi flick becomes a kung-fu flick.  It was surprising and entertaining.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in “Shaun Of The Dead,” a British comedy/horror about two best friends who are caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in their hometown.  First order of business, find a way to rescue Pegg’s mom and ex-girlfriend, then head to a secure place: The Winchester Pub!  But as everyone knows, there’s what you plan for, and there’s what really happens.  Fans of British comedies and zombie flicks will love this great collaboration of the two genres, giving its core audience lots of funny jokes, zombie action and gore, silliness, and a few well acted scenes of drama.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Shaun Of The Dead” is the scene when Pegg’s group runs into another group of survivors led by Pegg’s friend; and both groups are nearly identical!

— M

Grade B –

“Saw IV” concentrates on two storylines: what truly motivated Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell) into putting people into traps; and a cop (played by Lyriq Bent) being tested by Bell to see how far Bent’s obsession will go regarding Bent’s need to save everyone.  While the former is interesting and well played, the latter was forced, with Bent doing many things that were out of character despite the screenwriters trying to justify it with Bent’s emotional problems.

More bloody, heinous traps; more gruesome deaths of victims; more plot twists; more revelations; more mini cassettes with Bell’s altered voice; more frenetic editing and transitions that move the story along rapidly…all leading to more reasons for fans of this series to squirm and laugh and gasp and enjoy the morbid nature of these stories.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw IV” is the very detailed, disgusting, and fascinating autopsy scene.  Unless you have a very strong stomach, this is not the time to be eating your hot dogs or chips and salsa.

Four movies in, and the “Saw” movies still have lots of steam.  How far can it go before going stale?  I shall find out soon because I’ll be checking out part V.

— M

Grade B –

And the gore and traps and plot twists keep going in the “Saw” franchise with part III.  Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith reprise their roles as Jigsaw and his ex-junkie understudy, respectively.  Bell is at death’s door, so he enlists the help of Smith to kidnap a doctor to help keep him alive as he plays his last game, which presumably is the testing of an emotionally broken man played by Angus Macfadyen.  So here we have multiple themes/storylines  happening, adding layers of depth that makes this — and previous “Saw” movies — a level up from the many rip-offs out there.

First we have the complex relationship between Bell and Smith…teacher-student, father-daughter, perhaps lovers depending on which side you focus on.  Then there is the Macfadyen story: a husband blinded by rage to the point he has mentally abandoned his family…will he sacrifice everything to feed his rage and vengeance, or can he forgive and start living again?  The doctor…can she snap out of her daze (induced by drugs and an unhappy marriage) to keep a maniac alive without proper medical equipment?  And of course, there are the plot twists and surprise ending.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw III” is the scene when a man’s head and limbs are held in independently twisting, vise-like devices.  The key to freedom is guarded by a shotgun, and as the seconds tick by, the man’s limbs are slowly turned until bones, ligaments, and tendons break and snap.  Ouch!

“Saw III” does have plot holes and inconsistencies, which I refer to as shenanigans; but the clever and gory traps/puzzles, fast pace, twists and surprises, and some thought-provoking themes more than compensate for said shenanigans.  For fans of this horror sub-genre, prepare to cringe, laugh, feel queasy, and have fun.

— M

Grade C –

Manny’s Movie Musings: “The Bye Bye Man” is a mediocre horror movie about a malevolent spirit whose name must not be mentioned, or else he’ll become more powerful and he will eventually kill anyone who utters his name.  An extremely intense, violent and shocking opening sequence sets the bar very high, but it’s only a tease, as the rest of the movie is a disappointment from that point.  The stupid decisions the victims make, the silly excuses the story makes to get the parents out of the way, and the cheap scares all contribute to making this movie forgettable.  In the trailer, it is mentioned that the spirit’s name must not be said…he must not even be thought of.   Well, “The Bye Bye Man” is a movie that will soon be lost in the vast ocean of horror movies that failed to live up to their hype; a title that no one will ever utter nor remember.

— M

Grade C

Manny’s Movie Musings: astronauts do the dumbest things and start messing with an alien lifeform that is evolving at a fast rate; and when things start to go bad they just forget basic safety precautions and containment procedures.  The victims’ deaths are somewhat interesting; the evolution of the alien is somewhat interesting.   “Somewhat interesting” should not be the result of a $58 million movie.  Adding more misery to “Life” is the inevitable comparison to “Alien,” a masterpiece of a movie.   Whoever greenlit “Life” for production probably has no life left in his career in the movie business.

— M

Grade B+

Fresh off his indie hit, “The Visit,” writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan creates another mega indie hit, “Split.”  James McAvoy plays a seriously troubled man with about 24 different personalities.  Each personality vies for its time “out in the light,” but the more malevolent personalities have taken over, resulting in the kidnapping of three young ladies.

The police have no idea where the girls are, and it will be up to the girls to find a way out of their prison.  Time is quickly running out, because a new personality is coming out of McAvoy, an entity that supposedly has the power to alter McAvoy’s body into one that is monstrous.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Split” is the bonus scene after the end credits, revealing a tie-in with another Shyamalan movie that hints of what his next movie will be.

Shyamalan’s mojo is definitely back, helped by the superb acting of McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays one of the kidnapped girls.  I can’t wait to see Shyamalan’s next movie.

— M

Grade B +

From the mind of comedian Jordan Peele comes “Get Out,” a story of a black man (played by Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his white girlfriend’s (played by Allison Williams) family in the suburbs and slowly finds out that things are very, very off with her family and servants.

Everything is ok at first: the parents are all smiles and greet Kaluuya with hugs; the father mentions how he would have loved to vote for Obama a third time; the father using various slang to show he’s hip and down with the Negroes, etc.  Then Kaluuya notices the odd behavior of the black servants; the thinly veiled, racist remarks of Williams’ drunk brother; plus a weird dream of Kaluuya being hypnotized by Williams’ mother.  And this is just the start of Kaluuya’s long nightmare that will have him fighting for his sanity and life as the full secret of his girlfriend’s family is slowly unraveled.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Kaluuya is told of the family secrets and the heinous plan of what is to be done to him.

“Get Out” is not just a very good suspense/thriller, it is also loaded with social commentary that are insightful, funny, and infuriating.  Examples: a black man’s worry of being caught in a rich, white neighborhood at night; the troubles that black men have to deal with when dating white women; white liberals who are constantly giving examples of how they are not bigots; the physical superiority of black men over white men; the mental superiority of white men over black men; and how trendy it is now to be black, as if the color of skin is some kind of accessory to flaunt.

The subject of race relations is a touchy one, and those who are overly sensitive may want to steer away from this movie.  Everyone else, jump in and watch the movie and have a laugh.  “Get Out” is, after all, a satire.

— M

Grade B

The second part of the “Saw” franchise, “Saw II” is surprisingly good because of the plot twists and masterful use of non-linear storytelling.  “Saw II” gives us a bigger set of victims, 7 stuck in a building filled with deadly traps and puzzles, plus 1 more “victim”: a cop (played by Donnie Wahlberg) who happens to be the father of one of the 7 victims.  Caught in serial killer Jigsaw’s (played by Tobin Bell) twisted plot, Wahlberg must do as Bell commands in order to have a chance at seeing his son alive again.  But can Wahlberg, a notoriously brutal cop, follow Bell’s rules and keep his cool long enough to ensure his son’s safe return?

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw II” is the scene when Bell’s timer for his “game” counts down to zero, revealing a shocking secret, and proving that all “players” must follow his rules.

I am very impressed with “Saw II” as it goes above and beyond the typical “torture porn flick.”  But it does suffer from several shenanigans such as: police procedures in raiding Bell’s hideout; Bell allowed to stay in his hideout because of what cops see on video monitors, giving the bad guy the advantage of being in his home turf; and a lowly Detective with anger management issues is put in charge, further jeopardizing the entire case and potential victims with his numerous bad judgments and decisions.   Still, the good more than outweighs the bad, and “Saw II” is a superior example of this genre.

— M

Grade C +

The very first in a long and successful movie franchise, “Saw” has two extremely unfortunate guys (played by Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) chained to pipes in a large, disgusting bathroom.  From hazy memories and clues given to them in the room, they realize that they have been kidnapped by a serial killer named Jigsaw in order to play out a vicious, painful and bloody game in order to escape.  Should the two men refuse to play, there will be severe consequences.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw” is the scene when Elwes reaches his breaking point and uses a hacksaw to begin his escape.  Although cringeworthy, it is mild compared to what future “Saw” movies has in store.

“Saw” works because 1) it moves fast thanks to a tight script and frenetic editing that can be annoying most times; 2) there is the mystery of who the serial killer is; and 3) it offers the audience very interesting and sadistic ways to kill the victims.  Weaknesses of “Saw” are: 1) Elwes’ often melodramatic, soap opera-ish acting; and 2) Danny Glover’s cop character who makes one stupid move after another, making me wonder if he had a brain.  Taken as a whole, “Saw” is an entertaining movie for fans of so called “torture porn” horror movies.  Seeing the traps/puzzles alone is worth the price of admission.

— M

Grade B +

One of the best suspense/thriller movies from 2016, “Don’t Breathe” has three teens (Jane Levy playing the main character of the bunch) breaking into the home of a blind man (played by Stephen Lang) to steal a lot of cash that he supposedly has in the house.

It’s supposed to be an easy job for the teen burglars: Lang lives alone in a Detroit neighborhood where almost every house is abandoned (few witnesses); one of the teens has a master key for the burglar alarm that Lang uses; Lang is old, the teens are young and they outnumber him.  But once inside Lang’s home, the young thieves get much more than they planned for when Lang proves to be a very tough and vicious opponent who also harbors some very dark, nasty secrets.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when the burglars discover a hidden room in Lang’s basement that reveals a shocking secret.

“Don’t Breathe” has a few, minor shenanigans that most viewers will easily forgive because overall, the entire movie works very well.  It is very suspenseful, the pacing is fast, the acting is good, you’ll want to know what happens to each of the four characters, and there are a few surprises thrown in there that seasoned movie fans should be able to foresee.

— M

Grade B –

Manny’s Movie Musings: based on the novel by Stephen King, “Cujo” is about a rabid Saint Bernard who terrorizes a mother (played by Dee Wallace) and her young son (played by Danny Pintauro).  Trapped in a small, Ford Pinto that doesn’t start, Wallace and Pintauro spend several agonizing days in the heat inside their car, unable to escape with Cujo just waiting for them nearby.  No cell phones, no neighbors…if Wallace doesn’t make a desperate attempt to flee or kill Cujo, she and her son will surely die in the car from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Cujo” is the scene when Wallace has her car door open and trying to take care of Pintauro, and Cujo appears behind her and goes in for the kill.  Although “Cujo” feels at times like a made for tv movie (most of the director’s work is in tv), it is still a good horror/suspense movie that continues to be relevant today with all the reported dog attacks against humans.

— M

Grade B

A mother’s secretive past produces an evil entity that haunts not only her, but her two children (played by Teresa Palmer and Gabriel Bateman).

When Bateman’s sleepiness gets him into trouble at school, his big sister, Palmer, who lives on her own, is called in to answer for his condition and to pick him up.  After getting a quick rundown of what’s going on in the house, Palmer suspects that the entity that haunted her as a child — an entity she believed was a figment of her imagination — could be real, and is now coming after little Bateman.

With a bit of research into her mother’s past and her own, first-hand experience, Palmer realizes that her family is up against a powerful spirit that has killed before…a spirit that gains strength in the dark and is weakened in the light.  For Palmer and Bateman to have any hope of stopping the entity, they must conquer their fears and work together, and convince their frightened mother to help them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Lights Out” is the scene when we first see the evil spirit.  It was…very frightening.  I think if that happened to me, I’d crumple up into a ball and start crying.  Not Denzel Washington crying, but Matt Damon crying.

Although this movie is several levels above the typical, horror movie out there, it does suffer from a few shenanigans, such as the main characters voluntarily separating from each other during crisis mode.  The lights have gone out, and you go off on your own to do some investigating?

Bottom line: if you’re going to watch “Lights Out” by yourself at night with the volume turned up in your home theater system, you may want to keep some lights on.

— M

Grade A

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return to play real life, paranormal investigators Ed Warren and Lorraine Warren, respectively.  This time, they help a family in England who claim to have an evil spirit in their house.  Wilson and Farmiga are sent by the Catholic church to investigate and prove the claim false or true, and then let the church handle the rest.  But what the married investigators discover will force them to go beyond their tasked duties and put one of them at risk of a horrible death.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Conjuring 2” is the lengthy, opening sequence of the movie, when Wilson and Farmiga are investigating what is famously known as the Amityville Horror.  This sequence is full of genuine frights, setting the tone for the rest of the movie.

A true test of a horror movie’s worth is its ability to provide true scares, and “The Conjuring 2” passes that test with flying colors.  Yes, there is little here that most horror fans haven’t seen before; but I dare you to watch this movie alone in the dark.  I started watching this in the dark, at night, with two people — after about 20 minutes we decided to turn on a few lights.

— M

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: Brittany Snow plays a woman who is in desperate need of financial help because she is caring for her brother who is dying and needs a bone marrow transplant.  Enter the always interesting Jeffrey Combs, who plays a rich man who invites Snow for a dinner and a game; and whoever is the last person standing gets all the help they ever dreamed of.  The game, of course, is  “would you rather do this, or would you rather do that?”  Both alternatives are horrible, and the players are not told that once the game starts, there’s no going back.  Winner takes all, the rest die in horrible ways.  “Would You Rather” is a good example of “torture porn.”  It is gory, it makes you cringe — unless you’re a sadist — and, believe it or not, I think it’s part comedy.  If seen purely as a horror flick, then it’s an “eh” movie; but if seen as a comedy/horror, then this movie works better than most people give it credit for.  Look: if you think of a Toyota Corolla as a race car, then you’d think it was the suckiest race car of all time; but if you look at that car as a basic, daily driver to take you grocery shopping and back and forth to work, then it’s a pretty damn good car.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Would You Rather” is the scene when a player is given the choice of holding his breath under water for 2 minutes, or slicing one of his eyes with a razor blade.  Yikes!

— M

Grade B

Based on the Swedish movie “Let The Right One In,” “Let Me In” is a complex story of love, loneliness, bullying, absentee parents, the need for companionship, and what people are willing to do to for those they love…and yes, this is a vampire story, and a reasonably scary one at that.

Taking place in 1983 (a time before security cameras and cell phones were everywhere), Kodi Smit-McPhee plays an unhappy boy who doesn’t have any friends, has parents who are separated, and gets bullied by three boys who are each twice his size.  His life is about to get very interesting — for better and worse — when new neighbors arrive at night to his apartment complex.   Enter Chloe Grace Moretz (as a little girl who only appears at night, and who is accompanied by an old man presumed to be her father).   Moretz and McPhee have their first meeting in the snowy playground, she being barefoot and quite hostile to McPhee’s presence; but as time goes on, a trust between them forms, leading to a strong bond that will be tested when Moretz’s true nature is revealed to McPhee and the body count rises and the police slowly figure out who is doing the killings.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Let Me In” is the scene when McPhee finally fights back against his bullies.  Holding a large stick, McPhee faces off against his three tormentors.  Lead bully says he is going to take the stick away from McPhee and shove it up McPhee’s ass.  Lead bully takes a step forward and McPhee hits him on the face with the stick.  In what seems to be slow motion, lead bully stops, falls on his knees, and then starts screaming like a bitch.  At first I thought the bully was just a punk who couldn’t take a little hit, but then it is shown that the  bully’s left ear has been ripped almost in half!   Oh, well, serves him right.

“Let Me In” stands apart from the other vampire movies because the two main characters are played by little kids, and we get to see the evolution of the relationship of these two outcasts go from being strangers to lovers (using the word’s most simple definition).   I enjoyed the amazing performances of McPhee and Moretz, the outstanding direction of Matt Reeves, and the tight screenplay that moved things along fairly quickly even with scenes that were “slow.”  One major complaint though…a shenanigan, actually.   Why did Moretz let the old guy do most of the hunting for victims?  Although small in stature, Moretz had the strength of about 10 men, so she could easily hunt for herself; or better yet, she should hunt with the old guy so that the chances of success would be much higher.   This is the biggest flaw I noticed in this movie; but no movie is perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story despite this huge shenanigan.  Vampire fans should not miss “Let Me In” as it’s one of the better vampire flicks out there in the past 10 years.

— M

C+

Manny’s Movie Musings: A deaf/mute woman (played by Amanda Adrienne) is kidnapped, tortured, raped, and left for dead by a gang of racist “desertbillies” in New Mexico.  At the point of death, the spirit of an ancient, Apache warrior inhabits her body, giving her the opportunity to exact bloody revenge upon those who defiled her; but she must act quickly, as her body is dead and is quickly rotting.  What could have been a very bad, B movie is saved by the great acting of Adrienne and a lot of action sequences.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Savaged” is the scene when Adrienne’s broken body tries to save her kidnapped boyfriend: the pickup truck of the bad guys take off with her b/f, and she cannot pursue them because of her injuries; she reaches out and screams…and it’s just heartbreaking.

— M

Grade C+

Manny’s Movie Musings: a quirky, mystery/suspense/thriller/comedy that stars Morgana O’Reilly as a criminal under house arrest — her mom’s house!  Angry that she has to be in her estranged mother’s and stepfather’s old, creepy house, O’Reilly sulks and grunts, eats like a pig, drinks like a sailor, and contributes nothing to the family.  But as memories come back of a ghost that supposedly haunts the large house, O’Reilly starts to see and hear things that will make her a true believer.  Working with her parents and her parole officer, O’Reilly will try to solve the mystery of the ghost and what it wants from her.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Housebound”: O’Reilly sitting on a toilet peeing, and we hear her urine streaming into the toilet water.  She hears a noise…her peeing stops; noise stops…she continues to pee; another weird noise near the bathroom…she stops peeing; the weird noise disappears, and we hear her peeing again.  Toilet humor, literally!

— M

Grade A

The most horrifying movie I’ve seen in years comes not from Hollywood, but from Canada, and a low-budget production at that.

“The Witch” is a story set in the 1600s in America.  A family (Ralph Ineson as the father, Anya Taylor-Joy as the eldest daughter, the two main characters) is banished from their community because of Ineson’s strict adherence to the Bible.   They start a new life deep into the wilderness, but an evil lurks within the woods near their home.  One tragedy after another falls upon the family, and their frustrations slowly make them turn on each other until witchcraft is uttered and harsh words escalate into violence.

To be clear, when I say this movie is horrifying, I am not talking about the cheap scares one finds in so many movies…you know, when a creature jumps out at the same time extremely loud music is played.  Any idiot with a cellphone camera can do that.  “The Witch” is masterfully directed in the old-school way (a minimalist approach, if you will, where the camera is set up and kept still, and the actors are left to simply give brilliant performances).  A simple but very creepy score compounds the tension and fear, turning a shot of something that normally can be considered beautiful (such as a wide shot of the woods) into something dreadful.  Watch this movie alone in the dark, and I promise you will feel an evil presence lurking behind you for most of the movie.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Witch” is the scene when Joy, after being teased and frustrated by her younger sister, grabs and tells her sister that she (Joy) is the true witch of the woods.  That Joy made a pact with the devil, and if the younger sister doesn’t behave, Joy will kill her and eat her pink flesh.  Oh, boy!  You know that conversation is going to come out some day.

Fans of typical horror fare may want to skip “The Witch.”  Unfortunately, many people have been force-fed garbage horror to the point where that is what they are used to; and when they finally watch a well-made horror movie, they are bored and say the movie sucks because they want to see the monster over and over again and get shocked by “jump scares.”  But fans of true horror movies, you should not miss “The Witch.”  A bit of a caveat: this movie is hard to understand because of the actors’ accents and their use of old English.  But pay attention and you’ll get it; and you will be treated to a rare piece of true artwork in filmmaking.

— M

Grade D+

Manny’s Movie Musings: A watchable, campy, direct to video, zombie movie with enough action and gore to keep one from turning off this movie before it ends…unless you have something better to do.  “Dead Rising: Watchtower” stars Jesse Metcalfe as a reporter who finds himself on the wrong side of a quarantine wall after a zombie outbreak.  Trapped in a city that is about to be firebombed by the military, Metcalfe discovers a conspiracy regarding the outbreak that can both save and kill him.  A surprisingly poignant scene involves Virginia Madsen’s character who finally finds her zombie daughter — she kneels down, opens her arms, and happily gives herself to her daughter…there is no pain, no fear, just complete joy from Madsen who just wants to be with her child…a memorable scene in an otherwise forgettable movie.

— M

%d bloggers like this: