Movie Review: Evil Dead (2013)

When I heard they were making a new Evil Dead I was both excited and worried. For one Evil Dead a beloved cult classic while on the other it is a remake per se and you know how they can go right. Well this seem’s to fall in a grey space for me so let’s get right to it.

For one this new Evil Dead is grittier in that it takes itself somewhat seriously this time around and starts the movie off with a plot. A group of young adults head to this cabin in the woods where they attempt to help their friend Mia (and one of the character’s sister) in detoxing from her drug use over the course of a weekend. Now we already know that there was some freaky things that happened at this cabin via a flashback so it’s only a matter of time before things get out of hand.

In fact it takes almost no time at all for things to start going down the drain for these people. Mia is seemingly possessed after one of the friends reads from the necronomicon found in the basement and inadvertently summons this malevolent demon / spirit. From that point on there is the typical body count and craziness one would expect.

There are plenty of homages to the previous Evil Dead that you will be wondering if they are trying to freshen things up or are we simply watching a retread. Again depending on your taste it can go either way. I would go so far however as to say that it was too much retread. Rather then making the reboot their own thing they kept trying to use what we already have seen before and the movie comes off as being incredibly lazy.

The acting started off pretty good as well with everyone playing their designated roles and the prospect of the brother-sister relationship rebuilding between Mia and David had plenty of potential. But once the gore fest commenced this took an almost amusing backseat because she was possessed throughout the whole movie. Everyone else who seemed interesting initially were just fodder for the meat grinder.

And while the tone at the beginning of the movie is serious and the acting being quite decent we are torn away part way through the movie with ridiculous dialogue from the possessed friends as they each have their moment under the spotlight. It’s like they tried to inject campy dialogue from the original during these supposedly scary moments. Yes, let’s have the demon / spirit / possessed person yell “cunt” in various phrases. Oh the horror! When that moment hit, Evil Dead lost all credibility it had going for it. It’s ok to use expletives and other foul language in a horror movie. Hell it is expected but the dialogue was sophomoric. Maybe I expect better from demons / spirits.

This Evil Dead embraces gore and gives people a sight that is rarely seen. At times it was outlandish with how far it was going. But if you’re a fan of that type of gorefest then you will be more than happy with what this movie has to offer. At times even I had to admire the sheer amounts of fake blood used.

Evil Dead is an interesting beast. I think they had the intention of doing something new to freshen up the franchise and reboot it yet they missed their opportunity rather spectacularly and made a remake that brought nothing new to the table except current special effects and cinematography. I will admit the trailer had me fooled. I expected a somewhat serious take on the movie and doing something new. It is not the worst movie I have seen and I would go so far to say to at least rent it on a cheap night but I almost wish this had never been made.

Movie Review: The Conjuring

If you have any fascination with the spiritual world and probably even if you didn’t the name Ed & Lorraine Warren have certainly been heard. They are renowned investigators of the paranormal and demonic with many high profile cases such as the Amityville Horror. Now whether you believe any of their work or not is up to you but we have a treatment of one of their cases in the form of The Conjuring.

The Conjuring stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren as they are called in to help a family who has suddenly be plagued with not only odd occurrences in their home but the onset of being terrorized by the supernatural.

James Wan who directed this movie has taken it upon himself to treat the subject with a lot of respect. Often we see “based on” movies that go out of their way to hollywood everything to a point where you couldn’t believe what you are watching. James Wan however takes a more subtle approach in The Conjuring. If you were to imagine an escalating haunting then you could totally believe the events in the movie and that is what makes it so scary.

The movie is also not just about the haunting that took place but also the people involved. Performances are top-notch and you in turn feel a connection with all who are involved which is also difficult when presenting a movie like that. Often times one element is sacrificed for another whether deliberate or not but in this movie that fine balance is made.

In terms of atmosphere The Conjuring has you on your toes with all it’s subtleties. I would even say that it is a treat to watch in how well done it is. The tension in the theatre was thick and just about everyone jumped at one point or another. It was good to see a movie have an audience entranced like that.

Also if you are a fan of the Warrens and have read their books or perhaps just read online about their cases then this movie will also please you in the reference to the Annabelle case. I won’t go into description of the case itself as you can quickly google it but having read a book on their cases as well as online information I was left grinning ear to ear on it’s brief inclusion. Oh and don’t forget to look out for Lorraine Warren herself who cameo’s in the movie.

The Conjuring is a movie that you should definitely go a see. If you’re looking for something to renew your faith that a good haunting movie can be made then you will be vindicated. This movie was a labor of love and it comes across as such. It will please both newcomers and also fans of the Warrens with references and actual pictures at the end. I cannot recommend this movie enough and do hope to see movie case files handled with such a treatment.

Movie Review: Hollow

When it comes to horror movies a cover can trigger my excitement for a movie. I know they can be misleading as the common term for books is “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” and the same can be said for movies however this one just caught my attention as did the synopsis blurb.

The movie follows four teens as they travel to a cottage for a getaway which happens to be near a monastery as well as an old tree with a frightening legend to it. Apparently people have a tendency to commit suicide by hanging themselves via the tree.

Hollow is another in the found footage genre but that is not necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to these types of movies I don’t jump on the “not another one of these” bandwagons but rather I pretend no other found footage films have been made. This let’s me judge it in a fresh light. The use of the genre in this particular movie is okay. Obviously there are bits and pieces that you need to fill in the blanks as they use the method as a way to create atmosphere. However what creates the most atmosphere is the english countryside in which they are located. From the ruins of the monastery to the tree itself. It is pretty freaking creepy.

With that being said though you never feel fulfilled though. When things start building up it almost seem’s to be done too quickly. The mythology of the hollow tree itself could have been something much more but it never seem’s to attain it’s full potential. In the end you do end up feeling hollow which is somewhat ironic.

The characters themselves just seem your typical adolescent self involved jerks. Obviously they try to slip in a nude scene with the found footage method and there is a drug induced scene which brings nothing to the table.

Hollow is a movie that when your done watching could have been something so much more but there is still something to be found it it that is still entertaining. It may not pay off as a movie that will make it on your shelves permanently but it is something you should go out and rent when you have the chance when you are just looking for something different.

Warner Bros obtains D&D movie license

I’m a little ambivalent about this. On the one hand, yay, more fantasy movies. On the other hand, the D&D movies were… bad. I guess I’m more¬†optimistic. Cautiously optimistic. Cauptimistic.

Warner Bros has acquired rights to make a movie based on Dungeons & Dragons, the perennially popular role-playing game fantasy game. The studio is actually quite far along in the development of the project, as it will use a script by Wrath Of The Titans and Red Riding Hood scribe and Frank Darabont protege David Leslie Johnson. That script, Chainmail, was acquired last year as a free-standing project, based on an obscure game that was also hatched by D&D designer Gary Gygax before he and Dave Arneson launched D&D. It is being retro-fitted to fit the much bigger game creation. The film will be produced by The Lego Movie producer Roy Lee and Courtney Solomon. The latter actually directed a 2000 Dungeons & Dragons feature, a film that starred Jeremy Irons and did not do well.

Read the rest at Deadline.

RPG Hub Movie Review: Friday the 13th (1980)

Being near Halloween now, I always like to go through my old collection of horror flicks so with that being said, let’s take a look at one of, if not THE innovator of the slasher genre. Friday the 13th even to this day and age stands as a classic but I think what people remember most is the infamous character Jason Vorhees that stands out. However the series actually didn’t even have Jason as a principle character and maybe that was a good thing.

Friday the 13th is campy, never taken too serious but is still more serious in tone then it’s sequels hope to be. A group of yound teenagers are gathering at Camp Crystal Lake where the buildings are being renovated for a new group of children to come visit during their summer. But the movie starts us off showing an murder of two young teenagers. This gives the area a bad reputation and a local name of Camp Blood. Also there is oddball local who likes to say how dangerous the place is. He tends to pop in and out at random places and survives despite it all no less.

It doesn’t take long for the new teenagers to start dropping but there is a bit of buildup. Effort is made to give the place a good impression and how calm it could be. So when things do start hitting the fan then we are made uneasy as that sense of comfort is suddenly not there. During the murder scenes we never see who the killer is but rather the legs and feet. This makes us wonder who it is as some characters even seem to know the killer.

Eventually we have the climax with the lone survivor confronting the killer who ends up to be Jason Vorhees mother who is taking revenge on councillors as her son Jason was left unattended and drowned. While being an accident we can quite relate to these days in current events over the summer, Mrs Vorhees has become deranged with anger and grief. Times where she talks to herself as if it were her son telling her what to do is extremely creepy and well done. While she is small in stature she makes up for in a crazy mom next door which is unsettling and maybe all the more scary. She comes off as warm and caring during her somewhat sane and luring into false sense of security moments. Kudos for the acting job well done Betsy Palmer. It’s not a large role in the movie but it’s got the most impact and makes the movie.

Also when we think all is over we have a scene of Jason as a boy coming out of the water to pull into the water. It’s another classic horror movie moment and opens the movie for a sequel if need be or an amusing finale otherwise. These dream like endings would be common for both the Friday the 13th series as well as Nightmare of Elm Street.

We also have the chance to see Kevin Bacon in one of his early roles. The horror movie genre tends to be a good stepping stone for many actors to start their careers and other movies will introduce others as well. It’s a tradition that won’t soon end in my opinion.

The movie doesn’t have the gore quantity other installments will have. The goriest scene would probably be Kevin Bacon’s characters demise with an arrow through the throat. For it’s time it is done well however these days we can see the setup for that scene quite well. Got to love those latex flesh ripping. You would never think skin so stretchable. There is also some T’n’A but again, not as much as the sequels to have but it is amusing that teenagers in a forest can only think about pot and sex.

There is not a lot more that can be said about Friday the 13th except that it stands the test of time as being maybe not a scary movie these days but definitely a classic worth seeing. Forget the zombie Jason, come say hello to mama Vorhees! The plot is thin and the acting sub par but you will still have a good pop corn movie night with your friends and that’s what it is all about. Go check it out! In fact, check out the original trailer that almost shows all the kills.

Movie Review: Dredd 3D

If your a film of the comics and a film of action movies in general then you HAVE to see this movie. I cannot emphasize this enough. You may have vague memories of a Sylvester Stallone movie entitled Judge Dredd. Forget about that one and burn the memory from your mind.

Dredd 3D is essentially a reboot of the franchise on a smaller budget which stars Karl Urban as the rough edged Judge Dredd as he takes criminals on one at a time in the sprawling Mega City One. The premise of the movie is that he is teamed with a rookie Judge named Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby) as she is a mutant telepath who is to be brought into the force as an asset. Dredd is to supervise her and test her but they soon stumble into a block war with the Ma Ma gang.

Dredd is action packed from start to finish. It’s unapologetic in the violence and revels in the gritty nature of the setting of Mega City One. Karl Urban’s enterpretation of Dredd is spot on. He is rough around the edges and does not hesitate to do what needs to be done. In fact he seems to even enjoy the havok. One of the interesting aspects is that throughout the movie Dredd will never remove his helmet. This is done purposely as he is to be seen first and formost as a judge. Anderson is the reluctant trainee who doesn’t have Dredd’s ability to kill however justified by their “law” they may be. As the movie progresses we get some depth from the character and despite their differences, Dredd and Anderson make an actual good team. Ma Ma is played by Lena Headey who does a great job at playing a psychotic criminal gang leader. She stands her ground and makes an interesting opponent for Dredd.

Dredd 3D as the title indicates uses 3D but not in a tacked on way. While lots of movies these days will make everything in 3D but never really impress, Dredd uses it for some really awesome effects. They use it often during drug induced scenes as the characters take this new drug called Slow Mo. It’s very impressive how some of the effects actually feel right in front of you. They also use 3D during fights especially with close up gun shots. One memorable moment is a gunshot through the face all in slow motion and 3D.

Being on a smaller budget and being a turf war within a huge block in Mega City One, Dredd has a very closed atmosphere. It’s dark and gritty and shows us the harsh life of people in that world. But while there isn’t an abundance in classy looking scenery, the more cramp areas really work well.

Dredd 3D does what it was meant for and that is entertain. If your a fan of the comics you will be pleased as this redeems the franchise on the silver screen. Unfortunately as of this writing a lot of people have not seen it and it’s not doing particularly well. And it is a damn shame too as this is leaps and bounds better then it predecessor and on a lesser budget.

If there is one movie you should give a chance to this year it is this one. I don’t think you will be disappointed and hopefully we can see Karl Urban as Dredd again sometime in the near future. It would be a shame not to explore the gritty world of Mega City One.

John Carpenter’s Halloween Returning to a Theater Near You

Ah you lucky people in the United States, Halloween will be playing on the big screen near you this coming October. From October 25th – October 31st you will be able to see John Carpenter’s classic on the big screen to bring about the spookiest of holiday seasons. I cannot help but be totally jealous of this. For those wanting more information visit Screenvision who have a list of theaters throughout the United States playing this classic.

List of Theaters Playing Halloween via Screenvision

Movie Review: House at the End of the Street

Being the horror movie buff that I am, I went to the movies with the guys to go see House at the End of the Street. When I first looked at the trailer on tv and online it looked primarily like a supernatural styled horror movie however I was both disappointed and surprised at what I did see.

House at the End of the Street follows a mother played by Elizabeth Shue and her daughter played by Jennifer Lawrence (of the now Hunger Games fame) as they move into a house in order to start their lives anew. The movie however opens up with a murder of two parents by their daughter and years later the house long considered off limits by townsfolk is now the neighbor of Elizabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence’s home.The house of the murders is occupied by the parents son and eventually his fate becomes entwined with Jennifer Lawrence’s character as she ends up playing a white knight to his brooding solitary character.

Eventually what you think will be a supernatural type of movie ends up being totally psychological but nothing too profound. Some parts will have you wondering with tiny hints placed here and there to make you question things with the eventual reveal at the climax.

I found a lack of supernatural aspect of the film to be a bit disappointing as the psychological aspects of the movie seem very much repetitive of other movies. It does have some decent scares as the audience jumped at a few parts but those parts were spaced out leaving the film to rest on the shoulders on simply being character driven.

We don’t get much in the way of background information on the main characters aside from the father is out of the picture. Is he dead? Was it a divorce? Nothing is explicitly mentioned and the mother is just learning to be a mom. We are led to believe there is some sort of wild past but nothing more. The daughter comes off as somewhat mellow but pushy when it comes to interacting with males. While they may have attempted to play Jennifer Lawrence’s character off as strong she comes off as slightly unlikeable. You honestly feel a bit more sympathy for the overbearing mother who is discovering how to parent her child again.

Max Thieriot’s portrayal as the brooding neighbor outcast is the most convincing of the performances. Relegated to being an outcast in the town by a bunch of snobs who blame his family incident for declining their property evaluations he does a solid job however it’s not exactly that demanding either. And yes, everyone seem’s to be pissed off at him for this reason primarily. His family history is considered secondary.

The rest of the acting is rather two dimensional and wooden. You have nice rich kid who is suddenly the biggest douche on the planet, a naive police officer, snobby neighbors galore and some who play friends to Jennifer Lawrence’s character. But this is where the movie mostly rests upon is the interactions of all these character in building up this supposed black stain on the community being the murders of these two parents. It falls terribly short in this regard and comes off as a missed opportunity.

For those liking any kind of gore in your horror movie you will be terribly disappointed as there is nothing at all to see. It’s very tame however there is some gigantic leaps of logic at the end of the movie that those buff’s out there will probably come out insulted.

House at the End of the Street has a lot of potential to be something more then it is even staying on it’s psychological horror theme. It has moments of great concepts but nothing is ever truly fleshed out. The characters never have any true depth and there are seeds that could have been explored further. With all that being said I wish I could recommend this movie to be seen in your local cinema however I wholeheartedly recommend that it simply becomes a rental option for you. You will be less disappointed that way for one and really that’s all it’s worth. It’s enjoyable but nothing more.

Movie Review: Halloween

John Carpenter’s Halloween is a classic in the horror movie genre. It both influenced other movies to come but has also spawned it’s own franchise for better or worse. I first saw Halloween when I was quite young and then when I started collecting movies, I immediately picked this up and I am glad I did. With that being said let’s talk about Halloween.

Halloween introduces us to the small community of Haddonfeild where one Halloween night a young boy named Michael Myers murders his sister with no particular motivation. The movie opens up with the young boy who, dressed in his costume of a clown, stalks his sister from the outside of the house. He observes quietly in the dark as her boyfriend comes to see her and as young teenagers do, have to intimate fun.She comes off as quite slutty as the boyfriend comes in for a quick hit and run but then young Micheal comes into the house after observing all this creepily from the outside. And so his story and reign of terror begins.

He is institutionalized and followed up by a therapist played by Donald Pleasance. But as the years have gone by and Michael has grown up we are lead to believe by Sam Loomis (played by Donal Pleasance) that Michael is pure evil. Not just unresponsive but some sort of cunning behind it all. It’s unsettling to the viewer as typically we as an audience with these sorts of violent images almost need a reason. Why would he do such things? Also being a scary movie you wonder is there something perhaps paranormal to it all or is the child just deranged.

Michael escapes and heads back to Haddondfield. There he heads after Laurie Strode played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Dubbed the scream queen, looking back at it now I don’t see why. Laurie is practically a school girl in the sense that she is very reserved, uptight and needing to let loose. She has a bit of a rebelious side to her but not much. As the movie and subsequent deaths build up we finally have her fateful encounter with Meyers. Sure she screams but really in this day and age I have heard better but in context for her time she does a job well done.

We have Sam Loomis who spends his time running around Haddonfield stirring up how dangerous Michael is and eventually has his fateful encounter with him. But as the movie goes on and Michael gets his fair shake of injuries we are always left wondering is his normal with a high threshold for pain or is there something supernatural to him.

This them plays through the movie mainly near the end. For 3/4 o the movie where it builds on the relationship of Laurie, her friends and Sam Loomis who spreads the myth of the evil of Michael, we simply see him stalking the streets and following Laurie. This of course is all together human but something always seem’s not right about him.

As a horror movie character, Micheal is very subdued in appearance. He wears a black mechanic overall suite and a white mask of William Shatner. Just thinking about it should be funny right? But no, it really does come off as creepy and you really don’t notice the masks origins till it either clicks or you see the making of. He is not a hulking figure either however during moments he shows a superhuman violent rage.

The pacing of the movie is deliberately slow. As I have seen the movie with my friends the common complaint is how slow it gets to the action but that’s the point. The point is the buildup. You get to know the characters while seeing the occasional appearance of Michael as he as well gets to know everyone.It’s unsettling to see and worse of he is noticed in the movie as just a creepy guy playing Halloween pranks but as the viewer you know much better of what awaits them.

The atmosphere of the town as well as the set pieces is extremely well done. You really have the small town vibe where everyone knows literally everyone. You had the obligatory creepy house which was Myers house now long abandoned. Just having it pictured once in a while gave you the creeps. What lurked in the shadows there? Even if you knew Michael was not there it was still freaking creepy. And by the time the end comes we are left with more questions then answers and leaving very worried. This alone makes Halloween one of the more scary movies even to this day.

The music in Halloween is often ridiculed simply because of how simple it is. Literally it is John Carpenter player a few simple keys of a keyboard. It’s both so simplistic yet so freaking amazing. Why amazing? Because it works. If you would watch the movie without the score it would come off as being very dull but just few simple keyboard notes and the mood is established. For that I need to give John Carpenter some serious kudos.

Halloween while lagging behind in pacing at times is well worth the viewing. The movie as a whole goes to show everyone that sometimes showing less is more. Fear is established by atmosphere and the inevitable encounter with our monster / villain. For a villain who should be by all purposes a 2d wooden plank we get more dimensions to him then we bargained for. Halloween spawned a generation of terror and leaves it’s imprint on modern movies. Even if your not a fan of a much slower paced movie, Halloween is a movie that needs to at least be seen once to at least appreciate it’s influence. I don’t think you will be disappointed.