Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 October Horror Challenge #101 "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension"

Since I make a point of watching these movies every Halloween, I was excited to have a new one to check out in theaters this year.  It didn't really need to be in 3D, that seemed like a silly gimmick to me, since the allure of these movies is that they use minimal special effects to present a haunting in a way that seems more real, but I was excited to see it nonetheless, despite the negative reviews.  There hasn't been one of these movies that I've hated; the second one is my least favorite, but I still thought it was ok and I've watched it more than once.  So how did the sixth installment fare?

Think about that: this is the SIXTH movie in this series.  It has its problems, but it's better than the SIXTH movie in ANY series has any right to be.  This one tries to tie up loose ends and leftover questions from the last five movies, focusing mainly on the third installment and the ideas presented there of a cult that is after children.  In this movie, a family finds a box in their house with an old camera and video tapes they didn't know existed.  The tapes show a family together in the late 80s, but eventually start to show strange supernatural activity focusing on some young girls.  Soon, their own young daughter starts behaving strangely, talking to an imaginary friend who seems to be asking her to do creepy things, and the family videos they take start showing odd and apparently paranormal events.

This is relatively the same plot we've seen in all the movies, but as I said before, it ties up some loose ends from the other movies in the series.  If you've wondered what happened to Katie and Kristy as kids, this movie answers that.  The problem, I think, is that we've seen a lot of what this movie does before.  The jump scares, shadows, weird noises, everythong that builds the tension in a movie like this can seem tedious the second time around, let alone the sixth.

I don't agree with the reviewers who say it's "unwatchable" (if you think this is unwatchable, you haven't seen enough bad movies) but I get how it could be boring.  I enjoyed this movie, but I did think it dragged a bit and took too long to get to the point, which shouldn't happen in an hour and twenty minute movie.  The actors do pretty well with their roles, especially the mom and the little girl, and while I thought it was corny at first, I eventually warmed up to the story of what happened to the little girls after the third film.  Overall, this movie drags too much and covers ground we've seen before, but I still enjoyed watching it, which for the sixth movie in a series, is saying a lot.

2015 October Horror Challenge #100 "Unfriended"

I really wanted to see this movie when it first came out, I was all excited, because I like found footage flicks, and this one looked cool.  I planned to buy the DVD as soon as it came out.  Then the reviews came in, and everyone started saying how bad this movie is, and it gave me pause.  Usually I like movies everyone else hates, so I probably should have ignored the bad reviews, but I'm poor now, so I can't afford to run out and buy every horror movie that comes out like I used to, so I decided to wait and rent it.

I was told that this is the first movie that takes place "entirely on someone's computer screen," and I thought that was hyperbole, but no, no, it really does take place entirely on a teen girl's computer screen.  The plot of the movie is familiar in some ways, but handled in a way I've never seen before: some teenage friends are skyping (video conference calling of a sort) and there's a mysterious person in the chat with them that won't show his face and none of them can hang up on him, though they keep trying.

It's the one-year anniversary of a girl's auicide, a girl they all knew from school, who was cyber-bullied before her death.  Soon, they start getting strange messages from the dead girl, who seems to know secrets about all of them and seems to know what they're doing and even what they're thinking. Soon the taunting turns dangerous.  Will they be able to stop whatever's happening before it turns deadly?

The novelty here really isn't in the plot, we've all probably seen a movie where the horrible teens hide secrets that are exposed as they begin to be stalked by a killer.  What's new about this movie is how the story is presented: a girl just hanging out online, chatting with friends, looking things up on her computer, listening to music, all normal until it slowly turns deadly.

This is a horror movie for a new generation of teens who hang out online instead of in-person, who Skype instead of talking on the phone, who look up details of news stories about the dead girl who's stalking them online instead of going to the library.  It's the same kind of movie: a killer reaches out to them and things they thought of as normal suddenly become scary and dangerous, it's just presented in a new format.  I liked it.  I didn't like the teens, but we're not really supposed to like them, and the actors do pretty well with the characters.

I don't agree with the viewers who say the teens are stupid and should just leave, the movie addresses that, they wise up pretty soon to the fact that something's wrong, but every time they try to leave, someone gets hurt.  I suppose this movie isn't for everyone, but I liked seeing it take a fresh approach to a story we may have heard before.  It was a fun watch.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

2015 October Horror Challenge #99 "Ouija"

I wad excited when this movie came out.  Yeah, it looked like it might be a little silly, the typical "teens get menaced by evil spirit" fare, but I like those movies, so I was hoping I'd like this one, too.  Plus, I just like movies about evil board games.  "Witchboard," "Jumanji," "The Black Waters of Echoes Pond," and on and on.  I dig them all, so I was hoping this one would join the ranks.

Truth be told, it holds up pretty well, especially for a movie with a PG-13 rating.  There's some silliness here and there, but it's a pretty solid spooky flick.  The acting isn't bad, and some of the special effects creeped me out (I get creeped out when things happen to people's eyes).  The plot is pretty standard: teens play with Ouija board, release evil spirits, start dying, have to figure out how to stop ghosts. Nothing I haven't seen before, but it's done pretty well, and Lin Shaye plays a small but memorable role. It's nothing groundbreaking, but I had fun watching it.

2015 October Horror Challenge #98 "As Above, So Below"

This is another movie I've been impatiently waiting to watch for awhile now.  Just the title sounded haunting to me, so I was sure that I'd like it, and I decided to wait until Halloween to watch it, since I had an idea that it would be really scary, and I wanted to save my scariest movies for Halloween (which seemed like a great idea at the time, but now I've watched both this and "It Follows" and I may never sleep again).

I didn't know anything about this movie going in.  Again, I swore all my friends to secrecy under penalty of death to keep them from spoiling the movie, and when I bought it, I didn't even read the cover.  You ain't spoiling me, goddammit.  The result is that all I knew was that the movie was of the "found footage" type, and it had something to do with archeology students.

It turns out that only one if those things is totally true, the other is only partly right, and I was grateful that I hadn't read much about the movie, because everything came as a surprise that way. The actors do a great job here, and though I kind of wanted to stab them, I still felt for them and the horrible situation in which they find themselves.  The movie does a much better job of explaining why everyone kept filming, too (the cameras are attached to their headlamps, so as long as the lights were turned on, they were filming, and you need light to see in dark tunnels, so it makes sense).

The atmosphere is great here, too.  The catacombs are creepy all by themselves, without even needing evil spirits or curses to make them scary.  Plus for someone who's claustrophobic like me, seeing people crawl through small tunnels makes my heart race.  Damn movie. I also had some help being scared here, since there's one scene where the characters suffer a crash, and the sound goes out on their cameras, and there's nothing but a "ringing in your ears" type noise.  My ears picked thst moment to clog up and start ringing.  It's probably just sinus pressure, but it almost made me pee my pants.  In case you couldn't tell, I loved this movie, even the ending.  It's not perfect, but it's close enough for me.

2015 October Horror Challenge #97 "It Follows"

This movie freaked me out so bad I don't want to think about it, and now I have to write this review so I have to think about it again.  Thanks a lot.  I've been hearing about this movie for awhile.  A lot of the reviews were bad (not that this means anything, since I usually like movies other people think are bad, it's almost a guarantee that I'll like a movie if it gets bad reviews) but some friends whose opinions I trust really liked it, so I was looking forward to seeing it.  PLUS I'm always excited when a new horror movie appears in theaters and gets people talking about horror movies.  As a horror geek, that's important to me.

I knew almost nothing about this movie going in.  I avoided trailers and reviews like the plague and threatened all my friends with violent death if they tried to tell me about the movie, since I didn't want to risk spoiling something, so all I knew is that the movie features something killing teenagers, and that sex has something to do with it.  That's all you should know coming into this movie, I swear, because the less you know about what happens, the better (plus I'm not sure it would translate well; the plot sounds kind of silly when I say it aloud, so it's best just to watch it play out onscreen).

Everything in this movie conspired to scare the shit out of me.  The idea of something following you that won't stop until it kills you is freaky to me, no matter what form it takes.  As a person with an anxiety disorder, I sometimes get chills hearing footsteps outside my door or seeing someone walking toward me, even if I know I'm being ridiculous and no one us coming to get me.  In this movie, however, thst person walking toward you probably is going to kill you.  That terrifies me.

It's not just the idea behind the story, either.  The acting is great here too, again even by those playing small roles.  The music is incredibly scary too, often almost becoming another character in the movie, indicating a presence in the room, something waiting to get you.  The movie also doesn't try to overexplain things to death.  The mystery surrounding what's happening helps ratchet up the tension too.  This movie was just such a surprise for me.  I loved it, but now I want to hide in my room and never have sex with anyone ever again.

2015 October Horror Challenge #96 "Jessabelle"

I've been hearing good things about this movie for awhile now.  It sounded like just the kind of movie I'd love, so I've been excited to watch it for the challenge this year.  It's about a young woman who returns to her childhood home and finds that there seems to be a presence there that wants her gone.  I'm a suckered for stories about people who return to their childhood towns as nd homes to confront old secrets, so I was sure I'd like this one (or at least fervently hopeful).

The acting in this movie is great.  I mean even side characters who ate only in the movie for a few minutes are good actors. There's big budget movies that can't be arsed to get good actors for main roles, so the quality of the acting here is a nice surprise.  The setting is beautiful, too.  There's something Haunting about the bayou that sets me up to be scared before anything scary even happens.  I also have to mention the music, because there are plenty of scenes where the music made everything scarier, and for that, I was grateful that the filmmakers put that much extra care into crafting a good scary movie.

The story is brutal, more than I expected it to be.  Suffice it to say that there's no happy family reunion in store for these characters.  The girl's father creeped me out almost as much as any ghostly characters did, and while I can see a sort of retribution in what happens here, it's still tragic to watch it play out.  I won't spoil anything, but suffice it to say this one is worth checking out.

2015 October Horror Challenge #95 "Monster High: Escape from Skull Shores"

Hey everyone!  What do you kniw, I found myself another Monster High movie to watch! I know that you're all excited to hear all about it, right?  Here goes!  In this movie, it's officially Spring Break at Monster High, and Lagoona Blue (daughter of the sea monster) takes her gilfriends across the sea to the Great Barrier Reef, but they are ship wrecked and end up on a mysterious skull shaped island. Ooh, spooky!

While on the island,  they enjoy the local hospitality until they realize that they are being used by a slippery showman named Farnum to lure the rarest, most mysterious monster of them all, "the Beast" into a trap. Anyone thinking of King Kong yet?  So then, Frankie Stein is taken by the Beast, but tables turn and she ends up rescuing him and returning with him to Monster High.

The story gets even more complicated though, because then the girls realize that Frankie has inadvertently led Farnum to the location of the greatest gathering of monsters anywhere...Monster High.  Uh oh.  Of course Frankie abd the other girls have to save the day and protect their friends at Monster High.  It's a lot of fun!