Thursday, October 31, 2019

October Horror Challenge 2019 #101: "The Invoking V: Phantoms"

Don't ask me how, but for some reason, an overlong and ultimately unsuccessful psychological horror movie from 2013 became a halfway decent collection of horror anthology movies. Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are, but these movies are creepy fun. Not always the best when you look at the stories as a whole, but there's always at least one standout story, so they're worth checking out, at least for me.

As always, the stories here don't really have a connection to each other, but short, sweet, and for the most part scary. The first story is really  creepy,  and I hate it when my neighbors knock on my door too, so I can totally relate. To my surprise,  I actually liked the second story too, about a repressed housewife haunted by something in her house. There's also a couple of college students living together who get a creepy old book (I love books, but even I would take a pass on this one), then terrible things start happening. I get the message, books are bad, right? This story is actually gory and kind of cool.

The last story deals with the end of the world, another apocalypse predicted, with references to other reports of the apocalypse that have happened in past years. The protagonist is a guy who is sick of these reports, and sick of life in general, as he finds out that there might be more truth to this report of the end of the world. This is actually a pretty darkly comedic episode. Definitely more sophisticated than I expected it to be. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. This whole collection was good, there wasn't one story I didn't like. It's way better than any movie with the number 5 after its title has any right to be.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #100: "The Invoking IV: Halloween Nights"

As you can see, my internet searches revealed that there is indeed a 4th "Invoking" movie, and look, it's called "Halloween Nights"! Perfect to watch on Halloween! Like the second and third movies in this series, it has nothing to do with the first movie, and is instead a collection of spooky short movies that don't look like they're connected to each other, except that they all have something paranormal about them.

This movie opens with a bang. The first story is about a little girl who hears something scary in her closet. The acting is a little rough at times, but it's still pretty cool. The second story again is more of a scary scene than a whole story, but it was still cool and showed one of the scariest things about going on a road trip and pulling over because you have to pee where it's all secluded and there is no bathroom. Yikes!

There's a story that shows us a desperate pregnant woman who probably shouldn't have cheated on her husband (but can you blame her? He's creepy as hell). I have to give credit to one of the stories for being extremely creepy and fucked up. It's gory and gross, and probably close to the worst thing you could watch if you were pregnant. Good lord. I give it credit though for being willing to go so far and show so much. It's definitely the best story in the collection for me. The last one took me forever to realize what was going on, and then once I did, I rolled my eyes into the next century. There's some cool gore, but the actors all sound like they're reading their lines, and after the awesome story that came before,  there's no way this will measure up. The first four stories are good, though, so I still ended up enjoying this movie.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #99: "The Invoking III: Poltergeist Dimensions"

"The Invoking 3," otherwise known as "WTF, they made another sequel to that movie?!" Seriously, I did a search and parts 4 and 5 popped up, too. If they're not joking, that might mean "The Invoking" series is going to become a dumping ground for low-budget horror flicks that won't get released any other way, because the sequels don't have anything to do with each other or with the first "invoking" movie. Sheesh. Let's hope this movie is at least worth watching.

Like  the second movie,  thisis a collection of short horror movies that don't have anything to do with each other or with the first "Invoking" movie. Well, I guess the stories in "The Invoking 2" all had some element of the paranormal, so there's that connection. The stories in part 3 all have an element of the paranormal as well (though not a poltergeist, as the title would have you's not a generic word for ghost, it's a specific kind of spirit, come on guys, words mean things).

As with the second movie,  the stories in this movie are all short, so they don't have too much time to get annoying before they're over. I really loved the first story, a found footage style story that takes place in some dark caves being explored by an archeology student and his friends. That's actually my favorite story in this movie. The rest of them don't feel like stories, because there aren't enough details for them to be considered stories. They're more like just scenes of something creepy, not a story that has a beginning,  a middle, and an end.

I know my chief complaint about the first "Invoking" movie was that it dragged, but these stories could still stand to have been longer without dragging too much. The one about the girl who always notices something creepy in the photos she tries to take with her phone is probably the best of the rest. This is still better than the first movie, though, so I guess that's a win.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #98: "The Invoking II"

Second verse, same as the first, only, hopefully better, not worse! That's right, I'm finally checking out the sequel to the low-budget horror movie "The Invoking." I gotta say, when I was typing this review, autocorrect tried to change that sentence to "low-end movie The Invoking," and that's mean, but kinda accurate. The first movie was a bunch of atmosphere that never gels into a coherent movie. I'm hoping this sequel is better (hey, don't look at me like that, sometimes sequels are better than the originals, it could happen!)

Apparently, this is a sequel in name only, which might be a good thing, considering how irritated I was by the original. This is supposed to be a collection of stories about people being touched (and often destroyed) by evil. It happens. It's not a regular anthology style horror movie, where we get a story that bookends all the short stories, like someone sitting down to read a collection of horror stories, and then each story is one of the short films in the movie. That helps ground those movies, but this movie just starts, and one story plays after the other with no connection between them and no indication of when we're switching from one story to another. That's kind of annoying. I mean, there's a little title card at the beginning of each new story, but I still wish they were connected somehow.

It might be a good thing that each of these stories is short, because my biggest problem with the original movie was that it dragged and dragged forever without ever getting to the point, and since they're short, these stories don't have time to do that. The first one is good, but a little too short to be called a "story." The others are cool, too. One has some good ghost effects, there's someone struggling with hallucinations that are a little too real, someone trying to run from justice (a bad idea in these kinds of movies), some friends goon a doomed cabin retreat (aren't all cabin retreats doomed in these movies), and a woman is stalked by a masked killer.

The stories are supposedly a collection of short films that producers found that weren't meant to be part of a collection. It's a cool idea, because short movies aren't likely to be released on their own, and if putting them together is more likely to get them seen, I'm all for that. This movie isn't anything original or groundbreaking, but the stories are still kinda cool, and I definitely liked this better than the first movie.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #97: "The Invoking"

I don't know much about this movie. Like for instance, I didn't know it was also released under the title "Sader Ridge," but both of the movie posters are pretty cool. Honestly, I only knew that it was a horror movie and it had Josh Truax in it, and I like him as an actor, so I wanted to watch the movie. Unfortunately I also promptly forgot about it, and it wasn't until I saw a movie poster for "The Invoking II" that I remembered it again. Gotta watch this movie before I check out the sequel  yo.

So this movie is about some college friends who are on a road trip. One of the girls, Sam, was raised by adoptive parents, and while she's in college she's contacted by a lawyer who informs her that she has an aunt who died and left her a house and several acres of land in a rural area. Since her adoptive parents are sensitive about her asking questions regarding her birth family, she doesn't tell them about the lawyer and instead heads out to explore the house and property with three of her friends. She has no memory of the place, even though she lived there for the first five years of her life, but once she's in the house she starts seeing things and hearing things, and soon she and her friends are driven to the brink of madness by some force they don't understand.

Ok, why do people in these movies always go on trips with their ex boyfriend or girlfriend? It keeps happening in these movies, and I don't get it, especially when the relationship had some dark secrets, and they're dating someone new who doesn't want them going on a trip with their ex (no shit, seriously, I wouldn't want them to do it either). There's enough tension going on a trip to some creepy place in the dark and digging up past memories that might be painful without adding a heaping dose of relationship drama on top of that.

People online have written lots of bitchy reviews complaining about the acting in this movie, but I don't think it's that bad. I've seen worse. Hell, I've seen worse acting in movies I've watched TODAY. Maybe everyone should try watching 100 horror movies in October. It definitely gives you a better perspective on what "bad acting" truly is. And I like the characters in this movie. Along with Sam and her ex, we have another guy and girl who seem to have some romantic tension between them, even though they're not dating (see, again, I wouldn't want to go on a road trip with the person I have a crush on who doesn't like me back, that seems like a recipe for a nightmare even if there aren't evil ghosts attacking us). But the characters have history, so it was entertaining watching them interact. There's also a young man staying on the property who is a caretaker for the house and grounds, and it turns out that he and Sam played together as kids, though she doesn't remember it.

Because of the kind of movie this is, haunted people in a place haunted by memories (if not ghosts) there's a lot of scenes of people bickering, staring off into space, and looking tormented by memories. I get that it has to happen to set the scene, but I think these scenes are a big part of why people call this movie boring. I will agree that the movie drags a lot more than it should. The scenes Sam sees in her head that play out in the rooms of the house like they're real but turn out to be like, waking nightmares or something, they're interesting, but not interesting enough to carry a whole movie. There's way too much space where just nothing is happening, and the characters start to get really annoying. They're always fighting. and the caretaker guy is hiding something, so it's frustrating when no one will just come out and tell the truth about whatever the hell is going on. It's less an "introspective thriller" and more a boring, confusing, jumbled mess. I hate to say it, because I really wanted to like this movie, but I understand now why everyone was so bitchy about it. It has potential, but it never realizes that potential. And now I'm bitchy. Thanks a lot, movie.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October Horror Challenge 2019 #96: "Waxwork"

This movie always lurks at the edges of my consciousness. Amazon and Netflix both recommend it to me every year, and I once had a roommate who loved this movie and its sequel. I'm finally sitting down to watch it after all these years and I hope it's as good as everyone has said.

This movie is billed as an "episodic" horror movie, which is a bunch of mini horror stories in one. This movie is different from other episodic horror movies though, because it's not a bunch of different stories introduced separately into a collection. The movie 8s about a mysterious waxwork museum that opens in the rich area of a town, and a group of college students are invited to come to a private showing one night at midnight. As each of them wanders off to look at different exhibits, they get sucked into the world that the scene represents. That's such a cool idea! Then each "episode" is just the kids trying to survive whichever scene they find themselves in.

This movie definitely makes me never want to go to a waxwork museum, even if it's not owned by a creepy guy who wants to unleash evil into the world. I think I was supposed to like the characters, especially the young rich man we meet at the beginning who defies his materialistic mother by daring to spend time with the hired help. I get that's supposed to make him sympathetic, but with his money and influence he could do more to help them than he does, and he's still a cocky little jerk who thinks he's a lot cooler than he is.

Call me crazy, but if my friends disappeared after we all visited a creepy wax museum one night, and I had a ton of money and a well-connected family, I'd do more than call a few cops and knock on the door and kindly ask to see the museum again (of course, I would have never left the damn museum in the first place after they disappeared, because I actually give a crap about my friends, but whatever).

There's some cool gore, and I liked watching the scenes play out. Vampires and werewolves are cool! So are mummies! Gotta love the classic monsters. And we get to see a guy ripped apart, and a midnight snack of bloody flesh that actually turned my stomach (I like rare steak, but eeeew). The characters do the typically dumb horror movie stuff (hey, let's go into this creepy wax museum alone at night after a bunch of people have disappeared here!) But without stupid moves like this, the movie would be five minutes long. I like the backstory of the museum owner and why he's doing these evil things. What an evil jerk, seriously. I guess you have to use your talents in life, but come ON, dude. Overall this was a really fun movie, and I'm glad I finally watched it.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #95: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)"

I never really thought about this until I was watching this movie tonight, but Dr. Jekyll is a rich doctor who operates a free clinic that treats people who can't afford a doctor. Holy crap, Dr. Jekyll is a socialist! And he appears to be a good guy, but he's mocked by his friends because they believe he's only good because he's repressing his true nature. Some friends. Unfortunately, it appears to be true, and when Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that he believes will split him into two people, one containing all the good inside him, and one containing all the bad, he ends up releasing all his inhibitions into one man, the evil Dr. Jekyll.

It's said that when Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the original book "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," it terrified his wife so much that he destroyed the manuscript, but ended up writing it again and publishing it. It's a classic story because of how it deals with good vs. evil and how all of us have the capacity within ourselves to do good and evil, so no one is really a "good guy" or a "bad guy," but we're all capable of being both good or evil, and if we repress the evil inside us, it can escape and turn into something monstrous.

This movie is an interesting analysis of this concept, though I think most of us will have an easier time reconciling the good and evil within us if we don't try to drink a potion that will separate us into two people, one only capable of being good and one only capable of being evil. It will also possibly help of we don't surround ourselves with assholes who mock us every time we try to do good. This movie is another cool little classic that's fun to watch this time of year. The Dr. Jekyll in this movie is a disheveled, hairy guy with long hair who leers at the world through a crooked grin and probably looks like a guy you'd meet at a gas station at 2 AM. This would be a fun movie to watch with little kids who might not be ready for graphic horror yet.