Friday, November 1, 2013

Horror Challenge #106: "Mama"

So watching this movie last night, my friends and I concluded that Guillermo Del Toro must have had a terrible childhood, because terrible things happen to kids in all his movies that we could think of.  Just kidding really, but seriously, the poor kids in his movies never stand a chance.  In a way I like it, because a lot of movies don't seem to have the guts to show horrible things happening to children, or children doing terrible things, and since these are HORROR movies, and their goal is to HORRIFY, I think they should be more willing to show such things even if those things are horrible (that's their JOB after all).

The things that happen to these poor girls in this movie are indeed horrible.  Their parents are dispatched early in the movie, and they wind up cold and alone in a creepy abandoned cabin in the woods with only the spirit of a long dead woman to raise them.  They regress to an almost animal like state, and they live that way for five years because the police in this town are the most incompetent police ever to wander into a horror movie.  Once the girls are finally rescued, they go to live with their uncle who never gave up on the hope of finding them, and then creepy things start happening because it seems that the ghost that kept the girls safe all those years in the woods doesn't want them to leave her...ever.

The thing about horror movies is that often, even the dumbest B horror movies follow the age old pattern of fairy tales: there's a natural order to the world, and something comes along to disrupt that natural order, and something must happen to restore that natural order so that good can triumph over evil.  For example, parents are supposed to love and care for their children and protect their children, but when parents do terrible things to their children, something must happen to stop that evil from touching the children, so that the children can go back to being loved and cared for and protected again, so that the world can be restored to the way it should be.  Even campy slasher movies have hints of this pattern (people are happy, bad guy starts killing them, someone defeats bad guy so people can go back to living and being happy)..

In "Mama," the natural order of the world is subverted in a bunch of ways in just the first ten minutes of the movie.  Spouses are supposed to love and protect their partners, not do terrible things to them, parents are supposed to love and protect and raise their children, not kill them, and that's shot all to hell right from the start in this movie, but someone comes along to set things right.  I really like how at first, the mother figure who will be caring for the girls, their aunt, the wife of the uncle who never gave up on them, is a reluctant hero in that she doesn't really want her role as protector of the children, but she slowly comes to love them and is thus willing to fight for them.  That really got to me. 

I also like how the movie subverts your expectations, because like I said, the expectation is that something comes along to threaten the order of things (the children are put in danger) and something else must battle that evil to restore order (stop the evil, protect the children) and then in this movie, that "protector," the ghost who initially saved and cared for the children, turns sinister and evil when it seems that she will lose the children, because they will come to love their new caregivers and thus won't need her anymore.  Most movies wouldn't have the guts to do what this movie does, which is basically rip my heart out and make me really sad and angry, like every other Guillmero Del Toro movie does, making me sad even when his movies have a happy ending.  The movie isn't perfect, it does some things wrong, like it probably relies too much on CGI, and the cops are dumber than a bag of rocks, so that irks me, but overall it's a dark and nasty little glimpse into the world that I really respected for what it does right.

Horror challenge #105: "The Prophecy II"

So I really enjoyed the first movie in this series, because I like the idea of evil angels battling good angels for the fate of humanity, and Christopher Walken is awesome and he plays an evil bad guy like no one else I know.  I heard that this series deteriorated quickly after the first movie, but I would say that the second movie is as good as the first in my estimation.

The movie is about a woman who encounters a man while driving to work one day (he literally falls out of the sky seemingly and hits her windshield, the literal interpretation of the song "It's Raining Men" I suppose) and she rushes him to the hospital and visits him as he gets better, and they seem to take a liking to each other, so they go back to her apartment one night and have sex.  Sluts.  So this wouldn't really be a bad thing, except that she finds out he is an angel and he had sex with her in order to fulfill a prophecy and impregnate her with a half human half angel child who is supposed to be important in the battle between good and evil.  she's understandably pissed that he used her, and now the evil angel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) has her on his radar and wants to find her and kill her before she can bring this kid into the world.  What a buzzkill.

Having read the bible, I know that angels aren't always the good, benevolent messengers of God that people seem to think they are, and they can be kind of creepy and evil when they want to be, and I like watching any movie where that idea is explored, so I dug this movie.  Plus I love Jennifer Beals and Christopher Walken, so this movie is a win-win on all fronts.

Horror Challenge #104: Supernatural: Season 8: "Bitten" (Wildcard)

This is another standalone episode, and it's one that I will want to point to whenever people say that this show should have been canceled many seasons ago, because this is genuinely a GREAT episode, and I really loved it.  It's about a small town where a killing has taken place, a guy who was ripped apart by what looks like a wild animal, but the biggest animal around is a raccoon, so something bad is going on here.  It's also unique in that Sam and Dean take a backseat in the episode, because the bulk of the episode is found footage shot by some amateur filmmakers who are attending a local university.  I love found footage type movies because I think when they're done well, they can draw me in better than any other type of movie, because they look like something that could actually happen, and this is no exception.  I like the two main characters, best friends who meet a girl who causes a rift because they both like her but she only has eyes for one of them, and the story that plays out as they encounter the big bad evil thing in the episode is sad because I actually cared about the characters.  Like I said, a great episode.

Horror Challenge #103: Supernatural: Season 8: "Heartache" (Wildcard)

This is the first episode of this season that functions mostly as a standalone episode, apart from the story arc of the entire season.  There's some mention of the main story arc of course, with Sam and Dean revealing a little bit more of what happened to them during their months apart, but they spend most of the episode looking for a bad thing that's killing people that has nothing to do with their own personal drama.  I enjoy episodes like this because we get to see them doing what they do best, what drew me to this series in the first place, solving a mystery that has supernatural elements to it.  Here people are getting their hearts ripped out, and no one is really sure why, and Sam and Dean have to figure out what evil bad guy is doing all this and put a stop to it.  Funtimes!

Horror Challenge #102: Supernatural: Season 8: "What's Up, Tiger Mommy?" (Wildcard)

So this is the second episode in season 8, still a little shaky on our feet, not really entirely sure what's gone on with our characters Sam and Dean, and they're not really talking to each other about it either (because they spend half of each season pissy with each other over whatever happened at the end of the previous's what they do).  We get to know Kevin's mother better in this episode, and for a mother who just found out her son is a prophet of the Lord, she's taking it pretty well.  I like this episode because we see that even though she's strict and all, she genuinely loves her son and is willing to sacrifice everything to keep him safe.  Generally I think that's what parents should be like (but they're not, not even close, especially in the world we live in) so even with all the evil surrounding her son, all the demons trying to destroy him, he has someone fighting on his side, and that's what family should be.

Horror Challenge #101: Supernatural: Season 8: "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (Wildcard)

So some people think that the show Supernatural should have ended awhile ago.  Most people disagree on a point, but the general consensus is that it should have stopped at least after season five.  I of course disagree (because I don't do anything the way anyone else does) because I actually think it got BETTER after season 4, more complex and darker and more gray line between good and evil, and I love that stuff.  Season 8 is on rocky ground with this episode, and some things have happened that we don't understand yet and I know they won't be explained until later in the season, but I like that they didn't just abandon characters like Kevin, the prophet of the lord, who was kind of annoying (teenage angst and all) but was still a character I liked and didn't want to see used as a plot device and then tossed aside.  This episode is heavy on backstory, but it still introduced some intriguing ideas, so I am along for the ride.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Horror challenge #100: "Truth or Dare (2012)"

This is a nasty little horror thriller that sends a message that it's a bad idea to bully people, but instead of focusing on the harm bullying can cause, it mostly focuses on the harm people can cause when they avenge bullying.  In the movie, a prank at a party drives a student to do something terrible, and then several months later five friends who were at that party are invited to this kid's birthday party.  they don't like him, but they come for the free booze, only to be held hostage by a maniac and forced to play a game of "Truth or Dare" with deadly consequences.  There's a lot of icky torture scenes in the movie, and even though this group is full of people who are kind of assholes, they still don't deserve what happens to them.  There are a lot of twists along the way and the ending is great.  I really enjoyed this one.

Horror Chalenge #99: "Ghost from the Machine"

This movie got a lot of comparisons to "The Sixth Sense," and I guess I can see why, but it wasn't as suspenseful or as scary as that movie.  Here, a young man is thrown when his parents fie in an accident and he suddenl;y has custody of his preteen brother.  He becomes obsessed with building a machine that will gather electromagnetic energy because he thinks he can possibly bring back the spirits of his dead parents.  Soon, ghosts are coming back all over town, but they don't know they're dead, and they aren't all nice, either.  It turns out that some of the people who used to live in his house did very bad things before they died, and you wouldn't want them coming back to haunt you (especially since the ghosts in this movie are able to take corporeal form and pick up objects and touch people).  The movie is kind of interesting and a little sad, but I wish it could have been better.  It ran on a little long and took forever to get to its point.

Horror Challenge #98: "Sadako 3D"

This is the movie made to cash in on both the recent 3D craze and the success of the Ringu movies.  Because it was made to be 3D, the filmmakers spend a lot of time throwing things at the screen so they would jump out on viewers who saw the movie in 3D, but I didn't see it in 3D, so it got kind of annoying after awhile.  The story here is that a bunch of people start committing suicide after the film from the original Ringu gets posted on the internet by some guy who was obsessed with bringing Sadako back into the world so she could kill everyone (what a jerk).  This movie isn't as scary as the original, nor does it have the most cohesive storyline, but it did have some spooky moments.  It probably would have been better if I saw it in 3D (or better still if it hadn't been made so I didn't have to watch it at all).

Horror Challenge #97: "The Initiation"

This is one of those rare 80s slashers that I haven't seen, even though I love slasher movies, so I was excited to finally watch it.  It's one of those movies where something terrible happened to the main character but she doesn't remember it, and when people start getting killed she doesn't realize that it has anything to do with her or her dark family secret, but the past comes back to haunt her until she's forced to face the truth.  I like movies like this, and I also like where most of the action is set in an abandoned shopping mall after hours, because the setting is creepy, and it adds to the creepiness of the movie.  The acting isn't the greatest, and the plot is kind of ridiculous, but I still had a lot of fun with this one.

Horror Challenge #96: "Walled In"

This is the first movie of the challenge to give me nightmares.  I kind of predicted that would happen after I saw it, because I'm kind of claustrophobic, and the subject matter of this movie really got under my skin because of that.  It's about a demolitions expert named Samantha who visits a building that is set to be demolished.  The building has a grisly history, because the architect buried people alive within the walls of the building and it was a huge scandal.  The spirits of the building seem to be communicating with Samantha, warning her about some danger, but they're not specific enough to protect her from what's about to happen.

Right at the beginning of the movie a little girl is trapped inside the walls and drowned in cement while she cries for her daddy and screams and begs.  It's horrible to watch, and that's what really got to me about this movie, imagining what it must have been like for those poor people trapped inside the walls of the building.  This is a grisly little movie and it's hard to watch, but I loved it.

orror Challenge #95: "Die"

This movie is a lot like the "Saw" movies, only with less gore.  Strangers wake up trapped in a room together and try to figure out why they're there.  A bad guy shows up and makes them play a game in order to earn their freedom.  This isn't like "Saw" in that they have a chance as long as they listen to the guy and follow his directions correctly, this villain has them roll a die and let fate decide whether they live or not.  It's creepy, and the overlapping story of the people forced to play the game with the cops trying to figure out what's going on is compelling.  I enjoyed this one.

Horror Challenge #94: "Unknown Origin"

This movie is basically a ripoff of John Carpenter's "The Thing."  It's about a submarine crew who answer a distress call to a ship where most of the crew are dead and the ones left don't speak English.  They come abord the rescue ship, but they're bringing a guest: an alien life form that wants to take over human bodies and gain control of the earth.  Our crew starts getting picked off one by one and eventually they have to figure out who is infected with the alien life form (because they won't listen to me yelling at the screen telling them who is infected).  The special effects aren't that great, but once the action started getting going, I was at least interested to see what happened next, so it wasn't terrible.  Nothing to write home about, though.

Horror challenge #93: "Blackenstein"

I heard about this movie when I was younger and I used to read any book I could find on horror movies.  This movie is included in a book talking about Frankenstein movies, but it's never given a lot of respect, and I don't really think that's fair.  The same thing happens with the movie "Blacula," which is a good vampire story, and this story is as good as a movie about a man cobbled together with spare parts from other bodies who goes on a killing spree is ever going to be, really.  It's a little cheesy, but that's to be expected with the low budget, and I've seen much worse.

The story here is that a Vietnam war vet comes back home mutilated from the war, missing his arms and legs, and his fiance feels so terrible for him that she enlists the help of a scientist who is trying experimental surgery where he grafts body parts onto amputees.  I think that's kind of goulish, personally, but I guess her heart is in the right place.  Unfortunately for this couple, the scientist's assistant falls for the woman so he sabotages the surgery and Blackenstein is born.  He goes around killing people and other asntisocial things until he can be stopped.

The movie has a tinge of sadness, as all movies involving Vietnam seem to, and it's also sad how this woman really loved her fiance and was only trying to help him, and it all went so horribly wrong for them.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a cinematic masterpiece or anything, but it's a fun little take on the Frankenstein story.

Horror Challenge #92: "Zombie High"

I like this picture because it's a reproduction of the cover for the VHS of this movie which is what I used to see in video stores when I was a kid and I wanted to see it back then, just like I wanted to see every horror movie.  I've seen movies such as "Disturbing Behavior" and now that I've finally seen THIS movie, I can see that those kinds of movies owe a lot to "Zombie High" for inspiration.

The movie isn't really about "zombies" in the traditional sense, reanimated corpses or even people turned into zombie-like creatures by a virus, it's about an elite boarding school where the teachers have a long history of capturing students and reprogramming them to behave a certain way.  It's like being a vampire kind of, only in this case you don't have to drink blood in exchange for eternal youth, you just have to keep ingesting a serum that helps you stay young and succeed in whatever field you choose (which is why graduates of this school do so well in society). 

It's all kind of silly of course, and the 80s hairstyles are hilarious, but it's a lot of fun to watch the movie in spite of these things.  I'm glad I finally got to see it.

Horror Challenge #91: "Penumbra"

Have you ever watched a movie and then thought "wow, that didn't make sense...I must just be tired or I must have missed something," and then you search around online awhile until you discover that nope, it wasn't just you, the movie just didn't make sense on purpose?  That was me with this movie.  And I guess it makes SOME sense, I mean I understand what happened, I just felt like a lot of details were left out that could have helped the movie be less confusing (but maybe being confusing was the point, I don't know).

So the movie is about a career-driven woman who is planning to sell this apartment she inherited, so she's waiting at the apartment for the prospective tenant to show, and while she's waiting she manages to be such a boitch that she alienates everyone on the block and half the people who live in the building.  So this guy shows up, and thinking he's the prospective buyer, she shows him around, and he tells her his client will pay lots of money for the place, so she has dollar signs in her eyes which block her from seeing that something weird is going on, even as more people show up to the apartment and anyone with half a brain would know something bad is going to happen.  So eventually she finally realizes these people are up to no good, so she tries to stop them, but she's really bad at that, and while all of this drama is playing out, it's almost time for a solar eclipse, which ends up being a great time for occult activities.

We don't ever really learn who the weird people at the apartment ARE, we just see what they eventually DO, which gives us some clues, but I wanted more.  I do appreciate how the woman who owns the apartment is such a horrible person that no one really wants to help her out, and I don't really blame them, either.  There's not much gore, but there is a sense of foreboding and impending doom that kept me on the edge of my seat.  The end is kind of a letdown, but getting there was pretty fun, so I did enjoy this one.

Horror challenge #90: "Tales from the Hood"

So I saw this movie back when I was a teen, back when it came out, and I liked it, but I didn't have much of a framework for it, having only read the "Tales from the Crypt" comics and seen a few episodes of the TV show.  I didn't know about the "Tales from the Crypt" movie, or the "Vault of Horror," or I would have been able to place this movie more in a context of stories where people encounter a creepy person who tells them horror stories, and then they realize they are damned to hell (bummer).  Someone I know recently saw this movie and complained that all the white people are racist in it, blaming that on Spike Lee (who executive produced this movie) but I don't put much stock in that. 

First of all, Spike Lee didn't write the movie, so leave him out of it, second, not all the white people in this movie are racist, third of all, a lot of white people are racist anyway, which is despicable, and in movies like this, despicable people do evil things and then get punished (whether they're white or black) that's how it works.  There aren't even that many white people in this movie in the first place, which is why I like it so much, floating in the sea of white faces in the rest of the movies on this list thus far.  Suffice it to say, I think if you watch this movie and complain that the like four white characters are racist and therefore the movie is saying all white people are racist, the problem is more with you than with this movie.

Anyway, the movie follows the classic anthology format with a wraparound story where one character is telling stories to other characters, and each story tells a tale of people doing horrible things and then being punished for their evil deeds.  there's some corrupt cops, an abusive boyfriend, a corrupt politician, and a street thug, and each of them get menaced by something supernatural (some evil dolls, some ghosts, a kid with special powers, you get the idea).  I especially love the story about the killer dolls, which was really the only story I remembered coming into this film.  This movie is a lot of fun, and it's not as whitewashed as most horror movies, so it's a refreshing break (plus I love anthology films anyway).  Check it out.

Horror Challenge #89: "Return to Horror High"

So I've wanted to see this movie for many years, ever since I used to see the video cover back in video stores in the 80s (I pretty much wanted to see every horror movie back then).  I hear tell that this was supposed to be a horror comedy instead of a straight up horror movie, which looks to be the case having watched it, but it's really not that funny.  Mostly annoying.  It's supposed to be smart and self-aware, about a high school where brutal murders occurred that were never solved, and now a crew is there filming a movie, but people are getting killed again, so now the crew has to solve the old murders in order to stop the killings today.  there's a lot of campy gore and people doing stupid things, and then there's a "wacky" twist at the end that I don't even want to try and describe.  Suffice it to say I'm not really even sure what happened, and I saw the movie.  It's just not as fun as it seems to think it is, so I can't recommend this one.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Horror Challenge #88: "Pumpkinhead"

I was sick of being disappointed by my movies, so I decided to watch a movie I already knew was good, and I reached for "Pumpkinhead."  I love how this movie poster calls it a "Grim Fairy Tale," because that's how I see it too, only in this movie people get their wishes granted by a demon instead of a genie, and they know it's going to cost them their souls, they just don't care.  Watching it again I was reminded how the teenagers in the beginning were complete assholes even before they drive recklessly and accidentally kill a kid.  They're mocking the kid for wearing big coke bottle glasses, and I'm like "Wow, that's really mature."  The poor kid is only like 9, and he's tiny.  Lance Henrikson plays his father, and the look on his face when he cradles his son's dead body in his arms is both heartbreaking and chilling.  Of course he has nothing to live for and therefore nothing to lose, so when the old witch woman who summons the demon Pumpkinhead warns him that he will damn his soul to hell if he goes through with his revenge, he doesn't care.  It's really a sad cautionary tale that hasn't lost any of the power it has to affect me even after all these years.

Horror Challenge #87: "Saint Nick"

This is a movie I'd heard a lot of good things about, so I decided to check it out finally.  It's a cool idea, with the story focusing on St. Nick, a cleric who went around with his followers raping and pillaging and sliding down chimneys to cause mayhem, until he was killed and burned for his crimes, and now on December 5th (the day of his festival) people celebrate by giving each other gifts, but this pisses off the angry spirit who's still mad about that whole burned to death thing, so he returns to get vengeance in this small village and starts killing people.  It has some ok gore and a cool idea, but it really doesn't go anywhere too interesting with its material, and the really bad dubbing of the dialogue got on my nerves and distracted me from the movie, so I was diaappointed with this one.

Horror Challenge #86 "Mad Monster Party"

This is one of those movies that I really should have seen as a kid, because I would have appreciated it a lot more.  It's a stop-motion animated movie that parodies classic monster movies, with a mad scientist voiced by Boris Karloff about to retire and leave all his business to his nephew who never met him and is really socially awkward and has no idea that monsters exist.  See, Boris Karloff is a mad scientist who created some monsters and he's basically in charge of them all, so he has one final party to announce his retirement and he invites all the classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, Creature from the Black get the idea) as well as his hapless nephew out to his creepy mansion on his deserted island, and the monsters want to bump off the nephew so one of them can take charge, and shenanigans ensue.  It reminded me of that old stop motion Christmas special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," and I probably would have loved it if I were younger, but as it stands I was kind of bored and looking at my watch wanting it to get over with.  Not as much fun as I hoped, is what I'm saying.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Horror Challenge #85: "Scary or Die"

This is another horror anthology, with the individual stories introduced as different videos hosted on a website called (you guessed it) "Scary or Die."  This is a really low-budget movie, so of course the acting is going to be a bit rough and the special effects might leave something to be desired, but after spending a day watching some horror movies that did great, believable things with tiny budgets, I wasn't up to making any excuses for bad moves (or bad movies).  this movie isn't hideously terrible, but really only two of the stories made an impression on me:  the first story (with some good old boys trying to get rid of illegal immigrants their way, until fate has other ideas and they are punished for their crimes in a gruesome way) and the story about an evil clown attacking a man (because really, ew and creepy, clowns freak me out).  The best thing about these kinds of movies, which leads back to the old horror comics "Tales from the Crypt" and the like, is seeing bad people get what's coming to them, and these stories showed that better than the others, in my opinion.  Otherwise this movie is pretty forgettable.

Horror Challenge #84: "Casper's Scare School"

This is a fun little movie.  I watched a lot of gloomy stuff today, so I needed something cute to balance out all the depressing stuff.  This is a movie about Casper the friendly ghost who doesn't scare people very much, so he's sent to Scare School to improve his scaring average.  Of course he gets into a lot of trouble for not playing by the rules and he has to work everything out.  There's not much to say about this movie, but it was a lot of fun to watched and it helped me shake off some of the gloominess of the past few movies I saw.

Horror Challenge #83: "Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud"

I mistakenly thought I had access to the third and fourth installments in the Pumpkinhead series, which I've heard are better than the second movie (which disappointed me) but when I looked, I only had the fourth movie.  I decided to watch it anyway to see if there was anything I could find to like about the movie, and I actually did like it a lot better than the second movie.

This sequel follows events in a small southern town where the Hatfield family and the McCoy family have been feuding for years (so long that no one even really remembers why they're feuding anymore) and they still hate each other, except for two teens, one from each family, who have fallen in love and are determined to be together no matter what their families say.  One night the young lovers sneak away to see each other, with one little McCoy sister standing lookout, and two older Hatfield brothers hear about it and run off to stop it, but they decide to make a pit stop and rape the lookout girl first, and while she's running away from them, she falls to her death in the woods.  The Hatfield boys find their sister and drag her home, her lover finds his sister's dead body and pledges to get revenge, and before you know it, Pumpkinhead is back to his old antisocial tricks.

Lance Henrikson, who played the grieving father in the first movie, appears in this movie as a ghost who only reveals himself to certain characters so he can warn them to stop what they're doing and not pursue vengeance, since it won't be worth losing their souls over trying to get revenge.  No one really listens to him much though, which is a shame, because of course things don't work out happily (stories of blood feuds and vengeance never really do).  This movie has an obviously low budget, but because the actors appear to take their roles halfway seriously, the movie works much better than the second installment.  I'll have to dig up the third sometime and see if that one is any good.

Horror Challenge 82: "Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings"

I don't really know when this movie decided that playing it big and broad and campy was the way to go.  One of the things I liked most about the original "Pumpkinhead" was how dark it was and how seriously it took itself.  The main character was a father who lived for his son, and when his son is killed by some reckless drivers, he has nothing else to lose, so he gives in to his desire for revenge and summons the demon Pumpkinhead to kill those responsible for his son's death.  It was almost like a fairy tale, a cautionary tale, an origin story telling us what becomes of us when we give in to our darkest impulses and seek revenge at any cost.  I'd heard that the sequel wasn't as good as the original, but I've been wanting to see it for a few years, so I bit the bullet tonight and watched it.

First of all, I agree with most everyone else: this movie is ridiculous.  I mean, the actors don't even seem to take the thing seriously.  It could have been a dark and mean-spirited story of revenge like the original, but everyone involved is playing their roles as big and campy as possible, so it's hard to take anything even remotely seriously.  that's a shame, because I really think this movie could have worked better if someone in charge of making it had said "you know what?  Let's pretend we're professionals and actually do our jobs well" but alas, no one did. 

In this sequel we have a deformed boy being killed by some teenagers in the 50s, jumping to the present day when a new sheriff takes over the town, a man who was born there but moved when he was a young boy.  He's back to raise his teenage daughter away from the corrupting influence of the big city, but of course she gets corrupted by small town evil, joins up with some teenagers who are used to getting a free pass to do what they want, and soon they've committed negligent homicide and accidentally raised the demon Pumpkinhead again (great job, guys).  Pumpkinhead soon begins killing off a bunch of the town's good old boys, leaving sketches at the murder scenes (drawn in blood) of a pair of bloody wings, which is a clue that takes the cops way too long to figure out.  The thing that bothers me the most I think is that this movie could have been a lot better with some better acting and if everyone had given a shit about their jobs making this movie, but as it stands, it's a disappointing follow-up to what I still believe is a great horror film.

Horror Challenge 81: "The Fourth Kind"

Full disclosure: the first time I saw this movie, it scared me so badly that I cried.  No lie.  I was in a particularly vulnerable place back then, still trying to figure out what was going on with my health, and here comes this movie that I didn't really know anything about except that it had something to do with aliens and everyone I knew who had seen it had hated it.  I'd never even heard of a close encounter of the fourth kind before I saw this movie (I remember "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," though I'm pretty sure the name of that movie is incorrect because some people get abducted and that's the fourth kind of contact, not the third kind, so poo on you, people who named that movie and were wrong wrong wrongitty-wrong).

This movie is about a psychologist in a small town in Alaska whose husband has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and she's not handling it well.  Her son is angry with her, and her young daughter has gone temporarily blind, which is a psychosomatic reaction to the stress and grief of losing her father.  The psychologist's patients all begin telling her of the same strange experience: they each begin seeing an owl outside their windows at night, something of a shared hallucination, and they're all having troubles sleeping and coping with stress, and when she tries to put one patient under hypnosis to get him to examine the vision of the owl, he loses it and starts screaming and breaking things and then leaves and refuses to talk to her about it.  Soon the doctor experiences a blackout and a hallucination of the white owl that her patients are seeing, but her tape recorder was running during this blackout, and the recording on the tape suggests that something very old and very malevolent is at work in the town.

Full disclosure part 2: Since I was a teenager, when I began having night terrors, I'd have a recurring dream of a white owl flying into my room and pecking at my face and walking up and down my body.  I haven't really thought about it in awhile, but I'd had one of those dreams RIGHT BEFORE I watched this movie for the first time, so when the movie reveals what that vision might mean, I nearly peed my pants in terror.  My own situation, my own fears and dreams and experiences conspired with the movie to make me pretty freaked out for awhile after I first saw the movie.  Of course I can't replicate that experience, now that it's been a few years and I have my nightmares more or less under control, but this movie still works for me.  It's creepy and atmospheric and I really like the main character, the doctor Abigail, so I care what happens to her.  It's interesting to revisit the movie after it scared me so badly years ago and I'm glad to find that I still liked it and thought it was a good movie, even when it didn't terrify me anymore.

Horror Challenge #80: "Isolation" (2011)

This movie definitely had me turned around.  Netflix insisted that it was a horror movie, but for mnost of its running time, I thought it was a mystery thriller, and that I was going to have to use creative accounting in order to pass it off as a horror movie.  Then the ending happened, I peed my pants, and decided, NOPE, it's horror.

The moie is about a young woman who wakes up in a hospital's isolation room, not sure what happened or why she's there.  she seems to be suffering from some mystery malady, one that is affecting her strength and her motor skills.  She's a medical student, so she knows the lingo, but she's confused about how she ended up here.  From the scenes we see at the beginning of the movie and the reluctance of the doctor and orderly to discuss her situation with her, it seems clear that she's suffering from some mystery epidemic that is spreading throughout the country.  Of course, I immediately thought "Zombie epidemic!" but pretty soon after, I figured out what was actually going on, so the ending didn't really surprise me when it came, but the VERY ending is a complete knockout.  I'm not going to spoil it, but it definitely made me appreciate the movie more.  I think this movie is worth checking out.

Horror Challenge #79: "Lizzie"

I've been meaning to check out this movie since the beginning of the challenge.  I've been kind of obsessed with the Lizzie Borden case ever since I was a kid, because I wasn't allowed to watch horror movies, but since the Lizzie Borden story was a historical event, my mom let me watch a movie about it, and it stuck in my head.  The movie we watched seemed pretty slanted toward thinking Lizzie was guilty of the murder of her mother and father, though she was found not guilty after the trial, and the movie came up with its own theories for why and how Lizzie did it.  Historians don't agree on everything, but it seems to be universally accepted that Lizzie's father was a bully, and that he made his wife and daughters suffer in poverty despite his wealth, a theory that is carried over to this movie.

This movie is about a young woman named Lizzie, who has a lot of psychological problems after moving back to her hometown and the house where she grew up, which is also the house where Lizzie Borden used to live.  Our Lizzie seems to have had some traumatic events happen in her childhood, but she refuses to discuss them with her psychiatrist, using him more as a prescription filler than as a confidant.  Lizzie is having problems with her boyfriend too, and she's made a new friend in a neighbor woman who doesn't seem to have any concept of boundaries, as she just walks into Lizzie's house whenever she wants without knocking or announcing herself.  By the time the movie ends, we've of course found out what happened in Lizzie's childhood (though I'm not so sure I understand it completely) and why Lizzie is so screwed up now.  The movie wasn't great, it had flaws with the pacing and some questionable acting, but it kept my interest and piqued my curiosity as a longtime reader of the Lizzie Borden legend, which overpowered the movie's flaws for me, so it wasn't bad.  Others who don't share my ghoulish passion for that legend might not enjoy this movie as much as I did.

Horror Challenge #78: "V/H/S 2"

This is the sequel to the original V/H/S, which I think single-handedly proved that "found-footage" type movies can still be good and original (and there's a lot of stories out there that can carry that concept, if people want to be original and think outside the box).  It's another traditional horror anthology type movie, with a wraparound story that houses several separate horror vignettes.  The concept doesn't drag any here, in fact, I think it might even be better than the original.  For one thing, the wraparound story in this movie actually has a beginning, middle, and end, whereas in the first one, the story just kind of stopped instead of ending.  I also think the stories in this movie might even be better.  There isn't one story I didn't like here, whereas in the original there was one (maybe even two) that I didn't think was as good as the others.  This movie also branches out and tries some new things, like the original movie did, stories that you wouldn't necessarily think would work in a found-footage context.  Just as with the first movie, this movie was pretty nasty and icky and mean, and I loved watching it do its thing.  Bring on V/H/S 3!

Horror Challenge #77: "V/H/S"

This is one of those movies that everyone raved about for awhile, so I was eager to watch it, but I didn't get around to watching it until it already had a sequel, so I got to watch them both back-to-back.  I can see why this movie made such an impact.  First, it's a traditional anthology horror movie, in the tradition of "Tales from the Crypt," with a wraparound story housing the little individual horror movie vignettes.  Here, a group of crooks breaks into a house to steal a VHS tape that promises to bring them a big payoff.  Second, it's a bunch of "found footage" type movies (even the wraparound story is a "found-footage" movie), and those are still pretty popular, though getting played out in recent years.  this movie proves that when done well, "found-footage" movies can still be extremely effective.  I won't spoil any of these movies, but I will say I was impressed with the level of gore, nastiness, and general mean-spiritedness of the stories.  This is pretty hardcore horror, and I loved every minute of it.

Horror Challenge #76: "Silent Hill: Revelation"

This is a movie that definitely relies on imagery to be scary.  Whereas the original movie had a pretty deep emotional core, with Rose saying more than once how much she loved her daughter, how she felt like Sharon belonged to her even though Sharon was adopted, and Rose getting an opportunity to pretty dramatically prove how much she loved her daughter at the end of the movie, the sequel doesn't have as much of an emotional core.  It tries, being a direct sequel to the first movie, with Sharon a teenager, on the run with her father, trying to stay away from those who would like to capture her and make her go back to the world of Silent Hill.  These scenes worked for me, but they just didn't have the same impact the first movie had.  There's a lot of spectacle on display though.  This movie was shown in 3D, so a lot of the effects are eye-popping and creepy.,  There are a lot of jump scares here, and they manage to stitch together a story that explains why and how Sharon escaped Silent Hill.  It might not be the best plot in the world, but it went better than I thought it would.  I ended up liking this movie and its special effects extravaganza-laden plot.

Horror Challenge #75: "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh"

Isn't the house in this movie creepy looking?  This is something I mention because this movie has people divided pretty equally into two categories: "WTF that was boring" and "Wow that was deep and moving."  And even oin the group that thinks the movie is deep and moving, there is a lot of in-fighting about what the movie means.  It's one of those movies that is very open to interpretation, so people can easily think their pet theory about what the movie meant is the right one and fight for hours to defend that point of view.  I hear tell that the director on the commentary for the movie insisted that it meant one thing, but since it can so clearly be taken a few different ways with evidence from the movie to back them up, I'm going to go ahead and say that I don't really care what he thinks is the "true" interpretation.

I like that it's open to more than one interpretation.  That makes it worth talking about.  It reminds me a lot of two other horror movies I've watched in past challenges, "The Possession of David O'Rielly" and "The Skeptic," because those had endings that were open to interpretation as well, and that made watching them more interesting for me.  But anyway, the house is scary and foreboding to me, which makes the movie scary and foreboding, but if you don't think the house is scary, you might not like the movie, because a lot of the scares rely on your feelings of isolation and devastation in relation to the creepy, oppressive house, which doesn't work if you don't find it creepy or oppressive.

This movie is about a woman who has died, and her son was estranged, and he returns to her home after her death to settle her affairs, only to discover that there's a presence in the house with him.  Already I feel like I'm lying to you, because this is one of those movies where some of what I said MIGHT NOT be true if you favor one interpretation of the movie over another.  The thing is, whatever your interpretation, the movie leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to actor Aaron Poole, because he's really the only character we see, and so if we don't care about him and don't get emotionally involved with his journey, we're going to find the movie boring.  Most of the movie is literally footage of him wandering around the house looking spooked and kind of pensive.

It worked for me, because I cared about what he was going through, but I can definitely see where some people would find it boring.  He can't really decide what to feel about his mother's death, because they weren't close and she was emotionally and verbally abusive to him, and this left him pretty scarred.  I can identify with that, too.  Ultimately, this emotional roller coaster is where all the scares of the movie rest, and if you don't feel connected to him, you probably won't like the movie.  I kept going back and forth, but I think I ended up liking the movie and feeling compelled by what happened.  It's not a thrill-a-minute type movie, but it's got its own brand of emotional devastation, which is scary in its own way. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Horror Challenge #74: "Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus"

As you might be able to tell simply from the title, I went a little overboard in my search for a fun, cheese horror movie and stumbled into one that is so inept it isn't even fun to watch.  Not even with Jaleel White starring, and I really wanted to like him.  Steve Urkel would have probably figured out a way to stop these monsters way faster than these dimwits did.  Plus who was in charge of these special effects?  I'm fairly certain I could create more realistic looking effects in MS Paint.  Ugh.  Skip this one.  Watch "Spiders" instead.

Horror challenge #73: "Spiders"

Another reviewer once said that there's only one thing that matters in a giant spider movie.  Everything else can be forgiven, a bad plot, bad acting, bad dialogue, because all that matter is that the giant spiders look cool.  The giant spiders in this movie look pretty CGI-eriffic, but I actually liked the main characters, the estranged husband and wife working on opposite teams in the beginning, investigating a problem in the subway system that winds up involving giant spiders from outer space (dude, I HATE it when that happens).  Once the shit hits the fan, though, the husband and wife band together to help each other and try to save their 12 year old daughter, so I liked them more after that.  The backstory is halfway interesting as well, involving the government trying to create a super weapon with giant spiders.  I said it was interesting, I didn't say it wasn't also stupid and ridiculous.  But hey, spiders freak me out, so I had fun with this one.

Horror Challenge #72: "Invisible Invaders"

This movie is more on the science fiction side of things, but since the aliens in this movie inhabit the bodies of the recently dead, forcing them to walk around like zombies and attack the human population, it sits directly in the horror camp for me.  Speaking of "camp," this movie is definitely campy and silly, but the lumbering reanimated corpses are creepy when they appear.  Of course, the plot is pretty threadbare (why did the aliens pick that one scientist to warn the whole world about their invasion?  Then they had to resort to plan B when people didn't listen, which was taking over more dead bodies and warning people through the hijacking of various news and sports broadcasts...why didn't they just do that in the first place?  And WTF are the sound waves that wind up defeating them again?  Huh?)  Ultimately it doesn't make much sense, but it's not too long, so the pain is over quickly, and like I said, lumbering corpses, which are pretty cool.

Horror Challenge #71: "Attack of the Crab Monsters"

Things were getting altogether too moody and gloomy with the movies I watched today, so I decided to serve me up some cheese to go with my wine, and this movie provided just the antidote I needed.  Crabs are kind of icky anyway, being the big underwater spiders that they are, and the crabs in this movie are giant, which makes them even more dangerous, plus they can somehow absorb a human's intelligence when they eat a human, so the disembodied voices of the people they've eaten start speaking to the rest of the crew that's left, and it's all very scary to counter the silly effects and the somewhat ridiculous plot.  This movie is short enough that it doesn't drag on and grate on your nerves too much, so I had fun with it.

Horror challenge #70: "Nosferatu"

This is a great little vampire movie.  I love it for many reasons.  I love it for holding my interest, even though there's no dialogue, and for having the creepiest looking vampire I've ever seen in a movie to this day.  I love it for ripping off Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and getting sued by his estate, because Bram Stoker pretty much stole the idea for "Dracula" from someone else anyway, so he kind of had it coming (I love "Dracula," but it's the truth).  I love this movie for its creepy music, and for introducing the somewhat original idea that the way to defeat the vampire is for the woman he targets to sacrifice her own blood and distract him long enough for him to forget that the sun is coming up to kill him.  So many movies focus on how the vampire seduces the woman, that to see it played the other way around is refreshing (and why this movie can do that and no more modern vampire movies are willing to try that idea is kind of sad).  Don't let the fact that it's a silent film scare you off.  this movie is definitely worth checking out.

Horror Challenge #69: "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari"

This movie messes with my head.  I've seen it several times now and I'm still not sure I totally grasp what's going on here, the truth of the story, and I'm not sure I'm really supposed to.  What I do know is that it's about a man in an asylum telling a story about why he's there, so from the beginning it's going to be messed up, and I'm not sure how much of his story is true, but it freaks me out and makes me never want to go to a hypnotist...some people think it's fun to have someone implant suggestions into their minds to make them do things they wouldn't normally do, but all it does it make me think of this movie.  No thank you.  The imagery and the sets and the music are all off-kilter and they keep me coming back to be fascinated again, even if I'm not totally sure I understand everything I'm seeing.  This is the first and possibly the best mindfuck movie ever made, and for that it deserves to be seen.

Horror Challenge #68: "The Phantom of the Opera"

This is a pretty epic undertaking for a silent movie.  It's a huge production with a huge cast (over 5000, as the poster says) showing lavish parties and theatrical productions and all manner of fancy events going on in the opera house while the phantom is banished to the shadows, not allowed to partake in respected society.  He is kind of a tragic figure, but I appreciate this movie for showing him as the murderous monster that he is, because some OTHER adaptations of this story want to turn him into a romantic hero (because stalking is like, so romantic and stuff) and that always irks me.  I'm sorry that the guy feels left out because he's disfigured and looks like one of the zombies from the movie Paranorman, but he's also an outcast because he's a MURDERER, and he KIDNAPS a woman because he's OBSESSED with her and he demands that she love him.  Dude, that's messed up.  This movie is also notable because it might be the first movie to feature a fake-out scare when a character is scared at a noise and it turns out to only be a cat.  see how influential these old movies can be?

Horror Challenge #67: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

There's something about silent movies that movies with all their jabbering and dialogue today can't quite seem to capture.  Movies without sound had to rely on the intensity of the music and the ability of their actors to captivate an audience with no dialogue (except for the sentences that flashed across the screen from time to time).  I love me some good dialogue, but there's something to be said for a movie that can entertain even without it, you know?  This was one of my favorite books as a kid, because my mom let me read it because it was a classic and therefore not horror, and I always felt bad for Dr. Jekyll back then, but now that I'm older and hopefully wiser than when I was 11, I have a hard time feeling sorry for a guy who came up with a potion he could drink so he could do terrible things without having to feel guilty about it.  What a tool, right?  This movie must have shocked a lot of people back when John Barrymore was a respected actor, so seeing him essentially take drugs and get all grubby with stringy hair and then run around killing people.  He plays Dr. Jekyll as kind of effeminate, so seeing him turn into the evil bully dripping menace and testosterone is quite a transformation.  This movie captures the spirit of the book probably better than any other adaptation I've seen (and I've seen 'em all) mostly because it nails how weaselly Dr. Jekyll is for even wanting to take his potion in the first place.  What a tool.

Horror Challenge #66: "Dracula"

Ok, I'll admit that when I first saw this movie, I wasn't a big fan.  I mean, I've wanted to see it since I was a kid, back when I wasn't allowed to watch it because it was a horror movie, and then I never got around to watching it until after I'd read the book, and I was obsessed with the book when I was a kid because it did some cool things that I'd never seen a book do before (come on, the big fight at the end happens off screen!) and when I finally got around to seeing this movie, it was a disappointment.  I still love it though, for all its influence on modern vampire movies, and this poster here is one I had hanging on my wall for years because I liked it so much.  It made Count Dracula cool and creepy, where in the book he was an old smelly dude who walked around in a straw hat and had really bad corpse breath.  Why won't anyone ever make the REAL Dracula into a movie?  I won't hold my breath.

Horror Challenge #65: "The Final Sacrifice"

I think I've watched this movie before in another one of these horror challenges.  That happens to me sometimes, I watch a movie only to discover after starting it that I've watched it before.  In the case of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie that isn't a bad thing, though, because those are fun to watch more than once (it beats watching these crappy movies on their own).  This one actually has a lot of funny comments, which helps, because sometimes the sarcasm here falls flat with these guys, and this movie looks to be horrendous without it.  I mean, why are a bunch of guys in black ski masks running around a small town chasing a kid on a bike (who they can't outrun even when they're in a CAR)?  It's some type of evil plot for a cult to provide a sacrifice to their god so that they can take over the world?  Ok, sure.  The snark saves this one.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Horror challenge #64: "The Devil Inside"

This movie got a lot of flack when it opened, because a lot of horror fans hated it (especially the ending) but I love found footage type movies, so I was pretty sure I would enjoy it.  The movie is about a college-age woman whose mother murdered three people years ago while supposedly suffering from demonic possession.  The girl wants to find out the truth, so she visits her mother in Italy at the asylum where she is kept.  Becoming convinced that her mother really is possessed by a demon and not just crazy, the girl has to take steps to help her mother before it's too late.

I really liked this movie.  the three main characters, the woman's daughter Isabel and the two priests she befriends in Italy, play their parts very well and I felt connected to the characters, so I cared what happened to them.  The woman who plays the mother does such a good job acting freaky and crazy that the demonic possession is believable even without the help of special effects.  As for the ending, I actually like the very ending, though the characters make such boneheaded moves at the end of the movie that I wanted to punch them all in the face.  All in all, I think this movie is a lot better than people make it out to be.

Horror Challenge #63: "A Haunting at Silver Falls"

This is your typical ghost story about vengeful ghosts who are pissed off so they hang around haunting the living.  An orphaned teenage girl moves in with her aunt and uncle after her dad dies, and she soon discovers the town where they live is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of two teenage girls who were killed by their father years ago (their father is on death row).  The ghosts keep showing up and being pests, opening and closing doors and making the lights flicker, and the teenage girl soon realizes that the ghost stories are true.  Over the years, many people have claimed that they saw the ghosts, but these people have all committed suicide, so someone needs to solve the mystery of what these damn ghosts want before they kill everyone in the entire town.

I've seen so many movies that it's hard to surprise me with a twist ending, but this one did surprise me.  I asn't expecting a twist and I thought I pretty much had the movie figured out from the beginning.  the twist is mean-spirited and nasty too, so I liked it.  The ghost effects are kind of silly looking at times, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying this movie.

Horror Chalenge #62: "The Black Sleep"

I really don't know how this movie can have such a great cast and still be so boring.  It's about a guy who uses an ancient Indian drug that he calls "The Black Sleep" to simulate death in his patients so he can bring them back (hey, didn't we just see this in "White Zombie"?)  That's pretty much the premise of this movie, that this guy uses this drug on people because he has an ulterior motive for studying how people's brains work: his wife is in a coma and he wants to operate on her and save her. The premise sounds good, but the movie is so boring that it wastes a good idea and a solid cast.  Mostly all that happens is people wander around the castle where this doctor performs his experiments.  It's all pretty silly when it's not busy being boring.  I wish I'd watched something else.

Horror challenge #61: "Paranorman"

This movie is a lot of fun.  It's about a kid that can see and communicate with dead people, but of course no one believes him until something bad happens and a witch's curse happens to start raising the dead all over town, and the townspeople need this kid to help save them.  I love it.  I especially love the tagline "You don't become a hero by being normal."  How true.  I wish this movie had been around while I was a kid.

Horror Challenge #60: "House of Fears"

I really liked this one.  I expected it to be your average hack-and-slash movie with dumb teenagers in a creepy old house, and to some extent it is (which isn't a bad thing, since I like those kinds of movies) but it manages to cram in a plot and some backstory, which I really appreciated.  So as the movie opens, there's an excavation going on in Africa, and the archeologists find some creepy artifacts, then they disappear.  Another archeologist comes looking for them and finds them all dead.  He escapes, but not before packing a box full of the creepy artifacts, which then wind up at the "House of Fears," a local haunted house type attraction that promises to take people on a tour that forces them to confront their worst fears.  Some teens at a party decide to explore the house after hours, and soon they are being stalked and picked off by their worst fears, and the survivors have to figure out how to escape.

The scenes that depict the worst fears are pretty effective for a low-budget movie, with some of my favorites (a killer clown and a killer scarecrow) making an appearance.  This isn't the best movie ever made or anything, but it was a lot of fun to watch, and it had some creepy moments.

Horror Challenge #59: "Extracted"

This is a pretty ambitious little movie for having such a low budget, and I'm impressed with how well the filmmakers pull it off with very few special effects, just letting the actors carry the story.  The movie is about a guy who invents a machine that allows us to go inside other people's heads and view their memories.  As you imagine, this could be a big help in catching killers.  The problem is that while testing the machine out for a potential buyer, he gets stuck inside the head of a killer and he can't get out, so he's left in a coma and he has to find out if there's a way back into the world.  It's definitely more original than most creepy killer movies, and the actors manage to pull this one off by inhabiting their characters, which is something even big name actors can't always manage to do.  Color me impressed with this one.

Horror Challenge #58: "Maniac (2012)"

So this is a remake of the classic 80s horror film "Maniac."  I suppose that should have been obvious, but I didn't even know they were making a remake of "Maniac," so I just thought this was going to be your average serial killer movie or something, and then much to my delight, I heard the eerie theme music (a reworking of the rock song "Maniac" which was the theme for the original movie).  I like the original "Maniac," but I've always thought there were many things that could be improved on, and this movie takes a stab at doing that (hee hee hee, stab) and it works well.

So this movie stars Elijah Wood as a kid with a terrible childhood that left him pretty messed up, and because of his neglectful mother who was a prostitute, he's not a big fan of women.  So he spends his time restoring antique mannequins in his mother's shop, and in his spare time he stalks women and kills them and scalps them and staples their scalps to the heads of his mannequins.  Nice guy, right?  The movie puts us in his head completely, because the entire movie is shot from his point of view, and his face is only ever seen in reflections, so it's actually pretty ambitious and artful for a slasher movie.  Not to worry, though, this isn't a pretentious piece of arthouse bullshit or anything, since it actually has a storyline as well as its ambitious plot, and there's plenty of gore to keep gorehounds occupied.  It's well worth checking out.

Horror Challenge #57: "The Possession"

Isn't this poster cool?  This poster for the movie is much cooler than the more famous one that's plastered everywhere.  I don't know why they didn't use this poster more, because I really like it, plus it makes the movie seem a lot more creepy, whereas the more well-known poster for this movie looks like a ripoff of the poster for The Exorcist (and you don't want to invite that comparison when your movie was so obviously inspired by The Exorcist...I don't care if this is supposedly a "true story," they were milking the influence of to "The Exorcist" for all it was worth).  And honestly, for me that wouldn't be so bad, since I'm not a huge fan of The Exorcist (yeah, yeah, I know, I'm a terrible person and not a real horror fan, I've heard, but I honestly think that movie is overhyped and praised more than its potboiler of a plot deserves). 

So anyway, this movie is about a young girl whose parents are divorcing, so shes having a rough time already, and she comes across a box that seems to be sealed shut, but it has cool carvings engraved on it, so she's drawn to it, and when she gets the box open she finds lots of trinkets inside, like a carved wooden horse, and an evil spirit.  Neat.  So she starts to change as the spirit takes over her, and her dad takes way too long to realize what's going on, and her mom just blames the dad, and I want to smack them both.  So eventually everyone finally gets on the same page, and they try to exorcise the evil spirit, and it's creepy and cool.  Nothing I haven't seen before, but not a bad way to kill an hour and a half.