Double Feature: The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) & Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

After our single feature yesterday, we’re back to the the next double feature! This time we’re looking at a pair of horror sequels. The first is Netflix Original film The Babysitter’s sequel: The Babysitter: Killer Queen and Unfriended (aka when I saw it it was called Cybernatural)’s sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web. Let’s check it out!

The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020)

Director: McG

Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Jenna Ortega, Emily Alyn Lind, Andrew Bachelor, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Hana Mae Lee, Ken Marino, Leslie Bibb, Chris Wylde

Two years after Cole survived a satanic blood cult, he’s living another nightmare: high school. And the demons from his past? Still making his life hell. – IMDB

The sequel of The Babysitter (review) is something of a disappointing follow-up. In some ways, it has a bit of the rinse and repeat formula where its also about performing a satanic blood cult and it brings back the ghosts of Cole’s past in the form of the cast from the first film. On one hand, the original cast brings in a lot of callbacks from the first one whether its their personality or what happens to them that adds a lot of fun moments for fans of the first film. I’m not quite sure it lands as well for someone watching this without the first film (although I’m not sure who goes into sequel without watching the first one especially since The Babysitter is also a Netflix Original film so its all the same platform). With that said, the other side is the partnering with an unlikely ally which is the first twist fairly early in the movie that brings in the second group there to perform this ritual and also targeting Cole. With that said, Cole has a spontaneous partner in the new girl in school, Phoebe (Jenny Ortega) which links back to Samara Weaving’s character, Bee which also takes on a parallel storyline.

If anything, Killer Queen is disappointing because it loses its simplicity of the first film being as straightforward and scripted better in its originality of the characters and the babysitter running a cult which has some comedy and some more abrupt moments. This one runs on a lot of tangents and a bigger setting. The setting itself does it a lot of favors and the original cast also is very enjoyable to watch as well as Jenny Ortega’s character is a standout as well. But then, they bring in the parents which is meant to be rather funny but a lot of times runs on fumes at times and falls short of the comedy that it should land. Perhaps the beginning it was a lot more entertaining than by the time it reaches the end. The end is redeemed when it takes this different twist which was a little obvious by the end but gives a little redemption to the characters.

Overall, its still a little disappointing. Its not exactly bad as it just loses the horror comedy elements by the end. Its a little disjointed and tries to add too many moving parts than the story actually needs. It falls short in a few elements. Its a little sad since I was really hoping to like this one but by the middle, it just got a little frustrating to watch, mostly with the new cast being a little overacting and the characters just not really working as well.

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

Director (and writer): Stephen Susco

Cast: Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Savira Windyani

A teen comes into possession of a new laptop and soon discovers that the previous owner is not only watching him, but will also do anything to get it back. – IMDB

When Unfriended (review) released, it was the beginning of a cyber found footage style. While the first movie some of its issues, the concept itself proved to be a good one. One that would prove to be especially engaging watching since in some ways, the audience was the invisible spectator in the story as this is all going on through a Skype call. It was a little surprising to see that they ended up making a sequel for it but set in another realm, the Dark Web (which was conveniently on my radar because some video games had explored that as well). In many ways, Unfriended: Dark Web actually is better than the first movie. For one, the setting and the tension is a lot better. The execution and how they facilitate the call even if the technology is pretty much the same. Adding to the equation a deaf girlfriend and some relationship issues and the whole message of not taking what isn’t yours, these friends start off with a virtual game night and ends up being dragged into this dark web community of craziness with what starts off as a simple deed to return the laptop turns into a bigger reach when it involves the Dark Web and the members.

Unfriended: Dark Web is really quite an intense ride. There are twists and turns throughout and it uses the found footage concept effectively. Some of the characters and dialogue might have some little issues here and there but overall, the experience is really good. Its a lot more subtle horror and tension build-up than it is about how they all die. Its plot and the way things flow actually matches up to the little surprises with how the dark web members plan out their kills in a very clever way that all clicks together at the end. An impressive sequel and one that honestly is a rare case of the sequel being better than its original.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen this pair of sequels?

Hall (2020)

Hall (2020)

Director: Francesco Giannini

Cast: Carolina Bartczak, Yumiko Shaku, Mark Gibson, Bailey Thain, Julian Richings

When a debilitating sickness spreads across a long hotel hallway, a few scattered victims fight for survival, and try to escape from the dark narrow stretch of isolated carnage. – IMDB

Matching very well to our current times, Hall is a horror movie surrounding a viral outbreak except it is fairly contained at the beginning phases in a hotel hallway. Its a bit vague on how the whole thing goes down but it does show how it starts and how the virus itself evolves as it infects the people on this normal hotel floor, especially focused from the angle of three characters: Naomi, a Japanese pregnant woman overseas for work running away from her past, Val, a mother getting ready to leave her abusive marriage with her daughter Kelly.

These three people are the choice characters as the story dives a little deeper into their story in something of a parallel execution in the first half of their arrival and what they all are doing before they realized something was wrong whether to themselves or those around them, including the people that they meet in the hallways who are now infected. The focus on three characters gives them each their own struggles that they need to overcome as they slowly come to grips with this infection happening to a different level. The backstory does feel like it cuts in to set up their situation and give them a connecting point to show what is at stake for their survival and their desire to escape this viral infection. Especially with their struggle to do it especially as the movie starts off with someone infected by the disease, crawling slowly down the hallway in their paralyzed state. Its a powerful way to open up a movie and quickly grabs attention to find out how it got there. The movie starts off more focus on one side of these characters and then ends with another side of the equation.

Its a clever way to execute this whole thing as everyone while similar in how they are escalating in their infection, each seem to progress in a different way. As clueless as the people on this hotel floor, Hall is all a mystery for its audience to discover how the virus works on its infected as the movie progresses. Hall is a subtle movie especially with its virus infection premise. Its a much more psychological fear that digs deep in its scenes of crawling down the hallway to how the infection changes the appearance of the infected. For some, its creates a more psychological effect and adding in the factor of the three characters especially Val and her daughter Kelly being separated for a duration of the film. In reality, Val’s subtle signs of her abusive relationship is also rather unsettling in its various scenes which builds more on a desire for her to escape this with her daughter.

Hall is decent horror film about a virus infection in its early spread in a normal everyday single setting of a hotel hallway. The long narrow setting gives the ones trying to leave its share of obstacles. There are some familiar tropes and some would argue they sandwich perhaps one crawling scene too much which points out a little pacing issue. It loses its effect a little at a certain point before changing the direction and pulling it the story back on track. At the same time, how the infection progresses in its different states is where the horror truly lies and perhaps partially with the people that these characters are escaping from. The characters are all scripted really well even if children will be children and Kelly’s character makes some silly child decisions which can be a little frustrating but overall, they all pull out pretty decent performances.

*Screener received from ChicArt PR*
*Hall will be screening in Blood in the Snow Festival 2020 on October 30th*

Double Feature: Diary of the Dead (2007) & Survival of the Dead (2009)

Time to wrap up Romero’s Dead franchise as we look as the last two films with 2007’s found footage, Diary of the Dead and then 2009’s Survival of the Dead. Let’s check it out!

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan, Shawn Roberts, Joe Dinicol, Todd Schroeder, Laura de Carteret, Amy Lalonde, Philip Riccio, Tatiana Maslany, Martin Roach

A group of young film students run into real-life zombies while filming a horror movie of their own. – IMDB

Diary of the Dead is found footage which means its in a rebooted universe of the current time when the film was made in the 2000s however, its supposed to be slotted in the original at around the same time as Night of the Living Dead (review) when the whole apocalypse just started. Timeline and technology wise, its off from each other. Luckily, the first film isn’t about that and focuses on the whole ordeal and the people dealing with it so its really just getting past the decade difference and taking this movie for what it is. Its a nifty and dialed down film seeing as the previous film Land of the Dead (review) was a much bigger scope. This one brings it back down to a simple found footage concept even if it doesn’t really work a lot even if it tries to justify the purpose of making it and insisting on capturing everything on camera even if the characters argue over it constantly throughout the film.

While its hard to say that Diary of the Dead is as good as any of previous movies in the franchise, it does offer a few good zombie kills. The characters are a mixed bag and the monologue is a little wooden. The whole found footage is done fairly well and the whole idea of the importance of capturing this world on film is alright at times. There are some good moments and then of course, we have one scene which links up to the next movie. This movie takes the view of different young adults dealing with the situation together but the next film swaps over to a more military side seeking refuge.

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Survival of the Dead

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kennth Welsh, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Kathleen Munroe, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Devon Bostick, John Healy, Philippa Domville

On an island off the coast of North America, local residents simultaneously fight a zombie epidemic while hoping for a cure to return their un-dead relatives back to their human state. – IMDB

The last movie of the Dead franchise takes us to a group that the Diary of the Dead crew meets and gets pretty much robbed by this National Guardsmen group that the story turns to their side as they also try to survive and as they follow a message about refuge on an island set up by a man exiled from Plum Island and sets up a plan to send everyone to the island to go against this man where these families are feuding.

Its a rather silly type of story but it talks about how different these two are treating the zombies and how they should be treated and it drags this group into the mess as they land on the island and slowly get caught up in the different traps they set up. The story itself feels a tad empty and the whole feud between the two just feels a little off and maybe tired at this point. It seems a little random for this story to pop up at this point especially since the two feuding family leaders aren’t really good people anyways but it does highlight the point of Day of the Dead on a parallel that zombies do have this ability to connect to menial tasks that they used to do and can be trained to act a certain way. In some ways, the story isn’t all a bust.

In reality, the story itself is where it seems to just not work too well. There are some decent moments here as well. I did probably feel this movie felt the most meaningless out of the whole franchise especially since it doesn’t offer a whole lot of different elements and doesn’t add a lot to the whole story and lore plus the characters don’t really stand out either.

That’s it for this double feature!
Thoughts on the Romero’s Dead franchise?

Double Feature: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) & Raw (2016)

Time to move along with the next double feature in Halloween movie marathon month! The next two is a pair-up from production of Season 6 of Movies and Tea (yes, we’re very ahead in schedule) and its a pair-up of two international independent horror films which are unique in their own subgenre. The first is Iranian vampire film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and the next is French body horror film, Raw.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Director (and writer): Ana Lily Amirpour

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marno, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali

In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. – IMDB

Filmed in black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a unique sort of vampire story set in a slum-like world where it tells a rather one of a kind love story. Everyone seems to be easily forgotten and invisible in Bad City and yet, in the shadows is a girl lurking at night who measures their bad roaming the lonely streets and waiting for the moment to claim the victims that she believes deserves to die. Its a subtle arthouse movie that is quite a movie experience.

The black and white tone adds to the entire horror experience even if the typical bloodiness of vampire movies isn’t the focus. In fact, the vampire titled only as The Girl really only shows her true nature as she stalks her victims in the gloomy night or as she has the sudden abrupt showing of her fangs and then attacks. A lot of it is fairly unexpected even in its rare occurrence for a vampire film and yet there’s something rather fun about this whole ordeal even if everything feels so unconventional of vampire movies.

In fact, just as unconventional as everything else, its the vampire that is the most unique. The Girl is a hip person who wants to catch up on the popular music as she goes through listening to music that becomes the movie’s soundtrack seamlessly while also going through Bad City’s street on a skateboard. Its obvious that she can control herself as one of the most scary scenes has to be when she encounters a kid that she questions whether he’s been a good boy and scaring him about the consequences of being bad. On the other hand, the surprise of meeting another lonely soul in Arash, the main male lead of the movie finds each other where its more about the bad things that they don’t know about each other and bonding from that through a feeling and attraction together which comes as a test with a final movie decision that wraps the movie up so nicely.

Raw (2016)

Raw

Director (and writer): Julie Ducournau

Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss

A young woman, studying to be a vet, develops a craving for human flesh. – IMDB

Body horror might not be my first choice in horror movies. In fact, Raw as been an experience to say the least where it was a little gut-wrenching in its disturbing and cannibalism elements. Except the root of the story wasn’t about the body horror as much as its a movie about the young woman Justine who realizes that when she is forced to eating raw rabbit kidneys during rush week as a part of the hazing ritual, that it opens up this new craving and nature that she doesn’t quite understand. It becomes even scarier when she realizes that the same cravings have appeared in her sister Alexia as well.

Justine’s journey through this single first week of school is definitely one that is eye-opening. Her character is one that is fascinating to watch as she dives down this rabbit hole as she first thinks she is having an allergic reaction because of eating meat and as it gets worse, she starts having almost addict-like reactions to craving raw meat from eating subs to raw chicken and finally to human flesh which opens up an entirely new door. However, it is one of the none human flesh eating bits that makes this movie that provides this film one of the most revolting moments as she coughs up an endless amount of her own hair after having a stressful chat with her professor. Whether its the new environment or the stress of all the hazing rituals or that she’s embracing a new self, Justine fights her cravings and tries to find a way to live with it where we see a completely different sort of reaction to how Alexia copes and its this contrast that makes for a movie that isn’t just about Justine but also about how this somehow bonds their relationship but perhaps also set them apart. Its not only her relationship with her sister that comes into play but also a confusing relationship with her gay male roommate that also makes for some odd attractions between the two.

Its an exhilarating and disturbing sort of journey as the reality and what feels like her hallucinations start to blend together with some very odd scenes (like some girl licking a guy’s eyeball). Its really the shocking final act as a whole with the last revelation that shows the danger of this craving and what it can all amount to while also the ending that pieces this whole story together as it reveals the “why” to all that has happened inside of her. Raw might be sold as a body horror but in reality, its a much deeper experience, almost a character study that makes this one such a memorable movie.

That’s it for this double feature!
A little more of an indie horror double feature!
Have you seen these movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Day of the Dead (1985) & Land of the Dead (2005)

As we bounce between FNC 2020 coverage and Halloween marathon, the next double feature continues with the Living Dead franchise as we move forward with Romero’s franchise with the 3rd film Day of the Dead and his 4th film done 20 years later, Land of the Dead. Let’s check it out!

Day of the Dead (1985)

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard, Gary Howard Klar, Ralph Marrero

A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies. – IMDB

Day of the Dead takes the franchise further into the lore. It sets itself into a much more accustomed sort of situation with this zombie apocalypse where this group of military officers and scientists are in this underground bunker one side as security and the other side trying to figure out the root of the zombies and how they work and whether finding what makes them function will figure out a way to train them to not crave human flesh but other living things instead in order to have any hope for the future. The direction of the film is a good one especially since at this point, its not so much understanding the living dead rather than the situation and living with the apocalypse and essentially, survival.

Day of the Dead definitely has a good premise and while some of the characters are rather decent to watch and some of them all pull together to make it all work out well but there’s some characters that I can’t stand. I can’t pinpoint whether Rhodes, played by Joe Pilato, is so good that he makes me so frustrated and annoyed to see him on screen or the character itself is one that annoys me. At the same time, we have some really useless characters that kind of add conflict and also rather frustrating. The character Dr. Logan is a treat though where it takes a rather gory turn as he takes apart the living dead to figure them out and he is a little unhinged to say the least. Then, we can get through this without talking about Sarah (Lori Cardille), the female lead where this film pretty much focuses around her and then her later alliance with the pilot John (Terry Alexander) and radio operator Bill (Jarlath Conroy) where all three of these characters are probably the most fun to watch especially in character and dialogue as they are the few who haven’t really lost it in comparison to everyone else who seems to be stuck in the own minds about the wrong things.

Overall, Day of the Dead is decent. Its a good premise and a good direction to take at this point of the series. There are good revelation. For myself, its a bit of a frustrating watch as some of the characters really got on my nerves. The whole power control military guy trying to be all tough guy and whatnot always seems to end up with the same kind of over the top acting that I’m starting to really not enjoy too much of but that’s more of a personal thing at this point.

Land of the Dead (2005)

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Simon Baker, Asia Argento, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Robert Joy, Eugene Clark, Joanne Boland, Tony Nappo, Jennifer Baxter

The living dead have taken over the world, and the last humans live in a walled city to protect themselves as they come to grips with the situation. – IMDB

At a certain point of a series, we start thinking about the timeline. The premise of Land of the Dead feels like the apocalypse has been something that the last humans have lived with all their lives, just like the time it took of 20 years between the 3rd and 4th movie’s release, right? The walled city that they have created houses a lot of people living in the slums whereas the rich minority live in a skyscraper and is surrounded by the river and the military who protects it from the living dead. Running the skyscraper is Kaufman who also sponsors building Dead Reckoning, a monster vehicle designed by Riley (Simon Baker) who uses this with his crew to go scavenge for supplies. On a supplies run and Riley’s last before retiring from the crew, he notices the living dead showing signs of intelligence. On one side, his crew Cholo (John Leguizamo) believes that with all his jobs for Kaufman that he can get into the skyscraper life but decides to hatch a spiteful plan after he is refused and on the other, Riley ends up saving a prostitute Slack (Asia Argento) being forced into a cage with zombies as entertainment. As the intelligent zombie takes his group to break down the walls of the city to break in, it takes a turn for the bad.

Land of the Dead is probably one of the bigger scope for any of the films so far. Its set in a bigger area which is the size of a city and includes a lot more moving parts as there are a lot of characters to follow around as every level of the living is taken into consideration for the story while also expanding on the intelligent living dead element from the previous movie. At the same time, this movie’s gap of the 20 years in release gives it a lot more familiarity for myself as the cast itself are all familiar faces and a decent cast from Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento. Of course, there are some side ones like a little supporting role by Devon Bostick who eventually became more known when he stars in The 100 as one of the key characters. Its not exactly a notable role but a fun little detail that I thought was worth mentioning since he shows up again in the franchise again. With that said, the story that Romero tells at this fourth film of the series isn’t exactly different as it has a lot of familiar elements but it does have a lot more action and is a rather fun time since the story is a lot more fast-paced than previous movies.

Land of the Dead might not be as unique as the other movies but the fact that its made in the 2000s and with better technology really does help it and its nice to see a movie with a bigger scope as the story did deserve a change in pace of a future where people have established a life living in this post-apocalyptic world and does feel like a good place to end the franchise (which of course, we know that it didn’t but that’s a discussion for another day).

That’s it for this double feature!
Thoughts on the 3rd and 4th film of this series?

Double Feature: Insidious: The Last Key (2018) & Fantasy Island (2020)

Moving on track with the next double feature on Halloween Movie Marathon month! We’re wrapping up the Insidious franchise with the 4th film, Insidious: The Last Key and I didn’t know what to pair it with so I went to this year’s release, Fantasy Island! I sure seem to be going on a Blumhouse trip with my movie choices so far in the movie marathon.

Let’s check it out!

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

In

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Kirk Acevedo, Caitlin Gerard, Spencer Locke, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer

Parapsychologist Dr. Elise Rainier faces her most fearsome and personal haunting yet, as she is drawn back to her ghostly childhood home, where the terror began. – IMDB

The Last Key is pretty much the direct prequel of the Insidious movies. It takes place right before the events of the Lambert family call from the first movie. In this one, Elise Rainier explores her past as she investigates with Specs and Tucker to her childhood home and the memories of what she believes that she unleashed from a hidden door that she unlocked. As she confronts her brother and his family as well as the spirit that may be haunting the current owner of the house.

The Last Key honestly just banks on the love for the character of Elise Rainier played by Lin Shaye as well as Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) and rightfully so because they are truly the best part of the movie. While the story does have a few twists and turns, The Last Key has dropped another level from its previous 2 sequels and reduced itself to almost going through the same type of story. The Further might still have a few lores to offer but all we’re getting from the scares are jumpscares. They are effective a few of the moments but the horror is nothing that lingers.

As much as it doesn’t sound like The Last Key is a lot of fun (and it was okay since I’ve been rather jumpy in general so it got me on a few jumpscares), the issue I have with all these Insidious sequels is how necessary it all is. Sure, its great to give the starting point of how Elise Rainier discovers her powers and then links up her past with her present and then brings on this lovely ending and rounds back to the beginning, its all some clever writing on that point but its wandered a little far from what made Insidious good at the beginning. The monsters and spirits and whatever is hiding in The Further is alright for this one but something seems missing and I can’t quite pinpoint what it is whether its the lack of lingering fear or the atmosphere and tension not being balanced well enough or the “twist” happening a little early.

Fantasy Island (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Jeff Wadlow

Cast: Michael Pena, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Mike Vogel, Kim Coates

When the owner and operator of a luxurious island invites a collection of guests to live out their most elaborate fantasies in relative seclusion, chaos quickly descends. – IMDB

Fantasy Island plays on the concept that rides between supernatural and a virtual reality escape room sort of deal. Each character that arrives on this island comes with their own story and baggage which gives them their own story arc and what happens to them on the Fantasy Island. Its main lesson is about how fantasies when you play them out to their end might not be as perfect as in the imagination, emphasizing the point that nothing is perfect in life. While the concept and premise is alright, perhaps one of the issues is in its execution and how it all plays out. Sure, there’s some cleverness to how the story meshes from one character to the next as things become clear quicker than for others, but it all comes together in this rather bland experience and when the dots connect, its not too hard to guess what the twist is.

Push aside how this movie was rather disappointing and not very exciting to watch with some scenes that seemed to be pulled out of Pretty Little Liars blended with Saw especially for Lucy Hale’s character, Melanie. While the casting is pretty alright with Maggie Q, Lucy Hale and Michael Pena and the setting of Fantasy Island is beautiful and there are a few surprising bits, the movies suffers the most at being at its supposed to be. If we talk supernatural, the lore and whatnot isn’t really covered too much and if you talk horror, its not scary or creepy and if you look at its thriller aspect, the twist wasn’t exactly hard to guess. As a one time viewing, its alright. The beginning with the introduction of the characters and how they all fall into their own fantasies and the mystery of it is more fun to watch than the second half when things start to come together. I seem to be hating on this a lot. In reality, its more that I’m indifferent towards it. Some of the fantasies were pretty fun and some just didn’t really do anything for the character. It just feels like Fantasy Island could have been more than what was delivered here.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two movies?

Double Feature: Dawn of the Dead (1978) & Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Halloween marathon continues as we move onto the next pairing of the next movie of the Living Dead franchise, Dawn of the Dead matched up with the 2004 remake that also happens to be one of my favorite zombie movies (but surprisingly, I’ve never written a review for it).

Let’s check it out!

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead 1978

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, David Crawford, David Early, Richard France

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall. – IMDB

Set in a shopping mall with four people barricading themselves in a hidden nook of the building while being in the more optimal position of being somewhere that can support their needs for the time-being, Dawn of the Dead is a fairly straight-forward movie of people with different skill sets stuck together with an escape helicopter on the roof ready to leave if anything happens.

With movies like this with small cast and one setting, its really a big reliance of giving space to set up both the location and the characters while of course, learning more about the zombies in this world. In terms of the location, the mall is pretty well laid out. There is a lot more exploring of the key locations they frequent both at the beginning when they first get there and the end when a group of raiders come crashing in and the aftermath of how to escape this now unsafe space.

The characters quickly drop from four to three which spans for a decent part of the movie. Considering the small group, its expected that it doesn’t drop too fast. The three characters, while diverse in their skills and they do build a bonding together and a way to function together, its a fairly slow part of the movie as they live in the mundane routine of being trapped together. At the same time, they are caught in the situation of the girlfriend character being pregnant but also trying to help with what she can to not be the typical damsel in distress. These three characters are okay to watch. Perhaps the least intriguing parts is the middle bit when they are together and it gets a little slow. Not to mention the group of motorcycle raiders comes crashing in and is led by a cameo role by Tom Savini.

The first movie gave an introduction that the zombies are slow and came back from the dead. In this one, its still a bit of the same except highlighting the spread of the zombie apocalypse. Perhaps the ending is where the key point is that links to the next movie a little bit (as an afterthought of watching Day of the Dead, that I will talk about soon).

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth, Jayne Eastwood, Boyd Banks, Inna Korobkina, R.D. Reid, Kim Poirier

A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall. – IMDB

Dawn of the Dead remake is one of the few movies that I enjoy in Zack Snyder’s filmography. Its not that I dislike it so much as I’m just not a big fan of a good portion of his latest work with DC movies. But that’s a discussion for another day (maybe if Movies and Tea ever does a season on Zack Synder). As a full length feature film debut, Snyder shows some great potential. The remake takes some similar choices such as its setting and also having a pregnant woman in the group however, that about stops since it then proceeds with a great choice of having a bigger cast of characters. It amends the slow pace of the first film. Of course, the arguing point of having more characters is that these people will have less depth and a varying amount of time spent with them but then on the upside, gives more bodies to be lost when the time comes. In reality, zombie movies work a lot like shark movies in that aspect, right?

The array of characters actually does give a lot of room for more relationships to bond and some standout characters to pop up. Sarah Polley as the main female character Ana is really great as she is rather tough right from the start to the end and she forms a connection with Michael (Jake Weber) who is a quiet and resourceful character that seems to have some story behind him as well. One of the more fun times is the slice of joy that Ving Rhames’ character Kenneth finds as he befriends a man across the parking lot that runs the gun shop. With security guards and people of different backgrounds and priorities in mind, this group eventually faces the same issue of having to find a way to exit which leads them to a credit scene that shows their escape and what happens.

Watching the original and then watching the remake again actually makes for a great appreciation since the script itself as well as some of the supporting roles give a nod to the original. Whether its having Tom Savini also pop up in the role as the country sheriff as well as one of the main characters in the original, Ken Foree pops up as a Televangelist role saying the same line that he did in the original “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth”. I may have forgotten some of the other things but noticing these little elements adds a lot to this film in general.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Dawn of the Dead (original, remake or both)? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) & Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Years after watching the first movie of the Insidious franchise HERE, this year’s Halloween marathon is going to wrap up the rest of the movies. For starters, lets move on to the Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Let’s check it out!

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2

Director (and co-writer): James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson

The Lamberts believe that they have defeated the spirits that have haunted their family, but they soon discover that evil is not beaten so easily. – IMDB

Continuing on from the first movie, the Lamberts are dealing with the aftermath from the first movie and realizing that things are quite over as the danger still looms in the distance. While Insidious was something of an atmospheric sort of movie with a little more tension build up and having some decent jump scare moments, it all fitted together really well to give some lasting fear. Insidious: Chapter 2 is more of a familiar horror story. It plays its a cards a little too early and a little too obvious. Sure, it still has some decent jump scare moments but none of it is very lasting in the horror department as its more of an anticipated move and an unexpected time being done. The tension build-up definitely doesn’t play as well.

The same cast of its first film and the characters are still here. To be fair, they all come back into their roles in a good way. The story gives it more backstory as well as drawing more details into The Further’s lore and how it all works (in a non-chronological way). The backstory focuses on the past of the father character Josh when he was a boy and had his encounter at one point which is where the movie’s story pivots most of the time and the key of how he gets caught up in The Further.

In reality, Insidious: Chapter 2 isn’t exactly a horrible movie just it falls frequently in the predictable bit. I’m just not sure whether its because its first film pulled out a lot of the scary tricks that it set up the world in such a complete way that its sequel just couldn’t match up. For myself, it was more of a disappointment than it was a bad movie overall.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Director (and writer): Leigh Whannell

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, Tate Berney, Steve Coulter, Hayley Kiyoko, Corbett Tuck

A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity. – IMDB

It feels like most franchises need to head backwards in time to give itself into a deeper sense of the lore that before those previous movies, this The Further business still exist. Usually, I’m not totally behind it as most of the time, its just an excuse for studios to bank on good movie ideas to drag it out. I can’t say that Insidious: Chapter 3 wasn’t doing that but I happen to also love Lin Shaye’s character of Elise and its a backstory of how she starts working with Specs and Tucker. Elise, Specs and Tucker really are a huge highlight of Insidious who brings a little of comedy to the whole thing plus the three characters seem to build up the best. It could be that Leigh Whannell does act in the role of Specs while this time around being both the director and the writer so really bringing to life something that he envisioned.

With that said, Insidious: Chapter 3 does have a lot of the same issues as the second one. Its essentially a collection of predictable jump scares. There are some eerie moments and figures/shadows in the background. Its just the story of teenagers wanting to bring dead parents back to life isn’t exactly an original concept and of course, summoning something worse. On the upside, the way the film is structured does work to build a little more tension than Chapter 2. It has to do with the story focusing around a teenage girl who ends up bedridden and unable to walk, making her incredibly vulnerable. Nothing like vulnerability to make things more intense, right?

Between Chapter 2 and 3, I fluctuate a lot about which one I think is better even if they both are far from being as memorable as the first one (even if you break down Insidious, it might not hold up as well as the first viewing, which is why I’ve never gone back for a second viewing). After this double feature, I definitely feel like Chapter 3 pulls ahead a little.

That’s it for this double feature!
What’s your thoughts on the Insidious franchise?

Double Feature: Night of the Living Dead (1968) & Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Its’s October!! And that means its time for the kick-off of the annual Halloween Marathon. This year is going to continuing on with the normal format of double features, released (hopefully) every other day. The focus in the the Living Dead franchise as well as finishing off the Insidious franchise which I had reviewed the first movie a few years ago.

Time for the first post of the marathon and of course, what other way to do it than to do a Night of the Living Dead original and remake double feature!

Let’s check it out!

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director (and co-writer): George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon

A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of monsters who are ravaging the East Coast of the United States. – IMDB

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a movie that is a blindspot on my list. Everyone likes to refer to it when talking about classic zombie movies so it was time to give this one a go. 1960s film so its essentially a black and white film. Black and white does do horror quite a good favor as it boosts a bit of the creepiness which is the main focus of what Night of the Living Dead portrays in its story with its slow-moving zombies. The movie is a rather revolutionary film as Romero casts a black actor as his main male lead that delivers quite the performance. At the same time, some of the characters especially the female character is kind of useless who remains in still shock or screaming panic. At the same time, the the “damsel in distress” does add a little to the tension since she essentially can’t help with the situation much and probably creates more problems than solutions.

Romero’s zombies are slow and attracted by the sense of human flesh about. At this point, these people who end up at this house together don’t know what is going on except that the dead aren’t staying dead (I think one of the posters uses that tagline). Of course, at this day and age, what zombies have we not seen and perhaps because of how the zombies themselves have gotten so much better with technology its easier to nitpick on how not scary they all are. Its unfair to compare it to current technology but my point is that watching it as a first watch now is a little harder to appreciate it for all its glory when it was released in the 1960s.

However, Night of the Living Dead as I think back to this viewing does start to be one that I would revisit. I’m not a huge fan of black and white films, somehow it adds a little something to the horror element naturally perhaps because it plays with the darker tones and hides things in the shadows easier. At the same time, the main character Ben, played by Duane Jones is pretty good and resourceful. As the group splits up because of their own need to survive by what they believe is best for the situation, the story does turn up. I’m not a huge fan of this type of ending but its definitely a shocking and unexpected one. Credit where its due.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Night of the Living Dead 1990

Director: Tom Savini

Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson, William Butler, Katie Finneran, Bill Moseley, Heather Mazur, David W. Butler

The unburied dead return to life and seek human victims. – IMDB

Night of the Living Dead remake is exactly what it is. Its definitely one of the most similar-to-the-original remakes that is out there. There isn’t a whole lot of differences other than the female character’s personality and the ending. I can see that the writers probably were on the same wavelengths at the time as they changed the two things that I didn’t enjoy as much from the original. Its a coincidence but then did the changes make the remake better than the original? In reality, the two actually score about the same for myself after having some time to mull over it.

See as the story is the same with very minor details being changed (aside from the ending that I will talk about later), the first point will be to talk about the change in the female character Barbara played by Patricia Tallman who I found much more engaging and fun to watch since she’s a stronger female lead who works together with Ben, played by Tony Todd. While I understand in the 60s, it was normal for women in the original to be damsel in distress, in the 90s its a different story that does work fairly well. With that said, Tony Todd is not just the Candyman and its nice to see him in this role (which I didn’t know about prior to the viewing) since he’s a decent actor and takes on the role pretty well. I actually did think the role of Harry was better portrayed in this one also. There are some bigger scenes with bigger moments as the characters try to survive.

If we take a look at the second significant change and that being the ending, the original might be a little more surprising than this one. This one was a tad predictable. While its a more acceptable ending for myself, is it really better than the original? That is really based on preference. In general, the remake is a decent one although there were some parts that had some scenes that were a little meh showing especially its age as well. Plus, perhaps its the fact that this one is in color that the flaws and eeriness of the zombies is less effective than its original. Its hard to not compare the two films seeing as its essentially the same movie but done in a different decade with a better developed cinematography and effects.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

You can check out my review of the book that this film is adapted from HERE.
You can also read the review of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before HERE.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Holland Taylor, John Corbett, Sarayu Blue, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart

Lara Jean and Peter have just taken their relationship from pretend to officially official when another recipient of one of her old love letters enters the picture. – IMDB

Being a rather big fan of the books as well as absolutely adoring the movie, To All The Boys 2 has some big shoes to fill. And just like how I felt about the book sequel, I feel pretty much the same about this sequel. While the pink hearts and feel good moments are created rather well, what happens here in exchange for a more focused and fun coming of age teen romance in the first one is one that adds in a few too many tangents that never gets explored giving the characters not enough time to truly have more impact. For viewers like myself, the immense love for Lara Jean and Peter is memorable from the first film and can move onto the second film, but the second movie isn’t self-contained.

P.S. I Still Love You is supposed to dive into the growing up and insecurities of a relationship and while Lara Jean has those moments, it gets a little buried in her meeting John Ambrose and having some sweet moments and then Peter’s character falling into the background, which is supposed to be because of underlying issues with his ex-girlfriend Gen and then his obligations with school in preparation for college applications which never truly gets elaborated enough and what we get are just some sweet moment together with the two, and then some arguments as well. Adding in the plot with Stormy, which was a really great supporting character in the book, she also gets very little screen time here but still has that quirk and romance guidance element for Lara Jean. Then, there’s the dad finding his romance and squeeze all of this stuff into 100 minutes and it gets a little rushed.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

While execution of the story and possibly how the adapted screenplay might be a little lacking here, the characters are really charming. The cast from the first film, Lara Jean and Peter still have that chemistry that they have and for viewers and people like myself who loved the first movie, its great to see their relationship move from being fake to real and navigating through certain insecurities and awkwardness of facing this in a more serious way. Adding in the love interest reappearance and choosing Jordan Fisher to be John Ambrose is definitely a good choice. John Ambrose is a different kind of charming boy that enters into Lara Jean’s life. He is something of a clean slate that creates a comparison for Lara Jean. While some of the decisions she makes approaching John Ambrose might not be all that correct, her character is a teenage student in her first relationship and the reality and expectations and comparing the two comes into play as all kinds of factors come into play as she tries to figure out her feelings towards these two boys. It does fit her character design as in the first film, its already obvious that Lara Jean isn’t someone who takes risks easily and doesn’t quite understand her feelings too well.

To All The Boys 2 is not as strong as the first film, as expected with sequels. I’m still not decided whether having a script like this is good or whether they could have committed more to the love triangle at hand here. In the end, there were a lot of great and sweet moments whether its John Ambrose or Peter and Lara Jean and it does give space for other characters to have their own little developments but its both a good and bad thing. It doesn’t give time for too many unnecessary things to happen because it just doesn’t have time for it but at the same time, the story jumping through so many characters and giving them their own little developments also seems to be nice to see but also doesn’t give more time for their main leads. Good and bad, right? The good thing though is despite all that, they manage to wrap up the whole thing in a meaningful way and giving the whole sequel some substance. In the end though, To All The Boys has some nice chemistry and some good revelations for Lara Jean and in reality, it makes sure that the audience knows one thing: whether you are team Peter or team John Ambrose, its not really about them but the story is all about Lara Jean.