Double Feature: Wish Upon (2017) & Slender Man (2018)

We’re running at the final third of this Halloween Movie Marathon month and as much as planning as I try to put into it, plans change and I started changing my movie selections around and that’s how I’ve randomly ended up doing a Joey King horror double feature for Wish Upon and Slender Man that wasn’t really on top priority watch but hey, why not give spontaneity a go, right?

Let’s check it out!

Wish Upon (2017)

Director: John R. Leonetti

Cast: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, Mitchell Slaggert, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Elisabeth Rohm, Josephine Langford, Sherilyn Fenn, Alice Lee

A teenage girl discovers a box that carries magic powers and a deadly price for using them. – IMDB

Wish Upon has a decent plot and has a cautionary tale of things will never be perfect and the universe always finds a way to balance things out. In this case, you wish for something and there’s a price to pay for it like a blood price. There’s a lot of things moving really fast in this one as the viewers see more of whats going on that the character herself who doesn’t realize or is being ignorant about connecting those dots. Using cursed items as a centre of horror is a decent premise. In this case, the Wish Upon music box has a cool design and has all these ancient Chinese symbols on it and some interesting mechanism and such. As the origin gets dug up, things start piecing together and while the story itself is fairly basic, it does help the movie a little which for the duration of the film has been going through a fairly generic path.

Wish Upon isn’t completely a bad movie. It is predictable for the most part but it has that sort of atmosphere that pulls in this long wait of whether the bad thing that will happen will happen and at what moment. Its not always bloody but the anticipation of what might happen does have this grueling effect as in some scenes, it does linger especially after realizing what the key element and it being this complete waiting game that the anticipation creates the horror because it gives time for the imagination to run a little as to how the scene will be executed (maybe I overthink the scene but that’s an overactive imagination is how I find horror scarier than it might be in some situations).

The cast itself has some familiar faces. Joey King is the leading role who is also the person who is in possession of the box. She does her role okay but its rather the character that is written that has some frustrating elements. At the same time, Ryan Phillippe plays her father which always has this off feeling but its a lot about the character itself who has these sudden plot point jumps as their life situation gets better but is never questioning it. It makes the character almost feel useless. I do like Ki Hong Lee as an actor which it seems he pops up at the most random places. His role is decent here as his involvement digs up the connection to more information to reveal the dangers of making the wishes, which of course is ignored or else there wouldn’t be a movie.

Overall, Wish Upon isn’t horrible. Everything just feels a little flat and generic. It concept of having this cursed music box is not a bad idea as it can add in sinister music and a decent backstory to it which it does have but there’s a lot of illogical decisions made and predictable moments and it offers nothing too different. The good part is that it doesn’t rely on a lot of jumpscares but more on building up the tension. Unfortunately, there are some plot point issues and the movie does jump around fairly quickly and feels like its a little awkward in pacing.

Slender Man (2018)

Director: Sylvain White

Cast: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso, Alex Fitzalan, Taylor Richardson, Javier Botet

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing. – IMDB

I have no idea how and when Slender Man became on Internet creepypasta meme and I only knew about it because of the Slender Man games. Suffice to say, this one was brushed off really quickly as it didn’t seem like it would turn out to be anything significant. Turns out, first instincts are always the right one. Slender Man is an unexciting movie.

Looking at the characters, mostly centered around the group of girl friends who summon Slender Man. It all dials down to belief at the end of this to make this movie work for the viewer and for myself, getting caught in potentially cursed situations is usually something that I’d avoid even when I was a teenager, I didn’t mess with tarot cards or Ouija so automatically, these characters have lost appeal, no matter how ridiculous watching a video and summoning Slender Man feels. Plus, they all also have this different teen element of them of being on different sides of the spectrum with Joey King’s character being more rebellious and Julia Goldani Telles’ being this quiet and introverted smart and pretty girl and so on which makes you wonder how they all become friends in the first place. It almost feels like some kind of Pretty Little Liars round-up of characters (which was better than this crew).

Slender Man has a lot of issues. In reality, creepypasta could be a good premise to use if executed properly but this one just feels overly predictable and nothing too scary about it. Its lacking in jumpscares or atmosphere. There’s something that just didn’t seem to land really well in execution.

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

Double Feature: Trick ‘r Treat (2007) & XX (2017)

Next up in the Halloween movie marathon as we get to the final third of the marathon is a horror anthology double feature with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat which has been highly recommended to me years ago and 2017’s XX, which is directed by 4 female directors. Let’s check it out!

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Director (and writer): Michael Dougherty

Cast: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tahmoh Penikett, Rochelle Aytes, Lauren Lee Smith

Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater. – IMDB

Trick ‘R Treat is quite a fun little horror anthology. It sets itself in one neighbor and the surrounding areas as it looks at characters that have their own little story and then cross each other’s path in the story and being interconnected in their own ways. The stories don’t flow in chronological order but it doesn’t need to because each of their own horror style whether its supernatural or a creature feature twist or creepy children, etc. In one way or another, there is something about each of these stories that bring a different twist to something that might have been seen plus it grasps the atmosphere of the situation fairly well.

The five stories here definitely bring in some familiar faces. Anna Paquin’s segment in Surprise Party is the one that I definitely liked the most because of the story being a rather nice twist and a subgenre that I love seeing. At the same time, he’s in this Little Red Riding Hood costume that takes a turn for a nice power change in the characters involved. Although the School Bus Massacre did have some great cinematography and atmosphere as its set in a quarry and a Halloween prank gone wrong. Of course, the design of Sam, the little burlap sack covered pumpkin head has a great reveal in one of the stories and appears in all the stories (if I remember correctly) and has a fantastic design (although reminding me a little of The Orphanage).

Trick ‘r Treat is a well-executed horror anthology. A lot of the stories are quick to the point but also has a little twist or tension to them and blends well together with the characters being interconnected, making it both fun and cleverly scripted.

XX ( 2017)

Directors (and writers): Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carillo, Karyn Kusama, Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark

Cast: Natalie Brown, Jonathan Watton, Peter DaCunha, Melanie Lynskey, Sheila Vand, Casey Adams, Breeda Wool, Angela Trimbur, Christina Kirk, Kyle Allen, Mike Doyle

Four short horror films that are directed and written by women. – IMDB

XX highlights four directors (actually five if you include the title segment as a story) in a venture through their different stories. XX is a little bit more unusual as the title segment that cuts between each story actually doesn’t relate to the different short films presented but acts more like a bridge but still has its own story that unfolds by the end with this nifty little stop motion animated film with a dollhouse moving around finding bits and pieces here and there and feels incredibly random until it reaches the conclusion where everything makes much more sense and goes into place.

Looking at the 4 stories, its a good mesh as it moves through different subgenres of horror from a dark suspenseful and more psychological horror to horror comedy to creature feature and ending with an evil spawn sort of concept. Rounding up these female directors who all their won accord has done some good movies before brings out a new eye where its easy to see their differences in style and their voice in horror. Jovanka Vuckovic brings a great adaptation of a story by Jack Ketchum that has some fantastic visuals of the dark and psychological atmosphere while Roxanne Benjamin brings a fun creature feature of a friend turned into creature by a mysterious encounter in the isolated desert camping trip and Annie Clark (known on IMDB as St. Vincent) in her debut directorial film brings a neat dark comedy about a birthday party gone wrong. All very unique visions both in their storytelling abilities and cinematography choices.

XX is a pretty neat horror anthology and definitely highlights these female directors for what they can offer, much emphasized if you look at their filmography before and/or after this and one well worth checking out.

Double Feature: #Alive (2020) & The Bridge Curse (女鬼橋, 2020)

Next up in the Halloween movie marathon is an Asian film double feature with South Korean Netflix zombie film, #Alive paired with Taiwanese horror film, The Bridge Curse, both on Netflix fittingly for this themed month.

Let’s check it out!

#Alive (2020)

#

Director (and co-writer): Il Cho

Cast: Ah-In Yoo, Shin-Hye Park, Bae-soo Jeon, Hyun-Wook Lee

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. It is his story. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that there is no shortage of zombie movies out there. I mean, we’ve covered a ton of them here but after the success of Train to Busan, its hard to write-off what South Korean cinema has to offer. #Alive is a little different. In many ways, its about survival during the zombie apocalypse (which movie isn’t) but its more than that as its about two characters self-quarantined during this post-apocalypse. As much as there’s zombies, its about a guy and a girl both in their own apartments in the same complex surviving in their own way. Its a different angle because its also very character-oriented. #Alive is structured in a good progression from a focus on the guy and his survival to realizing he isn’t “alone” and then reuniting the characters to survival together. Its a little far-fetched in some scenes when they reunite and plays upon how lucky they are to beat a ton of zombies but it does work pretty well in terms of the tension and atmosphere.

In reality, there is where #Alive stands out and that’s the two characters. In reality, the zombies are a definite threat but they are less scary than the desperate situation that the two characters are caught in. With their wits and their own know-hows, they end up being quite a team of helping each other out and each having their own story and unknowingly saving each other in some subtle moments that clues in on their individual characters that the other doesn’t learn about. Zombie movies at this point are the best when they are entertaining to watch which #Alive is absolutely there. Sure, it doesn’t give anything new with the zombies or the post-apocalypse situation and maybe even the characters but the angle and the premise or making it more character-oriented and a lonely quarantine probably lands even better because its released during the current landscape in our own reality and at least made me question my own preparedness at home for whatever survival needs that I might be lacking.

The Bridge Curse (2020)

Director: Lester Hsi

Cast: JC Lin, Vera Yen, Summer Meng, Ning Chang, Ruby Zhan, Yi-hung Hsieh, Cheng Ko

University students, planning a bravery initiation test for their fellow classmates, choose a campus bridge rumored to be haunted by a vengeful female ghost. – IMDB

I’ve always been pretty skeptical about Chinese horror movies in general. As much as they try, it all turns out to be fairly generic and full of horror tropes. With that said, I’ve only started going through some horror stuff sporadically from Taiwan (prior it was mostly Hong Kong horror) and The Bridge Curse is one of those that recently landed on Netflix. The Bridge Curse has some strong vibes of Dreadout, the game and not the film adaptation, which was decent enough. Actually there are some scenes that almost replicate that of one or two cutscenes from the game. The Bridge Curse plays on a lore about a female ghost haunting a bridge where at midnight, the steps leading away from the bridge will mysteriously have one extra step and if the person walking the steps counts to the extra step and turns around then they will see the ghost and be haunted. The story itself is fairly generic and it does have some creepy moments but most of it is rather expected. Where it does fall flat is that the surprise in the finale is a bit lackluster and it has to do a lot with the execution. In some ways, it may have benefited from being either a full found footage film instead of bouncing back and forth between that and the normal film structure. It might actually have worked better as the former.

The Bridge Curse’s structure is a parallel of bouncing between the past where the university students perform this initiation set-up/demonstration for their juniors and the story progresses at the same time as the present where a reporter is on location investigating the details of it to get to the bottom of this Bridge Curse and whether there was something more to the case. The structure is pretty good as it pairs up the two parts from one side reaching a certain room and then bouncing back to the present being in that room. The pieces of clues that she finds and how she connects it together also works well logically.

As much as that, the university students has their own little issues and some of the parts and the dialogue is not scripted that good, making these characters a little empty as well. At the same time, the scares are all fairly predictable even if some of the execution did turn out a little creepy although the ghost reveal did happen a little too early and the scares at times happened a little too frequent which made it lose its effectiveness by the end.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two Asian horror films?

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?