Double Feature: Halloween (2018) & Guns Akimbo (2019)

After taking 2 days off to regroup, we’re back with the first double feature of 2021. Its still the remaining movies not reviewed from last year’s viewing. This time, its a look at 2018’s sequel of Halloween paired with 2019’s Guns Akimbo. Let’s check it out!

Halloween (2018)

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall

Laurie Strode confronts her long-time foe Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. – IMDB

The 11th movie of the Halloween franchise which has changed directors and had multiple versions of what its meant to be to finally get back to one that is set with Laurie Strode as a grandmother and mother who has grown estranged from her family because of her precautions towards Michael Myers and her past that has convinced her that as long as he is alive, it will never be safe however also having the means to fight back when needed.

Having a little drama and a story that catches up and brings the story back to the original 1978 storyline with Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween brings it all back with a Michael Myers and Laurie Strode 40 years after the incident and Myers still going to find her. As the story looks at Laurie Strode’s family situation and the current situation of Michael Myers, it also focuses on crime podcasters that end up triggering some part of Myers that causes him to go rogue.

At this point, Halloween seems to really be for the fans that have stuck around since the beginning, enduring its many sequels along with all the randomness and nonsensical story directions. Halloween 2018 is a great attempt at reviving the series especially as its a solid story as a whole. Sure, the story focuses on the family drama between Laurie Strode and her daughter, played by Judy Greer who faults her mother for giving her a traumatic childhood full of defense lessons and harsh upbringing perhaps of what she feels is paranoia and yet, that part did become a little nonsensical and frustrating in its own regards. What does make up for it is in the second half when the danger is undeniable and how the family will face it.

Michael Myers is a fantastic horror icon. One that truly shows the inhuman side of a monster that makes for a talk about whether he is human considering he seems to be indestructible. 2018’s Halloween brings all that back to perspective. No more reasons of why he does it or adding in unnecessary side story and just executing it as a slasher, one that gives once the victim a chance to fight back. Its not exactly scary or horrific as a movie but its still a thrilling and fun movie.

Guns Akimbo (2019)

Director (and writer): Jason Lei Howden

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Ned Dennehy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Grant Bowler, Edwin Wright, Milo Cawthorne

A guy relies on his newly-acquired gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend from kidnappers. – IMDB

Guns Akimbo feels very similar to other movies in its own realm like Nerve or even Ready Player One. Movies with worlds rooted in a live game with rather extreme results. Its over the top and ridiculous. And yet, Guns Akimbo has this satisfying feeling to the adrenaline rush and its one that puts this main character, Miles who is a nobody at work find some empowerment by being a troll online, you know, the current day keyboard warrior that anyone with any presence online dislikes. He messes with the wrong people and they make his life hell by attaching guns to his hands and sending him on a deadly mission. With that said, it is ridiculous as a whole and there are movies in the same realm that definitely does a better job in terms of creativity and pacing, making this one probably a fairly forgettable experience looking back at it right now.

However, Guns Akimbo has a few things going for it. It has this not so serious tone. The characters seem to all just enjoy doing their over the top thing. Daniel Radcliffe is pretty fun to watch and probably one of the much more entertaining roles that he’s been in post-Harry Potter, but I could be wrong since I haven’t been really keeping track (side note: if you do have other movies to recommend of his, let me know in the comments below). The biggest motivation has to be watching Samara Weaving taking on another one of these over the top adrenaline rush movies and making it her own by creating yet another similar character but still unique in her own way. Its always a joy to watch her take on these characters and embody the character so well.

Thing is, Guns Akimbo has a lot of action and yet somehow, there seems to be a lot of time without action as well. There is this imbalance in execution of the movie as a whole. Its a little confusing on whether its trying to be more than just a mindless high octane movie. In some ways, the humor at the beginning goes to this character Miles getting extreme consequences for being an internet troll and then ends up having to run away, which is a great premise with tons of potential and the bickering between Miles and Nix also becomes quite a highlight moment. The story does lose itself a little on what its trying to achieve. Sure, this isn’t a movie meant for analysis and yet, I can’t help but feel while I was watching it that it doesn’t quite hit that extremity or high octane that it should have.

Overall, Guns Akimbo is very much like watching a video game come to life. Its fairly action-packed and Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving are fantastic in this. The tone and execution is a little imbalanced with what it wants to deliver and what it actually delivers perhaps. However, as a mindless entertainment sort of deal, it feels fun enough. There are definitely other similar movies that do a better job but there are still some worthwhile elements.

My October Adventures

In a blink of eye between 31 Days of Halloween and festival coverage, October wrapped up. Our partial lockdown has been extended for another potentially 28 days as Montreal hopes for the new cases/deaths number to decrease in the next month instead of the current constant. I’ve reverted in the middle of October to a partial work at home status which is kind of the best scenario that I could hope for. With that said, its been a fairly calm month as we kept to regional protocol and stayed home other than to pick-up the occasional food pick-up or grocery runs and mostly for work purposes. After a little glimpse at what’s going on personally, let’s see what I managed to muster up for this month’s adventures…its mostly recaps at this point. Let’s check it out!

Festival Du Nouveau Cinema 2020

Festival du Nouveau Cinema ran for the majority of the month. It was a wild ride as this festival always has deeper movies and takes a little more time to process which makes the writing process in a tad of a delay since I’m not going to lie that the movie choices started a little rocky. Still, I wanted to do a little something for it and here’s the rankings from best to worst (obviously in my opinion) of the 19 films that I watched based on my current feelings and memories of them:

  1. Topside
  2. My Salinger Year
  3. Red Post on Escher Street
  4. Caught in the Net
  5. Moving On
  6. La Hija de un Ladron
  7. Violation
  8. Undine
  9. Poissonsexe
  10. Wisdom Tooth
  11. Mum, Mum, Mum
  12. Cocoon
  13. The Book of Vision
  14. Drowsy City
  15. The Tremor
  16. The Cloud In Her Room
  17. Sin La Habana
  18. Kill It and Leave This Town
  19. Siberia

That’s the rankings. Half of the movies have been reviewed at this point and there will be the rest of the reviews going up in the coming week.

Halloween Marathon

This year was a little different as I aimed to do 31 Days of Halloween/Horror which overall worked out as I did mostly double features and then wrapped up the last few days with Blood in the Snow Festival coverage. There were some off days and I had fallen behind by one day with a week left and pulled it together to wrap up on October 31st. I consider that a win even though I didn’t count the TV Binge of The Haunting of Bly Manor as one of the days, which I probably should have. Out of all the movies, here’s the top picks that I saw in no specific order:

  • A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  • Raw
  • Unfriended: Dark Web
  • #Alive
  • Trick ‘r Treat
  • Happy Death Day
  • For The Sake Of Vicious

You can find all the reviews and full list of this year’s and previous year’s Halloween marathon HERE!

Blood in the Snow Festival 2020

Blood in the Snow Festival 2020 started up at the end of October and is going on until November 7th. Different from Fantasia Festival and Festival du Nouveau Cinema, its showing on Super Channel and has a specific schedule for the different features and programs airing. You can find all the info for how to sign up for Super Channel and schedule on the festival’s site.

I’ll be covering everything here: shorts programs, features, pre-feature shorts and perhaps the Web Bites if I figure out a good way to do it.

Trying New Restaurants

1930 Shanghai

1930 Shanghai is a restaurant that specializes in Xiao Long Bao which is the Shanghai soup-filled dumplings. They are one of my favorite foods. This place makes decent ones. While they look the same here, I had one order of the normal pork -filled flavor and then had one where it was chicken and mushroom. Both were really good.

Comon Restaurant

I’m usually not a huge fan of Fried Chicken nor do I tend to eat it a lot but my friend told me about this place and picked up some chicken. . Their take-out boxes for the chicken are in pizza boxes which is pretty creative. I ordered a Bibimbap which was pretty good but felt was a little overpriced for the size and the taste wasn’t anything too different from other places. The fried chicken is also pricier but it does taste really good. I ordered the Fried Chicken with Green Onions (pretty obvious) but unlike some other restaurants in Montreal, their chickens are all bone-in, which isn’t a huge problem since I like bone-in meats but definitely something that others might want to keep in mind if you want to try it out.

Cute Kitty Pic

That’s it for this weekly adventures!
What have you been up to? Any Halloween celebrations – simple or not?

Double Feature: Happy Death Day (2017) & Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

A sudden change in plans brings another double feature before we start the Blood in the Snow Festival coverage. A lot going on right now. Either way, 31 days of Horror is in the final few days and this pairing is Happy Death Day and its sequel Happy Death Day 2U. Let’s check it out!

Happy Death Day (2017)

Happy Death Day

Director: Christopher Landon

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Rob Mello

A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity. – IMDB

Riding between science fiction, slasher and dark comedy, Happy Death Day is quite the entertaining romp that its meant to be. Playing with the concept of an unknown time loop that takes our main character Theresa, mostly known as Tree who is a sorority girl with her own issues and a whole lot of enemies that keeps dying and waking up on her birthday as she tries to figure out who is her killer. It becomes quite a fun ride as she makes friend with Carter, the guy that lives in the dorm that she keeps waking up in and then starts connecting with how bitchy of a person she is to the people around her as well as embracing how avoiding her past has made her into this miserable person.

While the time loop isn’t really explained in the movie, it never really feels like it needs to either. Happy Death Day is at its best because of the humor that it delivers and the many different ways that Theresa changes throughout. With that said, Jessica Rothe captures her role as Theresa incredibly well. She has this charm and charisma that really adds so much to how she portrays the character. It also is rather comedic how she is the only one with the memory of all this and wakes up being different every time.

In reality, Happy Death Day is a really straight forward sort of movie. It delivers a few twists in her time loop and leaving the suspense in the air of whether she will escape her time loop or not. Its not so much that its scary but more that its a lot of fun to watch. Sure, the slasher bits can get a few jumps at the beginning but the threat of her being able to loop really does take away the horror of it. Still, its a different a type of horror film riding the line of horror comedy but a nice palate cleanser and really why I do love films that mix genres/subgenres so much.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Happy Death Day 2U

Director (and co-writer): Christopher Landon

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton

Tree Gelbman discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead. – IMDB

While Happy Death Day should have been probably been a one movie deal and let it end at where it is, it was expected that with how well Happy Death Day did that it would get a sequel. Add it onto another unnecessary sequel. What the sequel aims to do now is give us the cause of Tree’s time loop in the first movie but this time, the equation has changed because that loop has caused a parallel dimension which brings in the help of the science students that caused in the first place who happen to be Carter’s roommate, Ryan and his friends. Tree needs to work with them to stop it and its a lot of the same as the first film with a lot of trial and error dying except this time mostly on her own terms instead of by the baby face killer.

The heart of Happy Death Day 2U is really on how charming Jessica Rothe’s character Tree is. The parallel dimension gives her another sort of revelation about her life. Personally, it brings in a little bit more seriousness to what should be more comedic but they do make it up with this montage of how she chooses to kill herself for each trial by the team to end the loop. Its a bigger cast to say the least and I do enjoy the dynamic of the science crew. They bring their own sort of humor.

The sequel is a lot of the same with some other stakes at hand but it feels pretty much the same and if anything, a little more silly than the first one but its just a fun little romp. Its definitely more sci-fi than horror in this more and more drama than comedy. Still, it was fairly entertaining. Not quite as good as the first one and not a necessary sequel by any means but its still pretty fun for my own standards. I just really hope they don’t do a third one because it really doesn’t need to dive even further.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Happy Death Day and the sequel? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Truth or Dare (2017) & Truth or Dare: Extended Director’s Cut (2018)

Next up in the double feature is a pairing of 2017’s Truth or Dare and 2018’s Truth or Dare. The latter is an Extended Director’s Cut because that’s all Netflix has. Let’s check it out!

Truth or Dare (2017)

Truth or Dare 2017

Director: Nick Simon

Cast: Cassandra Scerbo, Brytni Sarpy, Mason Dye, Alexxis Lemire, Ricardo Hoyos, Luke Baines, Harvey Guillen, Christina Masterson, Heather Langenkamp

Eight college friends head to a “Haunted Rental” for Halloween. But when they replay the game that made the house infamous, they awaken an evil spirit intent on stealing their souls. – IMDB

2017’s Truth or Dare is direct to video supernatural horror film which plays along the concept of a supernatural being in a house that gets unleashed when friends go there that chases them down for 3 rounds of Truth or Dare before leaving them alone. With a rather ambiguous sort of ending and a cast of part frustrating and part decent characters but some rather intense dare executions, Truth or Dare is an okay offering. Sure, there’s a lot of bad dialogue and one of the characters in particular were especially annoying to watch but there is an undeniable sinister vibe and a cameo of Heather Langenkamp as a previous survivor of one of these games.

Truth or Dare did have a pretty imbalance pacing. The beginning half was a lot of setting up the situation and getting the crew into this location which they soon realize is part of this “scary rentals” site which is never a good idea but they still go along with it. things spiral out of control really fast when their first dare is to make out with another girl or a truth about a secret, which brings up a whole lot of questions that they don’t seem to ask, and things from that point jumps up in intensity really quickly. Its all kind of a ridiculous sort of set up in story progression since the only thing that the previous survivor does is state the obvious but gives them pointers on how to make it out alive, which still leads to arguments about what needs to be done.

As much as it sounds like I’m hating on Truth or Dare, I’m honestly not. The characters are a little annoying and frustrating particularly the character Jessie and the dialogue in general is a tad uninspiring but the movie is sinister and the tension is effective enough plus some of the dares and how they need to be smart about sharing the dare to stay alive has some decent execution. Overall, some good some bad so an okay watch.

Truth or Dare: Extended Director’s Cut (2018)

Truth or Dare 2018

Director (and co-writer): Jeff Wadlow

Cast: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sam Lerner, Tom Choi, Aurora Perrineau

A harmless game of Truth or Dare among friends turns deadly when someone – or something – begins to punish those who tell a lie or refuse the dare.  – IMDB

Let’s put it out there right away that I haven’t seen Truth or Dare’s theatrical release but I did do a little research on the differences to the extended director’s cut which is the version currently on Netflix. Extended Director’s Cut includes a lot more of the rated scenes that was removed to fit a PG-13 rating. I’m sure that it does add to the experience since Truth or Dare is its best when its in the process of the truth or dare segments. One part of it I’m not a big fan and it’ll be talked about later.

Taking a quick moment to compare (seeing as I did watch this back to back), Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is definitely a bigger budget with a lot more familiar faces like Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf), Landon Liboiron (Hemlock Grove), Hayden Szeto (The Edge of Seventeen) and Violett Beane (The Flash) and a story that gives this Truth or Dare a deeper lore to discover. There are more concrete rules and a set sequence for them to follow. It jumps between Mexico and US and a lot of different backstories and secrets from the characters. All of these things having their pros and cons.

The flow of the story is decent and the truth and dare segments are pretty decent as they have that cringe and tension of when its going to drop. It has a sequence of how the truth and dare rounds go and the mystery of whether the previous person went which gives the viewers more knowledge than the characters. The only issue with those segments is the possession phase where the characters all change into these creepy smiling faces with kind of distorted voices which for one, isn’t as scary as they think it is and second, gets overused so becomes more frustrating and predictable than effective by the end. At the same time, the jumping from Mexico and US is a little crazy because its like a trip to the grocery story with their frequency, not to mention at one part they have a gun and can cross the border, which seems absolutely ridiculous. The next point is some illogical scenes that just don’t really make a ton of sense. I know these movies aren’t meant to be dug into detail and watched really for their face value but some things are hard to ignore.

The only thing I do have to say that really made up for the 2017 is that the characters here are much more bearable. Maybe its the cast and it has to do with the characters while still being fairly one dimensional still have a certain level of back story even though its fairly easy to figure out who is going to die and whatnot. Plus, the ending is a kind of a fun opening for a sequel or something.

As a final note, for myself, I’m pretty done with Truth or Dare concept. It seems like after back to back years of Truth or Dare premise, it can be tucked away and really doesn’t seem like they can do anything more unique since both of these carry the same kind of execution of some possessed and cursed game where the characters pretty much have a slim chance of getting out. But who knows, right? Someone out there will find a twist for it somehow. It always seems to happen at some point.

That’s it for this Truth or Dare double feature!
Have you seen these two? Which do you prefer?

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?

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: 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?