Halloween 2018: Goosebumps (2015)

Goosebumps (2015)

goosebumps

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware. – IMDB

I’ve read a few Goosebumps books back in my elementary school days. It was always a fun time in my memory although I never found it to be scary. However, a series like this one getting a form of adaptation is always one to take notice and with Jack Black, one of my favorite comedic actors in the current day and age attached to the project, it was one that went straight to my to watch pile. Movies like this can border on dumb and silly but Goosebumps turned out to be a little over the top and a tad silly but it was a lot of fun.
This one lands in the same way that Monster Trucks (review) worked for me, maybe with slightly less appealing characters. I’m not exactly a Dylan Minnette fan and don’t quite care for his character here. It was the typical teenage romance thing with the girl next door. His humor along with his best friend are fairly common arcs for family friendly adventure films. A little fluff to add to the equation. Jack Black had an over the top accent that honestly, if it wasn’t him, I probably wouldn’t buy into but at the end, I got used to it so it didn’t feel as odd.

What defines Goosebumps has always been R.L. Stine’s monsters and its nice to see that they pull out all the cards here in one shot. It makes for the fun as they run around town trying to stop catastrophe and encounter a few of them face to face which always turns into a funny and hectic moment. The heart of the movie is in these moments as chaos shapes these characters a little.

Goosebumps is not masterpiece but its a family adventure film that delivers on being entertaining and fun. It shows off the creativity of R.L. Stine for a new generation to respark the childhood horror adventures that many kids went through. There’s really not a whole lot of depth  here to talk more about it. Its a fun time and great for some family fun even if some elements fall a little short.

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Halloween 2018: The Visit (2015)

It sure feels like I’m working backwards one year after next as I work through the films. Trust me, it isn’t deliberate. Next up is 2015’s The Visit, somewhat considered a comeback directorial film from M. Night Shyamalan. I have only seen The Sixth Sense from him so I have no idea about his career.

The Visit (2015)

Director (and writer): M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn

Two siblings become increasingly frightened by their grandparents’ disturbing behavior while visiting them on vacation. – IMDB

I am probably about the only person who doesn’t know much about The Visit. I honestly chose this one off a whim, remembering it had mixed opinions. With that said, all I knew was that grandkids visit their grandparents and stuff happens like most horror movies would go. Not a whole lot to go on so expectations are non-existent. With that said, The Visit turned out to be quite good. Usually, I figure out twists pretty well but I didn’t finish convincing myself of it before it took the route that it did. Maybe it had to do with the similarity to an elementary school camping creepy tale that made this one feel more effective for me.

I enjoy films that use a documentary format to play up the events because when it is done well, it helps to keep some things under wraps and there are things left to imagination in the mysterious zone. The Visit works relatively well in that department especially since the events are highlighted a lot with noises here and there. The bumps at night are generally overused in horror films but because we never quite know what to expect whenever the kids see what is causing the noise. On top of that, its a question of what is causing the odd behavior in their grandparents. Creepy grandparents somehow have its effectiveness and these ones have the unexpected factor.

Its interesting to see how Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould was both in Better Watch out (review) after this film. They are very good young actors and they definitely excel in their roles here. The same goes for the grandparents here played by Deanna Dunagan and McRobbie. They are sufficiently creepy. There are some bits especially with the grandma that has hints of fairy tale stories and also, she has one scene under the house that is crazy creepy notched up to level eleven. That is just a quick example.

Overall, the story here feels fairly simple. The reason this works to a decent horror extent is in the mystery of how it is filmed and executed. If it was in traditional filming, it might not have been as effective. The creepy moments were in the unknown and a lot of the off frame and creepy ambient sounds used here. The twist was also relatively clever. Thinking back, it wasn’t completely hard to figure out but I was sold on the twist.

Have you seen The Visit?
Are you a fan of M. Night Shyamalan films?

Halloween 2018: The Babysitter (2017)

The first movie to kick off the Halloween month is Netflix Original’s The Babysitter!

The Babysitter (2017)

The Babysitter

Director: McG

Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Emily Alyn Lind, Andrew Bachelor, Doug Haley

The events of one evening take an unexpected turn for the worst for a young boy trying to spy on his babysitter. – IMDB

Its undeniable that we’ve seen this formula quite a bit in the last few years. Rewind back to something like Better Watch Out (review) or this year’s Knuckleball (review), both having their individual twist on the “Home Alone” set in a horror concept. Except this one adds in one more twist that makes it a much bloodier affair while also keeping in the horror comedy subgenre. Netflix Originals have been iffy at best if we look back at the averages, but then I’ve only watched the romance and teen stuff so perhaps horror fares a little better. The Babysitter may have its flaws but it still is a satisfying comedic, over the top, horror affair. Hear me out!

THE BABYSITTER

First of all, if you haven’t seen Samara Weaving in Mayhem (review), then you need to add it to your to-watch pile pronto! That movie proves that she can take the bad-ass chick role in an exceptional way and add in some humor in the process. Its actually one of the reasons that I decided to watch The Babysitter. And being the leading lady here, lethal as heck may I add, she does a stellar job. In fact, she is one of the top reasons that The Babysitter is worth the watch. Not to mention, you need to take a look at the boy here played by Judah Lewis who also has some great tricks written for his character up his sleeve. We see him toughen up throughout the film and get over the obvious crush that he has over his hot babysitter. Aside from these two main leads, Samara Weaving’s character Bee takes on a high school crew consisting of some very familiar faces. The first being the constant Netflix appearing face, Bella Thorne playing a cheerleader who honestly plays a very weird and rather insignificant role for the most part. There is also Hana Mae Lee who plays the odd chick, similar vibes to her role in the Pitch Perfect movies. I do like her odd and awkward style. She falls really well into this role so it works with the balance of these characters. The last familiar face is Robbie Amell who is in so many things now including The Duff (review) who plays the tough and psychotic bad boy. There’s a charm to Robbie Amell that makes what he does work although I do have to say, he is lucky that this is a horror comedy which makes it easy to not take him seriously because that’s how his character is meant to be.

The Babysitter

I’m a big fan of this concept of horror. The Home Alone twist and the confined and limited space as a film setting. At the same time, it adds in some over the top elements as well as a little bit of blood and violence and tension. To be fair, this movie did pull off some decent tension for the most part of it. It goes a little off rails at the end and the only thing I disliked about it was how they chose to end it. To avoid any spoilers here, let’s just say, horror movies like to do that and I hate it because most of the time, its unnecessary. Is The Babysitter an exceptional film? It probably isn’t. Many compare it as the lesser version of Green Room. I’ve never seen Green Room but that is on the watch list this month. Keep an eye out for my thoughts on that.

That’s it for the kick-off film. 
The Babysitter is a horror comedy so a nice way to break into the horror month.
There will be some more intense horror as we move along, that I can promise you.

Have you seen The Babysitter? Thoughts?

Announcement: Halloween Marathon 2018 Officially Begins!

Halloween Marathon

The 2018 Halloween Marathon is upon us. It definitely came by quickly enough.

Halloween Marathon has been always an exciting month in the year over here. This year’s horror movies have been quite limited so its going to be an adventure to work on getting rid of some of the movies in My List on Netflix as well as some movies on our shelves that we’ve bought but never seen. We are in the phase of decluttering and trading in our films is one of the phases we are working on. I do have a lot of horror movies to catch up on and with the Netflix October movie releases and other bits here and there with books and hopefully some cooking as well, its going to be a ton of stuff happening and with a decent variety if things go as planned.

Reviews currently being scheduled and writing in progress:

  • The Babysitter (2017)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2017)
  • Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (Season 1 & 2)

Some of my top picks:

MOVIES

  • Annihilation
  • The Babadook (because it seems like I’m the only person in the universe that hasn’t seen it yet)
  • Bone Tomahawk
  • Green Room
  • Gantz: 0
  • The Visit
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • Sharknado: The 4th Awakens
  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

TV SERIES (These picks are priority because I want to wrap up the show as they are already done)

  • Scream Queens (Season 2)
  • Hemlock Grove (Season 3)
  • Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)

The Maybe List (if I’m in a mood and none of the top picks fit my liking or I want to watch a dumb horror):

  • The Forest
  • It Comes at Night
  • Anaconda
  • Mother!
  • Mama
  • The Open House
  • Winchester

Obviously, the list above is all subject to change and its on what I decide to pick. However, I’m open to any suggestions! If there’s any movie that you want me to review on this list, just leave it in the comments or tweet or email or whatnot and I’ll make sure to bump up the priority. 

Also, as I mentioned before, books will be included in there. I’ve currently started one already so we will be having 2 or 3 hopefully pop up over the month.

On top of the normal programming from movies definitely making it in and others in consideration above, Elwood and I are kicking off Movies & Tea Podcast’s season 2 with our look at Guillermo Del Toro’s directorial effort. With that said, there is a lot of horror movies coming out from there. I’d say that we might get through a movie or two in October if things go as it did in the first season of the show.

Before I wrap this announcements and start the Halloween Marathon out of the gates here, I do want to say that I have a last minute decision of attending the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal so I’ll be covering up to 10 films there. However, none of those films will be horror, or at least from what I think. So, there will be other things going on here. If the marathon takes a little slide in the background, the second half of October will be in full force. You just need to be patient with me as I work through real life, festival coverage and Halloween marathon.

That’s it for this morning’s announcement! 
We officially start tomorrow morning with a movie review! 🙂

Are you doing anything special for Halloween on or off the blog? Leave a comment and a link to your blog so others can go check it out!

Double Feature: Lifechanger (2018) & Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

double feature

And you thought Fantasia Festival stuff was over, right? Yeah, this double feature comes as something of a surprise as the reviews posted when the movies showed at Fantasia were reviewed by David. I managed to be able to check them out also back then but just kind of needed a break from Fantasia for a moment so here we are, a month after Fantasia closes, to clear out the overdue stuff and get some quick thoughts in for them as these are two selections that are very unique.

Lifechanger (2018)

Lifechanger

Director (and writer): Justin McConnell

Cast: Lora Burke, Jack Foley, Elitsa Bako, Rachel VanDuzer, Steve Kasan, Bill Oberst Jr.

A murderous shapeshifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves. – IMDB

If you haven’t seen or didn’t check out my Poor Agnes review HERE, Lora Burke is a fascinating actress to watch on screen particularly in that role. When I knew she was attached to Lifechanger, count me in. Lifechange isn’t really about Lora Burke’s character in fact, our main character is narrated and keeps changing lives as the title implies. The idea of this character and who he is looms throughout the film as he goes from one body to the next. His situation becoming more in danger than the next as he starts being able to choose his victims carefully until his situation of the body he carries running out of time makes him having to make desperate choices.

Lifechanger

Lifechanger is a unique angle to take especially as it seems to challenge the deeper notion of survival versus living. Our main protagonist changes lives so quick and in turn, lives the life of this new person temporarily without any way to settle into anything that makes him truly enjoy life. When does it become all worth this trauma? Is it perhaps asking the deeper question of what we do this for and to what ends?  As much as this movie is fantastic at being this horrifying gruesome experience of the transition and the notion of what this man is about as he filters through all kids of lives in just the short span we were watching, there is an urgency and tension and with that, the film also ramps up the pacing as well in a tight little run time package.

Lifechanger is unique to say the least. Its packed with some pretty impactful moments and strives this balance between some horror elements in a thriller-esque and kind of dramatic story. It works really well and honestly, a great idea in itself.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Director (and writer): Issa Lopez

Cast: Paola Lara, Juan Ramon Lopez, Tenoch Huerta, Ianis Guerrero, Rodrigo Cortes, Hanssel Casillas

A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war. – IMDB

If you don’t know me, you put tigers in a title and I’m in or at least I’ll watch the movie. I actually totally missed this one in the first rundown of the tentative scheduling but saw the poster during the festival and added it on. So lucky that I did because Tigers Are Not Afraid is an exceptional film. Its one of those hidden gems that I’ve heard some people draw comparison to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. I can definitely see how there is a sort of link to it.

tigers are not afraid

Using five children who band together, specifically four boys adding in a girl who comes home and finds her mother missing, is a really broken group in itself as we learn a little about the background of the kids. You can also see how mature especially the leader of the pack, Shine, is in terms of his cautious nature as well as the way he chooses for her to be a part of the group. At the same time, there is a vulnerability to using kids as the main lead because it gives us these kids stuck in a very dangerous situation like living in the cartel and drug war and being caught in the crossfires to make them have to defend themselves in these drastic ways with no one to really turn to. What makes Tigers Are Not Afraid more special is that it never forgets that we are dealing with kids because they still have hope. They believe in the tales about the tigers who protect the neighborhood and draw inspiration from that, we see this with this animated tigers throughout the film in the arts on the wall moving around and even at the scene above with a plush tiger coming to the rescue. And the kids also being still innocent, they bask in the moments they can enjoy being a child again like celebrating their successes and playing when they believe they are safe in the moment.

tigers are not afraid

Being able to bring in this dark material and yet feeling so real in what the kids trapped in the drug war go through in this story (and probably drawing from some reality as it does feel plausible and genuine) and also bringing in those hints of innocence makes this movie so effective. Its has these adorable childlike moments that elevate this movie and make it unique while also ramping the tensions in the movie as the kids try to survive and navigate through this world as they get involved and end up getting dragged into a bigger cartel secret they were never supposed to know in the first place. Its violent, brutal and so very dark but the director never forgets to give this a childlike fantasy touch to pair up with maybe the remaining hope that these children have in their minds, making Tigers Are Not Afraid an outstanding movie and quite the gem that you need to check out if and when you get the chance.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Pledge (World Premiere 2018)

Pledge (2018)

Pledge

Director: Daniel Robbins

Cast: Zachary Byrd, Phillip Andre Botello, Zack Weiner, Aaron Dalla Villa, Cameron Copperthwaite, Jesse Pimentel, Jean-Louis Droulers, Joe Gallagher, Erica Boozer

A group of college freshmen pledge an exclusive fraternity but soon realize there’s more at stake than they could have ever imagined. – IMDB

It’s always nice to see filmmakers dive into rarely tapped or simply, untapped territories. To focus its story around fraternities and hazing and the whole pledging process is a great angle to use especially when there are some truly over the top things that can happen (or as the rumor goes) so what would stop it from diving into terrifying rite of passages like in Pledge.

Pledge starts in a fairly ominous way but jumps its timeline to the present as we see the typical loser or nerdy freshmen David (Zack Weiner), Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello) and Justin (Zachary Byrd) trying to be accepted into frat parties and just belonging somewhere without being humiliated. Things take a turn when they miss out on a party and a beautiful college girl Rachel (Erica Boozer) invites them to a party which ends up being in the middle of nowhere at a mansion. Taking this leap of faith, they are welcomed into this party (for the most part) and is invited back for a pledging ceremonies with two other guys, Ben (Joe Gallagher) and Sam (Jean-Louis Droulers) by these rich college boys Max (Aaron Dalla Villa), Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite) and Bret (Jesse Pimentel). The hazing starts off humiliating (and gross at times) but things get crazy and out of hand really fast and it turns into a race to escape and survival.

Pledge

Pledge takes its audience for a grueling and brutal roller coaster ride that takes a huge dive from bad to worse to horrifying exponentially. The cinematography is handled incredibly well by William Tracy Babcock who maneuvers the shots to create a lot of atmosphere and chaos essentially with lighting and different angles making some engaging moments. Of course, no movie like this is complete without credit to the entire direction from director Daniel Robbins paired up with a great script by writer Zack Weiner, the same mentioned above that plays David. This film does a lot of right especially in choosing to twist a fairly straight forward story into an intense and well-paced thriller at a decent run time of accomplishing all of it in 81 minutes. Movies nowadays tend to run overly long and when a movie manages to be equally effective in a decent length, it is something to give credit to.

Pledge

While a lot of the elements here contributed to this edge of the seat movie experience, one of the main standout is to its talented young cast. Whether it was the pledgers or the hazers, the depth in their characters is done so well. The film takes a lot of perspective from the college freshmen trapped in this life-threatening situation. The beginning moments give us a good idea of who these guys are wrapped up in their goofy and socially awkward personalities which push their personal limits and if and how they would retaliate. At the same time, a lot of the disturbing moments go to the quickly spiraling and out of control hazers. As the leader of the trio, Aaron Dalla Villa does a great job at being Max. His portrayal takes this character to the next level with his quiet expressions brewing with suspense then in a moment switching over some over the top repeated yelling for example to completely set the mood in a psychologically terrifying moments. However, Jesse Pimentel and Cameron Cowperthwaite, playing Bret and Ricky respectively, deliver equally fantastic roles. If Jesse Pimentel’s voice sounds familiar, he voices the role of Lucas Baker in 2017’s survival horror game Resident Evil: Biohazard, which was also a fairly unhinged character. There is so much more to say about how each of their roles shined, however to keep this spoiler-free, the hazers in general shined because of their characters depth. These characters are engaging to watch because of their development. They create the tension by growing more unhinged with each step further into the hazing process.  There is nothing more terrifying than characters like these who spiral and what they do next is unexpected and unpredictable.

Pledge takes a great angle at adapting a story with a rarely used premise. While the moments in the hazing process are terrifying and even gross at parts and is a huge part in building the tension, the real credit goes to its young actors whose characters who make this into a deeper and much more psychologically driven thriller. It is a cleverly structured movie from start to finish and one that is a must-see.

Fantasia Festival 2018: The Witch in the Window (World Premiere 2018)

The Witch in the Window (2018)

The Witch in the Window

Director (and writer): Andy Mitton

Cast: Alex Draper, Charlie Tacker, Carol Stanzione, Greg Naughton, Arija Bareikis

When Simon brings his twelve year-old son, Finn, to rural Vermont to help flip an old farmhouse, they encounter the malicious spirit of Lydia, a previous owner. And now with every repair they make – she’s getting stronger. – IMDB

The Witch in the Window is the next project of Andy Mitton, the director of We Go On. Just like his last project, he takes on many hats as director, writer, editor and composer.  Whereas his first film is about proving the supernatural existence of afterlife, The Witch in the Window is about a family drama, entrapment and belonging in a haunted house setting. The story starts about a deemed witch by the community children because of how she acts when she was alive and how she died by the window. The deeper story here is what takes the building tension to the next level with some effective atmosphere build-up that creates equally effective jump-scares.

The Witch in the Window

This is a slow burn movie that takes a lot of its fear in its lurking details in a literal way. With a title like The Witch in the Window, it pulls your eyes directly to the windows in the shots naturally. In the most subtle ways, it is also these moments that bring on the haunting feeling of someone lingering just in the corner of your eyes which is what makes it so effective. It also does have some of the horror tropes like the nervous neighbor who cautions the new owner or the various knocks and creaks in the old house but because of the well use of silence and isolation of certain sounds, these moments build the tension effectively. While there are some moments which make us question our character’s action as well but this horror story is unique in the way it structures around the development of these characters. In many ways, the tone also wraps the house itself in its own character because the house is new to this father and son and as they learn about it in the beginning, so is the audience, making what to expect especially har do predict.

The Witch in the Window

What makes this film stand out is the bonding of the father and son relationship. There is the mystery as to why the son Finn (played by Charlie Tacker) is sent to “exile” for whatever he was snooping into on the Internet due to his curiosity which clearly had some lingering effects but then pairs it with his self-aware nature who casually asks if there is some dark gory history about the house the moment he lays his eyes on it. However, he is also showing his youth when he doesn’t understand some.of the other terms like flipping a house. On the other hand, his father Simon (played by Alex Draper) has a few secrets of his own that we as the audience get to discover. For starters, he has a heart condition that weakens him and also his dedication to repairing this house. The bond may start off weaker in the beginning but as the film moves along, the one thing stronger than the horror is in the strength the world during apocalypse.

In the true form of a thriller, this slow burn indie film uses the run time efficiently to make it a gradually tense experience. There are a few twists to it that create the unique foundation of this film. As with We Go On, Andy Mitton has an out of the ordinary vision to his stories and the same applies here, especially with the ending itself that might just take you by surprise.