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.

TV Binge: The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Amelia Eve, T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli, Tahirah Sharif, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Alex Essoe, Roby Attal, Kate Siegel, Katie Parker, Martn McCreadie

After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. – IMDB

After the success of The Haunting of Hill House (review), Mike Flanagan helms his next mini- series with another haunted house story called The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Haunting of Bly Manor takes some of the execution style of Hill House but is essentially its own story. After the Hill House experience, its hard to go into this one with a little more alertness and always on the lookout for whats hidden in the background (at least for us, it had that effect for at least a few episodes). Its unfair to compare the two even if there are a similar cast returning from Hill House in mostly supporting roles and being helmed by Flanagan as a creator but less this time as director. In fact, Bly Manor is a different beast in itself with Bly Manor being a new haunted house that comes to life with new characters and backstories and some new ghosts to discover which makes Bly Manor a creepily fun time and its has children so add in a little of the unsettling creepy children element.

Using the same execution of breaking down the episodes to discover the backstory of each of the characters on the past and present is a clever way to do this. In some ways, it gives it this feeling of peeling layers of an onion before every piece fits together and one twist/ secret gets revealed after the next while also getting to know each of the characters more to give them greater connection. Other than that Flanagan takes on the main role of writing which is what gives this piece a lot of style and atmosphere. He only takes the director’s seat for the first episode which sets off the story in a great direction in terms of setting up the proper atmosphere however, even in the hands of other directors, the TV series does still manage to keep a certain atmosphere that is always rather unsettling and creepy but in this one, its definitely more about the mystery and suspense built from what is actually happening.

With that said, the characters are the true star as each of their story comes to life. Victoria Pedretti plays a great role as the American au pair Dani who brings on some change to Bly Manor as she tries to dig into what is causing those abnormal things to happen whether with the children or the inexplicable things she sees or experiences. At the same time, the baggage she carries does brings on a few twists as well. The cook Owen (Rahul Kohli) is also a really fun character especially with some hilarious puns like Al-Cohol You Later (one that we have a lot of fun right now saying randomly). One of the best characters and possibly the one with one of the best episode is for the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller) who delivers a hell of a performance. Not to mention the kids deliver some great performances by Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Flora and Miles respectively. Then you have some comeback roles with one or two episodes as some decent characters with Henry Thomas as the uncle, Carla Gugino who is the narrator and Kate Siegel as a key character to the past of Bly Manor to just name a few. There’s a whole lore of how the ghosts and spirits work that becomes a very nice twist.

Bly Manor brings its own setting by itself. The grounds and the manor itself all comes to life with all the stories that slowly comes to surface. The cast brings quite a lot to the story just like the first one as they all have a great deal of depth and its never solely a ghost story but much more than that which is what makes The Haunting of Bly Manor so good. Its something of a love, revenge, family, drama with supernatural elements. There’s some heartwarming moments and some comedy and then there’s a lot of creepiness and fantastic eerie atmosphere at times that’s pretty well balances. Its the not the same as Hill House but different in an equally good way.

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?