Horror Marathon: Saw (2004)

We always kick off the Horror Marathon with our headliner! This year is Saw in case you missed the announcement yesterday. If you did, you can get a sneak peek of a few upcoming entries as well. I’m still in the process of watching as I’m drafting this review up so even if you asked me for other titles, I might not be completely sure. So let’s all be surprised, right?

I’ve always had the impression that Saw was a gore fest and its one of the reasons why I’ve avoided it all these years however, I’ve also learned that gore and torture porn while may not always be my constant watch, they tend to not scare me so much either. They make me uneasy if done really well but no lingering effects for the most part. However, the first Saw had its surprises for sure.

Let’s check it out!

 Saw (2004)

Saw

Director (and co-writer): James Wan

Cast: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whanell, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell

Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there or why, and soon discover they are pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer. – IMDB

Cary Elwes and Leigh Whanell! Wow, it sure shows how little I know about Saw. Right off the bat, Saw starts off in tense moments showing us exactly the intricacy of Jigsaw’s plans. By the time, we get to Cary Elwes as the doctor and Leigh Whanell as the photographer trapped in the room with him, it starts being more psychological. If anything, Jigsaw and the Saw franchise is who started the escape room craze in an extreme way of working together and just with incredibly higher stakes. Saw is a psychological journey and a pretty tense and smart one at that. Jigsaw puts down these elaborate plans to reveal these characters’ secrets while using it as an extra layer of his obsession to push his captives to fight for survival to cherish their life.

Saw

Based on this entry piece for Saw, its not hard to see how this had a sequel. Jigsaw is still a huge mystery and that is mostly because his game gives his characters many layers to learn about and build up. Just like our two captives here. Both Leigh Whanell and Cary Elwes delivers some great performances. Sure, there are some over the top moments but somehow they all seem deliberate to either create some humor that could break the tension however, humor is definitely far and few here. On the other hand, the captives are also followed with a back story of sorts as we follow the detectives who try to track down Jigsaw played by Danny Glover and his partner played by Ken Leung. It is also through the investigation that we learn a little more about Jigsaw.

Saw

Perhaps here is the perfect place to talk about the story because James Wan and Leigh Whanell truly write a fantastic story. Its twisted and intriguing. Its characters are unraveled in a great pace and have enough depth to make them both mysterious and suspicous. As great as the actors here are, it does help that the script is very strong.

Overall, Saw is a great way to start a franchise and it will be interesting to see where the story goes next. Sequels rarely are as strong as their first part so I’m going to keep my expectations tame for Saw 2. However, for this marathon, its also an awesome to start with something both psychologically thrilling and disturbing all at the same time. I’m starting to feel a little silly that I’ve put off watching Saw for so long.

Have you seen Saw? Which is your favorite entry of this franchise?

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Fantasia Festival 2016: Lights Out (2016)

The next movie in the Fantasia Festival Line-up before almost a week off before the next one is Lights Out. I haven’t been able to finish the trailer on this one and it hits a lot of my fears such as darkness. Its one I am excited, skeptical and incredibly nervous and frightened to go see. Lights Out is presented as a Montreal Special Screening and was a sold out show. It also presented me with one of the most engaging film watching experience. Please note the film watching and not film. It seemed to need that clarification on Twitter. Everyone screamed and laughed and emoted together. Maybe it will disturb a normal theatre experience but Fantasia is a different vibe because a ton of people there are film buffs if not horror film buffs which adds on to the fun.

Lights Out (2016) 

Lights Out

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Maria Bello, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Andi Osho, Alicia Vela-Bailey

When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.-IMDB

Lights Out’s premise started with the director David F. Sandberg’s short film that is available on Vimeo that was submitted for a short film under three minutes. It is an atmospheric horror film that is short but introduces us to the concept of his spirit that dwells in the darkness. It appears as a shadow with elongated sharp fingers when the lights are out and disappears when the lights are on. Changing the setting but using the same actress as in his short film, this is how Sandberg chooses to start his full feature, Lights Out. However this time, the backstory is different. It highlights why this spirit follows this family as it breaks it up over and over again whether its driving the the mom to a deeper depression to the daughter moving out to the son not being able to sleep. Why is it here? What does it want? All these questions cast over Lights Out as it pans through its tight-knit and quick eight-one minutes run time.

Lights Out

 Lights Out is Sandberg’s debut full feature film. With the help of James Wan in the producer seat (among the many), there is a certain potential connected to it. However, if the Lights Out short was any indication, Sandberg is fully capable of crafting an effective horror and he does. Lights Out makes a lot of great moves. It builds a haunting atmosphere playing on the audience’s fear of the darkness. He is smart and utilises all sorts of different lighting whether they are on, off or flickering. The music sits in the background with only moments where it teases us. While it does suffer from some horror movie troupes like the usage of the scary basement or predictably expecting what to happen next, it never lingers on those moments but uses it to create the atmosphere from an initial jump scare to create uneasiness to make the next unexpected move a little more effective.  Part of this effectiveness does contribute with knowing how to keep the audience wondering about the spirit entity even if the atmosphere does build but it becomes rather overused in the short run time especially the first two-thirds of the movie before heading into the wildly intense final third. Not to mention whatever is haunting everyone is designed extremely well but you can see it in the trailer if that interests you or just go into this one fresh.

Lights Out

Lights Out is not perfect however. It is weighed down by a rather generic back story and some dialogue that felt laughably (sometimes awkwardly) out of place. It lingered between cringe-worthy, eye-rolling and laughing territory (and the Fantasia audience laughed a lot). Part of it makes us wonder if it was done deliberately to create a relaxed moment before amping up the intensity ten times more. Or it could most probably be lack of a better screenplay writer. Most of these dialogues are between our main character Rebecca (played by Teresa Palmer) and her boyfriend (played by Alexander DiPersia). Thankfully, there isn’t enough of these dialogues to make it unbearable to watch. It keeps the agenda of a horror thriller in the front and remembers to focus on finding the root of the problem.

Lights Out

 The cast here deserves some mention. They are convincingly good at their roles. Its not saying that they were in anything bad before. Teresa Palmer has Warm Blood and Maria Bello has more than we can count (most recently Prisoners). Before we talk about the main roles here, its good to address some of the smaller cameo roles starting from the opening scene, Lotta Losten which almost replays the original short but in a new setting. In that opening scene, Billy Burke also makes an appearance playing the father of the family we will learn about soon. This opening scene last for a good five minutes probably and sets up what to expect for the rest of Lights Out. Here’s where we get to see a distant daughter, Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer who does a stand-up job and is a very brave character. Playing her boyfriend is Alexander DiPersia as Bret (as mentioned before) who is an adorable and fun character to add to the mix but also breaks out from the norm impressively. Its rare to call a horror movie boyfriend adorable but he has this incredibly likeable character with some really great scenes. However, the movie is raised above by the mom Sophie played by Maria Bello. She is able to highlight the breakdown and being teared apart by depression and of being mentally weakened.

Overall, Lights Out creates a great horror atmosphere. Sandberg does a lot right in creating this horror thriller with a great premise that plays on fear of darkness mixed with effects of depression. His creature and the design is done really well and manages to keep the audience guessing. The cast also delivers some good performances however the dialogue does hit some awkward and laughably out of place moments forcing in a generic back story. There are some tropes too but they are delivered effectively. Between a mixed bag of jump scares and atmospheric build-up in the feeling of dread, Lights Out delivers a solid horror performance that might leave you keeping your lights on for a while.

Furious 7 (2015)

Finally, we are at the latest addition to the Fast and the Furious franchise! Man, this franchise has gone through its ups and downs.  Mostly ups as we entered the last few movies.  The franchise as gone into a bigger and better direction with mostly great response due to whatever reasons: characters, heists, etc.  Its in its own category now and while none of them are masterpieces, its achieved its own special place in the fans’ hearts. That definitely includes me.

Before I go further into Furious 7, let’s get a little synopsis in 🙂

Furious 7 (2015)

furious 7

Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou

Taking a little break from their last team-up, Dom (Vin Diesel) is home with Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) as they make a transition from the dangerous world of heists, bullets and fast cars. All this changes when the big bad brother of Own Shaw (Luke Evans), Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) calls up Dom, telling him that Han’s (Sung Kang) dead and that he’s hunting down whoever destroyed his little brother.  Already putting Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in the hospital, Dom and his team have to deal with this threat themselves.  Much to their surprise, a mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) shows up offering them a perfect chance to revenge Dekkard Shaw with the condition that they retrieve an advanced military technology called God’s Eye and protect the developer, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), before a terrorist acquires it.

furious 7Just a matter of postponing putting up this review a few days, there’s been a ton of other reviews up.  Exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy, there isnt much I can say that hasn’t been said before.  I contemplated doing a point form post on this but then there would be too many spoilers and I don’t want that.  Fact of the matter was that, the movie was halfway through or not even, I leaned over to my boyfriend and said that this movie was already turning into one of my faves of the franchise.  Whether that feeling stuck by the end of the movie, I’ll reveal that at the end 😉

Furious 7 was my most anticipated movie of 2015.  There are various reasons.  One is Paul Walker and how they’ll get him out of the franchise after his tragic death in late 2013.  He is a key character and with that, it makes him hard to dismiss.  We’ve grown to love Brian O’Conner.  He’s a part of the family and honestly, if you are a fan, Dom’s family has pretty much turned into our family.  Each of the character’s have a spot in our hearts. Next reason is Furious 7 marks change. Partially linked with Paul Walker but the fact that even before his death, we’ve already know that Justin Lin will be stepping down as director and handing over the job to James Wan, primarily noted for his horror movie efforts.  Now, following those two points, Furious 7 is every bit intriguing to watch because there are script changes and casting to work around the circumstances they are in and that begs the question: can they live up to the last few films fun and intensity?

furious 7

Simple answer: YES!

There is so many yes for this one. Furious 7 is as awesome as its name.  This time, its not so much about being fast as it is about being furious, as they race with a window of time to obtain the God’s Eye and Ramsey, fighting top notch fighters in the various roles form Jason Statham and Tony Jaa being in that category.  Even Rhonda Rousey appears and fights with Michelle Rodriguez.  The action sequences are as over the top as they get and yet I appreciate every single moment of them.  I guess its when I watch these movies, I feel like I’m rather different.  I like movies dripping with machoism, big guys, fighting, over the top action, sexy and sleek revving cars, high adrenaline.  I love all that stuff.  Furious 7 lives up to the franchise they’ve been building on all those levels, brings in some new characters and makes it bigger, badder, meaner and crazier than ever. More fight sequences than racing cars.  At this point, when I walk into a movie in this franchise, I suspend every disbelief I have and just enjoy everything they throw at me. Everything and anything can happen and it doesn’t have to make any sense but you know what? It doesn’t matter, because that’s exactly what I’m looking for.  And probably what you should be too 😉

furious 7

This movie also experienced something for once in its franchise. Its is actually quite surprising.  Can you guess what it is? The plot was never something to call home about. Its usually extremely simple with one very huge end goal.  I never complain about it.  For the first time, Furious 7’s plot actually feels a little convoluted. There’s a whole lot of little things going on. A lot of which gets lost in the bigger plots that kind of try to overpower each other.  This time, it brings in family and revenge as a huge theme.  Its minorly a heist for the God’s Eye but more a rescue mission.  As much as Justin Lin loved to bring in lots of asses and skimpy girls, James Wan puts it right in your face even more.  I don’t care much for that (since I’m very much into guys) but I’m sure its more for the male audience that should dominate the viewing audience here.  I sidetracked there. The plot includes Letty’s amnesia and Brian’s embrace of quiet family life as side plots.  The bigger ones was supposed to be Deckard Shaw because that is how the previous movie ended and should be the focus. By the end, I almost forgot about it as they trashed Los Angeles with the terrorist dude wrecking havoc. I literally forgot about the fight between Shaw and Dom, and kind of laughed at myself at that moment. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.

***Next paragraph enters a little spoiler territory**

Really, what else is there to say about this one? I’m thinking Fast Five, Furious 6 and this one is sounding very similar.  Which is why this is not so much a review as just a write-up. This may not be quite as strong as Fast 5 (or 6) but its a lot of fun and there’s drama and the meaning behind this one is so much more just because we know that Paul Walker is no longer in the picture.  Paul Walker’s death and that last scene for the tribute was done really well.  I sat through the entire film wondering and worrying that they’d kill him off  but they didn’t.  The way they did it was perfect. It was classy and heartwarming.  Brian was ready to leave the bullets behind and be dedicated to quiet family life.  Once that song started and the beach scene, it meant just so much by saying so little and my tears just started falling.  It was as much the team’s farewell as it was ours to Paul Walker and Brian O’Conner. It makes us remember also that as much as Paul Walker’s career succeeded a lot to do with this franchise, it made me think of the others movies he has been in and a few of them are underrated.

I guess the best way to end this write-up of Furious 7 is with this tribute video:

Wow..this review just got really personal and kind of heavy. Furious 7 is a fun, entertaining ride. While how the franchise would take Brian O’Conner’s character out kept running around in the back of my mind, it never stopped me from enjoying Furious 7 for exactly what it is.  Logic and reason, common sense: nothing matters here. Its family, vengeance, action and a whole lot of explosion.  Anything that happens in Furious 7 goes.  Does a car flying through buildings make sense? Sure! How about no Air Force fighter jets coming when they are trashing LA? That’s okay.  Cars flying in mid-air and parachuting down to the mountainous roads? That works! Plus, Paul Walker tribute was done perfectly well. Did Furious 7 make it to be my favorite movie in the franchise? Not really but it sure has a memorable spot in there.

Did you see Furious 7? What did you think about it? Which is your favorite movie in the franchise so far?

Dead Silence (2007)

When I can fit two movies in a weekend, you know I’m slacking off on writing my novel.  Either way, I know I was and I’m not proud of it.  There’s still a few days to redeem myself though.  We’ll see how that goes.  Anyways, at least my blog seems to be benefiting a bit.  Dead Silence has been intriguing me and even though Eric at theipc advised me to forget it, I didn’t listen. Maybe I should have? Either way, lets see how that was.

dead silence posterDirector: James Wan

Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Fairman, Joan Heney, Bob Gunton, Judith Roberts

Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife (Joan Heney) are happily married until one day, his wife was murdered in a gruesome way while he was out to get takeout.  It makes him into the prime suspect for her death, especially in the eyes of Detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg). Following clues, he ends up taking his wife’s body back home to Raven’s Fair to bury and at the same time, look into what had happened.  There he learns of the story about a past ventriloquist called Mary Shaw whose name haunts the town after her death.

There is no doubt in my mind that James Wan (with his writer Leigh Whannell) is pretty awesome together in the world of horror.  After all, despite many people feeling that Insidious was missing a good ending, I still felt it was pretty strong as a horror movie.  Thats coming from my inexperience and lower tolerance of horror movies, I think.  Still, whatever it is, I was convinced that James Wan knew what he was doing.  I haven’t seen the Saw franchise so I have no comparison but that is also one of the reasons why I decided to watch Dead Silence. The second reason was that Ryan Kwanten (not in True Blood being a simple-minded Jason) would be interesting, at the very least, it’ll bring something nice to the screen.

dead silence billy

The only thing that scared me when I was a child was clowns and being never revealed to ventriloquist and that whole world of creepiness, I didn’t exactly find this scary.  It just felt REALLY slow.  Like I like slow but this was just nearing boring. So I paused this movie..umm…*counts on fingers* forget it, I don’t remember how many times.  I just didn’t feel like there was anything making me want to wait for the next thing because I sat there and predicted what would happen for most of the movie.  So what was wrong with this? It comes to the point that in comparison with Insidious, that one was creeping me out throughout the movie and didn’t have just an epic ending but this one was the other way around.  Honestly, by the last bit and of course, he always has a twist, it changed the game a bit, so why couldn’t the rest of the movie be like that? Sorry, this review is more of a rant.

dead silence jamie marion

Okay, I’m not hating on the movie.  I did rate it like 3 out of 5 stars on Netflix, means I liked it (apparently). The characters were done well.  I mean, for the most part, James Wan and Leigh Whannell seem to really agree on what is creepy and Mary Shaw plus ventriloquists are definitely in that arena.  Rotting old ladies are also very scary.  I’m totally on board with that.  Dead Silence had decent scares. The scenes all had nice eerie atmosphere to complement it.  A lot of the details were actually quite good.  As usual, its his style to use atmosphere to build up the fear than with excessive gore (maybe thats not the case with Saw? I know nothing of that).

kinopoisk.ru

I always look at the characters a bit.  The characters aren’t exactly in depth here but one I hated was the detective. That guy was stupid and I wanted to punch his face because he annoyed me. Ryan Kwanten was definitely different from how I usually see him.  It actually makes me want to see The Right Kind of Wrong.  I think that might more be his ballpark.  All the characters weren’t around enough to give me any deep feeling or attachment so if and when they did die, it really didn’t make me feel anything much, plus, everyone dies the same way so after a while, its not extremely surprising.

It seems like Dead Silence really caught me on a bad day but I guess, its hard to follow a pretty awesome movie like Children of Men that had a great storyline.  However, Dead Silence does have many many hints of the works of James Wan.  If you appreciate his work, this might not be a bad choice, especially if dolls and that sort of thing tend to freak you out.  My suggestion is to tough out the first half because its filled with not so great dialogue and a really slow plot but by the second half in Ravens Fair and the investigation is getting deeper, the tension really builds up for the big finale/twist 🙂 So no, not all bad, the ending really pushes it in the good area.

Insidious (2010)

I am crazy! I admit it…I don’t know why I do this to myself.  I’m mega chickenshit and somehow I felt like Tuesday night was a great idea to put on Insidious.  Just to check our James Wan‘s skills.  The movie started and the DVD menu went on, eerie music going on, opening credits start…and I start regretting already.

insidious posterDirector: James Wan

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

*IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE, YOU MAY WANT TO SKIP THE SYNOPSIS, as much as I tried to keep it spoiler free, it might still ruin the full experience*

Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh(Patrick Wilson) Lambert are settling into their new house with their 3 children.  When their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into a coma, they search to figure out what is causing it.  As this starts to strain Renai and Josh’s marriage, Josh starts dreaming up weird images.  At the same time, Renai starts experiencing eerie unexplicable events at home which leads her to believe that her house is haunted.  It is then she urges Josh to move out of their home in hopes that escape this.  However, at the new home, these events still occur and its then Josh’s mother  Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) advise them to seek the help of Elise (Lin Shaye) and her team Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). It is here they learn about The Further.

insidious dreams

I almost didn’t want to write a synopsis for this one because there is no way that you can talk about this and not feel like I ruined something.

This leads to me saying that this is a super awesome horror.  It scared the $&!% out of me but I am not alone.  This makes me feel good to say because basing this on my scare level is inaccurate, seeing as I’m scared of most horror movies.  On this note, you really want to check out The Horror Online and their awesome post on the “How Scary Is It?” Scale.  Just click on it and you’ll get to that post! This one (and The Horror Online agrees) is definitely a Stage 5.  I did not cry…I screamed at the top of my lungs.  Decibel levels flew off the charts! I’m still sleeping with my lights close and watching comedies.  Oh, and I don’t walk around my house with the lights off…and the boyfriend has after dark water duty for moi, because I refuse to go down into the dark…I’m sure you get the idea…

 

insidious group

 

This horror flick is hardcore.  This would’ve been good for the theatres though. The copy I got made me have to watch subtitles because I did not hear those effects that makes it a bit eerie until last minute.  Although eventually I learned that I had to turn it off because every time something happens, we get an alert with an “eerie sounscape” in the background.  Even though it was hinted eventually, it always provided some form of surprise.  Freaked me out every single time.  As much as my boyfriend laughed at it, by the end of the movie, those discordant violin sounds were MEGA CREEPY! Background music or lack of at times was really effective to make this horror factor increase! It made for a good compliments to some pretty crazy awesome jump scares, along with some built up moments!

insidious dalton

On top of that, everyone in this flick was convincing.  Maybe it had to do with the incredibly awesome storyline.  Patrick Wilson was fantastic and Rose Byrne was definitely no Helen (from Bridesmaids).  She went all out to prove to us that she can do horror genre equally well.  She lead a good part of the movie and was the focus for a lot of solo scenes.  She convinced me that there was evil at every corner of that house.  Plus, as little as screen time as the kids had, the little boys were both very convincing!  Elise and her team was pretty interesting.  They had an amazing vibe on screen to amplify the scare factor. Loved the character of Elise! She had to be all over the place with her reactions.  The same applies for her assistants! The cast was just outstanding!

insidious elise specs

 

James Wan is awesome in these spirits and evil horror genre.  I have seen nothing else from this guy.  However, I do have a little issue with his camera work.  However, if he does apply that to Fast 7, I think it might be alright ;).  I just can’t see this guy jumping into the action flick area though.  On another note, I’m excited to see Insidious Chapter 2 because it is what I need to wrap up this scary piece of entertainment.  At least I hope it will…its just how I am with horror flicks.

This is a definite YES! Horror fans should see this! Its awesomely scary with a mix of jump scares, eerie music and lots of creepy scenes! The music compliments it and the acting is pretty decent.  There was a lot hidden in the scenes if you look hard enough which makes it very intelligent.  I may be cursing myself and saying that I won’t see another horror for a while.  Whats sleep, right? Especially if its lost over a great movie 😉 This is most positively one of the scariest movie I have seen!

I’m usually the slow pokes at horror movies, so tell me, have you seen this?  Did you like it? Was there something you didn’t like it? Is it something you want to see? Anxious to see the sequel (which I think is coming out later this year)?