The Dead Room (2015) – movie review

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The Dead Room (2015)

directed by Jason Stutter

 

starring:
Jed Brophy
Jeffrey Thomas
Laura Petersen

 

This film is a real slow burn, but if you stick with it, it builds to a big payoff. Firm characterization has each actor playing a convincing role. The beginning reminds one of The Shining, where wide angle views treat the viewer to the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. We wind down to a small claustrophobic domicile reminiscent of the cabin in Evil Dead. Three paranormal investigators are sent to the home which previous owners had fled. Their assignment is to prove to the insurance company either way, that it’s haunted and they should tear it down, or its not the-dead-room-2016-posterhaunted and they should peruse the previous owners for repayment. The team goes through the usual set up. Liam, the tech guru sets up cameras and scanners. Scott, the boss sets up a control center and mans his Mel meter, and Holly, is the sensitive and does psychic readings of the home. When they first arrive, she feels nothing in the home. Likewise, there are no readings on any equipment or movements breaking the motion sensors. They do an EVP session and get nothing. There is a definite reason for that which you will soon learn.

 

If you can take a ghost hunting session seriously and accept that ghost evidence would be at best subtle, then you will be able to enjoy this film. The first few nights we get nothing more than a swinging chandelier and an opening door. However, stay with the film and you will get more each night as the actions escalate and the entity eventually makes a clear attempt at taking a life. The ending has a big payoff and plot twist, worth the wait for any haunted house horror fan. Shades of The Legend of Hell House, and The Haunting are evident but not detracting from the film. The director gets the mood and atmosphere pinned down perfectly with the gloomy long hallway being the focus of the film. Nobody is going to be blown away by this film, but in the end, it’s entertaining. 

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Despite the slow start, If you like ghost stories and haunted house movies you will likely enjoy this film. 
I give it 3.5 ghastly ghoulies on the haunted harbinger of horror scale.

 

If you like; Legend of Hell House, The Awakening, The Haunting, The Innocents…

 

Bloopers: Look for the ending that was obviously filmed at a different time from the rest of the film as Petersen’s hair suddenly becomes 3 inches shorter.

 

Parlor of Horror, Horror movie reviews!

 

Oculus (2014) – movie review

Oculus (2014)

I don’t want to say that Oculus was a disappointment because I did like the story. It just wasn’t what I had expected. Judging by the trailer, I was expecting this year’s equivalent to The Conjuring. The truth is, though there were a few good creepy scenes and some tense moments, Oculus never delivered the scares in a big way.

Two children, Tim and Kaylie, survive the mental breakdown and attack of their parents which ends with both parents dead. Now 10 years later, Tim is released from an institution, cured of his delusions about the tragic night. Kaylie is happy to see him and immediately escorts him to oculustheir childhood home. She has plans to clear her family’s name (especially her father), and prove the strange and ancient mirror was the cause of the tragic event.

Kaylie has set up cameras and atmospheric recording devices on the mirror, as well as, a fail safe device to destroy the artifact if the situation gets out of hand. Naturally, Tim thinks it’s unnecessary, having learned through his psych treatments that what they had witnessed as children were delusions in the face of violent trauma. We soon see that delusions are the power of the mirror – the bending of reality in order to drive the owners of the artifact insane. In this way, Oculus is a psychological horror film and you can see the family going through difficulties that would make them loose their grip on reality.

Once the experiment begins the brother is plagued with vivid flashback memories. From that point on, the film alternates from past to present for the remainder of its runtime. This effectively keeps the film moving as two stories unfold simultaneously. We get good pacing and revealing of details about the tragic night past, while the current night’s plan begins to unravel.

The drawback to this aspect is we know the children survive into adulthood. This deflates a lot of the tension in the flashbacks and breaks the escalating suspense of the present story. Ultimately it makes the film less scary than its potential. Spirits emerge from the mirror in some creepy scenes, but don’t play an active role in the action. They attempt (and often succeed) in influencing the family members to deadly deeds but are relegated to standing in corners and whispering in family member’s ears. Shades of The Shining are present here as the spirits push the father to murder.

I did enjoy the story. I think it was well-written and original in the way it was told. I also thought all of the acting was high grade for a horror film and that may be its strongest asset. I know there are a lot of names associated with the film (from the makers of…), but the only one that matters is director/writer Mike Flanagan who also made Absentia. I actually like Oculus more.

However, I always look for that one film each year to carry the torch for the horror genre into the next year. Despite a promising premise and a strong story, Oculus is not the one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it for what it is.

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An interesting paranormal psychological horror story worth a viewing.

I give it 3.8 horrific halucinations on the malignant haunted mirror scale!

 

Insidious Chapter 2 (2013) – movie review

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Insidious Chapter 2 (2013)

After being thoroughly entertained by ’The Conjuring,’ I was eager to see James Wan’s sequel to his earlier film, Insidious. I like the 1st film despite the similarities to Poltergeist and Nightmare on Elm Street. It had its own originality with the black and red demon. The depictions of the Nether and the veiled old crone were creepy. After a brief back-story scene, Insidious 2 begins immediately following the events of the 1st film. The Lambert family has moved into their mother’s home, having their own home quarantined as a police investigation into the death of psychic medium, Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye).

insidious 2 pic 2Josh (Patrick Wilson) is happy that the ordeal is over but his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), is not convinced. She begins to see and hear strange things in the house, just like at their own home. When she tries to tell her husband, Josh insists that these events are nothing. Eventually the incidents turn into full-on poltergeist encounter. Renai and Lorraine (Josh’s Mom played by Barbara Hershey) get suspicious of her husband’s insistence that it should be ignored.

This first half of the film was successful in creating suspense and delivering a haunting atmosphere. I will say that the phantom piano playing was done better in both, The Others and Grave Dancers but combined with the baby monitor noises, and some ghostly apparitions floating through the rooms, it was escalating nicely. It was good to see Jocelin Donahue from ‘House of the Devil’ playing a young Lorraine in the flashback sequence. I think she’s a fine actress and hope to see her get more parts in film.

(spoiler alert – if you intend to see the film, skip to the last paragraph)
There is a point in this film where everything lined up too perfectly and where everything seemed too explained. The thing that makes paranormal films (and the paranormal in general) scary is the not knowing. I also feel that Wan and Leigh Whanell (co-writer) decided the audience was too dumb to figure things out without slapping them in the face with it. I would say most viewers had already understood that the serial killer, Parker, was abused by his mom and that she made him dress like a girl because she hated men. This was obvious early in the film. But then they had a whole scene, again, which explained it and showed it in better detail. This only made the audience feel sorry for the young boy Parker who grew into the killer Parker. Insidious2 pic 3Feeling empathy toward your main antagonist doesn’t make him scary, it makes him a sorrowful figure. And if that’s not enough, the psychic, Elise, (I know, she’s dead but she was there in the Nether waiting for Josh) then explained it verbally for a third time and added, “If we destroy the memory of the Mom, the spirit looses his power.” Really, that’s too nice and neatly packaged for me. I also love the way the son can fall asleep at a moments notice, even when he is terrified by a psychotic banging down the door. My BS meter was pinned.
(spoiler alert – end)

Eventually, the events became too much to believe. Everything lined up too conveniently. A good film needs to not drift too far from reality to be effective. At times I couldn’t believe all the logic and simple explanations of the events happening. I’d rather have no explanation than a dumb one. I get the same feeling from most cop shows on TV. Every clue leads to another clue or witness and in an hour everything is wrapped up nice and neatly. It’s like paint-by-numbers. It is amazing that a lot of the same techniques that worked so well in The Conjuring, fell flat here. It’s another one of those movies that I wouldn’t mind watching the 1st half, but would then shut it off as it becomes too silly. As always, the sequel isn’t nearly as good as the original.
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The Conjuring (2013) – movie review

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The Conjuring

In Harrisville, Rhode Island, a young couple with five children struggling to survive a weak economy got a great deal on a home and several acres of land. It was an opportunity they could not pass up. They would later regret it.

The Conjuring is the classic haunted house tale, a true story adapted for film under the direction of James Wan. It relays the harrowing events of the Perron family and what occurred in their country home during 1971. It also follows real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who throughout their lives have helped hundreds of families deal with supernatural occurrences.

The Conjuring delivers, jump scares, creepy scares, fun scares, and ‘think about it at 2: am’ scares – it has it all! The pacing was excellent, leaving time after each big scary scene for nervous laughter and regrouping before ramping up the tension again. There
were some intentionally funny parts, dark and oppressive atmosphere, and the kind of build-up needed for a supernatural film to be effective. At its climax the film escalated into a high-action fear-fest.

Some will say that aspects of the film could have been more in-depth. The investigation into the history of the land seemed truncated but nothing is worse during a ghost movie than watching the protagonist sit in a library looking at old newspapers on microfilm. The scene with the priest was equally short but the film is not about the priest, it is about the Warrens and the Perrons. So, while these scenes were obligatory they were kept to minimum length, which I think worked well for this film.

If you like supernatural horror, ghost stories, haunted house flicks, and a bit of spirit possession, you will likely enjoy this film. It is the most fun I have had with a haunted house film since Poltergeist.
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Recommended if you like:
Poltergeist, House, The Amityville Horror, Insidious, The Woman in Black, The Changeling,

Lorraine Warren was on set as a consultant, a testament to Wan’ s commitment in portraying the events as close to the real happenings as possible.

Lorraine even makes a Cameo appearance in the film during a lecture on supernatural occurrences.

***You can compare the movie with the real life happenings here: Reel Faces

**You can read about some of the Warren’s investigations here: The Warrens

**After many years of silence, the youngest Perron daughter penned a book, ‘House of Darkness House of Light’ in 2009 detailing the events that had taken place back in 1971. When asked why she waited all these years, she stated, “The world was not ready for a story like this back then.” Check out the book here: ‘House of Darkness House of Light’