A Christmas Horror Story – 2015 – movie review


A Christmas Horror Story – 2015


William Shatner

Zoé De Grand Maison

Adrian Holmes

Amy Forsyth

Rob Archer

George Buza


Zombie elves, demonically possessed children, student spirits, and Santa and Krampus in a battle to the death for the soul of Christmas.


The film starts with a bloodied Santa Claus looking more like a Viking Warrior than the image we’re accustomed to. That image is a part of one story but we’ll get back to that later.  William Shatner is a radio show host delivering his Christmas Eve blessings to the world. During the course of the night something bad is happening at the local mall. Police have cordoned off the area and have warned everyone to stay away.  Details are sketchy but Shatner relays the info as it becomes available.

Four stories intertwined are revealed as the film progresses. ‘Horror in the Hallways’ concerns student news reporters investigating a closed part of a school were a massacre happened a year earlier. It seems that the school spirit(s) are still haunting the hallways.


At Santa’s castle at the north pole, his elves are turning to zombies. Santa takes his staff and calls upon all his strength to battle the wicked gnomes. It’s one hell of a bloody battle and campy fun for the whole family.


A family reaches out to their dad’s rich aunt on Christmas eve. The aunt turns them away and they crash on the snowy road a few miles from the home. Hiking back to the aunt’s mansion proves to be a challenge as Krampus hunts them down picking them off one by one. They hold up in an old abandoned church and decide they should confess their sins to survive, but will it keep the slaughter at bay?


After chopping down a Christmas Tree in the woods a young couple notices their son, Will, acting very peculiar. As the night wears on, the boy taunts the dad with his nasty actions. This is the creepiest of all the stories as the true nature of the child’s behavior is revealed in increments.


There’s a nice plot twist at the end of the Santa Claus story that is a real ‘wow’ moment.  This is a very entertaining Christmas themed film for the horror fan. It’s comparable to Trick r Treat and I rate it highly in the horror anthology subgenre. As an added bonus, the music is awesome, from the punk rock “Jingle Bells” to the main themes and score, the soundtrack would be worth a listen. Check this out for a fun and gory holiday film! Although I purchased the Blu-ray, the film is now showing on Netflix for your holiday entertainment.



A fun sometimes campy, sometimes creepy and gory, family holiday film!

I give it 4.0 candy canes on the sugarplum fairies beaten to death with a fruit cake scale.


Late Phases (2014) – Movie review


Late Phases (2014)

Directed By Adrián García Bogliano

Nick Damici
Ethan Embry
Lance Guest

I often like small films with only a few characters that are story driven and don’t rely on big effects to move the plot. This is a cool low-key film that fit’s the bill. It has a well written script and a good message of honor, redemption and reconciliation.

A blind Vietnam Vet, Ambrose McKinney, is dropped off at his new retirement community home. He and his seeing-eye dog (and companion), named Shadow, are settling in. He is a hard personality, unfriendly to the neighbor’s welcome and stand off-ish to the community. He doesn’t want to know anything about any of them, until his neighbor is killed by something vicious in the middle of the night. He listens through the wall picking up sounds to late-phases--posterfigure out what is happening. The creature knows this and attacks him next. Shadow does his best to protect Ambrose and the dog is killed.

A werewolf mystery unfolds as Ambrose attempts to figure out who the shape shifter is before the next full moon. Though blind, he is quite capable and makes some headway to pin down the possible suspects. However the werewolf realizes what he is doing and makes some counter plans for himself. It all converges on the night of the next full moon. Meanwhile the cold relationship of Ambrose with his son grows even colder as the younger man attempts to discover why his father is acting so strangely. The werewolf transformation scene is nothing special but at this point, what could they actually show that hasn’t been seen already? Did I mention it also has a small part by Tina Louise…yes from Gilligan’s Island.

Wonderful acting, story and good characters drive the plot and make this a very good film. There may have been a few aspects that could have been explored a little deeper and the horror aspect was in low ratio compared to the drama of life and subject of getting old, but overall I think the characters felt real and that‘s what made this film watchable. It’s not the high action of most modern horror, but worth a viewing for those with a little patience.


Worth a watch for those who want good story and a break from all the overwrought effects in Werewolf films.

I give it 3.0 gnarly snarls out of 5 on the cantankerous canine carnivore scale.

The Visit (2015) – movie review

The Visit 2015 - pic 4

The Visit (2015)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Kathryn Hahn
Deanna Dunagan
Peter McRobbie
Ed Oxenbould
Olivia DeJonge

I found this film entertaining on several levels. The first half of the film had some genuine character portrayals. Two children are invited to go see their grandparents whom they have never met. Their mom had left home when she was young, after a very bad fight and never talked to them again. So the children set off by train to meet the grandparents in PA and stay for a week, while the mom goes on a cruise with her boyfriend.

The kids, thirteen and fifteen, were entertaining and funny, each with distinct personalities. The younger boy, Tyler, sees himself as a rapper and has the worst rhymes you can imagine – real gangsta, talking about meeting girls at Starbucks. The the visit 2015 postergirl videographer, Becca, is wise beyond her years and tries to exemplify her sophistication with an overreaching vocabulary. They are funny because it reminds you of how annoying kids can sometimes be, especially ones with a video camera, but they do become empathetic as the movie progresses.

Then there’s the grandparents. It’s clear after the first night that something is wrong with grandma. Maybe she is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Perhaps that’s why the grandparents wanted to see their grandchildren, knowing their cognition was failing and wanting to make some peace in the family. The grandmother’s antics become increasingly strange, both frightening and comical in nature. Grandpa says it’s sundown syndrome. I knew there would be some kind of twist and began to wonder if the children were exaggerating or imagining strange events for the sake of their documentary film. I was wrong.

It’s the last half hour that the grandparent’s behavior turns threatening and ramp up to some truly frightening aspects. We had gone to an afternoon show on a day that schools were closed, so the theater was full of teenagers. Some of the enjoyment of the film was hearing the teenage girls in the theater SCREAM their lungs out during the last fifteen minutes of the film. (old people = very scary) It was a tense ending and to me it was worth the wait.

This is the film that Shyamalan should have made after The Village. He’s back to the kind of story he tells best. It has a family message, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with morality. It is indeed on par with his first four films. I like it better than The Village, making it my 4th favorite Shyamalan film. It’s not as good as The Sixth Sense or Signs but it’s a step towards reclaiming his reputation at making films the general public enjoys.

The Visit 2015 - pic 3

An entertaining film with a very tense and suspenseful ending.

I give it 3.5 gnarly grandparent giggles on the scary old people scale of wrinkly skin dementia.

Ex Machina (2015) – movie review

ex machina 2015 pic 15

Ex Machina (2015) 

Directed by Alex Garland
A young techie, Caleb, is chosen to assist tech guru and company pioneer, Nathan. He is escorted via chopper to a remote underground base, isolated from the world where he meets his boss and his new project. Caleb is to give a personal analysis to an intelligent humanoid, Ava. Caleb is putting her through the Turing Test to see if she has fully achieved AI and could pass as human with her intellect. He meets with her everyday and a relationship develops. Caleb provides simple analysis of her human-like qualities as Nathan watches from a monitoring and security system. Caleb’s interactions with Ava tell us much Ex_Machina posterabout human interactions with each other. The lab itself experiences periodic system black outs. It’s during one of these system failures that Ava tells Caleb that Nathan is a liar and not to be trusted.

Nathan is an arrogant, manipulative prick, the kind that we have all come across in our lives. It’s difficult to tell if his original intentions were for the betterment of the world or just to stroke his own ego. During proceeding system blackouts Caleb and Ava have short bursts of uncensored discussions. Nathan discovers a problem with letting Caleb get extremely attached to Ava. He reveals his plans to replace her with the next model version, 9.6. She will be destroyed, and along with her, the memory of what Caleb and Ava had shared. Is that murder? The movie’s question is whether Ava had reached true AI. I’d say by the end of the film she has…adopting and formulating both the best and worst traits of human kind

The movie is an intellectual curiosity and is therefore only effective when you’re in the frame of mind to engage in both self analysis and to delve into the bigger questions of the human condition. Existential dilemma and conflict, aspects that make you think beyond the borders of a movie, are what make classic science fiction films. I think that is something missing from many of today’s sci-fi movies. This film certainly has a high quality story and script, but no high action. I just don’t think it can impress the CGI expectant modern audience and be considered a classic. I would recommend it, but I just don’t see many others doing the same.

ex machina 2015 pic 2

Interesting analytical sci-fi film worth a viewing for its thoughtful stimulation.

I give it a 4.0 terabytes of AI analysis on the realistic robot reverb scale.

Horns (2014) – movie review

Horns pic 17

Horns (2014)Horns poster

Directed by Alexandre Aja

Daniel Radcliffe
Max Minghella
Joe Anderson
Juno Temple
Heather Graham

(slight spoilers)
I usually like movies based on a good book, even if some aspects are different. I realize the events of a book that takes over a month to read are not going to fit into a two hour film. I know that inner thoughts from the main character are not going to be translated well to the screen and little asides that add depth to characters will not work well in a film. Things will be changed to visual aspects of story telling and some parts will be left out. This film is adapted from the book of the same name by Joe Hill.

Iggy Parrish wakes up one day to find his girlfriend, the love of his life, was murdered. He is accused of killing her, but evidence Horns pic 8is lost making prosecution near impossible. He then wakes with horns growing out of his head which gives everyone he meets the desire to confess their greatest sins to him. He has gained some powers of the devil, where he can lead people into temptation among other things. It’s kinda’ like the opposite of Bruce Almighty 🙂

This is not a typical horror film. Despite the strange, horror-like occurrences in the story, the real horrors are the true to life aspects. The break-up in the diner was a scenario we’ve probably all lived through. I once had a situation where everyone thought I did something wrong (something went missing in the store I worked at) and no matter what I said, no one believed me. I was later vindicated but too many bad things were said and it had cost me several relationships. There are other aspects to this film that are excruciating but lean more toward drama, the horror of real lifeHorns pic 2 or in the classical sense, the comedy, which in early opera and plays meant the painful irony of life. Iggy is laughed at, scoffed at, and wrongly accused in this film. False accusations and ridicule are painful parts of life many of us have probably dealt with in our own existence.

It’s not until the third act that this film (and the book) resembles a true horror story. Ig sharpens his horns (so to speak) and the horrors begins. The ending is dismal but there is also a reconciliation aspect to it. In the book, the final showdown between Iggy and his best friend, Lee, is much bigger. I do think Alexandre Aja delivered a good adaptation of the book. I’m not sure if that translates to a good watch for those who have not read the book. I’m sure some of my enjoyment came from re-living parts of the book I liked so much. It’s not a frightening story. It is a great horror story nevertheless, one that I think can be enjoyed by not only horror fans, but a wider general audience.

Horns pic 16

A tragic story that keeps you glued to the screen for its mystery and murder aspects and mesmerized by the strange affliction of the main character, Iggy Parrish.

I give it 4.0 sinful confessions out of 5 on the scale of guilty, gluttonous lies for selfish deeds and self preservation needs

Read my book review here: Joe Hill – Horns

As Above, So Below (2014) – movie review

As Above, So Below (2014)

Directed and written by John Erick Dowdle

Perdita Weeks
Ben Feldman
Edwin Hodge

I have to admit I have some claustrophobia concerning tight closed-in spaces. I was at one time plagued by nightmares where I was crawling through a tight, dirt tunnel and the tunnel ahead kept getting smaller and tighter until I could barely move. In this film there’s a scene where the character, Ben, gets stuck in one such tunnel and the more he struggles, the more the tunnel collapses on him. You can see the desperation and panic in his face and in his actions. This scene was so well done it was as above so below - posterexcruciating for me. I squirmed in my seat and cringed. I screamed at him to remove his belt to free himself.

Let’s back up a little. As Above, So Below is a Found Footage film with a bit of a twist, there are survivors in the end, which was a nice difference. It looked pretty grim at times and I didn’t think anyone would actually survive. The film concerns an urban archaeologist, Scarlet, who is desperate to solve a riddle concerning Aramaic texts that hold some alchemist’s secret of life. Scarlet takes increasingly risky chances following a trail of clues. It seems her father had committed suicide after trying to solve the same riddle and she has vowed to solve the problem in his name.

The trail leads her and a small crew, choreographer, Ben, and love interest, George, to the catacombs of France. She hires an outlaw guide and his crew with the promise of hidden treasure in a secret room as yet undiscovered by modern archaeologists. They follow a jigsaw of ancient maps and texts deeper into the earth, eventually leading them to a pathway marked ‘the gates of hell.’ (Those who enter, abandoned all hope). A collapse behind them forces the crew forward and some strange apparitions and occurrences plague them. There are some mighty chilling scenes here, enjoyable for a horror fan like me. In fact the scares were so well paced and executed that I was smiling in between the scenes. Aside from the paranormal chills, there were also the real life horrors of being in underground caves; the confined spaces, the feeling of being lost, the paranoia of the surroundings, and underwater tunnels (gasp), all portrayed for maximum effectiveness.

While the ending was not as satisfying as I would have liked, I enjoyed the journey immensely. The characters were quite likable and empathetic. I look forward to seeing more from director, John Erick Dowdle, who has previously written and/or directed great horror flicks like, Quarantine, Devil, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes. While some may be turned off by the Found Footage style I think it serves this film well.

as above so below - pic 5

A well-paced and interesting horror found footage film that dishes out many original chills and thrills, with both psychological horror and physical horror aspects combined. 

I give it 4.1 creepy quagmires out of 5 on the crawling through claustrophobic catacombs capers.

Fun facts

The term ‘as above so below’ is part of Hermatic theory and philosophy. It states that, As in heaven, so on earth – meaning if you think good thoughts, good will follow, if you think bad thoughts, evil will follow. Whatever we think or accept will be the circumstances of our lives.

The hexagram symbol in the movie is used by Satanists and black witches to both, call a demon forward or to keep it at bay. In other instances it is symbolic to create balance in life.

The Catacombs of Paris is an underground grave site which contains the remains of approximately Six Million people, many of which were relocated from existing Parisian cemeteries at the time it was conceived (1782). Underground mines which were no longer used for their original purpose became the housing for the overcrowded Paris cemeteries. The head of the Paris Mine inspection service in 1810 took it upon himself to make the mere housing of the bones into a mausoleum of sorts, stacking skulls and bones in a way that was artistic in some senses. He also used old artifacts and fountains from the original cemeteries to make it a visitable burial place.

as above so below - pic 6 as above so below hexagram


Big Bad Wolf (2006) – movie review


Big Bad Wolf (2006)

Finally got to watch big bad wolf, a werewolf movie I had heard about many years ago. The set up was not so promising as a group of college students head to a remote cabin in the woods and settle in for a weekend of partying and sex. They’re not at the cabin long when the big bad wolf comes bursting in looking for flesh and blood. Derek, the nerdy kid whose step dad owns the cabin, and his friend, Sam, a tough biker-chick, big-bad-wolf-movie-poster-2006manage to escape. When they return home we get a whole family dynamic with the mean step dad, the mom trying to keep their marriage together, and Derek, the son who is trying to find his place in this dysfunctional family. There’s also a back story about Derek’s real father and how he died under questionable circumstances. It’s a decent story for a B-werewolf movie.

The werewolf is a big gnarly half man/half wolf who is able to talk. He delivers some great snarky comments throughout his killing sprees. They don’t show a transformation scene which is quite alright with me (like I haven’t seen it a thousand times already). I actually like the werewolf design here. It’s standard makeup prosthetics, but nicely realized. The beast is powerful, tossing teens around like wet noodles after bludgeoning them considerably. There’s some great spook house violence in the film, a decapitation, legs being ripped off, and torn flesh galore with plenty of spraying blood.

After you get passed the cliché college kids in the cabin scenes, the plot adds some interesting and entertaining aspects. There’s some comedic scenes and funny one-liners from the werewolf and the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a definite 80’s feel to it. It even has the requisite ’warning’ from the ‘old guy’ on the mountain road, this time played by Clint Howard, stating, “You don’t want to go up to that cabin…and if you do, stay in doors.” If you’re into 1980’s horror flicks you should definitely check this out despite the fact that it was made in 2006.

bb wolf pic 7

Good 80’s style werewolf flick for some nostalgic entertainment and cheesy comedic elements.

I give it 3.0 sharp claws out of 5 on the hairy horn-dog scale of werewolf horror flicks.

The Possession of Michael King (2014) – Movie review

the possession of michael king - pic 3

The Possession of Michael King (2014)

This is a film that uses found footage elements along with some traditional film scenes. It tells the story of a young family who suffers a tragedy. The father, Michael King, a devout atheist, sets out to prove there is no afterlife or spiritual world and to document it (or rather the lack of it). He and his camera-man go through some rituals, the blackest of black rituals, to summon bad spirits, angels, demons, anything to disprove Michael’s the possession-of-michael-king - posterproject statement. Nothing seems to garner any results, to Michael’s smug delight, until he visits a demonologist and performs a invocation. That’s when all hell breaks loose.

Though I found the film interesting and appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to do here, the film never fulfills its potential to be scary. It’s a bit creepy at points but it doesn’t build enough tension. The modern style of filmmaking with fast cuts and all action – all the time, never gives the viewer time to let the events emotionally unnerved them. If the film had two or three long scenes that built atmosphere, suspense, and psychological tension, it would have served the story better. This is a case where the found footage style hindered the intentions of the film. This is in sharp contrast to a film like, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which was a modern possession film, but had a slow atmospheric style that gets under your skin. For another example, what made The Conjuring so effective were the lulls in between the horror-action.

With that said, I still did enjoy the film. It had some unique ideas and visuals for a possession movie. I’d say watch this at your own risk because I can’t wholly recommend it. Some may enjoy certain aspects of the film, but as a whole, it fails to fully deliver the goods. However it was more enjoyable to watch than many of the recent possession films like, The Possession and The Devil Inside.

I give it 2.5 harbingers of hell out of 5 on the nasty demon scale.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – movie review

dawn-planet-of-apes- war scenes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

 Directed by Matt Reeves

Andy Serkis
Toby Kebbell
Jason Clarke
Keri Russell
Gary Oldman 

Finally a director that gets it. Starting with the traditions of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, countless Sci-fi films from the 50s, and continuing with Star Trek (original series), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and of course, Planet of the Apes, sci-fi has always been about more than the surface story. There has always been a layer of socio-political commentary underlying any good science fiction story, one that asks tough questions about human existence and society as a whole, one that often leaves us with more questions than answers. To me that is what makes a sci-fi story good (or any story for that matter). It’s what is missing from most of today’s sci-fi and horror films; depth. The first reboot of “…Apes” (2001) had no underlying theme at all. “Rise…” treaded lightly into the theme of animal treatment and testing, but didn’t drive too dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes posterhard on the subject (perhaps afraid to offend future advertisers).

Matt Reeves pulled no punches here, making “Dawn…” worthy of sharing the title namesake of the Pierre Boulle novel and the original series of films. The question here is about the responsibility of a leader sending his people to war, the inherent benefits and problems of compromise, and the question; can a war be avoided once a conflict in interests has arisen? The story covers both sides evenly, diplomacy vs declaration of war, and doesn’t force an opinion to which is better or worse, but it sure does get the conversation going. It is interesting that the film is about the Apes’ story and the humans are almost a secondary plot. Apes living in a delicate harmony must decide how to deal with the encroachment and danger of mankind. Most of the action is in the last half-hour, but the story is engaging and kept my interest from the beginning.

I have to commend the writers, Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, as much as Reeves for the kind of “Apes” film that I would actually recommend for its cerebral stimulation as much as its visual experience. If this film doesn’t get you thinking about the responsibility of war, then you’re just not the type of person that likes to bother with the bigger questions of the human condition. But that’s what makes a great science-fiction film and this film is one.


A seriously good sci-fi film with a strong moral and socio-political message, worth watching for those looking for a film with depth.

I give it 5.0 marvelous monkey’s out of 5 on the scale of chattering chimp flicks!


Mad House (1974) – Amicus Films – movie review

madhouse pic 4

Mad House (1974) – Amicus Films – movie review

Directed by Jim Clark
(Amicus in association with AIP)

Vincent Price
Peter Cushing
Robert Quarry
Linda Hayden

Vincent Price plays Paul Toombes, a veteran actor celebrating his career in the horror film genre and his most popular character, Dr. Death. At the party, they run a reel of horror films as an homage, and it plays like a tribute to Vincent Price himself, showing scenes from The Haunted Palace, Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror and The House of Usher. Toombes graciously accepts the accolades with his new (very young) Mad House One Sheetwife to be for both him and the co-creator of the Dr. Death character, Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing). But before the night is over his fiancé is murdered. Toombes falls apart and enters an asylum even though the police remain suspicious of him.

Upon being released from rehabilitation, Toombes is called upon to resurrect his Dr. Death character in a TV series. He is hesitant but is convinced by his friend Herbert to play the part. When they begin filming, mysterious murders of the crew are carried out by a man in a black cloak with a skull face. Toombes is unsure of his innocence as his mental instabilities revive and lead him into trippy visual scenes and strange encounters with his neighbor, the spider lady.

Mad House is an amusing who-dun-it tale for its time. It’s not terribly suspenseful or scary, but it’s a well-told story of murder, mayhem and mystery. I love the make-up on the Dr. Death character which I had first seen on the cover of Famous Monsters magazine, several years before I saw the film. In the music over the last scene and closing credits, its actually Vincent Price singing the song.

Price and Cushing give the film a certain charm to the movie and that’s enough to make it worth watching for horror fans of the older films genre. It is the last film for Vincent Price that would be released through AIP (American International Pictures) making the homage to his character’s (and his own) career even more poignant. It’s a fitting epitaph to an era of gothic horror films as new, higher budgeted, more aggressive and special effects heavy films like, The Exorcist, Halloween, Jaws, and Alien would take over the horror market.

Check out more Amicus film reviews at my master page: Amicus Overview