Chronicle (2012) – movie review

chronicle 2012 pic 7
Chronicle (2012)

Directed by Josh Trank
Story by Josh Trank and Max Landis 

Alex Russell
Dane DeHaan
Michael B. Jordan
Michael Kelly
Ashley Hinshaw

Chronicle is an enjoyable film with lots of action, likable characters and blockbuster special-FX. It is a film in the reality-style, hand-held, video-cam technique, films. It is not a found footage film – we are seeing everything in real time through the camera lens (even though it is being recorded on video). Early in the movie, this style helps build a strong relationship with the three main characters, but as the action begins to escalate it becomes a burden to the film.  The movie appeals to my sense of boyhood adventure and angst, so I think it is more suited to a malechronicle 2012 poster audience.

High school outcast, Andrew, is brought together in friendship with his popular cousin, Matt, and the even more popular, high school jock, Steve, when the three of them discover an underground cavern with a giant glowing metal object buried within it. Contact with the object causes hyper-telekinesis in the three youths. They form an instant bond as they learn to use their new found powers. Andrew documents all their adventures in harnessing these powers on his video camera and we see the tale manifest through his lens.

Just when it seems Andrew is going to shed his outcast and downtrodden social standing, a series of unfortunate events unfold – one, involving his sick mother and abusive step-dad and another mishap at a party that it seems every student from his high school has attended. The film does a great job at making you empathize with Andrew through these harsh issues but you are quickly horrified as the young man turns on his friends and uses his powers in the most destructive ways possible.

The rest of the film turns into a modern-day “Carrie” with a sci-fi angle, crossed with a superhero vs. supervillain battle between Andrew and Matt.  It is during this battle that the hand-held/reality-style camera work becomes a hindrance and the format is suddenly dropped and switches to third person camera angles, interlaced with surveillance camera and news-chopper shots. It was a bit jarring when this happened and led to a bit of a distraction. However, the action is quickly ramped-up, and I for one, was able to make the mental switch and enjoy the rest of the film. Despite the mentioned drawback, I did like the film, perhaps not enough to buy and own it, but it was definitely solid enough to spend a night watching.

Great action in this realistic superhero,  first person sci-fi film!

parlor of horror – movie review


Starry Eyes (2014) – Movie review

starry eyes pic 12

Starry Eyes (2014)

Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

(some spoilers in the review)
Sarah is a young actress living in Hollywood hoping to live her dream as a rising star. She works at a fast food restaurant, lives with her roommate and spends quite a bit of time with her group of friends, all striving to make it to the big time. The friends are the usual suspects, a musician who gets high most of the day, a director who constantly talks about his movie that never gets made, a bitchy girlfriend that puts Sarah down at every chance she can, and her more level headed roommate who seems to genuinely care for her.

Sarah gets an audition from a production company with some prestige and history in Hollywood. She is asked back for several more auditions, each one getting stranger than the last. It’s at the last meeting with the producer that she realizes she is being initiated into some kind of black magic cult. The Satan worshipers tell her of a transformation and a new birth that will take place enabling her to achieve success and be welcomed into the fold. She runs from starry-eyes-dvd coverthem terrified.

When she returns home from the last meeting, she is disoriented, unaware of passing time, paranoid of friends, and often lashing out at them for little reason. Her body begins to change as if her old self is rotting away to make room for the new person inside. Her skin turns black in places, her fingernails and hair fall out and her lips turn black. The tension gets taut as she changes, putting her friends in danger as her mind seems to loose touch with reality.

It’s unnerving to watch as her world turns ugly. Alex Esso is a charming actress and plays her part perfectly establishing the hope and dejection cycle of a person seeking fame. You root for her success but when you see how far down she falls, its tragic. It’s symbolic of many young people that go out to Hollywood with big dreams, only to find a life of drug addiction and of being abused by others. This is modern horror film, personal, ugly, and self inflicted in many ways. There are a few unanswered questions at the end, but I think it leaves the symbolism at the forefront and is all the better movie for doing so. You literally have to stab your friends in the back to make it in tinsel town and you will leave your old life and values in ruins. The end suggests that she makes the transformation and will live with a newfound success but at what cost? As I said, this is modern horror (Martyrs, Cabin Fever, It Follows, Human Centipede) and it doesn’t leave you with a good feeling afterwards. It’s a strong film and an original story, but sometimes I think I’d just rather have a good ol’ fashioned monster and a hero that defeats it in the end. That said, Starry Eyes should most definitely be on your ‘to watch’ list.

starry-eyes pic 4

A powerful film symbolizing the soulless path to Hollywood success.

I give it 3.9 creepy cultists out of 5 starry eyes on the blackened souls scale of hopeless dreamers.

Creature Features revisited – Ghosts and Angry Spirits

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Creature Features revisited

A look back at the golden age of sci-fi and horror, the 1950‘s/60‘s. Our subject today…

Ghosts and Angry Spirits

The Screaming Skull (1958)
The Haunting (1963)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
13 Ghosts (1960)


The Screaming Skull (1958)

The film starts with a dire warning from the film studio. Taking a page from William Castle they offer to pay for funeral expenses to anyone who dies of heart failure do to fright from watching the film, The Screaming Skull. Then music starts, a familiar composition to horror fans, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique which can more recently be heard in the intro to The Shining. It sets a somber tone and mood for the film. A recently married couple move into the estate mansion that the husband shared with his first wife. She had died unexpectedly a few years ago. But the shadow of the fist wife looms as the new wife hears screams in the middle of the night and is haunted by the vision of a skull. The film gets off to a slow start and the pacing doesn’t improve much until the last 20 minutes. The film tries to provide thrills, but never rises to a level above nostalgic. I imagine in the 1950s the image of a skull might be shocking, the skull image had not yet permeated the culture and was still viewed as a bad omen. Needless to say, after watching the film my wife had no reason to put in a claim for my funerary expenses.

the screaming skull poster the screaming skull pic 2

The Haunting (1963)

This film begins with a narrative describing the decades of tragedy that has befallen the Hill House. A professor investigating the paranormal invites several people to stay a week at the home. This includes Eleanor, a woman who has lived a sheltered, closed-in life and welcomes a reason to leave her old life behind, even if it’s just for a week. The rest of the film we can hear Eleanor’s thoughts as she talks herself through creepy incidents happening throughout the house. This is the film that provides ghostly chills by never actually showing a visual ghost or spirit. There’s loud banging on the walls, twisting of doorknobs, and wails, screams, and groans, all unnerving to Eleanor and the other guests at Hill House. Many of these simple techniques are used to great success in modern films, The Conjuring and Insidious. The acting in this film is top notch providing a degree of respect to the genre at the time. Despite the slow start and older style, this is still one of my favorite haunted house movies and a textbook example of building psychological suspense in horror.

The-Haunting The haunting - 1963 - pic 1

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The film starts with narration explaining the party thrown by millionaire, Frederick Loren. Although it is a no-no by today’s standards, this offers an hospitable charm, as if you’re being invited into the fold of knowledge, and welcomed into the house. It doesn’t take long for the action to begin as doors slam by themselves, and a swinging chandelier crashes to the ground. Frederick and his wife, Annabelle, speak to each other with cordial contempt. One or both will be dead before morning’s light. The film contains one of the creepiest old ladies you will ever see in film. The story is interesting and fast paced and if you like old films this can easily hold your attention today with the many plot twists and wonderful performances. It’s a pleasure to watch Vincent Price in anything he does. In classic William Castle style, there’s a scene where a full skeleton rushes the screen. At the time of the films theatrical run, theater’s were rigged with a full sized skeleton prop on wires that would continue the journey from the screen, right into the theater and zoom overhead down the center aisle. The screams this must’ve caused in theater houses in 1959!

House on Haunted Hill poster house on haunted hill pic 4

13 Ghosts (1960)

The marvelous intro, a count off of ghostly images representing the spirits we will see in the film, is a real attention grabber. But that’s not all William Castle has in store. How would you like a film that you can’t see the ghosts unless you put on the special ghost detecting glasses. Now, not only can you see them clearly, but they are in 3D. The Zorba family inherits a home from their distant uncle. The uncle has been known to dabble in the occult and is rumored to have even collected ghosts. The family confirms this early in their stay when a few questions on an Ouja board ends with the spirits attempting to harm the children. Margaret Hamilton plays a grumpy house maid. The children refer to her as ‘the witch’ (with a secret eye wink to the audience.) It’s a very active haunted house film and I imagine the effects were quite creepy at the time of its release. It’s nostalgia to watch today but a decent story makes it enjoyable. stars, Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Donald Woods. 

13 ghosts 1960 poster13 ghosts 1960 pic 11


The Screaming Skull

The Haunting

House on Haunted Hill

13 Ghosts

william castle pic 2

The Raven (2012) – Movie review

The Raven pic 4

The Raven coverThe Raven (2012)
The Raven is a fictional account concerning the last days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. On October, 7th, 1849, he was found on a park bench in Baltimore, close to death. He died a short time later. This film attempts to explain the events leading to his demise. A psychopath is stalking Baltimore, killing innocent victims and using Poe’s stories and prose as a guideline. Life imitating art. Poe is called upon by the Baltimore police to help unravel a series of clues and riddles left by the perpetrator. The killer kidnaps Poe’s love interest, Emily Hamilton, and holds her hostage – actually, he buries her alive, in a coffin – and dares Poe to unravel the mysteries he has laid out and find her.

The Pendulum scene is quite jarring as I myself began to suck in my gut as I watched every swipe of the blood splattering blade. The film portrays a thick gothic atmosphere as horse-drawn coaches race through the lamp-lit, cobblestone streets of old Baltimore, in attempts to beat the killer before the next death occurs. The Raven pic 1There are rich sets and wonderful costume portraying this period piece without being garish. John Cusack does a good job portraying the dark and egotistical drunkard, Poe, but the script never seems to take this aspect far enough. Alice Eve, as Emily, shows herself to be a solid actress, refined, and playing her part with an understated charm. All the acting is solid in this film, with equally good parts by Luke Evans, as Detective Fields and Sam Hazeldine, as Ivan. So, why isn’t this a better film?

One drawback is that much of the murders are not seen on film, which I think would have had more impact. Aside from the pendulum scene, in most cases we get to see the dead bodies but not the actual murders themselves. As far as mysteries go, this film leaves no room for the viewer to use their mind and intellect to solve the clues for themselves. Much like Poe’s stories, ‘The Raven’ must have a tragic ending. The impact of the ‘trade-off’ at the end could have been an emotional pinnacle for the film but the director failed to capitalize on it and missed a great opportunity. However, I think the biggest problem with this film is – it reminds one of just how good E.A. Poe’s stories were and makes you wish you were entrenched in one of those stories rather than this film. It is a watchable film for the Poe fan despite falling short in so many areas, but more likely for novelty reason and visual appeal rather than story.
The Raven pic 5 The Raven pic 2 The Raven

End of the Line (2007) – movie review

end of the line cover 2End of the Line (2007)
Anyone that lives in, or, near a big city will find this scenario familiar. You’re on the subway, late at night, all is relatively quiet, and suddenly, some nut jumps up from their seat yelling about the end of the world, judgment day, and Armageddon! Sound familiar? Well, suppose its a dozen people that stand up, they have knives, and they are all part of the same murder/suicide cult? They are convinced that by killing you and everyone else, they are actually saving your souls from the fires of hell – judgment day – that will befall earth in a matter of hours. In this movie, a small band of survivors escape the seized trains and regroup in the darkened subway tunnels. Now, they must battle a bevy of religious fanatics as they struggle to reach street level in the city. But, what will they find when they get there? For a small budget movie by an indie writer/director/producer (Maurice Devereaux), this is a very good horror movie. The high paced action is peppered with authentic dialogue about judgment day, religion and cults. It is a well-written and executed film. You will either love or hate the ambiguous ending which lets you decide for yourself, the final outcome of the movie. Personally, I liked it.
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The Tall Man (2012)- movie review

Tall-man coverThe Tall Man (2012)

The Tall Man poses the question, “How far would you go to save a child from a dismal fate?” In the small ex-mining town and surrounding areas of Cold Rock, Washington, children are disappearing. They are taken in the night by a dark figure – an urban legend called, The Tall Man. A local nurse, Julia (Jessica Biel), tries desperately to keep the townsfolk healthy despite the town’s failing economy and rampant alcoholism. She struggles for common sense with the townsfolk until one night, her young one, David, is kidnapped. She is hot on the trail of the culprit immediately upon his kidnapping, in some intense and high-action chase sequences. Short of revealing any spoilers, let me just say that what follows is a shocking plot twist that first reminded me of The Wicker Man, but turned out to be much different. This is a cleverly written and well-acted thriller by Pascal Laugier, director of Martyrs.

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The Possession (2012) – movie review

The PossessionThe Possession (2012)
Lions Gate Films

This film is about a demon trapped in a dybbuk box and then accidentally released upon an unsuspecting family. The young lady, Em, is eventually possessed by the spirit as the father investigates the causes of his daughter’s strange behaviors. He is lead to an old Hasidic community where he learns the demon’s name, Abizu, which translates to ‘taker of children’. A young Hasidic agrees to take on the exorcism which takes place in the hospital where Em is being monitored. The back story about three young ladies who accidentally conjure, then capture the demon in this box is interesting. The supposedly true story of what happened with this box in recent times is more believable and consequently scarier than this film. When Em looks into her throat and sees two fingers poking out just reminds me of The Grudge and the demon face in the sonogram was a nice digi-effect but wasn’t anything new. The exorcism was short with a lot of wind, running around the hospital, and Hasidic chanting, but failed to deliver the scares associated with this genre of movie. The Unborn had a creepier Jewish exorcism in it. This film took a fertile idea and made a mediocre horror flick, thick with unconvincing effects and rehashed themes seen a dozen times over. Do yourself a favor and look up the real story of this dybbuk box (there was no exorcism or possession with it). There was a good retelling on one of those Scy-Fy channel ‘true ghost story’ shows.
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Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) – movie review

Paranormal Activity 4
Paramount Pictures

Katie and Alex are back, not only to ruin this movie but to taint an otherwise decent PA 2. I don’t know where they got all those clips of people being so terrified in the theater, supposedly watching this film – they must have been showing The Exorcist in that theater. The main problem with this film is there is nothing really new about the approach, the scare tactics or the style, that we haven’t seen in the previous, much better films. The one new wrinkle, (and the truth about how the X-box Connect works) looked like a computer animation. The main character, Alex (Kathryn Newton), was likable and engaging but I was never all that frightened for her by Katie walking around in the middle of the night like a zombie. The mom comes off like the mom in Nightmare On Elm Street, only there because, there has to be a mom in the family. The kid, Hunter, was creepy early on but how much of his solemn expressions can we deal with. The one really frightening aspect, Alex levitating in the middle of the night, is swept under the carpet so fast, we hardly have time to be frightened by it – if I saw that clip of me lifting up in the air while I was sleeping, I would freak the f%#k out! The whole storyline and plot was so convoluted that I just didn’t care anymore. With films like these, it is much better to keep it simple (*Blair Witch 101) – we don’t need much of a story, we just need the scares. I am a fan of the series, PA 1 – 3 are fantastic films in my book. This one, you’ll probably watch out of curiosity, but you’ve been forewarned.

Creepy webcam in teenagers room                       Creepy Katie shadow

Creepy kid shadow as seen from creepy webcam   – creepy Katie shadow, again

My mom always had that same bewildered look when she came into my room…
not so creepy.

Sour Grapes, spit ‘em out! – movie reviews

Sour Grapes, spit ‘em out! – movie reviews

A list of bad movies I’ve seen recently – and short reviews on each film. Some of these are not too bad but have some major problems in them.

Of course, this is just my opinion. Actual results may vary.

Yellow Brick Road (2010)
This is another film that would have been better as a half hour episode of the Twilight Zone or perhaps an hour long MOH. The paradoxical and enigmatic ending was so damn good, too bad it had such a sucky movie attached to it. A group of investigators decide to follow the path that led to a whole town disappearing in the 1940’s. When they set off on this trail into the deep woods of New Hampshire, things get creepy. Compasses don’t work and they can’t get their baring from the stars. They hear music from the 1940’s somewhere in the distance but never reach it. The group begins to break down emotionally and fights break out. Eventually they are murdering each other. It sounds pretty good, right? Well, it was dragged out for so long before anything happened that the suspense turned to boredom and I lost interest. Trim 40 minutes of this film, in particular, the endless walking and stupid bickering, and get back to me- I‘ll put it on my like list.

The Innkeepers (2011)
The deliberate pacing and retro-style that worked so well for Ti West in House of the Devil fell flat here. We are left with a long-winded yarn that makes one yawn, about a new nightshift worker at the Yankee Peddler Inn. It was like watching an episode of Seinfeld without the comedy. We watch the clerk engage in mundane dealings like, ordering diner, fiddling around on her laptop, talking on the phone and doing laundry. There are a few creepy scenes here and there but not nearly enough to sustain a full-length movie. Finally, the ghost does appear but she’s not so scary and the ambiguous ending leaves you wanting more. Maybe the ghost killed the girl, maybe she died because of her own imagination causing an asthma attack; by that time, I really didn’t care either way.

Feast II (2008)
The characters in this film are so badass and cool … actually, they’re ridiculous and un-empathetic. I couldn’t care less if they lived or died. Does this director think he’s Tarantino? Only Tarantino (and perhaps a few others) can create bad-guy characters that are so charismatic you wind up liking them. That was what they tried to do in this film and failed miserably. What a waste of time.

Altered (2006)
Oh, I get it. This is a horror/alien/comedy/revenge style movie with a group of guys trying to strike back at the alien that killed their friend many years ago. They tie it up and keep it captive in the garage while they decide exactly what they should do next, unfortunately, they don’t do anything but argue about it. I got a good idea, they should turn on a TV and change the channel, so we can all watch something different.

Inkubus (2011)
A guy walks into the police precinct and confesses to a horrific murder(I know sounds like a bad joke; A guy walks into a bar…). There is some good intellectual banter in this film – sharp dialogue between the suspect and the detectives assigned to the murder. It is enjoyable to see Robert Englund in a role without all the make-up. Unfortunately, this film starts off strong but goes nowhere. What is the deal with this character? He is supposed to be some kind of demon but he disappears and reappears with a white spark and flash. I felt like I was watching Bewitched or Tinkerbell. You couldn’t make some fire and black smoke effects? Also, an incubus (and/or succubus) is a demon that is sexual in nature. Anyone that knows anything about horror knows that. It’s like they picked the title for this film out of a hat, regardless of whether or not it had anything to do with the film. What, was Werewolf taken?

Creature Features revisited – Strange Creatures

Creature Features revisited – movie reviews

Old movies still enjoyable to watch today

For those who love to indulge in the old 1950’s sci-fi horror scene here are some gems of the time. With so many movies being made in that era, it is easy to end up watching a complete dud or incoherent Z-grade film. So, I’ve picked out some films that are a cut above the rest. Naturally, you would need to have some love for the films of the era, some nostalgic enjoyment, and not compare them to today’s super fast-paced entertainment.

The Fiend Without a Face (1958)
I had been looking for this film for a long time, only – I didn’t know the name of it. I assumed it was The Atomic Brain or Donavan’s Brain, but I was wrong. Then I see a pic from the film on a website and bingo! With a little description you’re going to say, Oh, Yeah! I know that flick! The creatures in this film are nothing more than a brain with the spinal cord still attached. The creatures move by using their spinal cords like an inch-worm. They spring through the air using their spinal cords to attack and inject a needle into the back of your neck, at the brain stem, where they can suck out your brains. In the end, a group of folks are trapped in a house surrounded by these creatures and shoot at them when attacked. Kinda’ reminds me of the bizarro, Night of the Living Dead. In NOTLD its bodies without any brains – In this its brains without any bodies. In both they are trapped in a rural area house fighting to keep the creatures outside from getting in. One potent element in this film is the ‘squish & deflating’ sound made every time one of these things is killed.


The Trollenberg Terror – aka The Crawling Eye (1958)
There is something alive in the mist, horrible creatures from another world with giant tentacles… This is not a description from the recent film, The Mist. It is from the ‘50’s British, sci-fi/horror gem, The Trollenberg Terror. Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker), on his way to Trollenberg, Germany and the highest peak of the German Alps, meets two sisters, Sarah and Anne Pilgrim (Jennifer Jayne & Janet Munro). Anne has clairvoyant powers and is soon receiving thoughts from some entity atop the Trollenberg peak, which is  always  shrouded by cloud and mist. She sees the deaths of several mountain climbers and they are found, headless among the rocks. Deaths continue as Alan meets with a fellow scientist at the observatory keeping watch over Trollenberg. The perceived threat of Anne’s insights brings the creatures down from the peaks and they trap both tourists and scientists in the observatory. This film has a solid story, great acting, and the creatures are magnificent by ‘50’s standards (tentacles are always the hardest thing to animate). Definitely one of the better sci-fi films from the ‘50’s. Originally had an ‘X’ rating because of the gruesome decapitation scenes – although, they are mild by today’s standards.


The Monster that Challenged the World (1957)
This film never gets much respect, probably because it is often paired up as a double-feature DVD with a less than respected partner. So, I’m here to give this film some deserved praise. OK, the monster does not challenge the world, it challenges a small town and naval base at Salton Sea, CA. Located on the San Andreas Fault, an earthquake releases some horrid creatures from a fissure in the sea floor. These giant snail creatures have a taste for human snacks. Decent (robotic) creature effects drive this film. Stated as snails, they don’t look exactly like snails, they have mandible pincers, a gaping circular mouth, and their eyes are not on stems but are receded into the head. They are menacing looking, especially when one traps a little girl and her mother in a room at the naval base. Decent script and well acted, this film should be a ‘thumbs up’ for all 1950’s sci-fi aficionados.


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