Just in time for Halloween, two of my favorite bands have just released great new freaky albums to get you excited for the holiday!
And, if that weren’t enough, my old pal Lonesome Wyatt has given us another new classic for this and future Halloweens! The new album from Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks is a bit of a departure from his unique brand of haunting gothic country evidenced by his last album, and his work with Those Poor Bastards.
The new one “Halloween Is Here” is more of a throw-back to all those strange and obscure Halloween albums from the 1950s to the 1980s. It contains twelve spooky stories and monstrous sing-a-longs for your unholy holiday party at the local insane asylum.
Growing up, I’ve always been somewhat of a horror snob. I’ve retained an old school mentality “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to” attitude when it comes to horror movies. So it’s always a shock when I see a newer horror movie that legitimately gives me the goddamn creeps. Insidious (2010) did that for me. With movie mediums like Redbox, HBO, Vudu and the like, I rarely purchase movies anymore- Insidious made the cut and has a prominent place on my shelf. It had all my favorite elements: dark, creepy, jump scares with an amazing score that just sent chills up my spine. I haven’t been scared by a horror movie in a long time, but Insidious left me saying “what the f@!$” more than once, so I was excited when I heard the news Insidious 2 was coming out this year.
With that being said, I waited a couple weeks to go see it to get opinions from people who had seen it and to avoid the box office rush (It grossed 41.1 million opening weekend) of tweens that would scream at every little scare and trash my movie going experience and I was quite shocked at the reaction. What I deduced from friends and acquaintances was that you either really love this movie or you absolutely hate it. I haven’t met one person who was in between. It breaks down to whether or not you got what James Wan (story writer) was trying to portray. So without further adieu, onto the review for Insidious 2 (2013). The below will contain minor spoilers, don’t worry I’ll warn you when we get to the major ones!
The story follows the protagonists and returning actors Patrick Wilson (Josh), Rose Byrne (Renai), Ty Simpkins (Dalton) and Barbara Hershey (Lorraine). The cliff hanging climax of Insidious left us with the impression that the mysterious woman in Black has possessed Josh’s body and murdered Elise, played by Lin Shaye and the days following the incident.
The movie opens with a flashback to when Josh was a child and the first time he meets Elise and it is discovered he can use astral projection to travel into the further. A young Elise (Lindsay Seim) wanders the home in search of the entity that is haunting Josh, after reviewing pictures that shows the mysterious woman in black- later dubbed the Bride in Black. She finds the evil spirit in Josh’s closet and Elise investigates after Josh insists Elise should leave- and of course, the spirit injures her. The scene progresses to where Josh stands in a hypnotic states and says “I’ll show you” wanders into a hallway, points at a door and it opens by itself- causing Elise and Lorraine to make the decision to wipe his memory of his ability to astral project.
Now we flash forward to current day. Renai is in the police station and the investigators are suspicious of Josh’s involvement in Elise’s death. It is clear Renai is doubting Josh, but wants to desperately believe that he is not capable of murder. The family has moved back into Josh’s childhood home with Lorraine during the investigation. The movie is a bit of a slow starter, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as we get to see Patrick Wilson make his slow descent into madness- which he does tastefully well by the way. The first one to spot a spirit is Lorraine, and naturally she confronts her son Josh- who insists that all of the evil was left behind them when he came home from the further and to drop the subject.
This is where things start to get weird. Lorraine goes into Dalton’s bedroom to check on him, and in an ominous tone that only Ty Simpkins seems to achieve informs Lorraine that “there’s someone standing behind her” while he’s dead asleep. This is where we start to see “The woman in white” quite frequently throughout the film. Renai gets the brunt of the hauntings. She is plagued by the annoying sounds of a chiming musical baby stroller going off on its, the piano playing the song she wrote for Josh in the first movie, and other various creepy happenings. The woman in white seems to love tormenting poor Renai for some unexplained reason. The apparition even goes as far as smacking the living daylights out of Renai and knocking her unconscious. What I did notice is the lack of the serious tone the first movie had. There are still jump scares that make your heart skip a beat every now and again, but it doesn’t leave you with the same creeped out feeling it’s predecessor did.
Moving onto some major spoilers as the story progresses…
Dalton later informs his mother that, during the dream sequence where he warned Lorraine about the woman in white, he woke himself up and heard Josh talking to someone that wasn’t there and asks “is something wrong with daddy?” This is where things start to get interesting and where the film really captivated my interest. By now, it’s pretty apparent that it wasn’t Josh’s spirit that made it back from the further but the Bride in Black. Josh starts getting pale, losing teeth and he slams his fists down in frustration pleading “no, not yet!” Then there’s the mysterious womanly voice that whispers inside of his head “Your dead soul is rotting that live body.” Lorraine is the first one to figure out that something is really wrong with Josh and she calls Carl (Steve Coulter), the old associate that introduced her to Elise. Together with fan favorites Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Carl and Lorraine attempt to contact Elise in the further using Carl’s medium technique…scrabble dice.
The dice lead them to a Hospital that Lorraine used to work at, these discovery scenes were much too long in my opinion so I’m going to fast forward through them. Lorraine realizes that there was a patient the dice were leading her to named Parker Crane (Tom Fitzpatrick). The hospital is old and dilapidated but they manage to find an address that leads to an even older and more dilapidated house.
Inside they find some pretty disturbing stuff. With plenty of comedic relief from Specs and Tucker- the film starts to take on the direction of a dark comedy more than a horror film- which I thoroughly enjoyed. In this home they discover two apparitions, the spirit of a little girl with pretty blonde pigtails and the woman in white. It’s then Carl realizes they’ve been duped, and they were never really communicating with Elise, but in fact, the woman in white who deems herself the Mother of Death. They find a hollow bookshelf that leads to a lovely room filled with about twenty or so corpses all wearing veils and poised to sit in church pews where they discover that the Bride in Black is actually a notorious serial killer from a few decades ago. Even worse, that this is the spirit that is now inhabiting Josh’s body. (dramatic music)
Together, Lorraine, Carl, Specs and Tucker devise a plan to tranquilize Josh in attempts to give the real Josh a chance to slip back into his own body. Things get a bit crazy. Lorraine tells Renai the plan and she slips away with the kids while Carl goes to tranquilize Josh with Specs and Tucker for backup (This can only end well right?) It doesn’t. It does not end up well. The Mother of Death apparently keeps in contact with her Bride in Black (who we’ve all pretty much guessed was forced to dress up as a little girl by his mother and is Parker) child and Josh (Parker Crane Josh) is aware of their plan before Carl has a chance to tranq him down. It all goes downhill from there.
Meanwhile, in the further we get into some really interesting lore within the Insidious world- despite the lack of horror and scare the first film gave me the expectation for, this is where I truly fell in love with Insidious 2. I don’t want to spoil the entire film, but the real Josh finds Carl laying on the floor of the home in the further world (Yep, Bride in Black got him). Together they journey into the further darkness and this is where stuff gets cool. We learn that time isn’t relevant to the dead. The story loops back to the first film- particularly to the scene where Renai spots the creepy long haired villain in the baby’s nursery and the door opens on its own setting the alarm off. Turns out, Josh was the one that caused the door to open as he forced himself inside of the house to save his daughter from the vengeful spirit. Pretty neat eh?
Elise suggests that the only way to defeat the Bride in Black is to find her (well, his) home in the further and find something to use against him to draw him back. The time looping doesn’t stop there, without any memory of the woman in black Josh has to go back to at time where he does remember. Ringing any bells? The opening scene! Josh goes back in time to the very first session with Elise and says something along the lines of “I need to find where the woman in black lives.” and young Josh stands up and proclaims ‘I’ll show you.”
Flashback to the real world, the possessed Josh decides to go on a murderous rampage since it’s the only way to keep his body from decaying and has Lorraine, Renai, Specs and Tucker held captive more or less and they’re all fighting for their lives locking themselves in the basement. Dalton decides he’s going to astral project to help his dad get back to the body and Renai smacks the possessed Josh in the head with a pipe.
Back to the further, There’s some pretty creepy and at the same time comedic scenes to follow, including the woman in white getting beat to death (again?) with a rocking horse. After the woman in white is slain, the bride in black is called back into the further and we’re left with the impression that Carl (who apparently still had a heartbeat), Josh and Dalton all made it safely back and the Bride in Black is no longer a threat.
The movie concludes with a teaser for the third film that has already been announced due to Insidious 2’s successful box office.
This concludes any major spoilers. As I stated earlier, the film translated more as a dark comedy and lost the serious tone the first movie had. I’m left with the impression that James Wan wrote this part of the story as a way to explain some things that were left wildly unexplained in the first film. Specifically how the further works and how spirits are able to haunt a person rather than just a solitary area. I also believe that because Insidious was so good, perhaps they believed they would not be able to top it and left horror behind for comedy. I don’t feel that it “fell short” with horror, it’s my understanding that true horror simply wasn’t the direction they were going for when they made this film. Not that I’m complaining, I laughed several times throughout the movie and I can guarantee you’ll laugh more than you’ll feel scared or anxious for the characters. With that being said I feel that the types of people that will enjoy this movie are the ones who are invested in the story and not just looking for the thrill of being scared. If you’re that type, it’s still definitely worth the watch just wait for it to come out on Redbox rather than seeing it in theaters. For those who enjoy a good dark comedy, feel free to go see it and judge for yourself keeping an open mind.
Horror Grade: B!
The only thing keeping it from an A, was the expectation set from the first film.
Debra Morgan has completely succumbed to her guilt becoming depressed for killing LaGuerta the shocking season finale before, and has literally gone off the deep end, quitting her job at Miami Metro and joining a private investigation firm. A new serial killer is on the loose that Miami Metro has nicknamed, “The Brain Surgeon,” due to the fact he uses a bone saw to cut through the victims skull and remove the same piece of the their brains. A psychopath expert has been called in to help with the case, Evelyn Vogel. Fast forward through the captivating ensuing drama for a few episodes, and we get a surprise and find out Dexter’s old flame from last season, Hannah is back in Miami! In a nut shell, we find out the “Brain Surgeon” (Oliver Saxon) is Vogel’s son, he ends up killing his mother in front of Dexter, Deb’s private investigation firm is hot on Hannah’s trail, Deb tries to kill Dexter (ultimately saving him anyways), she rejoins Miami Metro, and is also shot in a showdown with Oliver Saxon and Dexter plans on leaving Miami with Hannah and Harrison to Argentina.
OK. Now we are caught up with most of what season 8 has to offer. In the final episode, we see a culmination of this seasons events. A hurricane is about the hit the city of Miami. Dexter gets a phone call, against Deborah’s wishes, telling him she has been shot by Saxon and is in the hospital. Dexter was already getting ready to leave with Hannah and Harrison to Argentina, when Deb’s ex-boss from the private investigation firm, Jacob Elway, finds that Hannah is trying to leave the country and goes to the airport to intercept her. Dexter spots him first and causes a diversion by telling security he had left a suspicious bag and walked away. The airport went on lockdown, detained Elway, and the flight was delayed. Dexter goes to visit Deborah in the hospital and the doctor tells him the bullet bounced around a lot but she is optimistic in Deb’s recovery. Hurricane Laura is bearing down on Miami, and since the airport is a no-go now, Dexter feeling the need to take care of the Oliver situation himself for what he has done to Deborah and to a lesser extent, Vogel, sends Hannah and Harrison on a bus to Jacksonville and promises to meet up with them. Elway finds out through his contacts that Hannah is boarding the bus, and boards himself. He attempts to arrest her on the bus, but before the bus makes its next stop, she drugs him and she is able to get off the bus and gets away to South America with Harrison.
Before Dexter is able to track down Saxon, he finds out Deb has had complications and had an aneurysm and was put on life support. As Dexter arrives at the hospital, he watches as Battista arrests Saxon, before he was able to finish Deborah off. Dexter goes to Saxon’s cell to give him a forensic test and lures Saxon to attack him, which Dexter then grabs a pen and stabs him in the neck, killing him. After reviewing the footage from the prison cell camera, both Quinn and Battista decide Dexter was acting in self-defense and he is free to go.
With the hurricane nearing Miami in full force, Dexter once again goes to the hospital to find it in disarray, with patients being shuffled around due to the ensuing storm. He goes to Deb’s room and after some thoughtful and meaningful words, unplugs her life support and takes her body to his boat unnoticed. He heads out to the ocean where no one will notice, drops her body in, and watches as she slowly sinks into oblivion. Dexter then drives his boat right into the middle of the hurricane, supposedly killing himself. His body never surfaces, everyone assuming he is dead. Hannah, at a restaurant with Harrison, reads in a newspaper that he is presumed dead. As the screen goes black, we open with the final scene in an undisclosed location and see a man unloading tree logs in a mill, from his semi. The man goes to a secluded home, not talking to anyone, and sits down at his table. It is then that we find out that the man is a bearded scraggly, Dexter.
Being a huge fan of the series since season 1 episode 1, I feel that the series ended nicely. I didn’t want to see the happy ending that some people were, but I didn’t necessarily want to see him caught or dead either. There were some very symbolic things happening in this last episode. Dexter knew that everyone he had ever loved or cared about ended up dead. He couldn’t do that to Hannah and especially Harrison. All he had ever wanted since a child was to be like everyone else and feel something like everyone else did. Once he did, he realized that he was disastrous in the lives of the people he had cared about so dearly. So his punishment for himself was seclusion. The hurricane he drove right into at the end, I felt reflected how he felt about his life. His life ended up being a hurricane out of control, causing destruction, with no end in sight. So rather than taking the easy way out, he decided he would rather seclude himself from everyone left that he loved, in order to keep them safe from him.
“In the brain and not the chest. Head shots are the very best.”
How to live with Zombies…Fido style!
Being a zombie fanatic has its drawbacks. Watching film after film, the respective plots almost seem repetitive with few redeeming qualities. With that being said, every once in awhile I come across a Zombie flick that really stands out to me. Fido (2006), directed by Andrew Currie, is one of those zombie flicks that will always remain a favorite and has a special place in my rotting heart.
Fido opens with a delightful 1950’s black and white stylized introduction. Cheerful music chimes in the background and introduces you to Zomcon- the pioneers behind eliminating the zombie threat. Just how did they accomplish this? Dr. Geiger, the mastermind behind Zomcon, was the innovative force that realized destroying the brain eliminated the threat from the undead. Geiger also created a pacification collar that renders the undead into labor slaves, reforming them into productive members of society.
After this cheeky introduction we find ourselves in the town of Willard- which is a nice little easter egg reference to the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead. The film follows the story of a little boy named Timmy Robinson (K’sun Ray) living in a middle class suburb. We find ourselves enveloped in a world where one of the primary concerns of the middle class suburbia is to accumulate enough money to afford a Zomcon funeral- a guarantee that once you die, you stay dead and thus do not have to suffer the fate of becoming a Zomcon undead slave. The struggle is primarily shown through Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker) who is deathly afraid of zombies, but finally tolerates one due to his wife’s incessant urgings. Timmy’s family receive their first Zomcon pet, whom Timmy lovingly names Fido (Billy Connolly.) It is hard to delve too deep into the film without giving away significant spoilers, but the dark comedy plays out the events of Timmy and his faithful Fido attempting to overthrow the evil Zomcon (hey, someone’s gotta be the bad guy.) There’s plenty of drama and struggle that create an interesting character arc, including Timmy’s mother, Helen (Carrie-Ann Moss) who develops a love interest in Fido. Beware there are minor spoilers below!
While owning a zombie pet is not necessarily frowned upon, hell, there’s even a neighbor of Timmy’s who keeps a zombie girlfriend, there is still a stigma surrounding zombies that makes people uneasy. And deservingly so! The education of young children includes shooting lessons in the schoolyard.
“Now, I know you’re not supposed to have a hand gun until you’re twelve… but it can come in real handy.”
So Fido, in his newfound home faces the prejudice of neighborhood bullies and a faulty Zomcon collar. As a result of the faulty collar, Fido unfortunately kills a neighbor and turns him into a zombie. Timmy tries to rectify the problem by killing the newly zombified neighbor, but a small outbreak manages to occur. After some futile attempts to cover up the incident, Zomcon eventually takes Timmy’s beloved Fido to be destroyed.
Of course, Timmy can’t sit idly by while his beloved friend is destroyed. Timmy manages to hook up with ex-security chief Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson) to get into Zomcon to rescue Fido. Of course, this is where all hell breaks loose. Timmy is thrown into a zombie “wild zone” by new security chief, Jonathan Bottom (Henry Czerny,) after uncovering Zomcon’s dirty little secrets. Timmy’s father, Bill finally overcomes his fear of zombies and comes to the rescue- only to be tragically killed by Mr. Bottom who Fido viciously kills to protect Timmy. So after plenty of blood and death, Fido does have a happy ending that most zombie flicks lack. Fido is returned to the Robinson residence where he adopts the role as father of the household, much to Helen’s delight. Timmy welcomes a newborn sibling into the world (don’t worry, it’s Bill’s) and Helen remarks that she is happier with Fido than she ever was with Bill (ouch.)
Oh man, if you love a little humor with your horror, have I got a movie for you! In today’s class, we are going to be reviewing a B flick movie called “Dead Moon Rising”. Of course, it’s a zombie flick…but hey, you can never get enough of zombies, right? This movie was released on April 1st, 2007 so it came a bit before all the zombie craze. The movie was filmed in the great city of Louisville, Kentucky and stars Jason Crowe, Mike Seely, and Erica Goldsmith as well as many other talented actors. Before anyone asks…yes, it’s a B flick that is meant to look like a B flick.
“Dead Moon Rising” DVD Cover
Zombies take over the world, people meet up and travel together for survival, and it ends in some climactic scene where everyone lives happily ever after…right? That’s usually how a typical zombie movie would go, but “Dead Moon Rising” has a unique take on the zombie genre. Plus, let me reiterate that it’s a B movie, so it’s supposed to be fun. It all starts out with Jim, played by Jason Crowe, and his coworkers go through their normal day. Then they begin to notice unusual things happening when a customer enters into the store.
Actor Jason Crowe showing the group how to slaughter zombies
The group then is forced to travel from their location, where they pick up more survivors. They meet the barely legal April, Jim’s hot ex-girlfriend Vix, and even his brother tags along for the adventure. Of course, I’m not going to spoil the rest of the movie for you because I would love to see my students do their horror homework and watch the movie! It is available for purchase on Amazon as well as 7 day rentals. Still not sure what you’re signing up for? Then click here for a small preview of one of the scenes.
The film stars Sheri Moon Zombie (Heidi Hawthorne), Bruce Davison (Francis Matthias), Jeff Daniel Phillips (Herman “Whitey” Salvador), Judy Gleeson (Lacy Doyle), Meg Foster (Margaret Morgan), Patricia Quinn (Megan), Ken Foree (Herman Jackson), Dee Wallace (Sunny), and Andrew Prine (Reverend Jonathon Hawthorne). In my opinion an all-star cast.
Rob is a talented film maker. With a recognizable visual style all his own, he has come a long way since House of 1000 Corpses. This is the first film he has directed that he actually had full creative control over, and it shows. Like a twist combination of a Kubrick/Argento film that has hints of Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria in it, it’s the best way I can describe it. It is a film that has divided his fan base even further, after his ambitious Halloween films.
The Lords of Salem is completely drenched in atmosphere. Without the buckets of blood and gore Zombie has become known for, this film has very little of these things. Instead he chose to build up on the dread as we watch Heidi delve deeper into hallucinatory insanity, and he conveys this masterfully. This is a disturbing film with scenes of odd and nightmarish pieces, the hellish “mummified” priests stroking dildos comes to mind, but this effect is not just Rob Zombie’s genius behind the director’s chair. Sheri Moon Zombie, being the lead in the film, actually carries the story very well with her acting, her best performance yet. The score John 5 (Rob Zombie’s guitarist) presents, perfectly compliments the film. He stated that he wanted to make a soundtrack that wouldn’t distract the audience, but would also not easily be forgotten, and he did exactly what he set out to do.
The acting that we get from Meg Foster, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, and Judy Geeson, was nothing less than fantastic. Meg Foster playing the “lead” witch of the coven, delivers her dialogue with excellent potency. The choice to cast these older women who would normally be seen as playing nice “Grandmother” type characters was a great decision, given they do some abnormally fiendish things.
For me the novel, written by Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson, was a must to complete my experience, even though it was a different experience altogether, they both complemented one another strongly. While the whole of the novel was mostly akin to the film, there were some violent scenes and other small changes in the novel that didn’t make it onto celluloid. Now I love violence and gore as much as the next horror fanatic, but I don’t think most of it would’ve worked well with the film, as it would have taken away from the ambience and atmosphere that Rob had worked so hard to build throughout. It fills in some gaps that aren’t really explained in the film, but aren’t completely necessary either. For a debut novel, it was very well written. It’s classic Zombie from start to finish.
I would grade the film a B+ and the novel an A-. However, I don’t think the novel could exist without the visuals of the film.
Not satisfied with being an accomplished artist, Hal is also a musician. Frontman for the horror-punk-thrash-metal band, Jason and the Kruegers, he obviously enjoys being in the spotlight.
I believe that is him in the viking helmet.
When Darth Biscuits sent me this title to review with the admonishment, “Be gentle, he’s a friend of the site!”, I was not quite sure what to expect. What I discovered upon opening his package delighted and amazed me. I now wish to share here, a little of the experience I had reading this enchantingly dark graphic novel.
Many times, the cover of a comic book while skillfully executed, can be merely a ruse designed to capture the potential reader’s attention and if possible, compel him to part with his precious coinage. In the case of this deliciously depicted integument, all that is promised is delivered.
The thing that first struck me as I opened the book, was the sullen, brooding, anger that emanated from the pages. Backgrounds that created an almost claustrophobic sense of confinement as if I was actually trapped inside my own head. The beautiful yet somberly painted panels offer a maelstrom of wildly abstract images intermixed with portraits of almost photographic realism. The book also contains elements of Christian, Greek, Norse and even Druidic mythologies that I found to be fascinating . As a fan of horror comics, I would happily add this to my library based on the artwork alone.
The story primarily features a nameless, but somewhat recognizable young protagonist who must ultimately discover his own identity and place in the chaotic universe into which he has been violently thrust. Relentlessly pursued for reasons unknown through the demesne of a cruel god, he is forced to put his trust in a powerful mystic entity known only as Autumn. As the story progresses we only see more of the deep symbolism so prevalent in this book. It seems almost like a nightmare, ripe for interpretation. As I reached the end of the second issue, I was left feeling perplexed and eager to have all my questions answered in the next issue, as the last page so tantalizingly proclaimed. Discovering that the next volume in this twelve issue masterpiece was not to be published until early 2014 caused me to grind my teeth with frustration.
I spoke briefly with Hal. He had this to say, “I tend to work on many projects all at once. Although, as odd as it may sound, “The Withering” is still the most important to me. I look at all my other work as skill building to prepare me for the next issue.”
Unfortunately, I am not certain that this book will be for everyone. The narration sometimes reads like the journal of a mad 19th century poet. I often found myself reading pages multiple times. In order to appreciate the full impact of the stunning illustration, and rich melancholy of the text, one can not simply glance briefly at the page. It must instead be studied. Pored over like an ancient scroll penned in some forgotten tongue. For the casual reader, this may be too heavy of a commitment. This is most definitely not an issue of “X-Men or “Avengers”.
The only difficulty I could perceive was in the occasionally laborious translation of the tiny, ofttimes almost indecipherable verse. One must understand however, that the unique font adds to the character of the book and that to enlarge it might detract from the visual clout of this expertly painted graphic novel.
All in all, this is some very good shit. If you consider yourself a purveyor of fine graphic art and like a good story, you owe it to yourself to read “The Withering”. It has earned a place of honor in this clown’s collection and would be a lovely addition to yours as well.
“This body of work can best be described as depictions of a narrative. With the imagery I seek to provoke feelings of horror and absurdity while expressing the burden of human consciousness and existence, but this is merely a departure point. The true subject of the work deals with a state of tension, the visual and mythical objectification of a metaphysical rebellion. An art which inspires, triumph over fate, becoming through ordeal, a constant struggle I have come to call: The Withering.” – Hal Moore
Also known as its original title, Revenant, the story follows struggling writer Paul Anderson (Stephen Twardokus) and his girlfriend Stella (Liesel Kopp) as they move into a house that is rumored to be haunted. Paul is hoping to write a book about the house and his paranormal experiences therein. While quiet and unassuming at first, they soon realize the stories about the house are true. Strange things begin to happen and they soon find they are not alone, something evil resides in the house with them.
With the original title being changed from Revenant to An American Ghost Story, I can’t help but feel like they are trying to cash in on the recent box office success of The Conjuring. The film seems like a mixture of Sinister, Poltergeist, and Paranormal Activity. While slow going at first, the first scare is something we’ve seen a thousand times. You all know the drill, you walk into the kitchen and a cupboard opens up on its own. Then more, and suddenly every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen is open. Throw in a chair sliding across the room and you have the start of a predictably generic ghost story.
The entire movie felt too slow. I was constantly waiting for something to happen in between the meaningless and sometimes boring dialogue, and when it did I thought to myself, that can’t be it, it’s building toward something. There are better scares to come. I waited and I waited, and before I knew it, the end credits were rolling.
While the film played on things we’ve all seen before, I didn’t hate everything about it. There were rare scenes that I thought were great ideas, I just didn’t feel like they were executed very well. One in particular, Stella had already moved out after the kitchen scene, being overly dramatic (Liesel’s acting and her character being terrified) about her “cupboard and chair” experience, even initially knowing she was moving into a haunted house, Paul is asleep in bed and stirs from sleep to clearly find a full bodied entity under the sheet with him. As he attempts to touch the body that is laying next to him, the head clearly turns toward him. The director uses this a couple of times throughout the film. There is something menacing and terrifying about seeing the head, under a sheet, suddenly dart in the direction you are standing, knowing it is looking right at you. While I really liked this idea, and thought it was one of the better and original ideas implemented, the director overdid it. The sheet over the ghost thing got tired after the first few times, especially at the end when Paul wanders around the house trying to find the ghost by holding a sheet and randomly covering and swirling it around open spaces, until it actually comes into contact with the entity. And this is where we find out that the ghost actually has some kind of “powers” and is able to push objects and grab Paul without actually touching them.
To no surprise, the ending was about as predictable as the rest of the film, when once again we see the sheet rise out of the suitcase, after Paul finally moves out of the house.
All in all I would say this movie was quite lackluster and somewhat boring, from the generic and predictable storyline and one dimensional characters, to the acting, the score, and the execution of the director. The movie is slated for release on DVD on August 20, 2013.
I’m not even sure where to begin with this film, but I can tell you one thing for certain.
Do. Not. Watch.
Salvage that 97 minutes of your life and never have a single regret about skipping this movie. Don’t worry, I’ll most definitely explain and this review will be full of spoilers so that I can save you multitudes of disappointment.
So I’ll start with the good. Juno Temple (Alicia), Emily Browning (Sarah), and Michael Cera (Brink) all did a fantastic job with what they were given. The acting was not the problem here, and I’m sure if they used the film to display their acting abilities, they’d be able to get more roles from it- especially Michael Cera who is breaking away from the comedy into a more thriller/suspense genre. What makes this movie a downright travesty is the fact that, we, the consumers and viewers, were blatantly lied to.
See the trailer below :
When you watch the trailer, it has everything. It teases and taunts you with the possibility of a fantastic thriller. A young girl trapped on a remote island with a bunch of crazy teenagers. What’s going on? Is there some voodoo curse that’s causing animals to act strange? Is she slowly losing her mind? Are the teenagers she’s trapped with really as crazy as they appear?
The movie starts out great. You get the set up from any traditional horror/suspense movie where things start good and then something bad happens creating a slow build up. In this case, Alicia is visiting her cousin Sarah in South America (Chile to be precise). Sarah’s boyfriend Agustin (Who is also named Agustin Silva), Brink (Cera), and a mutual friend Barbara (Catalina Moreno) are along for the ride to an island where they plan to spend a few days. Perfect! This creates a nice tone of isolation right?
Sarah gets a phone call and says she has to go back to take an exam. Alicia naturally doesn’t want her cousin to leave. She doesn’t know any of these people, she is in a foreign country, but Sarah insists on going alone. This is going to be good! We think to ourselves, right? This movie has an ultimate goal in mind. You’ll keep thinking to yourself throughout “This has to get better. It’s just a slow starter. It’s going to be better.” But then Magic Magic keeps slapping you in the face saying- “Nope, no I’m not. I’m not going to get better. I’m going to get worse.”
So for some unexplained reason, the group of teens, minus Sarah has to pick up some older lady. They find two abandoned puppies, Brink insists on taking one and they do- only to abandon it on the side of the road several miles later after it wouldn’t stop crying. Alright! We’re thinking to ourselves. This is setting the tone for some sadistic stuff down the line!
The movie drags on as they get to this island. Tensions are high because Alicia accidently dropped Barbara’s backpack in the water (that’s probably the most exciting part in the movie). Alicia feels isolated, and has a crappy night’s sleep. There’s no cellphone reception so Agustin and Brink the next morning offer to walk with Alicia so she can call Sarah from a hill. During which time we see a moment from the trailer that promised us excitement. The scene where Brink shoots a parrot after Alicia begs him not to. She’s clearly upset, she calls her cousin Sarah and calls the kids she’s around sadists. Sarah says she’s going to be gone another day – blah blah blah, then Alicia gets humped by a dog for a moment.
20 minutes of boring, absolutely nothing going on later, Sarah finally makes it to the island. Brink finds a picture of the parrot he shot and writes I’m sorry with a smiley face on it and puts it under Alicia’s pillow. They all go to a rock to go cliff jumping and Brink tries to make amends with Alicia for shooting this bird. Everyone jumps off this cliff but Alicia and she has a mini panic attack.
Sounds riveting and exciting right? It’s gets better- for about 3 minutes.
Turns out Agustin is an amateur psychologist/hypnotist and he tries to hypnotize Alicia- who we’ve come to discover hasn’t been sleeping the past three days. Under hypnosis, Brink manages to get her to dance “like a whore” and then stick her hand in the fire.
At this point, everyone is beginning to think Alicia is crazy and mentally ill, with good reason. She takes some muscle relaxers but doesn’t go to sleep- instead leads to the only redeeming moment in this movie. She sneaks into Brink’s room, takes her pants off and jams his face in her crotch and suffocates him for a minute then lets him go, puts her pants back on and walks out of the room.
The look Michael Cera had on his face was just hilarious. It made me laugh for 3 minutes straight. Then the movie went straight back to boring.
That’s kind of the look I had on my face when the movie was over
Turns out- nothing really was going on except Alicia was having trouble sleeping. She overdoses on muscle relaxers and sleeping pills and they take her to some “voodoo witch doctor” where she died on the table during some stupid ritual. The witch doctor lady says “No no, she’s not really dead, just keep rubbing some herbs under her nose and keep her body warm. Her spirit will come back into her body”
Cut scene to them on a boat sailing towards the mainland to reach a real doctor who they should’ve went to in the first place, Emily Browning rubbing herbs under Juno Temple’s nose, Agustin’ rubbing her legs, and Michael Cera sitting there with a stupid look on his face. She’s still dead, clearly not waking up. The end.
Nope. I’m not joking. That’s the entire movie.
I try to find the artistic value in every film I watch, and like I said, the acting was not bad in this movie. It’s the fact that we were lied to that irritates me about Magic Magic. The trailer sets up false expectations for something that is reminiscent to Last House on the Left or Spit on Your Grave and what we get instead is a very slow, very stale borefest where we’re constantly waiting for something to happen. Then the movie ends on an unsatisfying and bitter note, very abruptly.
What kills me is the potential this movie had. It had the perfect setup for something truly sinister. It could have gone a number of routes- the black magic, voodoo route as to why she wasn’t sleeping, the murderous sadists, or even keeping with the theme that all the horrible things happening was actually Alicia and it all turned out to be some mind warping twist. But no, it was a tale about a teen who was suffering from insomnia and overdosed on pills. A horror tragedy.
Horror Homework Grade: F.
Don’t watch this movie, unless you like that kind of thing.