Salvage (2006)

Directed by Jeff Crook [Other horror films: N/A] & Josh Crook [Other horror films: Demon Hole (2017)]

In many ways, Salvage is a tragic film. It’s a movie that has potential, but despite some good ideas, I just don’t know if it’s worth it, and I definitely think the finale could have been done better.

Ambitious in some ways, especially with the twist to the story, I can appreciate Salvage for what it’s attempting to go for. It’s perhaps the type of movie that, after you’re finished watching it, you might want to read some theories online and try to make sense of it. In truth, it’s not that complicated, but it is somewhat confusing, because I just felt there wasn’t a clear enough answer given at the conclusion.

I think Lauren Currie Lewis did well with the role, especially for an individual who doesn’t have that much acting experience. Chris Ferry’s (Rise of the Dead) character never really got that much character, but he looked threatening when he was peeling faces off, so that’s not such a bad thing. Cody Darbe was occasionally amusing, but boy, was he a bad boyfriend.

Really, having seen this film once before (though I admit, it has been at least eight years, if not longer), I was hoping that the time away would allow me to come into this one fresh, and enjoy it just a bit more, or at least enough to see the uniqueness of the film’s answers. And I do sort of like what the film’s finale was going for, but I just don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been.

Salvage isn’t an easy movie for me to dislike, because I keep wanting to give credit to the film’s explanation of a Groundhog Day-esque situation, but so much of the film feels disjointed and dream-like (for the last third of the film, I was assuming all of it was a dream, which isn’t correct, but it’s also not incorrect, because that’s how we roll brahs) that it’s hard to really enjoy. 

Look, Salvage isn’t terrible. I don’t think it’s necessarily good, but it’s not terrible. I think it’s a movie that had more ambitions than they could really succeed in, but maybe if I watch this a third time, with the ending in mind going in, maybe it’ll do more for me.


Spiker (2007)

Directed by Frank Zagarino [Other horror films: N/A]

The last time I saw this one, which was also the first time, it was on the now-defunct Chiller channel. Occasionally Chiller played decent films, but Spiker shouldn’t be confused with one of those, and is really quite a poor film.

In this film’s defense, the kills aren’t bad. The killer uses railroad spikes (hence being known as the ‘Spiker’), and he stabs people through the throat, in the back, in the head, all that fine stuff. He’s also gifted at spike-throwing, and manages to throw quite well from a good distance and impale people from afar, which would make a quality addition to the Summer Olympics.

As far as positive elements go, if I’m being honest, that’s about it.

The story here just isn’t good. I get the sense that maybe there’s supposed to be a bit more to it (they make a little deal out of the fact one of the girls looks just like her aunt, and I’m guessing that she was supposed to be the daughter of the Spiker, but they just didn’t want to film it or something). The plot is just generic and weak with little going for it.

Of the six main teens (Giselle Rodriguez, Matt Jared, Ginger Kroll, Josh Folan, Elena Tover, and Adam Shonkwiler), the only performance I actually liked was Tover’s. She was sort of the generic spiritual, goth-ish girl, but she at least had personality, which was far better than the lead, Rodriguez, who I admit I thought was actively bad. Frank Zagarino (who also directed this film) looked unique, but I can’t say he’s that memorable, and the groundskeeper, played by David ‘Shark’ Fralick (Uncle Sam) was okay, I guess, if it was his idea to play a character that was functionally pointless.

In fact, the whole ending was somewhat pointless, and if you think you’re watching a movie that’s going to have any type of normal conclusion or closure of any type, boy, are you in for a fun time. Spiker’s ending was somewhat ballsy, as I don’t know many directors who’d want to end a film in such a shitty manner. Maybe if it had been executed differently, it could have worked, but the way they did it here just seemed more than a little lacking.

Spiker isn’t a film I have fond recollections of from the first time I saw it, and seeing it again, I can fairly say this movie isn’t good. At the time of this writing, it sports a 2.4/10 (with 459 votes), and though I don’t think it’s that bad, I get why many do. It’s not a good movie, and I’d not personally recommend it.


Deadly Stingers (2003)

Directed by J.R. Bookwalter [Other horror films: The Dead Next Door (1989), Robot Ninja (1989), Zombie Cop (1991), Kingdom of the Vampire (1991), Shock Cinema Vol. 3 (1991), Shock Cinema Vol. 4 (1991), Ozone (1993), The Sandman (1995), Polymorph (1996), Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000), Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001)]

Originally titled Deadly Stingers, Mega Scorpions (which isn’t near as interesting a title, in my opinion) is classy early 2000’s creature feature fun. It’s far from a good movie, but if you enjoy films such as Spiders, Python, Glass Trap, and King Cobra, you may well enjoy this.

Of course, the special effects are pretty horrible, especially the giant 3D ants, which truly look awful. And yet, I can’t help but postulate that they still look better than post-2010 Syfy efforts (Lavalantula, 2-Headed Shark Attack, those types of things). I mean, it’s no doubt shitty, but this was from 2003, so it’s almost charming, whereas later films don’t have near as much an excuse.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deadly Stingers had some unique story arcs. Some characters that I would have bet would have lasted longer died somewhat early on, and though this movie is really no better than any number of generic giant insects go wild films from the time period, I did appreciate how it almost had an air of unpredictability, or at least more unpredictability than you’d expect from a movie of this caliber.

The cast here was pretty fun all around. True, some of the performances didn’t shine (such as Sewell Whitney, Marcella Laasch, John Henry Richardson, and Stephen O’Mahoney), but then you have decent performances from Nicolas Read, Sarah Megan White (who had horrible delivery, but her character grew on me), and a personal favorite Trent Haaga (of Slices and Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula). There was even a one-hit wonder in the form of a short scene with Ariauna Albright, who I know as one of the leads in Bloodletting.

Now as you can imagine, portions of the story are flimsy, and with the special effects being a general failure, this is one of those movies that a large swath of people, even horror fans, would likely not seek out. I will give mild credit to a sequence in which an autopsy is done on a giant scorpion in order to remove it’s venom sacks – that scene was #gnarly.

I did have more fun with this movie than I suspect many would. That doesn’t mean I think the movie’s good, of course, but if I’m being fair, I do think, especially for the type of movie it is, that it’s watchable, and I think that it’s one I’d be okay watching again.


Sam’s Lake (2006)

Directed by Andrew C. Erin [Other horror films: Playdate (2012), Havenhurst (2016)]

So Sam’s Lake is a movie I’ve seen a single time, that time being back in October 2009. I haven’t seen it since then, so revisiting it in October 2021, I was somewhat curious. I didn’t remember much about it aside from the fact that there was a lake involved, and so was certainly interested in seeing it again.

As it is, Sam’s Lake isn’t that good of a movie at all. The first 50 minutes or so were competent, as far as generic slasher-fare and character building is concerned, but some elements pop up toward the last third of the film that I just didn’t care for. Apparently this film is based off the director’s 2002 short with the same title, and I sort of wonder if that one had the same finale this one did, because if not, that short might be a better version of the same story. Regardless, the fact this is based on a short goes a long way to explain how threadbare this feels.

Fay Masterson, Salvatore Antonio, Sandrine Holt, and Stephen Bishop (who I randomly know from the sports drama Moneyball) all did a decent job, despite the fact that the story didn’t give a whole lot for some of these characters to do. There’s not a big cast in the film, though, and the fact that half of the main cast was decent is at least something to commend.

For the most part, though, this story is just generic slasher stuff, and absolutely none of it is surprising or noteworthy. None of the kills were really anything to write home about, and the twist that sets off the last thirty minutes was something I saw coming ten minutes in (and I know I said I’ve seen this, but given it’s been around 12 years, you can rest assured knowing I had forgotten about all of these characters, not to mention any twists the film might have had). There’s just little of interest here.

Sam’s Lake isn’t a good movie. If you want to see an okay slasher from the mid-2000’s, I guess you can go check this out, but I just don’t think most people would find it particularly worth it, and I suspect most would find this as forgettable as I have.


Wicked Little Things (2006)

Directed by J.S. Cardone [Other horror films: The Slayer (1982), Shadowzone (1990), Shadowhunter (1993), The Forsaken (2001)]

I can’t say that I love Wicked Little Things, because I don’t, but I do find it a moderately enjoyable film a lot of the time, and though I don’t think it’s great, at the very least it’s a movie that might be worth seeing a couple of times.

The emotional turmoil the main characters are going through (a mother with two daughters who has recently lost her husband) adds a lot of feeling to the film. Lori Heuring works great with Scout Taylor-Compton, and I buy the mother-daughter relationship. Throw in some political messages, and Wicked Little Things shows it has a bit more to offer.

Luckily, I don’t have much cause to speak about my politics in the course of reviewing movies. It may be relevant on occasion (The Thaw, for instance), but for the most part, the fact I’m on the far-left doesn’t really come into play. Here, though, we have children that were killed in a mine accident in the 1910’s coming back for revenge, which I certainly can’t fault them for.

Labor laws in the USA are still quite horrible (look at the lack of power so many unions have – any union that has a no-strike clause is functionally pointless), and if capitalism could get away with it, children would still be working in mines. You can work at 14 years old in many places (with restrictions). God bless capitalism, amiright?

Now, I think a fair point could be made that Wicked Little Things didn’t focus on this that much – even facing a descendant of the mine owner, none of this was on the forefront. Still, if you enjoy the eight-hour workday and the end of the worst of child labor, thank your local socialists and communists, as it’s due to their fight that we have those nowadays.

I wasn’t blown away by Lori Heuring (Hunger), but she did decent, and shined in her scenes with Scout Taylor-Compton (who went on to play Laurie in the Halloween remake). Taylor-Compton was perhaps my favorite performance here, on that note – she did great with the emotional scenes, and possessed a good strength. Chloë Grace Moretz (who later played Carrie in the 2013 movie, and also starred in 2018’s Suspiria) was decent as a child actress, though it’s hard to say that she really stood out.

Not a lot of other performances need be mentioned. I admit I liked seeing Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects), but he didn’t have a whole lot to do. Ben Cross did an okay job, and no doubt Martin McDougall did well as a dickish rich guy, but I do think his character could have done with, well, more character.

I do wish the movie had a bit more oompf come the finale, I admit. There were some elements that I was hoping would be delved deeper into, such as the miner’s lease or the relationship the Tunny family had with the mine-owners (the Carlton’s). I just got the sense a little more could have been fleshed out about some of this, and though the ending was okay, I feel it was weaker than it could have been.

Wicked Little Things isn’t above average, but I don’t think it’s really below average. I guess it’s fair to say, then, I think it’s average. I’ve seen this once before, and I think I enjoyed it more the first time I saw it, but that said, I didn’t have a bad time revisiting this. It’s not great, but it’s not awful, and certainly someone could do a lot worse.


Wild Country (2005)

Directed by Craig Strachan [Other horror films: N/A]

As far as I can tell, there’s only a few things going for Wild Country, and none of them are enough to pull the movie up above average, or even anywhere close.

For one, I do appreciate the fact it’s a Scottish movie – gives it a bit more flavor, and though the accents take a bit to get used to, subtitles were in the copy I watched, so it was never too difficult to decipher the conversations. Related, this was filmed somewhat near Glasgow, and the fields and such did look quite beautiful and pastoral.

The special effects are pretty good here, especially for a lower-budget picture. It’s never the main focus, but you do see throats ripped out, a guy almost chomped in half (with some ribcage showing), and a few gory aftermaths here and there. Again, it’s never the focus, but for what they had, the special effects weren’t shabby at all. The werewolf design, though, is a different question.

Lastly, and this might be what draws most people to this film, you have about 15 minutes of Peter Capaldi. I know Capaldi best from his run as The Doctor on Doctor Who – I always felt he was an underrated Doctor who was dealt iffy stories. Seeing him here was sort of amusing (and it’s worth mentioning that while I have seen this before, when I first saw it, I didn’t know who Capaldi was), but he only pops up at the beginning and the final ten minutes minutes, so he doesn’t really add that much aside from the value of seeing a familiar face.

Samantha Shields did pretty good as the lead, and though she didn’t have much experience, her performance here was quite decent. She worked well with Martin Compston, who also stood out positively. As for the other three central performances, being Nicola Muldoon, Kevin Quinn, and Jamie Quinn, I had no great issues with them, but they didn’t really add a whole lot to the movie.

Being a lower-budget werewolf movie, I can appreciate that it didn’t try to overstay it’s welcome, as the film runs at an hour and 13 minutes. Funnily enough, I still think it runs a bit long, but that’s just due to not caring for some of the pacing here.

And related to that, the ending of this film was somewhat abysmal. It didn’t come as a surprise – somewhat early on, once the action gets going, you can sort of see where it’s going. Even so,it just struck me as a bit ridiculous, and just didn’t really do much to make me care for the movie any more.

Overall, some aspects of Wild Country are worthy of respect, such as some of the performances and special effects. At the same time, it’s not a movie that I enjoy too much, and while it might be worth a single watch, it’s not something that would likely make someone’s top werewolf outings.


The Messengers (2007)

Directed by Danny Pang [Other horror films: Gin gwai (2002), Gin gwai 2 (2004), Gin gwai 10 (2005), Gwai wik (2006), Sum yuen (2007), Chung oi (2007), Tung ngan (2010), Tong ling zhi liu shi gu zhai (2015), Mo jing (2015), Wang xiang zheng (2016), Warning from Hell (2022)] & Oxide Chun Pang [Other horror films: Bangkok Haunted (2001), Gin gwai (2002), Gin gwai 2 (2004), Sei mong se jun (2004), Gin gwai 10 (2005), Gwai wik (2006), Mon seung (2006), Tung ngan (2010)]

More than anything, I think The Messengers strikes me as being a particularly tepid movie. There’s an okay story here, sure, but the execution is quite weak, and if you leave this movie finding much of it forgettable, I don’t think you can really be blamed.

Part of the problem is that elements of the story aren’t well expanded on, such as the presence of William B. Davis’ character, or the full extent of John Corbett’s character, or why some of these spirits took the actions they did. This stuff wouldn’t be hard to flesh out (well, most of it – trying to make sense of Corbett’s character might take a bit of work), and I think any mainstream horror film wouldn’t have a problem doing such, but for some reason, that’s just not the case here.

As always, the flaws of the plot are of no fault of the performances. Dylan McDermott (Hardware) is perfectly solid as the father here, and Kristen Stewart (Underwater) does quite well as the troubled teenage daughter. Penelope Ann Miller (The Relic) didn’t really do that much for me, and William B. Davis (of X-Files fame), while nice to see, didn’t really add anything but more confusion, but hey, at least John Corbett shone a few times.

The jump scares generally didn’t do much for me. They felt just way too Hollywood, and while the spirits looked occasionally okay insofar as design goes, that stuttering way they moved got sort of old quick. Related to the ghosts, their angle here just sort of bothers me. It’s not the concept, which is okay, and has been done before well, but the execution just struck me as quite weak.

Really, The Messengers might be okay for a single watch – I certainly had an okay time when I first saw this movie. But it really doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny with a second viewing, and just feels quite tepid and disappointing, which is a shame, because the setting at least has some potential.


Penny Dreadful (2006)

Directed by Richard Brandes [Other horror films: Out for Blood (2004)]

One of the many movies that I saw a long time back, and remembered very little of going into a fresh viewing, Penny Dreadful was an okay experience. It’s not a good movie, really, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it does possess some decent elements. I don’t think it’s something I’d want to throw on again in the future, but for a one-time viewing, you could do much worse.

Where Penny Dreadful shines, at least in the first half of the film, is the tension, which is built up well. I do think it falls a bit flat the longer the movie goes on, but it can get pretty suspenseful at points. It’s nothing to shame Hitchcock or anything, but I was surprised by how well the tension was held. There were also some occasionally creepy scenes thrown in, which added to the fun.

Problematically, there’s not really enough meat to the story to justify an hour and a half film. For most of the movie, Rachel Miner’s character was trapped in a vehicle, being tortured by her own personal trauma (she has amaxophobia, or a phobia of cars) and a mysterious and violent hitchhiker. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I applaud the movie for being able to minimize their filming location, but I think it might have worked out a little better had the movie been tighter, maybe just 70 minutes as opposed to 90.

As it was, Rachel Miner did a pretty good job. Though she’s not a name I know (she was in Tooth and Nail, from 2007, but I’ve not seen that film in a long-ass time), Miner definitely had the ability to keep my interest in her character’s well-being alive. I was rooting for her all the way though. Mimi Rogers, in her limited screen-time, was solid. Others, including Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, and many others), Mickey Jones, Chad Todhunter, and Tammy Filor, seemed to just be thrown in to add a little more time, and none of them were relevant at all to the story.

This isn’t a particularly gory movie – we do see some people get stabbed, be it in the foot (which was, on a side-note, probably the best kill of the movie) or multiple times in the back, along with the aftereffects of someone’s toe being cut off – but none of these are done in overly gory fashions. It’s more the suspense and surprise that could make these scenes stand out, though I doubt anything here would end up being that memorable.

Overall, Penny Dreadful wasn’t a terrible time. I think my limited memory of the film was worse than how it actually goes. At worst, this movie could be said to be pretty forgettable. It is below average, but again, I’m impressed with a few elements here and there. I don’t think I’d want to see it again anytime soon, but if you want an okay movie to pass the time with, you might as well give it a shot.


Nine Lives (2002)

Directed by Andrew Green [Other horror films: N/A]

So at the time of this writing (7/22/2021, should the reader be interested), Nine Lives has a rather poor rating on IMDb. Sporting a 2.3/10 with 3,372 total votes, Nine Lives is probably one of the worst received British horror movies ever made. I know when I first saw it, it didn’t do much for me.

Seeing it again, though, I personally think that maybe people are being a bit harsh.

Don’t get me wrong, this is certainly not a good movie in many senses (aside from the setting, which is pretty solid, and the occasional decent performance), but I found a lot of it moderately tolerable, and again, while it’s not good, I don’t really understand exactly why this has gotten such terrible ratings. I mean, yeah, it’s not great, but is it as awful as 2.3/10? Maybe to some people, but I don’t see it.

The biggest issue I have with this movie is how it just throws nine characters into our faces with little context, and it took about thirty minutes for me to really get the characters and their relationships down. True to the title, there are indeed nine lives, so look forward to meeting Emma, Jo, Laura, Pete, Tom, Tim, Andy, Lucy, and Damien.

Of these nine, I actually enjoyed four of them, being Amelia Warner (Laura), Patrick Kennedy (Tim), James Schlesinger (Damien), and David Nicolle (Pete). Warner was pretty cute here, and she had some strong scenes, but out of all of them, I think Nicolle stood out the most. A big part of this, I’ll be entirely honest, is that I liked his Scottish accent, and he reminded me of Iain De Caestecker (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) consistently.

When it comes to the other five, none are terrible, but they don’t do anything for me. Lex Shrapnel (Tom) was fine, but didn’t do that much. Paris Hilton (House of Wax and Repo! The Genetic Opera) was playing the same character she always seems to, so yeah, that’s fun. Ben Peyton, Vivienne Harvey, and Rosie Fellner didn’t have much in the way of personality, but like I said, they’re not terrible.

The story is somewhat weak, what with a body-hopping spirit (?) going through a group of friends and killing them (with some weak-ass kills, such as simple stabbings that aren’t even on-screen), and while we get some backstory on this spirit, it just feels shallow a lot of the time. I think that part of it might be that Nine Lives is around 85 minutes, and just feels too long. If ten minutes, hell, even 15, were cut, I think it’d help things out.

Also worth mentioning is the final scene, following the chaos of the finale. We get some first-person narration from a survivor, and it’s just so damn dramatic that it’s legit funny. I mean, I laughed twice during it, and then rewatched it. It reminded me of the final scene from Bates Motel in just how corny it was, but like Bates Motel’s ending, I really enjoyed it. It was terrible, but it was funny, so no complaints.

Nine Lives isn’t a good movie, but honestly, I don’t get the hate. Personally, while I think it’s weak in plenty of aspects, I could easily see myself watching this in the future just for the entertainment value. It may put me in the unenviable position of having to give this one an almost okay score, but screw it; I’ll find a way to live.


Final Destination (2000)

Directed by James Wong [Other horror films: Final Destination 3 (2006)]

While I’ve never had it in me to find Final Destination an amazing movie, I have always held to the opinion that it’s both pretty fresh, in terms of plot, and generally a solid movie. It’s not great, but Final Destination has a lot going for it, and is worth giving a shot.

If there’s any flaw, it could be said that some of the performances aren’t great. Though most of them are okay most of the time, lead Devon Sawa (of Idle Hands fame) was occasionally shaky. That may partially be due to the fact his character was somewhat illogical during portions of the film, so that may just be on me. Others that do well include Ali Larter (House on Haunted Hill), Chad Donella, Kerr Smith (My Bloody Valentine), and Tony Todd (Candyman). Though his character wasn’t that memorable, I also enjoyed seeing Seann William Scott (American Pie) throughout.

The idea of death as an antagonistic force works pretty well here. It seems quite innovative, and definitely something that hasn’t really been seen before. It also makes things tougher for these characters – while it’s not easy, one could feasibly avoid Jason or Freddy, but to avoid death, the lengths one has to take would be quite trying.

I do sort of wish we got more information on Tony Todd’s character, but for a single scene appearance, I guess I was okay with the information that he gave. Well, that and he was also quite quotable (“…and you don’t even want to fuck with that Mack Daddy”), so while I wish we knew more, it’s not all bad.

The elaborate death scenes were all reasonably fun, the most enjoyable probably being the broken mug/alcohol dripping into a computer/computer blowing up/things get fucked sequence about halfway through. Earlier, when someone gets a wire wrapped around their neck and struggles for footing was pretty solid too. Can’t complain about that decapitation; the most shocking, though, has to be the quick hit-by-a-bus scene. Beautifully done.

Also worth mentioning, the opening disaster (being an airplane crash) takes only a handful of minutes, somewhat unlike later films that would add a bit more detail in. The vision of the crash still looks great, and wonderfully frantic and horrifying, but I even noticed when watching it that it didn’t quite feel as involved as later opening disasters did.

One last note, I sort of like the different variations of “Rocky Mountain High” that pop up right before an unfortunate accident befalls someone. It’s a catchy song anyway, and the fact that Death apparently listens to John Denver is okay by me.

Final Destination has never been a movie I utterly loved, but I have always liked them trying something new, and by-and-large, and I think that it worked out well.