Shadows of the Dead (2016)

Directed by John Ross [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a Syfy film I have little to say about, which isn’t really surprising. Shadows of the Dead isn’t a particularly poor film, but it’s certainly not that memorable, and I probably couldn’t see myself giving this one another go.

Story-wise, the movie takes a somewhat interesting route. I truthfully expected most of the movie to take place during the anti-prom party at the beginning, but no, it’s over the following days that the bulk of the story unfolds. It doesn’t really make the story itself any less mediocre, but it did go against my expectations, so that’s at least something.

Really, there aren’t many memorable characters here. I guess you have some decent young actresses (Kennedy Tucker, Alexandria Paige, and Lindsay Elston), but no one stood out whatsoever. As far as characters go, my favorite was probably the shadow creature, which looked okay (though every time it was onscreen, I was reminded of the Marvel comic book character The Fury, an enemy of Captain Britain).

I highly doubt I’ll remember Shadows of the Dead in another two weeks, and already small things going from my memory. The movie wasn’t nearly as bad as other newer horror films could be, but there’s little here going for it, and I can’t say that this is one I think many would look highly upon.

5/10

Dark Skies (2013)

Directed by Scott Stewart [Other horror films: Legion (2010), Priest (2011), Holidays (2016, segment ‘Christmas’)]

I knew next to nothing about Dark Skies before starting it, and that probably worked in it’s benefit. For much of the film, it’s a slow-burn, and though I saw the ending coming a mile away, I do like the way this movie approached the finale.

The main family cast were all decent. Josh Hamiliton (who I swear I must recognize from a miniseries he was in called The ‘60’s) was my favorite, but Keri Russell (who played his wife) was great too. The two kids, Dakata Goyo and Kadan Rockett, were as okay as young actors are, and though neither were great, I had no issues with them.

It’s the story more than the performances that’s of interest here, what with a lot of mysterious things going on around the house and no one in the family has any idea what’s going on, giving the movie a very Poltergeist-like feel (including a similar kitchen scene, now that I mention it). It’s a slow-burn, yes, but it’s interesting in the moment and worth the wait, so everything worked out well.

Dark Skies is a movie that I think works best without preconceptions. I knew one thing about this movie going in, and that shaped a lot of the thoughts I had about how the film would progress, but I was entirely wrong (which was amusingly somewhat lampshaded by J.K. Simmons’ character in the movie). Once I knew where this was going, I was both surprised and impressed, which pretty much covers my feelings on this one. Certainly a movie worth checking out if you’ve passed over it in the past.

8.5/10

They Found Hell (2015)

Directed by Nick Lyon [Other horror films: Species: The Awakening (2007), Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Rise of the Zombies (2012), Foreclosed (2013), Bermuda Tentacles (2014), Isle of the Dead (2016)]

Sometimes Syfy gets it right. It happened on such occasions as Neverknock, House of Bones, and a few other occasions. I can’t say this is quite as good, but it was a very solidly made film, though ultimately, I think it’s around average.

The story here is somewhat interesting. A teleportation experiment goes awry, and a bunch of college kids gets trapped in a Hellish dimension, and do their best to survive. The dimension in question is solidly creepy, with a bunch of decently spooky imagery (from a multitude of dead and disfigured bodies to hanging suicide victims to forest and jungle areas, etc.), and I found myself interested in learning more about this place.

The cast isn’t great, but a few solid performances stood out, such as Katy Reece, Kabby Borders, Chris Schellenger, Mirela Burke (who was quite cute here), and James Sobol Kelly. I expected Kelly’s character to matter more, but I’m happy with the restrained route they took. Also, two attractive young women, Katy Reese and Mirela Burke, made out, and that bumped the score a whole point. Hubba hubba.

They Found Hell isn’t amazing, and I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking it is. While the environments in the Hellish dimension are mostly solid, I didn’t like what they did with Hunter Canedy’s character, and the CGI for the creatures (such as the Hellhounds and the Flying Demons, or whatever they are) is about as bad as Syfy often does. Also, and this might just be me, but that opening seemed really odd, and almost disconnected from the rest of the story in a laughable way.

Still, I found this one a lot more palatable than I do many Syfy movies, and I can easily imagine giving this another watch.

7.5/10

6-Headed Shark Attack (2018)

Directed by Mark Atkins [Other horror films: Evil Eyes (2004), Halloween Night (2006), Haunting of Winchester House (2009), Sand Sharks (2012), Alien Origin (2012), Knight of the Dead (2013), A Perfect Vacation (2015), Planet of the Sharks (2016), Empire of the Sharks (2017)]

I think that this is probably the second-worst entry into the [Insert random number here]-Headed Shark series, which is a shame, because as the second film (3-Headed Shark Attack) showed, these movies could almost get sort of close to okay. Here, though, there was little to really watch for.

Are some of the characters okay? Not really. Pretty much, every character here is either generic or disappointingly portrayed. The hippie couple (Chris Fisher and Megan Oberholzer) could have been great, but like everyone else, they just got on my nerves. The one outlier was Jonathan Pienaar, who was so serious (yet over-the-top), he cracked me up. And Nikita Faber was quite attractive, so there’s that.

Also, did you know sharks could walk? Well, they can if they have six heads, because four of the heads can be used as legs, because that works well. The CGI looks great, guys, I promise.

I really don’t know why Syfy bothers with these types of films, but then again, I watched all four of the movies (if they make another one, though, I can’t promise I’ll see it), so what do I know? Pretty pitiful, and were it not for a few okay characters or small bikinis, this wouldn’t be getting the already bad score it is.

3/10

Haunted High (2012)

Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando [Other horror films: Savage Island (2004), Insecticidal (2005), Alien Incursion (2006), Decoys 2: Alien Seduction (2007), House of Bones (2010), Thirst (2010), Goblin (2010), Boogeyman (2012), Roboshark (2015), Suspension (2015)]

I saw this one once before shortly after it came out, back in October of 2012. As is the case with many Syfy movies, I thought it was rather awful. Seeing it again with a larger frame of reference though (American Horror House came out the same year, for example, and was quite a bit worse than this one), I can accept that while rather poor, I did gleam some amusement from this.

Let’s be honest here: the special effects are almost uniformly terrible, the antagonist is pretty awful (though M.C. Gainey is at least having fun), and it fails on most levels, but with at least some of the corniness and characters, it’s possible to have a fun time.

Most of the acting is about as iffy as you might expect. I certainly liked a few of the actors and actresses here, such as Lauren Pennington, Shawn C. Phillips (who has appeared in many a low-budget horror film), Jonathan Baron, Marc Donato, Danielle Greenup (who also stood out as the most attractive cast-member, in my view), and M.C. Gainey (who was hamming it up at every opportunity, which is a move I don’t think makes sense character-wise, but after reading the script, I can see why Gainey went that way).

The elephant in the room is Danny Trejo, who plays the janitor of this private school, and also knows all about the sinister and Satanic acts going on. Because of course he does. That’s how Trejo do – his character is often just important enough for him to get top billing, and it worked again. Do I have anything against Trejo’s performance here? Not at all. But seeing Trejo pop-up in ridiculous low-budget movies, be it this, 3-Headed Shark Attack, or On Bloody Sunday, just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t help that his story here is perhaps the most generic aspect of the movie.

Haunted High, known also as Ghostquake (which I regret to inform you is a term dropped in the movie at one point) is a terrible film, but like some other terrible films, such as the Satan’s School for Girls remake, it can be sort of fun. This is nowhere near as good as Satan’s School for Girls, no matter how much Gainey tries, but I did like it more this time around than when I first saw it, so hey, I guess that counts for something.

6/10

2 Lava 2 Lantula! (2016)

Directed by Nick Simon [Other horror films: Removal (2010), The Girl in the Photographs (2015), Truth or Dare (2017), Karma (2018), Untitled Horror Movie (2021)]

I gave the first movie a decent amount of praise, but this ridiculously-titled sequel is just a bit much. The first movie was just stupid fun, but as this virtually repeats that movie, there’s not really much point to it, and what was amusing in the first movie becomes old with this one.

Again, we get a lot of references to other movies (among them Scarface, Deliverance, Dr. Strangelove, Indiana Jones’ films, Crocodile Dundee, Die Hard, and Jurassic Park), but it didn’t feel nearly as fun as it did the first time around, and really, many times it felt a lot sillier. The Jurassic Park kitchen reference started out okay, but then it kept going, and toward the end of the scene, a banner falls down, just throwing the fact it’s a reference in our face, which we didn’t need.

Steve Guttenberg was, of course, nice to see, but I already saw him in the first movie, so the charm of seeing him again has worn off, especially when not much of the story has changed. Michael Winslow did as much for me here as he did in the first one, which isn’t really a positive. Michele Weaver did pretty okay, but Martin Kove (famous for The Karate Kid) didn’t wow me, quite possibly because his character was just too ridiculous for me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the first movie was ridiculous too (it’s called Lavalantula, for God’s sake), but as a one-shot wonder, it came across somewhat fresh. As little here was changed (aside from the fact that some lavalantulas can shook spikes), the movie strikes me as somewhat pointless. Were there a few worthwhile scenes? A handful, but overall, I didn’t care for this one nearly as much as I did the first.

5/10

The Crooked Man (2016)

Directed by Jesse Holland [Other horror films: YellowBrickRoad (2010), Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013, segment ‘Listen’), We Go On (2016)]

Well, it’s not Syfy’s worst movie in the last five years, but it’s certainly not their best. Honestly, The Crooked Man is almost decent, and I like some aspects about it, but I’d rank it between the rather forgettable Karma and the decent-yet-flawed Stickman.

The origin of the Crooked Man is fine, but nothing special (given this is a Syfy original, I doubt that would come as much a surprise). It’s the design that I thought was more interesting. The hat is whatever, but the way the creature sort of glitches in and out, like some sort of corrupted computer program, was unique. It didn’t always look good, but it was passable, more so than most of the other special effects from the film.

My biggest issue here is that the kills were pathetic across the board. There was one solid scene of a character getting their head ripped off, but otherwise, I wasn’t impressed at all with the direction the kills went in, which ranged from broken bones to falling out of a window onto a car (which also includes some broken bones, now that I think of it) to being strangled. Just very little there to do anything for me.

Performance-wise, again, the movie’s passable. I find it laughable that Michael Jai White is on the cover of this movie, yet appears maybe a total of seven minutes in the film (and none of it is all that noteworthy), but Angelique Rivera and Cameron Jebo made an almost-acceptable couple. Rivera was pretty cute, and Jebo got a few funny lines in, so despite some character faults, I generally liked the pair. Though she didn’t appear a whole lot (though still more than White), Reilly Brooke Stith was decent also.

Overall, though, The Crooked Man is just barely decent. Like I said, it’s not near as forgettable as Syfy’s Karma, nor near as terrible as Dead in the Water. But it’s not even close to being as good as Neverknock or House of the Witch, and even a below average movie like Stickman beats it out. The Crooked Man isn’t that good, and some issues with the ending come into play. For a Syfy movie, you certainly could do much worse, but overall, I’d only go out of my way to see this once.

6/10

The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Directed by Jim Hosking [Other horror films: ABCs of Death 2 (2014, segment ‘G is for Grandad’)]

I saw Triloquist recently, and gave it the low, low rating of 0/10, but there are gradients in atrocity, as I hated this even more.

Everything I hate about this film is intentional, from the terrible dialogue (it’s stilted, sure, but the dialogue, even ignoring delivery, is utterly cringe-inducing) to the really stupid chants (be it ‘free drinks’ or ‘disco cutie’), from the characters, and just everything.

I get that some people like this humor, and the movie boasts over a 5/10 on IMDb, but I don’t see it at all. To be honest, I don’t want to dwell on this, or think about it any more than I have to. Triloquist was a bad film, in my opinion, but this was even worse, and entirely void of enjoyable content.

Sorry, but that’s all I want to say about this waste of time.

0/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Chucky (@ChuckyFE) enjoyed this one – I didn’t. Check the conversation out for a fun time.

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011)

Directed by Robert Hall [Other horror films: Laid to Rest (2009), Fear Clinic (2014)]

Well, the first Laid to Rest wasn’t amazing, but it did enough to keep the movie memorable. This movie had the gore that you might hope for, but the story wasn’t that great whatsoever.

I don’t care for organizations of killers, so when we find out Chromeskull has backers and a small group of people working for him, my interest in this sequel went down to about zero. Make no mistake, the gore is decently solid, and there were some rather gruesome scenes here (such as the face reconstruction at the beginning), but unlike the first movie, which had a story that fit with the killer, this one threw in elements I didn’t care for at all.

Honestly, that’s about all I have. The gore was fine, but I didn’t like much about the story. Few characters really stood out, and I thought the post-credit scene (starring the Wife of Chromeskull) was just pointless, bordering on idiotic.

The first movie isn’t great, but I think it far surpasses this one, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone. It’s not even a particularly poor movie, but I didn’t care for the story, and no amount of gore can make up for that.

5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, please listen below.

Silent Night (2012)

Directed by Steven C. Miller [Other horror films: Automaton Transfusion (2006), Scream of the Banshee (2011), Under the Bed (2012)]

Sort of a remake-in-name-only (from 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night), Silent Night is a decent amount of fun, and includes some memorable characters, decently gory deaths, and a cast that mostly makes things work, along with a light tongue-in-cheek feel.

Malcolm McDowell was great here. I didn’t love his portrayal of Loomis in the Halloween remake, but here, his character was a lot of fun and had some great lines. The over-the-top style he sometimes took brought with it a lot of chuckles, and he definitely outstrips the main character, played by Jaime King (who, it should be noted, still did a fine, and sometimes emotional, job). Otherwise, we have Donal Logue (whom I know best as Detective Bullock in the Gotham series), who is great to see, but doesn’t appear enough, along with Ellen Wong (a familiar face from The Void) and John B. Lowe, who played my second favorite character in the film.

There’s not really as much mystery behind the killer in this film as I sort of wish there was. Oh, people wonder who the killer is, but it’s far from a focus, and the audience finds out via a flashback at the conclusion, so no on-screen characters quite figure it out. The good thing is, though, that Silent Night is heavy on gore, and there are some pretty solid kills here. A few stand out as weak (the electrocution scene, for instance), but others make up for is, such as the flamethrower kill, and the wood-chipper scene.

Like I mentioned, there’s a light tongue-in-cheek feeling throughout the film. I wouldn’t call much of the film outright comedy-horror, but a few scenes definitely caused solid laughter, such as a pre-teen girl cussing out church, or a priest who does all the things priests probably shouldn’t be doing. Even some of McDowell’s lines illicit chuckles, such as his ‘Don’t put avocado on a burger’ talking point. This is not at all like Krampus or Santa’s Slay, but there are some amusing bits spread throughout.

There’s a lot of Christmas-themed horror out there, and a lot I’ve not seen as of yet, but it seems to me that many of them don’t quite hit the mark. Views on this loose remake seem to be mixed, and I suspect that’s partially because, as a slasher, Silent Night doesn’t really add anything into the mix. Even so, it’s a film I’ve had fun with during multiple viewings, and while I’d tweak a few things, Silent Night’s a film I enjoy a decent amount.

8/10