Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Directed by Christopher Landon [Other horror films: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Happy Death Day (2017), Freaky (2020)]

While it’s true that this sequel isn’t near as good as the first movie, Happy Death Day 2U is still pretty strong, and treads some new waters along with keeping some emotional content within as to not over-focus on the comedy.

If there’s one problem with the film, it’s that the comedy is more prevalent here. It’s just a more light-hearted affair, and while the first film obviously had it’s moments, just the montage of suicides in this movie was enough to put it over-the-top. Also, that sequence with Rachel Matthews’ character pretending to be a French blind girl could have probably been toned down.

Another problem dealt with the fact that the mystery killer portion of the film didn’t seem near as interesting as it was in the first movie. Not that much time was spent on trying to figure out who it might be, and honestly, there’s not that many suspects to begin with, so when we get to the end and find out, it’s not that much of a shock.

The film started out interestingly enough, focusing on a time loop that Ryan (a side-character from the first movie played by Phi Vu) was stuck in, only to move back onto Tree (Jessica Rothe) once an experiment goes awry. I thought sticking with Ryan’s character would have been okay, but with where they took Tree, I didn’t think this fake out was a big let-down.

As such, Phi Vu gets a bit more character here (though still not that much), which was nice to see. Much of the accolades, though, go to Jessica Rothe, especially during the scenes in which she spent time with her mother (alternate universe which her mother’s alive = fun times for Tree). It’s not quite as strong as Tree’s emotional scene with her father in the first movie, but I still think it brought this movie a much needed tone check.

Israel Broussard was just as good in this one as he was in the first, and he and Tree had some sweet moments. If there’s a big flaw insofar as performances go, it’s that Charles Aitken’s character seems so obviously evil, it borders on ridiculous. Sure, he wasn’t that different in the first movie, but here, I just couldn’t get out of my mind that he was a dark doppelganger of Jesse Spencer’s Chase from House.

Happy Death Day 2U isn’t a terrible film. I still found it above average, even, but compared to the first one, which was surprisingly fantastic, it doesn’t leave near as much an impact. I mean, come the end, we get a hideous rendition of “Stayin’ Alive” and a mid-credit sequence which just didn’t land for me. The idea of an alternate world was decent, and it lead to some okay additions, but really, it’s the first movie alone that I find actually special.

7.5/10

Evil Dead (2013)

Directed by Fede Alvarez [Other horror films: Don’t Breathe (2016)]

This remake/soft reboot/re-imagining (however you wish to describe it) certainly ups the ante from the original film, but much like how I’ve never found The Evil Dead all that amazing, I’m likewise lukewarm to this rendition.

No doubt the gore here is noteworthy. What with electric knives cutting arms off, or faces getting peeled off, or tongues getting halved with box cutters, or any of the other various brutal scenes within, Evil Dead has the goods as far as gore’s concerned. It literally rains blood toward the end, so it’s not necessarily a movie for the queasy.

And all of that’s good-and-well, but that doesn’t make me any more a fan of the story. Personally, I’ve never found possession all that interesting. More than anything, when someone becomes demonically possessed, I just get annoyed that their friends and family keep getting fooled by their innocent acts after demonstrating utterly inhuman abilities.

That happens here, too, multiple times. I get it, Shiloh Fernandez’s character wants to believe the best of his sister, played by Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe), but come on, after some of the stuff that the demon does, get it through your head that it’s no longer your sister and do what needs to be done. Stuff like that just always aggravated me, and as such, Fernandez’s character didn’t leave much a positive impression.

Actually, the only one here I really liked was Lou Taylor Pucci. His character made mistakes now and again, but it’s through him we got most of the lore, so I definitely appreciate what he brought to the table. Jane Levy wasn’t bad, by any means, but for most of the film, she was a demon, so we don’t really get to spend that much time with her.

I guess the big issue is that I’ve never been a big fan of The Evil Dead series. I enjoy the second well enough, but the first and Army of Darkness aren’t really my cup of tea. No doubt the atmosphere of the original is decent, and this film itself does have a pretty epic finale, but possession-themed flicks aren’t my go-to when it comes to horror.

Evil Dead isn’t a bad movie due to this – I think it did enough right to satisfy many watching it. The setting (desolate cabin) and some prop pieces (especially that book, which looked hella hip, as the kids say) were commendable, but I did find the movie a bit below average, and that one-second post-credit scene with Bruce Campbell? Pointless.

All-in-all, the movie’s fine, with a decent amount of gore it can boast about. I’d just rather watch so many other things, personally.

6/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Clinton Road (2019)

Directed by Richard Grieco [Other horror films: N/A] & Steve Stanulis [Other horror films: Hinsdale House (2019)]

I didn’t have high hopes for Clinton Road, and the little hope I did have evaporated upon the ‘Based off true events’ disclaimer at the beginning. To be fair, the movie sort of hits it’s stride midway through, but the second half is pretty damn derivative, and nothing really saves this movie.

Apparently there is a Clinton Road in New Jersey that some connect to [insert your favorite unverifiable supernatural claim here], and so basing a movie around it makes sense, but to then insist it’s based off a true event when there’s no evidence of any supernatural events whatsoever just annoys the hell out of me. Do these people think we’ll find the movie scarier if the beginning insists the story’s true?

Let me let you guys in on a secret: it doesn’t.

The problem here is that once you get past the decent production value (and there’s no doubt that the movie certainly looks nice), the story is derivative and void of original content. A few of the characters are okay (such as those played by Ace Young and Katie Morrison), but for the most part, they’re either forgettable or utterly irksome (Lauren LaVera’s character, I’m looking at you). Ice-T has a small role here, and to be fair, he’s decent, though he adds little to the story.

God, the story, though. People wandering around the woods hearing noises (thumping, a girl crying), hallucinating (the Purple House a case in point), getting turned around or confused, a couple of unrestful spirits chasing them down – this isn’t new territory. Like I said, the movie looks nice, and the quality’s good, but that doesn’t make the story any less stale.

Around twenty-five minutes in, or so, I was hopeful that Clinton Road could exceed my (admittedly low) expectations, and the film could break-even to an average score, but that didn’t happen. The ending is just a mishmash of annoyingly cliché tropes that aren’t expanded on, and that post-credit scene was literally useless.

I mean, they took the time to film that, but it didn’t do anything to clear up the events at all. Why waste our time with that to begin with? Who thought that was worth recording? Who thought ‘well, have to find something to throw in post-credit, so why not this?’ The Cabin Fever remake had a pretty pointless mid-credits scene, and a post-credit scene, but theoretically someone could find them a little humorous. But what Clinton Road gave us?

Why bother?

3.5/10

The 27 Club (2019)

Directed by Patrick Fogarty [Other horror films: N/A]

Well, I wasn’t expecting much, and I certainly got it. The 27 Club had a somewhat interesting story and certainly had potential, but boy, it really dropped the ball with the route the film took.

I’m not even going to say the story itself was bad – I just didn’t like it. Maybe it will gel with some people, but as for me, as soon as one of the main characters becomes a demon somehow (because before they even became possessed, they still had some sort of telekinetic power, apparently?), I was pretty done. There’s a story here, but it was far more muddled than anything really calls for, especially regarding the roll of Todd Rundgren (of such classic hits as “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me”, two songs that have been on my iTunes for over ten years but I’ve never once consciously listened to) played.

Oh, and those black-and-white sequences featuring deceased singers giving random and pointless monologues? Yeah, I could have done without that.

Maddisyn Carter was cute, in that fucked up and drugged-out way, but I didn’t care at all for where her character went, or the deal with the devil, or the finale, or pretty much anything past the 30 minute mark. As for Derrick Denicola, he was decent (and a somewhat unconventional protagonist), but by the end, it didn’t seem his efforts amounted to much, dampening the impact he left on me.

The idea behind a type of curse that befell those famed musicians who died at 27 via a deal with the devil is interesting, and the whole documentary idea, I had no problem with. However, this somewhat unique take gets muddled down with all these unnecessary additions, including a killer in a cult, a mysterious book and necklace, a professor who is maybe part of the plot to… what, exactly? Past a certain point, I honestly lost the train of the film’s thought, which is a shame.

Another small point before I give The 27 Club a well-deserved low rating: at times, the movie feels far too glossy, especially during the kills. Even during other scenes, though, things just seem shinier and end up feeling somewhat hollow, in my opinion.

I didn’t go into this one with particularly high expectations, and the opening was certainly weak, but I did sort of want to like this one, but it wasn’t to be. It’s not a movie I had a good time with, regretfully.

4/10

Fertile Ground (2011)

Directed by Adam Gierasch [Other horror films: Autopsy (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘Trick’), House by the Lake (2017)]

I feel like Fertile Ground had potential, but it really didn’t work, and generally, I thought the story here was pretty weak, and ended up feeling a bit hollow.

Which is a shame, because given this movie follows a young woman who has had a recent miscarriage, it really shouldn’t come across as soulless as it did. Partly I feel it has to do with a somewhat undeveloped plot, and the movie just becomes forgettable after a while.

It also feels somewhat cheap, especially with those segment names (such as ‘The Gathering,’ or ‘Moving In,’ or ‘Strange Happenings’) – I don’t get why they named the segments when it was pretty obvious from what was shown on screen that, for instance, they were moving in, or that, later on, there was a gathering of friends. I didn’t get the point, and it just struck me as amateurish.

Another small thing, and certainly this is one of the lesser offenses of this I’ve seen, but there was a short scene from Night of the Living Dead here played on television that a character’s watching. I understand the movie’s in public domain, but if you watch lower-budget horror, you’d think Romero’s classic is the only horror movie that’s played on television. Just a pet peeve of mine.

I don’t really want to take away from Leisha Hailey’s performance. I don’t think she did a great job, mind, but I thought there were far bigger problems than somewhat sub-standard acting (and to be fair, there were a few really solid scenes she gave). Gale Harold (who consistently reminded me of Mark Ruffalo for some reason) was decent at times, but I don’t think we ever learned enough about him to make him that interesting a character.

Movies that deal with a couple moving into a remote country house and finding that either some supernatural haunting or mental instability is afoot is nothing new. This throws in the miscarriage angle, but that didn’t really amount to much, especially, as I said, since this movie feels more hollow than anything.

For a small piece of amusing trivia, I actually saw Fertile Ground once before. I can’t remember how long ago, nor the circumstances (aside from that I think I saw it on Chiller). It was so long ago, though, that I literally remembered nothing from this one. To me, it’s always sort of funny when you’re watching a movie you know you’ve seen before but remember so little of it.

After revisiting this one, though, and given how generic many portions seem to be (especially regarding JoNell Kennedy’s character route), I can certainly see why it didn’t stick with me. Not an awful film, but definitely not a memorable one, and I wouldn’t really recommend it.

4.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante [Other horror films: Boo (2005), Headless Horseman (2007), Hansel & Gretel (2013), Sharknado (2013), Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens (2016), Forgotten Evil (2017), Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017), The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (2018), Zombie Tidal Wave (2019)]

Well, the first movie was pretty awful, but I still found aspects of it moderately enjoyable. Unfortunately, this one felt a bit more over-the-top to me, and while I had occasional fun with Sharknado 2, overall, it was more of a cringe-worthy grind than anything.

Ian Ziering plays his role so serious here that, somewhat paradoxically, he’s very hard to take serious. He can fly through a sharknado with a chainsaw and cut him up some sharks, though, so kudos there. His family, though, or more specifically, his sister’s family, were pretty much all useless. Courtney Baxter was sort of cute, but I didn’t know her name was ‘Mara’ until an hour and ten minutes in, so she certainly was important.

It was sort of funny to see Judd Hirsch pop up (I know him best from Numb3rs, a show I loved the hell out of), playing a taxi driver (which is a role he played in some 70’s show I’ve never seen). Hirsch is decently fun, but I sort of think they overused him without really expanding on his character. We know about as much about him at his last scene as we do his first, so the fact he appeared as much as he did felt sort of hollow. Also, Richard Kind (who I know from Gotham) appeared, which was almost welcomed, but then he hit a home run with a shark, and I can’t deal with that kind of descent into stupidity.

Like I said, I really think Sharknado 2 goes overboard on it’s intentionally silly plot. The first twenty minutes, in which Fin was dealing with a sharknado while on a flight to New York, was bad enough (I was even hoping that it’d be a dream, but alas, no), and of course threw in a reference to the classic Twilight Zone episode ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,’ but it only gets worse, and overly bombastic, the worst thing being a buzz-saw being attached to a woman’s recently bit-off hand. The baseball thing was bad, but boy, this was horrible.

To be sure, I wasn’t expecting a great movie, but it’s worth noting that the first movie is the lowest-rated of all six Sharknado flicks on IMDb, meaning that this one is somehow better? I know I didn’t see it. Some portions were okay, but more than anything else, I couldn’t get past how utterly ridiculous this all was.

4/10

Midsommar (2019)

Directed by Ari Aster [Other horror films: Hereditary (2018)]

I went into Midsommar with admittedly high expectations. I wasn’t that much a fan of Hereditary (and just to get this out of the way, I definitely think Midsommar’s a better movie), but from the get-go, the trailer for this one intrigued me, and though the movie is almost more an experience than just a film, it’s certainly an experience that I’ll remember.

There’s a longer version out there (one that runs at two hours and 52 minutes), but I just saw the two hour and 30 minute version. Just two hours and 30 minutes. Hahaha, yeah, this movie was a long one, and I know that some people thought it wasn’t warranted by the content, but I think the increasingly uneasy feel that the characters get from their surroundings and mysterious circumstances help increase enjoyment.

Florence Pugh was put through the wringer in this one and gave a fantastically emotional performance (that shocking opening sequence was more than enough, but the movie kept throwing stones at her character). As interesting a character as Pugh’s Dani was, though, I personally think that William Jackson Harper’s Josh was a very stellar character himself. His already-existing knowledge was interesting (him asking if it was going to be a real ättestupa, and then getting all quiet, added a lot of dread). To be sure, his character made a rather idiotic mistake, but I think he’d have made an interesting focal point.

Both Will Poulter (who I recognized from We’re the Millers – talk about a different type of movie) and Jack Reynor were dicks in their own way, Poulter being the most annoying, but Reynor’s character being one of the worst. I can’t say that I don’t feel a bit bad for him come the ending, but the way he treats Dani throughout the film was contemptible. Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle was another unique character, and was one of the kindest to Dani, so at least that was nice.

Being Ari Aster, there was a definite beauty in the carnage. During the tense ättestupa ceremony, which was probably the earliest indication that something was definitely wrong there (if you can ignore the somewhat grisly banner indicating how a woman can get a man to fall for her). It’s a very tense scene, each second longer squeezing out unease, and it’s no surprise when the two individuals jump, or the gory conclusions.

And no doubt there are other disturbing scenes of violence, one that especially struck me as brutal, being an individual captive who long should have been dead, instead being ritualistically dismembered yet still on the verge of life. The maypole dance was strangely enchanting, the psychedelic drugs definitely hyping up the uncomfortable aura, all of which finishes off in the mysterious triangular structure come the brutal finale (and the composition during the finale – just beautiful).

With the drawn-out nature of Midsommar, not to mention the already stylistic feel of the film, it being Aster’s work, Midsommar isn’t an easy movie to digest or one that I suspect many would quickly watch a second time. It’s a long movie no matter which version you watch, and it’s an uneasy and unforgiving one. I definitely found it a strong addition to the genre, and if anyone’s a fan of The Wicker Man or perhaps Apostle, Midsommar is not a movie that should be slept on.

8/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the film.

The Purge (2013)

Directed by James DeMonaco [Other horror films: The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016)]

I wasn’t that big a fan of this the first time I saw it, and in many ways, it’s not that far removed from a generic home invasion flick, but I still found myself enjoying it more than some years back when I first saw it. I’d never call The Purge great, but I think it’s decent.

The cast here is surprisingly solid. Ethan Hawke (Sinister) was thrown into a pretty interesting role of a father trying to protect his family. Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) actually got some sympathy from me, which was nice. Adelaide Kane was quite attractive, which was a nice plus. Though maybe a little over-the-top, Rhys Wakefield was pretty fun (and psychopathic) in his role too.

What is most interesting about The Purge is the Purge itself, an annual event in the U.S.A. in which all crime is legalized in order to ‘purge’ the hatred and violence in the citizens, giving them an outlet for their desires. Otherwise, crime is low, and society is generally happy, including Hawke’s family, who are quite wealthy due to his business in selling security systems. Because they’re wealthy and have little chance of being impacted, Hawke’s character fully supports the Purge, despite not participating himself.

It’s a very barbaric idea wrapped up in psychology and good policy. The rich going around and killing the poor (physically, as opposed to how they do it in our actual society) is certainly somewhat a political statement, and this movie was interesting for that aspect alone. The dialogue of Wakefield made it quite clear that he thought the homeless were only there to be purged, which is an unique point-of-view, not to mention arrogantly self-centered (but we’re talking about the wealthy here, so I’m repeating myself).

Obviously, I think The Strangers had a lot of influence on this one, from the whole home invasion thing to the creepy masks the multitude of killers wear. Now, I actually like this a bit more than The Strangers, because the whole Purge element, while pretty ludicrous, is still something that’s on the unique side of things (and also, given it’s government-sanctioned, adds an extra element to it). I wasn’t a big fan of The Strangers anyway, so while this isn’t necessarily a whole lot better in terms of home invasion (though it is, to the extent that we have a family here while in The Strangers was a soon-to-be-broken up couple), I do find The Purge better.

There’s some violence here, but none of it is really over the top, and while we do see some knives and machetes, much of the violence is via firearms, giving a much more action feel to this film than a horror one. Make no mistake, the movie’s still horror, but don’t be surprised if you feel like you tuned into Die Hard at times.

The Purge isn’t a great movie, but I do think it’s decent, and reasonably entertaining with a strong cast and interesting moral issues that aren’t generally present in other home invasion flicks, which alone gives it a slight edge.

7/10

Robert (2015)

Directed by Andrew Jones [Other horror films: The Amityville Asylum (2013), The Midnight Horror Show (2014), Valley of the Witch (2014), The Last House on Cemetery Lane (2015), A Haunting at the Rectory (2015), Poltergeist Activity (2015), The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund (2016), The Curse of Robert the Doll (2016), Cabin 28 (2017), The Toymaker (2017), Werewolves of the Third Reich (2017), The Legend of Robert the Doll (2018), The Legend of Halloween Jack (2018), Robert Reborn (2019), The Manson Family Massacre (2019), The Utah Cabin Murders (2019), The Curse of Halloween Jack (2019), The Jonestown Haunting (2020), The Haunting of Margam Castle (2020)]

More than anything, the problem with Robert is that it’s really dry. It’s definitely a bad story, don’t get me wrong, but if there was a little more pep here, maybe some of that could have been heightened a bit. But no, Robert’s just dry, and almost entirely void of any positive aspects worth mentioning. I’ll try to think of something as I carry on though – maybe something will pop up.

Seeing an evil doll wreck havoc on an already dysfunctional family (seriously, the macho husband, who’s scared of his son playing with dolls, was unbearable) didn’t really make for an engaging film, especially given how amateurish some of the scenes and cuts were. I did find it somewhat hilarious that this doll was given to the kid by an elderly maid unable to do her job, who then gets fired. In a petty fashion, she just hoists an evil doll onto the family, and the rest is history.

Well, history is a strong word, because though this is about a killer doll, the most interesting thing about Robert by far is that it’s British. The kills here were weak, the suspense close to non-existent, the acting sub-par (neither leads Suzie Frances Garton or Lee Bane made any impression whatsoever), and everything else pointless.

I’m not giving Robert an extremely low rating, though. Why? Because while much of the movie is poor, it was still palatable in a very bare bones, ultra dry way. Elements of the movie were almost okay, and maybe if a better creative team had been behind this, a bit more life would have been apparent in the film. Robert’s not the worst of the worst. It’s just entirely unremarkable, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this.

4/10

This is one of the films covered on the Fight Evil podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Robert, check the video out below.

Snake Outta Compton (2018)

Directed by Hank Braxtan [Other horror films: Evil Deeds 2 (2010, segment ‘The Hebrew Hacker’), Blood Effects (2011), Chemical Peel (2014), Unnatural (2015)]

To quote N.W.A, you are now about to witness the strength of snake knowledge. I’m not trying to mock N.W.A. – that’s how the film starts out.

I know what I was expecting with this one. A bad movie, certainly, but an interesting mixture of generic rappers versus a bunch of snakes. What I wasn’t expecting was a parody film, which is quite a bit of what Snake Outta Compton is, and boy, is it a hard movie to watch.

The snake looked terrible (and yes, it was just a single snake as opposed to a nest), but that really plays no part in just how bad this movie is. I don’t know what was worse – the character Vurkel (a parody of Urkle from Family Matters, complete with the glasses and suspenders) or the characters Denz and Ethan (rip-offs from the 1999 Training Day, starring, you guessed it, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke). Or the rap battle against the snake.

Yeah, this movie went places that weren’t locations much worthy of a visit.

There are a few meager things about this I liked, though not enough to boast this above the atrocious rating it’s going to get. For one, a few of the rap lines here were decent, my favorite being ‘cold-blooded showman like Frosty the Snowman’, and another one made reference to Godzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah. Also, Arielle Brachfeld, who played a white girl who did everything possible to act black and thug, was sort of funny. Her character was pretty terrible, but she had heart, and was about the only character (and I do mean only) that was worth anything.

Otherwise, this movie is really cringy. Why they chose a twenty year old action movie to parody, I have no damn idea, but it doesn’t work at all, and the movie was just as terrible as a movie could be. Vurkel’s character arc was awful (by the end, he becomes a part-snake superhero, because of course he does), and overall, this movie was just painful to watch.

I was really hoping for something else when I marked this to record on my DVR. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting anything stellar, but I definitely didn’t see a parody coming, and boy, was this an utter disappointment, almost entirely void of worth. Not something I’d recommend unless you’re high as fuck and want a good time. I wasn’t, and thus, no good time to be had.

1.5/10