If a Tree Falls (2010)

Directed by Gabriel Carrer [Other horror films: Desperate Souls (2005), Kill (2011), The Demolisher (2015), Death on Scenic Drive (2017), For the Sake of Vicious (2020)]

This is one of the films I watched during an October challenge, and I think it was the year I watched 275 movies in a single month, mainly because I didn’t remember any of this, and I do mean any of it. It felt like a completely new movie, but I have seen it before, so I was hoping for a more memorable occasion this time around.

And I think it will be more memorable, but not in any good way.

Ponderously and pathetically bare-bones, If a Tree Falls is almost entirely void of anything worth seeing. The plot is simple, the only mildly interesting thing about it being characters that were brother and sister, and most of the film deals with people running from other people.

The killers (there were something like six of them for some goddamn reason) were like ultra-cheap rip-offs from The Strangers. Their reasoning, though, is even worse, as a character explains “We find the ones who will never be found.” That’s why they killed three of the four characters and kept the other one alive – because killing is finding and ones that are not found are alive people or something.

Yeah, it makes zero sense, I know.

Aside from the fact that this film was painfully repetitive, it also suffered from somewhat lousy audio, with the music going above the voices multiple times. It didn’t matter, really, as no one in the film was capable of having a conversation worth hearing, but mix that with some shoddy camera-work, and you have what the kids call “shit.”

This may be worth mentioning. When I saw this film years ago, I watched a version that was around 77 minutes, but this time around, I watched what IMDb labels as “the 10th anniversary edition” which runs 89 minutes. I have no idea what was added or changed, and I sort of wonder if I’d have liked the shorter version more, but there you go.

Ry Barrett, Breanne TeBoekhorst, Jennifer De Lucia, and Daniel Zuccala are generally not great. I don’t blame any of them, though, as even if they were the most stellar performances in the history of cinema, the movie would still be God-awful.

And it was indeed God-awful. I did like the exploitation vibe that If a Tree Falls occasionally attempted to give off, but that doesn’t excuse the utter lack of story or meaningful antagonists or the atrociously terrible conclusion. I mean, there were sometimes okay special effects, but when the final product has this much wrong with it, it really doesn’t matter.

I don’t know what happens if a tree falls, and this movie didn’t let me in on the secret (I’m guessing it’s one of those pseudo-intellectual titles that might have some relevance to the movie in a roundabout way). It also wasn’t entertaining, and I hated it. I’ll give it points for being filmed in Canada and having some attractive women in it. Elsewise, there’s virtually nothing going for this.

3/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below to the disappointment of Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I as we discuss If a Tree Falls.

Dark Haul (2014)

Directed by Colin Theys [Other horror films: Banshee!!! (2008), Remains (2011), Dead Souls (2012), Deep in the Darkness (2014), Stalker’s Prey (2017), Stalker’s Prey 2 (2020), A Predator Returns (2021)]

So before I get into this atrocity (as much as I don’t really want to spend time on this), let me first recount why I watched this.

Back in March of 2017, I was pretty much recording any horror movie that was on television to watch, no matter how bad it sounded, no matter how much I thought I’d hate them (it was for this reason I recorded both 2-Headed Shark Attack and Finders Keepers). And so despite how terrible this sounded, I recorded it onto my DVR. Fast forward to the early days of 2021 (this is being written on the third of January), and I finally took the time to watch it.

I’ll give it that it tried something newish, or at least newish to me. Dark Haul (also known under the name Monster Truck, which is the title I recorded it under) is a fantasy-horror mix about a demon being born along with a superhuman sister with powers that aren’t fully delved into (she has sort of a warbling wave that can contact and calm her winged brethren) that are imprisoned by a religious group named he Keepers who believe in an end-of-the-world prophecy and such.

And bad things happen.

Within the Keepers, there is a hardliner who believes both the demon and the sister are evil, this hardliner played by Tom Sizemore. The leader of the Keepers is more moderate, and treats the humanoid sister more humanely, though still keeps her a prisoner. This kind gent is Rick Ravanello. The superhuman sister is Evalena Marie. There’s also a priest played by Kevin Shea who does a few things, though he’s not terribly important.

Perhaps if I were a fan of fantasy, I would have dug this more. Certainly the theological disagreements over the meaning of a specific prophecy were somewhat interesting to listen to, but the fantasy-action scenes didn’t do it for me, and when the demon escapes and the film veers more a horror direction, the CGI was so inept that it was painfully laughable.

I don’t fault the performances. Sure, Sizemore (of The Relic, Bottom Feeder, and Visible Scars) came across as ridiculously over-the-top sinister, but the movie almost portrays him as an unsung hero, especially when, at the end, Rick Ravenello’s character agrees with his tactics. Evalena Marie’s character was easy to root for, but in some ways, her success seemed to mean the end of the world. Kevin Shea (who I’ve seen in a surprising amount of low-budget horror films, such as Remains, Sasquatch Assault, Banshee!!!, and Dead Souls, some of which have the same director as this film, Colin Theys) was okay, but his character didn’t really get enough licks in to matter.

Still, I think most of the people involved gave it the best they could. I never personally felt any strong emotions toward any of them, even during scenes where you’d think an emotional response would be likely, but my problem with Dark Haul is the story, not the performances.

And the story is pretty lackluster, especially given I’m not a fantasy fan, but what’s worse was that hideous CGI, especially during some of the kills. A guy gets ripped in half, his organs falling out, and all I can wonder is how much that green screen cost. It was as pathetic and non-threatening as you could expect from a Syfy film.

Dark Haul was an easy film to get through, especially because I knew what I was working with within the first ten minutes of the film, but it was far from an enjoyable experience, and while I appreciated the fact that the writers went with a different approach, the fantasy aspects didn’t do it for me, and I thought everything else was embarrassingly weak also.

4/10

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Directed by Stacy Title [Other horror films: Hood of Horror (2006)]

Ever since I first saw the trailer to this one, I thought it looked pretty atrocious. A friend of mine saw it, and rather despised it. And I pretty much forgot about it until a guy at work recommended I watch it, and while I dilly-dallied in doing so, I finally sat down and got through this.

The best I can say about The Bye Bye Man is that it’s largely inoffensive. There’s really little here of major substance, and I found most of the content far more generic than I did anger-inducingly stupid (such as Stay Alive). To be sure, when that’s the best thing I can say about a movie, you know things aren’t working the way they should.

In all honesty, about half-way through the movie, it hit me that this reminded me of a poorly-made Syfy movie, only with a bigger budget. It had the same jump scares, the same feel, the same mediocrity that you might find in films such as Karma or The Night Before Halloween. It’s not like the movie is necessarily terrible, it’s just exceptionally bland and largely unremarkable.

Of the central performances, only Carrie-Anne Moss marginally intrigued me. Moss (who I know most from The Matrix and a recurring role in Jessica Jones, among other MCU Netflix shows) didn’t really have a lot of screen-time, nor did she ever do anything close to interesting, but she showed more promise than the cookie cutter characters the movie focused on.

Douglas Smith (who also, as random as this is, starred in Santa’s Slay), Lucien Laviscount, and Cressida Bonas made for rather uninteresting central characters. There’s a bit of a jealousy angle thrown in, but I never get the sense that we know these people well enough for any of this to really make an emotional impact.

Most of the other faces that show up are inconsequential, from Michael Trucco (Hush) and Jenna Kanell (Terrifier) to Cleo King and Leigh Whannell (Saw and Insidious). Whannell, for instance, was nice to see, but he also had a shotgun that, when it shot people, didn’t leave any blood, which was interesting. And to be fair, it’s not on any of these performances that the movie didn’t work, as I think most of them were just misused.

There was one face here, though, that caught me by surprise, and as such, I have to go on a side-topic for a moment. I am a man of many hobbies, and one of them is the reality show Survivor (which I’ve brought up before, such as my review on The Lights), and so, when Jonathan Penner showed up in a single scene, I was taken aback. Penner has been on three seasons of Survivor, his first being Cook Islands (the 13th season), and until now, I had no idea he was an actor (and he was also in Amityville 1992: It’s About Time, which I’ve got to see now).

His short scene (which I thought was amusingly typical of his somewhat smug attitude encapsulated well on Cook Islands) didn’t greatly change the movie, but it did give a nice little Easter egg. Also worth mentioning, Penner was married to the director, prior to her death in 2021.

Perhaps far more important than the performances would be the lore of the film, or perhaps, in this case, the lack thereof. What is the Bye Bye Man? From where did it arise? From when? Aside from the opening incident in the movie from the late 1960’s and the focal story of the movie itself, we don’t know anything about what else this thing has done. I would have liked some type of history on this thing.

Sure, sometimes that doesn’t matter – look at It Follows. The difference is that It Follows was a pretty decent movie most of the time, with some very suspenseful scenes now and again, whereas The Bye Bye Man just felt generic and sort of shallow from the get-go, and had they thrown in some type of history (maybe do that as opposed to sending Smith’s character to Whannell’s widow), it might have helped flesh things out a little.

The Bye Bye Man isn’t a movie I abhorred. It wasn’t good, of course, but I don’t think it was terrible. It was, however, very much a generic movie, and honestly, if I can remember this in four weeks, I’m a stronger man than I knew.

5/10

Camp Hideaway Massacre (2018)

Directed by Skip Bizr [Other horror films: N/A] & Ted Moehring [Other horror films: Bloodbath in the House of Knives (2010), Invasion of the Reptoids (2011), Camp Blood 666 (2016), Revenge of the Devil Bat (2020)]

For being a low-budget slasher, Camp Hideaway Massacre is almost okay. It’s not a good movie, but it was close to passable. The main problem, though, was that the film was so repetitive, and while occasionally things got shaken up a little, I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat bored (as bored as one can be watching a low-budget film, anyways) at times throughout the movie.

I’m not sure if this was filmed in Pennsylvania (I know the setting definitely is, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was filmed there), but I do enjoy the lush look the local environment has, and while the campgrounds themselves are rather pathetic, it was still what I know people refer to as nature.

As far as the special effects go, low-budget films always get a bit of a pass from me. Jockstrap Slaughterhouse, for instance, had horrible effects, but had a lot of heart. This film has okay effects – one of the decapitations looked a bit weak – and the kills were mostly fine, so I don’t have too much to complain about there.

The issue is the story, though, in which new people get to the campground, and are killed shortly thereafter, rinse and repeat. We go through a lot of characters, and in fact, somewhat interestingly, the main characters could really be the killers (primarily Gutrot Layton and his posse) as opposed to any one victim (the best choice would be Tina Krause, who actually appears for more than a handful of scenes), but that doesn’t really help the overall narrative structure.

Probably as one can imagine, the acting is mostly poor. I noticed that, looking through the cast, it looks like characters who were mother and daughter in the film were played by actual mothers and daughters, which I thought was cool (and certainly shows a strong localized production). Not that, of course, either of these pairs (Jessica and Haley Dittrich along with Danielle and Kanyon Fassler) had much of a chance to shine, but it is nice to see.

Tina Krause is a big name in lower-budget horror, having been in quite a few films (such as Female Mercenaries on Zombie Island and Dead Students Society), and while I’ve not personally seen her in anything until now, she did well. She also had a lengthy shower scene, so no complaints there. I think, aside from her, John Young was probably the best performance, but Gutrot Layton (and I sort of doubt, on a side-note, that’s his real name) had some charm too.

The dialogue was pretty awful at times, and like I said earlier, the largest issue was the repetitive nature of the story. None of that makes Camp Hideaway Massacre awful, and for a lower-budget movie, I definitely think that, in some aspects, they did well (such as most of the kills and skirting on an interesting story), and if it had been cleaned up a little, I think this could have been more a contender than what I thought it ended up being. Right now, though, I don’t think it’s that great.

5.5/10

Goblin (2010)

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), Boogeyman (2012), Haunted High (2012), Roboshark (2015), Suspension (2015)]

For a Syfy movie, Goblin isn’t that bad. It’s not among the greater outputs from the channel (such as House of Bones or Neverknock), but it’s not as terrible as many of their other films tend to be.

The story isn’t overly original, but it was serviceable here. Some of the elements (such as the strained relationship between the father and daughter characters here, for instance) added some decent emotional impact to some scenes, though I can’t say it ultimately made that big of a difference. Also, it’s worth noting that the finale seems a bit rushed in some ways – it’s not something I want to harp on, because I was at least happy that things were finishing up – but at times it did feel like it was moving a bit quickly.

Tracy Spiridakos did quite well as the lead (and on an unrelated note, she reminded me of a younger A.J. Cook) , and I thought she got along well with both Gil Bellows as her father (Bellows, randomly, played Tommy in The Shawshank Redemption) and Erin Boyes. I appreciated Bellows’ character as a father who is actually as entangled in the supernatural story as are the teen characters, and he did good.

I think that Donnelly Rhodes did surprisingly well (think Crazy Ralph only with some emotional depth), but many of the others who pop up, including Reilly Dolman, Chilton Crane, and Andrew Wheeler, were just on the average side. Julia Maxwell didn’t appear too much, but I thought she had a lot of character, and stood out for that.

There is a bit of gore throughout. You get some disembowelment, slit throats, intestines free of their flesh prison, stuff along those lines. It’s nothing special, and some of it looks a bit on the fake side, but at least they tried. What they didn’t do well, though, would be the CGI of the titular Goblin. It’s almost okay at some points, but most of the time, it’s as pathetic as you might expect from a Syfy movie.

Overall, though, I have to admit that I’ve seen Goblin three times now. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I do think it’s certainly watchable, and though I doubt I’ll see it again anytime soon, as far as Syfy movies go, there’s not much here to really take offense to.

7/10

Carrie (2013)

Directed by Kimberly Peirce [Other horror films: N/A]

Every horror commenter has one or two opinions (at least) that go against mainstream thought of horror fandom, and the fact that I’m not a fan of the 1976 adaptation of Carrie is one of them. Now to be fair, it has to do more with the story than the movie itself, but there you go. Here, while I can appreciate the modern-day take, I can’t say I’m much happier with this version.

Carrie is based off Stephen King’s first novel, and as it is his first novel, while I’ve consistently found it interesting in the way it was written, it’s never been a book I’ve really gone back to for enjoyment (unlike a handful of his other novels, such as It or Duma Key). I just don’t find the story all that interesting, and though I do like the spotlight being shone on the dangers of religious mania, I don’t think that’s the focus that most people in-universe would have to a situation like this.

This version follows the book (and original adaptation) pretty nicely, though with a few necessary alterations (such as Ms. Desjardin not slapping Portia Doubleday’s Chris during their punishment runs, or mentioning that the state stopped Margaret White from home-schooling Carrie). That said, it does feel, to me, like a closer version to the book than the 1976 movie, only with an updated feel (such as a far more prevalent use of technology, which made the scene in which Chris and her father were talking to the principal, played by Barry Shabaka Henley, all the better).

The adaptational attractiveness of Carrie does bother me a bit. She might look a little plain here, and she has the necessary awkwardness, but Chloë Grace Moretz is far from ugly, and I find it disappointing that no adaptations want to touch on the fact that Carrie, from the novel, was overweight and, to many people, unattractive. This doesn’t take away from Moretz’s performance, which I thought was pretty good, but just something that bugs me. Moretz does great, especially with her scenes when with Tommy (Ansel Elgort), and you really got the sense that this unhappy girl was happy, finally, for the first time.

I did like Judy Greer as Ms. Desjardin. Greer’s an actress I know from really random things, such as 13 Going on 30 and Jurassic World to Ant-Man and a single episode of The Big Bang Theory, and she does pretty good here in her role. She doesn’t really add anything to the character, but she was a solid presence. The same could be said for Julianne Moore (The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Hannibal). Now, I really did like her performance (and a lot of her dialogue was taken directly from the book, which I loved), but like Greer, I don’t think she really stood out in any spectacular way.

Neither Gabriella Wilde nor Ansel Elgort were great, but I did like the humanity I felt from Elgort. Wilde was decently compelling in her regret, but a face-heel turn like this a week before graduation doesn’t really make up for the times that she and friends made life hell for Carrie in the past. Portia Doubleday was a pretty good Chris, so no complaints there.

One way in which I think the 1976 version was undoubtedly better was during the prom sequence at the end. Maybe it’s because the 1976 movie is such a classic (even if it’s a classic I don’t love), but the prom sequence here just felt sort of shallow and almost tepid. I did like some of the scenes after, such as Carrie stopping that car with her telepathic powers in slow-motion, but overall the finale lacks the feel the 1976 version had, and that dream at the end just felt like a failed imitation of what’s been done better.

If you enjoyed the 1976 version of Carrie, you might enjoy this. You might hate it, also, and find it unnecessary, but since I don’t enjoy the 1976 version that much, it doesn’t really bother me that they made a new version of this. I found this movie passable, and certainly watchable, but still not a type of movie I’d watch for pure enjoyment. I think this movie does some things right, and the 1970’s movie did some things right, but both end up around the same for me.

And I wish I remembered more about the 2002 Carrie TV movie, because, ironically, I actually remember liking that one more than the 1976 version, and thus, more than this version. Until I see it again, though, I’ll refrain from pissing people off.

Carrie is a movie that looks pretty good, and has fantastic production quality and names attached to it, but it’s not a story I ever cared for (be it novel or most adaptations), and as such, I found this below average. Kudos to the guy in the library who shows Carrie how to make videos full-screen, though – he’s perhaps the most stand-up character in the movie.

6.5/10

You’re Not Getting Out Alive (2011)

Directed by Kristine Hipps [Other horror films: The Monument (2005)]

Coming to us from Colorado, You’re Not Getting Out Alive is a rather low-budget horror comedy. Like many lower-budget films, some of the special effects can be questionable, but what’s not in question is that this movie has a lot of heart. I enjoyed most of the performances, the story, and overall, no matter what the budget was, this was a lot of fun.

Of course, I’ve always held a healthy respect for independent horror. Even if the movie isn’t great (such as Camp Hideaway Massacre or Curse of Halloween), you have to respect everyone involved for doing their best and trying to pull a movie together without the bottomless well of money that Hollywood can dole out. As such, some of the better lower-budget horror, such as Silver Cell (2011), The Horrible 4 (2010), Clownz R Us, and Vampire Ticks from Outer Space, deserve as much accolades as possible, and this movie is no different.

So many of the performances were great, but before I can even touch on that, I wanted to speak briefly about how amusing the story here was. To be sure, it’s not abnormal as far as slashers go – a group of people are killed by a mysterious killer in a rural location – but what allows this to be more is the fact these people are actors in a low-budget play. The play itself is hilarious – written by a stoner director, the title is “Southern Greens: The Story of the Civil War Stoner.” This stuff is comedy gold.

Aside from the director and assistant director of the play, the seven central characters are actors in the play, and are introduced to us via their auditions to be cast in the play. Some of these auditions are decent, and what you might expect, but some are damn funny, such as Toby’s ridiculous hand-puppet skit, Misty’s piece from Memoirs of a Confederate Jezebel (“Papa? Is that you, papa? I cannot see you for the tears in my eyes and the blindness”), or Ellis performing a piece from Julian Caesar: The Musical. These performances are great, and this is a comedy horror I can get behind.

There are a few performances that don’t stand out that well, but that’s only because some of them here are just so wildly fun. Though James O’Hagan Murphy, Patrick Mann, and Krista Rayne Reckner have a harder time being remembered, I really don’t think that takes away from what they brought into the movie, especially since Reckner’s character of Misty was legit funny at times.

Taking it from the top, though, we have Michael Kennedy, playing the stoner director. This guy, though maybe too stereotypical in his caricature, cracked me up. His play about marijuana saving the Union was great, and possessed some quality lines, such as “I propose a toast to Southern victory and the marijuana plant,” and a bit about “sucking on” someone’s “bubbling pipe” (being a bong, but it’s entirely possible his character didn’t get the sexual innuendo). I loved his character, and Kennedy did a great job with it.

Playing his assistant director was Dawn Bower, who was high-strung and the exact opposite of the laid-back, stoner director. Her character could be curt at times, but I thought she was a lot of fun. And speaking of fun, there’s David William Murray Fisher, who played Ellis, a rather flamboyant gay guy, who was great, and he worked well with Duane Brown, who played Toby. Brown brought a decent amount of humor too, so kudos.

Linda Swanson Brown was pretty perfect as the straight final girl. Not too quirky, but not without personality, she did really well in her role, and playing an entirely different role, Jillann Tafel was amazing. Playing an older actress past her prime, and always drinking, she had a lot of funny lines (“I once took it in the caboose from Benny Hill. That’s how I got my union card,” and “Isn’t she Miss Sunny Tits?”).

You’re Not Getting Out Alive is a funny movie. It’s not over-the-top, like The Stripper Ripper – once bodies start piling up, most of the jokes and banter stop – but for the first forty minutes, there is a lot of fun to be had with this movie.

Of course, the kills aren’t great here. There is a decapitated head that pops up (obviously a dummy head), and there are a few stabbings and bit of bloodshed, but this slasher is more focused on the characters and story (and on a related note, while the story isn’t great, I do think it handles some foreshadowing pretty well) than it is on kills, which works to it’s benefit given the budgetary constraints.

I really like this movie. For whatever budget they had to work with, they did a great job (and provided some amusing outtakes during the credits), and for low-budget horror comedy, I think this movie definitely does what it sets out to do, and fans of independent horror should endeavor to give this one a look.

8/10

Weaverfish (2013)

Directed by Harrison Wall [Other horror films: N/A]

Ever since I heard the basic plot of this film (teens are infected by a virus and try to survive), I was intrigued. Part of it is because I’ve always wanted to see a serious take on this type of story (my dislike of Cabin Fever not being a surprise to many), and also, due to the film being British, I thought that’d add a little flavor. All-in-all, Weaverfish is a decent movie, but I think it could have been tightened up a bit, and it doesn’t end up an amazing watch.

I can appreciate the somber attitude the film possesses, though. At times, it’s almost naturalistic in it’s sluggish set-up – nothing overly horror even happens until maybe 45 minutes in. It gives us time to get to know some of these characters, which is a good thing, but it can feel quite slow, and doesn’t really pick up until the final twenty minutes. And throughout it all, it’s just a dreary, downbeat movie.

One element of the film is a bit different, being the narration. The main character has snippets of dialogue he speaks first-hand, as if he’s telling a story (example being “Matt will never know how lucky he is to have a girl like Charlotte Menary. Maybe she won’t know it either”). At worst, it can feel a little pretentious, but I sort of like the effect. Some of the dialogue can be a bit dramatic, and maybe other parts could feel awkward, but I don’t think it’s too negatively distracting in any case.

Another aspect, which can feel a bit daunting, is the amount of characters here. Granted, half of them aren’t important, but we’re basically thrown into a situation in which characters get little-to-no introduction, and for the first thirty minutes, you’re trying to figure out the pre-existing relationships these characters have. With ten names and faces (Reece, Shannon, Matt, Charlotte, Abby, Gavin, Mike, Kayleigh, Jo, and Chris) to try to keep track of, it can be a bit annoying.

I think the story is quite decent, though, sluggish portions aside. While having a party on a long-forbidden beach (years in the past, a boy went missing, and the lake and surrounding land have been cordoned off ever since), a sort of bacterial virus from the water gets many of those present sick. Throw in some background story of a defunct oil plant and some empty barrels of chemicals, and you have a fun time. Now, nothing is firmly stated come the end (partially because the film ends in a somewhat open manner), but the mysterious people hunting the infected kids down is still fun.

Shane O’Meara wasn’t the most emotive lead, but his narration grew on me, and he was probably one of the better characters in the film. Josh Ockenden did pretty good as a crappy character to begin with, but one who gets better as the film goes on. Lucy-Jane Quinlan was stable throughout, as were most of the rest of the cast, being John Doughty, Ripeka Templeton, Jessie Morell, and Duncan Casey, the best being probably Templeton and Doughty.

We do get some nice scenes toward the end, which were suitably creepy, but what’s even better about the ending is the fact we get a small flashback, showing the formation of Reece and Charlotte’s friendship. It’s a little scene, to be sure, but it packs decent emotion, and seemed to help the film end on the same somber note it’d held since the opening.

For many people, I suspect Weaverfish is just too slow to maintain full interest, but I personally dug it. It’s not a movie I’d revisit too often, but I do think it’s pros far outweigh it’s cons, so if you’re in the mood for something a bit more character-driven, this British film might be worth checking out.

7.5/10

Killer High (2018)

Directed by Jem Garrard [Other horror films: N/A]

Back in 2012, Syfy had an original movie called Haunted High (which was later retitled Ghostquake, because that’s so much better), and it was terrible. I mean, in some ways, it was okay, but the point is, it wasn’t a great time. So when I marked this to record to my DVR, given this is also a Syfy original, I was expecting something much in the same vein.

However, surprisingly, I had a really good time with this.

I didn’t know that it’d be a horror-comedy when I started watching this, and if I had, I’d have probably gone in with even lower expectations, but the humor here was actually pretty good (and in fact, the “rabid Snuffleupagus” line had me cracking up so much, I had to pause the movie), and I found myself laughing plenty of times. The freeze-frames were probably used once too often, but for the most part, this was a movie that knew what it was doing, and I think it showed in the script (“I don’t need your help. I have God to protect me,” followed up by, “Oh, that’s a really bad choice,” was an exchange that caused more laughter).

What really helps is that the main character, played by Kacey Rohl, is one of those annoying, overachieving types who was in every high school organization possible, and she’s in charge of the ten-year high school reunion. Rohl’s character easily could have been unlikable (and she had her moments), but it turns out that she didn’t go to college – she stayed in her dying town (and I do mean dying – the town doesn’t even have a police station) to care for her sick mother, and all she has to really look back on was her success in high school while everyone else is succeeding around her, such as her old rival, played by Humberly González, who has been around the world.

Really, this is a movie with more feeling than you’d expect. Make no mistake, most of it’s a silly monster movie with a giant warthog goring people, if it’s not eating people, that is, but there’s still some emotion, such as the tender moments between Asha Bromfield and Varun Saranga (Neverknock), or the scene in which everyone’s favorite teacher, played by Linda Goranson, comes to the reunion in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke. There are nice moments here, which is good to see, especially as I have absolutely no plans to attend my ten-year reunion. Though if a killer warthog were on the loose, I might reconsider.

Kacey Rohl is a name I don’t know, but she just did fantastic. I can’t really fault her character for being petty to high school rivals, because that’s really all she has – for ten years, she’s been in a dying town, dreaming of planning the perfect reunion, and this happens. I’ll admit I never loved González’s character, but she did grow on me. Both Bromfield and Saranga were good (especially Saranga), and I wish they had a happier ending then what they did. Jonathan Langdon mostly fell flat for me, but he did have that hilarious Snuffleupagus line, so points for that.

Killer High isn’t a particularly gory movie (though the aftermath of the main slaughter was pretty nice), nor did it boast the best effects (the warthog was pretty simple, but it had it’s charm to it), but it was a surprisingly fun ride, with occasionally moving moments and an interesting story to it’s killer warthog. It was a fun movie, and definitely one I’d give another go. It over-uses a few elements, and the finale isn’t quite that strong, but it’s a surprisingly strong film.

7.5/10

Sinister 2 (2015)

Directed by Ciarán Foy [Other horror films: Hotel Darklight (2009, segment ‘Untitled’), Citadel (2012), Eli (2019)]

So I’ve pretty much only heard negative things about this sequel, especially in comparison with the first Sinister, after seeing it, I can understand the negativity and disappointment. Not that Sinister 2 is a terrible movie, but it definitely doesn’t reach the same level as the first.

I did appreciate them utilizing James Ransone as the main character, though – it may have been expected, but it’s still a solid trajectory for the series to take. I just wish they focused purely on him as the first focused on Hawke as opposed to giving the perspective of kids being seduced by dead kids, which is an aspect of the film I found entirely predictable and, worse, uninteresting.

Maybe if the dead kids in question had been the same ones from the first film, it would have been a bit better, but instead we have all new kids and all new home videos. As they went, Sunday Service was probably the best (albeit a bit more complex than many of the other murders), and Christmas Morning had character (what little we saw of A Trip to the Dentist showed promise also), but Fishing Trip struck me as somewhat silly, and not quite comparable to the somewhat jarring Lawn Work from the first film.

The whole idea, though, of brothers being aware that a group of ghost kids wants to show them videos of families being killed and neither one thinks it’d be wise to let anyone know about this (I get that most adults wouldn’t listen, but these two didn’t even try) just doesn’t seem realistic whatsoever. And the ending, while not coming out of nowhere, felt somewhat off also (and not even due to the obvious fact that Shannyn Sossamon’s character could have gotten out of that abusive marriage if she had contacted the media or just utilized social media against the abusive piece of shit that was her husband).

On that note, I thought the abusive father (Lea Coco) was an interesting element, as it gave both of the kids reasons to want to join the dead bois and fuck everyone up. The father was such an unlikable character, too, that when he got, shall we say, killed, it was clearly a good thing for everyone involved. The rest of the ending, though, just seemed weak.

Ransone was still just as fun in this one as the first movie, but he even had surprising courage at times (such as him standing up to that infuriating attempted abduction by the police). I didn’t love or hate Shannyn Sossamon (from the One Missed Call remake) – she was okay, I guess, but I didn’t feel strongly at all about her. Both of the kids (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) were okay, and felt like real brothers (it helped that they actually are), but I can’t say I cared for their stories. Tate Ellington was something. I didn’t hate his performance, but I just didn’t see the point in it at all.

I guess that’s my main problem with the whole film. The first film was a very solid supernatural movie, and I’m sure they wanted to repeat that success here, but failed utterly. It’s watchable, of course, and it’s not that much worse than average, but it’s definitely not a film that’s really worth that much. Plus, it had the exact same jump scare ending the first movie did. A+ for originality.

5.5/10