Fear Street: 1666 (2021)

Directed by Leigh Janiak [Other horror films: Honeymoon (2014), Fear Street: 1994 (2021), Fear Street: 1978 (2021)]

I will admit to being surprised by how well I felt this film closed the Fear Street series. No doubt I was expecting a decent movie, but this borders on spectacular. While it’s not a perfect film, this was a highly satisfying movie, and a great conclusion for Fear Street.

In some ways, this really feels like two movies (and in fact, is sort of treated like it) – the first half shows us the true tragic story of Sarah Fier, and the second transports us back to 1994 as Deena and her clan attempt to end the evil for good. It’s a simple story-telling technique, but it was done fantastically, and the movie never once feels like it’s running on too long (despite totaling an hour and 52 minute runtime).

Of course, I love movies that show the dangers of religious extremism (such as Apostle, End of the Line, The Mist, and The VVitch), and so the first half of this film, after Sarah was accused of being a witch, deeply appealed to me. I don’t know how realistic a potential lesbian relationship would have been in a close-knit community in 1666, but I felt they did a good job mixing real emotional drama with the religious hysteria that always seems to follow.

What’s even better is what this portion of the film reveals about the Goode and Fier families. It’s nothing that would likely blow anyone away, but I do think they did a great job handling some of these surprises, and while the finale of the film may not feel quite as amazing, the story the first half tells is just stellar, with amazing performances throughout.

Because of the nature of the film (the first half uses actors from the present-day 1994 story as characters in 1666), a lot of the big players here did double duty, and I think that it solidifies Kiana Madeira as a damn good actress. She was good throughout the film, but really shined in the first half, and especially the conclusion of the first half, dealing with a lot of emotional material, and making it damn convincing.

Others who stood out include Benjamin Flores Jr. (who didn’t really do that much during the first half, but really won me over by the finale), Olivia Scott Welch (sort of a vice-versa situation, as she didn’t do that much in the second half, but shined beautifully in the first half), and Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd (just seeing the pair of them again, even in smaller roles than what they had in 1978, was great).

I want to give a special mention to Ashley Zukerman, who played Solomon Goode and Nick Goode. While I didn’t love Nick Goode’s characterization, I thought that Solomon Goode was one of the most fascinating characters I’ve seen in recent times. I can’t get into anything specific without potentially spoiling something, but I just thought Zukerman was fantastic as Solomon, and I’d easily watch this one again just for him.

Michael Chandler did well as a one-scene wonder (he had more scenes than one, but I think the horrors of the meeting house really showed his menace), as did Rachel Doman, who played a character hinted at back in 1994 (and I thought would be more important to the story), but I still loved how she eventually popped up toward the end.

It’s not just about a solid story and great performances, though. Let’s talk horror, brahs. Perhaps one of the best scenes in this movie, and perhaps of the series as a whole, would be the meeting house murders, done by a pastor who lost his way. It’s not in-your-face brutal like the bread-slicer scene from 1994, but it was well-shot, and led to a great shot of bodies laid out in front of the building (the same kind of shot we saw in 1978, of course).

There’s also quite a few painful injuries, the worst being a hand rather mutilated by a blade. That did not at all look fun, but it was damn good special effects. Other scenes that warrant a mention include an eye-stab toward the finale and a brawl between the multiple killers (which seemed a little silly, but not so much that it took away from the movie). While the violence here probably won’t be noted near as much as the brutality of the finale of 1978, or the soon-to-be-famous bread-slicer scene from 1994, this movie still came to play.

Like I said at the beginning, I was surprised by how good this was. To be honest, I was expecting to be underwhelmed (I was hoping I wouldn’t be, but I knew it was certainly possible), but I was definitely mistaken in that assumption, because 1666 not only stands out as a better movie than both of the previous Fear Streets, but one of the strongest horror movies I’ve seen from the last couple of years.

9/10

Fear Street: 1978 (2021)

Directed by Leigh Janiak [Other horror films: Honeymoon (2014), Fear Street: 1994 (2021), Fear Street: 1666 (2021)]

Much like the first movie of this trilogy, I didn’t love 1978, but I did enjoy this a bit more. Maybe it’s because I’m more a 70’s guy than a 90’s, or maybe it’s because camp-based slashers are, as the kids say, “for the win,” but I found this a pretty enjoyable film, and definitely well-used to expand the story of the witch, Sarah Fier.

In comparison to the first film, it could be fairly said that this film lacks some of the strong punches (or kills), but where I think it makes up from that (and to be fair, there’s only so much they have to make up, as plenty of the kills here are pretty decent, especially toward the ending) is the atmosphere and well-done 70’s aura.

Much like the first film, we were somewhat overloaded with music, only this time around, I appreciated the music a bit more (this is more my time period of music than what the first movie gave us), and as such, we got classic songs such as “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” [Neil Diamond] and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” [Blue Öyster Cult]. It doesn’t make the movie better, but it does add to the 70’s feel.

I had few problems with the characters from the first movie (who mostly appear here also, as the central story here is an extended flashback being told to the 1994 characters), but I really enjoyed the characters in this one, especially the sisters Cindy and Ziggy, played by Emily Rudd and Sadie Sink. Emily Rudd had that good girl act down fantastically, and on the flip-side, Sink was great as more of an outcast. I also enjoyed her budding relationship with Ted Sutherland’s Nick Goode, and I thought all three of these individuals did stellar.

While she took a little to really grow on me, Ryan Simpkins’s Alice became a pretty interesting character. I never 100% loved her personality, but I can definitely sympathize with it, and her broken friendship with Rudd’s character, while it didn’t get a lot of focus, was certainly worth seeing.

It can also be said that some of the performances, such as McCabe Slye, Jordana Spiro, and Sam Brooks, didn’t do much for me, but I think that has to do far more with their lackluster characters than anything else, and I certainly don’t begrudge them for it.

Of course, the camp setting was nice, and reminiscent of classics such as Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, and Friday the 13th. Part of the reason I enjoyed this one more than the first is likely because I just connected the setting to slashers that I love, so while I didn’t care so much about someone getting possessed and going on a killing spree, I can still appreciate it a bit more given where it took place.

The various connecting lore was all pretty decent. Nothing special, really, but we get a few more details about what’s going down, and I appreciated that tree from the Shadyside Mall (from the first movie) coming back into prominence, as it just felt like something important at the time.

One last thing that I have to mention, though, is the scene toward the end with the sisters taking a last stand against the multiple killers, which was just fantastically tense and emotional. Not to mention, of course, damn brutal. There’s a couple of small twists at the end, and though I saw one of them coming, I still think it played out pretty well.

I enjoyed 1978 more than 1994, and that seems to not be an altogether uncommon opinion. This one just felt more what I’m used to, and the fact that there’s less exposition here helped out quite a bit. It’s not perfect, but I did think this was quite a good film.

8.5/10

Fear Street: 1994 (2021)

Directed by Leigh Janiak [Other horror films: Honeymoon (2014), Fear Street: 1978 (2021), Fear Street: 1666 (2021)]

Released to quite a bit of excitement and hype, I found Fear Street a decent movie. Not great – no doubt it had potential – but pretty good, and I think that it’ll stand out primarily for being one of the biggest supernatural slashers in the last couple of years. I sort of wonder, though, how memorable the film will be years down the line.

The story was pretty solid. Since this is the first movie of a planned trilogy, there were pieces of set-up that weren’t fully touched on (such as the events of Camp Nightwing and C. Berman’s story), but in a case like this, I think that’s fine. I’m not overly fond of the idea of a witch sending out deceased previous killers, as I’m more the down-to-Earth slasher type, but as far as the story is concerned, it made sense, and the killers that popped up (especially the Nightwing camp killer) looked good. Also, the central, Skeleton costumed killer, was quality.

Lead Kiana Madeira (from both The Night Before Halloween and Neverknock) did a fantastic job, from the action sequences to the more emotional moments, and I was surprised how well she worked with Olivia Scott Welch (who also did great). I didn’t really get Julia Rehwald’s character, and for that matter, the same can be said for Fred Hechinger, but both gave perfectly good performances. Benjamin Flores Jr. took a bit to grow on me, but grow on me he did. Ashley Zukerman was a bit on the ehh side, but I think that’s more due his character being a bit of a blank slate as opposed to anything else.

For a movie based off a R.L. Stine series for teens, Fear Street does have pretty solid gore. The opening sequence was a nice portent of things to come, and throughout the film, we get some slit throats, axes to heads, gut stabs, and most impressively, someone has an unfortunate mishap with a bread slicer, to gory effect. That was the goriest kill, to be sure, but I think my favorite would be a slow-motion death near the beginning. The movie doesn’t hit you over the head with gore, of course, but if that is something you look for in a movie, you should have a home here.

To an extent, I do think that it could be said the movie ran on a bit longer than necessary. At an hour and 47 minutes, this isn’t a quick romp through the park, and though it mostly keeps you engaged throughout, and rarely feels as though it’s dragging, I don’t really know if the 107 minute runtime was justified. Luckily, I don’t think it really impacts the film that much.

What has a lot of people happy is the nostalgic feel of the film, since the story takes place in 1994. The music is totally 90’s, which, if you’re a fan of 90’s music, might be a good time. Personally, I could take or leave the soundtrack, but I do think it at least fit the movie. Even ignoring the music, the movie had a style to it, and while some of the quick cuts felt a bit silly, like the music, I thought it went well with the movie.

One thing that I personally liked, and didn’t know beforehand, was how some of the central characters are a lesbian couple. Given the Fear Street books are from the 1990’s, they feature as heteronormative a cast as you could possibly imagine, so the fact that we get a same-sex relationship, and not only that, but a believeably-flawed one, was a nice touch, and something I appreciated, and I can imagine plenty of others will appreciate also.

There are points toward the second half of the film where I’m not entirely sure where things are going, or a bit worried about how they’d finish the story off, especially with a few different moments where it seems the story might end at, but I’m generally happy with the conclusion. At the very least, the next Fear Street movies will pick up some of the unanswered questions, so I think it’ll likely end up satisfactory.

I wouldn’t say that Fear Street is a great movie. I did have a reasonable amount of fun with it (though small things, such as the amount of information shoved into those opening credits, sort of bug me), and I thought the characters, even the ones I didn’t really get, were solid. Like I suggested earlier, I’m not entirely sure that this movie will end up being that memorable in the coming years, but it worked a decent amount this time around, and hopefully the sequels will make things even better.

7.5/10

The New Mutants (2020)

Directed by Josh Boone [Other horror films: N/A]

Filmed in 2017 but not released until 2020, The New Mutants had a somewhat troubled production, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I loved pretty much every second of it, and as a fan of the 80’s comics this film is based on, I’ll go in depth as to exactly why and how I enjoyed this so much.

I don’t own all one hundred issues of the original run of The New Mutants, but I do own quite a lot of them (at the time of this writing, I just bought another issue off eBay to help fill in a gap), and I’m very familiar with the characters of this movie. I 100% expected to be overly critical of different aspects or missed opportunities, but I was so pleasantly surprised with virtually all of this that such negativity won’t happen.

Generally, I’m not the type to squee. Nothing against squeeing, it’s just not me. But I squeed a lot in this movie. That opening with the unseen growling – I knew instantly we’d get some Demon Bear action (and I was not at all disappointed come the ending). Then that Lockheed hand-puppet. Then some Limbo. Sam’s accurate accent. Comic-based origins all around. Illyana’s fantastic reply to “It’s magic,” as she says, “So am I.”

OH MY GOD IT’S SO GOOD

And it doesn’t end there, because we got a fantastic reveal about an hour in that I loved, and we got to see Illyana and Lockheed (IN THE FLESH!!!!!!!!!!!) kick some Demon Bear ass and Wolfsbane going badass on that bitch Reyes and Roberto’s and Sam’s friendship.

Absolutely. Loved. It.

I will now talk about each of the five central characters and why they rocked.

Dani Moonstar (Mirage) was never a favorite of mine from the comic books (primarily because I thought most of the other New Mutants tended to be more interesting), but I think that Blu Hunt did fantastic with the character. Her growing relationship with Rahne was cute, and watching her come to confront her fears toward the end was oddly inspiring, soothing the Demon Bear into submission with confidence unforetold by humanity. A+.

A favorite of mine from the comics is Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), who was younger than all the other New Mutants and had a lot of religious baggage due to her upbringing. Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) does fantastic with her character, and while the same-sex attraction (which wasn’t present in the comics) threw me off, I really think it helped flesh out her character. Also, that accent. Loved it. A+.

From The VVitch, we get Anya Taylor-Joy, playing Illyana. Making her the cold bitch was an interesting choice, but story-wise, it makes sense, especially given her comic book history and time spent in Limbo. Those Smiling Men were a new addition as far as I am aware, but they were creepy, so no complaints. Magik (as Illyana is sometimes known as) isn’t a character I often focus on in the comics (though her friendship with Kitty, or Shadowcat, always warmed the heart), but she was done great here, and Taylor-Joy was fantastic.

And that line? I’ll set it up and repeat it, because life isn’t often filled with such pleasures:

“Are you crazy, that thing will kill you,” Sam shouts out.

“He’s right, it’s magic,” Rahne passionately agrees.

With supreme confidence, Illyana replies, “So am I.”

Quality dialogue from the film

Fuck. Yeah. A+.

Lockheed didn’t get much screen-time, but as both a puppet and a living being, he was cute, and I’ve always loved him in the comics. Loved how his eyes matched Illyana’s at the end – just heart-warming.

Roberto da Costa (Sunspot) was cast fantastically as Henry Zaga. I don’t know who Henry Zaga is – just heard his name for the first time tonight – but he got down Sunspot’s characteristics as accurately as one could. The CGI with his mutant power was a bit off at times, and I would like to think the design could have been done more comic-accurate, but regardless, Zaga was great here. A+.

Charlie Heaton played Sam Guthrie (Cannonball), the Kentucky-born coal miner. Heaton himself was born in the United Kingdom. I literally couldn’t tell. Fantastic job with the Kentucky accent (because let’s be honest – Cannonball without his accent is Wolverine without his healing abilities and claws), and his rather depressing background was done fantastically, as were most things regarding the characters in this film.

Cecilia Reyes was never a big comic book character – I have a handful of her appearances in the late 1990’s – so she was an interesting choice to be the doctor overseeing the New Mutants, and I think that Alice Braga did great. I didn’t know where her story was going, so it was definitely interesting to see what they came up with, and though it potentially does a disservice to Reyes’ comic counterpart, I thought it was quite satisfactory.

While watching the credits (and confirming that Sienkiewicz was rightfully credited for his obvious contributions), I saw that Williams, Heaton, and Taylor-Joy had dialect coaches, and I think that’s a big reason why their characters felt so authentic to their comic book counterparts.

Williams’ dialect coach was Jan Haydn Rowles, and helped her achieve a quality Scottish accent (Williams herself was born in Bristol). Heaton’s Kentucky accent was assisted by Jamison Bryant, and for Taylor-Joy’s Russian accent, we have Howard Samuelsohn to thank. These three gave this movie a lot, and I think they’ll probably be overlooked, so I definitely wanted to give them a mention.

Now, for a horror movie review, I haven’t spoken about the horror aspects at all. It could fairly be said that some of the more tense and spooky scenes here were run-of-the-mill or, at the very least, merely passable. Personally, that didn’t bother me, as I thought that, while some of the CGI was a bit much at times (maybe the Demon Bear finale or the Smiling Men), it was good enough as to not detract from the story being told, and as I was engrossed already, the fact that some of the horror aspects weren’t as good didn’t matter in the slightest.

The New Mutants has gotten primarily lukewarm reviews. I get it. It’s not a movie for everyone, and I can sense that some were definitely disappointed. I wasn’t at all expecting much myself, and watched this more out of interest than anything else (I haven’t seen an X-Men movie since I stopped First Class a third of the way through due to my frustration with that movie), so when it turned out that this was a new-age classic, I was more surprised than anyone.

Ratings are about how movies made you feel, and this movie made me feel happy. I love the New Mutants comic books of the 1980’s (even the issues that weren’t as good still had those characters you’ve grown attached to in order to offset the less-than-enjoyable story arcs), and that love translated here in a way I never would have expected, but I stand by it.

10/10

I Think We’re Alone Now (2020)

Directed by Jt Kris [Other horror films: N/A]

This is perhaps one of the most mind-numbingly horrible experiences I have had in my life. I mean, I am no stranger whatsoever when it comes to amateur horror movies, but this has got to take the cake, and every other imaginable pastry.

The plot of this one is simple – a mother and daughter are driving on a forested road. There’s a car on the side of the road, so the mother gets out to investigate. The mother get her throat slit by a mysterious masked man. The man then proceeds to chase the little girl. And chase her. And chase her.

I just took a deep breath, because I’m already frustrated. Most of this movie is a little girl running through a forest, sometimes finding a new place to hide (be it the ruins of a cabin or an old barn), and then the mysterious assailant finding her. The girl sometimes screams, and then runs away again. And the guy finds her. Sometimes there’s another person around (a man walking his dog, an old woman driving by, some drunk in a trailer), but these are all distractions, as none of them amount to anything, and the man is back to chasing the girl.

We never find out who this man is. Toward the end, the little girl pulls his mask off and screams, but she’s probably just screaming because that’s what she does for a good portion of the film. Truth be told, I felt bad for this girl (Junie Liv Thomasson), because while she’s not a great child actress (she looks into the camera a handful of times), she still has to submerge herself in water and sustain herself off stale Oreos.

There’s almost no dialogue in this movie. That might be expected, but there you go. Never once does the little girl say “Why are you doing this” or anything along those lines, which I can understand, as she saw him kill her mother, but with almost no dialogue, this movie is just tedious beyond all words.

Oh, and the audio isn’t really in sync. Whether it’s a scene of the guy pounding on a car door with the audio of the door being hit off from when the physical contact is made to the little dialogue there is being delayed a noticeable second from when it’s said, this was amateur hour all day long (so I guess 24 amateur hours).

Camerawork too was something problematic. I don’t have the vocabulary to really explain what’s wrong with it, but it’s not good. There are these little cuts that happen quite often, some random dimming; I don’t even know, it’s just all around awful.

And to top all of this off, this movie was an hour and six minutes. Now, 66 minutes might not sound like that long of a movie, but this definitely feels it’s length and more. Like I said, large swaths of this film have zero dialogue, and the amateur cinematography and out-of-sync audio will just give you a headache, provided you didn’t have one already.

What I can give this movie props for is the music. No, not the movie’s score, which was generally awful, but the songs that pop up in the film. Early on, when I thought this might have potential, A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran (So Far Away)” played for a bit. Also, while I’m not a giant fan of the song, we also heard a little “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies.

Most of all, though, I Think We’re Alone Now utilizes the synthpop song “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany multiple times throughout the film. The killer listens to it in his car as he’s driving after the little girl. Now, I don’t know the song (it’s apparently a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ 1967 hit), but I enjoy 80’s music (why do you think I gave The Strangers: Prey at Night such a high rating?), so it was catchy enough to at least give me something.

Otherwise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as amateurly painful as this turned out to be. I mean, this was bad. You think you’ve seen low-budget horror before, and I know I certainly have, but if this isn’t one of the most amateur movies I’ve ever seen in my life, I’ll eat my socks and name myself Jim-Bob.

If you catch this free on Amazon Prime, I’m sorry.

0.5/10

Tokyo Home Stay Massacre (2020)

Directed by Kenta Osaka [Other horror films: N/A] & Hirohito Takimoto [Other horror films: N/A]

This was pretty much an abomination in every way.

For one, much of the movie is in Japanese with hard-coded captions, which is fine. Here’s the embarrassing thing – apparently half the time, whoever made the captions doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe without it causing a glitch in the text. It happened multiple times throughout the movie, and it was just hideously amateur.

But that’s the movie for you. For the first 45 minutes or so, the movie was bad, no doubt about it, but in the final 25 minutes that things take a really terrible turn. The film decides to go all-out, over-the-top comedy, with synchronized Japanese cop twins who use swords and are just 100% too goofy for anything that’s good. There’s blood splatter on the camera, something I’ve always hated. Basically, as soon as one of the characters has a stupid line about having a Green card, what little potential (and I do mean little) this film has goes out the window.

Obviously, they intended to go that stupid zany route at the end. That’s fine. That’s the choice of those involved in the movie. The thing is, while things were a little off at times, that humorous feeling isn’t present until the last third of the film, and for me, that was a very bad turn for the film to make, as that over-the-top goofy idiocy void of anything redeemable isn’t my cup of tea.

Playing the central characters, Alex Deryez, Diana G., and Will Harrell were all pretty bad, Deryez probably being the worst (his acting is legit terrible). Diana G. almost had something interesting going on with her character, but it didn’t really go anywhere, and given the context of the film as a whole, it wouldn’t have mattered if it did. Harrell was semi-respectable, but it doesn’t amount to anything.

Miyatani (who played the oft-exuberant father figure of the house) was sort of fun toward the beginning, and he’s perhaps the most consistent throughout the film, as even toward the end, I can dig what he was doing. Umiyushi (the sister) was under-the-radar and quiet, but okay. Umiyushi (the brother who acted like a rabid dog) was horrible. Kanta Nonaka and Yuuko Kawashima (the synchronized cops) made me want to kill myself.

That said, I almost never blame poor performances for bad movies, and despite how bad some of these performances were, I’m not starting now. Tokyo Home Stay Massacre had potential with some aspects (such as the torture sequences in which a hammer is used to remove teeth and a guy had some toenails pulled out), but they did so much wrong that I honestly just want to forget I gave this a watch.

At the time of this writing, this movie is available free on Tubi. If you’re interested in checking it out because my review can’t properly explain what a mess this movie was, please go ahead, because I just can’t anymore.

0.5/10

Run (2020)

Directed by Aneesh Chaganty [Other horror films: N/A]

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Run – I saw that it had a pretty decent rating (6.7/10 on IMDb as of this writing), and that was enough to get me starting a free trial on Hulu so I could check this out, and you know what? It’s actually quite a well-done film.

Though not perfect, this movie has a lot going for it. Certainly elements here do feel a bit like Misery and films in that vein (though the more personal connections here of the people involved lend to increased emotional scenes), but I think it uses those elements in pretty solid ways, with great dollops of tension and suspense. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a surprise thrown in toward the latter portion of the film.

This is only Kiera Allen’s second role (her first was in a 30-minute drama), which is amazing, as she does a phenomenal job. I won’t say that I loved her character in the final sequence, but I was rooting for her throughout the film, and she brought a lot (easily the most) to Run, and she has a bright future in acting should that be her desire. Fantastic performance.

Sarah Paulson does great too, playing Allen’s mother with, perhaps, a dark secret or two. While at times her performance can feel a bit on the been-there-done-that side, I think she did a great job, especially toward the end when things were spiraling out of control. I don’t know Paulson from many other things, but I did find it amusing that with some of the more popular movies and shows she’s been in, I recognize her best from the political drama Game Change. Lastly, though his role wasn’t large, I appreciated Pat Healy’s (The Innkeepers) role and his character.

As things were building up at the beginning, I thought they did a great job with the uncomfortable and dangerous position Allen’s character was in. The whole thing is all the more terrifying given her character’s medical problems, and that she’d have a harder time fighting back if need be than others may. I think it’s a large credit to Allen’s performance that so much of this movie was compelling.

I wasn’t a giant fan of the end, though. I’m not saying that the final scene isn’t potentially deserved or right, but it just didn’t strike me as satisfying as I otherwise would have liked. Certainly seeing Allen’s character walk through the metal detector was heart-warming, but the rest was sort of ehh.

That aside, though, Run had a lot of things going for it, and while it likely isn’t good enough to be a new-age classic, I do think it’s very much worth the watch, as both the performances and the tension throughout the film combine to make this a pretty solid and quality film.

8.5/10

Star Light (2020)

Directed by Mitchell Altieri [Other horror films: The Hamiltons (2006), April Fool’s Day (2008), The Violent Kind (2010), The Thompsons (2012), Raised by Wolves (2014), A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff (2016), The Night Watchmen (2017)] & Lee Cummings [Other horror films: N/A]

More than anything, I think that Star Light is a film with potential. The production looked quite professional throughout, and plenty of the performances left positive impressions on me. Problematically, though, the story here doesn’t gel with me, and because of that, despite how decent some aspects were, I can’t say this was a good film.

Filmed in Graves County, Kentucky, Star Light looks very nice for the lower-budget it was made on, and I think it’s a damn shame that the story can’t live up to the quality production surrounding it. Even the special effects, while not great, weren’t really that far off from what you might see in Hollywood films, so this isn’t some Michael Taylor Pritt film (which is also a bit of a shame, as his films generally have heart).

Much of the younger cast were decent, with only a few really stand-out performances. Playing the lead, Cameron Johnson didn’t do too shabby. Better was Liana Ramirez, and I wish that her character had been more of a focus than she was (and, on that note, I wish she had a better conclusion). Though his character didn’t amount to much, Garrett Westton had a suave aura about him I appreciated. Chandler Rachelle (in thus far her sole role) did good with a pretty terrible character, and Rahart Adams, while he had his moments, ended up somewhat forgettable.

Hagen Mills didn’t have a big role here, but I did appreciate his character if only because he was the only one that had a noticeable Kentucky accent, and seemed a good ole boy. Apparently Mills died prior to the release of this film at the tragically young age of 29 (I won’t get into the story, but apparently it was suicide after an attempted murder, based on what’s been reported). Regardless, like I said, Mills wasn’t a big focus here, but I did feel the need to mention him.

I don’t doubt that Bret Roberts is a good actor, and I’m sure he was given a very specific character-type to play, but boy, is his performance in this movie somewhat too much. He provides what little comedic elements this film has, and just feels a bit goofy at times. Perhaps of interest to some, Scout Taylor-Compton (of Wicked Little Things, Halloween, and Ghost House) takes a central role, though I can’t say I really get her character, and Tiffany Shepis (Dorm of the Dead and Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula) pops up a bit also.

Even toward the end, there are some things that I’m not understanding. I guess we sort of know the origin of Taylor-Compton’s character (though it’s never really explained well at all at any point, which was a bit annoying), but there’s unanswered questions (such as the nature of that old-woman-beast thingy that appeared-ish in two scenes) and to top that off, a really God-awful conclusion. I don’t know if the antagonists here were mutants, demons, or aliens, and that’s something I’d have liked, at some point, to be clarified, which never happened.

Star Light looked nice, and it really had a quality production, but the story really faltered past the first twenty minutes, which I thought was such a shame. If the story had been tightened up, this might have been a really solid film, but as it stands now, it was just a disappointment. A glossy disappointment, but a disappointment all the same.

5.5/10

The Cattle Farmer (2020)

Directed by Matthew Vincini [Other horror films: N/A]

A somewhat bleak film, The Cattle Farmer struck me as a movie with a decent amount of potential, and while the final product was somewhat palatable, a few things definitely could have been tightened up, and the execution on the story made this one end a bit drab.

The general story isn’t bad, and more so, while it’s not screaming originality, I thought there was a lot to like about how the mystery unfolded, though I’d have liked a few more creepy scenes before we’re presented with the answer. Even the final twenty minutes have a somewhat horrifying vibe to them (which falters somewhat with the execution, but the gist of the situation was definitely dark), though I do think a twist at the end is somewhat weak.

Philip Lombardo (as Gabriel) felt a bit too all over the place at times. No doubt he was a threatening guy (that scene in which he forces Konner to play Russian roulette was a quality case in point), but he felt a little bit ridiculous at times. I wasn’t entirely enthralled with Jake Blakeslee (Konner) either, but that has more to do with where the story took him than is does his performance, which I thought was solid during the finale.

I wish that Hannah Lullo (Astrid) had a bit more to do with things, and I guess more importantly, I felt like her character was misused toward the end, or at least as far as I could tell. Lastly, I wish we found out a bit more about Kathryn Milewski’s character (Claudia), but maybe there wasn’t a good place to throw that information in.

There are definite elements here that needed work, outside of aspects of the story. The audio seemed somewhat iffy at times, which I think had more to do with the delivery of some of the lines as opposed to equipment, but that’s outside of my league. Related, some of the lighting was, well, dark. Some really dim and hard-to-see scenes take place in this film, and especially toward the end when you want a clear-cut image of what’s going on, it can be a bit annoying.

While I do like elements of the movie, such as the darkly somber tone and finale (if they could have extended the suspense they had in the final twenty minutes throughout the whole film, that would have been a treat), The Cattle Farmer felt more like wasted potential than it did a good movie. This still may be worth a look, and I recommend doing so just so you don’t take my word for it, but as for me, it didn’t quite work out.

6/10

Wolfwood (2020)

Directed by Harry Boast [Other horror films: The Hollow World (2018)]

This British found footage film, alas, was a bit of a mess. And to be frank, probably a lot more than a bit.

About forty minutes in, something marginally interesting happens. Up to that point, we, the viewers, are watching along as there’s a lot of awkward attempts at conversation and remaining clueless as to what’s going on.

We know one of these guys (Harry Boast) knows the quiet woman (Rhian Williams), but we don’t really know how, and she doesn’t really seem that interested in interacting with him. Throw in the guy’s friends (James Bryant and Mandy Rose), who don’t know anything about Williams’ character, apparently, and it’s just awkward and boring.

Honestly, the most interesting thing about this film, and interesting is a strong word, is the fact it’s British. And sadly, that stands true as we finally learn a little more as to what’s going on. At the same time, though, while we do learn a few things, a lot of the information is jumbled and confusing.

These werewolves pop up, and I’m not sure if they’re the same thing as the aliens, and if that point of confusion befuddles you, just watch this and see what I mean.

Being a found footage film, a lot of the movie is a shaky camera being dragged along by a guy going through the woods with his increasingly annoying friends. Like, I get why Mandy Rose’s character would be a bit peeved, but she blames Williams’ character before Boast’s, which was just irritating. Also, she apparently trained as a nurse, but has no sympathy for those who self-harm, so that’s just grand.

It’s hard to fully explain how terrible a lot of this was. It wasn’t just that it was dull for a long period of time, or awkward (though it was both of these things) – I’m not one to get nauseated or disoriented during found footage movies, but damned if I wasn’t getting a headache watching this.

Guys, it’s not just one bloke and his camera – we get some cameras that were apparently in Williams’ house, Williams’ cell-phone camera, some highway camera footage (for god knows what reason – would that really be in the scope of a Freedom of Information request that apparently garnered this footage?), and all of this mixed in with a confusing story about werewolves, OCD people who don’t strike me as OCD whatsoever, aliens, and 28-year and 11-year schedules within schedules (dude, I was honestly lost during 90% of that explanation) made for a pretty terrible time.

I don’t place any of the blame on the actors – I think they all did what they could with what they had. Sure, Mandy Rose’s character irked me, and I thought that James Bryant’s character was an idiot for lugging that camera around everywhere (I love how every found footage character that’s a film student has to record everything), but none of that is on the actors or actresses.

Wolfwood had some potential given the British countryside and performances involved, but the story was just messy and confusing. Maybe I’m alone in thinking it felt off, even – certainly if more people see this one and end up liking it, I’ll be okay with admitting I missed something. For now, though, this was a very rough watch. The movie was only 73 minutes, but boy, what a tough 73 minutes that was.

2/10