Hide and Seek (2005)

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

Hide and Seek isn’t really a movie I’d call good, nor would I call it that memorable, but it is sort of interesting.

Interesting in that this horror film stars a big name (Robert De Niro) and yet I’ve rarely ever heard about it from fellow horror fans (in a way like What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford), after seeing Hide and Seek, I can sort of see why, because while well-made, I don’t think this is exactly original.

Robert De Niro does perfectly fine here. I don’t really care for the end of the film nor his role in it (the idea itself was fine, but I don’t think the execution did the idea justice), but he’s still a good actor that doesn’t often appear in horror films. Dakota Fanning does decent as a child actress, though I can’t honestly say she made a big impression on me either way.

It was nice seeing Famke Janssen show up (I know her best as Jean Grey from X-Men, but she was also in Lord of Illusions and Deep Rising), but she didn’t really add that much. More interesting was Dylan Baker – because of his role from Trick ‘r Treat, I had suspicions of the guy from the beginning, which wasn’t necessarily fair (nor does it mean he’s not a guilty party), but thought it was worth mentioning.

I really like the idea here because toward the end, there’s a hell of a lot of suspense, and the mystery which we’re all trying to figure out is pretty engaging. It’s just that the solution they go with doesn’t really work for me (nor many, if the common complaints I see about this one can be transposed onto the negative critics as a whole). The ending just seems like something that would have been figured out earlier than what it was. I won’t go as far as to say it was illogical, but I wouldn’t excuse others for coming to that conclusion.

Truthfully, I don’t think Hide and Seek is terrible, no matter how derivative some of the film is. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it’s not near as bad as I’ve seen some say. Ultimately, though, Hide and Seek isn’t going to be memorable one way or the other, which, with an actor like De Niro starring, is condemnation enough. Good idea, but iffy execution, and I find it a bit below average.

6.5/10

Tarama (2005)

Directed by Jeremy Haft [Other horror films: N/A]

I wasn’t truthfully expecting much from Tamara, but as it ended up, I found myself generally amused. The movie’s not amazing, and I was reminded of both Devil’s Diary and The Rage: Carrie 2 a few times throughout, but could I see myself throwing this into my collection? Sure.

What helps Tamara get past the somewhat generic plot are the strong performances. Jenna Dewan was smoking as Tamara (more so after she came back from the dead, admittedly), and you couldn’t help but feel she was in the right for most of the movie, her only downside going after Matthew Marsden’s character or his wife. As it was, Marsden’s performance as a teacher was on point, and I felt for him.

Bryan Clark was great as an idiotic bully (apparently the fact that his steroid use was uncovered by Tamara makes it her fault that he’s kicked off the football team), and it’s characters like this that I always like to see killed in painful ways, especially after he and his cohorts kill Tamara and try to cover it up, with the help of nice girl Katie Stuart and bitch Melissa Marie Elias.

After Tamara comes back from her death with the help of some witchcraft (because all bullied chicks were into witchcraft, amiright?), things go down a somewhat predictable, yet still enjoyable, route. Personally, the scene in which a student cuts his ears and tongue off, not to mention stabbing his eyes, in front of the whole school, is easily my favorite death in the movie, and really, nothing else comes close (though eating that bottle was probably second place-worthy).

Tamara isn’t a great movie, but I was pretty amused throughout. I lose a bit of interest toward the end, and that whole party scene was just a bit eh to me, but overall, it’s an okay movie that certainly surprised me. Around average, but not anything more, in my view.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so for the NSFW entry, here you go:

Swamp Zombies!!! (2005)

Directed by Len Kabasinski [Other horror films: Curse of the Wolf (2006), Fist of the Vampire (2007), Wendigo: Bound by Blood (2010), Ninja: Prophecy of Death (2011), Skull Forest (2012), Blood Mercury (2014), Angel of Reckoning (2016), Blood Prism (2017), Swamp Zombies 2 (2018), Schlock-O-Rama (2018, segment ‘Film Trailer’)]

This is a film I have somewhat mixed views on. Certainly Swamp Zombies!!!, at a two-hour run time, is a bit much. They certainly could have cut more than a bit of it out, and the movie would be a more digestible one. At the same time, there’s a certain element of fun to be had here (and given the rather low ratings the movie generally receives, I admit it may just be me), so I still find value in it.

Being a very low-budget movie, there’s not much in the way of performances that are particularly good. However, there were a few individuals who stood out somewhat positively, not because of their acting, but their solid fighting skills (Swamp Zombies!!! is virtually a kung-fu movie at times). Len Kabasinski (who is also the director of this film) has much of the fighting sequences, and he’s decently fun to watch. Certainly he’s one of the most kick-ass park rangers I know. Brian Heffron (who randomly had an origin flashback for some reason) and Dan Severn (who unfortunately didn’t appear much) also got some good fright scenes in.

Overall, the story is about as uninteresting as you could expect, and the zombie attacks, along with the fighting back, are as repetitive as zombie movies tend to be. Gore-wise, nothing really stood out, and while I had no big issues with the lower-budget special effects, I do sort of wish there was a bit more variety insofar as the zombies were concerned.

Another thing that Swamp Zombies!!! threw in was quite a bit of nudity. I guess that’s one way to keep people watching, and admittedly some of the ladies were pretty attractive, but when there’s a woman showering for a few minutes, rubbing soap over her breasts multiple times, adding nothing to the story, I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little bored.

This said, Swamp Zombies!!! is probably the exact type of movie you would expect if asked to imagine a low-budget zombie film. It runs on far too long, but there’s still fun fight sequences and solid neck-snappings to keep us moderately engaged. I saw this once before, and to be honest, I forget what I really thought about it, but seeing it again, while it’s far from being a good movie, I was amused enough to see that, despite how bad many think it is, I almost liked it. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to anyone else, though.

6/10

The Amityville Horror (2005)

Amitville

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

I won’t pretend to remember much about the original The Amityville Horror (it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it), but this remake, which I’ve also seen before, strikes me as almost entirely pedestrian despite a few solid sequences.

The movie’s certainly tense, no doubt about it. But movies before did it better (such as the classic Burnt Offerings), and this really adds nothing to the table, which is a shame, as there was a pretty good atmosphere perforating much of the movie.

However, it was held back by it’s utterly Hollywood style. The jump scares, the ghosts no one but the audience can see, the idiotic conclusion, the hideous flashes of ‘scary’ stuff, I hate that type of movie-making. Kids may eat it up, and it may sell tickets, but I’ve no interest in it.

There were some good scenes, though, such as the sequences that took place atop the house. The opening to the film, a flashback of an earlier slaughter, was moderately welcomed also. But then most of the other scares aren’t worth much, and good tension doesn’t erase the taste of an otherwise stale film.

If this remake has anything really going for it, I think it’s the decent acting of the lead, Ryan Reynolds. Throughout the film, he grows more and more unstable, culminating in a blood-less potential carnage. Jesse James (who I know best from 2003’s Fear of the Dark, a long-time favorite of mine) was also noticeable, but I don’t know if he, or really any of the kids, were that crucial to the story.

Honestly, while I really liked some of the scenes and ideas this was going for, it felt incredibly Hollywood, both tame and wrought with unnecessary jump scares meant purely for the audience. I don’t remember if I liked this when I first saw it, but I definitely see it as below average now.

5.5/10

Hostel (2005)

Hostel

Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Cabin Fever (2002), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

Each time I see this film, I continue to be impressed. The story is not necessarily overly creative, but it is well crafted (especially the switch half-way through the movie, in which we end up with an unexpected protagonist). The gore is a pretty decent touch also. Not only that, but the movie has a pretty satisfying ending, which is rather unexpected from a movie that is as grimy as this one.

Paxton’s not a character that I overly enjoy for most of the film, but his depth does grow as the story goes on, and by the end, you’d be hard-pressed to not be rooting for him. Insofar as the torture aspect, it’s pretty solid. Not overdone, either. While it’s definitely shocking the first time around, this movie doesn’t drown itself in unnecessary gore, which I applaud it for. There are downsides present, but truth be told, I don’t believe there are all that many. Only thing that comes to mind right now is that I wish some of the characters had a slower death than they did. Alas, we can’t always get what we want. The ending makes up for that, though.

7.5/10