Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Directed by Joe Lynch [Other horror films: Chillerama (2011, segment ‘Zom-B-Movie’), Mayhem (2017)]

When I first saw this one some years back, I found it underwhelming. I know, though, that there is a decently-sized contingent that find this a generally solid sequel, so I was sort of excited to see it again and perhaps wondering if it would move up in my rankings. And after doing so, while it is a little better than I initially gave it credit for, I still don’t think it’s all that memorable.

Aside from, of course, Henry Rollins, who is the sole reason to watch this film if you’re hesitant to do so, as his kick-ass character, from beginning to end, is just fantastic. I’m not saying that Rollins makes this movie great – honestly, while portions are good, I think the film still hovers around average to below average – but without Rollins, I think this movie would lose a lot of the charm it managed to create, as he brings quite a lot as an over-the-top drill sergeant who sends these mutated hillfolk back to their cabins, and how!

I have to admit that I expected quite a lot more from Aleksa Palladino’s character, but in a way, I can understand why they might want to get rid of the obvious final girl somewhat early on. Even so, I found it a bit of a shame, as I did find her character one of the better ones here. Otherwise, you have Erica Leerhsen, who did take a while to grow on me, but I eventually found myself quite enjoying her standoffish attitude.

Texas Battle (what a name, brah) had a quality moral code, which I appreciated (him turning down Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe’s character was nice to see). Battle didn’t stick out as much as Leerhsen, but he was still good. Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon) was the stereotypical hot bitch, so while attractive, her character was as hideous as any of the deformed hillbillies. Most of the others, be it Steve Braun, Daniella Alonso (who was also amusingly in The Hills Have Eyes II), or Matthew Currie Holmes, were sort of there, and little more.

Of course, the gore here was pretty solid throughout. I never really cared for the whole cutting-someone-in-half with an axe/chainsaw/hatchet, so the opening kill was more meh, but it still looked good. A hatchet-throw stood out, if only because it struck me by surprise, and the finale was beautifully gory (what with a tree debarker debarking more than bark), though it did lead to a final scene that I thought was unnecessary.

Actually, since I mentioned the finale, I did rather like that paper mill that made for the setting, and when Rollins’ character is running through and blowing people up with his dynamite arrows, it’s a lot of fun, and of course there’s solid tension. I am disappointed by what goes down with Rollins’ character, but I get it.

All of this, though, doesn’t mean the movie’s great. I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but generally, I thought this hit some of the right spots without fully satisfying me, and some of it is admittedly smaller things, such as that supposed game show. I’m a fan of Survivor, which is partly, I suspect, what that game show is based on, but boy, does it sound unnecessarily complex. I’ll chalk that up to bad design for a reality TV show, though, and not an example of how I wasn’t wowed by this.

Something that does play a part, though, are the deformed antagonists. In the first film, things were kept simple with just three antagonists, but here’s there’s an extended family, and for me, it wasn’t always easy to keep in mind exactly how many family members there were, and related, where those members were at any given moment.

I don’t dispute that Dead End had some solid things going for it, such as the kills and a few of the characters, but despite what it does right, I think this is somewhat clearly below average, though not nearly as badly as many other films.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below, if it tickles your fancy, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Wrong Turn 2.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Directed by Michael Dougherty [Other horror films: Krampus (2015)]

Perhaps one of my favorite horror anthologies, Trick ‘r Treat is a pure treat every time I see it. I love the way the multiple stories here interweave yet also have their own strong individual feel and engage with different genres (whether it be serial killers, zombie children, killer principals, werewolves, what have you). A very strong film, Trick ‘r Treat sets the bar very high.

Following the jumbled timeline throughout the movie can be fun, though it’s not even necessary in some cases. If you missed the couple from the opening bumping into a young woman looking for safety from a serial killer, you didn’t miss anything important, but it was a nice little scene (and the pair also pop up in a smaller cameo later).

The film has a very comic-book influenced feel (not too dissimilar from Creepshow), which goes well with the style and multiple subgenres the movie deals with. The atmosphere is top-notch (especially during the Halloween School Bus Massacre segment as it takes place in that creepy quarry, and the flashback in that segment had a great mood too), and while the special effects aren’t generally special, I do think the music is quite note-worthy at times (such as during the werewolf transformation), and the whole of the film has a fantastic Halloween vibe that few movies (aside from, of course, Halloween, Halloween III, and Halloween 4) can really match.

It’s hard to pin-point the best performance. I was always partial to Anna Paquin (X-Men, Blue State, and as for horror, Darkness and Scream 4) as I really loved her character, finding her so much more attractive than her sister and friends. Playing her sister is Lauren Lee Smith (who was in the terribly dated show Mutant X that I actually saw a handful of episodes from), who’s character was a bit of an annoyance, but she did share a few good moments with Paquin’s character. Samm Todd and Jean-Luc Bilodeau were solid.

Dylan Baker was a lot of fun in his segment, and while I can’t say if I recognize him from the weaksauce comedy Head of State, the great Spider-Man 2, or even Fido, but I do recognize him, and his role here is great. Britt McKillip was bratty, but fun (and her eye roll after being chastised for using a bad word is totally a mood). Of course Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Ring, and most memorably for me, X2) was great here (and his character had some nice depth to him).

As for the best segment, I personally lean toward the Halloween School Bus Massacre, as that back-story behind the massacre was both brutal and interesting, the atmosphere at the quarry is fantastic, and the fact that you can’t at all fault Rhonda (Samm Todd) for her actions. I enjoyed the Surprise Party, though some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose (which may not be that noticeable on a first-time watch, but there you go). The Sam-centrict story with the demonic thing fighting Cox was fun, and even more fun was Dylan Baker’s segment (with some quality humor added), but neither one had that oompf Halloween School Bus Massacre did.

Which isn’t to say that those segments bring down the film, because as everything here is interconnected in some way, the whole of the movie is pretty solid. It would have been sort of nice to get a little idea of what Sam actually was (I’m leaning toward a vengeful personification of traditional Halloween), but it definitely wasn’t necessary in order to enjoy the film.

Special effects throughout are great, with the spotlight really going to the zombie kids at the bottom of the quarry. The werewolf transformation sequence (matched with that music) makes for a great time, and the long fight between Sam and Brian Cox had a lot of solid stuff going on. What makes all of this better is how digestible it is, as the story goes for just 78 minutes (with credits, the movie’s listed as 82 minutes), and it’s done so beautifully.

Trick ‘r Treat is a fantastic film. It amazes me just how good it actually is, and for a Halloween night, or any night, it’s a great choice, with fun, interwoven tales that really carry with them the essence of the holiday.

9/10

Ghost Mother (2007)

Directed by Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen an over-abundance of Thai horror films. In fact, interested, I checked out on IMDb the Thai films I have seen, and I came up with just six total (ranging from the great like 303 Fear Faith Revenge and The Dorm to the mediocre such as The Victim to the terrible such as Sick Nurses). Ghost Mother now makes that seven films from Thailand.

Sadly, though, I’d probably rank this closer to The Victim than I would The Dorm or 303 Fear Faith Revenge. That said, it’s no doubt better and more cohesive than The Victim, but ultimately, Ghost Mother probably falls around average.

Pachrapa Chaichua was decent as a main character, but I didn’t get a ton of expression from her. Better was Focus Jirakul and Thana ‘Oil’ Suthikamorn. I also enjoyed the woman who played the sister of Chaichua’s character, but I’m not sure what her name was (this foreign film isn’t particularly well-indexed). I’m thinking it was perhaps Sudarat Wongkrut (which is apparently another name for Chotika Wongwilas), or maybe (I have no idea if Thiti is a male or female name in Thailand, but I also didn’t know that Chotika was a female name in Thailand either until today, so cut me a break), but whoever played that character, good for her.

It’s true that in some ways, the story of a ghost getting revenge on those who killed her is somewhat simple, and though this movie does play around a little with narrative structure (such as showing a flashback to a scene the audience hadn’t seen before), it’s a pretty easy story to follow, which is something I’m actually happy about. Too often I can get lost watching Asian horror (good examples of this would be Ju-on and A Tale of Two Sisters, not to again mention The Victim), so it’s nice to be able to sit down and get the salient points across.

Worth mentioning, while the version I watched was subtitled, they weren’t the best subtitles I’ve ever seen. Sentences were phrased oddly and incorrect syntax was often used. None of this led to any conversation going above my head, and it was probably more funny than annoying, but I thought it worth pointing out.

Ghost Mother was okay, which isn’t really what I was expecting when I first found out I’d be watching it. It’s not a great movie, and I doubt it’s special in many ways (most of the kills themselves are just okay, but there are occasionally creepy visions, such as a character seeing a hanged woman on a bus that was passing by), but for Thai horror, at least the little I’ve seen, it’s a movie that might be worth watching just for a taste of something different.

6.5/10

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo [Other horror films: Intruders (2011)]

When I revisited 28 Days Later…, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Revisiting this one didn’t have the same outcome, alas. Not that 28 Weeks Later is terrible or anything, but I just never found it in me throughout the film to get too excited. Some interesting ideas, and I’ll touch on those, but overall, it’s almost bland in comparison to the first movie.

I’ll give it to the main cast, though, who are all decent (save for perhaps Robert Carlyle). Rose Byrne (Insidious) was decently fine, though I admit that it would have been nice to learn maybe a little more about her. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) may have made some questionable decisions, but I rather enjoyed his character, and I personally don’t have a problem with him going AWOL. What moral person wouldn’t in his situation? Imogen Poots wasn’t really special, but despite her atrocious decisions, I thought she had more heart than Mackintosh Muggleton, who played her younger brother.

The story, though, was somewhat hard for me to get into. I don’t really mind the asymptomatic idea, but the fact that they (military and scientists both) left her entirely unguarded is utterly laughable. And when they’re gathering up all the civilians into a “safe area,” that “safe area” has more than one exit, and one of the exits isn’t guarded, so, well, infected individuals get in, and all hell breaks loose.

Past that point, it’s entirely on the military what happens to the population, as small as it was, in London. When the snipers get orders to start shooting everyone, infected or otherwise, it may be the logical choice, but you can’t fault anyone getting shot at for attempting to escape in any way possible. At that point, as far as I’m concerned, the military screwed up, and void all right to authority over anyone on the ground.

I mean, really, I’ve never served a day in uniform, and never would, if given the choice, but apparently I’m more intelligent than the commanders in this situation. Collecting all the civilians into one location in order to keep them safe is fine. It’s a good idea. Having multiple exits is, of course, a good idea. But why does only one of the exits have guards? With that easily avoidable mistake, they infected pretty much the world (because there’s no way a second outbreak isn’t reaching mainland Europe).

When there’s a lot of questionable set-up before the primary action, it becomes hard to really get too invested. Sure, I was rooting for Renner’s character when he left his sniping of innocent people and instead went to help them escape, but the whole situation was ridiculous to begin with, and realistically, I don’t think it’d ever happen.

Here’s another thing –  Robert Carlyle’s character is a caretaker of one of the buildings. Pretty much, he keeps things running smoothly. That’s all fine and well. His key-card grants him access to any place in the building, which makes sense. The problem is it also grants him access to purely military installations. Why? Why not just allow him access to his job locations, and restrict access to, you know, parameters outside of his employment?

An asymptomatic woman is found. She’s infected, but is still mostly normal. She’s not crazy, nor does she desire to eat flesh. Carlyle’s character is her husband. Because his key-card was idiotically keyed, and because the woman wasn’t guarded, Carlyle’s character was able to get to her, kiss her, and start the infection up again.

I don’t blame Carlyle’s character at all. If your wife was found, of course you’d want to get to her. Who can blame him for that? It’s entirely possible he didn’t even know she was infected, because I don’t believe he was told. If his key-card hadn’t granted him access to her, none of this would have ever happened.

This is what I’m talking about. It’s not the character’s faults, as far as I’m concerned. Even the military probably weren’t the ones who designed the architecture of the facility, nor the ones who came up with the emergency plans in case of a new outbreak. Because of the foolishness that went into these aspects, though, it just comes across as pretty bad.

28 Weeks Later is still a thrilling and decent zombie film, make no mistake. There’s some pretty cool scenes (though one of the most-talked about sequences, being the helicopter one, was just too much), and of course the budget here came to play. The story itself, though, was faulty, and that can’t just be excused, especially after how spectacular the first movie was.

6.5/10

Lake Placid 2 (2007)

Directed by David Flores [Other horror films: Boa vs. Python (2004), S.S. Doomtrooper (2006), Sands of Oblivion (2007)]

Honestly, there’s little to say about this pointless sequel. I’m a big fan of the first movie, but this Sci-Fi flick is pretty much what you’d expect – hideous CGI, unremarkable characters and acting, and little going for it.

It utterly pales in comparison to the first film, of course. They had a Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt)-like character, though so much less interesting. Same with Betty White’s replacement. It’s just a shallow film with really atrocious CGI most of the time (about none of the crocodiles looked remotely well-done, nor any of the arms or legs that got torn off).

John Schneider didn’t impress me remotely, nor did Sam McMurray. And in fact, Chad Michael Collins didn’t do that much for me either, but I don’t really hold that against him. It’s true there are a few attractive women (Sarah Lafleur and Alicia Ziegler), but there are others like Joe Holt who could have done so much more, but the story here had no use for that.

Instead, it’s badly-generated crocodiles, because that’s the go-to for Sci-Fi movies. As far as I can tell, the only reason anyone would endeavor to check this out is to see what Schneider’s been up to, but it’s really not worth it, and while I’d highly recommend checking out the first movie for a fun romp, this is just what you’d expect, which may not make Lake Placid 2 a bad film, but certainly does make it unremarkable.

5/10

1408 (2007)

Directed by Mikael Håfström [Other horror films: Skuggornas hus (1996), Strandvaskaren (2004), The Rite (2011)]

Based on a short story by Stephen King (which is around 53 pages in the copy of Everything’s Eventual that I own), this film is a piece of trash. The original story is great, fantastic, even, but this adaptation was way too Hollywood to have any real chance at matching the uneasy atmosphere of the story.

For Hollywood horror, 1408’s okay. Here’s the problem: the short story is virtually perfect, and if they had wanted to make a movie based directly off the story, they probably could have done it in a 45 minute short, with three actors. They didn’t need to add in a mentions of Mike’s father, or have his ex-wife appear, or have their ghostly daughter appear (in fact, no daughter is even mentioned in the short story whatsoever), any of that.

It’s no surprise they added the dead daughter to the story though – see, it makes for an emotional scene when Mike is hugging his long-dead daughter, only to have her crumble before his eyes (he knew it wasn’t really his daughter, but of course he gave into the temptation to touch her), and then that fantastic conclusion with his ex-wife and him hearing their daughter on the tape recorder is oh so god-damned emotional too, right?

Bangs head against desk

Listen, the original King short story is great. At just over 50 pages, it’s not near as short as some of his other stories, but there’s a palpable sense of unease during the whole of the hotel stay, and while this movie included some of it (such as the “Even if you leave this room, you can never leave this room” line and referenced the “My brother was actually eaten by wolves one winter on the Connecticut turnpike” line), they threw in so much utterly ridiculous and pointless fodder as to render the actually effectively spooky stuff moot.

Such as that fake-out ending. You know, it seems that he makes it out of the room, he actually imagined the whole thing while unconscious from that surfing mishap at the beginning of the film, and all is well until – here’s a shocker – he’s still in the room. He never got out. It was an illusion (like most everything else the room does).

Bangs head on desk

Wow, Hollywood, that’s original.

I liked John Cusack in this role, and actually, Samuel L. Jackson as Olin wasn’t bad either. And shout-out to Drew Powell (Butch from Gotham), who had a handful of small appearances here. But with the story as butchered as it was, Cusack’s performance here doesn’t save anything.

Had I not read the story before watching the film, it’s possible more of this might have impressed me. Honestly, though, even that might be a stretch, because this movie is so utterly generic and as unsurprising as you could possibly imagine.

I get it, a 40-minute movie couldn’t be released in theaters, and Samuel L. Jackson or John Cusack probably wouldn’t have signed on for it, but would you rather have a good movie that’s short or a generic, glossy production that looks nice but has no substance?

From that stupid predictably fake-out ending that anyone who has ever seen a movie saw coming from a mile away to the whole needless addition to the daughter, I can’t think of a single good reason to recommend 1408. Read the story; throw this away.

3/10

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Directed by Oren Peli [Other horror films: Area 51 (2015)]

Overly pointless, I don’t see why this movie gets as much praise is it seems to. I never have. Admittedly, I’ve only seen it two times now, but Paranormal Activity strikes me as entirely unremarkable and has little going for it, at least in my perspective.

I don’t mind that the plot is thin – that’s fine. There were some interesting things that occasionally came up, such as the picture Micah found in the attic, or the fact that the demonologist recommended to the couple doesn’t actually show up (I’ve not seen any of the sequels, but if I had to bet, I’d say he probably appears in at least one of them). Katie being dragged out of bed was solid too.

But boy, does the boyfriend, Micah, get on my nerves. At first, he doesn’t take seriously the idea that his girlfriend is dealing with supernatural experiences (despite the fact that she’s very obviously being impacted by it), and once he grows to accept something’s going on, instead of turning to what passes as professionals in the field (such as the aforementioned demonologist), he acts all macho about it, and wants to deal with it himself.

How he expects to ‘deal’ with an invisible entity is never explained, and I suspect he has literally no idea of what exactly to do, which is why going to someone who might actually know a way to help would be a route worth investigating, but instead he berates the idea, because macho man is strong and masculine.

Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston both do an okay job as far as their performances go. Like I said, Sloat’s character is pretty annoying, and while I suspect toward the end of the film he realizes his idiotic mistakes, that doesn’t make him any easier to swallow. Featherston did fine as a young woman slowly getting terrified into inaction. To her credit, she has a good handle of what to do, but her boyfriend thinks he knows better, so there’s no shot for a happy ending.

As for the ending, I was lukewarm. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t worth a rather dull and aggravating build-up that Paranormal Activity gave us. I would have tried harder to get Katie out of the house than Micah did, but maybe he was just tired and didn’t care about the potential danger.

Though I say this virtually every time I review a found footage movie, I don’t have a problem with the style. I think it presents a lot of potential, especially for low-budget movie-makers, but at the same time, it’s a double-edged sword, because much of the time it’s overdone and automatically called ‘the scariest movie of [insert year here]’ with literally nothing backing the claim up.

I don’t like Paranormal Activity. I remember the trailers hyping it up, but the movie’s a mixture of dull and annoying, with the occasional piece of potential thrown in just to further frustrate the watcher. I also accept that I’m in the minority here, and maybe the series gets better later on, but as for this first movie, it was a waste of time and certainly one of the most pointless horror movies of 2007.

4/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, with my friend Chucky (@ChuckyFE). Listen below to hear my disappointment in the flesh.

Green Eyed Monster (2007)

Directed by Gabriel Barboza [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t know a thing about this movie until it was suggested by my brother I watch it (and by suggested, he just picked the movie completely at random, so it wasn’t as if it was a positive recommendation from him), and I wasn’t wowed at all by this. For a low-budget film, I think it’s probably fine, but overall, there wasn’t enough meat here to really get my blood pumping.

Estella Gomez was cute and all, but boy, did she get on my nerves after a while. Playing her abusive boyfriend (we didn’t once see him strike her, but I’d bet anything that guy did) was Michael Lee Arnold, who was okay, but his despicable character, not to mention idiotic once we reach the end of the film, made him impossible to root for. Andrea VanEpps got some funny zingers in, but she too wasn’t that engrossing a character.

As for the plot, I won’t say that it didn’t have potential, but as plenty of movies in the past have shown, potential isn’t really good for much on it’s own. Certainly Green Eyed Monster seemed to possess a somewhat unique story, but given it’s multiple annoying characters and repetitive nature during the second half, it wasn’t what I wanted whatsoever.

If you go into this one blind, I have a hard time believing you’ll come out satisfied, but at the same time, it’s not like it’s atrocious. I don’t expect to see this one again, which works for me, and truth be told, I’ll probably forget it by next year. For a one-time watch, I’ll concede it’s possible one could be entertained, but I really don’t think this is making anyone’s favorite low-budget list.

5/10

Rogue (2007)

Directed by Greg McLean [Other horror films: Wolf Creek (2005), Wolf Creek 2 (2013), The Darkness (2016), The Belko Experiment (2016)]

Having never seen this before, I wasn’t necessarily sure what to expect, but I was hoping for a fun film. Well, this is no Alligator or Lake Placid, but a decently serious tourist-trip-gone-bad, and while I enjoyed some of the film, I will admit to not being thrilled with the movie as a whole.

Most of the cast is perfectly acceptable. Radha Mitchell (2006’s Silent Hill and The Crazies remake) and Michael Vartan worked well together, and other stand-outs include John Jarratt (Mick Taylor from the Wolf Creek series), Mia Wasikowska, Caroline Brazier (who reminded me a bit of Sara Gilbert), and Sam Worthington. Stephen Curry’s character seemed to have the potential to be more important near the beginning, but it never really went anywhere.

Where the movie succeeds is in building each of the characters into sympathetic beings, what with the mother battling cancer, or the man who came to spread the ashes of his loved one (that scene was rather touching, and perhaps my favorite of the film), or the American tourist who just doesn’t want to be eaten by a crocodile. It’s an hour and forty minute film, so they have time to show different sides of these characters, and I think they do a good job.

Otherwise, though, while I liked the tense sequences sprinkled throughout, I thought the final fight went on a bit long, and at times during the film, I was bordering on disinterest. I feel that 15 minutes could probably have been cut safely, so an 100-minute movie wasn’t necessary.

The gore, when it popped up, was solid. The only instance where it really made an impact was during a scene in which a character’s hand got impaled by the crocodile’s tooth, but even so, the movie, while not focusing on this aspect, didn’t shy away from occasional bloodshed.

Overall, though, I wasn’t deeply enjoying Rogue. I think it was well-made, and I think the characters really add to the film, but the ending, again, felt like it dragged, and I didn’t find myself as engaged throughout as I wish I was. It’s an Australian movie worth seeing, I’d say, but there are better ones out there.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast – listen below, if at all interested in a time of mirth, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this flick.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle [Other horror films: Quarantine (2008), Devil (2010), As Above, So Below (2014)]

While not amazing, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is a decent found footage-type film, utilizing many different techniques, from footage to interviews, news reports, etc., in telling the story of a serial killer who has avoided capture for years. It’s not particularly gory or that visceral, but it is a bit disturbing at times. I just don’t know how memorable it really is.

There’s no doubt some quite unforgettable scenes here, such as a creepy crawling the killer once did, or a second toward the end revealing the depths of the killer’s brutality. Some of it is hard to watch, such as the ending in which a victim of the killer’s was found alive but completely screwed up mentally, giving a rather heart-wrenching interview.

But is it truly that memorable? Truthfully, I don’t really think so. It’s certainly engaging in the moment, but I don’t think it has the staying power required of a found footage movie to be recalled that often, despite the decent plot and solid presentation.

For what it’s worth, I would say that the film’s probably worth seeing, but I’ve seen it twice now, and I’ve not really been particularly moved either time. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, but I just don’t think it’s great. But hey, maybe I’m off-base, and it’s your type of thing, so take it and fly.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.