Urchin (2007)

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

While a moderately interesting movie, I don’t really have a lot to say about Urchin, as it ultimately didn’t really do much for me, either as a horror film or a drama.

I will say that the Kid, played by Sebastian Montoya, did pretty decent for a young actor (he apparently turned ten during the filming of the flick). Other main actors did well also, such as Rick Poli and Larry Swansen (who died just a couple of years after Urchin was released). Norm Golden didn’t have a whole lot of screen-time, but I enjoyed his character also.

It’s the story of this film, though, that will probably draw the bulk of attention Urchin gets. A homeless man claims he can lead some other homeless people to a paradise within the Earth, but he must find noble souls. One of the homeless guys (Poli) decides to murder five ‘good’ people as a ticket to paradise, while The Kid (Montoya) tries to bring money to the Old Man (Swansen) in order to also secure his place on his side.

As one might imagine, most of the horror-centered scenes come from Poli’s kills, such as a decapitation that was decently well done, along with the kidnap and murder of another person. The Kid gets in some kills too, though, with the use of an acid-filled water-gun and an electrified fork weapon as he fights some gangsters who stole some money he was able to get his hands on. Combine this with a subplot of a man who takes to The Kid, because his daughter recently died, and he’s trying to find closure.

Urchin isn’t an average film, and it can’t cleanly be placed in any real genre. Elements were very strongly drama at times, such as most of the end (and in fact, the finale is actually somewhat moving), but there’s some horror at the beginning that’s decent also.

For a low-budget film with a rather unique story, not to mention ambitious, Urchin was okay, but it wasn’t my cup of tea at all, and while I did enjoy a few things in the film (enough to allow me not to rate the film nearly as lowly as others), it’s not something I can really see myself having the urge to watch again.

5/10

Naked Fear (2007)

Directed by Thom Eberhardt [Other horror films: Sole Survivor (1984), Night of the Comet (1984)]

Beyond most anything else that could be said, Naked Fear is a competent film. It’s not a great one, by any means, but it got the job it set out to do done, even if it ends up being a bit on the depressing side.

Part of this is due to the fact that there’s virtually no humor whatsoever to be found anywhere in the film. It’s a dark, bleak movie, and the main character of Diana (Danielle De Luca) is basically forced into becoming a prostitute and exotic dancer with zero recourse for her to pursue. It’s grim and gritty and entirely based in reality.

More so, one of the few characters trying to help, being Officer Dwight Terry (Arron Shiver), is able to do very little in the way of actually making a difference. In fact, I don’t believe a single thing he does really changes the outcome of the film, and given that he was one of the few who actually cared about the multiple missing girls, it just goes on to kick you down.

De Luca and Shiver both have good performances here, with De Luca standing out quite a bit more, obviously, being the hunted woman throughout most of the film. As the antagonist, J.D. Garfield was solid, though I do sort of wish we got a bit more background on him. Jenny Marlowe and Kevin Wiggins were both good, though Marlowe’s character was hard to stomach. Kudos to Wiggins for playing a solid good guy, though.

If there’s one person in the cast who I wish had more to his story, it’d be Joe Mantegna, an actor I have long known for Criminal Minds, and also co-starred in Thinner, a rather forgettable experience. Here, his cop character is more irksome than most other characters in the film, constantly deriding Shiver’s character for wanting to do actual detective work. It was nice to see him here, sure, but I just wish he was a lot more helpful than he ended up being.

As effective as Naked Fear is in creating a grim story, though, I was never really fully invested. There were some good scenes throughout, but as a whole, I just didn’t see that great of a movie, and I think some of that has to do with an almost stark feel that the movie has. It wasn’t as notable as The Wild Man of the Navidad or Deadfall Trail, but it still felt very bare-bones.

But hey, there’s some decently attractive nude women, so it’s not all a lost cause. Of course, most of the nudity is during the women being hunted down like animals, but to each their own.

Obviously, Naked Fear is nowhere near original in it’s story, as The Most Dangerous Game came out 75 years earlier, and the same idea has been done into many other films, such as Bloodust! and the underrated Turkey Shoot, but it’s still a competently made film. I just don’t think it’s that much more than that, and after seeing it a second time, I highly doubt I’d want to see it a third time.

6/10

This is one of the films discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk about this subpar film.

The Mist (2007)

Directed by Frank Darabont [Other horror films: Buried Alive (1990), Nightshift Collection (1994, segment ‘The Woman in the Room’)]

Very much a modern-day classic of the genre, The Mist is a very solidly-made film with little in it too objectionable. You have a pretty good and, at times, claustrophobic story, a great cast with memorable characters, and enough monstery goodness to keep everyone happy, along with showing the dangers of religion, which is always a good touch.

There’s a lot of actors and actresses here I liked, such as William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption), Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey DeMunn (Storm of the Century), Toby Jones (from an episode of Doctor Who and Berberian Sound Studio), Andre Braugher (of the emotional crime/fantasy flick Frequency from 2000), Thomas Jane, Frances Sternhagen, Robert C. Treveiler, and Buck Taylor.

Of these names, DeMunn, Jones, and Harden were perhaps the best in the film. DeMunn has always been a consistently fun actor, while Jones is another individual I like in pretty much anything I see him in. Harden isn’t a name I know, but she does a great job playing the dangerous Mrs. Carmody, a religious nutbag, in the film. I hated every second she was babbling on-screen, so her performance was on point.

The CGI was a little spotty at times, but honestly, it didn’t bother me here near as much as one might think. The special effects in general were pretty solid, and the creature design was great too (hard to choose a favorite, but the tall, tentacled one, along with the spiders, who dominated in the pharmacy scene, would be my top two picks).

A lot of the hate that I see coming to this film deals with the end, and I don’t personally get it. Is the end darker? Sure, but the situation was dark also, and there’s nothing about the conclusion that I dislike at all. I think it’s a perfectly acceptable ending, perfectly realistic, and I applaud a more mainstream horror film going out the way this one did.

Tackling the dangers of religion was a nice touch also. In a situation like this, people like Mrs. Carmody need to be shut up as soon as possible, or otherwise you have an illogical mob out for blood because they’ve been duped into believing in an unverifiable deity. Her character was utterly despicable, and I’m glad that Ollie took care of her the way he did. In many ways, what’s scarier in The Mist than the creatures is the religious mumbo-jumbo, which unfortunately isn’t something modern-day Americans are immune from.

The Mist pretty much hits the right spots. I’ve not read the novella this movie was based off of, but for a Stephen King adaptation, The Mist is damn solid. Like I said, the cast is great, with a lot of familiar faces, the story is quite tense, and there’s a lot going for this flick.

9/10

This is one of the films discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk this one over below.

End of the Line (2007)

Directed by Maurice Devereaux [Other horror films: Blood Symbol (1992), Lady of the Lake (1998), Maléfices (1998), Slashers (2001)]

I saw this flick many years ago when the Chiller channel was still a thing, and got a rather large kick out of it. Flash-forward five years, if not longer, and the film still stands out strong, despite the somewhat low-budget feel and unknown actors and actresses.

For what they were, most of these performances were decent. Main characters played by Ilona Elkin and Nicolas Wright do well together, and have decent chemistry. Emily Shelton was both cute and highly effective with weaponry, so she’s a keeper. Nina Fillis did well with her conflicted role, Neil Napier was decent, though I sort of wished he did a bit more, and Robin Wilcock was great as a scummy, religious, would-be rapist.

What really makes End of the Line transcend budgetary concerns is the frightening realism of the plot. Religion is still very much prevalent in the USA, and the idea of an insane religious cult with significant membership deciding to go on a killing spree to ‘save souls’ is not outside the realm of possibility. Religious beliefs on their own are questionable enough, but when religious beliefs hit this level of fundamentalism, it’s damned dangerous.

The cult, named Voice of Eternal Hope, is damn terrifying, as all these seemingly clean-cut men and women, not to mention indoctrinated children, brandish daggers in the shape of the cross in order to massacre those who don’t share the same faith (or even those in the same cult who’ve lost faith in the mission) mercilessly, singing hymns and smiling while doing so, are definitely creepy. Because of their insane bloodlust, there’s some decent gore in the film, and while that’s not really the focus or most interesting thing about End of the Line, it certainly does help on occasion.

Related, there are some very solid scares in the film. Some are are bit much, but I will admit that the first few scares in the film really got to me, and definitely helped set up a creepy and somewhat ominous feel to End of the Line.

Pretty much from beginning to end, the movie moves at an acceptably quick pace. There are some questionable dialogue pieces toward the beginning, and a few things aren’t necessarily made clear (especially regarding the reality of the ongoing situation, and whether or not the muffins alluded to were directly related to anything), but some of the confusion and uncertainty only makes sense in such a chaotic scenario.

End of the Line is a very acceptable movie, and there’s a lot going for it that allows it to stand out of the crowd of post-2005 low-budget horror flicks, many of which are decent, but a far larger number of which are around average to far below average. End of the Line isn’t by any means an amazing movie, but it does stand up to my rather appreciative memory of it, and I certainly recommend it to fans of slashers or films revolving around insane cults.

8/10

This is one of the films reviewed on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

El orfanato (2007)

Directed by J.A. Bayona [Other horror films: N/A]

This Spanish flick (better known as The Orphanage) might be a lot better for fans of more emotional ghost stories as opposed to more horror-tinged tales, but it’s still quite well done with some fantastic mystery, an enjoyable back-story, and a memorable (if not potentially anticlimactic) conclusion.

El orfanato’s setting is great, taking place at an old orphanage on the seaside, overlooked by an old, defunct lighthouse. With the ocean constantly rustling and rainstorms no stranger to the area, it sets things up as rather dismal, which helps sustain the tone as the movie goes on.

So, onto a lot of Spanish names that I definitely don’t know.

As the lead, Belen Rueda did well and played a very sympathetic character, and despite the fact that she’s not really been in that many things before this (though she was in a TV series that ran for around five years called Periodistas, so she’s not a no one), she shined pretty much throughout the film. Fernando Cayo was good also, but I wish he was a bit more prevalent to the story than he ended up being. Others that I enjoyed include Geraldine Chapin, Edgar Vivar, Andres Gertudix, and Montserrat Carulla.

What really helped this movie along, because honestly, it’s not really my type of thing, is the mystery behind the disappearance of one of the characters. I like how that’s resolved, and though it took supernatural means for Rueda’s character to come to find out what happened, I was okay with it, as we discover some interesting (and somewhat morbid) things out along the way.

As decent as El orfanato is, it’s not the type of film I really go out of my way for. The conclusion didn’t quite pack the punch I was hoping for, though it was a tad more emotional than one might expect. Still, it’s definitely a well-made movie with an engaging plot, and certainly worth a watch, but if Spanish ghost movies aren’t your cup of tea, you may find this film a bit more average than others.

7.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, go ahead.

Devil’s Diary (2007)

diavle

Directed by Farhad Mann [Other horror films: Nick Knight (1989), The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon (2008)]

This Canadian made-for-television horror film definitely feels like it’s on the lower spectrum of movies. Devil’s Diary isn’t really terrible, but it does feel overly generic and derivative, and personally, while some scenes were fun, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to watch it again.

You can really tell that there was a limited budget on this, and you can obviously tell it’s a television production, what with the hideous commercial cuts (screen flashes red) apparent in the film. The special effects, such as they were, were somewhat laughable, though we did get a few scenes that bordered on decent (such as the slow-motion car sequence as a vehicle slammed into someone’s legs).

If there’s any high point to the film, it’s in the performances. Alexz Johnson and Magda Apanowicz, when together, reminded me a lot of Brigitte and Ginger (Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabella from Ginger Snaps), and I rather liked their friendship. Johnson’s character herself (Dominique) was actually pretty sympathetic, with a recently-deceased father and a borderline sexually abusive stepfather (there’s a scene in which she’s talking to her father’s gravestone, which I found particularly touching), though she loses a little bit of sympathy as the movie drags on.

While I abhorred their characters and everything they stood for, Laura Carswell, Deanne Casaluce, and Mariam McDonald all did great as the stereotypical bitchy cheerleader types, so much so that I hated their very existence from virtually their first scene. The three of them take somewhat interesting routes through the film, but I don’t think any of them come out particularly redeemed for their bullying. Brian Krause, as a priest, didn’t really leave an impact on me, but for a character who appeared only a few minutes total, I did like Malcolm Scott. Andrea Brooks’ character had a lot of potential, but they never really did much with her.

Plot-wise, I do appreciate how they threw in a few turns, and the movie did sort of shift gears around halfway though (I’m not overly pleased with the resulting scenes, but at least they tried). At the end, they sort of threw in a twist that came as a surprise, but I wish that more time was spent on why it exactly happened. Also, I really didn’t care for the enchantress powers one of the characters gained toward the back-half of the film, in which every guy desired this girl, and went to foolish lengths to make her happy. Still, generally-speaking, I think the plot’s okay, just not great.

The biggest issue I really have with this is that it feels like the type of film that could have been made much earlier, and feels a lot like fellow television movie Satan’s School for Girls (2000). There’s nothing terribly unique about this film, and the deaths and accidents are mostly bland and forgettable (a strangling being perhaps the worst, an attempted crucifixion the best). For a television movie, I think it’s okay, bordering on bad. Ultimately, though, despite some potentially bold routes the film took, I think most people would forget this one shortly after finishing it. Oh, and the ending was pretty awful, which is probably to be expected.

6/10

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd

Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sleepy Hollow (1999), Dark Shadows (2012)]

This Tim Burton movie is pretty much the type of musical you’d expect from him – overly dark and depressing, gory, and pretty damn tragic when the credits begin rolling, which all work to it’s credit.

Since this is a Burton movie, the cast is just as good as you’d hope for. Of course Johnny Depp does an amazing job playing a man who is very quickly losing the little sanity he had to begin with (the whole of the finale was a fantastically gory and manic conclusion), and is a treat to see, as are Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter. Jayne Wisener doesn’t do much, but the story doesn’t really give her much to do, so that’s excusable. Two smaller performances I really liked here were Timothy Spall and Jamie Campbell Bower, as Spall gave that slimy, smarmy performance I liked from his portrayal of Pettigrew, and Bower gave us a fresh, innocent face which contrasted nicely with everything else on screen.

Given that there are so few musicals with horror elements mixed in, it’s hard to compare this one to the ideal horror-musical. I do know I liked the songs better in this one than I did from Repo! The Genetic Opera, but that’s more due to stylistic differences above anything else. That said, I don’t know how memorable most of the songs here are – something that is of mild concern.

Regardless, the story of revenge was well-done, and the splatter of gore, for a mainstream movie like this, was surprisingly good. There wasn’t much variety in the death scenes, which were generally just slit throats, but the blood did flow generously, which was good enough to me.

The tone of this one is just dark, and while the ending isn’t entirely down-hearted, it certainly lives up to it’s somber feel. Also worth noting, while the movie’s almost two hours, it doesn’t feel that long at all, mainly, I suspect, because of the songs. If you’re a fan of Burton, I don’t see why this film would let you down over any of his others, unless you couldn’t stomach the multiple slit throats. It’s an experience that’s not overly surprising if you’re a fan of Burton’s, but it is rewarding despite it’s tragic conclusion, even upon multiple viewings.

8/10

Dark Mirror (2007)

Dark Mirror

Directed by Pablo Proenza [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a film I’ve seen twice before, unless my memory’s failed me. While I recall liking it at least once during a previous viewing, it really doesn’t hold up, and more so, Dark Mirror’s really not worth the time.

The story itself has potential, but the route the movie takes hinges on incoherent. While it’s not necessarily without it’s charm, portions of the story aren’t explained well enough to leave a positive feeling behind. As it turns out, I rather do like a scene toward the end, but then it’s followed up by a shoddy conclusion.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I’m nowhere near wooed by Lisa Vidal’s acting here. Maybe it’s because she tends more to be a television actress than that of feature films (she was in both ER and starred in The Division), but she doesn’t feel right for this role. That said, it may just be the iffy script, and not Vidal herself, which is believable. Christine Lakin was pretty to look at, but was pretty much pointless in the movie. Despite being one of the most important side characters, David Chisum didn’t leave an impression one way or the other, which I guess is pretty telling in it’s own way.

Dark Mirror isn’t really a god-awful movie, but it doesn’t seem like the type of film that people would proudly exclaim as original or even all that enjoyable. A lot of what was done here was done better in Dark Water (both the original and the American remake), and this movie doesn’t really add that much aside from pitiful kills and an okay sequence near the end. It’s not a terrible film, but after seeing it again, it’s certainly not worth another view, even on a rainy day.

5.5/10

The Attic (2007)

attic

Directed by Mary Lambert [Other horror films: Pet Sematary (1989), Pet Sematary II (1992), Strange Frequency (2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)]

This is a rather cheap-looking film, which is obvious from the camerawork, some of the performances, and even the music. Still, if you’re looking for a somewhat interesting and psychological movie, this might be it.

First thing I noticed when I started this up was the main character’s played by Elisabeth Moss (who is known for a variety of things, but I know best as Zoey Bartlet, the youngest daughter of the president in The West Wing). When I first saw this film years back, I hadn’t really seen many West Wing episodes, so watching it now, knowing Moss, it was a funner experience. She doesn’t do too bad, either, and really pulls off the “is this real or am I going insane” type scenario.

Unfortunately, she’s probably the best-cast in the film. Tom Malloy, did pretty well as an autistic brother, but Catherine Mary Stewart (of Night of the Comet and Nightflyers fame) and John Savage (he’s been in a ton of things, but nothing I’ve really seen) sort of sucked as their parents. Their performance just didn’t jibe with me. Jason Lewis and Thomas Jay Ryan also didn’t really do anything for me in their respective roles, though admittedly, Lewis did come across as charming on occasion.

Because it’s a straight-to-video movie, there’s not much in the way of special effects. Most of the time, it’s just a figure quickly walking by the door-frame, or in the mirror, that leads to most jump scares. There was a single throat-slitting that wasn’t shabby, but aside from that, little to no gore is to be found here.

The draw here is the story, and whether or not what’s happening is the result of some supernatural incident or a conspiracy to drive a young woman insane. Or a cult. Or a twin sister separated at birth who wants revenge. Really, this movie played with a lot of options, and I’m perfectly fine with the more downbeat direction the conclusion took.

If there are any downsides that need to be discussed, it’d come from a few directions. Firstly, I get that this family is moderately dysfunctional, but the constant drama got a bit tiring as the movie dragged on, which wasn’t made easier by the fact both parents were pretty unlikable. There was also a very stagy feel to this movie – at times, I felt like I was watching Guiding Light all over again, or another one of those soap operas of the bygone era. It’s nothing that too negatively impacted the film, but it was noticeable. Lastly, I wanted fewer jump scares and more wholesome horror, but until the end, we never really got that.

The Attic is a cheap movie, straight-to-video, and it definitely shows. That said, at times, this film can be pretty suspenseful, and I do think the story is intriguing enough to pull in most audiences. There’s little here that’s fully original, but especially if you’re familiar with Moss, this might well be worth looking into. As for myself, I definitely enjoyed it more this time around as opposed to when I first saw it.

7.5/10

Something Beneath (2007)

Directed by David Winning [Other horror films: Storm (1987), Black Swarm (2007), Swamp Devil (2008)]

For some reason, I’ve seen this television flick at least twice before I sat down and watched it this time around. I’m not sure why I’d have watched this again, but having seen it now at least three times, I will admit there’s a little charm to it.

Something Beneath doesn’t really have that interesting a story, and for the most part, the deaths and special effects aren’t all that impressive. One of the sequences in particular reminded me of a scene from the 2003 Fear of the Dark (a personal favorite of mine), which was sort of amusing. Overall, you can certainly tell this film has an amateurish quality to it.

So where’s the charm come from, you might ask?

Luckily, enough of the important actors were decent enough to bring some positives to this film. No doubt Brittany Scobie and Brendan Beiser were over-the-top, but Kevin Sorbo and Natalie Brown complimented each other decently well. Sorbo, playing an Episcopalian priest (a joke about it halfway through the movie always sort of made me smile) does a good job, and though he has some foolish things to say about faith now and again, Sorbo was certainly a highlight. Brown isn’t a name I’m well-acquainted with, but she was pretty attractive in this role, and more importantly, worked well with Sorbo (though the cheesy ending was a bit much).

Some of the actors weren’t great, but didn’t do too shabby either, including Peter MacNeill, Gordan Tanner, and Brett Donahue. While none of these three really stood out that well, at the very least they were competent in their roles, which, for a movie of this quality, is commendable.

The ending was pretty blah, but again, that’s sort of to be expected. Really, the movie is pretty generic throughout, and some of the characters are just, as I said, over-the-top. It doesn’t help that occasionally the film has a whimsical tone to it. All of this said, Something Beneath isn’t god-awful, and might be worth a look. Having seen it as many times as I’ve had, I find it below average, but it’s not really all that atrocious. Like I said, there is some charm to be found here.

6/10