Halloween II (2009)

Directed by Rob Zombie [Other horror films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), Halloween (2007), The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), 31 (2016), 3 from Hell (2019)]

Boy, this was a surprise. Now, I’ve seen this sequel before, but it’s been years, and I was hoping that, upon seeing it with fresh eyes, it’d have grown on me a bit, and I’d end up rating it equal to, if not better, than Rob Zombie’s first Halloween (which I’ve never been a fan of).

That is, alas, not what happened at all.

Truth be told, this film struck me as overly terrible and shallow. I’ll attempt to touch on my biggest concerns, but the sooner this film is forgotten, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Story-wise, the movie started strong, mimicking the original Halloween II with Laurie in the hospital and Michael coming after her. But PLOT TWIST – the first twenty minutes are a dream. It’s a shame, because it was probably the most solid segment of the film, but it was all a dream. Great stuff, man. Loved it. Didn’t feel like an utter waste at all. I promise.

Following that terrible dream sequence, we get a bunch of psychedelic segments with Michael and Laurie thinking about family and horses and ghosts appear at the end (or it was a psychotic break, but it’s not made clear, so whateves), and it’s a great story. I mean, we pretty much get no reason to care for Laurie or her friends (Annie, Mya, and Harley), so when they die, who cares? I know I don’t.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say the story was bad. I just personally couldn’t get invested past the annoyingly-long dream sequence, and once they started throwing in visions of Sheri Moon Zombie, that indifference grew. I felt nothing through most of this, which is only made worse due to pretty weak kills, and rather dreary lighting.

While it was a minor pleasure seeing both Richard Riehle (Hatchet) and Octavia Spencer (Ma) in cameos, pretty much no one else does anything for me. Malcolm McDowell (who I enjoyed in Silent Night well enough) played such a terrible character, making it impossible to get behind him. Scout-Taylor Compton, Brad Dourif, and Danielle Harris? Harris was far better in Halloween 4 and 5, Compton was entirely generic most of the time, and Dourif made no impression.

Personally, I think this is on Halloween: Resurrection level terrible, and to be entirely frank, I might like Resurrection more. In fact, it’s not ‘might’ – I do. This movie was just atrocious with very little going for it, and I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to see this one again for any reason.

4/10

Rise of the Gargoyles (2009)

Directed by Bill Corcoran [Other horror films: The Unquiet (2008), Vipers (2008), Death Warrior (2009)]

This Sci Fi film is one that I’ve seen before, and while I can’t much speak on my original impressions (mostly because the movie’s so forgettable, I barely remembered anything about it), I can say that Rise of the Gargoyles is spectacularly generic and uninspired.

I certainly think that the story had potential, to be fair, if only because there are so few gargoyle horror films out there (off the top of my head, three come to mind, being a movie I’ve not yet seen from 1991 titled Soul of the Demon, then one of the segments from Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, and lastly the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles), but even with that niche monster checked off, the movie didn’t work.

Why that was isn’t easy to pinpoint. Though certainly questionable at times, I don’t think the CGI was really that terrible (save for maybe a somewhat laughable decapitation in the first half of the film). The gargoyle itself was decent, though (perhaps luckily) we didn’t really see it in full, out of the shadows, all that often.

A larger culprit would probably be a combination of the story itself and the cast. The story was uninspiring, to be sure, and void of many interesting add-ons, but the cast was somehow worse. I think most of them knew what type of movie they were making, and that didn’t much endear themselves to strong performances. And in their defense, to be sure, stronger performances wouldn’t have done that much to improve the film.

I only know Eric Balfour from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and a very small appearance in The West Wing. Even so, Balfour consistently reminded me of other actors, be it Adrien Brody or (amazingly) Sylvester Stallone. He’s neither, though, and really felt off at times as the lead here. Other performances, such as those by Caroline Néron, Nick Mancuso, Justin Salinger, and Ifan Huw Dafydd, were similarly uninspired, with Dafydd doing the best (though still being a stereotypical untrusting foreign police detective).

Honestly, I don’t really think Rise of the Gargoyles warrants that much more discussion – certainly the movie’s not terrible, but especially given the fact it’s a gargoyle-based horror film, there’s virtually nothing about this one that really stands out, which is a damn shame.

On a slightly interesting endnote, presuming the dates I’m seeing are correct, this was probably one of the last original movies put out while Syfy was still Sci Fi (this was released June 21st, 2009 and the name change went into effect July 7th, 2009). It’s not a mind-blowing fact, but nor is this movie exceptional, so it fits in.

One could certainly do worse than Rise of the Gargoyles, but as stated, the film’s definitely sub-standard, and I really don’t think most who see this will find it overly memorable one way or the other.

5/10

Triangle (2009)

Directed by Christopher Smith [Other horror films: Creep (2004), Severance (2006), The Banishing (2020)]

I’ve seen this one twice now, and while I appreciate what the movie’s going for, I can’t say that I’ve been particularly impressed either time. Mostly this comes from the fact that the story’s a bit too confusing to fully wrap my head around, which, while it may be on me, still stains the film.

If there’s a time loop, and you know you’re stuck in a time loop, trying to break out of a time loop isn’t going to work as you’re already in the time loop. And if there’s three other versions of you in the same (but different) time loops, and three other other’s in other time loops (or dimensions), and the loop’s divided by an additional sea, is the time loop a circle or oval?

False, triangle.

Triangle’s interesting, and I think the movie looks really nice. The story, though, just isn’t my cup of tea. Jess trying to get home to her son to kill her original (or is that another loop version #2?) self to become a better mother only to loop again because loop loops loop.

On a serious note, when there is something like a time loop, in this case, and there are multiple versions of the same character floating around, it’s really hard for any impact to be felt when they’re killed. Because, well, you know they might have died, but there’s two other ‘theys’ around, and while they might also die, hey, look, another one. So how is anyone supposed to get pulled into the suspense at all if everything’s circular?

I’m sorry if I’m coming across as some uneducated philistine. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The whole point of a loop is that there’s no ending (or beginning), so no way to escape it. When Jess kills another version of herself, before that other version dies, she states that the only way to ‘break the loop’ is to kill the others on board. I don’t know if she meant just one group of the others or all the others, but it doesn’t matter, because it isn’t logical.

Not that our character of Jess (played by the only noteworthy performance, Melissa George) is particularly logical, so I can excuse that, but come on, did anyone not almost immediately guess purgatory? As soon as Sisyphus was mentioned, who didn’t see it coming?

I may be in the minority here. Triangle is generally well-respected, and has a solid rating on IMDb. And to be fair, maybe the movie makes sense outside of logic, or maybe I’m not understanding something entirely. This is entirely plausible, and I won’t hold that against the film. To be fair, maybe Triangle is a movie that should be seen more than twice in ten years to fully comprehend, but for the time being, I found this movie a nice-looking film but lacking in substance.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Sorority Row (2009)

Directed by Stewart Hendler [Other horror films: Whisper (2007)]

I’m somewhat lukewarm when it comes to The House on Sorority Row. I thought some portions were certainly decent, and the movie does possess that 80’s atmosphere I value, but I wasn’t blown away by most of it. This re-imagining too has some okay parts, but boy, for quite a bit of this movie, I definitely struggled.

A movie following a bunch of bitchy sorority girls accidentally killing one of their own, only months later to be stalked and killed by a mysterious figure wasn’t much my idea of entertainment. This comes partially from the fact that literally none of the sorority girls, even the “good” one, Cassidy (Briana Evigan) are in the least bit sympathetic. Worse still, the most amusing one, Chugs (Margo Harshman) was one of the first to go.

For some reason that eludes me, I just couldn’t care that these terrible individuals were getting killed. A few of the kills were okay, to be fair (such as the tire iron being thrown), but I just didn’t get much a sense of tension for many of them, and when even the supposedly sympathetic characters, such as Cassidy and Maggie (Caroline D’Amore), turn out to be horrible, it just doesn’t do the film any favors.

What also doesn’t help was the identity of the killer, or more particularly, the reason behind the killing. That character always felt out of place to me from the beginning, to be honest, and once they’re discovered as the killer, the personality they have, that uber-crazy, psychotic serial killer à la Urban Legend, I just didn’t care.

Also, and maybe this is just me, but that house fire at the end didn’t look that great. The whole “epic battle while the house is burning down” wasn’t near as fun as I’d have hoped, but that’s this remake for you.

Sorority Row probably isn’t as bad as I might be making it out to be. It was definitely generic and pretty unremarkable, but I don’t think it’s terrible. I just can’t see myself really taking this movie that seriously, and while it might be okay for a watch every now and again, I have a hard time believing I’ll ever really like the movie, and if I want to see something like this, I’ll just stick with I Know What You Did Last Summer.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss the movie.

Laid to Rest (2009)

Directed by Robert Hall [Other horror films: Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011), Fear Clinic (2014)]

Laid to Rest is a film I’ve seen once, perhaps twice, before, and I always appreciated the heavy gore while constantly mocked some of the dialogue (“He wants to make me dead,” and “I woke up in a dead box” being two examples I use to this day). This rewatch pretty much cements that, while the gore is pretty top-notch, the story isn’t particularly deep, and the gore can only do so much.

The main cast of characters is mostly fine. There was only one performance I actually really liked, being Kevin Gage’s nice-guy Tucker, but the others did adequately. Bobbi Sue Luther’s character was drugged during most of the film, so she often went into incoherent hysterics, and I generally couldn’t stand her, but the performance itself is fine. Sean Whalen (Roach from The People Under the Stairs, interestingly enough) consistently reminded me of Steve Buscemi, and his character was okay. Lastly, Lena Headey (famous for playing Cersei on Game of Thrones) was fun to see, if only because she was almost likable in this role.

It’s a good thing that the cast is competent, because without the cast, we’d be stuck with just the gore. Now, make no mistake, the gore is great, but the cast allows the movie as a whole to come across as more full.

As for my favorite spot of gore, it’s hard to say. The tire sealant portion was perhaps the most grisly, but the scene in which a character rips his face off, or another one with a solid disembowelment, stand out positively also. Even some of the bodies in the film, of previous victims, are solidly gruesome, with plenty of dismembered and decapitated corpses just lying in deadboxes – sorry, coffins – for your eyes to behold.

Laid to Rest is decently quick-paced, so while the film runs about 86 minutes or so, it doesn’t feel like a chore to get through. There aren’t really any terribly slower moments, and action can be found throughout. The twisty twist at the end didn’t really do much for me, and didn’t really change anything, but at least we finally got some backstory on the girl (as for the killer, we never find out a single thing about him, aside from the fact he’s prolific and sadistic).

For a somewhat repetitive film, Laid to Rest is decent. If you’re a slasher and a gorehound, I suspect that you’ve probably already seen this one, but if not, I’d recommend giving it a go. I personally wish the movie had a bit more to it, but after having seen it multiple times, I still somewhat enjoy it, though it’s pretty much average overall.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil, so if you’re interested, you can listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Død snø (2009)

Directed by Tommy Wirkola [Other horror films: Kurt Josef Wagle og legenden om Fjordheksa (2010), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), Død snø 2 (2014)]

From Norway, we are introduced to Død snø, commonly known as Dead Snow, and it’s a decently enjoyable time, though not amazingly so.

Zombie movies have never been a favorite subgenre of mine, but this does pretty well. The humor isn’t generally too over-the-top (though certainly, toward the end, things get just a bit more ridiculous), and there are some pretty fun scenes here, from the memorable opening to plenty of great fight sequences.

The gore is definitely done well here too, and it’s hard to say any one thing stands out when there’s so much on-screen, but I did like one of the character’s getting their face ripped apart, and another character got his arms and legs torn off, which doesn’t sound particularly pleasant. Throughout the film, there’s solid gore, and I think most people going into Dead Snow for the violence will be happy.

It’s hard to say that any one actor stands out here. Vegar Hoel and Stig Frode Henriksen work well together in the end, and seeing the two of them kick zombie ass was, as the kids nowadays say, hella beast. I do like Hoel’s personality here, so the ending hit somewhat hard. Lasse Valdal had a somewhat fun hippie vibe, and I wish he appeared more, though he did get some solid licks in. Charlotte Frogner was especially good, and her conclusion is probably the most tragic of the lot.

Aside from the gore effects, the Nazi zombies look pretty spectacular too, and their origin (which mixes in some history for us) is fun. This was a small thing, but I did like that hammer and sickle reference – brought a smile to my face.

Off the top of my head, I can’t say that I’ve seen too many Norwegian movies. Ignoring this one, I think I’ve only seen two others, being Trollhunter (Trolljegeren) and Lake of the Dead (De dødes tjern, from 1958), and this is probably the best of the few I’ve seen. I have heard, and it’s backed up by the IMDb ratings, that the sequel to this is better, which is good, because as enjoyable as this can sometimes be, it’s not amazing.

When I first saw Dead Snow, I believe I enjoyed it more, but it’s still a fun film. I wouldn’t really go out of my way to watch this that often, but for a foreign slice of zombie cinema, I think it’s decent and probably worth watching at least once, and it ends up just around average.

7/10

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

Hurt (2009)

Hurt

Directed by Barbara Stepansky [Other horror films: I Hate L.A. (2011), Fugue (2011), 7 from Etheria (2017)]

Oftentimes, Hurt has a bleak and pretty atmospheric feel, and despite it’s not-so-stellar story, I actually think it’s a movie that’s worth watching, should slow-burns be your thing.

Taking place in a desert junkyard many miles from civilization really helped increase the feel of utter isolation, which in turn helped dramatically with the moody, aforementioned bleak feel the film possesses. It doesn’t hurt that the circumstances the main characters are placed in are rather realistic, going into financial ruin after the death of a provider. More importantly, I think most of the drama here worked, as well as most of the tension.

It does take a little while to get moving, though, so luckily some of the main performances are pretty solid. Jackson Rathbone and Johanna Braddy make for a solid brother-sister dynamic – their scenes felt decidedly more real than many of the other relationships in the film. Sofia Vassilieva does pretty good as a creepy little girl, and doesn’t come off as annoying as many other child actresses can. The mother, played by Melora Walters, came across as the most stale character here, and though the performance improves as the movie goes on, she always seems to be the weak link.

Since the movie does move at a slower pace, I’m happy to say that the increasing tension as the film carries on seemed solid. Given that there’s not much in the way of gore here, it’s good that some of the performances and tension worked out. The story itself has some holes in it, but I sort of like the direction the movie went in.

I think I first saw this film five, maybe six years ago. Perhaps longer. I just know that I wasn’t overly thrilled with it when I first saw it. This time around, while it’s far from a perfect film, I do think I appreciate it quite a bit more. Generally, this film’s gotten tepid responses, and I get it, but as for me, I was moderately pleased with this re-watch.

7.5/10

GoatSucker (2009)

GoatSucker

Directed by Steve Hudgins [Other horror films: Maniac on the Loose (2008), Hell Is Full (2010), Spirit Stalkers (2012), The Caretakers (2014), It Lives in the Attic (2016)]

For a low-budget film, this monster movie is generally a pretty enjoyable watch.

While on-screen kills are almost entirely absent, there is quite a bit of blood splatter throughout the film, so while there’s not a high quantity of good kills, the movie still feels rather gory. That, mixed with the memorable characters and interesting story (well, more interesting than what you might initially expect), really meld everything together well.

Plenty of the performances here were pretty fun. I won’t say many of them were good in the traditional sense, but I had fun all the same. Amanda Stone was sassy, with an enjoyable screen presence (I just wish that she had become more relevant to the plot than she eventually did). Randy Hardesty played an interesting character, and could perhaps be called the hero of the film. Overall, a good performance.

Emily Fitzmaurice had one of the shrillest screams I’ve ever heard, and did well playing the dumb, blonde bimbo. And Tom Dolan? He stole every scene he graced us with. Loved his over-the-top style. Overall, though, I don’t think anyone here really stuck out in a negative fashion.

Firmly tongue-in-cheek, GoatSucker took some interesting routes, threw in some deeper characters than you might expect in a lower-budget flick, and wrapped it up with some decent suspense. It is true that the film felt a bit long at times – maybe they could have cut it down by a bit, like five or ten minutes. Still, if you can get past some of the downsides, and revel in the fact there aren’t many chupacabra flicks out there, you may have fun with this one.

7/10

Deadfall Trail (2009)

Deadfall Trail

Directed by Roze [Other horror films: Speak No Evil (2013)]

I saw this once before, and it didn’t do much for me. Alas, it’s much the same now, and while I won’t say it’s god-awful, I will say that there’s little here of any interest to me.

Much like the expedition in the movie, the plot is pretty bare bones. Three people go hunting, tensions mount, stuff happens, and suddenly one of them snaps and starts trying to kill the others. I didn’t catch why exactly one of the characters suddenly become the antagonist (though it does lead to the ending scene, which is perhaps the best part of the film), so there could have been a better way to explain that.

Really, Deadfall Trail is an odd film. It’s very stark, minimalist, with a pretty realistic tone, which in a way is nice, but at the same time, it’s not very fun. At all. Sitting through this one is really a chore, as it takes a while for any action to pop up, and when it does, it’s not the most enthralling stuff (because, like I said, this film takes a rather naturalistic, realistic approach).

It was sort of cool to see a bunch of survivalist techniques (reminding me a little of the 1997 adventure film The Edge), but that wasn’t enough to interest me. Shane Dean did pretty well in his gruff role, but with the type of film that it was, his performance, as solid as it occasionally was, wasn’t enough.

I really don’t know what more to say about this one – it was just dull, without much to really cause it to be noteworthy. The vibe was interesting, and the horror elements almost muted until the end (if you discount some scary visions), so I’d probably not recommend this, nor would I watch it a third time.

4/10

Last of the Living (2009)

Last of the

Directed by Logan McMillan [Other horror films: N/A]

This film pretty much feels like New Zealand’s answer to Shaun of the Dead (Zombieland came out some months after this, but that possibly influenced this also). A low-budget flick with a small cast but a lot of heart, Last of the Living is a generally enjoyable watch.

Despite using some techniques that I never much cared for (such as blood splatter hitting the camera), this movie did pretty well with the small budget they possessed. Plenty of fun fighting sequences, not to mention a few enjoyable collages, and just some stand-out smaller scenes, such as when the three main characters go shopping. It wasn’t anything special, but it just felt right, for lack of a better description. Special effects weren’t that amazing, but personally, I think the characters and the overall fun of the film sort of make up for that shortcoming.

The cast, with all due respect, are pretty much nobodies. Our three main male characters, played by Morgan Williams, Robert Faith, and Ashleigh Southam, all did pretty good with their roles, and all three were pretty likable characters (Williams’ character could be a dick at times, but he was still a mostly solid guy). Southam in particular was a fun actor, playing a somewhat nerdy, yet still efficient, zombie killer. Emily Paddon-Brown, playing about the only serious character in the film, was both a beauty to behold and honestly, probably put up one of the better performances in the movie.

Because there are virtually only four important characters in the film, it sort of helps add to the whole “last of the living” type vibe, even though we know there has to be more people out there. There were some pretty touching scenes, even, toward the end of the film, which came across sort of a surprise given this is pretty much your run-of-the-mill zombie comedy. The soundtrack was also pretty solid, for the most part.

The biggest flaw here is that the movie runs a bit longer than I’d have liked. Sort of felt a bit spread thin near the end, say the final ten minutes. If it could have been wrapped up in 80 minutes, and it easily could have been, I’d argue it’d come out a bit better. Not only does it drag a bit toward the end, but the ending itself wasn’t really what I’d have expected from a movie like this. Nothing is wrong with it, it just went a route I would’ve preferred the film left alone. Lastly, while most of the comedy is perfectly fine, there were a few small scenes that didn’t do it for me. That, along with some minor audio quality issues, weren’t that big a deal, but if you’re going into this looking to be disappointed, I think they’ll definitely stand out.

Sure, Last of the Living isn’t much different than Shaun of the Dead, and certainly didn’t introduce anything new (though I’d argue it’s much the same case with most zombie films), but it had some pretty fun characters, enjoyable and touching scenes, and overall a sort of low-budget party vibe to it. Does it run a bit long? Sure, but I can certainly see myself putting this in my DVD played again and giving it a third viewing. It wasn’t original, but I don’t think it was meant to be. It was meant to be fun, and I think Last of the Living succeeded.

7.5/10