The Shortcut (2009)

Directed by Nicholaus Goossen [Other horror films: N/A]

The Shortcut is a movie I’ve seen once before, quite some time ago. Much of the plot was lost of me, and given the quite tepid rating it has on IMDb (at the time of this writing, a 5.1/10), I went into this one again with the idea that it’d end up being a forgettable affair, and I think that on a whole, that’s what this is.

If there’s any saving grace, and I don’t think it saves it a hell of a lot, at least half of the performances in the film are decent, and gives you at least somewhat likable characters, which may not mean a whole lot given how bored you’re apt to be, but it was something I took note of.

Drew Seeley wasn’t the most interesting central character, and his love interest, played by Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs Evil and Piranha 3DD), wasn’t really that much better, but the others were solid, such as Josh Emerson as a jock who was actually decent, Dave Franco as comedic relief, and Shannon Woodward (The Haunting of Molly Hartley), a somewhat feistily playful and fun character.

Raymond J. Barry does as well as he could with his role. He doesn’t really add that much, but it’s more due to the fact that I think it was pretty obvious where the story was going, which short of hindered his effectiveness. William B. Davis (of The X-Files fame) was sort of nice to see, but ultimately failed to leave any type of lasting impression. The only other performance I wanted to mention was that of Nicholas Elia, who didn’t have much screen-time, but is a solid example of a story going exactly how you expect it to, in this case, the conclusion, which was laughable.

Certainly there are some aspects of this film I enjoy, but it takes a decent while to get going (I’d argue that things really don’t get moving until about an hour and five minutes in), and there’s not enough interesting characters to make that time feel like it’s well-spent (even the few flashbacks we get don’t really add that much, which was disappointing). The setting was okay in a drab forest-type way (this was filmed in Saskatchewan, Canada, which would explain that), but not the most exciting stuff you’ve seen.

Even with the not-so-stellar characters The Shortcut had, I think this could have been better if they had moved the story in a different direction, one that, I don’t know, might have actually had some surprising or more thrilling scenes. Oh, and they should have added a little something in the gore department – I liked seeing a hand get absolutely crushed (sledgehammer action for the win), but aside from that, this felt really tepid, which is a description I think could fit much of the film as a whole.

Maybe this is good for a one-time watch (or two, if you’re like me and forget everything about it the first time around), but I don’t really think there’s a hell of a lot of reason to seek this one out, and overall, while passable, this would be a difficult one to recommend to anyone.

6/10

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

Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

Directed by David Lister [Other horror films: N/A]

So I’m not going to claim that Malibu Shark Attack is a good movie, but I will say that, in some ways, it’s a refreshing one, because while it’s not a serious film at all times, this is before Syfy got stupid with their killer shark movies, and this one almost feels like an okay attempt at the sub-genre.

I enjoyed how the tsunami tied into the movie, because seeing those levels of destruction was pretty impressive, and what helped that were the newscasts seen throughout the film. What I liked about these newscasts was that they were appropriately somber and the exact type of thing you’d expect to see in a real situation like this, and it also helped that while the newscasts extensively followed the flooding, sharks never came up, which made it significantly more serious than any of the later shark movies (Sharknado and 2-Headed Shark Attack, I’m looking at you).

Most of the main cast here is fine. I mean, they’re generic, but they get the job done. Admittedly I couldn’t have cared less about Warren Christie’s character (a name you might recognize from Apollo 18), and there were a few others (Jeff Gannon, Sonya Salomaa, and Nicholas Cooper) that left no impression, but everyone else was fine.

Remi Broadway played a character not too different from Christie’s, but I liked Broadway’s story more, and, oddly enough, his budding romance with the irresponsible airhead played by Chelan Simmons (who, fun fact, played that little girl who was killed in the opening scene of the 1990 mini-series It). Simmons was also rather cute here, though for most of the film, her personality was atrocious. Peta Wilson didn’t have an atrocious personality, though – she was a strong character and perhaps one of the best in the movie, so kudos to her.

Now, sure, the special effects of the goblin sharks are horrible, but they’re not as obnoxiously horrible as later Syfy movies, so in a way, it gives this movie a bit of a pass on that. There was a pretty painful scene of a character getting their leg stitched up without anesthetics, and that cut did look gnarly, so that was fun. Overall, nothing in the special effects department ruined the film.

I’ve seen Malibu Shark Attack before, and when I came to watch it again, I wasn’t dreading it like I do some rewatches, and that’s partially because I had an okay time with it the first time around, and the same can be said today. It’s not a great shark movie, but it’s honestly, at least in my opinion, not terrible.

6/10

The House of the Devil (2009)

Directed by Ti West [Other horror films: The Roost (2005), Trigger Man (2007), Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009), The Innkeepers (2011), V/H/S (2012, segment ‘Second Honeymoon’), The ABCs of Death (2012, segment ‘M is for Miscarriage’), The Sacrament (2013), X (2022), Pearl (2022)]

I’ve not seen many Ti West films. Aside from this, Cabin Fever 2 and The Roost have been it (I recall enjoying The Roost, but boy, I didn’t care for Cabin Fever 2 at all). That said, I was still interested in finally seeing this one, especially because it’s generally gotten favorable reaction from most people I know.

All-in-all, though, I have to say that it feels more like a mixed bag than anything else.

The presentation is off the hook, though. Styled after classic movies of the 1970’s, this has an overall great retro, throwback feel that really has to be seen to be believed. It’s just great, and what helps is the sense of unease and tension that permeates throughout most of the film. You get some great style, you get some great tension, and you get a few good performances (Jocelin Donahue being the best), so what’s my hesitation with lauding over this one?

Perhaps the biggest issue here is the nature of the story. Based on what little I knew about this going it, I was sort of thinking it’d be along the lines of 2008’s Babysitter Wanted, though it reminded me far more of 1973’s Warlock Moon. My preconceptions aside, The House of the Devil is very much a slow-burn, and it’s not until the final 15 minutes that things really pick up. That’s fine in some ways, as you don’t want to spoil where exactly the story is going before you get to the climax, but for an hour and ten minutes, we have a lot of creepy and unsettling vibes, a few scenes of surprising violence, and that’s it.

Really, it’s a case of ‘to each his own,’ because I definitely see the appeal of such a slow-paced film. A bigger issue I had was with the finale overall, though, from the ritual, as it was, to the final shot. Nothing there was particularly shocking or really all that surprising, and I just don’t know if the build-up was really necessary for what we got. Obviously, from Donahue’s character’s viewpoint, this wouldn’t make a difference, but from an audience stand-point, it warrants a mention.

Jocelin Donahue is really the only stand-out here. I really liked Greta Gerwig, and wish that she was more central to the plot, but it wasn’t to be. Affable yet off, Tom Noonan was pretty decent too. The rest of the family, though, from his wife (Mary Woronov) to his son (AJ Bowen) didn’t do much for me, mainly because we never really learned much about them, or saw that much of them to begin with.

This is a well-made movie, with a solid style and shot in an often interesting ways (very stagnant camera angles which worked to this film’s benefit), but when things lean more Satanic and supernatural in nature, it’s easier for me to get turned off. I still think The House of the Devil is probably worth seeing, and I really appreciated the retro feel this had, but I can’t pretend that I loved it, because I didn’t, and while I might revisit this at some point in the future, for the moment, I just find the film average.

7/10

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

The Thaw (2009)

Directed by Mark A. Lewis [Other horror films: N/A]

Here’s a somewhat interesting movie. I saw this some years back, and it didn’t work with me. Something about it felt off, despite the story itself being perfectly valid. Seeing it again confirms my previous feelings, and while I can’t really put words on exactly my problem with this one, I do know that I find it underwhelming.

Let me get this out of the way first, though, given this movie is centered around the dangers of climate change: I 100% accept that climate change is man-made, and that the governments of the world must find a way to combat it, be it shutting down the worst industry offenders or throwing CEOs of oil companies into prison. Taxing them into oblivion or nationalizing them, I don’t care. I just know something needs to be done, or this planet is just doomed.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think anything can happen that will set changes that are necessary in motion. I truly don’t think, at this point, we can do anything, especially when, in my country of the USA, both the Republican and Democratic Parties are okay with the continuation of capitalism, which, in turn, will only allow for more profit to be made despite harm to the environment, and so we’re screwed.

That’s just my potentially negative view, and I say all of this because, when it comes to the plan of Dr. Kruipen (played by Val Kilmer), I honestly can’t really blame him for his actions. It’s obviously not ideal, but on the other hand, he was pushed into a wall, and if this was the only way to cause the necessary changes to help stop man-made climate change, then that’s on the system and not on his actions.

This isn’t a political blog, of course, and if it was, I’d have many less readers. If you want to read rants from an angry socialist, then I’d recommend my personal Twitter page. Some movies, though, need some political context. If someone reviewed this one, and didn’t believe in climate change, or thought it was the natural order of things, that may well leave a negative view on the film. I do accept man-made climate change, I do accept it’s harm, and I still don’t much care for this movie.

Part of this is due to my disinterest in Val Kilmer. To be honest, he never gets much screen-time, but something about him just really rubs me the wrong way (and, to be fair, it may be because I can’t see him without thinking about a terrible movie I once saw called The Steam Experiment, which actually wasn’t too different in theme from this one). 

So I don’t much care for Kilmer. Most others do fine, though no one really does great. Aaron Ashmore instantly struck me as familiar. I have seen him once before in a television movie titled Fear Island, but it’s more that his twin brother Shawn Ashmore played Iceman in the X-Men movies. Aaron Ashmore was solid here, and he even sympathized a bit with Kruipen’s plan. Martha MacIsaac, Kyle Schmid (also in Fear Island), and Viv Leacock are all decent too.

At times, The Thaw was solidly harrowing. There is a scene in which a character’s arm is cut off with a meat cleaver at the elbow, which was a pretty painful scene. Other instances worth mentioning are various insect-in-body portions, which has always been a sort of creepy idea. A bug getting into your body and planting eggs? Yeah, no thank you. Special effects throughout were decent, and though the bugs themselves sometimes looked too heavily CGI laden, it wasn’t deeply detrimental.

Despite positive performances, a story that’s not too shabby, and solid special effects, though, The Thaw just doesn’t do it for me. Something about it almost feels hollow, and while I appreciate more than a few things in the film, I don’t really enjoy much of it, and that’s the problem. It may well be worth seeing – the movie, in of itself, is well-made – but it’s not my cup of tea, and there’s many other things I’d rather throw on than this.

5.5/10

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), Black Death (2010), 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 fan 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 meat 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), I onde dager (2021)]

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.