If a Tree Falls (2010)

Directed by Gabriel Carrer [Other horror films: Desperate Souls (2005), Kill (2011), The Demolisher (2015), Death on Scenic Drive (2017), For the Sake of Vicious (2020)]

This is one of the films I watched during an October challenge, and I think it was the year I watched 275 movies in a single month, mainly because I didn’t remember any of this, and I do mean any of it. It felt like a completely new movie, but I have seen it before, so I was hoping for a more memorable occasion this time around.

And I think it will be more memorable, but not in any good way.

Ponderously and pathetically bare-bones, If a Tree Falls is almost entirely void of anything worth seeing. The plot is simple, the only mildly interesting thing about it being characters that were brother and sister, and most of the film deals with people running from other people.

The killers (there were something like six of them for some goddamn reason) were like ultra-cheap rip-offs from The Strangers. Their reasoning, though, is even worse, as a character explains “We find the ones who will never be found.” That’s why they killed three of the four characters and kept the other one alive – because killing is finding and ones that are not found are alive people or something.

Yeah, it makes zero sense, I know.

Aside from the fact that this film was painfully repetitive, it also suffered from somewhat lousy audio, with the music going above the voices multiple times. It didn’t matter, really, as no one in the film was capable of having a conversation worth hearing, but mix that with some shoddy camera-work, and you have what the kids call “shit.”

This may be worth mentioning. When I saw this film years ago, I watched a version that was around 77 minutes, but this time around, I watched what IMDb labels as “the 10th anniversary edition” which runs 89 minutes. I have no idea what was added or changed, and I sort of wonder if I’d have liked the shorter version more, but there you go.

Ry Barrett, Breanne TeBoekhorst, Jennifer De Lucia, and Daniel Zuccala are generally not great. I don’t blame any of them, though, as even if they were the most stellar performances in the history of cinema, the movie would still be God-awful.

And it was indeed God-awful. I did like the exploitation vibe that If a Tree Falls occasionally attempted to give off, but that doesn’t excuse the utter lack of story or meaningful antagonists or the atrociously terrible conclusion. I mean, there were sometimes okay special effects, but when the final product has this much wrong with it, it really doesn’t matter.

I don’t know what happens if a tree falls, and this movie didn’t let me in on the secret (I’m guessing it’s one of those pseudo-intellectual titles that might have some relevance to the movie in a roundabout way). It also wasn’t entertaining, and I hated it. I’ll give it points for being filmed in Canada and having some attractive women in it. Elsewise, there’s virtually nothing going for this.

3/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below to the disappointment of Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I as we discuss If a Tree Falls.

Goblin (2010)

Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando [Other horror films: Savage Island (2004), Insecticidal (2005), Alien Incursion (2006), Decoys 2: Alien Seduction (2007), House of Bones (2010), Thirst (2010), Boogeyman (2012), Haunted High (2012), Roboshark (2015), Suspension (2015)]

For a Syfy movie, Goblin isn’t that bad. It’s not among the greater outputs from the channel (such as House of Bones or Neverknock), but it’s not as terrible as many of their other films tend to be.

The story isn’t overly original, but it was serviceable here. Some of the elements (such as the strained relationship between the father and daughter characters here, for instance) added some decent emotional impact to some scenes, though I can’t say it ultimately made that big of a difference. Also, it’s worth noting that the finale seems a bit rushed in some ways – it’s not something I want to harp on, because I was at least happy that things were finishing up – but at times it did feel like it was moving a bit quickly.

Tracy Spiridakos did quite well as the lead (and on an unrelated note, she reminded me of a younger A.J. Cook) , and I thought she got along well with both Gil Bellows as her father (Bellows, randomly, played Tommy in The Shawshank Redemption) and Erin Boyes. I appreciated Bellows’ character as a father who is actually as entangled in the supernatural story as are the teen characters, and he did good.

I think that Donnelly Rhodes did surprisingly well (think Crazy Ralph only with some emotional depth), but many of the others who pop up, including Reilly Dolman, Chilton Crane, and Andrew Wheeler, were just on the average side. Julia Maxwell didn’t appear too much, but I thought she had a lot of character, and stood out for that.

There is a bit of gore throughout. You get some disembowelment, slit throats, intestines free of their flesh prison, stuff along those lines. It’s nothing special, and some of it looks a bit on the fake side, but at least they tried. What they didn’t do well, though, would be the CGI of the titular Goblin. It’s almost okay at some points, but most of the time, it’s as pathetic as you might expect from a Syfy movie.

Overall, though, I have to admit that I’ve seen Goblin three times now. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I do think it’s certainly watchable, and though I doubt I’ll see it again anytime soon, as far as Syfy movies go, there’s not much here to really take offense to.

7/10

Devil (2010)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle [Other horror films: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007), Quarantine (2008), As Above, So Below (2014)]

To be honest, I was hoping for a bit more from this one. Now, Devil is a movie I’ve seen before, but it’s been years upon years, and I was thinking that maybe, if I went in with fresh eyes, I could garner a bit more enjoyment from this one than I got the first time through (in which I found the movie passable but little more). Alas, that’s not really what happened.

Certainly the basic story of the movie is interesting, but I could have done without any of the religious talking points thrown in, and wish that the film was more based on, you know, reality. In particular, Jacob Vargas’ character Ramirez was pretty bad, especially when he said that even people who say they don’t believe in the Devil actually do, a little bit. Yeah, that’s not how it works, but this character’s mind was too warped by religion for anything otherwise to make sense to him, I suspect.

I guess a big part of my issues with Devil is that I didn’t find the mystery of who the Devil was all that interesting. So we know it’s one of the people trapped in the elevator, and we’re supposed to be kept on our toes about the Devil’s human form, despite the fact we know that M. Night Shyamalan was partially responsible for the story? Yeah, I don’t think so. The ending itself was cliché enough, what with a reveal that was somewhat obvious, but the whole movie suffers from just feeling too Hollywood.

It’s not like the movie didn’t have some potential. If the story had been less based on religious tripe as opposed to an actual mystery regarding one of those trapped being a serial killer, the movie might have been pretty good (especially considering that some of the cinematography is top-notch – look at that scene on the roof with a guy chasing a hat). The route they went, though, might work for some people, but it left me rather disinterested.

Chris Messina was okay. I mean, he was pretty generic toward the end, but hey, it’s only to be expected. More enjoyable was Bokeem Woodbine, and the fact he dealt with claustrophobia was a nice character addition. Matt Craven had a very familiar face (I’ve seen him in Disturbia, I guess, but I can’t imagine that’s how I recognize him – maybe from the Assault on Precinct 13 remake?), and I rather enjoyed his character (especially his back-and-forth with Jacob Vargas). Jenny O’Hara (Wishmaster) was also nice to see again, but I don’t think her character really had much to do.

Despite some solid performances, though, Devil still felt, at best, competent. I can personally say that I had an okay time for a good amount of the film. However, I can also say that the ending was almost pathetically anticipated, and I wish that they had gone a different direction with this one.

5.5/10

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

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Directed by Tod Williams [Other horror films: Cell (2016)]

It’s no surprise that I rather abhorred the first movie, and because of that, I didn’t really go into this one with a high expectation of enjoying it. And of course, it may come as little surprise that I didn’t care for this at all.

I did appreciate how it connected to the first movie somewhat unexpectedly. It didn’t really make the film any better, but perhaps it gained a little depth due to that addition. Still, the movie is pretty much the first movie only with a family as opposed to a couple, and that change didn’t really blow me away.

Once things really start happening (about an hour and 7 minutes in, mind), it doesn’t really matter, because I had stopped caring an hour before. The family all seem like decently nice (albeit rather privileged) people, the daughter (Molly Ephraim) being the most interesting and sympathetic, especially when she’s trying to convince her father (Brian Boland) of the supernatural goings-on in the house. As decent, though, as Ephraim was, it doesn’t really make the film any more engaging.

Without fail, I usually bring up the fact that I don’t dislike found footage movies automatically. There’s been plenty I’ve enjoyed, such as Hell House LLC and As Above, So Below. I also understand, at least partially, the appeal of these types of slow-burn films. It’s just that I don’t find them creepy or scary, just tediously boring and hard to get through.

Connecting to the first movie was, again, somewhat clever, and I appreciated that bit of back-story. It doesn’t necessarily shine a brighter light on the first film, but it was still nice. At the same time, the movie is still slow and tedious. I enjoyed it a smidge more than the first movie, if only because Molly Ephraim was a much better character than either Micah or Katie from the first film (both of whom, of course, pop up here).

I also wanted to mention the ending briefly. Much like it’s predecessor, it’s somewhat depressing and gloomy, but, at least to me, it lacked the emotional punch it was probably trying to attain. This is mainly due to the utterly idiotic and tried out “This is based off a true story, we promise, even though it’s obviously not true, we say it is to make the movie more believable and frightening” bullshit that I’m so sick of.

To my knowledge, there’s been absolutely zero evidence of supernatural or paranormal activity. This isn’t based off a true story, and movies that claim they are, when they’re obviously not, really piss me off. This is probably my biggest issue with found footage – if a movie foregoes this foolish true-story framing, more power to it, but when they tack that on at the beginning or end, it’s just insulting our intelligence. Perhaps I sound like a broken record, but as long as movies keep doing this, I will keep calling them out and rating them accordingly.

Paranormal Activity 2 is just as tedious and boring as the first film, with the only real caveat being the characters are a bit better (focusing on a family, even a privileged one, is more engaging than a couple, I always thought). It’s still not a good movie, and it amazes me that this won any awards at all.

4.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Paranormal Activity 2, than this is the perfect video for you.

The Wolfman (2010)

Directed by Joe Johnston [Other horror films: N/A]

Perhaps the very definition of average, The Wolfman has some really cool and memorable scenes, but also peters out almost entirely come the ending with some elements I don’t at all care for.

I won’t pretend that I remember enough about the original to compare to the two, but I will say that this story is decent up until the end. I enjoyed many aspects of the asylum sequences, along with the following breakout and chase through London, but once it was werewolf vs. werewolf (not too dissimilar from the finale of 30 Days of Night, only with vampires), I ceased being impressed. And to be fair, at least I’m consistent, as I didn’t love the finale to 30 Days of Night either.

There’s some solid werewolf action in the film, to be sure. I always loved that Romani attack near the beginning, which had a decent amount of brutal claw damage, and plenty of attacks throughout the movie are worth it, and filmed well too, but that doesn’t really make up for what I see as failings with how the movie concludes.

Also, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t love Benicio Del Toro as Talbot. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I just didn’t buy it. Anthony Hopkins was, as always, a pleasure to see, though again, some character aspects turn me away from him. I was lukewarm toward Emily Blunt’s character, but on the upside, I did rather like Hugo Weaving (and his demands of a pint of bitter).

The Wolfman’s a fine film, but it’s not a great film. It’s action-packed, sure, and like I said, some parts are pretty solid, but much of the time, it just feels like a glossy Hollywood period piece, and I contend The Woman in Black remake did it better, and with more atmosphere to boot.

Still, a good werewolf movie is hard to come by, and I’d say that The Wolfman certainly counts. It didn’t blow me away, and having seen it twice, it really does strike me as ultimately average, but it’s a decent movie still despite my misgivings.

7/10

Insidious (2010)

Directed by James Wan [Other horror films: Stygian (2000), Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007), The Conjuring (2013), Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016), Malignant (2021)]

Well, at least there were some super scary jump scares, so I guess the movie’s not all a waste, right?

As it is, this is a film I had little interest in for quite some time, which is partially why it took nine years after it was released for me to actually watch it, and the sad thing is, even with that in mind, I still found the movie rather disappointing.

It’s not as though Insidious is an overly horrible film, though – I can certainly see why mainstream audiences might be enthralled by it. As for fans of the horror genre, though, I guess that I failed to see what’s so impressive about it. Jump scare after jump scare with ‘scary’ music to make the jump scares scarier and OMG another jump scare help me I’m scared

Obviously, this movie hit the right spots for some people, and I’ll certainly say that elements are pretty solid (such as the subtler approach to horror in a few scenes), and the plot itself is decently interesting. Even the end, when Patrick Wilson’s character goes into The Further, I was fine with it. I sort of liked the almost A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe of the Red-faced demon’s chamber, what with him sharpening his claws to Tiny Tim’s dulcet tones.

I saw (and I suspect it’s the same for most) the twist behind Wilson’s character a mile away, and the ending just didn’t impress me whatsoever. It felt so damn Hollywood, and didn’t do anything to at all to help end the film on a more positive note.

The principle cast is all fine. Patrick Wilson (of classics such as Hard Candy and The Conjuring) did pretty solidly, and everyone else, including Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye (who I amazingly still recognized from the 1984 aforementioned classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, along with the more recent 2003 Dead End), and Barbara Hershey, did well also, though none of the three blew me away. Leigh Whannell (of Saw fame) was nice to see, but the brand of humor he and his cohort Angus Sampson brought to the film didn’t do it for me.

All-in-all, I’m not really surprised that Insidious didn’t impress me. In the past, I’ve heard it compared positively with Paranormal Activity, which is a film I utterly hated. I get how Insidious could impress some people, and obviously if it’s your type of film, by all means, enjoy it. I will admit it had potential with the story. But that ending was Hollywood tripe (and in fact, it’s not altogether removed from what you’d see on Syfy), and while I appreciate portions of the film, this isn’t one I plan on watching again for at least twenty years.

5.5/10

This is one of the films discussed on Fight Evil’s podcast. If interested in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I talk this one over, look no further.

Triassic Attack (2010)

Directed by Colin Ferguson [Other horror films: N/A]

Look at the plot of this Syfy TV movie, and you can probably tell that it’ll be bad. Awful, even. Which is what I thought when I first saw it some years back (probably around when it first aired). Seeing it again, though, I have to admit, I find the movie somewhat, well, comforting.

The strong point here isn’t in the CGI dinosaur skeletons which are causing all the havoc, as they are just overly ridiculous and nonsensical (how can a skeleton growl without throat muscles, or sniff?). In a way, it a fun concept – a Native American spell brings the bones to life to protest development on traditionally tribal land, but come on, the skeletons look terrible.

What appealed to me about Triassic Attack were the characters, though. There’s some retroactive appreciation here, to be sure – one of the stars is Emilia Clarke, who began playing Daenerys Targaryen in the ultra-popular series Game of Thrones. Seeing the Mother of Dragons play a moderately bratty teenage girl isn’t something I got to experience the first time I saw the film, and that certainly adds a little something.

Even ignoring Clarke, though, there are some solid performances here, such as Steven Brand (who consistently reminded me of Ben McKenzie) and Raoul Max Trujillo. Christopher Villiers and Gabriel Womack made for fine comedic characters, but Kirsty Mitchell was somewhat shaky throughout.

The family dynamics between Brand, Mitchell, Clarke, and Trujillo actually got me invested, though, despite the silly story. One brother who believes in traditional Native American religions and another who is much more the modern, integrated one made for some good drama. And I don’t know why, exactly, but it worked.

If you look online, many people give this movie quite a low rating, and I can certainly see why people would give it such, especially since I used to be one of them. But I found Triassic Attack entertaining, probably more entertaining than I should have. The question is, would this be a movie I’d buy on DVD and pop in on a rainy night to watch, and the answer is yes. It’s not one of Syfy’s better offers, but I cannot deny that I enjoyed it, and ultimately, that’s all that matters.

7/10

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010)

Directed by Andy De Emmony [Other horror films: Love Bite (2012)]

A BBC television production based on a classic story by M.R. James, this short feature is both somewhat sluggish but ultimately a spooky adaptation.

The story is pretty simple, partially because it’s an adaptation, and partly because it’s only about fifty minutes long. There’s a good moody, atmospheric feeling to this film, and it works well, but at the same time, I think it lacks a bit of meat.

No disappointments from the cast, though. John Hurt does a fantastic job as a depressed man who just put his wife into a nursing home. Hurt really brought a lot of feeling to this, and is probably the best reason to watch this. The rest of the admittedly small cast worked out also, what with Gemma Jones (Pomfrey from a few of the Harry Potter films), Lesley Sharp (who was in a Doctor Who episode titled ‘Midnight’), and Sophie Thompson.

What works best about this movie is the downbeat, depressing aura, along with the pretty suspenseful scenes at the end. Even the spectral figure on the deserted beach was a nice touch (the setting as a whole, an almost-empty hotel near the sea, was beautiful). This said, I felt that this was lacking something. Not enough to make it anywhere near a bad film, but still, not something I’d eagerly watch again in the future. As decent as some scenes were, I’d rate this around average.

7/10

Don’t Go in the Woods (2010)

dont go in the woods

Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio [Other horror films: N/A]

I probably like this film more than I have any right to, especially looking at what many others say about it. But after having seen it twice, Don’t Go in the Woods is still a movie I could see myself watching again down the line.

Let’s get this out of the way first, as I think it’s rather important: if you’re looking for a new horror favorite, don’t look here. Make no mistake, some of the kills are brutal in this one (the main weapon is a sledgehammer – could you imagine them being anything but?), but it takes about an hour to really start throwing out some solid horror, and in an eighty minute film, that might not do it for most, even if they’re fans of the genre. The story’s not dripping in creativity either, and if you didn’t see that plot twist from a mile away, I wouldn’t even know what to say.

The selling point of this movie is that it’s part-musical. As a fan of the occasional musical myself, I don’t think it’s a bad idea, and really, I think the fact that I like most of the songs in the film leads me to enjoy this movie more than most people seem to (the rating on IMDb, as of this writing, is 2.6/10). There are scenes of the band sitting around a campfire singing songs that last ten, fifteen minutes. No horror, just music. And I think that wouldn’t sit well with many. What can I say, other than I didn’t have a problem with it?

There were some decent kills, as I alluded to, and while there was some occasional gore, and a little splatter, I wouldn’t say that it was anything special. A sledgehammer to the head, along with a somewhat fun sleeping bag butchering, were probably my two favorite kills. That said, given the story’s not really that amazing, I don’t think it’s enough to recommend the film to hardcore horror fans.

Matt Sbeglia is really the only one in this movie who is noteworthy. Everyone else, for the most part, is either a generic cut-out or just okay. Many of them can sing pretty well (if that was indeed the actors actually singing), but as for a stand-out performance, Sbeglia gets the closest, and to be honest, he wasn’t that amazing.

Directed by well-known actor Vincent D’Onofrio, Don’t Go in the Woods, due to it’s being almost more a musical than horror, probably wouldn’t do it for many fans of the genre. How many good musical horror movies are out there anyway? Maybe 2014’s Stage Fright? So if you go in expecting a horror film, I think the long, drawn-out musical portions will disappoint. But like I said, I think most of the music is decent, so despite the bland story and terribly cliche twist, even after two viewings, I think this movie’s somewhat decent. Still below average, but decent.

6.5/10

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

Directed by Eli Craig [Other horror films: Zombieland (2013), Little Evil (2017)]

This will be a shorter review than usual, as there’s not much to say about this film (in this case, it’s a positive).

If you don’t know much about this bloody comedy-horror flick, it might sound a bit dumb at first. And sure, in some ways, it is overly ridiculous. But at the same time, I do think the theme of miscommunication is done pretty cleverly throughout the movie.

There are only four actors who matter. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) have an amazing chemistry as two hillbilly friends, and play their roles fantastically. Dale has a lot of heart in him, and it’s nice to see his story end happily. Katrina Bowden played Allison, an aspiring therapist caught in the middle of this giant misunderstanding, extraordinarily well also. She has a fresh, attractive college look to her, but also has the brains to figure out what’s going on. Jesse Moss (who was in Ginger Snaps ten years prior) plays a great villain, and gets the utterly psychotic act down pat.

The movie is about average length, but still comes across as pretty digestible, and at no parts throughout the film are you really bored. The gore and related special effects are pretty damn good, lending this movie the right to probably be called a splatter film. Solidly funny, surprisingly clever, Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a good film that’s worth seeing. I think you’ll enjoy it.

8/10

This was also covered in the first episode of Fight Evil’s podcast, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I briefly discuss it, which you can listen to below.