Sinister 2 (2015)

Directed by Ciarán Foy [Other horror films: Hotel Darklight (2009, segment ‘Untitled’), Citadel (2012), Eli (2019)]

So I’ve pretty much only heard negative things about this sequel, especially in comparison with the first Sinister, after seeing it, I can understand the negativity and disappointment. Not that Sinister 2 is a terrible movie, but it definitely doesn’t reach the same level as the first.

I did appreciate them utilizing James Ransone as the main character, though – it may have been expected, but it’s still a solid trajectory for the series to take. I just wish they focused purely on him as the first focused on Hawke as opposed to giving the perspective of kids being seduced by dead kids, which is an aspect of the film I found entirely predictable and, worse, uninteresting.

Maybe if the dead kids in question had been the same ones from the first film, it would have been a bit better, but instead we have all new kids and all new home videos. As they went, Sunday Service was probably the best (albeit a bit more complex than many of the other murders), and Christmas Morning had character (what little we saw of A Trip to the Dentist showed promise also), but Fishing Trip struck me as somewhat silly, and not quite comparable to the somewhat jarring Lawn Work from the first film.

The whole idea, though, of brothers being aware that a group of ghost kids wants to show them videos of families being killed and neither one thinks it’d be wise to let anyone know about this (I get that most adults wouldn’t listen, but these two didn’t even try) just doesn’t seem realistic whatsoever. And the ending, while not coming out of nowhere, felt somewhat off also (and not even due to the obvious fact that Shannyn Sossamon’s character could have gotten out of that abusive marriage if she had contacted the media or just utilized social media against the abusive piece of shit that was her husband).

On that note, I thought the abusive father (Lea Coco) was an interesting element, as it gave both of the kids reasons to want to join the dead bois and fuck everyone up. The father was such an unlikable character, too, that when he got, shall we say, killed, it was clearly a good thing for everyone involved. The rest of the ending, though, just seemed weak.

Ransone was still just as fun in this one as the first movie, but he even had surprising courage at times (such as him standing up to that infuriating attempted abduction by the police). I didn’t love or hate Shannyn Sossamon (from the One Missed Call remake) – she was okay, I guess, but I didn’t feel strongly at all about her. Both of the kids (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) were okay, and felt like real brothers (it helped that they actually are), but I can’t say I cared for their stories. Tate Ellington was something. I didn’t hate his performance, but I just didn’t see the point in it at all.

I guess that’s my main problem with the whole film. The first film was a very solid supernatural movie, and I’m sure they wanted to repeat that success here, but failed utterly. It’s watchable, of course, and it’s not that much worse than average, but it’s definitely not a film that’s really worth that much. Plus, it had the exact same jump scare ending the first movie did. A+ for originality.

5.5/10

The Hollow (2015)

Directed by Sheldon Wilson [Other horror films: Shallow Ground (2004), Kaw (2007), Screamers: The Hunting (2009), Carny (2009), Mothman (2010), Red: Werewolf Hunter (2010), Killer Mountain (2011), Scarecrow (2013), Shark Killer (2015), The Unspoken (2015), The Night Before Halloween (2016), Neverknock (2017), Stickman (2017), Dead in the Water (2018)]

I had the misfortune of seeing this Sheldon Wilson film before, and it’s not gotten any better since that first time a few years back. The thing is, I think this could have had potential with the setting and with the characters, but it’s entirely squandered to make a generically bad Syfy original.

This is something that Wilson has a history with, though. I enjoyed Neverknock and The Unspoken, true, and to a certain extent, I enjoyed both Kaw and Stickman, but much of his recent work, such as The Night Before Halloween, Dead in the Water, and this one, are really hard to get through, and this is one of the worse (though certainly Dead in the Water was probably a bit worse).

Was Stephanie Hunt attractive? Sure. Was Sarah Dugdale attractive? You know it. Did either one give a particularly good performance, or in fact, did anyone in the film give a good performance? That’d be a negative. I don’t blame the failure of the film on the performances though – Dugdale and Hunt could only work with what they’ve got, and if they’re given a bad script, what can they do?

The monster was a combination of the roots from The Ruins and that hideous monster-thing in Shadows of the Dead (another stellar Syfy original) – most of the time, it looked like angry embers and sticks were attacking people. This had to do with revenge from some witches, but the witches could have tried harder to not send a creature that reeked of hideous CGI.

I liked the setting – an island off some undisclosed state (probably Washington or something, but I don’t think it’s said in the film). It was a large island, but much of it seemed to be forest, which was sort of cool. And the characters being focused on all being sisters also brought a little bit confort, so we wouldn’t have to deal with any horrible romantic sub-plot (unless there was some lesbian incest going on, but no dice). It has the basics to maybe make for an okay story if they had wanted to, maybe an interesting mystery-slasher hybrid, or perhaps some type of psychological horror à la Hereditary set on an island. That’s not what happened.

Oh, also the younger sister had unexplained psychic dreams, so that was #cool.

When I initially watched The Hollow, I was disappointed because I was hopeful that maybe it’d end up being one of the better Syfy originals, but that’s not the case, and it’s really not a movie I can think of any real reason to watch.

5/10

Robert (2015)

Directed by Andrew Jones [Other horror films: The Amityville Asylum (2013), The Midnight Horror Show (2014), Valley of the Witch (2014), The Last House on Cemetery Lane (2015), A Haunting at the Rectory (2015), Poltergeist Activity (2015), The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund (2016), The Curse of Robert the Doll (2016), Cabin 28 (2017), The Toymaker (2017), Werewolves of the Third Reich (2017), The Legend of Robert the Doll (2018), The Legend of Halloween Jack (2018), Robert Reborn (2019), The Manson Family Massacre (2019), The Utah Cabin Murders (2019), The Curse of Halloween Jack (2019), The Jonestown Haunting (2020), The Haunting of Margam Castle (2020)]

More than anything, the problem with Robert is that it’s really dry. It’s definitely a bad story, don’t get me wrong, but if there was a little more pep here, maybe some of that could have been heightened a bit. But no, Robert’s just dry, and almost entirely void of any positive aspects worth mentioning. I’ll try to think of something as I carry on though – maybe something will pop up.

Seeing an evil doll wreck havoc on an already dysfunctional family (seriously, the macho husband, who’s scared of his son playing with dolls, was unbearable) didn’t really make for an engaging film, especially given how amateurish some of the scenes and cuts were. I did find it somewhat hilarious that this doll was given to the kid by an elderly maid unable to do her job, who then gets fired. In a petty fashion, she just hoists an evil doll onto the family, and the rest is history.

Well, history is a strong word, because though this is about a killer doll, the most interesting thing about Robert by far is that it’s British. The kills here were weak, the suspense close to non-existent, the acting sub-par (neither leads Suzie Frances Garton or Lee Bane made any impression whatsoever), and everything else pointless.

I’m not giving Robert an extremely low rating, though. Why? Because while much of the movie is poor, it was still palatable in a very bare bones, ultra dry way. Elements of the movie were almost okay, and maybe if a better creative team had been behind this, a bit more life would have been apparent in the film. Robert’s not the worst of the worst. It’s just entirely unremarkable, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this.

4/10

This is one of the films covered on the Fight Evil podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Robert, check the video out below.

They Found Hell (2015)

Directed by Nick Lyon [Other horror films: Species: The Awakening (2007), Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Rise of the Zombies (2012), Foreclosed (2013), Bermuda Tentacles (2014), Isle of the Dead (2016), Titanic 666 (2022)]

Sometimes Syfy gets it right. It happened on such occasions as Neverknock, House of Bones, and a few other occasions. I can’t say this is quite as good, but it was a very solidly made film, though ultimately, I think it’s around average.

The story here is somewhat interesting. A teleportation experiment goes awry, and a bunch of college kids gets trapped in a Hellish dimension, and do their best to survive. The dimension in question is solidly creepy, with a bunch of decently spooky imagery (from a multitude of dead and disfigured bodies to hanging suicide victims to forest and jungle areas, etc.), and I found myself interested in learning more about this place.

The cast isn’t great, but a few solid performances stood out, such as Katy Reece, Kabby Borders, Chris Schellenger, Mirela Burke (who was quite cute here), and James Sobol Kelly. I expected Kelly’s character to matter more, but I’m happy with the restrained route they took. Also, two attractive young women, Katy Reese and Mirela Burke, made out, and that bumped the score a whole point. Hubba hubba.

They Found Hell isn’t amazing, and I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking it is. While the environments in the Hellish dimension are mostly solid, I didn’t like what they did with Hunter Canedy’s character, and the CGI for the creatures (such as the Hellhounds and the Flying Demons, or whatever they are) is about as bad as Syfy often does. Also, and this might just be me, but that opening seemed really odd, and almost disconnected from the rest of the story in a laughable way.

Still, I found this one a lot more palatable than I do many Syfy movies, and I can easily imagine giving this another watch.

7.5/10

Cat Sick Blues (2015)

Directed by Dave Jackson [Other horror films: Cannibal Suburbia (2008)]

Australia has brought the horror genre some rather, shall we say interesting, entries. Cat Sick Blues isn’t a very pleasant watch, as it often contains unsettling and uncomfortable content, but it is very well-made, and certainly possesses enough gore and unique ideas to keep the film memorable.

If there’s one big problem I have with the film, it’s the somewhat lengthy dream sequence toward the end. I felt it wholly unnecessary, and while the film flirted with more fantastic ideas prior to that, I thought it was way over-the-top ridiculous. I just didn’t care for that little segment whatsoever, and if that had just been cut, I personally would have given the film a higher rating.

Everything else, though, is decently on point. Playing the main character, Shain Denovan does a great job pretty much throughout, from the emotional detachment following the rape sequence to the scene where she realized she knew the killer (in a Biblical sense). She doesn’t seem to be a big actress, which is a bit of a shame, as she did well here. Playing the unsettling killer, Matthew C. Vaughan also did pretty well, certainly gave off that very disturbed vibe. He looked silly in that mask and clothes far too small for him, but you’ll likely not laugh for long.

There’s a lot of great stuff in the film insofar as special effects and gore goes. With a couple of decapitations, multiple throat-slittings, a head getting utterly demolished and smashed in, and even someone being force-drunk blood, the movie has a lot going for it. If I had to choose a favorite scene of carnage, it’d be the slow-motion murder of the four girls in the hostel, all-the-while a smooth, electronic song by Mistabishi plays. The cinematography during this scene is just fantastic. The opening kills are great also, and really help set the tone of the tone.

And what a tone it is. The rape scene isn’t necessarily graphic, but that wasn’t an easy scene to watch. What was ever more difficult was the reaction videos to the leaked rape, which were utterly disgusting, and I can very easily see that type of thing happening in today’s technologically-dedicated society. Also, just the callous killing of the cat, followed by throwing it out the window, was just harsh.

Speaking of harsh, I wanted to mention the music. While at times it was akin to many other films, playing somewhat accessible music (even if the content itself on screen wasn’t accessible), it wasn’t uncommon for discordant tones to pop up, some very harsh noises that certainly kept me on my toes. Even the song during the opening credits was intensely cacophonous, so kudos to whoever made the soundtrack.

Were it not for that dream sequence toward the end that just really turned me off, I think I’d have enjoyed this more. Worth noting that Cat Sick Blues is a movie I’ve seen once before, but I entirely forgot that disagreeable scene at the end, so when it popped up here, I was somewhat taken aback. I did enjoy the film more this time around, but it definitely has to be said that the content can sometimes be a bit much. If you’re a fan of strange foreign slashers, I’d give this one a go.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.

Lavalantula (2015)

Directed by Mike Mendez [Other horror films: Killers (1996), Bimbo Movie Bash (1997), The Convent (2000), Masters of Horror (2002), The Gravedancers (2006), Big Ass Spider! (2013), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘Friday the 31st’), The Last Heist (2016), Don’t Kill It (2016)]

What makes a movie good?

That’s a question I sometimes, perhaps often, find myself wrestling with. There are occasions which I watch a movie that’s terrible on many technical levels, but I still enjoy. The IMDb score might be south of 3/10, but I still want to rate the film an average score (7/10 for me). Is enjoyment more important than technical value?

It must be, because despite the flaws, I found Lavalantula an exceptionally acceptable and enjoyable film.

Let’s talk cast, brothers and sisters: Steve Guttenberg (of Police Academy fame) stars, and while he’s definitely older, you can certainly tell it’s him. Honestly, I’ve not seen Guttenberg in anything outside of the 1984 classic comedy – at the same time, Police Academy is one of my favorite comedy movies ever, so it’s enough to feel nostalgic seeing him here. I really enjoy his sometimes over-the-top performance, and overall got a kick out of him.

No one else really blows me away in particular, but there are some solid performances here. Nia Peeples (who I just saw a few days back, at the time of this writing, in DeepStar Six) does pretty good as an action-oriented mother. Patrick Renna (X-Files ‘Bad Blood’ episode, 2006’s Dark Ride, 2016’s Fear, Inc.) was pretty amusing as a fanboy of Guttenberg’s action-hero persona. There are three characters here who also played characters in the original Police Academy (Michael Winslow, Marion Ramsey, and Leslie Easterbrook), but none of them really do a whole lot for me.

What makes this movie fun is the fact Guttenberg plays a washed-up action-hero, and there are quite a few references made to other films throughout Lavalantula that made me crack a grin (such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and of course, 1997’s Volcano). There’s not really anything that special about the humor, but I had a good time with it.

And I think that’s what this comes down to. Certainly, the special effects here, while still terrible, were better than fellow contemporaries like Arachnoquake, and the spiders here definitely had a better design than the creatures in Arachnoquake, but what matters more was that I had a lot of fun with this one. The conclusion is a bit more ridiculous than I’ve have preferred, but it doesn’t really damage the film much. Overall, Lavalantula is a movie I could see myself buying on DVD, or at the very least, watching again, without much guilt. Or at least, too much guilt.

7.5/10

Night of the Wild (2015)

Directed by Eric Red [Other horror films: Body Parts (1991), Bad Moon (1996), 100 Feet (2008)]

There’s very little about this Syfy film that’s worth seeking this movie out for. The fact it stars Rob Morrow is one of the few things I enjoyed about this, because otherwise, it’s pretty unremarkable.

My first big problem is the plot – some meteors fall from space, and it causes all dogs and wolves in a local area to go crazy and start attacking people. The funny thing is, despite the fact that these meteors were a bright glowing green, only once was it brought up that they might have something to do with it, and exactly no one in the movie seemed to notice them scattered across the town (despite them being, you know, a glowing green).

Speaking of colors, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a red light tinting some of the scenes. Apparently, according to IMDb, director Eric Red was influenced by the lighting of Suspiria (1977), which amazes me. It’s great that he’s seen the classics, but after watching Suspiria, he thinks that this pile of trash is a good way to give reverence to it?

Rob Morrow, who I know mostly from the television series Numb3rs, of which I’ve seen every episode, is a fun presence here. His character’s decent, but more importantly, Morrow himself is just a solid actor to see here, which is a positive, as few others stand out. Playing his daughter, Tristin Mays did fine, but wasn’t particularly memorable. Her two friends, played by Mary Risener and Mary Katherine O’Donnell, were pretty pointless characters, and neither actress was impressive (Risener in particular). Lastly, Kelly Rutherford didn’t do a thing for me.

There are some solid dog attacks in the film, and there was a somewhat gory aftermath (including a body torn apart) that I enjoyed. But toward the end of the film, a lot of time is spent on random dog attacks in the downtown area, and as it dragged on and on, I was just bored out of my mind seeing characters I didn’t know get killed by dogs that hadn’t appeared before, especially since few of the attacks there were really worth seeing. Also, there were about five to six scenes using slow motion, which just looked ridiculously dramatic and utterly unnecessary.

Personally, if it weren’t for Morrow, I’d rate this movie quite a bit lower. It’s still nowhere near a good movie, or even an average one, but I think I see it in a slightly better light because Morrow’s one of the stars. That said, if you couldn’t care less about Morrow, than I suspect that Night of the Wild is one Syfy flick that you could do without. Even with Morrow, I understand that feeling.

Also, the CGI dogs at the end didn’t help either. It’s a poor movie, period.

4/10

3-Headed Shark Attack (2015)

Poster

Directed by Christopher Ray [Other horror films: Reptisaurus (2009), Megaconda (2010), Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010), 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012), Shark Week (2012), Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015), A House Is Not a Home (2015), Circus Kane (2017), Minutes to Midnight (2018)]

This follow-up to the disaster that was 2-Headed Shark Attack is a marginal improvement, but make no mistake, it’s still pretty awful. The best I can say is that there are actually a few memorable characters here, and it didn’t feel nearly as shallow as the first one.

Even the story is a bit better, what with some of the main characters actually being scientists as opposed to just college kids who want to party and have carnal relations. While the underwater base was likely impractical, I actually thought it was sort of cool in a Jaws 3 type of way. The movie goes down a more generic route once the facility gets destroyed by the shark, which was a shame, though not a surprise.

Before I talk about the quality of performances overall, I want to speak specifically about Danny Trejo for a bit. Possibly one of the most well-known and prolific Latino actors, I’ve seen a handful of his films. I enjoyed Machete, and a few other roles of his. But the fact that he seems to accept any role offered to him doesn’t much endear me to the guy. In this film, he’s basically used the same way Carmen Electra was in the first one – to have a big name to draw people in. As it is, I liked Trejo’s character here, for the little he appeared, but his arc is exactly what you’d expect, and ultimately, he was pretty pointless as far as the film goes.

For other performances, you have a few that legitimately did okay, such as Karrueche Tran, Jaason Simmons, and Rob Van Dam. Jena Sims was rather attractive, and I somewhat liked her character, but she didn’t really amount to much, which actually caught me a bit by surprise. Generally, though, this movie, much like the first, seems more concerned about showing girls with impressive breasts in bikinis as opposed to crafting an even halfway decent story. While I won’t deny that some of the girls in question are beautiful (such as Brianna Ferris), it doesn’t add anything to the story being told.

In reality, while the movie was pretty terrible, it did improve a bit upon the first one (but honestly, given that I rated the first one extraordinarily lowly, that really isn’t saying much), and it seemed to want to be a better movie. It didn’t reach anywhere near average, but 3-Headed Shark Attack is a movie I could almost see myself re-watching at some point, which is definitely something I can’t say about the first one.

4/10

Ominous (2015)

Ominous

Directed by Peter Sullivan [Other horror films: Summoned (2013), High School Possession (2014), The Sandman (2017), Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018)]

I’ll first say that this will be a shorter review than usual – I’ve seen Ominous twice now, and really, it’s not worth extrapolating on. Really, there’s only about one reason to see it, and that’s for a hilariously bad death scene. Everything else had been done before, and ultimately, this made-for-TV flick is just bland and pretty God-awful.

The cast is almost wholly poor. Mark Lindsay Chapman (who played Nick in The Langoliers, a fact I didn’t realize until after the movie finished) was the best of the bunch, and he had a solid, moderately sinister presence. None of the other performances did anything for me. There’s a few interesting names here, such as Barry Watson, who starred in 7th Heaven for quite some time, and Esmé Bianco, who I know mostly as a supporting character from Game of Thrones, but their acting didn’t come close to wowing me here.

A lot of the fault, though, can go to the uninspired plot. I just don’t get why anyone would want to see this film, in which bereft parents make a deal with the devil to raise their recently-deceased son from the dead, only to discover he’s the Antichrist, when they could stick with a classic like The Omen, or even a different take on the story, like the 2017 Little Evil. It’s a bad, low-budget television movie (which really shows in it’s special effects failures), so I just don’t get why anyone would opt into watching this willingly.

Admittedly, I’ve seen it now twice. Luckily, there are a few terrifically horrible scenes that make at least portions of this film bearable. In a classic sequence, a priest gets clobbered over the head by a falling cross, and then set on fire. In another, multiple people die from flying projectiles at a park. And then we have the bird attacks at the end – while slightly better-looking than Birdemic (which isn’t actually praise, believe it or not), the birds were horribly rendered, and it just looked so God-damned awful.

Which, when it comes down to it, is what this movie is. Ominous (which, by the way, is a terribly bland title) just sucks hard. It’s one of those modern-day television flicks which just reeks of pointlessness. As fun as some of the sequences are, it’s definitely not worth it to watch the whole of this film.

3/10

The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (2015)

VVitch

Directed by Robert Eggers [Other horror films: The Lighthouse (2019)]

I first saw this film back in October of 2017, and was rather happy with it. Seeing it again only affirms those same thoughts, and more so, places this on a pedestal of sorts, and above many other horror movies of the modern age.

What first has to be mentioned is the strong focus on religious faith throughout the movie. From my perspective, I think the film clearly shows the dangers of religious fundamentalism, and taking one’s religion too seriously. Others, of course, see it a bit differently, but to me, the descent into religious mania was perhaps the most terrifying thing here.

The atmosphere works well with that theme, and it comes across as pretty masterful. The setting and story, too, help increase the feeling of unease, and the dialogue, much of it taken from accounts from the 1600’s (when the movie is based), really bring a realistic feel to this period piece. In relation, while the film is in English, given it’s very archaic style, I’d recommend, at least for the first time watching this, that captions be used.

The cast here is pretty stellar throughout. Anya Taylor-Joy, who later shows up in the 2016 Split, does fantastically in her role, and given this is one of her earliest roles, shows her an actress of high potential. A strong emotional range, you can’t help but feel for her as her family slowly starts perceiving her in a negative light (and the reason they do so, as aforementioned, is an increasing religious mania). Ralph Ineson isn’t a name I’m terribly familiar with (though he does show up in both the Harry Potter films and Game of Thrones), but also shows a strong performance here, and save Taylor-Joy, is my favorite character in the film. Kate Dickie (who was also in Game of Thrones) does great here playing a remarkably unlikable mother.

With as solid as the film is, I’m not entirely convinced with the ending. It’s not bad, by any means, but given the horrors perpetuated already because of the family’s strong religious convictions, it just felt rather unnecessary. It certainly doesn’t give much credence to the family’s actions, and in fact shows that much of what the mother and father thought were wrong. Still, it’s a somewhat eye-opening conclusion, and while I don’t love it, it wasn’t terrible.

For modern-day horror (even though the movie itself took place in the late 1600’s), this movie is a pretty clear win. The atmosphere alone is enough to bring positive attention to it, but throw in the story, the actors and their (well-done) archaic dialogue, and you have a stand-out film. The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (or The Witch, which strikes me as a far more boring title) is a movie I don’t necessarily love above all else, but it is a clear example of a very solidly done horror film in an age where we don’t really see too many others.

8/10