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)]

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), Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010), Megaconda (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

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Directed by Stephen Cognetti [Other horror films: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018), Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019)]

Like few found footage movies before it (Ghostwatch being the one that most comes to mind), Hell House LLC blew me away, and seeing it a second time, little of the impact was lost.

Done by seeming to be a documentary about a tragedy that occurred in a haunted house attraction, with interviews of journalists and authors, and mixing that up with different forms of media such as video captured from the event and put on YouTube, this film goes beyond a simple ‘one guy holds camera and films creepy stuff’ idea. It feels real, and even the multitude of movie (provided by videotapes of the haunted house crew in the months leading up to the tragedy) have an uneasy vibe about them.

One of the reasons much of this movie really works out well (even for rewatches) is the fact that many of the scares are quite subtle. Sure, the clown scenes were openly terrifying, but there are others that you could easily miss watching through this the first few times (such as unexplained figures, creepy shadows, that type of thing). And even the more obvious scares, such as the frantic, chaotic ending in the basement and the clown scenes have an organic feel to them. Nothing here really seems forced.

The cast throughout did a fine job, and really, no one stands out with a bad performance. All of the main performances made a good impact, and while no one blew me away, they all did competently enough as to not really cause any hindrance on the story.

I’ve spoken quite a bit about my problems regarding many modern found footage horror films, but that’s not to say that I can’t enjoy a good found footage movie when I run into one, this movie being a good case. It has enough flexibility and story-telling techniques going on that it strikes me, even after having seen it twice, as something special. A great film, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to any fellow fans of horror.

8.5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s seventh podcast by Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself. Give it a listen below.

Kantemir (2015)

Kant

Directed by Ben Samuels [Other horror films: 6:15 (2015)]

Despite quite an interesting premise, a strong performance by Robert Englund, and pretty solid atmosphere, ultimately, Kantemir isn’t able to fully reach for the heights it aimed for.

The setting is good, an old fashioned mansion, which assists with the dreary atmosphere. Because the movie battles with ideas such as what reality really is, it adds sort of a creepy layer to the film.

In New Nightmare, toward the end, Heather Langenkamp (playing herself, of course), goes back to her house, only to run into John Saxon, who calls her ‘Nancy.’ That scene was always damn creepy to me, and that’s the type of thing that happens a lot in this movie, as these actors go in and out of character, losing their grip on reality. It’s done well, but it’s not enough to fully hold my interest.

As I said, Englund has a strong performance here (and to be honest, without his presence, not only would this not be even a decent movie, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching it). He does a good job as the lead character (and I can’t say I’ve seen many films with him as the star), and toward the end, when everything’s unraveling, he really shows off his abilities. Daniel Gadi was almost hilariously serious and contemplative in his role, and didn’t really come off feeling like a real person. Diane Cary and Justine Griffiths add to the film also, though I don’t really think either is particularly noteworthy.

The idea behind the film, like I alluded to, was interesting. But also like I said, it wasn’t enough to fully captivate me. After forty minutes in, it’s not that hard to guess where the movie’s going, and it pretty much travels the expected path (including the entirely obvious conclusion).

Were it not for a somewhat stylish feel, solid atmosphere, and Englund’s presence, Kantemir probably wouldn’t be worth much. As it is, it’s not an amazing movie, or even that good. However, I think it’s palatable, at least for a single viewing, and if you’re an Englund fan, and don’t mind movies that are a bit more meta (Resolution, or Berberian Sound Studio), you might get more out of this than I did.

6/10

House of Whores (2015)

House of Whores

Directed by Paul Arnone [Other horror films: N/A], Tom Komisar [Other horror films: House of Whores 2: The Second Cumming (2016), Blood Moon River (2017)], Daniel Murphy [Other horror films: And Then YOU Die! (2013), Night of the Dolls (2014), House of Whores 2: The Second Cumming (2016), Blood Moon River (2017), Horror, Madness & Mayhem Vol 1 Snuff Party (2017), Slaughterhouse: House of Whores 2.5 (2017)] & R.J. Cecott [Other horror films: Blood Moon River (2017)]

I have to say, that was certainly something. In it, three women are sexually tortured and humiliated when three individuals in clown masks come to a home where a porno shoot was about to start.

The gore is cheap but done decently enough. Cheese graters to penises, power drills and electric saws to vaginas, and feces and urine to mouth. The film as a whole is 43 or so minutes (53 if you add in the extra ten minute footage of masked Nurse Hatchet dancing and spreading blood over her body), and has the unique feel of a slapstick movie to it. Corny sound effects, repeated scenes, some ragtime music thrown in, some animation and “amusing” captions, all juxtaposed with brutal scenes of rape and sexual abuse. This super low-quality film is pretty sadistic and sick, despite the playful nature much of the content is portrayed with.

Thinking on it, House of Whores makes me think that some friends watched House of 1000 Corpses one too many times and decided to make a film of moderately attractive girls being brutalized. House of 1000 Corpses, while an odd film, never had the level of slapstick that House of Whores has, though. I will say, the three clowns (Slasho, Smasho, and Shago) were acted pretty well. They seemed legitimately screwed up, and had that frantic quality and bizarre mindset you might expect from these types of people. Which brings me to another comparison, being Hate Crime (2012). Now, Hate Crime had a higher budget, and dealt with a family being tortured as opposed to three women, but the same idea permeates both: mentally unstable people torture and kill for kicks.

House of Whores isn’t a great movie, but if you’re going out of your way to find it, I can’t imagine you’d expect anything different. It’s watchable, and it’s pretty sick (did I mention forcing a woman to suck on her bloody tampon? No? Well, now I did). Is it something I’d watch multiple times? Not at all, but I am glad that I’ve seen it at least once. God help anyone else who suffers the same fate. An effective, if not a bit too silly, movie.

6/10