Cherokee Creek (2018)

Directed by Todd Jenkins [Other horror films: N/A]

Sometimes my reviews can go a bit longer than they really need to. For some films, I think it’s worth examining much of the film, from performances to the special effects, and at times, maybe it’s a bit much. I’ll try not to make the same error with Cherokee Creek, though, and the only point I really need to make clear is just how utterly unenjoyable I found this piece of trash.

I honestly thought the film was a joke at first – to me, the film felt so bad, they had to know it was bad, and there was going to be some early reveal about how it was a movie-in-a-movie type situation or something. Alas, that’s not what happens, and the movie kept going and going with these jokes that don’t even approach amusing.

Cherokee Creek is an hour and 56 minutes. We don’t get about any Bigfoot action until about an hour and ten minutes in, and unfortunately, it’s far, far, far, far, far too late to make any positive difference. It’s true that for a lower-budget film, the special effects are good, but damn it, by the time they show up, I wish I were dead already multiple times over. The nudity might have helped out if I was quite a bit younger, but it didn’t do anything for me here. None of the characters were remotely likable, and few of the performances were decent.

If the film had been shorter, the movie still would have been bad, but I will say that, had it been only an hour, the film definitely would have been more digestible and wouldn’t have gotten nearly as low a score. There was an ultra low budget film I saw some time ago called What Happens in the Mountains – Should Stay in the Mountains, a movie that was 40 minutes long and doesn’t even have an IMDb page. That film knew what it was, kept things short, and despite the lower-budget, rather amused me at times.

Cherokee Creek did nothing of the sort. I think I laughed once toward the beginning (with the foul-mouthed old woman), but that was about it.

The movie opens with two of the actors pointing guns at the camera commending the audience for watching the film (providing they paid for it), and went on to comment that if the audience didn’t pay for the film (or pirating it, which is the only way I’d recommend watching this), they’d need to buy it after finishing the film because of how good we’d undeniably find it.

I didn’t pay for this. Luckily, it was uploaded on one of the many streaming sites I use, which is a good thing, as this movie was complete and utter trash. Maybe in the future, I can find the words to explain why, but for now, after having just finished it, I don’t much feel like spending more time on this.

0.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested in checking out Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discussing this one, check it out below.

Slender Man (2018)

Directed by Sylvain White [Other horror films: I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006)]

Slender Man surprised me a bit. I definitely wasn’t expecting much, especially after seeing the low rating of 3.2/10 on IMDb, but for a good chunk of the movie, I thought there was definite potential. It’s with the second half of the film, though, that this is all flushed down the toilet and instead we’re left with jump scare after jump scare (assuming you can make out what’s going on), along with some pretty bad CGI. In a way, though, I’m in the unenviable position of feeling I need to defend this.

I didn’t think the main performances were particularly bad, but I also don’t think they were that memorable. Joey King was perhaps the best here, but Julia Goldani Telles, Annalise Basso (who is utterly smoking here) and Taylor Richardson all do reasonably. I didn’t see the point in Alex Fitzalan’s character, but I guess he did okay also.

What starts somewhat decently, especially regarding the mystery of one of the girls’ disappearance, turns into a really generic and jump scare-filled movie, and what tops it off to make it worse is that it has that glossy Hollywood look that just gives Slender Man such a tame feel.

Does the Slender Man design generally look fine? Sure. The CGI is really spotty at points, but the Slender Man himself wasn’t God-awful. It’s most of the other effects that fail, such as a few wild dream sequences, little of which looked appealing in any way.

Had they gone a different route, I think this could have been decent. I didn’t love the story past a certain point, but I did mostly like the characters, so with the budget they had, it’s just sad they couldn’t have come up with something better. At the same time, I don’t think Slender Man is near as bad as some of the ratings seem to indicate. I don’t think it’s good, but to me, it falls much closer to forgettable than it does memorably awful.

5.5/10

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

Karma (2018)

karrma

Directed by Nick Simon [Other horror films: Removal (2010), The Girl in the Photographs (2015), 2 Lava 2 Lantula! (2016), Truth or Dare (2017)]

For a Syfy release, Karma’s okay. It’s not particularly good, and I suspect it won’t be particularly memorable in the months to come, or even weeks, but it’s nowhere near as bad as other Syfy films such as Dead in the Water and Grave Halloween.

Story-wise, it reminded me a bit of It Follows, where, instead of a dark force following someone after sex, it follows them after they commit a terrible act. It’s not really original, but I liked some aspects of what Karma tried to do with it, though, and this perhaps wouldn’t come as much a surprise, the jumps struck me as mostly unnecessary.

When it comes to concerns, there are quite a few that Karma poses. For instance, only three of the performances in the film really stand out (being Tim Russ, despite his horrible character, Mandela Van Peebles, and Brytni Sarpy, who was also in the likewise unmemorable 2017 Syfy flick Truth or Dare). None of the other actors and actresses do particularly bad, but they’re just sort of there. And much could be said for the story itself – like I said, I enjoyed some of the aspects (such as Peebles’ attempts at removing the curse from himself during a feel-good montage), but ultimately, Karma felt pretty bland.

Once everything’s said and done, that’s the biggest problem with the movie – it was completely unremarkable. It did boast one death sequence I rather enjoyed (involving a saw blade and a hammer, in a very Final Destination fashion), so it wasn’t completely without gore, but generally, there was little of interest here, and the conclusion felt a bit off, along with being somewhat anticlimactic.

Syfy has so many better movies, such as House of Bones (2010), Neverknock (2017), Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018), and even Stickman (2017). Karma isn’t the worse that they’ve done, but it is both tepid and ultimately forgettable, which is the main issue. I’d pass on this one.

5.5/10

Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018)

Cucuy

Directed by Peter Sullivan [Other horror films: Summoned (2013), High School Possession (2014), Ominous (2015), The Sandman (2017)]

This is definitely one of the better flicks I’ve seen on Syfy in the last few years, surpassing my admittedly low expectations of it rather easily.

Focusing on the Latin American-based mythology of Cucay or the Sack Man, the movie had a strong Spanish feel to the film, which is something that I generally don’t care for. Here, however, they made it work, a big part due to the characters themselves who were mostly solid. It helped too that the story was pretty well-done, especially for a television flick.

Bella Stine did pretty good for as young an actress as she is. Both Marisol Nichols and Pedro Correa did commendably also, though it did take a bit for Correa to grow on me. The star of the film, and also the strongest performance, was Jearnest Corchado, who came across quite well as a strong teen fighting for her sister.

Another somewhat surprising aspect of the film is that the design of the titular Cucay isn’t that bad. At first, it does look a little ridiculous, but like Correa’s character, it grew on me after a while. I’m somewhat reminded of the 2017 Syfy film Stickman, in which the story was decent, but the design was terrible. Here, luckily both the story and special effects are superior.

So too is the ending. Instead of tacking on a hideous downer ending in the last two seconds of the film, they do something a bit differently, and though the effects of the specific scene I’m referring to are sketchy, I really liked the implications.

Most modern-day television movies don’t blow me away, and this one didn’t either, but I certainly recognize it as clearly one of the stronger efforts in the last few years (the only other one that really comes to mind is Neverknock from 2017). For a television movie, you could certainly do worse than this one, and though it doesn’t really add much to the genre, I was happy with the final product.

8/10

Dead in the Water (2018)

Dead in the Water

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 Hollow (2015), The Night Before Halloween (2016), Neverknock (2017), Stickman (2017)]

Oh boy. This Syfy film is pretty derivative of better movies from the past (such as 1989’s Leviathan and 1998’s Deep Rising), and doesn’t bring anything remotely interesting to the story to make up for the lack of originality.

What hurts the movie most isn’t necessarily the story, though, it’s the fact that the cast (comprised almost entirely of women) is utterly one-dimensional. I finally ended up learning their names toward the end of the film, but there was very little about the characters that we really knew, aside from the fact they were all on a ship together. None of the actresses did much with their shallow characters, but that’s more likely an issue with the script than the actresses themselves. I guess Nikohl Boosheri did the best, as tepid praise as that is.

The special effects weren’t terrible, though I didn’t care for the look of the parasitic organism. The stale nature of the story doesn’t really lend much in the way of suspense and mystery past a certain point, though, and more so, I can’t think of a reason to watch this when you could instead watch something like The Thing, or Leviathan, or even DeepStar Six. It just seems pointless, especially since there’s not much context to this movie to begin with.

Dead in the Water is an apt name for this – unoriginal ideas combined with uninteresting characters leads to a film that doesn’t take long to show how uninspired it all is. Theoretically, Syfy could have been able to cobble together something better than this (maybe along the lines of The Devil’s Tattoo, also known as Ghost Rig, from 2003), but as it is, this movie is very much so below average.

4/10

What Happens in the Mountains – Should Stay in the Mountains (2018)

What Happens

Directed by Stacey Alexander [Other horror films: N/A]

This movie is not that good, and in truth, it’s barely a movie (as it clocks in at around 42 minutes). But it is extraordinarily hilarious, so that has to count for something.

Filmed in Northern Georgia, with a cast of about three people (and multiple Bigfoots – Bigfeet?), this is as low-budget as one could imagine (in fact, at the time of this writing, the film does not have an IMDb entry), and there’s also not really much story. Basically, local Bigfoot hunter Buck encounters Bigfoot (there’s more than one in this area) while hunting. And that’s about it. They come to his house to extract revenge toward the end, and admittedly, that was filmed well, but this movie overall doesn’t have that much in way of a plot.

The main actor is Stacey Alexander (who also directed the movie and wrote most of the music), and I’ll fully admit, he had me cracking up quite a bit. Some of his dialogue was golden, and he came across a colorful character. A reporter who appeared a bit, played by John Tripwire, was less pleasing, though – his gravelly voice was something I couldn’t get used to, and he seemed rather soulless standing next to the soon-to-be-legend that is Alexander.

Being a comedy-horror, more than often the comedic influences overshadowed the suspense. There were multiple text overlays throughout the film I could have done without. That said, my favorite thing about the movie was the Bigfoot shriek. I couldn’t help but laugh until I cried during the multiple times that inhuman shriek popped up. Literal tears were in my eyes because of that. So it’s a low-budget movie, but it could be fun.

The scenery (Northern Georgia) looked rather beautiful, and they certainly had fun with this short feature. Not taken seriously, I could see this being a lot of fun to a small niche of people. I know that most would probably hate it, and that’s understandable, but I was amused, and while I wished it had been more horror than comedy, I just think of that dialogue (“Does a whale have a blowhole?”) and that shriek and start smiling again. Definitely not a good movie, but a solid viewing experience all the same.

6/10

No Escape Room (2018)

No Escape

Directed by Alex Merkin [Other horror films: House of the Witch (2017)]

For a modern-day Syfy original, this was a pretty interesting and decent movie. Unfortunately, it’s held back by a few things, but it’s still overall an okay popcorn flick.

It felt almost like a combination of Cube 2: Hypercube and Saw, with Cube’s influences coming in more toward the end. The film certainly had a solid atmosphere, albeit it there were more than a few things that didn’t really seem to make sense.

Young Jeni Ross did a fine job in the movie, and her character was decently likable herself. Her father, played by Mark Ghanimé, was fun also, and probably had one of the better performances in the film. The father/estranged daughter dynamic really helped ratchet the suspense up, and you couldn’t help but hope for a happy ending.

As it was, the ending wasn’t that great. In fact, it barely felt a competent conclusion. Instead of explaining anything, some characters discover that their horrors aren’t quite over as previously thought (those horrors not having been explained at all), and boom, the end. I was hoping for some kind of explanation to the situation they encountered, and a much better ending that, you know, actually felt like an ending. It’s a shame they couldn’t manage that, as the movie had a lot of potential beforehand.

Those are pretty big flaws, and definitely brought down my rating more than a little. I still think the concept and execution is decently cool, but without any type of explanation to tie everything together, the audience is left in the dark as to what was really going on. The father-daughter dynamics worked well, and those performances sort of help counterbalance the lack of a solid conclusion, but the movie would have been so much better had they buckled in and forced out a better ending.

Still, the story was interesting, and there were some creepy scenes and occasional gore. For a Syfy original, I’d say this did pretty well, but it’ll likely end up as little more than forgettable when all is said and done.

7/10

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Directed by Ari Aster [Other horror films: Midsommar (2019)]

This movie, which has gotten a decent amount of praise since it’s release, certainly had a strong sense of tension, suspense, and unease. However, it also seemed to lack some coherence toward the end.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t tons of explanations online – I’m sure there are. But the movie needs to stand for itself, and I won’t say that I wasn’t put off by the route this movie took. It was interesting, but I wanted more explanation than we ever really got.

Much of the movie feels more like a tense and uncomfortable family drama following the death of a family member, and these scenes are done well. When the horror elements begin showing up more, they’re also mostly done well. Many leave you guessing exactly where this movie is going (and that’s something that’s true up toward the end of the film, actually). As for the conclusion, though, I’m not sure I find it all that satisfactory, at least in how it was presented.

The cast was solid throughout, especially Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and Toni Collette (and to be fair, these three make up most of the screen-time anyway). Collette’s increasingly erratic behavior as the film goes on is a sight to behold, and for as young as his is, Wolff’s performance here is pretty decent (although at times I felt he overacted a bit).

Hereditary is a bit difficult to talk about right now, having just finished it twenty or so minutes ago (at the time of this writing, of course). I’m still trying to digest some of it. But my first impression is that it seems like the type of movie you’d need to watch again to better appreciate it, and though the tone of the movie is great, and there’s an utterly shocking scene relatively early into the film that I applaud, given it’s over two hours long, and I wasn’t really sold on the conclusion, that’s not something I see myself committing to. For now I’d rate this somewhere around average, though it had potential to be more.

7/10