Directed by Krisstian de Lara [Other horror films: N/A]
So this movie took me moderately by surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise that by any means made the film better. At a cursory glance, I was expecting a found footage film, and while there are elements of found footage here, Investigation 13 is more ambitious than that. Like I said, though, it doesn’t make for a better viewing experience.
I have a handful of problems with this one. Most importantly, and most damning, I didn’t get the sense that the actors and actresses had their heart in the script. It felt soulless, and that can be a hard detriment to overcome, primarily because my perception may be off, and that colored my view deeply of the film.
Also, Investigation 13 utilized some rough animation sequences when going into the origins of the antagonistic Mole Man (no, not the classic Fantastic Four foe). I don’t mind throwing in animation for stylistic variety, but none of the animated portions (including the post-credits one) really did much in the way of moving the story along. I guess we got an origin, but it didn’t really matter whatsoever.
Another thing that bothered me – this group of paranormal investigators have done twelve previous investigations into the supposed supernatural. The twelfth is brought up a handful of time as a failure, yet never does the film go into what went wrong with it, which just bugged me. Why bring it up at all (multiple times) if you’ve no intention on touching on it later in detail?
Stephanie Hernandez didn’t do great, but she was the only cast-member who is even partially memorable. I don’t really blame the performances for my dislike of the film, because had the story been better, or more interesting, or different (and sorry, animated origins spread throughout the film don’t classify as sufficiently different), it might have been worth something, but that’s not the case.
I didn’t much care for the Mole Man here. I guess he got an okay kill in near the end (complete with a scalping), but he’s pretty forgettable, and that ‘twist’ near the end (which isn’t really explained that well) didn’t help matters out.
However, I will give it this much credit – they easily could have made this fully in the found footage style, and had that been the route they took, I think the movie probably would have been worse and even more generic. That said, it’s not like the way they ultimately went was all that more original, but hey, there are worse movies out there.
When all’s said and done, Investigation 13 just felt hollow, and while the setting is okay, and maybe the story had some potential somewhere, the movie just wasn’t anywhere near what I’d call good, or even average.
I’m not going to go as far as to say Recovery is a perfect movie. In fact, it may not even be a great movie. It is, however, very strong at certain points, and while the different aspects of the movie don’t always blend together the best, I was overall quite happy with this one.
At times, Recovery’s an emotional ride. On the surface, that might be expected, given that the plot revolves around patients at a heroin treatment center, but this throws in some bonus points in that the new patient Ronnie (played fantastically by Stephanie Pearson) was a soldier, and so you have some PTSD action going on.
Not only that, but the main doctor (Hope Quattrocki) had a brother who was also a soldier, and developed addiction problems when he got back, giving her a deeper insight into Ronnie’s situation. The two of them share a fantastically emotional conversation about a third of the way into the movie, and boy, when this movie did something right, they really do it right.
Combining a very well-developed drama with a slasher made sense in the context of the story, but I’m of mixed views on it. On the one hand, I really think this movie would have been stronger had a different direction been taken (not even a non-horror one, just a non-slasher one), but then chances are lower that I’d actually see it, which would have been a shame.
Also, and perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but when the killer is revealed, I wasn’t always overjoyed with their performance. At times, it was really good, emotional even, but others, it felt like the caricature of a psychotic killer, which was a bit disappointing.
Recovery isn’t a film I want to harp on much, though, because I really thought it did something special. It’s true that some of the characters sort of faded into the background, and when they died, it didn’t mean much to me (and I confused Ariella Hader’s character with Andi Rene Christensen’s for a bit, which confused things), but that’s more on me than anything.
If I could have changed one thing, it would have been to give each character a little more time toward the beginning to really get their face and name clarified, which wouldn’t have even been a drag, because there’s not a bad performance in here.
Though it’s been said once, I’ll repeat myself: Stephanie Pearson does fantastic in this. Her character is quite complex, and though I felt pity toward her, I also felt a deep sense of respect. When she was comparing soldier to civilian life, about the lack of a purpose that civilian life boasts that life as a soldier had in spades, I definitely felt for her. She was a strong character, and incredibly memorable and well-acted.
No less impressive was Hope Quattrocki, playing another complex character. At times, I really thought she was going about events the right way (the approach taken by her superior, Mike Starr, seemed much less personal), but you could definitely argue she made some mistakes here (especially superimposing what she knew of her brother’s situation onto another patient simply because both were soldiers). Still, Quattrocki did well throughout, and when talking about her brother with Pearson – again, fantastic.
Others who definitely warrant a positive mention are Liz Fenning and Arielle Hader (who played a very loving couple really well), Mike Starr (when he’s yelling at Quattrocki’s character, you could tell that he felt up against a wall), and Aily Kei. Kei’s best moment may not be until the end, but she was good throughout.
As for the kills, there’s nothing really amazing here, but I did like a quick slice of the Achilles’ tendon (I cringed at that one, and it was well-shot), and there was another scene in which a character got stabbed through the neck. The kills here weren’t much the focal point, but they got done what they had to.
Like I said at the start, Recovery isn’t a perfect movie, and it may not even be that great. Really, the plot itself isn’t all that original; it’s just that the setting and characters made the film a lot more memorable. I know this much, though – despite not being as great as it could have been, Recovery deserves more than a single watch, and I applaud it for what it got right.
Well, Ma isn’t a terrible movie, but I don’t really think it has enough going for it to really stand out. There’s some decent tension at certain points, and I think the ending’s okay, but for the most part, I found the film somewhat lackluster.
As far as positives go, I did like the lead here, being Diana Silvers. She consistently reminded me of someone, and I still can’t quite place it, but she did great in her role, and of the teen characters, she was easily the most memorable. Octavia Spencer was also pretty good as a mentally-unstable middle-aged woman, and boy, she was creepily possessive at times, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was blown away by her. Though she had only a few scenes, I also liked seen Allison Janney (The West Wing) here.
Otherwise, the cast was just sorta there. The same can be said for much of the story, to be honest. While aspects were moderately interesting, such as the slight mystery of why Ma was doing what she was doing, more often than not things just went down a generic road with little standing out.
Honestly, I wouldn’t even call the movie necessarily bad. The problem with Ma is that save a few scenes near the conclusion, and some decent performances by the main characters, I don’t see how this is all that memorable. I can’t say I’m really surprised by this (after this movie was released, I pretty much heard nothing about it), but it was certainly disappointing. Not an awful film, but probably still a bit below average, and definitely not memorable in many ways whatsoever.
Ma was covered by Fight Evil’s podcast on episode #25, so you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.
Directed by Ansel Faraj [Other horror films: Three Shadows (2010), Mr. Twistedface (2011), Hunters of the Dark (2011), The Last Case of August T. Harrison (2016), The Night-Time Winds (2017)]
There are times when I sort of liked what Loon Lake was going for – a somewhat somber, slow-moving flick about a man who recently lost his wife and faith dealing with a witch in a small town, utilizing flashbacks to show the witch’s story – and though I did like the tone of this one, and the somewhat sparse setting, I don’t know if it’s ultimately memorable.
I do think that star Nathan Wilson did a great job playing a rather aimless guy. He had a sort of standoffish personality, and I thought it really fit with the trials he was going through. David Selby, though, who pulled double duty and played two distinctly different characters, is probably the best of the bunch. His portrayal of Emery reminded me quite a bit of Fred Gwynne’s Jud from Pet Sematary. As either a witch or a misunderstood girl, Kelly Erin Decker put in a good performance, and though her character didn’t add near as much as I thought she would, Brittany Benjamin was solid too.
Loon Lake does have an amateurish quality to it, but I think it works out well regardless. This may partially be due to being filmed in the (real) small Minnesota town of Round Lake, and that small town vibe really comes through here. The camera-work here is pretty solid, and there are a few decent scenes, so that helps.
The problem is that the story, while interesting to a point, sort of runs into a stalemate once the main character starts battling whether or not the things he’s witnessing and experiencing are just his imagination run amok or something more. It’s that psychological horror that can be okay, but when it takes up the bulk of the second half, it doesn’t quite do as much for me. I did sort of like the fake-out ending toward the conclusion, and the conclusion itself was decent, but overall, I was more lukewarm toward this than anything else.
Personally, I think Loon Lake is an okay movie. It never felt too generically Hollywood in it’s encapsulation of jump scares, and for lack of a better term, it felt genuine. The issues of faith and religion are dealt with in a somewhat unsatisfactory way, but I still think the movie was okay. Problematically, there’s not much that really stands out about Loon Lake, though, so while it was decent for a single watch, this isn’t one I can imagine many people doing back to, which is like to be it’s downfall.
The third installment of the Hell House LLC trilogy wasn’t too far removed from the previous two, which is a problem the second film shared also. Is it still an enjoyable slice of found footage horror? For the most part, yes, but while I like elements of the conclusion, I sort of wonder if things got a bit away from them at the end.
We of course get some fun and somewhat memorable characters. He didn’t really add that much to the story, but Harvey (Scott Richey) was fun, as was Jeff (Sam Kazzi). The character of Russell Wynn (played by Gabriel Chytry) was an interesting additional, and adds a little lore, in a way, that further connects the three films. The main woman here, played by Elizabeth Vermilyea, was decent, though didn’t really do anything that previous others in her role had done.
Upon originally finishing this, I thought it was a bit even with the second film, but giving myself a few days helped clear my head a bit, and I’ll say that it’s probably not quite as decent. I do think the finale here was ultimately better than the exposition of the second film, but at the same time, seeing the carnage wrought by the demons sort of loses a bit of impact, and the ending of the film, while interesting, wasn’t necessarily amazing.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the first Hell House LLC was amazing. But did such a great found footage flick (and there aren’t really that many in the horror genre) really need two sequels? In some ways, it helped flesh out a few aspects that were left mysteriously unanswered in the first movie, but at the same time, I do think they went a tad overboard when it came to explanations. I appreciated what the conclusion of this one was going for, but I didn’t totally love it.
I’m not going to go as far as to say that the third installment of this series is bad – for found footage horror, it’s still decent. It’s just not that far removed from the first or second films, and with nothing to differentiate beyond that, I’m calling this movie around average.
I didn’t go into this movie with high hopes, though I sort of knew what to expect. I’ve seen a lot of hype about this on Twitter, and read somewhat lukewarm reaction to it (which the current IMDb rating of 5/10 seems to bear out), and so I found it surprising that The Banana Splits Movie is one of the funnest films I’ve seen in awhile.
This movie consistently cracked me up. It seems to me to be a mix of the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s (which I’ve played a handful of times in the past) and the new Child’s Play movie (robots going wild, anyone?).
Cast-wise, I don’t think The Banana Splits Movie does much wrong. It’s true that the main kid, played by Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, was a bit generic (though he does have a few touching scenes with Snorky), but the other young kid, Maria Nash, was amusingly snarky (snarky, not Snorky, for she has no trunk). Romeo Carere was funny as a burnout teen, and he has great dialogue with Naledi Majola (who I also particularly liked).
Kiroshan Naidoo and Celina Martin’s characters were a bit too odd for me to really get into, and Steve Lund played a complete dick, but Dani Kind did great as the mother, and got really kick-ass toward the end. Lastly, kudos to Richard White, who cracked me up with his role here.
There’s a lot of painful imagery in this movie, including a very unfun-looking broken finger (or perhaps multiple broken fingers), a guy sawed in half (TAA-DAA!), a dude getting ran over by a banana buggy, and perhaps my favorite sequence, a man who gets his arms and legs torn off in front of a bunch of children. Certainly, in this department, The Banana Splits Movie has a lot going for it.
I had a lot of fun with this, definitely more fun than I was expecting. The humor was present, but it was never too over-the-top, and under the outlandish imagery of giant animal robots going wild and killing people, trapping kids and forcing them to watch gruesome murders, the movie’s a lot darker than you might expect, especially with such a catchy song.
God bless Snorky, by the way. He’s the real MVP here.
Directed by Scott Beck [Other horror films: Nightlight (2015)] & Bryan Woods [Other horror films: Nightlight (2015)]
I really thought I was going to like this one a lot more than I eventually did. Haunt certainly had a lot of potential, and it truly was tense up to a point, and the build-up? Damn solid. But it really loses it’s thread during the second half of the film, and when all is said and done, I don’t think Haunt will be that memorable in the years to come.
What does Haunt get right? Well, the idea, while nowhere near original (House of Purgatory and Hell House LLC called, and [insert end of played out joke here]), did the extreme haunted house thing well. The spider hallways (fake spider webs with fake, and also real, spiders) freaked me out, the branding room was done nicely, that crawling area solidly claustrophobic, and the tension palpable.
Though the performances are somewhat forgettable come the ending of the movie, most of them do okay. Andrew Caldwell was decently amusing at times, though Will Brittain was really generic. I wasn’t really wowed with Schuyler Helford, Shazi Raja, or Lauryn Alisa McClain, but none of them were necessarily bad either. It’s Katie Stevens, as the main girl, who made the most impact, especially with the emotional sucker-punch that was the flashback, giving her character and situation (including an abusive ex-boyfriend) more depth. I wouldn’t even say she was amazing, but she was the most consistently solid cast member, in my view.
Where Haunt starts losing stream is with the perpetrators of the haunted house. I won’t, for the sake of spoiling things, delve much into this, but let’s just say where they go with the identity of these people leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. Also, what they do with Samuel Hunt’s character is lackluster. And the ending? Gorry, what an utter disappointment.
Keep the first half of the film, and change everything about the latter half, and Haunt is a good movie worth a few rewatches. But in the form they went with, Haunt has the sizzle but lacks the steak. It’s all hat and no cattle. It’s – okay, I’ve run out of idioms, but seriously, Haunt really could have been a pretty solid movie, but ultimately, I think it’ll end up being a forgettable flavor-of-the-week.
Haunt is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast on episode #21. Here’s a clip of Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discussing it.
Directed by Lars Klevberg [Other horror films: Polaroid (2019)]
This re-imaging of the classic 1988 film was, at times, pretty decent, but though I generally found it above average, I don’t think there’s really a whole lot to utterly love about this.
First off, as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get use to the change in design of Chucky, most noticeably the face. I don’t think it was something that deeply took away from the film, but at the same time, I had a hard time getting the authentic Chucky feel when he was on-screen.
A big part of that too could be explained by the vastly different origin – instead of an insane serial killer trapped inside the body of a kid’s toy, this Chucky is basically a rogue program installed by a disgruntled employer (which isn’t much a spoiler, as that scene is how the film opens). Because of this change, Chucky was never ‘human’ here, instead feeling more like a robot attempting to understand how best to be the best friend he could be to Andy. Of course, this exploration doesn’t end well.
Though it wasn’t as distracting as I thought it’d be, I also wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea that Chucky was in control of not only himself, but of all the products this company linked into, such as hearing aids, televisions, drones, cars, etc. It really gets rid of the more personal feeling that I tend to expect from Chucky, though at the same time, it matches his drastically different origin well.
Many of the performances were perfectly acceptable. Aubrey Plaza certainly came across as a rather young mother, but it worked well. Brian Tyree Henry was pretty fun as a supporting cast member, though I sort of wish they did a bit more with him. I liked both Ty Consiglio and Beatrice Kitsos, and Kitsos was certainly the more memorable of the two, but I wish they had mattered more in the conclusion. As Andy, Gabriel Bateman was good. He was no Alex Vincent, but he was still good, and it’s always great to see Tim Matheson pop up, if only for a few minutes.
There was a solid kill here involving a heated pipe and a saw-blade, but the other kill with potential (lawnmower) was a bit on the dark side, and made it somewhat difficult to see everything. I did enjoy a somewhat jarring scene involving a head, so it certainly wasn’t all bad, but overall, I thought they could have done a lot more with the special effects and gore than what they did.
I’m somewhat hard-pressed to see how anyone could love this over the original film. There were certainly solid aspects about it, but it also lacked some of the scenes that made the original so great, such as the sequence in the asylum with Andy, or the scene in which his mother finds out that Chucky’s actually alive. Much of the film is serviceable, but it doesn’t really go beyond that for me.
I had a decent time watching this (it helps that by the time I saw this in theater, very few others were there to muddle the experience), and I do find it a bit above average, but I definitely don’t think the film’s great, and it sadly falls behind the original, along with at least three of it’s sequels (the second and third films, along with Curse).
On Fight Evil’s fifth podcast, Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I covered this shortly following it’s release. Give it a listen below.
Directed by Andy Muschietti [Other horror films: Mama (2013), It (2017)]
Being an almost three-hour movie, and with a lot of additions new compared to both the source novel and 1990 mini-series, there’s a lot in It Chapter Two to try and digest even now.
I think the one of the highlights of the film is during the flashbacks to when they were kids, especially the clubhouse scene. It’s just nice seeing the young cast coming back and giving more solid performances. Related, I appreciated how they led to these flashbacks, pointing out that the first movie didn’t cover everything the Losers went through, and revealing new information to the audience via these new flashbacks, which was a fun technique.
That leads into a journey to collect tokens (not too different from the Walking Tours in the book, mostly), which was okay. I didn’t love it, nor understand the importance of some of the tokens, but it made sense in the context of preparing for some Native American ritual in order to defeat Pennywise (which itself is something a bit new and somewhat unnecessary in my view).
As far as performances go here, the clear standout is Bill Hader as Richie. He gives a fantastic performance throughout, often bring levity to dark situations, as he did as a kid. A great scene was his joke in the clubhouse, which was entirely tasteless and entirely Richie. Also, toward the end, he has a breakdown of sorts, and the emotions coming from him are almost overwhelming in their sincerity. Just utterly fantastic.
Related, I thought that Eddie’s actor, James Ransone (most well-known for Sinister), was also pretty spectacular. He really did feel like a grown-up Jack Dylan Grazer, and his character was a lot of fun, especially his conversational reportare with Hader. The third best adult performance was probably Mike’s Isaiah Mustafa, who gave a solid, somewhat manic at times, performance, and didn’t really feel too far removed from Tim Reid’s in 1990. Andy Bean as an adult Stanley Uris was great too, though I wish he appeared more.
As for Jay Ryan, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy, there were decent, but weren’t really that amazing. I did like McAvoy’s performance at times, especially regarding the Georgie surrogate, and he really comes across as unhinged at times (understandably so, if truth be told), but he didn’t blow me away, nor did Ryan or Chastain. For the life of me, I couldn’t see Ryan as an adult Jeremy Ray Taylor, which hurt his character a bit for me, and Chastain, while appearing reasonably similar to her childhood version of Lillis, just didn’t bring enough to wow me.
Seeing Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff (who played one of my favorite characters in the first chapter) again was great. I wish we had more flashbacks of the times they spent together that were missed from the first film, but what we got worked out just fine.
Some scenes I like include, but at not limited to, the opening sequence (which was in the books, and I was nice to finally see that put onto film), Pennywise’s encounter with a little girl during a football game, young Ben’s encounter with Beverly at summer school, and finally seeing Paul Bunyan attack Richie (as he did in the book, but wasn’t included in the 1990 mini-series). Admittedly, Pennywise’s singing in that last scene took me aback, but it made sense in context.
Also, kudos to Stephen King’s appearance in the film, along with the snatch of Bill’s writing we saw toward the end of the film, which was almost taken word-for-word from the original novel, page 769 in my paperback copy. Just a small thing, but that paragraph was almost one of my favorite’s from the novel, so it was nice to see the nod to it. And King’s joke about how his stories end? Fun times.
So what doesn’t work? Well, they add something new to Richie’s character that I don’t think was necessary, though I don’t hate it as I suspect some viewers will. The heavy use of CGI was a bit daunting at times, especially toward Beverly’s encounter with It as an adult and the whole of the finale. The vision cave sequence didn’t do a lot for me, and the final recitation of Ben’s haiku just felt so Hollywood.
Another thing – Henry Bowers coming back didn’t really change anything about the events of the movie – sure, both Eddie and Mike got hurt, but unlike the book and the 1990 version, Mike is still able to accompany them down into the sewers, so what did Bowers accomplish? Lastly, the way that they defeat Pennywise in the end just felt ridiculous to me, and if I could have one thing in this movie changed, it would be that, because it definitely was done better in the book and, dare I say, the 1990 mini-series.
A few scenes felt something out there, such as Eddie’s encounter in the basement of the pharmacy, or portions of the final encounter (the final form was okay, in a CGI-riddled way, but the 1990 version did a better job following the source novel), but over time, I’m guessing that these scenes will do more for me.
There are a few things I wish the movie had added from the book, including the downfall of Derry during an epic storm as the group confronts Pennywise. In the book, that was such a great sequence, seeing outside characters who we’ve heard and seen throughout the book dying, or nearly escaping death, and seeing just how screwed up Derry is like to be following Pennywise’s demise.
Also, writing out the important parts that Audra and Tom play in the book is an interesting choice. Obviously, Tom wasn’t any more important in the 1990 version than he was here, but Audra was reduced too, which I’m personally okay with (her love story with Bill in the novel is perhaps the least engaging part of the book for me, though she does has a really creepy interaction with Pennywise). That said, leaving these two out but bringing in Henry Bowers just felt off to me, especially since, as aforementioned, Bowers didn’t really accomplish anything.
Like I said at the beginning, there’s a lot to digest in this movie, especially as a fan of the source novel and the 1990 mini-series, not to mention the first chapter. As it stands, I can say that the first chapter probably felt more ordered, because at times, Chapter Two can come across as a bit messy (perhaps by design). Having Pennywise go after the Losers in somewhat psychological ways (which was played up more here than in the novel) brought a little something new, as did other factors, that I’m not exactly sure yet how I feel about.
My theater performance was pretty stellar, though, so that’s good.
I can’t say many things for certain right now, but I can say that I think the first movie was better. I’ll need to see this a few more times before I come to a final conclusion, but as it stands now, divorcing myself from the rare experience of seeing a movie in theaters, I’ll give this one an average rating.
This movie was covered on the Fight Evil podcast, episode #14, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself discuss this, check it out.
Directed by Ivan Kraljevic [Other horror films: N/A]
Well, The Harvesting didn’t yield all that much, truth be told.
In it, two tales are told, which dovetail near the end, being 1) an Amish teenager must battle the anger he feels after going through a tragedy and 2) a couple nearing divorce take their children to the country in an attempt to save their marriage. The main focus is the second story, which doesn’t help much as it was a slow, plodding story of increased annoyance and anger growing between the family members. In a way, it almost feels like a low quality Burnt Offerings (1976), the way family members are slowly becoming more and more unstable. Throw in a few Amish ghosts and an unspeakable evil force that pulls those who are angry toward it and you get The Harvesting.
It wasn’t a great film at all. Honestly, the first hour did next to nothing for me, and the ending only made it better due to a twist which, ignoring everything else, was actually pretty fun. But as decent as the final twenty minutes were, it wasn’t worth sitting through the first hour to get there. And on that topic, the final scene of the film made no sense whatsoever. Nowhere in the film was an ending like what was implied suggested. *sigh* Overall, this is a slow film with not much to offer save an interesting twist. There’s little to no gore, no outstanding actors, and little to remember. The story itself wasn’t that shabby, but it wasn’t executed that well. I wouldn’t recommend the Harvesting – it’s in the lower class crop of film. 😛
[Worth noting, I saw this film in 2016 or 2017. I don’t have the exact date at hand, unfortunately. IMDb used to have this film dated as ‘2015’, which is what my entry at Fight-Evil has the movie listed as. Why is was changed to 2019, I don’t know, but I know that I saw the film at least a year before it’s ‘official’ release. As I do use IMDb’s listing as the final authority, I’ll list this one as a 2019 film, but I wanted to point this discrepancy out.]