Zombie Tidal Wave (2019)

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante [Other horror films: Boo (2005), Headless Horseman (2007), Hansel & Gretel (2013), Sharknado (2013), Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014), Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens (2016), Forgotten Evil (2017), Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017), The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (2018)]

As you can possibly imagine from the title, Zombie Tidal Wave is another in a fine-line of Syfy originals. It even stars Ian Ziering, of Sharknado fame. And you know what? It’s actually not bad. Well, it is bad, but it’s still almost an okay time.

Combining their love for natural disasters and hideous zombies, Syfy outdid themselves with a zombie tsunami (which, on a side-note, it a phrase said by one of the characters, and I for one do not know how Syfy passed on the chance of using that as their title), and it even happened twice. In fairness, I didn’t think that looked too ridiculous, and the zombies themselves (who bleed blue blood and can only be defeated by electrical shocks) didn’t look terrible, but quality special effects were still obviously not the focus for Zombie Tidal Wave.

For whatever else Ziering has done, I thought he did an okay job in this one. He was the action-oriented leader, which, yeah, is both expected and rather generic, but he did it well. Cheree Cassidy didn’t really get enough screen-time to make an extraordinarily educated opinion one way or the other, but she did fine, I guess. Angie Teodora Dick and Tatum Chiniquy both impressed me (as much as any performances can impress me in a movie like this), and I thought Chiniquy did better than Cassidy (who played her mother), so you go, girl.

Not all performances were good, though. I didn’t understand Randy Charach’s character – he was labeled a ‘crazy loner’, but honestly, aside from being a bit standoffish, he didn’t seem that much a nutjob at all. I don’t know what they were trying to do with his character, but I don’t think they did it. Shelton Jolivette was way too much a comedic relief character, and I would have been okay if they dropped him entirely. And though I can appreciate them trying to throw in a character with depth, Erich Chikashi Linzbichler didn’t do it for me.

Throughout, the film is pretty generic as far as both zombie movies and disaster movies go, and combining them isn’t as much a win as Syfy would probably hope, but it’s still a decent movie to throw on and enjoy if you don’t really have much else to do. Below average no doubt, but passable.

6/10

I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu (2019)

Directed by Meir Zarchi [Other horror films: Day of the Woman (1978), Don’t Mess with My Sister! (1985)]

Making a sequel to the 1978 exploitation classic was ill-advised. I don’t know the story behind why this sequel was made (it may perhaps have to do with the remake which came out in 2015, followed by two sequels), but regardless, it wasn’t a great decision.

I have maybe three good things to say about Deja Vu, but I want to deal with the elephant in the room first, and the elephant is the two-and-a-half hour run-time.

Listen, I don’t have a problem with longer movies if it’s epic length is fit with an epic story. Titanic has long been a favorite of mine, believe it or not. But no matter how this movie is spun, it’s not some revenge epic, and it certainly didn’t need to be as long as it was. Now, to be fair, if it were cut by an hour (easily doable), the movie would still be bad, but the fact that this movie runs so damn long is just an insult to the viewer.

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a ponderous journey into such a joyless world.

This movie was frustrating at pretty much every turn, and it was hard to really care about anything. Sure, after Jennifer Hill (played by Camille Keaton, of course) and her daughter (Jamie Bernadette) are abducted, you hope they can get out, but only because the kidnappers were wholly unbearable.

Maria Olsen isn’t a name I know, and I’ll give her limited props for being one of the better performances here. I couldn’t stand the idiocy of her character at all (if you’re husband was a rapist, and you don’t understand why a woman would kill him, thinking may not be an active past-time for you), and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Roseanne Barr (that voice, tho…), but her graveside conversation to her deceased husband was one of the better scenes.

Another name that I have to give major kudos to is Jim Tavaré, who played Herman, the mentally-handicapped father to Matthew (from the first film). I honestly think Herman would have been worth letting go, but after a certain point, I understand the need to protect yourself. On this note, I loved his introduction, pointing to a picture of his son and trying to understand why Jennifer killed him all those years ago.

I don’t know if I touched on this in my review for the first film, but killing Matthew was probably a mistake. He never would have done anything if he had a better circle of friends, and obviously, he wasn’t mentally competent enough to understand exactly what he was being told to do. Here, Tavaré also feels rather sympathetic at times (especially following the rape, in which he tried to stand up to the three lunatics), and he definitely stood out.

Otherwise, Jonathan Peacy was unbelievably annoying, Jeremy Ferdman generally forgettable, Holgie Forrester just terrible, and Roy Allen III just lukewarm. Forrester and Peacy were definitely the worst here, but God, the story itself was so damn awful that I don’t personally blame any of the performances here for how the final product turned out.

It might be fair to say that, save for some okay performances, the best thing about this film was the flashbacks to the original movie, and the fact that they tried as hard possible to let us know this was a continuation to an over forty year old film, what with the references and locations. None of the kills here were great, and much of the movie was just ponderous tripe.

There were some occasionally interesting ideas here, such as the idea of revenge being circular (the ending, for instance, could easily led to a third movie, which would be rather regrettable), and the idea of finding a family member decapitated is pretty horrifying, but much of this is drowned out by just how hard Deja Vu is to sit through.

Two-and-a-half hours.

I don’t know the intention behind this film, but more than anything, I found it an insult to the original, which is a shame, given that they got Keaton back, and it’s directed by the same damn guy. Even so, I thought this was just awful.

2.5/10

This is unfortunately one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear my real pain, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Directed by Christopher Landon [Other horror films: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Happy Death Day (2017), Freaky (2020)]

While it’s true that this sequel isn’t near as good as the first movie, Happy Death Day 2U is still pretty strong, and treads some new waters along with keeping some emotional content within as to not over-focus on the comedy.

If there’s one problem with the film, it’s that the comedy is more prevalent here. It’s just a more light-hearted affair, and while the first film obviously had it’s moments, just the montage of suicides in this movie was enough to put it over-the-top. Also, that sequence with Rachel Matthews’ character pretending to be a French blind girl could have probably been toned down.

Another problem dealt with the fact that the mystery killer portion of the film didn’t seem near as interesting as it was in the first movie. Not that much time was spent on trying to figure out who it might be, and honestly, there’s not that many suspects to begin with, so when we get to the end and find out, it’s not that much of a shock.

The film started out interestingly enough, focusing on a time loop that Ryan (a side-character from the first movie played by Phi Vu) was stuck in, only to move back onto Tree (Jessica Rothe) once an experiment goes awry. I thought sticking with Ryan’s character would have been okay, but with where they took Tree, I didn’t think this fake out was a big let-down.

As such, Phi Vu gets a bit more character here (though still not that much), which was nice to see. Much of the accolades, though, go to Jessica Rothe, especially during the scenes in which she spent time with her mother (alternate universe which her mother’s alive = fun times for Tree). It’s not quite as strong as Tree’s emotional scene with her father in the first movie, but I still think it brought this movie a much needed tone check.

Israel Broussard was just as good in this one as he was in the first, and he and Tree had some sweet moments. If there’s a big flaw insofar as performances go, it’s that Charles Aitken’s character seems so obviously evil, it borders on ridiculous. Sure, he wasn’t that different in the first movie, but here, I just couldn’t get out of my mind that he was a dark doppelganger of Jesse Spencer’s Chase from House.

Happy Death Day 2U isn’t a terrible film. I still found it above average, even, but compared to the first one, which was surprisingly fantastic, it doesn’t leave near as much an impact. I mean, come the end, we get a hideous rendition of “Stayin’ Alive” and a mid-credit sequence which just didn’t land for me. The idea of an alternate world was decent, and it lead to some okay additions, but really, it’s the first movie alone that I find actually special.

7.5/10

Clinton Road (2019)

Directed by Richard Grieco [Other horror films: N/A] & Steve Stanulis [Other horror films: Hinsdale House (2019)]

I didn’t have high hopes for Clinton Road, and the little hope I did have evaporated upon the ‘Based off true events’ disclaimer at the beginning. To be fair, the movie sort of hits it’s stride midway through, but the second half is pretty damn derivative, and nothing really saves this movie.

Apparently there is a Clinton Road in New Jersey that some connect to [insert your favorite unverifiable supernatural claim here], and so basing a movie around it makes sense, but to then insist it’s based off a true event when there’s no evidence of any supernatural events whatsoever just annoys the hell out of me. Do these people think we’ll find the movie scarier if the beginning insists the story’s true?

Let me let you guys in on a secret: it doesn’t.

The problem here is that once you get past the decent production value (and there’s no doubt that the movie certainly looks nice), the story is derivative and void of original content. A few of the characters are okay (such as those played by Ace Young and Katie Morrison), but for the most part, they’re either forgettable or utterly irksome (Lauren LaVera’s character, I’m looking at you). Ice-T has a small role here, and to be fair, he’s decent, though he adds little to the story.

God, the story, though. People wandering around the woods hearing noises (thumping, a girl crying), hallucinating (the Purple House a case in point), getting turned around or confused, a couple of unrestful spirits chasing them down – this isn’t new territory. Like I said, the movie looks nice, and the quality’s good, but that doesn’t make the story any less stale.

Around twenty-five minutes in, or so, I was hopeful that Clinton Road could exceed my (admittedly low) expectations, and the film could break-even to an average score, but that didn’t happen. The ending is just a mishmash of annoyingly cliché tropes that aren’t expanded on, and that post-credit scene was literally useless.

I mean, they took the time to film that, but it didn’t do anything to clear up the events at all. Why waste our time with that to begin with? Who thought that was worth recording? Who thought ‘well, have to find something to throw in post-credit, so why not this?’ The Cabin Fever remake had a pretty pointless mid-credits scene, and a post-credit scene, but theoretically someone could find them a little humorous. But what Clinton Road gave us?

Why bother?

3.5/10

The 27 Club (2019)

Directed by Patrick Fogarty [Other horror films: N/A]

Well, I wasn’t expecting much, and I certainly got it. The 27 Club had a somewhat interesting story and certainly had potential, but boy, it really dropped the ball with the route the film took.

I’m not even going to say the story itself was bad – I just didn’t like it. Maybe it will gel with some people, but as for me, as soon as one of the main characters becomes a demon somehow (because before they even became possessed, they still had some sort of telekinetic power, apparently?), I was pretty done. There’s a story here, but it was far more muddled than anything really calls for, especially regarding the roll of Todd Rundgren (of such classic hits as “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me”, two songs that have been on my iTunes for over ten years but I’ve never once consciously listened to) played.

Oh, and those black-and-white sequences featuring deceased singers giving random and pointless monologues? Yeah, I could have done without that.

Maddisyn Carter was cute, in that fucked up and drugged-out way, but I didn’t care at all for where her character went, or the deal with the devil, or the finale, or pretty much anything past the 30 minute mark. As for Derrick Denicola, he was decent (and a somewhat unconventional protagonist), but by the end, it didn’t seem his efforts amounted to much, dampening the impact he left on me.

The idea behind a type of curse that befell those famed musicians who died at 27 via a deal with the devil is interesting, and the whole documentary idea, I had no problem with. However, this somewhat unique take gets muddled down with all these unnecessary additions, including a killer in a cult, a mysterious book and necklace, a professor who is maybe part of the plot to… what, exactly? Past a certain point, I honestly lost the train of the film’s thought, which is a shame.

Another small point before I give The 27 Club a well-deserved low rating: at times, the movie feels far too glossy, especially during the kills. Even during other scenes, though, things just seem shinier and end up feeling somewhat hollow, in my opinion.

I didn’t go into this one with particularly high expectations, and the opening was certainly weak, but I did sort of want to like this one, but it wasn’t to be. It’s not a movie I had a good time with, regretfully.

4/10

Midsommar (2019)

Directed by Ari Aster [Other horror films: Hereditary (2018)]

I went into Midsommar with admittedly high expectations. I wasn’t that much a fan of Hereditary (and just to get this out of the way, I definitely think Midsommar’s a better movie), but from the get-go, the trailer for this one intrigued me, and though the movie is almost more an experience than just a film, it’s certainly an experience that I’ll remember.

There’s a longer version out there (one that runs at two hours and 52 minutes), but I just saw the two hour and 30 minute version. Just two hours and 30 minutes. Hahaha, yeah, this movie was a long one, and I know that some people thought it wasn’t warranted by the content, but I think the increasingly uneasy feel that the characters get from their surroundings and mysterious circumstances help increase enjoyment.

Florence Pugh was put through the wringer in this one and gave a fantastically emotional performance (that shocking opening sequence was more than enough, but the movie kept throwing stones at her character). As interesting a character as Pugh’s Dani was, though, I personally think that William Jackson Harper’s Josh was a very stellar character himself. His already-existing knowledge was interesting (him asking if it was going to be a real ättestupa, and then getting all quiet, added a lot of dread). To be sure, his character made a rather idiotic mistake, but I think he’d have made an interesting focal point.

Both Will Poulter (who I recognized from We’re the Millers – talk about a different type of movie) and Jack Reynor were dicks in their own way, Poulter being the most annoying, but Reynor’s character being one of the worst. I can’t say that I don’t feel a bit bad for him come the ending, but the way he treats Dani throughout the film was contemptible. Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle was another unique character, and was one of the kindest to Dani, so at least that was nice.

Being Ari Aster, there was a definite beauty in the carnage. During the tense ättestupa ceremony, which was probably the earliest indication that something was definitely wrong there (if you can ignore the somewhat grisly banner indicating how a woman can get a man to fall for her). It’s a very tense scene, each second longer squeezing out unease, and it’s no surprise when the two individuals jump, or the gory conclusions.

And no doubt there are other disturbing scenes of violence, one that especially struck me as brutal, being an individual captive who long should have been dead, instead being ritualistically dismembered yet still on the verge of life. The maypole dance was strangely enchanting, the psychedelic drugs definitely hyping up the uncomfortable aura, all of which finishes off in the mysterious triangular structure come the brutal finale (and the composition during the finale – just beautiful).

With the drawn-out nature of Midsommar, not to mention the already stylistic feel of the film, it being Aster’s work, Midsommar isn’t an easy movie to digest or one that I suspect many would quickly watch a second time. It’s a long movie no matter which version you watch, and it’s an uneasy and unforgiving one. I definitely found it a strong addition to the genre, and if anyone’s a fan of The Wicker Man or perhaps Apostle, Midsommar is not a movie that should be slept on.

8/10

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

Investigation 13 (2019)

Investigation 13

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.

4/10

Recovery (2019)

Recovery

Directed by John Liang [Other horror films: N/A]

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.

7.5/10

Ma (2019)

Ma

Directed by Tate Taylor [Other horror films: N/A]

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.

6.5/10

Ma was covered by Fight Evil’s podcast on episode #25, so you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Loon Lake (2019)

Loon Lake

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 (2015), 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.

6.5/10