The School (2018)

Directed by Storm Ashwood [Other horror films: N/A]

Maybe I’m becoming quite bitter and cynical in my old age (27 is now old age, alas), because I found very little in this Australian film to be worth it. Maybe it’s just my mood, but this struck me as utterly abysmal, and if I rate it above a 0/10, that should be seen as a mercy.

From the very first time I heard about this one, I was expecting to dislike it. When I started the movie, it only took a minute for my preconceptions to be confirmed, because the film starts with a woman waking up in a bathtub in a dark and ominous room. I said aloud, “She’s dead, I’m calling it.” Well, she wasn’t dead, but I was still pretty close to being entirely correct, as it’s revealed an hour into the movie that she had slit her wrists, and it revealed this as though it wasn’t obvious from the very beginning of the fucking movie.

Maybe that’s just a small thing. In truth, it’s not as though this movie couldn’t have been okay, in a dark-fantasy-dealing-with-grief type way. Perhaps that’s even what they were aiming for, and the story of the obvious purgatory could have been one that at least held some mild interest. Instead, I just got a headache, what with the Hungries, the tribe of dead kids, the dead kids who weren’t in the tribe, the Wall-Walker, and the Weepers. The Weepers were dead bodies, the Hungries were ghosts in pipes or something like that, but it doesn’t matter, because it was all shit.

As always, I give credit where credit is due, and in this instance, I wanted to commend Will McDonald’s performance. I don’t get his character whatsoever, but he was having a fun time, and came across, more often than not, much like Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey – he has that manic, playful energy that suits him. The only other performance I wanted to mention was that of Milly Alcock’s, not that her character got a lot to do, but at least she stood out more than pretty much anyone else, including the central actress (Megan Drury).

It’s also worth mentioning that a rather beautiful song plays during the credits, titled “Better in the Dark” (which may be sung by Australian musician Brooke Addamo, also known under the moniker Owl Eyes). I think it was supposed to add emotional resonance to the end of the film, which didn’t work, given the film itself was utter shit, but the song in of itself is quite nice, and unlike The School, pleasing to the senses.

I also wanted to touch on the purgatory setting, which possessed some elements I sort of liked (such as some underground stream-type thing). The school is quite dark, dingy, and sometimes spooky at times, but from the very beginning, I got the sense that they tried way too hard. It just felt fake most of the time, as opposed to organically creepy (in a similar way that the dingy house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre felt too glossy to be authentic). I don’t think that this hurt the film that much (and certainly not as much as the pitiful story), but it was definitely noticeable.

Right now, at the time of this writing, The School sports a 3.9/10 on IMDb (with 610 votes), and I can understand that, though I think it’s actually worse. Of course, I can sometimes be a dick, but that’s what comes with watching a lot of films, some of which turn out to be quite terrible (immediately coming to mind are films like I Think We’re Alone Now and Toyko Stay Home Massacre). In a better mindframe, maybe a movie like this would work better, but I can only be honest, and say that I rather hated this one.

1.5/10

The Furies (2019)

Directed by Tony D’Aquino [Other horror films: N/A]

I feel like The Furies had something going for it, but it wasn’t able to fully use it’s strong points to it’s advantage. While not a movie without merit, I doubt that, in the end, it’ll make much of an impression for many who see it.

Human-hunting-human movies aren’t a new concept (just check out Naked Fear, or Turkey Shoot, or Bloodlust!, or The Most Dangerous Game), but this one managed to throw in a few ideas that at least gave it a little more identity, being how the masked killers (the ‘Beasts’) were sort of supposed to protect one of the kidnapped women (the ‘Beauties’). It’s also Australian, so it has quality accents. At the same time, I don’t really know if this was explained well enough, or really delved into in enough detail to qualify it as that impressive an addition to the sub-genre.

I think that’s my biggest problem, by the way. Certainly this movie knew what it was doing in terms of special effects (which I’ll touch on shortly), but the plot felt like it was missing something. Whether that something has to do with the lack of explanation received or something more, I can’t really pinpoint, but I can say that I felt they could have done more (and the film was only around 82 minutes, which was sort of refreshing, but like I said, maybe adding a little more meat would have been beneficial).

As far as performances go, I don’t think anyone really blew me away. Certainly both Airlie Dodds and Linda Ngo (whose character had some undisclosed anxiety issue or something, it felt like) did well, as did Taylor Ferguson, but no one here stood out that much above the rest. It may just have been the nature of the story, but the actresses and actors here didn’t really do much either way for my experience.

Where the film really nails it is in the special effects. Well, “really nails it” may be a bit of a stretch, as some of these kills (such as a head getting split in half by an ax) looked a bit too CGI, but many of the kills and violence were of decent quality, such as an ax being pushed into a woman’s face, eventually cutting off quite a bit of it, and there’s that throat-slitting toward the end. Someone’s arms get ripped off (this particular piece of violence is off-screen, but we do see the body afterwards), someone’s hand is mostly cut off – I mean, this movie was violent at times. I just wish there was a little more to it than that.

And when all is said and done, that’s probably my take on this Australian movie. The Furies was okay – I didn’t have a bad time watching it or anything. It’s just that I didn’t have a good time watching it, and I really felt that more could have been done with what they had. Below average, but not disastrously so. For a better take on the basic idea, you might want to check out The Hunt, which came out a year later.

6/10

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)

Directed by Dwight H. Little [Other horror films: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), The Phantom of the Opera (1989)]

So when I revisted Anaconda, I was surprised the film wasn’t that fun. I didn’t expect it to be good, by any means, but I did expect to have fun while watching it, and I really didn’t. Gotta lay it on you all straight, though – I had fun with this one.

Not that Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid is a great movie, and certainly I think the cast of the first movie was quite a bit stronger, but I actually enjoyed sitting through this one, which wasn’t something I could really say for the first, and that’s got to count for something.

Here’s one random note. Not sure if it’s interesting or funny, but I’ll mention it anyway. Throughout the film, I thought that the boat captain was played by Matthew Marsden. Why? Because to me, the boat captain looked really similar to Michael Madsen, and I guessed they were brothers. Unfortunately, there’s no “r” in Madsen, and these two weren’t brothers, and the captain was played by some guy named Johnny Messner, and I feel like an idiot.

That aside, we have a nice cast. Johnny Messner (a name I don’t know at all) did great as the captain, and he was a solid character throughout. He even wrestled an alligator. KaDee Strickland (another name I don’t know) was a cute, bad-ass chick willing to fight snakes and shit. She also had a southern accent (she was born in Georgia), so that added to the charm. It’s like watching Anna Paquin fight snakes (only when she’s using her southern accent, not the one she normally has since she’s Canadian).

Matthew Mardsen (no relation to Michael Madsen) was good as a scummy piece of trash. I don’t think he really got as much as he deserved, but I’ll take it. Eugene Byrd, Karl Yune, Morris Chestnut, and Salli Richardson-Whitefield were all perfectly enjoyable also.

The snakes here don’t look great, but you do have a solid jungle adventure, including poisonous spiders, leeches, trees, and other things you might expect to find in a jungle. It’s nothing original, but I had fun, which can be said for the movie, and is more than I can say for the first movie.

7/10

Malibu Shark Attack (2009)

Directed by David Lister [Other horror films: N/A]

So I’m not going to claim that Malibu Shark Attack is a good movie, but I will say that, in some ways, it’s a refreshing one, because while it’s not a serious film at all times, this is before Syfy got stupid with their killer shark movies, and this one almost feels like an okay attempt at the sub-genre.

I enjoyed how the tsunami tied into the movie, because seeing those levels of destruction was pretty impressive, and what helped that were the newscasts seen throughout the film. What I liked about these newscasts was that they were appropriately somber and the exact type of thing you’d expect to see in a real situation like this, and it also helped that while the newscasts extensively followed the flooding, sharks never came up, which made it significantly more serious than any of the later shark movies (Sharknado and 2-Headed Shark Attack, I’m looking at you).

Most of the main cast here is fine. I mean, they’re generic, but they get the job done. Admittedly I couldn’t have cared less about Warren Christie’s character (a name you might recognize from Apollo 18), and there were a few others (Jeff Gannon, Sonya Salomaa, and Nicholas Cooper) that left no impression, but everyone else was fine.

Remi Broadway played a character not too different from Christie’s, but I liked Broadway’s story more, and, oddly enough, his budding romance with the irresponsible airhead played by Chelan Simmons (who, fun fact, played that little girl who was killed in the opening scene of the 1990 mini-series It). Simmons was also rather cute here, though for most of the film, her personality was atrocious. Peta Wilson didn’t have an atrocious personality, though – she was a strong character and perhaps one of the best in the movie, so kudos to her.

Now, sure, the special effects of the goblin sharks are horrible, but they’re not as obnoxiously horrible as later Syfy movies, so in a way, it gives this movie a bit of a pass on that. There was a pretty painful scene of a character getting their leg stitched up without anesthetics, and that cut did look gnarly, so that was fun. Overall, nothing in the special effects department ruined the film.

I’ve seen Malibu Shark Attack before, and when I came to watch it again, I wasn’t dreading it like I do some rewatches, and that’s partially because I had an okay time with it the first time around, and the same can be said today. It’s not a great shark movie, but it’s honestly, at least in my opinion, not terrible.

6/10

Scare Campaign (2016)

Directed by Cameron Cairnes [Other horror films: 100 Bloody Acres (2012)] & Colin Cairnes [100 Bloody Acres (2012)]

I didn’t go into this one knowing too much about it, aside from the fact the plot sounded interesting and Olivia DeJonge (The Visit and Better Watch Out) was in it. Otherwise, I went in pretty blind, and overall, I’d say that Scare Campaign was a pretty decent movie. Not amazing, by any stretch, but good.

The plot, dealing with a Scare Tactic-like television crew, was pretty unique and, at times, meta (such as DeJonge’s character’s love of horror films). I think it gets a bit more muddled than necessary toward the end, but it was still decent. I do applaud the fact that they kept the movie played straight, when they easily could have moved to a more comedic direction (think Fear, Inc.), so kudos there.

Olivia DeJonge wasn’t the main star here, but I think she did really well in her role. There were some aspects to her character that didn’t really hit as hard as was probably intended, but she still did great. Meegan Warner (who I know only from the woeful The Veil) played a compelling main character, especially with the direction the movie went in during the second half.

I don’t know Ian Meadows, but I liked him here, despite the fact that his character is pretty on the fence between being pleasantly annoying to being an outright dick. Josh Quong Tart’s character was an interesting one, because some of our expectations are a bit subverted, giving his character a bit more depth than we first might think. Most of the other performances are solid, but few stand out like these four did.

As far as the gore goes, Scare Campaign isn’t mind-blowingly awesome, but there were some occasionally great scenes. There’s not really a stand-out scene of gore, at least in my view, but there’s still enough here to keep the casual slasher fan happy.

Though I think the movie is far from perfect, I don’t have any major critiques of the story. I do think some reveals toward the end were a bit weak, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t welcomed, just that they were anticipated. The turn-of-events about halfway through the film, though, really took me for a ride, and I utterly loved it, so Scare Campaign definitely did some things right.

The movie isn’t amazing, but this Australian film is still pretty solid, and definitely worth at least a single watch.

7.5/10

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

Cut (2000)

Directed by Kimble Rendall [Other horror films: Bait (2012), 7 Guardians of the Tomb (2018)]

More than anything, Cut pissed me off. This Australian slasher could have been something interesting, but ended up an annoying movie that explained little-to-nothing, and just fell as flat as something could fall.

Get this – after a murder during the filming of slasher in the 1980’s titled Hot Blooded! (which doesn’t sound remotely like an 80’s slasher, which is consistent, because the movie doesn’t look like an 80’s slasher either), the production shuts down. Some film students want to finish up the film, but they start getting killed off. I’m tempted to just reveal who the killer is, but I’ll simply spoil it by saying it’s none of the characters that’d make sense.

Apparently the film is cursed. People who screen the unfinished movie mysteriously die. I don’t know why, because based on the only scene we ever see from the original film, it’s just generic rubbish that would be out of place in any recommendable 80’s B-slasher. The movie isn’t good enough to be cursed, and it would have helped if there was some reason for the curse to begin with.

Oh, and don’t forget, one of the characters is actually the daughter of the original movie’s director who was killed, and she thinks that Hot Blooded! was more than just a “hacky slasher.” Apparently it was deeper than that, but the problem is, we literally see zero evidence of that in any way. It looked like a 90’s made-for-TV slasher when it was supposed to be some unsung classic of the 1980’s.

Oh, and get this: they defeat the curse by burning the film (whatever), but then it’s screened by a whole lot of people at the end of the movie, and of course, because of the curse, the scary Scarman (who looks like a really shitty Freddy Krueger at times) pops up and kills them all.

God, this movie frustrated me. As soon as the girl in charge of wardrobe and the boom operator go missing for a whole day, you’d think they’d shut down the shoot until they, you know, find them? I didn’t even like Molly Ringwald in this, and I enjoyed her in The Stand (that may be because her character’s far better in The Stand, though). I guess Jessica Napier and Sarah Kants do okay, but I’ll forget them tomorrow, so the fact they stood out the most is troubling.

You know, another movie with a somewhat similar idea was 2008’s Midnight Movie. The difference being, of course, that Midnight Movie was actually pretty fun, all things considered. It had flaws, but it was fun. I didn’t find Cut fun. There was a single line I laughed at (and it was more of a chuckle, let’s be honest), but mostly I was stuck watching a really bad post-Scream slasher.

Oh, and one of the characters, when talking about making the movie, said “Who wants to make a mainstream slasher movie? Bigger than Halloween, creepier than Friday the 13th, more blood and guts than Texas Chainsaw Massacre?”

I wanted to give up then. Some of these characters speak about the positives of horror films, and come across as fans at times, so it amazes me that they think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was bloody. It was brutal and gritty, sure, but “blood and guts”? Yeah, no. If they had said something like “more blood than H.G. Lewis and Nathan Schiff combined,” I would have given some points, because at least they’d sound like fans, but the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Oh, and “bigger than Halloween”? Get the fuck out.

Post-Scream slashers sometimes get a bad rap, and I’ll admit that many of them aren’t as good as they should be (such as Urban Legend, which did rather disappoint me the last time I saw it). I still enjoy I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Clown at Midnight, Lovers Lane, and Cherry Falls, though.

Cut, however, is trash.

3.5/10

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

Triangle (2009)

Directed by Christopher Smith [Other horror films: Creep (2004), Severance (2006), Black Death (2010), The Banishing (2020)]

I’ve seen this one twice now, and while I appreciate what the movie’s going for, I can’t say that I’ve been particularly impressed either time. Mostly this comes from the fact that the story’s a bit too confusing to fully wrap my head around, which, while it may be on me, still stains the film.

If there’s a time loop, and you know you’re stuck in a time loop, trying to break out of a time loop isn’t going to work as you’re already in the time loop. And if there’s three other versions of you in the same (but different) time loops, and three other other’s in other time loops (or dimensions), and the loop’s divided by an additional sea, is the time loop a circle or oval?

False, triangle.

Triangle’s interesting, and I think the movie looks really nice. The story, though, just isn’t my cup of tea. Jess trying to get home to her son to kill her original (or is that another loop version #2?) self to become a better mother only to loop again because loop loops loop.

On a serious note, when there is something like a time loop, in this case, and there are multiple versions of the same character floating around, it’s really hard for any impact to be felt when they’re killed. Because, well, you know they might have died, but there’s two other ‘theys’ around, and while they might also die, hey, look, another one. So how is anyone supposed to get pulled into the suspense at all if everything’s circular?

I’m sorry if I’m coming across as some uneducated philistine. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The whole point of a loop is that there’s no ending (or beginning), so no way to escape it. When Jess kills another version of herself, before that other version dies, she states that the only way to ‘break the loop’ is to kill the others on board. I don’t know if she meant just one group of the others or all the others, but it doesn’t matter, because it isn’t logical.

Not that our character of Jess (played by the only noteworthy performance, Melissa George) is particularly logical, so I can excuse that, but come on, did anyone not almost immediately guess purgatory? As soon as Sisyphus was mentioned, who didn’t see it coming?

I may be in the minority here. Triangle is generally well-respected, and has a solid rating on IMDb. And to be fair, maybe the movie makes sense outside of logic, or maybe I’m not understanding something entirely. This is entirely plausible, and I won’t hold that against the film. To be fair, maybe Triangle is a movie that should be seen more than twice in ten years to fully comprehend, but for the time being, I found this movie a nice-looking film but lacking in substance.

5.5/10

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

Evil Dead (2013)

Directed by Fede Alvarez [Other horror films: Don’t Breathe (2016)]

This remake/soft reboot/re-imagining (however you wish to describe it) certainly ups the ante from the original film, but much like how I’ve never found The Evil Dead all that amazing, I’m likewise lukewarm to this rendition.

No doubt the gore here is noteworthy. What with electric knives cutting arms off, or faces getting peeled off, or tongues getting halved with box cutters, or any of the other various brutal scenes within, Evil Dead has the goods as far as gore’s concerned. It literally rains blood toward the end, so it’s not necessarily a movie for the queasy.

And all of that’s good-and-well, but that doesn’t make me any more a fan of the story. Personally, I’ve never found possession all that interesting. More than anything, when someone becomes demonically possessed, I just get annoyed that their friends and family keep getting fooled by their innocent acts after demonstrating utterly inhuman abilities.

That happens here, too, multiple times. I get it, Shiloh Fernandez’s character wants to believe the best of his sister, played by Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe), but come on, after some of the stuff that the demon does, get it through your head that it’s no longer your sister and do what needs to be done. Stuff like that just always aggravated me, and as such, Fernandez’s character didn’t leave much a positive impression.

Actually, the only one here I really liked was Lou Taylor Pucci. His character made mistakes now and again, but it’s through him we got most of the lore, so I definitely appreciate what he brought to the table. Jane Levy wasn’t bad, by any means, but for most of the film, she was a demon, so we don’t really get to spend that much time with her.

I guess the big issue is that I’ve never been a big fan of The Evil Dead series. I enjoy the second well enough, but the first and Army of Darkness aren’t really my cup of tea. No doubt the atmosphere of the original is decent, and this film itself does have a pretty epic finale, but possession-themed flicks aren’t my go-to when it comes to horror.

Evil Dead isn’t a bad movie due to this – I think it did enough right to satisfy many watching it. The setting (desolate cabin) and some prop pieces (especially that book, which looked hella hip, as the kids say) were commendable, but I did find the movie a bit below average, and that one-second post-credit scene with Bruce Campbell? Pointless.

All-in-all, the movie’s fine, with a decent amount of gore it can boast about. I’d just rather watch so many other things, personally.

6/10

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

Better Watch Out (2016)

Directed by Chris Peckover [Other horror films: Undocumented (2010)]

I pretty much knew next-to-nothing about this when I started it out. It seemed pretty clear cut at the beginning, a home invasion movie with a Christmas theme, but as the movie went on, I was taken on a rather unexpected and enjoyable ride.

To speak of some aspects of this movie and the story without spoiling anything might be hard, but I will certainly try my best.

Olivia DeJonge, who starred in the surprisingly decent The Visit, did great here as a babysitter with a few personal problems that she’s going through, and a crush on her by the kid she’s babysitting (Levi Miller) doesn’t make matters better, nor does the break-in of armed assailants. DeJonge did great in The Visit, and puts up a very fine performance here also, especially as she becomes more the kick-ass chick toward the end.

I can understand complaints about Miller’s performance, because it was a bit much at times, but he is a younger actor, and I certainly thought he did pretty well here, and Ed Oxenbould (also from The Visit) was fun too, as a sort of comic relief character (though not without his own drama, to be sure).

Also, I have to point out that Patrick Warburton makes a small appearance as Miller’s father. I know him from many things, be it voice-acting on Kim Possible, Family Guy, and Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated to small appearances throughout his career (such as on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). It was just fun seeing (and hearing) him here, no matter how small the part.

Better Watch Out isn’t about the gore, and there’s not a whole lot here in terms of that, but there are still a few okay kills throughout. What matters more is the small cast and their solid performance, and that, mixed with the story, made the movie a very decent watch, and certainly worth seeing at least once.

7.5/10

This is one of the films discussed on the Fight Evil podcast. If you want to listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, enjoy.

Rogue (2007)

Directed by Greg McLean [Other horror films: Wolf Creek (2005), Wolf Creek 2 (2013), The Darkness (2016), The Belko Experiment (2016)]

Having never seen this before, I wasn’t necessarily sure what to expect, but I was hoping for a fun film. Well, this is no Alligator or Lake Placid, but a decently serious tourist-trip-gone-bad, and while I enjoyed some of the film, I will admit to not being thrilled with the movie as a whole.

Most of the cast is perfectly acceptable. Radha Mitchell (2006’s Silent Hill and The Crazies remake) and Michael Vartan worked well together, and other stand-outs include John Jarratt (Mick Taylor from the Wolf Creek series), Mia Wasikowska, Caroline Brazier (who reminded me a bit of Sara Gilbert), and Sam Worthington. Stephen Curry’s character seemed to have the potential to be more important near the beginning, but it never really went anywhere.

Where the movie succeeds is in building each of the characters into sympathetic beings, what with the mother battling cancer, or the man who came to spread the ashes of his loved one (that scene was rather touching, and perhaps my favorite of the film), or the American tourist who just doesn’t want to be eaten by a crocodile. It’s an hour and forty minute film, so they have time to show different sides of these characters, and I think they do a good job.

Otherwise, though, while I liked the tense sequences sprinkled throughout, I thought the final fight went on a bit long, and at times during the film, I was bordering on disinterest. I feel that 15 minutes could probably have been cut safely, so an 100-minute movie wasn’t necessary.

The gore, when it popped up, was solid. The only instance where it really made an impact was during a scene in which a character’s hand got impaled by the crocodile’s tooth, but even so, the movie, while not focusing on this aspect, didn’t shy away from occasional bloodshed.

Overall, though, I wasn’t deeply enjoying Rogue. I think it was well-made, and I think the characters really add to the film, but the ending, again, felt like it dragged, and I didn’t find myself as engaged throughout as I wish I was. It’s an Australian movie worth seeing, I’d say, but there are better ones out there.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast – listen below, if at all interested in a time of mirth, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this flick.