White Noise (2005)

Directed by Geoffrey Sax [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a somewhat more-popular film, partially because it stars Michael Keaton, and as such, much like movies such as Hide and Seek (starring Robert De Niro), What Lies Beneath (Harrison Ford) and D-Tox/Eye See You (with Sylvester Stallone), it’s generally forgotten by the horror community nowadays, and for, I think, pretty good reason.

Not that the movie is an extraordinarily poor one – it’s not memorable enough for that. It’s a pretty high-budget film, as you’d imagine (or at least, as you’d imagine as soon as you see that Keaton’s in it), and there’s no doubt that it’s competently-made, but there’s just not enough here to really make it anywhere near a standout film.

Some of this is because the horror is a bit on the lighter side. It’s there, don’t worry about that, but it’s there in the What Lies Beneath-way, and just feels so incredibly safe and tame. On a related note, this film is PG-13, which isn’t by any means damning, but it does show that this wasn’t going to really turn any heads at any point, and it really doesn’t.

I’ll give it credit for Ian McNeice (who in fact reminded me of another actor that I can’t yet place), who give a pretty enjoyable performance in his limited time, and Deborah Kara Unger. I don’t think Unger did a fantastic job here, but I do know her from The Game (1997), so that’s something. Keaton I really only know from the 1989 Batman, and I’m much more a Christian Bale-type of guy, so I couldn’t really care much about Keaton here. His performance is okay, but it’s far from great, which is fine, because the movie doesn’t warrant A+ acting anyway.

Not that the movie is without strong points. While I really don’t care for 90% of the final thirty minutes, I did like the three silhouettes of the evil ghosts (or whatever they were – that’s one of the things I wish they touched on more), and that final setting (a dilapidated factory, with giant holes and rain falling freely into the structure) was on point. Maybe a few other scenes were cool, but as I try to focus in on one, I just hear white noise and can’t complete my thought.

Also, those final three seconds were terrible. Just entirely unnecessary, which is probably intentional, as I feel that a lot of what they did with Unger’s character throughout the film was unnecessary. And speaking of unnecessary, I didn’t much care for that final message from Keaton’s character to his family. It felt like something out of a touching family drama, and a bit out of place.

White Noise isn’t a terrible movie, and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think it is. It’s far from a good movie, but it probably accomplishes a lot of what it set out to accomplish. It just wasn’t the type of movie I enjoy, and much of it fell flat for it.

5.5/10

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

The Changeling (1980)

Directed by Peter Medak [Other horror films: Cry for the Strangers (1982), Species II (1998)]

Often quite atmospheric and somber by the very nature of the focal character’s background, The Changeling is a fantastically done ghost movie with an engrossing mystery and stellar cast. While not often outright frightening, it can get pretty unsettling, and the aforementioned mystery was on point.

That’s not quite what I thought about it when I first saw the film, but the important addendum there is that I was pretty young then, surely no older than 16. My tastes in horror probably haven’t changed significantly since that age (I loved slashers then, and I love slashers now), but my appreciation for some movies have definitely grown, and The Changeling is a good example of that.

Set in the beautiful city of Seattle (I’ve never been there, but I have had a life-long desire to move to Washington state), it follows a man haunted by the recent deaths of his wife and daughter, and upon moving into a Victorian house, has to deal with the inexplicable things people deal with when they move into houses that might be haunted.

For one thing, this can be an emotional ride following just George C. Scott’s character himself. Due to the recent death of his loved ones, there are some really touching scenes here, such as him finding the ball his daughter used to play with, or him sobbing in bed, probably with little will to go on. He definitely sold it, and though his character was one of maybe questionable motives, Melvyn Douglas really brought a lot of emotion to the final twenty minutes of the film also, especially during his face-off with Scott’s character.

George C. Scott is a familiar name, but I can’t really say I’ve seen much with him in it, which is a shame, as he does a fantastic job here, especially since it’s not too common for horror films to focus on solo older individuals. That might partially be why Trish Van Devere (who starred in The Hearse, which came out the same year but to much less fanfare, as deserved) was here – not that her character wasn’t welcome at times, but she wasn’t near as good as Scott or Douglass. And Melvyn Douglas (The Vampire Bat and, in 1981, Ghost Story, his final film before his death) – what a performance he put in at the end. Very moving and definitely worth it.

What really makes this movie work is the mystery of the ghost, and some of my favorite scenes are those of Scott’s and Devere’s characters trying to dig up as much information as they can, from reading microfilm of old newspapers at the library to going through land charts to figure out what piece of land has a well on it, it’s just a fun bunch of sequences leading to them going to some random house and, after some ghostly apparitions, finding bones in an old well. Just stellar.

Though almost an hour-and-fifty-minutes, I wouldn’t really classify this as a slow-burn, as enough of interest occurs throughout the film. I think some of the best parts are in the second half, to be sure, but there’s plenty of stuff throughout (including some delightful overextension of political purviews) that makes The Changeling a ghost film that is definitely worth seeing.

8/10

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

Goblin (2010)

Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando [Other horror films: Savage Island (2004), Insecticidal (2005), Alien Incursion (2006), Decoys 2: Alien Seduction (2007), House of Bones (2010), Thirst (2010), Boogeyman (2012), Haunted High (2012), Roboshark (2015), Suspension (2015)]

For a Syfy movie, Goblin isn’t that bad. It’s not among the greater outputs from the channel (such as House of Bones or Neverknock), but it’s not as terrible as many of their other films tend to be.

The story isn’t overly original, but it was serviceable here. Some of the elements (such as the strained relationship between the father and daughter characters here, for instance) added some decent emotional impact to some scenes, though I can’t say it ultimately made that big of a difference. Also, it’s worth noting that the finale seems a bit rushed in some ways – it’s not something I want to harp on, because I was at least happy that things were finishing up – but at times it did feel like it was moving a bit quickly.

Tracy Spiridakos did quite well as the lead (and on an unrelated note, she reminded me of a younger A.J. Cook) , and I thought she got along well with both Gil Bellows as her father (Bellows, randomly, played Tommy in The Shawshank Redemption) and Erin Boyes. I appreciated Bellows’ character as a father who is actually as entangled in the supernatural story as are the teen characters, and he did good.

I think that Donnelly Rhodes did surprisingly well (think Crazy Ralph only with some emotional depth), but many of the others who pop up, including Reilly Dolman, Chilton Crane, and Andrew Wheeler, were just on the average side. Julia Maxwell didn’t appear too much, but I thought she had a lot of character, and stood out for that.

There is a bit of gore throughout. You get some disembowelment, slit throats, intestines free of their flesh prison, stuff along those lines. It’s nothing special, and some of it looks a bit on the fake side, but at least they tried. What they didn’t do well, though, would be the CGI of the titular Goblin. It’s almost okay at some points, but most of the time, it’s as pathetic as you might expect from a Syfy movie.

Overall, though, I have to admit that I’ve seen Goblin three times now. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I do think it’s certainly watchable, and though I doubt I’ll see it again anytime soon, as far as Syfy movies go, there’s not much here to really take offense to.

7/10

The House Next Door (2006)

Directed by Jeff Woolnough [Other horror films: Nightworld: Lost Souls (1998), Strange Frequency 2 (2002)]

This made-for-TV movie isn’t the most forgettable film I’ve ever seen (it helps that I’ve just seen it, to be sure), but I don’t think it has the staying power that the creators were probably hoping for, which is a shame, as the story itself isn’t too bad.

I’m not personally one to care about production value – there have been plenty of quality low-budget made-for-DVD and made-for-TV movies, and I don’t judge a film based on what money went into it – but that being said, a lot of this movie still came across to me as bland and occasionally uninspired.

Based off a novel by Anne Rivers Siddons of the same title, published in 1978, the story isn’t that shabby, and has some interesting ideas in it (such as going through different owners of the house and the varied misfortunes they encounter), but the film isn’t able to pull that together into that great a movie-watching experience.

For what it’s worth, I think most of the performances are okay, at least in that Lifetime movie way. Lara Flynn Boyle and Colin Ferguson are decent together, though maybe come out of this a little generic (and that first-person narration that popped up at the beginning and the end didn’t do them wonders). Mark-Paul Gosselaar (of Dead Man on Campus… fame?) was a bit soapy at times, but still serviceable. Of the people who temporarily brought the house, Noam Jenkins (who appeared in Saw II and IV) was the best, becoming an overly orderly and pompous jackass like few others.

There were some okay scenes here, such as a somewhat jarring suicide, and the uncomfortable way Jenkins’ character spoke to his wife during the dinner party, along with any of the scenes of the new home owners giving into the mental pressures of the new house, but all of it feels tame and bland, even when it really shouldn’t.

The House Next Door isn’t a bad story, but the execution wasn’t properly done. The movie was lacking in feeling, and though a few things were decent with it, overall, I can imagine this being one of the many post-2000 made-for-TV movies that people will watch once and forget entirely.

5.5/10

The Carpenter (1988)

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

There are some movies that I’ve known about for a long time, but haven’t yet seen. I first heard about The Carpenter back in 2009 (I’m writing this review October 2020, for a frame of reference), and I was captivated as soon as I learned about it. As it was, the movie didn’t turn out anything like I expected (as so often happens), but it was still certainly an enjoyable film.

To be sure, if you could do without melodrama, then maybe The Carpenter isn’t for you, as the horror portions are sandwiched by a lot of drama that isn’t exactly the pinnacle of enjoyable. I didn’t find it that problematic, as I found it hilarious when the titular carpenter did pop up (generally at night, because that’s how ghost carpenters do) with his suave, hard-working man charm, but I can imagine some people finding a good portion of this boring.

And to an extent, maybe they’d not be far off. It does take the film a bit to really get to the point (the first time the carpenter pops up, and actually, most of the times the carpenter pops up, he’s more a guardian angel than anything), but the kills here, when they occur, are still fun, and I didn’t find myself struggling to get through this.

Part of that is because the main actress, Lynne Adams deeply intrigued me. It’s not that her character was overly interesting (though to an extent, she did have a somewhat unique story), but I couldn’t see her for two minutes without thinking of Mary-Louise Parker (who most people might know from the show Weeds, but I’m most familiar with through her role on The West Wing). Adams really looked like Parker to me, and I even double-checked half-way through the film to see if they were sisters or something (they don’t seem to be). So that was fun.

Also, Wings Hauser had a hell of a lot of charm. I mean, he was totally goofy, don’t get me wrong, but I really liked his performance. His delivery was perfect, and who doesn’t like seeing him kill people and then act bashful about it afterward? Pierre Lenoir was solid as an unlikable and often dull prick, so kudos there, I guess.

What I expected with this movie was a more violent Toolbox Murders, with creative kills and all-out onslaught (or maybe that’s more what I was hoping for), but what I got instead was a drama-laden film with this ghostly carpenter popping up to charm the missus and protect her from the evils around her, which was still fine, but not what I pictured.

Regardless of expectations that fell through, this movie had some hokey charm to it, and I did find myself enjoying it. It just wasn’t as fun as I was hoping for.

7/10

Sinister 2 (2015)

Directed by Ciarán Foy [Other horror films: Hotel Darklight (2009, segment ‘Untitled’), Citadel (2012), Eli (2019)]

So I’ve pretty much only heard negative things about this sequel, especially in comparison with the first Sinister, after seeing it, I can understand the negativity and disappointment. Not that Sinister 2 is a terrible movie, but it definitely doesn’t reach the same level as the first.

I did appreciate them utilizing James Ransone as the main character, though – it may have been expected, but it’s still a solid trajectory for the series to take. I just wish they focused purely on him as the first focused on Hawke as opposed to giving the perspective of kids being seduced by dead kids, which is an aspect of the film I found entirely predictable and, worse, uninteresting.

Maybe if the dead kids in question had been the same ones from the first film, it would have been a bit better, but instead we have all new kids and all new home videos. As they went, Sunday Service was probably the best (albeit a bit more complex than many of the other murders), and Christmas Morning had character (what little we saw of A Trip to the Dentist showed promise also), but Fishing Trip struck me as somewhat silly, and not quite comparable to the somewhat jarring Lawn Work from the first film.

The whole idea, though, of brothers being aware that a group of ghost kids wants to show them videos of families being killed and neither one thinks it’d be wise to let anyone know about this (I get that most adults wouldn’t listen, but these two didn’t even try) just doesn’t seem realistic whatsoever. And the ending, while not coming out of nowhere, felt somewhat off also (and not even due to the obvious fact that Shannyn Sossamon’s character could have gotten out of that abusive marriage if she had contacted the media or just utilized social media against the abusive piece of shit that was her husband).

On that note, I thought the abusive father (Lea Coco) was an interesting element, as it gave both of the kids reasons to want to join the dead bois and fuck everyone up. The father was such an unlikable character, too, that when he got, shall we say, killed, it was clearly a good thing for everyone involved. The rest of the ending, though, just seemed weak.

Ransone was still just as fun in this one as the first movie, but he even had surprising courage at times (such as him standing up to that infuriating attempted abduction by the police). I didn’t love or hate Shannyn Sossamon (from the One Missed Call remake) – she was okay, I guess, but I didn’t feel strongly at all about her. Both of the kids (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) were okay, and felt like real brothers (it helped that they actually are), but I can’t say I cared for their stories. Tate Ellington was something. I didn’t hate his performance, but I just didn’t see the point in it at all.

I guess that’s my main problem with the whole film. The first film was a very solid supernatural movie, and I’m sure they wanted to repeat that success here, but failed utterly. It’s watchable, of course, and it’s not that much worse than average, but it’s definitely not a film that’s really worth that much. Plus, it had the exact same jump scare ending the first movie did. A+ for originality.

5.5/10

Sinister (2012)

Directed by Scott Derrickson [Other horror films: Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Deliver Us from Evil (2014), The Black Phone (2021)]

I didn’t really expect to enjoy Sinister when I blind-bought it on DVD. It looked interesting, sure, but the cover mentioned both The Conjuring and Insidious, two films that I just don’t care about in the slightest, so it did make me wary.

After multiple viewings, though, Sinister stands strong as a new-age favorite of mine.

The idea behind the film is quite interesting, and though there’s a little build-up involved, it all feels decently natural, and adds to a somewhat uneasy atmosphere, especially once Hawke’s character starts seeing more and more unexplainable phenomenon. Also, those home videos are top-notch (Lawn Work being the most shocking, but Pool Party definitely has it’s charm, and Family Hanging Out was a strong opening to the film).

Ethan Hawke (who I know mostly from the Assault on Precinct 13 remake and Training Day, but was also in The Purge) was a pretty strong character, certainly complex in that you couldn’t really blame him for wanting to chase the mystery, especially since it’s been so long since he had a successful book (and him watching those old interviews was just painful, and who couldn’t feel bad for him?), but you could certainly see his wife’s point (Juliet Rylance), though I’ll admit Rylance’s character annoyed me at times.

James Ransone (Deputy So & So, who has been in The Wire, and It Chapter 2) just cracked me up. Talk about great comedic relief (“Snakes don’t have feet”), but he was also one of the few arguably sensible characters in the film. That scene where he’s talking about how he’d never sleep in a house where someone was killed, and he believes entirely in the supernatural whereas Hawke’s character just mocks it, shows a certain strength in his character which I adore, and he does help out throughout the film.

Others who had strong performances included Vincent D’Onofrio (was was uncredited), as he was the one with what little information on Bughuul that could be found. The two kids, Michael Hall D’Addario and Clare Foley (Ivy from Gotham), were decent with what they were able to do. And of course, with only two scenes, shout-out to Fred Thompson, who’s failed 2008 Republican primary run still cracks me up to this day. He also had a presence to him, and I did like how he let the family pass without ticketing them nearing the finale.

Speaking of the finale, I thought it was decently strong. I can’t remember particularly if I was surprised when I first saw it, but whether I was or not, it is a great ending. I could have done without that final jump scare at the end (I know that some viewers were okay with it within the context of the story, but final second jump scares always leave a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it’s for the audience’s reaction only), but who didn’t like House Painting?

I found the story here pretty unique, and Bughuul a fun entity for Hawke’s character to try to learn about. Sinister was a modern-day horror film that exceeded my expectations (especially since I don’t generally have a good track record with post 2000-supernatural horror), and definitely a movie I enjoyed. Just remember, snakes don’t have feet.

8.5/10

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

The Night Before Halloween (2016)

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), Neverknock (2017), Stickman (2017), Dead in the Water (2018)]

In some ways, this Syfy original feels likes a mixture between Sorority Row/Tamara and It Follows, with a group of friends covering up an accidental death and contending with some evil entity or something (and I do mean ‘or something’ – we never learn anything about this entity aside from the fact it takes the form of CGI flies). It’s not the worst Syfy original I’ve seen in my many years, but it’s far from the best.

One of the problems is a similar problem to what Sorority Row had – at the beginning of the film, five friends decide to cover up the circumstances of an accident (that in reality, only three of the friends were involved with), and they have the exact same conversation they had in Tamara and Sorority Row. “Oh, this will ruin our futures,” and “Fine, you can call the police if you want to spend the next 20 years in prison,” that tripe. I’m not saying this isn’t theoretically realistic, but I am saying that as soon as that deal is made, my sympathy for any of the characters, even the hesitant ones, is thrown out the window entirely.

So when people start dying, be it the bitchy girl (Kiana Madeira) or the ‘nice girl’ (Bailee Madison), I don’t care, because these people are all horrible and whether they die or not is the least of my concerns. 

It doesn’t help that the entity isn’t made clear – apparently it can use cell phones (and it uses smileys when it texts, so yay for technological demons, I guess) – but we never learn anything about it’s origins, and we don’t even know if “the curse” that gets passed onto them is legit, because it seems that whether or not you complete it’s specifications (if those even are it’s specifications and not something previously -cursed people thought would help), you can be killed by it anyway.

None of this is the fault of the cast, who are all reasonably fine playing hateable characters. Kiana Maderia later showed up in one of Syfy’s better original movies, Neverknock. Bailee Madison was sort of cute, but also played a horrible person. Anthony Lemke (American Psycho, of all places) played an almost-interesting but ultimately generic cop, so no award there.

When everything’s said-and-done, there are worse Syfy original movies out there (look at 2018’s Karma, which even had a similar idea to this), but there are plenty of better, more memorable films, and I’d probably say the only thing I’ll remember about this one was the okay twist. Otherwise, it’s just not a good movie.

5.5/10

Rabid (1977)

Directed by David Cronenberg [Other horror films: Shivers (1975), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), eXistenZ (1999), Crimes of the Future (2022)]

Given this was a David Cronenberg film, I went in with mild apprehension. I’ve not seen a ton of his films, but out of the ones I have seen (Videodrome, The Brood, The Fly, and Shivers), I’ve only really liked Shivers. Rabid isn’t quite as enjoyable as Shivers is, but I did find it a pretty satisfying and almost time-relevant film.

It took a little while to get going, and at first I thought that most of the mayhem would be centered around the plastic surgery clinic in a localized fashion, but as the movie went on, the battleground against a mysterious virus became the whole of the city of Montreal, which I thought led to some pretty tense scenes. Just seeing multiple scenes of a city under martial law in order to combat the growing virus was great, and gave a great sense of urgency, and it was all so natural in the film.

Perhaps one of my favorite scenes is earlier on, though, right after one of the characters goes crazy at the plastic surgery clinic, and police are investigating the crime. There’s something about it that seems real, organic, with a lot of moving people and some characters walking in and out without even being stopped by police, getting separated and seeing the extent of the craziness.

I have to admit that the two main performances, those of Frank Moore and Marilyn Chambers, left something to be desired. Certainly toward the end, Chambers had some good moments, but neither of the two really did that much for me. Joe Silver (who was also in Shivers, but I forget to what extent) played a fantastically nice guy, and we got our eye candy with Susan Roman (most people would think that Chambers, who has a handful of nude scenes was more attractive, but Roman and the glasses she wears does something to me). No one else in the cast stands out one way or the other.

Like I said, Rabid started out a bit slow to begin with, and it does deal with body horror which is a sub-genre I’ve never much cared for, but during the second half of the film, the larger focus seems to be on the pandemic spreading across Montreal, and the horrors it brings (armed guards standing around the mall, innumerable garbage trucks to pick up dead bodies, people forced to wear Ids identifying them as getting a preventative vaccine), and it just hits harder given that I’m writing this in October of 2020, with COVID still very much a concern to most people.

This movie isn’t at all perfect, but for a Cronernberg movie, I enjoyed it far more than I’d have expected, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve not already.

7.5/10