The Black Cat (1934) Review

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It’s time for a big team up between the big horror actors of the old days, Karloff and Lugosi. Although in the actual movie they are going up against each other with two travelers being caught in the crossfire. Suffice it to say, we’re in for another old school horror film where the main characters are terrible and the villains spend more time bantering than actually doing anything. We’re definitely at the right film.

So the film starts off with Peter and Joan taking a train for their honeymoon. It’s all going well until a mysterious man shows up and asks if he can share the room. Peter already gives off some red flags since he isn’t intelligent enough to refuse. Once the couple appears to be asleep this man, Vitus, attempts to get a little too comfortable with Joan. Peter wakes up and glares at Vitus but doesn’t do anything reasonable like kicking this guy out of the car or even becoming big time enemies. Instead he decides to forgive and forget. One thing leads to another and the couple follows Vitus to the mansion of Hjalmar. The old man is a big time enemy of Vitus since he stole the guy’s daughter and murdered his wife. Vitus has come here to get revenge while Hjalmar wants to take Joan since she is the reincarnation of the late wife and he aims to use her vessel as a way to bring her back. It’s all pretty twisted and clearly we are watching two villains go at it. It’s hard to pick any one of them to root for.

This film is fairly dark and not in a natural atmospheric way, but in an artificial gritty sense. Characters are tortured both on screen and off screen. Vitus’ family certainly gets the short end of the stick since they are all murdered by Hjalmar. The ending is even someone getting skinned alive. You can tell that while this is an older film, it’s not one of the classier ones. It’s going for the shock value scenes and it takes away from everything else.

Alas, it wouldn’t be a terrible horror film without an animal showing up in some capacity right? Well, Vitus is afraid of cats so the other villain always uses this against him. Vitus will destroy the cat but it just comes back for more since it has 9 lives. As a result, not only is the scene terrible but it’s pointless. The cat phobia never actually does much and at the end of the day it’s just a random excuse for the film to bump off a cat. Pretty disgraceful if you ask me.

I suppose the writing is decent although you will have to stretch your disbelief to its absolute limit. The whole point of Vitus coming over is to murder Hjalmar and he has dozens of opportunities to do so. In fact, his subordinate is an inside agent working for Hjalmar. He is Hjalmar’s only minion so the two of them can beat the old guy easily. Instead Vitus is constantly content to simply watch things play out and just go with the flow. There’s no narrative reason for Vitus to totally disregard his actual mission for 90% of the film.

As for Hjalmar, he is just as bad. He already murdered the first two people he was with so now he wants Joan even though it’ll probably just be to murder her at some point. Considering that he never poisoned them or anything the same question about waiting rears its head. Why not just destroy them right away or in the dead of night? It’s his house and the main characters are gullible enough to actually go to sleep at night. They’d be easy pickings.

We also can’t forget to talk about Paul and how terrible he is. He gets knocked out several times and never puts much of an effort. The only time he is finally able to air up the nerve to do something he manages to shoot the guy who was trying to help Joan. Clearly he isn’t good at reading body language but I can’t honestly say that I was too broken up about the whole thing since Vitus is basically still a villain in my book. Paul just comes off as really incompetent. Even after seeing how shady everyone is he decides to leave Joan by herself while he sleeps in a room way down the hall. He was just accepting this until Vitus came over to switch rooms. What this means is Vitus would have been in the room next to Joan and since the connector isn’t locked he could have gone to her room whenever he liked. Did I mention that Paul was terrible yet? You get the idea of why this guy was so bad. He doesn’t even understand a threat when it’s being blatantly said right in front of him.

Unfortunately Joan is no better. Not only is she fainting too much, but she gets possessed rather easily. I can’t blame her for falling off the rails after this since Paul lets the villains inject her with something while she asleep. Joan just never seems like a real character during this adventure. She ends up being in a state of shock throughout the movie instead and lets everyone else make decisions for her.

While the premise of someone going to get revenge may sound good on paper it’s clear that the execution is just off from start to finish. Subtle banter between the villains is a decent concept even if they are really trying to destroy each other. At the same time, it just gets unrealistic if it goes on for too long. We could have also been given a motivation for why these two are to be locked in combat without going full tragedy. Considering that Vitus basically knows for a fact that the other guy is guilty you’d think he would make a move of some sort before he is put in a bad position. You just end up questioning the characters quite a bit here. The highlight would be the Chess game. I definitely wasn’t expecting such high stakes for a mere board game, but if that had to be the case then Chess is naturally the perfect pick.

Overall, This definitely isn’t a good film and the other Black Cat films I’ve seen seem to have had more quality. The actual Black Cat in this film certainly doesn’t get the respect he deserves. What really buries this film in the long run is the fact that it is too dark at times and there is nobody to root for. The main characters certainly aren’t very smart and make all of the wrong choices while even the villains don’t seem to think things through. The polite banter that I like from these films only hurts it in this case since these characters should be doing something as opposed to doing nothing.

Overall 1/10

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Maggie Review

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It’s time for a zombie film that manages to make an already weak genre even weaker. This one takes everything you don’t like about zombie films and doesn’t even bring in any of the positives. At the very least, Resident Evil had some nice action scenes once in a while and a good soundtrack to boot. It was an interesting film even if it was a bad one and kept your attention from start to finish. Maggie never gets interesting and is so focused on being emotional that it forgets to actually do anything. There’s no subtlety to this film and while it’s hitting you over the head with how sad the film is, you’re waiting for the zombie apocalypse to start.

So the film is about a man named Wade and his daughter Maggie. She has been bitten by a zombie and is doomed to become one of them. The process is randomized so nobody knows when she will turn, but Wade is encouraged to destroy her or take her to a facility where she will be canabalized. See what I mean about the lack of subtlety? The film could at least give him a decent option as opposed to dark and gritty for everything. So what will Wade choose?

This film is just a cluster of nonsense from start to finish with forced drama at every turn. Let’s look at the obvious here. Once you are a zombie you are taken to a place to get eaten alive by zombies. Why? What purpose does such a place realistically serve? I get that this is a dystopia but why not just a quick death if they’re going to bump these guys anyway? Are there no more poison pills in the future? Why bother with a tonic that will torture you for hours before you finally die when you can swallow a little poison. If that doesn’t work then I’d like the film to address this.

The film also adds in animal violence for no real reason. It just comes out of nowhere and tries to be as violent as can be. The film was already garbage before this scene but it certainly didn’t help matters. I don’t use the term lightly but for a 0 Star film like this one it’s only fitting. It’s basically the tv version of The Walking Dead and the atmosphere and writing are like Attack on Titan, only worse somehow. While the movie is beating you over the head with a stick as it tells you to feel bad for the characters, it also keeps reminding you that they’re not even thinking about the consequences. For example, Wade doesn’t have any safe guards for when Maggie turns. He says he does, but he clearly doesn’t since he leaves her unsupervised for ages. I’m cool with him wanting to save Maggie because yes that is the right call. Still, you need to at least build some kind of large cage around the premise or something to make sure she can’t escape and destroy everyone. Instead he makes everyone feel uncomfortable about the situation. Although in a world where all of the kids hang out without suits and keep on infecting each other, it’s certainly a matter of time before humanity is wiped out.

Wade is a reasonable character since he at least didn’t destroy Maggie. That would have been another big facepalm moment had that happened. He stayed strong and confronted everyone who tried to put her down. You do question why he would still risk leaving home for hours at a time to work in the tractor since he could walk home to an empty house but I guess he figured Maggie could stay strong and fight the virus. He was wrong.

Maggie does last for a while, but from the start you know that she is doomed. This is just that kind of movie, one where there is no hope from the start and a sad ending is guaranteed. It could have been even more grim I admit so I’ll give the film some kudos there. Not much though since it’s not like the film could have gotten a worse score at this point right? She gets a really random subplot with some annoying teenagers which was fairly forced and didn’t add to anything. We learn more about how evil society is and how the kids have no options so I guess the film just wanted to remind us of how grim the world is. We are reminded so often that it makes you wonder what the purpose of the film is again. Is it an emotional story about letting go or a director’s true vision on how the world is?

Ultimately the teenagers are only introduced so we can see one of them dragged off in tears to the boot camp where he will suffer a lot before dying. The edge levels are still high so I’m sure the film makers were particularly pleased with this moment. I can imagine them singing the Infinite song from Sonic Forces while making this film as it would fit the tone pretty well. Although I’ll take the song over this movie any day.

Aside from all this negativity let’s look at the world in general. The cops and authorities certainly aren’t doing a very good job of preventing the outbreaks. They don’t know what’s causing them and can’t cure it. They don’t even have a way of knowing where these zombies are so now we live in a world where they can be around any corner. Based on how everyone acts in this film they should all be turned already since it is supposedly contagious. The world seems semi ruined already in some parts while quite civilized in others so maybe the virus is just spreading really slowly? At any rate my money’s on the zombies to win in the long run.

Overall, This is definitely a very dark and gritty film. It’s quite mean spirited and does all it can to show you there is no way out of the situation. There is no big climax or moment where the heroes think they have a chance. It’s a film that starts at the bottom and is content to stay there for the duration. The colors are very dreary and dark so there isn’t anything good to even look at. I like to think this film was simply made in a dare to see if anyone would actually watch this movie. The only thing it did right was to further convince me that zombie films are going to almost always simply be a waste of time.

Overall 0/10

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave Review

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It’s time for another Dracula film. This series has never been particularly good and this one is no exception. Dracula’s a joke and everyone knows it. Even the poster knows this. Look at his facial expression above and tell me that this is a serious villain. He died from falling in a pool of water in the last film! This guy is played for laughs at times and if he is meant to be completely serious then that’s almost sad. Anyway, this film does nothing unique and instead just goes through the motions without doing anything cool or interesting. It’s definitely a very forgettable film and one that will soon blend in with the rest. There’s just nothing to really like here but it is always surreal to see some of the choices that the main characters make. Needless to say they were not prepared for a fight like this.

The film starts off with Dracula murdering someone and we then cut to the present where Ernest walks into that town. Everyone is still afraid of Dracula because while he may be dead at the moment, his aura is still enough to corrupt everything that it reaches. It apparently even gets into the Church so everyone just hangs around the bar now. Ernest laughs at them and runs over to Dracula’s castle which he seals with the Cross. Unfortunately, the drunk pastor who had been following him trips and breaks Dracula out of his tomb of ice. Dracula then decides to team up with this guy so they can get revenge on Ernest by getting his nephew, Maria. Will their nefarious plan succeed?

Dracula has just never been a good concept for a film. I still stand by that today. The writing is often terrible for these films and they just heavily rely on shock value the entire time. The heroes also never manage to stop him before he bites the main heroine so they’re simply too late. The fact that his victims all crumble into quivering children when faced with his power is also annoying. They’ll just start fainting and running away while in his presence which is not really the kind of thing you want to see from characters who are supposed to have strong wills. The pastor guy was drunk and apparently spineless from the start though so I suppose I shouldn’t use him as a base to judge anything.

Still, the characters are really annoying. First off we’ve got our lead Paul. He wants to leave a good impression with Maria’s folks since he is supposedly serious about her, but that doesn’t stop him from passing through the bar and deciding to drink a little. Naturally this doesn’t end well and he messes up the Uncle’s big return by ruining the mood. He decides to sulk by getting even more drunk and allowing himself to be ensnared by the waitress named Zena. He hardly resists her actions and just shrugs it off. Then when Maria actually needs his help he gets one shotted by Dracula several times. He missed with the fire shovel and then runs right into Dracula’s arms. Paul’s a terrible main character and I certainly couldn’t support him during the movie. He makes all of the wrong decisions and doesn’t come off as genuine. How do you lose so many battles in one film?

Unfortunately, Maria is just as bad. She gets mind controlled by Dracula and gets thrown into a dungeon by the waitress. The heroes get to her in time before anything drastic occurs and ask her what happened. Her response is to faint multiple times and to explain in the most cryptic and misleading ways possible. She doesn’t mention any of the people who were there, which puts the heroes at a disadvantage. Thanks to her weak mind, Dracula can also enter the house as she opens the windows for him. While not everyone can agree with me that mind control only works on the weak that quickly, we can all agree that she should have at least told everyone what happened the first time.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Ernest. He’s probably the only quality character in the film and even then he makes some of the same mistakes as the others. He is betrayed and knocked out to the point of death by the drunk. Later, we see the drunk arrive at his house with Paul (Paul invited him because he’s helpful like that) and instead of warning everyone that the guy is evil, Ernest faints from fright. It’s almost amusing since you Never see the old, experienced tough guy faint in a film like this one. It’s unheard of and also incredibly hard to wrap your head around this. It doesn’t make any sense and it feels like a lazy way for the writers to get Maria kidnapped. Otherwise there’s no way Dracula could have broken in.

Zena is the waitress and she’s certainly not a good character. She only exists to flirt with everyone and to get Paul on the wrong path. You know that she is doomed immediately since that always happens to these characters in horror films. Staying in the friend zone is typically the only way you’re safe. Zena didn’t and ultimately ended up paying the price. As for Dracula himself, he’s not really a cool villain at all. He blames all of his failings on Zena and doesn’t even look very good in combat. He shrinks away in fear whenever someone holds some fire or the cross. He trips over his own feet in the climax as he lands in his doom. He even sleeps in a coffin that’s in the basement of a busy bread shop so it’s easy for someone to murder him during the day. It’s almost hard to see why everyone fears him so much when the guy just isn’t very smart.

This film is also pretty violent as you would expect from a Hammer production. It really does its best to show blood whenever possible and lots of it. Everyone gushes blood as if we’re back in Bleach whenever they’re stabbed and you can tell that they’re just doing it because they can. The Vampire bites are still as iffy as ever and since the characters take so long so stop Dracula it can barely be counted as a win. The actual body count actually isn’t all that big in this film but the movie makes sure that each one gets enough screen time for two.

Overall, Dracula Returns is a pretty terrible film. The writing is lousy and the cast of characters are completely uninspired. There is nobody to root for and that is always a problem if you ask me. You won’t be able to stay invested in the film and the best way to get through it is to take a shot of water every time a character makes the worst move possible. Anything stronger than water and you’ll likely faint so try and stay safe. Still, I’d recommend watching many other films before I’d ever even consider this one. If you have to pick a Dracula film, at least pick the modern one from the new cinematic universe that Universal has been putting together. At least that one tries to stay classy.

Overall 1/10

The Haunting Review

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The Haunting is a film adaption of a book I read recently called the Haunting on Hill House. I’m assuming they thought the title would be too long which is why they shortened it. I don’t really care too much or really at all about that change but the movie makes a lot of other changes during its run and pretty much all of those are pretty bad. Whole characters are cut and bits of their personalities couldn’t get a chance to shine either. A movie adaption is almost always an abridged version of the book as it’s just hard to fit everything into a movie unless you make it two parts or very long. Still, the film could have done a much better job of sticking to the script.

The film starts off with a montage of murders as Hill House decides to clean up and murders a bunch of people. We then skip ahead a few decades as a professor wants to rent the place out to see if it is really haunted or not. His request is accepted on the condition that he brings along the future heir to the house to make sure the Professor doesn’t try to pull anything. He also hand picks a few individuals who have a history with the occult but only two people show up. First is Nel, a poltergeist survivor. The other one is Theo, a master of esp. Can this brave bunch prove that the House is haunted or has one of these individuals already been turned? Either way, staying alive could be rather difficult.

One of the main aspects of the book that I kept mentioning in my review is how strange all of the dialogue was. Everyone sounded really crazy throughout so it was always hard to tell what was going on. Was the house affecting all of their mentalities or where the characters already crazy? The movie doesn’t keep most of that in and instead portrays Nel as really shady right from the get go which changes the whole dynamic of the story. It’s less of a mystery now. I can’t say that I’m a fan of Nel in either versions but this one certainly seems a lot more villainous. She is willing to bump off her rivals so she can chase after the scientist and that romance plays a bigger role here than in the book which naturally makes her less of a sympathetic character since she appears desperate.

The movie also toned Theo down a lot. In the book she appears to enjoy the more brutal aspects of the case and has a morbid sense of of humor. While the film keeps in her taunts against Nel, most of her other lines are nowhere to be found. She is certainly one of the most enjoyable characters though and in the movie she is the best one. The handles the situations pretty well for the most part. The scene of her being terrified of the noises honestly seems rather out of character for her but I guess it’s hard to stay fearless in Hill House.

The Professor is also a lot weaker than his book counterpart thanks to Abel’s attempted romance plot. While he didn’t completely crack he did skate on some thin ice by the end and he could have done a much better job of handling the situation. Luke was pretty true to fork the whole time though. He doesn’t buy into the ghost business and talks a pretty good game the whole time. The movie cheats him out of his big scene where he saves Nel of course but I think most of his scenes still seemed to be in tact. It’s always good to have at least one skeptic in the group or they will just get scared too easily and that would just hurt the dynamic.

That’s why cutting out the other tough character was such a bad move though. In the book the wife arrives with a companion who has a gun at the ready and believes he is too sophisticated to be scared of ghosts. He actually doesn’t even end up being scared so it was an interesting way for his character arc to end. The Wife also looked a lot better as the ghosts couldn’t lay a hand on her. Even the Dudley’s were given a greatly reduced role which was unfortunate since they were the best characters in the book. Well, Ms. Dudley was the best anyway, the other guy was okay. The film even cut out the moment were Theo nearly ran the guy over. I can understand cutting the coffee scene near the beginning though. All in all the book just handled everything a lot better.

While the book is the better version that’s not to say that the movie is bad. The review has been negative so far because I’ve been comparing it to the book. It’s a little disappointing that if couldn’t do a better job of adapting it. That being said, it avoids most of the pitfalls that horror movies fall into. For starters there is no animal violence so that is a good thing. There isn’t even much in the way of normal violence which is nice. The opening can be a little dark with how everyone keeps dying but I think it does a good job of not being really graphic or anything like that.

The writing is still pretty solid. The characters talk like actual people and the dialogue is strong. The film does a good job of always keeping the atmosphere tense even if the characters do seem to overreact. I do think the Professor and Luke would have had a better time if the other two hadn’t shown up. While Theo and Nel panicked a lot, the other two were usually as cool as a Cucumber. Even then they weren’t quite as relaxed in the book. That does lead to one area where the film may beat the book. The pacing feels a lot quicker in the movie as things tend to happen more regularly. In the book it sometimes feels like nothing is happening and even after finishing the book it’s like not much occurred. In the movie since you could see things shaking and all it worked a lot better. At least I can give the film some kudos there. It’s still a slow burner but one that is a little more action packed.

Overall, The Haunted is a good horror film from the olden days. This was back when making a horror film was about atmosphere instead of content. I’ve spoken enough about the book so I won’t even say you should just read it instead of watching the movie. What I will say though is that this movie is worth checking out. It’s not perfect but it does a good job of encompassing what a horror film should be like and doesn’t make many mistakes in the process. That’s always the end goal in a film so since it keeps you entertained while all the way through as well, it’s a good movie. Watch it before you read the book to appreciate it more.

Overall 7/10

Summer of Fear Review

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It’s time for an old horror film that has not aged well in any shape of form. “So what are we looking at Bob?” “Well, this film has your usual horror tropes. We have an animal death, rebound characters, a villain who is more interested in seducing than murdering people, no character acting sensible…etc” “Maybe we should say these tropes are just common in bad films then?” “Sounds about right. The film does have a big car chase at the end at least” “Bold move Phil…lets see how it plays out!”

The film starts off with our introduction to Rachel. Her life is pretty complete now as she’s together with the cool kid on campus, Mike, and is even going to enter the big horse competition. She’s got it made, but then news arrives that Julia is going to be staying with her family. Julia’s parents died in a car crash, but Julia managed to live. When she arrives, Rachel’s horse tries to murder her, but is quickly stopped. Something seems off about Julia. Rachel doesn’t know if its the occult possessions that she has around like the cursed marionettes, old horse manes, teeth, etc, or if it’s the fact that everyone seems to be strangely attracted too her. Rachel doesn’t care too much, but slowly Julia starts to take everything away from her. Can Rachel out Julia as a witch or will she simply be destroyed?

The film’s definitely a real slow burner, but it’s one that never feels like you’re building up to something hype. You’ll just be wondering where it all went wrong instead. First off, a teenage girl infiltrating the house as a witch doesn’t even sound all that scary on paper. The film doesn’t go for the scare factor until the final minutes either where Julia shows off her true form. It’s more grotesque than scary, but I guess I’ll give the film some kudos for trying. Julia also has some basic magic powers at her disposal. These include telekinesis, mild super strength, and attraction abilities. She’s just not too smart about using them and instead of holding the main characters in place or something, she drives after them. Since Julia never earned her driver’s license legitimately, she wasn’t prepared for the sharp turns on the mountain. Someone should have told her about the hand brakes.

I definitely couldn’t take her seriously as a villain and what was even her goal? It sounds like she planned to murder them all anyway, but why not do it immediately and then move on? She had dozens of opportunities to pull it off. If her goal was to simply make Rachel’s life miserable and then murder everyone, it’s an unnecessarily risky plan. Rachel could have done something drastic like try to murder Julia in her sleep or people may have found out and stopped her. As it is, Rachel’s Mom started to grow weary of the situation. She didn’t handle it well either, but more on that later. Julia’s just not a very smart antagonist, or even a particularly strong one.

I didn’t like Rachel either. Noticing that Julia had a picture of her with sores and then having it happen should have been the big tip off. The horse tooth/mane as well. Instead Rachel would go about it in the worst way possible like yelling about it in front of everyone so they think she’s crazy. Then letting Mike go off with Julia to the dance wasn’t a good move either. Finally, Rachel got a picture of Julia to prove that she was a witch, but instead of convincing the Mom to develop it she starts stating her accusations. Before calling someone a witch, you should probably think all of the angles through. It’s just worth a few extra moments to think of a more surefire plan if you ask me. She could have made a deal with the Mom like saying she’d try harder to bond with Julia if she had a picture. So much for that though.

The Dad looks pretty terrible since he falls for Julia’s charms and gets mind controlled. The same goes for Mike since mind controlled or not, he went for the rebound right away. Mind Control isn’t really an excuse that I buy into. The Mom notices that the Dad starts to be unfaithful, but she does absolutely nothing about it. At the very least you’d want her to get Julia out of there or to confront her. She just cries about it and leaves town for some shopping. Not the best way to handle the situation, but it’s a good way to leave Julia unsupervised in a house of potential targets.

As I mentioned earlier, to add injury to an already broken film, a horse dies. Julia got it out of the way because it knew the truth about her. If only Rachel had acted sooner this could have been avoided, but not this time since everyone was too slow. It’s definitely a pretty annoying scene. It’s reminiscent of the whole film though as you’ll be annoyed throughout the movie. None of the characters are on the same page and as a result Julia just walks all over them. It was also awfully convenient that nobody knew how Julia was supposed to look so they didn’t know she was actually someone else. I’ll assume there was no mind wipe here so it was just a plot device.

No worries, there is a twist ending here. I can’t say that it’s very thrilling and I suppose you’ll only get a kick out of it if you’re a big Julia fan. You just know that this next family isn’t going to fare too well against Julia either. You could argue that their best chance is to be totally oblivious to her, but she’ll still murder them anyway so it’s a lose-lose situation. At least the cops took the situation in stride so maybe one of them will recall the former case and attack Julia. More likely he’ll turn over his badge to her though so you can’t count on that.

Overall, This film was definitely a flop. It never even feels like a horror film and is instead like a very poorly written drama. There’s no intensity here, just bad characters and writing. I think the only character that seemed to be okay was Rachel’s best friend from the hospital. She was reasonable and much more likable than the others. It’s probably for the best that she didn’t appear much or things may not have ended well for her. We had the occult professor who knew about Julia’s tricks, but still didn’t do anything to stop her from defeating him. His only purpose in the film is to confirm Rachel’s fears, but we didn’t need him in the film. She would have been forced to accept the situation at some point anyway. There’s just not much to like about this film and I can’t see any reason why someone would want to check it out. I’d highly recommend you avoid this film as much as possible. It’s not good as a horror film or as a romance title. It’s just a film that you want to forget as quickly as possible.

Overall 2/10

Barracuda Review

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It’s time for a government conspiracy film that hides itself as an animal horror for the start. It’s definitely pretty interesting and actually handles itself for the most part. It is a slow burner so don’t expect a fast paced film or anything, but the payoff is good. Keep in mind that the film is rather mean spirited though so it is absolutely not for everyone. The overall message is definitely “Don’t mess with Corporate”

The film starts off with a group of kids breaking into a private facility so they can test if the water is good or not. They want to prove that the corporation has been messing with the water for their own personal gain. Naturally they are escorted off the premises, but Mike manages to keep a sample. He finds strange ingredients in the water. Meanwhile, Barracudas have been attacking any human who decides to go for a swim and even the inhabitants of the town are starting to act very angry at each other. Everyone is snapping at just about everything so something just doesn’t seem right. Sheriff Ben decides that the town is going to need Mike, but can they really defy this evil business scheme?

Lets open the can of worms right away. If you came here for the Barracuda, then you’re not going to have a good time. After the intro scenes they basically vanish for the rest of the film. They’re just used as a tool to show you that something is wrong with the water. Considering that it’s why Mike came here in the first place, he takes a very long time to figure this out. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to believe that this is the case for whatever reason. Still, the proof is in the pudding and they have to accept that corporate has stepped up. Here’s where things get tricky though.

As it is, the Sheriff mentions that the private henchmen of the rich guy down the block have started to get a little too intense. They’re basically breaking laws, but are still untouchable because they are privately employed. This leads to the final scene where we realize that everyone has been paid off. It’s an intense moment, but one that the heroes could have handled better. I’ll keep the spoilers to this paragraph so skip the rest of it if necessary. All righty then, time to press on with the spoilers. The government shows up with a squad of FBI cars and shoots the main characters down. They shoot down all of the witnesses during the movie and just relocate the mission. The rest of the town doesn’t know that they were poisoned and they won’t ever know either. The government made it clear that if anyone gets close to finding out the truth they’ll be silenced without a second thought. There’s definitely no gray area here, the government is portrayed as being completely evil and they’re proud of it.

There’s a lot of tension throughout the film which is handled well. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the cast is quite as solid. Ben was a good sheriff and he was reasonable the whole time. He didn’t want anyone fooling around with his city, not on his watch. Mike wasn’t quite as good. Sure, I get the whole standing up against corporate thing, but if you have to do this by breaking a bunch of laws and being confrontational with everyone, then you’re doing it wrong. He’s pretty annoying whenever he’s on screen and don’t get me started on his romance with the main heroine. They bond almost instantly upon meeting up even though he’s rather mean and sarcastic to her the whole time. He was probably trying to be funny, but I wouldn’t say that it worked. He’s also rather naive like when he left his experiment in the lab all night while he went to rest. Of course it was going to get sabotaged. Even if you ignore the whole conspiracy angle where everyone is out to get him, he knows that the corporate guys who made the fish aren’t going to stand up for this. If you leave them an empty room, they’re going to make a move.

A few people die against the Barracuda, but I don’t believe it was all that violent. The scenes are very quick and the movie doesn’t really swell on them. Should the Beach have been closed immediately? Yes, but the town isn’t quite that quick. The town will get on your nerves after a while as well since everyone is rather gullible. There’s no way they could know that the water is tampered with, but someone should have noticed that the company was up to no good. Was nobody monitoring them at all even though it was their only supply of water? I guess the town is optimistic, but that’s not a good thing when taken to the extreme.

It’s a very unique movie and at the end of the day, it’ll all depend on if you find the situation annoying or engaging. Which side wins will determine if you enjoy the film or not. I personally found it to be pretty interesting and the writing was also pretty good. The film’s aged pretty well even if the characters have not. I think adding in one or two good characters would have earned the film an extra star. After all, the main annoying part of the movie is that the heroes never seem to have a chance against the villains. Throwing in someone who could fight and would get into the gunfights with the enemies would have changed the whole situation quite drastically.

Overall, The film is incredibly misleading from the posters and title, but that’s not a bad thing. I actually think I liked this film more this way than I would have if it was about the Barracuda since it probably would have led to animal violence and been more graphic in general. Since the enemies were human, it made for more mind games and stuff instead of people just getting eaten. There’s not a lot of action either way, but the climax is fun. It can also be unintentionally funny as everyone keeps missing shot after shot and they’re also casual about it, but I appreciated the attempt at a real thrilling conclusion. If this film sounds up your alley then you should go for it. I’d recommend the film and it’s fairly obscure so you can mention this to score brownie points with film buffs.

Overall 6/10

Insidious: Chapter 3 Review

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It’s time to step into the final part of the Insidious Trilogy. This prequel helps fill in the gaps from the first two and leads into the first one. It’s a pretty solid horror film and still sets a nice bar for others to follow. It’s a shame that most horror films still manage to mess it up and stumble down the finish line. As long as this series continues, there is hope for the genre though.

So, Quinn visits an old psychic’s house because she wants to talk to her mom. The psychic is named Elise and the old lady warns Quinn not to do this. Elise breaks down and decides a few minutes couldn’t hurt though. Unfortunately she was wrong and instead of the mother, a demon answers. Quinn is now being haunted by it. Unless the spirit is defeated quickly, it would appear that Quinn’s days are numbered.

Quinn is essentially the main character but you can also say that she shares the role with Elise. She seems like a nice enough person even if her plan to talk to her dead Mother is probably not a good idea. We do have the phrase “rest in peace” for a reason after all. Quinn does her best to help around the house as well while also making time for her singing career. Naturally once the spirit is after her this all gets a little tricky. I didn’t really have any qualms with her.

Her Dad Sean is also all right. He probably gives Quinn too many responsibilities which stresses her out, but I don’t feel like he was being malicious about it. He’s also being overwhelmed at the moment and trying to cope with raising two kids on his own. He certainly could do a better job of it and listen to Quinn more though. He has more faults than Quinn but at the end of the day he is a lot better than he could have been. I am glad that the film let him find out that the demon was real very quickly instead of just doubting Quinn the whole time since that gets old fast.

Elise has been a big character during all of the Insidious movies. Naturally this one was no exception but as it took place before the others she isn’t as powerful initially as you may expect. She is plagued by doubts and a lot of hesitation but gradually gets back to being on top of things. Re learning that being alive gives you a good advantage over the dead was definitely something that makes a lot of sense. While the fight scenes weren’t heavily stylized like an action film or anything, it was cool to see her throw some of the demons around.

You rarely see the humans do much of anything against the spirits so it is always satisfying. She uses trapdoors to her advantage and resists the choke hold that the demons have at their disposal. At this point Elise quickly became the strongest human in the series and basically feels untouchable. At least until the ending of course. As with most horror films this one has a twist ending. Let’s just say that one of the future villains decides to pay his respects and remind her of the pecking order. It was definitely a little unfortunate for Elise since she had just gone through a whole character arc of getting her confidence back along with a boost in strength but it was all negated in an instant. It’s good hype for the villain of course, but you can definitely see how it’s tragic for her.

The villains from the past films also completely overshadow the main one the instant that they appear. I really couldn’t take this villain too seriously because of his underwhelming design. He just doesn’t look like he can put up any kind of fight and the weak design prevents him from being scary as well. You just can’t imagine this guy taking anyone down in a fight, especially since he can barely breath without his mask. The guy just doesn’t stand a chance against any of the real opponents in his path. While I don’t like the old lady villain, it was interesting to see him make a cameo. He definitely got some hype since it didn’t really seem like Elise could take him down even in her prime here. She is definitely lucky that they didn’t have to fight. The Red Mask villain also looked pretty good in his appearance and it’s safe to say that she wouldn’t have been able to beat him either. It’s definitely impressive how formidable the series has made its villains.

As always, the effects for the spirit dimension are really solid. The rules that are established for the place are thought over pretty well. If I have any gripes, it’s that all of the normal ghosts seem pretty powerless while only the evil ones stay strong. Why can’t we have a hero who died and then decided to be a heroic ghost? That’d be a neat twist and even if the films suddenly became action thrillers instead, I could roll with that. As it stands, the idea of demons camping the spawn points of the humans for the rituals is a cool idea too though. Elise stayed away from it for years, but the instant she went back the villains were still ready. That’s definitely a lot of determination there.

There aren’t a bunch of jump scares or anything, but we get a reasonable amount. The only real weakness for the film would probably be some of the supporting characters. The random guy who waited until Quinn broke her leg to unleash his pun felt like filler. Quinn’s best friend also didn’t have much of a role. Giving these characters quick cameos instead of drawn out scenes is the best bet I suppose, but they didn’t really need to appear. All of the human scenes just don’t feel eventful next to the hype supernatural stuff.

The two comic relief supernatural experts are always interesting to have around. In a sense it’s impressive how they can suddenly make the whole atmosphere light and happy when it was super serious just a moment ago. It’s hard to feel scared when they’re around. After all, the guys may be incompetent, but at least they can still serve as shields if the demons come along. Moreover, it’s just hard to imagine the comic relief characters being destroyed so it lightens the atmosphere.

Overall, Insidious 3 was better than I thought it would be. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised since the series was always more memorable than other horror films and rarely went for the low hanging fruit. Give the film some extra credit for having a dog appear in various scenes, but nothing happens to him. Now that’s quality. This is a horror film that I would actually recommend and you know how rare that is so it says a lot about the film.

Overall 6/10

The Haunting of Hill House Review

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The Haunting on Hill House is definitely a unique adventure. The characters are all rather calm about the situation but in a rather odd way. Every character seems to be crazy already which is probably why they were invited to begin with. Hill House definitely doesn’t pull any punches once night occurs.

The plot starts off with Montague deciding to head off to Hill House to run some experiments. He decides to invite a few people with supernatural experience since he could use some backup and perhaps they will sense something he could not. These characters are Eleanor and Theodora. Luke also comes since he owns the house while Montague is merely renting it. Is the house haunted or is it merely in the minds of the characters? That’s left for you to decide as things get a little crazy but one thing’s for sure, things will never be the same for these chaps once they leave.

So like I mentioned earlier, the dialogue is all very off. Likely an intentional decision so it’s not bad writing but it does make you wonder about the characters and how far from reality they are. For example, the maid has a tendency of repeating herself and telling the same things to everyone no matter who they are. She may have been the best character to be honest. As she said, supper is served on the dot and she leaves before dark. She has her iron clad rules and doesn’t deviate from them no matter what. You have to admire her dedication and the rest of the characters quickly learned how the system worked that way. Her husband wasn’t quite as fun and only showed up once so he definitely wasn’t meant to be a big character. His threats worked pretty well on the main character but no one else was going to be messed with.

That’s one thing I liked about Montague. Since he rented the house, he always talks about how the others need to know their place. That being said, he is all talk and never actually does anything about it. He does his best to keep the group together and might be the best character in the book. Luke is fairly good as well. He doesn’t believe in ghosts as much as the rest of them and never even gets scared by what is happening in the house. He takes it all in stride and seems to genuinely enjoy the experience. At least someone was having fun right?

Eleanor is the main character by unfortunately she is the worst one. She suffers from low confidence the whole time and doubts every move that she’s makes. Eleanor also basically goes crazy early on but you could make the case that she was already like that when the book began. It would explain her point of view for the book and everyone’s reactions to some of her antics. I imagine she didn’t act quite the same as she claims too. She really put up resistance to leaving the gang by the end and then her sudden finish seals the deal. She was amusing at least though. Definitely a creepy person to be around if you were actually in the house though.

Theodora was definitely the most intense character. She is very outgoing unlike the others and can be very morbid which is an interesting combination. She gets along with everyone even if she finds Eleanor to be too clingy. Towards the end the two do start to subtly insult each other a lot but I’m probably on Theodora’s side here since Eleanor was trying to invite herself over which is never the polite thing to do. Just because you meet a friend on a job doesn’t necessarily mean you suddenly want to have them around all the time. Eleanor did her best to get everyone against her.

I can’t speak for any possible adaptions but in the book at least I think it’s safe to say that the house was not haunted. Most of the tricks could be explained with science like how the building was slanted and that’s why the doors would close. Everything adds up this way. Any possible noises during the night were probably just Eleanor panicking and trying to scare everyone.

Honestly if I had been invited to the house, I probably would have had a blast. The main characters did very little investigating if you think about it and spent most of the time just having picnics and playing chess. Essentially it was like a vacation with free food. In a time without electronics that definitely seems like a fun experience since the things in town may have gotten old by that point.

Overall, The Haunting at Hill House is truly a unique book. I don’t think you will find a cast of characters quite like that one for a while. It’s an engaging atmosphere with how mysterious the air is and all of the strange dialogue being thrown around. I think I would have preferred for the book to have been shown through another character’s point of view although that would run the risk of changing the whole dynamic of the book. Anyway, I’d recommend checking out the book. It’s also pretty short so it won’t take you too long and the pacing is pretty tight. Whether you think the supernatural element is there or if it’s all in Eleanor’s head, it’s a fun story.

Overall 7/10

Dracula: Prince of Darkness Review

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Time for more Dracula! This film actually had the best beginning out of all the Dracula films which was quite impressive. For a little while there, I actually began to think that this film could actually be good. The second half falls back down the rails into terrible territory but at least it actually tried this time. If only the film had stuck to being a slice of life with a few jump scares instead of a nitty gritty vampire film. Don’t we have enough of those anyway?

The film starts off with a bunch of savages about to impale a girl who’s already dead. They want to make sure she stays that way. A passing preacher/evangelist stops them with his pocket gun and tough negotiating skills. He then heads to a cabin where we meet the Kents. 4 people are going on a big tour of the world and are having fun stopping at all of the various bars. He warns them not to go to a castle coming up since it’s evil. To their credit, half of the party listens. The 4 people are Alan, Helen, Charles, and Diana. Helen really doesn’t want to go inside and Diana isn’t fond of doing so either. Luckily a carriage comes along so Charles proposes that they get on it and head for the next town. Unfortunately the Horses are uncontrollable and quickly take the heroes to the castle. It appears to be empty, but a butler remains.

Helen continues to believe that something bad is going to happen and her fears are put to rest as Alan is destroyed and she goes next. Unlike Alan, she is at least given the pleasure of becoming a fellow vampire who will serve Dracula. Dracula wants Diana next, but Charles intends to put up a fight to save her. Charles and Diana head to the old guy from the intro and hide in his church, but the Church has a traitor who works for Dracula and the guy invites him in. It’s now a desperate battle for time, can Dracula be stopped!?

I really did like the intro. The first 30-40 minutes are basically the heroes bickering among themselves and just enjoying the hospitality once they get into the castle. You know that it’s not going to end well for them but at least they are having fun in the meantime. Charles is a pretty good character as he’s not a nervous wreck like the rest of the heroes and doesn’t mind taking charge. Diana may not be as brave, but she always stands by Charles. Alan and Helen aren’t quite as good. Helen is extremely nervous of everything to the point of paranoia which gets old fast and Alan just barely seems like a character. He’s just along for the ride for the most part. Still, it’s a fun group dynamic. These are actually characters that I can get behind and it’s just an entertaining intro.

Then Dracula shows up and things get messy. First of all, the film is quite violent. The Hammer films in general are always a little more intense and this one is no exception. One character basically bleeds to death which takes a while and it’s on screen. Another character gets impaled with a stake on screen. Ironically, Dracula’s death at the end is the least violent since he simply slips on some ice and freezes to his doom. Not exactly the way you’d imagine the famous Prince of Darkness to go out. I’m aware of the Garlic and the Cross as counters to Dracula even if the former never works. I never heard about Vampires drowning in clear water though. I never assumed they could breath underwater, but it’s actually a weakness now? The deck is really stacked against Dracula since he is quite slow and is weak to just about everything under the sun. Good luck beating any more humans at this rate count.

The traitor inside of the Church was annoying as well. He’s a prisoner as they even say to take him back to his cell, but people still take orders from him? Clearly the guy isn’t the only crazy in the place. It’s also awfully convenient how many empty rooms are in the Church so it’s easy for Dracula to sneak around. I was hoping there would be more people running around trying to stop him. It’s also annoying how quick the hypnosis works on Diana. It’s essentially instantaneous which isn’t surprising, but still not all that great. Where is the will power in all of this?

As a side note, this is probably the worst Dracula design. The red eyes just make him look super weak and then the actual movie certainly doesn’t do anything to dissuade you of that notion. Anyone can out run him and while he has super strength, he tends to let his opponents go. He’s also lucky that Alan was quite naive and not too smart as he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten resurrected in the first place. The heroes make a bunch of bad calls throughout the movie. In another scene they see the butler with a baseball bat or some kind of knife, but just shrug. All 4 of them agree that the butler seems crazy and likely dangerous, but they are still fine with sleeping in the manor. At worst they should have just overpowered him and then gone to sleep. They could have woke up the next day with a “Nothing personal” story and that would have worked. Well, I suppose at least some of them got the last laugh in the end so that’s a start.

Overall, This film is really just more of the same. Once Dracula shows up you can switch the footage with any other Dracula film and it’s basically the same. The film goes through the same beats as he takes the heroes down one by one but then plot armor comes to help the heroes. Dracula gets Charles in his grasp at one point, but then throws him away. He completely had the victory sealed up there, but lets him get away. Why would he do that? Seems like it was a bad move to me. Ah well, I’d recommend staying away from this film. You can watch other Dracula films that aren’t as over the top violent and at the end of the day, vampires are past their prime anyway. If you don’t mind stopping early, then the film is quite good if you just watch right up til Alan says he is going to check downstairs. Stop the film right there and it’s a solid 7/10 with a good cast and solid writing. If every film ended as well as it started, a lot of scores would be quite different in the horror genre.

Overall 2/10

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

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It’s time for a film based on a controversial case in Germany. Essentially there was a girl who was having visions and started acting crazy. Some believed she was possessed by a demon while others believed that she had psychosis and needed medication. She decided to go with the exorcism strategy instead, but it failed and so she ended up dying. The film focused on the court case which followed this while relying on flashbacks to fill in the gaps of the past.

It’s definitely not my kind of movie. Well, to address the case, I’m going to assume that she was simply very sick and not possessed. The topic of possession is always very complicated. I’m personally of the opinion that Christians cannot get possessed. At least not in the current age. It’s possible in the past that a Christian could get possessed as a test of faith or a way to illustrate God’s power to others. A child was possessed in the old testament after all, but there are two reasonings for it that wouldn’t necessarily go against my theory. One is that as she was a child, she had not yet become a born again Christian. As such she did not have any protection yet. Of course, even if she died while being possessed that wouldn’t doom her to Hell as another belief I have is that if you have not yet been given a chance to become a Christian before your death, then you still may if you would have become one. Since God knows the future, it’s conceivable (And probable) that he takes this into account. After all, it wouldn’t be very fair if you died in a bombing when you were 3 years old and must now go to Hell. It’s an exception depending on how you look at it or just simply a case of God knowing where you should be going and sending you there.

The other way the child could have been possessed is simply because Jesus had not yet died and so we weren’t given the Holy Spirit. I believe that our protection is a lot stronger now since through Jesus death on the cross we all received the Holy Spirit. Before that, times were certainly tougher even though you shouldn’t worry about the tribulations since it will all be worth it in the long run.

The girl was stated to be a devout Christian who was a Catholic. In this case that means she still believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also believes the Pope and the Church to have greater power than the average person and can be a way to salvation. That gets a little murky since Jesus is the one and only way to Christ, but I’m not here to debate Catholic vs Christian beliefs and haven’t studied up on it enough to ensure I wouldn’t make mistakes. I’ll just say that all of this gives me plenty of reason to doubt that she was possessed. I personally think she was just suffering from psychosis and had a lot of bad hallucinations that caused her to believe this. The mind is pretty powerful so hallucinations can absolutely seem real to the individual who is being affected by them.

It’s definitely a sad story and a pretty awful way to go. I suppose the film does a good job of showing how bad the whole situation is. Naturally the flashbacks go for the “demon is real” route since if it went too ambiguous it wouldn’t be much of a movie and this can also make the scenes more intense. The dream of sacrificing yourself to help others see the light doesn’t really seem like something the Virgin Mary would say. I also don’t remember her becoming an angel…..but it made for an intriguing scene. I believe that self sacrifice and suffering is a big part of the Catholic religion but hopefully that doesn’t fall into the being saved by works as opposed to repentance but again I’m starting to digress. Lets move on from that.

Back to the film. The court scenes are handled pretty well with the lawyers getting sarcastic and the Judge being fed up with both of them. It leads to a lot of back and forth even if some of the witnesses do seem kind of eccentric themselves. I just like court room scenes and whether the witnesses bring up valid points or not, I just like the atmosphere. If the whole film had been the court scenes then I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more.

Overall, This film is based on a real event enough so that I won’t give it an actual score. If you want to learn more about the case I’d recommend watching a documentary or following along through online. After all, if you watch the film you’re simply getting a very dramatized enactment of the story where you can’t trust the facts quite as much. I suppose the theatrical visuals will make it more entertaining but if you really want to learn about the topic, odds are that you’ll want to go straight to the source. 90% of the time that’s the best way to go about it. It’s not a super violent film or anything, but it does go into detail and again, it is trying for shock value and gritty realism so bear that in mind. As for me, I’ll just keep being thankful that my court case wasn’t too graphic. It was kind of rigged…but that’s a story for another day.