The Shrine

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A young journalist and friends travel to a remote village in Poland to find out more about a string of  tourists disappearing in the area.  Upon their arrival they’re greeted by hostile locals and a religious cult willing to do anything to keep visitors away from the strange fog emanating from the forest.

Spoilers

What I liked:

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I wasn’t expecting much going in but the story surprised me a lot and I liked it.  It was very atmospheric and creepy.  The reporter Carmen, her cameraman and boyfriend Marcus, and her colleague Sara, come to this village to find out more about a guy that went missing here while his luggage was found at an airport he never even visited.  They read the guys journal and see that he spoke of a strange fog sitting in one spot in the forest next to the village he’d been in.  When they arrive at the village they’re met with hostility from the locals who just want them to leave.  Instead, they sneak into the forest at night and Carmen and Sara enter the fog.

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the shrine statue

Inside they see a strange statue of a demon holding a heart.  We never get to see Saras experience but with Carmen we see that the statue is supernatural.  She looks at it and takes a picture of it, then moves to the other side of it to take another picture.  When she looks up at it again she sees that the statue has turned its head towards her.  The eyes of the statue then start to bleed and the stone heart in its hand starts to beat.  The group exits the forest where they again encounter the villagers.  The trio is captured and it is then determined that Carmen and Sara will be unwilling participants in a ritual sacrifice.  Sara is executed first when she’s stripped and dressed in a gown and has an ornamental mask with spikes protruding from the eye area hammered into her skull.  Marcus, who was being made to dig his own grave elsewhere, escapes and arrives to save Carmen and the two escape.

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They break into a families home in an attempt to steal their truck so that they can finally leave.  This is where the movie reveals its twist.  While inside with the family, Carmen begins to hallucinate that everyone is a demonic creature and after her.  She retreats to another room where Marcus follows.  Marcus finds himself alone in the room and trapped as the doors are locked.  He then hears the family screaming as they’re being brutally killed.  Once he’s finally able to leave the room he’s attacked by Carmen, whos possessed.  The rest of the villagers arrive and proceed to execute the same ritual that they performed on Sara on Carmen.  Unfortunately Carmen manages to kill a few of them in the process.  Marcus ends up assisting the villagers in their ritual when he realizes what’s been happening all along. the shrine

The twist was the the villagers were actually the good guys.  Carmen and Sara, as well as the missing guy and several tourist before him had all entered the forest and looked at the demonic statue, which allows the demon to possess them.  The ritual that the villagers performs is the only way to save those who’ve seen it and prevent the destruction and death that the demon causes.

What also played into the creepy atmosphere that isn’t used much today is the lack of subtitles for the parts where the villagers were speaking Polish.  It puts you in the same confused state as the other actors because unless you speak Polish as well, you have no idea whats going on or what they’re planning for them.  It makes the nature of the rituals they do all the more mysterious and its pretty effective.

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I was also a fan of the effects used in this movie.  The horror effects were all done practically and they were good and gory.  The demonic faces when the women were hallucinating looked like cheap costume masks but they way they were used in the film made it passable.  There was a lot of blood and body parts strewn about when Carmen became fully possessed and I thought it added to the fear factor of what she had become and why the villagers had been doing their rituals over the years and their hostility towards outsiders.

What I didn’t like:

The acting ranged from average to awful.  The characters gave wooden performances  like there was no emotion behind what they were doing.  Sometimes I felt like they could be reading from cue cards or something because of their dry delivery.  The best acted character was one of the villagers in my opinion.  He had more feeling and better delivery in his lines than everyone else.

Final thoughts:

The Shrine is a surprisingly good movie that flew under the radar, most likely due to the low budget.  It’s an ambitious alternate take on the familiar theme in horror movies of demonic possession, or dangerous religious cults.  The story is pretty good as well as the special effects, the only thing that brings it down a bit is the mediocre acting.  All in all, this is a good movie and worthy of a watch.

7/10

-Andre

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Splinter

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A romantic camping trip goes awry when a couple is car jacked and held hostage by a dangerous criminal and his strung out girlfriend as they attempt to evade the law.  The situation gets worse for them once they find themselves trapped in a gas station with a gruesome monster standing between them and safety.

Spoilers

What I liked:

The acting in this was solid all around.  Dennis, the carjacker, was the best acted character in my opinion, while Polly and her boyfriend Seth were solid as well.  I usually gripe about characters being dumbed down to make things interesting but what I liked about this movie was that they established early on that Seth was a coward, he was more interested in science than anything else and it played into his choices he made in the movie.

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For instance, there was a scene where Dennis is outside of the gas station trying to retrieve his girlfriends corpse because he thinks she’s still alive.  Polly justly wanted to lock him out and just leave him for dead.  This guy kidnapped them at gunpoint, hit Polly, and threatened to kill them at several points and they had no idea whether he would go through with it or not, especially after his girlfriend was killed.  Meanwhile, Seth is yelling at Polly to let the guy back into the gas station because he’s afraid the guy will shoot them through the glass even though they could just hide behind something.  Theres also another scene where the creatures severed arm is smashed but Seth uncovers it so that he can study it, when it’s still a threat to them all, as getting stuck by a single spike is enough to turn an entire person.

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I was a big fan of the creature effects in this.  Practical effects made the creatures look gory, horrific, and real.  This was pure body horror and it was great.  The creature is some kind of slime mold that infects animals and kills them while using their corpse as a zombie to attack and infect others.  The coolest part came when the creature would absorb other creatures into its current host.  You’d have this massive creature covered in blood with black spikes jutting out of it everywhere and it’d look like a person with another person randomly mixed in.  Also, despite being in a human host, the creature didn’t move like a human at all.  It sort of moved around on all fours like an agitated animal and it looked great.  At points in the movie it’s even capable of ripping off some of its limbs which still function as normal and try to attack people.  It was like looking at Thing from the Addams Family, only its covered in blood and has black spikes protruding from it.

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What I didn’t like:

For all the trouble the production crew went through for their amazing creature effects, it was ruined by the horrible camera work.  I can tell that the creature looked amazing from the clear glimpses of it that are visible.  The sad part is, whenever the creature was attacking someone the camera would be all over the place to the point where it was too difficult to tell what was even happening on-screen.  There would also be way too many cuts during this time, I counted over thirty in a short scene lasting less than fifteen seconds.  For the movie to have such good creature design, only to ruin it with bad camera work is really disappointing.  My guess is that it had to be budgetary reasons that they couldn’t show the creature as clearly as possible.

Aside from Seth’s stupid decisions that fit in with his character, the movie did fall back on some common horror tropes such as cops being useless, and it was kind of hilarious as a result.  At one point when everyone is stuck in the gas station they hear the creature that used to be Dennis’s girlfriend on the roof of the building trying to find a way in.  While tracking it through the building they come to the front door and find that there’s a cop there with her gun drawn yelling at Dennis that she’s going to take him in and that Polly and Seth are finally safe.  So for a minute or so, this cop stays outside the locked door with her gun pointed at Dennis, telling him that he’s going to jail.  Meanwhile Polly and Seth are yelling at her that she isn’t safe and she should get back into her car.  No one offered to unlock the doors and let her into the building for some reason, I mean if she was planning on arresting Dennis she’d have to enter at some point or have him come out to her.  She attempts to radio for help at the insistence of Polly and Seth and is unable to get a response.  Still continuing to stand in the same spot and do nothing she’s attacked by the creature and killed.  The thing splits her in two and absorbs her top half, making her a part of it.  It was hilarious because within a second of her showing up on-screen I could already tell she was gonna die.  Why is it that cops never listen to what people are warning them of in horror movies?  Even if she didn’t believe them that there was something outside with her, would it have hurt her to try to enter the building?

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Final Thoughts:

Overall I was surprised that I liked Splinter.  It was a made for TV movie and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those that I liked.  Splinter had a good plot, the acting was good, and the effects were great.  Unfortunately I felt cheated by the camera work.  This is a monster movie and they were stingy with the monster.  This was sadly a movie with great potential that had it ruined by something easily fixable.

6/10

-Andre

Bird Box

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A mysterious occurrence creeps over the world’s population.  No one knows what it is or what causes it, the only thing that’s certain is that those that see it are compelled to suicide.  The few remaining survivors must then struggle to exist in a world they must navigate through while blinded in order to survive.

Spoilers

What I liked:

The acting in this ranged from good to great.  Sandra Bullock as Malorie the protagonist put forth a great effort as a single mother trying to keep herself and two children alive during the apocalypse.  I liked her character arc as she went from a reluctant, unattached pregnant mother to five years later being the guardian of two children she tries to distance herself from but ultimately comes to love as her children.  For instance, she literally names the children Girl and Boy as well as makes them call her by her first name.  At one point she had a decision to make where while traveling in a boat down the river they would hit rapids and someone would HAVE to look in order to help her navigate.  She decides that it has to be one of the kids, Boy initially volunteers to look and she tells him no and that she will decide.  She then stares at Girl for a bit.  In a flashback we learn that Boy is in fact her biological son, whereas Girl is the child of a fellow survivor whose mother died immediately after birth.  Her immediate refusal to allow Boy to be the one to look and prolonged look at Girl made me feel like she would be more comfortable with Girl being the one to sacrifice herself since she didn’t feel like she was her mother.  There was also a scene where everyone ends up separated from one another and once Malorie and Boy are reunited and calling for Girl, Boy tells her that Girl is afraid of her.  Despite all of the hardships, once they make it to a sanctuary Malorie finally gives the two children names.  Girl is named Olympia, after her birth mother while Boy is given the name Tom, after the man who served as their surrogate father until he died before they reached sanctuary.  Other than Bullock the rest of the cast gave a good performance, but nothing really stood out to me.

I was also a fan of the monsters, demons, spirits, or whatever they were.  Even though the movie never specifies what it is or even if there is an actual creature, I liked the concept.  I like to think that it has to be some kind of sentient life form since it can not only make people see their worst fears, it can speak to them and try to manipulate them into removing their blindfolds and looking at it.  It has an element of Lovecraftian horror to it, in that there are cosmic beings that are so beyond human comprehension that merely laying eyes on them will drive a human mind to insanity or worse.  The closest thing we get to seeing what the monsters might look like is through the drawings of Gary and a creeping shadow over one of the video monitors from an earlier characters death.  It’s the unknown aspect that I like best about it.  It allows you to come up with your own interpretation of what you think the characters might be seeing.  I prefer this approach rather than if the movie had spent all this time hyping up the monster only for it to be disappointing.  It may not be something that works for everyone but it worked for me in this case.

What I didn’t like:

The inconsistencies in this are glaring.  For instance, the monsters and their effect on people.  With the vast majority of the population looks at one, their eyes morph before they kill themselves.  For some reason that’s never explained, crazy people are able to look at them without being driven to suicide or practically any ill effects, yet they’re driven to force other people to look at the creatures.  The movie shows us several of the crazies, all of which have seen the creatures, yet some of them have the morphed eyes and some don’t.  Take Gary for example, he shows up outside of the home the survivors have holed up in and when they let him in, he appears normal and even has normal eyes.  By the next day or so we see his eyes morph as he starts drawing his pictures of the monsters.  I thought it could have been due to seeing the pictures as we saw a character have the suicide response from looking at a creature through a security monitor, yet another character looks at the same pictures that Gary does to no effect.  So how was Gary able to hide his morphed eyes, or was there a delayed response to seeing the creatures somehow?  There’s a group of crazies that drive around in cars and they don’t have the morphed eyes, yet Malorie encounters a crazy on the river that does have the morphed eyes, as well as a guy they encountered in an earlier scene in the supermarket.  There is also the fact that the monsters seem to be everywhere, yet we have to see them approach people to effect them.  When Gary forces a survivor to look outside she immediately kills herself, same with another survivor that was locked in the garage.  Was there a monster sitting outside the entire time waiting for someone to look out, or are they just there always?  It’s not like they’re being forced to wait with their eyes open for a creature to appear.  During the climax we see that Malorie is being chased by the monsters, as we can see them physically effecting the plants and trees around them as they move through them.  So would Malorie have been fine if she’d taken off her blindfold as long as she didn’t look behind her?

The monsters are also shown to physically exist as bushes rustle, trees shake, and leaves are moved when they move through them.  There is also a scene where the survivors are navigating in a car using its proximity sensors and everything goes off at once in an area where it shouldn’t indicating one of the monsters is near, as it shakes and rocks the car.  So….why can’t they open doors or forcefully remove people’s blindfolds themselves?  How is it that survivors can navigate the world completely safe with only a blindfold if these creatures are physically present?  How is it that they’re only present outside?  Whenever a survivor enters a building they can remove their blindfold and look around without issue, they only need them outside for some reason.  Are the creatures vampires?  Do they need permission to enter buildings?  How can they be physical entities, yet unable to break a window, open a door, or touch someone?  But if they’re not physical entities, what is stopping them from just going into a house and appearing in front of people?  No one wears blindfolds indoors it would be easy for them to get everyone.  It doesn’t make sense.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, Bird Box is a fairly average movie, with a below average plot propped up by great acting from Sandra Bullock.  The rest of the cast puts forth solid acting performances but the plot is lacking.  There are major inconsistencies that pop up and drag down for the movie for me.  Its entertaining, but at certain points it boring and drags.

6/10

-Andre

Red Christmas Review

Red christmasA matriarch gathers her highly dysfunctional family together for one last Christmas celebration before she plans on selling the home they grew up in.  The past comes back to haunt them when a mysterious cloaked stranger shows up on their doorstep.  Once they invite him in things spiral out of their control as their holiday turns bloody.

SPOILERS

Red Christmas is a weird movie.  It starts out fairly average with a decent villain and an average to below average cast of protagonist.  Once the villain is revealed and he gets his first kill the movie deteriorates into being hilariously bad.  The villain is a slow and extremely deformed individual who happens to be strong enough to cleave a person in two with an ax.  Yet, he manages to kill off six or seven people armed individuals because they do the absolutely dumbest things possible.  There was one scene that I couldn’t understand what I was witnessing because it made zero sense.  The old lady leaves the safety of the house and goes outside to try and break something on the side of the house for some reason.  On the way she has taken everyone’s cell phone and she puts them in various flower pots around the property….and smashes them.  So to recap that, she goes outside to do something that serves no purpose, all while making sure that their means of communication is gone.  Early on one of the characters managed to call the police, and predictably only one cop shows up thirty minutes of movie time later, and he’s killed literally five seconds after he steps out of his car.  The same old lady from earlier manages to retrieve the cops gun while being chased by the killer, and I’m not sure if it was on purpose or if she just sucked but she managed to miss every single shot she fired despite the killer being five feet from her when she picked up the gun.  In the climax of the movie this old lady manages to defeat the killer when she stabs him with an anchor attached to a chain.  By this point I wasn’t even questioning what I was seeing on the screen anymore.  But the anchor was attached to a chain which she had wrapped around her neck for some reason.  She then proceeds to run and jump from the window, hanging herself and killing the villain.  I audibly laughed at this scene because it looked so dumb.

Overall I don’t think this movie set out to do with it accomplished.  This was a horror-thriller movie that worked much better as an unintentional comedy.  The practical special effects were good and gory, but ranged to downright cheesy at times.  The writing was comically bad, I’m not sure if they actually took a minute to visualize how the scenes they were writing would translate once acted out.  This is a bad movie, but its hilarious because of how bad it is.

4/10

-Andre

Murder Party

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Murder party is a 2007 horror/comedy movie.  It’s the story of a guy who picks up an invitation to a murder party he finds in the street.  When he arrives he finds that his curiosity has led him into something that jeopardizes his safety when he just wanted to enjoy himself.

Murder Party is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s rare in the fact that I found it so boring that I couldn’t even finish it.  I managed forty minutes before I had to bow out.  If I had to guess the budget, I’d say less than five grand.  With the majority of that going towards the “actors.”  The plot was horrible and dumb.  The protagonist finds a card on the street that just says murder party with an address and tells him to come alone.  For some wild reason he decides to go despite walking through shady areas and the “party” being at a warehouse.  He isn’t even suspicious when he walks in and only sees a handful of people around.  They even comment about how they didn’t think anyone would  be dumb enough to come there, but the protagonist is.  The antagonist group catches and ties the protagonist up within the first ten minutes of the movie, they then spend the next thirty just talking and doing nothing.  All they do is talk about stupid, mundane nothing while the protagonist sits there.  This movie is billed as a comedy, but I wasn’t able to find anything funny.  I couldn’t even laugh at how bad it was, it was just, draining.

The acting ranged from sub-par to downright bad.  None of the characters are like-able, they’re generally annoying.  Everyone tries to be funny and do funny things but it just comes off as an annoyance.  No one stands out or even puts forth an average performance.  Were they even trying?

Overall this movie sucked.  I found no redeeming qualities about it.  There is nothing positive I can say about it.  I regret wasting my time watching it.  I applaud anyone with a strong enough will to sit through this movie to the end credits.

1/10

-Andre

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

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Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a 2010 horror comedy about two friends, Tucker and Dale, who head out to Tuckers cabin to do some repairs and relax.  On the trip the pair encounter a group of college kids who stereotype the them as inbred, homicidal maniacs.  What ensues is a night of blood and comedy as the two groups clash over a misunderstanding.

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The writing and plot are fairly simple but very effective.  Tucker and Dale just want to spend the weekend doing some fishing and drinking beers but have their weekend ruined when these college kids keep killing themselves all over the property.  Tucker and Dale rescue one of the girls when she has an accident while swimming and almost drowns.  Her friends mistake the pair taking her as a kidnapping and set out to get revenge.  The best part was seeing the various ways that people would end up unintentionally killing themselves to the dismay of Tucker and Dale.

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This movie has great special effects to go along with the comedy.  The special effects are all practical and gory, similar to the Evil Dead series.  The effects create some gruesome, albeit hilarious death scenes.  My favorite was the cop that gets impaled when he leans against the broken column in the house, causing the kids to freak out as they think that the pair just murdered their only hope for survival.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a great movie.  Its funny, well acted, and the gore effects are great.  The humor is the best part of this movie.  You could argue that it’s actually more of a comedy movie with a horror slasher aspect to it.  Overall its got the full package to make it a cult classic.

9/10

-Andre’

Beyond the Gates

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Beyond the Gates is a 2016 horror adventure film.  Two brothers reunite to clean out their recently deceased fathers old VHS store.  In the midst of exploring the old building they find a board game that their father had played just before their father’s death.  Once they begin playing they find themselves host to the perils of horrors from the other side.

This movie was a chore to get through.  For the first half of the movie absolutely nothing happens.  Once the main characters put the game in even the lady in the game does nothing but stares at them from the TV for the most part.  I literally had a conversation about rice during this movie that was more entertaining than anything that was happening on the screen.  The acting is mediocre and awash with blank stares and facial expressions.  The best actor was probably the creepy curator guy but he was just overly cheesy.

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The story actually has a good premise, it’s basically trying to be the horror equivalent to Jumanji except if falls flat on its face attempting to emulate it.  The game itself is just dumb.  The characters have to collect four keys that the game inserts inside of a couple of people and then forces the main characters to remove them, killing the person.  So the game punishes random people for having the audacity to know the main characters but the main characters survive no problem.

This movie is boring and not worth your time.  The best thing going for it was that some of the special effects in the kills were pretty cool.  Other than that it’s not worth the hour and a half to sit through.

1/10

-Andre’