Archive for "Horror"

Movie Review: “The Conjuring”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 10:00 am.

(Photo: New Line Cinema)

Summary: Based on a “true” story, Ed and Lorraine Warren are a married couple who are “demonologists” that gained notoriety during the surge of demon possession movies in the 1970s.  The Conjuring tells the trite tale of a house they helped sweep free of evil spirits.

Review: Every year a handful of demon possession movies arrives in theaters with nearly identical plots and always based on a “true” story.  If true means predictable, then I’ll buy it.  You know the deal — there are the odd signs, which are ignored by stupefied characters. The demon craves the innocent, all-American family to leave the house — but for an illogical reason, everyone stays. Lastly, the demons proceed to whoop everyone’s a– (normally the best part of the film, here lasting for no more than 10 minutes), which results in another exorcism. Don’t believe the hype, The Conjuring is no different: same formula, same story and different cast.

Due to the strange overhype of James Wan’s latest film, I thought I might enjoy The Conjuring. The opening scene set up a potentially fun horror flick, though not one with the intention of any originality.  In it, a possessed doll is stalking two young women, but this plot line quickly vanishes. Soon after, the flick becomes another haunted house movie (there is no point in summarizing characters and plot twists — you’ve seen and heard it all before) that could easily be seen on SyFy during Halloween season. It’s been four decades since The Exorcist and studios are still trying to replicate the brilliant terror — even The Exorcist sequels couldn’t spit out a good follow-up.

The film includes solid cinematography and the 1970s nostalgia was fun to watch.  But the scares were anti-climactic, sloppily executed and, after an hour of doors slamming, thuds in the night and blaring sound effects, viewers are left with cheap jumps and bland thrills.

Most importantly, horror film audiences need to root for the people on screen. The characters in The Conjuring possessed zero human reactions. Doors slam, animals die, children scream and the actors stare with their mouths slightly agape.  The audience I was with became frustrated by the unrealistic characters and eventually someone yelled, “B—h, get out the damn house!” The Conjuring needed to conjure a better script. Again, the film is based on a true story, but maybe this film shouldn’t have gotten the green light if it was a celluloid copy of the other “true stories.”

In one scene of The Conjuring, a character declares, “God brought us together for a reason!” Too bad it was for this movie, another overrated horror flick rehashing a four-decade old storyline.

The Conjuring is in theaters today.

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Movie Review: “Evil Dead”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, April 5, 2013 at 1:00 am.

(Photo: Sony Pictures)

Summary: A remake of the 1981 cult classic. Five twenty somethings (and a dog) — with no common sense — are trapped in a cabin in the woods.  An evil (and dead!) spirit with a love for profanity is hellbent on killing them all.  But of course one person must survive — blah, blah, blah…

Review: The Evil Dead is a cult classic.  But unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacare (1974) or Poltergeist (1982), the horror film doesn’t stand the test of celluloid time.  Sami Raimi’s’81 version toed the line of camp with bad acting, awful special effects and ludicrous characters.  But the indie flick was in on the joke — the same can’t be said for the 2013 version.  Evil Dead (without “the”) is continuing the tradition of sucking the cinematic life out of iconic franchises.

With a cast of unknowns, the Fede Alvarez-directed film is offensively bland with cartoon-ish gore, simpleton characters and the worst of horror film clichés: tripping in the woods, stupidly entering creepy basements, brunettes possessed by evil and the lone Black character meeting their maker sooner than everyone else. The flick includes random throwbacks to the original, but Evil Dead stands alone as its own terrible film — it’s demonic possession meets torture porn.

As someone who appreciates the horror genre, making a good horror film is no easy task.  Audiences are immune to scares, therefore, the film needs a solid plot and characters you root for — someone a few rows behind me shouted, “Kill ‘em off already!”   It’s not enough to slap CGI blood on screen with screaming pretty people in crisis.  There is actually a craft to making a solid horror movie, redundant plots and inexcusable predictability equal another trite disaster.  The worst moment: A cursing demon who spat: “Kiss me you dirty c***!” and “Come down here so I can suck your c***, pretty boy!” The lines gave the audiences more giggles than creeps.

The plot, score, special effects and cinematography were all deadpan. As for the unknown actors — well, you’ve got to start somewhere. In one bloody scene, the leading lady cried, “It was so horrible! It was so horrible!” Girl, I know how you feel — that’s exactly what I said when the credits rolled.

Evil Dead is in theaters today.

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Movie Review: “Mama”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, January 18, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Summary: Sisters are left on their own in a cabin in the woods after their psycho father tries to kill them. A ghost looks after the sisters for five years until they are discovered — so much for a search and rescue team! The ghost, known as Mama, is a bit protective over the little darlings and has a past of her own.

Review: Jessica Chastain is the “It” girl in Hollywood with her award-winning performance in Zero Dark Thirty. However, there is a different Chastain in Mama — an up-and-coming actress in a D-rated horror flick who probably had no idea she would become Tinseltown royalty when signing up for this celluloid yawn-fest. Presented by Guillermo del Toro and first-time director Andres Muschietti, Mama is monotonous ridiculousness.

Channeling the atrociousness of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, one can tell Mama will be a dud within the first 15 minutes: a crazed daddy, a lone cabin in the snowy woods, a ghost that flies around like a Disney villain and Jessica Chastain’s Carol Brady meets a Mary J. Blige circa 1994 wig. Plus, a disconnected plot of a jealous ghost who attaches herself to two abandoned children.

The disaster of Mama is not any fault of Jessica Chastain — she is barely promoting the film. One can imagine she hopes the movie will quietly disappear as she snags her well-deserved Oscar. But even in this terrible flick, Miss Jessica is still fun to watch. She bounces around as a rock ‘n roll chick and girlfriend of the uncle who finds the disturbed sisters. The trouble with Mama is due to a humdrum script, roll-your-eyes special effects and zero scares. For first-time director Muschietti, hopefully there is more we can see from him — no one could’ve made Mama a good movie and no one should’ve tried.

Unimaginative and far from scary, don’t believe anyone who tells you Mama is worth your money or time.

Mama is in theaters today.

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Movie Review: “Texas Chainsaw 3D”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, January 4, 2013 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Lionsgate)

Summary: A follow-up to the 1974 original (even though there was already a follow-up in 1986), a surviving infant of Leatherface’s kin doesn’t know she is related to the family of serial killers. After they all die off, Heather (the beautiful Alexandra Daddario) is now a teenager who is left a massive mansion with only the sadistic Leatherface — her cousin — still kicking. Will Leatherface accept his lil’ cousin and her teen-dream friends or will they get the iconic chainsaw?

Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D is the sixth installment of Leatherface in drag and the absolute worst: illogical plot, bland scares and trite horror flick shenanigans. The pretty people in crisis bounce around in midriffs, boobs jiggling, booties shaking and repeatedly falling while being chased by the chainsaw-yielding madman — if Leatherface were a real person he would chainsaw through any movie studios that tried to give this battered franchise another reboot. Out of respect for all horror fans — leave The Texas Chainsaw Massacre alone!

There is no way to reinvent the story — it has been massacred of any horror movie fun. Actually, the plot of Texas Chainsaw 3D might’ve functioned better if it wasn’t attached to the franchise. Clearly, the creators tried to satisfy the necessities of being connected to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which only resulted in farfetched twists and unexplainable plot holes. For example, if this is the sequel to the 1974 original, then how can the surviving infant be a perky-bosomed gal in her early twenties with horny BFFs? She would be nearly 40!

Texas Chainsaw 3D is Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson’s debut film and he gives fans what they want when he pulls a Taylor Lautner and is shirtless in his first scene. Ignoring the bad movie, the “Neighbors Know My Name” singer is a solid actor.  It was wise to get his feet wet in a comfortable supporting role — even if the film is a dud.  There will be more to come from Mr. Songz on the big screen.

That said, Texas Chainsaw 3D is pointless, atrocious on every level and gives horror films a bad name.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is in theaters today.

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Movie Review: “The Thing”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures)

Summary: An alien is found buried in Antarctica and a team of American scientists are enlisted to experiment on it. However, “the thing” is still alive and able to clone human cells.  Hungry and angry, it terrorizes the scientists and crew with the viewer never knowing who is a human and who is “the thing.”

Review: The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter classic. While a prequel is a better road to take than the numerous  tiresome horror remakes, The Thing ends up as another stock science fiction horror flick. Nearly 30 years ago, a killer alien wasn’t as redundant as it is today. From Aliens to Independence Day, there isn’t a way to make the alien genre fresh and the 2011 The Thing is proof of that.

Directed by first-time European director Matthijs van Heijningen, the special effects channel early ’80’s b-rated horror movies, the ending is predictable within the first 30 minutes and the script is foolishly unoriginal. But, in an effort to search for the good, some of the action sequences were a fun ride, but with an overdose of CGI, much of the scenes resembled a video game. That said, van Heijningen does show potential as a director. His cast meshed well and the dark atmosphere was appropriate. But, no matter who directed this flick, it would’ve been a dud. Therefore, I look forward to seeing more of van Heijningen’s work.

Although there is an extreme lack of diversity, The Thing includes a female heroine, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Dr. Kate Lloyd. Even though she is not supported by a great script, Winstead had a strong presence on screen and might have a substantial acting career ahead of her.

The always-excellent Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the lone Black character, and he made his small role work. The rest of the cast is packed with nearly identical-looking Norwegians. Ironically, the 1982 version of The Thing was known for its diversity (T.K. Carter and Keith David’s prominent role as Childs). How does a film get less diverse nearly 30 years later?

Blame it on the script?  Blame it on the CGI?  Blame it on the director?  I can’t pinpoint what is to blame, but The Thing should’ve remained buried in 1982.

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Movie Review: “Fright Night”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, August 19, 2011 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

Summary: In this remake from 1985, a vampire named Jerry (Colin Farrell) lives next door to a nosy teen named Charley (Anton Yelchin) and is offing the suburbanites in a Las Vegas neighborhood.  Charley tries to kill him off with the help of Peter Vincent, the host of a Vegas show called Fright Night.

Review: When the original Fright Night hit theaters in 1985, the vampire genre had already been sucked dry, but nothing like it is today. Now there is an endless flow of vampire films and television shows and, of course, the billion-dollar franchise Twilight, which has colonized box offices across the globe. So, the Fright Night “remake,” and I use that word loosely, could easily be summed up as a montage of all the exhaustive vampire flicks we’ve seen over the past ten years. A sexy vampire stalks horny teens and stupid adults.  Fangs, blood-filled bites and exotic stares are the meat of the film, which ends with a nerd turned cool kid saving the day—and getting the girl.

The term “remake” is used quite loosely in all of these incarnations of 80’s horror films. In reality, the Craig Gillespie-directed film is just another blood sucker movie and probably wouldn’t have received the Hollywood green-light if it wasn’t for the label of Fright Night.  However, the 1985 version was no groundbreaking piece of work. It was a surprise hit, but not a classic in the horror genre like Poltergeist, Friday the 13th, or A Nightmare on Elm Street.

A strong cast slightly balances out a bland movie.  Colin Farrell makes his role as Jerry the Vampire as workable as possible, with his smooth acting and eerie presence. To the screen writer’s credit, Jerry is no True Blood or Twilight vampire. He isn’t in love, fighting blood-sucking urges, or seeking out his next vamp bride. He is a stone-cold vampire, almost like a serial killer, and isn’t trying to make friends.

The other characters work as best as possible but the stand-out is an animated Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who is best known for his role in Kick Ass. Mintz-Plasse as the bitter geek makes the film, with the best one-liners and his maniac energy—he would’ve worked better as the lead and his presence was missed when he disappeared for half of the film.  The character of Peter Vincent (David Tennant) had an important role in the original; here, he is portrayed as a trashy Brit, and disposable.  These are just a few of the flaws that ruin a movie that—like most horror films—started strong in the first five minutes, but lost steam when the plot had to kick in.

Fright Night stumbles along in 3-D, which is not worth the extra charge, with tolerable special effects.  The invention of CGI has certainly cheapened special effects in horror films and Fright Night is a prime example.

The action is sustainable and the viewer is rarely bored but, overall, the creators of Fright Night tried to make a lukewarm horror flick from the ’80’s seem cool and relevant in 2011.  They failed.  Nonetheless, this was still better than the atrocious remakes of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Fright Night is in theaters today.

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Movie Review: “Scream 4″

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 8:00 am.

(Photo: Dimension Films)

Summary:  Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the famous murders. Ghostface quickly goes on a stab fest as Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) and his wife, journalist Gayle Weathers, are once again on the hunt for the killer while Sid manages to avoid every slice and dice. Shouldn’t Miss Sid be banned from ever stepping foot in Woodsboro again?

Review: After watching Scream 4 I let out a big sigh. This was a film I truly wanted to like, but it was similar to reuniting with an ex — you want it to be like it was before, but the time has passed. That said, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson clearly did their best to recapture the magic of Scream from 1996. But every angle has been hacked, every scream has been heard and every bit of blood has been sucked dry.

Neve Campbell as the always-cheating-death Sidney is an eye-roller, and at this point, horror fans want to see her killed off. David Arquette as the dopey Deputy Dewey is cute in a goofy way, but now the charm fails to resonate. While Courtney Cox is obviously talented, her Botox and plumped lips are an extreme distraction. I wondered, “Could she even open her mouth all the way to scream?”

There is a high body count but Scream 4 is low on scares.  Truth is, the times have changed. In 1996, Scream upped the ante for horror, which resulted in the Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th franchises fizzling. Now, torture porn like Saw and Hostel have changed the game for horror. Nowadays, it takes much more than stabs to give an audience a fright fest.  Despite an interesting twist ending, Scream is more of a yelp.

Yes, there are some unique moments when the characters grapple with the “rules of horror” films, but the number one rule that I am sure everyone involved with Scream 4 knew but refused to say: The fourth installment always and forever sucks.

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Q&A: The King of Scream, Wes Craven, Talks Race and Horror

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm.

Appropriately known as the Master of Horror, Wes Craven is the cinematic genius behind classics like Nightmare on Elm Street, Vampire in Brooklyn and the Scream franchise. Ten years since Scream 3, the tortured souls of Woodsboro are back for the fourth incarnation. In Craven’s first interview with BET.com, the Ohio native talks Scream 4, a People Under the Stairs sequel and tackles the longstanding question, why do Black folks always die first in horror films?

How will Scream 4 capture a new generation of horror fans?
It’s essentially set in the world of this generation, which is distinctly different than the generation that watched Scream 3. The types of movies that have been out in the past 10 years are quite different. There’s been torture porn; there have been a lot of remakes and reboots. Just electronics in general with smart phones and computers, Twitter and Facebook—all of those things didn’t exist in any shape 10 or 11 years ago.

I don’t see a lot of racial tension with characters of horror films. Do you think horror films transcend racism?

We try to treat people of color the same as everybody else. Especially for the younger generation, there’s much less tension than there was even in the previous generation. People are going to school and growing up with each other. There is such a racial mix, at least where I live in California; it just seems a natural part of life.

What do you think of the notion that Black folks always die first in horror films?

It’s funny. Anthony Anderson said one of the things he liked about the script is that he wasn’t the first person to die. We kind of took cautions not to do that. It was like that in Scream 2. There was one character [Duane Martin] who said, “This is where the Black person always dies,” and he basically leaves the film until the very end.

Why do you think that perception exists?
Everybody is afraid of the unknown. Everybody is afraid of the people that they’ve done terrible things to! [Laughs] I’m sure in some place whites are considered inferior by people of color. But the most common, the thing that we’re most used to, obviously, is African-Americans being treated badly, the history of slavery. That is a deeply sad cultural prejudice that is shifting, but it takes a long time.

People Under the Stairs airs here on BET. Any truth to rumors of a sequel?
It’s kind of complicated. The ownership of it is split between myself and two other entities. More than that, I started to feel by the time we got to Last House on the Left that I was taking myself out of my principal creative task, which is directing. I thought, I’m doing things that benefit a lot of other people, it helped me financially climb out of some of the losses from the crash of the market, but at a certain point, I knew I had to get back to directing. I had to make a choice: Am I going to spend my time remaking stuff that I’ve already done, kind of helping other directors, or am i going to go back and do what I do best?

How do you feel about the torture-porn genre of horror?
Not a fan. I went to see the two hallmark of that genre, Hostel and Saw. They were better than I thought they were going to be. I just don’t like torture much. The idea of it kind of makes me angry and sick, if there is even such a thing.

Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith were in Scream 2. Do you have any memories working with them?
Omar was a good sport, his role was relatively short. Jada obviously ended up having to really sell it. I think she just put that thing over the top. To me, that’s one of the most iconic scenes in the Scream series.

What is the last thing that made you scream?
It was Paranormal Activity, when she got grabbed and dragged down the hall—I just let out a yell. [Laughs]

Are you afraid of dying?
I was paralyzed from the chest down when I was 19 so I kind of put my head together about dying and I think I’ve come to terms with it.

When you get to heaven what is the DJ playing?
[Laughs] I don’t believe in heaven, so he’s playing Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. It’s one of my favorite albums. I think it’s beautiful, an American classic.

Scream 4 is in theaters nationwide today. Click here for our interview with Anthony Anderson.

(Photos from left: Kevin Winter/Getty Images, The Weinstein Company)

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Movie Review: ‘The Rite’

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, January 28, 2011 at 12:00 am.

Summary: Loosely based on a true story, The Rite tells the tale of Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue). Raised in a funeral home with a religious father, Kovak has two choices: to be a priest or a mortician. He goes with the priesthood, but doubts his faith. Kovak is forced to live in Italy, where he witnesses an exorcism by an older priest (Anthony Hopkins). Will it make him believe?

Review: Anthony Hopkins is one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. But none of the greats could’ve made this poorly crafted, lethargic, unoriginal gush of foolishness work onscreen. The Rite struggles on every level, and, with the exception of a few good one-liners from Hopkins, the film evokes no emotion—neither suspense nor laughter, as horror films sometimes do.

Ever since 1973’s The Exorcist, Hollywood has been obsessed with reinventing the exorcism storyline. It’s always a brunette girl contorting and cursing with holy water splashed on her face. This premise was a one-hit wonder and Oscar gold in the ’70s, but has rarely resonated well with audiences since then.

Directed by Mikael Håfström, The Rite stumbles along with a monotone Colin O’Donoghue as a skeptical soon-to-be priest. Within the first 20 minutes, you can predict the ending. By the end of the nearly two hours, will the priest find Christ or become an atheist?  Take a wild Hollywood guess.

Everything else in between is schlock dressed as “horror.” The cheap scares consist of mules with red eyes, colorful frogs as demons and religious imagery tainted by the “devil.”

Moreover, there is an uncomfortable agenda-driven religious message enforced in The Rite that I am sure the likes of Fox News will appreciate it. Agendas in film work for well-done movies; this film is the opposite.

The Rite is all wrong. I have faith this flick will be plagued with bad reviews and a strong opening weekend but vanish in the following weeks.

The Rite is in theaters today.

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Happy Hallowen: Saw 3D in Theatres Today

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8:30 am.

It just wouldn’t be Halloween horror movie season if a new Saw movie didn’t hit theaters. We are now on the seventh installment of Saw and this time it’s in 3D.

Allegedly (and I do stress allegedly!), this is the final act of the Saw franchise. However, now the tables are turned on the viewers, which is an interesting concept but looks more like horror movie camp than the solid writing and good special effects of the first two.  Hopefully, Tandera Howard will make another appearance!

Nonetheless, check out the trailer below and enjoy your Halloween!

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