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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

I try to reserve judgement until after I’ve seen a film in it’s entirety. I owe that much to the filmmakers who’ve spend a large portion of their year (or more if you are making Cleopatra) attempting to put together something worth my hard earned ducat. However, after watching today’s film, I find that practice more arduous to do.

Ghost_House_Pictures_logo_2

Not having had any prior knowledge of today’s film preceding my viewing, I was surprised to see the logo that opens the film. As soon as I saw Ghost House Pictures insignia, I had reservations. Afterall, I found the last two films I’ve viewed from Sam Raimi’s company (Drag Me to Hell and 30 Days of Night) to be less than stellar. I also didn’t find their foray into television programing (Legend of the Seeker) anything noteworthy, although I did stick it out for the entirety of its two campy seasons. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps the films are rather futile for horror films, feeling more like a big budget action flick than a atmospheric horror film? Perhaps it’s the over the top sound effects, the clean and sterile lighting, the same cookie cutter characters in each film, or the fast paced jarred editing? Either way, today’s film fell squarely into the fold of their previous efforts.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

possession_ver2_xlg

Director: Ole Bordedal
Year: 2012
Cast: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick
Country: United States
Specs: 92 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: PG-13
Rating: ★★★ / C

A young girl, after finding an antique wooden box containing mysterious symbols carved into it, begins to suffer abnormal behaviors, much to the consternation of her recently divorced parents. It soon becomes apparant she is possessed by an entity not of earthly origins, and the race against the clock to rid their prepubescent daughter of the demonic spirit begins.

From the very first scene, I knew I was in for more of the same. An old woman stands in front of a box, demonic voices coming from within, when suddenly, timed to the frantic editing, she becomes possessed and begins to contort and fling across the room.

We then are introduced to the characters that we soon care nothing about. They take actions that don’t make sense. For instance: Why does the girl get startled by the old woman who is the neighbor? Why does she slowly follow her and peer into the window. Who is the bandaged freak who screams at her? Why is the girl allowed to stop off and pick up the box? Why does she want it? Why does an entire room of supposed God fearing Jews feign fear at the mere sight of the box? Or are they truly afraid? Are they all really faithless? Too many odd questions.

Frustratingly, in addition, there are scene after scene of odd edit decisions. There are numerous instances in which the tiniest semblance of suspense is building, the camera is dollying, the tension is at a high, and it cuts to black mid-beat, mid sound cue, sounding like a piece of the soundtrack is missing, rather than a meticulously timed trim. Not sure what effect they were going for, but I found it jarring and annoying.

I also found vexing plot devices that simply come across as slipshod or indolent, although I know that certainly wasn’t the case. However, I’m not sure how else to react when situations such as “Little Girl is vegan, and is ravenously tearing into a raw steak, therefore she MUST be possessed” are a major plot point. Why else was that silly conversation that opens the film there? Am I instead supposed to see it as a message? Either way, it strikes me as stodgy and amateurish.

possession-steak-movie

Maybe it was the title that doomed this film? A quick search of other films with the same title show that film critics such as Leonard Maltin are rather dismissive of them, as well (1981-★½, 2002-★★, 2010-★½). However, to avoid sounding uncouth, I will admit that it did deliver on some scares. Nonetheless, whereas the frights found in a film like The Exorcist certainly command repeat viewings (if one so dares), this film is too marred by the aforementioned issues to warrant any kind of further thought. It was simply an average film. C rating.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 6: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – Freddy’s Revenge

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 6: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – Freddy’s Revenge

More Freddy is coming your way, in this second installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street films (originals, of course).  How did he survive the last film?  What will he do to Nancy now that he is back?  How will the people who survived his brutality from the first film react to his return?  Surely, the filmmakers knew that viewers to this sequel would be chomping at the bits to have such answers addressed.

Thankfully, I had time to view all the films in their entirety not too far back, and now, as part of this series on films to be “enjoyed” during this Halloween season, I give to you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 6: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – Freddy’s Revenge

nightmare_on_elm_street_twoDirector: Jack Sholder
Year: 1985
Cast: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers
Country: United States
Specs: 87 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

Returning serial killer Freddy Krueger begins to haunt the dreams of a young man, in an attempt to take control of his body, thus enabling Krueger to reenter the realm of reality, where he can continue his bloody murderous spree.

Not sure what they were thinking? This sequel entirely ignores the “rules” set up for us in the previous pic, and turns more into a confusing, plotless, haunted house flick.

In the original film that started the franchise off, Freddy wore a glove with knives on it. Here, while the glove does appear in scenes, the knives on are now coming directly out of his fingers, more akin to Wolverine, or Marvel comics fame. Also, there is zero instance of Freddy affecting the lives of the children of those who “killed” him through their dreams. Instead, he is able to enter the real world, possess people to the point of their transformation into him, and “haunt” the house of the original films heroine, Nancy.

The above would be forgivable were it cleverly written, or performed by actors with any life in their performances (sans Englund, natch). Sadly, neither of these aforementioned necessities are featured here. There is corny acting, inane decisions by characters, and little sense to be made in this silly entry in the series.

Just to point out a few of the problems, Jessy, after having killed (as Freddy) his best friend, runs to his girlfriend Lisa’s house for help. He stands there covered in blood, and she reacts as though nothing were wrong.

When Jessy transforms into Freddy in front of Lisa, and then disappears in a puff of fire and smoke, she decides to drive to the abandoned factory to find him (of course, there is NOTHING story-wise to explain why she would do this).

Not sure why they chose to go this route, but the only nightmares it gave me were the knowledge that I cannot get those precious 87 minutes back. Argh.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5:  A Nightmare on Elm Street

For these weekend posts during this marathon of horror films, I’ve decided to simply post brief reviews from my files of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. These reviews will likely be shorter than my daily posts, and may even be a bit more unrefined, but they fill the list out on those days when most people, myself included, are doing something other than spending time on the world-wide webs.

After all, this is a great time of year to do more than stay inside watching films. Cider mills, pick up games of touch football, and hay rides at the haunted fairgrounds all are worthy excursions to be had! Enjoy.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

nightmare_on_elm_streetDirector: Wes Craven
Year: 1984
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Country: United States
Specs: 91 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

Nancy and her teenage friends are being tormented by a serial killer in their dreams, who happens to possess the power to make events that happen in their dream state a reality.  She must race against the clock to figure a way to defeat this menacing figure, before he successfully slays each one of them, one by one.

The original that started it all. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, not having seen it for a number of years.

The story itself is a very clever one. If you die in your sleep, you really die. The reason being, there is a killer in there! Now, there are many plot holes, silly exposition, goofy special effects (the tongue coming out of the phone), and rather bad acting (the drunkard mother). However, the film still does a good job of avoiding the norms for films of this type. There isn’t any real nudity, there isn’t any real drug use, and there IS a plot. I especially appreciated how Craven acknowledges that evil can be overcome if we have faith.

Of course, that makes the ending all the more confusing. But I’ll save that for another day.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

On this, the second day of my month long series on films in the horror genre (or a variation thereof), I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I pondered what film ought I sacrifice two hours (more once I’ve written this post) to as I rummaged through the mess of Blu-rays, DVD’s, VCD’s, and Laserdiscs that I’ve accumulated over the years. Many of these films remain in the original cellophane (no comments about that please, that is a blog for another day) and haven’t been touched since I chose to store them in the box. I reached high atop the towering stack within the darkest recesses of the closest within my office. I tilted the box that hadn’t been opened in ages, ghosting myself with the inch or so of dust that had accumulated on top and now slid down like a massive mudslide coming from the sides of Mt. Fuji resting in my hair and on my face. I cracked the box open, and saw something that peaked my interest. I instantly recalled images I had recently come across in the local newspaper. I had seen pictures of a grim grinning ghostly exponent heralding the release of the newest addition to the massive franchise of films featuring the ghastly Sadako, or as U.S. readers may know her, the girl from The Ring. Sadako 3-D2 4-D.


Behold, in front of me, was a DVD of a movie that I hadn’t seen in years, long before the reality of ingesting octopus balls and the carcass of Mr. Ed would become a reality. I wondered if I ought to revisit the film, that being The Ring 0? Then I remembered, the film was featured as a major plot device an object that happened to be a video format I had neglected. A format long ago forgotten, unless you shop at the library, or are an overseas missionary. Not Betamax, no no no. Something far more available in its heyday. Not HD-DVD, neither. VHS. The Ring movies focused on a VHS tape. Thankfully, that was the moment when I recalled a newer movie I had not yet seen. Another film with a sequel in the local cineplex this very season. Rather than skip straight to the overpriced shopping mall to gaze upon the newest entry in all it’s ear piercing glory, I chose to go back to my queue, to visit the original entry.

Because of that not so quick witted decision, I am now able to bring to you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

Director:
Adam Wingard
David Bruckner
Ti West
Glenn McQuaid
Joe Swanberg
Radio Silence
Year: 2012
Cast: Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Lane Hughes, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Chad Villella, Jason Yachanin, Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 116 mins. / Color / OAR N/A / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

A group of petty thieves are contracted by an anonymous 3rd party to break into a house and retrieve a mystery VHS tape. Finding the presumed homeowner dead, they begin to rummage through hundreds of found VHS tapes, viewing each on a television next to the corpse, in hopes of locating the tape requested. Startled, they soon realize that each cassette contains a grim video of some poor unsuspecting victims demise.


I am thankful that I had zero knowledge of the film prior to my viewing. It made my “enjoyment” of this terrifying anthology all the more startling with each haunting segment. The film is comprised of 5 short-films, posed as found footage films within the main story-arc (Tape 56) of the petty thieves and their home invasion. Perhaps the strongest of the shorts, Bruckner’s Amateur Night, was also the most terrifying. The aspect that I enjoyed most, with all of the segments, was the “reveal” at the end of each, akin to a gorified episode of Twilight Zone, or Night Gallery (itself a more gruesome take on creator Rod Serling’s seminal classic.)

In recent cinema history, we’ve seen a glut of films of this sub-genre grace the local silver screen. Apartment 143, Paranormal Activity, The Last Broadcast, and of course, The Blair Witch Project. This film, however, stands apart from those others. It is unpredictable at times, which, for this genre, is rarer than a Caucasian in the town I currently reside.

Each film was created entirely autonomous from the others, with its own cast and crew, and it makes for a stronger whole, in my opinion. While not all of the subjects are equal in their caliber, I appreciated the variety of styles of each creative team.


There certainly is a fair share of scares, an equal amount of gruesome imagery, and creative and inventive plots to hold the interest of even the most jaded of horror film fans. While not a masterpiece in and of itself, it is a film that I would happily recommend to anyone that hasn’t just finished off an extra large portion of lasagne from their local Italian eatery.

In conclusion, it’s a film best viewed with the lights on. However, if you choose to not heed my advice, I heartily suggest watching an episode of lighter fare afterwards, such as the latest episode of Dads.

On second thought, that’s worse. Forget what I said. Enjoy the nightmares…

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 22 – Session 9

I have a disease.  I’m not particularly aware of what this disease is called, but it is easy to describe (and I’m not alone).  Whenever I see a film that has been shot in HD on the big screen, I can notice it immediately as not being film.  It has a very distasteful video look to me.  It is extremely noticeable in scenes that are dark, having almost a home video appearance to me.  My good friend suffers from the same disease, and it makes trips to the cineplex together a gamble many times.  The reason being, I don’t enjoy the experience.  If it is a film meant to look like video from a camcorder, say “Cloverfield”, I can get by.  But if it’s a film that the director was trying to be artistic, such as “Public Enemies”, I almost expect my money back.

That leads us to today’s film.  I will attempt to rate the film apart from that hapless setback, as it wasn’t a horrible film.

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 22

Film #22


~ Session 9 ~

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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 16 – Ghost Story

As with many other films in this review of 31 Horror movies this season of Halloween, I never actually saw today’s film in its entirety.  I do remember as a young boy sitting in the living room of my aunt (who would let my brother and I watch movies that my mother would have killed her for) watching this film, but didn’t remember much beyond a scene near the end of the film involving a car, a deserted country road, and a ghost standing in the middle.

Through the years, I’d see the video sitting on the shelf of the local rental store, and would usually pass it over for the newest release.  I did intend on getting around to seeing it, but alas, that never happened.

Until now…

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 16

Film #16


~ Ghost Story ~

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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 13 – The Changeling

Haunted House films have been around for as long as movies have been coming out of Hollywood.  There are also as many Haunted House films as there are years Hollywood’s been pumping them out.  Some have been downright scary, and others have been knee-slapping hilarious.

A number of these films are bound to find their way into this list of 31 Horror films.  Today’s, I’m happy to write, is worthy of your time.

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 13

Film #13

~ The Changeling ~

Director:  Peter Medak
Year:  1979
Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Language:  English
Country:  Canada
Specs:  107 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R

After his family is killed in an auto accident, composer Dr. Russell (Scott) rents an old Victorian house in suburban Seattle to regroup his thoughts while he works on his next composition.  Soon Dr. Russell learns that the house in haunted by the spirit of a young child.  As Dr. Russell researches the past of the house and its spiritual inhabitant, he uncovers a dark secret with ties to a powerful politician.

A wonderfully suspenseful haunted house film, with plenty of scares for the uninitiated.  George C. Scott is the perfect choice to play the inquisitive Dr., and he delivers with perfection.  The film plays like a mystery suspense more than an in-your-face shock or gimmicky horror film.  The moody lighting, as well as the mesmerizing musical score all lend to the likability of this ghost story.

While the ending does border on the contrived, and is rather abrupt at that, it doesn’t deter from the overall experience of the film, thankfully.  The rest of the film more than makes up for this minor quibble.

An even more surprising aspect to the film is that is doesn’t rely on anything gratuitous as a crutch to make up for missing plot.  Surprising in that the director is the same who would bring us the 1998 film “Species II”.  I digress, so I’ll save that for another day…

My Rating:  **** / B

Available on Amazon: The Changeling

To Be Continued…

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Movies

 

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