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Cherry Tree
Cherry Tree
DVD
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A bad but watchable witch movie with perhaps too many centipedes, but some neat effects and REALLY COOL ideas., April 21, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cherry Tree (Amazon Video)
I had been looking forward to this Irish witch movie despite the scathing reviews (discussed here). That said, I’m glad I watched it…but it wasn’t exactly good.

Witches had occupied the town of Orchard since the Middle Ages, their coven constantly seeking a woman to bear the son of Satan so that they may gain untold power. After dispatching of the coven, folk tales suggested that the spirits of these witches were linked to an old cherry tree, and through that tree they could return.

A virgin high school field hockey player at odds with her teammates, Faith (Naomi Battrick) would do anything to save terminally ill father (Sam Hazeldine; The Raven, The Wolfman). And she is approached by her new field hockey coach to do just that. Sissy (Anna Walton; Hellboy II: The Golden Army) readily explains that she has access to magical powers that could cure Faith's father and demonstrates such proficiency by killing and resurrecting a chicken with what I can only describe as "centipede magic."

Building up to this, whatever the filmmakers were trying to do in order to drum up dramatic tension--school bullies, her father's health, ill-temperament--it isn't working for me. And when Coach Sissy takes Faith to her home, a manor of wealth far beyond a high school hockey coach, it's creepy and viney and has stairs descending to untold depths below ground level leading to her ritual basement where she asks "do you believe in magic?" She goes so far as to explain that their “Lord” would reward them with dark power for their devotion. Why Faith didn't just freak out at this lunacy or call the police is quite the curiosity. I don't care how sick her father is. Who would believe this crap in the era of the internet and cable TV!?!?!

The price for magically saving her father: a child. Let's just say the sex scene that consummates this prerequisite is interesting, demonic and, of course, includes a centipede or two.

The direction is uninspired, featuring amateur shots with occasionally nice cinematography that was not at all complimented by the set designers' attempts to create a witches den. It strikes me more like a well-designed basement-turned-house of horrors on Halloween.

The centipedes, of course, offer some level of creep factor but otherwise really don't "fit" in the scenes and their sound effects are exaggerated over-the-top. Not that I don't like seeing centipedes on the walls, biting people with unrealistic power, and crawling into wounds and bodily orifices and under flesh. It's just more "neat" than "good." Why are these centipedes even here!?!?! There is also a lot of cherry imagery (which has me pondering connections to The Witches of Eastwick), some kind of twig and slimy web cocoon (that makes no sense and is no more explained than the centipedes), and a gross birth scene.

This film is shameless with its tropes, depicting a shower scene of high school girls complete with nudity, along with subsequent nudity during a ritual, a demonic sex scene, and yet another breasty ritual scene. That said, Anna Walton--who accounts for two of those scenes--is a visual delight.

Director David Keating (Wake Wood) has produced a melee of ideas that find no sense of synthesis. It strikes me that a very serious effort was made to make a good film, but the story falls apart at almost every turn with plot holes. Faith disappeared from school for three weeks, her friend who saw her weeks later wasn't very disturbed by Faith's full-term pregnancy, why the Hell didn't the witches have her locked up in the final hour before the birth of the Devil's son (Faith just sneaks out the front door), and why would Sissy explain the details of her ritual so that Faith would know exactly how to stop it! Just painfully bad writing.

Not that this film is by any means unwatchable--it's entertaining enough--but if there was a reason for me to actually recommend this film it would probably be for some of the practical effects in the final act or, simply put, Anna Walton’s boobs. We find an interesting transformation scene complete with peeling off bloody chunks of flesh revealing a new creepy form beneath that pretty cool but doesn’t show us nearly as much as we’d like to see. However some effects fall on the laughably cheap side of things.

Overall, I'd say these filmmakers failed at making a good witch movie. But they succeeded at showing me a lot of cool ideas, stretching a budget efficiently and showing a few decent effects along the way, although paved with horrible storytelling and idiotic oversights by our villains.


The Big Short
The Big Short
DVD
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporay and fourth-wall-incinerating; explaining the real estate market crash with the best filmmaking of 2015!, April 20, 2016
This review is from: The Big Short (Amazon Video)
The Big Short is an edgy, contemporary film utilizing comically informative fourth-wall-breaking asides and surprise cameos by celebrities explaining economic concepts in layman's terms. This is basically the Deadpool (2016) of exposé-style financial movies, so let's try not to miss this one!

As the story unfolds and we delve deep into the investment banking world, we cut to interjections like "and now here's Margot Robbie drinking champagne in a bathtub" and she (Margot Robbie; Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), as herself, explains the terminology and investment strategy in question. There are other surprise celebrity cameos and I'll dare not spoil any more for you…just know that they add something very special to this already exceptional film and keep it from being anything but boring. Actually, I found it wildly entertaining!

The cast does an amazing job delivering a topic formally most interesting to Forbes-minded, Wall Street Journal-subscribing middle-aged investment bankers. The script is stylishly packaged to appeal to young filmmakers, mainstream movie fans and those who delight in raunchy comedies alike. This may sound unrealistic, but my father and I both loved it. He (a doctor) watches almost nothing but business news in his spare time and I (an entomologist) usually stick to horror and martial arts flicks. This should say something about the compelling appeal about this film. And it's something exceptional.

Assuming the narrative disclosure's honesty, the film even delights in pointing out that "yes, that [real life event] really happened" or "well, actually that's not how it happened." I found this style most charming. It reminded me of when I nearly pissed myself laughing watching Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson grilling hands in Pain and Gain (2013)--which, according to the movie, was "still a true story" at that point.

The cast finds Marisa Tomei, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling reuniting from Crazy, Stupid Love (2011). Ryan Gosling (Drive, Only God Forgives) effortlessly slips into the sleek role of Jared Vennett, a character that embraces Gosling's smooth talking yet jerky charisma while successfully suppressing his Hollywood pervasiveness as a sex symbol.

Meanwhile, just one nervous tick away from full-blown Asperger's we find Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises), who likewise sheds his sex appeal and dominates our attention as the medical doctor-turned-prodigy investor Michael Berryman. We watch as he struggles to wrestle his ill-explained yet thoughtful insights to his hedge fund-managing employers that "just don't get it." Not only do they not understand why he would bet against the American mortgage industry (i.e., invest in "shorting" mortgages, hence the title), they actually think he's gone insane and so does the remainder of the investing world. The data is there, but nobody is looking at it. So they all blindly follow, chant and worship the golden mortgage idol, "the bedrock of the American economy" during the NINJA (i.e., no income, no job, approved) subprime loan era that inflated the bubble whose burst was heard round the world.

Carell and his investment team are somehow likable (to the audience) as a group of otherwise easily dislikable analysts. They serve as our investigators, skeptics-turned-believers in the crusade to expose the great lie beneath. Whereas Bale is the brilliant and somewhat self-interested prodigy seeking to profit from the realized pending bubble, Carell's team represents our protagonists. Bale is the laughing stock Victor Frankenstein to Carell's fanatical and oft-doubted Van Helsing.

More closely reminiscent of a misunderstood movie physicist, Bale doesn't wish to share his insights. Meanwhile Carell is more the whistleblower, the high proselytizer of the truth to Bale's ill-understood Frankensteinian invention of shorting the real estate market. Carell is a classically guilt-tortured character who channels his energy into making The Big Short into his personal crusade. His mission of discovery reveals only horrors: exotic dancers with five houses, loan officers who brag about submitting mortgage applications for clients with neither jobs nor FICO scores (i.e., NINJA loans), alarming payment delinquency in nice neighborhoods and, worst of all, bogus financial ratings.

As if taking a trip to financial Oz, Bale is the brain, Carell the heart, and Gosling the pretty face from Kansas, but it's Brad Pitt who breathes harrowing soul into the film. Regardless of the financial or moral incentive, Carell and Bale are most concerned with "being right" and proving it to others. Pitt, however, has no horse in this race and illustrates the terrible reality of what it means to regular, average, tax-paying Americans if all this turns out to be true--and the audience FEELS it because we've, in fact, lived through it! But so easily do we forget our hardships long after they've passed. This film does a Hell of a job reminding us, even touching those who were not so harmfully left in the wake 10 years ago in the crash.

Director Adam McKay (Stepbrothers, Anchorman 2, The Other Guys), known for his immature manchild R-rated humor flicks, stitches together varying and familiar filming styles into this contemporary masterpiece that is sure to please. I was quite impressed and honestly never wanted this movie to end. The powerful emotional response I felt was tremendous. I was reminded of my reactions to such films as The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Rush (2013), Castaway (2000) and A River Runs Through It (1992).

Among Ex-Machina (2015) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), The Big Short was among the best films of the year! Maybe tied for my favorite of the year, and not a single CGI alien or machine gun to be found!

Even without discretely defined villains, torrid love affairs, brilliant orange explosions reflecting on glistening sweaty inflated biceps or giant CGI monsters fighting giant CGI robots, there are films whose very unfolding provokes powerful reactions of sentiment, self-reflection and moral justice within us. The Big Short is one of those films! If not the best film of the year, I'd posit this to be the best filmmaking of the year and among five Academy Award nominations it won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Don't miss this!


Southbound
Southbound
DVD
Price: $4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Five linked stories form this decent horror anthology with angels of death and the worst broken leg EVER!!!!!, April 19, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Southbound (Amazon Video)
If you want grim reapers, satanic cults, unlucky hitchhikers, devil worship, the worst leg injury ABSOLUTELY EVER, amateur surgery, home invasions, demons and trips to Hell and back, then this is for you. Not all the short films hit home runs but the few great moments make it worth the gory price of admission. Overall, this is a pretty good anthology.

If you've followed my reviews for a while now then you ought to know that I love horror anthologies. Typically either all of the short stories are directed by one man and written by another (e.g., Creepshow), or each short story has a different writer and director (e.g., V/H/S). However, this anthology features five stories with six writers and six directors: the trio of Radio Silence (V/H/S segment 10/31/98), Patrick Horvath (The Pact II), David Bruckner (V/H/S segment Amateur Night) and Roxanne Benjamin (V/H/S, V/H/S 2, V/H/S Viral).

Unlike many anthologies which feature a story teller or wraparound story (e.g., Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), this takes the approach of linked stories in which one component of the previous story links us to the next (much as in Trick ‘r Treat)--although it does loop us back to the opening story.

The Way In. The opening finds two men driving southbound on a desert highway. Covered in blood, trapped in some sort of timeloop and followed by several black flying angels of death, they have clearly done something very bad. This was a really sleek and cool short. The special effects and CGI are impressive. At one point a very cool looking grim reaper reaches down a guy's throat tearing his mouth and jaw into a macabre gaping mess.

Siren. The next morning three girls in the same area hit the road only to get the cliché flat tire. But fret not--they're offered a ride, dinner and a place to say with a weird couple having a dinner party that evening with their equally weird neighbors and their even weirder twin sons. When they say grace let's just say it sounded like they weren't thanking our Heavenly Father. Outside of some vomit and a lot of tongue-in-cheek social awkwardness, this short was relatively uneventful. Somewhat interesting, but somewhat boring as well.

The Accident. One of the girls (Fabianne Therese; Starry Eyes) from Siren escapes the satanic ritual and is brutally, gorily and hilariously hit by a car, the driver of which now endures a most stressful and unhelpful 911 call trying to help her--it's both soul-crushing and hilarious. Her legs are bent all over the place, she's convulsing…I was shocked the guy didn't panic and run. He takes her to what seems to be a recently abandoned town and into an empty hospital where he is advised by some surgeon (over the phone who knows far too much about the situation) to set her broken leg, intubate her, make an incision under her ribs to insert his hand inside her thorax to compress her lung! This is BRUTAL. First off, I never thought a broken leg scene in a horror movie could make me reel, wince, yell at the screen and uncomfortably laugh more than Insidious Chapter 3 (2015). But this movie wins--again folks, I was yelling at the screen LOL. It's so gleefully macabre and awful and wonderful as we hear the bloody tissue twist and slice and see the victim's face as she, fully awake, endures all this. WOOOOOW this short was amazing!

Compounding all this is that after he fails to save her, he is somehow trapped in the abandoned hospital! This short alone is worth watching this movie.

Jailbreak, the fourth short, strangely deviates from the more distinctly linked second and third as a man battles demons in a gory bar fight in search of his sister, who evidently has been in Hell for a long time. The special effects range from marginal to decent with some gooey splatters, but the story was completely uncompelling. I felt no satisfaction by the ending other than the relief that we were moving on to the work of other filmmakers.

The Way Out feels a lot like the home invasion from You're Next (2013). It's a little scary, moderately creepy, and packs some good shock value as a tough girl stands up to defend her family from a group of murderous masked home intruders. But what makes this final short interesting is that it links back all the way to the The Way In, which felt like the beginning of our timeline as we watched. Some of the "gates to Hell" CGI were a little cheesy, but they depicted some cool infernal imagery nonetheless.

I thought The Way In was nifty, especially how it linked to The Way Out, and that The Accident alone was worth the price of admission. Sure, not all the shorts were awesome. But therein lies the luxury of anthology films; it takes about ten minutes to figure out you don't like a particular short, and by then you only have about ten more minutes until it's over and you're on to the next. And because each short has a different writer and director, you can rest assured that it will have a completely different style.

This was entertaining and at times pretty clever. The big take home message for me to sell you on this though would have to be the injuries of the girl in The Accident. WORST BROKEN LEG EVERRRRRR! Mercy! Overall, this is a pretty good anthology.


Warlock
Warlock
DVD ~ Julian Sands
Price: $9.37
28 used & new from $6.79

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent 80s witch movie using the Terminator playbook with time travel and spellcraft., April 17, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Warlock (DVD)
This film is far better than horror fans today realize and sadly I fear it is overlooked when people delve into 80s and 90s horror to round their horror film educations. If you're in the market for a good "witch movie" or simply a great horror movie choice in general, this is it.

I had long been yearning for a good witch movie after seeing The Witch (2016), which was successful as a movie "involving" a witch but didn't at all feel "about" the witch. So it had me yearning for a good movie that "focused on" the witch. And this movie is an excellent choice for that!

After a lengthy atmospheric introduction to 17th century Massachusetts, we meet our Warlock (Julian sands; Tale of a Vampire, Arachnophobia). For his actions in league with the Devil he is sentenced to death or, put much more specifically by his accusers: "You are to be hanged, and then burned over a basket of living cats."

A hellstorm arrives which by the Devil transports the Warlock through time, three centuries into the future to 1988 so that he may collect and assemble the three parts of the greatest spellbook the Grand Grimoire, the dark Bible. He is followed through time by the witch hunter Redferne (Richard E. Grant; Bram Stoker's Dracula) to the home of Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate.

Much as with the pansexual nature of vampirism, our Warlock homoerotically kisses and bites the tongue from a gay man and spits it into a frying pan after cutting off his finger and procuring his fanciful ring. Not only a tongue and a finger, but he goes on to remove the eyes of a spiritualist (Mary Woronov; House of the Devil, Chopping Mall) which look (despite being disembodied) where he must go. But his spellcraft advances with the story and he eventually casts a spell cursing Kassandra to age 20 years every day--a fate worse than death to a once stunning twenty-something.

Our witch hunter Redferne is similar to a lower budget, smaller muscled, less suave The Last Witch Hunter (2016). He uses arcane tricks to track the Warlock--like his witch compass using the Warlock's blood, nails in foot prints to cripple him, and recognizing bewitching signs such as cream that sours overnight and bread that doesn't rise to detect his presence. As Redferne traveled through time to "the present" in tow of the Warlock, their dynamic is much as The Terminator's (1984) Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner to the T-800, with an ordinary but brave man aiding a diner waitress trying to prevent the end of humanity from a supernatural opponent against overwhelming odds.

Director Steve Miner (Lake Placid, Halloween H20, House, Friday the 13th Parts 2-3) already had some horror experience, but I think he outdid himself here. I was pleased with the story from start to finish (a stunning rarity in horror especially back then), the acting was solid (but not wowing), the nuance and discovery of mysticism was developed well, and the special effects were really quite good for their time with the ectoplasmic magical energy not at all looking hokey (although the flying was a bit silly by today's standards) and a nice gory finale! I was especially pleased with the ending, had a dash of acceptable warm-fuzzy feelings and a bit of clever tongue-in-cheek humor.

This film is far better than horror fans today realize and sadly I fear it is overlooked when people delve into 80s and 90s horror to round their film educations. Let's correct this. Buy it, see it, and celebrate the Warlock!


Flight 7500 ( 7500 ) ( Destination Hell (Seventy Five Hundred) ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Germany ]
Flight 7500 ( 7500 ) ( Destination Hell (Seventy Five Hundred) ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Germany ]
DVD ~ Ryan Kwanten
11 used & new from $13.63

2.0 out of 5 stars Grudge ghost at 30,000 feet; the trailers and cast and director are promising but this film fails over and over., April 16, 2016
Flight 7500 departs Los Angeles for Tokyo and as the overnight flight makes its course the passengers encounter some sort of evil supernatural force. Given the director, my guess would be a "Grudge ghost."

Our lineup of victims are moderately humanized and somewhat likable, but perhaps mostly because we recognize them from other HBO and horror favorites. There is a couple (Ryan Kwanten; True Blood, and Amy Smart; Mirrors) embarking on a non-refundable couples trip with their friends who do not yet know they're getting a divorce, a mellow young man (Jerry Ferrara; Entourage, Battleship) and his recently wed bridezilla (Scout Taylor-Compton; Halloween) who is not fond of their goth and fatalistic row-mate (Nicky Whelan; Halloween II), and a flirty scheister seated beside an unimpressed young lady (Christian Serratos; The Walking Dead). Meanwhile the flight attendants (Leslie Bibb; Trick 'r Treat, and Jamie Chung; The Man with the Iron Fists) gossip about the passengers and their love lives, one of which is involved with the adulterous pilot (Johnathon Schaech). Essentially, everyone is either lying about something, angry about something, or in denial suppressing something.

Among the passengers is a man with an old wooden box of which he's suspiciously protective. I'd be a bit clingy to my carry-on, too, if it had an evil Japanese spirit in it (or so I'm assuming that of the contents). Shortly after takeoff he dies from a most violently protracted seizure. By the end of the movie you will find no link to this completely unnatural seizure and any of the other events that shall transpire.

With a dead body on board people are harrowed, some even curious, but most reflecting on their lives having recently faced death. It disappoints me to say that as some strange things start happening on the plane, I found more satisfaction from the development of the characters' relationships and self-discovery (not that there's anything special going on) than I did the horror story itself. The formula is simple: 1) someone thinks she sees something, and 2) two passengers find connections when first they saw adversity. The dead body creepily moves, and a troubled couple reflect on their poor decisions. There's a lot of this interplay between interpersonal moments and failed attempts at scary happenings. Speaking of failed attempts, a woman encounters a ghost emerging from the mist of the tiny airplane bathroom floor while taking a pregnancy test. Needlessly weird!

As the story stumbles into some state of development we learn of evil spirits of Japanese mythology that "won't let go" and thus do not move on to the afterlife. Apparently that's what's happening here. There's also a weird twitchy "death doll" that doesn't seem to fit into all this at all. And don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll see the doll meant very little.

The special effects are minimal, not in a "minimalist" way but in a really disappointing way. Some CGI mist, spectral reflections, and reaching hands. That's it. Our victims deaths go something like this…they hear something, a door or lid or suitcase opens, an out-of-focus figure or a hand emerges, the victim screams or whimpers, aaaaand cut scene. We see no monster or ghost nor do we see an attack or a gruesome outcome--not even a horrific body. Of whatever budget there was to hire the cast and create a huge variety of poster art (of the course of 3-4 years of release delays), it seems that hardly a dollar was spared to bring our monster to the screen. As such, I now see why it took years to finally get this movie released.

I don't know what went wrong. The well-respected director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge 1-2, Ju-On 1-2) and writer Craig Rosenberg (The Uninvited, The Quiet Ones) brought together a sizable ensemble cast rich with horror experience. This should have worked. It seemed to have all of the building blocks of success, but once you hit "play" you'll find no foundation was built.

Very sad. I wanted so badly to like this--especially since I've been waiting for YEARS to see ths. My recommendation is that you don't even watch this out of respect for Shimizu or any of the cast you may like. It's not worth it. Not even a little.


7500
7500
DVD ~ Leslie Bibb

2.0 out of 5 stars Grudge ghost at 30,000 feet; the trailers and cast and director are promising but this film fails over and over., April 16, 2016
This review is from: 7500 (DVD)
Flight 7500 departs Los Angeles for Tokyo and as the overnight flight makes its course the passengers encounter some sort of evil supernatural force. Given the director, my guess would be a "Grudge ghost."

Our lineup of victims are moderately humanized and somewhat likable, but perhaps mostly because we recognize them from other HBO and horror favorites. There is a couple (Ryan Kwanten; True Blood, and Amy Smart; Mirrors) embarking on a non-refundable couples trip with their friends who do not yet know they're getting a divorce, a mellow young man (Jerry Ferrara; Entourage, Battleship) and his recently wed bridezilla (Scout Taylor-Compton; Halloween) who is not fond of their goth and fatalistic row-mate (Nicky Whelan; Halloween II), and a flirty scheister seated beside an unimpressed young lady (Christian Serratos; The Walking Dead). Meanwhile the flight attendants (Leslie Bibb; Trick 'r Treat, and Jamie Chung; The Man with the Iron Fists) gossip about the passengers and their love lives, one of which is involved with the adulterous pilot (Johnathon Schaech). Essentially, everyone is either lying about something, angry about something, or in denial suppressing something.

Among the passengers is a man with an old wooden box of which he's suspiciously protective. I'd be a bit clingy to my carry-on, too, if it had an evil Japanese spirit in it (or so I'm assuming that of the contents). Shortly after takeoff he dies from a most violently protracted seizure. By the end of the movie you will find no link to this completely unnatural seizure and any of the other events that shall transpire.

With a dead body on board people are harrowed, some even curious, but most reflecting on their lives having recently faced death. It disappoints me to say that as some strange things start happening on the plane, I found more satisfaction from the development of the characters' relationships and self-discovery (not that there's anything special going on) than I did the horror story itself. The formula is simple: 1) someone thinks she sees something, and 2) two passengers find connections when first they saw adversity. The dead body creepily moves, and a troubled couple reflect on their poor decisions. There's a lot of this interplay between interpersonal moments and failed attempts at scary happenings. Speaking of failed attempts, a woman encounters a ghost emerging from the mist of the tiny airplane bathroom floor while taking a pregnancy test. Needlessly weird!

As the story stumbles into some state of development we learn of evil spirits of Japanese mythology that "won't let go" and thus do not move on to the afterlife. Apparently that's what's happening here. There's also a weird twitchy "death doll" that doesn't seem to fit into all this at all. And don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll see the doll meant very little.

The special effects are minimal, not in a "minimalist" way but in a really disappointing way. Some CGI mist, spectral reflections, and reaching hands. That's it. Our victims deaths go something like this…they hear something, a door or lid or suitcase opens, an out-of-focus figure or a hand emerges, the victim screams or whimpers, aaaaand cut scene. We see no monster or ghost nor do we see an attack or a gruesome outcome--not even a horrific body. Of whatever budget there was to hire the cast and create a huge variety of poster art (of the course of 3-4 years of release delays), it seems that hardly a dollar was spared to bring our monster to the screen. As such, I now see why it took years to finally get this movie released.

I don't know what went wrong. The well-respected director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge 1-2, Ju-On 1-2) and writer Craig Rosenberg (The Uninvited, The Quiet Ones) brought together a sizable ensemble cast rich with horror experience. This should have worked. It seemed to have all of the building blocks of success, but once you hit "play" you'll find no foundation was built.

Very sad. I wanted so badly to like this--especially since I've been waiting for YEARS to see ths. My recommendation is that you don't even watch this out of respect for Shimizu or any of the cast you may like. It's not worth it. Not even a little.


Flight 7500
Flight 7500
DVD
Price: $12.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Grudge ghost at 30,000 feet; the trailers and cast and director are promising but this film fails over and over., April 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Flight 7500 (Amazon Video)
Flight 7500 departs Los Angeles for Tokyo and as the overnight flight makes its course the passengers encounter some sort of evil supernatural force. Given the director, my guess would be a "Grudge ghost."

Our lineup of victims are moderately humanized and somewhat likable, but perhaps mostly because we recognize them from other HBO and horror favorites. There is a couple (Ryan Kwanten; True Blood, and Amy Smart; Mirrors) embarking on a non-refundable couples trip with their friends who do not yet know they're getting a divorce, a mellow young man (Jerry Ferrara; Entourage, Battleship) and his recently wed bridezilla (Scout Taylor-Compton; Halloween) who is not fond of their goth and fatalistic row-mate (Nicky Whelan; Halloween II), and a flirty scheister seated beside an unimpressed young lady (Christian Serratos; The Walking Dead). Meanwhile the flight attendants (Leslie Bibb; Trick 'r Treat, and Jamie Chung; The Man with the Iron Fists) gossip about the passengers and their love lives, one of which is involved with the adulterous pilot (Johnathon Schaech). Essentially, everyone is either lying about something, angry about something, or in denial suppressing something.

Among the passengers is a man with an old wooden box of which he's suspiciously protective. I'd be a bit clingy to my carry-on, too, if it had an evil Japanese spirit in it (or so I'm assuming that of the contents). Shortly after takeoff he dies from a most violently protracted seizure. By the end of the movie you will find no link to this completely unnatural seizure and any of the other events that shall transpire.

With a dead body on board people are harrowed, some even curious, but most reflecting on their lives having recently faced death. It disappoints me to say that as some strange things start happening on the plane, I found more satisfaction from the development of the characters' relationships and self-discovery (not that there's anything special going on) than I did the horror story itself. The formula is simple: 1) someone thinks she sees something, and 2) two passengers find connections when first they saw adversity. The dead body creepily moves, and a troubled couple reflect on their poor decisions. There's a lot of this interplay between interpersonal moments and failed attempts at scary happenings. Speaking of failed attempts, a woman encounters a ghost emerging from the mist of the tiny airplane bathroom floor while taking a pregnancy test. Needlessly weird!

As the story stumbles into some state of development we learn of evil spirits of Japanese mythology that "won't let go" and thus do not move on to the afterlife. Apparently that's what's happening here. There's also a weird twitchy "death doll" that doesn't seem to fit into all this at all. And don't worry, by the end of the movie you'll see the doll meant very little.

The special effects are minimal, not in a "minimalist" way but in a really disappointing way. Some CGI mist, spectral reflections, and reaching hands. That's it. Our victims deaths go something like this…they hear something, a door or lid or suitcase opens, an out-of-focus figure or a hand emerges, the victim screams or whimpers, aaaaand cut scene. We see no monster or ghost nor do we see an attack or a gruesome outcome--not even a horrific body. Of whatever budget there was to hire the cast and create a huge variety of poster art (of the course of 3-4 years of release delays), it seems that hardly a dollar was spared to bring our monster to the screen. As such, I now see why it took years to finally get this movie released.

I don't know what went wrong. The well-respected director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge 1-2, Ju-On 1-2) and writer Craig Rosenberg (The Uninvited, The Quiet Ones) brought together a sizable ensemble cast rich with horror experience. This should have worked. It seemed to have all of the building blocks of success, but once you hit "play" you'll find no foundation was built.

Very sad. I wanted so badly to like this--especially since I've been waiting for YEARS to see ths. My recommendation is that you don't even watch this out of respect for Shimizu or any of the cast you may like. It's not worth it. Not even a little.


The Hallow [Blu-ray]
The Hallow [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Joseph Mawle
Price: $14.59
16 used & new from $9.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT creature feature/cautionary tale of baby-stealing, slimy Irish fairy folk monsters., April 15, 2016
This review is from: The Hallow [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This evil monstrous Irish fairy movie came out of nowhere and really impressed me. It's not especially original, but it boasts fine execution, quality squishy slimy special effects and smart cautious protagonists…just watch it.

I would like to strongly recommend that you read no reviews on this movie before watching it. I actually watched this blind (not even seeing the trailer) and I was quite pleasantly surprised. However, if you haven't seen it and choose to read this review anyway, I'll warn you by saying SPOILERS when you shouldn't read any further. It's only one paragraph and it will be in a blue-shaded block quote.

Opening with a serene walk in the mossy woods we meet the local "tree doctor" Adam (Joseph Mawle; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), who collects some strange samples of what is perhaps a slime mold of sorts on a dead animal--if you're not a biologist, just know that's really weird. Not halfway through examining the sample in his office slash makeshift laboratory his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic; Devil, Drag Me to Hell) finds more of the goo leaking from their ceiling in their infant's nursery. Yuck.

From the start I really like this atmosphere painted around our protagonists. It's dark but naturally serene and isolated with good justification. Adam and Clare strike us as inquisitive and cautious. But, as the horror genre would have it, no one is ever really cautious enough when it comes to dealing with the supernatural. Just perhaps enough to make it interesting as the story persists and we wonder whose suspicions are more accurate: Adam's, Clare's or the townsfolk's.

The superstitious locals don't like Adam's work-related investigations in the woods. They would warn that those woods belong the "the hallow"--the baby-stealing fairies and banshees and fey creatures of myth and folklore. The local police (Michael Smiley; The World's End, The ABCs of Death) offer soft warnings of these legends, but their neighbor (Michael McElhatton; Game of Thrones) who lost his daughter to the woods is more heavy-handed, offering an ancient book of fairy lore depicting changelings.

I applaud director Corin Hardy's first feature length film endeavor. It takes us from mysterious, to superstitious, to "pack your bags and let's get outta' here" without a slow moment. We find a gradual introduction to the fey creatures accompanied by sounds of stirring about, followed by stronger evidence like monstrous scratch marks and ultimately…attack by monsters in plain sight. The creature effects are pretty good and very abundant--we see a lot of them. These fairy plant zombies look and move in creeptastic ways nuanced with twitches.

Skip the next paragraph to avoid spoilers.

MINOR SPOILERS START HERE… This film is exactly what Leprechaun Origins (2014) really wanted to be, but sorely failed to achieve. These neat fairy folk creatures assume a more twisted monstrous form than the attractive pixies of storybooks. Repelled and harmed by iron and light, they are the stuff of evil. They infect Adam's home with some sort of corrupting, infectious, parasitic fairy slime that acts like a virus on living tissue and rapidly warps and rots wood. I was expecting the slime to take us in the transformation direction of such films as Blood Glacier (2013), Harbinger Down (2015) or The Thing (2011). It sort of does, and it certainly takes us on a weird journey. Just not the path I expected. It reminded me of Leviathan (1989) and The Cave (2005), and even had a Prometheus (2012) meets The Fly (1986) vibe about it. SPOILERS END HERE…

This film came out of nowhere and really impressed me. It's not especially original, but it boasts fine execution, quality squishy slimy creature effects, smart cautious protagonists…just watch it.


The Hallow
The Hallow
DVD
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT creature feature/cautionary tale of baby-stealing, slimy Irish fairy folk monsters., April 15, 2016
This review is from: The Hallow (Amazon Video)
This evil monstrous Irish fairy movie came out of nowhere and really impressed me. It's not especially original, but it boasts fine execution, quality squishy slimy special effects and smart cautious protagonists…just watch it.

I would like to strongly recommend that you read no reviews on this movie before watching it. I actually watched this blind (not even seeing the trailer) and I was quite pleasantly surprised. However, if you haven't seen it and choose to read this review anyway, I'll warn you by saying SPOILERS when you shouldn't read any further. It's only one paragraph and it will be in a blue-shaded block quote.

Opening with a serene walk in the mossy woods we meet the local "tree doctor" Adam (Joseph Mawle; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), who collects some strange samples of what is perhaps a slime mold of sorts on a dead animal--if you're not a biologist, just know that's really weird. Not halfway through examining the sample in his office slash makeshift laboratory his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic; Devil, Drag Me to Hell) finds more of the goo leaking from their ceiling in their infant's nursery. Yuck.

From the start I really like this atmosphere painted around our protagonists. It's dark but naturally serene and isolated with good justification. Adam and Clare strike us as inquisitive and cautious. But, as the horror genre would have it, no one is ever really cautious enough when it comes to dealing with the supernatural. Just perhaps enough to make it interesting as the story persists and we wonder whose suspicions are more accurate: Adam's, Clare's or the townsfolk's.

The superstitious locals don't like Adam's work-related investigations in the woods. They would warn that those woods belong the "the hallow"--the baby-stealing fairies and banshees and fey creatures of myth and folklore. The local police (Michael Smiley; The World's End, The ABCs of Death) offer soft warnings of these legends, but their neighbor (Michael McElhatton; Game of Thrones) who lost his daughter to the woods is more heavy-handed, offering an ancient book of fairy lore depicting changelings.

I applaud director Corin Hardy's first feature length film endeavor. It takes us from mysterious, to superstitious, to "pack your bags and let's get outta' here" without a slow moment. We find a gradual introduction to the fey creatures accompanied by sounds of stirring about, followed by stronger evidence like monstrous scratch marks and ultimately…attack by monsters in plain sight. The creature effects are pretty good and very abundant--we see a lot of them. These fairy plant zombies look and move in creeptastic ways nuanced with twitches.

Skip the next paragraph to avoid spoilers.

MINOR SPOILERS START HERE… This film is exactly what Leprechaun Origins (2014) really wanted to be, but sorely failed to achieve. These neat fairy folk creatures assume a more twisted monstrous form than the attractive pixies of storybooks. Repelled and harmed by iron and light, they are the stuff of evil. They infect Adam's home with some sort of corrupting, infectious, parasitic fairy slime that acts like a virus on living tissue and rapidly warps and rots wood. I was expecting the slime to take us in the transformation direction of such films as Blood Glacier (2013), Harbinger Down (2015) or The Thing (2011). It sort of does, and it certainly takes us on a weird journey. Just not the path I expected. It reminded me of Leviathan (1989) and The Cave (2005), and even had a Prometheus (2012) meets The Fly (1986) vibe about it. SPOILERS END HERE…

This film came out of nowhere and really impressed me. It's not especially original, but it boasts fine execution, quality squishy slimy creature effects, smart cautious protagonists…just watch it.


Pumpkinhead (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]
Pumpkinhead (Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Lance Henriksen
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $18.91
24 used & new from $17.09

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent case study in over-played tropes executed PERFECTLY in this legit classic that made the 80s rock!, April 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Pumpkinhead is a film brimming with all the typical horror tropes. But what truly sets it apart is their elegant delivery in the form of good storytelling--the kind of good writing and well-staged events we seldom encounter in horror. Oh, and EXCELLENT pacing, special effects and set design!!!

Makeup special effects wizard turned one-time horror director, Stan Winston (Constantine, Galaxy Quest) demonstrates a greater handle on storytelling and general filmmaking than most would on even their fifth turn helming a horror movie…and he does it just right his first time. He did an admirable job and I'm baffled (and quite disappointed) that he did not continue to direct more horror films. The 90s certainly would have benefited from more of his work.

Pumpkinhead is a film brimming with all the typical horror tropes. But what truly sets it apart is their elegant delivery in the form of good storytelling--the kind of good writing and well-staged events we seldom encounter in horror. The scenes stitch together seamlessly and imbue a finer level of synthesis than horror typically finds.

In the opening scene, Ed's father protects his family from a desperate man pursued by a most pernicious demonic entity during a rather dire flashback that links our main character's childhood to the monster. Now grown and a father of a young boy himself, Ed (Lance Henriksen; Harbinger Down, Aliens, AVP, The Pit and the Pendulum) finds his son in his last living moments after some intoxicated twenty-something runs him over with his dirt bike.

Much to my relief, what we don't find are a bunch of young adults who keep talking about beer and smoking weed and getting drunk and getting laid. Their upcoming plight is not prefaced by drunk lap dances or cabin stripteases (e.g., Julianna Guill in Friday the 13th). What we witness instead is what we might expect of a young group (incl. Kerry Remsen; A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Ghoulies 2) on vacation--mild drinking and driving but no one seems sloshed, typical fun behavior that's just a little bit dangerous, and a somewhat understandable (though not at all forgivable) reaction to a big screw up while one of them was on probation. Even more rare for a horror film is that although we have a clear singular protagonist in our recently bereft father, the soon-to-be victims are effectively humanized when we witness that only the proby screw-up acts immorally after the accident. Like I said, the tropes are all here, but they don't feel like the same old over-played tropes when handled so well.

Ed seeks out a witch--a piece of local hillbilly folklore--to exact his revenge. What's funny is that Ed is the local middle-of-nowhere store owner in the mountain woods. Normally HE would be the harbinger warning the younger city folks of bad things to come. Instead it's Ed's fellow poverty-stricken neighbor (with five kids wearing filthy rags singing rhymes about the monstrous Pumpkinhead) who warns Ed away from pursuing the witch. How's that for a badass turn of troped-up events?

The witch is great! The translucently thin-haired hag lives in a fetid cabin in the swamp. The set designers really outdid themselves. She's creepy and says all the typical lines like "you'll know when you find it." But she's just soooo creepy that it doesn't feel corny. Then the pumpkin-patched grave site, the exhumation, the alien-looking transformation…this film truly has a lot to offer.

The pacing is excellent. We consistently build towards the reason to seek the witch (i.e., the tragedy), the impetus of vengeance, the necessary ritual, some blood and black magic, and the mysterious discovery that Ed is now somehow "connected" to the Pumpkinhead demon.

Once it comes time to start picking off twenty-somethings the movie becomes a bit more typical, but remaining on the higher quality end in terms of execution. Get it…execution? See what I did there? But for real, it's pretty fun. There are various "horror drags" and a grabs-from-above that reminds me of Alien 3…or, I suppose, Alien 3 (1992) reminds me of this.

Which brings us to the monster, which is undoubtedly reminiscent of the Alien Xenomorph, but with its own style. It's slimy skin, protruding bones, gaunt body, huge head and long tail make this fiend super-creepy and I love the way it lumbers around and makes interesting facial expressions!

And while its appearance reminds me of Aliens, its behavior is more like Jason Voorhees as it lurks around the isolated cabin in the woods (yes, all the tropes are here), occasionally dropping a dead body in front of a future victim (for no other reason than a good jump scare for us viewers). I'm also quite fond of the scene when it "stabs" a guy with a rifle. Cheeky!

This film offers much worthy screen time to its well-crafted monster and the action is pretty cool, especially at the end. The conflict is resolved properly with an ending that "matters" (unlike a lot of horror that just sort of "ends"). What's more is that the 80s loved horror endings that all but flagged down the obvious sequel. That happens here, but in a most tasteful, thoughtful, and appreciative manner that will put a smile of understanding satisfaction on your face the moment you catch it.

I don't simply recommend this be watched, but that you just go buy it. This movie contributed to making the 80s a special era for horror.


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