Disclaimer: My reviews of media here do not mean that I lay any claim to the media in question. All reviews are entirely subjective. I may talk about how well the movie objectively works in my opinion, but it essentially all comes down to what I think of the movie. My liking a movie is not the same as thinking it's a great movie. If I trash a movie that you love, or love a movie you can’t stand, it’s not because I hate you. Also, all reviews are likely to contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the movies in question and don’t want to know what happens, then you probably shouldn’t be reading about them here. Finally, a blanket trigger warning for people who don't want to read about common horror movie content such as sexism, racism, violence, etc.: I will likely discuss all of the above when they show up in the films I review, so please tread with caution. Check out this post for more on how my reviews are set up.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Horror Movie Review: 100 Feet (2008)

Overall: B
Acting: B
Writing: B
Story: B
Technical aspects: B
Effects: C

Directed by:
Eric Red

Famke Janssen
Bobby Cannavale
Ed Westwick
Michael Pare

Particular triggers: domestic violence
Passes the Bechdel test? yes, but barely

            100 Feet is the story of a woman named Marnie Watson (Famke Janssen), who is placed under house arrest after being found guilty of the murder of her husband, Mike (Michael Pare). Mike was abusive, and the murder was in self-defense; Marnie had reported him several times to the police, but as Mike himself was a cop, little was done and the investigations were generally dropped. Complicating things, the cop in charge of Marnie, named Shanks (Bobby Cannavale), was Mike’s partner.
            “100 Feet” refers to the distance that Marnie is allowed to travel – any farther, and the anklet she wears will send a signal to the police, and she’ll be sent back to prison.
            It quickly becomes clear that Mike’s ghost is haunting the house, and he continues to attack her. Unwilling to leave or be sent back to prison, Marnie attempts exorcisms, attempts to force Mike’s spirit out of the house by getting rid of his possessions, etc. but nothing works. Some of the assaults against her are investigated by Shanks, who is beginning to believe that someone else is beating Marnie, and that this other person may be the one actually responsible for killing Mike.
            It’s hard to say much else without being too spoiler-heavy.

I actually really like this movie. I find Marnie’s character interesting and sympathetic, not quite the same as the average female horror movie protagonist. She seems genuinely conflicted, not feeling guilty for killing her husband because of the circumstances, but regretting that it happened. She’s imperfect, but her actions are consistent with her character.
The small cast helps the film feel very self-contained, and emphasizes the feeling of isolation that Marnie experiences in the house.
I enjoy the premise of being literally trapped in a house with something malevolent, and by something more than a broken-down car or a silly dare. (And yes, I remember that Disturbia also used the “house arrest” premise, but I like its use in this movie far more, and that’s about the only way the films are at all comparable.) Also in the category of at least kind of subverting common tropes, while she does refuse to seek outside help, this also makes sense for her character. After her experiences, of course she’s not going to ask Shanks or any other cops for help.
The biggest detractor in my opinion is the ending, which is tied together a little too neatly and rapidly. The ultimate way they get rid of Mike’s ghost works, I suppose, but seems like something that would have occurred to her earlier. The effects are also a bit hit-or-miss. They aren’t the most ridiculous, but a few times the ghost modeling is quite fake looking (when he’s heavily active) and one scene in particular has pretty laughable blood effects.
Occasionally this one runs on Syfy, and I’d certainly recommend the watch if it does come up. It’s also had a DVD release, and it’s one that I enjoyed enough that I’m considering purchasing it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Horror Movie Quick Review: Case 39 (2009)

Overall: B

Directed by:
Christian Alvart

Renee Zellweger
Jodelle Ferland

Case 39 is about a social worker named Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) who is beyond overworked, but takes on the case of a girl named Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland.) There seems to be a severe case of abuse towards the girl, seemingly confirmed when Lilith’s parents try to murder her. The parents are found not guilty by reason of insanity as they claim that Lilith is a demon and they had no choice but to kill her. Emily ends up taking Lilith in until a better foster home can be found, but then as people in Emily’s life begin to die under mysterious circumstances, she realizes that Lilith’s parents may have been right.

I’m a fan of evil child movies, so I liked Case 39. It does a pretty good job of setting Lilith up as the innocent victim (though somewhat unfortunately because of the expectations of it being a horror movie, and especially after reading a summary of it, the audience will still realize that she’s evil, so there’s not much opportunity for surprise.) It’s well-acted (and I really like Jodelle Ferland, as far as child actresses go) and the characters are pretty good as well. Emily’s conflict over proper professional behavior vs. legitimate worry for Lilith is believably handled. In a few ways it felt like the ending and resolution were a little bit rushed, and I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to not realize that Emily is probably going to wind up spending a good chunk of her life in prison after the credits roll. The film isn’t the most groundbreaking or original offering, and it felt to me like there was just something kind of missing, but it’s a well put together film that is largely successful in telling its story.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Horror Movie Reviews: Intermedio (2005)

Overall: F
Acting: D
Writing: F
Story: D
Technical aspects: F
Effects: F

Directed by:
Andrew Lauer

Edward Furlong
Steve Railsback
Cerina Vincent
Amber Benson
Callard Harris
Paul Cram
Alejandro Samaniego
Dean M. Arevalo

What the ass, man? This sucks.

This was a bad movie. Like… in some ways just bafflingly bad. Also, I give basically an entire synopsis of the film below, so it’s super heavy on spoilers.
            Okay, so we’ve got four main characters. Malik (Edward Furlong) lives out in California with his girlfriend Barbie (Amber Benson). His childhood friend Gen (Cerina Vincent) and her boyfriend Wes (Callard Harris) come by to visit, and Wes has a super-awesome plan for them to meet some Mexican drug dealers, spend all their money on some super-awesome marijuana that’s apparently the best weed in the history of weed, and sell it for a super-awesome profit back in the US. As you do.
            But… the tunnel they have to go through turns out to be the very tunnel that Malik and Gen’s respective fathers disappeared down when the two were kids! But the four decide to go down these tunnels, even though the Mexican drug dealers insist on not going all the way to the halfway point due to the fear of “intermedios.” The intermedios are supposedly ghosts trapped in between the realm of the living and the dead. There’s also some other story that’s tied in somehow about how someone who catches the blood of a dead man before it hits the ground will become immortal or something. It’s a little vague.
            As they go through the tunnels, some weird stuff happens, though it’s pretty disjointed. A guy appears to be following them, knocking out the lights and the like. After the four kids meet up with the drug dealers Jorge (Alejandro Samaniego) and Al (Dean M. Arevalo), whoever is stalking them uses a mysterious amulet apparently filled with blood to summon ghosts to attack them. One kills Al, and the others run away. They get separated, with Wes running around alone and yelling for quite a while. (Giving us the wonderful line “What the ass?”) Barbie gets cut in half while they try to run away, and Jorge’s fingers also get cut off. They all get lost in the tunnels, but end up in a safehouse that’s blockaded from the inside. They keep running into a ghost-like boy named Zee (Paul Cram), who seems mostly to want to help them. Wes semi-sacrifices himself so that Gen and Malik can get away, and they crawl through a tunnel to a room filled with bodies. They end up escaping, and ask for a ride from a local (Steve Railsback). He says he’ll drive them to the nearest town, though the viewer knows that he’s the creepy guy who was summoning ghosts before! He starts going on a rant about how his son died in those tunnels, and how the papers made him out to be a terrible person, but the only ones to blame are the drug dealers and people like Malik, Gen, and their friends. He gives Gen some beer (from a sealed can) and she passes out, he drives nails into Malik’s legs before knocking him out with chloroform. The pair wakes up back in the room with the dead bodies, but they find another tunnel to escape out of. They come up into a bedroom that’s covered in news clippings about the boy, Zee, who was killed presumably because he was a drug runner. They realize that the creepy old guy must be Zee’s father.
            The old guy comes back and we get a flashback of sorts explaining how he actually murdered Zee. The old guy tries again to kill Malik and Gen, but the previously-silent Zee tells him to stop. Gen grabs the old man’s amulet, which takes away his powers over the ghosts, who then kill him.
            Malik and Gen get out of the tunnels and get a ride. They then get a hotel room, and the two appear to have decided to become romantically involved. The camera pans out their window, where the ghosts of Barbie and Wes are staring at them.

            This movie was just… badly done. The plot isn’t anything special, but could have been an average or above average movie if done correctly. They even have some real actors! But no, it’s presumably poorly directed or something, because the acting is pretty shoddy, and Edward Furlong pretty much just yells all of his lines.
            The story also is just absolutely rife with plot holes. There’s little reason for them all to go down there, particularly since Barbie is on crutches the whole time. (Trivia tells me that this is because Amber Benson actually was injured, so the crutches were written in for the character, but going into a tunnel with someone who can’t walk is still a stupid idea in-film.) Even down to simple stuff like the old guy kidnapping and knocking Gen and Malik out, leaving them in a room, and then coming back later to kill them. Why did he leave them at all?
The ghost effects are always bad, but additionally are inconsistent. Sometimes they’re bad CG blurs, sometimes they appear to be guys in bad skeleton costumes. The other effects such as the blood and gore stuff is also poorly done.
Some stuff strays between plot hole, inconsistency, and plain incompetence. Several scenes have had the film flipped, so text on people’s shirts appears backwards. Some scenes are entirely reused, just with the film flipped, like when they crawl through the tunnels. When Wes is running through the tunnels he alternately is carrying his backpack and not carrying anything, and eventually inexplicably loses his shirt. Zee is alternately called Zeke and Zack and I think something else throughout the movie. It’s shown that his father killed him by strangling him, but we got a “shocking” scene earlier where you could see him from behind and it appeared he’d been shot in the head. When Gen steals the old man’s amulet and he’s shown frantically trying to get it back, he’s STILL WEARING THE DAMN THING. Gen’s tank top starts out at a reasonable length, and gets progressively shorter through the film (presumably whenever they figured people’s attention was waning) until we start to get some gratuitous underboob shots.
This movie pretty much had no saving points. It’s kind of funny in an unintentionally-bad-movie way, but really isn’t worth seeing unless you want it for that reason. (And while I think the actors realized how bad it was, I don’t think it was truly intended to be as awful as it was… I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem quite self-aware enough for that. If I AM wrong, then I still think the film fails to achieve its goal.) Even if you’re watching it for the “hey, this is a bad movie, let’s laugh at it” reason, it’s more obnoxious than entertaining a lot of the time. Though at least we now have knowledge of the phrase “what the ass, man?” which has entered into near-daily use in our household.