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About me

I am an unrepentant cinephile. Never too haughty to indulge in the sleaziest but always pleased to partake of legitimate art, I give everything a fair shot and strive to remove personal preference from the viewing experience. Though I indulge in all genres, I tend to gravitate most toward the horror, cult, drama, and musical genres.

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 Maggie Siff 7/10
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Movie Maniac posted a review of From the Dark

“"From The Dark" is the little Irish film that could and by could I mean basically make a better version of "I Am Legend" than a multi-million dollar budget production did. To deny that this movie took much inspiration from the classic Richard Matheson tale is a fool's errand but they do say imitatio” read more

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Movie Maniac posted a review of Revenge

“The New French Extremity movement in horror cinema brought us minted classics like "High Tension", "Inside", and "Martyrs" and while many struggled to find value among the pronounced visceral elements, others espoused their merits openly. The evolution of the subgenre eventually led to films like "” read more

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From the Dark review

Posted : 1 week, 1 day ago on 8 January 2019 01:25 (A review of From the Dark)

"From The Dark" is the little Irish film that could and by could I mean basically make a better version of "I Am Legend" than a multi-million dollar budget production did. To deny that this movie took much inspiration from the classic Richard Matheson tale is a fool's errand but they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so, for once, Matheson might not be spinning in his grave.

Indeed, much is borrowed in this endeavor. If I were to describe this movie in terms of other movies I'd say It's "I Am Legend" by way of "Rawhead Rex" with some "Nosferatu" visuals thrown in. This was both intriguing and alarming. At times, it sends up a red flag that had me cautiously watching with remote in hand in case i had to press stop. Alas, the moment never came and by the time the whole affair was over I felt quite endeared by what I had seen.

It starts generically enough with a couple taking the now tired "wrong turn" and getting lost only to come across the threat introduced in a prologue, a reawakened predator preserved in a peat bog. An ancient evil, in fact. The couple soon finds themselves fending the predator and it's victimized prey in an desolate farmhouse with scarce light as their only weapon.

The use of this device gives way to one of the film's strongest points, it's use of the dark to keep the creature mysterious and ominous at all times. And truly the choice to make it look like some descendant of Graf Orlok lends to not only the thematic structure but gives it the necessarily vicious blend of beast and man.

Much like the story it homages, the tale eventually finds our protagonist alone against a great evil and it is in the home stretch that everything really comes together in full. Up to then "From The Dark" suffers from some minor pacing issues as some elements are stretched a bit unnecessarily thin but it seems to roar back every time it comes close to losing your interest.

In the end, the good far outweighs the negative. Clever use of a plot device to hide the small budget does wonders for it, some shots and scenes are downright eerie or unsettling, and a simple and satisfying plot make it one of those sure to be small cult favorites.

"From The Dark" is not excellent but it is far from mediocre and nowhere near bad. It's a worthy addition to any horrorhound's library, especially if they enjoy something familiar, subtle, and obscure. 7/10


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Revenge review

Posted : 1 week, 6 days ago on 4 January 2019 09:00 (A review of Revenge)

The New French Extremity movement in horror cinema brought us minted classics like "High Tension", "Inside", and "Martyrs" and while many struggled to find value among the pronounced visceral elements, others espoused their merits openly. The evolution of the subgenre eventually led to films like "RAW" which cemented its legacy as a legitimate art form rather than violence for violence's sake.

"Revenge" seems poised to join its compatriots as a memorable classic even as it gathers accolade after accolade from critics near and far but is it worthy of that status? The short answer is yes but, like the movie itself, not everything is as simple as it looks.

At first glance "Revenge" may give the impression that it's a beautifully mounted and shot riff on the controversial classic "I Spit On Your Grave";the plot is essentially identical: woman is violated and left for dead, revenge ensues. The gorgeous cinematography and rich, technicolor vibrancy of the picture wouldn't be enough to justify imitation or uncomfortable content, however. While films like the aforementioned seem empowering they really peddle in exploiting an issue for cheap thrills and cash. This is where "Revenge" takes its own distinct creative path.

There is an ulterior motive behind "Revenge" that is almost satirically weaved into the behavior and dialogue of its antagonists, a group of misogynist weekend warriors ranging from the smoothly deceitful, the indifferently complicit, and down to the implicitly violating. These villains are thinly veiled archetypes of rape culture that bare down on our unfortunate heroin even as the film presents her as the societal equivalent of "the girl that asked for it".

With its brazen, but artistic, use of violence, the film successfully takes the viewer from any semblance of social apologetic to an ardent spectator of justifiable retribution. In short, while not every man is guilty of perpetuating rape culture the film shows us how even the least involved can turn the tides by not embodying the attitudes of the villainous trio within the film. This perspective might rub some the wrong way or may be perceived as an SJW agenda (as the modern climate would be prone to dub it) but it's a valid criticism. Generally speaking, "rape bad" would be, folks.

That being said, the film doesn't let it's message or metaphors bog it down. Oh no, make no mistake, "Revenge" is a nasty film. It expertly ropes in dark humor and discomfort with sudden crescendos of spurting grue all while looking absolutely gorgeous. It almost seems incongruous at times. How can something so lush be so ghastly, after all?

The performances are fantastic, especially that of Matilda Lutz as the heroine, Jen. The music is "synth nightmare chic" and really knows when to build up the suspense alongside the visuals. The effects? Brutal and bloody.

All in all, this earns its place in the company of its peers. Do I feel it's as good as, say, "RAW"? No, not by a long shot but, believe me, it's no slouch. Check this one out, you won't regret it. 8/10



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The Predator review

Posted : 3 weeks, 3 days ago on 23 December 2018 02:16 (A review of The Predator)

The Predator film franchise has often been a divisive one. People ardently defend or dismiss sequels and spin-offs as if they were the worst or best thing to come across their radar. Unfortunately, all this discussion is basically because everyone since the first film has tried to recapture that magic and fallen short, despite some great moments here and there.

Full disclosure, I love the first Predator film. It is not only a classic of the sci-fi genre but also a minted gem of action cinema. It is uncontested by any of it's successors to date. I used to have a great affection for "Predator 2" but, admittedly, it has not aged well, suffers from some silly situations, poor pacing, and sub-par writing/acting. Nevertheless it has some very iconic moments. The third film ("Predators") was seen as the red-headed stepchild of the lot by many fans but, honestly, I found it to be not only entertaining (despite some derivative elements) but way better than it's predecessor. I am, i know in the minority when by saying this. And so, I will continue to be in the minority by saying that "The Predator" is not as bad as it's been made out to be.

Make no mistake it still suffers from some major problems but ultimately it is such a brisk and satisfyingly action-packed flick that it's easy to overlook some of them (though not all). Do I feel that the film will hold up as time passes? No, it will most likely age badly but upon first viewing it won't prove utterly offensive to those not expecting a masterpiece which, let's be honest, we should be used to since the first sequel.

Much ballyhoo was made of certain elements, most notably the predator dogs and the plot element involving an autistic child perceived by the hunter aliens as a step up in evolution but in service of the film the concepts, though contrived or silly, work much better than they should. Acceptance of these will either make or break the film for you. Another big factor that plays in the same fashion is the comedy, mostly kept to the group of military outcasts facing the titular monster. This will either chime with you or it won't. Personally, having read the script, i was just relieved that the majority of their original lines were done away with but, ultimately, ended up kind of liking the ragtag team.

There are particular elements which are inexcusable, however. Most notably is the woeful over-dependence on CGI instead of physical effects. This would not be such a low blow if the effects were at the very least convincingly good but they are very obviously poor effects if not utterly abysmal. The final scene in the movie really made me groan. For all the brainless and flawed fun it had provided up to that moment, the film just decides to really stick it to you with the stupidest "reveal" imaginable that is relayed in the least convincing form ever. I felt like I had just watched a Saturday morning "to be continued" moment.

Character work is paper thin and somewhat generic and this might affect how much you care about the characters dependent more on taste than on quality but, as aforementioned, the steady clip of the movie kind of makes this easy to overlook. In addition, even if you don't mind the humor some of it will make your eyes roll on occasion. They could have liberally cut some of the truly ridiculous moments in this to the benefit of the film.

In the end, "The Predator" is a single serving, popcorn flick. Good for one go and maybe not much after. It is not a bad film so much as it is a mediocre film that manages to be fun despite its flaws. Even then, some moments and creative choices will tarnish any shine it manages to muster up. 6/10


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The Predator review

Posted : 1 month ago on 16 December 2018 06:01 (A review of The Predator)

"Venom" is something of an unfortunate film that just so happens to not be incredibly dull and feature a big, gooey monster that the public loves because of this it seems to have gotten a pass from many people but certainly not from me. Though I don't revile it, the film certainly left me feeling like I'd wasted two hours of valuable time on something uncertain of itself and incredibly vacuous.

The movie deals with intrepid, but cowardly, reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who bonds with an alien parasite that was brought to earth by what basically amounts to an evil Elon Musk. It is, at it's core, an origin story that really just serves as a setup for sequels more than anything.

First things first, if you're expecting something loyal to the comics you won't find a scintilla of it here. That is absolutely fine by me so under no circumstances believe that painted my opinion of it. I actually think the Venom character in the comics is pretty much all show and no substance and could use some major retooling. Well, he is in fact reworked in this movie, it just so happens that this job is approached in the most generic way possible.

The movie's biggest issue is how shockingly predictable, bland, and dated it is. When the final credits rolled it all began to make sense. The entire time I was thinking "this is like an Avi Arad superhero movie" and, sure enough, he was a producer on this just like he was on the ham-fisted, weak, pre-MCU Marvel movie offerings of the early 2000s. The setups for future scenes are so obvious that when they happen they are robbed of any impact because, quite simply, you expected them the very moment they were so transparently hinted at. The humor is not only horrendously bad but already feels like it won't hold up by the end of the year. Hell, it does't hold up upon first viewing. Most, glaringly, the entire story arch is your run of the mill origin framework, complete with paper thin romantic interest and cookie cutter corporate villain.

Another huge issue with the film is its apparent lack of self-identity. At times it feels like it's a sci-fi film, at others like a horror film, sometimes it's a "wacky comedy", and doing a woeful job of putting all this mush together is the arching superhero movie framework. None of these styles ever gel entirely and the film goes from one to the other without much resolve to give any of them sufficient substance.

"Venom" is also an ugly film. The cinematography can't even be called bland as it's more washed out and lifeless and, since the mood doesn't match this aesthetic, it feels out of place. To add insult to injury, the effects in this movie are so obviously reined in as a cost-cutting measure that you kind of feel robbed having seen a movie called Venom but rarely ever seeing him. This could all work if they built up anticipation for Venom's appearance but the films scattershot nature and predictability only make you hope that Venom's arrival or sudden appearance will save you for the purgatory of non-descript "blah" that the film serves up.

I digress because the effects deserve a bit more criticism. This is a superhero film about a character that is incredibly visual. The least you could do if you're so hell bent on making the movie as generic as possible is offer up spectacular effects and action. Alas, they don't even bother with this. The bulk of the effects are the equivalent of early 2000's cheap CGI. In fact, I would say they're worse because they made zero effort to make them blend organically with their surroundings. Almost every effect looks poorly superimposed over the real locations or people. It never looks like Venom is IN Eddie Brock but more cheapl laid over him. When Venom is fully himself he just looks like a big, gooey mass of unrealistic slime that fights another bucket of ooze. These effects might of been impressive circa 2004. Now, they are utter garbage.

The character work in this movie is also vexing at times and downright phoned in at others. It's not that the actors are bad, it's that their characters are so weak that you feel like you're watching fluff. The only exception is Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom. If one thing kept me interested in this movie it's Hardy. Hardy is one of our best actors and I wish i could say that my interest in him was because he was the diamond in the rough of this flick, alas that is not the case. The reason i was so interested is because his portrayal of Brock is so confusingly, jarringly strange that you can't help but look on like you would as you pass a car accident. From the strange choice of accent to his intentional AND inadvertent comedic displays, Hardy remains interesting enough to make you hang around till the end. I wish that was praise but it's really not.

Ultimately, "Venom" is exactly what we've come to expect from from Sony. Superficial, low effort, generic nonsense meant to appease popcorn munchers with no investment in good or even entertaining movies. No R-Rating could of saved this mess because the flaws are inherent in it's script. I wish it was even slightly good enough to warrant a rewatch but it left me so empty that it won't even get that in the near future. "Venom" is the type of comic movie we've evolved from long ago and for good reason....this type of movie is just bad. 3/10


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The Predator review

Posted : 1 month ago on 16 December 2018 06:00 (A review of The Predator)

"Venom" is something of an unfortunate film that just so happens to not be incredibly dull and feature a big, gooey monster that the public loves because of this it seems to have gotten a pass from many people but certainly not from me. Though I don't revile it, the film certainly left me feeling like I'd wasted two hours of valuable time on something uncertain of itself and incredibly vacuous.

The movie deals with intrepid, but cowardly, reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who bonds with an alien parasite that was brought to earth by what basically amounts to an evil Elon Musk. It is, at it's core, an origin story that really just serves as a setup for sequels more than anything.

First things first, if you're expecting something loyal to the comics you won't find a scintilla of it here. That is absolutely fine by me so under no circumstances believe that painted my opinion of it. I actually think the Venom character in the comics is pretty much all show and no substance and could use some major retooling. Well, he is in fact reworked in this movie, it just so happens that this job is approached in the most generic way possible.

The movie's biggest issue is how shockingly predictable, bland, and dated it is. When the final credits rolled it all began to make sense. The entire time I was thinking "this is like an Avi Arad superhero movie" and, sure enough, he was a producer on this just like he was on the ham-fisted, weak, pre-MCU Marvel movie offerings of the early 2000s. The setups for future scenes are so obvious that when they happen they are robbed of any impact because, quite simply, you expected them the very moment they were so transparently hinted at. The humor is not only horrendously bad but already feels like it won't hold up by the end of the year. Hell, it does't hold up upon first viewing. Most, glaringly, the entire story arch is your run of the mill origin framework, complete with paper thin romantic interest and cookie cutter corporate villain.

Another huge issue with the film is its apparent lack of self-identity. At times it feels like it's a sci-fi film, at others like a horror film, sometimes it's a "wacky comedy", and doing a woeful job of putting all this mush together is the arching superhero movie framework. None of these styles ever gel entirely and the film goes from one to the other without much resolve to give any of them sufficient substance.

"Venom" is also an ugly film. The cinematography can't even be called bland as it's more washed out and lifeless and, since the mood doesn't match this aesthetic, it feels out of place. To add insult to injury, the effects in this movie are so obviously reined in as a cost-cutting measure that you kind of feel robbed having seen a movie called Venom but rarely ever seeing him. This could all work if they built up anticipation for Venom's appearance but the films scattershot nature and predictability only make you hope that Venom's arrival or sudden appearance will save you for the purgatory of non-descript "blah" that the film serves up.

I digress because the effects deserve a bit more criticism. This is a superhero film about a character that is incredibly visual. The least you could do if you're so hell bent on making the movie as generic as possible is offer up spectacular effects and action. Alas, they don't even bother with this. The bulk of the effects are the equivalent of early 2000's cheap CGI. In fact, I would say they're worse because they made zero effort to make them blend organically with their surroundings. Almost every effect looks poorly superimposed over the real locations or people. It never looks like Venom is IN Eddie Brock but more cheapl laid over him. When Venom is fully himself he just looks like a big, gooey mass of unrealistic slime that fights another bucket of ooze. These effects might of been impressive circa 2004. Now, they are utter garbage.

The character work in this movie is also vexing at times and downright phoned in at others. It's not that the actors are bad, it's that their characters are so weak that you feel like you're watching fluff. The only exception is Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom. If one thing kept me interested in this movie it's Hardy. Hardy is one of our best actors and I wish i could say that my interest in him was because he was the diamond in the rough of this flick, alas that is not the case. The reason i was so interested is because his portrayal of Brock is so confusingly, jarringly strange that you can't help but look on like you would as you pass a car accident. From the strange choice of accent to his intentional AND inadvertent comedic displays, Hardy remains interesting enough to make you hang around till the end. I wish that was praise but it's really not.

Ultimately, "Venom" is exactly what we've come to expect from from Sony. Superficial, low effort, generic nonsense meant to appease popcorn munchers with no investment in good or even entertaining movies. No R-Rating could of saved this mess because the flaws are inherent in it's script. I wish it was even slightly good enough to warrant a rewatch but it left me so empty that it won't even get that in the near future. "Venom" is the type of comic movie we've evolved from long ago and for good reason....this type of movie is just bad. 3/10


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The Visit review

Posted : 1 month ago on 13 December 2018 07:01 (A review of The Visit)

"The Visit" was M. Night Shyamalan's first step back into the spotlight and I enjoyed it well enough when I first saw it despite it's flaws. It really still shocks me how much of a leap in quality happened between this and his next film "Split". I don't believe the film is great, by far, but I do believe it was one with a strong premise and some great scenes that, coupled with the prolific man who made it, will keep it from fading away into obscurity. There is much to say about the movie as it proved a stepping stone for Shymalan but foremost I believe that it would of been best served as a normal movie rather than one in the found footage/faux documentary style. This format hindered it as much as it made it stand out.

The film deals with two kids visiting grandparents they've never met for the first time. In a bid to heal the chasm of estrangement between their mother and her parents they set out to make a documentary about the issues that caused the emotional schism. Thing is, grandma and grandpa are downright pretty strange. Things, as you might guess, escalate.

Upon second viewing the same issues I had the first go round became all the more glaring. I found I hated the kid characters even more than I originally did. They are just so unrealistic and grating. Their dialogue is loaded with expository remarks that spoon feed way too much for the audience while simultaneously making you want to choke them for being so obnoxious. What should of been charming precociousness in the talented youths comes off as pretentiousness. And one of them raps...often. It's so bad. Movies like "The Babadook" showed us that a grating child character can work for the purposes of the film's themes but the two child leads in "The Visit" are far too often a chore to be around. They feel less like children and more like those douchey, self-deluded hipsters you try to actively avoid.

One of the two children is an aspiring filmmaker (hence the format of the movie). It is through her lens that we see the bulk of the movie and this allows for a more cinematic approach to the ongoings of a found footage flick. HOWEVER, M. Night's attempts at making shots look natural just end up making everything look all the more set up even when that is not the intention. What about the other points of view or moments of spontaneity? Well, they look just as meticulously planned as the normal shots and that, for me, robbed it of all it's immersive strengths. All the criticisms usually leveled at found footage films about the forced camera POV are front and center here because of this issue. Don't even get me started on the vexing jump-scare set ups.

Another massive problem is the severe lack of subtlety. M.Night had a deft hand at carefully crafting dialogue and scenes to build up a frothing sense of anticipation in movies like Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, etc, but he slowly lost that touch as time went on. In "The Visit" he is still not free of those chains as the dialogue feels not only incredulous but sloppy and loaded with unnecessary exposition. While the individual story arcs of the heroes of the film still manage to function quite well, they could of done so unencumbered by moments where the audience is blatantly shown or told what to know or believe. This is not pinpoint precision at work, it's messy and it fells condescending at times when it's not just making you shake your head.

All in all, "The Visit" feels a bit forced, very clumsy, and is hobbled by an inability to successfully suspend disbelief. Too often did i find myself questioning motives, decisions, entire characters, and shots. Conceptually it is strong but concept alone does not a movie make. There remain great scenes and some unnerving moments but little much else. The acting is fantastic but good actors don't fix frustrating characters in this case. This movie will continue to be that little step forward from the cinematic abyss that M.Night needed for a second shot at greatness but it is certainly not to be put in the pantheon of his great films...but at least it's not "The Happening". 5/10


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Life (2017) review

Posted : 1 month, 3 weeks ago on 22 November 2018 12:10 (A review of Life (2017))

A quick glance at the theatrical trailer for "Life" could of told you that it wasn't breaking any new ground but that doesn't mean it is a disposable product. Quite the opposite, in fact, While it clearly takes much influence from superior forebears, the movie does so with respect and with an approach more akin to science fiction than to the dread inducing horror that permeated those films.

Like the creature in the film, "Life" takes the strengths of other films to make something functional. This might sound cold and processed but it actually comes off as something that this viewer ended up warming up to quite a bit. Take a healthy serving of "Alien" (crew we get to know and enjoy the company of brings alien entity back into ship and soon fails to keep quarantine protocol), Carpenter's "The Thing" (creature adapts quickly by mimicking aspects of its prey and gets loose in the facility and, SPOILER, basically is a harbinger of the world's end), and even Gravity (astronauts coping in a variety of ways with real life issues back home and in space cope with a disaster) and you can begin to see what "Life" is all about.

Normally this would prove a deterrent to enjoyment but the film is very competently but together. The characters are empathetic, the science fiction framework is engaging, and playing with your expectations works out quite well without ever losing any tension or suspense. I stress this final part the most because, as you might be aware, the ending of this film was leaked early on and spoiled for many people. I went into this not only seeing how much of a pastiche of other works it was but knowing where it would all end up and it still was an engaging and enjoyable experience.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery but that can only get you so far. "Life" manages to be a patchwork of many things, sure, but it handles itself deftly and does approach the material from a different enough perspective that it feels both like you're visiting old friends but also discovering something new about them. It also has that effect that makes you remember it fondly and want to revisit it again, if only because sometimes you're not up to putting yourself through the nihilistic terror of the films it borrows so heavily from.


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Tales from the Hood 2 review

Posted : 2 months, 2 weeks ago on 3 November 2018 04:17 (A review of Tales from the Hood 2)

The original "Tales From The Hood" went from box office failure to cornerstone of black horror cinema and minted cult classic for a variety of reasons. From its reverent tip of the hat to EC comics' tongue in cheek, ghastly morality tales, to its predominant use of black actors and crew, to its extensive use of physical effects, and, most strikingly, to its poignant stabs at pressing social issues plaguing the black community and America, Tales stood out amidst its cinematic peers as unique. On those strong foundations a loyal fandom was fostered. That selfsame fandom has demanded a followup for over two decades and what better time than now to bring this beast roaring back to shine a light on the strained racial landscape of American society than now?

It was certainly the right moment and the right team was behind it (returning creators Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott) but, alas, sometimes lightning doesn't strike twice. Not to insinuate that Tales From The Hood 2 is an utter failure, rather it feels like a cheaply produced knock-off of its predecessor that mostly misses the mark rather than being an incisively razor sharp product. I say mostly because there are redeeming moments in the film that give you a glimpse into what could have been.

The biggest issue with Tales 2 is a general lack of focus to the intent of the film. As with the original movie and the source inspiration of comics like Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, and The Vault of Horror, the goal of the macabre stories is to ultimately teach a lesson about the ills of humanity. Twisted morality tales are as old as time and tend to resonate deeply if done right, something that the original deftly juggled with its delightful fusion of comedy, social insight, gore, and camp. Tales 2 attempts this anew but falls short of the goal quite often. Another prominent issue with Tales 2 is its subpar production values, cast, and effects. The original Tales, by no means, was an overachiever in these departments but the combination of all that worked in it made it stand out. Here too many of the cogs in the machine are misfiring for the whole piece to continue moving ahead at a steady clip.

In the first of four stories (not counting the wraparound), "Good Golly", we are given a warning about the dangers of casual racism and staying power of seemingly "harmless" racial propaganda. It focuses on two interracial friends who visit a museum centered on stereotype branding and later break in to steal a "pollywog" doll because of the white friend's childhood attachment to it. This walks hand in hand with the type of story told in the first film but the ultimate result is hindered by the weak acting, the bland cinematography that robs everything of atmosphere, and the poor character work. Couple this with the underwhelming effects and what you ultimately get is that aforementioned "cheap knockoff" vibe. The sad part is you can see the piece working under better circumstances.

Next up is "The Medium", a story that quickly loses some narrative focus despite ultimately being the most fun of the bunch. At its core the story is another blast on black on black violence and those in the community that balk at the success and progress of others wishing to move beyond their societal constraints. Some thugs kill a reformed pimp in an attempt to get at his newfound wealth. He dies without revealing where it's at so they force a charlatan TV medium to confer with the dead man. Miraculously the medium is possessed by the vengeful spirit and everybody gets their comeuppance. Despite a jarring shift early on, the story does tidy up quite well and touches upon some of the blend of humor, camp, and social commentary of the first movie. The only downside is that the deaths of the evildoers fall short of the established mark.

After that peak came the lowest of valleys in the form of "Date Night". Some guys use Tinder to date rape ladies only to be preyed upon themselves. Quick and to the point plot but extremely out of place and with terribly underwhelming results. To top it all off this story feels completely out of place. It is more of a statement about men than about the target audience. While that's fine (especially considering how important the issue truly is), the story is lacking any creativity or satisfactory resolution. Bereft of fun or vision, "Date Night" is best forgotten. In light of the Bill Cosby controversy the filmmakers had ample source material to really say something about how we tend to forgive the actions of the powerful, famous, or influential but instead they opted to tackle that briefly in the wraparound story in regards to a double standard among men. A missed opportunity but, more woefully, a dreadfully unimpressive segment.

The final tale is "The Sacrifice" and if there was a reason for this film to exist, this is it. While "The Medium" proves the most fun, this last story is the most relevant and shocking. Casting aside the framework of morbid grue and comedy, "The Sacrifice" chooses to impart its social wisdom via a solemn parable more fitting of The Twilight Zone. In fact, it reminds me most of a reversal of the story "Time Out" from The Twilight Zone movie, where a racist learns to empathize with those he hates after walking in their shoes. The story is a startling look at how dangerous is it to lay with the enemy under the perception that you are keeping your ideals and freedom intact. It follows a black political adviser who is backing a gubernatorial candidate despite his controversial views, namely those clearly targeting black voters. Simultaneously, we are shown the gut-wrenching tale of true historical figure Emmett Till who was brutally murdered for supposedly catcalling a white woman. This pivotal piece of American history, though horrendous, set forth a movement that changed the landscape of the country forever. Ultimately, our modern character is forced to see a world where the sacrifices of his people in the past are cast aside by his carelessness and he must choose to walk the path of a martyr or lose all that was gained.

This last tale, as aforementioned, doesn't wallow in that ghastly mirth of the tales that inspired and were in the first film but rather transcends them on grounds of its purpose and the way it opts to deliver the message. It is also worthy to note that since this more straightforward approach doesn't require spooky atmospherics the cinematography is far more fitting. All the actors do relatively admirable work (no Oscars will be handed out but you're not begging for them to close their mouths) and, all in all, it's a solid installment. The best of the bunch, for sure.

The wraparound story, "Robo Hell", I could of seen going somewhere but it's ultimately hobbled by the ludicrous sci-fi feel and, more so, by the horrendous effects and cop out culmination. It follows the host telling tales to an AI that needs nuanced examples of crime to learn how to properly judge potential evildoers. All this for a campaign by a racially biased businessman to capitalize law enforcemnt. This one should of ended in that grand guignol fashion but clearly the budget (or imagination) was lacking and we get a very unsatisfactory conclusion with nary a drop of blood spilled given how much it was teased with the whole air of Robocop it had going.

Of course, Clarence Williams III is sorely missed as the manic storyteller, Mr. Simms, but you feel that it's probably for the best that his legacy didn't have a chance to be stained by this subpar offering. As it is Keith David does his best with the poor material at hand, although at times it feels like he knows this isn't exactly the best thing he's done.

Ultimately, Tales 2 proves a sad reminder of what could of been rather than what is. Most of it feels like a missed opportunity and I hope that it came down mostly to a lack of funding rather than creative bankruptcy. There are moments were you can see glimmers of something decent but they are overshadowed by the large doses of mediocrity. I can't even say that the two worthwhile stories are worth sitting through the slog of the rest. Best to approach them individually if you ever wish to see more of Tales 2 again. I, for one, will probably not revisit it and that saddens me greatly. I suppose we will always have the original and sometimes that is good enough.


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Silent House review

Posted : 3 months ago on 18 October 2018 02:59 (A review of Silent House)

A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) returns to her childhood home only to find herself stuck in the house with a violent intruder, among other things. Suspense escalates as the mystery of the events transpiring begin to unravel. Suffice it to say that the less said the better as the film is best experienced with zero background other than the basics. As if often the case with horror, "Silent House" is more than it presents itself to be. While not glaringly original (and somewhat predictable on account of some heavy handed use of tropes and hints), "SIlent House" does manage to excel in a few spots that make it stand out from it's peers.

First off, directors Lau and Kentis' approach to the filming immediately sets it apart as the audience is treated to a simulation of a continuous single take. The seams of the edit are cleverly hidden by the almost guerrilla-like approach to filming which, in turn, gives the entire affair a real-time urgency. In a sense, the film manages to walk the line between a found footage film and art school horror. Though that might sound pretentious, it really does wonders for the tension and curiosity that the movie manages to stir up as it progresses as it limits what you know to the direct vicinity of our main character.

Therein lies the biggest issue I had with the movie. It's relatively easy to figure out what the resolution is going to be based on what information is fed to us relatively early on. And though this didn't rob it of the tense moments and nice buildup, I did find myself wanting a surprise that I knew was not going to come. Sure enough, the "reveal" was as I suspected and that was a bit of a letdown. Not because it's a particularly bad one but because by then it had become an obvious one.

That critique aside, the film does manage to build up to a nice steady boil. Olsen is absolutely key to selling what is going on and she pulls it off with no trouble. In short, her reactions credible and her confusion and fear palpable. She's excellent. So much so, in fact, that at one point the predictability of the outcome made the movie less about that and more about how she was going to sell it. Did she deliver? Absolutely.

The movie is as misleading as it's approach. While it might seem to be a haunted house flick at first, it quickly takes on the guise of a home invasion movie for the bulk of the picture. Needless to say, that is also a ruse and attentive viewers will see the psychological horror miles ahead. That being said, there is a lot to enjoy in the experience. It has moments of nail-biting suspense, a deadly atmosphere, some technical prowess, and, of course, the wonderful Elizabeth Olsen doing her damndest to pull it all together...and succeeding.

"Silent House" is definitely worth a watch if more for the promising buildup and stellar acting than the ultimate outcome which feels like it could of done more. Nevertheless, it is a solid flick. 7/10.


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Raw (2016) review

Posted : 3 months, 1 week ago on 6 October 2018 02:50 (A review of Raw (2016))

"Raw" (aka Grave) is a starkly visceral, disturbing, and downright Cronenbergian coming of age metaphor artistically wrapped in a wonderfully nightmarish fugue of imagery and music. It is also easily one of the the better films in the genre that both manages to indulge in the elements that often marginalize it while redeeming them with a loftier artistic goal in mind. By the film's culmination you'll not only have been thoroughly disturbed but also properly illuminated about the dangerous line we walk to fight our inherent natures.

The story follows a virginal innocent (a veritable lamb, the imagery would suggest) called Justine who is going to college alongside her older, more experienced (and somewhat rebellious) sister. Justine has been brought up by strict parents, among whose personal tenets is an almost zealous adherence to vegetarianism. It is not long after Justine gets to college, and introduced to the rigorous hazing of her peers, that the convictions she's been raised with are challenged. This begins with the ritualistic consumption of an animal's kidney which, cowed by the pressure, she eats. Having opened the flood gates, the experience raises a ravenous craving for flesh in Justine that soon proves uncontrollable and consumes her personal world and those around her...literally, at times.

And therein lies the brilliance of the film. Brilliant score, beautiful cinematography and direction aside, the film is a nasty but effective metaphor for the quick downward spiral that we fall into in our formative years when we give up our convictions under the guise of exploration and lose our "innocence" by pursuing our true, dark nature. That the film manages to be subtle and artistic with this parallel while it simultaneously washes you in gruesome body horror is an admirable feat all of its own.

"Raw" is a post-modern cautionary tale of the highest order. The story and visual language speak of the talent of writer/director Julia Ducournau and shine a light of hope on what she may have to offer the genre in the future. Whatever the case, "Raw" does a lot of legitimize horror as a genuine art. Excellent. 9/10



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