Scream Queens Series Premiere Recap: "Pilot/Hell Week"

Sep 23 // Nick Valdez
I'm not sure if Fox's plan to premiere two episodes in a row was a good thing. When succumbed to that much of Murphy's work at once, the cracks always show. It's one of the rare cases where the pilot fared much better than the first episode of the series proper. For example, the show opens in a particularly interesting way as a girl (in 1995, no less) gives birth to a baby in a bathtub during a sorority (Kappa Kappa Tau) party. The other girls ignore her when TLC's "Waterfalls" comes on, thus leading to her death and a mysterious cover up that's sure to be one of the running threads throughout the series. It's a pretty impressive hook for any pilot and perfectly captures the tone the Glee trio of Murphy/Falchuk/Brennan is looking for. It's darkly humorous, creepy, informative of the show's universe, and there's a splash of pop culture reference. But other than one other scene which I'll get to in a bit, it never quite reaches that height again.  There's always been something that bothered me with Murphy's work. Because he's a marginalized individual, he's always been okay with exploiting other margins in the sake of comedy. The same problems that have plagued his shows appear here as well. There are racial stereotypes (though I'm sure Keke Palmer is just playing Keke Palmer despite arguments otherwise), thickly laid homoeroticism that borders on the homophobic, and a "Queen Bee" character in Emma Roberts the trio uses as a funnel for every terrible (ultimately non-humorous) thing they could think of. But what separates Queens from a show like, let's say, Scream, is that it doesn't dwell on these characters and takes them seriously. It's a show full of dumb caricatures making terrible choices, and we're going to want to watch them get murdered week to week. From the looks of how much humor it can mine from gleefully killing its characters, I'm sure they're be style in spades. Just by watching these first two episodes, I've figured the modus operandi of Scream Queens is to revel in its quirk so much it won't be bothered to actually develop any of its characters. There's some surprising level of depth to Emma Roberts' Chanel (which make the other Chanels look lacking in comparison), but if she's expected to lead the series instead of the final girl archetype Grace (Skyler Samuels), I don't know how much of her I can take. There are definite narrative nuggets to her character, so I hope I can chalk it up to growing pains. As for everyone else, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Jonas are definitely the standouts. Curtis is basically playing Coach Sue Sylvester with a dark twist, and Jonas' secretly gay-but-not-secretly gay Boone is full on cheese and it's the best. But you know who gets the biggest scene? Ariana Grande. Not because of her acting or her character, but because a well crafted and staged scene that perfectly encapsulates the show's potential.  Since Scream Queens is an homage to B-grade films, but still wants to poke fun at the current state of horror, we get this awesome scene where Chanel No. 2 is murdered by the series' killer, the Red Devil, through text messages. It nets the biggest laugh and is oddly proactive as Chanel tries her best to tweet out her death. She isn't just silently killed off into the night, but does her best to prevent it even when locked into a goofy sequence. The same can't be said for the series' next two deaths, but so far, each death sequence has been unique and pretty damn funny. Once you get past the show's awkward writing, the rest of the package is great. It's interesting enough that I've decided to talk about it for the next few weeks.  Final Thoughts:  Chad Radwell, the stereotypical rich jerk who's cool with his best friend being gay, is by far my favorite character in the show thus far. I'm sure his death scene is going to be fantastic.  Lea Michele's Hester takes a maniacal turn in episode two and I'm not sure I like it yet.  Abigail Breslin as Chanel No 5 hasn't really made a name for herself yet. I thought she was the good girl who was just stuck in her terrible sorority, but her turn in the second episode proved that wrong.  I'm also not sure what to think of Niecy Nash and Nasim Pedrad's characters. They're the wackiest characters in the show by far, but it's too early to tell if that's a good thing or not.  At least this isn't as bad as The New Normal was.  Remember that VH1 reality show Scream Queens, where 8 actresses went through challenges in order to land a role in one of the Saw movies? That was a good time. They should do that again.  Want to see more of our TV coverage? Check out our TV Recaps and Reviews! 
Scream Queens Recap photo
Glee and AHS had an awkward baby
You folks don't know this, because we'd only recently begun covering television in earnest, but I was a huge fan of Glee. I bought the soundtracks, I bought the seasons on DVD (this was before Netflix took over and ruined EVE...

Review: Cooties

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
[embed]219880:42604:0[/embed] CootiesDirectors: Jonathan Milott and Cary MurnionRated: RRelease Date: September 18, 2015 At the center of Cooties is Clint, a guy who moved to the bright lights of New York City after graduation to become a big shot writer. But after a few failed attempts has moved back home and is forced to take a substitute teaching gig at his old elementary school. There he meets his old school crush Lucy (Alison Pill), her meathead boyfriend Wade (Rainn Wilson), and a bevy of other weird faculty members like the evolution debunker Rebekkah (Nasim Pedrad) and the socially inept bio teacher Doug (Leigh Whannell). When a contaminated shipment of chicken nuggets (as seen through such a grossly awesome intro, you won't eat chicken nuggets again) turns the kids of the school into flesh eating monsters, Clint and the other teachers have to escape the school to survive.  The biggest draw, or warning sign depending on your humor, is the writing duo of Saw's Leigh Whannell and Glee's Ian Brennan. The two have crafted a wonderfully twisted horror premise, but the dialogue is distinctly Brennan's. As someone who religiously followed Glee through its six seasons (including, but not limited to, buying the Glee karaoke games and soundtrack CDs and watching the short lived Glee Project reality show on Oxygen), I can safely attribute the brunt of the film's humor to him. That's probably going to shy folks away, however. Just like Glee, Cooties' idea of parody is to come of with jokes that are a few years too old. A post 9/11 kid who wants to join the army named Patriot? A closeted gay teacher making innuendos? The vice principal (Brennan himself) saying "Stop it, kids!" before getting ripped apart? Yeah, those jokes are as tired as they seem. As the film's humor gets sidetracked with these weird jokes, it never quite takes the premise as far as it could. But the cast's ability to complete gel with what they're saying is fantastic.  In Cooties, it's the cast that makes it work. They're completely game with the film's wacky tone, and their performances elevate the film to awesomely cartoonish levels. Since you can't get too overtly violent with children and still try and be a comedy, the action has to be more humorous than not to succeed. Since directors Milott and Murnion can't seem to handle action scenes (as most of the action involves the teachers moving from one room to the other and staying there for a few scenes), the cast should be commended for their ability to command attention. As the film itself strays and lingers on a few scenes, the cast is delivering the dialogue with the quickness it needs to make it work and helps make the hokey bits a little more digestible. As Elijah Wood has shown in the past with films like The Faculty, he's perfectly capable of leading a horror comedy. He's still charming as ever even when he starts, literally, pooping himself. The scene stealer, however, is Leigh Whannell. His stunted delivery finally works for his awkward bio teacher as he delivers the film's hilarious science.  While the directors may not handle action scenes too well (leading to a ending scene that feels convoluted and tacked on while completely undermining the film's bittersweet climax), the duo have got a good grasp on imagery. Cooties looks fantastic. Insidious reds, taut greens and shading, and you definitely get the most out of zombie kids. The kids are covered in gross puss and blood (instead of becoming too gruesome, it goes for the comedic route) and aren't too horrendously attacked, there's a girl playing jump rope with an intestine, a kid riding a tricycle covered in blood, zombie kids playing blood hopscotch, and so on. It's pretty much the embodiment of the "kids are terrifying" mantra. The film never quite reaches the level of visual you'd hope with a premise like this, but what is here is well crafted. There's definitely an attention to detail in the visuals even if there's a lack of it elsewhere.  Cooties has its share of faults, but none of them are completely damaging to the overall package. There'll be stuff within the film that bothers you here and there, but when watching the cast and the kids enjoy themselves it's hard not to follow in their footsteps. For every hokey joke, there's one that works. For every clunky action scene, there's a hilarious conversation between two characters.  By the time it makes the egregious mistake of going on past its natural ending, you won't even care too much. You'll have a big smile on your face. 
Cooties Review photo
Might not need that cootie shot
Zombies are everywhere. Name an object and add zombie or "of the dead" to it, and I guarantee there's a film out there with that title. Bong of the Dead? Exists. Toilet of the Dead? Surprisingly a thing. Redneck or stripper z...

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "The Dog"

Sep 14 // Nick Valdez
At the end of last episode, Travis, his ex-wife and son ended up in the care of the Salazar family. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you see it) we don't get to explore this time long as this episode begins with all of them having to leave. It's a well storyboarded scene as the two families make their way through the riots and the shots are appropriately hectic. There's even a zombie attack amidst the chaos, and it's so frantic you can actually feel the two families trying to make sense of it all. While they were running, the chaos leads to Griselda Salazar getting hurt and the Salazar's decide to stay with Travis while talking of "debts" and the like. This also is one of the reasons I'm starting to hate Cliff Curtis' Travis as a character. The fact he doesn't suggest taking in the Salazars after they helped him is pretty petty. Also, I'm not really sure what to think of the Salazar family yet. It's pretty neat that a Latino family is at the forefront of one of these shows, but I don't like how typical they've become.  Ruben Blades' Daniel is headstrong and stuck in this standard Latino ideology that one doesn't do something without owing something in return. I'm not exactly confident that the series can explore it well, but it's at least some sort of characterization. I just hope he branches out from the typical image he's given right now. It seems so since he judges Travis as weak. And as much as Madison has annoyed me in previous episodes, her arc has been the most compelling thus far (and I thought the drug addict Nick would provide more entertainment). As The Walking Dead deals with people surviving in the apocalypse, Fear wants to watch how these people will slowly change. And if Fear is smart, it'll only focus on that stuff. As much as I love watching failing societies, I love watching people crumble under it. As Madison realizes that, illness or not, these dead people are still dangerous, she just might the decision to be active.  That's the overall direction this season: activity vs. inactivity. Characters bicker as to whether or not they need to find a better shelter, Travis refuses to actually put down a zombie (which might lead to a well deserved death) and accept the world is ending, Madison is just trying to keep her family together, Daniel wants to stay and take care of his family while the others march to their deaths, Nick has to decide whether or not to pursue drugs, Alycia finds out more and more about the new world, parts of the city are rioting while the suburban area seems to live life as usual, and all of this is just fantastic...until the ending.  You see, Fear the Walking Dead throws all of this away and introduces the military as they come in and literally save the day. I don't know where any of this is going, but it put a literal stop to all of the forward momentum the episode had going for it. I've had enough of these crooked military stories.  Final Thoughts:  When you find out why this episode is titled "The Dog," you'll be as sad as I was.  Travis somehow thinks the zombies are sick even after watching one get run over multiple times a few episodes ago. I just don't get it. Also he's staunchly opposed to guns. Either the show's setting up for a big downfall or his character's going to go through one of those "dark turns."  The same person has directed the three episodes so far, that's probably why there's a welcome feeling of consistency.  You're probably wondering why the episode took a few seconds to focus on a plane flying over, but someone on that plane will be joining season 2. AMC's planning some mini-episode detailing all of that. 
FTWD Recap photo
A dog eat dog world
I stand by what I said last time and believe the Labor Day week off was definitely a death knell for Fear the Walking Dead. Though it needs to finish its six episode season before The Walking Dead premieres next month, it did...

Review: Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh)

Sep 10 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219860:42583:0[/embed] Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, ich seh)Directors: Veronika Franz and Severin FialaRated: RRelease Date: September 11, 2015Country: Austria Your opinion of Goodnight Mommy may be contingent on your stomach for plot twists. I don't like them about 99% of the time since they usually feel like hollow gimmicks rather than essential parts of the storytelling machinery. Twists feel cheap, and while I won't spoil the twist of Goodnight Mommy, it certainly feels cheap when you know what it is. As a character uttered the line that reveals the twist, I thought, "Oh come on, Goodnight Mommy--I thought you were above this." In retrospect, the twist is there early in the film if I were to look for it, but I wasn't looking for it because I thought Goodnight Mommy would be a much more original and interesting film rather than one that relies on a bad cliche. The excellent craft displayed by co-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala is what makes Goodnight Mommy's reliance on a twist so disappointing and its unraveling sense of purpose in the last third (maybe, really, the last fifth) baffling. Consider the movie's visual style for the first two-thirds of its run time. Many of the shots divide the frame into vertical halves, thirds, and quarters to emphasize elements in the foreground and background, all the while playing with light, shadow, and negative space. Large photos of the mother (Susanne Wuest) adorn the walls, but her face is blurry in all of them. On the one hand, this is the kind of artsy, pretentious portraiture you'd expect in an upscale home, and on the other, we have two boys (Lukas and Elias Schwarz) who question the identity of their mother. It's the sort of detail organic to the world of the film and a visual representation of its central concern (i.e., Who are you really?). And then there are details that seem like the cinematic attempt to recreate aspects of a dream. The boys keep Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets. These are the massive sorts of roaches that are common in movies that feature cockroaches, and they look a lot more exotic than your foul, run-of-the-mill New York City waterbugs. The roaches hiss like they're shushing the boys, like there are secrets in the house that are being kept, or as if the children remind themselves they need to be quiet in order to spy on this person who may or may not be their mother. The wallpaper in the boys' room is covered in a googie-style wallpaper covered in ants. It reminded me of the popular design elements of the 1950s and the sort of playful decor you'd find in a day care or nursery, but also the crawly feeling one gets when something isn't quite right. That sense of contradiction--googie wallpaper that's both cute and off-putting, the comforts and terrors of a home--is carried through in the performances. Lukas and Elias Schwarz seem both playfully insular together and yet they also have a touch of something sinister, which may simply be a symptom of seeing twins together in a movie (thanks a lot, Stanley Kubrick). Wuest plays the mother with emotional highs and lows. She's tender, and she's also terrifying. She nurtures, she scolds, and hugs, and she slaps. The performances may be mannered, but like the visuals and the production design, the actors propel the film forward and help evoke the uncertainties of dark rooms and nightmares. So much ambiguity and promise to play with, and yet it comes back to the twist. The twist reduces all of the possibilities of this eerie, dreamlike world into a single possibility, and one that isn't that interesting. This may explain why that trailer for Goodnight Mommy so good and the film doesn't reach that level. I might have loved the movie if it wasn't for that pesky story.
Review: Goodnight Mommy photo
Are you my mommy?
The trailer for Goodnight Mommy is one of the best horror trailers in a while--evocative, menacing, unreal. The mother of twin boys returns home, her face bandaged after a major surgical procedure. The boys think there's some...

Girl Up and Die photo
Girl Up and Die

First trailer for girl powered horror series Girl Up and Die

Such a good title
Sep 10
// Nick Valdez
Despite best efforts, the horror genre is dominated by testosterone. Reboot after reboot, sequel, after sequel, we get the same kinds of stories told by the same kinds of dudes. Thankfully, the good folks at Unfriendly Produc...
Krampus Trailer photo
Krampus Trailer

First trailer for Christmas horror film Krampus

Sep 09
// Nick Valdez
I'm not sure what the reason is, but we're suddenly getting a whole lot of Krampus films. There's Kevin Smith's Krampus project, a few direct to VOD films, that one episode of American Dad two seasons ago, and now we've got K...

FlixList: Wes Craven's Five Best Films

Sep 03 // Nick Valdez
My Soul to Take "Wake up and smell the Starbucks." I had a hard time narrowing Craven's films to five (I really could've just put everything here), and almost went with Red Eye or The Hills Have Eyes, but My Soul to Take is just so weird. It's Craven's take on small town myth horror, and it's got all sorts of weird sensibilities that make it stand out from the rest. It's got a guy who's probably a demon, teen archetypes who get zero development, a killer who talks to himself, and a supernatural thread tying it all together. Are the souls of the seven kids actually connected or is the main kid just crazy? Unlike his other films, Soul has a very deliberate tone and pace that sort of treads lightly and lets the tension build. It's quite a film.  Scream 4 "Forgot the first rule of remakes, Jill. Don't fuck with the original." Scream may have changed my life (and turned my crush on Neve Campbell into full blown love), but Scream 4 absolutely nails it. Starting with New Nightmare all those years ago, Scream 4 is a film that could've only existed after Craven spent a career honing his craft and paying attention to the route horror was going in. With Hollywood's fixation on reboots and sequels, Craven churned out one last sequel and capitalized on Scream's meta-contextual narrative with a reboot and sequel that works. Horror reboots hardly ever work, and sequels never truly live up to the standard of the original, but here's one that surpasses even the original idea. Setting a new status quo as it simultaneously enforces the old one all the while somehow bringing the series to an ultimate, satisfying conclusion? It's insane how well it works. Great cast, great writing, great editing, and even super heroics. Just greatness.  The People Under the Stairs "May they burn in hell." "Forever and ever in hell." This film is special to me for numerous reasons. First, it's the first horror film I saw with a non-white protagonist. Secondly, it's the first horror film I saw willingly acknowledging the wage disparity among classes. And finally, it's basically a twisted kid adventure film. Think of a slightly more dark and horrific Goonies, and you'll realize why a dude is wearing a gimp suit while trying to kill this kid as he makes friends with some monsters and discovers a hidden treasure. People Under the Stairs is tense, gruesome (Ving Rhames' body is used as a literal puppet distraction at one point), there are explosions, intrigue, and it's even a straight action movie leading toward raining money at film's end. It's non-traditional in the best way, and I'm so glad it exists.  The Last House on the Left "Are you sure we're not going to put you folks to any trouble?" "Oh nonsense, our home is yours." You can't talk about Craven's best work until you talk about his first. Bursting onto the scene with a twisted home invasion film, Last House is aggressive, disturbing, and it's full of such provocative imagery it sticks with you forever. Even way back then Craven was capable of masterful work with a film that had you rooting for the bad guys' end. It's his most demented piece of art and it'll forever be a staple which all other home invasion films compare to. It's like the whole BC/AD thing. There's Before Last House on the Left (BLHOTL) and after (ALHOTL).  A Nightmare on Elm Street "Whatever you do...don't fall asleep." It'd be impossible to write out a list like this and not include the big dog. The film that made something as pleasant as sleep seem like the worst thing in the world. Combing all sorts of primal fears like helplessness, death, and children, Elm Street pretty much started my addiction to caffeine. Through the years the fear has been alleviated thanks to The Simpsons, but Freddy's always coming. Nightmare changed the game completely. Rap songs, Mortal Kombat, tons of films, changing from horror to comedy and back to horror again without fail, and even had a crossover with another horror juggernaut and it wasn't the worst thing ever. Thanks to Wes, there'll always be a nightmare on our streets.  These may be his five best, but his other works were all just as good. We're gonna miss you. What are your favorite Wes Craven works? 
Wes Craven's Best photo
"What's your favorite scary movie?"
I've never been a big horror fan. I get squeamish with bloody action, jump scares always catch me, and I don't really like looking at disturbing images in general. But when a horror film is well crafted, I can't seem to look ...

Drama photo

Why that It remake isn't happening

Surprise! The studio wanted crap
Sep 03
// Matthew Razak
Cary Fukunaga may be one of the most creative directors working now. Sin Nombre is truly stunning and his work on True Detective made the first season fantastic. However, we still don't know how he'd handle a bigger...

New Knock Knock trailer kind of ruins it

Sad Keanu
Aug 31
// Matthew Razak
When the first trailer for the Eli Roth directed Knock Knock landed I was pretty excited. We had just learned we wouldn't be seeing Green Inferno any time soon (it finally lands this year) and this looked like a pre...

Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Recap: "So Close, Yet So Far"

Aug 31 // Nick Valdez
After the fallout from last week in which Madison, Travis, and Nick witness a zombified Calvin fail to stay down, the three part ways and try and figure out what to do next. The general consensus being that they plan to escape to the desert. The funny thing is, they only seem to care about their own safety. Keeping the secret from the neighbors (who were throwing a little girl's birthday party, just to rub salt in the wound) and keeping quiet in general as folks are caught in protests over "police brutality" in an effort to shoe horn in current events. I'd see people reacting that way if we were caught in the situation, but it's still a little weird that the dead rising up would be a secret even after numerous videos and stuff leaked online as this episode leads us to believe. Anyway, this episode shifts the focus to Madison, Nick's mother, who goes out in search of some kind of fix for Nick now that he's going through withdrawal.  I figured something like this would've happened, but kudos to Fear for getting it out of the way early while there's only lingering tension rather than use it as a way to force more immediacy into some terrible scene later. We also get a better grip on Travis' family, his ex-wife Liza (the fantastic Elizabeth Rodriguez) and his terrible son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) as Travis tries to convince them to safety without exactly telling them what's going on. It's pretty stupid since Chris eventually gets rapped up in a protest of one of the "shootings" and Travis and Liza end up in a terrible part of town during a riot instead of somewhere way better. But that sets them up for the rest of the season as they take refuge in a barber shop owned by the Salazar family. Thanks to Fear's LA setting (though it shouldn't be the only reason), there's already way more Latin representation, and that's a pretty big deal for me. Although apparently neither Walking Dead likes African American characters (despite the showrunner's insistence that it's merely a coincidence of casting) thanks to three Black characters dying in two episodes, it's great to see focus on a non-White family for once.  Speaking of, Madison and Alycia (the daughter who's still kept out of the loop for some stupid reason) both deal with African American death in their own way. Alycia's boyfriend Matt was attacked and is slowly becoming a zombie (off screen for both of those things, thankfully) and Madison come across a zombified version of her former boss as she combs her school for her son's drugs. Although it's a weird idea, the show tells us it's smart by having the audience speak through some kid whose name I forgot. Honestly, he was the only kid clued into the whole thing and it's a shame he won't be around for the other episodes. Anyhoo, Nick and Alycia end up sharing some good character moments when Nick seizures. It's a little too on the nose given the moment, but I'll take it.  Final Thoughts:  This episode is one of transitions and sets the pace for the rest of the season. It'll be interesting to see where it goes, but waiting two more weeks is f**king ridiculous. Just should've waited another week to premiere it. Get your head out of your butt, AMC.  Seriously, it's a little suspicious given all of these black character deaths are just "casting coincidences." Someone's got to keep a better eye on that.  During Walking Dead season six, there'll be a 30 minute short, taking place on an airplane headed for LA, that'll introduce a character for season 2. Who knows what the character'll be like, but I don't really care. They should really focus on developing clashing familial ideologies.  I'm putting a lot of faith in the show representing these Latin character properly. They're Catholic, since one was already praying, so hey it might be good.  One last thing, love the constant alarms and sirens in the background. Always reminds the audience that stuff is going down. 
FTWD Recap photo
Yeah, pretty much
After Fear the Walking Dead's first episode set its slow burning tone for the rest of the season, and thus set it further apart of The Walking Dead's current craziness, it left a lot of folks wanting. Opinions were divided as...

RIP Wes Craven (1939-2015)

Aug 30 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP Wes Craven photo
Horror maestro dies at age 76
Wes Craven, the director of horror classics A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), passed away this afternoon at age 76. Craven's family announced that the filmmaker died in his home in Los Angeles after battling...


Trailer for The Final Girls turns horror movie tropes on their head

Another meta slasher flick
Aug 26
// Matt Liparota
It's no secret that classic horror movies abide by a certain set of rules and tropes. Calling out those tropes has become something of a subgenre in and of itself, with movies like Scream, The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker an...
Ash vs Evil Dead photo
Ash vs Evil Dead

New Ash vs Evil Dead trailer makes the show look like a blast

"That's the spirit!"
Aug 24
// Hubert Vigilla
We're about two months away from Ash vs. Evil Dead, and Starz just released a new trailer for the show. While some of the footage is recycled from the first Ash vs. Evil Dead trailer, the new trailer has some smarmy new gags ...

Fear the Walking Dead Series Premiere Recap: Pilot

Aug 24 // Nick Valdez
Fear starts promising enough. Opening on Nick (Frank Dillane) post-drug induced coma in a dingy church, he's the first character in the series to witness a zombie attack. Naturally, he assumes the woman in question is freaking out badly and runs into a passing car. This sets a pretty great direction for the rest of the episode since the account of the attack comes from an unreliable source. But while we all know there's an apocalypse brewing, Nick's mother Madison (Kim Dickens) and her second husband Travis (Cliff Curtis, who's always hired to play a vaguely ethnic character) have their hands full trying to bring Nick back into the familial fold.  The only problem with this major addiction story is that we've seen it all before, and the same can be said for the entire episode overall. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind stories with a lot of set up, but it's got to feel like it's going somewhere. It's pretty much a stretched out version of the first ten minutes you see in most zombie apocalypse films and at times it certainly comes off that way. But there's certainly enough here to keep me attached as Nick's story is pretty compelling. Sure it's going to lead to the whole "withdrawal while zombies attack" or "need for a fix puts everyone at risk" plot contrivance, but focusing the story on an unhinged individual works wonders creatively. Take a look at the Summer's biggest hit, Mr. Robot, for a better example of that. It certainly could work if done properly.  As the show moves forward and focuses more on this family deals with the impending trauma, the skimpier plots will work themselves out. Nick's sister Alycia is a well-off student on her way to college and to "escape" from her family's troubles, but right now she's focused on her boyfriend that's gone mysteriously missing. I'm waiting for the inevitable "you ruined my life" fallout, but the longer the show keeps her in a stagnant role the worse it'll be for all of us. In fact, the rest of the family gets eye to eye with the second zombie while she's literally sent home. Treating women and minorities terribly was a conceit of the original series' first couple of seasons, but since one of the problems worked itself out there, I'm hoping the same happens here. Then again, Madison's entire plot is wrapped around her son. Soooo, I don't really know what to think.  Final Thoughts: There's a "man vs. nature" speech lol Nick starts the show wearing a shirt no human being has ever worn ever. Speaking of Nick, Frank Dillane is the best actor of this whole thing. Having him at the show's center will definitely do wonders for the rest of the cast.  The urban setting will eventually lead to more Latinos, something the original show's Atlanta setting never amounted to. I guess non-whites never made it to Georgia since they're too busy dying all the time on that damn show.  While I love Cliff Curtis, I don't like how he's become the go-to race guy. But at least his character is Maori, too.  While fans will certainly miss the massive zombie attacks, the ones here are personal. That stings way more than a generic mass ever could. 
FTWD Recap photo
Shuffling slowly
It's pretty much guaranteed Fear the Walking Dead's premiere will be compared to The Walking Dead's first episode. While the latter's premiere gave birth to a juggernaut, Fear most likely will be unfavorably, and unfairly, ju...

Scouts Trailer photo
Scouts Trailer

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Red Band Trailer is full of zombie boobs and cats

Aug 21
// Nick Valdez
Zombie movies are a dime a dozen. Everything and anything you can think has probably been done at this point, so each zombie film is already starting in a hole. The best thing any film can do is be just kooky enough to stand ...
The Witch trailer photo
The Witch trailer

Watch a chilling trailer for Sundance horror sensation The Witch

Does she weigh less than a duck?
Aug 19
// Hubert Vigilla
This year's Sundance Film Festival showcased two notable horror movies. One was Rodney Ascher's sleep paralysis documentary The Nightmare, and the other was Robert Eggers' 17th century period piece The Witch. Of the two, ...
Horror major key photo
Horror major key

Listen to horror movie/TV theme songs redone in a major key

Like a spooky dentist's office
Aug 12
// Hubert Vigilla
Some of the most iconic horror movie scores are creepy in and of themselves. Listen to "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist and it recalls Linda Blair's scarred face and twisting noggin. Or listen to John Carpenter's theme from ...
The Purge 3  photo
The Purge 3

Frank Grillo teases a 'politically charged' Purge 3

#CrimeDay, #CrimeDeux, and #CrimeTrois
Aug 11
// Nick Valdez
Back before The Purge: Anarchy released, I was one of the loudest voices against it. While The Purge had a neat idea, it squandered it on a simple home invasion movie. We even started the #CrimeDay game on our old podcast and...
Nightmare Reboot photo
Nightmare Reboot

Nightmare on Elm Street is getting rebooted...again

Nightmare on Reboot Street
Aug 06
// Nick Valdez
Just like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street is getting yet another reboot. Not having learned their lesson from 2010's debacle (which I actually enjoyed, but it was largely i...

Don't bother with MTV's Scream TV Series

Aug 04 // Nick Valdez
We're at the halfway point in the series (episode six is premiering later this evening), and I feel like I'm hate watching just to see how much worse things could get. This completely goes against the showrunners' initial philosophy of getting the viewers at home to care about the characters as much as possible before offing them one by one. It's also a terrible way to watch slasher films. When you start rooting for the killer themselves, the film isn't taken very seriously. Take mid-franchise Nightmare on Elm Street, for example. When those films started making themselves all about Freddy's antics (and only served to develop his personality rather than any of his victims), the goofy tone made it a horror franchise in name only. While there's definitely an audience for that kind of property, it's definitely not what MTV's Scream wants.  But I don't know where it all went wrong. Things started off sort of promising in the pilot episode (written by film series writer Kevin Williamson), but that episode was full of so many problems. Pointed dialogue, archetypes, and its intro, while well done, only mirrored the series' openings thus far. It seemed adapting the films was a fool's errand as Scream 4 completely destroyed its own existence already. The fourth film already did what you'd expect a modern Scream to do: used new technologies in an interesting way, break down existing archetypes, and establish a new status quo (which was, hilariously, the old one). So when the TV series seemed to be taking a step back, it already lost. It would've been fine had any of its new choices felt compelling.  What are those new choices? Existing in a universe completely separated from the films (its yet to be confirmed if the "Stab" movies exist, so I'll assume this is just a new timeline or something), it's set in a town named Lakewood where a killer named Brandon James once terrorized kids in a high school. The new Ghostface's mask is based on that guy's face, too. So the main mystery of the series is figuring out how much this new set of deaths has to do with the old one. But, five episodes in, I don't care about any of it. Everyone in this show is terrible. Terrible characters make for good TV all the time, but that's when there's adequate drama to be mined from their poor decisions. Here it just seems like there's some deficiency in each character's core that causes a disconnect with the audience. It doesn't help that there's a noticeable drop in quality in each episode where someone doesn't die.  For as many missteps Scream has had, there's definitely some hope. With only a few episodes to go before season end, there's plenty of potential for the show to hit that "so bad, it's good" sweet spot. Episode three "Wanna Play a Game?" was great in that regard. It was so bad, all of the terrible decisions actually coalesced into a great sequence. Spoiler, I guess if you still want to watch this show despite me asking you not to, one girl dies while facetiming and her last words are "I can see the stars." It's magical, and the series has yet to bring that same kind of ingenuity to the table again. I'm hoping that it'll happen once more, but that's a thin hope. It's like hoping the garbage doesn't smell so bad after you've been forced to take in it so many times.  [embed]219713:42526:0[/embed] It might be gauche to judge a TV series based on a few episodes (judge the first one posted above for yourself), but I really tried to stick it out. After MTV announced it's getting a second season, I really don't see this working out. Unless it means we'll be getting a brand new cast and story each season, with some returning characters a la the Scream sequels, I can't see this show continuing. There's a semblance of an endgame in sight, but it's going to be quite a struggle to get there.  So why even struggle? Don't bother with this at all. 
MTV's Scream photo
Do you like scary TV shows? I'm sorry.
Back when MTV first announced they were developing a pilot based on the Scream films, I thought it was a great idea. I have a huge fondness for the films themselves, and barring Scream 3, no other series did more for the slas...

Dark Tower gets director photo
Dark Tower gets director

A Royal Affair director Nikolaj Arcel signs on to direct Stephen King's Dark Tower

Ever closer to a Gunslinger Born
Jul 13
// Sean Walsh
The man in Black fled across the Desert, and the Gunslinger followed. After what feels like an eternity of heartbreaking ups and downs, The Dark Tower inches ever closer to actually existing. The little franchise that co...
Ash Vs. Evil Dead Tailer photo
Bruce Campbell's still bad-Ash *rimshot*
The first full trailer for Starz's Ash vs. Evil Dead is out, and it looks way better than it has any right to look. Bruce Campbell is back as Ash, and they're playing up his schlubbiness, age, and cult persona to great effect...

Review: The Gallows

Jul 10 // Matthew Razak
[embed]219651:42478:0[/embed] The GallowsDirectors: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing Rated: RRelease Date: July 10, 2015 The Gallows had plenty of positive buzz coming out of the film festival circuit and it's pretty easy to see why. The movie is scary and does try to shake things up here and there. There's definitely something inherently scary about a high school at night, which is where our four protagonists find themselves. Reese Houser (Reese Mishler), Pfeifer Brown (Pfeifer Ross), Ryan Shoos (Ryan Shoos) and Cassidy Spiker (Cassidy Gifford) are trapped in the high school after sneaking in one night. Two decades before this a boy had died in a freak accident during the production of a play called The Gallows in the school's auditorium. His ghost isn't too happy about it and now he's finally got a group of teens trapped at night that he can terrorize.  The plot is pretty basic for a horror film; a small group of people being tormented by a deadly ghost who has a flare for the dramatic despite the fact that he could kill them all with his mystical powers in a second flat. The found footage gimmick feels more like a forced hook than what the directors originally intended, though since the pair wrote the screenplay as well it probably wasn't. Cluff and Lofing do do some clever things with it here and there, however. A few scenes in particular are fantastically constructed, especially one set in a hallway lit only by a red exit sign that fantastically uses shadows and off camera changes to build tension. The directors also cleverly use the two cameras the teens have with them to play out scenes completely from one perspective and then jump back to show us the same scene from another. Ignoring montage in favor of this style actually works incredibly well, adding fear that wouldn't be there to many scenes while still allowing for kills to play out on screen eventually. It's a great balance between the belief that being scary means leaving something off the screen and the constant need to shock the audience with visuals.  Sadly, the plotting and pacing can't keep up with the cool ideas and the film suffers for it. The movie falls victim to some terrible editing that is horrifically excused by the camera panning to the floor, shaking a bit, and then the teens suddenly being somewhere else when the camera swings back up. It rips the realism out of the movie, which for a found footage film is really problematic. There's even issues with how exactly they're filming at points, which allows for some great scenes but breaks the movie's own rules. Not to mention the plot itself is pretty flimsy. The movie is more of a collection of really interesting horror scenes than a horror whole. Great ideas keep cropping up and scaring you, but they don't accrue into a coherent whole.  Then there's the film's ending that's supposed to shock you, but is both predictable and tacked on. In what is supposed to be a twist the movie jumps out of scary and into stupid in the blink of an eye. Since the film's scenes don't build onto each other the movie's ending feels especially random. The movie makes no attempt to foreshadow what's coming meaning theirs no build to the conclusion, but it also awkwardly pretends like it was a surprise when anyone whose understands how movies are plotted will see it coming a mile away. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't work this out as the ending could have been something people talked about if pulled off correctly. For some cheap (well, as cheap as the movie ticket price near you) thrills The Gallows definitely delivers. There's moments that show that Cluff and Lofing can get up to some pretty interesting stuff with the genre, but their lack of structure and the found footage style mean the film isn't all that it could be. 
Gallows Review photo
Isn't high school bad enough on its own?
If you had hopes the the found footage genre of horror would go away you are in for a sore future. It's here to stay so you might as well embrace it. The sub-genre can offer up some fantastic scares if done right, but its ove...

Goosebumps Trailer photo
Viewer beware... (doo be doo doo doo)
I've been interested in the Goosebumps movie for some time. When it was first announced, it sounded like a neat but very weird idea. In the film adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular line of children's horror novels, Stine (Jack...


Poster for the New Goosebumps Movie is Surprisingly Badass

Jack Black is R.L. Stine
Jul 07
// John-Charles Holmes
Apparently, there's a Goosebumps movie coming out soon-- You know, those books they always sold at your school book fair that were equal parts cheesy, weird, and occasionally horrifying? Columbia Pictures released the poster ...
Screw You photo
Screw You

Cujo remake has terrible new title

Things that are OK to hate
Jul 07
// Matthew Razak
Ready to bash your head against your keyboard. They're remaking Cujo (no, don't bash yet) and the new film is going to be called C.U.J.O. That stands for Canine Unit Joint Operations (you're good to bash now).&...
Paranormal 5 trailer  photo
Paranormal 5 trailer

First Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension trailer has ghosts, mustaches

Despite the dumb name, this looks okay!
Jun 24
// Sean Walsh
The trailer for the sixth and apparently final Paranormal Activity is here, and you know what? It looks...pretty good, or at least not terrible. With a box full of old VHS tapes, one sweet mustache and a heretofore unsee...
Halloween Returns photo
Halloween Returns

Halloween Returns will start shooting July without Rob Zombie

The Bat, The Cat, and The Shape
Jun 16
// Hubert Vigilla
The Halloween franchise rides again with Halloween Returns, which starts shooting in July. Halloween Returns, incidentally, is almost as silly a title as Halloween Rides Again but not as good as Halloween: Tokyo Drift or...

RIP Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Jun 11 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219552:42431:0[/embed]   And, of course... [embed]219552:42432:0[/embed]
The legend was 93 years old
Sir Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93. Lee died in the hospital on Sunday, June 7th, though word of his passing has only reached news outlets today. According to several reports, this was at the request of Lee'...

Review: The Nightmare

Jun 05 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]219463:42422:0[/embed] The NightmareDirector: Rodney AscherRelease Date: June 5, 2015 (limited, VOD)Rating: NR Rather than rely on scientific rigor or consultations with medical professionals, The Nightmare is more about the experience of sleep paralysis and what it means to the people who suffer from it. The focus on individual voices rather than experts makes The Nightmare similar in some ways to Ascher's previous documentary, Room 237, which was about conspiracy theories and off-beat critical interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Each segment of The Nightmare is generally the same: a subject recounts his or her experience with sleep paralysis, and Ascher recreates the hallucinations with actors, generally culminating in a mini-horror set piece of some kind rife with Dario Argento color schemes and creepy sound design. What distinguishes each experience is the individual interpretations and descriptions of the sleep paralysis sufferer. In one of the most memorable of these horror tableaux, a giant three-dimensional shadow creature hunches over the bed. It's so tall, this shadow, that it has to stoop in order to fit in the room. The only distinguishing feature about it are red eyes and fangs. In the distorted voice of nightmares, the shadow tells the dreamer, who's frozen and staring up into its eyes, "You're going to die." He's told this repeatedly. He can only listen. It's a menacing moment, and there's something about the angles of the room and the vulnerability of the dreamer that makes it an effective horror spectacle. But it's more than mere spectacle, which comes back again to the importance of the individual voices of The Nightmare. Dreams are so personal, and while therapists and sleep specialists can help uncover the neuroses and the neurology that influences them, the visceral experience of dreaming is always something private until someone chooses to share it, and even that can fall short. Think about when friends recount their nightmares, but the terror seems foreign to you because of the difficulty of relaying the physical and intensely psychological experience. The Nightmare recreates the visceral space of bad dreams, and the voices of the subjects add the personal dimension that heightens the terror of being helplessly at the mercy of our minds--it makes a personal experience participatory. Keeping expert analysis out of The Nightmare also helps relate the personal discoveries and struggles that people with sleep paralysis experience, as if they're finding touchstones and footholds in the real world to make sense of their interior lives. Inevitable references are made to horror movies and science fiction movies with similar imagery--A Nightmare on Elm Street, Communion--and there's brief mention of the various manifestations of sleep paralysis hallucinations around the world. All these people, all over the world, throughout history, terrified but not alone in this helplessness. That's almost comforting, at least until the next episode of sleep paralysis. When I interviewed Rodney Ascher about Room 237, he referred to The Shining as a machine for spontaneously creating synchronicities and coincidences, which also seems like a nice way of describing the way we try to make sense of dreams, in this case bad ones. When confronted with something so existentially dreadful that's rooted in the unconscious and subconscious, there's an attempt to make sense of it somehow. The dream might point to some greater psychological or spiritual need (maybe these aren't separate concerns). We get to ask, "Why did I dream about x-thing?" or "Why did y-person do this to me?" or, ultimately, "What does this mean?" If we couldn't ponder meaning or create meaning from this mental matter, that would be absolutely terrifying.
Review: The Nightmare photo
So much for a good night's sleep
Sleep paralysis is a condition that affects people in a liminal state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. When it strikes, a person is unable to speak or move. Several people who discuss their own experiences with...

Review: We Are Still Here

Jun 04 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]219488:42405:0[/embed] We Are Still HereDirector: Ted GeogheganRelease Date: June 5, 2015Rating: NR  A lot of people have compared We Are Still Here to the films of Lucio Fulci. Fulci, for those who don't know, was an Italian director known for his gore-heavy horror movies, such as the infamous Zombi 2 (a "sequel" to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, released as Zombi in Italy). For what it's worth, Zombi 2 is the only Fulci film I've seen. I expect that at least a few of the critics who have made that comparison have never seen any of his filmography. Writer/director Ted Gheogegan thinks so as well. But whether that's true or not, the comparisons make sense, because the film is heavily inspired by Fulci's House by the Cemetary. So heavily inspired, in fact, that nearly every character's name in the film comes from HbtC's characters, cast, and crew. (Naming characters is hard, you guys.) It's also, so I've been told, pretty beat-for-beat similar in its structure. I was told this by the writer/director, so I expect it's probably true. But I can't speak from experience. But if it's true, I want to see House by the Cemetery, because it must have a pretty rock-solid foundation. (That's a house joke, by the way. A haunted house joke.) I first met Ted at NYAFF 2012. Some months prior, he had took over duties on the Korean Movie Night series, so he and I had been in contact before. When I heard he was taking over NYAFF PR, I was like, "Oh, sure. That guy." When we actually first met, he was like, "Oh, sure. That guy!" We talked, because that's what you do. I asked him if he was a particular fan of Asian cinema. He said no, that Genre was really his thing. I thought that was sort of odd, considering the circumstances, but you don't have to be in love with something in order to get people to cover it. But that stuck with me, and so I was unsurprised by his first film as director was a horror film. (I find it mildly amusing that he co-wrote a Korean film before directing a horror film, however.)  At the talk where I found out about the existence of We Are Still Here, Ted said something crucial: "I want people to be entertained. I want people to walk out of the theater having had a good time." It's both a significant statement in and of itself (this film embraces the idea of and wants to be entertainment), but also because of how it manifests itself in the film. Anne and Paul Sacchetti have been having a less than stellar year. Their son, Bobby, died. In order to get away from the memory, they moved to a cold, rural New England town. These characters are played straight. They are sad. And unfortunately for them, they moved into a haunted house. The basement is obscenely hot and there's a faint odor of smoke. If I had to guess, I'd probably think that somebody had been burned to death in that house. Perhaps someone who was angry and wanted revenge on the next unsuspecting homeowner? Perhaps. But here's the key thing: the other characters are not played straight. Or rather, they're not characters that are intended to play straight. There's the Harbinger of Doom; there's the stoner hippie; there's the sketchy New England townsfolk. All of these things are funny. But they're not dumb funny. They're just funny. They're entertaining. This is a horror film with a sense of humor.  Last I heard, there has only been one notably negative review of We Are Still Here. I don't know where it came from, but I know that the person who wrote it is dumb. He didn't get it. He was annoyed that the film was funny and that the characters a little silly. He was expecting straight horror and didn't get that. He bashed the film for his own ignorance. He's a terrible critic. A critic's job is not to project their own biases onto a film and judge it based on those assumptions. Not terribly long ago, I got into an argument about Mad Max: Fury Road. Someone was angry at the film because he thought that it had failed as a fundamental critique of violence. Which would be fine, if the film was trying to be a fundamental critique of violence. But it wasn't. And so instead of being profound, he came off like an idiot. He missed the point, and blamed the film for his own inadequacies. The person who called out Ted's movie for being hammed up is much the same. I'm not trying to imply that the film is beyond reproach. It's not. And people are welcome to hate the film's silliness. They are also welcome to hate the fact that the film was trying to be silly. They shouldn't, but if you don't find humor enjoyable, then you're welcome to not like what Ted was going for. But you have to accept that that is the film's intent. You cannot say it fails at being serious because it has over-the-top moments and occasionally stilted performances when that was literally the point. I remember when the earliest reviews came out praising the tone of the film, saying that it struck the right balance between horror and humor. "They got what I was going for!" he exclaimed. When I told him that I liked it, he said much the same thing.  But there are things I didn't like about it. I thought that the cinematography was more "interesting" than it was "good." The camera is often in motion, giving a voyeuristic feel that reminded me a little bit of 2012's Resolution. It feels like you're watching the film from something's perspective. The camera moves like a person does, or a ghost or whatever. It moves. And that's compelling, but the images themselves are often a little drab. It may be an accurate representation of New England winters, but there's a beauty to that kind of life that I never really felt like We Are Still Here captured. It's a perfectly fine looking movie (and the practical effects look great (the computer generated ones less so)), but I wasn't in love with it. Also: the highlights frequently looked blown out, and not in an artistic way so much as a "Whoops, overexposed the shot" kind of way. Even if it was intentional, it didn't look good. But it's not about whether or not it looks good. It just needs to look good enough to tell its story, and it does that. So, about that story. I grew up in a small town in Rhode Island. Many years ago, there was a series of murders in my town. People still talk about it. Small towns have long memories. New England towns in particular. There's something fascinatingly insular about them, but not in the way that something like Winter's Bone is. But then again, maybe that's just because of where I grew up. Maybe someone from the south sees Winter's Bone as the norm and We Are Still Here is the crazy thing.  We Are Still Here is about an undying memory. The house is haunted by sin. A sin that goes unspoken except the man who can't help but tell anyone who will listen about the horrors of the old Dagmar house. And when they're introduced, it's a brilliant moment played brilliantly. Honestly, much of the film is, and the beats of the narrative often surprise (the first person to survive is the exact person you expect to die first). The scares are a bit jumpy at times (and one particular jump scare completely breaks the film's logic in order to have a cool moment (something I called Ted on and he admitted to)), but they also work. There's tension from the start. At first, it's just a picture frame that falls over without provocation. It leads into the film's title, and there is never any question of whether or not the house is haunted. Even if the characters don't necessarily fall in line, you know. And you see them surprisingly early on. We Are Still Here isn't afraid to show the Dagmars.  I'm not sure that was the right move, because as fascinating as they are, there's an odd, CG sheen to them that takes away from the fear factor. They should be terrifying, but they aren't. They look too fake, like a monster in a rubber costume, except instead of rubber it's subpar computer graphics. It doesn't stop them from being involved in some legitimately scary moments, but it does keep them from being the nightmare-inducing horror icons that they could have been. Still, the buildup is excellent, and by the time the shit hits the fan, you're invested. You've laughed and jumped. Maybe you screamed if you're a pansy like me (I didn't scream, but I probably would have if I had been in a theater and not at home with the curtains wide open and the lights on). And the payoff is pretty goddamn great. It's not a film that answers all of its questions, but it also doesn't leave a thousand plot threads open just to preserve a false air of "mystery." You know what you need to know and a little more. It's a film you can talk about with friends, dissecting its moments (especially the ending) and trying to parse what it all meant. Too many films these days (and genre films in general) tell you everything, and it takes away from the horror. We Are Still Here tells you things, but you can't necessarily assume it's telling the truth. The film is an unreliable narrator at times. It's from something's perspective, but that thing isn't necessarily all-knowing. But the fear of the unknown, wondering why the Dagmars do what they do, who they choose to attack and who they simply decide to mess with. It keeps you invested, it keeps you wondering, and it keeps you scared. I'm glad Ted made a good movie. I'm glad I don't have to post this review to Facebook with a note saying, "Sorry man, but you fucked up." It's hardly flawless, but I was absolutely entertained. And if that was truly the intent, then the film is absolutely a success. A silly, scary, and ultimately satisfying bit of genre filmmaking. Ted, if you've made it this far: Well done. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
We Are Still Here Review photo
They certainly are
A few weeks ago, I opened my Ladies of the House review with a caveat: I knew the director, sort of. We're Facebook friends. He was the head publicist at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. But it was only sort of a disc...

Review: The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)

May 25 // Sean Walsh
[embed]219487:42404:0[/embed] Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)Director: Tom SixRelease Date: May 22, 2015Rated: Unrated Dieter Laser returns to the franchise he made famous as Bill Boss, racist, sexist, malevolent warden of a prison in the middle of the desert. Laurence R. Harvey, villainous manbaby star of Human Centipede 2, plays his sidekick/prison accountant Dwight Butler. These two men find themselves with a problem on there hands when Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts for some reason) threatens to fire them if they can't fix their crappy prison. Butler suggests to Boss, "Hey, let's make the prisoners into a giant Human Centipede like those two movies." And then they do. That's the whole plot. Were you expecting Kubrick? I don't have a lot to say about this film, to be honest. It's graphically violent, really racist, really sexist, and has little redeeming quality to it beyond Dieter Laser's super over-the-top performance as Bill Boss. It has a premise, and follows it to the end. It was competently made. But it just doesn't have anything going for it beyond that. So instead, let me give you a list of all the messed up/notable stuff that happens in chronological order to sate your curiosity and save you the 102 minutes you won't ever get back. SPOILERS AHEAD. The film starts with the credits of the first two movies, because meta Lots of general hardcore racism and talk of rape Dieter Laser graphically breaks Tom Lister Jr.'s arm Dieter Laser spends most of the movie eating from a jar of dried clitorises he got from Africa (Bree Olson eats one later, not knowing what they are) A man is waterboarded by Laser with three buckets of boiling water and then the washcloth is peeled off the man's boiled face We get to see Dieter Laser loudly climax from oral sex (performed off-camera by former adult film star Bree Olson, the film's sole female character, Laser's secretary/living sex toy) Dieter Laser graphically castrates Robert LaSardo, rubs the blood from the wound all over his face and then later eats the man's balls for lunch (breaded and everything) In a bizarre fantasy sequence, Robert LaSardo shivs a helpless Laser and has sex with the wound Tom Six shows up and gives them permission to use his idea and explains about how he consulted a real doctor about the medical accuracy of making a human centipede  During a screening of the films, Laser tells the prisoners he's going to make them into a human centipede and they riot, which leads to Bree Olson (again, the single female character) being beaten into a coma by Tom Lister Jr. During the surgery segment, Laser inserts his revolver into a man's stoma and shoots him, shoots a disabled man, and decides to attach a man with chronic diarrhea in front of Robert LaSardo Laser has sex with a comatose Bree Olson When Tom Six sees Laser's "special" project (that involves cutting off arms), he vomits on a glass door and exits the film After the 500-person centipede is unveiled, we are shown that the only female character in the film, who spends the entire film being used for sex before being beaten into a coma and raped in her comatose state, is sewn into the centipede for reasons(?) Laser unveils to Governor Eric Roberts his special project, the Human Caterpillar, made from the limbless torsos of the lifetime and death row inmates After Roberts says that Laser and Harvey are insane and will get the chair, Laser shoots the prison doctor, then Roberts comes back and tells them he changed his mind, leaves again, and Laser shoots Harvey so he can take the credit for himself The film ends with a naked Laser screaming nonsense through a megaphone from a guard tower overlooking his centipede as patriotic music swells To say this film is problematic is to put it lightly. It is virulently racist for reasons unknown, treats the single female character as an object to stick male genitalia in (and, again for reasons unknown, throws her into the centipede because why not?), and generally delights in inflicting pain on both its characters and its audience. But you should know what you're getting into where a film's central theme involves people being sewn ass-to-mouth. Like I say in the image above, Human Centipede 3 is indeed 100% the third Human Centipede film. If you like watching racist, cruel men castrate dudes and have sex with women in comas with the titular centipede happening in the background, then boy this film is for YOU! If you liked the first two films, you'll probably like this one. If you're only lukewarm on them, you can probably skip this one. Bottom line: Human Centipede 3 is competently made schlock. Tom Six is an edgy dude with some weird stuff (and quite possibly issues with women) rattling around in his head, but he can make a good-looking movie. Hopefully his next series has more merit. Happy Memorial Day, everybody.
Review: Human Centipede 3 photo
"100% a film that was made"
I did not care for the first Human Centipede. It was a generic torture porn with a couple gimmicks in the centipede itself and the claim of being 100% medically accurate. As a jaded horror fan, I spent most of it yawning (cri...

Who's there? photo
Who's there?

New trailer for Knock Knock full of sex and Keanu Reeves

Chocolate with sprinkles!
May 22
// Matthew Razak
While we may never get to see director Eli Roth's Green Inferno, we do have something from him that may sate your appetite for his particular brand of gonzo horror. Knock Knock's second trailer is here and it seems right up t...
Cooties Trailer photo
Cooties Trailer

First trailer for Cooties starring Elijah Wood and zombie fourth graders

Circle, circle, dot, dot...
May 21
// Nick Valdez
I don't think I've ever talked about how much I love Elijah Wood's career. He's willing to take chances on the weirdest, and most far out projects. He doesn't always succeed, but he seems like the type of actor that's game fo...

See Poltergeist early and free

Washington DC and Baltimore screenings
May 15
// Matthew Razak
When it comes to remakes I'm not sold on Poltergeist at all. The original still stands on its own and updating it makes little sense. They're doing it, though, so we should probably watch it. It could be scary and now yo...

Crimson Peak trailer reveals ghosts and blood

Have we seen the whole movie now?
May 13
// Matthew Razak
The first trailer for Crimson Peak from director Guillermo Del Toro was significantly creepy, hinting at the terror that the house held and just how odd Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain were going to be. Like good hor...
(Final Sequence) photo
(Final Sequence)

Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) trailer gets all up in your...

... never mind
May 06
// Matthew Razak
I'm not sure we really needed a Human Centipede 3, but then again we didn't really need a Human Centipede and we really didn't need the lackluster sequel. At least this one is getting so insanely meta that it's hard to d...

Review: The Ladies of the House

May 01 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
The Ladies of the HouseDirector: John WildmanRelease Date: May 1, 2015 (iTunes)Rating: NR  At the end of Rugerro Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust (spoilers for a movie that's older than I am), one of the characters opines to no one in particular, "Who are the real cannibals?" Up until that point, we'd been subjected to the brutality of the cannibals, sure, but so too were we shown the horrors of the Americans who set upon their tribe. They were documenting their own atrocities. "Who are the real cannibals?" it asks. "US!" It's always stuck with me. I was surprised that Cannibal Freaking Holocaust was trying to say something about anything. I'd expected less of it. But silly as it is (and it is silly), I find myself quoting it with probably alarming regularity. "Who are the real cannibals?" Minutes into The Ladies of the House, I nearly shouted at the screen, "THE REAL CANNIBALS ARE MEN!" Instead, I said, "Oh! I get it!" followed immediately by, "Ugh. I don't want to see this..."  To be clear: I wasn't saying I didn't want to watch the rest of the movie (I did), but I could already tell that these soon-to-be victims wouldn't be so, um, victim-y. They would deserve what was coming to them, because they're pigs. They would incite the violence, and when things went badly (as the flash-forwards heavily implied they would), you wouldn't feel bad. Because fuck those guys. In the past year or so, I've realized that I have an active aversion to masculine manly men who treat women like shit. Some films that I've been told were great I just refused to watch because I don't need to see more abuse. The world's depressing enough. And even though I knew there would be vengeance, and it would be sweet (cause they're cannibals, get it?!), I wasn't super excited by the idea of subjecting to myself to more misogyny. Ladies of the House was written by John Wildman and his wife, Justina Walford. I heard about it years ago from some other critics, but last November I attended a Genre movie discussion and Wildman and Walford were on the panel. It was an interesting one, and afterwards I talked with them a little bit. The movie was pitched to me as "Lesbian cannibals in a house." I said, "Cool. When do I get to see it?" (Which is the first thing I say any time anybody tells me they've made anything.) He said, "Next year." And I said, "That sucks." It's one heck of a pitch, though, right? And if you hadn't seen the movie, you might think it sounds like a male fantasy of sorts. I can imagine a bunch of dude bros scrolling by this movie on VOD and stopping. "Sexy lesbian cannibals? Woo! PARTY!"  If I had to guess, those people will be disappointed. They'll like the opening, which takes place in a strip club. They'll like the parts with the lesbians doing their thing. But they probably won't like the rest of it, because it sure as heck doesn't like them. It's important that The Ladies of the House was co-written by a woman, much in the same way it's important that Gone Girl was written by a woman. Misogynistic dialogue is different when it's written by a woman. The words might be the same, but they definitely don't have the same meaning. No one in their right mind could accuse this film of misogyny. It is very obvious what the film is going for and trying to say with its use of over-the-top derogatory language, but at first it isn't so over-the-top. In the strip club, it's disgusting but it's also entirely plausible. There are people who talk and think like that. If you're not paying attention, you might miss the point. At least at first. When it gets into it, you'll know damn well that this is a feminist slasher flick through and through. And you'll say, "A feminist slasher flick? Whoa! Party?" It's definitely a party. A gruesome one, too. Very much so. It takes a while for blood to spill, but once it does, it just goes. It's probably why the film flashes forward early on. In the middle of an uncomfortable moment, suddenly you see this man you're watching being tortured. It's dark and it's quick, but you know what it means. You know his fate. Soon after, you know the second guy's fate. And when you don't see the third, well, you sort of know his as well. But for people who happen on the film and don't know what it is or what it's about, it's important that they see that. They need to know what they're getting themselves into. Not because they should mentally prepare themselves for the horror (though maybe that too), but because there's a whole lot of non-violence that has to happen before it gets to that point. And they need to know there's going to be some payoff. Otherwise, why would they stick around? (Aside from the fact that it's really just a fundamentally compelling narrative, of course.) It's a stylish movie. Sometimes a bit too stylish, perhaps, but I have to give it credit for choosing a look and committing to it. I've never loved the heavy wide-angle/fish-eye effect, but I understand why it's used and how it can be used effectively. It's used here. A lot. A lot a lot. And it works, for the most part, as do all the other little flourishes, but every so often I was paying more attention to the shot composition than what was being composed.  But it doesn't detract (or even really distract) from the narrative that's presented here. In fact, the only thing that really affected my investment in the events was the not-awesome performance by the one guy who could be considered good. He's the voice of reason when his friend and brother are being piggish. He wants his brother to leave the strip club. He doesn't want to go into the lady's house. He doesn't want things to go out of control. But he's soft-spoken and not particularly convincing. It's actually kind of fascinating in context, though, and works in the greater scheme of the narrative. This character "fights" it but doesn't actually put up a fight. He can't put his foot down, and then terrible things happen to him and those around him. Maybe his subpar performance is commenting on weakness of men who don't have the balls to say, "Hey, leave her the fuck alone." Intentional or not, that reading does make his emotionless delivery a bit more bearable. Interestingly enough, the best male performance comes from the worst of the characters. That one who you just can't wait to see die. And you will see it. And keep seeing it. Pretty soon, you'll be uncomfortable with how excited you were to see him punished in the first place. But you'll keep seeing it. Because The Ladies of the House doesn't let you off the hook. Because that "sexy lesbian cannibals" fantasy is just the pitch. It's the thing that gets you in the door. But once you're inside, you realize you're getting a whole lot more than you bargained for. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Ladies of the House photo
Men are kinda the worst, huh?
At one of the various Tribeca press screenings, I was sitting around and talking with a few other NY critics. We were talking about what was coming up the rest of the year, and discussion inevitably turned to the New York Fil...

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First trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next The Visit

Apr 24
// Nick Valdez
M. Night Shyamalan has had quite a lopsided career. I tend to dig more of his efforts than not, but after The Last Airbender and After Earth I'm not so sure. Maybe a return to his horror thriller roots might do the trick? Thi...

Review: Unfriended

Apr 17 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218828:42143:0[/embed] UnfriendedDirector: Levan GabriadzeRelease Date: April 17, 2015Rating: R  Unfriended is about a girl who doesn’t know how to use Cmd+C. Her name is Blaire (get it?), and the film takes place entirely on her computer screen. And I do mean entirely. Throughout, you can see her system bar and her various tabs. There are bits and pieces of a person there, most of which are probably nonsense on close inspection but serve to create a relatively effective illusion of a teenage female. I mean, she has a tumblr. Sadly, you never get to see her tumblr, just stare at the concept of it up in the tab bar while you’re trying to avoid looking at whatever is happening elsewhere onscreen (because you’re me, and you’re very easily startled).  What Unfriended does is complicated. It’s complicated for a lot of reasons, and for that reason alone it’s deserving of praise in a way that, say, Paranormal Activity is not. Paranormal Activity is scarier than Unfriended, but Unfriended is far more technologically compelling. Rather than a couple of people in a house, it’s half a dozen people in as many houses. These people are all linked by a single Skype conversation, one that starts and stops for various reasons. But sometimes it’s going and the audience doesn’t get to see what’s happening, because Blaire is too busy looking at her Facebook. Or at least the Facebook of her dead classmate. I shot a film a few weeks ago. A fair portion of that film takes place in a chatroom or on Google or looking at a narrative-relevant website. I had to make a fake website and doctor Google results. I had to attempt to make these things look like they were real. It was complicated. Now I’m in editing, and I’m running into a different issue: How best to cut between a character and his words? There are a whole lot of different ways to tackle this issue. There’s the recent trend towards chat bubbles showing up onscreen. That’s ostensibly the best of both worlds, but it’s also really silly looking. You can’t have something be dramatic (like my film) or horrific (like Unfriended) and use that effect. So you cut back and forth, but you don’t know how fast your audience is at reading. And you have to hold on the text, but that kills the pacing of the scene, because you want some dead time to look at the face of your character. But you need it to be faster than that, because if people get bored watching some dude in a chatroom, they won’t get to the good parts of the movie. It’s a fine line. You may think that Unfriended doesn’t have to walk it, given that it’s essentially 100% chatroom, but it does. It has to be even more careful, because staring at a Skype chatroom is fine and visually diverse, but an iMessage conversation? For more than a minute? And nothing else? You have to make sure that the pacing of that conversation is flawless, but you also have to make sure that everyone has the time to grasp it. Blaire will go to a website, give the speedreaders in the audience enough time to read something, and then she’ll go over it with her cursor to help along the people who didn’t realize they were supposed to be looking at the ridiculously large text that that forum commenter used on his narratively important response. When she’s having those conversations or looking at those websites, you don’t see Blaire’s face. You have to discern her feelings from her mouse movements and clicks, and the pauses in her typing. You have to assume a lot of things about her and about the way she acts. You need to assume that she’s uncomfortable, and that’s why she paused here, or she was scared and that’s why she rushed. If you can’t accept that, you will have to project your own emotions onto her actions, then you won’t be able to watch this movie for more than ten minutes. She may “be” a “person,” but if you don’t see her in that Skype bubble, she may as well be an avatar in a not-particularly-fun text adventure that you don’t get to control. And hell, even if you do see her in the corner, well, I guess it’s a Let’s Play. A Let’s Play of a really uncomfortable Alternate Reality Game (ARG).  But there’s something fundamentally off-putting about our main character’s inability to use keyboard shortcuts; the act of copying and pasting requires a long and complicated series of mouse clicks. She can’t be like a regular person, Cmd+C, Cmd+V, done. She has to right click… copy… right click… paste. And we have to witness each agonizing moment of this action, over and over again, because she sure does like copying and pasting. (I mean, who doesn’t? It’s super useful. But when your movement is hampered by the fact that your audience might get confused if your character were to use a keyboard shortcut, then you become unrelatable. Here is a high school girl who types and texts like a high school girl, but she’s not a high school girl, because high school girls probably don’t even know that right click to copy/paste is even an option. Why would they? Nobody uses that shit. Except Blaire.) Oh, Blaire. Blaire. Blaire. Blaire. What are we going to do with you? In this group of stereotypes, only Blaire really seemed to like Laura Barns. Laura Barns is the dead classmate I mentioned all the way back when. Exactly one year before this film takes place, Laura Barns committed suicide. Why? Because someone posted a really unpleasant video, starring her extremely drunk  self. The video was called, “Laura Barns Kill Yourself” or something to that effect. People agreed. Then she did. (It’s worth noting that the actual suicide, which you see footage of relatively early on, very easily could have failed to kill her. She held the gun at arm’s length, pointed it towards herself, and eventually pulled the trigger. If the paramedics had gotten there in time, she very possibly could have survived. How traumatic would that have been, huh?)  A year later, she decides to fuck with some people who she may or may not have been friends with. Blaire was one of them, and then the other people in Blaire’s friend group. There’s her boyfriend, Mitch, who is strong (you know that, because his profile picture is of him flexing); Adam, who also looks kind of strong but isn’t Blaire’s boyfriend; Jess, who is blonde; Ken, who is a l33t hacker (you know because he’s fat and smokes weed); and then Val, who is skanky (you know because her name is Val). I just looked at the IMDb cast list and saw other names, so apparently there are other people in the film. Color me surprised, because I can’t remember a single one of them. So anyway: Laura died, right? A year later, she comes back to haunt everyone there. Not because they had anything to do with it, necessarily, but because they’re associated with people who did. Or they didn’t stop her. Or something. I dunno. Point is, she’s out for blood. Yada yada yada. People die. Whatever. But here’s an interesting little tidbit: The film was shot in one take. There were reshoots, of course, and I expect that the vast majority of the things we see onscreen were created in post rather than at the time, because let me tell you, it is difficult to take a webpage and then make a visually identical but slightly functionally different.  When you see a version of Skype that won’t let you end a call, that’s not some quick and simple fix. That took work, whether it was some crazy pre-production development or some graphical finessing in post. It’s. Not. Easy. Nor is doing an 80 minute movie in a single take, but that’s what Unfriended did. They didn’t have to, of course. As we’ve established, many of the characters are offscreen for any number of reasons at any given time. But they did it in one take anyway. A few pickups and inserts aside, this film was done in one go. That’s fascinating, but the fundamental logic behind the decision says a lot about both the actors and their relationship to the source material.  Shelley Hennig, who played Blaire, was having problems with the 10 minute long takes they were doing. She was having trouble keeping the energy up between takes, and to her it seemed easier to just do the whole thing without stopping. Here’s what this says about her: She’s not a film actress. She’s a theatre actress. In an overly long analysis of Birdman, I discussed some of the things that make each unique, and by shooting Unfriended in one take, it actually goes a long way towards making the film a true example of theatre. Or maybe a Let’s Play. (Seriously, this movie is a lot like a Let’s Play.) Here’s what it says about her relationship to the source material: They didn’t connect, not on a fundamental level. She did a perfectly fine job in the film, and I won’t deny her that, but she’s working with subpar material, and she knows that. They all know that. How could they not? It’s a movie about a haunted Skype session. Literally. That’s so stupid! And that stupidity can make it hard to keep up intensity and energy. As theatre, where things can go wrong but you just keep going, there’s a spark of intensity and fire that builds up as time goes on. Film doesn’t have that, because the fundamentals of how a movie is constructed make it impossible to keep building that. You build, cut, rebuild, cut, rebuild. I greatly enjoy film acting, but the things I like about it are in direct opposition of the things I greatly enjoy about theatrical acting. The way that this film was designed meant that they could have their theatrical experience played against some not-so-hot material. They got into character and just went from there. It was a smart move. I imagine that the film, had it been filmed in chunks, would have felt less cohesive as a result. Because if it feels anything, it’s cohesive. This is surprisingly effective worldbuilding. It’s a deadly ARG. I could imagine some elaborately designed websites and forum posts and fabricated Google results that all point to the mistake that all of these characters make: Don’t respond to dead people. If your dead classmate sends you a Facebook message, fucking ignore it. Is it slightly unfair that they only learned that rule after they had responded to the ghost? Yes. But the movie doesn’t happen if everyone’s like, “Lol! I ain’t falling for your shit, ghost!” So we have to have stupid characters who will do stupid things and make stupid decisions. Otherwise there’s no film. You rescind your right to criticize that kind of idiocy when you buy a ticket for a horror movie called Unfriended. But you know what’s interesting about the framing narrative? It’s oddly believable that all of these characters would stay on the computer, that they would, in a sense, keep filming. This is a horror movie where the characters don’t really “split up.” A character goes to check out a scary noise, and he brings his laptop with him. That makes sense. Of course he does! He wants the emotional support of the people closest to him. They try to hang up on the Skype call, but if they open it back up, the ghost didn’t go away. And then if they tried to leave for good? Well, let’s just say they have reason to believe that things might take a turn. If I had been watching Unfriended surrounded by people I knew, it would have been a different experience. I usually refuse to allow conversation while I’m in a theater or even at home watching something on TV. But here’s a different story. I said many, many words ago that I was covering my eyes for much of Unfriended. That’s true. I had one eye closed for nearly the entire runtime. As soon as things got scary, I winced and didn’t unwince until the credits rolled. I spent certain parts of the film staring at the audience. Not their reactions, just the backs of their heads. I knew that what was going on the screen would probably make me scream like a small child, and I really didn’t need anybody to see that. Because Unfriended is effective in the exact same way that Paranormal Activity is effective. There are long periods of time where nothing happens, and then suddenly the loudest goddamn noise you’ve heard in your life blares through the speakers. You jump. It’s not “scary” necessarily, but it makes me jump every single time. I know it’s coming, because absolute silence in movies of this sort is never punctuated with anything but a BANG. But the wait to get to that sound can be agonizing. And when it comes, the results are mixed. Sometimes it's dumb or obscured by weird movement or whatever. And then sometimes it is legitimately fucked up. Nothing in Paranormal Activity actually disgusted me. Several things in Unfriended did. The imagery is just… ugh. (I’m thinking in particular of an image macro posted later in the film. You’ll know the one.) But the imagery comes at key points in the narrative, and perhaps the filmmakers should be applauded for understanding the peaks and valleys required of a narrative like this. When I think about the meticulous sense of pacing that the film sometimes has, I think about this: There's a moment in the film where the ghost sends an image file to everyone in the group. After much discussion (or at least people saying "DON'T CLICK THAT!"), Blaire clicks it. The file takes at least 14 seconds to download. Fourteen agonizing seconds. And you wonder: Is this real time? Are we waiting because they're waiting? Or is this to build up the anticipation of this image, because we might have some idea what it is, but we don't really know. The second image she downloads is done in under a second. The team knew that audiences wouldn't stand for that again. So they didn't make them. They went off to the next trick. They had plenty of tricks available, because there are so many things that can be done with social media and breaking the rules as the characters understand them, but also as we understand them. We can relate to how creepy it would be if suddenly we couldn't drop mysterious figures from Skype calls or if we suddenly couldn't unfriend particularly problematic Facebook friends.  But then again, the film features an extended sequence where Blaire, understandably freaking out, slightly less understandably turns to ChatRoulette to find help. What follows is legitimately bizarre and completely destroys the tension the movie has built up. Throughout, there are moment like that. I wouldn't call the film "self-aware" necessarily, but I would call it "a-typical" in a fascinating way. I mean, as generic as its actual storyline is, its presentation is still unique and executed quite well. It's not the first film to do the whole "Takes place entirely on a screen" thing, but it absolutely is the first film to try it on this scale (the recently released Open Windows is far less complex), and I think everyone deserves props for pulling it off. You could much worse than Unfriended. And that may be the most shocking thing of all.
Unfriended Review photo
Let's Play a game
I went into Unfriended expecting garbage. I told multiple people that I was on my way to the screening, and they asked why. I told them I didn’t know, but I was expecting terrible things. The trailer compared itself to ...

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