Category: Reviews


Terra Nova, Fox 8pm EST Mondays

Hopefully, if you were interested in Terra Nova you watched the season premier this past Monday (9/26/11).  If not, keep in mind that this review will give away a lot of the plot so if you don’t want spoilers, just skip to the last paragraph if you want the up or down vote.

I decided to watch the 2 hour season premier of Terra Nova purely out of curiosity, as the idea of starting civilization over again by going back in time definitely appealed to me.  What tempered my enthusiasm, however, was that sinking feeling that producers were going to use a really good idea and turn it into two hours of telling us how we are mucking up the Earth and eventually we will destroy it.  However, now having actually watched the show, I have to say it was pleasantly light on the “people suck” messaging .

Now, there is an element of “the Earth is doomed and it’s all our fault” in the very beginning of the show, but it doesn’t last long and that is not the focus.  Rather, the show follows the Shannon family in the year 2149, struggling to deal with living in an overpopulated world (they even have limits on how many children you can have, in this case 2 — which unfortunately isn’t a new concept) and where the air is so bad, people have to wear small gas masks when outside.  Sounds a little preachy so far, I know, but the thrust of the first third of the show really is on the family and the fact that they get caught having violated the child policy.  Anyway, off dad/Jim (Jason O’Mara) a former cop, goes to prison for the child law violation.

The rest of the show picks up 2 years later with dad still in the clink, and with mom/Elizabeth (Shelley Conn) and the two approved children having been picked by the government to go to Terra Nova.  They don’t get into what Terra Nova is explicitly (you have to hear the announcements in the background) but you figure out that somehow they have found a rip in time which allows people to travel back in time to Earth (before all the planet-ruining people came along) but in another time stream.  I won’t belabor the whole normal time steam versus new time stream thing because I have a feeling we will hear a lot more about that in future episodes.  As for the third, unapproved child and dad, well yada, yada, yada, he escapes from prison and manages to get the entire family onto/into Terra Nova, from which there is no way to get back to 2149.

I was surprised — in a good way — to see that a large portion of the premier takes place in/on Terra Nova.  This is important because they needed to and did set some expectations for potential trouble in their new-found utopia.  Problems on Terra Nova include, but are not limited to:  man-eating dinosaurs (some of which didn’t exist in our real past, but remember, this is a different time stream so they can really make up whatever they want), big ass bugs, another settlement of people (called Sixers, that also came from 2149) that for some reason (the premier didn’t explain it yet) are at odds with those living within the gates of Terra Nova, and some mysterious etchings on some rocks outside the gates of Terra Nova.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and solid premier.  The characters are likeable, the sets were beautiful both in 2149 and on Terra Nova, and the story is engaging.  These days, it gets pretty hard for me to enjoy shows and movies that spend most of their (and my) time preaching about one issue or another and don’t spend enough time on the characters and the story.  I am happy to say that is not the case with Terra Nova and I am glad I watched it.  Sure, the entire concept is built around people being the cause of the Earth dying a slow and painful death, and I am pretty sure we will hear some more of that in future episodes, but it’s not so over the top that I couldn’t enjoy it.  I mean, after all, all doomsday scenario shows and movies have to have a bad guy, and I can live with it if it’s us once in a while, so long as the story is a good one, and in this case it is.

Tech Note:  There are a few technical flaws with the show, such as a few windmills and solar panels being able to generate LOTS of electricity for their futuristic medical equipment, the entire village and whatnot, but again, I can overlook that.  In fact, I giggled quite a bit during one scene, when you first see a windmill (it’s literally one lonely windmill in the background) and I imagined it crying “Help me!  I can’t do this all by myself you idiots!”  Anyway, it’s Sci-Fi and sometimes you gotta let fiction be fiction and just enjoy the show.  

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CONTAGION, 2011

First, let me start by acknowledging that technically, this isn’t a horror movie.  However, since it does have elements of horror in it (sort of), as well as some Science Fiction (note the science part of that phrase) it qualifies to be reviewed here.  Plus, I just love end of the world movies, especially the kind with icky viruses.

The film’s premise is that an unknown virus makes its way into the population and starts killing off anyone who comes in contact with it — and by contact I mean any contact.  If you touch an infected person:  blammo.  You touch something an infected person has touched:  peace out.  If you breathe the air of an infected person:  well, you get the picture.  To add to the scare factor, you can’t really tell if someone is infected until they practically drop dead, so let’s just say you might want to stay home or encase yourself in plastic wrap — your choice really.

To add to the xenophobia instilled in you after about 20 minutes of the movie (and the distracting conscious effort to not touch your face), you are also treated to pretty inept governments and leaders who are virtually in absentia while millions of people are dying, looting, getting robbed, etc.  Which governments you may ask?  How about, oh, just all of them.  The movie may have made it seem like all of 12 people were working on the problem worldwide, but at least they didn’t just portray America as completely heartless and dumb this time, so that’s a plus.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the absurd amount of high-profile actors in the film because there are loads of ’em:  Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, Jude Law, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Now don’t get me wrong here, I like a lot of the actors in the movie and felt that pretty much all of them did a great job in the film.  Notable exception being Matt Damon, who, true to form, seems to be totally incapable of showing any emotion — ever.  Even Gwyneth Paltrow who I would probably want to throttle in real life, put in a great performance as (I am loath to admit) she usually does.

So to re-cap here’s what we have so far:  great premise, great cast and surprisingly (and thankfully) no overt Hollywood message.  So what’s not to love?  Well, just a few things actually.  First, from only seeing the previews of the movie, I was kind of hoping/expecting that they would take a bit of a broader approach to the threat of infectious diseases.  There were a few mentions of Bird Flu and such, but in terms of getting the point across about how serious of a threat we could really face, the film  came off a bit understated, even while they are throwing numbers of infected and dead at you like hot cakes.  I dunno, maybe I just need more gore.  Second, I’m not really sure what the point of the movie was.  Other than the fact that some freaky virus could wipe out tons of us pretty easily, I really didn’t get much else.

In the end, the movie felt like a documentary about an outbreak of horrible proportions, rather than an end of the world movie and I believe that was the intention.  There wasn’t a whole lot of human drama in it either, other than Matt Damon’s role and thanks to his “acting” style, he doesn’t elicit a lot of empathy.  I kept imagining his character as Gary Sinise though, and that got me through it okay.

So if you’re one of those people (like me) who is aware that the next plague could literally be right around the corner, this film will give you the heebies-jeebies. However, even the most hardened epidemiologist knows that while something like this is pretty likely at some point, life must go on — and unfortunately, it isn’t very easy living it in bubble wrap.  Therefore what I took from this movie was this:  sure, you might get some nasty killer virus from that Starbuck’s Mocha Frappuccino cup, but then again, you might not.  So what the hell, drink up.

STUPID NOTE:  Although I love Gary Sinise, I will never quite forgive him for making Mission:  Space at Disney World seem cool to ride.  After wishing for death on the ride, I learned the hard way that it is very not cool to feel like your brains are in a blender and set on ultra-puree.  Thanks for that Gary, I appreciate it man.  (Note #2 — this was before they opened the namby-pamby green side.  There was only one ride, and yes, I wished for death — albeit only briefly.)

Grave Encounters 2011

This film should not be confused with the reality television shows Ghost Adventures or Ghost Hunters.  Although, if you only caught the first 30 or so minutes, you would be hard pressed to know the difference since Grave Encounters follows the crew of a pretend TV show (of the same name)  as they investigate a defunct, yet supposedly haunted joint named Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital.

First off, we all know that movies that have X people trapped in X closed and creepy psychiatric hospital have been done to death (ha ha!).  But really, it is to the point where if you have seen one, yes, you have seen them all.  The only thing these movies usually have going for them is the fact that closed psychiatric hospitals are by their very nature creepy as hell, thus usually making it the star of the movie regardless of who the actors may be.  While this is no doubt true for Grave Encounters, it is also true that this particular film is actually pretty damn good.  Confusing and at times mind-bendingly stupid, but I still had fun watching it.

After setting up their cameras and whatnot for their evening locked in the hospital, bad things start to happen pretty quickly (yay!), but you do have to stick with it for a slow 30+ minutes beforehand.  The crew — lead investigator “Lance,” (Sean Rogerson), tech guy “Matt” (Juan Riedinger), camera man “T.C.” (Merwin Mondesir), just-to-have-a-girl-in-it “Sasha” (Ashleigh Gryzko) and fake psychic “Houston” (Mackenzie Gray) —  expecting another boring night, find themselves actually dealing with true paranormal activities.  Lance wants to continue investigating, finally getting something real on tape but the rest of the crew isn’t so keen on the idea.  However, the arguing becomes moot when they realize that they are in fact trapped inside the hospital with only God knows what.

This introduction really doesn’t do the film justice, but in order to do that I would have to give away a lot of what makes the film unique and more importantly, fun, which I refuse to do.  Grave Encounters will never be voted best horror film of anything, but it is a really nice twist on a very over done idea and surprisingly, I only found a few things to bitch about and they were minor in the overall scope of the film.

Normally, I would list here the things I didn’t like about the film, but I’m feeling generous today so instead here’s 5 things they did right:

  1. The black guy isn’t the first person to die.  I find the fact that this still happens to be insulting especially since far too many horror movies still only cast one token black person in the first place.  If the setting dictates it, fine.  But otherwise — seriously?  It’s 2011 people, not 1911.  Just sayin.
  2. The characters are actually smart (mostly).  Praise is deserved for whoever decided to give the characters a chance to use their brains and think through situations as opposed to making one stupid decision after another.
  3. It keeps you guessing.  You are never really shown or given a nice tidy reason why everything is happening.  This works because you are just as lost as they are in trying to figure out the situation.
  4. Poking a bit of fun at the current reality ghost-themed TV shows.  Lance will no doubt remind you of Zak Bagans from Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and had to be intentional.  Mackenzie Gray as Houston, the fake psychic, is pretty funny too.
  5. It’s not afraid to go dark.  Although most of the movie is just a fun treat, it does go a bit dark in the end.  I did not see this coming and have to say I was very happy to see it.

So, don’t go into this expecting award winning material here, but do expect a few jumps, a smart film and a main character (the hospital) that as always deserves more credit than it gets.

Forest Haven Asylum

REAL ASYLUM INFORMATION:  In the film, the fictional Collingwood hospital is located in Maryland.  Whereas there is no such hospital in Maryland, there is at least one that the locals love to trespass on — little known Forest Haven Psychiatric Hospital.  If you really want to get in the mood for Grave Encounters, do a bit of research on Forest Haven first and you won’t be disappointed (these links should help).  If you are near Maryland and thinking about visiting, be aware:  Someone takes trespassing there very seriously — but who and why, I don’t know.  I only know that I tried to get on the grounds myself about 2 years ago and was turned away by some very shady characters (no uniforms) and this seems to be common amongst would-be visitors to the site.  Anyway, enjoy!

World of the Dead — The Zombie Diaries 2, 2011

When I sat down to watch this flick for some reason I was thinking about reviews and the people who write them.  The conclusion I had come to was that as a whole, us average movie-goers are much harder on movies than we should be.  This is not always our fault, as misleading advertising and pre-release hype (designed to rake in as much cash as possible before word gets out about bad films) inundates us constantly.  But still, a lot of the time writers, actors, and directors work pretty hard to give us their visions of whatever the subject matter, and I was of the mindset that we should try harder to respect that before we plaster our scathing reviews all over the internet.

So with that in mind, I give World of the Dead – The Zombie Diaries 2 mad props for really trying to deliver a thought-provoking take on the zombie genre.  Regardless of the Stupid Shaky Camera Syndrome (dubbed SSCS by moi) I put every effort to look past the minor flaws the film presented as they came at me.  Unfortunately, much like the lone human is eventually over-run by a horde of zeds simply because there are so many of them, the flaws in the movie eventually became just too many to ignore.

The film follows a group of soldiers in the UK as they try to survive a zombapocalypse first in a military outpost, but when that is overrun, their trek to potential safety at another outpost.  The entire movie is filmed with SSCS by cameraman/soldier “Jonesy” (Rob Oldfield), who would have been very helpful in all of the gun battles and zombie fights had he put down the damn camera once in while.  If he had, I am certain a few of his comrades may have lived to see a sequel.  Oh well.

The film is also presented in a sort of weird, spliced and choppy sort of way.  The live action is interrupted (repeatedly) with shorts of older footage of some bio-hazard suit wearing people performing what appears to be mass executions of seemingly innocent, but perhaps infected civilians.  This idea might be a good one with a film that was shot normally, but combined with the SSCS it ends up just making you slightly nauseous.  These two things do not work well together.

During their mad dash to safety, not only do our poor, reluctant soldiers have to deal with zombies (whose makeup was pretty good BTW) but they also have a run in (or two) with a pack of heathen bandits.  This bandit idea is by no means a new one to the zombie genre, and neither are some of the things they do to pass the time, so their heinous behavior didn’t surprise me.  However, for some reason — maybe the way the film was shot — some of the bandit scenes felt gratuitous and leached away from what could have been more impactful moments.   Suffice it to say that I felt way more sympathy for the flesh-eating, world ending zombies than I did the human bandits.

In the end, the only way to describe this film is action packed but boring at the same time.  There was constantly something happening, but it felt like nothing was happening at all.  It sounds crazy, and I hate to blame SSCS again, but that filming technique made me feel very outside of the action as opposed to a part of it.  It was kind of like watching a fish swim around in its bowl – you can see stuff going on in there, but you ain’t part of it and it gets boring pretty fast.  Alas, had this film been shot normally, it might have been pretty damn good.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  This movie is a sequel to the 2006 film The Zombie Diaries, which I have not yet seen and honestly, am not looking forward to viewing anytime soon.

The Caller 2011

In The Caller, our main character, Mary Kee (Rachelle Lafavre, also known as Victoria from Twilight) is just your average, but abused wife trying to get away from her psycho husband Steven (Ed Quinn, who also played “Nathan Stark” in SyFy’s Eureka).  In the midst of a divorce, she moves into a less than desirable apartment complex and finds herself not only trying to deal with her restraining order-ignoring ex-hubby stalking her but also some odd phone calls to her new place.  The caller, who is clearly unhinged from the jump-start, tells Mary that her boyfriend recently came back from the Vietnam War — thus indicating that the caller (Rose) is calling Mary from the past (1979).  Mary, unbelieving at first, soon finds herself at the mercy of crazy Rose, who has proven that she can and will change things in Mary’s current life by making changes to her past.  And really, anyone who has seen Star Trek or read Ray Bradbury knows this is entirely possible and can lead to some very nasty results.

Let’s get to the bad stuff first.  Unfortunately, The Caller is an in-your-face rip off of Sleeping with the Enemy — from the dorky new love interest, visit to the county fair and right down to the poofy hair.  True, in this one the ex-husband still knows his wife is alive, but other than that, there really isn’t much of a difference between the two in terms of the sub-plot.  However, since this isn’t the main thrust of the story, I had little difficulty overlooking this minor annoyance.  I was too busy trying to figure out what the hell was going on with the rest of the movie, and I guess that’s a good thing.

However, some other things bothered me about this flick as well.  First, as much as this movie did a great job portraying Mary acting pretty realistically to the supernatural things happening around her, there were several obvious things that no normal human being would do.  For instance, Rose asks Mary for her name and Mary gives it to her, first and last.  Now, keep in mind this happens after Mary already knows that Rose is a nutjob — a nutjob from the past or not — and that was a pretty stupid thing to do.  I don’t give anyone (much less wrong numbers from loonies) my whole name over the phone unless I have called them.  Mary also later gives Rose her new love interests full name (John, played by Stephen Moyer) and this was after Rose had already proven she could make changes to Mary’s life.  Duh and double-duh.  It was also exceptionally unrealistic that an 80-something year old woman would be able to chop her way into Mary’s apartment and damn near kill her.  Umkay.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this film, but on the contrary, I actually really did.  It is a unique twist on some old concepts, the pace and acting were good and the overall feel of the film was perfect (a little dark and musty, just as a supernatural thriller should be).  If I have any real complaint, it’s just that the film didn’t seem like it knew where it wanted to go.  Was Mary crazy and imagining all of the things happening to her or was Rose real?

For the bulk of the movie, we are led to believe that Rose was indeed very real but then things happen which differ with that knowledge.  For instance, John talks Mary into moving out of her apartment and in with her mother to get away from Rose.  Somehow Rose knows about this conversation, which took place at John’s house (no phones were involved either).  Now, there was a shadowy figure seen a few times in Mary’s present (which turns out to be the 80-ish Rose) but the Rose in the past knows about it and does some things in the past as retaliation.  I never did figure out how in the heck that happened and I question whether the director did either.  It’s almost like they hoped no one would notice.

I can’t tie this movie up in a nice and neat bow simply because the film doesn’t let me.  I came away from it pretty sure that Rose was real but honestly, I’m not 100% that the whole thing wasn’t in Mary’s head ala Black Swan.  All in all though, I suppose this is why the film worked for me — unlike Black Swan, it kept me guessing not only up to but also past the end.

IMDb NOTE:  Looks like IMDb and I are speaking terms again, as they give the film a 6.2 rating and I agree.  I think this is fair as the movie was interesting but had enough bumps to lose points with viewers.  Don’t you just love happy endings?

Movie Review:  Attack The Block

Note to Readers:  Due to the relatively in-depth nature of this review, there are spoilers aplenty below.  If you wish to skip the spoilers and get to the up/down vote and why, just jump to the last paragraph!

Overview:  A group of London thugs (young teens), while robbing an innocent woman, witness a white, streaking mass crash into a vacant car.  Upon investigation, one of the thugs “Moses” (played by John Boyega) is intent on robbing the already demolished car when an alien pops out, scratches and attacks him.  Moses fights back and stabs the alien which then takes off running.  Moses decides to give chase and make the alien pay for the attack, which he does by killing the alien.  The group of thugs then take the alien to the home of the neighborhood drug dealer “Ron” (played by one of my favs Nick Frost) where they stash the aliens dead body in “Ron’s Weed Room.”

About this time, the thugs notice that the same white streak in the sky that accompanied the first alien is now again in the sky — only this time multiplied in number.  The new aliens are bigger than the first and take to hunting down the thugs and pretty much anyone else who gets in their way.  To get to the thugs, the aliens pretty much lay siege to a building called “The Block.”  Thus the title — Attack the Block.

My feelings on this film are two-fold and diametrically opposed.  First, as an alien invasion movie (besides some minor quibbles) I liked it.  But second, as a dreaded Film With A Message — I absolutely hated it.  As an alien invasion movie, it was fun, fast paced and somewhat original.  Okay, so the aliens looked like overgrown bears with no eyes and glowing teeth.  But, I can overlook quite a bit when the acting is good and the film feels like everyone involved actually gave a shit about their product.  I can also overlook or even embrace subtle societal messages and overt messages if I am expecting them.  However, I cannot, or more accurately — will not —  give a pass to films that are supposed to be comedic and funny but consistently throw hard-edged messages in my face.  This is especially true when I completely disagree with said message, like the one in Attack the Block.

No doubt, there are probably a lot of critical reviewers out there who liked this film for the very reason that I am a little pissed off about it.  I say “probably” because I have not read any other reviews as of this writing, but considering the films message I don’t have to be Miss Cleo to guess their reaction.  The message?  Oh, that the teenage thugs that are currently so prevalent in London are really just misunderstood, noble young men who are being left behind by society, and it’s up to society and the government to save them.  I mean really, the lead “misunderstood hero” thug (Moses) is saved in the end by hanging on to a British flag.  Talk about hitting us upside the head with a message.  Jeez.

Now look, all in all Attack the Block was a good film.  The acting was solid and the special effects (even the alien-bear-thing) were pretty good.  So, if you can ignore or don’t mind being taught a lesson with your alien invasion film, give it a watch.  However, understand that they really did miss the boat with the opportunity they had with this movie.  All of the ingredients were there for an outstanding and fun film — they simply chose not to use them.  If they had focused more (a lot more) on the comedic aspect rather than on smug (not to mention wrong) messaging, this movie really could have been something special.  Too bad their “message” took precedence.

UNNECESSARY ADD-ON:  When attempting to convince my husband to see this movie, I told him it had (to use his frame of reference) “the guy from Shaun of the Dead” in it.  He said “Oh, that guy.  The one you love.”  I had to explain that I was speaking of Nick Frost and not Simon Pegg and that I don’t “love” Simon Pegg.  But anyway, if you haven’t seen “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” you should, it’s really very good.

UPDATE THAT MIGHT MATTER 9/6/11:  After writing this post I read some other reviews and it turns out that first, I was right about the critical response to this film (they loved it) and second, the film was supposed to be writer/director Joe Cornish’s tribute to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.  That may be true and it’s completely within his rights to make the film that he wanted.  However, as a viewer, I shouldn’t have to know that before seeing the film and either way, that knowledge doesn’t add anything to the viewing experience.  So, in the end it doesn’t really change anything anyway.

Review: Fright Night 2011

Like a thousand tiny, little daggers stabbing me in the heart.  Repeatedly.  Yup, that is what watching Fright Night (the 2011 re-make) felt like.

I will get into the pain currently etching its way from my eyes and ears to my aorta in a moment, but first things first.  If you are one of the many people who never had the pleasure of viewing the first Fright Night 1985, and have any interest in viewing the latest Fright Night film, please — for the love of all things horror — go watch the original first.  It will enrage you to view the newest inception of the film afterward, but at least you will get some miniscule amount of enjoyment from it by remembering the first one in the process.  It also might help to go watch some old Dr. Who episodes with David Tennant as the Doctor.

In order to fully appreciate why I detest this film so very, very much I suppose you should understand why the first one worked so well.  Yes, I admit to having a rather large portion of my soul dedicated to 80’s horror movies, but that’s not the only reason.  Another reason is that the original film had great acting:  Christopher Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige (the evil, but smoking hot vampire), Roddy McDowall (Roddy McDowall!!) as Peter Vincent (a homage to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) the “Vampire Killer”, Amanda Bearse as Amy, Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, and William Ragsdale as Charlie Brewster.  Now that’s what I call a freaking cast.

It also happened to have great characters, which are almost the same as the new ones but um, well… no not really.  In the original, Charlie is actually likeable (as opposed to a douchebag in the new one, at least for the first 40 minutes of the film) as are Evil Ed, Peter Vincent and Amy.  In the new one, none of the characters are very appealing at all.

The story in both films pretty much goes like this:  a vampire moves in next to Charlie, Charlie realizes this but at the same time the vampire realizes that Charlie knows about him and a cat and mouse game ensues.  Still with me?  Good.  In the original, the vampire (Sarandon) is particularly interested in Amy, because she looks almost exactly like his long-dead love.  Sarandon knows to play coy in this role and is a sophisticated vampire simmering with a sex appeal you suspect is hidden somewhere, but your imagination does most of the work.  In the new one, the vampire (Colin Farrell) is just a freaking pervert who runs around with his shirt hanging open the whole time.  In the original, Amy looked 16 and kept trying NOT to have sex with Charlie, in the new one Amy (Imogen Poots)  looks 26 (she’s really 22) playing 16 and tries TO have sex with Charlie.  Ugh.

Oh, the madness never ends.  In the original, Peter Vincent (McDowall) is a likeable, good-hearted, yet cowardly late-night horror flick host (and aging horror film actor)  who is being forcibly kicked off TV as a new, younger audience no longer has any interest in his kind.  You can’t help but feel bad for the guy, coward or not.  Contrast that with the new one, in which Peter (Tennant) is a misogynistic, drunken, David Blaine-ish Las Vegas illusionist.  Oh.  My.  God.   Anyway, I hope you get the picture by now because frankly, it was bad enough watching what they did to a great movie but seeing it written in black and white is adding salt to my already weeping, open movie wounds.
Amy Vampire, Fright Night 1985

The truth is that I really didn’t even want to see the re-make, because I knew in my heart that the first one would be almost impossible to top.  But, when I learned that David Tennant was playing Peter Vincent I thought maybe, just maybe someone knew what they were doing.  However, in my opinion only three good decisions were made — total — in remaking this film:  1) casting David Tennant (this film aside, I adore David Tennant) 2) casting Toni Collette as Jane Brewster (Charlie’s Mom) because she is always awesome and 3) having Chris Sarandon show up in a cameo, even if he did only live for about 35 seconds.  Okay, to be totally fair, they did try to cast Charlie as a teen who actually looks like a teen with Anton Yelchin, although he is also 22 in real life.

Seriously, this film was tremendously bad.  I didn’t even get into the absurd amount of misogyny it contained (another departure from the original).  Also, it appears that IMDb and I once again are completely at odds when it comes to ratings.  IMDb gives the remake 7, yes 7 stars.  To put this in context, they gave Insidious a 6.9 and the original Fright Night a 6.9.  On this development, I have to warn you — if you have an issue with curse words you may wish to skip the next few sentences.  You’ve been warned.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? WHAT KIND OF CRACK ARE YOU PEOPLE SMOKING?  COLIN FARRELLS PECS ARE NOT WORTH 7 STARS YOU BRAIN DEAD SHEEPLE!!!!!  Let’s just say I strongly disagree with IMDb’s users on these ratings.

In closing, for what may be the first time ever (yes, ever) I find myself in agreement with a critic (well, mostly) instead of supposedly sane and normal people.  That’s how low this film has made me sink.  **spit**

SMALL SIDE NOTE:  This review was written prior to me reading the review I have linked above, and I was surprised to find them so similar.  I also have nothing against critics in general, I just usually feel that they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Ah, September.  That time of year when the night air turns crisp and clean and you can just feel fall beginning to settle into your bones.  The time of year when Mother Nature prepares your soul for cold weather, hot soup and reminds you to save your energy for the all-too-soon holiday shopping nightmare.

However, September is also a reminder that soon, very soon, we get OUR month — you know the one — October. October, the one month of the year that belongs to horror and horror fans alone (well, and maybe a few Wiccans, but whatever).  Yup, we get one whole month in the ramp up to Halloween where horror movies are shown all times of day, haunted houses are visited (and maybe egged), “no trespassing” signs are completely ignored and yet, no one bitches about it because in the end, everyone loves Halloween.

So I say, why not take a note from the advertisers playbook and start the Halloween celebration in September?  That one month ramp up goes by way to quick for this horror fan so here, babies, we is breakin’ the rulz.  Starting now, each week leading up to Halloween we will have a feature on what makes this time of year so great — the monsters, the chill in the air, and all the things that go bump in the night.

To start our Festivus for the Rest of Us off right, this week, it’s zombies, zombies and more zombies.   Since I just so happened to just finish re-reading Best New Zombie Tales, Volume I, the theme fits quite nicely with my current state of mind.

Best New Zombie Tales, Volume I has some real doozies in it, but since I’m not gonna read the book for you and ruin it, here are a few standouts and my thoughts on them you know, just to whet your appetite.

Paradise Denied, by John L. French:  In a world where all of the “good” people get taken up by God, what happens to those left behind?  More importantly, what becomes of those that come back?  A great twist on the zombie story and one that just might make you think about all of those little white lies…

Muddy Waters, by Brian Knight:  Definitely one that stays with you.  Big city girl gets herself in quite a mess in the country.  This one will stay with you, so “haunting” is the right word here.

Zombie Love, by Ray Garton Asks the eternal question “What would you do for love?”  A better question would be “Would it be worth it?”  This one asks and answers both questions much to this readers delight.

Pegleg and Paddy Save the World, by Jonathan Maberry:  When you read this one, be sure to have their accents right in your head to get the full enjoyment factor.  It’s funny, gruesome and charming — the best mix.

In the Land of the Blind, by Robert Swartwood:  I don’t normally go for deep zombie tales, but this one has that certain something that makes it work.  An inspiring zombie tale in a down trodden world.  Or something.  Just read it for Pete’s sake.

So, that’s Volume I and all of the stories contained in it are great.  Also, there are currently two other volumes out there (II and III) and I may post about those this week as well.  But if not, rest assured that I’ll be doing my part by being kept entertained by something of the undead variety and I hope you are too.

OTHER STUFF:  For the record, there are other holidays in October besides Halloween.  There is Columbus Day which deserves a bit of attention I suppose, but the only other holiday in October is United Nations Day, which —  let’s be honest — should really observed be on April 1st.

OTHER STUFF II:  I would also like to take a moment and apologize for the lack of posting lately.  Unfortunately, I am located on the East coast and was affected by hurricane Irene.  That bitch killed my power and left me feeling very lost, hungry and quite frankly, scuzzy.  But Pepco be praised, it’s back from the dead and so am I.  Here’s to everyone else still without power joining us in the 21st century again very soon.

Insidious may not be the best horror movie ever, but for my money it is the best horror film of 2011 and probably the last 5 years.  Considering we’ve had some really great films come out in those years, that’s saying a lot, I know.  But I’ve got some hella good reasons for making such a grandiose statement. So even though I’m a bit late in reporting on this film, in this case later is definitely better than never.

I don’t want to get into too many details because — as I’ve said before — it is better to know as little about movies like this prior watching them and this is definitely a flick that proves my theory.  Knowing too much, even if the film is great, is kind of like sneaking into your parents bedroom and finding your biggest Christmas present in their closet on Christmas Eve.  You still get the gift, but the fun of unwrapping the unknown is sucked right out of the whole damn thing.  Such is the case with Insidious.

The premise of the film is straightforward:  a nice, young couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) thinks their house is haunted.  In fact, they are indeed being haunted — just not by a house.  It takes a little trial and error to figure this out, not to mention a little outside help from Barbara Hershey as well as a paranormal research crew led by Lin Shaye (who has been in numerous horror films, perhaps most notably A Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984).  But not to worry, they do eventually figure out what’s happening — or maybe, that is exactly why they should worry.

There are so many reasons why I loved this movie so much, but the biggest reason is because the film is smart.  In a world where remakes are a dime a dozen and generally seem to almost try to mangle the original, this film instead takes elements from other great films (The Shining and Poltergeist), adds some original ideas of its own and creates a great body of work.

Some critics have said that Insidious has bastardized Poltergeist because of the striking similarities between the two films.  I completely disagree.  Whereas the two films are indeed very similar, Insidious feels more like a modern extension of Poltergeist as opposed to a bad copy.  To put it simply, if you loved Poltergeist, chances are you will also love Insidious, because the film makers paid serious homage to Poltergeist instead of whoring it out.

As I mentioned, the film also adds some color of its own that shouldn’t go unappreciated.  For instance, one of the things they did (that you rarely see), is they actually show you the monsters.  All too often, film makers take the very good idea of showing very little of the monster in order to make it more frightening by letting your imagination do all of the work and somehow manage to ruin the entire concept.  Instead of using it as a tool to highlight a monster, they use it as the monster, and that just cheats the audience and screws up a potentially good film.  If I only wanted to use my imagination to conjure up monsters, I wouldn’t bother to watch movies.

That being said, some younger viewers (under 25) may not have the same level of appreciation for this film that I did.  First, they may have never even seen Poltergeist and therefore have no way to recognize the delicate tribute Insidious gives it.  Also, the film is only rated PG-13, which in itself is enough to turn off some young viewers.  They may not love Insidious as much as older viewers, but even they can get some enjoyment out of this solid, original flick.

IMDb RATING:  Once again, I find myself in disagreement with IMDb’s rating system.  They give Insidious a 6.9 rating, which is higher than most horror films usually receive.  However, it is my belief that it deserved at least an 8.  I know it’s nitpicking, but this film deserves it.

The Devil’s Rock, 2011

Set during WWII, The Devil’s Rock tells the story of two men (Craig Hall and Matthew Sunderland) trapped on an island on the eve of the Normandy Invasion.  The movie wouldn’t be very interesting from that aspect except one of the men is a Nazi and the other is an Allied soldier.  It also just so happens (or maybe not) that on the island with them is a demon, in this case a succubus.  As you know, I don’t give a lot of spoilers so as far as details go, this is all you get.  However, even though I refuse to tell you the whole story, I can tell you it is much better than you would think.

This film received 4.8 starts on IMDb, which I can only surmise came from people who are either not fans of the genre or turned it off before giving it a chance.  Why anyone would turn it off without giving it some time I don’t get because the opening scenery is fantastic.  That alone is what made me keep watching until things got interesting.

While the film is a tad short for my taste at 83 minutes, it still earns a solid 7 in my book.  I disagree with IMDb’s rating for several reasons, but the biggest is that this movie is quite simply one of the best horror films I have seen in a while.  The acting was great, the story was interesting (it kept me guessing) and the special effects were top-notch.  There was only one small scene where I balked at the special effects, and once you see the film you will know what I am talking about.  But that scene was still a good one.

This is one of those films that will no doubt get overlooked by many horror fans because they see a bad review or most likely, have never even heard of it.  So if you are a fan of great characters and the horror genre, do yourself a favor:  rent the movie, make some popcorn, relax and just enjoy this solid horror film.  I promise you won’t regret it.

ALSO WORTH NOTING:  Craig Hall, who some of you may remember as “Wilson” from 30 Days of Night, is an actor to watch — the man can act.  He is a refreshing change of pace from those pretty boy A-list actors that can’t act their way out of a paper bag.  I am looking forward to seeing more of him.  Also, don’t believe the cover art which says “Saw with a swastika.”  It’s not anything like Saw –but it’s still a great flick.

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