20140824: Horror Review--Banshee Chapter

Banshee Chapter
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. German/American live action feature length film, 2013, rated R, 87 minutes, horror, thriller.  Spoken word is in English.
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 2,643 audience ratings. Estimated budget, 950,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 78% on the meter; 43% liked it from 1,135 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Blair Erickson.
    5. Starring: Katia Winter as Anne Roland, Ted Levine as Thomas Blackburn, Michael McMillian as James Hirsch, Corey Moosa as Patient 11, Monique Candelaria as Patient 14, Jenny Gabrielle as Callie, David Midthunder as Raoul, Vivian Nesbitt as Olivia Kmiec, Alex Gianopoulous as Renny.
    6. From IMDB: '...investigative journalist, Anna, researching a missing friend who ingested an undocumented research chemical once tested on civilians by CIA MK-Ultra experiments.' 
    7. There are references to numbers stations, hushed up kidnappings, and secret societies in the style of Lovecraft.  That will attract some of the conspiracy theorists.  On the other hand, this also pushes away many other potential viewers.  Coupled with the shaky cam, this is a polarizing film, and its likely audience is small.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. Journalist Anne Roland's college friend James has gone missing.  Renny, the last man to see him alive has also gone missing after being interviewed extensively by police.  Anne pursues; her editor helps by connecting her to gonzo journalist/personality Thomas Blackburn.  She hopes that Blackburn will increase her knowledge of the drug that James ingested as an experiment for his next book.

    2. During a visit to Blackburn's house, Anne meets his chemist friend Callie, who has synthesized some of the drug.  The trio drinks smaller quantities than James took, but the effects are still strong.  When Blackburn and Anne wake up from the drug's knockout punch, Callie is nowhere to be found.

    3. Interleaved with the contemporary story are bits of archival footage that chronicle government experiments with some similar effects.  The electricity is temporarily lost, screaming ensues, the patients get free of restraints, and the patients are not to be found immediately.

    4. Blackburn and Anne find Callie's lab, which contains a number of clues.  Will this be enough to let Anne solve the riddle of James' disappearance?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Small budget, but good acting, story, and direction.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 There was a lot of archival film (black and white, low resolution, blurry) and shaky cam footage (variable, but mostly bad).  However, unlike many other directors, Erickson seemed to know quite well how to use bad footage to increase the feeling of threat and isolation that thrillers need.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The music and foley were good for increasing suspense and creepiness.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Katia Winter and Ted Levine had a large percent of all the spoken lines.  Both of them did fine jobs.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The script was not perfect, but did keep my attention.  The plot moved forward quickly enough that my usual strong disgust for found film was not invoked.  The providing of just enough clues to keep going was well done, and the exposition of motivations was nicely executed.  About the time that I thought the film was more of an adventure/thriller, the ending reminded me that it was truly a horror movie.  Well done.


20140822: Horror Review--Phantoms

  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 1998, rated R, 96 minutes, horror, sci-fi.
    2. IMDB: 5.4/10.0 from 14,221 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 13% on the meter; 27% liked it from 12,397 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Joe Chappelle.  Written by Dean Koontz, novel and screenplay.
    5. Starring: Ben Affleck as Sheriff Bryce Hammond, Rose McGowan as Lisa Pailey, Joanna Going as Dr. Jenny Pailey, Peter O'Toole as Dr. Timothy Flyte, Liev Schreiber as Deputy Stu Wargle, Nicky Katt as Deputy Steve Shanning.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Lisa visits her medical doctor sister Jenny in Snowfield, Colorado for a reunion and perhaps a ski vacation.  When they return to town from the airport, Jenny's housekeeper is dead, which is the first level of surprise.  They find just about everyone else in town is dead.

    2. In the second segment, the sisters encounter Sheriff Bryce, and Deputies Wargle and Shanning.  The quintet snoop around a bit, and the deputies are killed mysteriously.  The Sheriff manages to make outside contact before the telephones and radios are rendered inactive.

    3. In the third round, the US government sends in a team to investigate.  The team includes Dr. Flyte, since the Sheriff mentioned him in his communication.  The organism they are dealing with absorbs the military and the investigators, except for Dr. Flyte, a solid scientist who has become a paranormal investigator.

    4. After not hearing from their party, the government decides to send in more personnel.  Meanwhile, Flyte, the sisters, and the Sheriff attempt to find a way to deal with the threat.

    5. Will they succeed, or is everyone out of luck?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A solid story that looks more than a bit dated now.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Well done for the most part.  Some of the SFX look a bit dated, but still OK.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Rather good at rendering the atmosphere of the unknown and the unexpected.  Sometimes it feels a bit over the top, though.

    3. Acting: 6/10 Peter O'Toole was fine, but this was not one of the better efforts of Ben Affleck or Liev Schreiber.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Usually I am a fan of Koontz, but this screenplay seems to be one of his more mediocre efforts.

20140822: Horror Review--The Den

The Den
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 76 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.0/10.0 from 2,173 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 77% on the meter; 62% liked it from 563 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Zachery Donahue.
    5. Starring: Melanie Papalia as Elizabeth Benton, David Schlachtenhaufen as Damien, Matt Riedy as Sgt. Tisbert, Adam Shapiro as Max.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Elizabeth Benton gets a university grant to explore and classify what she finds online in chat rooms.  She sees much of what she expected in terms of diverse activities, but she also encounters something rather disturbing.  A chat room user will not show their face.  This is followed by that user hacking her computer, recording (and replaying) intimate dealings between her and boyfriend Damian, then showing her what appears to be a snuff video.

    2. The police show some interest, but do not have enough facts to go forward in the investigation.  As more odd goings-on occur, the police become irritated with her for wasting their time.  Damien tries to help in tracking down those involved, but the miscreant has considerable skill.  He hacks her account, severely hurts her relationship with her thesis committee, and does even worse things to her family.

    3. Cut off from most of her support group, can Liz help her family and save herself?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: A reasonable story turned into bloody drivel.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Varies considerably. Some is excellent and professional; some is the worst side of shaky cam.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Also varies considerably.  Endless groaning and breathing is not all that worthwhile.

    3. Acting: 4/10

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 As a story about possible downsides to modern social media interactions, it is fairly good.  It might have been told better without the shaky cam and the poor sound.

20140822: Movie Review--Alien Abduction

Alien Abduction
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, 2014, NR, 85 minutes, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 1,419 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 25% on the meter; 28% liked it from 508 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Matty Beckerman.
    5. Starring: Katherine Sigismund as Katie Morris, Corey Eid as Corey Morris, Riley Polanski as Riley Morris, Jillian Clare as Jillian Morris, Jeff Bowser as Sean, Peter Holden as Peter Morris.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Morris family drives in the North Carolina mountains near Brown Mountain during vacation.   Some unnerving events, such as dead crows falling from the sky onto their van, contribute to the family getting lost on the winding mountain trails.

    2. Then follows the usual failure of electronics, such as GPS, cell phones, and radio.  One of the more discouraging phenomena was the finding of a whole large tunnel full of vehicles separated from their owners.

    3. After more scary passages, some of the Morris family finds Sean, a local who likes guns.  He helps them as best he can, but that is not good enough.

    4. How many of the family survive and return to civilisation?  Does the 'documentary' impart any particular wisdom?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Yet another forgettable found film pseudo-documentary.
    2. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Found film and worse.

    2. Sound: 6/10 The sound added some edge to the proceedings, and I could usually make out the dialog.

    3. Acting: 2/10

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 The story did sort of hang together despite the cinematography.

20140822: Drama Review--The Conspiracy

The Conspiracy
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, 2012, NR, 84 minutes, thriller, mystery.
    2. IMDB: 6.4/10.0 from 2,678 audience ratings.  Spoken world is English.  Estimated budget, 1.2 million CAD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 86% on the meter; 65% liked it from 754 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by: Christopher MacBride.
    5. Starring: Aaron Poole as Aaron, James Gilbert as Jim, Bruce Clayton as Mark Tucker, Ron Kennell as Ron, Alan C. Peterson as Terrance.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Aaron and Jim get to know Terrance, a colorful conspiracy theorist.  They were gearing up to do a documentary film with Terrance as the center when Terrance disappears, and his apartment is rifled.

    2. Aaron and Jim are galvanized, and pursue Terrance's interests.  Their investigation leads them to research the Tarsus Club, the 'New World Order,' and the cult of Mithras, which stretches back quite far in history.  Jim has a wife and child to keep him centered, but ends up continuing with the effort to find the elusive 'truth.'  Clips from an interview with a psychiatrist sprinkled throughout the film are another grounding mechanism, and a warning of bad things to come.

    3. The pair manage to get into a meeting of the Tarsus Club.  Their recording devices were on tie-clips, and the results were correspondingly unimpressive.

    4. The Tarsus Club does a good job of scaring Aaron and Jim.  Afterwards, Jim gets to go to a recorded meeting with an official of the Tarsus Club.  The spin or the truth?  Which one gets delivered more by the film?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Clever ending to a short subject.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 The film is filmed in both hand-held and more standard camera techniques.  The found-film part does not add anything, but does subtract a bit.  The segement concerning the Mithras cultist meeting was particularly visually poor.  The vignette filter cut off a chunk of the screen; faces were blurred out; over all resolution was VHS-style grainy; the smoke was good at cutting down on clarity.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Adequate; I can usually understand the dialog.  Voices were disguised during the outdoor initiation meeting of the Tarsus club.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Giving the benefit of the doubt.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 The ending ties together the rest of the film nicely.


20140803: Horror Review--Patrick Evil Awakens

Patrick: Evil Awakens
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. Australian live action feature length film, 2013, NR, 96 minutes,
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 1,318 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 83% on the meter; 38% liked it from 2,026 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Mark Hartley.
    5. Starring:  Sharni Vinson as Nurse Kathy Jacquard, Charles Dance as Doctor Roget, Rachel Griffiths as Matron Cassidy, Peta Sargeant as Nurse Williams, Martin Crewes as Doctor Brian Wright, Ed Penhaligon as Damon Gameau, Eliza Taylor as Nurse Panicale.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The Roget Clinic houses comatose patients who show little sign of possible recovery.  The main effort of the clinic is to find a way to wake these patients up and bring them back into the world.

    2. In the opening sequence, a young nurse follows her ears around the place, takes a few pictures, and is killed for it.  This is followed up by the hiring of the replacement, Kathy Jacquard, the protagonist.

    3. Soon enough, she's involved with the research aspect.  Dr. Roget has her assist while he tries to resuscitate some neural pathways in Patrick.  As time goes by, Patrick communicates, but with only Kathy.  Doctor Roget exposes more of his work to her.  Patrick keeps interrupting Kathy's relationship with Brian, then with Damon.

    4. Patrick eventually starts typing telekinetically, and lets Kathy know what he's up to, somewhat.  Kathy tries to get Roget to stop torturing Patrick, but Doctor Roget will have none of that.

    5. Will someone put a stop to the madness before Patrick gets his complete revenge?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Well-crafted supernatural thriller.
    2. Four stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Well done, with a component of noir techniques.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Rather good: often added to the suspense and sense of danger.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Charles Dance, Rachel Griffiths, Sharni Vinson, and Martin Crewes were all rather fine.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Better than I expected on exposition of motivations.  This was central to the resolution of the film's plot drivers.


20140802: SciFi Review--Sharktopus vs Pteracuda

Sharktopus vs Pteracuda
  1. Fundamentals, reception.
    1. American live action feature length film, straight to video, 2014, UR, SciFi, action, unintentional comedy.
    2. IMDB: 7.2/10.0 from 14 audience ratings.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: '...no results found...'
    4. I saw this on the SyFy channel.
    5. Directed by: Kevin O'Neill.  Produced by: Julie and Roger Corman.
    6. Starring: Robert Carradine as Doctor Rico Symes, Conan O'Brian as himself, Katie Savoy as Lorena, Rib Hillis as Ham, Tony Evangelista as Lorena's boyfriend Rick, Hector Then as Harold Smith.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The TV movie opens with a flashback to the end of a previous sharktopus film, where the sharktopus is killed, but it manages to cast off a little sharktopus.  In the present, Harold has an ocean side resort where he keeps the now grown-up new sharktopus.  Lorena is trying to teach the monster new, better behavior.  Harold hopes the chimera becomes a hot attraction for his water resort.

    2. Former MIT researcher Symes has put together another chimera, pteracuda (pteradactyl plus giant barracuda).  Unfortunately, a foreign agent, Vladimir, has hijacked the ability to remote-control the pteracuda.  Symes had hoped to sell the pteracuda as a particularly expensive genetic weapon, so losing control of the chimera is a disaster for him.

    3. In order to get control back, Symes pays Harold a briefcase full of money for the sharktopus.  Subsequently, Symes and Ham kidnap Lorena in the hopes that they can reassert control of the sharktopus.

    4. Both chimeras do a lot of damage to human beings.  Will the humans ever assert control over them?  Will the they be able to put an end to the killing?  Will Vladimir be neutralized?  Will the Fukushima scenario be implemented?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Two monster chimeras; twice the fun.
    2. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Most of it is rather good.  The CGI quality was mixed; some looked sharp and well done, some was truly bad.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Neither great nor especially poor.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Robert Carradine, Rib Hillis, and Katie Savoy were reasonably good, but most of the others were not so much.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 There was a bit more plot than I expected.