[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 20 – Final Destination 5 (2011)

Director: Steven Quale

Cast: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

92 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.

 

After The Final Destination (intended to be the last film), I wasn’t quite sure how the Final Destination franchise could keep things interesting and exciting going into a fifth film. Personally, I was so disappointed in how the fourth film went, I didn’t even really know if I wanted it to continue. So when Final Destination 5 popped up, I was skeptical as to what, if anything, it could bring to the table. This one swung for the fences, though.

Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto, From Prada to Nada, TV’s Masters of Sex) is embarking on a company retreat with several other employees when he has a vision of the suspension bridge the bus is on collapsing, killing hundreds. Concerned, he gets off the bus and runs to safety, followed by a handful of his employees, and the suspension bridge indeed collapses. Blessed but also shaken, Sam and the others notice that the survivors are dying in the exact they would have died on the bridge, and they learn that in order to save their own lives, they may have to take another’s.

Final Destination 5 does not reinvent the wheel, but it’s probably the best entry in the series. It has interesting characters with real motivations, strong set pieces, an overall sense of dread, and it teams with mythology. I’m not entirely on board with the “take another life to save yours” notion that is legitimately brought into this film (something that’s been toyed with before), but it does add another layer to the film.

Nicholas D’Agosto and Emma Bell (Plus One, Different Flowers) are both strong leads, and the film has some fun performances like David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, TV’s American Dad!) as Dennis, Sam’s boss. Koechner is always fun and he’s restrained enough here to fit in nicely within the horror while still getting to do his own thing. The absolute win of the film, though, is the return of Tony Todd (Candyman, Reign of the Supermen) as the coroner Bludworth, who is given little screen time and just does so much with it. I’ve been saying for some time that Todd’s Bludworth needs to be expanded upon, especially how he seemingly knows so much about Death’s design and plan, and while we don’t get that in this film, his reintroduction is a step in the right direction.

Outside of the main story, I am happy to say that Final Destination 5 gets back to the horror roots of the series after the almost-silly fourth installment. It’s also the film that feels the most like it’s connecting a saga, with little references to other films in the series and an overarching mythology that’s been cleaned up and streamlined. This is one that you kind of want to watch again after unlocking the big reveals of the film and how it all comes together.

Final Destination 5 wins it with the ending though, a doozy of a revelation that makes it the most fun installment of the entire series. How this franchise seemingly stalled out after the fifth film is beyond me, but this is definitely one worth seeing. It’s gruesome and bloody and filled with atmospheric flavor. Go check it out.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination 3, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s The Final Destination, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 1 – Father’s Day (2011)

Director: Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, Conor Sweeney

Cast: Adam Brooks, Matt Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Amy Groening, Mackenzie Murdock, Meredith Sweeney

Screenplay: Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Steven Kostanski, Conor Sweeney

99 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, it’s October again, my favorite time of year. Do you find that you wait all year for a certain time? I know I do. A time of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and multicolor leaves…and the horror. My God, the horror! Well, let’s get started with a throwback grindhousian B-movie from a team of five writer/directors called Father’s Day.

The plot here is more than convoluted, so let me try my best. A serial killer named Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock, Manborg, Peelers) raped and murdered ten fathers thirty years ago but got off on a technicality, and since that time there have been multiple other rape/murders of fathers, including the father of Ahab (Adam Brooks) and Chelsea (Amy Groening, Goon, Halloween Party). Ahab went out looking for vengeance and ended up in prison. His sister became a stripper. Now, out of prison, Ahab discovers that his history with Fuchman is far from over, and the rape/murders are starting up again, and he may be the only one who can stop it.

There’s a respectable level of lunacy to Father’s Day. The film knows exactly what it wants to be, and as you all know, that’s the most important part of my reviews. Father’s Day wants to be a send-up/homage to B-movie/Grindhouse films, and in that way, I think it completely misses the mark for me. It feels like it’s heading in the right direction several times, but its overly-complicated story and choppy editing lead it down a path to ruin. The film jumps around so much that you don’t have time to really connect to any of the characters and appreciate the B-level attempt. You can argue and say that’s what makes it a B-movie, and I would argue back that it still needs to be a good movie to be a good movie, regardless of style.

Adam Brooks is a very unlikable lead, but then again, there’s no one character that is interesting or likable, and that’s probably what really took me away. Let’s compare this aspect of Father’s Day to the ultimate send-up B-movies, Grindhouse and Machete. In Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino’s half of Grindhouse, pretty much all of the main ladies are enjoyable enough or interesting enough to follow. Even Stuntman Mike is interesting as much as he is unlikable. In Machete, our title character is an asshole, but he has a code, and that’s very clear from early on. Ahab is boorish and full of assholery. Fuchman is not a villain who I ever want to spend time watching; he’s disgusting and awful and purely unwatchable. Chelsea is initially introduced with an element of at least connective likability, but all that goes out the window pretty quick.

Where the film wins is its style, and while I don’t think it’s edited together very well (there’s so much jumping around that I had trouble sticking to any semblance of a story), I think there’s a lot of stylistic choices that make this film feel like it was taped on a VCR from some midnight-movie channel. There are advertisements for films playing on the station later on in the night, and the movie plays as though it has fallen into public domain and no company has come along to restore the negative, like all the cheap or free copies of Night of the Living Dead you can find in the bargain bin (but please just go get the Criterion). The film is dirty and torn and put back together and oozes with a level of cheapness, which works because it was distributed by Troma, so it fits nicely in that catalogue. Using this style allows the film’s later crazier elements to work better, especially the creature design effects for the finale.

Yeah, Father’s Day was a bust, and it’s too bad because on the surface I really thought this one would appeal to me, but as it went on, I noticed an over-reliance on gross-out humor, virtually zero character development, and a choppy story structure that just couldn’t keep my interest. I may be in the wrong, though, as the film has garnered some positive reviews. You can easily find it online for cheap or free, so maybe give it a try on your own. For me, this was a complete misfire.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s The Void, click here.

For my review of the anthology film ABCs of Death 2, click here.

[Short Film Sunday] A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (2011)

Director: Leythum

Cast: Clark Gregg, Jessica Manuel, Jeff Prewett

Screenplay: Eric Pearson

4 mins. Not Rated.

 

In the days of Phase 1 MCU, the franchise was still looking for footing. With that came the Marvel One-Shots, short films set in the MCU outlining characters and events not seen in the MCU theatrical releases.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer is set between Iron Man 2 and Thor as Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, Live by Night, TV’s The New Adventures of Old Christine) is heading to the site of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Along the way, he stops at a Roxxon gas station for some snacks just as it’s about to get robbed. Coulson must use his S.H.I.E.L.D. training to escape.

This One-Shot is probably the weakest one in the entire bunch, humanizing Coulson but also showcasing his skillset in a way we didn’t see much of in the theatrical Marvel films. Clark Gregg is great as always but the short is four minutes of fluff. This is one to appease Marvel fans but any general audience member would have no interest. This actually would have made for a more fun post-credits scene as it has no purpose in building anything up in the MCU.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer is cute and fun but really nothing special and rather forgettable. It’s always a good thing to have more Marvel content but outside of seeing Coulson’s uncertainty surrounding his favorite kind of gas station donuts, there’s little to pull here.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston

Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

 

I personally felt like the biggest risk of the early days of the MCU was Captain America (Chris Evans, Gifted, Playing It Cool). As a character, he ran the risk of being the goody boy with too many morals and stances to be an interesting or layered character. I wasn’t concerned with Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk. I even thought Thor has a better chance of success. It was Captain America, especially with Evans leading as the character. I’d seen him do good work, but I didn’t see him as Cap. I’m glad I was wrong.

In 1942, the villainous Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mortal Engines) has just acquired the Tesseract, a weapon of the gods. With it he plans to turn the tide of the war and change the world forever. In America, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci, Big Night, Nomis) plans to do the same with a weapon of his own: a Super-Soldier serum. He selects Steve Rogers (Evans), a physical weakling with a big heart and mind and an interest to help people. Now, Rogers is ready to end the war and take down Schmidt before he masters the Tesseract and unleashes its unlimited power.

Captain America: The First Avenger is a sign that the MCU is making films that have a similar flavor but make conscious tonal decisions. The previous film, Thor, was made as a Shakespearean superhero film, complete with Kenneth Branagh as a director. The First Avenger is a period serial film in the vein of The Rocketeer or The Phantom, an adventure film with a noted director, Joe Johnston (October Sky, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) at the lead.

Chris Evans does great work as Captain America. He completely surprised me. With the aid of CGI, he performs quite well as pre-Cap Steve Rogers. He is somehow able to convey dialogue that could appear cheesy do-gooder lines with purpose and meaning. He is dedicated. As Captain America, it is his stance that drives the story forward. It is his convictions to best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan, Destroyer, We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and to his country.

Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Christopher Robin) is also quite good as Peggy Carter, who assists with the Super-Soldier program and develops a strong connection to Rogers. Their chemistry is sizzling and it holds the whole film together. She played the character with a physical toughness matching the Cap’s and conveyed strength. She isn’t a damsel in distress but an equal.

Marvel struggled with villains a lot but their focus on hero development was so strong, many seemed to forgive. Unfortunately, Red Skull was just not very compelling here. He could have twirled his own mustache if he had one. With an actor of Hugo Weaving’s caliber, a compelling villain should have been easier, and Red Skull is serviceable in moving the plot and arc of the MCU in this film, but that’s about it.

Joe Johnston created a 1940s Marvel movie and it works pretty damn well, even as the weakest in the Captain America trilogy. Chris Evans gets a great start in his tenure as Steve Rogers, and his relationship with Peggy Carter ties the film to something real and tangible. The action is fun and eye-popping and the wide array of supporting players are fun. It struggles with a villain but not with its musical score, very American muster type of music. Overall, this risk paid off quite well.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 30 – The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)

Director: Tom Six

Cast: Ashlynn Yennie, Laurence R. Harvey, Maddi Black

Screenplay: Tom Six

91 mins. Not Rated.

 

It’s been a few years since I checked out a Human Centipede film. The first one was enjoyable for it’s totally campy and crazy premise. I thought it was about time to revisit this series for the sequel, and here’s the thing: it’s terrible.

Martin (Laurence R. Harvey, Frankenstein Created Bikers, Adult Babies) is addicted to the film The Human Centipede. He loves it so much that he thinks he can do it himself. He’s studied the film for a long time. Now, he has kidnapped a dozen people and plans to use them to make a better centipede…a full sequence.

So The Human Centipede II…is shit. It’s the worst kind of shit. It also contains scenes of shitting. So shit all around. An interesting idea to start quickly turned into a failure of a sequel. What I liked about the original film was that it felt very akin to a Tales from the Crypt story. The sequel is almost shockingly bad, but then again, I knew it wouldn’t be good.

Director Tom Six (The Onania Club, I Love Dries) actually attempted social commentary here with a look at rabid fandom but he drops the ball in just about every single way. He missed the point by pushing the gore past a comfortable way to a flat-out disgusting place. This comes from a guy that doesn’t mind gore and actively enjoyed gory movies. I was sickened by the film because its gore doesn’t serve a purpose in the story or the experience.

What’s worse than his failure to make an enjoyable follow-up is that Six spends a bulk of the film jerking his ego by putting the original film on a pedestal. There are lines of dialogue where characters talk as though the first film is a masterpiece. Here’s the ticket: it isn’t. Six’s one takeaway as a filmmaker is that he believes he can capably employ disgust in place of story.

There are no characters in the movie. We learn nothing about the victims. We know virtually nothing about Martin. He is a smug, disgusting monster of a man who I wouldn’t want to spend any amount of time with, let alone 90 minutes. He doesn’t grow as a character is one of the worst leads in film history. Again, at least with the first film, we have two likable, or at least not unlikable, leads. Even the doctor, who isn’t likable, is at least somewhat interesting.

Tom Six said that The Human Centipede II would make the first film look like My Little Pony. He was wrong. The sequel actually makes the first film look like Citizen Kane comparatively. This isn’t a film to be seen. It’s more like a badge you wear as a horror fan, but this badge doesn’t make you look good in front of your friends. It makes you feel bad. And maybe it should.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 29 – Absentia (2011)

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon, James Flanagan, Scott Graham, Doug Jones

Screenplay: Mike Flanagan

87 mins. Rated R for language and some disturbing images.

 

I actually attended the premiere of Absentia back in 2011. It was the first premiere I’d been to and it was quite fun. I had a chance to meet director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Gerald’s Game) and actor Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, TV’s Star Trek: Discovery). I was very aware of Jones but it’s been very interesting to follow Flanagan’s career since then. The director has made some high-profile horror films and he continues to climb.

Absentia is about sisters Callie (Katie Parker, The Binding, The Last Alleycat) and Tricia (Courtney Bell, Before I Wake, The Puzzle). It’s been seven years since Tricia’s husband went missing, and now she’s ready to declare him dead in absentia. Callie, a recovering addict, has come to live with her and help her through the process. Tricia is having dreams and hallucinations of Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown, Contracted: Phase 2, Trip House) and where he might be if he were alive. Callie herself is seeing strange occurrences during her morning runs when, in a nearby tunnel, she sees a man calling himself Walter (Doug Jones) and asking for her son. Walter soon also disappears, and it’s clear that the tunnel holds a few secrets for both women.

Absentia has an interesting concept. Not many know about the emotional toll that declaring a missing person to be dead has on someone, and tying that to a horror film works very well. Flanagan’s film is light on actual scares, but his use of mood and interesting fleshed-out characters works well enough that the lack of scares don’t really matter in the through line of the narrative.

Flanagan’s lead actresses have an emotional core to them that ties the narrative together nicely, and the mysteries of the film don’t feel too easy except in hindsight. Absentia has time to breathe and focus on its characters and thankfully Parker and Bell hold the frame with their performances. Supporting actors Dave Levine (Namour, Chasing Happiness) and Justin Gordon (Gehenna: Where Death Lives, Fun Size Horror: Volume 2) do come across as slightly cliché and formulaic as the detectives working on the case, but this isn’t their story.

Absentia is proof that Kickstarter can do great things. The film is dark, ominous, foreboding, and accessible. I would have liked to have felt more dread as I understand it to be what the film was really wanting but missing. At least it is enjoyable enough as a horror film that relies on character action and doesn’t fall back on jump scares. It is an engaging and original early work for an up-and-coming director.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, click here.

For my review of Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 27 – The Innkeepers (2011)

Director: Ti West

Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis

Screenplay: Ti West

101 mins. Rated R for some bloody images and language.

 

Just about every time I watch a Ti West (V/H/S, In a Valley of Violence) film, I end up falling asleep the first time and having to rewatch. It isn’t that I find his films boring, but I tend to watch them late in the night. So for my second attempt at The Innkeepers, I watched it in the afternoon.

The Innkeepers is the story of the Yankee Pedlar Inn and its last weekend open. Clerks Claire (Sara Paxton, Aquamarine, Cheap Thrills) and Luke (Pat Healy, Compliance, Small Crimes) are both into the paranormal and would like one last chance to prove the existence of Madeline O’Malley, a rumored spirit who may or may not reside within the hotel.

The Innkeepers is very…meh. I feel like the film has no direction, it kind of meanders about, and some of the “plot” can be torn up rather easily. The characters are somewhat engaging but they just don’t have anything to do and there isn’t enough given to them to chew on. Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, We Are What We Are) is rather wasted, though, as her character is written very one-note and uninteresting.

The biggest problem with the film is that it feels like two halves that have been stitched together, and neither half is successful. The first half has comedic bits that fall flat, and the last half fails to scare.

Ti West’s The Innkeepers just doesn’t work all that well. I wanted to like it, but sadly, this is a film for falling asleep.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ti West’s The House of the Devil, click here.

For my review of the anthology film The ABCs of Death, click here.

For my review of Ti West’s The Sacrament, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Happy 5th Birthday!] We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

weneedtotalkaboutkevin2011a

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Screenplay: Lynne Ramsay, Rory Stewart Kinnear

112 mins. Rated R for disturbing violence and behavior, some sexuality and language.

 

Wow, I love it when I can watch a film knowing nothing about it and be absolutely floored. That’s what happened with today’s choice, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

weneedtotalkaboutkevin2011b

Eva (Tilda Swinton, Adaptation., Hail, Caesar!) is a troubled woman, a woman haunted by her past and the memories of her son Kevin (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), a troubled boy who took great pleasure in upsetting his mother. Eva’s husband Franklin (John C. Reilly, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Guardians of the Galaxy) either cannot see him for what he is or chooses not to, placing the blame on Eva. But is Eva to blame, or is there something horribly wrong with their son?

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a strangely beautiful film that plays with some horrifying themes. It is at times visceral, unnerving, irritating, and exhilarating as it plays with viewer emotions and expectations. Tilda Swinton gives one of her most real and tragic performances of an already terrific career here. She is matched on the playing field by Ezra Miller, known for playing strange and nuanced characters. Here, he ratchets the tension up to eleven and owns his scenes with a command that would rival most other performers. His is an upsetting and unsettling performance, but in the best possible way.

weneedtotalkaboutkevin2011c

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a character piece, mostly relying on Eva, and this is her film to shine. Swinton does so and is aided by Miller and John C. Reilly in a rare but always welcome fully dramatic performance. Director Lynne Ramsay displays the sorrow and pain of Eva just as well the actress does, and so the film is deeply saddening, not for the faint of heart. Though it may run on a bit too long, this is one of those films that you must see, even if only once.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Your Highness (2011)

yourhighness2011a

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel

Screenplay: Danny McBride, Ben Best

102 mins. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.

 

Some movies are divisive, with praise and derision in equal measure. Your Highness isn’t even one of those. But I’m still going to watch it for you.

yourhighness2011b

Your Highness is the story of two brothers and a quest to end all others. One of them, Fabious (James Franco, TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) is a rugged and valiant prince on his way to rescue his beloved Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) from a frightening and perverse warlock. The other brother is Thadeous (Danny McBride, This is the End, Sausage Party), a fat loathsome slob of a prince only interested in getting laid, a task not so easy for the failure of a son. The two set out to complete Thadeous’ first quest and gain his father’s respect. Along the way, they meet Isabel (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Jane Got a Gun), who also has reasons to defeat the wicked warlock.

The premise is rather simple and rather stupid. According to director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Our Brand is Crisis), the concept came from a game between him and McBride about coming up with hilarious titles and then making up a movie premise about them. Apparently, this was the best one. McBride then proceeded to write a draft, and then most of that was thrown out in favor of improv. How this movie even got made is a shock, and how it managed to bring on multiple Oscar nominees also confounds.

McBride cannot carry a movie, funny as he is. Franco (who did sword training and flew back and forth between set and his classes across the country) and Portman (who only signed on to get Black Swan financed) do capably enough to keep this flimsy story going.

All this is important as it creates a movie that doesn’t really want an audience. That being said…

yourhighness2011c

I laughed my ass off at a lot of this movie, and I have to applaud them for trying to craft a unique mixture of fantasy and raunchy comedy. Still not a great movie, but it isn’t the worst viewing experience I’ve ever had.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑