[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 13 – Exists (2014)

Director: Eduardo Sanchez

Cast: Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson

Screenplay: Jamie Nash

81 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some violence, sexual content and drug use.

 

Found footage will never really go away; there will just be good ones that surface in the pile of trash. Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Lovely Molly) is quite well known for really creating the found-footage subgenre, or accidentally stumbling across it. He and Daniel Myrick proved that the concept can work, and then he tried some other stuff, and then went back for his next project: Exists. Sadly, this one didn’t stumble into greatness. It merely stumbled.

Five friends have set out on an outdoor adventure in east Texas. Brian (Chris Osborn, #REALITYHIGH, A Close Divide) and Matt (Samuel Davis, Last Flag Flying, Cabin Fever) have an uncle Bob with a cabin that they can stay at. When they hit something with the car, only to find nothing outside, the group ventures by foot to the cabin. The group enjoys their time at the cabin for the entire next day before finding themselves hunted by something. Something big. Something angry. Something out for revenge.

For a film that never hides the fact that it’s a movie about Bigfoot (Brian Steele, Terminator: Salvation, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), this film sure likes to keep Bigfoot at bay and hidden for most of the film. I mean, I get it, you are trying to do the Jaws thing and keep the monster hidden. So then why have it on the poster? Why get a terrific company like WETA to do your creature effects? Why do this and then deliberately obscure the creature. When filmmakers take use of shaky-cam, the creature comes off looking like a hairy dude in a suit. It only looked good when we finally see it on film.

I found many of the characters in the film to be poorly written with no character development whatsoever. I didn’t know these characters. I wasn’t invested in them. I didn’t care if they lived or died.

Now I definitely got more engaged in the film when the first half was done so that I could actually get to the meat of the story. The second half of Exists is still better than most of The Blair Witch Project. It just still isn’t very engaging.

I just didn’t love Exists. To me, Sanchez just falls back on making the same movie here that he made before. And that first film wasn’t that good, and this isn’t good. Nothing is good about this. The creature design is amazing, and the film someone finds its footing far too late into its run time, but it just doesn’t have the chops to climb out of obscurity.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick’s The Blair Witch Project, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 5 – Dark Was the Night (2014)

Director: Jack Heller

Cast: Kevin Durant, Lukas Haas, Bianca Kajlich, Nick Damici, Sabina Gadecki, Steve Agee, Heath Freeman

Screenplay: Tyler Hisel

90 mins. Not Rated.

 

I came across Dark Was the Night this evening while looking around on Hulu for something scary to watch. I had never heard of the film, but being a fan of Kevin Durant (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Noah), I had to give it a go.

Sheriff Paul Shields (Durant) awakens one morning to find what appear to be hoof prints moving all through his small town. What’s more disturbing is that they do not appear to match any animal on record and seem to be from a two-legged beast. Paul and his deputy Donny Saunders (Lukas Haas, Inception, The Revenant) to tackle the mystery of the hoof prints, but they do not have much time, as people in town are starting to go missing only to end up dead hanging 30 feet up in the trees of the nearby woods.

Dark Was the Night has a simple enough premise aided by a capable albeit slightly bloated screenplay from Tyler Hisel (Safari). I feel like 90 minutes was a little too lengthy for this film. A tighter 80 minute runtime would have made this thing just cruise.

The source material for the story is an old unsolved mystery known as the Devil’s Footprints back in 1855, in which similar strange footprints were found in a town in England. It’s an interesting place to take a film, and it mostly works.

Durant is the definite star here, an actor who rarely gets center stage. He does a fine job here as the haunted sheriff, a man with demons who is strong enough to do the job he was put on Earth to do. His scenes with Haas showcase two great buddy cop chemistry.

Outside of these two, I feel like many of the citizens of the town do not get fleshed out and kind of just morph together in an amorphous townsfolk. I would have liked to know more about who they are and how this mystery affects them.

My only other major fault is the visual effects. An easy lesson here is if you don’t have the budget for high-end CGI, then utilize lighting. When the “thing” Shields is hunting for is uncovered, it is obvious not-so-great CG. Not terrible, but ineffective.

Dark Was the Night has some classic low-budget horror faults, but its unique mystery and some solid acting from its leads make for an experience worth having. An imperfect film it is, but one I think is worth the risk.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 17 – Honeymoon (2014)

Director: Leigh Janiak

Cast: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown

Screenplay: Phil Graziadei, Leigh Janiak

87 mins. Rated R for disturbing bloody images, sexual content and language.

 

I’d been meaning to watch Honeymoon for some time now. Yes, it’s because I love Rose Leslie (The Last Witch Hunter, Morgan).

Bea (Leslie) and new husband Paul (Harry Treadaway, City of Ember, TV’s Mr. Mercedes) have rented a cabin for their honeymoon. But things quickly change direction when Paul finds Bea wandering outside one night. She becomes distant and strange in her reactions and she won’t tell Paul what’s going on. It becomes clear to Paul that something horrible happened to Bea, but what?

Honeymoon is a small little horror film, but it is an extremely effective one. Leslie and Treadaway have amazing chemistry that raises the tension very well and the finale is unexpected and odd but very unnerving. It all seems a little easy to put together at times, but Honeymoon and its director Leigh Janiak aren’t hiding anything. It just feels like there’s more to it.

Honeymoon is good fun, and it’s creepy, strange, unexplained, and memorable. But best of all, it’s on Netflix. This is worth it next time you find yourself wandering the Netflix pages looking for something, anything, worth watching. I know you do it, we all do.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 11 – Tusk (2014)

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: Kevin Smith

102 mins. Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

When people ask filmmakers and storytellers where they get their ideas, I would imagine they rarely say, “from a podcast.” Well, that’s what happened to writer/director Kevin Smith (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Holidays). On his Smodcast show with Scott Mosier, the idea percolated throughout episode 259 until they came to the story that became Tusk, the first film in Smith’s planned Canada Trilogy.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard, Frank & Lola) is a host of the podcast The Not-See Party with best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense, Almost Friends). Wallace plans to travel to Canada to interview the famous “Kill Bill” Kid, but when that plan falls through, Wallace finds another potential story at the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks, Kill Bill vol. 2, Django Unchained), an elderly man with a very interesting past and a loneliness for someone to bestow his tale upon. But Wallace quickly finds that he is in for more than mere stories when he is drugged by Howe and awakens with a few body improvements. Now, Teddy and Ally (Genesis Rodriguez, Big Hero 6, TV’s Dame Chocolate), Wallace’s girlfriend, must travel to the great north to find him with the help of famous inspector Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

Tusk is a rather odd film. It appears on the surface to be a satirical take on the Body Horror Subgenre of films, but Smith plays it completely straight. Almost too straight in fact, as I didn’t find myself connecting to the characters in an interesting or emotional way. Smith’s famous dialogue is rather absent as Wallace, Teddy, and Ally are all flawed in a way that makes them too unlikable. The plot runs its course rather easily, but there is still fun to be had here. It just isn’t as blatant.

That being said, Michael Parks is excellent. The late great actor is a thespian of the odd and extreme, and he plays Howard perfectly. The scenes featuring him are the best in the film. I also loved Johnny Depp having a little bit of fun and not playing the same character that we’ve seen numerous times. It’s great seeing his push the envelope of LaPointe to strange new avenues, and I look forward to seeing how he is further developed in the concluding chapters of this trilogy.

The trilogy idea is rather fun as well, and Smith has already pushed on with Yoga Hosers with word on Moose Jaws unknown at the moment. It’s clear that Smith is interested in making his films for him and I can respect that. It just might not be all that lucrative.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 29 – Creep (2014)

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Director: Patrick Brice

Cast: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice

Screenplay: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

77 mins. Rated R for brief violence and language.

 

So take a look up there and notice the credits I’ve supplied. Now tell me how many people it took to make this film. It’s true: Patrick Brice (The Overnight) directed, he and Mark Duplass (TV’s The League, The Lazarus Effect) wrote and starred. The film is Creep, a small 2014 film that’s been received quite well. Let’s turn on the found-footage and have a watch.

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Brice plays Aaron, a videographer answering a Craigslist ad for a small one-day job with Josef (Duplass), a man dying of his terminal illness who wishes to capture a day in his life for his unborn son. As Aaron and Josef spend more time together, it’s clear that Josef is not all that he seems.

I want to describe the film further, but that’s about it. This is not a complex plot by any stretch of the imagination, and it also isn’t all that surprising of a story. It’s the genuine way the story unfolds that wins here. It also is a film with a lot of important but unnecessary dialogue, as in you don’t have to catch a lot of the dialogue but it’s pretty fun when you get what’s really going on.

The issues I had? First, the title is terrible. I would rather something more inconspicuous. Same with Duplass’s performance, which all but gives away his character. The film should be less obvious than it ends up being. The clues that are given are a bit too on the nose and it’s noticeable.

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I don’t want to get much more into it. This is an easy film to watch and a fairly short and to the point kind of movie. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t all that engaging either. It’s a nice simple little movie. I’m excited to see where they take the story for parts 2 and 3 of this supposed trilogy.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Short Film Sunday] Lava (2014)

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Director: James Ford Murphy

Cast: Kuana Torres Kahele, Napua Greig

Screenplay: James Ford Murphy

7 mins. Rated G.

 

This week’s short film is Lava, a 2014 film most widely recognized as the Pixar short released with this year’s Inside Out.

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Lava is the story of Uku (Kuana Torres Kahele), a lonely volcano who wishes for someone to share in his song. He sees the wildlife all around him enjoy the company of others, and for millions of years, he waits for his loneliness to end. The short is set to a song written by writer/director of the film, James Ford Murphy.

Lava received a lot of flack upon release, many Pixar fans discussing the film’s underwhelming appeal. I, on the other disagree. The film is beautiful in its simplicity. It’s the classic tale of patience and features a stunningly graceful musical number. The low amount of dialogue allows for a deeper appreciation of the imagery, which is gorgeously crafted.

All in all, I loved Lava, a film packed with emotional triggers throughout its 7-minute runtime. See it now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 9 – Zombeavers (2014)

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Director: Jordan Rubin

Cast: Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, Lexi Atkins, Hutch Dano, Bill Burr, Jake Weary, Peter Gilroy

Screenplay: Al Kaplan, Jordan Rubin, Jon Kaplan

77 mins. Rated R for horror violence/gore, crude sexual content, graphic nudity, and language throughout.

 

I knew it was only a matter of time before I watched Zombeavers. Today was as fitting a day as any other.

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Mary (Rachel Melvin, TV’s Days of Our Lives, Dumb and Dumber To), Zoe (Cortney Palm, Sushi Girl, Silent Night) and Jenn (Lexi Atkins, The Boy Next Door, Ted 2) are prepped and ready to have a great weekend at the cabin alone, reflecting on Jenn’s relationship problem. Very quickly, though, the three are joined by their male companions and immediately attacked by undead zombified beavers who have been contaminated by medical waste unleashed in their lake.

Zombeavers has the distinction of being an incredibly entertaining 80s horror film that just happened to come out last year. The characters are equal parts enjoyable and stupid, enough in droves to make the ensuing horror that much better.

I’m not going to tell you that this is a great film. It is damn fun though. The beavers are not particularly well-built. They come off as knowingly fake and still pretty fun.

One high point of the film is the opening titles. They are perfectly constructed and create the tone of the film to follow. Add to that the amazingly goofy cameos from Bill Burr and John Mayer in the opening and you have a recipe for pure entertainment.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 1 – Ouija (2014)

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Director: Stiles White

Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca Santos, Shelley Hennig, Lin Shaye

Screenplay: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

89 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, and thematic elements.

 

Well, here we are again, folks! My favorite time of the year: Halloween and the month of scary movies! Let’s start this month off with the horror film Ouija, based on the Hasbro board game/spirit board of the same name.

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Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke, TV’s Bates Motel, The Signal) just lost her best friend to an apparent suicide. When she uncovers an old Ouija board the two used to play with as children, she gets the terrible idea to gather several friends in the old house and try to speak to the recently deceased Debbie (Shelley Hennig, TV’s Days of Our Lives, Unfriended), but who exactly are they talking to, and what do they want?

Ouija has to be one of the worst horror films in recent memory. I couldn’t tell you any details about the characters in the film because they aren’t actually characters but people merely sitting in a room. They aren’t even cliché characters (that I can deal with, in fact, I can expect it from a film like this), because they have no details or personality traits.

Director Stiles White gives us boring sequences meant to incite fear but merely flopping around on the screen totally uninspired. The deaths in the film don’t even have tension. The characters just kind of die. There is no fear because there isn’t a buildup. The eyes turn white (for no particular reason) and then they die. Nothing’s happening here.

For a film that runs 89 minutes, this movie felt like 3 hours. It feels like it has two directors, and in fact, it was mostly reshot, with some characters disappearing and reappearing with no consequence or impact on the story. Lin Shaye (Insidious, Big Ass Spider!) appears in one of the most wasted casting choices of the film. She is given nothing to do.

As for the music, it is used far too sparingly, and when it is, it sounds like a calmer version of the Insidious theme. Totally worthless.

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All in all, Ouija is a bad film to see at the beginning of the month because it actually challenged my beliefs in the future of horror. What the hell is this piece of garbage? Can somebody help! Please!

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

 

[Oscar Madness Monday] Still Alice (2014)

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Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parish

Screenplay: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

101 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Julianne Moore]

 

Well, there simply aren’t enough days during Oscar season to talk about movies. There aren’t. So, on the occasion when I feel like it, I’ll be talking with you on some Mondays about films the Academy has deemed worthy of admiration. Today, an Oscar winner from this most recent awards ceremony: Still Alice. So let’s begin.

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Alice Howland (Julianne Moore, The Big Lebowski, Freeheld), a brilliant linguistics professor, lives for her mind. Her world is that much more shattered when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Now Alice must learn to lean on her family, including caring husband John (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Aloha) and strained daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart, Twilight, American Ultra) as she slowly loses the parts of her that make up who she is.

Still Alice isn’t a perfect film. It has faults, to be sure. I find that the runtime could be shortened. A few of the character arcs are believable. A few of the story points are cliché. But none of that really matters.

This is Julianne Moore’s film. She controls the screen in perhaps her most captivating roles. She takes viewers on a journey with her as we see Alice slowly deteriorate in front of her family’s eyes. Seeing her in her place of zen, a cabin by the beach with husband John, struggling to remember where the bathroom is. The scene is heartbreaking. There is a difficult and triumphant sequence in which Alice attempts to give a speech on her disease. Her character’s emotional and physical transformations are on full display, and Moore’s nuanced performance carries this film, so much so that the problems I encountered bothered me a lot less.

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Still Alice is one of those difficult movies. Like Precious or 12 Years a Slave, it isn’t a film I like to watch. That doesn’t stop it from being an important and challenging piece, moving in its own right. Julianne Moore owns the screen and her statue due to an unparalleled and unstoppable command of the craft.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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