Crawl (2019)

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark

Screenplay: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen

87 mins. Rated R for bloody creature violence, and brief language.

 

I was a big fan of director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The 9th Life of Louis Drax) when he burst onto the filmmaking scene, even if I didn’t love his remake of The Hills Have Eyes (though it is a superior film to the original). I respected his eye for horror, and I think his Piranha is one of the best horror films ever made. He disappeared for a few years, but now he’s resurfaced with another creature-feature, this one inspired by actual events that took place during Hurricane Florence.

Crawl is the story of Haley (Kaya Scodelario, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales), a competitive swimmer, searching for her father Dave (Barry Pepper, Saving Private Ryan, Maze Runner: The Death Cure) as a Category 5 hurricane sets in. Haley finds herself trapped in the crawl space beneath the main floor as it quickly floods and having to protect herself from deadly alligators.

Crawl had a great trailer, but one wonders with a film largely set in one location whether the trailer is really showing everything, and I will say this: if you are interested at all in this film, don’t watch the trailer as it does give away some third-act plot points. Overall, though, Crawl is an excellent single-location thriller with two standout performances and a whole lot of shocks and intensity.

The screenplay, from Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward, The Inhabitants), bolsters a strong storytelling speed that keeps the momentum up for most of the film, save for a good fifteen minutes at the start as the pieces are put in place. It’s an important fifteen minutes but it is a slow start.

Director Aja is known for pulling as much tension and horror from a premise as possible, and he’s knocking it out of the park here, but he is able to pull some emotion from this struggling father-daughter relationship as well, something I’ve not seen him as successful with in the past.

Our two leads in Scodelario and Pepper work very well together. You can feel their strained relationship as they work together to escape this potentially impossible situation. It’s a frustrating movie but only because it always feels unwinnable, and none of their attempts go without risk or pain. There’s a lesson I once learned about creating great characters, and it is that you cannot let your characters win without suffering. These two suffer a lot in this film, and I’ll leave it open-ended whether or not they “win” after all that suffering.

Crawl is an excellent thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The film races along, creating obstacles one after the other. This is a pull-out-your-hair movie at its finest, and a terrific theatrical experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 13 – Piranha (2010)

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Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Richard Dreyfuss, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. Queen, Christopher Lloyd

Screenplay: Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg

88 mins. Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.

 

We’ve discussed remakes many times before, so I feel like you don’t need to know my thoughts. Essentially, you have to make a film that adds something to the story that you didn’t get before. Piranha, the 2010 remake of the Joe Dante film, sets out to be a great B-horror film, and the crazy thing, it actually succeeds.

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Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, TV’s CSI, Back to the Future Part II) is determined to keep Lake Victoria safe during Spring Break as she has every year. This year, however, she has one more dangerous obstacle in the way of her mission: an underwater tremor looses thousands of bloodthirsty piranha upon the lake and the surrounding area. As she assists an group of seismologists in determining the cause and full effect of the fissure, her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen, TV’s The Vampire Diaries, Minutemen) is out on the water with amateur voyeur and professional pornographer Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, Stand By Me, Justice League vs. Teen Titans), right in the path of the deadly prehistoric fish.

People don’t seem to get my enthusiasm and real belief when it comes to Piranha: this movie is perfect. Now, does that mean Oscar-worthy? Not so, but I mean that this movie knows what it wants to be, and it perfectly embodies its goal: to be a fun and bloody homage of horror/comedies like the movie it is remaking. I’ve told many people that Piranha is one of the best horror movies of the 1980s and it came out twenty years too late.

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Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, The 9th Life of Louis Drax) just figured this movie out. His use of great actors and amazing cameos from legends like Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I am Not a Serial Killer) and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Madoff). Dreyfuss’s role even sends up his character from Jaws (and he puts forth a solid albeit small performance even though he didn’t really want to be in the movie). And if you pay close attention, you can even see horror director Eli Roth cameo as a wet T-shirt contest host. He even tried to include Joe Dante and James Cameron (director of Piranha II: The Spawning) as boat captains giving safety lessons, but the idea ultimately fell through.

Every plot thread of the film is fun and interesting. Shue’s work as the Sheriff helping to uncover the secret behind the piranha is great, and she has terrific chemistry with Novak, played by Adam Scott (TV’s Parks and Recreation, Krampus) and her Deputy, played by Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Unfortunately for them, nothing beats Jake’s story, as nobody beats Jerry O’Connell, who chews his scenes up and steals every moment onscreen.

The visual effects from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are top notch, which only furthers the technical prowess of Piranha. In fact, just about everything technical in the movie works, from the visual flow of the cinematography matched with the perfectly-paced editing, to the musical score and Aja’s directing at the helm.

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It’s a shame that Piranha was not screened for critics. It may have given the film the necessary buzz to bring in more viewers. Sadly, the gains that Aja’s film received were only able to garner it a really shitty sequel instead of the franchise we fans deserved. Either way, Piranha is perfect for what it wants to be. It doesn’t want to make friends. It wants to show a lot of Booze, Babes and Blood, and if that isn’t for you, then this movie isn’t for you. However, for those of you looking for a fun cheese-fest of a horror film that satirizes and pays homage to what came before, Piranha will not disappoint.

 

5/5  (I’m Serious)

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

I Just Discovered the Trailer for The Pyramid and Have Feels

Wow. I’m a little shocked that this movie slipped under my nose. I am a big fan of Alex Aja, the producer of this film. I dig monster movies over most other horror films, usually because they are more difficult to pull off. I just need other people to see this trailer and have an argument with me about whether or not this will be any good. Check out the trailer below:

And here is the poster:

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I can already give this film mad props (yeah, I said it) for going somewhere that we as horror fans haven’t been in some time. And don’t say The Ruins did it, because that film is total bullshit.

Anywho, what did you think? This has potential. And what of its December 5th Release Date? Are we seeing a new dumping ground for horror movies now that January is full? Talk amongst yourselves.

September 2014 Preview

I just want to get this out on the table. I have not seen any of the films on this list. This is only an assumption of the films’ merit based on the information I have on them. But, I should point out that I have a pretty good knack for this kind of stuff.

 

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Before I Go to Sleep

This is the story of Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Paddington), who gets into a car accident which causes her to have deep memory loss. She awakens every morning with memory loss. Then, one day, the memories flow back to her, and she questions the nature of the car accident and what really happened. I can see this movie trying to do the kinds of things that Memento got away with. The problem being that this film would really have to have a unique style, and from what I have seen, it isn’t really there.

 

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The Identical

Twin brothers (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) are separated at birth and lead different lives. One of them becomes a famous singer, the other struggles between his love of music and his place in his family. This movie puts a lot of faith in Blake Rayne, and he doesn’t have the ability to carry this movie. It has a nice supporting cast in Seth Green, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd, but can it carry? Probably not.

 

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Mary Kom

This is based on the real-life Mary Kom, a female boxer of Indian descent. I’m not saying this film will be great. I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m saying it will be meh. The plot should be very interesting, as Kom had a very interesting life, but the crew isn’t anyone memorable.

 

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Horns

I’ve been waiting a long time to see Horns, from the incredible horror film director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D). It also happens to have some really good source material with the novel by Joe Hill. Daniel Radcliffe rounds out this crew starring in the film as Ig, short for Ignatius, a man who awakens one morning to the discovery of two large horns protruding from his head that give him dark thoughts and powers. Horns has the potential to be the standout horror film of the year, and a great way to get into the mood for Halloween.

 

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Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle is the third film of a trilogy. No, I actually knew very little about the previous entries before discovering this third film. The first film is Henry Fool, and the followup is Fay Grim, and the the trilogy follows these same characters. Ned Rifle is the son of Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and this is the story of Ned trying to murder his father. From the footage I have seen, I wouldn’t mind watching this trilogy, but I would say watch the other two and if you like them, I have very good feelings about Ned Rifle.

 

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Dolphin Tale 2

Wow, this movie looks terrible. I mean it, really bad, but then again, I have been saying that about the first film for a while now. If you enjoy Dolphin Tale, you will probably still buy a ticket and have a good time, but I’m going to tell you that you are wrong.

 

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The Drop

I just want to point out that this is a beautiful poster. If the film is even partially as good as its poster, I’ll get chills. This is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and like everything else he touches, it will be good. Lehane is known for his crime stories and thrillers, and chances are, the plot will have some difficult and disturbing turns along the way, but this is worth the ticket money. It also contains the final performance of deceased actor James Gandolfini.

 

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No Good Deed

Don’t see it. See The Drop!

 

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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner has the ability to be the next Hunger Games. It is the story of Thomas, a young man who awakens in a maze with several others without any memory of what exists outside the maze. Together with the other maze runners, he must escape the maze and discover the purpose. Someone see this and tell me how it is. I’m feeling good.

 

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This is Where I Leave You

This seems like a good one. We have Jason Bateman and Tina Fey leading a breakout cast full of interesting personalities as four siblings return home to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. Honestly, it just seems like much more interesting dramedy concept than I have seen recently.

 

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Tusk

I’ve already spoken about my thoughts on this movie. It has so many talented people adding to it. I just have no idea how a movie like this is going to work. This is a risk.

 

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson hunts a kidnapper…

I’ve gotten into this habit of understanding that Liam Neeson kicks ass. Not all of his films do, but Liam Neeson kicks ass nonetheless. In order to properly decide the merit of a Liam Neeson, look at the release date. Non-Stop came out in February. Not great. A Walk Among the Tombstones releases in September. I’m thinking a hit.

 

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Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny is a road trip movie, and a pretty generic one at that. Skip.

 

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The Equalizer

Damn, I loved watching the television series The Equalizer. That series was awesome. Denzel Washington is perfect in the role Robert McCall, an ex-spec op who wages war on the Russian mob. Antoine Fuqua knows this kind of film and it is going to rock. I’m pretty sure.

 

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Believe Me

This is the tale of a bunch of college students who fake a church group to use donation money to pay their student tuition. Man, this movie is going to piss people off. I have nothing against the subject material, but I have seen footage and am doubtful about the technical aspects. It doesn’t look very cleaned up. I’m leaning on skip.

 

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The Good Lie

No. Nope. I don’t think so. Probably not. No.

 

So there you have it. Here is a final tally.

Best Bets: Horns, The Drop, This is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Equalizer

On the Bubble: Before I Go to Sleep, Ned Rifle, The Maze Runner, Tusk, Believe Me

Likely Misses: The Identical, Mary Kom, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Finding Fanny, The Good Lie

 

As before, these are the tools. Use them however you wish. What do you think of this month’s releases? What do you want to see most? Let me know!

Oculus (2013)

Oculus

Director: Mike Flanagan.

Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane, Katee Sackhoff.

Screenplay: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard.

103 mins. Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.

 

I was pretty excited to see Oculus recently. I truly enjoyed director Mike Flanagan’s previous work in Absentia (I saw the premiere at the Fargo Film Festival back in 2011), and I wanted to see where he take us next when he had a bigger budget and more room to play. Unfortunately, I spent most of Oculus arguing with myself over whether I was enjoying myself or not. Not ever a really good sign. It felt to me like a film that was trying to confuse its audience so they wouldn’t see all the ridiculous plot points for what they really were.

Oculus tells the story of Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan, TV’s Doctor Who), who is trying to prove to her brother, Tim (Brenton Thwaites), that the reason their parents went insane several years ago was because of a haunted mirror. Initially, thoughts went through my head about the previous horror film Mirrors, a decent effort from director Alexandre Aja. Sadly, this film falls flat even after a pretty fantastic opening setup.

The film plays out in two timelines simultaneous, one with Kaylie and Tim as children, the other years later as adults. Playing them against each other proves pretty interesting, except at the end when the timelines devolve into a confusing, jumbled and ultimately, disappointingly predictable finale.

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Oculus does a great job setting the events of the film into motion. We are given a solid premise and even rules to govern the journey we are going on as Kaylie describes exactly how she plans on proving the mirror’s intentions of evil and how she planned on destroying it. Soon after, however, the film departs from these rules and chooses to never reference them again.

I also had a problem with the mirror’s motivations. Okay, I get it, that sounds silly, but in any horror film, you have to get what the killer or monster’s motivations are or what the hell does it matter? Michael Myers was trying to kill all his relatives. Jason Voorhees was the closest thing to birth control for Crystal Lake, hacking and slashing his way through teens as vengeance for his dead mother. Freddy Krueger was also all about revenge, and Chucky the killer doll just wanted out of his plastic body. Oculus’ mirror, however, plays tricks on people. Some of them are meant to maim or kill, but other times, it plays out like a violent joke. One such scene, where the mirror leads Kaylie to believe that she has bitten into a light bulb gets us to see that it was only an apple. Why would a mirror do that? Wouldn’t the opposite be much more terrifying and gruesome?

This’ll sound funny as well, but I didn’t feel like the mirror was a well-built character. It didn’t have enough presence in the film. For all we know, it could’ve been a haunted oven or house or pretty much anything. It didn’t really use its reflection to terrorize. There was nothing to tell us the mirror was really behind anything. Its backstory kind of disappointed as well. If this becomes a franchise, I would like to see it explored much more.

The performances were fine, especially from Gillan and Annalise Basso (Bedtime Stories) who play adult and young Kaylie, respectively. Katee Sackhoff (TV’s Battlestar Galactica, Riddick) and Rory Cochrane (Argo, Parkland) do respectable work as Russell parents Marie and Alan.

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I’ve heard a lot of reports that Oculus may be looking at becoming a franchise, and if so, it has some digging to do before it reaches a status worthy of yearly trips to the movie theater.  I see potential, and there were a few great moments about this film, but all in all, I drove home from the movie not angry, but disappointed, and in the end, isn’t that worse?

Have you seen Oculus? What did you think? Comment below.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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