[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 20 – Psycho III (1986)

Director: Anthony Perkins

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey

Screenplay: Charles Edward Pogue

93 mins. Rated R.

 

A friend of mine once told me that he believes the Psycho franchise to the most underappreciated franchise in horror. When I pined, he told me that while most people regard the original film as a classic, the sequels are mostly dismissed as they started appearing over two decades after the first film. When I saw Psycho II, I got what he meant. No, it isn’t the first film, but it doesn’t try to be. Today, we’ll take a look at the follow-up, directed by Anthony Perkins (Lucky Stiff) himself.

When Maureen (Diana Scarwid, What Lies Beneath, Another Happy Day), a nun, has a horrible accident, she goes on the run, leaving her old life behind. She finally ends up at the Bates Motel, being run by Norman Bates (Perkins). Norman has a new assistant in Duane (Jeff Fahey, Grindhouse, Atomic Shark) and a whole lot of skeletons in his closet after murdering Emma Spool, the woman claiming to be Norman’s true birth mother.

Psycho III isn’t as clean as its predecessors. There are a lot of moving parts here and they don’t hold up as well as what has come before. There is a subplot with the disappearance of Mrs. Spool and the journalist who suspects Norman. There’s the plot with Maureen and her striking resemblance to Marion Crane. Then there’s Duane, who has a plan of his own. Sadly, the multitude of plot points don’t hit as well as they did in Psycho II.

The film does have its merits, though. There are plenty of callbacks and referential material to firmly tie this film to the rest, and it does build on the story without retread. Psycho III takes its own path without falling back on the same story over and over. Sometimes, the film’s connective tissue with the original film helps, sometimes it does not.

Overall, Psycho III works well enough, though it never reaches the heights that it could or should. First-time director Perkins can’t juggle the pieces as well as should, but fans of the first two will find enough to like in this third installment.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, click here.

For my review of Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente

Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson

133 mins. Rated R for terror and horror violence.

 

Good evening, everyone, I just got back from an early screening for The Conjuring 2! Did I like it? Spoiler: Yeah, I did.

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This sequel from director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is set after Lorraine (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Departed) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) have wrapped up their famed inspection of the Amityville house. Now, a far more terrifying case comes calling all the way from Enfield in north London. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Mercy) and her family have been experiencing a new level of paranormal disturbance that threatens the lives of the entire family. This entity has centered itself on Peggy’s daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe, The Campaign, Keanu) and plans on forcing her to do the unthinkable. Now, the Warrens have found themselves in their most dangerous journey, facing an enemy that wants more than just the Hodgsons.

First of all, I have to congratulate Wan on not tackling The Amityville Horror. This sequel touches on it just enough to provide a context for the series. The Conjuring 2 is one of the more amazing horror films in recent times. It may also be Wan’s best film to date, and I mean that.

The acting from Farmiga and Wilson are again incredible, but it’s the relationships built between them and the Hodgsons, particularly Janet and Peggy, that make the film. It’s rare to call a horror film heartwarming, but that’s exactly what The Conjuring 2 reaches for amidst its shocking and tense mood. Young Madison Wolfe holds her own in her scenes with the more accomplished performers here. There’s also a terrific turn from Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) as Maurice Gross, a man searching for proof of life after death but who may be too easily convinced. On the polar opposite in the troupe is Anita Gregory (Franka Potente, TV’s Copper, The Bourne Identity) who is out to prove the Hodgson haunting a hoax.

Wan’s always had great cinematography in his films, and The Conjuring 2 is no exception. It would seem that the horror director’s entire filmography has led to this, from his smaller pictures like Saw to his action-packed extravaganza with Furious 7. Wan’s work has created a unique style pulling from everything he has done before and creating something wholly new.

Another progression is that of Joseph Bishara, who scored the film. Bishara is much more restrained than in previous works like Insidious, his score only enhancing scares instead of instigating them. It works very well here.

James Wan swings for the fences, even if he misses on the special effects. There is a hint of swift CGI to this film involving one particular element that I won’t mention here. You’ll know it when you see it, this piece of CGI will not age well, even if it didn’t completely take me out of the movie.

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The Conjuring 2 feels so personal and so profound, the master stroke of a filmmaker in full control of his craft. It’s incredible to have been a fan of this storytelling for over a decade and to see his metamorphosis into a skilled and strong filmmaker who impresses me more each time I enter the cinema. See The Conjuring 2. It’ll make you believe in studio horror again.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 13 – The Conjuring (2013)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Screenplay: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes

112 mins. Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.

 

James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is THE horror director of today. The man is known for creating tone and utilizing it perfectly to create a terrifying atmospheric experience. He also shows that he can learn from mistakes, and nowhere is that more apparent than what is likely his best work, The Conjuring.

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Carolyn (Lili Taylor, Say Anything, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston, Office Space, Vacation) are loving their new home. But there is a presence in the home, and it is taking its toll on Carolyn. In steps Ed (Patrick Wilson, TV’s Fargo, Insidious) and Lorraine Warren (TV’s Bates Motel, The Departed), two paranormal investigators (demonologists, technically) who are looking to solve the family’s dilemma. But this demonic force isn’t willing to go lightly, and wants to take the Perrons, and perhaps the Warrens, with it.

The screenplay by Chad and Carey W. Hayes (House of Wax, Whiteout) is where it starts. This screenplay combines that perfect mixture of horror with lightheartedness and humor that James Wan thrives on.

What also helps Wan thrive is the perfect blend of great actors and professional genre performers that blend into such a realistic and thrilling experience.

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James Wan’s previous film Insidious was great but had issues, namely the overuse of music and the overappearance of the big villain. In The Conjuring, he learns from these mistakes and excels here with pure vision. The Conjuring is a pure modern masterpiece in just about every way.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, 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.

 

[#2015oscardeathrace] The Judge (2014)

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Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton

Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque

141 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

What happens when a judge becomes the suspect in a murder?

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In The Judge, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers, Chef), a high-powered defense attorney, is going to home to bury his mother who has just passed. Being barely on speaking terms with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall, The Godfather: Part II, Hemingway & Gellhorn), a small-town judge, Hank wants to get in and out and on his way. But when Joseph Palmer is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a man he let off easy years earlier, Hank stays on to help his father as the two rebuild their fractured relationship.

I would like to see Downey take on work that flexes his abilities better than the same character he has played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the recent Sherlock Holmes films. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have tremendous chemistry, or anti-chemistry, in their portrayal of father and son on the brink of collapse here. These two save an otherwise faulty film with some major flaws.

First of all, Hank’s rekindling of a friendship with old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Conjuring) comes off as boring, unneeded, and somewhat silly. It could’ve been sliced and brought this film down to a more accessible two hours. The courtroom scenes are far less engaging than they should be, wasting the talented Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Entourage) on what almost seems like an extended cameo at most.

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The score here is great and the two leads have some truly tense and unforgettable scenes, but overall The Judge is too long and too little about actual courtrooms. The entirety of Joseph’s criminal trial is uninteresting and useless at building anything. The Judge could have been better under a more capable set of hands (director David Dobkin is known for his goofy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up and less so for anything serious).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

165 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.

 

It has been seven years since Transformers came out. I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing a review of the fourth film in this series, Transformers: Age of Extinction. This film is a bit of a departure in that it takes place five years after The Battle of Chicago, as it is referred to (which took place in Dark of the Moon) and features an entirely new cast of characters. Literally, nobody returns to this franchise for the fourth film except some of the voice actors for the Transformers.

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This installment introduces us to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, Ted 2), a novice inventor, and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz, TV’s Bates Motel, The Last Airbender). Cade is a picker who scavenges for parts to use in his various inventions. He and his assistant Lucas (T.J. Miller, Cloverfield, Big Hero 6) come across a truck in an old abandoned theater and take it home to discover it is Optimus Prime in hiding. A government official named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Cheers, The Expendables 3) has hired a human hitman (Titus Welliver, The Town, Promised Land) and a bounty hunter Decepticon named Lockdown to hunt down and destroy the remaining Transformers. Meanwhile, a big-time business named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games, Muppets Most Wanted) is developing new technology incorporating Autobot tech and using it to build his own Transformers.

The plot is at least a new direction for this series. I was getting tired of the limited character development of Shia LaBeouf. This film isn’t great, but it certainly epitomizes the Michael Bay promise: likable trash. I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It just felt newer, and it had a lot more in terms of acting prowess (from Wahlberg, Tucci, Grammer, and Miller). The plot runs on for damn near forever, but I’ve come to expect that from this series and I didn’t feel as restless as I had from the last few movies.

I also absolutely love the design of the new Transformers in this installment. Hound (voiced by John Goodman) is a new Autobot who plays off like an old army colonel. He is an absolutely fantastic and angry beast who actually transforms to have a cigar in his mouth, too. Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) is a samurai who has blades that come from his transformation into an Apache helicopter. The faces are so well-defined that this is the first Transformers movie where I know all the Transformers based on looks. These are different characters.

And then there’s Lockdown. This is a complex character who is joining the US government to take on the Autobots and also has plans of his own.

I enjoyed this movie more so than I thought, and perhaps that comes from hearing all these bad reviews coming out of this movie’s initial release. I guess I had my hopes down.

One major flaw came from Galvatron, who is one of the new lead villains, a man-made Decepticon who feels so underdeveloped that it becomes really tough to fear him.

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All in all, this was more fun than expected. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, because you will be here awhile, and non-Transformers fans need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction? Did it transform into a masterpiece or did you “Roll Out” of the theater? Let me know!

 

For my review of Transformers, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

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