Suicide Squad (2016)

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Director: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevigne

Screenplay: David Ayer

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.

 

I’m not the first person to say that the DCEU has had a rough time of it trying to build a shared universe of films. After Green Lantern failed to ignite the franchise, Man of Steel hit with mixed reviews, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got destroyed by fans and critics alike. Then, Suicide Squad was released to…drumroll, please…negative reviews. It hasn’t been easy for DC. Now, it took me some time to get to Suicide Squad just out of pure frustration with the film but I had some interesting views on it.

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After the death of Superman, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, TV’s How to Get Away With Murder, The Help), an intelligence operative, puts forth a plan to assemble a team, Task Force X, led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing, Child 44). When Flag’s girlfriend June Moone (Cara Delevigne, Paper Towns, Pan) is overtaken by a supernatural evil entity called The Enchantress who wishes to unleash a hellish future upon the Earth, Task Force X is called to action to stop her. The team, consisting of Deadshot (Will Smith, Men in Black, Concussion), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Legend of Tarzan), and other criminals imprisoned at Belle Reve Prison, assemble to save the day…and plan their escape.

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I was extremely hesitant to the idea that Will Smith was the central focus of all the members of the Suicide Squad. I didn’t like the idea of the entire movie forming around Smith, who hasn’t been able to carry an action film in some time. After seeing the performance, I take it back. Will Smith’s Deadshot is the most accessible character, a man doing bad things for the best intentions. His arc is one of the more interesting and successfully engaging in the film.

As for Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie owns the scenes that feature her. Robbie’s was one of the more anticipated for the film and another extremely workable and engaging performance. As for her relationship with The Joker (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), it isn’t one that people should pine for. Everyone seems to think that Harley Quinn is a strong empowered woman when really, she is the furthest from, at least in this film. Harley Quinn is broken, insisting that she belongs to The Joker, her Puddin’, and that she would do anything for him. The Joker’s master manipulation is what turned her into what she is: an obedient, sexually exploited, pet. Now, an interesting character indeed, but nothing that women should look to for empowerment.

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Let’s talk about The Joker while we are here, and one of the major problems of the film. Now, I must say that Jared Leto is absolutely amazing in the film, and for the time we see him, I left wanting more, and there’s a reason for that. Leto’s performance takes mere hints from Heath Ledger’s The Dark Knight portrayal and Jack Nicholson’s Batman incarnation, as well as Cesar Romero’s Batman: The Movie from the 1960s. But Leto took a step further, going full method. Stories from the set of dead pigs being shipped as gifts are only scraping the surface of where he takes the character. So what’s not to like? The major problem with The Joker in the movie? He isn’t in it. He barely appears, which would be fine, but the fact that he was cut mostly from the film is a slap in the face to the great work Leto provides. Jared Leto created enemies on set with his batshit work, and there’s nothing to show for it. And it isn’t just him. The entire film suffers in the same way that Batman v Superman does. It feels like a collection of great scenes that don’t fit together. You get the sense that Suicide Squad was gutted even before hearing it confirmed.

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The rest of Task Force X? There is some pretty solid work from Jai Courtney (Divergent, Terminator Genisys) as Captain Boomerang and Adelwale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Trumbo) as Killer Croc (another horribly slashed character who just isn’t given enough to do). Jay Hernandez (Hostel, Bad Moms) does the best he can, but his character just isn’t that well written.

Lastly, we touch on The Enchantress. Cara Delevigne does the best she can, but her villain has no motivation. I spent half the movie just trying to figure out what damn machine she is building, what she is trying to accomplish, and exactly what her minions were. They kind of looked like poop demons covered in hot tar and became mindless drones.

Something very fascinating that the DCEU is attempting to do with this shared universe is how connected it is. Batman v Superman is a direct sequel to Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad inciting incident revolves around a key moment from BvS. I enjoy that each film heavily influences the others.

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The tone of Suicide Squad isn’t perfect, but the film is a lot of fun to watch, which makes up for a lot of the shortcomings around it. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I cannot deny the glaring issues in pacing, editing, and writing that stared me in the face the entire time. For me, however, at least the DCEU is going in the right direction. I found myself liking BvS more than Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad was an increase in quality as well. Issues, yes, there are plenty, but Wonder Woman looks poised to take the quality a further notch up the scale, so overall, at least Suicide Squad was fun. Right?

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

#SpoilerAlert: did anyone else see Harley Quinn’s rap sheet at the beginning says she assisted in the death of Robin? What was that all about?

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 28 – The Collection (2012)

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Director: Marcus Dunstan

Cast: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer, Lee Tergesen

Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan

82 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and brief nudity.

 

The 2009 film The Collector was written as a prequel to Saw, but when the producers vetoed that option, it became The Collector. While The Collector had its moments, it had just as many faults. Director Marcus Dunstan seems to have learned from his mistakes for the 2012 sequel The Collection, a highly stylized game of cat and mouse which sees Arkin (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, Transcendence) escaping from the clutches of The Collector (Randall Archer). Immediately after, Arkin is enlisted by Lucello (Lee Tergesen, Monster, Red Tails) and his boss Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald, Requiem for a Dream, About Last Night) to find Peters’ daughter Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick, The Social Network, Before We Go), the Collector’s newest claim. When they get to the slasher’s lair, they discover that the Collector has a few more tricks in store for them.

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I’m not going to tell you that The Collection is a perfect horror film. It has faults, but it takes a major step up from its predecessor. Arkin has become a much more likable lead, having evolved from his criminal ways. The addition of equally likable Elena and Lucello, we have several characters that we care about. We want to see them live. When they fall into danger, I genuinely wanted them to survive.

I enjoyed the Collector’s background and the extensive look at how he operates as a serial killer, and though I agree that his lair and the traps he sets seem almost like he has second sight, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough, you can find fun here.

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The Collection won’t be for everyone. The film has a lot of detractors, but fans of the original will find a lot to like. Its creative team has evolved in the three years between the films, and it looks good for future endeavors.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector, click here.

[Happy 15th Birthday!] Requiem for a Dream (2000)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald

Screenplay: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky

102 mins. Rated R for intense depictions of drug addiction, graphic sexuality, strong language and some violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Burstyn)

iMDB Top 250: #90 (as of 1/24/2016)

Damn, this is a tough movie to watch. Warning: This isn’t a movie that will make you happy.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, Interstellar, Draft Day) just found out that she is going to be on television. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody), an addict, is about to make some primo money selling drugs. His friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans, White Chicks, A Haunted House 2) just wants to be a good kid. Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind, Winter’s Tale), wants to design clothing. Each has dreams of becoming better than they are, but unfortunately for them, they are all addicts slowly falling deeper and deeper into their delusions of happiness in this film from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Noah).

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Damn, I’ve seen Requiem for a Dream a couple times now, and it doesn’t get any easier, but this is a work of pure art that almost requires itself to be seen. It isn’t an easy film, and no one is walking out happy, but if you want a truer depiction of addiction, you will not find it anywhere else.

Ellen Burstyn is pure magic as Sara, the matriarch who needs to cut her addiction to fatty foods and in the process finds a new vice. Jared Leto is a kid with one foot in the grave who keeps slipping deeper and deeper into it. Jennifer Connelly’s Marion has so much drive but can’t seem to break out of her chains.

Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore, About Last Night) was perfect casting as Tappy Tibbons, a TV personality trying to sell his new books to the masses. He is unnerving and terrifying and everything he needs to be to those who need him.

Aronofsky’s film is jarring and painful to watch, mostly because it is a visual drug trip happening in real time. When the characters shoot up, you shoot up. When the characters make love, you make love. When the characters lose all self-respect, guess what. So do you. It isn’t easy, but it is real.

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The dreamlike qualities combined with the realism about vices and the drugs that surround us all make Requiem for a Dream one of the most painful experiences in film history. That’s about as complimentary I make it sound. It is stunning and gruesome and works perfectly at everything it tries to be. If you can, see this film.

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, click here.

Interstellar (2014)

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine

Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

169 mins. Rated PG-13 some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

 

Just give me one more minute so I can calm down, then we can discuss this movie.

Okay. Okay. I think I’m good now.

Interstellar. Wow. A film that needs to be seen once and then most likely again right after. This movie just took my breath away.

The world is dying. The last of the renewable food sources is almost depleted and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, TV’s True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club) is on his way through a black hole with a crew of scientists to find a new planet capable of sustaining human life. I don’t want to give away too much here, because this film requires you to be a participant in it.

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The plot here is one that pulls you in and keeps you there the entirety of the film. The screenplay from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) and his brother Jonathan is just incredible, presenting ideas that are grounded in real science and also contribute to a grander understanding of the universe.

McConaughey’s Cooper is an incredibly faceted character, one that could only be played by the Academy Award winner. He is a man who is forced to make decisions that cause him and his family pain in order to save the human race, and he is not without his pain. It is as though he is constantly suffering from survivor’s guilt in a way similar to Russell Crowe’s performance in 2014’s Noah.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, Rio 2) gives a tormented performance as Brand, a woman who is emotionally just as weak as Cooper but chooses not to see it as a connection between the two. These two are both willing to give up great happiness in the goal of the mission, and they both pay dearly for the sacrifices.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Violent Year) and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Draft Day) add to the strength of this cast, but the real surprise here is TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rachel Getting Married), an artificial intelligence assisting Cooper and Brand in their mission. TARS is a unique robot reminiscent of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, a lot of this film pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece. TARS provides comic relief while being a fascinating creature in this world created by Nolan.

The cinematography is spectacular here, and presents a quiet and lonely universe, one where the only friend you have is the mission. It is a quiet empty space with beautiful visuals that deeply sadden the viewers while maintaining a bit of wonder.

The score is equal parts quiet and enveloping. Completely engrossing and altogether despressing.

Just a note on visual effects. It’s winning the Oscar, just prepare for it.

Interstellar is one of the best films ever made. It is one of the best films out this year and I will be looking for it on the list of Best Picture nominees. Not only does it present a dismal future but also a hopeful future, and it comes down to a beautifully realized and wholly engaging story with incredible performances and some terrific surprise cameos too. Watch this movie.

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Now, I’m off to see it again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Interstellar? What did you think? Did you find a hit through the black hole or a extinction of film? Let me know!

[Happy 10th Birthday!] Alexander (2004)

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Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis

175 mins. Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity.

 

Ten years ago today, silver screens everywhere were graced with the presence of Oliver Stone’s newest film, a bold epic about Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Winter’s Tale). Audiences and critics alike were in agreement. This was one of the worst films ever. I myself hadn’t seen Alexander until I heard that the 10th anniversary was coming, so I took it upon myself to see if the film has aged well or if perhaps the rest of the world was wrong.

As it turns out, they weren’t.

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This movie is dreck. The plot is unbearably convoluted to sift through, but essentially tells the entire life story of one of the greatest rulers in existence through the word of his general Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal, Noah). We get to see his uncomfortably sensual relationship with his mother (Angelina Jolie, Maleficent, Kung Fu Panda 2), his constant need to kill his father (Val Kilmer, Heat, Palo Alto), his undersensualized sexual relationship with friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), and his animalistic relationship with first wife Roxane (Rosario Dawson, Sin City, Cesar Chavez). Seriously, I had no idea what was going on throughout this movie. It jumps around so damn much that I couldn’t quite remember where we were in time, which wasn’t helped with the horrible makeup that showed us that in ancient times, no one actually aged; apparently Angelina Jolie is hot no matter what age she is and Anthony Hopkins was actually born an aged bearded old man (that being said, at least a younger actor was cast to play Hopkins’ role in his flashbacks, that’s about it). I feel like this film should have been released with a light up timeline that people could check off events in the movie as they happen so we knew exactly what the hell was going on.

Colin Farrell kills it in this movie. Wait, I meant to say he killed this movie. If nothing else, I was so pissed to find that he absolutely tried his hardest not to act for the entirety of this three-hour tour. Oh, I didn’t know that Alexander was Irish. Hmmm, interesting.

I also didn’t know that somehow Alexander’s mother Olympias was Russian. It certainly seemed that way from the broken accent work given by Angelina Jolie.

Val Kilmer actually gives a nice enough performance were it not for the atrocious makeup work on his eye. You can literally see the prosthetic piece’s edge. Totally takes away what he could put down.

I actually like Jared Leto’s work as well as that of Rosario Dawson, but I felt like both roles were wasted by having nothing to do (again, I’m not complaining about Rosario’s nude scene, perhaps the only scene in the film worth keeping in the finished film).

And what was going on with Anthony Hopkins in this movie? Was his performance work based on a Roomba, because it seemed to me like he was walking all around his little balcony for 175 minutes bopping back and forth like a screensaver on a DVD player. I kept waiting to see if he would bump into a corner ‘cause I just wanted to see what would happen.

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Honestly, I have never seen a more wasted group of talent. This was one of those films that marked the end of Stone’s career; it really hasn’t moved much in a good direction since. From the opening overlong and boring prologue to the ending that seems to discredit any actual fact in the film, Alexander is a pointless film not worth the three different cuts the film had. Good movies are supposed to have multiple cuts, like Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Lord of the Rings films. It seemed like maybe if they kept recutting the picture, maybe they’d find a version that worked (ultimately, they did not). Avoid at all costs.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Noah (2014)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

138 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggest content.

 

When I heard that Academy Award nominated director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) would be taking on the biblical tale of Noah, I knew two things. One: this film was going to divide audiences and potentially upset a lot of people. Two: I knew I had to see it. I knew the director, who also directed such genre-busting films as Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, was going to have a specific view of the source material and he was going to create a unique vision that we hadn’t seen before. He did.

The film is the story of Noah (Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, Gladiator) and his family, including wife Naameh (Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind), adoptive daughter Ila (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, This is the End), and son Ham (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters). Noah receives a message from The Creator and then further proof of his destined path from The Watchers, a group of rocklike creatures with unimaginable strength of body and mind. He begins work on an ark after receiving further guidance from his grandfather Methuselah (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). As the ark is constructed, it attracts some unwanted attention from Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone, The Departed, Snow White and the Huntsman) and his group, who want the ark for themselves.

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The special effects work from ILM is astounding here. They created slightly tweaked versions of animals along the evolutionary line. They also created The Watchers, a very interesting addition to this tale. They appear to be fallen Seraphim angels, who had six wings. That would explain why the creatures have six limbs.

I also happened to find the film’s ambiguous time period both confusing and interesting. It could be in the past, and it could be in the future. It turns the whole tale into a kind of cautionary tale about the direction mankind may be heading.

Russell Crowe gives one of the most powerful performances of his career as Noah, and he and Connelly’s chemistry is strong given this as the second film they have appeared in as romantically-linked characters.

I completely got why the film would be controversial. Any time you have an adaptation of a biblical tale, you have controversy. This film harkens back to the controversy behind Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, or even Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code. So many parts of this film are so anti-biblical in their biblical portrayal. Crowe’s version of Noah as an angry, alcoholic, and unyielding servant to his creator is bound to spark arguments. Paramount Pictures had to actually create a disclaimer for the film stating that liberties were taken. Honestly, how could they not be? The entire story of Noah takes up all of two chapters of the bible. Not a lot of detail.

This is the point where I make a stand. People, it’s a movie. It isn’t some antichrist-made archaic devil-worshiping creation. It is a movie. So calm down. None of the stuff in this movie is all that far off. Yes, Aronofsky’s Noah suffers from survivor’s guilt. His Noah has evolution in it. His Noah had fallen angels and darkness and suffering. His Noah is some of the saddest and also inspiring work I’ve seen. It actually changed the way I see the story, and not in a bad way. It is an interpretation, and if you didn’t like it, I’m sorry, but Aronofsky wasn’t making a film to appease the masses. He was making a story the way he saw it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill.

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I’m a Christian and I liked Noah. That’s all I feel I need to say. I thought it was one of the best films I have ever seen. When I finished it the first, I felt like I needed to see it again immediately. The only flaw, if it is one, is that it is a much more simple story than Aronofsky’s other work with Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and The Fountain. Go see this movie. I can’t say that you will love it like I did, but I feel like it needs to be seen, no matter if you have religious background or not.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? Did it sink or swim? Let me know!

 

31 Days of Horror: Day 2 – Urban Legend (1998)

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Director: Jamie Blanks

Cast: Jared Leto, Alica Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, Tara Reid

Screenplay: Silvio Horta

99 mins.  Rated R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

If I had to classify the 1990s with a specific kind of horror film, it would most definitely have to be the slasher film. In the 90s we had classics like Scream and its sequel, we had messes like I Know What You Did Last Summer, and we had Urban Legend, which exists somewhere in the middle.

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Urban Legend is essentially Scream in practicality, but instead of horror film staples as the moniker, we get urban legends, the scary stories that everyone swears happened to someone who knew someone they know. Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt, Two Weeks Notice, A Madea Christmas) gets entangled with the killer after several close classmates get picked off, but who is it? Is it Paul Gardener (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), the strange school paper writer, or is it best friend Brenda Bates (Rebecca Gayheart, Jawbreaker, G.B.F.), or perhaps party king Parker Riley (Michael Rosenbaum, TV’s Smallville, Hit and Run), or could it be radio student Sasha Thomas (Tara Reid, The Big Lebowski, Sharknado 2: The Second One)? The answer is simple, if you know latin. In fact, in a SPOILER ALERT but not really SPOILER ALERT note, the killer’s identity is actually revealed in the school motto in latin.

The plot and slasher tool of Urban Legend isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can have some meta connotations in that the very belief of urban legend is that they are true, so turning fiction to fact would be a very interesting to play with, but screenwriter Silvio Horta (TV’s Ugly Betty) doesn’t play with it as much as just present the idea in its plainest of ways. That’s the real death of the story in that it is wasted. The main concept becomes little more than campiness on a stick.

None of the performances are very good, nor are any of the characters very likable. The greatest win of the acting in this film comes from the many cameos associated with horror films, from Brad Dourif (Chucky the killer doll) in the opening, Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) as the professor everyone admires and fears, and Danielle Harris (Michael Myers’ niece Jamie Lloyd) as the goth dorm mate to Natalie.

Take an opportunity to enjoy the 90s soundtrack as it pulsates of musicians you might find at The Bronze from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The sets are interesting. I love the university, it just oozes creepy.

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My advice, watch this movie as it does have some thrills to it (the opening itself is nearly perfect) but be warned that it is far from far from perfect. You heard that correctly, far from FAR FROM perfect. That is twice removed.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more from the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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