[Early Review] Blair Witch (2016)

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Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Screenplay: Simon Barrett
89 mins. Rated R for language, terror and some disturbing images.
Blair Witch is a collection of footage found back in 2014 filmed by Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez, Machete Kills) and her friends James (James Allen McCune, Anna Nicole, Snitch), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott, Wreck-It Ralph, Walk of Shame). James believes that his sister Heather, who went missing more than a decade prior, is still alive and lost in the Black Hills Woods in Maryland. As Lisa chronicles the experience for a student film, the four find themselves lost in the woods as they are pursued by a unnerving presence known as the Blair Witch.
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So I got lucky enough to see this film recently and I have to say, a lot of my colleagues from San Diego Comic Con that got to see a cut of this film right after it was announced to be a sequel to The Blair Witch Project really loved the film, and I enjoyed it, way more than the original, but I found the film to still be lacking.
I was happy that the screenplay really entrentched itself in the mythology of the Blair Witch. It answered a lot of questions without straight feeding answers. It also created a lot of confusion over exactly what the Witch is and what its capable of.
The performances are okay. I wasn’t sold on the main actors portrayals. It felt like the actors were reading off cue cards. The cinematography, a character all its own, far too often finds itself all over the place. While that may provide more realism, it doesn’t really make for an interesting movie.
Thank God that Blair Witch has much more frequent action than the original film, and I was blown away by some of the scares in the film (it still has too many jump scares that don’t work). The constantly creepy tone and editing build pretty nicely toward a shocking conclusion (that also left me frustrated upon exiting the theater).
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Overall, I enjoyed watching Blair Witch, but I want to tell you that it isn’t the “game-changer” that some reviewers have led you to believe it is. It was fun, enjoyable, shocking, and exciting, but while it adds a lot to the franchise, it doesn’t take the series anywhere new.
3/5
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, click here.
For my review of the anthology film The ABCs of Death, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 18 [Happy 30th Birthday!] – Re-Animator (1985)

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Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson

Screenplay: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon

104 mins. Not Rated.

 

I think I genuinely avoided Re-Animator growing up, though I don’t entirely understand why. It matters not in the grand scheme of things. I eventually did see it, and I couldn’t stop raving about it. The beautiful concoction of quirky strange horror with comedic elements absolutely mesmerized me.

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Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, TV’s Dark Justice, The Prophecy II) has a new roommate in Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, The Frighteners, Beethoven’s Treasure Tail), an unstable med student with an interesting emphasis: he wants to re-animate the dead. When West revives the dead cat that belongs to Dan’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton, You’re Next, We Are Still Here), the young doctor-in-training joins Herbert West and the two dig themselves into the questionable territory separating the laws of man from those of God.

Director Stuart Gordon (From Beyond, Edmond) plays his film like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, enjoying the strange and eclectic tale based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft. Jeffrey Combs does possibly the best performance of his career, and he gets great backplay from David Gale (Guyver, Savage Weekend) as Dr. Carl Hill, a professor at the school who seems out to destroy West and his career. On the flipside, I wasn’t entirely impressed by Abbott’s portrayal of Dan, although he is raised by the terrific work of his costars.

Then there is the real star of the film, and that is the use of practical effects, which elevate the craft by being as real as possible. These effects still work amazingly well even 30 years later.

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Re-Animator is just about a damn near overlooked classic of the horror genre. It features a perfect performance by Jeffrey Combs and the masterful directing of Stuart Gordon. If you haven’t seen this terrific display of strange horror, please do yourself a favor soon.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

March 2015 Preview

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Academy Awards. Now we are deep into 2015 and away we go!

As I say every month, these are my predictions based on buzz, trailers, and my abilities at reading into these things.

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

 

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Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp, fresh off the news that he will next be helming a new Alien film with Sigourney Weaver, returns to creating culturally significant science fiction with Chappie. Chappie is an artificially intelligent robot created help mankind. Chappie must defend himself from enemies of robot life. I love Blomkamp’s work from District 9 and from the early trailers, I am absolutely stoked for Chappie. Definite good buzz.

 

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Faults

Faults is a cult that has taken Claire into its commune. Claire’s parents hire an expert on mind control to successfully free her from the cult’s clutches. Faults comes from the producers of You’re Next and The Guest, and I certainly enjoyed those films, so I am leaning towards the better side of Faults.

 

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Unfinished Business

Vince Vaughn plays a small-business owner who has traveled to Europe with his associates to close a major deal. On the way, their trip becomes unrailed by sex fetish event and a global summit. Vince Vaughn’s recent work has been a major disappointment but he does have the added abilities of Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco, who could pull this film in the right direction. Still up in the air.

 

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Cinderella

Director Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella reimage follows the standard story of a young girl and her abusive stepmother. When the prince throws a ball inviting every unmarried young woman, Cinderella desperately wants to go, and with the help of a Fairy Godmother, may just get it. I like Branagh’s directing style but I was disappointed by Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I also don’t like the recent attempts by Disney to make remakes of their classic animated films. Maleficent was one of the better ones (for its alternate take) but I’m still not feeling this one.

 

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Run All Night

Liam Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, The Gravedigger, a high-profile hitman working for the mob, until his son, Michael, has a hit put on him. Now Jimmy and Michael has to survive the night filled with mob bosses, gunfire, and lots of explosions. I have found that Neeson’s low-budget action flicks are pretty hit and miss. I’m inclined to enjoy his engagements with Ed Harris. The higher part of the bubble here.

 

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Do You Believe?

This is essentially Valentine’s Day with religious intersections. Not going to be good. And don’t get me that whole thing about religion. I’ll point out, I’m a fairly religious guy, but these kinds of movies mostly fall flat by bad production and poor abilities from the crew. Skip.

 

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The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Insurgent follows the further adventures of Beatrice Prior after she escapes from the city with Four and the other lawbreakers. I was a tremendous hater of Divergent. I thought it was boring and unoriginal and riddled with plotholes. I’m willing to give Insurgent the benefit of the doubt but I’m still not recommending it yet.

 

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The Gunman

Equal parts Taken and an attempt to make American Sniper, The Gunman stars Sean Penn as a Special Forces member with PTSD who must save the woman he loves. Sorry, but I’ve seen Taken already.

 

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Get Hard

Will Ferrell returns to raunchy comedy with Get Hard, where he plays James King, a millionaire who is going to prison for fraud. He enlists Darnell Lewis to train him for jail. I think it looks kind of funny but Kevin Hart, while hilarious, is usually a movie-killer. I’m thinking better, though.

 

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Home

Home is essentially an animated version of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and while I love Jim Parsons, I do not love Rihanna, and I’m not feeling this one.

 

And here we are at the end. Final tally:

Best Bets: Chappie

On the Bubble: Faults, Unfinished Business, Run All Night, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Get Hard

Likely Misses: Cinderella, Do You Believe?, The Gunman, Home

 

Enjoy yourself at the movies this month. See Chappie, and maybe take a bit to catch up on the Oscar films as it is pretty sparse this month. See you in April.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 24 – You’re Next (2011)

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Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg

Screenplay: Simon Barrett

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Man, I did not want to see this movie. The trailer just completely turned me off. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “Yay! Someone made The Strangers again. Blegh!” I didn’t like The Strangers.

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When I finally did get around to watching You’re Next, I was blown away. This movie essentially kicked ass. It comes down to your basic home invasion movie, except that I was actually engaged fairly quickly by it. I found the plot to have twists and turns that, while often unrealistic, still kept me in.

It is all about the Davison family. Patriarch and matriarch Paul and Aubrey are celebrating a major anniversary and the family has gathered at the homestead for a get-together. Little do they know that they are about to become prey to masked assailants guerilla-style invading the home and trying to do away with them one at a time. However, the assailants and the Davisons do not anticipate son Crispian (A.J. Bowen, The Signal, The Sacrament) to have a new girlfriend with a particular skill set in this film from director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, The ABCs of Death).

I liked this movie. I feel like I am surprising even me by saying. I had a good time watching it. In hindsight, that shouldn’t bother me, as I loved Wingard’s work in V/H/S and even his short Q is for Quack in The ABCs of Death.

Sharni Vinson handles her roles nicely as Erin, the girlfriend with the past. Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, V/H/S)  also gives good work as Drake, Crispian’s brother who harbors ill will for past events.

The action here was pretty excellent and I actually felt unsure of how this whole situation would play out. The only major flaw was that we had characters at the beginning that we knew would die based on how little we knew about them. The madness begins fairly early on during the family dinner, and I felt as though that was a real loss as we were just beginning to unravel this family as individual characters as opposed to pieces of meat to be picked off.

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That being said, Wingard handles the script, from writer Simon Barrett (The Guest, A Horrible Way to Die) very well, and the pacing never once falters throughout the entirety of the film. As I finished the film, I wanted more (in a good way)! I feel like the film has been set up for a sequel, which doesn’t make sense considering the events that take place, not to mention the difficulty in treading any new ground, but for now, I’ll be content with this movie. It was a hell of a lot of fun and a solid thriller to boot.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 15 – The Sacrament (2013)

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Director: Ti West

Cast: Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Kate Lyn Sheil

Screenplay: Ti West

95 mins. Rated R for disturbing violent content including bloody images, language and brief drug use.

 

Ti West’s The Sacrament is a cult movie. By that I mean it is a movie about a cult. Presented in found footage, it tells the story of a news crew who follow a young man searching for his sister (Amy Seimetz, TV’s The Killing, You’re Next) who has gone to live in a community called Eden Parish run by a mysterious leader known only as Father. As the mystery surrounding this supposed Paradise begins to unravel, it is clear to the crew that they may not make it out of Eden Parish alive.

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I have not always been the biggest Ti West fan. I happened to believe that his only quality work came from his section of the phenomenal found footage film V/H/S, and I can now add The Sacrament to the list of good works by West. Honestly, this movie has the potential to piss people off, and it should. This is one of those horror films where the horror is right there, real, powerful. It isn’t some demon or ghost, but is a man, and that has the potential to make it even scarier. Man is real, and man is dangerous.

The performances in the film are good enough for believability, with special honors to Gene Jones, who portrays Father. His is a chilling performance. I remember asking if he was some sort of monster as the movie moved on, and I was right, kind of.

I didn’t find the found footage all that hampering to the film here as well. So many recent movies have taken the Paranormal Activity route and have come up with nothing good (we all know I’m talking about Devil’s Due), but here, it makes sense and is fluid to the story. Not perfect mind you, but serviceable.

One of the best parts of this movie is the ending. I won’t say much except that it surprised me for a found footage film. I was shocked by the ending. That’s all I will say.

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The Sacrament is not a perfect film. It has the luxury of producer Eli Roth, who has the potential to create something truly terrifying. Hopefully Ti West will realize what worked in this movie and what didn’t. Hopefully he will learn, because this was some pretty scary shit.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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