XX (2017)

Score: 4/10*

Length: 80

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, monster, murderer, toys, anthology, holiday

This anthology is all female directors and lead actors (but not writers), so the disappointment with the film hit harder than usual. One of the stories is even written by the musician, St. Vincent who is a gifted visionary.  The film has four stories that aren’t related to each other at all, and none of them are original, memorable, creative, or provide any indication that this movie is focused on women. The only thing I can picture myself remembering when thinking of this film later is the strange, doll-head stop motion in between the segments. Also, I get why the film is called “XX“, but considering there’s a band already with the same name, they really could have tried a little harder. This whole film feels like a real lack of effort on everyone’s part.

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The Box

In one line: Cannibals at Christmas.

Good: I liked the mystery around what was in the box and this was probably the best story out of the four. It had clear direction to it.

Bad: The script was pretty cheesy, and there were parts that didn’t exactly make a lot of sense to me.

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The Birthday Party

In one line: Dead dad ruins birthday party.

Good: The struggles of a mom trying to make everything okay for her child’s birthday is relatable. The costumes are also hilarious, and I appreciated the quirky vibe.

Bad: It’s really just an episode of a woman dragging around a man’s dead body and that can get pretty dull.

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Don’t Fall

In one line: Monsters in the desert.

Good: The monster was fairly well done. Good makeup as opposed to CGI.

Bad: It was a pretty overdone story idea with nothing special added to it.

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Her Only Living Son

In one line: Teenager turns into violent werewolf-monster of sorts.

Good: Again, the mom’s struggles were relatable.

Bad: There wasn’t really an ending, and the son making the mom crawl towards him on her knees was pretty cringe-worthy.

 

* I’m giving this an overall score, as none of the shorts were anything special, and none were better or worse than any other, which is pretty rare. All in all, the meh movie is getting a meh overall score.

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The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Score: 3.5/10

Length: 97

Rating: PG-13

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, monster, ghost, devil, murderer

A nauseating couple and the guy’s childhood best friend move into a house in need of some renovations. They find some old stuff, say the bad bye bye words, and then the ghost-demon or whatever infects their brains, turning people into delusional killers. There’s a lot of stupid garbage in the movie. Like, the obvious one, the name of movie’s antagonist, and the title of the movie. Or perhaps, the dreadful script. The so-called (for reasons unknown) Bye Bye Man, who we see way too much of, reminds me of this guy from Beastly (which I obviously haven’t watched, but I remember the awful movie poster).  However, I did like the whole Vanilla Sky, “what’s real, what’s not??” situation. There were a few mini mind-fucks that caught me off-guard but there were a few dumb ones as well. This is not a film I’d recommend, but I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time or anything and the ending was kind of cute. If only that wit had been in the rest of the film.

Absentia (2011)

Score: 7/10

Length: 87

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, murderer, monster, alien, animal, underground, recommended

I love a good mystery-horror! And this one is quiet, sad, and haunting. Another monster movie with an “underneath” (it seems like everything good these days has some sort of Malcovichian land and/or a demon-bug). My favorite thing about this low-budget film, is that the only way you can tell it’s not on movie posters at the theatre is because the characters look like normal people. And that’s quite exciting really, because you can imagine them in your apartment building, checking their mailbox and walking their dog. They don’t look like celebrity New Yorkers or muddy red-neck farmers. They’re pretty relatable, though maybe still your run-of-the-mill characters (a woman falls for a cop after her husband disappears, the drug addicted sister, you know). But our main gal is pregnant and going through some major life drama, and the emotions along with the horror tension really make this film one I’d recommend. The story is similar to that of Stranger Things (even though it came first) in that people go missing in a underworld inhabited by a supernatural creature. I liked the filming, I liked the jumps and the twists. It was a pretty decent movie that was really careful to not be over-the-top and to leave a little mystery.

The Monster (2016)

Score: 8/10

Length: 91

Rating: R

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, recent, murderer, monster, woods, recommended

I unintentionally came across The Monster while searching for 2016 horror movies to watch. I was actually surprised to not have heard of it considering it looked good and was directed by Bryan Bertino who also did The Strangers. Apparently it seems that said director has only done three movies, and has produced only a few others. I’m hoping to see more from him in the future, as I loved The Strangers for its tension and realness of characters, and The Monster follows suit. The plot is not complicated- a young, alcoholic mother and her daughter get into an car accident when trying to avoid a wolf on the road. The car is damaged and they are stuck in the pouring rain waiting for help, when they discover a bigger fear than the missing wolf- the monster who took it. The movie is highly symbolic- it’s obvious that the monster represents addiction, and it is easy to see that the mother will have to try to overcome this beast to protect her child. The acting from Zoe Kazan is outstanding, and Ella Ballentine as the daughter isn’t bad either. What really brings everything together is how real-life the characters are and how it’s easy to feel empathy or compassion for them, even if they aren’t the best people. You are always routing for the characters to succeed instead of being pleased when they’re killed off. The masculine, ebony-skinned monster is revealed part-way through, but we never get to see every detail of him, even though he isn’t hiding in the shadows. There’s no bad CGI or weird monster movements that seem created by a computer. Everything about this movie is solid, except that although the tension is strong, it isn’t overly scary.

 

Tales of Halloween (2015)

This (mostly) Halloween-themed horror anthology is comprised of 10 stories which are individually rated below. (Segments are rated in comparison to each other, not to movies of the horror genre as a whole.)

Length: 92

Rating: R

Language: English

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Sweet Tooth (dir David Parker)

Score: 7/10    Villian: monster, human

It’s almost a shame that they put the best story first. I forgot that I was watching an anthology and was disappointed when it ended. Although I liked some of the others, I might have preferred to watch a whole movie about this. It’s a simple spooky story about a monster who eats your insides if you inhale all the candy and don’t leave him any. It’s fun and creative, with an ending I can appreciate. I’m sure this was the reason I bought that box of over-priced Halloween candy at the grocery store.

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The Night Billy Raised Hell (dir Darren Lynn Bousman)

Score: 5/10    Villian: devil/demon

A young kid dressed as a devil is pressured into pulling a prank on an old man. He is tied up while a look-alike demon wreaks havoc on the town with the old man devil snickering behind trees and such. The hot mom line was a little overdone and the cheesy noises and sound effects take away from the short. I would have preferred the same idea without the comedy.

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Trick (dir Adam Gierasch)

Score: 5/10     Villian: human

On Halloween, kids decide to trick instead of treat, killing the young adults in vicious ways. That’s all I can really say. I wish this segment had more. It was way too simple and easily forgettable. It deserves a like review.

 

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The Weak and the Wicked (dir Paul Solet)

Score: 5/10            Villian: (monster), human

A kid who is bullied by three hoodlums on bikes returns as a young adult with an evil spirit to invoke his revenge. It’s mostly shots of the female leader of the pack slowly sucking on a cigar and trying to give fire eyes.

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Grim Grinning Ghost (dir Axelle Carolyn)

Score: 6/10             Villian: ghost

Nothing much happened in this segment either, but I could easily empathize with the main character and it has a nice climax build-up. The acting seems genuine and this is a nice, little spook. It’s about a woman at a party who is told a story about a ghost who cackles behind you as she follows. If you turn around, she gets you. After the party on the way home, the tale  comes to life as the frightened gal wills herself not to turn around.

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Ding Dong (dir Lucky McKee)

Score: 5.5/10           Villian: monster/human

This strange story about infertility feels like I’m watching the Babadook in a Bjork video. Probably the strangest out of the bunch and the most unsettling. A couple unable to reproduce, struggle to keep cheery faces on when floods of children come to their door. As the husband tries to make light of the situation, the monster inside his wife appears more and more. The husband is dressed as Hansel, however, he looks more like Stewart from MadTV.

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This Means War (dir John Skipp and Andrew Kasch)

Score: 6/10           Villian: humans

Two generations of Halloween-lovers fight over the better way to enjoy the holiday. Loud, metal music, gory decorations, and a big party -or- classic family fun with animatronics and spooky effects. In the end, no one wins. The idea worked well for a short story, but there weren’t really any surprises, and it left the episode feeling too cute.

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Friday the 31st (dir Mike Mendez)

Score: 3/10             Villians: alien cartoons, possessed humans, and Jason

Deformed freak and movie murderer Jason Voorhees meets a cartoon alien that looks like it could be from an Eiffel 65 video. He finds the creature annoying and stomps on it, which in turn allows the alien to possess a female victim who launches herself at Jason. They hack away at each other and then the alien goes home. I don’t think I need to give any additional comments towards this description.

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The Ransom of Rusty Rex (dir Ryan Schifrin)

Score: 4/10                        Villian: gremlin

Two men kidnap what they think is a child, but what turns out to be a little imp-gremlin of sorts. The vertically-challenged monster torments the kidnappers as they do everything possible to get rid of it. This episode is mildly comical, but easily forgettable.

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Bad Seed (Neil Marshall)

Score: 6/10            Villian: killer pumpkins

This is probably my second-favorite segment, as the director really understands how to make horror cheesy and fun. It’s about an evil jack-o-lantern that eats humans head first. The idea isn’t anything fantastic, it’s the delightful little ending that gives it a small sparkle… of doom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masters of Horror: The Fair Haired Child

Masters of Horror is a 2000s television series with a different director for each of the thirteen episodes in the season, running about an hour long.

Directed by: William Malone (House on Haunted Hill, Feardotcom)

Evil Category: witches, warlocks, the undead, and monster-alien-babies

Score: two out of five bad swimmers

The last episode of the first season is a strange one. Nineties teen romance with a little Are You Afraid of the Dark wrapped up in a Eurythmics music video. A husband and wife who have lost their son sacrifice twelve children to a weird, branchy, bald monster in order to have their family back together. This hollow-eyed alien thing with the mark of the Devil on its forehead is unique and not CGi’ed to death. It moves in a film-cut choppy kind-of way, and its a little scary, but the glowing holes in its face take away some of the fright. There’s a twist at the end but it isn’t very believable and although the characters are likable, they aren’t impactful and you’re just watching to see what happens, really. If you’re wondering where you’ve seen the mother before, she plays Lolly in Orange is the New Black, but she’s the only recognizable actor out of the four main characters in this episode. This is another one of those films where two movies that don’t fit together are made into one and it’s hard to really love an episode like this.

 

photo: http://fanpop.com/

Christmas Collection: Elves (1989)

Score: 3/10

Length: 89

Rating: PG-13

Language: English

Categories: 80’s, monster, murderer, holiday, Painful Movie Mondays, horror comedy

At the beginning of this so-called gem, within seconds of it starting,  a group of teenage girls say, “Get real, Kirsten”, and “Get over it, Amy”, and I knew at this point that this movie was going to be a stunner. Every line in this campy classic is quotable and mindlessly hilarious. It’s a shame in a way, because in some scenes, the elf/dwarf actually looks believable. On the other hand, I love a good campy movie, and they could have added the elf into the story a lot more. The acting is regrettable, and the plot is thin, but I think you  should have already guessed this. There’s a lot of misses (especially gun shot misses), but some of the scenes are actually quite surprisingly decent. It’s annoying that the characters say the elves are “two feet tall” oh, about a hundred times, but they never make the elf look like it’s anything short of tall, aside from the stubby little hairy muscular legs. Furthermore, it’s called Elves, though you only really seem to see one elf. The movie is quite ruined by its whole Nazi government nonsense, and by the middle of the movie you’ve lost all hope for the cheesy creature spin-off of Gremlins you were hoping for.

*Spoiler* An amazing quote that’s too good to be true: “The man in the study is your grandfather. And your father!”

photo credit: https://moviocrity.files.wordpress.com

Goosebumps (2015)

Score: 5/10

Length: 103

Language: English

Categories: 2000s, 3D, recent, almost-horror, horror comedy, zombie, ghost, clown, monster, vampire, werewolf, animal, Stephen Kingy

I went to see this reincarnation of a gem of sorts from my childhood, expecting a cheesy, pun-filled, Jumanji-esque feature. I wasn’t so looking forward to Jack Black, but he did a pretty great job of toning himself down. The only thing I didn’t find amusing was his slight cartoony voice. Though, as Slappy he was dead-on. I recognized the other characters from The Haunting Hour and The Giver, and they all did and okay job. Packed with monsters from Goosebumps books you’ll remember: The Blob That Ate Everyone, killer bees, a vampire dog, The Shocker on Shock Street‘s praying mantis, the ghost from Ghost Beach, the aliens with their freeze-ray guns, the werewolf from Fever Swamp, and a whole bunch more. It even has some folks you might not quite remember, such as the zombies and the horrific clown. Either way, it left out two of my favorites. Monster Blood would have been overkill with the blob already a main character, but I really missed seeing the sponge from It Came Beneath the Sink. Seeing the pointed-toothed dish scrubber would have been a hilarious twist ending. The story- (a few friends and R. L. Stine try to save the town from the monsters in his books that have come to life)- isn’t too overdone nor too inventive. I know it’s a kids movie and you don’t have to try hard when overcoming the plot holes, but there were so many and they were incredibly easy to find story fixes for. An example: the kids open a book and unleash a snowy monster. When they leave the room, we see another book’s lock snap open (although it was untouched). Later, the teens come back to find the book on the floor, where it opens and Slappy emerges. Now, if the book had just been shown knocked down on the floor, that would have made more sense, as at any time, if any of the books could just open and caused havoc… wouldn’t they!? Or the dummy in the bus scenario. There’s no way that they had the time to make a dummy, put it in the bus, and then the dummy drives the bus?! They could have easily asked someone- anyone- to drive the bus. I loved the teeny cameo of R. L. as the drama teacher, and surprisingly, the nostalgic end credits scene was my favorite part of the movie. It was totally unnecessary for this to be in 3D, as it was just what I like to call “3D effects” and not really 3D with shit flying in your face. Overall, it’s nice to see my favorite retro things come back all fresh and new, but I had low expectations and it didn’t exceed them.

photo credit: http://cdn.hitfix.com