Tag Archive for 'Horror'


Devil (8/16/15) Netflix (2010 ***) Directed by John Erick Dowdle, based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine and Geoffrey Arend. A mechanic, an old woman, a young woman, a security guard and a salesman are trapped in the elevator of a Philadelphia office building, and one of them is… Satan!!! I don’t usually watch horror movies, mainly because my wife has zero interest in them. And so, with her spending a month in Germany I’m doing a little Netflix experimentation. When I read the audacious premise and saw M. Night’s name associated with this film (and the fact that the running length was only 80 minutes), I knew I’d picked a winner. Hell, I just wondered how they would establish the story! I’ve got to say that while Devil isn’t an especially nuanced or brilliant film, I wasn’t bored. In some ways it reminded me a bit of an extra-long episode of The Twilight Zone. Or better still, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Of course the fun of the film really boils down to its “who done it?” premise. Who in the elevator is secretly Beelzebub? I’ll never tell.

The American Scream

The American Scream (8/14/15) Netflix (2012 **1/2) Directed by Michael Stephenson, featuring footage of and/or interviews with Matthew Brodeur, Victor Bariteau, Manny Souza and others. This documentary focuses on three Fairhaven, Massachussetts men, each determined to scare the unholy bejeezus out of their neighbors on Halloween night. It may come as a big shock, but I have a soft spot for oddball dreamers driven by quirky obsessions. I also have some personal connection to the subject matter, so I was predisposed to like this movie. Having said that, sometimes documentaries are only as interesting as their subjects, and in the case of this film, the three “haunters” — though they clearly had a lot of heart — didn’t make for the most sensational subjects, and I found myself losing interest at times. It’s also worth noting that Michael Stephenson, the director was also the man behind the thematically-similar Best Worst Movie (2009), which I reviewed on 1/26/12. I wasn’t particularly enthralled by that film, either. One thing I did appreciate about The American Scream was its glimpse into the “amateur haunt” subculture, one that holds some interest to me, though I don’t think it’s an activity I plan to engage in anytime soon. It also offered a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting my own creative obsessions go too far.

What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows (7/31/15) Amazon Streaming (2014 ***1/4) Written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer. A documentary crew is given the special privilege of spending time with four British housemates who just happen to sustain their immortality by drinking human blood. I watched this film at a pajama party hosted by a friend. He’d seen the film months ago and raved about it. I certainly enjoyed it, but was probably too tired to watch it properly; it had been a long day and I was still struggling with jet lag from spending a month in Europe. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve grown so accustomed to being able to watch movies at home with closed captioning enabled and I missed that. Still, it was a bloody (sorry) good sendup of vampires in general and the Twilight frachise in particular, with werewolves getting some screen time as well as their blood-sucking supernatural brethren. One thing I particularly appreciated about the “mockumentary” was the integration of certain visual effects like flying and transformations to and from bat form into the cinema verite-style footage.

Penny Dreadful, Season 2

Penny Dreadful, Season 2 (7/30/15) SHO (2015 ***) Created by John Logan, starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Harry Treadaway and Helen McCrory as Madame Kali. A devil-worshiping woman with a collection of really creepy ventriloquist dummies attempts to lure Vanessa Ives to become Satan’s bride. I’m sad to report that I didn’t enjoy the second season of this show nearly as much as I did the first. This was due to several factors: (1) The novelty of the show simply wore off; (2) The main story’s antagonist (Kali) wasn’t sufficiently interesting; (3) The ongoing subplots — with the exception of that of Lily, Dr. Frankenstein’s latest creation — each proceeded at a sluggish pace. Will I continue to watch the show next season? Possibly, depending on my wife’s level of interest.

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows (7/29/15) Norwegian Airlines: OSL -> LAX (2012 ***) Directed by Tim Burton, based on the characters created by Dan Curtis, screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote and Helena Bonham Carter. A construction crew releases 18th Century vampire Barnabas Collins into the futuristic modern world of… 1972? For reasons I won’t go into, I saw this film previously on 5/13/12 in the company of the loudest group of Hawaiian residents you’d ever hope to meet. This time around I saw it on a plane’s in-seat entertainment system. Neither were ideal ways to watch a movie, but there you are. Oh, Tim Burton, you have disappointed me once again. I remember how much I looked forward to this film adaptation of one of my childhood treasures. And yet you failed in the same way you did with Planet of the Apes (2001), in the same way you always do. You are simply not a good storyteller, Mr. Burton. And it’s such a shame. You had a lot of great material to work with, and I did love the guts it took to set the film in the early 1970s. But no. Such sadness I feel.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World (6/21/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***1/2) Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jake Johnson. Decades after the original Jurassic Park fiasco, gene-splicing efforts to create a new attraction (and species) prove… regrettable. I still remember how turn-paging Michael Crichton’s original novel was and the thrill of sitting in a packed theater in the summer of 1993 to see Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park. After two somewhat disappointing sequels in 1997 and 2001, the Universal franchise lay dormant for a decade and a half, yet never quite going away. I went to Jurassic World with limited expectations. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect anything more than a fun roller coaster ride, and that I got in abundance. In a way, the film’s core premise — that in order to boost the audience they had to genetically design a pretty freaking horrifying dinosaur — was the story of this film too, which looks to break all kinds of box office records. Also, you get to see Chris Pratt ride a motorcycle through a jungle with his velociraptor buddies!

iZombie, Season 1

iZombie, Season 1 (6/9/15) CW (2015 ***) Created by Diane Ruggiero and Rob Thomas, based on the comic series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, starring Rose McIver, Robert Buckley, Rahul Kohli and David Anders. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/17/15 – 6/9/15. Med student Liv Moore goes to the wrong party, gets turned into a zombie, then gets a job at the Seattle coroner’s office. First of all, I have to say kudos to The CW for creating a zombie show I can watch with my horror-averse wife. I wasn’t familiar with Roberson and Allred’s comic series on which the show is based, but Allred is one of my favorite comic artists, so it’s an extra kick to see his illustrations each week in the show’s title sequence. The premise of the show includes some special rules, which feed the story engine for each episode: Everybody knows zombies crave brains, but in the iZombie universe, the effect of eating brains is to mellow them out and keep them from becoming “the walking dead.” In addition, eating the brains of the deceased brings with it the memories of the departed as well. This feeds into the police procedural side of the show, allowing Liv to use her “visions” to help Detective Clive Babineaux (played by Malcolm Goodwin) solve his murders. Overall, I enjoyed this show’s first season and certainly plan to watch the second, but I can’t say I exactly loved it. And in particular I felt the season ended on a disappointing note.

Talking Dead, Season 4

Talking Dead, Season 4 (4/1/15) AMC (2014-15 ***1/4) Hosted by Chris Hardwick, with guests taken from the world of comedy or from the cast and crew of The Walking Dead. 16 episodes, originally aired 10/12/14 – 3/29/15. My favorite manic nerd-gastic talk show host is back for a fourth season of geeky water cooler discussion about my favorite zombie apocalypse TV show. I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who enjoys The Walking Dead but has absolutely no interest in watching this follow-up chat show. I just can’t understand that. I have thoroughly enjoyed Chris Hardwick’s show since the beginning and have loved all of the conversations. One thing that occurred to me this season that hadn’t previously was the absolute 180-degree difference in tone between The Walking Dead and Talking Dead. Rick Grimes and his crew live in a gritty, apocalyptic world where each day may end with your face being ripped apart by a zombie. It is utterly devoid of humor. Talking Dead is so strange by comparison. The storylines and events they discuss are so grim, but the discussion is done with glee and zeal. Kind of morbid if you think about it.

The Walking Dead, Season 5

The Walking Dead, Season 5 (3/29/15) AMC (2014-15 ****) Series created by Frank Darabont, based on the comics written by Robert Kirkman, starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride. 16 episodes, originally aired 10/12/14 – 3/29/15. Rick Grimes and his intrepid band of zombie-slaying survivors journey from the frying pan to an apparent safe haven that may not be safe at all. Season 4 ended famously with the group locked in a railroad car and Rick saying: “They’ve fucked with the wrong people.” It was a recognition of the fact that in the course of surviving the zombie apocalypse, they had to become something different than what they were, for better or worse. That feeling of individuals “going past the point of no return” was this season’s major theme, with some individuals dealing with it very differently than others. By the end of the season, Rick, Michonne, Daryl and the others found themselves in a walled-off gated community populated with a well-meaning group that hadn’t experienced life “out there.” To them, Rick’s hardscrabble survivors may as well have been wild animals.

Horror of Collier County

Horror of Collier County (3/23/15) Graphic Novel (2001 **) Written and illustrated by Rich Tommaso. When a woman named Fran and her young daughter move in with her mother, they come to realize there’s something odd about the residents of the small Florida community. I actually acquired this book when someone left it and some other items out on the “free” table at work. That should have been a sign that it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece. I was very attracted to Tommaso’s illustration style, and so I was hopeful it would be a good, quick read. At least it was quick, and I read it over the course of a lunch hour. Unfortunately, the author wasn’t as accomplished a writer as he was an artist. Horror of Collier County suffered from lots of story problems, all of which could have been caught early and corrected. One of the most glaring issues was the inclusion of a seemingly major character who served no apparent function. However, the worst problem was probably a fundamental story flaw that resulted in a highly unsatisfying ending.