Unfriended (2015) – Levan Gabriadze


A successful horror movie is a very fragile thing. So much can go wrong that will spoil the effect. One of the best pieces of advice I could give a horror filmmaker (from the perspective of an asshole critic with no experience whatsoever) would be to keep the narrative simple. As a member of the audience, getting bogged down with a complex or convoluted plot distracts me from the feeling of fear. If I have to stop to remember who that character is or wonder why they’re doing something, it takes me out of the moment. And that simplicity is the main strength of Levan Gabriadaze’s 2015 offering Unfriended.

The film is no masterpiece, but it certainly achieves what it sets out to do. Just think I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Blair Witch, but on a computer. Unfriended is part of a modern sub-genre of the Found Footage movement. The whole thing takes place on the computer screen over a series of Skype video chats, emails, Facebook messages and YouTube videos. The point of view is that of our main character Blaire. We’re seeing her screen out of her own eyes. So we see what she sees, types, reads, etc.


Throughout the film, Blaire chats with her friends in a group video chat but they soon realize that there is an unwanted visitor online with them. They can’t seem to get rid of this person and unexplainable things start to happen like messages from a dead friend’s Facebook account. And things just escalate from there. As the film unfolds, we see this group of friends unravel as strange events take place and deceptions and betrayals are exposed.

And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. It’s admittedly gimmicky, but it sticks to a very simple formula that gets the job done. I actually thought the acting was pretty spot on. Most of which is just a group of teens reacting to various frightening things they’re seeing over each other’s webcams. The dialogue seemed pretty realistic to me, but there are a few cringe-inducing moments where it becomes painfully clear that the writer is not a 16 year-old girl.


I’m not sure if the Unfriended is meant to be a commercial for Skype or Google products, or if it’s supposed to be a morality tale about cyber-bullying. And while it’s not the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it was fun to watch and it held my attention for 82 minutes, which is not an easy thing to do these days. Maybe it was the constant switching of windows, opening of new tabs, sending of messages, switching of Spotify songs, etc. – so reminiscent of how we actually spend time on computers – that helped this film progress despite simple plot.

Is it scary: 3 – There are some spooky scenes and there’s a growing feeling of suspense throughout but nothing that will keep you up at night.

Originality: 5 – This one is tough. It’s a spin-off of Found Footage and we’ve even seen this kind of thing before (Open Windows). Still, I think we’ll see more of this format based on this film’s execution.

Blood: 2 – Almost no blood. There are just a handful of violent scenes and only one or two even actually show anything explicit.

Believability: 8 – Overall, I thought the writing and acting were on point. I felt like the film was happening right on my computer screen.

Setting/Cinematography: 5 – Again, this one was tough to score. There really was not much setting to speak of and the cinematography was intentionally limited to webcam footage. I think a solid 5 is fair. Like taking a college course Pass/Fail.

Final Score: 23/50


House of the Dead (2013) – Uwe Boll

House of the Dead_Poster

It’s a pretty well-established rule that movies based on video games are shit. There’s really no beating around the bush. There are, of course, exceptions Silent Hill, for example. Then there are terrible films that have gained a cult following (Super Mario Brothers). But for the most part, video game films are uninspired and really just made to cash in on the popularity of the game. Enter House of the Dead, Uwe Boll’s 2003 adaptation of an admittedly cool arcade zombie shooter. This movie is in the running for the worst film I’ve ever seen. I mean that with no sense of hyperbole.

The House of the Dead game was one of the ones where you got to hold the gun and actually shoot at the screen. (Hang on to that image, because we’ll be back to it shortly). Now, I have to admit that I pumped my fair share of quarters into this game back in the day. And while there may have been some kind of story to go along with the zombie carnage, it was not one that stuck with me through the years. I basically remember a haunted house scene where zombies and ghosts would stagger down a hall towards you and throw axes and such and try to eat you. Then you blasted their faces off until your allowance ran out.

House of the Dead_Video Game Scene

Regardless of where it came from, the plot that made it to the film is ludicrous. A group of college kids hitch a boat ride to a remote island for a rave (this “rave” consists of sixteen 30-year-old college students dancing in the woods). On this island they find — you guessed it — the House of the Dead. I wont spoil too much but we do find out the source of the supernatural forces behind the zombies. And it’s a pirate curse. I’m not big on Twitter, but I think I’m going to start using #piratecurse. Like all the time.

Ok well let’s get down to it. House of the Dead fails on basically every front. It is a staggering failure, and one that astonishingly launched the career of the director Uwe Boll to a new level. The script is like the first draft of a freshman film student banged out the night before it was due. We have poor attempts at humor: “Muerte is Spanish for death, in case you don’t speak Mexican.” (That line was actually one of the Shining Lights of the film). The characters are utterly flat and one-dimensional. The only character’s name that I actually remembered through the film was the Asian raver chick in a spandex American flag jump suit named Liberty.

House of the Dead_Liberty

Aside from the narrative problems the technical aspects of HotD are abysmal. They actually edited short clips from the actual video game into action sequences. Several times. It almost feels like they were trying to prove something. “See, this scene comes from the game!” Also, I’m a guy who loves to watch zombies get their heads shot off, maybe more than anybody. But there are a few LONG action sequences that really just feel like treading water.

Is it scary: 1 – I mean, there are dead bodies walking around for 90 mins, but really, if you’re not in diapers, this won’t scare you at all.

Originality: 1 – It’s a very spot-on adaptation of an unoriginal video game. So…

Blood: 6 – It’s pretty gory, even though the blood in the shots from the game is green.

Believability: 0 – Every inch of this thing screams illogical and ridiculous.

Setting/Cinematography: 1 – Uwe Boll uses lots of gimmicky spinning camera shots that are supposed to be reminiscent of the game, but they just don’t translate well to the big screen. Also the house itself is just tacky and unconvincing. It felt like of Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Final Score: 9/50

House of the Dead_Zombie Lick

So what’s the verdict? Don’t even bother watching this film. It’s not “so bad it’s good.” It’s just so bad it’s bad. Like unwatchable.

Public Service Announcement

I’ve been giving some thought to the blog and I think it’s time for a slight change in format. I looked back at some of my older posts and most of the ones that I enjoy reading are for bad films. Nobody needs me to write 1000 words on why The Exorcist is a good movie.

Are there people out there who are thinking, “I wonder if Night of the Living Dead is worth 90 minutes of my time. I think I’ll cruise over to Dan’s blog and see if he has any sassy comments or not-so-clever puns about George A Romero’s genre-creating classic.”

I hope not.

So the point is, I’m going to focus on movies that most people have not seen, particularly in 3 groups:

  • New Horror Movies: I missed the boat on It Follows and Babadook, but these newer, big-name kinds of movies are still fair game.
  • Obscure Horror Movies: This is kind of a big tent. I’m including foreign, older/forgotten and underrated films.
  • Just Really Bad Horror Movies: This is the fun stuff. We’re looking for Rotten Tomatoes scores under 30. Or anything starring Nicholas Cage. Far be it from me to attack somebody’s art, but really, sometimes a movie just needs to be shat upon. And I’m just the guy to do it.

Also, I know I’ve been MIA for quite a while, but I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things. I hope the new format will make it more fun for me to write. As you can imagine, it’s easier and more entertaining to write a review of a terrible movie than to write the 9000th review just praising a great movie.

That is all.

Contracted (2013) – Eric England


It’s always nice to see a new spin on a familiar genre. Eric England’s 2013 entry Contracted, gives us just that. It’s a great body-horror film with a twist. While it certainly achieves its goal of gross-out film making, Contracted does still fall a bit flat in terms of the plot and character development.

I’m not 100% sure of what the film is trying to say either. Is it a commentary on the vapid culture of the millennial generation? Is it a study of a complex character? Or simply a condom PSA? I know there’s something he’s trying to get across, it’s just hard to pin down exactly what that is.

Some of my loyal readers may remember my last review of this director didn’t go so well. Mr. England actually read the negative review and commented on the blog. It was…uncomfortable for everyone involved. Fortunately, I found this film to be better than that in almost every way so hopefully, if he reads this, he won’t come to my house and beat me to death with a shovel. Granted, this film is not a masterpiece, but it’s a big step in the right direction


Contracted is about a troubled 20-something, Samantha (played by Najarra Townsend), dealing with the struggle of life, relationships and transitioning from the end of adolescence into adulthood. While drinking heavily at a party in an effort to forget about said struggles, she gets taken advantage of by a mysterious stranger. The next morning it becomes very clear that she has caught what she believes to be an STD. Over the next few days it turns out to be more than your average case of the clap. And it becomes pretty clear that she’s going to need more than just a shot of penicillin.

I’ve explained why I love body-horror before. It’s easy for us to identify with characters and feel like these things could be happening to us. By ‘these things’ I mean, bleeding from strange places, discolored skin and eyes, sores, fingernails and hair falling out. Its very upsetting and disturbing to see people literally rotting from the inside. England’s film handles the decomposition of young Samantha very well with just the right amount of blood, guts, and maggots.

That leads me to the biggest problem I had with this film. People don’t seem to react properly to Samantha’s varying states of decay. Particularly her doctor. She goes and sees a doctor twice and he remains uninterested even though she’s literally falling apart in front of him. Later our heroine develops a huge open bloody sore on her mouth and proceeds to make out with not one, but TWO people. Though it’s totally nonsensical, it adds to the gross-out factor – which I found to be the film’s strong suit – so I’ve allowed myself to suspend disbelief.


In terms of scares, Contracted follows a familiar body-horror recipe. The horror comes from watching this girl disintegrate in front of us. She seems unable (or unwilling) to get the help she needs. We can put ourselves in her shoes in that respect so the fear is transmitted to the audience in that way.

The acting is okay – not great. And I had some trouble really identifying with, or even really liking the characters, which is probably the biggest shortcoming of the film. All that being said, I really liked it. There’s a cool punchline at the end that I wasn’t expecting, so kudos on that. I usually see these things coming a mile away. Though I wonder if it detracts from the overall message of the film (whatever that may be).

At any rate, the moral might just be ‘Always wear a condom, and keep an eye on your drinks at parties’. I think that’s a moral we can all get behind.

Is it scary: 6 – Solid body horror experiment. Definitely upsetting and haunting to watch a beautiful girl rotting on the screen.

Originality: 5 – It’s a clever twist on a story we’ve seen a thousand times before.

Blood: 7 – This film is soaked in blood. Delicious decaying blood.

Believability: 2 – As I mentioned before, I had a hard time following the reactions of other characters to Samanta’s illness. Most people didn’t react realistically at all.

Setting/Cinematography: 5 – The setting was mostly out in bright sunny southern California which isn’t ideal for horror, but the cinematography was executed perfectly. They way it was shot to expose each new symptom was great.

Final Score: 25/50

Verdict- Not a perfect film, but definitely entertaining and worth a viewing if you like watching people decompose, that is.


Dracula Untold (2014) – Gary Shore

Dracula Untold Poster

So I recently got around to reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and as a result I’ve been on a bit of a vampire kick lately. I watched Nosferatu, which was incredible (I don’t know that I’ll write a review of this one; it’s a legend in the genre and my 500 words won’t do anything to add to the body of meaningful criticism out there). Anyway, this time I decided to go for the complete opposite film in terms of tone, motivation, and overall quality: Dracula Untold.

D U is not so much a horror movie as an action movie with a horror narrative as it’s adoptive parent. The film focuses on the 14th century Prince of Wallachia Vlad “The Impaler” Dracul, on whom the Dracula character is based. Vlad was a pretty interesting guy, and we’ll get back to that shortly. In the film, as in history, Vlad’s kingdom is being threatened by the incursion of Ottoman Turks into Europe. In the film, Vlad seeks out a legendary dark spirit from deep in the forests of Transylvania with in the hopes of gaining the strength he needs to defeat the Turks and protect Europe from a major invasion.

Dracula Untold bats

While it is rooted in traditional vampire lore, and based on an amazing passage* from Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula Untold is a whirlwind of clichés and inconsistencies that stack up to little more than a summer popcorn movie designed to fill seats with as little effort or thought as possible. There are such glaring plot holes and contradictions from scene to scene, that I’m sure this is as much a victim of it’s editing as of it’s screenplay.

In one scene, Prince Vlad uses his newfound powers to blow the clouds from in front of the sun and instantly incinerate some rival vampires who are surrounding him. They literally disintegrate into smoke and blood and ashes in seconds, while he has time to slowly turn around and look into the camera sexily while his hair slowly burns off and his skin peels a little. This level of carelessness plagues the film from the start, which is really unfortunate.

Dracula Untold Vampire

The “origin story”, if you will, of Dracula is one that we don’t really have much of in film. Usually, the Count just makes a deal with the Satan for immortality/vampire powers. In the passage below from Bram Stoker, we get an interesting take on how Dracula originated, which differs from the film. Stoker explains, through Dracula’s own narration, that the unholy vampire was born of the evolution from vicious conquering races from Europe, Asia, and Africa who came together in the haunted forests of eastern Europe and the Carpathian mountains and bred with witches, gypsies and other exiles. The literary figure of Dracula was born of viciousness and evil and dark magic and conquest.

Dracula Untold Impaled Soldiers

Anyway, I’m getting off topic but the point is the movie disregarded all that and went for the clichéd, simple deal with the devil. I think the biggest flaw of the movie is that they aim to humanize the monster. Dracula is a bad guy. We love him as the bad guy. We even root for him. And the historical figure Vlad the Impaler was among the most monstrous people in history. He held a serous grudge against the Turks and butchered and impaled tens of thousands of them. A real horror fan wants to see a monster, not a human. We shouldn’t root for him because of his admirable qualities and his nobility, we should root for him because he guzzled an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with the blood of his enemies.

  1. Is it scary? 2 – Like I said, It’s not a horror movie, It’s an action movie.
  2. Originality: 2 – It’s a dumbed-down origin of a very familiar story. Could have been very interesting and original but they went for the easy route.
  3. Blood: 3 – For a vampire movie with large battle scenes, this was disappointingly dry.
  4. Believability: 1 – Inconsistencies, plot holes and a shitty script. ‘Nuff Said
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5 – I can’t fault them too much here. The setting was what you’d expect- Dark and creepy. The battle scenes were shot fairly well too. Nothing special though.

Final Score: 13/50

The Verdict: Don’t waste your time.

Dracula Untold Vampire 1

*From Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1897 – Chapter 3, Jonathan Harker’s Journal

Midnight.–I have had a long talk with the Count. I asked him a few questions on Transylvania history, and he warmed up to the subject wonderfully. In his speaking of things and people, and especially of battles, he spoke as if he had been present at them all. This he afterwards explained by saying that to a Boyar the pride of his house and name is his own pride, that their glory is his glory, that their fate is his fate. Whenever he spoke of his house he always said “we”, and spoke almost in the plural, like a king speaking. I wish I could put down all he said exactly as he said it, for to me it was most fascinating. It seemed to have in it a whole history of the country. He grew excited as he spoke, and walked about the room pulling his great white moustache and grasping anything on which he laid his hands as though he would crush it by main strength. One thing he said which I shall put down as nearly as I can, for it tells in its way the story of his race.

“We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin game them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, aye, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the werewolves themselves had come. Here, too, when they came, they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert. Fools, fools! What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?” He held up his arms. “Is it a wonder that we were a conquering race, that we were proud, that when the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk poured his thousands on our frontiers, we drove them back? Is it strange that when Arpad and his legions swept through the Hungarian fatherland he found us here when he reached the frontier, that the Honfoglalas was completed there?And when the Hungarian flood swept eastward, the Szekelys were claimed as kindred by the victorious Magyars, and to us for centuries was trusted the guarding of the frontier of Turkeyland. Aye, and more than that, endless duty of the frontier guard, for as the Turks say, `water sleeps, and the enemy is sleepless.’ Who more gladly than we throughout the Four Nations received the `bloody sword,’ or at its warlike call flocked quicker to the standard of the King? When was redeemed that great shame of my nation, the shame of Cassova, when the flags of the Wallach and the Magyar went down beneath the Crescent?Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkeyland, who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph! They said that he thought only of himself. Bah! What good are peasants without a leader? Where ends the war without a brain and heart to conduct it? Again, when, after the battle of Mohacs, we threw off the Hungarian yoke, we of the Dracula blood were amongst their leaders, for our spirit would not brook that we were not free. Ah, young sir, the Szekelys, and the Dracula as their heart’s blood, their brains, and their swords, can boast a record that mushroom growths like the Hapsburgs and the Romanoffs can never reach. The warlike days are over. Blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonourable peace, and the glories of the great races are as a tale that is told.”

Tusk (2014) Kevin Smith

Tusk Movie Poster

First, I’d like to make a quick apology to those loyal few followers of this blog. The blog has been pretty dead over the past few months. I’m living in Thailand, teaching English and I have another blog (that I’ve also been neglecting) so I’ve been pretty busy. Sorry for the hiatus. Not sure If I’ll keep up with this regularly but I felt like writing about this movie so here we are…

There are two types of people on this Earth: Those who love Kevin Smith and those who hate him. I am definitely one of them. That is, I’m not sure which group I fall into but I’m sure I’m in one of them. Traditionally, Smith has been rooted in the comedy/dramedy genre. Usually he’s at least a bit satirical. In his recent foray into horror (Red State and Tusk) he’s held on to his comedy and satire roots and against a horror backdrop.

Tusk Howard Howe

In Smith’s most recent installment, 2014’s Tusk, he makes a commentary on the direction our society is headed. And his prognosis is not good. The film is about a man named Wallace, a Howard Stern-type shock jock podcaster. In search of another weirdo to exploit and humiliate on his show, he meets a psychotic old man. The only problem is the old man has some ideas of his own and ends up doing most of the exploitation in the form of an extreme and unnecessary medical procedure.

Through the use of some flashbacks, we see that Wallace has sold out his nice-guy past and become a rude, cruel asshole with a microphone who is infamous for mocking strange or weird people on his show. Essentially we see this man, who has become a monster figuratively, becoming more and more like a literal monster. To Smith’s credit, we really dislike the guy at the beginning of the film and throughout his ordeal as he physically becomes more and more monstrous, his humanity is revealed and we begin to sympathize with him. It’s an interesting twist.

Tusk Wheelchair

Lets not get too sappy though. This is still a Kevin Smith movie. And a pretty serious body-horror nightmare. Even Smith’s comedies are – we’ll say unpleasant – so you can imagine how his horror movies are. This one is downright disturbing. If you can sit through this without squirming in your seat, you should probably get checked by a psychiatrist. To pull it all together, if the same film was made by another director, it would probably be a piece of shit. But we know its Kevin Smith. We know he’s making a statement about something rather than just making a scary movie. It’s not meant to be taken seriously or literally. This one sets out to be upsetting, and it achieves its goal in a big way.

Here’s a quick note: I really, really wanted to include some pictures of the “after the experiment” part of the movie, but it would really ruin the effect so just go watch it yourself.

  1. Is it scary? 6 – It’s not that scary but it’s definitely unsettling. If you showed it to a kid on Sunday night, you’d be getting a call from the guidance counselor pretty early Monday morning.
  2. Originality: 6 – Not sure what to say about this. It’s a bit like Human centipede meets Steve Irwin, but it’s done in an unfamiliar way. Definitely not something I’ve seen before
  3. Blood: 5 – There are some scenes that are pretty bloody, and the result of the ‘medical experiment’ is disgusting. Respectable score here.
  4. Believability: 3 – I don’t think I need to explain myself too much. The dialogue was clever (par for the course for KS) but the storyline isn’t realistic.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6 – Smith does a pretty good job here. The tone of the scary scenes is dark and that shows in the cinematography.

Final Score: 26/50

Tusk Dark

The Fly (1986) – David Cronenberg


All throughout the bible, it states that “your body is a temple.” Regardless of your religious feelings on this, you have to admit that we all do take our bodies very seriously. Have you ever spend 10 minutes staring into a mirror trying to fix your hair or hide of a pimple? The thought of even something very small being wrong with our personal temple is upsetting. And it’s disturbing to watch bad things happen to others’ bodies as well. There’s a whole genre of horror movies out there called Body Horror dedicated to this very idea.

When you think about it, it’s all very relatable. It’s one of the few things we all have in common- the human body. When you watch something happen to someone else, it’s easy to put yourself in that situation. Body horror movies focus on the details of destruction of the human body. David Cronenberg’s 1986 The Fly is a body horror masterpiece depicting the slow, graphic mutation and decay of a man’s body after being spliced with fly DNA.


 The film opens with Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) being awesome and trying to pick up/show off to Veronica (Gina Davis). He’s a scientist; She’s a reporter doing interviews at a university meet-and-greet party with the press. For some reason, she gets in the car with CREEPY-ASS JEFF GOLDBLUM and goes to his apartment/lab to see some mysterious new invention that’s supposed to change the world: a teleportation pod. Only problem is that it only transports inanimate objects. When they try to use it on a living baboon, the thing comes out looking like Omaha beach right after the first scene of Saving Private Ryan. Don’t worry. After a post-coital eureka moment and a couple of keystrokes on his Apple 2, the machine works perfectly. Baboon #2 comes out unharmed.

Seth and Veronica have struck up a nice little romance/business arrangement where she’ll document the development of his experiments and give him BJs and stuff in exchange for exclusive reporting rights. After a dispute one night, Veronica runs off and Seth gets drunk tries the machine out on himself. It works fine, except for the fact that a fly buzzed into the pod with him and the machine has spliced their DNA together. At first everything is great. Seth is smarter, stronger, more energetic, but this starts to fade into a sort of mania as the fly personality begins to take over.

Then we start to see his body changing. Fingernails falling off, teeth coming out, skin getting blotchy and peeling off. Basically puberty from Hell. Each time we see him he gets more and more disfigured. He can’t eat food normally anymore- he has to puke up  this milky acid and melt his food and then slurp it back up. The whole thing is pretty revolting. Veronica is surprisingly cool through the whole ordeal and tries to help him out, but becomes clear that her BA in journalism is not going to cut it.


 Not only is The Fly a great horror movie, but it’s just a great movie in general. It’s not overly complicated (it’s based on a short story). We really just have a short list of characters, whom we get to know very well. Jeff Goldblum as the half-man half-fly mad scientist monster is pretty much the best casting I’ve seen since Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest. And they used all practical effects and makeup to create this bloody monstrosity that Jeff Goldblum will become. If you’re interested in seeing a step-by-step progression of his deterioration. I found a great pic. It’s pretty spoileriffic, so if you haven’t seen the film, don’t click:


  1. Is it scary? 6Watching this guy literally rot alive in front of your eyes is bound to terrify you. You can almost feel it happening to you.
  2. Originality: 5Well it’s a movie based on a short story for which there was already a movie made in the 50’s. I can’t give them big points here but they definitely made it feel new and unique.
  3. Blood: 7 – By the end Jeff Goldblum has no skin and he’s just a pulsating mess of guts and hair and two giant eyeballs.
  4. Believability: 7 – I thought it was very believable. The plot was simple enough, the casting, directing and acting were right on. The only thing I’ll say is that Gina Davis’ character should have been a little more freaked out.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7Jeff Goldblum’s house/lab in a warehouse is the perfect mad scientist lair. They do some cool walking on walls and ceiling shots too.                

Final Score: 32/50