Event Horizon (1997) – Paul W.S. Anderson

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So we know there are lots of subgenres that fall under the “horror” umbrella. One of my favorites has always been Sci-Fi horror movies. Some of the best horror movies out there fall under this category, The Thing, Alien, Scanners and of course, Jason X (wait, what?). Maybe it’s because the source of the horror is anchored to reality by some kind of science, or maybe they just remind me of Star Trek. A lot of these movies are not really that scary- they may play up the Sci-Fi angle and downplay the horror. Paul Anderson’s 1997 Event Horizon, does a good job bridging the gap between sci-fi and conventional horror.

The film opens with us learning that a spaceship, called the Event Horizon, disappeared on its maiden voyage and has been lost for years. We’re in the mid-21st century, and we soon find out that Sam Neill (Dr. Weir) built this ship that can “fold space” to travel incredible distances instantaneously. We’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt on the explanation. A distress signal is received from what appears to be the missing ship so Laurence Fishburne, and his crew, along with Dr. Weir travel out to see what’s up.

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When they get to the deserted ship, it’s not a pretty site. The crew is missing, but we see blood and body parts floating around in zero gravity. During the search and rescue mission, The “Gravity Drive” which allows the Event Horizon to travel faster than light speed, activates itself and damages the other ship. Now we’re stranded on this derelict ship and shit is getting worse. The crew starts having seriously fucked up hallucinations and acting crazy. Eyeballs sliced out. Self-mutilation. Blood spraying everywhere.  Bodies on fire. Dead friends coming back to visit, that kind of thing. Then in an all-too-Bond-villain-esque explication monologue, Sam Neil goes all mad scientist tells us that the ship has actually traveled to Hell and brought back something purely evil that intends to cause death and dismemberment to anyone it comes in contact with.

It’s interesting to see how filmmakers interpret the future even just a few years ago. In the 90’s the future always looked sort of accidentally steam-punk. Rusty panels and exposed wires, even steam pumping out of vents everywhere. And everyone wears leather bomber jackets with patches on them like Top Gun in their 2048 space ships. The interior of the spaceship and the rapport between the crew is very ripped off from Alien. I kept waiting for someone to start puking up rice pudding and trying to kill the crew.

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Overall, the film had a great set-up. Spaceships, black holes, bombs, demons, intestines- everything your twisted little heard desires. The story is fairly original and clever too. I like how they merged sci-fi and conventional, semi-religious horror and made it work. It’s almost like Alien meets The Shining meets The Exorcist. It’s one of the films that I remember from childhood that scared the shit out of me. The scares are overwhelmingly visual, which to me is less scary, but it’s hard to come up with better nightmare fuel than some of the stuff they showed.

  1. Is it scary? 6The suspenseful sequences are fairly predictable and flat but the visuals are downright disturbing. (If it gives you any context, I had to hold back and use some more tame pictures for this blog- it gets a good deal worse than I’m showing you.)
  2. Originality: 7 – The plot is fairly formulaic once you get past the initial set-up, but the boiled-down version feels pretty unique.
  3. Blood: 8 – Buckets of blood and guts floating through space.
  4. Believability: 5 – The cast does a pretty good job acting. I thought Weir’s turn from magnanimous to mad scientist was a little abrupt though, even if he was pushed in that direction by the devil.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7The ship itself was pretty epic and they did a great job with CGI and space. There were some amazing shots zooming through space station architecture.                                          

Final Score: 33/50

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The ABC’s of Death (2012) – Various Directors

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Have you ever been to one of those little self-serve frozen yogurt places? You know, those “healthy”, “don’t worry, it’s fat-free yogurt” places. You pump out your own fro-yo from the soft serve machine and then you get to pick out your own toppings from the little candy-salad bar. Next thing you know your “fat-free” desert has gummy bears, Oreos, Butterfingers, peanut butter cups, skittles and little marshmallows on it. And you have a full blown case of diabetes. The point is, mixing too many good things together takes away from the whole. That cup of yogurt and candy is probably pretty good, but you would have done better to stick with one theme and do it really well.

That awkward metaphor, and this awkward transition, represents my thoughts on the 2012 horror anthology The ABC’s of Death. 26 letters in the alphabet, 26 horror films  created by 26 different directors from all around the world. I do have to give them props for ambition and for originality, but it’s very difficult to make 26 two-five-minute films work cohesively together. The only theme connecting them was that each film was about something from each letter in the alphabet, for example, “Z is for Zombie”. The cool part is that you don’t get the title until after each short is over.

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A few of these movies were really fantastic, either for being genuinely scary or just very clever and well-done short films. Some of them were funny, some were confusing, and some were really just pretty stupid. Obviously I can’t do a synopsis of each film, and quite a few of them have really great twist endings so I don’t even want to go too far into any. There were 3 films that stood out as my favorites though. There’s one about a kid who’s afraid to sit on the toilet, one about a man and a dog in a fight to the death, and one about the end of the world. Other less remarkable films include topics such as deadly farts that engulf a whole city, vampires, zombie clowns, a masturbation contest, and a piece of shit that just won’t flush.

A lot of the films are overly grotesque and shocking. We don’t have a lot of time for build up so we need to dive right into the good stuff. Most of them have subtitles. A few have no dialogue whatsoever.

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From what I understand, each director was assigned a letter and really given carte blanche to just make a film about something that starts with that letter. It was great to see 26 different answers to essentially the same question. The film as a whole is a tribute to ADHD and a not so gentle reminder that people from Japan are fucking crazy. Well actually people from all over the world are pretty crazy, but the ones from Japan are the best at it.  

To sum up, I think this was ambitious and it was a very cool experiment. We got a chance to see some of the best current horror directors show off their chops in a condensed format. I hear there’s another one in the works. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out. I think there is a lot to improve upon, but I really like the idea.

  1. Is it scary? 4 Overall, not that scary, there were a few films that got under my skin but mostly they went for cheap, gross-out stuff and bad humor.
  2. Originality: 10– I have to give them credit here. The whole project was pretty original and there were lots of very cool and original ideas throughout, regardless of how good each film was.
  3. Blood: 7- Some had lots and lots of blood, some had no blood, Most had at least some, so I think this is going to skew towards the high end of the score.
  4. Believability: 5-It’s very difficult to give a believability score here. Some of the films were intentionally over the top. I think we’ll stick with average and call it a day.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7- Overall, we saw lots of cool settings and there was some amazing cinematography. One of my favorites (the one about the dogfight) was shot entirely in slow motion with some really cool close-ups.                                             

Final Score: 33/50

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Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) – John Luessenhop

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First of all, I feel obliged to apologize to my swarms of loyal readers for my recent hiatus. I moved last month and frankly, I’ve been lazy. It’s hot out, get off my back. Anyway, I’m back so quit whining, buckle up and get ready to have my opinions thrust upon you. You’re welcome in advance.

They say, “There’s no such thing as bad pizza or bad pussy.” That statement is obviously flawed for reasons I don’t feel I need to get into right now. It should really be “There’s no such thing as a bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.” Take a pro-wrestler sized dude with a learning disability who probably needs to switch to decaf, put a chainsaw in his hands and then come up with a flimsy pretext for a group of sexy teenagers from the big city to break into his house. It’s so simple but it just works.  John Luessenhop’s 2013 installment Texas Chainsaw 3D fits the mold in every way we want it to.

Let’s be honest. The saying I mentioned above does not mean that that DiGorno’s stacks up to a fresh New York slice, but pizza is pizza. Or that chick you picked up off the floor just after last call is going to be Charlize Theron, but you know what you’re getting and you know it’ll probably be good enough.

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Texas Chainsaw 3D adds a modern twist that fits into the original story. The film opens a short time after the original film has taken place. If you remember, there was one girl who escaped right before leatherface does his famous “chainsaw dance” in the hot Texas sunset. Now there’s a cop and a mob outside his family’s house itching for some Texas justice. Fast forward: big fire and lots of dead bodies. Fast forward some more to present day and we meet our heroine Heather. She’s the sole survivor and heiress to the family farm. She gets a letter from a long lost grandmother who has died telling her she’s inherited a big old house in Texas. So she packs her friends into a VW bus, picks up a hitchhiker for good measure and heads down to check out her new place. Spoiler Alert: Leatherface survived the fire. Duh, he’s on the fucking poster.

Well if you’ve seen any of these movies before, or dissected something in biology class, I think you know where this is going. There are few big surprises here.

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Overall the movie is solid, for what it is. There are some good scare scenes. Some chainsaw chasing, people getting naked and doing drugs to be used as chainsaw fodder, and plenty of 3D organs flying across the screen. I do have a couple of issues though. The biggest one was that they tried to add too much background to the Leatherface character. They take away that cold, mindless fury that he has and try to give him some real emotions. One thing we don’t need from Leatherface is pathos. He’s a monster, not just a large man who didn’t take his meds. Also, though it’s a fun movie, it’s still a pretty horrendous bastardization of one of the scariest movies ever. It’s bad form and downright sacrilege to show shots from the original during the opening credits.

Well, I don’t foresee a very high score for this flick. If we were rating it on the pizza scale, I’d give it a “Yesterday’s Papa John’s from the fridge.”

  1. Is it scary? 4 -There are a couple of good scary scenes but overall it left me feeling less than massacred if you catch my drift.
  2. Originality: 3- Nope. I did add a point or two for some little twists at the end, but we kinda saw it coming.
  3. Blood: 8- Come on, it’s a movie about a man who cuts people up with a chainsaw.
  4. Believability: 5- Honestly the acting wasn’t half bad. The story was a little far- fetched, but hey, read the description for the previous criterion. There was some “girl running up the stairs” caliber stupidity, like “Hey, I think I’ll go hide in this open grave.”
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 5- In general, I hate 3D. I hate that they charge you like $16 to see these movies in the theater. I don’t even think that they did a great job with the 3D in this film. Besides that, the cinematography wasn’t bad. There are some cool shots and camera stuff.                                                            

Final Score: 25/50

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The Collection (2012) – Marcus Dunstan

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When we hear the word ‘sequel’ it instantly conjures up a certain feeling- like the one we get when we hear ‘remake’  or ‘Hitler’ but marginally less unpleasant. The reason for this is pretty simple. When a sequel is made, it’s generally something that was planned after the original film was written, filmed, released, and had some commercial success. So there are different motives for making a sequel than there are for making the original. And that basically boils down to “I want to tell a great story” vs. “I know an easy way to cash in on that story I told 2 years ago.” There’s nothing wrong with that-it’s the American Dream. But all too often, we see sequels just basically telling us the same story again. And to make up for the lack of originality, they crank up all the non-essentials, leading to a film that’s top-heavy. All sizzle, no steak, as they say.

Marcus Dunstan’s 2012, The Collection (follow-up to 2009’s The Collector) falls into this typical sequel trap. That’s not to say it was a bad movie (but it might be), I’m just saying it feels very sequel-y. In the first film, we had about 10 deaths, while this one has closer to 200. There’s an unexplained 2-3 minute dance party/techno music scene (think: the underground dance scene in the second Matrix movie) that contributes exactly nothing to the story. We get to see into the Collector’s lair, or his headquarters or whatever. It turns out to be an enormous hotel/mad science lab/elaborate Saw trap. Everything is so over the top like this, that it starts pulling you out of the realm of reality, in which we were firmly planted in the original.

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(Warning: Minor spoiler to the end of the original film)

The Collection picks up a short time after the first film ended. Arkin (our hero) is still trapped in the box. Though he’s been moved (ostensibly, to the Collector’s hideout and then) to a back room in a secret underground dance club. We hear news reports that this guy has been very busy slicing, dicing and kidnapping people. Our new co-main character, Elena, happens to this dance club. The collector has rigged up some industrial farming equipment with spinning blades (google “combine harvester”) to mass murder all the ecstasy-fueled dancers. Elena is the sole survivor, Arkin escapes and the Collector takes Elena back to his hideout.

Arkin, the only person who knows where the collector lives, teams up with some mercenaries, hired by Elena’s father, and they go to save her. At this point the movie turns into a gory/torturey survival horror movie much like Saw II. The badass mercenaries get picked off one by one as they stumble through the trap-infested maze that is the Collector’s lab. There are all sorts of human experiments and bodies everywhere. Razor wire and spring loaded traps in every room. Empty elevator shafts while piles of dismembered body parts and pools of blood. Drugged up experiment victims/zombies that attack the good guys…basically the most hostile environment imaginable. Everything is very predictable and you can probably guess the ending.

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I had two main problems with the film. The biggest was the lack of real character development. I loved the first movie because you get into Arkin’s head. You sympathize with and root for him immediately even though he’s a criminal. In this movie, we get exactly 0 development for him. In fact, he comes off as kindof a pussy. Everyone else in the movie was just a walking cliché. Elena is the closest to a real person. There’s a half-hearted attempt at some pathos/backstory that never gets followed up on. But then she rips apart her bra and MacGyvers the underwire into a hook/flimsy pretext to have her nips poking out for the rest of the film.

The other thing that bugged me was the sheer amount of work that it would take for the Collector to actually be able to build, maintain and operate this whole carnival of death/science lab from hell. The logistics are mindboggling. Where does he find the time? And the energy? This dude is somehow able to set up house after house after house into elaborate murder traps, kill everyone but one sole survivor, then take that survivor to his lair and do experiments on them. He’s got to have a degree in mechanical engineering, and some sort of human medical degree, and he’s also a licensed etymologist (this final fact is all but irrelevant in this film).

Anyway, the verdict is, it was a fun, but forgettable sequel to a great movie. They should have kept it a little closer to reality and focused more on the characters. Like, why don’t we know anything about the Collector himself? Don’t worry, they left the door wide open for “The Collection Agency: Dunstan’s Credit Cards are Past-Due so He’s Making Another Movie”

  1. Is it scary? 3You’re too distracted by the lack of logical progression to be scared. It turned out to be more of an action movie than a straight horror.
  2. Originality: 4– The Collector’s bachelor pad was definitely worth some points here. But the movie falls flat in terms of being anything we’ve never seen before.
  3. Blood: 8– From start to finish, there’s blood shooting across the screen. Incomplete medical experiments and body parts all over the place. The dance club massacre scene was pretty perfect to set the mood.
  4. Believability: 4The whole thing felt like a cheesy 90’s movie that they’d show on basic cable on a Saturday afternoon (anything with Van Dam or Steven Seagal). Cookie cutter action and violence. Clichés on top of clichés.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6– They definitely did some cool things with light and shadows. The torture chamber setting was certainly effective, albeit heavy handed.                                                                                                                        

Final Score: 25/50

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Under the Bed (2012) – Stephen C. Miller

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In 1989, something amazing happened- something that changed the course of history and forever altered the way we look at cinema, art and culture. Since then, it has stood as a pinnacle of the achievements of the western world. It’s basically the American Great Wall of China. I’m talking about the movie Little Monsters (by the way, this blog is not about that film). Not only could this movie stop a horde of screaming Mongol invaders, but you can actually see it from space (If equipped with a large enough scree pointed up into the sky.) It’s about a kid and his brother (Fred and Ben Savage) who get visited at night by a lovable, mischievous monster (Howie Mandel) who travels to their world from under the bed. They run into some trouble and have to try save each other, and there’s a great Talking Heads song at the end. If you’ve never seen this gem, I thoroughly recommend it. It might look like a kids movie (and I guess it is) but it holds up very, very well. 

Anyway, some time passed by and director Steven C. Miller decides he’s going to take this basic formula and change it from a late 80’s story about friendship, courage, sacrifice, etc. into a legit, serious horror movie: 2012’s Under the Bed. Miller boils down the framework of Little Monsters and adds in a traumatic back story, a little blood, and some psychological/ mysterious grit. Unfortunately, I don’t think he pulls it off. It’s almost like the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s heavy on the melodrama and it moves at a slow, brooding pace. Some of the plotlines were confusing and lead nowhere. Miller’s directing was strong though and it leads me to believe this one might have gotten ass-raped in the editing room. (Though it certainly has other issues). Overall, I wanted to like it, but they didn’t make it easy for me.

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The movie opens with our hero Neal, returning home after an extended time away. We find out that his mother died tragically and he was in some way involved. He comes home to a new step mom, a frustrated father and a relieved, but troubled younger brother Paulie. Turns out that something has been visiting Paulie from under his bed at night and that Neal used to have the same visitor before his undisclosed traumatic event. The bros decide to figure out what this thing is and why it comes to them at night. Their behavior is causing problems at school and at home and dad and stepmom are not putting up with it anymore. They decide that this thing is dangerous and needs to be killed. So they try to go in under the bed and defeat this thing on its own turf. (In broad strokes, this the exact plot of Little Monsters– even down to the un-understanding father (played by Daniel Stern in LM) The Stepmom even refers to Paulie and Neal  as “little monsters” at one point. This is not a coincidence.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away too much of either movie. Under the Bed is all slow, methodical build up for the first hour and ten, and then Boom- Payoff. The last 15 minutes or is balls to the wall. It gets pretty intense and even a little scary, and we finally see all the blood we’d been waiting for, but it’s really too little too late.  By this point I was literally fighting to keep my eyes open..

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I think my biggest problem with the movie was how these events and plot points were revealed. I felt like they were holding a carrot out in front of us the whole time.  And the way it played out to me didn’t even make sense. It was like they gave 5 people an outline of a movie and had them each write 20 minutes of it in separate rooms without consulting each other.

Like I said, despite the structural issues, I think this movie was directed well and it had potential. I think another round of script revisions pre-filming to keep the pace more active would have done wonders for this film. You could basically watch the last 35 mins of the film and get the same experience. Not only did they wait till the end to give us all the action, they waited too long to give us the twist (for lack of a better word).

The basic flow of any story or movie is to have it basically look like a heartbeat monitor. Peaks and valleys of intensity that slowly progress into the big one. This movie would look like a dead guy who got one good jolt from the defibrillators after arriving, flat-lined in the ICU. And bad news, they couldn’t save him.

  1. Is it scary? 3There are some scary bits towards the end and a few creepy scenes throughout, but it just didn’t do it for me.
  2. Originality: 3– I mean, it was a crappy un-remake of a great movie. They tried to put a new spin on it. I’ll give them that.
  3. Blood: 4– There was definitely some surprise gore at the very end but it wasn’t enough to get a good score here.
  4. Believability: 5Though I was frequently distracted by some plot lines that went nowhere, I think this one was ok in this department.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6– Nothing amazing here. I like the idea of the sterile, cold, suburban house being set against this nightmare, though.                                                                                                                                   

Final Score: 21            

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Maniac (1980) – William Lustig

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What do George Costanza and Norman Bates have in common besides being, well let’s call it, socially awkward? Mommy issues. Big time. If you were to combine the George and Norman, and then ramp up the insanity by about 25%, you’d get Frank Zito – title character of William Lustig’s 1980 exploitation slasher, Manic. If you’ve seen Seinfeld, you probably know that George was only about 3 episodes from going on a rampage anyway. That might have been a better ending to the series…but we’ll tackle that in a different blog. Anyway, Maniac is one of those cult movies that was banned, censored, etc. when it was released. The violence was too just gruesome and disturbing to be shown in its original form. Since then, the bar has been raised dramatically in terms what we consider “too gruesome”. Other than a scene or two, the violence in this movie is on par with a Saw or a Hostel or any other gory modern horror movie.

Technically speaking, Maniac is a nightmare-in every sense of the word. Conventionally, it is a nightmare to watch him butcher young ladies, cut off their scalps, and nail the hair to mannequins in his dingy apartment. For the first half of the film, I really wasn’t sure if there was going to be a plot. It was just a long and drawn-out sex tape that keeps getting interrupted just when it’s about to get good. And by interrupted, I mean by a knife, a shotgun or length of piano wire. As this plays out, we slowly get inside Frank’s head and that’s when things start to get interesting. I’d like to think that the way the film unfolded was a Tarantino-esque revealing of facts out of order, but I think it was more like a 16 year-old struggling to unhook his date’s bra in the back seat of his parent’s minivan.

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The movie starts out with the killing of a young couple on a beach. Then we cut to Frank in his house acting sad and creepy, then back to another murder, then back to Frank’s house for more moping and Buffalo Bill/Leatherface/Ed Gein-style insanity. So the movie just bounces back and forth in this fashion for like 45 minutes, and we are starting to get a sense of who Frank is and why he does these things. Inexplicably, Frank meets and begins to date a beautiful European photographer- who, by the looks of her apartment in Manhatten, is doing very well for herself. This is inexplicable because Frank is a big, ugly fat, scared monster of a man. He’s able to turn on the charm and act like a completely well-adjusted member of society.

Of course, homegirl starts to figure out that something is off with this guy when he takes her on a date to go visit his mother’s grave. Remember I mentioned those mommy issues? I won’t give away the ending but it’s worth sitting through this one because the payoff at the end is worth the awkward set-up (see bra reference in the second paragraph). There are some serious plot holes in how Frank and his girl struck up their relationship. You’re going to have to flex your willing-suspension-of-disbelief muscles in a big way on this one. The storyline is patchy and confusing at times and downright retarded at other times. But, as with all movies like this, that’s not really the point.

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Maniac falls into this sort of sub-genre of 70’s/ 80’s dark, gritty, New York City/urban horror movies- The New York Ripper and Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer are 2 good examples. They focus on how sick, crazy people can move unnoticed through a busy city. They can be sitting next to you on the subway or walking past you on the street and you’d never know it. When you think about it, this actually makes them a lot scarier than any monster/ghost movie out there. To build up their cult status, these movies usually shared 3 main elements. 1. Over-the-top violence and gore. 2. Not so subtle sexual violence toward young, attractive women. 3. A dismal, and gloomy view of city life. These movies are (in the grand scheme of things) presented in a realistic and plausible way. That makes them even scarier.

There are so many things that shouldn’t have worked in this movie, but they do work. Once you forgive the plot holes, and the awkward, flirty dialog (It’s like Sloth from The Goonies is trying to pick up Jennifer Aniston and it’s working) the movie actually falls in place and gets pretty intense. There are some jarring POV changes, but they work too. You go from following Frank around to following his next victim. That adds to the suspense because you know he’s close, but you don’t know where he is. Or sometimes you know he’s right around the corner but the lady getting out of the bathtub has no idea.

The gritty, realism of how Maniac was shot, is its biggest asset. It wasn’t fancy or pretty, it was dark, bleak, and unpleasant. You just feel uneasy watching this movie. It’s so un-stylized and low-fi that you almost forget it’s a movie. You get the sense that you’re in the filthy subway station with someone following you.

  1. Is it scary? 7- A grim view of city life and some grisly murder scenes will keep this one pretty high on the list.
  2. Originality: 4- It fits into that urban horror tradition I mentioned, but Lustig still tells the story from an angle that gives the audience something new (at least in 1980).
  3. Blood: 8- Times have changed so this movie probably wouldn’t be banned if it was released today, but there are still some shocking moments. There’s a very famous scene where Frank does some reconstructive surgery to a dudes head with a shotgun. It’s appalling and vivid.
  4. Believability: 6- There are some distracting technical issues, but the premise is believable. That’s what makes it scary.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- The dark, dreary way the movie is shot, and it’s setting in the dense urban jungle are what makes it a success.                                                                                                     

Final Score: 33/50

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Grave Encounters (2011) – The Vicious Brothers

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Have you ever seen one of those ghost hunting “reality” shows on like SyFy or Discovery channel? If not, you’re not missing much, and I’ll break it down for you. There’s usually some sort of semi-illiterate eye-witness who works at like an old bed and breakfast or an abandoned theater or something like that. (For reference, this person has on average, 3 more teeth than the eye witnesses on the bigfoot shows). Enter: crew of “paranormal investigators” who probably look like the members of the band Anthrax in 1986, complete with at least one cute-ish, beefy, goth chick with lots of cleavage. With an arsenal of the latest in ghost hunting tech, these real-life Ghost busters wait till the middle of the night and creep through the haunted building with night vision and microphones to try to capture evidence of a real live ghost.

That’s the premise of The Vicious Brother’s 2011 found footage horror film Grave Encounters. First off, I’m generally not a fan of found footage. I find it to be gimmicky and I think studios just like to do it because it’s a good excuse for cheap, low-production filmmaking. That being said, this movie is about as well done as I’ve seen a found footage film be (think REC in terms of how realistic it is). That is to say, after a while, you forget that it’s being shot like this and it just feels natural (as opposed to Paranormal Activity where you’re kinda beaten over the head with it.) In general, the movie is very well done, and terrifying. It’s got a good build-up, good atmosphere and great scares/shock value that come just at the right time. From what I’ve seen, this movie gets decent reviews, but I think it stands out as one of the better horror films of the past few years.

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So the movie is about the film crew of one of these ghost hunting TV shows called Grave Encounters as they visit an abandoned insane asylum. They conduct some interviews and learn about the asylum’s disturbing past and then the caretaker locks them inside overnight. He’s scheduled to come back in the morning and let them out. So they start to explore the cavernous hallways of this old mental hospital. It starts out a bit like Session 9, where the atmosphere and environment play a big part in scaring us. Then we see some of the usual ghost movie clichés, windows swinging open, furniture moving, cold feelings. But all of this happening against the backdrop of this dilapidated old hospital still feels scary.

So the team starts to freak out, they’re waiting for 6am when the caretaker is supposed to come let them out. And for some reason THEY SPLIT UP TO COLLECT THEIR GEAR. Of course somebody goes missing. Now it’s well past morning, the sun is not up and nobody has come to unlock the door. Hours and eventually days pass and they are in some sort of perpetual night locked in this building. They try to break out but the doors and windows just seem to open up to more hallways and they’re trapped inside. And the ghostly events are getting more and more intense/frequent. Things keep building up and up and the cast slowly dwindles, disappears into the darkness. The survivors start to lose their minds as they’re tormented by the spirits of the past residents of the hospital.

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In terms of scares, they’ve done just about everything right. Great setting. Slow but steady buildup of atmosphere and intensity. Structurally, it all just works; the movie is about a film crew filming in a scary old building. So there are different cameras, angles, etc. that we cycle through. You don’t even think about it.

In short, this movie is fucking terrifying. They do a great job getting into your head. You’re watching these people just unravel as they try to cope with something that they thought they wanted to find. Maybe they never really believed in the first place. Desperately crawling on their hands and knees through the pitch dark, twisted tunnels of this creepy old building, they’re like the patients who used to be trapped there.

  1. Is it scary? 7- Not only does it look scary but it gets scary in your head. Serious nightmare material.
  2. Originality: 4– I can’t say there was anything very original here but they did handle some familiar material very well.
  3. Blood: 4– Not a lot of blood in this film. I like that they could get really scary without just dumping buckets of blood on everyone.
  4. Believability: 7– Found footage can be a good way to draw the audience in and make  us believe what we’re seeing, if it’s handled right. This time they did it right.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8– Found Footage: -1 point. Despite that, the atmosphere and setting of this movie were pretty much perfect. Just the right mix of internal and external scares.

Final Score: 30/50                                                                                              

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