Tag Archives: Horror

The Green Inferno Review

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There’s something irresistibly primal about cannibalism. The sordid concept has been explored in all forms of media; a tale of terror and woe that has existed as long as mankind has walked this earth. Often used as a means to terrify a populace into obedience, or as a warning to beware the other, the evil just outside the safety of home, cannibalistic stories are a constant. Acclaimed horror director Eli Roth’s latest film The Green Inferno seeks to continue the cannibalistic tradition of films like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox. As with those films The Green Inferno boils down to a group of hapless westerners traveling to the Amazon only to wind up in the belly of savages. What sets Roth’s film apart from these other Grindhouse tales is the somewhat mild twist he puts on those destined to be a quick meal.

The movies begins on a college campus. Justine (Lorenza Itto) is a big eyed, idealistic wannabe activist of a freshman who’s woken up by a group of hunger striking protesters just outside her window. While sitting in class (some kind of history/anthropology lecture) she learns about female genital mutilation, which foreshadows the horror to come, and those who perpetrate it in places like the Amazon. Whether spurned on by that, or an attraction to the fellow running the campus activist group she joins up and is shortly thereafter on a plane to the rainforest to stop deforestation and the deaths of indigenous tribes. It’s a nobel enough cause, but the real kick here is how the activists are portrayed. Eli Roth has been vocal in interviews and other media about how he wanted this film to represent a comeuppance for all those internet social justice warriors and slacktivists who hurl themselves at so called “noble” causes without really understanding what they stand for or what they’re getting themselves into. That fact is apparent with how these characters are portrayed, but as with many of these types of people they are ultimately interchangeable. We don’t know these characters. We’re supposed to feel for them, I guess, because they’re in a horrible situation. Unfortunately, because of how Roth set these kids up as hapless wannabe activists, I couldn’t be bothered to care about them because they put themselves into this peril. True, nobody deserves to be eaten or killed in such a brutal fashion, but a quick google search might have alerted these kids to the horrors that await.

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The team of plucky college kids succeed in disrupting a deforestation company and from there catch a plane ride home. Naturally, the plane crashes and the surviving activists are taken prisoner by a blood red tribe of savages. Their bright crimson skin and bone pierced faces make them look less than human, which I imagine was the point. It doesn’t take too long for each of the characters to be killed and eaten. The first kill, in particular, was fairly disgusting and a treat for the gore hounds out there. A man gets his eyes, tongue, limbs and then head removed with a crude chopping instrument. Unfortunately none of the other kills have a similar level of carnage, so once numbed by the first splash of gore nothing else hits as hard. Once down to the last two victims, Justine escapes and is rescued by the same people she had sabotaged and protested earlier in the film. It’s such a predictable outcome that the irony of the situation is lost. It’s a fairly standard horror plot. Happy, idealistic kids get slaughtered one after the other by a boogeyman, or boogeymen in this instance.

As I mentioned above the first kill in the movie is suitably hardcore. From there nothing holds up to that standard. I’ve seen much nastier, gorier stuff on cable television. Shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Hannibal are all much more visceral and bloody at times. Normally I wouldn’t mention this in a review, as the gore is something that either is, or isn’t and rarely impacts the story. It’s the act that matters. The reason I bring it up is because The Green Inferno is really being sold as an impossible to watch, bring your own barf bag, kind of gore fiesta. It’s not. It really isn’t. The one dimensional characters bored me in the beginning and by the time all hell breaks lose (around 45 minutes in) the film has lost me. If I don’t care about the characters, then dazzle me with special effects madness. The opening credits reveal Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger as the gore wizards behind the madness so I was expecting something extreme. Make it a bloody, gory mess, especially if that’s what you’ve marketed the film as being chalk full of. In the end a lack of interesting characters and lackluster gore makes this film feel empty.

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It’s interesting that Eli Roth chose to make the kids in this film the wannabe activist types we see all over Twitter and Facebook. There’s a whole army of people on the internet who think they can change the world with a few clickity clacks of their keyboards, and when thrust into the actual danger become nothing more than pigs for the slaughter. That, for me, is the bright spot in this film. It’s a shame the gore was so disappointing because seeing whiny college activists bite the big one could have been cathartic. There’s a moment in the movie where the character leading this charge tells them they changed nothing. They only delayed the inevitable by a few days. The deforestation crews will resume their work unabated. That’s a more crushing defeat for these kids than being roasted for dinner. They’re so blinded by their allegiance to the cause that I never really felt they held any anger towards their tormentors. In fact, the film ends with Justine telling what I assume are UN lawyers that the tribe was completely peaceful and that all her friends died in the plane crash alone. It’s a misguided, confusing devotion to a cause that she never really had any reason to be hung up on. It fit perfectly with the kind of slacktavists Roth was skewering.

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At the end of the day I can’t recommend this. Sure, it had an interesting idea with the college activist thing, but the gore was uninteresting and the college kids were pretty two dimensional. They were faceless hunks of meat before they ever got to the Amazon. I’ve never seen any of the cannibal flicks that inspired this film, so I can’t speak to whether or not this meets those standards, but if those movies were your jam you will probably get some enjoyment out of The Green Inferno. For me, however, it just doesn’t work.

Ultimate Facts: Paranormal Activity Films

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Ultimate Facts: Paranormal Activity

– Paranormal Activity was released on September 25, 2009.

– Runtime: 86 minutes.

– Produced by Blumhouse Productions.

– Written and directed by Oren Peli.

– Paranormal Activity is Oren Peli‘s directorial debut.

– With a budget of 15,000 Paranormal Activity made 193.4 million dollars at the box office.

– Paranormal Activity is the the second most profitable film ever made based on a return of investment. The most profitable is The Blair Witch Project which cost $22,000 and made $240.5 Million)Paramount bought the domestic distribution rights for the film and any sequels for $300,000.

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– Paranormal Activity stars Katie Featherston as Katie and Micah Sloat as Micah.

– Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat were reportedly paid just US$500 each for their performances. But due to the success of the film, the director, Katie and Micah are now renegotiating the amount.

– For the films’ premiere Katie and Micah purposely stayed away from the screening to lead credence to the fact they were supposed to be dead.

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– Katie Featherston is the only actress to appear in all of the films in the series.

– The actors weren’t given scripts but were instead given guidelines on how to behave or what to discuss in their scenes.

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– The film has three alternate endings.

– In the original ending Katie returns the bedroom in a bloody trance holding the knife she kills Micah with. A neighbors discovers Micah’s body and calls the cops who arrive and shine a light on Katie. She comes at them and a started cop shoots her dead.

– In the 2nd version Katie returns to face the camera after killing Micah and slits her throat.

– The 3rd ending had Katie beating Micah to death his his camera, all from the camera’s point of view. It was proposed but never shot.

– Steven Spielberg had to stop watching the film halfway through on a home screener as he was genuinely spooked by the experience. While watching the film all the doors in his bedroom supposedly locked for no reason. He completed the film  the next day and loved it, but brought the DVD to work in a paper bag as he thought it was haunted.

– The original ending was changed at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg.

– During the first test screenings, people started leaving the theater. Originally the crew thought this was because the film wasn’t going over very well with its audience, only to discover that people left the auditorium because they couldn’t handle the intensity of the piece.

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– The entire movie was filmed in director Oren Peli‘s own home.

– To get his house ready for filming Oren Peli spent a year redecorating his house. The walls were originally stark white in every room and there was no railing to the staircase.

– Oren Peli got the idea for the movie from a personal experience. Late at night he was sleeping and a box of detergent fell off the shelf. The box was pushed too far back for it to just tilt and fall.

– Oren Peli shot the entire film with a home digital camera.

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– All the crew had to wear black clothes at all times so that no colored reflections would show up on the walls or wooden floors.

– Micah Sloat had some filming experience as a cameramen back in college. Director Oren Peli often had to tell Micah to do a worse job filming as his shots looked too professional.

– Because of the cramped filming conditions many of the bumps in the night had to be added post production forcing the actors to react to imaginary sounds while filming. Paranormal Activity was filmed in just 10 days.

– The film was shot in 2006 but did not make into theaters until three years after.

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– Dreamworks wanted to remake the movie with a bigger budget and better known actors rather than release the film as it was and use the original as a DVD extra.

– All the special effects were practically done in-camera, enhanced by director Oren Pelion his PC.

– Paranormal Activity contains no opening or closing credits.


– Oren Peli bought the Ouija board used in the film at his local Costco.

– The book Micah consults is a 1971 trade paperback from Dover Publications titled “Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft“, by Ernst and Johanna Lehner.

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– The role of Dr. Johann Averies was cast with a real Paranormal Investigator from the Independent Investigations Group, Spencer Marks. The role was shot to help explain certain anomalies in the film. The role was predominantly mentioned in the movie, but the footage never used.

– Paramount Studios utilized paranormal researcher, Christopher Chacon, who is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on paranormal phenomena, to promote and publicize the film. Chacon also works in the entertainment industry as a writer, director and producer.

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– Survivor runner-up Katie Gallagher was originally cast to play the role of Katie, but was laid off because Oren Peli decided she was too “well-known” to keep the film as real as possible. Coincidentally, both Katie Gallagher and Katie Featherston have the same name as each other, and the main character.

– The death metal band on the television in the first shot of the film is Disgorge, from San Diego, performing their song “Consume the Forsaken“.

– Body Count: 1 (Micah)

Maggie – Review

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The Zombie apocalypse is upon us! I, of course, am not speaking literally, but rather commenting on the sudden, and all together overwhelming appearance of so many Zombies appearing in movies, television, comic books and beyond. While it wouldn’t be too out of the question to place the blame, if that’s what you want to call it, on the shoulders of The Walking Dead, I believe this resurgence in the Zombie is speaking to something in culture at large. Perhaps it’s playing on fears of a nebulous danger lurking somewhere waiting to destroy society. Perhaps it’s a cathartic release, a rebellion against the bland, mundane, and ironically enough, zombie like culture our reliance on technology has give us. In any event the Zombie is bigger than ever and the latest Zombie romp in theaters is Maggie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. I, like many, jumped at the idea of Schwarzenegger taking on hoards of the undead, but was the movie any good? Let’s take a look.

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Maggie is unlike any Zombie film I have ever seen before. It’s not action packed by any means, in fact quite the opposite. This is a small picture, somewhat introspective kind of film. At it’s core is a very intriguing premise. We’re introduced to a world where a virus induced Zombie outbreak is in it’s very early stages. Crops are dying, people are falling mysteriously ill, quarantines and strict curfews are in full effect. Wade Vogel (Schwarzenegger) finds his runaway teenaged daughter Maggie (Breslin) at a hospital and wouldn’t you know it she’s been bit. What’s refreshing here is that the characters all know what it means. Maggie has contracted this virus and will turn into a ravenous Zombie in a short amount of time. Wade is informed he only has a week or two before he needs to get his Maggie to quarantine, which we never see, but are lead to believe it’s like a gigantic holding tank for Zombies. Wade whisks his daughter away to his farm house where the vast majority of the film takes place. The idea of a family knowing their loved one has been bit and will turn into an undead cannibal and having to deal with all the grief and sorrow is very intriguing to me and what drew me to the film. Unfortunately I just don’t feel the movie hit the mark it was aiming for. All the quiet moments the director wants us to see and feel aren’t treated with any amount of nuance or subtlety. The characters paint big with big broad strokes when it comes to their emotional beats. I’m not talking so much of over acting or anything of that nature, but rather in tone. More often than not a character or plot point is introduced only for a “tear jerker” of a monologue to take place. Numerous occasions this happens and the first couple are OK, but after a handful of these Zombie apocalypse sob stories you just stop caring. In a film without any action beats to move us along we should be anchored and pulled in by the emotional content of the story and it’s just never compelling enough to keep full attention.

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What’s really interesting in Maggie is Arnold Schwarzenegger. For years Schwarzenegger has been the king of the action film. That’s his bread and butter. Sure, he’s done the occasional slapstick, goofball comedy, but for a guy so perfectly cast as an emotionless killing machine all those years ago it’s very surprising to see him turn in such a great performance. It’s also surprising to see Arnold Schwarzenegger acting circles around his costars. Going back to the troubles the movie had pulling me into it’s emotional arcs, I would say the leading cause of that is not enough of the performances are convincing, or compelling enough. Abigail Breslin showed great promise as a child star, but her delivery here is lifeless and dull (and that’s before she turns into a zombie). None of the other actors really have much more to work with outside of all those touching monologues so the bulk of the acting is placed on Schwarzenegger’s broad shoulders. It’s said that acting is reacting and Schwarzenegger reacts beautifully to the heavy situation his character finds himself in, while none of his supporting cast seem to really have a good grasp on what kind of movie they’re in. While Maggie may not be a great film, I do hope it doesn’t spell the end of Schwarzenegger’s foray into these meatier dramatic roles. He’s clearly got the chops.

It’s a shame that Maggie didn’t hit all the notes it should have. This concept has such amazing potential and I was so let down by the mishandling of it. Ultimately I would recommend watching it when it comes to VOD, Netflix or any other rental platform for Schwarzeneggers performance alone. Be warned, there’s not much to enjoy in the film other than that. The cinematography is so over-processed by digital color grading and desaturation that, like all it’s emotional beats, you get numb to the artificial images on screen. For a first time director it’s not the worst attempt, but it could have been so, so much more.

Zombeavers

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Zombie beavers. Zombeavers. That’s right folks, such a movie exists. Not only does such a movie exist, but it exists in theaters. What would have otherwise been a bargain bin B movie is playing on screens all across America and I can tell you all, without a shred of doubt in my mind, that it’s one of the worst films I have ever seen. I know what you’re thinking; I should go easy on it. I should let it slide. A movie about zombie beavers can’t possibly be good so why would I be so harsh? Allow me to explain.

Zombeavers starts off really well. I was actually surprised. The very first scene is two dumb, dopey guys in a truck doing what we can assume is a medical waste delivery. The two guys, played by comedian Bill Burr and, if you can believe it, singer/songwriter John Mayer, have some pretty raunchy, witty banter. It’s outrageous, doesn’t make a lick of sense and I loved it. That kind of zany character work always makes me smile so the movie had me hooked. Then we’re introduced to our three lead characters: Mary, Zoe, and Jenn (played by Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, and Lexi Atkins respectively). They’re on a weekend getaway to Mary’s Cousin’s cabin (of course) with a no boys allowed rule (of course). The girls have a day of fun splish splashing away in the lake and everything seems to being going their way (of course). Later that night things get spooky. Banging noises and other minor, but strange, occurrences happen but it’s all a ruse set up by the boys who came anyway (of course). From here we go on the “roller coaster” ride of a horror film. The zombeavers are introduced slowly at first until our plucky young college kids are completely over run. Zombeavers everywhere! Carnage, death, mayhem and more flies across the screen. Sounds exciting, right? That’s the problem. It’s not.

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Horror comedy has been done with varying degrees of success over the years. When it’s good, it’s really good (Shaun of the Dead) and when it’s bad it’s Zombeavers. It seemed to me the filmmakers wanted to let loose with the comedy, but were continually restraining themselves anytime they’d start to have some fun. I discovered online that the director is a writer whose work is almost entirely in the comedy genre. That makes sense. Anytime the movie wants to be funny it really is. Zombeavers can’t do horror well enough to scare, and it’s too afraid to comedy for fear of, I don’t know, not being taken seriously. It doesn’t even do gore particularly well. It’s hard to really know what the intention of the director was. The scares are non-existent and the creature effects are laughably bad. That wouldn’t be so terrible if it was played with a wink of the eye and even a hint of self-awareness. They try and play the zombie beavers straight and it does not work. The budget of the film is painfully noticeable as well. A character has his foot bitten off and they decided to remove the foot in post production. No biggie, that’s how it’s done these days. Trouble with that is there were multiple instances where they either forgot to remove the foot, or removed it very poorly. The sound design in the film is also glaringly bad. Most probably won’t notice it, but it became so grating that I wanted to flee the theater. If your budget can’t fully support the horror you want to create, then for the love of God be more creative or be funny.

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I feel bad being so critical to a film that was clearly trying to be dopey and “so bad it’s good.” A midnight, drunken viewing of the film might prove pretty entertaining. If you can watch it at a noisy get together with some friends where absolutely nothing on screen will affect your buzz I suppose I could recommend it. Otherwise forget it. Trying to be bad, but in a good way, is one of the big cinema sins. It’s as cringe worthy as someone trying to make a viral video. You can’t force it.

The Lazarus Effect

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It’s a long established trope within the world of horror for a wide eyed, eager scientist to be brought down by that pesky thing we call hubris. It’s a tried and true element of horror going back to the early days of the genre. Man dabbles in some sort of hokey pokey science common sense tells him he ought’a avoid and carnage ensues shortly thereafter. It’s been done before and will be done again. It’s up to the filmmakers and story tellers to find their version of that story, to find their unique spin on the concept. Some succeed, some fail, but you can never fault them for trying. That said, let’s dive into The Lazarus Effect.

The Lazarus Effect essentially boils down to a few plucky college scientists come up with a serum that can restore life. As is tradition, our team starts off with animal trials. They resurrect an already aggressive looking dog, with predictably terrible results. I don’t know why you wouldn’t start with something a tad safer like a ferret or a parakeet or something, but I’m no scientist. After this successful animal trial a scheming pharmaceutical corporation pulls a sneaky bureaucratic move that see’s our idealistic scientists losing all their research. Naturally they decide the only way to vindicate themselves is to repeat the experiment and film it to prove the work was their’s first, not that cackling villain of a corporation. By the way, that’s essentially the last we really see or hear from that pharmaceutical. Anyway, back the story. Our young heroes pull a dead dog out of the fridge and rig him up to be revived. Wouldn’t you know it things go sour and Olivia Wilde’s character drops dead. If only they had a magic serum that brought stuff back to life. Luckily for Ms. Wilde they do. She swaps places with the the frozen puppy dog on the table, then get’s the ol’ Frankenstein treatment.

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From here forward the typical bunch of cliched horror shenanigans take over. Lots of jump scares, lots of ominous music and lots of carnage. Well, maybe not carnage. Sure, people die. It is a horror movie after all and it’d be strange to not have people dropping dead like it’s going out of style, and drop dead they do. Fast. But by the time the horrific chaos kicks in we’re at the tail end of the movie and you can’t help but feel the director was looking at the film he had left over and just shouted at people to hurry. As a matter of fact, the supremely disappointing ending felt like the beginning of the third act. Things just kinda stopped. Had they followed the thread they laid down at the end and cut out some of the more extraneous elements (I’m looking at you Big Pharma) they could have had a solid horror story on their hands. They had a movie that could have tackled the science versus religious debate within the confines of the horror genre, but it felt like the filmmakers just gave up.

This movie is another in a series of horror flicks I’ve seen recently that have a really interesting concept but something during the production kept theses movies from truly achieving any sort of greatness. In The Lazarus Effect we’re presented with two ideas about the nature of death. We have one character saying the phenomenon of the afterlife and the so called “white light” everyone see’s as they pass is the mind releasing a flood of the chemical compound DMT. I guess that acts as some sort of hallucinogen in the brain that lessens the impact of death, or eases the whole experience. After Olivia Wilde dies and is resurrected she tells of a nightmare she had to relive for years during the few minutes she was dead. The movie suggests that Hell is where a person goes to relive the worst moment of their life over and over again. These two ideas, one science based, one religious based, are presented to the audience and then never expanded upon. There’s killing to get to and we don’t have time to deal with those kind of big debates. So it’s left hanging. Is Olivia Wilde tripping on DMT so severely that it’s given her demonic super powers, or has she returned with a demonic presence latched onto her soul. The movie never really tells us. She can do some crazy stuff, but the “why” is missing. If bringing back someone from the dead gives them super demon powers we as the audience deserve to know for sure which one it is, especially if you present two opposing ideas that make perfect sense and are supported within the narrative of the film. Don’t let an idea dangle there. Grab it and run with it or don’t bother giving it to us at all.

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On a technical side everything in the movie was fine. It looked good and didn’t have any wonky special effects. The performances of the main cast were typical of what you’d find in this kind of movie. The biggest problem with the cast was Mark Duplass. He’s a fine actor, but in this film his eyes were telling the audience he didn’t believe a single word that came out of his mouth. He’s supposed to be the smart guy in the room, but you don’t buy it for a second. Evan Peters, Donald Glover and Sarah Bolger all did perfectly fine jobs given the sort of film we’re dealing with, but none of the performances really drew you into the film.

This movie just doesn’t work. It had a lot of things it could have expanded on that it just didn’t, and spent time on elements it had no business worrying about. The opportunity to tell a good story took a back seat to a series of jump scares. If that’s your cup of tea give the movie a shot, but I can’t really recommend it.