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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Invitation 03:23 PM -- Tue October 4, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Invitation (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 6.7/10
Metacritic: 74
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% critics, 71% audience
Mikey: 4.5/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.”

Mikey: I'm gonna jump right in the deep end of this psychological horror: Is pain optional? Is it just physical and changeable? Can you beat it with your brain?

Solee: To a certain extent, I believe we can control the pain we feel, both physical and emotional. Some people are better at this than others. I also believe that pain can serve a purpose. Physical pain keeps us from destroying this fragile vessel we call our body. Emotional pain can help us make decisions and provide the contrast needed to get us to truly appreciate the good things in our lives.

Mikey: Speaking of painful, how soon would you have left that party? Or tried to...

Solee: I wouldn’t have gone to that party in the first place! Oh, hey, my ex wants me to come hang out in what used to be my fancy house so that I can see how happy she and her new lover are? No thank you. And I certainly wouldn’t ask my new significant other to go either. Seeing how close-knit those friends were, I can kind of understand him wanting to reconnect with them, but he should have just had his own party and invited them (and NOT the ex or the creepy dude she’s with now).

That being said, I’m afraid that my “Minnesota Nice” upbringing might have kept me stuck in that dinner party until I met a grisly end if I had actually gone. I would like to think I’d have been smart, like Claire, and bailed when things got too sketchy for me, but I would have been worried about insulting the hosts and making my friends think I wasn’t cool enough to hang. Sad, but true.

Mikey: Something I caught just from a brief aside in this movie really was interesting to me: Grief and sadness are backwards-looking emotions that serve no purpose. They don’t plan for the future in any way, they are just a way of ruminating about what has happened previously. Joy and hope on the other hand are completely forward-looking emotions, thinking about the future and planning for it. Obviously we can’t really choose what we feel, but it seemed like an interesting observation to me. What do you think about this? Do you think grief serves an important purpose, or would you skip it if you could?

Solee: We clearly share a brain. I kind of answered this question up above before I saw you asking it here. I think there are lessons to be learned from grief. I also feel that sometimes grief is the price we pay for joy. For example, losing my grandmother was very difficult for me, but that pain was the result of many years of love and happiness with her. I’m willing to pay that price.

I agree about the forward and backward thinking aspects of these emotions. It’s easy to be trapped in grief, unable to move forward. Even when we don’t realize it, unaddressed grief can influence our lives in a myriad of ways. Because of this, I think it’s important to actually deal with grief. Not to give too much of the ending away, but Will and Eden were both pretty messed up in their grief. Will looked much more broken on the outside, but I think he was actually the healthier of the two, because he was facing his grief instead of hiding from it.

Mikey: Half-time analysis! Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I’m confident that I understand what’s happened up to this point. I understand the history of these characters and their general relationships to one another. What I don’t know is where this is all going. The story has been written in such a way that I truly don’t know which direction it will finally break and I will find either way believable. I give the writers props for walking this fine line.

In the very beginning I was 110% sure there was going to be a bloodbath at some point in this movie. Now, I’m not at all sure it will actually happen that way, mostly because I can’t figure out WHY the bloodbath will start.

I am completely confident that I am very uncomfortable at this dinner party and I would like to go home now.

Mikey: Something interesting I felt at the end of this movie was actual relief when the murderin’ started up. I was finally able to relax and stop worrying about it. Did you experience something like this? How did the movie change for you at that pivotal moment?

Solee: Yes! I didn’t think of it in those exact terms, but there was a definite release once I finally knew without a doubt what was really going on. This was by far the most stressful movie of the ones we’ve watched so far.

Mikey: The movie makes no comment on this matter, so it’s up to you: Did Claire get away?

Solee: Gah. I don’t knoooowww! I’m going to say yes, she got away. She was the only one smart enough to listen to her gut and bail and I think she did it early enough that she would have actually gotten away. But there’s a very real possibility her little white car is still there on the other side of that wall with a corpse in it.

Mikey: I declare she's toast. But with the movie over now, how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was so wishy-washy with my predictions that I don’t feel like I can take too much credit for being right about anything. My initial gut instinct was very accurate, but I had given up on a lot of that by half-time. I should have trusted myself!

Mikey: Were you scared at any point?

Solee: I prefer thrillers like this to other types of horror films because I love that nervous, edgy feeling you get when you’re not quite sure whether there’s even something bad happening. (In movies… I HATE it in real life.) I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. Once the dying started, there were several moments that made me flinch, but I’m not sure that was fear. I think it was more sympathetic reactions.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - Good
Directing - Good
Acting - Good

It feels very disinteresting to give them all high marks, but I actually really enjoyed this movie. The writing kept me interested all the way through. Nothing really jumped out at me regarding the directing, which I assume means they did a decent job. I would have noticed annoying music or cheesy editing. (I did think the mirror shot was a little “on the nose”, but it also looked pretty cool, so I forgive it.) I thought the acting was pretty good. Usually with horror films you have to watch people to way over-the-top fear. I felt like the fear was authentic. Also, I liked the more realistic ways people died in this movie.

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Hmmm. I can’t think of anything I’d change! I thought it wrapped things up nicely, but left you things to think about the next day. It was exciting, but realistic (within the horror universe). I thought it was very well done. I don’t often say that about horror!

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this one a 4.5 out of 5. Actually, I liked this one. It would have to be something pretty good, like a dinner party with friends, to take me away from it.

Mikey: You can go to the dinner party without me. If you wanna check out my take on this particular dinner party, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

For tomorrow, our movie will finally be [REC], a movie I've been trying to watch for these horror reviews since they started in 2011. Technological advances have finally made it possible (Roku, with its awesome search system across all different movie apps and access to pay-per-view of nearly any movie in history). I'm so glad the dark ages are over.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Shadow Puppets 02:00 PM -- Mon October 3, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Shadow Puppets (2007)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 22% audience
Mikey: 1.5/5
Solee: 3/5
We watched on Amazon Prime.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Eight strangers with no memories find themselves trapped in an abandoned facility. As they desperately try to find answers and escape, their own Shadows attempt to consume them from the darkness.”

We watched this movie together in the early afternoon on a grey fall day.

Mikey: Spike! You were excited to find a movie with Spike in it, just as I had hoped. What did you think about seeing him be American? How did he do in this movie?

Solee: Yes, I was excited to see Spike. He’s a cutie. He did pretty well in this movie. I thought his character was pretty believable and I only spent the first few minutes pretending it was actually Spike the Vampire in there. I did imagine this movie being done as a Buffy episode, though. That would have been fun.

Mikey: It definitely would've improved it. What did you think of the “science” in this movie? Do you think it’s a fairly accurate representation of how brain swiping works? (Bonus question: why on earth is it “swiping” instead of “wiping”?)

Solee: I think it’s probably harder to “swipe” a brain than they made it seem. If it were easy, it would happen more often. Governments are generally very good at exploiting any technology that comes along in horrible ways and very bad at actually keeping secrets secret for long. That being said, I felt like it suited the story of this movie well and it was believable to serve to move the plot forward.

“Swiping” is a highly technical term. I wouldn’t expect you to understand now that you’ve been swi… I mean… would you like a treatment?

Mikey: Yes, I enjoy my treatments. You are on record as finding this to be a better movie than the last two. Without spoiling your ratings, can you delve into that? What had you hooked?

Solee: I’m a sucker for a mystery, especially when the story offers up clues so that I can feel clever when I notice them and put them together correctly. I liked picking up on the little things like the swiper being used 8 times.

I also enjoy anything that has a psychological aspect. I’ll watch the nastiest, goriest movie if it’s a psychological thriller. Criminal Minds is one of my favorite shows because it’s all about what drives people to do the things they do. This movie had a variety of different personalities all driven by different things.

Mikey: Did the creators just pick the name “Shadow Puppets” because it’s a common phrase with the word ‘shadow’ in it, or does it mean something to the movie?

Solee: I honestly have NO IDEA what that name has to do with this movie. It’s almost like they used a random name generator. So wierd.

Mikey: Halfway in, do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I’m struggling with this because I didn’t take notes and I don’t remember how I felt at the halfway mark. Um… I knew Spike was the big bad. I knew it was going to be a lot of running around and finding people and not knowing who to trust. I don’t really remember where I thought it would end up. I know I was intrigued.

Mikey: Are you regretting your decision to participate in my Halloween Movie reviews yet?

Solee: Not at all! I love trying to come up with interesting questions and seeing your answers. I always like finding out what’s going on that head of yours. And now that I get to answer questions too, I’m even more entertained.

Mikey: Fun for me too! The movie's over. How right or wrong were you about your predictions? You knew Spike was the badguy the moment you saw him. Why?

Solee: There are actually two reasons I accused him right out of the gate. First of all, I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know that the character being played by the most recognizable actor is ALWAYS the killer. Secondly, in these locked room movies, the bad guy always locks himself in with the victims. It’s almost always the first person the protagonist meets. So he was a dead-ringer for me.

Mikey: I'm concerned that you are locked in here with me now. Were you scared at any point?

Solee: There were a few scenes that had my anxiety level on the rise. However, just as I’d really start to get into it, the Mean Girl would make some ridiculous face or scream in some insane way that made me laugh.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - not quite Bad, not quite Good
Directing - same?
Acting - Badish?

I am having a hard time committing to an answer for any of them. The storyline was interesting, but in a pretty generic way. I don’t really feel as though there was much to make this stand out from any other locked room story. I don’t remember any obviously annoying directorial things like songs or whatever. On the other hand, some of the acting was SO bad that I have to put some of the blame on the director. Or maybe some of those actors were just that bad? The Mean Girl was pretty awful. But some of them were decent - not good, mind you - and I feel bad lumping them all together in the Ugly category.
This question is too hard. I’m moving on!

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Huh. So I don’t really remember how it ended, aside from lots more people getting stabbed by shadows. I know there was an explanation as to why they were all mind-swiped. I know who the bad guy was… but I don’t even remember if anyone survived. I guess that says something for the quality of the story (or lack thereof). I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved by changing the climax. I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. The whole thing would have to be rewritten to make that happen. I don’t remember having any real problems with the climax, it wrapped things up well enough to make me think, “Huh. Ok.” It just wasn’t enough to make me mull it over past the ending credits.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie 3 out of 5. It wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t the worst way to spend a couple of hours. I’d be willing to watch it while folding laundry.

Mikey: Wow, folks... check out Solee's interview, for my more negative thoughts!

Tomorrow, we're watching The Invitation, so watch along with us.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Dead Room 07:16 PM -- Sun October 2, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Dead Room (2016)
Rated TV-MA
IMDB rating: 4.7/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 23% audience
Mikey: 2.5/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange
IMDB’s description: “When a terrified family flees a desolate southern New Zealand farmhouse, two cynical scientists and a young psychic are sent to investigate their claims of a haunting. There they encounter a powerful spirit that will protect the house's secrets at all costs.”

To set the scene a bit, we watched this movie in the evening, with a full moon hanging over the river. It was dimly lit. I was sick, and Solee was exhausted. I guess we were ready to hit The Dead Room!

Mikey: I think our views on this movie differed more than the usual. Not a fan of the psychic in shortie shorts?

Solee: I was pretty “meh” about the whole film right up until the end, at which point it just became disappointing. I thought her short shorts and thigh high socks were a little silly, yes. She can wear whatever she is comfortable in, but I’d probably wear something with a higher protective value.

Mikey: Hey, ghosts don't shoot guns, we don't need kevlar. We’ve now watched houses haunted in two ways: an invisible ghost in a normal movie, and a visible one in found footage. What’s better?

Solee: I preferred the invisible ghost, actually. I think once a ghost is visible, some of the mystery has gone out of it. Allowing the viewer to imagine their scariest ghost is infinitely scarier than committing to a specific CGI effect.

Mikey: That is always the way. Okay, the “tech guy” in this looked like Ryan Stiles. Would this movie have been better if it were Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie as the ghost hunters? What are some key differences?

Solee: Heck, yeah! I would watch the “Who’s Line” cast redo that movie in a heartbeat! Wayne Brady would make a terrific singing psychic and I’m sure Colin Mochrie would have no trouble with the pompous scientist character. Cheesy horror with a sense of humor is always better than cheesy, taking-itself-seriously horror.

Mikey: I have to admit that would be awesome. Not just a ghost movie, but them literally performing this exact movie for us. So what was the deal with the room of flies? Did you ever notice that door being opened again? Was it just a red herring?

Solee: Oh, this movie… it was just chock full of unfulfilled promises! The room full of flies that suddenly disappeared. The baby crib that was never explained or utilized. The dreamcatcher. The… well, I don’t remember what else, but I know the first act was full of pistols that were never used to shoot anyone in the third act. This is a high crime in writing and I was offended by it.

Mikey: Okay, it's half time! Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I feel like I understood the gist of the story. Family is scared away mid-dinner by a ghost (which only appeared at precisely 3 am at any point in the movie… why was this family eating dinner at 3 am??), insurance company hires ghost hunters to prove the ghosts don’t exists (because, I guess, there is some insurance payout in New Zealand for haunted houses?), ghost hunters discover ghost and decide to deal with it. Pretty basic, really. I figure the ghost will prove to be hardier than they expect, doing some damage, and then they will chase it off with the pseudo-science the skeptic character was spouting. I’m expecting to learn backstory along the way that explains the room (ahem… the Dead Room?) that clearly has a dead body in it (soooo many flies) and includes something sad about a baby. :( I’m 75% confident that I know, roughly, how this will play out.

Mikey: So confident... The movie's over now, so how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was right about how things would pan out. I was very wrong about the backstory. They told us nothing. I find that disappointing, because the whole point of a ghost story is the psychology of why there’s an angry ghost in the first place.

Mikey: Right, this movie didn’t offer any explanation for its ghosts, so now that’s your job. What’s the backstory?

Solee: Well, since there was nothing to indicate that the ghosts were connected to the family they ran off, I’m going to say that they have been in the house for a long time. Based on the outfit, I’d say sometime in the 1800s, the woman was kidnapped by a couple of Really Bad Dudes. They did Really Bad Things to her and drove her mad. The police and a number of the farmers from the area spent a long time searching for her. One of the farmers helping with the search was her fiance, a big burly guy with a heart of gold who loved her very much. The police surrounded the house where the Really Bad Dudes were holding the woman. Frightened, they killed her, but not until her lover heard her screaming for help. He ran into the house in a failed attempt to save her and was also killed by the Really Bad Dudes. The ghost of the madwoman, unable to differentiate between those who hurt her and those who were trying to help her, became extremely dangerous and the ghost of her lover remained by her side, soothing her and driving away all who might fall victim to her misplaced rage. At least, until the ghost hunters expelled him from this realm.

Mikey: Wow, that is a big improvement. I still feel it's not enough to justify what she was like, but I'll take it. Were you scared at any point?

Solee: Not being able to see the ghost through the majority of the film was definitely unsettling. I was primed for jump scares much of the movie but I’m not sure that I was every really truly surprised by anything. I certainly didn’t feel all that attached to the characters. It was obvious that they were going to be ghost fodder, and frankly none of them were all that likeable, so I wasn’t really scared of the emotional impact of them getting eaten.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly? It’s okay if you want to re-use good/bad/ugly.

Solee: Writing - Ugly
Directing - Good
Acting - Bad
I’m going to give directing the Good because I liked the way the invisible ghost affected things in the house. The banging doors, jangling light fixtures, etc were creepy and well done. There are several examples of hauntingly pretty shots of the hallway and the front door. The acting gets the Bad because they weren’t able to make me feel like they were real people. If I’m constantly thinking “Yep, that’s what the skeptic would say now” or “No, the psychic wouldn’t react like that” then you’ve failed to make your character more than a stereotype. The Ugly goes to the writing because it’s almost as though there were no writing. They probably could have gotten the exact same movie if the director took a few people who were familiar with the ghost story genre, put them in a creepy house and said, “Pretend there’s a ghost in there with you.”

Mikey: I think that's probably true, actually. I'd kind of like to see that improv movie (or better yet the one we talked about above). Anyway, here's the game: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: No question, I would put some backstory in there. I would explain why the woman was tied up in the basement to die. I would explain why her ghost was so angry and why the other ghost was protecting people from her. There’s so much potential there and it’s sad to see it wasted. The ending was nothing more than jump scares, frantic running, and people being dragged off.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie 2 out of 5. If there had been an actual story it would have gotten a 3. If the acting had been even a tiny big worse, it would have gotten a 1.
That being said, it wasn’t all that arduous to watch. I would rather change and wash all the linens in the house that watch this movie.

Mikey: Wow, I think it'd have to be pretty horrifying (like a Hugh Grant romantic comedy) to do that kind of damage to me personally.

Tomorrow, we will be reviewing Shadow Puppets, so come back and check it out. If you missed the earlier link, you can find Solee's interview of me at SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension 05:26 PM -- Sat October 1, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Welcome to the latest round of Belittling Horror Excessively! As you may know, each October, I watch a horror movie every day, and write up a review of it. I try something a little different almost every year, and this time we definitely have something new for you... interviews! For the first time ever, I’ve managed to convince my lovely wife Solange to watch the movies with me, and I will be interviewing her for her opinion on each movie. Conversely, she’s going to interview me as well! The interviews of me will be posted on her blog, and my interviews of her are going to be right here (don’t worry, we’ll link to each other). Solee is not a horror movie fan, though she’s also not the type who refuse to ever watch one, but it will definitely give you a different perspective, as I will gleefully watch the worst horror movies back-to-back.

Per usual, you should be warned that these reviews SERIOUSLY CONTAIN SPOILERS. We hold nothing back and will totally spoil every movie we watch. If you care about ever seeing these movies, and you haven’t, then first of all, I’d urge you to go see them. That’s part of the fun! But if you’re not going to do that, I’d recommend not reading the interviews. They will spoil the movie, for sure. They also won’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the movie, as we don’t explain anything we’re talking about.

With that said, here is our first interview. For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) (#6 in series)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.5/10
Metacritic: 30
Rotten Tomatoes: 13% critics, 28% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 1/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange accompanies each review!
IMDB’s description: “Using a special camera that can see spirits, a family must protect their daughter from an evil entity with a sinister plan.”

Mikey: Rather atypically, I am interviewing you about a week after the movie here rather than right away. So I want to get into that: how memorable was this movie?

Solee: I have pretty vivid images of the different rooms being recorded during the dead of night. I also remember how annoying it was when the brother first arrived. Oh, and there was this brief moment when the little girl was floating up by the ceiling having a conversation with Toby and all you could see in the frame were her feet. I think I even rewound to rewatch that bit. I found it surprisingly unsettling. I think it was that she was just up there giggling and being totally chill about it.

Mikey: What did you think of the big Christmas tree in this movie?

Solee: I LOVED that Christmas tree! You know I always want to have the biggest tree I can manage and I’d love to leave the twinkly lights on 24/7 from Thanksgiving through New Years! In this particular movie, the Christmas tree seems to be that constant reminder of normal. As life in that house got stranger and stranger, there was this big symbol of peace and joy shining in the night. It didn’t change the strangeness or protect them from the bad things that happened to them, though, which I think says something.

Mikey: Scary movies aren’t generally considered your thing. Did this one scare you?

Solee: I have always enjoyed the Paranormal Activity movies because I am a big fan of staring at a perfectly normal scene wondering where the scary thing is going to suddenly appear. I like it best when it’s something super subtle, like eyes peering out of a dark corner, that I might have missed. It makes me think about what I might be missing in the dark corners of my own house. Sadly, this movie did NOT live up to the rest of the Paranormal Activity line. The fact that we could see the scary thing coming spoiled all the fun for me.

I know that I jumped several times as things rushed the camera, but I don’t count that as being scared and I think that movies (and directors) who rely on involuntary reactions are being lazy. I remember being worried for the mom as she was leaning into the fireplace. And as I mentioned earlier, I was unsettled by the giggling girl on the ceiling just out of frame. I don’t think I was really scared at any point though.

Mikey: Yeah, I had a similar reaction! During the movie, you said you like when they pan away, pan back, and see furniture on the ceiling. What else is a Paranormal Activity fun-time for you?

Solee: Oh, yeah! I love when the furniture is suddenly rearranged or the drawers and cupboards are all opened in the space of a few seconds. I don’t find blood and guts or dripping beasties as scary as psychological terror. I think it’s because I don’t really believe in ghosts or vampires or swamp things. I do, however, believe that the mind is a malleable thing, easily manipulated into thinking bad things.

Mikey: You know I found Moustache Mike annoying. What was your take on him? You usually like Mikes!

Solee: Mikes are my favorite. But that moustache! And anyone who moves into your house uninvited, hits on your in-laws, and breaks your stuff without remorse is annoying. He was just one of those guys who never thinks about what anyone else is thinking and that is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think I cheered when he and the caterpillar he kept on his lip got eaten.

Mikey: Each time we watch one of these movies, we pause it at the halfway mark (or as close to that as we remember to push the pause button), and each write down our predictions. So Solee, do you feel like you understand what’s happening at the halfway point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I didn’t really feel confident that I knew what was going on at all. I know I’ve seen all the other Paranormal Activity movies, but I don’t keep things like that in my memory banks, so I felt like I was missing background knowledge that might have made things make more sense. I was pretty sure everyone in the family was going to die and I figured we’d see lots of creepy things happening in the night while nobody was watching. Beyond that, I didn’t have much in the way of predictions.

Mikey: (After the movie ended) How right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I wasn’t too far off, but considering how vague my predictions were, that’s not saying much.

Mikey: Okay, you have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly? It’s okay if you want to re-use good/bad/ugly.

Solee:
Writing - Ugly
Directing - Bad
Acting - Bad

I was very disappointed in this movie. The acting could have been worse, but it’s a far cry from good. The directing, as I mentioned before, seemed to rely on throwing things in my face to make me flinch. That might be because the writing was just so very very horrible, though. The characters were unbelievable, the pacing was super slow, and they wandered too far away from the few things I liked about the previous movies.

Mikey: Okay, that’s fair... So now you have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Honestly, I don’t remember much about the climax of the movie. I think that says something about how wrong it went. Once the portal opened, I was done. One thing I would definitely do differently: I would have had some kind of explanation wrapping up the connection between the two timelines and explaining a little about what was going on. You decided to veer off the beaten path of the Paranormal Activity canon, Mr Screenwriter, so it’s up to YOU to make it make sense to me.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie a 1 out of 5. It was not good. I think I’d rather clean bathrooms than watch this movie again. In fact, it’s going to make me think twice about any future Paranormal Activity movies, too.

Mikey: Ouch!

Tomorrow, we will be reviewing The Dead Room, so come back and check it out. If you missed the earlier link, you can find Solee's interview of me at SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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  BHE Reviews incoming! 01:59 PM -- Fri September 30, 2016  

[First, the forums are still down. Still no ETA, still haven't even started any work on them. I know. It's just how my life is these days!]

As many of you know, every year for many years now I have reviewed a horror movie a day throughout October. It's fun. I likes it. But each year I try to do something a little different with it. And this year, I was surprised to discover my wife was interested in being involved. So what we have for you this year is something entirely new: my wife and I will both watch a movie each day together, and then we'll be interviewing each other about it! It's kinda weird, but it comes with a drawing by my wife, so it's fun. I'll be posting my interviews of her on this website, and she'll be posting her interviews of me on her blog, SoloRien. I'll be linking each day if you want to keep up with the whole thing.

In honor of this auspicious month, I've also modified the site a bit so you can post comments on the journal unregistered. So share your own thoughts!

I'll try to give you a day of warning so you can watch the movie too, as per usual we are going to be spoiling it to high heaven. Especially with this interview format, we need to be free to talk about all the parts of the movie. So if you'd like to watch along (it shouldn't be too hard: nearly everything we watch is available on either Netflix or Hulu... er, at least in the USA it is), prepare yourself tonight with our first film: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.

Happy Halloween!
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  Cheap games! 04:02 PM -- Mon September 5, 2016  

Hey, I just reduced the prices on all our games by a totally insane amount. The $20 games are now $5 games, Supreme is now $10, and others are even cheaper. Except for Mia's Happy Day, but that's a charity thing, come on dude. This is a permanent change. Enjoy cheap old games that have a hard time running on modern hardware!

And yes, the forum is still down, so you can't actually sign in to make purchases like this go into your Dumb Account if you're not logged in right now... sorry! One thing at a time I guess (and as usual, that one thing is more Growtopia updates).
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  Yeah, still no forums, but virtual reality! 04:38 PM -- Mon August 15, 2016  

Haven't even started. It's been Player Appreciation Week in Growtopia which not only means the usual update launch, but actually significant time every day managing daily releases of the new stuff, and watching for all the potential blow-ups they cause (we did well this time, no major bugs!). On top of that, I am rushing big-time on certain future updates that are majorly complex and need to get done and tested. So I'm not really in a place where I can spend time on the site (surprise, surprise). It is yet another thing dragging on my mind constantly though, if that's any consolation.

In other news, I got the HTC Vive VR system about a month ago! VR gaming is ... hard to describe. It really is something new. I mean, on the one hand it's exactly what you think: you play a game, but the "screen" is all around you. But how that actually works out in practice is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Witness Solorien play Fruit Ninja VR:

Now, when I say it's so new and strange, I'm actually speaking specifically of the HTC Vive. I got one of the Oculus Rift development kits way back when and tried it out for about half an hour, and it was... okay. This is a whole different story. This is what's called "room scale" VR. That means you've got a lot more going for you than just a 360 degree view. There are sensors on the walls (you have to drill and install them! Or put them up on tripods), which track the position of the helmet and controllers, so you really are in a full 3D space. It's not a very big space, mind you (4m x 3m is about the biggest I could get going, and that's not too much smaller than what they claim is the biggest their sensors support), but it gives you enough room to sidestep, crouch, step around things and more. There's a system that shows you a holodeck-style grid when you get too close to the edge of your space, so you don't walk into any walls.

It's really amazing to actually be in that virtual space. It's completely convincing, whatever it may happen to be showing you. You are there. At least as long as you don't run into any glitchiness - sometimes the view will start to jitter, or much much worse, you can end up 'shifted' vertically so you can no longer touch the floor, or you're a little under it. That can make some games unplayable. But glitches have been rare. For the most part, it's just this immersive world.

As you can imagine, with such a small space, your game options are actually pretty limited though. There have been a variety of attempts to get around this limitation with varying success. First, I should note that almost every VR game you can get at this point isn't much of a game. They're all either "My First Unity Project", or if they are professional quality works, they're tiny little tech demos rather than full-blown games. So there's not that much going on, it's really just the experience that's so impressive, not the games themselves.

So with that said, some games get around the space limitations by offering a teleport ability - you can hold a button to aim a target somewhere in the world, and then you teleport to the spot you chose. This works pretty well, actually, but it's not really great for fast-paced action, and it doesn't make sense in most games. It also has a strange effect of almost making you feel like you can't walk - having two different methods of moving around, one of which is confined to a small space, makes your brain just stick to the teleporting one, even for tiny distances (If I could teleport in real life, I probably wouldn't walk much either!). It also requires a sort of arbitrarily amazing technology in the in-game world: "Oh, my character can teleport? Okay". One game, Unseen Diplomacy, has a whole different take that feels incredible (but requires a huge amount of space - more than I could fit in the room you see in the video. I had to put my sensors up in tripods in a bigger room to try it): you explore tiny little rooms, much smaller than your whole VR space, then go through a door into the next room. Then from there, into the next, to the next, to the next. You can explore an infinitely large complex with this system. How? Simple: each room's exit is 90 degrees turned from the last room's. You end up just walking in a circle around your VR space! But what was so great about this was that it really felt like I was traveling through a real world, even though topologically the new rooms were actually in places that previous rooms were earlier. Unseen Diplomacy is fun, but like most VR games, it's about 5 minutes long in total.

There are a million other things I could say about my VR experience, but here's the gist: VR games are in their absolute infancy. You're basically playing Pong (in fact, you can - there are at least 2 pong games I know of for the Vive). But the sensation of doing that in a virtual space is just amazing, not to mention way healthier than sitting at a desk. At this point, it's amazing enough to make it worth your time, if not your $800 (OUCH), but I do hope developers start producing more robust games. It can certainly be done, and I'd love to do it myself one day. Right now people are just beginning to figure out the basics, but as they get their footing, I think we'll see a whole new world of gaming. Not one that replaces traditional gaming, but an alternative that becomes popular in its own right.
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  Whither yon forums? 08:14 PM -- Tue July 19, 2016  

Yeah, you may have noticed our forums have disappeared. It's a complicated story involving outdated technology, and the easiest solution was to put it out of its misery for now. I've had a new website basically finished for at least a year now, but no time to put it up and verify it all works and all that. I've had plans about that, but boy, when Growtopia is an endless stream of minor crises and a huge update every month, and then you have to also live life, which can be a tricky process on its own (I even had to vacuum today! Imagine!), it's hard to dig into something as complex as a database-driven website.

I guess this dead forum is the incentive I need to get to work on that... or at least I hope it is. No data is lost or anything, I'll just install a current version of VBulletin on the new site and migrate the data. Hamumu is heading into the mysterious future! Sometime in the mysterious future.
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  Hamumu Revumu: The Warcraft Movie! 09:36 PM -- Tue June 14, 2016  

As a long long time Warcraft player (Warcraft 1 all the way through, Warcraft 2 probably twice through, Wacraft 3 and expansions at least twice through, and WoW for something like 8 years straight), I had been eagerly anticipating the Warcraft movie for quite some time and checking out all the little hints and teasers as they came up.

When it was near to release (or I think had already been released in China and other markets), reviews started to come in, calling it dull, confusing, and just plain bad. That was about what I had assumed would happen, but there was a surprise in store for me when I went to go see it yesterday!

It was good! I highly recommend it as a movie. I don't care if you are a Warcraft fan or not, I feel like that has virtually nothing to do with the experience. There are a few fun little references for WoW players in there*, but on the whole, Warcraft knowledge is really not a factor. There are a ton of names in the movie I recognized immediately, like Gul'dan, Lothar, and Khadgar, but that didn't really mean much other than that I knew how to spell the names I was hearing. I guess I did have a little bonus fun with things like seeing Stormwind in movie form, but there was nothing that you had to know the game to "get". My wife saw the movie with me and found it equally engaging without knowing anything about it. In fact, she went into it very reluctantly, thinking the idea of a movie from that stupid game I had always been playing sounded absolutely terrible. But she may have even enjoyed it more than I did.

It's not a deep movie, and it doesn't have shocking twists and amazing moments. It's not a cinematic masterpiece. It's just a fun, solid adventure. One of the things I liked best is that it's funny throughout, in a really good and subtle way. I haven't seen Lord of The Rings in many many years, but I feel pretty confident this movie was a lot more enjoyable than any of those were. I really don't understand where the reviews came from, especially calling it dull or slow. It's nothing but action.

I will say the one thing that really pulled me out of the movie every time was a surprise: the CGI orcs were great. Totally convincing (although the fights between them and real actors were pretty weak overall, I thought). All the other CGI was equally great. But for some insane reason, whenever the heroes would go for a journey through the woods, they'd walk through these hilariously bad sets instead of a real forest. Like a dirt floor with a bunch of plants just jammed into the ground every foot or two. I could not understand why they did that. You'd see this amazing CGI landscape behind them, but at their feet was approximately what you see in the average aquarium.

So all in all: it's not groundbreaking cinema (except maybe in terms of facial animation). It's not high art. But it is definitely fun all around. I saw the new X-Men movie 2 days earlier, and I can confidently say Warcraft is a far superior version of almost the exact same thing (a group of superheroes preventing the end of the world... never seen that in a movie before!). Now, it definitely wasn't better than Deadpool, though. If there aren't sequels to Warcraft, I will be deeply disappointed. I'm happy to catch every new one as soon as it comes out, just like the Marvel movies. I can't wait to watch The Lich King movie!

* Some references: a guy gets sheeped at one point, there's a murloc in the corner of one scene that goes "mrglrglrrglrl", and at the very end of the movie, a fishing bobber! Odd thing to be a fun reference, yet it was somehow. Plus all the places they go and most of the characters are straight out of the game.
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  More Hamumu Revumus 11:14 PM -- Wed May 18, 2016  

Lemme just blast through a few games I've played in the last 6 months so that I have them reviewed and can stop trying to remember details (note: I already don't remember details or what exactly I liked and disliked, so deal with that!).

Mad Max
At first I loved this game. It felt like it was gonna be so awesome, and hearkened back to ye olde days of Autoduel on the Apple II (and also Interstate '76, more recently, which I loved the soundtrack to and lost). You younguns won't know about Autoduel, but it was great. You'd kill badguys to get money to upgrade your car and stick guns and flamethrowers out of every side in a top-down murderfest. Delightful.

Mad Max is the same concept, but in keeping with your usual AAA story-adventure-movie game, the RPG upgrades aren't very meaningful since you eventually get them all. The only question is which order you get them in. But it is fun to improve your car and decide how it functions. There's a lot I enjoyed, especially going into the bandit camps and conquering them, one by one. That's always satisfying.

What brings it down from greatness is a few things. The car physics are too real (though not very real at all, I admit) - it's just not that fun to drive, because the car feels heavy and hard to maneuver, and half the time you're skidding out of control. It gets better as you get upgrades (unless you upgrade your armor, which adds weight!), but even at the best it can be, it still isn't the responsive fun arcadey driving I would want to have. That completely put me off of the races you can enter in the game - they were horribly unfun, since the only joy in a race is the driving, which is not enjoyable here. I felt like a game focused around a car should have a fun car experience! I loved firing my harpoons at other cars, but not so much steering.

Also, the fighting suffers similarly - it just isn't as arcadey as it could be. It's the exact same fighting system as Batman Arkham games, only slower (you can't instantly switch from one move to another), which again brings that feeling of slogging through mud rather than dancing around free as a bird.

So all in all, it was close to greatness. I really tried to have a lot of fun (and I did keep playing all the way to the end), but it was just lacking that visceral control joy that you want from a game.

DmC: Devil May Cry
To clarify since it's poorly named, this is the reboot of Devil May Cry, where he's younger and has black hair. It's awesome. It definitely has joyful control funtimes. It suffers downsides in a lot of the same ways as other DmC games I've played - the upgrades are practically meaningless, doing the move you want is difficult and confusing, and the levels are pure railroading from one point to the next. But the actual murderin' is always fun, and I'm always a fun of games that focus on juggling hapless enemies with continuous attacks. Not my favorite game ever, but very enjoyable.

Saint's Row: Gat Out Of Hell
The BEST Saint's Row game ever. This is practically an expansion to Saint's Row IV, and thus is very short, but that's part of the charm. You're not dragging out an endless search for little powerups all over the place, or finding 400 unfun side-games to finish, or grinding out points for all your abilities. It's all completely focused - you get your upgrades, you kill everybody and blow up everything, and you rush to the finish in 4-8 hours. This game is the only one I can remember in the past 10 years where I stuck with it after winning to try to rack up every achievement just because I enjoyed what I was doing in the game. I am 2 achievements short: one for playing co-op, which I won't do, and the other for playing 20 hours. I have 19 hours played, but just leaving it on another hour seems dumb.

It's all about getting insane powers and annihilating everything with them. One of the weapons is the Ark of the Covenant. Another is a recliner with machine guns and missile launchers built in. The best gun is just a machine gun that shoots diamonds and makes everybody you kill explode into money you can collect. Plus you have wings, and one of the most fun flight systems in any game I can remember. It just feels good to run around and fight in this game. Two thumbs up.

Tomb Raider
Not the old one, the new one (not the newest one, but the first in the new series. Clear?). This is a really good game. It's fun to go around and collect all the secret things, and shooting guys with arrows is fun. Stealth is fun. But it suffers from AAA problems like Mad Max does, though not all the same ones: it has that same sort of "we want the animation to look good, so who cares how the gameplay feels" aspect, where you can't act at certain times just because it would mess up the animation (bad idea, developers: let me mess up the animation in order to have fun and feel in control!). It also has the usual problem of playing for 3 seconds and then sitting through a cutscene, again and again. The worst is when your character does things in cutscenes that you could've done in gameplay, like fighting someone or climbing a wall. Why am I watching something I could be playing? And it has the same thing as Mad Max, where the upgrades are meaningless since you eventually get them all - you only choose the order. Let me design a character! Play a role, perhaps even.

All in all, this is actually a really good game, way better than I had expected it to be before playing (I never liked Tomb Raider games in the old days). I would definitely recommend it.

Batman: Arkham Knight
If there is one series, besides Borderlands, that is my absolute addiction, it is the Arkham games. Okay, Diablo too. And Ratchet & Clank. Anyway, Arkham Knight is a clear-cut finale to the Arkham series, and it is a good one. At first, I didn't think so - unlike the previous games, this one really makes you work to get into it and understand how to play. I'm a veteran with probably a hundred or more hours between the previous games in the series and I was still mostly lost for the first couple of hours of this game. It does a terrible job of bringing you into things and teaching you and pointing you toward your objectives. Even by the time I finished the game, I never got used to the awful system they have for selecting which 'mission' you want to be working on.

So, once I did get used to how to play this game, it is what you'd expect: awesomesauce. Batman games are amazing. To be fair, this is probably the worst one, but that still makes it an awesome game. There is a fair amount of really annoying "car platforming" to be done, but the tank battles you do with your car are actually quite fun, for exactly the reason that Mad Max's fun is compromised: they don't care about realism at all, and your car can switch from normal driving mode into this pure arcade tank mode where you can strafe like you're playing Quake. It's instantly responsive, and really fun to control. It's not very "Batman", but I enjoyed it, which is more than I can say for most games when they switch from their normal gameplay to any sort of alternate mode.

There's also a bunch of great "detective work" to do (never enough - I really want a game like this that focuses in on crime investigation instead of fighting and shooting. The time manipulation you do to solve crimes is very cool), a megaton of hidden things to find (I found them all, because you're never done with Batman while the Riddler remains at large), and a lot of fun traditional Batman brawling with all the gadgets. I love the stealth parts as always. The story is also always good in these games, far more so than almost any other video game. That darn Joker, what a rascal! Anyway, it's a truly great Batman game, provided you can figure out how to play it. So that's it. A bunch of big games I played recently and thought you should know about.
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