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Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. So, since 2011, I have spent the entire month of October every year reviewing a horror movie each day. I've changed formats many times over the years, and in the past few years, I've even been joined by my wife Solee, as well as the occasional guest. We've got text, drawings, video reviews, audio reviews... we got it all! Wanna check out our reviews? Look below, or use the menu to the left to dig deeper!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Fingerprints 03:53 AM -- Mon October 21, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: You know the urban legend where you can park your car on the train tracks, and ghost kids will push it off? First of all, that's totally entitled of you - don't you think those kids have something better to do in the afterlife? But secondly, that's what this movie is about! A girl returns home from rehab, although her family moved in the meantime, to the town where those train tracks are. People start getting killed, and she investigates the legend of the train tracks, and whatever. Bad acting ensues.

Scariness Type: Well... there are ghosts, and a weird torture/slasher person, sort of like Jason, but dumber. But scariness? It's scary they made this movie.

Rating: 1/5 Stun Batons.

Body Count: 1 busfull of kids, plus 6 more non-kids.

Fun Fact: I am pretty sure the main character's mom is a robot. An evil robot.

Best Moment: None.

Worst Moment: I think you'd have to dig deep, but some lowlights include the attempted rape, the train hitting the bus and causing it to... well, cut to some random spinning cameras inside the bus as blood was splashed around with absolutely no special effects at all, and pretty much everything the villain ever does.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: There's a point where the girl and her friends are parked on the train tracks, and of course eagerly awaiting getting pushed by ghost kids. Apparently they're really preoccupied with it because none of them hear or see a semi pulling up behind them until it honks its horn. That is about as believable as every scene in Scream 3.

Horror Tropes: We got our blood drip! I don't actually remember it now, but in my notes it says "modified blood drip", so there may have been something different about how it happened. And of course there's the usual situation where nobody believes the hero, and the supernatural things happening end up making her look like she's doing bad things.

My Take: This was terrible. Just plain terrible. It was clearly direct-to-DVD (or just made-for-TV), as the awful cinematography and ultra-cheapness and low-quality film stock display. I don't know how this can be, but apparently it takes good money to choose a decent font, because I literally could tell this was a TV production based on the fonts in the opening credits. Just so bad. The villain in the end is really unintentionally funny, and pretty much everything else that happens is just terrible.

Missed Opportunity: They could've stopped. They could've said, "You know what? This isn't working. Let's just not do it. We can all go work on something else." They didn't.

The Lesson: Don't watch this.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Dead Snow 03:38 PM -- Mon October 21, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: A group of Norwegian med students goes to a very remote cabin in the snow for... well, what seems like a pretty awful vacation, I mean like freezing freezing cold, no TV, and one snowmobile. And no skis even! Anyway, they seem happy about it. And then a crazy old man shows up at their door to give them a very cryptic warning. They should've listened, because after that, the Nazi Zombies come for their gold. Intestines ensue.

Scariness Type: Gore gore gore gore gore. And intestines.

Rating: 3/5 Intestines.

Body Count: 9 people, 1 bird, and 35 or so zombies.

Fun Fact: During the movie, I honestly wondered why it wasn't called "Red Snow", which would've been way better. Now I checked IMDB and I find that in fact it was originally called that. No indication as to why they changed it.

Best Moment: It's always fun, and completely unscary, when the heroes have finally had enough of running away from the scary monsters and find a chainsaw and start wailing away.

Worst Moment: Much more upsetting than zombies crushing skulls was when somebody got pulled into the pit under the outhouse. So much worse. Oh, you know what else was bad and really out of place? When one of the students nearly murders another one with a pillow over her face and her hands trapped, as some sort of perverse joke. And that guy wasn't even the "super evil teen" role we have seen in other movies. What on earth was that? You don't partially murder people and then laugh it off!

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: Suspending yourself from a human intestine (as it spools out of a body) is too far. I don't think this movie knows how intestines work. They were present in almost every fight in the movie, doing all kinds of awful things, very few of which were anything close to related to actual intestines. Some strange intestinal obsession in this one for sure. Maybe the writer had Crohn's disease and thus had a real fear of issues related to them. Come to think of it, there were even a bunch of outhouse-related scenes. I could definitely see the writer having bowel fears. Now that's just weird.

Horror Tropes: "It was just a dream", a scene that seems normal until the person wakes up and it didn't happen. I'm tired of that, give me blood drips any day. Also a rather specific element stolen straight from Edgar Wright: the quick-cut "gearing up" scenes, where straps are tightened, hats and gloves are thrown on, etc. They stole the style of these exactly from Shaun Of The Dead and other Edgar Wright joints. Many movies have done these things, but Edgar Wright has a specific style to them, which was clearly duplicated here, and yet is somehow lesser.

My Take: This was almost a good experience. It had the hipness factor of Nazi Zombies and the associated bits of humor (although not as much as I would've expected or wanted), and the hipness factor of college kids and the associated bits of humor (although not as much I would've expected or wanted - this was not written by the Norwegian Kevin Smith), and the fun zombie war with chainsaws and sledgehammers. But it just didn't quite hit it hard enough. There was a little too much darkness, kind of an attempt to be actually scary, but that was wasted in a goofy zombie movie, they should've just gone all out with the fun and humor.

The Lesson: Always check your pockets thoroughly when running from zombies - you never know if you may still have a piece of nazi gold on you.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Fourth Kind 01:51 AM -- Wed October 23, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: Milla Jovovich tells us how to pronounce her name (it's not what I always thought!), and then she, and another woman playing "real her", are psychologists treating several people who strangely all have the same delusions of an owl watching them in bed. She tries hypnosis on them, which tends to break them. Aliens ensue.

Scariness Type: Other than the lurking fear of what might be coming to get the characters, there isn't much to scare you. I've heard this movie is terrifying, but frankly, it didn't do anything for me. I think the big money shots are the weird/paranormal moments during a couple of hypnosis scenes, but hardly anything happens even then. I guess if you have it turned up loud, there will be a lot of noisy yelling that will bother you in these scenes.

Rating: 2.5/5 White Owls.

Body Count: 5

Fun Fact: The "real" psychologist looks so much like an alien herself. I really couldn't get it out of my head that the aliens had done some kind of alteration on her, but I think that's just the actress. And now I feel rude for insulting her. Well, I never said aliens looked bad, I guess?

Best Moment: It's not much, I know, but I can't help but note that at the beginning of the movie, each new major character that came onscreen had the actor and character's name displayed under them. I wish all movies did that, I'd know the names of actors so much better, and I'd even know some of the characters' names too! You'll note I'm still calling the psychologist Milla in this review though, so I didn't learn that much. Pretty sure the character's name was Abigail, in truth. But I did learn that Elias Koteas is that one balding guy - I recognized his name and his face, but didn't know they went together. Oh yeah, and he was Casey Jones in the Ninja Turtle movies!

Worst Moment: Enough with the hypnosis, movie psychologists! Seriously! Real psychologists almost never use that stuff. Yet it's all movie psychologists ever do.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: The psychologist ends up under house arrest right when she is all set to get out of Dodge because she doesn't want aliens to abduct her. A cop is sitting outside watching her house, and he has a dash cam recording. So of course the aliens come during the night to get her. The dash cam catches this event, and amid all the static that aliens always cause in video, we can clearly see a huge UFO fly over the house to zap it. The cop gets out and runs to the house, freaking out that a UFO has stopped by. Here's my problem with this: if that was actually how they performed the abductions, then it wouldn't have been a secret for years and years... they would've been caught in the first week! Really, nobody else had ever been outside one of the abductee's houses at 3:33 in the morning ever before this?

Horror Tropes: Hmm, I don't have any good ones off-hand for you. Even though I found the movie's format strange and off-putting (combining clips of "real" footage with the dramatized version), what it accomplished was an anti-trope. It made it so they didn't have to do the traditional found-footage thing of coming up with reasons for everything to happen right in front of a camera. These people only used cameras when it made a decent amount of sense - the hypnosis sessions were filmed, the cop turned on a dash cam when watching the house (I kinda doubt that would happen, but it's not insane), and various interviews were filmed, which of course would have to be. All the stuff in-between was just dramatized. Interesting idea.

My Take: I could never quite get fully invested in this movie because of the two-movies trick. A lot of scenes would be like something out of 24 - the screen would be split into 2, 3, or even 4 blocks with different video on each one, and they had this trick which I'm sure they thought was clever, but totally pulled me out of the movie: they'd gradually stretch or shrink different boxes to emphasize them. That just had me thinking about the changing size of the boxes rather than watching what was going on in them. Now, most of the movie was just straightforward, but it was the key scenes that were done this way, so it kinda killed the mood. The whole proceeding would've been better as just a single movie, with no found-footage element. Anyway, with that aside, I just didn't like it too much. Nobody was really likeable, and a lot of them (most notably Milla's balding friend) were just outright hostile and unhelpful, despite encountering the exact same paranormal events she was. The evil alien threat also didn't do much of interest, and didn't seem to have a very interesting reason for being around. I think they were shooting for some kind of high-concept thing where these aliens had actually created humans in the first place, but they didn't do anything with that, so who cares?

Missed Opportunity: Do something with your aliens. They're aliens, come on! They can shapeshift, give bees smallpox, run for President, eat Reese's Pieces, whisper in Fred Flintstone's ear, cross borders illegally, use Macs, blow up world monuments, tear off human-like skin and eat mice, secretly run the government, dissolve when wet, recite poetry, parasitically infest and control humans, train kids to pilot spaceships via arcade games, fight cowboys, plant babies in your stomach, march in lockstep down the screen until they touch ground, wear Edgar suits, rule Omicron Persei 8, come in peace, and do so much more. You may consider this paragraph a fun game for your amusement.

The Lesson: Just say no to hypnosis.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Devil's Carnival 06:36 PM -- Wed October 23, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: Three people in different circumstances don't actually seem to die as far as I can tell (though all three are probably just about to), yet nonetheless are sent down below, to that place we know bad people go when they die... The Devil's Carnival! So sit right back and you'll hear three tales, three of Aesop's Fables actually, as each of the bad people is taken through a torment related to their sins, and to maximize the torment, the whole thing is done in song! A musical ensues.

Scariness Type: You couldn't get much less scary than this, it only counts as a "horror musical" because the devil is in it, which isn't really fair since he's also in Santa Claus Vs. The Devil, and nobody called that horror (well, some reviewers did, but it was a great MST3K episode).

Rating: 1.5/5 Songs.

Body Count: Although they don't actually seem to die, it's fair to assume the 3 main characters are technically dead. Then one, or possibly two, of them end up dying again inside the carnival.

Fun Fact: It's a musical! What could be more fun than that? By the makers of Repo! The Genetic Opera, which I haven't seen either, but since it contains Giles, it must be better.

Best Moment: The best song by far is the last one, sung by the devil himself. It's catchy.

Worst Moment: The ending is actually truly 100% incomprehensible (to me anyway). There's some concept where one of the 3 souls ... repents? Decides to give in to grief? I have no idea. But because he makes whatever choice he makes, the devil sends him off to Heaven, which is already not making sense to me, but then this somehow leads the devil to decide he's now going to overthrow Heaven by changing all the rules, and it makes even less sense.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: Well, this is a musical, set in a carnival run by the devil, and the characters all sing what they feel. It's not exactly buried in verisimilitude.

Horror Tropes: It's a pretty classic horror concept to hoist people on their own petards, with ironic torture. And I guess the devil is a pretty common character. And hey, what horror movie doesn't contain a series of dance numbers based on ancient morality plays?

My Take: I figured what could go wrong with a horror musical? Well, two things really - the horror, and the music. I don't mind there being no horror, but this music was awful. One thing I have a really hard time with in stage musicals is when ten people are singing at once, and it's just noise. I can't hear the words, I have no idea what's going on, and I can't even enjoy the music because it's just this screeching din over it. Same thing happens here. There are a few songs where one person is singing, and that's fine (but not very good music), but the rest of the time you have all these people shouting something together and I just can't understand a word of it. I do like musicals (if they are made by Joss Whedon), but this one is not any good at all. And the plot is a complete mess, at least to the degree that I could understand it (none). Just a big disappointment all around.

Missed Opportunity: I missed the fact that you can't turn on subtitles on the PS3 version of Netflix like you can on PC. It may have helped a lot.

The Lesson: Enunciate, people! Use your words!

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: A Haunting At Silver Falls 04:59 PM -- Thu October 24, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: A teenage girl's mother dies, so the mother's twin sister takes over raising her. The girl finds a ring in the woods and puts it on, and then for the rest of the movie, she can't get it off. She then keeps seeing a ghost everywhere she goes. Everybody thinks she's crazy, like they do. Pointing and wiggly heads ensue.

Scariness Type: Well, you've got a ghost following this girl around (or vice versa half the time), but the ghost is just a person in white makeup, with no special effects most of the time. So it's weird, it's like there's just another person in the movie that only she can see, and it's not really creepy at all. Then there are crazed torturers, much scarier than the ghost.

Rating: 2/5 Ghost Slobber.

Body Count: 2

Fun Fact: Ferrero Rocher is so tasty that even ghosts can't resist eating it.

Best Moment: The twist in the last quarter of the movie made it all a lot more fun, real quick. It completely changes what the movie is about, which is good, since the ghost was not very scary.

Worst Moment: That ghost, man... super lame. I just couldn't get over how dumb it was just seeing this white-faced girl walking around. It was like a ghost in a play, not a movie.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: When the ghosts took the main character for a ride in a school bus, I was sitting there trying to wrap my head around what was actually happening... was it a dream? Was there a ghost school bus that could physically carry her? Was it a real bus they were controlling? How'd she get home afterwards? I could see a driver on it, but they never let you really see him/her, so what was that about? Most of the movie was filled with these "is it real, is it not?" things, but this one just went too far for me (actually I didn't really like any of them, they feel like lazy writing - stuff should have a way to fit into a certain movie reality instead of just saying, "eh, whatever"). I was so busy wondering how the bus worked I don't even remember what she ended up finding when it took her out to the woods.

Horror Tropes: This movie has 3 or 4 "it was only a dream" sequences. Enough already. There's also an old classic: when somebody has a dream about walking in the woods, then they wake up and have dirty feet. I don't really get the metaphysics of that. Did dirt grow on your feet, did you teleport during the dream (usually there's some sort of evidence that you never actually left the bed, so sleepwalking is out), did ghosts collect it and rub it on, are you hallucinating the dirt? We also have a ghost pointing at stuff and wiggling its head around crazily (which just looked really dumb. How do Japanese horror movies make it so disturbing?). And what I believe is the third usage this month of "Ghost does stuff when nobody is around and it's blamed on the main character, who now looks crazy". There should be a short way to say that, but I don't know what it is.

My Take: Nah, it wasn't good. I was going to say it was okay originally, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it was just dumb. And boy, talk about your conflicts of interest - she goes to see a psychologist, and it's her boyfriend's dad! Who doesn't like her! I can't in good conscience recommend any movie where the ghost just looks like a person in makeup.

Missed Opportunity: Here's the thing... ghosts aren't just people! They're ghostly! It's not just that though, the whole usage of the ghost in this movie was so... normal. Just a person walking around. They missed an ocean of opportunities to be creepy instead of blah.

The Lesson: Don't take in stray rings.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Haunting of Whaley House 03:25 PM -- Fri October 25, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: The makers of Snakes on a Train, Transmorphers, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, The Da Vinci Treasure, Alien Vs. Hunter, and so so much more, bring you a movie that as far as I can tell is not a direct rip-off of anything specific. In it, a group of twenty-something teens (yeah, that's a thing in movies), one of which is a tour guide at the Whaley House (an actual house in San Diego, which the movie is not filmed at, and which they're being sued for defaming), all go into the Whaley House at night after being told not to, and bring along a famous psychic because why not? Enraged spirits ensue.

Scariness Type: I jumped once! I forget why now, but hey, it happened. So yeah, it's a haunted house movie, with your usual jump scares and lurking horror.

Rating: 2/5 EMF Meters.

Body Count: 9

Fun Fact: My favorite line in this movie is repeated at least 3 times, and I can't say it on this blog. It's a simile, explaining just how haunted the house is.

Best Moment: It's so hard to pick just one. I might have to go with the time when a guy was stabbed through the chest by a chair. Not only was it amazing to be stabbed by a chair, but you could see the plate under his shirt that held the chair in place, which just elevated the entertainment one notch higher.

Worst Moment: I hate to say anything like this is the worst, but the finale of the movie is wrapped up by somebody walking backwards and falling down stairs and dying. On accident, when she's the only one left in the house. Quite a dramatic finale for somebody to just trip and die.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: There are too many to count, so let me just generalize: this movie, like a lot of horror movies, has this idea that human beings are incredibly fragile (except sometimes horror movies do the exact opposite, and seemingly normal people will just get up and run around after being shot four times). You've got a guy run through with a chair, a guy who stumbles into one of those water hand pumps, and it plunges right through him. Of course, shortly after that he walks into a thick metal wire (not a thin one, I must emphasize!), and his head pops off instantly. It's the kind of thing that would make you stumble back and cough a couple times, but for this guy it's instant decapitation.

Horror Tropes: There's a real classic at the beginning of this movie: walking backwards into the street and getting hit by a bus. Not horror-specific, but always grand. Speaking of not horror, this movie also contains a Star Trek Earthquake, where the camera jiggles and everybody has to act like the world is shaking, which is great too.

My Take: This is the lowest-of-budget cheesy crap, but it still has scarier ghosts than A Haunting At Silver Falls! It's really a bad movie, as you would expect coming from The Asylum, but I had a good time, I can't deny. I also enjoyed Transmorphers, which was about ten times worse. If you want a bad horror movie, this is pretty close to as bad as you can get, in the good sense - you won't be too bored, something stupid is always happening. The one thing they did do sort of right is the completely random monster that appears in the attic at the end. I have no idea what it was or why it was there (the answer may lie in the dialogue, which I half-ignored, but I sure wouldn't count on it), but it was a scary creation.

Missed Opportunity: I don't know, seems like they could've ended this in any way other than somebody falling down stairs and it would've been better...

The Lesson: Be careful on stairs, always use the handrail and watch your step.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Amityville Haunting 03:33 PM -- Sat October 26, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: Oh no! I didn't notice until I was googling to find the exact title for this movie... it's another one by The Asylum! Well, that makes a lot of sense, as you will see. Anyway, today we are wrapping up our "Haunting" trilogy with this 'sequel' to The Amityville Horror. In this movie, a family moves into the infamous Amityville house because it's all they can afford (famous houses being cheap and all), and immediately the realtor who showed them the house drops dead, then a moving guy drops dead, then everybody else who ever visits drops dead. The cops don't mind, the family doesn't mind, and eventually everyone drops dead. Found footage ensues.

Scariness Type: This is a little different from your standard found footage, simply in that there is no searching for what might lurk in the corners most of the time - it's right there. There are many many shots with ghosts (actually just ordinary people, in most cases) just standing in them, not bothering anybody. There are also some creepy ones where shadows move around, or a transparent person is lurking, or a normal person is just jammed in a corner. And occasional bits of gore as people explode.

Rating: 1/5 Why Didn't I Realize This Was An Asylum Movies.

Body Count: 7

Fun Fact: This entire family, except for the son, is deaf. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the writer's intent, but you watch the movie and try to explain it any other way. No human being could possibly ignore another so intently without simply being unable to hear them. The kid is constantly trying to talk to his parents or his sister and they just show no sign of response whatsoever. For that matter, the security guy who shows up later on is a mute. The kid asks him questions and he at least looks at him. And looks at him. And then turns away. Nobody does that! This is bad writing!

Best/Worst Moment: Best and worst have no place in an Asylum movie. It's all the worst, which makes it the best. There's the moving guy falling down the stairs and by the time the camera gets to him (in under 2 seconds), there's a pool of blood around his head, and not a single drop more coming out. Must've been quite a gushing head wound. For a second. There's the security guy (with bizarre unexplained black ops connections??) who has an electric line fall from the sky onto him in one of the most hilarious electrocutions ever filmed. There's the dad's violent beating of a ghost, where he's just punching and kicking the air. There's his mental breakdown where he decides he's in the army again and does a bellycrawl across the living room floor after dispatching orders to his family and saluting the bookcase. It's just all amazing.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: The acting.

Horror Tropes: Well, you got your haunted house, your kid with a camera welded to his hand permanently (and I mean permanently, wow), your teens being murdered for having sex, your falling down stairs and breaking your neck (apparently an Asylum favorite - once in this movie, twice at least in Whaley House, maybe three times?), your kid's imaginary friend that's actually a ghost, and your family that doesn't just move out after the third or fourth unexplained death in two days.

My Take: Whaley House had some fun. This one was just terrible. It was the crazy military dad, and the terrible acting from the main kid running the camera (also everyone else, but he had to speak directly to the camera up close, with long rambling descriptions of what happened between scenes). To be honest, this movie looked a whole lot like it would have if that actual kid had really made it, with his buddies, as a fun after-school project. It even kind of seemed like the parents were his parents, just barely willing to participate, but not act, so he'd leave them alone. Wow, I'm giving myself a whole new perspective on this movie. Actually, for a middle school kid, I think he did a pretty good job after all. Congratulations, kid!

Missed Opportunity: What this movie really could've used was some semblance of logic I think. If there had been a plot, a sequence of events that tied the ghostiness together and made it make sense rather than people just randomly being killed, that would've held my interest and given me something to think about. That's a real missed opportunity right there.

The Lesson: Stop accidentally watching Asylum movies! These are the things you have to check for before you choose a movie.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Final 02:44 PM -- Sun October 27, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: It's the Revenge Of The Nerds sequel we've all been waiting for! The kids at school who get bullied secretly arrange a party for the popular kids who abuse them, then trap them all at the party. Torture ensues.

Scariness Type: This is what we call torture porn. Not my usual interest, but I was curious because of the plot. But yes, people get tortured, you cringe as they suffer horribly. There's plenty of disfigurement and mutilation, but the psychological torture is the worst of it.

Rating: 2/5 Acupuncture Needles.

Body Count: 8

Fun Fact: I don't know who to root for... this is some truly terrible bullying before the torture party.

Best Moment: The moments when people weren't being tortured were nice.

Worst Moment: Probably the worst thing (aside from nasty torture you don't want to watch, but you can't really label that a failure, right?) is when the Heroic Popular Kid With A Heart Of Gold escapes and returns with a gun, and he actually says the line "Fate brought me here, to stop you." Maybe that's realistic... teenagers would probably want to go for something melodramatic. But it sure sounded cheesy to me. Also, on another note, acupuncture needles don't hurt. That's why they're so super skinny. This girl was jamming them into someone and he's screaming in agony. I know you could apply them improperly (as she was) and they wouldn't be painless, but they're teeny tiny, there's only so much they can hurt!

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: I don't know why movies insist on this, but in this movie, the villains invented their own "acid cream", a mix of acid and nicer things that you can smear on someone's face and it gradually eats it away, hurting more and more over time. Now, that could happen, I imagine, I'm no chemist. But why invent some special new substance? They could've just sprayed acid on the person's face for the same plot effect. No, it wouldn't have been slow, but they never do anything much with the fact that it is slow in the movie anyway. Replace the slowness with sprinkling a little bit on them so they know the threat of a lot of it. Movies always like to invent new things, which is unlikely, when existing things would work fine.

Horror Tropes: Dead body jumps up and attacks you... hmm, I'm sure there's a few others, especially in the Heroic Kid's escape sequence, but overall this was not your typical horror movie.

My Take: Well, I was very interested from the beginning, and the movie even opens with a weird black and white sequence that pulls you in wondering what's going on. And frankly it remained very interesting, right up until the torture! I mean, the story of how horrific the abuse of these kids was (I hope that's not realistic, but... I remember high school, I'm not sure you could overdramatize how awfully kids treat each other), and their plotting of revenge. It was also a little hard to watch, not just because of the torture, but because this was basically Columbine. It was hard not to think of it in real terms, which made it more powerful. And the costumes that the villains wore were downright creepy. Except the leader in his gas mask. That just looked dumb. So this was a very difficult watch all around. I think in the right hands, this story could've been some kind of twisted Oscar material with all the complex issues it brings up. But these aren't the right hands. I can't point to much that is really bad about it in terms of filmmaking or acting, it's just not elevated above an ordinary schlocky horror movie, despite being about something so much more important and complex. What we end up with is a complex-sounding excuse to show some torture porn, really. And that's why I can't rate it too highly. That and the fact that I don't like watching people get tortured.

Missed Opportunity: First, the villains missed an opportunity to guard the people they crippled - they literally dragged them into an unlocked room and left them there. Secondly, the movie missed the opportunity for any of them to escape, or jump out and attack the badguys! I mean really, they were injured to varying degrees, but I guarantee you most of them could still walk at least. What was up with that?

The Lesson: Never get acupuncture.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Paranormal Activity 4 06:12 PM -- Mon October 28, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: A family gets a new neighbor: the woman who got possessed and kidnapped her sister's son in the previous movies and then disappeared. One night, she's taken to the hospital and the family has to care for her son for a few days. Kinect advertising ensues.

Scariness Type: This is the classic found footage! Long shots of empty rooms with nothing going on, until suddenly you notice something moving in the corner! That can be quite scary sometimes, but a lot less so here than in previous installments.

Rating: 2/5 Kinects.

Body Count: 4

Fun Fact: This movie was like a huge product placement for the XBox Kinect. A significant portion of the movie is actually spent showing the sparkly disco dots you get when you use night vision to look at the output of the Kinect camera. Which the family leaves on 24 hours a day for some reason.

Best Moment: When the possessed woman's son leads the other family's son across the street to his house, that's a pretty scary sequence. There's just something that works about furniture draped in white sheets and filmmakers know this - it was also in The Amityville Haunting, and at least one of the others I watched this past week, not sure which. So this strange house, with sheets over all the furniture, and it's almost a maze, and you know something bad is going to be in there, as you turn corner after corner, searching for this missing child... pretty good. Not great though, not even then.

Worst Moment: There's a whole bit where the ghosts/demons/magical powers have locked the family's daughter in the garage, and magically started up the car to choke her with carbon monoxide. It's super ridiculous, in part because the scenario just isn't 'spooky' enough, it's more like something somebody would plot to get some life insurance money or something, but also because it's just so silly, and the room fills up with this thick smoke in under a minute. I guess it's mainly the idea that the ghosts are operating the car that just ruins it all. That's so mundane and non-creepy. It just doesn't go along with randomly sliding objects around in the house, it's this very complex intentional act instead.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: The smoke in the previously mentioned scene was pretty ridiculous. As is the final moment of the movie (spoiler alert!) which I have two major problems with: first, there's an absolute army of what I presume are supposed to be witches. I paused it and tried to do some math and I think at least 50 women are clearly visible, and it seems to continue on from there into the shadows, all jammed into the backyard of this house, not making a peep. It's just insane! I guess the craziness of it does make it creepier, but it just left me with so many questions. Did they bring in porta-potties for this event? Were snacks provided? Where are they all sleeping, and where are their cars? My other issue is that the little brother who the big sister is trying to rescue is standing right in front of her, and she's just saying "Come on, let's go! Come on!" instead of grabbing him and pulling him or carrying him. And it'd be nice if she'd set the camera down to do it, but hey, found footage movie.

Horror Tropes: Found footage standards are all around. This movie is so full of completely unbelievable obsession with cameras. They end up rigging all the laptops in the house (of which there are for some reason many, and they're all on 24/7 and never have their lids shut) with some kind of spyware to run their webcam at all times and record it, which apparently doesn't take up much hard drive space since they do it for days straight. Another thing that happens in horror movies (recently anyway) is that you see an ancient pagan symbol of some kind and then in ten minutes, you can google it up and learn all about it, all kinds of plot-appropriate information that perfectly hints at what the threat is going to be. And they believe what they google. Oh hey, here's a non-horror trope: the dad is sitting watching TV in one scene, and you can't see it, you can only hear it. And what do you hear? What you always hear when people on TV watch TV! A machine gun noise, followed by somebody screaming. Always. People on TV just love war movies, I guess.

My Take: I'm a Paranormal Activity fan. I love the thrill ride of looking for the scary thing in the corners of each scene. But even I thought this movie was lame. Like big time lame. One thing it had was too much paranormal activity! At one point, the kid is riding his Big Wheel in the house, and in plain sight in front of him, a chair scoots into his path. He backs up and then another one does. He gets off his Big Wheel, and it starts driving itself around. I mean, this is major major stuff. If it really happened, that family would be outta there! While Paranormal Activity movies are normally lambasted for the boredom of staring at empty rooms, this movie swung too hard the other way. It's just a riot of nonsense happening, and the plot is silly and not at all believable. What made the first movie good (and to an increasingly lesser extent with each sequel) was that it looked real, and it was subtle enough to go unnoticed at first, and then gradually grow until it got them. I still remember the really scary ending stuff in the first movie, when they finally went down into the basement. I don't know if the makers are too wrapped up in the mythology they've built around the movie, or they're not taking it seriously enough and just trying to up the scare ante. All I know is they're doing it wrong. They should watch their first movie again and see what they were doing.

Missed Opportunity: Surely that knife could've done something more than just dropping and sticking in the counter...

The Lesson: Never take in stray kids.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Evil Dead 05:05 PM -- Tue October 29, 2013  

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Synopsis: Like in every horror movie, a group of twenty-something teens heads to a cabin for a weekend of beer and reefer madness like the kids like. But this time (well, like most times) they find an ancient book bound in human flesh in the basement. Bruce Campbell ensues.

Scariness Type: There's gore by the gallon, including some things I just couldn't watch (that pencil!).

Rating: 4/5 The Classics.

Body Count: 4

Fun Fact: The first credit at the end of this movie is for a bunch of Fake Shemps. A quick google informs me that a Fake Shemp (term coined by Sam Raimi, in this very film!) is a person standing in for an actor, only shot from the back, or only their hand or something is visible. This is based on the fact that when Shemp Howard of the 3 Stooges died, they still had to complete 4 more shorts, and they did so with a stand-in, the original Fake Shemp.

Best Moment: The best thing overall about this movie is that they just went for it. They never stop to say "is this too much?" It's all too much, and it's supposed to be. Movies so often dial things back, and I don't mean sex and violence and all that, but rather just weirdness. Most movies wouldn't dismember someone right in front of you while they're still alive (and even semi-alive afterwards). A lot of things in this movie are the things other movies wouldn't include because it's too over-the-top, too unbelievable, going to look silly no matter how good your effects are. Sam Raimi doesn't care (or didn't back then!), he will film what he wants because it's the story he wants to tell, whether that's gonna come out looking ridiculous or not. I've actually observed this same thing in Hercules and Xena as well. Other shows would never have Hercules swallowed by a sea monster and doing battle with its internal organs, because there's no way to do it without it looking stupid. And believe me, that is true! But it's the story they wanted to tell, so they don't water it down by saying "well, maybe he just wrestles a big shark" (okay, that would also look stupid...). Don't let your limitations fetter your expression, put it all out there like Sam Raimi!

Worst Moment: This movie includes an interesting notion, perhaps unintentionally. You see, demons are evil, right? So they'll kill you, or torture you, or destroy your soul, we all know that stuff. But what no other movie has dared to consider is that another very evil thing to do is to annoy someone! There are demons in this movie that will have you reaching for the volume knob just to stop the laughing/screaming/screeching/giggling. They are truly driving the characters insane, and sadly the audience at the same time. I actually think this is a brilliant notion - why wouldn't demons try to be as annoying as possible as well as deadly? They're supposed to be the epitome of evil, after all. But anyway, the worst moment is sitting through extended scenes of one of the possessed girls, who sits there giggling like a baby for five minutes. Just because it's a good idea doesn't mean I want to hear it! Overall, this whole movie is very loud and noisy. It's not a slow burn, it's exploding in your face and pretty grating.

A Suspension Bridge Too Far: In a movie this crazy, you're either in or you're out. But one thing that pushed my limits was the two separate times that Ash found himself with a bookcase falling on top of him. They'd break apart and then he'd be laying there under a board, like the little particle-board boards that make up the side of a cheapo bookcase, and he couldn't get up. He'd have to struggle it off of him over a minute or so. It was so absurd. I'm sure they could've found heavier-looking bookcases to make that work.

Horror Tropes: Well, I already told you there's a group of twenty-something teens going to a cabin! And an ancient evil book with a curse in it you should never read aloud. They don't actually read it, they just play a tape of somebody else reading it, which leaves me wondering why the curse ever stopped being active in the first place, or why the cabin is in decent shape and everything is put away. I guess the demons got bored after they killed everyone, so they left and then somebody came and cleaned up the place for the next visitors. Anyway, this movie isn't too tropey, nobody else would dare copy the madness. Few tropes unless you count Sam Raimi tropes - it's about 99% Raimi-Cam. Nearly every shot is through some crazy angle, from a demon's perspective or just insane.

My Take: This movie from way back in 1981 really does hold up, at least for me. As I mentioned in other parts, it's just sheer insanity on film. But in a fun, goofy way, not some kind of disturbing Cronenberg thing. And there's Bruce Campbell! The budget was nearly zero, but honestly most of the effects are solid and still hold up. The "river of blood" effect in this movie, almost 20 years before Event Horizon, is infinitely superior (because it's actual corn syrup blood stuff, not red water. To be fair, it's also about 1000 gallons less, but I bet the budget is about 1000 times smaller as well). This is definitely an amateur production, and it shows, but it shows in a way that you can easily see that Sam Raimi is going places. It's not any wonder at all that he's one of the biggest directors today when you see what he accomplished here with nothing, and how much style he put into it. Oh, and hey, there's a claymation ending! I told you, they just went for it.

Missed Opportunity: In my mind, Evil Dead 1 and 2 are a bit mixed up (understandably, since Evil Dead 2 is basically a remake), and I kept waiting for Ash to chop off his own hand in this movie, but it never happened.

The Lesson: Never read books.

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