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Belittling Horror Excessively: Absence08:52 PM -- Thu October 23, 2014

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Guess what? A group of kids decided to get together and drive out to a remote cabin in the woods to party! Specifically, this group is a husband and wife who lost their unborn baby mysteriously (it just disappeared from inside her during the night!), and the wife's brother who is the token Obnoxious Cameraman for this found-footage film. So they go out to the cabin, and nothing ensues.

Firstly, there has never been a human being alive who was remotely as obnoxious as the cameraman in this movie. And it is also completely impossible to believe that he meets a girl who is willing to talk to him during the movie.

The entire film is just these people hanging out at the cabin and trying to relax and get over the loss of the baby. That's it. You just watch them be sad, or get annoyed at the insanely annoying brother. Every so often there's a moment of weirdness during the night, but only a couple of times. Then in the last few minutes of the movie, a little bit of stuff happens but who cares at that point. And it's not interesting, it's not explained, it's not scary, it's not anything.

So we have a body count of anybody who tried to sit through the movie and didn't have the iron will to carry on, and a score of 0 out of 5 Whatevers. Your life will be better with an absence of this movie, avoid it.

This movie did not inspire me at all. There was nothing interesting in it to draw, and it sapped all creative energy from me, so here is a triangle.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Dead Silence05:06 PM -- Tue October 21, 2014

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Who doesn't love evil puppets? I guess the people they kill don't. In this movie, there's a ventriloquist who owned 101 puppets, who was murdered and then buried according to her will: not only buried with all of her puppets, but actually cut up into a puppet herself after death. Yeah, that's really weird, and I can't imagine anybody fulfilling that request. But they did! Anyway, that's all backstory. In the actual story, a puppet is delivered to a guy's doorstep, it kills his girlfriend, he goes back to his hometown where it was sent from, discovers the aforementioned backstory, and battles evil puppets and a ghostly old lady. Puppetry ensues.

This is a James Wan film, like Insidious 1 and 2, and it shows. It was instantly obvious that this was made by the same guy. He must have fallen into the coffin at his grandma's funeral when he was young, because he has a terrible fear of old ladies. He also makes very polished-looking horror movies, full of red lighting and people covered by sheets, which aren't really very scary. They're almost like Disney Family horror movies. They're too neat and clean, and the music is too overblown, and he doesn't seem very good at jump scares. There's a scene in Insidious 2 which starts out really creepy, where a boy is looking into his half-open closet at night, hearing noises inside and the camera is zooming closer and closer as we fear what might pop out. In the end, somebody does pop out and runs across the room, which should be very frightening, yet somehow it's not sudden enough or something, because it just has zero impact. It's more like a feeling of relief after all that tension rather than a shock. Hard to explain, but you watch the scene and you won't be scared!

That's not to say his work is all bad, it's just that I wonder if horror is really the place for this guy. He should try a nice romantic comedy or something. It can't be that bad though, because I'm willing to see what else he's going to do.

The big reveal at this end of this movie is big enough and fun enough that I won't even spoil it here despite my spoiler warning. It's not a world-changer like The Sixth Sense, but it does what I want a twist to do: makes you go back over the movie and change your view on earlier scenes, and realize that you could've figured it out if you had just noticed certain things earlier. That trips a fuse in my brain and joy just sparks out.

What it does wrong is what about 80% of all twists do: it manually takes you back over those earlier scenes and shows them to you again, far far too many of them, to beat the twist into your head as clearly and completely as possible. I got it after the first two quick flashes, I didn't need to rewatch the whole movie, and if I wanted to do that, I could hit the rewind button. This is a cardinal sin that so many movies commit, the massive over-explanation to the point where you actually get bored and want to get back to the climax of the movie you were trying to watch. I'm sure it's a fine line, as there are bound to be some people who need all that extra reinforcement (as evidenced by the reviews of movies I see that flat-out miss entire chunks of the plot). I'm sure they test this out with test audiences until it's "just right", but it sure never feels just right to me.

So in the end, we have a body count of 4, and because it's kind of fun, but by no means good cinema, and with a bonus point for the disturbing final twist, I'll award it 4 out of 5 Missing Tongues.

I of course had to draw a puppet here. I did a terrible job.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Kill Theory08:47 PM -- Mon October 20, 2014

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

This is a story all about how some kids' lives got flipped, turned upside down, when a guy who once cut a rope while mountain climbing to save himself at the expense of 3 other people traps them all at a remote cabin they are of course all going out to visit as kids like to do, and forces them to kill each other or be killed by him. How's that for a sentence?

Yes, once again the teens (well, 20-somethings - they so often play teens I'm not actually sure which they are supposed to be in this movie) find the idea of a cabin in the middle of nowhere to be the most delightful notion since being murdered one by one. Though the two experiences are generally interchangeable.

So, huh. This movie is, according to a bunch of the reviewers on Netflix (I like to check sometimes!), full of twists. What they mean is that the people you think are dead come back and kill other people. And that does happen quite a few times, but I'm not willing to call it a twist. It's just kind of eh. Similarly, the movie actually ends with a final revelation that some have called a twist, but it was completely what I expected, and unlike an actual twist, it didn't change your view on anything you had seen. It's more like just another piece of irrelevant information really. I was pretty mad about that, because I'm a sucker for twists. As soon as I saw a review that said "the final twist was a real head-spinner", I couldn't just go without knowing what it was. I guess my head is just screwed on tighter than some, because the only spinning was me shaking my head.

As you can probably guess by now, this movie didn't do much for me. It was okay, there was a level of interest to see who would snap and decide to kill who. But it just had nothing fresh or anything to get excited about.

I do see two other notes I took while watching: first is that it was kind of refreshing to see the "put down the camera and stop filming everything already!" scene in a movie with no found footage element at all. It was just an annoying guy who liked to film people. I guess those must exist! The other note, I don't quite remember writing, but it reads "White people all look the same, but they're so hard to kill." Good advice for life.

In the end, we have a body count of 7, plus 3 more in the past, and I rate this a disappointing 2 out of 5 Gas Balloons.

I just drew the first thing I remembered from the movie - an axe stuck in a stump. But don't look a gift axe in the mouth, because there's probably a bear trap around it (not pictured).
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Insidious 206:35 PM -- Sun October 19, 2014

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

This is the continuation of the story of a family in which a certain sort of magical power resides. The father and son can see, and be seen by, the world of the dead. Something like that. Anyhoo, in the first movie some stuff happened, and now in this movie, the father has been possessed by an evil old lady who's actually a dude. So the father's soul is actually wandering the world of the dead wanting to get out, while his body is running around the real world being evil, and his son is continuing to connect to all this and be freaked out, and a team of wacky comic-relief ghostbusters run around and bungle things up. Ghostly child abuse ensues.

Honestly, this movie was pretty hard to follow, in part because the wife of the family, and someone who I believe is her mother, were too hard to tell apart. That's probably insulting to the daughter, but hey, let's say I'm being flattering to the mother! It's also confusing in other ways, it kind of jumps around. Anyway, like the first Insidious movie, this one isn't really scary... it has a scene or two that can creep you out, but mostly it's just telling a story. Just like the first movie, it's a fantasy story by my calculation rather than a horror story. I can't quite define what the difference is, but that's how it feels to me. I did enjoy the sort of 'time travel' between the two movies (more between the end and beginning of this movie, but there's a bit of it tied to the first movie).

One thing I did not enjoy was the climactic battle with the evil ghost... the image of all the women standing underneath sheets was creepy, but it all came down to this cartoonish pop-up screaming old lady, and smacking her on the head with a rocking horse. Yes, that's literally how the evil ghost was slain. They smacked her with a rocking horse. Spoilers.

So in the end, there's a body count of 17, I think, and I rate this a passable 3 out of 5 Rocking Horses.

For this movie, I drew the set of 'spirit dice' that the medium guy uses to talk to ghosts. It seems the spirits have a special Hamumu message for us...
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Sharknado 208:20 PM -- Fri October 17, 2014

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

It's the second one! I've been dying to see this since it came out, and of course my sister, who is a huge Sharknado fan, Tivo'd it for me to see when I visited her this past weekend. As you might expect, it is the story of Fin Shepard, and his Bruce-Willis-esque problem with always ending up in the middle of sharknados, as one heads in to New York along with the flight he is on (a flight he ends up landing himself, after sharks somehow eat the pilots). For those who aren't experts at meteorology, a sharknado is an apparently common weather pattern where a waterspout (not a tornado!) forms in the ocean and sucks up some sharks, which then gain the power of flight and air-breathing for the duration of the weather event. I'm sure it's happened in your hometown once or twice, so I probably didn't need to explain.

This movie is sort of a new breed in the past 10 years or so, where it's intentionally stupid for the entertainment value. It has to ride a pretty fine line - it has to take itself seriously (otherwise it's just a bad comedy), and yet still have enough "jokes" to keep from being boring, since it is by intent a bad movie. This movie is really pushing that line, it's almost more like a joke that you are in on - there are a lot of references to other things like a comedy would have (there are about 10 references to 'Airplane!' in the first 10 minutes), yet they're thrown away and ignored by the completely serious cast, whereas in a comedy they'd be front and center like "look at this!". It's easter egg overload.

One thing I found interesting that I don't think I've seen before is some really well-done use of making a 'mistake' for the viewers to catch and mock, as part of the fun. My favorite one is when Tara Reid, whose hand has been bitten off, sneaks out of the hospital dressed in a button-up blouse with a necklace, full makeup, and a glove on her remaining hand. She accomplished this by herself, off-camera, with a missing hand. The fact that they had her wearing a glove is what tips off that they did this on purpose and it's not just bad writing - it looks ridiculous that she's wearing a glove in the first place, which makes you think about it, and realize just how hard it would've been to put on. I actually think that's pretty clever.

There are also things that go over the top into true joke territory, like weather reporters having actual sharknado displays on their weather maps and discussing how many feet of sharks will be falling. But even these things are presented in a completely serious and 'real' way, which makes it better. If it had been done like a spoof comedy, it would not be nearly as good.

So anyway, it's Sharknado, you know what you're in for. You're in for 27 bodies and 4 out of 5 Buzzsaw Hands. This movie is significantly better thank Sharknado 1, and that was fun to begin with! I feel like The Asylum is really getting things together. Maybe they're learning how much better it feels to put out original movies instead of trying to clone every blockbuster. Of course, the super shady cloning act (where they try to make money entirely on the basis of people choosing the wrong movie from the cover) is surely more profitable. So sad.

I have drawn for you today a climactic moment from the film, the conclusion to Fin's rousing speech to the citizens of New York:
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