The Houses October Built was a spooky found footage flick with a cool concept about a group of Halloween adventurers trying to find the ultimate Halloween haunt and not liking what they do find. The sequel has them back and at it again, despite getting scared almost literally to death last time. Flick arrives September 22 just in time for the start of the spooky season! Check out the trailer below!
Bruce Campbell’s sequel to his hilarious and fun 2001 memoir If Chins Could Kill, is an entertaining read in itself as Campbell let’s us know…in his own words…what he’s been up to since his last book. It’s a fun look at his move to rural Oregon, a string of SYFY channel B-movies and finally getting a co-starring role in the hit TV show Burn Notice. Campbell pokes fun at himself and those around him as he goes from B-movie actor, to TV series star and finally to strapping on the old chainsaw again as he returns to the role of Ash Williams after an over twenty years hiatus. It’s told in the sarcastic, smart-ass Bruce Campbell style and is a lot of fun as nothing and no one…especially himself…is spared from that Bruce Campbell sense of humor. A fast and fun read from a true icon! Groovy!
Though marketed as a horror film, especially with a title that implies some sort of supernatural threat, flick is more of a survival thriller focusing on a small group of people during what appears to be some kind of pandemic. As the film opens, we find Paul (Joel Edgerton), living in his father-in-law Bud’s house in the middle of the woods, along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). As the story opens, Bud (David Pendleton) is infected, Paul euthanizes him and sets his body on fire. While still suffering from their loss, a man (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house one night. Captured, he says his name is Will and is only looking for supplies for his family. Paul and Sarah invite Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to come live with them, seeing strength in numbers. But, when it is believed that little Andrew might be infected, paranoia and fear take over and threatens to destroy this safe haven in the woods.
Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults this is an intense and sometimes violent little movie about fear, paranoia and what lengths folks will go to survive. Going in without the horror movie expectations, one can enjoy this flick for what it is. There are some horror elements, as the sickness isn’t pretty, there is some brutal violence and Travis has some very unsettling nightmares with some spooky imagery. The characters appear to be normal people in a frightening situation and none are bad guys or unlikable, just some do extreme things to, in their minds, ensure their survival. It’s no secret these folks will turn on each other and Shults keeps the film tense until they do. He keeps the audience on edge with a sense that death is always lurking outside the house, whether it be this ominous disease or other humans with bad intent. He also never let’s you completely trust Will and Kim, as Paul and Sarah never quite do. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but the writer/director makes it work by focusing on the effects of the situation on a small isolated group instead of what might be going on in more populated areas. It works well and can be unsettling at times, even with the subject of pandemics and infections being common ground right now. There are a few questions and unresolved plot points as the credits roll. After Bud’s death it seems hard to believe that Paul and family would so quickly agree to bring strangers into their home, despite the good intentions. There is a violent encounter with two armed men that at first seems like it might have further impact, but it never does. There is also the implication that coming-of-age Travis might have an attraction to the pretty Kim and vice-versa, but it goes nowhere after the initial scene that introduces the notion. Aside from these small matters Trey Edward Shults delivers a taunt thriller which keeps one unnerved even if you know certain things are coming. Aiding him is some nice cinematography by Drew Daniels, which takes advantage of the large shadow filled house and a fitting score from Brian McOmber.
There is a good cast here, too. Edgerton is a strong lead as the cautious, though somewhat kind-hearted Paul. He makes some tough decisions to protect his family, but is far from a bad man and hasn’t lost his humanity. Christopher Abbott is good as Will. He gives the character just enough uncertainty, so we never quite trust him to makes us as uneasy as Paul. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines as Travis. Travis is sometimes the moral center of the story, though his ominous nightmares make us unsettled as to what the future holds and the actor conveys that this is also the same with Travis, himself, a youth growing up isolated in a dangerous world. In support Carmen Ejogo is solid as Paul’s loving and strong willed wife, Sarah. Riley Keough is also good as Will’s wife Kim, as is Griffin Robert Faulkner as their young son Andrew.
Once you get past the notion that this is a horror film, you can still enjoy an intense thriller about people trying to survive in a deadly environment. They’re trying to keep their humanity when their fellow humans are just as dangerous as the disease they are trying to avoid. It’s intense, atmospheric and brutally violent at times. It may not be the most original flick in terms of story and comes with a title that raises horror film expectations, but does used the pandemic fear scenario very well and is an effective little thriller on it’s own.
Flick finds pretty, married mom Mary (Deanna Russo) moving from Seattle back to her old suburban neighborhood. She’s arrived a week ahead of her family to get the house ready while the kids finish school. Mary suddenly realizes this is the first time she’s had to herself in over a decade and plans to enjoy it. Two things, though, impact Mary’s return to suburban living and “me” time…the tempting advances of her neighbor’s hunky teenage son, Max (John Redlinger) and a creepy ice cream man (Emil Johnsen) who has taken notice of the new woman on the block.
The Ice Cream Truck is written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston who successfully mixes the two stories of a woman reconnecting with herself and a slasher stalking an unsuspecting neighborhood. She gives us a likable heroine in Mary who is having trouble readjusting to suburban life and the nosey, eccentric, judgmental, neighbors she’s surrounded by. Being a wife and mother for so long, she has a chance to unwind and is certainly tempted by Max, her pot smoking, well-built neighbor’s son who has taken an interest in the pretty older woman. In the midst of Mary’s self proclaimed “reconnecting with her youth” there is the creepy ice cream man stalking the neighborhood and killing anyone who doesn’t follow his old fashioned sensibilities. Johnston does a good job having these stories run parallel to each other till it’s time they collide when Mary and the creepy confections vendor face-off. Johnston has a very interesting visual style and her shot composition does evoke John Carpenter at times as did Michael Boateng ‘s very 80’s/Carpenter-esque score. There is tension and we are certainly unnerved when the ice cream man is onscreen. The kills are bloody but routine, though they aren’t the point. This isn’t a gore flick. On another level, we also watch the tale of a woman simply enjoying being a little frisky for a few days and that works too. If the film falters a bit, it is in first, the confrontation between Mary and the psychotic ice cream vendor is far too short and over before it has time to have impact. The other is the “wait…what?” ending. Without giving away any details, it seems to imply that much of what we just saw might have been in Mary’s head. It undos some of what we just witnessed and makes us wonder if writer Mary was just daydreaming a little excitement, letting her imagination run a bit wild, to relieve the boredom of waiting for her family to arrive. Either way, it does’t have the impact it was probably intended to have, though does set up a potential sequel and Mary was a strong enough character that we would’t mind seeing more of her experiences in surreal suburbia.
As Mary actress Deanna Russo really nails it in what is basically her show. She presents us with a woman who has lived for others for far too long and now suddenly has a chance to cut loose a bit, smoke some pot, have the house to herself and enjoy that she has the attention of a much younger man. And what makes this work is that Russo doesn’t play her like the stereotypical MILF, she is a little awkward and has a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor, but is naturally pretty and has a sexuality to her that is just part of her personality and not something forced. She’s just being herself and is naturally sexy, especially when she starts to let herself enjoy Max’s attention. The two have a chemistry on screen and the scenes of high school grad Max’s awkward seduction attempts do crackle with a sexual tension. Credit to actor Redlinger here, too as the object of Mary’s temptations. Russo also makes a good final girl…and it was refreshing to have one that wasn’t a high school or college girl…though, these moments were far too short to really enjoy. As stated, John Redlinger did a good job as the infatuated Max and he was charming and one could understand how his awkward attempts at getting in Mary’s pants, could actually be a bit endearing to a lonely older woman looking to feel not so mom-like for a bit. Finally we have Emil Johnsen who is properly unnerving as the ice cream man. Not much info is given and we have no idea of his true motives, but he presents a very creepy dude and he is chilling in his scenes. The flick also has an appearance by Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips as a creepy delivery man. Poor Mary seems to be a magnet for creepy dudes, as well as, high school hunks.
Overall, this was an interesting mix of slasher flick and drama of a woman trying to reconnect with her youthfulness and sexuality. This ties in well as bad behavior is usually what attracts slashers in the classic format, so it works here. Megan Freels Johnston appears to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on with some very impressive shot framing and imbuing the film with some nice atmosphere both as a slasher and a tale of a fish out of water in oddball suburbia cutting loose much to her neighbors’ chagrin. The flick may have stumbled in it’s last scene and with not letting it’s confrontation between Mary and maniac play out a bit longer, but it is an enjoyable little movie and hopefully a sign that Megan Freels Johnston might be someone to watch out for in the future.
We lose another horror legend as Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper has passed away at the age of 74. Hooper created a horror masterpiece with Leatherface and family and then went on to direct a number of other notable films such as Eaten Alive, TheFunhouse, Poltergeist and Lifeforce. He is a horror visionary who will be sadly missed though he has left a legacy that will live forever. Cause of death has currently not been released.
Two mercenaries, William and Pero (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal), looking for gunpowder in ancient China find themselves prisoners at the Great Wall. They also find out why the wall was built as they are currently under siege by an army of reptilian creatures known as the Tao Tei. As Pero tries to find ways of escape, the noble William finds himself drawn into the struggle at the side of a beautiful woman general (Jing Tian).
Action/fantasy is directed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise The Red Lantern) from a script and story by no less than six western writers. There is plenty of action and spectacle, though Yimou directs with a somewhat more moderate pace than one would expect from such an action and FX heavy epic. It is still enjoyable, even if not all the CGI is as effective as we’d like and fans of this type of Asian period fantasy and/or monster movies should have a decent time of it all. It’s amusingly over-the-top at times, as most of these Chinese flicks are and there is a nicely sci-fi origin to our creatures. The script could have been tighter and Zhang Yimou’s background in drama doesn’t serve the pace, but it’s not as bad as it was made out to be. Also stars Willem Dafoe as a knight who has been a “guest” at the wall for over two decades.
French horror has vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) following her big sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) to veterinary school. Once there, “rookie” Justine is forced to eat raw rabbit kidney by Alexia during part of a bloody initiation. After having what appears to be an allergic reaction, Justine starts to have an intense craving for meat…raw meat…and not just from animals.
Julia Ducournau directs this very disturbing and stylish thriller from her own script. The film appears to be a metaphor for growing up and the loss of innocence as virginal Justine craves “the flesh”, especially of her handsome gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella). Once she gets it and is exposed to the party lifestyle of grad school, her hunger grows in more ways than one. There are some very unsettling scenes during the course of the film and some gruesome ones that will make you cringe as Ducournau takes us on Justine’s journey from virginal vegetarian to potential cannibal, under the guidance of her older sister. And be warned, some of these scenes will stick with you for a while. It is all portrayed very well by lead Garance Marillier and the rest of the cast and we do get a chilling explanation before the credits role. A very unnerving and well made French horror from Julia Ducournau. Highly recommended for those who like stuff offbeat and very disturbing.
With word coming today that Adam Green secretly filmed a fourth Hatchet flick entitled Victor Crowley, I thought I ‘d drag out my original Hatchet review written pre-blog -MZNJ
Hatchet is both a homage and a spoof of the slasher films of the 80s and it’s obvious director Adam Green has a love for the films he playfully has fun with. Hatchet is a gory but silly story of Victor Crowley, a deformed boogie man legend claims stalks the New Orleans bayou. When a group of tourists on a haunted swamp tour become shipwrecked in Crowley’s backyard, they soon learn this is one urban legend with a lot of truth to it.
While Green does a good job recreating one of those 80s slasher flicks, he’s not as totally successful at juggling the gory horror with the comedy elements. Green is not subtle here and the film jarringly changes tone between scenes where one minute it’s being a comedy, and the next it’s trying to be seriously spooky. It’s this back and forth that keeps one from completely settling into his tribute to all things Jason. Green is also hindered here from his inner film geek seeing his vision not as a story, but as a movie. This gives Hatchet a staged look, it looks like a movie filmed on sets whether it was or wasn’t. This robs us of the illusion of watching his story unfold and instead constantly reminds us that this is only a movie and these are not characters but actors. Even in a playful homage like this, we still need that illusion.
But, there is still fun to be had as Adam Green does both skewer and stroke the slasher genre. The gore is over the top and top notch and he points out with a wink the absurdities of some of the films it references…Crowley finding a hand sander in the middle of a swamp, rain at a most crucial and inappropriate time…and the film geek in us knows exactly where he’s coming from. Despite the flaws in his method we still get his madness. Stars horror legends Tony Todd, Robert Englund and Kane Hodder as Crowley.
Generic comedy replays scenarios seen before in flicks like Very Bad Things and Weekend at Bernie’s as a bachelorette party goes horribly wrong. Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is running for office and getting married and her friends gather to take her to Miami for a rowdy bachelorette party, including some heavy partying and a hunky male stripper (Ryan Cooper) back at the rented house. When that stripper is accidentally killed, the girls panic and now have to find a way to get rid of the body and hide the evidence of their activities. Bad girls, bad!
Cliché comedy is directed by Lucia Arielle from an uninspired script she co-wrote with Paul W. Downs…who also plays Jess’ fiancé. There are a few funny moments here and there and the cast seems to be having a fun time, but there is very little originality and we’ve simply seen it all before and funnier. The scenario is directly lifted from other movies and the ladies are given very little to work with. Johansson tries, but seems out of place in this vulgar comedy, New Yorker Kate McKinnon is playing an Australian, which adds nothing to the story and only Jillian Bell seems to really be taking the meager material and doing her best with it. A forgettable flick, but harmless in it’s own underachieving way. Also stars Zoë Kravitz and Ilana Glazer as the remaining members of the bachelorette crew.