Latest sequel finds Woodsboro once again the target of someone wearing the Ghostface mask. This time it’s Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), who is allowed to live only to lure estranged sister Sam (Melissa Barrera) back to Woodsboro. Why is Ghostface so interested in Sam? Could a dark secret trailing back to the original Woodsboro murders have something to do with it? Sam and her friends have an edge though, as Dewey (David Arquette), Gail (Courteney Cox) and Sydney (Neve Campbell) have vowed to stop Ghostface once and for all!
Self-labeled “requel” is directed by the team of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Ready or Not) from a script by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. It’s more “meh” than meta as this fifth installment is showing that the Scream formula is running out of gas and this one in particular adds little new to revitalize the franchise. Even Sydney herself claims this Ghostface is the most derivative yet and she’s ironically not wrong. Our three veteran characters all seem visibly tired of this schtick, though the new cast members do try hard, especially Barrera and Ortega. The attempts to give fan service to the original film works only about half the time, though there are some impactful deaths of series characters. There are also some solid kills, a few suspenseful sequences, and some clever dialogue, but even Ghostface lacks a strong threat and the whole film simply felt like it was going through the motions. Even the film’s reveal lacked a strong impact and the reasons for this happening a fifth time seemed very convoluted. Worst of all, It’s actually a bit dull in spots. Something a slasher should never be.
The veterans are fine, but you get the feeling they are also going through the motions and are not really invested in having to do this yet again. Campbell, Cox and Arquette just don’t breathe the life into the characters that they did in the past installments and are actually overshadowed by some of the newcomers. Speaking of which, Melissa Barrera makes for a very strong lead as Sam, the focus of the newest Ghostface’s attention. She’s strong-willed and makes a solid final girl. Also solid is Jenna Ortega (The Babysitter: Killer Queen), who has been a familiar face in horror lately, and she does good work as Sam’s younger sister Tara. Ortega is sympathetic, but also shows some toughness in her encounters with Ghostface. Dylan Minnette (GooseBumps) is likable as the son of now Sheriff Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) and Jack Quaid does a fine job as Sam’s boyfriend Richie. Rounding out the attractive young cast are Mikey Madison as Amber, Jasmin Savoy Brown and Mason Gooding (Booksmart) as siblings Mindy and Chad and Sonia Ammar as Chad’s girlfriend Liv. A likable cast who deserved a stronger script and better movie.
Overall, this new Scream neither refreshes the franchise for a new generation nor gives it a strong finish— though if it ended here—which it probably won’t—it would be a fitting enough, though weak, send-off. It has some good kills, a few clever touches, and a solid young cast, but otherwise only seems to illustrate that this franchise is running out of gas. The veteran actors seem tired of it all and the script could have done more than put this installment through familiar paces. Entertaining to a degree, but also too slow and routine in spots to let it slide on some of it faults.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Ghostfaces!
THE CURSE OF LA PATASOLA (2022)
Indie horror flick finds two young couples, Naomi (Najah Bradley) and James (Patrick R. Walker) along with Sarah (Gillie Jones) and Daniel (A.J. Jones) camping in a remote forest despite ominous warnings from a park ranger (Mark Pettit). There they encounter their own personal melodrama and a bloodthirsty creature from Amazonian folklore called La Patasola (Luciana Faulhaber).
Flick is directed by star A.J. Jones from a script by he and Shaun Mathis. As per its opening conversation, the film tries way too hard to be “woke” and it feels forced and not like natural conversations between friends. Daniel is also too ignorant in his views to be believable as someone the others would even want to hang out with. Naomi is South American in origin and thus provides the background exposition for our seductive creature and the film tries to set the mood with the ominous warnings of the park ranger as well. Cliché yes, but done right, the time-honored clichés still can work. Again, here it seems forced, as is Naomi relating the folklore of La Patasola as a campfire tale and it just so happens the creature is actually here in Florida, USA. What are the odds! The Amazonian folklore is interesting, but the character melodrama is not. The film is boring, not scary, so it’s faults only become more obvious, since there is nothing to distract us away. The acting is stale as is the dialogue. Only Luciana Faulhaber gives her role a little life, imbuing La Patasola with a bit of spooky sex appeal in her far too brief appearance as the human form of the creature. Disappointedly amateur and forgettable despite being based on actual untapped folklore.
Flick finds a dangerous prisoner transfer crashing in the middle of nowhere stranding EMT Melina (Marika Sila) in the middle of the woods with her surviving crew members, two police officers and a pair of psychotic killers. Their homicidal passengers are the least of her worries, though, as there is something else in the woods stalking them that is far more dangerous.
Written and directed by Christopher Donaldson, this horror starts out spooky and effective, until we get our reveal. Once that happens it becomes a long, drawn-out villain pontification showcase that stops any momentum the film had, dead in its tracks. What started out being something headed in a bloody fun direction, nosedives into a tedious talk fest by a boring, boastful villain (Mackenzie Gray). It was much more interesting when the threat was left in mystery and shadows. The plot also gets far too convoluted for its own good once the nefarious plot is tediously revealed. The action finally does resume, with about ten minutes left in the movie, but by then it’s too little and far too late. There is some abundant and well-orchestrated gore, but the film way overuses the 80s neon lighting style that has become popular again with a new generation of filmmakers weaned on the films of that era. At least Marika Sila made a solid heroine, who was sadly in need of a better movie. A disappointing example of a film that starts out headed in a good direction and takes a wrong turn into boring and forgettable.
OLD STRANGERS (2022)
Three friends, Michael (Ted Evans), Sarah (Madeleine Humphries) and Danny (Colton Eschief Mastro) get together for a post quarantine reunion at a remote cabin in the woods. As with any cabin in the woods scenario, there is something not right going on in those woods and this vacation may turn into a nightmare.
Flick is written and directed by Nick Gregorio and is an economical 62 minutes long. The movie works the contemporary pandemic themes of isolation and fear, as it deals with the subject of infection, when a strange substance in the woods starts to contaminate those that come in contact with it. Obviously, one of the trio becomes infected and begins to act strangely. The film isn’t big on action, but Gregorio does give the proceedings some tension, a spooky scene or two and an atmosphere of dread, while his small cast does fine in their roles. Technically it is shot well and doesn’t rely on too many FX, choosing to work within the means of its small budget. There are a few weak CGI shots, but otherwise the film remains light on FX reliance. There is also a bit of a science fiction twist in the last act that pays fun homage to a classic sci-fi tale, that won’t be spoiled here. Not a bad effort from Nick Gregorio and shows some potential from the filmmaker.
MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET (2021)
Flick finds horror author Raymond Castle (Tom CIkowski) mysteriously passing away. His pretty daughter Jasmin (Jasmin Flores) returns home to investigate how he died. She finds he was resorting to using dark forces to write his latest horror and when read aloud, his latest chiller comes frightening to life. Will Jasmin survive?
Anthology of sorts is directed by The Snygg Brothers from a script by Luke Couzens, Shanna Bess and Valerie Bittner, who also star. It’s an amusing enough low budget flick, though very amateurish, that does show some heart and a love for horror movies. Flores makes a likable heroine and Cikowski is effective as Castle, who is seen in a digital message viewed by his daughter. The creatures, zombies and gore are amusing enough, and a story told from the POV of a woman bitten by a zombie and slowly turning, is one of the better bits. All in all, you could do worse.
Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) is a young boy who has only his schoolteacher Julia (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother Paul (Jesse Plemons) to turn to when an encounter with an ancient and evil entity transforms his father (Scott Haze) into a monster.
Gory and unsettling flick is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) from his script with C. Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca (Brand New Cherry Flavor), based on Antosca’s book The Quiet Boy. It is a disturbing film that not only tells a tale of horror about a vengeful and evil Native American spirit but touches on the real-life horrors of abuse through its emotionally scarred characters. It is a slow burn, but it serves the story to build gradually to the film’s more gruesome moments, as the man turned malevolent creature eventually finds its way into the surrounding woods of this small mountain town. The film is very atmospheric and has some very horrifying imagery to give its audience the continual creeps, and when it’s Wendigo is on screen, it’s a very effective critter with top notch creature and gore FX. The cast is very good, with especially strong work from Keri Russell, as a teacher with her own emotional traumas, and young Jeremy T. Thomas as the embattled Lucas. The slow pace and unsettlingly real subject matter may not be for some, but Antlers is a creepy and effective film for those who can appreciate Cooper’s grim and dreary approach. Rustic horror movie also stars Graham Greene as a retired Native American sheriff and Amy Madigan as a concerned school principal.