UNCANNY ANNIE (2019)
Uncanny Annie is part of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark series and originally aired on 10/4/19. Flick takes place on Halloween night, where six friends, Wendy (Adelaide Kane), Michael (Dylan Arnold), Eve (Georgie Flores), Craig (Jacques Colimon), Grace (Paige McGhee) and Peter (Evan Bittencourt) are hanging out together. They discover an old board game called Uncanny Annie and they decide to play. Soon the friends find themselves in some kind of void where they are not only forced to bare their souls, but are assailed by a variety of spooks and specters, including Annie (Karlisha Hurley) herself. Is there any way to win and escape for them, or will they be all taken one by one?
Flick is spookily directed by Paul Davis from a fun script by Alan Blake Bachelor and James Bachelor. Sure, we’ve seen the whole drawn into a board game thing before and the haunted board game, too, but the filmmakers know it and go with it with supernatural gusto. There are some spooky spooks and Annie herself is quite unnerving, thanks to a creepy performance by Karlisha Hurley. The whole cast give us some likable characters, even though some have dark secrets to keep, with Adelaide Kane making a solid heroine as sexy Goth chick Wendy. There is some bloodshed and the ghost FX are well done, too. Even if it isn’t the most original concept, it’s a fun Halloween flick that takes itself just seriously enough, yet let’s us have a good time as it’s premise plays out. One of the better Into The Dark flicks.
A cool short film called Realm written by John Swetnam and directed by Scott Speer (Step-up Revolution) has apparently gotten the attention of Relativity and is going to get the feature film treatment. Story seems to be a more religious themed Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets The Exorcist meets Anime as it presents a pretty young girl, Claire Daniels (The Purge’s Adelaide Kane), who can enter the souls of those possessed and battle the demons in a sort of demon realm. Looks kinda cool and I hope they keep Miss Kane as the lead. I think she is an undiscovered talent and reminds me of a Buffy era Eliza Dushku. Watch the short for yourself below…
THE DEVIL’S HAND (2014)
While presented in all seriousness by director Christian E. Christiansen, from Karl Mueller’s script, this Amish set slasher/supernatural horror comes across as fairly silly and very cliché. The story has a prophecy of a coming evil being fulfilled when six girls are born on the same night, in the same Amish village on the sixth day of the sixth month. One mother fearing she has unleashed this evil, murders her child, but the other five are left to be. We pick up as they all are about to turn 18 and now someone…or something…is killing them off. Film is actually fairly well directed, but just can’t rise above the familiarity of these type of ancient prophecy flicks such as the village elder (Colm Meaney phoning it in) using his people’s fear to control them and the rebellious girl (Alycia Debnam-Carey) breaking the rules to investigate…and date a boy from the outside. We’ve seen it all before and better. It was never boring, but never scary or suspenseful either. Also stars Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter who visibly looks like she would rather be anywhere else but in this movie. The young cast members, including Adelaide Kane, give it their all and there is some decent bloodshed, so that helps a bit. Not unwatchable, just nothing special.
THE SKELETON TWINS (2014)
Directed by Craig Johnson, from a script he co-wrote with Mark Heyman, this indie comedy/drama follows the indie formula fairly closely by inhabiting an emotion-filled story with eccentric and dysfunctional characters on a journey to discover themselves. It is the story of estranged twins, the suicidal Milo (Bill Hader) and the married but unfaithful Maggie (Kristen Wiig), who are reunited when Milo attempts to kill himself. Milo comes to upstate New York to live with Maggie and her clueless husband (Luke Wilson) and they learn to love themselves and each other. And as in a lot of these films, there are some character revelations, but ultimately the film really doesn’t go anywhere story wise, though it’s not really meant to. While I found a lot of it to be cliché for these type of flicks, even though I do have a soft spot for indie films, I did find it worth watching for the acting from Hader and Wiig and the film is never dull and can be subtly funny at times. The two leads are superb and both play roles a bit different than we are used to seeing them in and they have great chemistry together and it makes all the clichés work. So, I recommend it for an enjoyable 90+ minutes of two underrated performers creating two very offbeat, but ultimately likable characters and personally I loved all the Nyack, New York locations, especially during the Halloween set sequences.
THE PURGE (2013)
The Purge is one of those movies that comes up with a fairly interesting premise then does something incredibly routine with it. The story takes place in the near future where crime in the United States is almost non-existant thanks to “The Purge”, one night a year where for 12 hours between 7 P.M. and 7 A.M. all crime including murder is legal and anyone who wishes to vent their internal anger and hatred can do so…while those who can afford it, hunker down in their fortified homes and watch it on TV. It’s seen as a release of negative emotion and a way to thin the poor and middle class who can’t afford home lock down systems as sold by James Sandin (Ethan Hawke). James and his family live in a very rich neighborhood in a very large house which is the envy of even their wealthy neighbors. James fully supports The Purge as he feels it makes the country a better place to live and also makes him able to afford his large house through the sales of his home security system designed to keep The Purge out and those that can afford it, safely in…or so he thinks.
This is where writer/director James DeMonaco fails to make good use of his premise. Sandin and wife Mary (Lena Headey), gadget loving son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and hot teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), complete with school girl outfit, get ready for the event to begin and not long after it does, a man (Edwin Hodge) shows up at their door bloodied and begging for help. Sensitive Charlie let’s him in and soon the house is surrounded by those pursuing him, a masked group of well armed youths who give the Sandins the choice of sending their prey out or they will come in and kill everyone. A good portion of the film is the moral dilemma that splits the family, should they hand over the man who Charlie is helping hide in their home, or do the right thing and try to protect him. It’s no secret that the thugs outside eventually will have reason to come in and start the blood flowing. And that’s kinda it.
The film takes an interesting premise and settles for basically being yet another home invasion/siege film where a family sheltered from violence is forced to use it to save their own lives. And the slight twist in the last act, and the stupid subplot involving Zoey’s boyfriend, really doesn’t do anything to make the film any more interesting. It’s just another routine variation on the latest horror trend which is masked kooks trapping people in their own house that seems to have started with the much better The Strangers and the French thriller Them (Ils), thought you can even trace it back to John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 from 1976. DeMonaco directs the film competently and there is some tension and suspense, but we’ve seen it all before right down to the dumb decisions characters make in order to keep the plot moving.
The cast are fine with Hawke giving his usual sturdy performance though Headey is wasted as Mary, mostly looking upset or crying for the most part. Burkholder can be a bit annoying as Charlie and Adelaide Kane, whose character disappears for long stretches without explanation, reminds me of a young Eliza Dushku before she developed the intensity she showed in Buffy. Not as impressive, but she might have potential. As for our villains, only the leader (Rhys Wakefield) takes his mask off and is a stereotypical arrogant, elitist yuppie with his group being your typical masked giggling and skipping loonies we’ve seen a lot in films recently. Maybe if they weren’t so busy acting like giggling, skipping children, they wouldn’t get gunned down so easily by a family that’s never had to kill before.
Overall The Purge is not a terrible movie, it’s just one with a good idea that limits itself to a very routine and thus very forgettable use of that idea…and so it’s a very routine and thus very forgettable movie. It was however a box office hit, so a sequel is on the way. Maybe they will make better use of their concept this time… maybe…
2 and 1/2 bullets!