REVIEW: FREAKY (2020)

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FREAKY (2020)

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Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!

Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.

The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful as oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.

Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: VIRAL and SUMMER CAMP

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VIRAL (2016)

Basically a high school version of 28 Days Later and the more recent What We Become and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick finds sisters Emma (Sofia Black D’Elia) and Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) trapped at home alone when an viral outbreak caused by a worm-like parasite initiates a quarantine with both their parents unable to come back to their neighborhood. The parasite takes over it’s hosts, who violently and animalistic-ally seek out other hosts for the organism to spread to. The sisters must battle former friends and the threat of infection themselves to survive as the outbreak spirals out of control.

Written by the Paranormal Activity series’ Christopher Landon, with Barabara Marshall and directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4), this is actually an entertaining little movie despite it’s familiarity. Joost and Schulman create a nice mood of continual dread and danger, along with delivering some suspenseful sequences and moments of intense and bloody action. The actresses give us two very likable heroines in D’Elia’s smart and sweet Emma and Tipton’s more aggressive and headstrong Stacey. The combination of endearing characters and the directors making good use of the familiar tropes (as they did with Paranormal Activity 3) makes this a worthwhile flick for a night on the couch. Aside from some so-so CGI, the production value is good and the filmmakers prove they can work beyond found footage. A fun little apocalyptic outbreak horror despite having seen it all before.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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SUMMER CAMP (2015)

Horror flick finds three Americans (House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue, Scream Queen’s Diego Bonita and Maiara Walsh) traveling to Spain to be councilors at an English summer camp for kids and dealing with some kind of viral outbreak/infection that turns the effected violent and vicious. Is it the pollen, the water or something else turning others and themselves into homicidal monsters? Will these strangers in a foreign land survive?

Summer Camp is directed by Alberto Marini from his script with Danielle Schleif. What makes this flick work, despite the oft-told premise, is that Marini has a little fun with his ‘infection’ in both it’s actual cause and the fact that we find the effects are only temporary. This allows for the film to swap out infected and uninfected, so one minute we are fearing someone and rooting for someone else and then it switches them out as someone recovers and someone else starts foaming black at the mouth. There are some suspenseful moments and some vicious and gory violence as our three councilors battle each other, commit acts of murder while under the influence and then battle a group of infected rednecks (Yes! Even in Spain!) camped out in an RV nearby. It moves fast enough to keep us from realizing just how silly and familiar it all is and the added caveat of having our infected recover, does leave them to amusingly have to face what horrors they have committed. It’s not perfect, we are a bit confused as to what is going on till the late in the third act explanation and the end is predictable, even though still very amusing. Go in with moderate expectations and this can be fun if you just go with it.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (2013)

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (2013)

The previous entry in this found footage franchise was widely panned as the weakest of the series, even by fans and while I didn’t think it was as bad as it was made out to be, it was still the lesser of the series and was showing a franchise in need of either fresh ideas and more daring directions, or a final chapter to wrap it up. The Marked Ones is definitely a good start back in the right direction and a spooky sign that these movies may not be done yet, if this is where things might be headed. Fans of this series will be happy to know that not only does this supposed “spin-off” get PA back on track but, is more reliant on actual scares than jump scares and answers a lot of questions that the other films have set up. It ties in perfectly with the previous entries and yet is it’s own flick.

The movie starts out with friends Jesse (Andrew Jacobs), Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) who live in an urban neighborhood and have a downstairs neighbor Anna (Gloria Sandoval) who is said to be a witch. One night this ‘witch’ is murdered and Jesse and Hector…who are always filming things with a new camera…choose to sneak into her apartment and poke around. They find the woman’s journal and it does indeed seem to indicate this mysterious woman was into the black arts and was part of a witch coven seeking to build an army of demon possessed first born males. Jesse wakes up the next morning with a bite mark on his arm and things start to get weird and Jesse’s behavior starts to change with heightened aggression, strength and an almost supernatural ability to keep himself from harm. This causes Hector and Marisol to investigate further…which includes meeting with Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim) from Paranormal Activity 2…and they soon find that Jesse may have been marked by this coven since before birth to become the next soldier in this nightmarish army. Can they save him or will Jesse be damned like the others before him?

Writer/director Christopher Landon answers that question… and many more… with a truly ‘crap you pants’ finale following a fun and scare filled flick that is both familiar and fresh at the same time. He knows how to build scares and he does so slowly with a film that builds it’s momentum steadily till a really intense last act that leads up to one of the best horror movie endings in quite a while and a climax fans of this series will love from between the spaces of the fingers that are covering their eyes. Landon cleverly ties this flick in with the previous entries and we get references galore and revisit a few familiar settings as well. As for the return of any other familiar faces other then Ali, you’ll have to see it to find out.

The cast are really good here. Our three leads are very likable and supply some fun laughs early on, especially from Diaz’s lovable goof-ball Hector. Jacobs makes a solid leading man and we like Jesse and feel for him as it becomes obvious he is in deep supernatural trouble. The camaraderie between the three makes Hector and Marisol’s efforts to save him seem real and the risks they take believable…and messing with a demonic worshiping witch cult is risky, as we find out.

So, in conclusion, Christopher Landon has things back to form and even shows promise of more intense things to come. He makes good use of the found footage format which is far less obtrusive here then in the last flick and he has a nice visual style to add to the atmosphere. This is also the most violent entry in the series and one of the scariest since the first flick so, this film earns it’s R rating from more then just a few curse words and snapped necks. If nothing else, Landon gives his Latino themed entry in this series a really great ending that will stick with you for a while after leaving the theater, especially if you are a fan. Let’s hope they can keep this new momentum going with future entires. It may still not attract any new fans to the series, but should rejuvenate the interest of fans disappointed by PA4. Well done and a lot of scary fun!

3 and 1/2 spooks!

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY’S LATIN SPIN-OFF GETS A TRAILER

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The Latin themed Paranormal Activity spin off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones gets a trailer. It does link to the original series and there are some crossover characters but, with the last installment showing signs of slowing down, do we need two Paranormal Activity movies in 2014? The Marked Ones opens 1/3/2014 while Paranormal Activity 5 will open in October.
Source: Youtube
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