HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VEIL (2016)

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THE VEIL (2016)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Flick opens in 1985 where the members of the Heaven’s Veil cult, under the leadership of the charismatic Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane), all partake in what appears to be a mass suicide…all but one five year-old girl, Sarah (Ivy George from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Krampus). Twenty-five years later Sarah (now Lily Rabe) is all grown up and still haunted by that fateful day. She is contacted by filmmaker Maggie Price (Jesscia Alba) who wants to make a documentary about the cult and wants to return to the place where it all happened, with Sarah as her guide. Maggie has a personal investment in investigating the event, as her dad was one of the FBI agents who arrived at the site and what happened there drove him to suicide as well. Once at the compound, Maggie and crew are led to a secret house beyond the grounds that the authorities missed…a house were all Jim Jacobs’ secrets are hidden…and a house where something still roams it’s halls.

Directed by Phil Joanou (Three O’Clock High, State Of Grace) and written by Robert Ben Garant this supernatural horror is a bit of a mixed bag, but an entertaining enough one, thanks to heavy atmosphere from Joanou. A lot of suspension of disbelief is also required to enjoy this. But, if you can get passed the far-fetched notion that generators, lights and even electrical devices like VCRs and projectors, would actually function…and the film stored there would still be watchable…after being left for over two decades in an overgrown and musty old house, than this can be a spooky little flick. Director Phil Loanou gives this horror some really spooky atmosphere and some legitimately creepy bits, along with some nicely executed jump scares and it’s only in the last act were it looses it’s grip a bit. There is a nice reveal in that last act that adds some weight, but the film also goes a bit overboard with it’s supernatural story and while Joanou maintains the atmosphere, things get a bit convoluted when it’s haunting story crosses into murder, resurrection and revenge. It was working on simpler level and it tries to accomplish too much in it’s final third and it does get a bit silly and messy. Still, there are enough moments earlier on to make this worth checking out and even in those climactic moments, the unsettling atmosphere does remain and it helps alleviate how preposterous it all gets. Obviously, characters also do some dumb things to put themselves in harm’s way, but it is the rare horror flick where that doesn’t happen, so we’ll cut it a break on that point.

The cast are fine. Jane seems to behaving a good time and is quite disturbing as Jacobs. He keeps him mostly grounded in the flashbacks…his conviction in his beliefs and charisma giving credence to his following…until the last act requires him to go over-the-top and he does so appropriately. Alba is good as Maggie. A driven young woman who has a personal stake in unlocking secrets to this horrible event. She also keeps it grounded, which worked better for the character. Lily Rabe is convincing as the emotionally troubled survivor, though her odd behavior does prematurely signal she may have a hidden agenda, aside from simply aiding this film crew. The supporting players all range from decent to adequate and none of them undo Joanou’s atmosphere, which helps when things get loopy.

Overall, I am going to cut this flick some slack as the atmosphere and creepiness prevalent in the first two thirds worked very well. I liked the initial story and while it did loose me a bit in it’s final act and went a little overboard with certain elements, director Phil Joanou kept the atmosphere going. There was a nice reveal in the final third that helped even the balance as things got a bit silly and the cast showed restraint when needed and went over-the-top when called for. Not completely successful with what it tried to accomplish, or anything new, but a veteran director demonstrates that a skilled hand can make a film far better than it should have been with it’s uneven script and overambitious ideas. Worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 cool aids.
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REVIEW: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015)

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series and while I admit it was starting to show definite signs of running out of gas with the much maligned part 4, there did seem to be a bit of a second wind with the fun spin-off, The Marked Ones. Now we get Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension which is being sold as the series finale, but really doesn’t answer any more questions than the previous entries and doesn’t really make good on some of The Marked Ones‘ promise.

This entry takes place at Christmas time at the home of the Fleeges family. We have Ryan (Chris J. Murray), his pretty wife, Emily (Brit Shaw) and their adorable little girl Leila (Ivy George). They are joined by Ryan’s recently single brother Mike (Dan Gill) and pretty blonde “Auntie Skyler” (Olivia Taylor Dudley), whose actual relationship with the family is never really clear (Emily’s sister?) other than to provide exposition and look hot in Daisy Dukes. They discover a box with an old video camera and VHS tapes, in the house, which reveal young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristie (Jessica Tyler Brown) from Paranormal Activity 3. Upon watching these tapes they observe some bizarre cult activity with the two girls and strange things begin to occur in their own home. The camera can apparently pick-up ‘spirit photography’ (as per our lovely Auntie Skyler) and Ryan begins to see strange things floating around the house. The activity seems to be focused on Leila and as the activity grows and Leila’s behavior begins to change, the Fleeges begin to fear there is something dark and dangerous in their home…and evidence indicates they have been targeted by something sinister. Somebody call an exorcist!

Series editor Gregory Plotkin directs from a story and script by no less than five people. While he actually doesn’t do a bad job for his first outing, the script doesn’t really give him that much new to work with till the last act and while that adds a few new wrinkles, it doesn’t come close to providing a satisfying finale. Odd that five people working for two years couldn’t come up with anything more then basically just another installment. The spirit camera gimmick looses it’s novelty quickly and since our imaginations can concoct far worse than any FX technician, demon “Toby” is reduced to just another CGI phantom that has become all too common in this digital effects age. He’s not that impressive now that he’s been outed and we are no longer as afraid of him. At least in previous entries we never knew where he would strike from next. Here we can see him coming. Plotkin does give us some legitimate tension and chills, but the movie really doesn’t go too far from where any previous entry went and when we finally find out what the witch coven “The Mid-Wives” want, it’s basically nothing that the demon/exorcism movie of the week hasn’t done before. There is some cool stuff with the dimension portal introduced in Marked Ones and some fun use of PA3 footage, but the film seems to only casually address elements in the last two films with throwaway lines and even uses that same approach with a major character, leaving her fate a loose end. Even the climax leaves us at a point where there is obviously more to the story, so, as a finale, this feels far from final. The usual complaints are still here, too. Such as, why don’t they ever put the camera down, even when in danger and why don’t these people seem anything more then moderately curious when discovering there is a demonic entity stalking their child…and did no one think of Windex-ing the demonic symbols said child drew, off the wall? She’s continually allowed to sleep in a bed surrounded by writing that has been identified as demonic in nature. Bad parenting indeed! Suffice to say, characters do not behave logically or practically as the film progresses and we wonder if “The Mid-Wives” indeed made the right choice as this clan seems to be walking right into their sinister plot perfectly…and with predictable results.

The cast were fine and at least the characters where likable. Murray is fun as dad Ryan who is quite fascinated at first by the camera, tapes and odd goings on. The script doesn’t have him or anyone else as scared or concerned as they should be, but that’s not the actor’s fault. Gill is amusing as Ryan’s goofball brother and provides the comic relief, which is welcome at times. Ivy George is adorable as little Leila and escapes annoying child syndrome, so, we like and care about her. She does good work for a tyke. The Paranormal Activity series continues the tradition of hot mom’s and good looking supporting characters with Brit Shaw’s pretty girl-next-door mom Emily, who seems a little more concerned about the lurking demon than her husband and Olivia Taylor Dudley (also seen recently in The Vatican Tapes) whose character’s purpose may be questionable, but she’s hot, so we’ll tolerate it. We also get familiar faces such as Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown and Hallie Foote returning as young Katie, Kristie and Grandma Lois respectively. Notice anybody missing?…grrrr!*

Didn’t hate it, but it is a big disappointment for those looking for a solid finale and tied up loose ends. New director Gregory Plotkin doesn’t do a bad job, but is working from a script compiled by five people and it does teeter on the edge of mess at times. The flick has a few new wrinkles that are amusing enough, but falls back on familiar series tropes and makes a bit of a mistake in revealing it’s series villain as just another CGI spook, after five films left him to our own overactive imaginations. There are…as usual with this series…just as many loose ends as there are questions answered, leaving the door ajar in case this makes a boatload of cash and Toby returns once more.

*As a personal gripe, how can you end a series without it’s lead character (aside from Toby) is beyond me. Boo!

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 spooks…it earns a few ‘hottie in Daisy Dukes’ extra points.

paranormal activity 5 rating

 

 

 

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