VICIOUS FUN (2020)
Horror comedy takes place in 1983 with horror magazine writer, Joel (Evan Marsh) crushing on his hot roommate Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele). A jealous Joel decides to follow her new boyfriend Bob (Ari Millen) and tails him to a bar and restaurant. There he befriends and questions Bob, who eventually leaves with a young woman, while Joel soon passes out drunk. Upon awakening, he finds himself in a bizarre twelve step meeting, at the restaurant, for what turns out to be a bunch of serial killers. Joel is mistaken for one of their number, until Bob joins in and outs him. Now Joel becomes their next intended victim until he finds an unexpected ally, when one of the psychos turns out to be a killer with a grudge against killers
Flick is directed by Cody Calahan from a script by James Villeneuve. It starts out to be a lot of bloody fun, as we first get introduced to this bunch of various serial murderers and then when Bob shows up to out Joel and the blood and body parts start to fly. It’s the second act that really hurts this flick as a change of locations to a police station, grinds the momentum and bloody fun to a halt. A lot of time is wasted with Joel and his new ally sitting in jail cells as the moronic police try to pin the bodies at the restaurant on them. It’s not until the third act, when Bob, along with remaining killers, the Jason-like Mike (Robert Maillet) and the Gacy-like Fritz (Julian Richings) attack the police station to finish their work. The film is fun from here on in, but never really fully recovers from the dead weight of the middle. The cast are all good and get the sarcastic tone of the material and there is plenty of blood, guts and action, when killers, cops and prey all collide. It’s just a slow mid-section that really keeps this from being a consistent delight from start to finish. Also stars David Koechner as the session leader, Sean Baek as cannibal Hideo, Amber Goldfarb as female killer Carrie and has a great 80s-esque electronic score by Steph Copeland. Worth a watch on Shudder, but not the complete blast it could have been with a little trimming in the second act.
ANYTHING FOR JACKSON (2020)
Occult practicing grandparents Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings) Walsh are devastated by the loss of their grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund). So devastated, that they kidnap single mom-to-be Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos) and plan to use a centuries old Satanic ceremony to put Jackson’s spirit into the body of Shannon’s unborn child. What could go wrong?
Demonic horror is effectively directed by Justin G. Dyck from a script by Keith Cooper. Flick has some very spooky moments and disturbing sequences, while balancing a very dry and twisted undercurrent of humor. It’s subtle, so not to undo all the creepy goings on, but it is there and helps to make the situation all the more unsettling. There are some very effective make-up effects, as The Walsh’s unintentionally invite far more than little Jackson into their home, and a considerable amount of bloodshed. The cast are all good, with McCarthy and Richings being quite sinister in their determination to have their grandson back at any cost and Konstantina Mantelos is sympathetic and resilient as the pregnant Shannon, who somehow must outwit the duo, a bound and gagged captive in their house. It’s not perfect. We know from the start that the Walsh’s perfectly thought out plan will start to crack and fall apart at some point, and we know from past movie experiences that demons don’t play fair. Sometimes it’s a bit too deadpan for it’s own good and there are lulls between the effective moments that slow down the momentum. Overall, it’s spooky entertainment and certainly worth a look for a reverse spin on the classic exorcism story with a pair of Satan worshipping geezers as our bad guys. Now streaming on Shudder.
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This Sci-Fi thriller is written by Tony Burgess, who wrote the book the film Pontypool was based on, and tells the story of William Cassidy (Julian Richings) who allegedly had an encounter with extraterrestrials 39 years earlier and hasn’t lived in peace since. He asks amateur filmmaker and conspiracy theorist Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold) to come to his secluded home, on the eve of a historic sun storm, to document his story. Nothing can prepare either of them, though, as the solar storm brings not only the return of William’s alien abductors, but a sinister government organization that will go to any lengths to find out what William knows.
As directed by the pair of Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele, Ejecta is a film filled with a lot of interesting ideas that are not quite successfully carried out in the execution. The story opens with Cassidy’s abduction by the unnamed government organization and brought before the ruthless Dr. Tobin (Lisa Houle) for interrogation and torture. The footage shot by Sullivan detailing what happened during the night, is intercut with Cassidy’s incarceration as we and Dr. Tobin slowly review the footage to see the evening’s events unfold. It gives the film an odd fractured narrative as we cut back and forth with the found footage format serving as flashbacks and the cameras of soldiers on the scene with the straight forward style for the lab interrogation. The film also takes a while before it really gets interesting, but there are some spooky sequences in the found footage flashbacks and some surprising gory violence in it’s last act. The interrogation stuff is less effective as Tobin comes across as some cheesy movie villain just short of rubbing her hands together and maniacally cackling as she gleefully tells Cassidy of what horror she has in store for him. It takes what is supposed to be a serious thriller and brings it down a few notches as the character and the actress’ overacting make Tobin more of a stereotypical movie villain who seems unnecessarily cruel. It strips away the realism as does the character’s more outlandish torture methods and habit of killing her own people when not satisfied. It’s corny and cliché when the rest of the film is trying to be believable and interesting. On a production level, the film looks good on what was probably a modest budget and the FX work is very well done with some surprising and effective bloodshed at times.
Aside from the over-acting from Houle, Richings is effective as Cassidy. He’s plays a man who has been tormented for decades in seclusion from what he has experienced, only to have it return and then be tortured by his own kind to be given the details. He does evoke sympathy and gives the appearance of a haunted man. Adam Seybold is fine as the conspiracy theorist Sullivan, who jumps at the chance to meet Cassidy and get the truth he believes exists. His part is smaller, but he does fine as a young man who gets more than he bargained for. There are also a bunch of supporting scientists and soldier types who are all adequate in their parts.
To wrap it up, Ejecta is an interesting and sometimes spooky mixed bag. While it’s flashback found footage scenes work well and provide most of the chills, it’s sequences of torment and interrogation fall short due to an overacting and very over-the-top, cliché villain. There are some interesting ideas throughout and there are a few surprises, secrets revealed and gruesome moments, too, especially in it’s last act. Worth a look, but not quite what it had the potential to be.
2 and 1/2 haunted abductees.