FINAL GIRL (2015)
Final Girl is an entertaining and stylish thriller about a girl named Veronica (Abigail Breslin) who lost her parents when she was eight and is taken in by a man named William (Wes Bentley). She’s trained for the next twelve years to be an efficient killing machine and then unleashed on her first assignment. There are four young men, led by the charismatic Jameson (Alexander Ludwig), who like to lure young women in the woods and then hunt them for sport, while wearing tuxedos. Veronica is to set herself up as their next victim and then find a way to take these serial killers out…but the odds are against her. Tyler Shields’ directorial debut is a bit too stylish for it’s own good at times, but overall this is a fun flick as we watch Veronica play a dangerous cat and mouse game deep in the woods with these four arrogant killers. There are some good fight scenes with petite Abigail Breslin holding her own quite well and making an impression once again. The rest of the cast are good with Ludwig being a detestable villain and Bentley making a mysterious figure as Veronica’s handler, William. A simple story and script written by four people that might have been a bit more fun had they kept us in the dark for awhile about Veronica’s origins, but it does entertain and still photographer Shields does give it an intriguing visual style. Not great, but fun and an interesting debut for Shields. Also stars Cameron Bright, Reece Thompson and Logan Huffman as Jameson’s fellow frat boy killers.
THE STRANGER (2015)
Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo and produced by Eli Roth, this flick is a strange and somber take on the vampire genre. A stranger (Cristobal Tapia Montt) arrives in a small town and stops at the home of Peter (Nicolás Durán) and his mother (Aleesandra Guerzoni) inquiring about a woman, Ana (Lorenza Izzo) who died around the time Peter was born. An encounter with a group of thugs leads Peter to believe this stranger, Martin, is something more than an average man. Now as Peter becomes fixated wit this man, he begins to learn there is something very unnatural about him and his reason for being there and Peter may be involved closer than he would like. The film certainly has some very effective moments and there is some effectively gruesome violence, too, but the film was a bit too somber to really draw one in. Even with the subplot of a vicious thug (Ariel Levy) and his dirty cop father (Luis Gnecco), who complicate things for Peter and Martin, the film is a little dull at times and never rises about moderately intriguing. The vampire aspects are treated more like a disease than a curse and the reveals are seen coming miles away. Not really a bad movie, but nothing overly memorable or thrilling.
APRIL APOCALYPSE (2013)
I try to champion the indie filmmaker whenever possible but found very little to like about this incredibly derivative little movie. In a plot we’ve seen countless times, a dork (a bland Reece Thompson who also produced) falls in love with the hot girl next door (Rebekah Brandes from Midnight Movie) but, is too afraid to let her know how he feels. A horrific event…in this case a zombie outbreak…gives him the opportunity to find the courage to find and rescue her and be a hero. The film is just so familiar and is trying way too hard to emulate so many better movies, it’s annoying…and not to mention a bit smug. It’s like the makers saw Zombieland one too many times, as that’s the film it blatantly copies in it’s style most of the time. I wouldn’t mind the familiarity, though, if it was done inventively or in a refreshing way but, it’s not. And even at barely over 80 minutes the film stops dead…pun intended… for long dialogue scenes that go nowhere and don’t further the story. As directed by Jarret Tarnol and written by Brent Tarnol (who also stars as the stereotypical stoner Stevenson) this flick is sadly a chore to sit through, even though well under 90 minutes. At least Brandes is cute to watch as April. A disappointing effort that somehow got Aliens’ Mark Rolston and comedian George Lopez involved in small roles.
DRACULA UNTOLD (2014)
It’s not that Dracula Untold is a badly made movie, it’s just that it’s a ridiculous one. Director Gary Shore movies things along well enough and the film looks good but, the story by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless is just plain silly. Tale takes the true-life character of Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) and thus the fictional vampire that is based on him and turns him into a superhero. Vlad’s kingdom is threated by the Turks who demand a thousand of his people’s children, including his own son. He seeks help from an old vampire (Charles Dance) living in a mountain cave to bestow him with his power so, he can save his people. He has three days with this power but, if he gives in to the blood thirst, he will remain a vampire forever. Vlad then goes up against thousands of soldiers like a gothic X-Man with the powers of bat control. It’s ridiculous. It takes one of literature and film’s greatest villains and turns him into Batman…literally. As an action movie it passes the time but, as a telling of the story of Dracula, it’s a silly movie that sadly had an interesting concept at it’s core with it’s origin of the legendary count.
PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013)
On one hand, Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett’s found footage film is inventive in using a real life location suspected of occult and paranormal activity, the ruins of St. Mary’s Church in Clophill, England and real interviews from witnesses. On the other hand though, they forget to make the film the least bit scary. The flick comes across as some random episode of some random ghost hunting show and as in those shows, very little actually happens amidst all the talk and conjecture. The film is only 88 minutes long and it isn’t until the 1 hr 17 min mark that something that could be considered even remotely scary happens. Seriously! Then the film climaxes ominously and quite open for a sequel. It’s a long-winded build-up with no real pay-off. Technically an 80 minute wait for the last 8 minutes which seems to only exist to set-up another movie to come. For the most part, an interesting idea squandered on a boring movie. Too bad. The mix of real-life history and paranormal thriller could have been fun if the makers knew what to do with it.