Month: May 2015

The Remaining

A young couple gets married surrounded by their friends and family. During the reception several of the guests drop dead for no apparent reason and their eyes turn white. Soon the bride, groom, and their friends realize that people all over the world have died suddenly and no one seems to know why. To some, it becomes apparent that this is the Rapture as told in the Bible. They venture out to find someplace safe only to be hunted by evil beings from the sky. Now the friends have to fight for their lives, as well as their souls.

Before I begin my review, I feel the need to preface this by saying that I am an atheist. While I do not believe in God, or any kind of god, I respect a person’s right to believe what they want to believe (and I also find most religions fascinating). That being said, this film felt like religious propaganda to me. As the previews before the movie started I learned this film was made by a religious production company called Affirm Films that targets a Christian audience. If I had known that ahead of time, I honestly probably would not have seen this film. It almost felt like false advertising because when I initially saw the trailer it just seemed like a regular horror movie. After watching the movie, I can see that it was almost a warning for non-believers or for those who the filmmakers might consider “bad Christians.” An example of this is a pastor that the group of friends meet at a nearby church. Even the pastor didn’t get to go to Heaven during the Rapture because he didn’t have a “relationship with God,” despite his role in the church.

Pushing aside the propaganda aspect of the film, it’s hard for me to find any redeeming qualities. While I know the story of the Rapture is outlined in the Bible, I feel like they could have taken a more creative approach to it. Even in the Bible there are things that are open to interpretation, so I don’t see why they couldn’t make this film stand out by adding something more unique to the story. I was also quite disappointed by the creatures they refer to as “the fallen.” They tell you the description given in the Bible of these creatures, and there is one scene where you get a glimpse, but in general you never get a good look at these menacing beings. When looking at this film solely as a horror film, it is very disappointing when you don’t really get to see the evil at any point.

The relationships between the main characters seemed to lack anything dynamic. They were all fairly predictable in what they did and how they interacted with each other. When you look at the acting, I can’t necessarily say any of the main characters were bad. At the same time, I can’t say there were any standout performances either. They were all rather forgettable. Everyone did their job portraying the story, but they didn’t do it with any real feeling. It makes it harder to care if a character dies when they don’t seem to really care either.

If I were Christian or in any way religious, I may have a different opinion of this movie. While watching it I did my best to just judge it as a horror film and nothing more (which is nearly impossible, especially during the last 20 minutes of the film). I believe that even if I was religious I would still find the movie relatively boring, but if I feared for my immortal soul it might be a bit scarier. If you are religious, you may like this movie. If you are spiritual, agnostic, atheist, or any non-Christian religion I would not recommend this movie to you.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10

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Jessabelle

Jessabelle is a young woman who was just in a horrific accident that left her in a wheelchair. It is likely that she will eventually be able to walk again, but until then she has to go live with her estranged father in the bayou of Louisiana. Jessie discovers a box of old tapes her mom made for her before she was born. As she goes through the tapes one by one, strange things start to happen. Jessie starts having vivid, horrific dreams that seem more and more realistic. The tapes and the dreams begin to reveal more of Jessie’s past and about the mother she never knew, but she may come to regret what she discovers.

I’ve said this before, but ghost movies always scare me the most. This ghost story did not disappoint. It had all the elements of a great haunting movie; it was scary, it had a great mystery, there were a few excellent twists, and as the story progresses things get more intense. This film was scary to the point where I had to turn a light on (in my defense, I was watching it alone in the dark). I think part of what made this film especially terrifying is the fact that Jessie is confined to a wheelchair. When these scary things start happening she is virtually immobile. Since the film is from Jessie’s perspective, you feel her panic as she is being haunted and attacked.  Sarah Snook, who plays Jessie, also did an amazing acting job. Her character acted how I would in her situation; she was both terrified of what was happening to her, but also curious as to why it’s happening.

One of the best parts of this film is how things are revealed in small doses. Jessie ends up in her childhood home by chance. If she had not been in that accident, she would never have gone to live with the father whom she hadn’t seen in years. From the moment she finds the tapes of her mother, things get progressively worse for Jessie. Because things are gradually revealed, it also sets up a couple of really great twists. Most likely by the end of the film you will have figured out what is happening, but it will still be quite a surprise compared to what you may have thought in the beginning. The story gets especially interesting when it becomes clear that voodoo is a major part of what is happening. I’m really fascinated by Louisiana and the use of voodoo. This film explored voodoo in a way that reminded me of the film The Skeleton Key, except I believe this film did a far superior job. It showed voodoo in a way that is both interesting and unnerving at the same time.

Another thing that I absolutely adored about this film is that it didn’t really leave any unanswered questions. With very few exceptions, I hate when at the end of a movie I have lingering questions or things just don’t make sense. I think because things were revealed in pieces throughout the film, it made it easier for the filmmakers to make sure everything made sense by the end. It was also the kind of film where after watching how things end, you think back on events that occurred earlier in the film and things that may have seemed odd at first are easier to understand.

If you’re looking for a classic ghost story that also has a unique storyline, this is the movie for you. It had all the elements of a great ghost story, but it also added a little something extra with the voodoo. The film also had amazing acting that will send chills down your spine. If you watch it alone, like I did, you may want to leave a light on. Otherwise, be sure that you watch Jessabelle with someone who doesn’t mind you grabbing their arm and covering your eyes at the scary parts.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

The Canal

Film archivist David (Rupert Evans) and his pregnant wife Alice (Hannah Hoesktra) move into a house near the canal. Five years later strange things start to happen and it all begins with some old police footage. While David is reviewing the footage, he realizes that it shows a crime scene where a brutal murder took place in his house over 100 years ago. Soon after seeing this footage, David discovered that Alice is cheating on him and she disappears that same night. As the husband, David almost instantly becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. When her body is found in the canal it is initially ruled as an accident, but David believes that an evil presence in his house is responsible. He becomes more and more unhinged as he tries to find proof that there is something sinister that not only killed his wife, but is also after him and his son.

The first thing I have to say about this film is WOW. It was way scarier than I was anticipating. From what little I knew about this film, I expected it to be more of a psychological thriller. It definitely was psychological in many aspects, but the imagery centering around the supernatural elements was both subtle and bone-chilling. When there are spirits involved in the scene you never really fully see them. It is all very suggestive and hidden in the shadows. Evans definitely added to how scary this film is. He did an amazing job not only going from this happily married man to a grieving widower (who may be going insane), but also reacting in such an intense way to the supernatural elements that you can’t help but feel his fear.

Stylistically, this film was really quite beautiful. Many of the scenes were set up in such a way that it was almost like looking at a painting. In one particular scene, David sees an apparition and attempts to capture it on film to prove it exists. When you see the apparition, it is absolutely terrifying, but the way the scene is composed it is also so gorgeous you can’t look away.  I believe the fact that the imagery is beautiful and entrancing also adds to the feeling of madness. It is almost like you are losing your mind along with David. It all culminates in the climax of the film when more and more is revealed in rapid, horrific images until everything finally comes together.

During the film, you discover that the original murder in 1902 and what happened to David’s wife were not the only tragedies that occurred around the canal. There are several incidences in which the canal appears to be the epicenter for murder and mayhem. It makes you wonder why David and Alice managed to live in the house for five years without any odd happenings. It seems very likely that when David discovered his wife was having an affair it opened him up to the spirits in his home and the canal. The second he makes this discovery he is constantly haunted by the shadows that lurk in the darkness. He is also haunted by his need to prove these shadows killed his wife.

I’m sitting here, thinking about what I just watched, and I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this film. I’m always afraid to give any movie a 10/10, but I can’t think of a reason not to give that score to The Canal. It really was everything I want in a horror film; scary, beautiful, excellent acting, and a storyline that is both simple and imaginative at the same time. This is definitely the kind of film that will be on my mind for quite a while. The one warning I have for you is don’t watch it alone.

OVERALL RATING: 10/10 (I feel weird about it, but a 9.5 doesn’t feel like enough)