Month: July 2015

The Gallows

During a high school play, there was a horrible accident. A malfunction with the gallows on stage sadly lead to a student hanging to death. Twenty years later, the school’s drama club decides to put on the same play. A group of popular kids decide to sneak into the school the night before the play opens to destroy the set. They soon realize that they are not alone in the dark, creepy high school. Charlie, the boy who hanged, is haunting the school and he’s looking for revenge.

I had really high hopes for this movie. When I saw the teaser trailer (see above) for the first time it absolutely terrified me to the point of getting goosebumps and my eyes watering. Sadly, that was the best scene of the entire movie. This is one of those unfortunate cases where the horror movie gave up all the goods in the trailer, so it wasn’t as exciting or scary when you actually see the movie. Even the later trailers showed pretty much every potentially scary scene in the entire movie. It may be because all the scary scenes were shown in the trailers, but I did not find this film scary at all. I kept bracing myself for something to happen that scared me, but when the scares came they definitely did not have the intended effect.

Another major issue I had was with the general storyline. Being a horror movie, most of the characters fit into the usual stereotypes. There was the obnoxious jock, the sweet sensitive guy, the cheerleader, and the theater geek. Obviously not much originality there, but most horror movies have many aspects that fit some archetype. The story did attempt to have some originality. There were actually a couple twists in the film that were fairly well thought out. That being said, there were also many holes.

Most of the holes in the story are related to the big reveal at the end of the film. I will not get too into it because I do my best not to have spoilers in my reviews. One of the major questions I had was why is all this happening now? In the film some of the characters mentioned that strange things have happened in the past that everyone assumed was the work of Charlie’s ghost, yet no one has ever been attacked or killed before this night. I have a vague question about the ending as well related to the twenty year gap between Charlie’s death and when they recreate the play. I won’t go any further than that to avoid spoiling the end (feel free to email me if you would like to discuss this aspect more). I also feel like there was supposed to be more to the ending, but it was so vague it’s hard to really know for sure.

One of the better aspects of this film was the acting. I thought all of the main characters did a really great job. What made the performances even more impressive is that for a majority of the main actors, this was their first starring role in a major film. Even with their flaws, the characters were all still enjoyable and you cared about whether or not they died. Something that did bother me a bit was ghost Charlie. When you see the real Charlie he seems rather skinny. Ghost Charlie just looks really beefed up, which they likely did to make him scarier. It is still something that bothered me a bit, as did the hangman’s mask. I believe they were trying to create the same effect as the masks from Halloween and Friday the 13th, but there was something very hokey about the hangman’s mask.

I was very disappointed with this movie. It really could have been a fun scary movie. The problem is that all the scary scenes were shown in the trailers, there were too many unanswered questions, and they made Charlie almost a bit humorous. Sadly, I would probably recommend waiting until this movie is on Netflix or something else rather than paying to see it in theaters. This is also not the movie for you if you want something that is very scary, but it could be appealing to the theater geeks because of all the lingo and the superstitions referenced (I was a theater geek so that was probably one of the best parts for me).

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10

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Dark Summer

Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) has been put on house arrest after he was caught cyber-stalking a classmate. On his first day of house arrest, the girl he was stalking calls him over Skype and shoots herself. Soon after, strange things start to happen to Daniel. He is seeing things and he thinks that it all has to do with the girl who committed suicide. Daniel enlists the help of his friends to try to stop this malevolent entity before it’s too late.

Unfortunately there isn’t really anything good I can say about this film. In general, I thought the storyline was fairly original. It even had some twists in it that were well thought out and added to the story. The problem is that the pace of the film droned on to the point where the scenes that were supposed to be intense and scary didn’t have the intended effect. If I didn’t think this movie was scary while watching it in my place alone, then it really was not even remotely frightening. It really is unfortunate, because had it been done a different way it could have been scary and there were multiple elements to the plot that I found very clever.

The acting was by no means bad. Keir Gilchrist proved that he is a good actor in the film It Follows. In this movie he was perfectly fine, but it didn’t feel like he was truly in fear for his life at any point during the film. Probably the best performance came from Stella Maeve (Chicago P.D.). Especially during the climax of the film, her performance was completely believable.

The effects in the film were well done. In terms of the CGI effects, they were generally understated. Most of the CGI was used to create a few bugs, but those bugs were very well done and looked pretty realistic. Beyond that, a majority of the CGI was used to create a psychedelic acid trip look to a few of the scenes. The practical effects looked good as well. Again, these were simple, understated effects that consisted mostly of prosthetics on the skin for various injuries. Both the practical and CGI effects were used in moderation which in a film like this it was definitely the best way to go.

It’s really hard to find more to say about this film because my general reaction to it was just “meh.” It was a unique idea and I feel like if I read it as a book, I would have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately it wasn’t executed well in movie form. It was just generally boring and not even remotely scary at any point in time. I don’t blame the actors for this, because they all did well. This is not a movie I would recommend, which is unfortunate because there were aspects that could have resulted in a great movie, but they definitely missed the mark. I apologize if this review was rather boring, but I suppose that’s what happens when you have nothing really good or really bad to say about a movie.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10

Animal

A group of friends decide to go on a camping trip. Upon arrival, they find out the camp grounds are closed, so they go on a hike instead. Their hike was poorly planned, and they end up hiking back to the car after dark. The friends soon realize there is something in the woods. It is some kind of predator they have never seen, and it will stop at nothing to hunt them all. The friends get chased to a cabin where they find other survivors. The group must band together in order to keep the creature at bay and find a way to escape.

This movie was fun and gory, as most monster movies should be, but it was all painfully predictable. I forced my husband to watch this film with me, and I found myself on multiple occasions looking at him and saying, “I bet this is about to happen,” only to have that exact thing happen two seconds later. To be fair, I watch a lot of horror movies so I can usually predict what is about to happen even with the more unique movies, but this one was one big monster movie stereotype. It made it very simple to determine where the storyline was going to go. Looking back, I believe there was only one scene in the movie that actually surprised me.

Even the characters in the film were stereotypes. You have the nice smart girl, the slutty girl, the jock, the boy next door, the gay friend (a more recent horror movie stereotype), and the jerk that you can’t wait to watch die. The acting was surprisingly good considering it is a monster horror movie. This made up for the lackluster character stereotypes, at least a little bit. There wasn’t a single performance I felt was done poorly, but there wasn’t necessarily a standout performance either. I think a majority of my issues with the characters had to do with the writing and directing, as opposed to the acting.

When it comes to the creature itself, I loved the practical effects. I know this is something I rave about in almost any movie that uses practical effects, but I believe it is a dying art that needs to be appreciated. You can tell the creature is a person with masks and prosthetics, but the only area you can truly tell it is a person is in the arms. The look of the monster was very stylish and cool, which made it enjoyable. The only thing about the creature that really bothered me was that the film never explained what it is.

Just like the use of practical effects, I am also a stickler about plot holes. There are many times during the film where they make a point of saying at least one character had gone to this area for years (and clearly never encountered the monster), and someone obviously lived in the cabin they find before this monster came around. So where did the monster come from? They do make a point of saying the forest area is closed, and at one point one of the characters finds a Marine Corps backpack. This is possibly a hint that the creature is part of some military experiment, but they never bring it up again. I wish they had made it more explicit. Is the creature a military experiment gone wrong, is it an alien, or is it a forest protector awakened because of deforestation? I will never know, and it kills me.

This film is predictable, stereotypical, and has some plot holes that drove me nuts. Despite these shortcomings, the acting, practical effects, and healthy amount of gore still make the film fun to watch. Don’t watch this movie if you are looking for a unique horror movie that surprises you at every turn. This is more the kind of horror movie you watch when you are in the mood for a mindless blood-fest with a monster hunting down some idiot co-eds. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t expect it to blow your mind.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10