Demons: An Equal Opportunity Employer (The Possession)

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All demons are a little bit scarier to me when they’re occupying children. I, like many among us, think Sam Raimi is fabulous. He produced this movie. I can’t describe it, but I felt it’s Raimi-ness while I was watching it.

The opening of the film was actually well paced and did a nice little job of being creepy. At the start of the film, we see a lady in  her home, staring at a box on the living room mantel. The box is wooden and carved in Hebrew. She basically gets beat the hell up by some unseen force. It looks painful and uncomfortable. I thought it was a nice way to kick things off.  Now, lets get to know our lead characters. That would be mom and dad Clyde and Stephanie who are are recently divorced. On one of dad’s weekends with the kids Em (the younger) and Hannah (the older) they stop at a garage sale. Sadly, this garage sale is at the house from the opening scene. Dad buys Em the carved box. Uh-oh, thinks the audience! For we know they’ve now purchased a yucky old demon just chilling in there waiting to take hold of someone. We see from a window that the lady survived her ordeal, but is in a full body cast. She wiggles and squirms in panic upon seeing dear little Em outside with the box. In the scenes that follow slowly but surely Em is getting filled with the spirit, and not in a good way.  Scary hijinks and a little bit of death ensue. Dad uncovers the truth. He is able to enlist the help of Tzadok, a Rabbi’s son to perform the rites. The movie is a race against time to save young Emily’s life. That’s enough plot for now. I think you get what is going on here.

I had been looking forward to this movie for a while. I was intrigued for a few reasons. I was hooked in by the notion of a Jewish demon/Dibuk, by the Sam Raimi produced goodness, the fact that I like the actors in the movie (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick) and that I am always down for a good old creepy kid movie. I won’t go as far to say this movie disappoints. I can’t really articulate what about this movie made it not quite a homerun. It’s predictable. But I didn’t hate it! I sat down with my delicious movie popcorn and enjoyed the ride. I cringed and held my breath in a couple key moments. No, it didn’t “scare” me. The basic formula of this movie was just that, a formula. I am trying to not hold all horror movies accountable for needing to be the most original thing ever. But, I do want to be entertained and creeped out when I see a horror movie. That is my goal above all.

Yes, this movie is very Hollywood. I never claimed to be a purist that only watched independently made horror. I know this movie also got both praised and criticized for being based on actual events. Since seeing the movie, I have watched and read some articles on the whole thing. I can’t say if it’s real or not, but it sounds pretty freaky. I admit I am not an expert on demons. Jewish, Catholic or otherwise. So I can’t really claim to know if anything they present about the Dibuk is accurate. I’m sure I liked this movie more because I’m not a know-it-owl on the original case and demons in general. I don’t mind going on record saying The Possession was far from the worst horror movie I saw this year.

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When Bad Movies Happen to Good Actors: House at the End of the Street (A Cautionary Tale)

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I would like to introduce you to a movie that would have been much better if it had been rated R. Rated R and/or re-written. Honestly, I am tempted to end my review at that. This is going to contain some spoilers, people. If you don’t want to know the cold hard truth, then do not read on.

I know that the powers that be behind this film felt they had “no choice” but to  stick to a PG 13 rating in order to collect monies from the young adult crowd who flocked en masse to the Hunger Games. For those who are really out of the loop, Jennifer Lawrence stars in both that franchise and the movie we’re reviewing here today. However, someone clearly forgot that slasher movies perform much better when rated R. Let me back up again. I think Jennifer Lawrence is great. And if any other actress was in this role, it would have been too painful to watch.

I saw the trailer for this movie months before it came out. Since I watch a lot of trailers, it stuck in my mind grapes as Jennifer Lawrence in a ghost movie! How neat! Why did I think this was a haunted house movie?!? I must have been highly medicated. Upon sitting down in the theater I quickly realized my error. Here is some plot for ya: Teenager Elissa and her single mom move into an impressive big house on the edge of a state park. There is a house next door to them. It is at the end of the “street.” Hence the title. Anyway, in that neighboring house a double murder took place at the hands of a crazy teenager named Carrie Ann. Yes, that was a double murder meaning she killed both her parents. The girl ran into the woods and is presumed dead by the townsfolk to this very day. Elissa and mom soon learn the mysterious house at the end of the street is in fact not vacant. The surviving teenage son who was living with an aunt at the time of the killings is still living there. Obviously, the next logical plot device is for Elissa to fall in love with the beautiful weirdo boy, named Ryan.

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Allow me to snarkily dissect what we have thus far. Upon seeing the house, mom tells Elissa the double murder is why they can even afford this house. Elissa replies back with some disparaging remark that at their old hood people getting killed on their street never lowered the rent. Aww, bummer! I thought to myself. Elissa and her single mom are regular poor folks just trying to get by! I did think it was hilarious to imagine the lovely Ms. Lawrence and her mother played by Elizabeth Shue living in the ghetto. But, I rolled with it.  We come to find out a little more about their family. Dad was some kind of a rockstar/musician. Mom was a groupie (teenage? not clear) slut. Dad was the type of dude who only stuck around to teach his kid how to play guitar like a boss and cook pasta. Ya know, that old cliche. What does mom do for a living, you may ask? Waitress? Receptionist? Personal Assistant? IT Tech Support? Actually, mom is an ER doctor. Why the ER doctor and her daughter lived in the ghetto and now have a murder-bargain house as all they can afford is beyond me. Perhaps mom also has a severe online gambling addiction?

Anyway, Elissa first meets Ryan when he gives her a lift home in the rain after she is nearly date raped by a snobby rich neighbor kid. Oh, by the way, the entire town is grossed out by Ryan. They think he is weird and drives down property value. I personally could not find what she  “sees” in Ryan in order to fall for him. Her mom says its because she likes to fix broken people. Well girl, you just hit the busted and broken boy lottery.

Now we get into spoiler territory. Be warned. You see, the crazy sister Carrie Ann is not dead. Ryan keeps her locked in a basement room all day! He feeds her, looks after her, and injects her with something when she gets cranky. Yes, Ryan is Prince Charming, clearly. I have a sister in real life who I love dearly. I would never keep her in a basement under any circumstances. It’s simply not done.  Kids, if your boyfriend keeps his crazy sister in the basement, that should be a red flag. We get a few jumpy type scares a couple times in the movie when Carrie Ann attempts to escape. During one of her little attempts at freedom, Carrie Ann gets too close to some kids making out. Ryan has to silence her deranged screams and accidentally kills her. So, he puts her in the trunk of his car to dispose of her body. Again, this is not sane behavior from Ryan. In the midst of all this, they try to weave in some “average teenager” stuff. For instance, there is a Battle of the Bands Elissa is going to participate in. She gets a BFF! The dialogue with all the young people sounds as if a 50 year old man once heard teenagers talking at the mall.  He then transcribed it as best he could. It becomes clunky and forced.

Here is the rest of the plot. And some more spoilers. The Carrie Anne we’ve seen thus far is not really Carrie Anne. Carrie Anne died when they were kids in a swing set accident. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Ryan likes to abduct girls and turn them into Carrie Anne’s. When “Carrie Anne” tried to escape earlier, she was trying to get help! Cause Ryan is a psycho! Their Heroin addicted parents covered it up when they were children. And by covering it up they made Ryan “assume” the role of Carrie Ann for his adolescent years. Gross! Creepy! Eventually he snapped and killed them. Elissa figures out Ryan is the killer after he has already procured a new Carrie Anne. But once Ryan knows the truth, he decides Elissa would be a fabulous sister. Cause he is attracted to her. It’s a little sick and twisted. So, all of that plot chunk is actually potentially good story telling. I didn’t see the twist coming to be honest. Then again, I thought this was a ghost movie. I am proud that I never cared for Ryan and thought he was too odd to be likeable. I was right! Granted this was a small victory. I still had to sit through the rest of this craziness.

So, remember how the movie is PG 13? After being discovered as the killer, Ryan stabs a cop in the stomach with a steak knife. Just sinks it in like butter.The cop is now dead. We have met this policeman earlier in the movie as he’s some kind of love interest for mom. Now,  I am no expert, and I know if untreated one can die from such a wound to the stomach.  And yet, c’mon people! Mom also takes a steak knife to the gut. Only she pops up again a few minutes later to wield a hammer blow (no blood shown) to Ryan as if she were John Henry himself. But that is not all. Ryan also gets shot by Elissa three times in the chest. The last scene of the film is Ryan in a padded cell putting together a jigsaw puzzle and then looking into the camera. Because the sucker did not die. I feel for the cop. It’s not fair he died from his injury when other mortals laugh at such pain. It’s absurd, silly and not at all terrifying that he is still living.

Maybe you have figured it out by now. This movie could have been much better if we got some real “murders” and mortal wounds that actually looked painful and deadly. And more blood. Always more blood! And we could have totally done with out any of the incredibly stilted teenage dialogue. I just felt like this movie was rigged together with post it notes and unicorn stickers.  The premise was good! What happened?! Alas, I was entertained but for all the wrong reasons.

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Image from http://www.mermaidsrock.net/unicorns.html

Lovely Molly: Haaalp me understand!

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Maybe you’re one of those movie go-ers that like tripping, confusing, “is it all in their head?” movies. If so, I am assuming you liked Lovely Molly. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if I really liked it or not. I was captivated by it and definitely entertained. It also forced me to turn on my mind and think. So, that’s a good thing.

The movie opens with the Molly pressing a knife to her own throat as a home video camera rolls. Whatever is controlling her won’t let her kill herself. In fact she tells us she hasn’t been in control at all for a lot of what we the audience is about to see. Molly and her truck driver husband are newlyweds who move into the childhood home where Molly and her sister Hannah were raised. Tim’s job keeps him on the road a lot, so the couple have a security system installed. One night, they’re warned of an intruder alert and can hear someone downstairs. A cop responds, only to find the backdoor open and no intruder. This is the first baby step into the tricky, “what the hell happened/what the hell IS happening?” scenarios of the film.

Molly is a recovering heroin addict and was at some point locked away in either an institution or drug rehab in the past. Sadly, her life was troubled before that. She suffered abuse at the hands of her now deceased father. Obviously the guy was an ass. And apparently some kind of horse-enthusiast weirdo!? The rest of the movie features scenes of only Molly seeing the ghostly father and her running from or getting attacked by him. Of course, Molly’s loved ones and us as the viewer have no idea if her ghost-dad (not played by Bill Cosby) is even really there at all. Is Molly simply cray? Is it the drugs? Then you mix in an unhealthy fascination with some red haired lady and her kids, and the character of Pastor Bobby. Pastor Bobby is a real treat too. Oh, and Molly gets naked a few times. 

Now, if you want to watch the movie before I talk spoilers, do so now. It’s cool. I will wait here. Then, come on back and read below.

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‘Kay. So now you watched the movie, or skipped straight to the spoilers. Either way is fine. I have to admit, I feel a little dumb after watching this movie. I felt like, there was something obvious going on that I apparently missed. I don’t get the horse thing. Why the picture of horses crudely pasted over dad’s photos?? And is that why Molly dragged home a deer carcass to stick in the ceiling of the cellar and stab repeatedly? Like, wtf was that? How was it even possible to get that thing in the ceiling? It looked heavy!!  And now that we know Molly may just be completely crazy or just losing it from the drug relapse, how can we be sure the affair between the red haired lady and her husband even happened? And yes her husband “apologizes” in his death throes. But, apologizes for what? For not believing her? For actually cheating? For wanting to leave her in a time of need? Maybe that was all in her head to. And of course after she’s KO’d everyone, she wanders out in the yard to be nudely embraced by a horse/deer/man/father?? In the last scene, we see a for sale sign on the front lawn of the empty house. Hannah comes in and finds the album full of dad’s “new look” of horse-head pictures. Did Molly die? Or is she just now locked away? I am guessing dead, but who the hell knows. Anyway, Hannah takes the same steps and stance toward the closet in her and Molly’s old room as Molly did early in the film. From her doing that, I assumed that means the ghost father option is true. And now he is going to wreck havoc on the daughter who protected Molly and ultimately murdered him. But, again I say, who the hell knows. Do you know?!? Help me understaaaaaaand!

I promise that I do normally do not have to have all the loose ends tied up in movies. In fact, I usually like stuff a little open to interpretation. However, I find myself left with more questions than even theories about what the fuck I just watched.

On a positive note, I thought there were some brilliant things going on in this movie. First of all, the sound. OMG, the sound is AMAZING. So many of the scares and creepy scenes in the movie were dependent on the sound. And the technicians on this movie did a fantastic job. Not to mention, how about that creepy sing-song voice of dad? EWW. Awful in the best way.

And the acting I thought was fabulous. I couldn’t help but be impressed by Gretchen Lodge, Alexandra Holden, and the late Johnny Lewis. I was not familiar with anything else Johnny had done. And as an odd twist of fate, I watched this movie the day after he passed away, without even knowing who he was or that he had died. It wasn’t until I looked him up on IMDB that I found out. It sounds like he was a troubled guy and its too bad considering he was really talented.

Well, watch the movie. Get back to me! Maybe by the time someone does I will have drawn some more conclusions and decided if I liked the movie or not :p

Paranormal Activity 4: I guess this means we’re breaking up [SPOILERS]

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Dear Paranormal Activity franchise,

I’m sorry to do this over a letter, but we need to discuss our relationship. What happened to us, PA? I used to have your back! From the beginning, I thought we were made for each other. Remember how I ‘demanded’ you come to my nearby city all those years ago? No one would give you a chance. Many called the whole thing a gimmick. And yet, a loyal group of horror movie fans wanted in, including me. And it was awesome! To me you were tricky, smart, funny, and scary. I liked how you kept me guessing and were never too cheesy and obvious for me.

Not long after that, you decided to give our relationship another try. Much to my surprise, the second go around was also great. I didn’t believe it could happen. I now had to share you with others, but it wasn’t so bad. I knew at your core you were still for me. Remember that time in the kitchen when you made everything stick to the ceiling, but I didn’t realize until you sent it all crashing down without warning? Those were such good times PA.

Then you came around again. I was a bit apprehensive. Would we still have the same chemistry? Let’s both be honest. The honeymoon period was over. I felt like I had a good grip on what to expect from you. It wasn’t your best. But, we had some okay times then as well. The ghost sheet? Haha, I was creeped out and laughed with you. Oh, and playing Bloody Mary in the bathroom? You definitely out did yourself there. It was my adolescent fears of that game come true. You threw me for a curve with the witches. But, I accepted your witches and the token demon each witch family seemed to get. At least it made sense to me. Why Toby was hanging out all this time. It seemed he was waiting for a boy heir in the witch family and all. I thought that would be the end of us. It seemed the end because now he had Hunter and everyone in the family was dead. No one to interfere with the demon’s plan.  Bow out with some dignity and grace.

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I wasn’t expecting you to call in 2012. I thought we went our separate ways. We were just too different now. But, you dragged me out. And, I am a little sorry I went. Who were these new kids you were hanging out with? Sure, the guy named Ben grew on me. And I found myself sorta liking the Alex girl. But it wasn’t right. It wasn’t quite as natural as I would have liked. And the parents in that movie? Worthless and dumb. Then we have Robby and Hunter/Wyatt. What kind of name is Wyatt? And what, pray tell, is the purpose of Robby? And don’t tell me Robby will be important “down the line” because then I will know for sure you’ve been making this up as you went along. I saw our old friend Katie there. She didn’t seem enthused to be hanging out with us after all this time. And since she wanted Wyatt/Hunter “back” so badly, why did she get rid of him in the first place?? Why didn’t the 3,000 member witch cult kickin it (without reasonable explanation) in the back yard just hide her and Hunter underground until he was 5 and could willingly submit to his apparent destiny to be a….what exactly? A suit for a demon named Toby to wear?? You just lost me with that whole mythos change. And the mess with the Kinect? Why? Why did the children seem to be talking to the TV in those silly kinect scenes anyway? Was Toby living in the TV while not in the tree house or the little closet?

I could go on, but really why bother? We both know this is over. And yet, why do I have this feeling you’re going to come back around again? Hmm? Maybe try to sweeten the deal with a romantic getaway to Mexico?! Let’s both just remember the good times and keep it at that.

-Sandra

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Exit Humanity: Ole Time-y Zombies

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There is something reasonably awesome about historic horror movies. No cellphones, GPS, or internet. In fact, limited or no technology at all. Not to mention no smarmy, snarky attitudes about the creatures and monsters encountered. I guess people in the past still had a nice, healthy fear of God, the Devil and things that go bump in the night. This brings me to a Bloody Disgusting Selects film called, “Exit Humanity.” I had gotten home a few hours earlier from seeing the fantastic “Django Unchained” and decided I was still in the mood for something Western. Exit Humanity takes place not too not long after the American civil war when a Southern veteran finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak.

Our hero is named Edward. But we are actually told the story more by his descendant in the form of a voice-over reading Edward’s journals of the ordeal. Poor Edward. First of all, he could be any hipster off the Urban streets of today. He has the long-ish unkempt hair, a prize beard, white henley shirt, suspenders, tall boots, weathered leather jacket, journals like a fiend, and has a general displeasure with the world around him. Of course he does have valid reasons for his emo. Not only did he survive the hells of war, but the story opens with him returning from a hunting trip to find his wife zombified and his young son missing. He soon sets out to find the boy and kill lots of undead.

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Now here’s some cool stuff for you, the zombies are pretty tight looking. They have this chalky, pale white skin. And dark black eyes. They also give a good shamble walk and don’t seem to mind attacking in water. There are also some bad ass animated sequences spliced in. I guess you either love it or hate it, but I thought those scenes were pretty neat. Maybe an odd choice given the rather serious tone of the film. Yet, I liked it and found them well done.

The movie is divided into chapters. Chapter one sets the scene for the movie, and I was none too happy at first. Frankly, I was already getting tired of the hipster man sobbing and carrying on. Sorry if that sounds cold. Actually, I’m not sorry. Anyway, Chapter Two introduces us to a fellow survivor and veteran. His name is Issac and he has a very welcomed sense of humor. Poor dude has lost his family, and his sister has been kidnapped. It seems there is a corrupt old General (played by the iconic Bill Moseley) who is leading some of his men on a quest to out live, out last, rape and pillage. He also has a surgeon in his clutches trying to find a zombie cure. We get to meet that little crew in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4 we meet a totally awesome character named Eve played by Dee Wallace. Eve is an old timey medicine woman, but don’t get her confused with Doctor Quinn. Oh, and shes got a secret.

So all in all, I actually really liked this movie. In fact, I am being careful to not spoil it for anyone. I think it deserves viewing if you consider yourself a horror and/or zombie fan. There is a nice twisty-twist in there too. It took me until about halfway in Chapter Two to really start enjoying it. I wasn’t roped in by the Hipster figure and his sadness and the whole narration thing. I was pleasantly surprised to have really liked it and found myself engaged and along for this historic ride. I didn’t personally find the movie scary aside from a couple jumps, but I still liked it nonetheless.