This section of the blog is due to me being lazy, I mean swamped with watching so many films that I want to discuss on this blog. But I don't really have the time, so I decided to quickly [well as much as I can really] to review films I don't really want to focus too much time on. You'll be seeing these more often than not. Time for the reviews!
Shauna Macdonald (Sarah Carter), Natalie Mendoza (Juno Kaplan), Krysten Cummings (Elen Rios), Gavan O'Herlihy (Sheriff Vaines), Anna Skellern (Cath), Joshua Dallas (Greg), Douglas Hodge (Dan), Michael J. Reynolds (Ed Oswald)
Genre - Horror/Monsters
Running Time - 94 Minutes
After escaping the events of THE DESCENT [U.S. ending], Sarah Carter (Shauna Macdonald) is found near a mineshaft. As she recovers at the hospital, Sheriff Vaines (Gavan O'Herlihy) questions Sarah about the events inside of the cave and the location of her missing friends. However, Sarah has short-term amnesia, repressing what had occurred. Vaines and his deputy Elen Rios (Krysten Cummings) decide to hire a search and rescue team to find the others, insisting on bringing Sarah along to jog her memory to make the search easier.
Once inside of the cave, the party is attacked by the same cave dwellers that attacked Sarah and her friends. Now remembering everything, Sarah goes back into survival mode. Unfortunately, she finds out that her friend/rival Juno (Natalie Mendoza) is still alive - fighting in the dark and pissed off that Sarah had abandoned her.
2005's THE DESCENT is one of my favorite horror films of the 2000s. Neil Marshall created a tense, suspenseful, and creepy atmosphere while combining some fierce girl power among the great actresses, who gave audiences some fleshed out performances that turned THE DESCENT into a multi-layered horror flick. Unfortunately, American audiences were treated to a much happier ending than what Marshall had provided audiences overseas, which helped lead to this inevitable sequel.
Although Neil Marshall only executive produces and has given the directorial reins to editor Jon Harris, THE DESCENT PART 2 is surprisingly a very good sequel that faithfully continues the story, tone, and feel of the first film without much effort. The story is fairly the same as the first, just with different [and not as interesting] characters besides Sarah and Juno, who return from the previous movie. We get the same exploration of the cave, with the same tense beats and suspenseful scenes that Marshall had given to us in the 2005 film. We get to see the same locations, with flashbacks to the original film to show us what had happened there. It's very familiar, which is a bit of a flaw, as nothing new is really provided for us. But it's still told well and directed well by Harris, who visualizes this sequel in a way that you'd still believe Marshall may have come back and directed this.
I wish some of the subtext and tension between the five friends from the original was implanted here, as the tension between the characters here is more superficial than anything. But I dug the action, as the sequences are more violent and gorier than the previous film. That rat burrowing out of a dead person's mouth is just disgusting. We get some power drills to skills. We get some amputations. All looks great. And the acting from everyone involved, especially the returning Shauna Macdonald and Natalie Mendoza, was spot on and kept you invested in what you were seeing. And I thought the ending was messed up, but in a good predictable way.
THE DESCENT PART 2 may be an unnecessary sequel in every single way, as it doesn't really add much to the original. But it's still a competently directed and acted movie with a familiar story that fans of the original will automatically feel comfortable with. It's not a must see, but if you do watch THE DESCENT PART 2, you most likely won't be disappointed.
Ed Quinn (Charles), Guy Wilson (Daniel), Stephen Rea (Doc), Rachel DiPillo (Eva), Adam Croasdell (Stefan), Nia Peeples (Vadoma), Steven Bauer (Hyde)
Genre - Horror/Action/Werewolves/Vampires
Running Time - 93 Minutes
In a European 19th century village, a werewolf is causing chaos within the town, killing many of its citizens. Charles (Ed Quinn) is a werewolf hunter, having been traumatized as a young boy when a werewolf killed his parents right in front of him. Leading a group of bounty hunters, Charles is hired to find the werewolf and stop it from hurting any more people. A young man, and a physician's assistant, named Daniel (Guy Wilson) wants to use what he learned from the corpses of the werewolf's victims to help Charles hunt down the werewolf. His mother (Nia Peeples) disapproves, however, worried for more than just Daniel's safety. Daniel's boss (Stephen Rea) is also very concerned about Daniel's plan. As the hunters find evidence and begin trying to trap the beast, they learn that the truth is not as it seems, making them realize that one of their own may be a werewolf.
WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US was intended to be the follow-up to 2010's Universal remake of 1941's THE WOLFMAN starring Benicio del Toro as the titular character. Unfortunately, THE WOLFMAN remake wasn't the big success Universal was hoping for, even if it was a decent retelling of the Lon Chaney original and/or the fact that Rick Baker actually won an Academy Award for his make-up effects. Maybe it's for the best that WEREWOLF isn't a direct sequel to THE WOLFMAN, since it's a pretty bland one at best.
WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US feels and looks like a SyFy Original on its Saturday night block. While the Romanian setting is inspired, it unfortunately looks pretty cheap. It also doesn't help that the actors are playing 19th century characters who speak and act as if they're from modern times. And if this is supposed to be Romania, why does the lead character speak with a typical American accent? It feels pretty disjointed. The mystery aspect of who the werewolf is becomes revealed fairly early in the film, making you wonder why bother. The added surprise element of a secondary villain is pretty cool, but it's revealed way too late and doesn't get enough of a spotlight to matter all that much. There's a decent love story though - I just wish I was a fan of the characters more to care. A lot of good elements are in play, but the execution is pretty poor unfortunately.
Director Louis Morneau, best known for CARNOSAUR 2 and THE HITCHER II: I'VE BEEN WAITING, doesn't add a whole lot of tension or interesting visual aspects that we haven't already seen before. The action sequences have okay choreography, and there's some decent gore - like amputations, beheadings, impalings, using silver teeth to bite the werewolf, etc. The CGI, while not great, isn't all that terrible either. But there's no real energy to the film, and the way things are shot at times make you wonder why Morneau would stage them so badly to lower their effectiveness. I've seen worse honestly, but this could have been a werewolf flick that should have been more fun than it was.
The acting isn't all that impressive either. Ed Quinn has the looks of a leading man, but he feels so out of place here as Charles. Guy Wilson is a bit over the top at times as Daniel. Nia Peeples just pouts the entire time, making me wonder if she had enjoyed her experience on set. Rachel DiPillo looks like a young Diane Franklin and nothing more. Stephen Rea [what the hell was he doing here?] is cashing a paycheck. At least Steven Bauer is trying to have fun, but he's barely in the film.
WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US wasn't going to be great shakes or anything. But man, I was hoping it would have entertained me more than it did. There was a lot of potential here that just went to the wayside. I think this would have made for a better television show than a full-length film. Nothing to go full moon crazy over.
Chris Sharp (Christopher S. Hawley), Macon Blair (Macon), Stacy Rock (Lexi), Skei Saulnier (Sky), Paul Goldblatt (Paul), William Lacey (Bill), Alex Barnett (Alexander), Bill Tangradi (Zycho)
Genre - Horror/Indie/Slasher/Comedy
Running Time - 79 Minutes
It's Halloween, and a lonely nerd named Chris (Chris Sharp) randomly finds an invitation to a "Murder Party" on the sidewalk in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Realizing that he'd be spending Halloween alone with his cat, Chris creates a cardboard and aluminum foil Knight costume to go to the party. He finds the party to be held at a warehouse in a bad part of town, with five artsy people waiting for him. Attacking Chris and tying him up to a chair, our hero learns that these people are having a contest to see who could kill him in the most artistic way - the winner receiving a $300,000 grant from a pretentious prick named Alexander (Alex Barnett). As the group have sex, take drugs, and begin to turn on each other, Chris tries to find a way to escape and save himself before this Halloween is his last.
I had heard so many good things about 2007's MURDER PARTY, I was wondering if all the positive hype would ruin my enjoyment of the film. Luckily for me though, I had a blast watching this indie flick. Being from Brooklyn, I loved the setting and recognized some of the locations. I think it gave MURDER PARTY a lot of personality. The characters may be a bit quirky for some, but I loved them. I know artsy people like this in real life. Sure, they may not be murderers. But they need to tear each other down to feel better about themselves, or take drugs in order to gain inspiration for their art. The characters, while a bit over the top, still felt realistic in this world and I thought they all added something to the story. Alexander, in particular, is probably the best character in MURDER PARTY only because he's so shamelessly douchey, it's a thrill to watch. The fact they want to murder an innocent man just for grant money for their respective arts project isn't probably as far-fetched as many would think, but it amused me anyway. I actually thought the concept was very clever and almost original, using a lack of budget in the best and most effective way possible. Keeping it simple - that's how you do it.
Yes, the middle portion may have a bit more dialogue and not enough action for its own good. But I thought the "Truth or Dare" scene was very well done, and revealed a lot about the characters and their feelings towards each other - which in turn led to the events in the final act. Are they deep characters? Are they likable? Not in the slightest. And that'll turn some people off. But I couldn't help but laugh at their behavior and how insane they all are. Even Chris, who decided that going to a "Murder Party" was a great idea. Low-budget films should concentrate on making the narrative as interesting as possible to compensate for other aspects. I think MURDER PARTY does that very well.
Speaking of which, the make-up and gore effects aren't that badly done. And the direction isn't the most dynamic, but I loved the entire final chase scene, which concluded with a murder set-piece that did resemble some art, which was a nice touch. The actors are all better than decent, although I found Alex Barnett to be the best one as the quirky and strange Alexander. They came across as real people, despite their eccentricities - which was nice.
MURDER PARTY is a film I'm glad I finally came around to watching. It's an indie horror film done right - interesting characters, decent SFX, good acting, and inspired direction that brought a smile on my face. Maybe the whole Brooklyn hipster artsy film hit closer to home for me than it would for others, but I dug the hell out of MURDER PARTY and will continue to be a Halloween movie I will watch for years to come.
Brandy Schaefer - Brandy
Zack Andrews - Zack
Bobby Roe - Bobby
Mikey Roe - Mikey
Jeff Larson - Jeff
Genre - Horror/Found Footage
Running Time - 91 Minutes
Five friends in an RV decide to travel across Texas to visit and film various Halloween haunts, hoping to find the most extreme one. They also want to get into depth into the workers behind the haunts, wanting to find evidence that some of them are actually convicted criminals who use actual body parts as part of the attractions. Eventually, they learn of The Blue Skeleton - supposedly the most extreme haunt in Louisiana. But along the way, they're stopped and followed by clowns who don't seem to want to bring joy for the group.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT was a film I heard a lot about last year - a film I wanted to see, but was dealing with personal issues at the time that unfortunately occupied my movie time. But I made it a mission to watch it this year, hoping it would be a found footage horror movie done more right than wrong. Unfortunately, I was massively disappointed by this film.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT plays out as a mix of found footage following the main characters with actual documentary footage interviewing certain people and showing news clips about these haunts. I think the concept of investigating haunts and trying to see if the people running these shows are criminals is an interesting one that would have worked a lot better if it were taken more seriously in another film. The grainy interview scenes work because they feel legit. But others, where certain workers don't want cameras around, or mess with the group, feel too fake for me to really become invested in them. I know the film isn't real, but a found footage film should FEEL real. And that's where THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT fails - it's just typical and generic, never really building upon its premise in an innovative or scary way.
It doesn't help that the film never gets rolling until the last twenty minutes or so, when THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT stops wanting to be a documentary and actually becomes a standard survival film where certain haunt workers attack the group and plan on killing them for whatever reason. It's too bad that an hour has already passed, making the last act feel a bit tardy. It also doesn't help that the main characters are pretty unlikable, with some being extremely stupid - following a lead just to be famous, knowing how dangerous it'll end up being. I can't care or relate to characters like these, which made what happened to them not as effective as the filmmakers probably wanted it to be. At least the final act had action going for it, which made it the best part of the film. But the ending was bland and had cameras where cameras shouldn't have been, taking you completely out of it. What a shame.
The direction is pretty standard found footage stuff, which means it's not great but it's not bad either. The film does look pretty though. And the actors are pretty damn good here. I believe a lot of the acting was done through improv, and it worked for the most part.
Yeah, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT - not a film I would watch again in any circumstance. I liked the concept. I thought the final 20 minutes and the acting were better than average. But everything else didn't do much for me. I'm not a found footage guy, but with the hype behind it, I was hoping for something at least fun to watch. But unfortunately, THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT has a faulty foundation. It could have been something pretty great if it had done more with the premise, instead of turning it into a standard found footage film we've seen countless times before and usually done better.