Lunar Cycle - Christmas 2021

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention.

Directed By: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Allison Tolman, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Conchata Ferrell, Luke Hawker, Krista Stadler

Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Comedy

Running Time: 98 Minutes

SCORE - 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: A boy who has a bad Christmas accidentally summons a festive demon to his family home.


2015’s KRAMPUS, Michael Dougherty’s follow up to 2007’s TRICK ‘R TREAT, has gained a cult following and even a Director’s Cut in 2021. I have enjoyed KRAMPUS since I watched it in theaters with a small crowd, knowing it would be an annual viewing experience for some due to its visual creativity and a kind-of-relatable story about dysfunctional families over the Christmas holiday. 

When KRAMPUS is really strong, it’s really strong. The visual presentation is top notch. The winter and snowy vibe is wonderful, as well as the portrayals of the beastly Krampus and his minions. The elves, teddy bears, angels and gingerbread men look like something out of a nightmare, creating a lot of tense and suspenseful moments through the sound design until they appear to cause havoc for the characters. The film is also well paced, edited and looks polished - creating a holiday horror-comedy that showcases the devastating results of when people don’t believe in the Christmas spirit.

The actors are also great, which is not surprising when you have Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner in your principal cast. They all portray so many emotional beats throughout, from disgust and indifference to spending time with family on Christmas to bonding together to stop Krampus from destroying their dysfunctional family. Emjay Anthony is really the only likable character in the film as main protagonist Max, handling the material well in his young age. And while her character was probably the most unlikable of them all, Conchata Ferrell is a hoot as Aunt Dorothy. She had the best dialogue and had some bad ass moments towards the end. 

The story itself is pretty straightforward, with young Max ripping up a letter to Santa and denouncing Christmas due to his hateful and dysfunctional family. This leads to the arrival of Krampus, who punishes those who hate Christmas in violent ways. It plays out well, with some nice surprises here and there, as well as an interesting twist ending that I didn’t see coming when I first watched it.

The only reason I don’t love this film like some others do is really the unlikable characters. It’s hard to root for any of the human characters here [maybe besides Max] when they’re all hateful people. I get that’s the point of the film, because Krampus wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for that. But you should want to root for some people in a movie to survive a terrible situation, whether they put themselves in it or not. Some characters do get better towards the end, but others either do dumb things or remain frustratingly annoying that I just want Krampus to be done with these people. Even dysfunctional people and families can still be fun and entertaining to watch. A lot of these characters weren’t or not given enough time to become so.

Overall, KRAMPUS is a good time if you’re a Christmas horror fan. Despite a lot of unlikable characters who are more frustrating to watch than fun, there’s a lot of good stuff going on in this movie. The anti-Santa premise is simple to follow, with cool twists and surprises elevating the story. The creature designs are stuff of nightmares due to a nice balance of practical effects and CGI, especially the cool looking and beastly title character. The acting is very solid, which one would expect with a cast like Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner fighting each other before coming together to take out common threats. And the wintry and holiday setting feels just right, especially if you’ve celebrated with dysfunctional family members during Christmastime. It’s nice to see that KRAMPUS is gaining a nice cult status that is pretty well deserved for this time of year.

Directed By: Chris Peckover

Starring: Olivia DeJorge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Aleks Mikic, Dacre Montgomery, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen

Genre: Thriller/Horror

Running Time: 89 Minutes

SCORE - 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: On a quiet suburban street tucked within a ‘safe neighborhood’, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from strangers breaking into the house, only to discover that this is far from a normal home invasion.


2016’s BETTER WATCH OUT is a Christmas movie that you’ll end up believing it’s one thing by its marketing, but ends up doing a 180 with a major twist that makes you re-evaluate what you had watched earlier in the film. It’s also a film that’s tough to review because of the twist, as it would spoil the entire film for those who haven’t watched it. 

What I can say about the narrative is that it’s well done, if not a bit mean-spirited which might turn certain demographics off. Topics of toxic masculinity and homophobia are at play, taking the story into disturbing avenues that may make some uncomfortable. But while this is dramatized, the situation at play here could possibly happen in some way, shape or form - making it creepy that we may not know the darkness certain people in our lives hold within. Is the storytelling perfect? No. But I do find it effective quite a bit.

The film looks polished and director Chris Peckover maintains a nice pace while effectively changing the tone once the film takes a turn and never lets up from it. The film isn’t the goriest, but the violence can be pretty brutal at times. Peckover also brings some nice tension and creepiness to the film when you wouldn’t really expect it.

The actors are all good, especially Olivia DeJorge and Levi Miller. Both bring their A-game here, fleshing out their characters with all the emotional beats they have to play within their scary situation. Dacre Montgomery portrays a jerk in an early role before his Stranger Things fame. We also get decent cameos from Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton, who don’t get to do much but are a nice presence regardless.

Overall, BETTER WATCH OUT is a film you’re better off going in blindly if you have never seen it before. You think the film is going one way, but it ends up going in a much different and darker direction that may turn off some people due to its mean-spiritedness at times. And while the film does have some logic holes at times, it’s still a well crafted narrative that will get a reaction out of you one way or another. The film looks great and director Chris Peckover creates some nice tension and creepiness. The actors, especially Olivia DeJorge and Levi Miller are solid in their respective roles as they’re given a lot to play with. Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton are a nice presence in the film, even if they are glorified cameos. BETTER WATCH OUT is not a film I would watch every Christmas, but it’s definitely one that deserves your attention if you need a Christmas horror fix.

Directed By:
Todd Nunes

Starring: Jessica Cameron, Ashley Mary Nunes, Melynda Kiring, Natalie Montera, Lilo Velasco, Jason Ray Schumacher

Genre: Horror/Slasher

Running Time: 80 Minutes

SCORE - 2 Howls Outta 4 (6 out of 10)

Plot: A deranged masked Santa-Slayer comes to town for some yuletide-terror. He leaves behind a bloody trail of mutilated bodies as he hunts his way to the front steps of the town’s most feared and notorious home.


2015’s independent slasher film ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE is a film I have heard about for a while now, but finally sat down to check it out this holiday season. I’ve heard podcasts praising this film. I’ve had friends who hated the hell out of this movie and warned me against watching. After seeing it for myself, I was kind of in the middle with ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE. It had a lot of great qualities going for it, but the film definitely has flaws that one can’t overlook.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way: the screenplay itself. Here’s a film that starts out pretty roughly, only getting better as it nears the end of the runtime. While I liked the second half of this movie, I thought the first half wasn’t all that interesting. While some elements of the main story are introduced in the first half, there’s too much of a focus on anything but. We get random characters reciting similar lines before they’re about to have sex, only to get murdered by the evil Santa before there’s even time to care about them. I get slashers need a body count, but good slashers usually space the random dead characters apart from the more important elements of the narrative to maintain a nice flow. The first half pretty much kills a majority of its cast, letting the second half feel like the real movie that was promised to the audience. I like my slashers with sex and violence, but without sacrificing the plot. You could have used the first half to build up the main characters more leading to the finale, interspersing these random murder scenes in between as sort of interludes.

I also thought a lot of the acting wasn’t all that great. Besides Ashley Mary Nunes and Melynda Kiring, I thought everyone else was fair to not good. I blame that more on the script than anything else, as a lot of these characters didn’t have much interesting material to work with. A lot of those characters in the first half were interchangeable to me due to not letting the actors get to do more. I know slashers aren’t about the acting, but it helps to flesh out some personality to make even the littlest characters stand out from the others.

Other than that, I thought the film was fine. The main driving narrative, while influenced by other slasher films, is at least interesting to keep one watching until the reveal of the twist. While the mystery ends pretty predictably, it was still well told enough to keep me from shutting off the movie. I also liked the characters attached to the main story. While not given the most depth, the three main female friends are likable. And Mrs. Garrett is a great character, who right from the start is shown to be a bit mentally disturbed. Her character arc is probably my favorite because she gets crazier as the film goes, especially when the twist is revealed. I wish more of the film had focused on the main plot right from the start, rather than throwing in random characters just to up the kill count.

Speaking of the kills, they’re probably the saving grace of ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE. Considering the low budget, all the murder sequences and gore are excellently done. We get a lot of stabbings through multiple body parts, multiple violence with hedge clippers and a lot of penis mutilation [which works within the context of the story]. There’s also an unintentionally hilarious scene where the killer pushes someone in a wheelchair off of a cliff. Whoever was in charge of the gore effects did an awesome job, because it’s obvious that’s where most of the money went [besides all the Christmas decorations].

And while I had major issues with the pacing and flow of the movie, especially in the first half, I thought the overall direction by Todd Nunes was alright. He managed to create some nice tension and atmosphere during the last half of the film, shooting the killing and stalking scenes quite well. I also like that Nunes went all out in highlighting that this is a Christmas movie through the use of lights and decorations in every scene, which is more than what some other Christmas films do to capture the spirit of the holiday. The focus could have been stronger and the editing could have been tighter, but overall Nunes did a nice job in bringing his story to life.

Overall, ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE is an okay slasher that I can see being a yearly Christmas watch for some. The gore is excellent and is really the standout of the movie. The slasher movie influences are obvious to see throughout the film’s runtime, making the film predictable yet entertaining to spot all the references. The acting isn’t top notch, but the main actors do a well enough job to be invested in their arcs. And while the first half of the film wasn’t great [saved only by the awesome gore effects], I thought the last half was much stronger and flowed quite well leading to an interesting finale. Not a lump of coal, but definitely not the greatest Christmas gift ever. Worth a look if you need a killer Santa fix that’s CHRISTMAS EVIL or SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.


Lunar Cycle - November 2021

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention.

Directed By: Justin G. Dyck 

Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas, Yannick Bisson, Lannette Ware

Genre: Horror/Supernatural

Running Time: 97 Minutes 

SCORE - 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: A bereaved Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child, but they end up summoning more than they bargained for.


A Shudder Exclusive, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON was a recommendation by friends who thought the film would be up my alley. As someone who needs to catch up on a lot of what Shudder has to offer when it comes to newer horror, I figured this would be a good time to start that. And while the film has issues that keep it from being a modern classic, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is still an entertaining flick that has things going for it.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is an interesting horror film for a couple of reasons. The biggest surprise is that this film about Satanists wanting to use a pregnant woman’s baby as a host for a spirit of a dead child is directed by Justin G. Dyck. Dyck may not be well known to horror genre fans. But if you’re a sucker for those Hallmark Christmas movies, then you have definitely seen his name before. I mean, it’s not the first time a Christmas director has done a decent horror flick. But considering he caters to a family friendly demographic in Hallmark, the creepiness he infuses in ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is a bit surprising. It’s a bit James Wan-lite, with disturbing looking demons and ghosts hiding and creeping around within the shadows. There are contorting monsters, beastly ghouls and a dead spirit flossing her teeth in a way that unnerves me. I thought Dyck established some nice atmosphere and mood, because I dug the vibe of this flick.

The other interesting aspect of the film is who the story is following. You’d think the pregnant victim would have the perspective, as she’s the one in trouble and is trying to escape a situation she has been forced into by people in her community. She’s the one you would want the audience to sympathize with and root for. But instead, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is really told through the eyes of the elderly couple who are using this pregnant woman’s unborn child to host the spirit of their dead grandson through Satanic means. And while they’re doing a terrible thing, the narrative makes you understand why they’ve gone to these crazy lengths to bring back a loved one. It helps when this elderly couple seem like sweet people outside of kidnapping pregnant women, going to Satanic meetings and bringing dead animals back to life through evil incantations. While I felt bad for the pregnant victim, I was connecting more to the villainous couple who were just grieving and not thinking logically in terms of accepting death. Who wouldn’t want to bring back someone we lost? What they do isn’t right at all, but I can understand their motives and actions. 

It also helps when the actors are really good in their roles, making one enjoy their characters more than one probably should. Both Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings are wonderful as the elderly couple, bringing a kind and loving nature to their roles while they’re doing hurtful things to an innocent woman. It works when the actors look so unsuspecting, bringing a humanity and groundedness to their roles. Konstantina Mantelos is also very good as the pregnant victim, getting more to play with towards the second half of the film. 

If I had a major issue with ANYTHING FOR JACKSON, it’s really the film’s final act. I just felt it was clumsily written, as if the screenwriter had no clue how to proceed forward towards the story’s conclusion. It felt rushed and involved a character who wasn’t really developed until the last half hour of the movie. It’s not to say that this character wasn’t effective, as they were creepy and corrupt with power. But it took away from what the other characters were dealing with, making this person the true villain of the film rather than the elderly couple who started this whole mess. The imagery was cool and all, but it felt lacking in terms of a satisfying conclusion to a captivating story otherwise.

That being said, I liked ANYTHING FOR JACKSON and it’s definitely worth a look if you’re into Satanic people who have no clue what they’re doing, creating more problems than what they had started out with. Great performances, nice direction and an interesting narrative make this one a recommendation if you have Shudder.

Directed By: Maria Lease

Starring: Denise Crosby, Sam Bottoms, Rip Torn, Chris Demtral, Candace Hutson, Lupe Ontiveros, Enrique Renaldo

Genre: Horror/Supernatural/Killer Toys

Running Time: 93 Minutes

SCORE - 2 Howls Outta 4 (5 out of 10)

Plot: An American family moves to Mexico to fabricate dolls, but their toy factory happens to be next to a Sanzian grave and the toys come into possession of an old, malicious spirit.


Pretty much inspired by the 1988 horror classic CHILD’S PLAY, 1991’s DOLLY DEAREST is a film I thought I had seen before - only to realize that I hadn’t, confusing it for 1987’s DOLLS for whatever reason. Or maybe I did see the movie before and didn’t remember it, considering how mediocre it is.

The movie does have good things going for it. The box art cover is pretty sweet, as it’s kind of creepy and more memorable than the actual film itself. I also thought the Mexican location was an interesting touch, giving the film a nice foreign feel that stands out from other killer doll movies. The use of religion and spirituality to threaten the evil that was unleashed elevated this flick quite a bit.

I’m a sucker for any kind of evil curse/possession angle in a horror film, and DOLLY DEAREST does a good job establishing that. Instead of having the doll possess the child as their main motivation throughout the film, the child is quickly possessed right from the start, getting more nasty and demonic during the movie’s runtime. The supernatural stuff with the child is probably the most entertaining aspect of DOLLY DEAREST.

Also, the doll effects are pretty good considering the film’s budget. The dolls, when they come alive, are done with nice practical work that seem believable within the context of the film. And of course you get the shots of little feet scampering in the background like in CHILD’S PLAY. I thought the doll was creepy as hell, animated or not.

And I’m not gonna lie - the death sequences, which the film needed much more of, were pretty hilarious. We get rocks crushing someone. We get another person who falls in a pool of water in a basement - why was there a hole full of water in the basement, anyway - before getting electrocuted. And then someone gets their hand stuck in a sewing machine, leading to a random heart attack I guess. The way the actor performed his death scene had me in stitches.

Other than that, there’s not much to say about DOLLY DEAREST. The film is definitely trying to be CHILD’S PLAY, but the characters aren’t that interesting and the horror aspect is just not there at all. In fact, the characters are all kind of unlikable and not sympathetic, considering they don’t seem to heed any warnings that are flashing right in front of their faces until it’s too late. I mean, characters die and no one treats it as a major deal. And if you see your child acting strangely, especially when they’re threatening your life with a demonic voice spouting ancient Mayan languages, wouldn’t you think something was majorly wrong? Not this family!

The actors don’t do much for me either. Rip Torn uses a Mexican accent that seems to come and go whenever it wants. Denise Crosby plays another wife and mother dealing with some bad stuff, although her character is nowhere close to having as much depth as her character in PET SEMETARY. Sam Bottoms is just there, pretty much sleepwalking through the entire film. Honestly, the only actor of note is young Candace Huston as daughter Jessica, who gets a lot of cool stuff to work with and shows great talent as her character grows more evil over time. 

Overall. DOLLY DEAREST is worth a look if you enjoy horror films involving demonic toys or dolls that aren't starring Chucky. It has amusing moments, decent special effects and a solid performance by a child actor who outshines anyone else in the movie. You could do a lot worse.

Directed by: Steven Kostanski

Starring: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Steven Vlahos, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancey, Kristen MacCulloch, Anna Tierney, Roxine Plummer

Genre: Horror/Comedy/Science Fiction

Running Time: 95 Minutes

SCORE - 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord. Using a magical amulet, they force the monster to obey their childish whims, and accidentally attract a rogues’ gallery of intergalactic assassins to small-town suburbia.


If there was an independent horror film that I couldn’t escape from the mouths of others within the past year, it was PSYCHO GOREMAN - a movie that was unanimously praised by friends who had seen it. Despite digging the colorful visuals, obvious Power Rangers vibe and constantly being thrown recommendations to finally see the damn thing, it just took me until a few days ago to sit down and experience for myself. And while I did find much of the movie to be entertaining and fun, I think the constant hype somewhat ruined the experience for me. I mean PSYCHO GOREMAN is a good movie, but I never once felt it was a great one.

I think the main reason for that feeling is due to how I felt about the film’s main character. Child characters in horror films can be a mixed bag for sure, but I usually don’t mind them too much - especially in modern horror films. But the Mimi character - she got on my nerves as the film went along. It’s sad because I found her amusing at first, until the portrayal of brattiness, bullying and just overall annoyance started to piss me off to a point where I was hoping the titular alien would give her a warrior’s death [eating her alive]. Not since that kid in THE BABADOOK have I wanted a child character to just go away. I didn’t even care if they had explained her disappearance or not. I just wanted Mimi gone. Now I know her behavior sort of leads to a plot point at the end that leads to the film’s resolution. But the main character of a film should never turn your audience off before getting there. There’s one thing to have a female character be tough, independent and a bad ass. It’s another to have them be a miserable piece of dung you wanted flushed right away.

I think my feelings for Mimi distracted me from really enjoying PSYCHO GOREMAN. All the elements I usually enjoy in a B-movie are here. Goofy looking monsters and/or aliens? Check. Dumb human characters who handle the situation stupidly, yet have their hearts in the right place? Check. Cheesy effects and gore? Check. A silly story that doesn’t take itself all that seriously? Check.

I loved all the homages that were thrown into the film. We get a bit of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. We get a bit of E.T. There’s some THE GUYVER in here. I see a lot of THE MONSTER SQUAD in PSYCHO GOREMAN. You also get some of that former Astron-6 humor and it’s a fun time! And I like that director and writer Steven Kostanski didn’t try to spoof or parody the films and TV shows he was inspired by. It takes those elements, twists them in a non-PG way, and attempts to build a universe out of them for potential sequels with the title character. It wears its influences on its sleeve, but never does too much winking at the audience to distract you with it all.

Speaking of Kostanski, he does a great job visualizing the story. The film is super colorful, feels like a children’s live-action show for adults through its constant gore and special effects [some of the deaths are gnarly] and moves at a nice pace to never overstay its welcome. It also maintains a silly tone throughout, with characters being frightened by P.G. and then just accepting him being around. I mean, when you have parents who don’t think less of their Krang-looking son, you know what you’re getting into. For a film with a not-so-large budget, I think PSYCHO GOREMAN exceeds all expectations.

The acting is also strong. As much as I despised the character, Nita-Josee Hanna was super solid as Mimi. I don’t think any child actor would have made the character tolerable, but Hanna does what she can with it and carries the film quite well, having genuine chemistry with the other actors around her. I’d like to see her in another film playing a character that didn’t want me to turn off the movie. The other actors, like the likable Owen Myre as Mimi’s insecure brother Luke and the hilariously dry Adam Brooks as the father are all good in their roles. And Matthew Ninaber as P.G. [voiced by Steven Vlahos] does an awesome job as the evil alien who must work with the humans who enslaved him to defeat his enemies and get his freedom back. It’s like having Lord Zedd with a bigger budget fronting his own movie, which I wouldn’t mind more of if it happens.

Overall, PSYCHO GOREMAN is a film I dug, but not to the extent of many of my friends who gushed over it as the next big thing in B-movie horror. I love the visuals, as the 80s aesthetic and the cheese special effects and gore are right up my alley. The homage to other sci-fi and horror films, like E.T., THE GUYVER and even the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, work within the silliness of the story. The actors are all good and the soundtrack is fun. If not for the insufferable main character Mimi, I would have loved PSYCHO GOREMAN. But when a character, no less your main one, makes me want to turn off the movie, points have to be taken off. But other than that, this is an entertaining movie if you can tolerate annoying brats and embrace your love for Hunky Boys.


Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021)


Johannes Roberts


Kaya Scodelario - Claire Redfield

Robbie Amell - Chris Redfield

Hannah John-Kamen - Jill Valentine

Tom Hopper - Albert Wesker

Avan Jogia - Leon S. Kennedy

Donal Logue - Brian Irons

Neal McDonough - William Birkin 

Lily Gao - Ada Wong

Genre: Horror/Action/Zombies

Running Time: 107 Minutes


Once the booming home of pharmaceutical giant Umbrella Corporation, Raccoon City is now a dying Midwestern town. The company’s exodus left the city a wasteland…with great evil brewing below the surface. When that evil is unleashed, the townspeople are forever…changed…and a small group of survivors must work together to uncover the truth behind Umbrella and make it through the night.


In 2016, Paul W.S. Anderson's era of RESIDENT EVIL films ended with its FINAL CHAPTER - a movie that showed how low the series had deteriorated in terms of quality despite each entry having their fun moments. The Milla Jonovich led franchise was a huge money maker for Sony, however, as while the films sometimes struggled domestically, they were beloved enough in the global box office to keep the series going as long as it did. So you knew that even if Anderson and Jonovich were done with their version of the live-action adaptation, Sony would just reboot it to keep the IP going.

So here we are in 2021 with a new RESIDENT EVIL film called WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, a reboot prequel that takes place in 1998 during the events of the first two Resident Evil video games. Right there, I should have known I would already look a bit negatively on the film. I mean, who was the genius who thought that adapting two video games into a 107 minute movie was a good idea? Surprisingly, the narrative does a decent job presenting a Cliff’s Notes version of both games - way better than any of the previous RESIDENT EVIL films did. But it just seems like a waste when you can just adapt one game at a time to length the franchise’s run. Why the need to cram a ton of stuff in a film that’s barely two hours? I don’t get it.

Having to adapt two games created a few sacrifices along the way. The big one is the lack of character development for most of these characters. Claire Redfield gets the most depth and is a joy to watch in this film, but the others either get the shaft or have totally different interpretations of their characters that it was a bit jarring at first. In particular Leon S. Kennedy, who is treated as sort of incompetent and almost the comic relief of the film, when gamers would know the character as a bad ass cop who seems pretty capable at his job. But at least he brings some levity to the film and he actually has a character arc that plays out decently. Chris Redfield is a frat boy with a gun, but at least he looks like the video game Chris. Jill Valentine barely gets anything to do really, even though she manages to shine whenever she can. And Albert Wesker seems to be a bit too young to be the villain fans know him to be. His character felt off and I’m hoping that changes if the filmmakers continue this new franchise going forward. I actually liked the Wesker from the previous series and this version is nowhere close to that. But unless you’re a big fan of the Resident Evil video game franchise, you wouldn’t really know who these characters are because the film doesn’t have the time to flesh them out in a significant way. You shouldn’t have to rely on the source material for audiences to know who they’re watching, as some viewers will go into this fresh. 

Also, the film barely gives us anything about the Umbrella Corporation. I mean… that’s your main antagonist and the reason why this whole zombie outbreak is even happening! Say what you want about the Anderson-led franchise, but those films took the time to establish Umbrella and give audiences a reason to hate them. We’re just given random facts about Umbrella and their actions so matter-of-factly that it’s all surface level and no depth. Is a look into Umbrella being saved for a sequel? Possibly. But again, you’ll wonder why this company destroyed this city if you aren’t familiar with this franchise at all. And when information is given, it's generic. Meh.

The look of the film also doesn’t hide the film’s budget. For $25 million, it looks way better than it ought to. But compared to other theatrical films in the market, WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY looks like it was made for SyFy or maybe Netflix. The zombie effects, while fine, don’t really stand out. There’s only one Licker in the film unfortunately, and it looks like it came straight from a video game with its questionable CGI. The locations also look like the ones in the first two games, but there are certain sets that look like the inside of a trailer that made me scratch my head. This film looks and feels like a B-movie you could find on cable on a Saturday night and not know that this popped up in theaters months prior. The original 2002 film was flashier and more exciting to look at. I think turning this into a series would have benefited this kind of budget and storytelling, as it would have allowed for more time to establish characters and the situation happening around them.

All that being said, I kind of had fun with this movie. The easter eggs and first time appearances of certain video game characters had me acting out that Leonardo DiCaprio meme from ONCE UPON A TIME IN... HOLLYWOOD multiple times. It was super awesome to see Lisa Trevor represented in a live-action adaptation, as she’s one of the more interesting side characters in the first video game. I thought director Johannes Roberts created some nice moments of tension and suspense in the second half of the film, creating a more eerie atmosphere that none of the Anderson films managed to do. I know some found it cringey, but I was really amused by the Jennifer Paige “Crush” scene. It was so bad that I laughed out loud. And for the fact that the film crams two video games into an almost two-hour movie, the pacing could have been a lot worse. In fact, I think Johannes Roberts handled it much better than I probably would have if given the same task. But there was a lot missing that could have been saved if Roberts just focused on one game instead of two. But for what it was, it was tolerable.

The acting is fine for what it is. But the standout is definitely Kaya Scodelario as Claire, who is given the most to do and Scodelario captures the character’s essence extremely well. I always thought Scodelario should have been a bigger name by now. She was good in THE MAZE RUNNER movies. I really liked her in CRAWL. And I think of all the actors, she equipped herself the best here. Robbie Amell did what he could with Chris, while Avan Jogia had an interesting take on Leon that grows on you as the film moves along. It was also cool seeing Donal Logue do his thing, while Neal McDonough sure has that villain role down pat at this point, doesn’t he?


I feel only fans of the video games will appreciate RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY more than those who aren’t. The blending of two video games was a weird choice and the narrative has a few slow parts that could lead to some boredom. The characters aren’t fleshed out much [besides Claire and Leon] unless you’ve played the games and some of their motivations seem a bit empty because of that. But the acting is tolerable to good [Kaya Scodelario is the reason to watch], Johannes Roberts’ direction has some genuinely good moments of tension every now and then, and some of the narrative choices are so random and dumb that you won’t help but be entertained by them [that “Crush” scene had me laughing more than I had expected]. This movie has its heart in the right place and making this new franchise closer to the source material is definitely the way to go. It’s just too bad that after all these years, they couldn’t have made a better movie to reflect that. But I’m open to see more if Sony is down for another zombie outbreak.


2 Howls Outta 4

(5 out of 10)

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