Friday, October 31, 2014

The Babadook [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

I can't say that I've seen any Australian horror films. I've heard of 'Wolf Creek' and I've seen the 'SAW' short film, if those count, I suppose. This is much like me not having seen a film from New Zealand, before I watched 'Housebound.' I originally was going to do another film to close out this week of "spooky" reviews. But when I saw this, I knew I wanted to go out with reviewing it. 'The Babadook' is one of those films I've been hearing a lot about. 'The Babadook' is a pretty good watch as well. It's pretty creepy throughout and is actually a pretty great story.

'The Babadook' follows the story of single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), after the death of her husband. He is killed as they get into a car crash on the way to the hospital to have their child. Her son, Samuel (Noah Wieseman), has been having a ton of problems dealing with the fear of a monster lurking in their home. Amelia is miserably working at a nursing home. While Samuel is struggling in his school to stay out of trouble. One night, Ameila reads a bedtime story to Samuel called, 'Mister Babadook.' Which promptly scares the hell out of the kid. The next day, Claire (Hayley McElhinney), Ameila's sister, is looking after Samuel and is disturbed by him constantly talking to "something invisible called The Babadook." One night, after Amelia finds mysterious pieces glass in her soup, the wardrobe in Samuel's room almost falls on him. She rips apart the book and then goes to bed. Things begin to grow even more tense between the two, Samuel becomes increasingly violent and strange things begin to happen to them. 'Mister Babadook' is presumed to be just a story, but Amelia and Samuel are learning otherwise firsthand.

Horror movies are supposed to be fun, they're supposed to make you go "What the f---" out loud and, most of all, they're supposed to creep you out. 'The Babadook' is one of those films that hits all of those requirements. There's some jump scares sure, but there's a genuine sense of creepiness surrounding this film and story. Mysterious figures, a terrorized family and psychological scares abound in this film. They're all done pretty well. The story is pretty original overall. It falls prey to horror cliches at times, but does a good job of keeping the viewer engaged. I always thought that children's books can be some of the creepiest things and this film reaffirms it. A creepy pop up book depicting the death of the two main characters, would creep the shit out of me as well. The acting in this is pretty good. Samuel is played well by young Noah Wieseman. You can feel the fear and apprehension as the film wears on. He's probably one of my favorite parts of the film. Amelia, played by Essie Davis, also does an outstanding job throughout as well. The mom at the end of her rope, being terrorized by a supernatural being. The dread of Amelia descending into madness is pretty fun to watch. Also, side note, the lines from Samuel are unintentionally hilarious. Whenever he starts yelling or is having a heated back and forth with someone, his child-like candor is pretty damn funny. The film clocks in at an hour and a half, but it never feels longs and I quite enjoyed myself. There wasn't really any draggy or out of place scenes either. The good use of stock footage really surprised me and the music and score are done well too.

'The Babadook' really does live up to the praise that I've heard for it. It's one of the better horror films of the year and should be seen if you're a fan of the genre. There's a lot of psychological horror, a great story, some laughs throughout and a generally creepy feeling all around. I generally like most horror films, no matter how underwhelming they may be, but 'The Babadook' is a pretty good film all around regardless. You should check it out if you're ever in need of a spook.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Housebound [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

Now you may be wondering, "What the hell is 'Housebound'?" You're probably not a complete movie nerd like me, that does his homework on genres and plans out films he wants to get through each year. You're probably someone who only hears about films through Twitter, friends or watching TV. Not that there's anything wrong with that, sorry for generalizing. I love big budget comedies and action films as much as the next person. But, this is a smaller film and most movie goers now-a-days don't want to "work hard" to find good films. I'd be lying though if I said I knew about this little horror comedy film from New Zealand, before it started getting buzz at this years SXSW. I wasn't expecting too much out of this film, but those are the films that usually surprise you. Surprise me 'Housebound' did and I was completely into it from the get go.

 'Housebound' follows the story of Kylie (Morgana O'Riley), a small time thief who is sentenced to nine months of house arrest, for trying to rob a bank. Kylie is forced to move back in with her mother, Miriam (Rima Te Wiata), who has been complaining about the house being haunted. Kylie dismisses her mother's complaints and begins her nine month sentence. Once Kylie starts getting into a routine, (her routine is really just getting up, court appointed therapy and eating) she is shocked when strange things start happening to her. Giving her just enough of a push to think that her mother may be onto something. Now Kylie has turned this sentence into a mystery to solve, as she wants to find out why her mother's home is "haunted."

'Housebound' is one of those films, where you go into it expecting one thing and come out of it on the opposite side of what you thought it was gonna be. I was expecting a lot more jump scares and a lot less character development. I wasn't expecting to be so caught up into the mystery aspect of the film as much as I was either. Let me explain all this, since I'm being kinda vague right now. This film isn't straight horror. This is a very nice, but kind-of odd, mix of horror, mystery/thriller and comedy. It really does work on all these levels too. You have the horror of the unknown house, thought to be haunted. Bumps, creaks, whispers and dim-lit stairwells abound in the home. The mystery aspect of why this house could be haunted in the first place and also the story in general. Finally, you have the sarcasm and comedic timing between the well written characters throughout. The writing in 'Housebound' is honestly great because it doesn't take itself too seriously. It also doesn't come off as cartoony or over the top, which a lot of horror films do. The story is pretty damn original and, without giving things away, gets you hooked from the start. The characters are also very well done. They know this isn't a completely serious film, but they don't try to turn them into a bunch of people running around trying to be funny either. You can credit this to the acting as well. Morgana O'Riley who plays Kylie and Rima Te Wiata who plays Miriam, are the cornerstones in this film and they do a great job. Kylie is the daughter who has kind of lost her path in life. While Miriam is the mother who wants to see good come out of her daughter. Both are played to a tee. Glen-Paul Waru, as Amos, Kylie's probation officer, is also great in his supporting role and adds a nice presence whenever he is on screen. The film never feels long either. Despite clocking in at almost two hours, I never felt the film dragging. More importantly, I never felt bored and I quite enjoyed watching this film.

'Housebound' as I mentioned in my introduction, is a film from New Zealand. I can honestly say I've never seen a New Zealand film, unless you count ones that were simply just filmed there. I didn't know what to expect when I started the film, but by the end there was a smile on my face. 'Housebound' is a highly original horror comedy (with a bit of mystery thrown in) that fires on all cylinders throughout. The acting is good, the comedy is funny and the chills are there too. 'Housebound' is a film I just can't help but like. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

Oh 'Paranormal Activity', you're the series that started off pretty creepy, but turned into a lot of other horror series over the years. To be completely fair, I really do like the first two films in the 'Paranormal Activity' series (and the fourth installment more than I should.). It has though, become a very stale series over the course of its run. The scares begin to die down and the formulaic nature, that is almost the same in each film, hurts the series overall. Now, if you know anything of movies and film, you know that January is where films are a vast wasteland of awfulness. So when last October I heard 'The Marked Ones' was put off until the first month of the year, it raised some red flags. Those flags were redder than ever once I watched the film.

'Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones' follows the story of Jesse Arista (Andrew Jacobs), a recent high school graduate living in Oxnard, California, who lives with his father and grandmother. In the apartment below theirs, there lives a woman named Ana (Gloria Sandoval), who everyone thinks is a witch. One night Ana is murdered and Oscar (Carlos Pratts), a former classmate of Jesse, is the prime suspect because he was seen leaving Ana's apartment before the body was found. The next day, Jesse and his friend Hector (Jorge Diaz), investigate the crime scene and find a lot of supernatural and black magic items, along with a picture of Jesse. Waking up the next morning, Jesse finds a mysterious bite on his arm. Later that night, Jesse and Hector are confronted by a bunch of thugs, but the thugs are knocked out mysteriously by Jesse. When they show what happened to their friend Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh), Jesse can't remember it at all. Jesse believes he has superhuman strength, but there are far worse consequences as a result of the mysterious bite on his am.

Where to start with this one? This is the first spin-off in the series, but even the change of scenery doesn't help this "I know what's gonna happen from the trailer" film. Now, I got a large amount of enjoyment out of this, but it does not make this a good film. I got a lot of laughs with my friend as we watched and dissected this as it wore on. The characters are actually the best pat of the 'The Marked Ones'. Jesse, Hector and Marisol are written well, for what this film is, and are pretty likable throughout. The acting between Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz and Gabrielle Walsh was fine as well. That is where this film takes a complete nosedive for me. The story is boring and predictable, until the big reveal about the next film, but even then it's not really worth sitting through this. The first few films can get away with being kinda formulaic, but when it's the fifth installment in the series (and a spin-off), you gotta do something, anything, to blow the audience away. Also, the writing just seemed lazy overall. Even though the characters were likable, they're purely one dimensional, and I really didn't care about any of them aside from entertainment value. The story they told and the way they did it is also a snooze-fest. Open with Person A, something mysterious starts happening to them, try to get rid of super natural entity, big fight thing, scary image to close. It's the calling card for the series, I get that, but it doesn't mean I have to like it in the slightest. It also doesn't feel like a film, but more an extended episode of a TV show you'd see on UPN (I guess The CW for you kids nowadays.). I hate it when a film doesn't feel like a film. When it feels like a hastily made TV episode, it takes so much out of whatever the film has going for it. Plus this film isn't even scary, or maybe I'm just used to the tactics it uses, mainly jump scares that don't work. The supernatural side attempts to be interesting at times, but it never truly comes across as frightening.

'Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones' is just a plain lazy film. You can look at the big October horror series the past decade in 'SAW' and see that despite (some) lacking films, the series went all out. With a series like 'Paranormal Activity', I get the feeling it's just getting lazier and lazier with each entry. Aside from the entertaining one dimensional characters, this film is a boring, un-scary, mess that should only be watched if you happen to be going through the series. On second thought, even if you're watching the whole series, you can just go ahead and skip this one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ABCs of Death 2 [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

Anthology films are awesome. I used to never want to get into them, but I've grown to love and appreciate good anthologies when they do come out. Recently there's been quite a few horror anthologies to come out, but none have interested me more than 'The ABCs of Death' series. This has been a series (I mean NOW it is one, right?) that's been pretty good. The first film was quite a fun watch and I fully expected, and got, more of the same from it's sequel here. It's got spookiness, chills, kills and WTF moments all wrapped up in 26 stories. Some are good, some are bad and some leave a lasting impression.

**Note I used this paragraph when doing my review of the first film as well**
This will be one of my shortest summaries ever, as I don't want to give much away. To put this simply, 'ABCs of Death 2' follows the stories and thoughts of 26 different directors. Each director chooses (or was given) a letter of the alphabet. They chose a word or phrase that corresponds with the letter given and were assigned to make a horror short based upon that word. For example if you have letter "H", a word starting with the letter "H" is used. With no restrictions and only imagination, 'ABCs of Death 2' is an eclectic thrill ride of 26 shorts that hits almost all of horrors finest themes.

I could go through all the letters here, but like in my review of the first film, I'm going to list out my favorite letters of this film. I will then briefly summarize them and list out the horror genre along side each film. Like the first film, there was a lot of letters I really liked, so let's jump right in! 'D' is a stop motion short by Robert Morgan, in which a bug and a man team up to get his killers. 'E' is a survival short by Alejandro Brugu├ęs, in which two men are stranded on an island when a woman washes ashore. 'G' is a mind bending short by Jim Hosking, in which a young man finds his grandfather under his bed. 'H' is an animated short directed by Bill Plympton, in which a man and  a woman kissing, turns into war. 'J' is a supernatural short directed by Dennison Ramalho, in which a man is martyred for being a homosexual. 'M' is a violent short directed by Robert Boocheck, in which a crazed man runs down a street in slow motion attacking people. 'N' is a connected anthology directed by Larry Fessenden, in which a man goes to meet is girlfriend on Halloween. 'O' is a Japanese apocalyptic short directed by Hajime Ohata, in which a woman is put on trial by the zombies that she killed. 'P' is a classic style short directed by Todd Rohal, in which three prisoners escape from jail and run into a man and a baby. 'U' is a futuristic short directed by Vincenzo Natali, in which a man is publicly killed in front of his peers. 'Y' is a daydreaming short directed by Soichi Umezawa, in which a girl fantasizes about her abusive parents deaths. 'Z' is a just plain disturbing short directed by Chris Nash, in which a pregnant woman has been staving off giving birth for 13 years, but now it's time for it to come out.

The rest of the 14 letters simply did not interest me, were lacking or just plain bad. There were a lot of good ideas, like 'B', 'C', 'I', 'Q', 'S', 'T', 'V', 'W' and 'X' that were just plain squandered because of the lack of true originality. These aren't terribly awful, but the majority of them are far from likable in my eyes. Then there's the ones I just plain didn't like. 'A', 'F', 'K', 'L' and 'R'. None of these gave me any feel of redeeming qualities. I get why people do shorts like this and some my not have the resources others have, but I just can't get behind the bad ones like this. I appreciate staying with their passion and personally succeeding, but I don't like what they did with these shorts at all.

'ABCs of Death 2' is once again a very up and down horror anthology, but one that I liked about as much as the first installment. Good or bad, a wide variety of horror genres and themes were covered. Good or bad, a lot of people, again, have gotten a little bit of exposure thanks to this film as well. Not every letter is good and a lot are generic and only passable. Those are lifted by the fantastic submissions littered throughout this film. Like the last film this is near two hours, so despite all the good stuff, you'll have to sit though mediocrity to get to the good stuff. I really do like these movies with the first two installments out of the way and I really hope there's a third in the works, because I'll watch it too.

Horns [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter, we all know this. I always made the "Oh look, there's Harry Potter" joke about Radcliffe in any movie he was in. There's a point when you just have to move on from stuff like that. Okay, maybe not move completely on, but this is one of the first Daniel Radcliffe movies that I never thought of him as that magical wizard. It's a horror film that relies on a thriller and murder mystery vibe, all intertwined with a supernatural fantasy element. If that's a lot to digest, it's because it is, but 'Horns' actually blends it all together quite well.

'Horns' follows the story Ignatius "IG" Parish (Daniel Radcliffe), who awakens one morning after a drunken night out to find horns sprouting out of his head. The horns begin to bring out peoples deepest and darkest desires. While all this is going on, the town he lives in, is in an uproar because IG's girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), had been raped and murdered and he is the prime suspect. IG's best friend Lee (Max Minghella) is the only person who believes him and is helping his court case. His family, including is brother Terry (Joe Anderson), is wary of everything and a childhood friend of his, Eric (Michael Adamthwaite), now the sheriff, is against him as well. IG must use the evil that has been bestowed upon him, to find out who really killed Merrin and clear his name once and for all.

Movies based of books are either good or bad. There's no middle ground. Even though I've never read the novel that 'Horns' is based on, it's also called 'Horns', this is one of the better book to film movies I've seen lately. It's not really fair to compare this to what David Fincher did with 'Gone Girl' but 'Horns' is pretty damn solid in it's own right. We'll start with the story and while formulaic, is still very original overall. A man, suspected of murdering his longtime girlfriend in a fairly small town, wakes up with horns that are able to bring out the thoughts and desires of people. It's a highly original concept that I was kinda wary of after only watching the trailer. You'd think this would give a ton away of the actual mystery, but it's all done well and really does build until the finale in a great way. This isn't a typical horror film either. While there's some jump scares and "scary" images, this really relies on spiritual and supernatural scares. Thoughts that will linger with you and trippy, albeit sometimes funny, moments. The actual thriller and mystery side of this is alright as well. I liked the process of actually solving the murder-mystery. This is really helped along by the character development. You get to really learn about IG, Merrin, and the rest of the main cast and get into their heads. It's not just movie characters, you really feel like you know these people by the time you finish this up. Further than that you could call this a breakaway film for Daniel Radcliffe. While this isn't the greatest film of the year, it does showcase Daniel Radcliffe will. It may also be my favorite movie starring him since the 'Harry Potter' series. You get comedy, emotion and well acted scenes all throughout this film. So it's kinda hard to find a bad moment he has in this. Juno Temple is also a nice standout, I can't say I've seen any of her other films, but she is a treat in 'Horns' and really ties the whole film together. The supporting cast also includes the likes of Heather Graham, David Morse and James Remar, who provide nice scenes that tie the film together. This music is fantastic throughout, the small-town setting is also eerie as well. The movie kinda drags at times and is also pretty long, clocking in at just under two hours. That shouldn't stop you from checking this film out in the slightest.

'Horns' is a very pleasant surprise for me. This is mostly because I wasn't expecting to really be into this and like it this much. It's one of the best horror films of the year and one of my favorites overall as well. You get into the story pretty quickly, you start to try and figure out this whodunit and you hope to God that one day Daniel Radcliffe doesn't drag your deepest darkest thoughts out. The scares a really limited until you start thinking about it afterward, at least that's what happened with me. Not just the supernatural side, but also the real life side, the loss of someone close to you. I highly recommend you check 'Horns' out for yourself.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Annabelle [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

'Annabelle' is a film I went into with some decently high expectations. I think that 'The Conjuring' was one of the top horror films of 2013 and I really did like it overall. James Wan is one of the better horror filmmakers and it really shows in the work he's done over the years. Unfortunately this isn't 'The Conjuring 2' AND James Wan had really nothing to do with this spin off of the aforementioned film. While not awful, as is the consensus you'll most likely see, it does lack a feeling of horror, or really anything at all. Could be paralleled that it is in fact as empty as a given doll's lifeless eyes.

'Annabelle' follows the story of John and Mia Form (Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis) as they are young married couple getting ready to have their first child. One day, in 1967, John gives Mia a doll that she has been trying to find. Immediately Mia adds the doll to her collection. One night, Mia hears a murder occurring at their neighbors house, the Higgins, and is attacked by a woman holding the doll and an accomplice. The police finally arrive and kill the accomplice while the woman kills herself. It is revealed on the news that the woman was Annabelle Higgins, and that she and her boyfriend murdered her parents and were also apart of a satanic cult. Strange things begin to happen to Mia before she tells John to throw it out. Later on a fire broke out in the kitchen, presumed to be caused by the doll, and as Mia is running out of the house she trips, falls and sends herself into labor. Mia ends up having a healthy baby girl, they name Lea, and the couple moves into a new apartment. As they are unpacking her dolls, they found one they thought they discarded, the doll now known as Annabelle. More strange and spooky activity begins happening to them again. John and Mia are at their wits end, because Annabelle is terrorizing every aspect of their lives.

The biggest problem with 'Annabelle' is it's lack of well, anything. It's a very predictable movie where a whole lot of nothing happens. Sure you have the set-up at the beginning, the fire scene and the scenes that ended the film. But that's only 20 minutes out of this film that is already slow and overly long. The movie is well over an hour and a half and a lot of the time you're watching a whole lot of pointless character development that simply isn't all that needed. It's so frustrating to go into a film like this, when the movie it's inspired by is so good, to have to force yourself to stay with it. It's not even that bad of a film. The story and lore is okay, the music is alright and the acting isn't terribly awful either. The problem is everything surrounding all of what could turn out to be decent, is bad. The pacing is brutally slow at times, the overall creepy factor of the Annabelle doll wears quickly, there's far too many jump scare attempts and it just plain feels like a stereotypical bad horror film. The biggest reason for this is James Wan himself. Not that what he did was bad, it was the fact that he was merely a producer in this. He's fine as a producer, always has been. When you can get James Wan as a director, you turn a film like 'SAW V' into 'The Conjuring'. He's that good of a director and he's always been a favorite of mine over the last decade or so. I can think of one thing that could have helped this movie as well. It would be more of a back-story on the cult that Annabelle Higgins was in and why the doll was used in the rituals. I'm sure there is countless other things you could do to help this film, but that's just one suggestion that would intrigue me. 

'Annabelle' is a film that suffers from a lack of originality. Jump scares have been overdone in horror for years, while the length, combined with lack of real creepiness exuding from Annabelle, hurts this further. The acting is never bad, it just doesn't have anywhere to go. The story is fine, but they really don't do anything special with it. It's a shame because the overall look and sound of the movie was actually pretty spooky. 'Annabelle' is a movie that really didn't to be made. Whether you call it an experimental film to test the waters or a desperate cash-in on a successful film, it's one that really doesn't need to be viewed more than once. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dead Snow 2 [A Spooky Fat Jesus Review]

Happy Halloween week everyone! It's been awhile since I've done some reviews, so I thought what better way to jump back in, than with a spooky batch of horror movies! The first movie I've chosen to get the week rolling, is the sequel to one of my favorite zombie flicks of all time, 'Dead Snow.' 'Dead Snow' was a 2009 Norwegian film, that followed the story of a group of friends who are terrorized by Nazi Zombies as they vacation in the mountains of Norway. The film struck a cord with 19 year old me, as I hadn't yet been introduced to all the awesome foreign films that are released. The story was original and over the top, the kills were brutal imaginative and everything was just plain fun. Now, half a decade later, I'd like to think I've matured a little bit. But, as you can tell by the poster at the top of this review, I'm still that 19 year old at heart. 'Dead Snow 2' or 'Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead' is a movie that you'd normally think couldn't be as well done as the first. This is the horror genre after all, but I was more than happy to gather a bunch of friends to watch this. Needless to say, I had a blast.

'Dead Snow 2' follows the story of Martin (Vegar Hoel), the lone survivor of the events of the first movie, as he reaches his car at the bottom of the mountain and begins to escape. The Nazi zombies catch up to him, but are unable to stop him from driving off. Colonel Herzog (Orjan Gamst) was hanging onto his window before Martin finally escapes, but Herzog ends up losing his arm in the car. Not long after, Martin crashes and wakes up in the hospital. He is tied to his bed under the assumption he killed his friends, but what's worse, is that they sutured Herzog's arm onto his body. The arm has enormous strength and he uses it to escape the hospital. Martin gets into contact with three American siblings, Daniel, Monica and Blake (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas), who have been preparing for the zombie apocalypse their whole lives. Martin and the Zombie Squad, as they call themselves, are in for the fight of their lives, as they must stop Colonel Herzog from leading his troop of Nazi zombies, to destroy the town they were ordered to all those years ago.

This movie worked on so many levels it's unreal. There's the underlying fright, that there is indeed Nazi zombies ready to rise from the grave and continue Hitler's bidding. But there's also the brutality done with each kill in this movie. Even the kills that are lighthearted and comedic, are done is a bloody barrage of violence. It's not just getting hit in the head with a bathroom sink, it's getting annihilated by the bathroom sink, while your significant other is destroyed in a bathtub. It works for this type of film, it really does. The action scenes were done well and the set pieces were fun to watch explode. All while the "final battle" was a giant, fun, zombie filled street fight. Amidst all the senseless and blood spurting terror, there's a self-aware sense of humor. They know this is a film about Nazi zombies, we know we're watching a film about Nazi zombies, so setting the humor dial to low, is just gonna turn this movie into almost every other horror sequel, mediocre at best. The kills are great, houses are destroyed, no one is safe and hell, they're just cruising along  this Norwegian Countryside in a tank. A TANK! The story is highly original, just like in the first film and I don't think I ever got bored throughout. You'd think that "Nazi zombies" is a one off phenomenon, but if they keep making scripts and stories as good as the first two films, I'll keep watching until 'Dead Snow 5: Castro Vs. Jong-Il.' (Never mind that neither have anything to do with Nazis or snow for that matter. Just go with it.) The acting throughout was also pretty good. Vegar Hoel reprises his role well as Martin, while Martin Starr and company provide a lot of heart and humor, while also making the second half of the movie highly entertaining. The score and music are great as well, nothing felt out of place and generally sounded good. The runtime of 100 minutes, is a little long, but if you're anything like me, you'll be into this movie once it really gets rolling

'Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead' is a movie you just have to watch for yourself. I mean that, go watch it. It doesn't even matter much if you haven't seen the first, cause they give you a quick run through at the beginning of the film. I will say, this is a fun film that's probably not gonna scare you. The acting is okay as is most everything else in the film. If you love an original story, tons of blood and violence, awesome kills and a few laughs along the way, 'Dead Snow 2' is a movie you'll want to go out of your way for.