31 Days of Horror: Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

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Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis

Screenplay: John Carpenter, Debra Hill

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here it is. I promised you would make it to Halloween with me, and you did. Congrats!

 

I think I knew that this would be the movie for today. I didn’t plan for it until I got down to the last couple days. It just so happens that John Carpenter’s Halloween is my favorite horror film, and I am excited to share it with you today. Enjoy and then go have some tricks and treats, whatever they may be, and thank you for a great month.

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Halloween opens with an absolutely amazing shot (okay, it looks like a single shot but is actually three, I think) of Halloween night some years ago. Young Michael Myers is supposed to be watched by his older sister Judith but instead she chooses to have her boyfriend over and she ignores Michael as her and her fella proceed to have sex upstairs before he leaves for the night. Michael, in a seemingly unbelievable act, grabs a kitchen knife and his clown costume, goes upstairs and kills his older sister in a gruesome and merciless way. He then goes downstairs to greet his parents as they come home and discover his grisly act. Flash forward several years to modern day 1978 Haddonfield. Michael Myers has escaped from Smith’s Grove Penitentiary and made his way home, now stalking several teenagers on Halloween night.

The film might seem very simple for younger audiences, but it was one of the very first slasher films of its time, and certainly the odd that created all the elements that would later be overused into mediocrity. The plot, though, isn’t about the normal stalker chasing down woman. This isn’t just Michael Myers we are talking about. The credits perhaps say it best, calling him The Shape. He is being pursued by the incredible versatile Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape, Escape from New York) as Dr. Sam Loomis (see the Psycho reference?). Pleasance is at the top of his game here, and it equally matched by the commanding performance of then-newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies, Veronica Mars) as Laurie Strode, a normal girl who just wants to finish her babysitting gig and get home alone, a task not always as simple as she would assume. Laurie is a girl plagued by real-world big problems like the question of whether or not Ben Tramer like-likes her. Her fellow friends Lynda (P.J. Soles, Carrie, The Devil’s Rejects) and Annie (Nancy Loomis, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13) are also on The Shape’s radar tonight, and both are ably performed characters that do nothing special but also do not deter us from our fears.

It is difficult to talk about the cinematography of a low-budget horror film. Many contain nothing of merit. Halloween is not one of these regulars. John Carpenter (Escape from L.A., The Ward) has always been known for his handling of the camera. His shots are sweeping and focused and always purposeful. When the camera doesn’t move, it haunts. From there, the film is perfectly plotted and edited into a tight package of fear.

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There are times when I try to come up with something bad about this movie as a fun little game, and I usually lose. I find John Carpenter’s Halloween to be a perfect film in every way. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I have been watching it since I was four years old and I will keep watching it multiple times throughout the October holiday. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I advise it. Not only is it a working film school of guerilla movie-making, but it is still scary today. Enjoy it. It is Halloween after all, and everyone is entitled to one good scare.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For the rest of the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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31 Days of Horror: Day 30 – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

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Director: Jim Sharman

Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick

Screenplay: Jim Sharman, Richard O’Brien

100 mins. Rated R.

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is, like one of its characters, something that keeps coming back. Every year, it is a ritual to which many dance the Time Warp all the way to Transexual Transylvania. The film currently holds the record for longest running theatrical release, as it has been playing at theaters since 1975. Quite a feat to behold. Explaining the plot isn’t easy, so I’ll try to be as literal as possible.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an homage to older RKO and Universal style horror movies mixed with the B-style eroticism of the Hammer Horror films of yesteryear. Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick, TV’s Spin City, Hannah Montana: The Movie) and his new fiancé Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, Tammy) have just set out to visit an old friend when their car stalls. They follow a road leading to an old castle where they hope to get a phone to call a tow. The castle is the resident of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, TV’s The Wild Thornberrys, Burke and Hare), a twisted doctor of sinful pleasures who is making a man for himself. The castle is home to many strange faces like the handyman Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia. As the storm settles them in, Brad & Janet discover that this is no picnic.

I love this movie. I love that it isn’t laid out in stone as far as interpretations go. I love that it embraces its badness and has a lot of fun. This is the kind of movie to watch with a bunch of friends and a couple of brews, and the rest of the world has realized that too. Around the country and other parts of the world, midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show play, encouraging audience participation (yelling at the screen, throwing items like rice at the opening wedding scene) and shadowcasts (performers acting in front of the film as it plays in the background). It is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the film world.

I really enjoy the performances, from actors that are having fun making a movie and it shows through. For many years, Tim Curry was able to convince people that someone else played Frank-N-Furter, that is how abstract the performance is. Sarandon and Bostwick are lovable 50’s and have such an arc in their character development, albeit a tragic story.

Let’s not forget the incredible musical numbers. Everyone knows about the Time Warp and Science Fiction, Double Feature, but I enjoy songs like Over at the Frankenstein Place and Dammit Janet, Eddie’s Teddy and Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me are terrific songs as well.

Sure the film is far from being a perfect film, but it continues to age very well. This is a great movie, so perfectly constructed that it is difficult to ascertain which parts were accidental and which were purposely accidental…I guess.

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Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

ps. Only watch the U.K. Version, the extra song in it actually sums up the characters’ journeys perfectly.

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror – Extra Bits: Make some Brundle Juice and Goldblum’ing Onions for your The Fly viewing!

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Hey folks, I’ve been doing a lot of scouring the internet for awesome horror-themed recipes. There is something special about creating a meal that matches the scary movie you are about to watch. I came across a tremendously entertaining website called Slash & Dine, where they are all about creating themed recipes for scary movies. I have tried a few now, and I have to say, damn good food and damn good fun!

I found a page on Slash & Dine’s website that is all The Fly themed! I am going to leave the recipe for Bundle Juice at the bottom of this page, but feel free to check out the site to learn how to make Maggot Sliders and Jeff Goldblum’ing Onions!

 

Brundle Juice

Ingredients:

-6 kiwis, sliced

-4 oz pineapple juice

-4 oz vodka

Directions:

  1. Muddle kiwi in cocktail shaker. Add pineapple juice and vodka. Stir and pour into glasses. Serves 2

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“Mmmmm…delicious.”

 

This recipe was published by Nicole & Megan over at Slash & Dine. For Maggot Sliders, Jeff Goldblum’ing Onions and more awesome recipes, click here.

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 29 – Final Destination (2000)

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Director: James Wong

Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick

98 mins. Rated R for violence and terror, and for language.

 

Death comes to all of us. When it is your turn to die, it is your turn, and there is little that can be done about it. That’s the message we get from Final Destination, from director James Wong (The One, Dragonball: Evolution). The original idea for this film came from James Wong’s time as a writer on The X-Files. He envisioned the story as an episode from the wildly popular sci-fi television series. Unfortunately, the idea was scrapped several times and eventually was reformed into a feature film screenplay.

It tells the story of Flight 180 and its passenger Alex Browning (Devon Sawa, TV’s Nikita, Idle Hands). Alex has a premonition of the plane exploding upon takeoff, and forces himself and several other students from his field trip from the plane. The plane explodes and the seven survivors feel as though they just cheated death. They soon discover that you can’t cheat death for long, as the survivors are being picked off in the order they were supposed to die on the plane, but Alex starts seeing clues, and along with fellow student (Ali Larter, TV’s Legends, Resident Evil: Afterlife).

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The original film in this series is the best one, though it is still riddled with multiple technical and artistic issues. These characters are just not very smart. Alex keeps searching out clues and getting himself deeper and deeper with law enforcement as he tries to stop these crimes. He grabs murder weapons and tracks DNA all over crime scenes. He sees signs that clues him into the next death, yet at one point, he sees a man burning leaves and then assumes that a house will blow up. I like the idea of a magazine getting shredded and his friend’s name comes up, but the fire is a bit much. Then there’s the cops who believe that Alex is somehow capable of committing these crimes, like somehow orchestrating a bus hitting someone when they are surrounded by witnesses that could attest to his innocence. We have a character who believes that if it is his time, he should kill everyone else with him. I get it, these are students and teenagers, so they still have some learning to do, but these are dumb teens.

I like the performance given by Tony Todd (The Man from Earth, Hatchet II) as coroner Bludworth. It doesn’t amount to much more of a cameo appearance, but it is a classic horror film trope of the warning of death and dark times to come, much like Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th. He practically yells “Doomed! You’re all doomed!”

Wong’s directing is really nothing special. His cinematography is disappointing. The film has nice pacing though and moves along with ease, not stopping long enough for most of these issues to take away from the enjoyment of the film.

I do really enjoy the clues that Alex and Clear do not see. I like that there are numerous noticeable clues in the film that foreshadow events soon to come, many of them are ones that aren’t even pointed out by our main characters. There is even the inclusion of John Denver songs at many of the Rube Goldberg style deaths. If you didn’t know, Denver died in a plane crash and his music works as a calling card in many ways, a warning like Bludworth’s. I know I didn’t listen to his music for a while after seeing this film.

I also like the score of the film. It stays with you long after the film ends. It won’t win any major awards, but as far as horror scores go, not bad.

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So there you have it. Final Destination is far from perfect, but it is a lot of fun. I find that it still holds up now, 14 years later.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 28 – Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

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Director: James Nguyen

Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne, Adam Sessa

Screenplay: James Nguyen

105 mins. Not Rated.

 

Sometimes, on very rare occasions, a movie comes along that it so good that it changes the way you look at every other movie you will ever see; it becomes a comparison to everything that came before and everything that will come after. On the flipside of that coin is Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a movie that is so bad that, for the rest of your life, any film you ever see will be followed by a comparison as to how bad it really is under Birdemic’s light.

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Rod (Alan Bagh) is a sales man for a very stupid company that isn’t even entirely described but he just made them a million dollars. Nathalie (Whitney Moore, A Horrible Way to Die, The Theater Bizarre) is a model-in-training who has just been given a chance to work for Victoria’s Secret. The two have a chance encounter that drives them together. Unfortunately, a bunch of freaking birds start attacking Half Moon Bay, and Rod and Nathalie are called upon to save the day…or whatever.

Writer/director James Nguyen (Julie and Jack, Replica) is a terrible filmmaker who got the idea for Birdemic from watching the movies The Birds (he is a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock) and An Inconvenient Truth (he must also be a big fan of Al Gore) and thought to himself, “Huh. I could put these things together and it will be brilliant.” His version of brilliant is different than ours. He has a pointless movie bogged down by an awful screenplay and a hand with being completely oblivious to editing software. His cinematography makes found footage look Oscar-worthy. His lighting is something that you might get from a couple of flashlights found at a dollar store. His music…well, I can say that you need to get this soundtrack from itunes (it only costs about two bucks). His special effects…wait, they need their own section…

His visual effects are GIFs. Literally, the birds are on the screen cawing and flapping but not actually moving. They make plane sounds and explode on impact. They spit acid. They emit smoke like a helicopter going down. They turn impossibly. They…are just terrible and wonderful and…actually quite indescribable. You just need to see them.

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This movie is garbage. Nguyen actually put Ms. Tippi Hedren (of The Birds) in the credits and the video case when she had actually appeared on a television set featuring scenes from Nguyen’s other film Julie and Jack. He made up names or put friends’ names into the credits to make the film look more impressive than it actually is. Yeah, I’m serious here. A terrible movie.

 

1.5/5

Wait, I’m not done here. This movie is terrible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. I’ve seen it several times now and it is so bad that it is worth watching at underground midnight showings in old dusty theaters with callbacks and cheers and food and booze and fun. This movie is so terrible that it is actually a lot of fun to watch it in groups. Seriously. Watch it (it is worth the extra .5 points), but perhaps get a few beers first. For safety.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 27 – Psycho (1960)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh

Screenplay: Joseph Stefano

109 mins. Not Rated.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Janet Leigh)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Black-and-White

 

Few films could break new ground in film-making quite like Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Rear Window) did with Psycho, an adaptation of the novel by Robert Bloch. In it, the world witnessed the first flushing toilet in motion picture history. Funny now, but back then screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Two Bits, Blackout) was told that the toilet had to be integral to the film, so he made it just that.

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Perhaps more important than the toilet is the entirety of Psycho, an absolutely shocking and unnerving masterpiece from Hitchcock, made on a minute budget with an all television crew to cut costs, and released as one of the best horror films on modern record.

It tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian Candidate) who steals $40,000 from her boss in order to live the life she deserves with the man she deserves, Sam Loomis (John Gavin, Spartacus, Imitation of Life). Along the getaway, she stays for the night at the Bates Motel, run by the shy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, The Black Hole) and his mother. When Marion goes missing, her sister Lila (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Sam go looking for her. The plot is both simple and yet still unbelievably watchable.

Janet Leigh is amazing here, creating a character who does bad things and is still someone I connected to emotionally. I think practically everyone has had thoughts of stealing enough money to live luxuriously and getting away with it. Her chemistry with Perkins as Norman Bates (or as Hitchcock called him, Master Bates) is very strong and grounded as well. I felt some sensual connection these two characters build, which ultimately leads to chaotic conclusions.

Hitchcock’s use of the camera is what causes so much jitter. There is a scene where the camera focuses entirely on Bates’ jaw and throat as he is questioned by a private detective about Marion’s disappearance. It just focuses on the way he chews his food. The famous shower scene as well is so perfectly executed that nudity is kept to a bare minimum while somewhere over 70 shots are all spliced into a minute of film that stays with the viewer through the rest of the film.

Bernard Herrmann’s musical score is another great element that has surprisingly stayed effective even 54 years later. It was so good that Hitchcock included it in scenes he originally wanted completely silent and later mentioned in an interview of its importance in the film over just about everything else.

The set design is well worth its Oscar nomination. Each environment is so vividly realized that I can actually recall color in them even though the film is black and white. I can picture them perfectly while not distracting me from the story.

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This movie is perfect. I can completely see why Alfred Hitchcock went insane over his requiring of theaters to not allow people in after the film had started. I can’t believe I waited so long to view this picture. Watch this movie!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 26 – The Woman (2011)

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Director: Lucky McKee

Cast: Pollyanna McIntosh, Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, Lauren Ashley Carter, Carlee Baker, Alexa Marcigliano, Zach Rand, Shyla Molhusen

Screenplay: Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee

101 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, torture, a rape, disturbing behavior, some graphic nudity, and language.

 

The Woman is a movie that tries to substitute oddities for actual storytelling. It is a sequel to Jack Ketchum’s Offspring, and follows a woman (Pollyanna McIntosh, TV’s M.I. High, Exam) who has existed in the wild for all her life. She is discovered and kidnapped by Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers, TV’s Rectify, Sweet Home Alabama) who has her imprisoned in his cellar. He soon presents his captive to the rest of the Cleek family and tells them his master plan: to make this woman civilized. He doesn’t expect her cunning abilities to both defend and protect herself.

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It is tough to describe the plot of this film is a plot. It is also difficult to describe any of the performances as actual characters. No one actually acts the way they should in situations like this. First of all, a woman of the wild would not have been captured by the dunce that is Chris Cleek. Next, a man like Cleek who has captured this woman would not present it to his family with the belief that they would “go along” with this insane plan. Finally, none of these family members would “go along” with it, especially the wife Belle (Angela Bettis, Girl, Interrupted, Toolbox Murders) who just assumes that he knows best. I’m sorry, but any normal situation would follow with Belle walking the hell out of that house and marriage.

I just didn’t like anyone. Even the woman, she is more of a stock neanderthal than an actually developed character.

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Lucky McKee’s screenplay with the source material’s author Ketchum is nothing to promote either. These are unsettling characters in an odd representation of actual life. The ending completely unraveled as well, introducing characters that we haven’t seen yet and that have no explanation in their existence at all, making the entire thing feel like some major subplots have been removed by accident. Such a disappointment that I couldn’t wait for it to end. Skip this movie. It looks terrible and it is terrible. There isn’t even anything of technical merit here to give reason to actually view it.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror – Extra Bits: That time Monsters Inc. Premiered a Trailer in Front of Harry Potter

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Earlier this month, I took a look back at Monsters, Inc., a perfect Pixar film in every way. Well, in researching the film further, I came across a teaser trailer for Monsters, Inc. that played in front of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. After watching it, I completely remembered seeing it over a decade ago in the theater.

I love Pixar for several reasons, but one of them is that they craft teaser trailers that feature material not in the film. They premiere a trailer that shows the tone of the film without ruining all the best scenes. It is something simple that people don’t often appreciate but it does a lot for a film.

Here’s the trailer. Enjoy:

31 Days of Horror: Day 25 – American Mary (2012)

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Director: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Cast: Katherine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, David Lovgren, Paula Lindberg, Clay St. Thomas, John Emmet Tracy, Twan Holliday

Screenplay: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

103 mins. Rated R for strong aberrant violent content including disturbing images, torture, a rape, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.

American Mary is one of those you movies that you will remember…for a couple days at most. It tells the story of Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle, TV’s Endgame, Ginger Snaps), a wannabe surgeon excelling in the craft but without the focus on actual schoolwork and completely devoid of any cash flow. She is about to lose her apartment, her phone, and her respect. She decides to become a stripper, which completely seems characterless, and when she shows up to her interview, her potential boss Billy (Antonio Cupo, TV’s Bomb Girls, Elegy) needs her for something else: surgery on one of his clients or lunkies or somthing. I stopped caring the plot at this point. Mary’s impressive skills pull her into the underground world of body modification, and she isn’t sure she can get back out or if she even wants to.

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This is a stupid unlikable movie. I struggled to sit through the entire thing. Katherine Isabelle is the kind of lead actress you get when the previous five actresses on your list won’t take their tops off. Her performance is neither subtle nor nuanced in any way. That leads me to the script, which tries to play off the plot as a series of freakish incidents with the intent unsure. I’m still not sure what the purpose of most of these plot points were. I think writer/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, See No Evil 2) were trying to make Mary more likable, but they failed horribly, creating a laundry list of poorly drawn characters, each less enjoyable than the last.

Then you get Antonio Cupo, who has a performance more wooden that Charlie from Charlie’s Angels. This guy acts like he is reading from cue cards. The same is true of most of these performers.

The cinematography is lazy, the editing is trying to be a Saw film (and fails),  and the sound is clunky.

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Can I just say it? This movie sucks.

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 24 – You’re Next (2011)

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Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg

Screenplay: Simon Barrett

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Man, I did not want to see this movie. The trailer just completely turned me off. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “Yay! Someone made The Strangers again. Blegh!” I didn’t like The Strangers.

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When I finally did get around to watching You’re Next, I was blown away. This movie essentially kicked ass. It comes down to your basic home invasion movie, except that I was actually engaged fairly quickly by it. I found the plot to have twists and turns that, while often unrealistic, still kept me in.

It is all about the Davison family. Patriarch and matriarch Paul and Aubrey are celebrating a major anniversary and the family has gathered at the homestead for a get-together. Little do they know that they are about to become prey to masked assailants guerilla-style invading the home and trying to do away with them one at a time. However, the assailants and the Davisons do not anticipate son Crispian (A.J. Bowen, The Signal, The Sacrament) to have a new girlfriend with a particular skill set in this film from director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, The ABCs of Death).

I liked this movie. I feel like I am surprising even me by saying. I had a good time watching it. In hindsight, that shouldn’t bother me, as I loved Wingard’s work in V/H/S and even his short Q is for Quack in The ABCs of Death.

Sharni Vinson handles her roles nicely as Erin, the girlfriend with the past. Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, V/H/S)  also gives good work as Drake, Crispian’s brother who harbors ill will for past events.

The action here was pretty excellent and I actually felt unsure of how this whole situation would play out. The only major flaw was that we had characters at the beginning that we knew would die based on how little we knew about them. The madness begins fairly early on during the family dinner, and I felt as though that was a real loss as we were just beginning to unravel this family as individual characters as opposed to pieces of meat to be picked off.

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That being said, Wingard handles the script, from writer Simon Barrett (The Guest, A Horrible Way to Die) very well, and the pacing never once falters throughout the entirety of the film. As I finished the film, I wanted more (in a good way)! I feel like the film has been set up for a sequel, which doesn’t make sense considering the events that take place, not to mention the difficulty in treading any new ground, but for now, I’ll be content with this movie. It was a hell of a lot of fun and a solid thriller to boot.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.