Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

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The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world. (IMDB)

The Haunted & Haunters: Patrick Wilson (Josh Lambert); Rose Byrne (Renai Lambert); Lin Shaye (Elise Rainier); Barbara Hershey (Lorraine Lambert); Steve Coulter (Carl); Leigh Whannell (Specs); Angus Sampson (Tucker)

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The Gist: The flick begins by taking us back to 1986 when Josh Lambert’s mother Lorraine first seeks the help of ghost hunters and medians, Elise and Carl to try to help the haunted boy.  The only solution they can come up with is to erase his memory of the supernatural events including his ability to “travel” into the further while he sleeps.  From there we jump to the present and the flick takes off immediately after the events of ‘Insidious’ as the Lambert family heads to Josh’s childhood home to stay with his mother.  While all seems to be going back to normal it’s not long before they realize that they are still living in the nightmare of ghosts and the hungry dead.

Insidious 2Insidious Chapter 2 continues the haunting of the Lambert family but delves into Josh’s childhood and the origins of who and what has attached itself to him and his family.  We see the return of Specs and Tucker to continue helping the Lambert’s now that Elise is gone along with Carl who helped Elise all of those years ago when Josh first experienced the haunting. And what of the origins of those ghosts?  Well, it is kind of interesting as well as sad and disturbing but it does serve to tie everything together for a complete story, making me wonder why is there a third flick in the works.

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Final Thoughts: So what’s the verdict on this flick…it was ok but certainly not great.  I would recommend it if you’ve seen the first one and liked it and want to know how the story of Josh Lambert’s abilities began and how his and his family’s story progresses.  There were a couple of good scares and Patrick Wilson was good as he suffered from the continued haunting.  Overall, a good-looking movie, a good cast but defiantly lacking real thrills and chills.  As for what the next movie has in store, I’m thinking it will be a departure from the Lambert family and focus on Specs and Carl doing their own version of ghost hunting.  Maybe this is a tale that should end at Chapter 2.

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Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army

The Gist: Toward the end of World War II, a small band of Russian soldiers and a documentary filmmaker, push into eastern Germany and stumble across a secret Nazi lab that has unearthed and begun experimenting with the journal of Dr. Viktor Frankenstein. A new Viktor has used the legendary Frankenstein’s work to assemble an army of super-soldiers stitched together from the body parts of their fallen comrades.

Axis & Allies: Karel Roden (Viktor); Joshua Sasse (Sergei); Alexander Mercury (Dimitri); Luke Newberry (Sacha); Andrei Zayats (Vassilli); Hon Ping Tang (Ivan); Mark Stevenson (Alexei)

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My Take:  After seeing the trailer for this flick there was some hesitation on watching it – how much sick and depraved human torture and mutilation could I handle?  Defiantly as much as this movie had to offer since it wasn’t nearly as graphic or gory as I was anticipating.  Honestly, the only time I had to look away was when one of the guys beats a bunny on a table to kill it.  That bothered me more than watching the good Doctor poke around with a brain and trim it to fit in its new hosts skull.  So, the story is a small group of Russian soldiers and one Polish soldier are searching for comrades when they hear a distress signal and head to the coordinates with the hope of finding their fellow soldiers. They come to a nearly abandoned village and after having some fun, decide to check out the church after stumbling across the burning remains of a pile of nuns.  The inside of the church resembles a factory and the group come across a disfigured and mutilated former person that sparks to life when the generator is turned on.  It looked pretty cool but also pretty creepy.  Sort of reminded me of the nurses in Silent Hill with jerky movements and obliteration of the face.

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The soldiers return to village and come across a lone survivor who they torture and demand take them to whomever has created that creature in the church.  This is where things gets ugly and scary as the group traverses through a maze like subterranean area and face the monsters at nearly every turn.  Things continue on the way you expect in a horror movie where everyone is fodder for a new creation as the soldiers delve into the laboratory and we see more of the monsters along with the discarded pieces of people.

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Final Thoughts: I had low but gory and horrific expectations for this flick and the verdict is….I really liked it.  The best thing was seeing all the different kinds of creations and monsters because I could separate them from being torture/mutilated humans and just see them as being freaky as hell.  It didn’t have unbearable or unwatchable horror or torture (except the bunny, why do movies do that?) and the dismembered limbs and blood weren’t appalling and almost bad haunted house like. That’s kind of what this movie reminded me, going through a haunted house and encountering a shock or monster around every turn or behind every door. The found footage style added to that feel as we watch everything unfold through the camera lens of the filmmaker, Dimitri.  Over all, I recommend this one but if you can’t stand moderate gore, exposed brains or bunny murder, skip it but if you can take the moderate violence, go for it!

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The Last Exorcism II (2013)

TLE2The Gist:  As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan. (IMDB)

The PossessedAshley Bell (Nell); Julia Garner (Gwen); Spencer Treat Clark (Chris)

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My Take: This movie picks up almost immediately following the events of the first flick, The Last Exorcism, as the once possessed Nell ends up in New Orleans with no memory of what happened in the woods or being filmed by Cotton Marcus and his crew.  After a brief stay in the hospital, Nell transitions to a house for troubled girls and begins to progress toward living a normal life which includes a job and meeting a boy.  But all does not stay normal as Nell begins to have visions of people who aren’t there as well having strangers telling her to accept Him.  Him being the demon that still resides within her.  Of course there is much weirdness that ensues which Nell is only privy to and people around her start to suffer the consequences of being around the possessed and cursed girl.

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Julia Garner as Gwen also recently seen in We Are What We Are

First off, I love the setting.  New Orleans is always a favourite of mine and I like it when horror movies utilize the setting.  There isn’t a whole lot of it shown but you still get the feel of the city.  The characters are pretty one dimensional with the exception of Nell of course. The supporting players don’t really seem to have much to say or do and it kind of bothered me that Gwen (Julia Garner) seemed to be up to something sinister with her odd little smiles at times when she shouldn’t have been smiling but nothing really developed between her and Nell and the demon.  The story is what it is, an explanation of what happened to Nell after the fiery birth scene and I guess a sort of conclusion to her possession.

Ashley Bell as Nell in The Last Exorcism Part II

Final Thoughts: The first time I saw ‘The Last Exorcism’ I wasn’t impressed but did enjoy it more after a second viewing.  I’m wondering if the same could be said for this one. I liked that the movie picked up almost right after the first one and that it shows how Nell is moving on with life but being stopped by this entity that will not leave her until it has her soul.  There was just something about this flick that was lacking.  Maybe it was the way that it felt as if I have seen this before -girl is haunted but no one else sees what she sees or believes her until it’s too late.  For me, I think it warrants a second viewing and might even be better if watched right after the first one.  All in all, this was merely a Meh movie with a formulaic story line that could have been made more unique to the character.

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Salem (2014 – TV Series)

Salem 2014

Premiers on WGN America April 20, 2014

The Gist:  Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, ‘Salem’ explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and dares to uncover the dark, supernatural truth hiding behind the veil of this infamous period in American history. In Salem, witches are real, but they are not who or what they seem.  (IMDB: Written by WGN)

Witches & HuntersAzure Parsons (Gloriana); Morgana Shaw (Mab); Janet Montgomery (Mary Sibley); Seth Gabel (Cotton Mather); Xander Berkeley (Magistrate Hale); Shane West (John Alden); Ashley Madekwe (Tituba ); Elise Eberle (Mercy Lewis)

Thoughts: I’m looking forward to giving this one a try and seeing how they develop the story of the Salem Witch Trials and how much supernatural elements take the place of reality.

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Spring Breakers (2012)

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The Gist: Four college girls desperate to get to Florida for spring break bust heads and break laws to get there only to catch the eye of drug dealing bad guy Alien.  They get a new understanding of being bad as they spiral out of control and escape takes on a new and dangerous meaning.

Party Girls & BoysJames Franco (Alien); Selena Gomez (Faith); Vanessa Hudgens (Candy); Ashley Benson (Brit); Rachel Korine (Cotty)

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My Take: It was with some reluctance that I watched this movie and after the introduction I was ready to walk away.  Did I really want to watch under age co-eds drinking, screwing and bouncing around naked for an hour and half?  No, no I did not. Then after about 30ish minutes, James Franco shows up and the movie takes a turn to something more interesting.  But really aside from the naked chicks and the lesbian sex scenes, the movie starts out slowly with the four girls, Faith, Candy, Brit and Cotty whining about how boring their lives and stylishly shots scenes of them getting high and prancing about in bikinis before donning masks and robbing a restaurant.

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Alright, so that was kind of interesting then they get to Florida and there are more flashy scenes, naked young girls, drinking and drug use before the 4 girls are arrested for under age drinking (shocking).  Enter Alien (Franco) who bails them out and takes them under his wing.  Franco is a great actor and he is brilliant in this flick as he is able to pull off the incredibly creepy and untrustworthy want to be rapper and drug deal.  Much to his surprise however, the girls are just as twisted as him and it’s love 2 or 3 times over.

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Final Thoughts:  So, I guess from some of my above description it sounds like I am maligning this flick, however once I was able to get past what I believe spring breaks is like and once Franco shows up in all his creepy goodness, I liked the movie.  I guess some of the actresses are shredding their good girl images (Selena Gomez?) but I really have no idea who they are and they are all pretty good in this movie.  I would recommend this flick even though it does lack some substance in story and there are more boobs than brains.  Spring break, spring break, spring break forever……

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We Are What We Are (2013 – US)

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The Gist: The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family. (IMDB)

 Warning:  The below trailer may spoil some aspects of the movie if you don’t already have an idea of what it is about

The Family & The LawJulia Garner (Rose Parker); Ambyr Childers (Iris Parker); Bill Sage (Frank Parker); Jack Gore (Rory Parker); Wyatt Russell (Deputy Anders); Michael Parks (Doc Barrow)

We Are What We Are (2013)

SPOILERS

My Take:  Doesn’t the trailer make this movie look like it’s full of suspense and an evil Daddy tormenting his family and community?  I certainly thought it did but the trailer is misleading.  The movie isn’t bad and it certainly benefits from a good cast and high production but, yes there is a but, it was too slow-paced, the characters are not very interesting or fleshed out and the suspense and thrills are trumped up for the trailer but aren’t delivered in the flick.

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The Parker family matriarch and breadwinner, so to speak, dies unexpectedly, leaving eldest daughter Rose to take over preparing the annual feast of flesh to purify their bodies of all the evils and toxins of the world.  This is left to the oldest woman in the family because that is how it has been done for a couple of  hundred of years, since their ancestors got lost in the woods and had to get their meat from each other.  We watch as the family deals with the mother’s loss and Rose and Iris try to accept their new roles in the family dynamic and stand up to their domineering father and his strong religious beliefs.

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Final Thoughts: This movie had potential and perhaps what I found boring is what makes a flick like this work for others.  For me though, it wasn’t very engaging and there is not nearly enough suspense or compelling story to keep it interesting.  I will say that the last 10 minutes was a bit surprising and I liked it however this one is still a pass as I was expecting something more intense.

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A Good Soldier: Shelter Me (Ch.15)

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The sun was high in the sky as I wandered the woods with a tentative relief at not being alone and maybe, not having to be in charge or solely responsible for two other lives.  Fate played her hand and brought Marla and Hunter to me but the incident at the rest stop and the endless trees threatened to crush the hope that Marla knew where she was going, that the virus hadn’t spread across the border and that zombies hadn’t made it this far into the forest.  The feeling of increasing isolation and the encroaching trees coupled with the total lack of life other than the 3 of us, were helping to drain any sense of safety and possibility of survival.

Marla led the way sure-footed with Hunter keeping pace, dragging his stick along the ground and tapping tree trucks lightly as we went deeper into the woods.  I, on the other, was a total buffoon among the trees and overgrowth.  I kept watching the ground and stumbled more than once over hidden branches and stumps causing more sound than anything else around.  I like to chalk that up to exhaustion and not clumsiness but it didn’t really matter as we each seemed to be lost in our thoughts, silently trudging along and not paying attention to one another.  My thoughts were sluggish as I concentrated on walking and tried to keep it from repeating the scenes of death, blood and human degradation over and over again through my weary mind.  I turned to Marla and saw a quiet determination on her face as traces of shock and fear were gone or merely buried behind this mission to get her son to a safe place.  That was my hope for her, my hope for what she may be feeling.  I could have asked but I didn’t as my reluctance to be travelling with them was still not completely admonished and I was still uncomfortable with company.

The forest didn’t seem to change and I wondered if Marla really knew where she was going.  Doubt vanished after about 30 minutes of walking and taking several turns that by all rights should have ended with us back where we started but we weren’t, and stood in front of the shack Marla had mentioned.  Recalling the old wooden structure, I would have to say that shack was almost to kind of a description for the building before us that consisted of four walls and a slightly steepled roof of aged and weathered wooden boards. There was no visible cement foundation and the floor appeared to rest directly on the ground.  I feared that a strong breeze would be enough to blow it down and it certainly wouldn’t hold up to 4 or more zombies coming after us.  But there was no choice, there was nothing else in sight and the day was getting long.

Marla must have seen the doubt on face as she said that it wasn’t as bad as it looked and told Hunter to go check it out.  My stomach flip-flopped with concern as the boy ran at the shack not knowing if anyone or anything might be inside.  I wanted to yell at him to stop, not to open the door but I didn’t say anything, just watched as Hunter pushed open the door and slowly backed away.  Marla was at his side in two quick steps.  I was past them in four long strides and at the door, gun pulled and pointing at the gloom inside the shack.  The room, that’s all the shack consisted of a single room, was cast in shadows and I couldn’t see anything or signs of anyone in the dimness.

Banging the butt of the gun on the door, I waited, eyes sharp and desperately trying to penetrate the shadows.  No movement, no sound.  The small single floor building wasn’t big enough for anyone to be hiding and certainly couldn’t have concealed a Shambler for long.  Marla approached, her arm around Hunter’s shoulder and searched my face before nodding, asking without words, if it was clear.  Lowering the gun, I nodded back affirmative and stepped aside to let them inside.  Marla flicked open a lighter and asked Hunter to look for a flashlight in the bags.  I tossed my pack beside him and told him there was small wind up lantern in it, then turned from the shack and scanned the woods.

There was still no visible movement.  The sun was beginning to dim as the day was drawing to late afternoon. The stillness of the woods and this little hovel felt safe even if the shack itself was rickety.   I could only hope that the night passed with the continued silence and we didn’t have to deal with any Shamblers in the darkened forest in the middle of the night.  We just had to remain quiet and inside.  Hell, I didn’t even know if the threat was an issue out here and I was still just making this shit up as I went but if we could pass the night without incident, I figured I could make it to Canada with or without Marla.

I turned back to the room and saw a faint light growing stronger as Hunter worked hard to get the lantern he found in my pack to a solid brightness.  Marla spoke to him in hushed tones as they took out some of the food and water and started to prepare a small meal.  It looked natural enough to see mother and son having a picnic in a ramshackle building with a camping lantern as company but I could only guess at what was running through minds.  My own thoughts were still a jumble between the impossibility of what was happening, being concerned about the state of mind of these people and sheer exhaustion but I had some sense of self-preservation.  Walking back toward the woods, I found a good-sized branch then headed into the shack, closed the door and wedged it under the door knob.  It was a poor barrier and I worried that it might actually break the knob off but it made me feel better none the less.

I sat with my back to the wall on the opposite of the room facing the door.  I wasn’t really hungry but I took the granola bar and water from Hunter and watched as he sat beside me and struggled to get the wrapper open on his bar before getting to the goods and chomping down.  The warmth of the days’ sun was trapped in the small space and with the windows boarded up and the door closed, the room was left feeling stagnant and almost claustrophobic as the heat hung in air and seemed to hug me in a stifling embrace.  The heat mixed with my exhaustion and mental hiccups from lack of food and sleep quickly became overpowering and forced my sluggish body to relax.  As warm as it was at that moment, I knew it was going to cool down once the sun set; I could feel a slight breeze blowing through the gaps of the warped wood boards that made up the walls.

I sat for a few minutes feeling dazed and tried not to think about anything, focusing on the light of the lantern.  My mind drifted and my eyes started to close until I felt the bottle of water Hunter had given me slip from my hand.  Marla picked it up and gave it back, then tossed a blanket at me.  I drank the water in one gulp, tossed the bottle aside and rolled up the blanket into a makeshift pillow.  The water was refreshing but my head still felt heavy.  Peeling off my jacket I laid it and my gun beside the pillow and laid down.  It was quiet and we were in a shelter that would keep us safe for at least a little while.  I stopped fighting it and let my heavy eyes close.  I slowly started to drift into sleep, listening to the soft murmur of incomprehensible words between the mother and son who may have just saved my life.

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© 2014, Denise Pasutti