Vengeful Ghosts and Witches (Movie Reviews)

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The Gist: A grieving couple (Barbara Crampton as Anne Sacchetti; Andrew Sensenig as Paul Sacchetti) move to an isolated home in rural New England following the death of their adult son. Anne is certain she can feel the presence of her son in the house and invites her friends (Lisa Marie as May Lewis; Larry Fessenden as Jacob Lewis) who dabble in the supernatural via seances to join them. But their psychic meddling ramps up the ire of the houses angry spirits. Throw in some crazy, murderous townsfolk and set it in the dead of winter and you have the potential for a bloody ghost story.

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My Take: I seem to recall lots of good buzz about this flick and that it had the same kind of feel as House of The Devil, which it did but….can’t say I really got into this one. The story certainly is interesting as we learn about the house and vengeful spirits demanding a blood sacrifice every 30 years and the townsfolk who will do whatever they have to, to make sure the blood flows, as long as it is not theirs. The charred ghosts are pretty cool looking, although they don’t get a lot of screen time. I think the acting was a bit of downer. These are not bad actors but there was just something about the way they talked that annoyed me. And once the story got going into the history and the haunting, the movie was at an end. I wanted to know more about the house that was a former mortuary and the townsfolk who treat it with cult like reverence.

Final Thoughts: I wanted to like this movie more but there was just something off about the acting or the dialogue or both that didn’t appeal to me and I was simply expecting something more from the scares. I’m all for setting up atmosphere and slow burn horror but this one was just too slow to get to the goods. 2.5 charred ghosts out of 5.

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The Gist: 15 years after the disappearance of Heather Donahue, her younger brother James (James Allen McCune) receives a video showing what appears to be Heather at the Rustin Parr house in the Black Hills. Along with his friends, one of which is filming the events as a project for her film class and 2 Burkittsville locals, they head into the Black Hills in search of answers to the mystery of what happened to Heather and the Blair Witch.

My Take: Minor SPOILERS – Why does James think that after 15 years his sister is still alive and trapped in the Black Hills? I don’t get it. Could it be hope or is this merely a way to get a new group into the trap of the witch and connect it to the original 1999 movie and story. Whatever it is, I’m disappointed. The creepiest moment was the scene in the tent with the injured girl. I won’t get into details but it’s gross and makes you think twice about taking your shoes off to cross a stream. Other than that, there wasn’t much to breed fear. And the friggin’ high pitched screaming again. It’s the same thing that irritated me in the original. It’s just grating. As far as the actual witch goes, I don’t think they should have shown what she/it looks like. Revealing the witch, even minimally, removes some of the eeriness of the story. The way the flick is shot with mini personal cameras that hook onto the ear, is great. Much better than most of the found footage movies that are out there. Yep, can’t think of much else that I enjoyed.

Final Thoughts: While this chapter of the Blair Witch certainly looks great the story behind the flick is odd to me. Ok, so James is hoping to find his sister but it’s a weak story line. There is a good story in the Blair Witch somewhere. The mythology is there but getting that into a found footage flick just doesn’t seem to be a great platform for it. And now I’m going to say it and it’s a very unpopular opinion I’m sure – of the Blair Witch flicks, Book of Shadows is my favourite. Yep, there it is. It takes the mystery of the folklore and puts the witch into the story without screeching or showing too much. So there it is. Blair Witch 2016 get 2 stick men out of 5.

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The Canal (2014)

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Ghosts & PsychosRupert Evans (David); Hannah Hoekstra (Alice); Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Claire); Calum Heath (Billy)

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The Gist: Archivist David is happily living his life with wife Alice and young son Billy but underneath he feels that Alice is distancing herself from him and suspects she might be having an affair. Meanwhile, David watches a crime scene reel from 1902 that he is archiving, which deals with a man who stabbed his cheating wife to death, and is shocked to see that the house in the film is his house. Shortly after viewing the film and when his suspensions about his wife get the better of his judgement, Alice disappears in the vicinity of a canal near the couples house.  David reports her missing and becomes a prime suspect but is it a case of a jealous husband or is there something more sinister and supernatural behind her disappearance.

Ok, so this did get a low rating on Netflix but hey, the trailer looked good. This is a case of a movie with potential but falling flat as it takes too long to get the point and even when it did, I was left wondering what the hell the point was.  Is it about malevolent spirits, demon worshipers or simply a man driven to the breaking point by his wife’s possible betrayal.  It’s seemingly all of these and by the end I was wanting to jump into the canal myself.

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This isn’t a poorly done movie, it just felt disjointed in places as to what kind of movie it was trying to be. In some ways this flick reminded me of The Babadook – one spouse disappears (in different ways but none the less it happens) and the other is left with a young child to raise but their lives are thrown further out of balance by real or imaged supernatural events in their home.  Slight differences as to what happens to the spouses and the kids are different (the one in The Canal is far easier to like.)

Final Thoughts: The Canal isn’t a bad movie it’s just kind of boring.  It took too long to get to the point and even then it was muddy, you know like a canal. And perhaps it was just me but I couldn’t help but to compare it to another disappointing movie, The Babadook (I’m in the minority on not liking that one).  The one thing I will say is that I liked the end.  Perhaps that makes me a bad person but I thought it was a good ending to an otherwise lacklustre flick.

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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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Grave Encounters 2 (2012)

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The Gist: Set 9 years after the events and disappearances of Lance Preston and the Grave Encounters crew, film student Alex is obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened in the asylum.  His search leads him and his friends to the edge of terror and madness and it’s all caught on film.

Ghosts Hunters & Filmmakers: Richard Harmon (Alex Wright), Leanne Lapp (Jennifer Parker), Dylan Playfair (Trevor Thompson), Howie Lai (Jared Lee), Stephanie Bennett (Tessa Hamill), Ben Wilkinson (Jerry Hartfield), Sean Rogerson (Lance Preston), The Vicious Brothers

Contains Spoilers 

My Take: Second verse, same as the first.  That is how this movie felt, like Grave Encounters but not nearly as interesting or scary.  The first 20ish minutes utterly bored me as we are introduced to the characters who are unlikable, especially the main guy, Alex.  It starts out with shaky cam footage of Alex and his friends first at a party then moving on to a “movie” set as Alex is trying to film his masterpiece featuring his girlfriend Jennifer.  His interest in Grave Encounters soon becomes an obsession as he pursues information about Lance Preston and the production of the movie.  Alex heads to Lance’s house and is then led to L.A. by a mysterious printout that comes from nowhere about a video being shot by the producer of Grave Encounters, Jerry Hartfield.  He says some stuff to Alex, the guy is a total dick, and this convinces Alex that there is more to the story of Lance and Grave Encounters than anyone knows or will admit.

Somehow Alex pieces together information and finds out that the original show was shot in an abandoned asylum in Vancouver, BC, Canada (woo, Vancouver!).  So naturally they road trip to Canucks country and enter the asylum…

And from here there is some of this

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And more of this

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And by some miracle Lance Preston has survived for 9 years, 9 YEARS, living in an air shaft, eating rats and drawing on the walls.  Pretty buff considering his diet of raw rat.

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Once Alex and the others, or who is left, find Lance it is soon discovered that the way out is through murder and getting the tapes or something.  By this point I was only partially watching.  There is some funky Satan worshiping happening in the basement with the ghost of the obligatory sadistic doctor and his naughty nurses and then the cutting of a baby’s throat as a human sacrifice.  Some other shit happens, Lance gets pulled through a portal in the wall -where the hell did that come from – and finally Alex figures out that to be free of the asylum and the ghosts or whatever they are, he must bash his girlfriends’ head apart with a handheld camera and get all the videos from somewhere.  Alex then goes through a cosmic door and ends up walking down a L.A. street in the middle of the night carrying his bag of film.  To end us off, Jerry Hartfield has watched Alex’s footage and has produced and released it as a sequel to Grave Encounters.  He presents the film, with a creepy looking Alex beside him, clearly stating that the events are fictional.

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Yah or Nah: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious how I feel about this one.  Nah, I say, Nah.  I don’t really know what it is about the flick that I didn’t like other than the characters and the story that weaved between hauntings, satanic cults and vortexes.  I’m not sure what I was expecting knowing that the movie would take place in the asylum again but I guess I was hoping for a little something different.  Grave Encounters was scary, fun and engaging but Grave Encounters 2 was missing all of those elements.

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October Reflections: The Fog (2005)

The Gist: A young woman returns to her small coastal hometown just in time for it to be overwhelmed by a mysterious fog filled with plague ridden ghosts of mariners who died hundreds of years earlier.  The plague victims wanted to settle on part of Antonio Island but the town’s founding fathers refused to let them for fear of the plague spreading to their townspeople but they did want their riches. The solution to keep them out and get the loot, burn them alive on their ship.  Now the ghosts want revenge on the town and the descendants of the founders.

Ghosts and Townies: Tom Welling (Nick Castle), Maggie Grace (Elizabeth Williams), Selma Blair (Stevie Wayne), Rade Serbedzija (Captain William Blake)

My Take: The first thing that struck me about this flick was the location.  This is another one where I recognize the coastal locale as being close to home.  Good old west coast Canada posing as coastal US. Elizabeth returns home to Antonio Island 6 months after leaving without a word to her Mother or her ruggedly handsome boyfriend, Nick Castle. During her absence Nick got busy with Radio broadcaster and yummy Mommy (I hate myself a little for using that term) Stevie Wayne who he blows off after his absentee woman returns.  This aspect was unnecessary as their relationship was not touched on again. Elizabeth proceeds to have strange dreams, or are they memories, of people burning alive and drowning in the ocean. This movie wasn’t scary and the unleashing of the ghosts was contrived.  Hitting a bag containing old artifacts from the sinking ship? Really, after all that time.  And then Elizabeth finds a mysterious journal buried in a stone wall after she almost drowns; further implicating that she is the reincarnation of the long dead lover of Captain Blake.

Critique Much: Dull, dull and more dull.  The story was boring and the typical character of the girl who must crazy and no one believes until it’s too late aspect, was just too clichéd to be interesting. Then there is the mysterious journal that holds the answers, pile on more clichés.  The cast was damn pretty but that seems to be typical in these types of horror movies. And the end of the movie?  It was just a one night event for a dead man to get his girl back.  Lame.

Yah or Nah: It is the time of year for Halloween and I would like to say this is a good movie to watch during this season but it’s not.  Nah.  I wanted to like it but I just couldn’t stay interested. The scares aren’t there and the story is just plain boring.  But the location is beautiful.  I recommend watching The Mist (2007) for a truly superior movie where the monsters are effective and the story is infinitely better.

American Horror Story-Home Invasion

Contains spoilers: read and watch anyway.  The show is great.  So, the second episode of the Twin Peaks meets The Shining kind of show has aired and….

The Gist: The prologue for this episode flashes back to 1968 at the house which is being occupied by nursing students.  The title kind of sums up it, Home Invasion.  Two of the nurses fall prey to the brutal assault of a twisted killer.  Flash forward to the present day and the Harmon’s are now settled into their home and trying to deal with the quirky, insane people who have interjected themselves into their lives.  Ben is still ‘treating’ Tate at the start of the episode but after his colourful comments about what he wants to do Violet, he has finally pushed Ben to try to terminate the treatment.  To add to Ben’s stress is a second unexpected pregnancy – not only is his wife pregnant (who is the real father?) but his mistress calls him up and to tell him that she is pregnant too and she wants him there when she aborts the baby or else…  Next up – Addy and Constance continue to invade the Harmon’s life with unexpected middle of the night visits and the bearing of tainted treats for young Violet.  Larry the Burn Guy makes another appearance to offer Ben some advice on his situation with his mistress – lie to his family.  This coming from a man who burned his family alive.  Meanwhile, Violet appears to have befriended her bully whose hair is turning white from fear of the monster in the basement and the devil she believes it to be.  By the end of the episode, Violet is happy with her Mother, angry with Father and has forgiven Tate for the attack in the basement.

History Repeating:  The 1968 home invasion and murders are revisited and reenacted upon Violet and Vivien while Ben is in Boston dealing with his young mistress.  The attack begins the same way it did in 1968 except it is a woman at the door not a man asking for help and trying to gain entry into the house.  Vivien is smarter than this intruder and refuses to let her in but it’s all for not as two other intruders make their way into the house and take the pair hostage.  The invaders are serial killer fanatics who want to reenact the 1968 murder in homage to their hero that they call “our Franklin”.  They are going to drown Violet and stab Vivien to death.  But these are strong women and they fight and give attitude to the disorganized and inept would be killers.  Violet has help in the form of Tate who was creeping about the house; he tells Violet to get them to the basement where two of them end up and face off against the ghosts of the nurses.  Tate takes out the third one violently and unexpectedly with an ax.  There is a great scene in the basement with Tate, Constance and Moira discussing what to do with the bodies “you get the shovels, I’ll get the bleach”.  Curiouser and curiouser.  Meanwhile Ben finally realizes that something is wrong after missing 13 calls and runs out of the abortion clinic while his mistress is in the OR.  This is going to bite him in the ass – more than the whole pregnant student thing.

Impressions: Better than the first episode (which was really good).  The characters and history are starting to unfold.  It will be interesting to see how it continues and find out more about the house and its dark history and I personally want to learn more about the Rubber Man.  I find most of the characters interesting particularly Tate and Constance even though she is a terrible person and has no business being a Mother to anyone, especially Addy.  The one character that I don’t find particularly interesting and kind of a whiny scumbag is Ben.  I like Dylan McDermott and I think he plays the character well; I just don’t like the character much.  However I guess he is not necessarily suppose to be a likable character given the things he’s done.  The show is also utilizing dry humour to undercurrent the strange and scary which is always enjoyable to see.  All and all a good second showing from AHS – nope can’t use that acronym – American Horror Story.

Next week: Episode 3- Murder House

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American Horror Story – Premiers October 5 on FX

The Gist – A couple and their teenage daughter move into a haunted house in San Francisco…seriously that’s about all I’ve been able to put together about this new series debuting on FX on October 5.  From the imagery it looks totally bizarre.  The Rubber Man, as pictured in the above advertisement, is a character in the series; to what capacity remains to be seen.  From the little I have read and seen in trailers, it kind of looks like a haunted house mixed with Twin Peaks.  But we shall see.

The Haunted & Haunters – Leading the cast is Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton playing Ben and Vivien Harmon, the couple who move into the haunted house along with their daughter Violet Harmon played Taissa Framiga.  Taking on co-starring roles are well known actors such as Jessica Lange (playing Constance), Denis O’Hare (as Larry the Burn Guy) and Frances Conroy (Housekeeper).

Why am I looking forward to this?  Well, just look at the imagery!  Totally freaky.  It’s worth checking out the 10-20 second sneak peeks on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1844624/videogallery.  I can not wait to check this out.  October is already the best month of the year but with shows like this and the second season of The Walking Dead to look forward to…I love it!